Many people providing care experience symptoms of depression. Dr. James Gordon doesn’t specialize in working with caregivers. His focus has been on developing mind-body medicine, but care work is so widespread that he’s worked with many caregivers.
Since the release of the DSMIII, depression is diagnosed without taking context into consideration. People who feel depressed as a rational response to experience and circumstance are told they have a lifelong chemical imbalance. There is a window of time during which grief is acceptable; after that time has passed it becomes pathological.
For most people providing care to an ill, disabled, or elderly loved one, they face years of medical traumas, chronic stress, uncertainty, economic hardship, lack of sleep, and other circumstanced under which any human being would struggle. For most of us, our caregiving responsibility ends with the trauma and grief of death.
We are told over and over again that depression is a disease, just like diabetes. That it’s a lifelong condition that requires daily medication and lifestyle changes. But Dr. Gordon points out that there’s no evidence that depression is biological in origin.
Dr. Gordon has seen rates of anxiety increase. Many patients come to him out of touch with their emotions, where they default to experiencing everything as anger.
It’s no wonder — over the course of his career he’s watched as caregiving responsibilities have come to fall on one person, rather than the extended family. So many family caregivers experience burnout as anger, resentment, and depression.
The costs of caregiving seem obvious, but they go much deeper than we realize.
In America today, we measure all costs as money spent or money not earned. So often we overlook the other costs we face — instead of sitting in traffic on the way to a doctors appointment we could have been gardening together and enjoying the fresh air and warm sun. Instead of spending an hour on the phone disputing insurance claims we could have been preparing one of our grandmother’s recipes. Instead of waking up at 4am to check on a loved one and give them medication we could have gotten a full night of rest and been able to concentrate at work the next day.
People whose caregiving responsibilities have settled into a ‘new normal’ or who are no longer serving as caregivers are likely to find Dr. Gordon’s work helpful. His approach to recovering from trauma, outlined in The Transformation, is framed in a way that is approachable — no trauma is too big or too small to deserve support — and can be followed on its own or with a doctor’s personal care.
If the thought of being diagnosed with a mental health issue doesn’t feel right to you, if it feels normal to suffer when you’ve experienced so much trauma, his work will resonate with you.
The book is designed to guide us back into feeling empowered in our lives, something which may not be possible for someone currently in an intense caregiving situation. It is a reminder that you know your needs better than anyone else. In a world full of experts eager to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, it’s a breath of fresh air to instead encounter an expert who reminds us that we already have the ability to be our best selves, no matter what life has thrown at us.
As Director, Cori develops our comprehensive global communications and development strategy. She’s constantly tweaking our services based on data-driven marketing metrics and feedback from caregivers. She works to grow our community and build the reputation of The Caregiver Space by amplifying the message on social media, cultivating relationships with experts, creating organizational partnerships, and earning media coverage. She’s an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for Caregivers.
Cori joined The Caregiver Space after a decade of serving as a communications consultant for a number of nonprofit organizations and corporations furthering sustainable energy and urban planning solutions.
Cori has an MA in Corporate Communications from Baruch College at CUNY and a BA in Media Studies from Eugene Lang College at the New School University. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Toronto.