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OT- Depression- How do you help someone who has it?

zerostepdrama's picture

I have suffered from depression. I know how it can make you feel. However I have been lucky enough to help myself out of it. Working out was great for me. I don't care what anyone else says, it helped me. I understand I probably had a mild case of depression. I also was on Xanax during the height of skid drama for anxiety, stress, etc. When I do feel myself being depressed I try to refocus myself, not drink (alcohol as a depressant) and try to help myself through it.

So my mom has been on meds for depression. She often has to go back to get them adjusted. Her excuse for things is she is depressed and needs meds. That's her end game. She's depressed, needs meds. Not interested in anything else but the meds.

She goes through these waves where she is "fine" and then she is bad again. She doesn't want to leave the house, doesn't want to really do anything, etc.

A lot of her depression was brought on by working nights and then having to put my grandma in a nursing home, family issues with that and then my grandma passing away. (So all of this starting about 6 years ago).

She was living in hometown (my sister and I 2 1/2 hours away) and noticed change in her over time. She just wasn't excited about anything. Wasn't really keeping her house clean, etc. Just kind of blah, going with the flow.

She then decided to take early retirement, move to where my sister and I live. So initially she was doing better because she was excited about the move,being close to family, etc.

Fast forward (she's been here about year and half) and she is back in the same routine. Won't really leave the house, everything seems like a chore, isn't really keeping the house clean. She works (to keep herself busy) a couple of days a week so that does help.

When things don't go her way she gets bummed about it right away. She goes 0-60. Example- she was cleaning houses for 2 people and then she broke her toe/top foot so she couldn't clean. So she was just at home. Well she started drinking more (I'll talk about that more later) and then she never followed up with the people she was cleaning for and they never heard from her so they got someone new to clean for her. Well then she was all depressed about it. I explained it to her, well you needed to keep them informed of what was going on with you and your progress with your toe/foot.

She's had some issues with her insurance so that has been her most recent source of stress, anxiety and depression. She has paid out of pocket for her meds so she is at least doing that.

She drinks a lot. She enjoys just sitting at home, drinking and listening to music, watching tv, etc. Before she moved here, her drinking was becoming an issue. We were hoping it would slow down when she moved here and it did but now it's picking back up.

She uses drinking for an excuse- stressed? drink! headache? drink! need to get an appetite? drink!

She also drunk texts me and my sister and adult niece. Nothing bad but it just gets annoying. And she drinks earlier in the day. Or sometimes she will skip an invite to come over to my house because she would prefer to just sit at her house and drink.

She's not like an out of control alcoholic (just annoying and she gets on her high horse when she is really drinking), she goes to work, she doesn't drink and drive. She basically just sits at home and drinks and thinks.

I tried to explain to her that alcohol is not helping her depression. It's a cycle. Drink to feel better, feel better then the next day the depressant effects of alcohol kick in and then she starts drinking again to feel better. I don't think she realizes that she is using the alcohol (beer or wine) to cope.

I know the cure to depression is more then just "be happy" but I really feel like she needs to help herself to get better. Not just say "I'm depressed and get pills so it is what it is."

She also smokes a ton when she drinks and she doesn't really eat. She's a little thing probably weighs 100lbs.

We try to offer options to keep her busy and mind occupied. Sometimes she takes us up on that offer and sometimes she doesn't. I also try to encourage her to have her own life. She is only 60 years old. She's too young for me to be worrying about her health and having to help her with stuff.

My mom was always a super strong woman. She's no wall flower and I've never thought her to be weak. But the depression does make her "weak" in that she doesn't want to do anything for herself and she's just happy to sit in her apartment and drink and smoke.

Guess I'm kind of getting it all out but if anyone has any suggestions, HELPFUL advice or thoughts I'd appreciate it.


zerostepdrama's picture

She won't go on her own and do anything. She has anxiety. While she is a super friendly person once she knows someone, new experiences on her own she isn't interested in.

She definitely needs a hobby or something to do. She told me the other day "I'm sick of you and your sister telling me I need a hobby. I'm fine." And I'm thinking-you sit on the couch and watch tv all day. I don't understand her being happy with that.

wicked_by_proxy's picture

If you showed her a real way out of this, would she take it? I find that most people don't make a move until the pain (physical or emotional) gets them to a place where THEY are the ones that seek help. Sometimes the work it takes to get well is just harder then they can handle, which is why she may be in this holding pattern of repeating her actions over and over.

The pain you feel seeing her like this must be hard, and I am so sorry you have the burden of feeling this :(...

zerostepdrama's picture

I'm feeling sad and frustrated right now. Sad because I just don't want this to be her life and frustrated because I don't know how to help her more then what I am doing.

I am already overwhelmed and busy in my own life and having DH and BS rely on me and now I feel like I need to do more to help my mom and of course I will do whatever I need to do.

I invite her to hang with me and my friends (they all love her), I invite her out to dinner, shopping, run errands, etc. She's been turning me down the past couple of weeks.

We had this understanding that I would add her to my cell plan and to "pay me back" she would come and clean my house while she was over doing her laundry- using our washer and dryer. She hasn't even done that in months. She may have come over and did laundry but didn't clean. Not that she HAS to clean but it was helping her, something to do. Like a chore, something that "had to be done".

2Tired4Drama's picture

Zero, your mom sounds like she's got a bunch of issues going on at once. Sixty years old is not the end of the road.

First, she needs a full medical work-up. She also needs a doctor who will seriously review her need for depression meds, in light of the fact she is a serious drinker. Smoking doesn't help either, it affects everything including the vascular system - she could be developing hardening of the arteries.

After the medical work up, assuming nothing significant emerges, then she should be advised to get into some sort of counseling to address her drinking.

Next, despite having you and your sister there, she may be feeling lost because she is in a new place. She needs to get out and VOLUNTEER somewhere - there is nothing like helping others! She will feel useful, she will meet new people and she will quickly see that sitting around and drinking isn't the way to spend her "golden years."

I went through something similiar with my mom (she didn't drink or take meds, though) and was so depressed when she moved near me. I kept harping on her and once she finally got involved in the local senior center (social activities, etc.) and she began volunteering and meeting friends her age - she bloomed! Hope the same can happen for yours.

Aniki-Moderator's picture


I suffer from depression and have tried quite a few different meds before I found one that worked for me. For some people, it's a combination of meds (a friend of mine takes 2 different prescriptions). When I'm extremely depressed, I have to stay away from gin. It makes me absolutely maudlin and inconsolable.

If it's not a medical issue or chemical imbalance, and your attempts to help are not working, do you know anyone else who will "work on her" with you? Is she open to getting out of the house WITH someone to try some new activities?

zerostepdrama's picture

I think she would enjoy volunteering. I need to find something for her that is close by. She may be more apt to volunteering as opposed to senior rec center activities.

Another thing is she will only drive in our suburb. She's afraid to drive in the big city. I get it. But now she won't even drive back "home" to visit her friends/family. Even though she used to drive back and forth to visit us and did it. Now she says she is scared and she had to do it before to see us.

LostinSpaceandTime's picture

It sounds like your mom does have a problem with drinking. And mixing achohol with anti depressants is not at all a good thing.
It is good of you to be concerned about her. She needs to want to help herself.

Maybe there is a local senior activity center that would help her be more involved in her community.

My mom is a bit like your mom but she has been better since moving into town. She goes to her cardiac rehab exercise center and works out when she feels up to it. My sisters live nearby so they keep in touch with her. But for the most part it is just her and her little dog. I know she goes to the library regularly and reads a lot. I think the dog is the main source of company for her. She has said that he has saved her. He gives her purpose in caring for him.

Encourage your mom to pursue a hobby. Something she has always wanted to try but never had time. Maybe some art classes. Art can be very therapeutic for depression. The main thing is to stop mixing drinking with meds. Smoking is another thing in itself. She is slowly killing herself.
She needs to find a purpose for her days.

zerostepdrama's picture

Agree about her needing to find a purpose for her days. I think she will feel better.

She won't quit smoking and she will probably not quit the drinking. I tell her all the time- the drinking does not help you. Something happens and messes up her day. She goes right for a beer. Sad

Aniki-Moderator's picture

My sister is the same way. A stressful day or something goes wrong and she 'needs' a drink. Thankfully, she is NOT an alcoholic and it doesn't often happen, but alcohol is her 'remedy'.

Is there a volunteer activity you can do with her for a time until she's comfortable going on her own?

ESMOD's picture

I had a coworker who swore she couldn't stay at home with the kids because she would have started happy hour.. earlier and earlier. Before you know it she would have been smashed at 10 am. her words!

To be honest, the saying is true. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. When we don't have things to occupy our hands, minds, time.... we can tend to slip into unhealthy habits.

I am prone to staying up too late drinking beer and watching trash TV. That leads to later mornings and a cycle of poor eating and sloth.

I have a job though, so I don't do that. If I didn't work, I would have to set a bit of a schedule so that I would actually get things done.

In fact, that's a good idea for people that aren't great at managing their time well.. or who procrastinate or who can't stay on task.

Honestly, it sounds like she is a bit of a "functional alcoholic". While she may not appear to have the depths of no control, she does appear to be allowing her drinking to control her life to a certain extent. Perhaps some social anxiety makes her even more prone to do this.

Human contact and intervention are key, but who with? I know you and your family can't be there all the time to help her get through. Do you think a room mate situation might be a good idea? Or, maybe she needs to try to sign up for some classes or activities that will help her develop more structure?

There also may be some aging resources in her area with more ideas.

I think it's hard to force someone to deal with depression, but finding a doctor that can treat more than just the "pill" fix is key. Perhaps someone could also go to her appointments with her?

zerostepdrama's picture

Thank you everyone for your advice and taking the time to read and comment. I did talk to her a little last night and she did admit the drinking has gotten out of hand, first time admitting that, so that is a start. She said she is going to cut down. It's one of those things, she needs to do it, not say it. She said when she's drinking she doesn't worry about anything and she feels great but when she's not drinking everything stresses her out and she just thinks about all the bad stuff. She's low when she isn't drinking and on a high when she is drinking.

Once she gets her insurance straightened out I do think that will help a lot. That is a major source of her stress right now.

It will be baby steps with her but we are going to keep trying to point her in the right direction.