Our culture is family oriented and we have always put our children in the center of our planning and our thoughts. Our bright future is no different than theirs. As they get older, our understanding becomes deeper. We understand the sacrifices our parents made while raising us and start appreciating them more. We try to give them more time without expecting more time from our children. We are contended that we are keeping our cultural values alive. But….
No matter how prepared we are to cut the umbilical cord and allow our children to progress in their own future, it is still a heart shaking experience. At first, we breathe a sigh of relief from the overwhelming responsibility of raising a teenager. But once they step out of our own little world, and they step into the big world, we feel their absence. Our child, that we started and ended our day with, will only come to visit on weekends and vacations. Are we prepared? How can we continue on our routine without our center – our child? This may be the beginning of the early stages of depression although that is the last world we might be thinking of while cooping with this life altering event of our children leaving us. I have seen a drastic change in a strong woman who has it all together, fall all apart in a glimpse. This is more evident in our eastern culture. I have had a similar experience that I would like to share with you. I warn you, you might see much of your self in my story.
I was a typical nineteen year old girl, dreaming about being a Doctor, or a Writer and thinking about traveling around the World. As fate and our culture would have it, I was also at a typical age of getting married. So I tied the knot and within moments, my wings were clipped, and I was caged. I was expected to have my feet steadily on the ground no matter how hard the cage raddled. After a short while, God blessed me with beautiful daughters and I started dreaming about them and on behalf of them. I wanted to give them life full of happiness and freedom in ways I never had experienced. I moved to U.S.A. with my husband and family to achieve that happiness, freedom and much more. But the initial challenges of migrating to U.S. with 3 young daughters demanded my full attention. I was left with no choice but to put my hobbies and personal interest aside. I was determined to keep our cultures and values alive in our home setting. So I got involved with organizations where we organized related activities for children. My hobbies were put on the back burner while my children’s interest remained my focus. I figured I’ll have some time to concentrate on me once my girls are off to college. Infect, then I’ll be able to devote time to my expanding list of hobbies that I won’t even miss them.
Was I wrong! As soon as my youngest daughter moved to Purdue University, I found my self very lost, weak and in denial that I might be suffering through depression. I considered my self strong, self sufficient and independent of others. How can I be depressed because I no longer have my daughters to fill my day? But it was soon that I realized and admitted to my self that I was depressed. The forces of love (my girls) that fulfilled my day, my reason for getting up in the morning, were no longer with me. My husband who had always worked two jobs to make ends meet (such as our girl’s needs, education, and wedding etc.,) had hard time finding time for him self. How do I expect him to give me time? For the little time that he was home, I was so overwhelmed with my expectations for him, which wasn’t the case when girls were with us. I found my self to be frustrated and angry. Our spousal differences were solved by redirecting that same energy and time towards our parenting. Now that was not an option and so we started nit-picking on each other.
My husband could not understand why I was unable to just relax and enjoy my life now that I am free of most responsibility and I finally have time for my self that I was seeking for last twenty plus years. My interest in cooking diminished because my little girl was now eating cafeteria food on campus instead of warm feast at home. I could not sleep well with constant thought of what she will be doing at that very moment. My maternal paranoia lead to frequent panic attacks when I left messages for her and she would not return my call within one hour but what seemed like five hours to me. I had to hear her voice every day regardless of the fact that she was trying to adjust to the new environment and the new world on campus. I soon realized my daughter was worried about me more than I was worried about her because her cool mother is now all of a sudden overly possessive.
Because of my depression, I stopped communicating with my siblings and pushed away good loyal friends who were always there for me. I was always seeking for excuses to relive some frustration which derived from my depressed caused by the empty nest syndrome.
I didn’t know what to do with my time. I made a list of all things I have put off in last 25 years but I couldn’t find sufficient energy to achieve any one of them. My mind was wondering in so many directions at once in hope to find new aim, new focus in my life. My friends I have known most of my life could tell from change in my tone that I was no longer the same person they use to know. Could all this be the consequences of one simple transition? All other variable had very little impact in my life as long as my center – my daughters were around.
How did I come out my depression?
Well….my therapy was Sudoku Puzzles. Pen and Numbers kept me in line and kept me focused. My brother-like friend who is a Psychiatrist offered his ear and allowed me to lighten my heart. He was available to me any day.
After successfully surpassing that phase in my life, I now have reached a new juncture. It has become very important for me to know where my energy is going and where it should be going. Am I wasting my energy by sulking in depression? Who can I reach out to? How do I help my self?
Below is some expert advice from well reputed doctors in our community.
By Dr. Bhupendra Rajpura:
In western society is also there is “Empty Nest Syndrome” which is akin to depressive symptomatology. East or West, women on both sides of divide are equally at risk to develop depression with stressors. This can be with children leaving, or financial problems or difficulties in marriage, and wide variety of different issues. Coping skills, or how one deals with depression vary a great deal depending on one’s culture. Typically, women from east try to find support in family or friend system. They are less likely to seek professional help. They are even lesser likely to seek medications. Studies have shown that good support system is suggestive of better prognosis but is not a substitute for professional intervention. Currently there are different types of anti depressant medications which are used based on symptoms present. Your doctor can make determination in consultation with you, as to which will be best treatment options.
Depression in women
By Dr. Rudraprakash Mishra
Depression is a normal and transient mood that all of us experience from time to time. In this respect, depression is not different from elation or anxiety that we experience as well at times. Depression can, however, grow to become a disease if it persists and intensifies to the point of impairing one’s daily functioning.
Depression is a common, recurring and treatable disease. Gender is an important determinant since women are affected twice more frequently than men. As a disease, depression may present in various forms that include:
· Adjustment disorder (due to some significant stressors),
· Major depression,
· Dysthymia (chronic),
· Bipolar (manic depressive type),
· Seasonal affective disorder (depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight),
· Due to general medical condition, and
· Due to substances (alcohol and addictive drugs).
Tell tale symptoms of depression include:
· Crying spells
· Diminished – energy, interest, concentration, self esteem, and hope
· Changes in sleep (decrease or increase)
· Changes in appetite (increase or decrease)
· Changes in weight (increase or decrease)
· Suicidal ideas, plan or attempt
· Loss of touch with reality – e.g. hearing voices, seeing visions, being paranoid
· Somatic symptoms (aches and pain) – more common in Asian patients than in the West
Depression – not necessarily disease – may be seen in various phases of development that are unique to women. Generally, such depression is related to various biological changes in women during these phases that include:
· Premenstrual period,
· Postpartum (Baby blues), and
· Peri-menopausal (i.e. around menopause)
Depression – not necessarily disease – may also occur around major psycho-social events in the lives of women.
· Marriage, separation, divorce,
· Empty nest,
· Abuse – domestic violence
Emotional toll of the immigration merits recognition as well. Separation from the primary support (home), adjustment of all sorts, and stress of acculturation – to name a few – can lead to a transient depression. During this phase of adaptation, women may be particularly vulnerable for depression due to their dependence in a traditional family setting.
When to seek help?
Women are more likely to postpone seeking professional help than men. One must consider seeking help if the depression persists (say for 2 weeks or longer) and begins to show severe and serious signs (changes in sleep, weight, impaired daily functioning, suicidal behavior, losing touch with reality).
Where to start?
Inform your family (unless the latter is a source of stress) and immediately initiate contact with your primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP can then refer you to a mental health specialist. Educate yourself with the latest scientific knowledge – see references below.
If you are suffering from depression, whether it’s Empty Nest Syndrome or Circumstantial Stress, it is now time to put your self in the center and focus on taking care of your physical and emotional need. I have found great support in my family and friends when dealing with my depression. I hope you find this information useful when dealing with your own depression.