Catherine Zeta Jones and the Art of Intensive Caring

Catherine Zeta Jones: destigmatizing depression

When the superstar actress went public two months ago with news of her bipolar 2 disorder, she showed how depression can be treatable — and beatable

When Catherine Zeta Jones glided onto this year’s Tony Awards stage in a stunning, sequined red gown, she symbolized the comeback that all caregivers who suffer from depression hope to have: that you can face those dark clouds knowing you will step into the light again.

In a study conducted by Evercare and the National Alliance for Caregiving on the health risks that family caregivers face, 91 percent of caregivers who felt their health was declining reported suffering from depression. It is not easy to watch a loved one – whether an older parent or in Catherine’s case, her beloved husband Michael Douglas – suffer health issues. And while certain cases of depression can be managed with medication or treatment, we know that caregivers often neglect their own health and wellness needs while focusing their care on their loved one.

That’s why Zeta Jones “coming out” about her bipolar disorder diagnosis is not only brave, but a breakthrough. Many caregivers suffer their depression in silence — either too guilty to admit that they are struggling when they feel it is their loved one who deserves the attention, or too concerned about what others may think if they admit to their “chronic blues.”

Zeta Jones was a rock through her husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment — but realized once he was given the “all clear” that she was not as elated by the good news as she felt she should be. By facing her struggle head on and checking into a mental health facility for a few days of treatment, Zeta Jones became the best example of how to balance self-care and caregiving.

Many people who suffer from depression do not seek treatment for the fear of being branded “mentally ill.” Ignoring symptoms of depression can be devastating to you physically, financially and emotionally.

WebMD cautions that untreated depression can result in increased risky behavior, such as alcohol or drug abuse, that can ruin relationships, get you fired from your job or cause you to be in an accident where you or someone else can be seriously injured or even killed. Depression also impacts your sleep and your nutrition – the long-term effects of which can lead to chronic illness and other health risks.

When you are truly clinically depressed, you cannot just “snap out of it.”  So how do you know if you are clinically depressed? What is the difference between feeling blue or sad and losing interest in things that once brought you joy?

Several sites have tests you can take to assess whether or not you should seek professional help. WebMD offers excellent information on how to talk to your family about depression, how to manage your depression and how to stay on track with your treatment and the American Psychological Association has in-depth information on the different types of depression such as the bipolar II disorder that was Zeta Jones’ diagnosis.

Catherine Zeta Jones’ bravery by disclosing her bipolar II disorder is a great example of how depression can be both treatable and beatable. I applaud her as “caregiver of the year”—not only for not taking tremendous care of her husband through his illness and keeping the family together, but mostly for realizing that she is as important as the people she cares about. Bravo, Catherine!

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers, with special emphasis on balancing “self care” while caring for a loved one. She is executive producer and host of a new caregiving TV series, “Handle with Care” on RLTV, and co-producer of the Silvers Summit at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Snelling is a media contributor and frequent guest speaker on the nation’s baby boomers and their caregiving role as the “The Sandwich Generation.”

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jenbabs says:

    This is also true for those that are caretakers of children with health issues. During the initial phase, especially, you have to put yourself last until your child becomes more stable. Even then many parents still continue to not do everything they should to take care of themselves.

  2. avatar D C says:

    When my mother was going through cancer treatment, and we had reached the realization that she was going to die, I had to see my doctor because I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t stop crying. I’m talking about for weeks. I was trying to keep my job afloat by going in nights and weekends to play catch up after shepherding her to appointments several times a week, plus raising 3 kids and my husband’s job wouldn’t slow down for him to take any time off. 

    My doctor was great.  He explained that what I was going through was part of the grieving process and he prescribed an anti-anxiety drug for me that would help me sleep and not build up over time.  That was all I needed.  I just needed to sleep so my body could keep up with what I was having to do every day.  I was very lucky to have been able to see it and address it before I had a complete breakdown. 

    I skipped a lot of things during that time – one of them was my annual well-woman exam.  When I went back finally my doctor sternly asked me why I hadn’t been in for so long.  I told him I was busy doing my residency in geriatric oncology.  CZJ has been to hell and back, and I’m so glad she is doing better.