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 The Linda Dano Interview

An Interview with Linda Dano
 

Emmy-Award-Winning Actress Linda Dano is best known for her roles in daytime television programs including: As The World Turns, Another World,   One Life to Live, All My Children, General Hospital, Port Charles and  Guiding Light. She has also hosted her own talk show, Attitudes, writes a very popular style column for Soap Opera Digest and is a successful businesswoman and author. Linda returns to Todayís Caregiver magazine for a rare second cover interview to once again share her story of personal caregiving. The first time Linda discussed the challenges she faced as a caregiving daughter to a mother diagnosed with Alzheimerís disease. Since then, Lindaís mother, father and husband Frank all passed away (her mother and husband within days of one another), and she is back to discuss her subsequent battle with depression. Linda sits down with Editor-in-Chief Gary Barg to share her singular insights on living with depression


Gary Barg: Since we know that depression is the most commonly felt emotion for over 63 percent of caregivers, and you have been so aware as a family caregiver, were you aware of your depression during your caregiving?

Linda Dano: No. itís so interesting that you asked me that and Iíll tell you why. It was just last week and I was feeling very sad, thinking about my dad and my mother late at night in bed looking back over my caregiving. I suddenly said,  ďOh, my God, I was suffering from serious depression.Ē  Because when I was caregiving, I wouldnít talk to anybody, I didnít say what was on my mind, I didnít let anyone know I was hurting this much. I thought if I just  would be quiet and not say anything, I wouldnít be a burden to the rest of my family.  I believe that part of the reason I decided to do this campaign is because Iím quite passionate about it. Itís not only to help me get better, but you know, Iím such a believer in sharing and talking things over and not hiding things. Now I donít want anyone to be like I was when my father was ill, that I just didnít talk. 

Depression just comes from nowhere and it sits all over you. Itís like a big black cloud and it just stays there and thereís never any one reason it comes. I liken it to flipping a light switch. You donít even realize that itís part of you. Itís an unbelievably insidious disease that you donít even realize that youíre living with. It goes to the market with you, and it goes to the cleanerís with you, and it goes to the dinner party with you and you donít even know it.

G: One thing you said that I havenít really heard stated as clearly before is that depression is a disease.

 L: Oh, gosh I know. In this country, and Iíd guess the world, how many times do you hear someone say, ďOh, Iím depressed today.Ē Itís sort of that throw-away line you hear every day when, in fact, I just wonder how many millions and millions of people walk around depressed ó severely depressed, clinically depressed ó and believe that itís just part of what theyíre supposed to be doing. Itís the way life is ... Itís just the way that they feel and thatís that, and they donít even know that they have an illness. But they just feel sad all the time.

G: And actually we caregivers want everyone around us to feel well, so itís the last thing weíre going to admit to.

L: Right, and Iíll tell you a story. Frank died, and then, nine days later, my mom. And I functioned. I had to get up and give the boys a walk (you know, my dogs), and I had my home in Connecticut and, as difficult as it was, I was determined not to lose my home. Then I went on to the Tony Danza show.  I didnít really want to go, and for some reason, I was compelled to go. It had something to do with Frank, something to do with my situation. I spoke a little about Frank and my mom and the struggle I was in and I got thousands of e-mails from people all over the country, all of them wanting to share their story. It was that coupled with the way I was getting through it. Three girlfriends of mine just made all the difference. All were very easy with me and nobody pushed me to do anything and they were always there. Theyíd call all the time; theyíd walk the dogs, get me something to eat, do a little shopping for me. They were just caregivers. They made sure I was all right. And Iím truly grateful to them because they allowed me to cry, and to just let me be me. At the time that Iíd done the Danza show and had gotten all this mail, Eli Lilly called and wanted me to represent this depression awareness campaign that talks about the very thing that helped me ó reaching out to a friend, family member, a loved one ó somebody ó and get to talk, to take that initial step.

G: The main thrust of the campaign is finding a support partner. Would you consider your friends to be your support partners?

L: Yes, they just made sure I was okay. And they really made that commitment to me, and thatís a tough commitment because you have to call, be on top of it, and really spend time helping that person. And they did. God bless them! So I knew firsthand how important and powerful support partners are. I lived it.

G: How did your depression manifest itself?

L: I was grieving the loss of Frank and my mom and was not sleeping. I was crying constantly, really having a rough time. Then what took over was not just the sadness and mourning and loneliness. What took over was a kind of hopelessness, a kind of ďI donít careĒ ... And every bit of passion that stands for Linda Dano was gone and I had physical pain ó pain in my back, down my leg, which I couldnít understand. But you know what? Thatís what depression can do to you. It can absolutely alter who you are, what you are. Itís an amazing illness. And scary and consuming... When the doctor said to me, ďYouíre suffering from depression,Ē I said, ďOh, no, you donít understand. Iím mourning my husband and mother. I just lost them both and thatís whatís bothering me.Ē He said, ďI know youíre sad and youíre very lost without them, but everything youíre telling me points to depression.Ē And you know what? He was right.

G: What do you hear from the caregivers you meet on the road?

L: So many people are grateful that I have put a voice to this illness. Mostly  what they say is that theyíre shocked itís happening to me (Linda Dano). Here, Iím the one saying Iím depressed, telling them I know exactly what they are feeling.

G: It makes them realize that if you can be depressed, others can, too.

L: Yes, it lets them know that maybe they can take that first step of talking about how theyíre feeling, saying they need help.  And, oh God, Iím so thrilled I can do that.  Because if this is the way so many people live, thatís just not the way to live.

G: Tell me about the Support Partners program.

L: Itís not a place you go, like Alcoholics Anonymous.  Itís something you do for yourself, on your own. You first realize that thereís  something going on with you ... Then you try to get enough courage to speak up  to someone you trust ó it could be your husband, your friend, your mother, coworker, just someone. You know, you talk and suddenly itís not so horrible as keeping it inside. Thereís something about saying it ... Itís the whole key to relationships. If you just live with it and never let it out, it will consume you and ruin your life. So, what Iím asking people to do is what I did ó get a  support partner (whether itís one, two, three, or five). But you need that one person to  talk to and tell them what youíre feeling. Then, after youíve said it and the stigmaís not there, the thing to do is go to a doctor. Get diagnosed and discuss what the next step should be. But once youíve found a support partner, youíve made that first step. There are cures and there are ways to change oneís life and get rid of depressionÖYou can get rid of it. It can go away and I just feel so strongly about it. You can go to www.supportpartnersprogram.com and in there are three little guidebooks to download. Theyíre totally free. They explain depression symptoms, what to do about it, how to help someone you think may have it, questions to ask the doctor. All of the things that can help you make that initial step.

G: So, if I have a loved one who I know is depressed, and I go to supportpartnersprogram.com, I can know how to help them.

L: Exactly. Itís great. Itís simple. Itís not about pills, psychotherapy, or any of that. Itís about getting that person to open up and talk about how theyíre feeling. Thatís what support partners are all about. People would be shocked at how receptive people are. But once you do it, itís like opening the door and letting fresh air come in.

G: Well, Iím glad you got the support you needed.

L: Yeah, but it did feel like the blind leading the blind... Iím such an advocate of support partners because it works. And I want everyone reading this to know I am a long way from where I need to be. Iím still battling this disease. Iím still in the throes of it ... I take three steps forward and six steps back. Itís a long process, but Iím going to beat it. Iím going to be fine on the other side. And Iím going to take as many people with me as I can.

G: Whatís your one piece of advice you have for family caregivers?

L: I want them to not shoulder all of it. They just canít ... they must let  others help them. If they donít, it will kill them. They must share it and ask people to help ó not some of the time, but all the time. Itís as simple as, ďI need to take a walk ... Iíll be back in 20 minutes ...Ē If you try to do this caregiving on your own, Iím afraid of what can happen.