/ Sept - Oct 2006 / The Linda Dano Interview
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.