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Anxiety, Depression - A Story Of My Dad


Having overcome anxiety disorder myself, I am able to recognize early signs of anxiety only too well and my Dad is definitely on his way. Disturbed sleep, confusion, lack of focus, irritability, forgetfulness, mind racing with worrisome thoughts, cannot sit still for long... every day for him is like an instant replay of the last.

His anxiety came about shortly after surgery for an enlarged prostate, about 6 weeks ago. My Dad had several bouts with urinary retention and after all else failed to resolve this issue, the doctors felt that surgery was the only option left. The procedure is referred to as TURP - Transurethral resection of the prostate. It is performed by visualising the prostate through the urethra and removing tissue by electrocautery or sharp dissection. Full recovery can take 1 - 2 years. Urinary incontinence which is one of several expected features during post-op stage will gradually diminish as healing takes place, but may become a permanent fixture for some, if there was injury to the external sphincter system during surgery (very rare).

At age 85, this was the first time in my Dad's life being inpatient, let alone having surgery. I know he had to be extremely nervous but he never voiced it. Each time I tried to discuss any aspect of the procedure he would quickly change the subject. Well, the procedure was successful. Dad was home again and looked forward to a return in normalcy of his bladder issues.

At this point I must mention that I live in Florida and my Dad resides in Jamaica. Communication has been by phone only, since his surgery. However, I am kept up to date with his progress and doctors' reports through my siblings who reside in Jamaica as well and who have the responsibility of his direct care.

Currently, Dad lives alone, having lost his second wife to cancer 3 years ago. In the years preceding her death and before I left Jamaica, my Dad was a full time and loving caregiver to my Grandmother who was also living in the house. He was full of life and spunk. Whenever it was possible, he and my Stepmother would visit the countryside for a well needed break, or take a spontaneous road trip (my Dad's favorite thing to do from we were growing up). My Grandmother's sudden death from pneumonia left my Dad feeling helpless and totally lost. Yes, she had the usual ailments afflicting the elderly, arthritis in the knees, backaches, declining eyesight but no other major health issues. She was a source of strength and wisdom in his life. He discussed everything with her and saw to her every need. Secretly, I believe he thought she would outlive him... Having taken care of her for so many years, it was difficult for my Dad to adjust to a life free of care giving. In fact, it was awkward for all of us not having her around to share a joke or a plate of her delicious potato pudding or console us when things went wrong.

As he slowly recovered from the loss of his mom, less than a year later, Dad was again placed in the throes of care giving. This time for his wife. She had been in breast cancer remission for many years, but the dreaded disease returned and this time, with a vengence. My Dad had a complete change in personality while trying to cope with the physical and mental demands of his wife's declining health. If he left the house any at all, it was never longer than a few minutes mostly to pick up medication or pay a bill. It mattered none that friends and family were there to give a helping hand or relieve him for a while. He refused to leave her side. His voice, once booming was reduced to a raspy, whisper-like sound - emotionless. He never smiled or laughed any more as if doing so would make him guilty of pleasure when she was going through pain - terrible pain. My father spared no expense when it came to sourcing and implementing every treatment recommended hoping for a miracle cure. It was not to be, however. She passed away, taking his spirit with her. Dad was completely broken. He lost the two people closest to him, leaving him alone to cope.

It took the family over a year of constant coaxing to finally get him out of the house for short visits or a rare trip to the country. It was not without every excuse he could find before eventually giving in. Every now and then we would catch a rare glimpse of the man we remembered growing up. He was more communicative on these occasions and would actually crack a smile or even venture a chuckle or two. But loneliness and worry began to take its toll and with it a new player emerged - anxiety.

Some days, having a conversation with my Dad over the phone was like typing and drinking water at the same time - 2 completely different actions. I talk, he talks, but never in response to anything I am saying. I get a detailed rundown in rambling format of how much pee came or did not come, whether he had a bowel movement or not and if he did, how much - the amount of water consumed in ratio to urine expended, whether he had an accident or not while sleeping. Then he would change the subject in mid sentence to say he never slept well and we should just take over the house and share it among us, he can't write, his hands are shaking. He would also complain that he feels weak, can't remember things and even using the phone was a great effort. Sometimes, before I could even digest or sieve through the agitated ramblings to comment, I would hear the dial tone. My father had hung up, no longer able to withstand the effort to concentrate. It was bad...my siblings described him constantly rubbing his hands over his head and pacing back and forth, unable to sit still. His worst moments were the first half of the morning.

It saddened my heart to hear him going through such an awful experience and I could not physically be there for him. My siblings went over and above in their efforts to help him, but with families of their own to tend, it was not possible to be with him 24/7. He was scared to be alone and would use any and every reason to lure a family member over. His phobia was so deep rooted that even those from whom he had distanced himself over the years (primarily my Mom), provided a great sense of relief, as long as they were in the house and close by.

Dad is now on prescribed anti-anxiety medication which has improved his agitation immensely but not his obsessive worrying. His depressed state enables a lack of interest in anything and makes him weak. He will take a brief walk sometimes or watch a little TV but with no marked improvement. Lately, he has been back on the loneliness issue and admits when he is alone, these are the times when his mind races with thoughts the most. He recognizes not being able to focus or concentrate on anything too long and not remembering names and places and things.

For the past 2 weeks, I've been calling my Dad at the same time every morning. It is my hope to establish a routine - a reason for him to get out of bed. Each day, I have him listen to a song from his past that he loved and make him guess the singer. I also do a few logic riddles and leave him homework, so to speak. He has to work on and give me the results the following day. The exercise I felt would keep his mind occupied, if even for an hour, lessening the time thoughts go racing through his head. My little project seemed to go over well and even resulted once in a rare chuckle... He has not felt up to it in the last 2 days. Still trying...

I welcome any suggestions or advice on this situation. Wishing you all good health.


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