Welcome to another blog post on caring by Matthew Mckenzie a fellow carer who is still caring. My main aim of this blog is to give my thoughts and philosophy about carers, especially mental health carers. Although I do stray outside the field onto general carers since some aspects of caring are very similar.
If you check out my categories on the right hand side of my blog, you will see my posts on “Carers being there for their loved one or caree”. You can also see my views on “Acceptance” and many other posts about caring. I must warn you though that some of my blog posts can be hard hitting and if you are in a caring role that is asking much of you, then please take heed, because I do not want to upset people. The role of caring is very emotional and this blog does try to press the issue.
Another point to this blog is to educate. I want to educate the public, organisations, and other carers and health professionals on what carers go through. Carers go through a lot of stigma, it is true that families can hide in shame if they are caring for someone especially if their loved ones have mental illness. I have experienced people in the street say nasty things about who I care for and at times I admit it shames me. However the shame is not about who I care for, the shame is reserved for my neighbourhood, my community in fact society in general.
What makes a community turn around and find humor or ridicule on those suffering mental health problems? Why is it that carers and families stay silent and care in isolation when they find out the hard way there is lack of support for them, be it emotionally, physically or financially. Perhaps these issues are for a sociologist to look into, we are now practically a global community affecting each others lives in so many ways, but at the same time never have we been so isolated amongst ourselves as a local community, there is not enough time, not enough money or enough resources to check up on our friends, families or neighbours because we need to make our mark, we need to get ahead.
For us carers, perhaps some of us may feel left behind wondering, what have we sacrificed? What is the price that we have paid? What is the reward for sticking by our loved ones suffering mental illness, which could be our sons, our daughters, parents, relatives, friends or neighbours. For carers out there, do we not leave our own mark on society? Or do we remain forgotten as with those suffering mental illness living in isolation.
I often wonder to myself as a carer what is the price one pays for caring and I have already mentioned it. The price is sacrifice.
If you are a carer then I am sure you have taken the time to be there with your loved one or caree to help them through their darkest moments through their illness.
If you cared or are still caring and your emotions have been fraught when your caree lashes out at you due to their frustration of being helpless and relying on you, then I feel its safe to say that you have sacrificed your emotions to keep things together.
Maybe you have spent beyond your limits to provide care for someone in order to keep them well. Even though you are not receiving much financial support yourself, you continue to spend because you care, and yes this is also sacrifice.
Have you stopped work in order to provide care because you know support will not come and your reason for life is to be there for your loved one? Well that’s sacrifice. I can almost understand why carers back away from the material or financial things in life, because they cannot bear to be apart from the person that gave them a reason to strive on in this existence.
Perhaps you have invested time and energy for your loved one or caree by travelling to see them when they are isolated by their friends or community who only stick with someone when the time is good, but when things go wrong who is there for them? Its YOU. Yes YOU!!
It is you who sacrifice your resources because you care.
It is you who took the time to be with your loved one when no one else wanted to know.
It is you as a carer who spoke on their behalf because they could not speak for themselves.
It is you as a carer that took the emotional, financial and energy draining blows that no one else can see.
It is you as a carer that remembers how your loved one used to be and you that hope there is some form of recovery.
YOU sacrifice your career, your time, your social life, your emotions and even your own commitments, because you CARE.
It might seem like bad news, I mean when you look closely at the word sacrifice, it seems to state that we are giving up something that we do not want to let go, but maybe on the flip side of the coin, does sacrifice need to turn out as a disaster? Does sacrifice have to be the worst thing a carer can do?
To sacrifice something in the world of caring has its benefits, it has its values. Some carers do not even notice what they are sacrificing and I ll come on to that in a moment. Taking time even if its only for a moment each week or day to be with someone you care for shows how far you have come to be a human being.
Have you heard the expression “We are human beings, not human doings?”.
As you know, we live in a capitalist society, for this society to work we all need to spend and buy things, but for that to happen we need to earn first, and for us to be earning we need to be doing something.
The cost of living in western societies has risen dramatically and continues to rise, so we all have to be doing much more than we use to in order to earn or even survive. The more the cost of living rises, the more we have to do, but wait!! We soon end up as human doings, we do so much in order to earn, in order to consume and capitalise as much as possible, but in this maze of confusion, where is the human beings in our community? in our society?
Has it not occurred to anyone that we are not on this planet forever? no matter how many material possessions we buy, we just cannot keep them forever. That job we are trying to hold down will eventually move on to someone else when we get older. So there is something of major value in our short existence on this planet and this is Time.
Since time is so short, it is of value and quality to us all, the use of time can lend itself to our emotions and what we experience. We need to realize that we exist only for a short time and the materials and objects will go on longer without us. So my conclusion is we must leave space for “our being”, that focusing on being in the present.
To spend or sacrifice our time and energy for other human beings or our loved ones is the greatest gift anyone can give. So it seems carers are a pinnacle part of this situation.
Yet us carers are in a battle, not only struggling with time slipping away from us, but also from those who depend on us. Society sometimes forgets that in order to be more civilized, it needs to look at those who care and make society what it is. I admit society needs contribution from all especially in a capitalist world, but it is a bad idea to under value caring in the community.
You see it all starts with each of us, if we have families we will soon see that TIME will slip away and we ourselves will become caring or be cared for. Each family belongs or should belong to the community where the community can have the resources and support to value carers and thus the community becomes a caring community.
The value of sacrifice is that carers set an example to the community. We carers set the example of what its like to be a human being, not a “human doing” even though we are all pressured to be doing so much that we sometimes do not care for ourselves.
Other benefits of sacrifice is we leave a legacy, this legacy cannot easily be removed. Time is the final master and what is left is our actions. I have hope that people will remember what you have done as a carer and that they have sympathy and respect for what you do or have done.
Not everyone can or wants to be a carer and perhaps that is OK, but us carers need to speak out and remind others that caring is a vital part of the community and society.
The limits of sacrifice.
There are times when I wish as a carer that we do not have to sacrifice so much. I know every day that a carer gives up their Job, emotional and physical health to provide care, but why?
Is it not hard to see why carers do this because support or resources are lacking? Would it not be an easy thing to do to just sacrifice so much in order to provide care? Think twice about this, I am sure the answer is no, this is not an easy thing to do. Alas I want to take time to warn carers or readers out there, that there are limits to sacrificing your time and energy.
We as carers need to leave space for ourselves as well. I have been told this by friends, family, health professionals and even other carers. This is good advice from them, how much as a carer can you sacrifice? How much sacrifice is too much no matter how noble it is? Who will be there for you when the time comes for your own care? These are not easy questions and the answers are even harder to find.
Carers sacrificing so much need to know their limits, but what are those limits?
It is always a good time to stop and pause to think with our minds.
The golden rule is that you do not want to sacrifice so much that you cannot continue your caring role.
You do not want to burn out before your caree, although there are many cases of carers looking after each other.
Think carefully about what is being placed on the line.
What happens if your caree passes away, what will you do now?
You will need to pause and think ahead, where will you be in the community?
These are not selfish things to think about as a carer, you need to exist for yourself as well as for others, we all need to find that balance, but as of this time I fully well know and understand that carers continue to sacrifice more than they should do, because we as carers are not fully valued, we as carers are not fully understood.
Take note that if you have had to sacrifice so much as a carer then I am with you, I have sacrificed a lot and I understand the value and price of sacrifice.