Staying strong as a mental health carer
Are you caring for someone? maybe a close relative or friend? Perhaps a neighbour or maybe you are keeping an eye on your work colleague, but what if you have been caring for someone suffering mental health problems? What I mean is if you are being there for someone suffering addiction problems, psychosis disorders, bipolar, chronic stress or others that I have not mentioned.
Mental illness can be such a difficult situation for carers to try help someone cope through it all. Sometimes there it seems there are no easy answers when a mental health carer is making some progress. It might even seem that recovery will depend on the sufferer themselves, but I know deep down as a carer you are making such a difference.
The thing is mental ill health can be so destructive. Mental illness can break the sufferer down from when they were strong, mental illness can break relationships and test a persons trust to the core. Mental illness pushes those away when we all know that as a carer you are only trying to help.
It doesn’t make sense, you try so hard and you wish to be there, we try to understand as carers, we try to understand our loved ones or those who we are close to, but how can you understand how mental ill health weakens others when the illness causes the sufferer to be unable to understand themselves at times?
I am not saying that those suffering mental ill health are always completely vulnerable, I feel at times the sufferer will need to be as strong as they ever need to be to cope through their journey, but it helps if carers and those coping with mental ill health work together on the road to recovery. It helps if families work with the mental health professionals to be able to form a pathway to recovery. We are all in this together.
Knowing what you have been through
As a mental health carer you have been through a lot, yes you know it. I am talking to you! If you have been there before the person became unwell, and you are still fighting for them when they are unwell, then you know what I am talking about. You have journeyed far and mapped your own terrain. You have seen so much pain, but also there have been good moments on the journey.
You have made the difference regardless if you are an ex carer or still caring. You have taken those brave steps to pick up those emotional scars and taken the blows. As a carer god only knows how far you have come, but the road ahead seems difficult and long, but what can you do now?
There must come a time when we need to stop and reflect as mental health carers. We need to think about the times when we argued with our loved ones, when we stayed up late worrying about them, when we fought for them and for ourselves. There comes a time when us mental health carers stayed strong for our families and held things together.
Sometimes us carers need to take a break and realize how far we have travelled because as a carer you have gone through such an amazing journey. Yes you!! You are an amazing person because you have walked the long path.
Realising your worth
As a carer, support or even helper, we need to realize our worth. If you continue to walk the path without stopping to rest and reflect then it can be so easy to wear yourself down. Each step us carers have taken on our journey has led to such a vital caring experience. At times we just do not realize how difficult it is to care in an environment that looks to measure peoples worth by their external qualities. I am talking about how easy it is for people to view someone as successful if they have a nice job, big house, perhaps a nice car and yes a family that seems in perfect health.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people could see how precious and valuable a carer is? Wouldn’t it be nice if people could see the inner qualities rather than the external qualities? You see this is the thing, us carers can be the silent ones in deeds and words. We work behind the scenes to carry others through. Recognition is so hard to get, but I know deep down us carers are worth so much more. Us carers try to keep our loved ones on the road to recovery, us carers try to keep the family together and families work so hard to be part of the community. A caring community can go so far that we all look out for each other rather than look out for each other’s external qualities.
If its so hard for others to find a carers worth, then sometimes us carers need to look within and say to ourselves that we are worth it!! Let no one, and I mean let no one say you are not worth it because you are caring for someone.
Day in and day out, night after night, us carers worry about those close to us. We worry that the time is near when mental illness slowly takes our loved ones away from us. We sometimes can sense the time is drawing in and we will loose them. Maybe that time has come and maybe the time will never come. We wonder to ourselves how on earth did we cope through all of this. When there is no one around and we are alone, our mind can only wander and it can be a habit to reflect on the difficult parts of the journey.
Well its time.
Its time to hang in there. You are strong and you are here, you have proved yourself time and time again, so its time to give yourself the chance to feel strong. Its time to feel love for yourself, you know you need it. When at night you lay there worrying, just remember its time. Its time for you to take a deep breath and feel brave again. Us carers have been through so much that we must have developed some thick skin. You cannot see it, our toughness is slow to develop and we can take the blows, not only for our loved ones but also for ourselves.
As a carer it can be so easy to back away from who we care for, we know its easy to be pushed away, it can be so frustrating, so painful. Sometimes even the health professionals do not understand us and we take even more blows.
Well its time.
Its time us carers stop beating ourselves up. We cannot be responsible for how others act or think, but us carers can be responsible for how we think about ourselves. You need to hang in there. You are worth it and you have traveled so far.
Sometimes it is ok to feel vulnerable
Being strong does not mean you have to be forceful. Being strong does not mean you have to put on a brave face all the time. Sometimes being strong can mean you need to cry. Sometimes being strong means you have to trust others to even care for you. It is almost a paradox because it is ok to be vulnerable even when it seems being vulnerable seems weak. We are human after all, we are hurled into experiences and environments that we lack full control of. We all make mistakes and that is one of the vital traits of being human.
There are times when people will pick up on the mistakes of others and use it to make themselves feel strong, but this is a mistake in itself. We all need to be there for one another, this is how a community should work. We should look out for each other and not always compete. If you’ve made a mistake, well its ok in my eyes, I have made mistakes, we all have made them, but in the end does those mistakes define us forever? Only if you let it.
We need to sometimes be strong to be vulnerable and be vulnerable to be strong, it sounds so weird, but reading the signs on the journey can help us keep going.
The road has been hard and shows no sign of ending any time soon. Sometimes the journey as a carer can lead off the track and at times you are at the crossroads to make important decisions of where to go next. There have been times of uncertainty and fear. On the journey there just seems to be no map and we continue to walk as far as possible.
Sometimes we walk with other carers who can teach us some important things, then there are times carers will have to walk alone, but ever step is a step forward. There is no turning back, we have made those decisions, we have made those mistakes and all us carers can do is learn from them. Sometimes there will be days when it is impossible to learn from what has happened, sometimes its hard to make sense of it all, you see that’s the difficultly of mental illness, its so hard to make sense of it. The road will have its ups and downs as if you are going uphill and downhill again.
As a carer who has walked that path, I know you have walked that path and I know you are taking the step forward to define yourself as a carer. You have been there for them or are going to try so hard to be there for them. You care for them, you will try and you will continue that journey.
Who knows where the journey will end, perhaps it will lead to the beginning again, maybe we will find ourselves home. It might probably take us far away where we make our own path. No carers journey is the same, but as a carer we must take that step. We must make those decisions. If you care you will carry your loved one on your journey, but you must remember to stop a while and say to yourself
“You are worth it”