Who cares about those who care for people with serious mental illnesses?

If you are someone that cares for a loved one with a mental illness know that you are not alone. The carers of those struggling are often forgotten in the recovery programme for their own personal challenges.

As the carer of a child (adult) with a diagnosis of a serious mental illness I can attest to how lonely, isolating and emotionally draining our role can be. I know this is something that many of us feel. The feeling is real.

How can we improve? How can we do more to support each other?

For us as a family, when we started to provide updates on what was happening in our own world, we were surrounded by amazing friends and family, everyone supporting and offering to help with anything they could. It was heart-warming to know so many cared, but then it got too much. 

When is too much too much?

Everyone was asking for regular updates (and still do at the time of writing over 4 years later), mostly daily, on progress and how our daughter is? We would often respond with, you will have to ask her as we do not know. It can be very overwhelming for us to try and keep everyone updated.

So what can we do to support those who we know are going through a challenging personal time supporting a loved one as a carer?

 Never try to fix the challenges – your good ideas might work for some, but unfortunately they will not work for everyone

–      Acknowledge their struggles and don’t try to minimise their feelings

–      Give enough space to enable them to work through their emotions/feelings

–      Check in with short and encouraging messages of support – telling someone you are thinking about them helps us to keep fighting (we are using our reserves of emotional energy to just keep journeying through each day)

–      Never try to fix the challenges – your good ideas might work for some, but unfortunately they often will not work for everyone – remember we are often fighting hard to access the right support already. 

So, let’s start and continue with Normal

Whilst the experience of a carer is not normal (it takes a long time to accept it is normal in our world), we crave nothing more than just trying to get on with our lives in the most normal and best way possible. It’s ok to laugh, it’s ok to enjoy life, in fact is is really important to focus on more of this. Staying healthy and well as a carer is one of the most important actions in supporting others. My best suggestion is to continue working hard on yourself, your own personal self-care, and do more of those things that help you to continue.

As a carer we are always looking for the magic fix, the solution that will give the person back their life. We want nothing more than our loved one to recover, but we are paralysed by the thought that we are unable to do anything.   Being there as a supporter is enough.

This is my perspective, you may have a different view of being a carer. It’s ok to feel or see this differently. After all we are unique and individual, and we should never try to change that.

Matthew Holman

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