Content Warning: Bad Language
Caring is Stressful
The mental health burden on carers can be immense. Those who have never been a carer can be forgiven for not understanding what it’s like. I’ve said before that nobody tells you what you need to know until you are one. To the unknowing majority, unpaid carers like myself get lumped into the benefit claimant category. That “country that works for everyone” schtick doesn’t apply to us because we don’t work… apparently.
I got up three times in the night to help my mother to the toilet. I’ve done her washing. I’ve prepared her drinks and meals. Since she got up, I’ve helped her to the toilet twice more. I helped her get dressed. Her memory is rubbish so I’ve had to hunt up and down for her glasses, and I spent an hour comforting her when she remembered her sister died earlier this year.
I’ve done all of this today while wishing, quite honestly, that I was dead. Yet, caring wise, this has been a fairly good day. I managed slightly more sleep than usual, and I haven’t been required to clean up spillages. There’s some other minor irritations but I’m just not coping well today. I feel trapped.
It’s not mum’s fault I’m depressed again. A few weeks ago I spoke of what it was like living with depression. I likened it to a parasite. That parasite is back again, gnawing away at me. My energy for the day is almost depleted, with only annoyance continuing to provide fuel. It’s World Teachers Day, apparently. We’re expected to be thankful for our wonderful teachers. Oh, I’m sure many teachers are wonderful. Currently, I’m remembering the piece of shit headmaster who grabbed me in a headlock when I was eight and rubbed his knuckle into my skull. And then there were those teachers who stood back and allowed me to bullied. I suppose teachers did have quite the impact on my life.
I have a lot of issues, I know. There’s anger inside me. For a time, I received some help but that’s gone now and I’m alone. I have to deal with it all myself. Sometimes, it’s hard. On a good day I forget the above ever happened. Today, it’s stabbing at me like a sharpened blade.
The Process of Getting Mental Health Help
It’s not easy! I went to a GP many years ago, practically begging for help. He was understanding and wanted to help me, so he prescribed some drugs and put a referral in to a local mental health centre. I took the drugs, went completely batshit, stopped taking them and waited. And I carried on waiting…
It was around six months before I finally got an appointment at the centre. It was not particularly productive. The therapist wanted to prescribe more drugs, an anti-psychotic in fact, and was unwilling to listen to my protestations that I was not psychotic, I was depressed. Even informing him of the rather unfortunate side-effect of the previous drug prescription didn’t deter him. He simply scalded me for being difficult.
No matter. I was transferred to another therapist at the same centre. And then another one. This carried on for a while. I began to feel that perhaps I was difficult, since apparently nobody there had any idea what to do with me and clearly didn’t want to deal with me. Eventually, I was transferred to a different centre and then finally I was referred to somebody at yet another centre who not only wanted to deal with me, but wanted to help!
Therapy That Worked
This was a breath of fresh air. I had a standing, weekly appointment where I could sit and just talk for an hour every Monday. It wasn’t too far away so I was okay to leave mum on her own while I was gone. He was a good man. He sat there and listened to everything that I poured out in those sessions. All the anger, the stress, the emotions that I was ill-equipped to deal with was laid bare before him.
I cried during one therapy session and I have a real problem with people seeing me cry. The following session, feeling humiliated and vulnerable, I verbally wailed on him for forty-five minutes trying to get him to fob me off on someone else like all the others had. Seeing through my ill-thought ploy he simply told me he wasn’t going to abandon me. Bastard made me cry again.
And Then It Ended
Yep, just as I finally began to feel like I was getting somewhere, the therapy ended. It seems there is a value to me and my wellbeing, and I exceded that value. I still have a copy of the discharge report he sent to my GP. He stated clearly that I should be referred for further therapy at the nearest opportunity. Five years later, no more therapy.
In those five years, my life has not become easier. It’s got harder and it will only get harder. Mum’s condition is degenerative. She’ll need my help more and more as the months and years pass until eventually she passes on. And me? I’m expected to just carry on, without support, and deal with these dark feelings each and every time they rattle in my brain. The government likes to talk a lot about mental health – it’s become something of a buzzword these days. Yet it’s shallow. Their only concern is with mental health services that get people back into a “proper job”. Carers like me don’t do a “proper” job in their eyes, so we’re not really important. We’re just chumps, nothing more.
I spend many of my days in a state of isolation. It’s clear that there will be no further treatment for my condition. No matter how much I beg or plead, I have now been abandoned to face it alone. Fair enough. Yet seeing Jeremy Hunt and the rest of his ilk ignorantly witter on about mental health services as if they have the first fucking clue what it’s like being at the mercy of these outside forces is laughable. It should be challenged and confronted because their faux-concern is nothing but a cynical attempt at vote gathering. If they truly cared about mental health services, and carers, they would stop treating us in this manner. They would actually try and listen to us, and understand that just because they can’t see it, we are suffering.
Being a carer is a sacrifice. Many of us sacrifice our futures, our presents, our physical and mental wellbeing. We sacrifice friendships and we sacrifice happiness, and we do so out of love. If they truly wanted to support mental health in carers, they would make it easier to access mental health services. One hour a week did more for me than a thousand meaningless platitudes will ever do.
Life is hard enough as a carer. You’re watching somebody you love struggle, and in many cases, slowly die in front of you. We should not have to suffer the added stress of being forced to fight for support we desperately need.