It’s Carers Week. We have already produced a blog post which explains what this event is, what our Carers Service do, and how we celebrated the week with the Carers that we support. You can read that here.
This blog post is about sharing feedback our Carers Service have received. At our AGM in 2017, three of the mental health Carers we support stood up to speak about their experiences and how we have helped them.
Here, anonymised, are their accounts:
I am a Carer. Many of you here today may hopefully never experience what it is to be a Carer. At times it can be tough. My husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia almost 40 years ago and my life changed forever. Over the years I’ve dealt with his erratic behaviour as he and I both struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis.
In those days there was little or no support, and definitely nothing for the Carer. His diagnosis means that I support him financially, emotionally. I make sure he attends his appointments, make sure he takes his medication, try to take away the stresses and responsibilities for him in order that he can survive on an even keel.
As I worked full time, I was able to compartmentalise my work and home life, but I was always worried when the phone rang at work, and on some days was too frightened to feel like going home just incase something had happened during the day. Looking back, I realise that I could and should have done things differently. I was always the rescuer, with him playing the victim, and he was especially adept at emotional blackmail.
My retirement coincided with a change in his medication but he reacted badly and once again his behaviour changed. I started to walk on eggshells. I was angry, wasn’t sleeping well, became lost and isolated and eventually stopped trying to cope. I felt there was nowhere to turn to and I couldn’t really see a future with him. Then, I was referred to Stockport Mind, and over the last 12 months through 1-1 support and attending the Emotional Resilience Course, I have changed.
The course was enlightening, emotional – we were in tears quite a lot of the time – and thought-provoking. I have accepted that he may not change but I can adapt so I can be in control and have choice which not only helps him, but also takes into account my needs. I have learnt about the importance of having healthy boundaries. I have been given strategies that implement time and space before responding, rather than reacting.
My emotional wellbeing is my responsibility and I now have choices and tools. It is not always easy and sometimes I do fail, I do have bad days, but I always accept now that tomorrow is another day.
I would like to thank Stockport Mind for being there, for caring, for their support and knowing there is someone to talk to and also to challenge my behaviours, because I have to accept as a Carer that I can be at fault and my actions can exacerbate his condition.
Thanks for such a wonderful Emotional Resilience course, I came out a stronger and more resilient person.
Finally, I would like to thank my Stockport Mind worker. He’s put up with my emotional outbursts and ramblings with a sense of humour and wise counsel. I would not be here today without him. I have come a long way since our first meeting and now, with his continued support, feel able to face the future, whatever it may bring.
I care for my son who has severe depression. Carers of people with mental health issues deserve support both in relation to the people they care for and for themselves as Carers.
As a Carer, I have to motivate my son daily to function on a basic level, it causes me stress and anxiety and affects everything I do in a day. A day in the life of a Carer from my point of view involves motivating my son to get up, to care for his other chronic medical condition, to wash, dress, cook and eat, take his medication, I have to motivate him to clean up, do laundry. Most of this I end up having to do myself.
I also have to manage all his appointments to be sure he gets there, and I also have to manage all his finances and make sure his bills are paid. I have to take him to do his weekly shop and manage the money around this to make sure he has enough.
He’s currently going through the DLA to PIP process which is very stressful. I’ve had to do all the forms, prepare him for the assessment, get him there and provide encouraging support.
For me personally, I’ve had to cut my working hours right back from being quite a successful manager for years to working part time, which puts me under financial strain. I need to be there for my son. This is all on top of running my own house, and all the responsibilities that go with that.
Going to bed at night I constantly worry about him and how he is coping. However, then came Stockport Mind. I was pointed in the direction of Carers Support earlier this year and I’ve had loads of support, useful information, advice and have been challenged, which is important – challenging how I’m reacting to certain things which can exacerbate your loved ones condition. I just wish I’d known about this earlier.
I had been caring for my sons problems for 12 years without any support for myself. I’ve since benefitted from the ‘How Do I’ sessions and the Emotional Resilience workshop. The course content was superb, and I formed friendships with other Carers – long standing friendships I hope.
To be able to talk to like-minded people going through what you are helps enormously, and we’ve all shared useful information to help each other. I also enjoy the monthly drop-ins which are great.
It’s made my life a lot more manageable to be able to have support from Stockport Mind and I do appreciate everything you do.
I’m a Carer for my brother and I’ve got a slightly different story because my brother lives in London. My story is more about dealing with his difficulties from a distance.
My brother was suicidal for the whole of 2016 and I’ve lost count of how many times we phoned the police to try and track him down and find out what was going on. So it was very difficult and challenging and I was also doing quite a stressful job.
I still don’t know how much my brother’s difficulties impacted on my ability not to work, but I became quite poorly.
The other day I missed a Carers meeting – I wanted to go but I’d semi-forgot because I was going through a bit of a low patch again, but the team rang me up. Being a Carer and dealing with long-distance things has got all its own complications. It’s all been very, very difficult.
One thing I’ve found very hard as a Carer is the fact there’s not enough information when your loved one is poorly to understand what the condition is, but Stockport Mind are there on the end of the phone. I started getting involved in the different workshops.
I want to say a massive thank you to Stockport Mind for being there, but also what I think they’re doing in Stockport is creating a fantastic community – it’s not just helping individual Carers, but it’s like a ripple effect. Carers can be friends with each other and support each other.
I’ve now gone on to volunteer at my GP practice. It’s got a knock-on community effect. I think you may not realise how much impact what you’re doing has on Stockport and people’s lives generally. I just want to say thank you very much for everything you’re doing and keep going.
If you’re a mental health Carer in Stockport and would like to find out more about our service, please phone 0161 475 6229 to speak to one of our workers.