Living with someone with mental health problems can be hard, but with disabilities on top of this, it can be even more demanding for you and your family.
My wife has mobility problems along with mental illness. This has been ongoing for many years. My daughter left home over a year ago, so all my wife’s needs fell to me. I was doing a lot of daily chores anyway, but I didn’t realise how much my daughter had been doing too. I believed I was still managing… or was I?
Suddenly my job role changed overnight. The stress from this alone was bad enough. I then learned that my wife had planned to self-harm and even had suicidal thoughts, to escape the daily pain she is in. How do you deal with this?
Surprised, disappointed in myself, loss of control, why me? These were the thoughts going through my mind at the time. Suddenly the issues I had to deal with on a daily basis had doubled.
I was unsure what to do next. A counselling session helped a little, but I found there was no straight answer to solve my issues. It was going to be a case of breaking things down and dealing with each one individually.
I just couldn’t think straight. Sleep was broken by overthinking everything. I never imagined I could get this low. My anxiety was very high too. There was so much bad stuff going on in my life, it got on top of me.
I began to search out ways to help myself deal with my issues. First I talked to my wife – we talked for hours to try and understand what was going on. This was a really upsetting experience for both of us, but I believe you must meet your demons head on. I got to understand that when she did certain things at home, this was her way of dealing with the issues she has. I can’t always see what pain she is in.
We discussed so many things, a truly emotional and hard discussion, but one that was much-needed. I felt this was progress in a way, but wasn’t sure how. Looking back it was probably the exhaustive discussions we had that day – and many more since – that have helped.
Emotionally though, I was still exhausted. My thinking at times became so blurred that being rational was not even an option. The thought of just getting out of this life did occur from time to time. Only my love for my wife spurred me on to try and beat this situation.
I began what became regular sessions with Occupational Health, along with visits to my doctor. What I yearned for was understanding, not medication, this I made clear. I broke down in his room, I felt like an emotional wreck.
With Occupational Health, it was in my first session that I realised – having never even given it a thought – that in actual fact I was a Carer!
I searched out help online, finding forums and resources. I took courses online to help learn more about the illnesses my wife is suffering with too.
My next visit to my GP was about trying to understand my wife’s needs. I started feeling much more informed as regards what kind of pain she is feeling and how to assist.
I also discussed what I was doing around the house – although still emotionally and mentally drained myself, I couldn’t just stop doing what needed to be done at home. I was determined to try to understand things.
I learnt more about myself and realised that ‘I am important’ – in my state of mind at the time, this was not a priority, my wife’s needs were. Looking at the bigger picture though, I am just as important, as without my help she just wouldn’t be able to cope daily. I started to think in a much different way, with how much my wife relied on me and to some degree how I rely on her.
I spoke to a colleague and found he was in a similar situation to me. I couldn’t believe the similarities between his story and mine. That chat was very welcome indeed.
I remain emotionally and mentally drained. I feel that my thoughts are all fuzzy in my mind. I am still overthinking everything. But the good news is I am working through this by using Mindfulness.
My Occupational Therapist has been a godsend too. If you think you have a problem it can be really beneficial to reach out. Don’t let things grow and fester in your mind, there will be help somewhere. I still have bad days more than good ones, but it’s getting better. And if you feel someone else is a bit down, pull them to one side and just ask them if they want a chat. You never know what they are going through.
Thank you to Graeme for sharing his story, and to his wife for giving permission for this to be published. If anyone else would like to send their story in for consideration, please don’t hesitate to contact us with a submission.
Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, 24/7.