Carers of people with the likes of schizophrenia, bi-polar and other similar mental illnesses have a very stressful life in that with these illnesses the caring process can change from one moment to the next. At times it is like walking on sharp broken glass.
Most of the time the carer is left in the position of feeling that there is nothing right that they can do and often get abused for their effort as the person with the mental illness may not even appreciate the help, themselves believing that there is nothing wrong with them.
The carer will suffer from living in an extremely stressful environment, will experience extensive lack of sleep, a broken meal pattern, isolation and no ‘me time’, amongst other things. All this leads to the carer suffering from ill health in the long run.
A carer looking after a family member with a mental illness is doing so because they do not want their loved one to be left suffering with undue help which is not always provided by the health services.
Therefore the carer needs to maintain reasonable health themselves to continue in this role.
Here Are Some Strategies For Carer Self Care (and I know from experience this may seem a big ask of you at times):
· Although you are taking on the role of carer try and keep your emotions separate
· Don’t get caught up in the illness – in other words don’t always jump to the demands of the inflicted person even though they will show extreme impatience at times
· Keep in mind that a person with a mental illness is very self-absorbed, they will be thinking only of their needs so you will have to stand up for yourself and put yourself first in order to get your jobs done
· Be aware of their manipulation – the way I see it and have had it described to me is that they learn to be very manipulative as a way of coping with their illness and you are not exempt from that – in order not be manipulated ‘play their game’ and learn to manipulate back by taking on that ‘game attitude’ as this also helps you cope with the stress rather than always feel as if you are being controlled or at their beck and call
· Avoid getting into arguments by walking away – it takes two to argue and it is the self-absorption issue that causes many of them – talk about issues when the atmosphere is calm or if the person is really ill, wait for the window of opportunity where they can see reason (no matter if this takes several days)
Life as a Carer of a mentally ill loved one is surely one that is never boring. In fact, it is downright stressful to say the least. I read once (and I wish I could give credit to this person because I loved it, but cannot remember where I read it), “The life of a Carer is like drinking a cappuccino, you don’t only drink from the bubbles at the top but right down to the dregs at the bottom and taste every drop.”
Each and every Carer learns to cope in their own way as does the person inflicted with a mental illness. Some of those that become ill suffer severely and others not so severely but at the end of the day, those that take on a caring role do so because they love their family member and wish them to have the best of life that is possible.