You probably know by now (I hark on about it enough) that I have depression/anxiety. If you didn't know that, then I've just told you.
You probably don't know that my grandmother was bipolar, and that my mother suffered anxiety/depression as a chemically-induced side-effect to cancer medication.
My friends, I have lived life on both sides of the fence.
I know how frustrating it can be to care for someone with mental health problems.
Being a carer in general can be so frustrating sometimes, and many carers - like myself - develop mental health problems. (It wasn't the only factor to my illness - but it was a big factor; it's hard to stay healthy in that situation.)
But here's the thing: you have to let yourself be frustrated.
I know that sounds weird. They're ill, after all. But frustration is a natural reaction to an impossible and distressing situation.
You feel guilty for being frustrated, and, yes, you sometimes even think that you hate them.
You don't hate them, don't apologise for the thought - you're frustrated, and probably tired and worried; you hate the situation.
The thought is your brain attempting to process. Just understand that it's not true. You don't hate them.
You're not a bad person for feeling like this.
But you can't squash down what you feel - it only hurts more. That's what I did. I stomped down on the guilt, the worry, the fear... it doesn't end well.
Accept that you feel like this, and that it doesn't make you love the person any less.
Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix for caring for someone with mental health problems.
Here though, are a few tips from someone who has lived both roles. Please only use them if they'll work for you, mental illness is incredibly individual and not everything works for everyone.
- Frustration is natural. Vent to a third party or in a word document that you can delete afterwards if you want to. Don't take your frustrations out on the ill-person if you can help it (sometimes you can't. Apologise, pick yourself up, and move on.)
- Sometimes you just have to agree with someone in order to alleviate their distress 'Yes, I've paid for the fabric. Don't worry. It's sorted.' (There was no fabric. There was no need for fabric. She hadn't ordered fabric. But I couldn't leave her at that level of distress.) ...
- ...But sometimes you have to disagree with them to get the same results - 'No. It's fine. There's nothing there, I promise.'
- Understand that they do not mean to say horrible things to you or become physical. It is the illness. Not them.
- Hugs and hand-holding make the world a better place. And often help more than anything else could.
- Avoid the words 'cheer up' and similar phrases. I'm going to scream the next time someone tells me that.
- The little things mean a lot.
- Take care of your own mental and physical health. This is uber-important (and, unfortunately, often difficult.)
- Hold onto love (it doesn't have to be romantic) with both hands.