08/06/2021 - Permalink

Carers Week 2021: Personal story – Carer for a person living with a mental health illness

Related topics: Adult social care / Partner organisations

Carers Week (Monday 7 June to Sunday 13 June 2021) is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution of the UK’s unpaid carers – supporting family members and friends who are older, have a disability, mental or physical illness or need extra help as they grow older.

This year’s theme is ‘Making Carers Visible and Valued’, and throughout the week we’ll be showcasing some of the personal stories from local carers across the county.

Carers Week 7-13 June 2021 graphic

Carers Week 7-13 June 2021

Today’s personal story is from a local carer who supports her husband, who suffers from mental health illnesses:-

“I had no idea I was a carer until my partner’s care co-ordinator suggested I had a carer’s assessment. I believed that part of my role in a loving relationship was taking care of my partner.

“It turns out this is true up to a point. I’m 42 years old, I work for myself and I’m a carer.  My partner is 44 and suffers from a plethora of mental health issues, the most prevalent being schizophrenia.

“He hears hundreds of abusive voices shouting at him 24/7, has attempted suicide a few times and regularly self-harms. As he currently isn’t on any medication, due to antipsychotics not helping in the past, he has periods of stability as well as psychotic episodes.

“Although he doesn’t have a physical disability, his mind is so full that he is permanently distracted and I have taken on the responsibility of ensuring that he completes day to day tasks such as eating, drinking and using the bathroom. I prepare his meals and provide constant reassurance that the voices in his head are not real people. When he falls into psychosis, I lose him for a while until the episode is over and he becomes himself again.

“Eventually it became clear that I had started to lose myself as I had become so consumed with looking after my partner and coping with his unusual behaviour and needs. It was during the difficult times that I realised I was in fact his carer and not just his partner.  Now, when things are distressing, I adjust to my role of carer as, if I’m not careful, his mental illness can suck all of the air out of the room and I’m left gasping for air.

“Without the mental and emotional support I receive as a carer, I wouldn’t be able to cope myself as I regularly feel that, despite not hearing voices myself, I too am battling my partner’s schizophrenia.

“Initially it was difficult to see myself as a carer within my relationship, but the help I receive enables me to reframe how I perceive things and I’m able to see my role of carer as a positive one.

“I now see how strong and resilient I am, my partner is and our relationship is. My partner is one of the kindest, most supportive and encouraging, not to mention wisest, people I have ever known. Every day we get through is a successful day and I’m grateful for the time we spend together.

“I know that I make a huge difference to his life as both his partner and his carer, just as he makes a huge difference to mine. Some days feel like an uphill struggle, but knowing that I have helpful, friendly people I can contact who will listen and give me good advice, makes me feel stronger. Just knowing this helps me stay objective as I need to stay rational even when my partner isn’t.

“Since identifying as a carer and receiving help, I have felt heard and supported and am able to get through the challenges I face and not feel alone.

“Although I regularly feel let down by the overstretched mental health service, I have received help and support from the Shropshire Carer Team, Shropshire Mental Health Service and Mobilise. This support is invaluable.”

If this story has resonated with you and you would like to find out more about the support you may be able to receive please contact Shropshire Carers on 01743 341995 or email: shropshire.carers@shropshire.gov.uk

If you or someone you know cares for a loved one, then we have over 40 free activities for you to join in throughout this week. You can find out more here.