Do you live with someone with a severe and enduring mental health problem?
Do you love that person?
Me too. Maybe that person is your partner. The clever, beautiful, articulate person you married all those years ago.
I also work.
Sometimes that can be a big challenge.
For periods when your loved one is well, things appear normal. Calm. But that’s not what it’s really like. It just seems calm. Because you’re vigilant. All the time. Waiting. For signs. Slightly on edge. Waiting. For your worst nightmare to begin. It will.
So it’s difficult, even when it’s not.
Waiting. Knowing. It’s happened before. It will happen again. When, you don’t know. But you’re Waiting for it.
Waiting. Watching. Listening.
You’re already Wise. You’ve lived the nightmare. Once. Twice. Maybe more? You’ve been through it. Came out the other side. You survived. You’re still here. Just.
Wiser; yes, that’s a good thing. But maybe also more fearful. Because you know how it will be.
And then one day you start to see. Little things. Signs. But known. And felt. You try to convince yourself it’s going to be ok. You’re worrying unnecessarily. Aren’t you??
But you already know. You don’t want to. (Please no. NO. Not again.)
But you see, and you know, and you feel it coming. A runaway train. You know where it’s going but you can’t stop it. Downhill, no brakes – out of control. There’s nothing you can do. It won’t stop. It can’t stop. You know that. The disaster and wreckage are inevitable.
And then it crashes. The nightmare begins. Only it’s not a dream. It’s real and it’s now. Chaos. Paranoia. Emotional meltdowns. Accusations. Screaming, irrational, unreality.
Mental health services become part of your life again. Your loved one’s, and yours.
How long this time?
The person you love has changed and again you become a carer; yet painfully ill-equipped for the role. You lose your appetite (in all senses) and your gut takes on a whole new life. Where on earth are those IBS tablets? And the sleeping tablets??
You struggle again to make sense of what’s happening. You access support where you can. You’re better at that than before. Wiser. You’ve been with this runaway train before. You know where it goes. It helps. At least a bit.
But it’s still the loneliest place. So lonely. Desperate. You can’t really talk to your loved one and best friend. You want to, but she’s ill. Talking is pointless, and volcanic. It only leads to another eruption. Other friends have lives to live and people to care for. They’re supportive of course, as good friends are. But you need more. Much more. You need to talk, really talk, and rant and weep and be held.
How long will it be this time? Who knows? Will she need to go into hospital again? Will you need to take time off? Will your boss be supportive when you ask for flexible working?
Will you cope? Yes, probably, like the last time.
You’ll get through it. Somehow. And things will eventually become calm again. And bowel movements will again become regular and predictable. And you’ll sleep. Ah Sleep. Glorious, peaceful, wonderful sleep!
Until the next time.
Many thanks to guest Headblogger who signs himself: A husband and ill-equipped carer
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