You’re knackered. You feel like you’re on your own. You’ve lost sight of who they are – and who you are too. You married a partner, a companion and a helper – but now, you’re a carer.
You said you’d raise a family; but you’re parenting alone.
Even your friends have stopped calling. You’ve tried explaining. And apologising. Why you have to keep cancelling. Why you can’t come over the way you used to. But the invitations have dried up. And in some ways, it’s easier. Just the two of you. Pretending like it’s all okay. But it’s not.
What’s them and what’s their struggles? What’s beyond their control and what can they change? They treat you like dirt. But it’s really not their fault. You ricochet between anger and guilt. You’re angry; then you’re sorry. You hate them; but you love them too. You can think of nothing else:
How are they doing? What will help? Is it my fault? What if they relapse? What if this time, you say no – and they really need you there?
Then there’s the money. Medical costs, trips to the hospital, electricity, council tax, rent. They lost their job; and you lost yours too. But the bills keep coming.
You said, “for better or worse”…but this is too much. It’s been going on for years; and it’s getting harder, not easier. You want it all to stop. So how do you keep going?
1. You are not alone. In the course of a marriage, most couples with have to deal with mental health issues; whether with anxiety, or depression or dementia. Together with church family and friends, you can deal with this. So; ask for help. Stay connected to friends you already know; ask for support from church and professionals; partner with other carers (e.g: online or through support groups). And don’t compare your situation to others – you don’t know what others are facing behind closed doors and it’s easy to make assumptions.
2. Your partner is not helped by you burning out. It is vital that you care for yourself. This means eating well, sleeping, asking for help (and accepting it), setting boundaries where necessary and talking about how you feel. Encourage your loved one to talk to others too.
3. Acknowledge what’s happening. Don’t struggle on or pretend things are ok when they’re not. Go to see your GP. Talk to family and friends. Work closely with your loved one’s support workers/team. And accept help.
4. Don’t try and rescue the other person. You can love them and encourage them; but you cannot save them. Ask them what helps; and if they can’t see that there’s an issue, find out their reasons for it.
5. Know what you’re dealing with. What is the illness? What help is available? What are the treatment options? How have others dealt with it? Local mental health associations are a good place to find out more and to connect with others in similar situations.
6. Be realistic. Recovery, (where possible) takes time and is rarely straightforward.
7. Set limits. If you are being abused for example, then seek help and withdraw.
8. Don’t dominate the other person. There may be some battles you need to fight, (encouraging them to take vital medications), but there are others, (their outfit, what films they watch, what they want to do) where they should be allowed to lead.
9. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. Pray it and talk to wise Christians about it.
10. Remember that what you’re doing makes a huge difference, even though you can’t see it.
11. Keep hoping. The Lord is able to work miracles and He will bring you through and sustain you, even when it feels like hope has gone. Allow others to hope and pray for you; and stay connected to your local church fellowship. If you can’t make it to services, say so and ask how they can help.