Tag Archives: join a support group

The caregiver, and how to protect himself/herself

Today’s blog is about the caregivers.

It is a difficult task to balance the needs of a care-giver with those of his/her mentally ill loved-ones. Where mental illness in concerned, a caregiver is usually a family member who needs to worry about his/her own self-care. These caregivers need to make sure that they get sufficient rest as well as ensure that they have loving relationships and belong to support groups. They need to remember at all times that the needs of their ill child do not always have to come first. Of course there will be times when that’s not possible. I know this from personal experience as I found it extremely difficult to carry out. Establishing boundaries means that one has to set clear limits for the patient as well as for oneself.

If you find it difficult to cope with the challenges of your child’s mental illness, I want to assure you that you are not alone. There are so many of us who are experiencing the same problem all over the world. Mental illness changes the lives of every family member. I found my son’s unpredictable behavior (caused by schizophrenia,) absolutely devastating. My late husband worried about the future while I was far more preoccupied with getting through each day. My family discovered that we had strengths we’d been unaware of and as a result, were able to meet situations we’d never dreamed we’d have to face.

Attending a support group gave me added support as all the parents present became our second family. Discussing problems with them was educational as well as supportive, and I doubt whether I would have managed the coping process without their constant support.

Most of us were shocked to hear that we could not cure our child’s mental illness. It took a long time before we understood that although there was no cure, there was a way that our child’s condition could be stabilized, and so enable him/her to attend work for a few hours a day. We learned that we had to alter all our expectations which came as a huge shock.

NO ONE IS TO BLAME FOR OUR CHILD GETTING A MENTAL ILLNESS. No matter how hard we may try, we cannot be responsible for giving someone a mental illness. When we felt angry or resentful, it was a good idea to direct that negative energy toward our relative’s mental illness instead of against the very person we loved so much.

Unlike medical conditions which typically bring out sympathy as well as platters of food, friends, acquaintances and business associates, people showed mixed reactions in the way they provided support for our sons or daughters.

 

 

                           

 

 

 

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Tips we received over the years

riding bikes 2The way most parents behave when there is mental illness in their family is to shut down their emotional life. I know that because I did it – but was told to resist it.

My inability to talk about my feelings at that time left me stuck and frozen. Then I learned how to speak out and it helped so much. Now, nobody can say much behind my back because it has all been said. Family relationships are cast in disarray due to the confusion around the ill relative. Our other children suffered  as they were emotionally enmeshed with their older sibling. Most other relatives did not know how to react. I believe that this is not unusual.

My children felt grief for what they had lost. They had been close to their brother, shared secrets, done things together and built a close relationship. It was hard for them to learn that mental illness, like other diseases, is a part of the varied fabric of life. They had to learn that mental illness was a biological brain disease and this took a long time to absorb. Invisible illnesses are always more difficult to handle than physical ones that everyone can see. There were people who asked them why ‘the psychologist or psychiatrist’ didn’t fix their brother’s problem. I

Strange behavior is a symptom of the disorder that can be embarrassing for a teenager to deal with. The needs of the mentally ill person do not necessarily come first and it is so important to set boundaries and explain that there are limits. This is not easy to do as parents often want to compensate by being extra good to their mentally ill child.

Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence the same as any other doctor or surgeon, so it is acceptable to change doctors.

I remember feeling a whole lot of emotions like fear, guilt, anger, grief, sadness and confusion. Attending a support group for parents with children with various mental illnessness was most helpful. They became our extended family and gave the much needed support  and advice.

With early detection one can …

2 adults in circleALZHEIMER’S 

  • With early detection, I think we got the maximum benefit from the prescribed treatment.
  • With early detection, I think we gained extra time to plan for our future together.
  • With early detection, both my family and I had time to find out more about the availabe services re facilites and caregivers.
  • We had time to learn how the Alzheimer’s Association could help us  … or  not, and to find a support group in our area. I discovered that a support group helped a great deal as the people present knew exactly how I felt and were able to share relevant information with me. They also became good friends and confidants.