Through the eyes of a carer for someone with a mental illness


Pulling the wool… not over my eyes you don’t!

myeyeI was having a think about some of the things I have learnt over the past few years while caring for Chris and while there have been plenty; one that always jumps out at me is the fact I learnt very quickly that if I wasn’t going to have the wool pulled over my eyes I needed to educate myself about things as much as possible so I had understanding of what was meant to happen. If you deal with mental health services you will more or less know that what should happen and what does, can be two opposite things.

If I am given any information about Chris diagnosis or his symptoms I always take it upon myself to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible, talking to our GP, talking to those who have been or are going through similar or the same things, reading, research, the internet and as many other means as I can in order to better understand.

I do this not only with diagnosis and symptoms but also how to help someone, care plans, information about medication, making sure I understood the mental health act to an extent in which I could find myself needing the knowledge, what ways Chris should/could be being helped. I am also very lucky to have a Cousin that is a Mental Health Social Worker which has often played a part on giving me advice on ways in which I can suggest others could help Chris as well.

It has proven crucial in my role in caring for Chris and helping him seek the help he needs, it is a lot easier to fob someone off who doesn’t understand what should and shouldn’t happen, if you are armed with knowledge and seen to know what you are talking about most healthcare professionals find it extremely difficult. I suppose the thing I noticed the most was I was heavily stereotyped by almost everyone I came across, they saw… where I live, my age (not known exactly but I look young) that I have four children, they knew we were on benefits (far from choice), a partner with mental health issues and they put it all together and assumed like almost everyone else that led to me being a work shy scrounger that wasn’t educated enough to properly look after anyone let alone intelligent enough to stop them fobbing me off with their poor excuses so we would go away and save them work. Hey they probably thought I left school young… well ok that bit is true… would you have known if I hadn’t told you? I very much doubt it.

The thing is the few that are like that don’t make it easy for those of us that don’t fit the stereotype, so the moment I worked out how people saw me for where I live, how old I was etc, it made me work a lot harder to prove them wrong, that I fight for my family, I educate myself about the problems Chris faces, how the mental health system works, I think you get the picture. The good thing about this was, those that know me really well GP, community nurse from our doctors surgery realised that I am always arming myself with knowledge, not only because it does interest me but because the next time a doctor tries it on with fobbing Chris or I off.. I will show them what someone who is 23, has four children, is a full time Carer, doesn’t own her own home and left school at the age of 14 is can possibly know!!!


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Tough Love

cnphotography4Doing the right thing is often the most difficult, for example a couple of weeks ago I found empty packets of Cocodamol in Chris pocket while he was on the ward and alerted staff to it because, I love him, I care deeply and overdosing on Cocodamol isn’t safe or helpful to him. I then had to tell staff again the other night that whilst out on escorted leave with me he drank a big bottle of WKD, the thing is as much as I know he is going to hate me for it and trust gets dented for a little while, I can’t just sit there and watch him destroy himself, I don’t want him in there any longer than he has to be and I long at the moment for the time he is home.

It is really difficult to sit there and explain to someone that can’t see that what you’re doing is to help them get well and not to upset them or ‘go against them’ I am always prepared that for a short while after he won’t speak to me or if he does it is usually to express his emotions around what I have ‘done to him.’ I really hope that when he comes out of hospital again and is well enough to see things, that he can see exactly why I have had to make some of the decisions I have and that they were not nice or easy for me either.

That is the thing about tough love, you don’t just do what someone wants you to do regardless, it is about doing what is best, the same as when your bringing up children, giving them sweets every time they ask, they may love you for it but their teeth, behaviour, diet etc wont so because you love them you say no.


A trip to the ‘Family Room’

Taking my children to visit a psychiatric ward was always going to be something I would worry about, the signs on the walls about children visiting, say how it can be a distressing environment in which to bring children was enough to make me question how best to deal with it but I also knew my girls need to maintain their relationship with their dad, not only for their sake, but his. So I decided one evening this past week to book the family room and take Cora up to spend some time with Daddy.

handsAs I walked pushing the pram closer to the dull looking building with metal grills over one side of the windows where fresh air can flow in, I remembered what my health visitor had told me about children being very resilient, it is just another room to them with toys and games in it and they get to see their Dad. I struggled through a couple of heavy doors before coming to the lift, I hopped in with two other people who were not having much luck getting to the floor above, the lift was rickety, you have to push the door to get it to close properly before you can get off up to the next and only other floor. When we reached it the doors wouldn’t release, we waited thinking that maybe the other doors in the ‘air lock’ were open but it still didn’t release. We made our way back down to the ground floor and attempted the stairs. A very lovely lady offered to take the pram frame and I carried the car seat and we finally made it to the first floor. I thanked the kind lady that had helped me and made my way through the ‘air lock’ for anyone who doesn’t know, on most psychiatric wards where I live there are two doors with a space in between, you enter one door and once that has closed and locked the other can then be opened.

I made the short distance to the family room where Chris was already waiting. Cora at this time wasn’t aware of anything for she had fallen asleep on the journey, members of staff cooed over her and then we were left alone. The room was nicely painted; they had games, books, toys, lots of comfy chairs and soft lighting. I told him he could get her out and not to worry about waking her up, he unstrapped her from the car seat and lifted her gently into his arms, at first she didn’t make a sound, she opened her eyes ever so slightly before realising she was in a strange place, with Daddy who she hadn’t seen for awhile, she let out a cry, so he handed her back to me. I sat down with her on my knee and he sat on the floor in front of her talking away to her saying he had missed her and she is beautiful. She launched forward and grabbed the little ties on his jumper and promptly started chewing on them, it didn’t take her long before she went and sat on his knee chatting away ‘dadada’

baby footOnce our hour was up and it was time to leave Chris cuddled her and placed her back in her car seat so I could take her home, he thanked me for bringing her in and hoped he would see her again soon. I left once again through the air lock in which I had entered, back down the stairs, but this time instead of excitement, sadness filled me, I pushed her out of the building and towards the footpath away from the ward. I looked at Cora and I looked up towards his room, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, tears rolled down my face, I was heading back home, to my family but in reality my family is apart, one key person missing, yes for the right reasons but it doesn’t change the sadness. My eldest ‘prays for daddy at school’ and ‘gets upset sometimes mummy’ my gorgeous four year old ‘misses daddy, are we going to see him today, will he come home’ and my two year old, if she hurts herself asks for ‘daddy to make it better mummy’ and of course Cora says ‘dadada’ all the time. It is the part of his life that professionals often seem to forget about but probably one of the most important.

My mum made some suggestions last night of ways to keep daddy involved so he feels a part of their life and they know he will be back when he is better… but that is a blog in its own right.


In answer to your questions…

Everyone always asks ‘Do you feel relieved?’ ‘Are you pleased/happy?’ Or words to that affect. The answer, while some may think it is easy, really isn’t so much. I am going to try and explain from my point of view exactly how I feel when I am asked those questions.

The past week has been one of the toughest times of my life, and on Tuesday, after an urgent message to Chris Social Worker because of how concerned I was about him, he was re admitted to hospital. It was quite clear he wasn’t able to keep himself safe, his ‘protective factors’ were not working, he said he felt detached from himself, he said he wished he was dead and couldn’t cope with how he was feeling.  Again we had tried all the alternatives and were running out of options for keeping him safe at home, this was again the last resort.

On Thursday night Chris told me he had asked for discharge, he was waiting to see a doctor and because I would need to unlock the front door and somehow get him home if he were to be discharged I had to wait up to see what was going on. At around half past one in the morning, while desperately trying to keep my eyes open, he told me he had been detained under a section 5(2).

The following day a Mental Health Act assessment was arranged, I was invited along as his ‘Nearest Relative’ there was also present; the Approved Mental Health Professional, the Consultant Psychiatrist of the ward, a section 12 doctor, two medical students (I will go into this on a different blog) and obviously Chris himself. Once everyone had finished discussing all the relevant bits of information it was decided that Chris would be detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. At this point my stomach sank, as although I knew he needed help, this was what I considered a necessary but not very nice process to have to go down. I felt a huge mixture of emotions, slight relief that he would be kept safe and have access to treatment, sadness that it had come to this, anger towards those that played a part in causing the hurt and flashbacks that upset him every day and also the lack of prevention from it getting this far, a lump came into my throat as I fought to hide my sadness from the room because I love him, and although it is for his own good a part of me just wanted to wrap him up in my arms and take him home and ‘make everything better’ completely unrealistic I know but I also know how much I miss him too.

I don’t feel ‘happy’ or ‘pleased’ I just feel at the moment it is necessary because of how unwell he is and I hope now he is given the ability to get to a point where life is a little more manageable, and with me supporting him all the way on his journey and our children never far away I hope this is the start to Chris being able to live again rather than just struggling to exist. He is a really amazing person, just like anyone who has been through all he has and all he will have to overcome but even when hope is hard to find it is always worth trying to hold onto.