Just bumped onto my neighbor down the street. He was very distraught. He got back from a shopping centre with his son (30+yo), who hears voices and sees things that are not there. He usually avoids crowded places, he told me. But today he had nowhere to leave him. His son had an episode in the midst of the shopping centre and started shouting, kicking and fighting invisible beings while people laughed, took photos and videos or run away scared. It was humiliating. My neighbour started crying. In his country, he told me, his son wouldn't be allowed to go out. He'd be locked away somewhere. He often has to deal with strong emotions, like anger, guilt, grief and distress, that can spill into other relationships and cause conflict and frustration. Looking after their son has severely affected their marriage, he told me, and he is not intimate with his wife for years now. He feels isolated, missing the social opportunities associated with work, recreation and leisure activities. They haven't been on a holiday for years and even if they could afford it, there's no way they can leave their son somewhere as they'd be constantly worried for his wellbeing and unable to relax or have a good time. If they took him with them, there would be no break.
This made me think of the enormous burden on the carers, family and relatives or friends of someone living with a mental illness. Caring for someone can take the freedom and spontaneity out of life. The demands of caring can leave little time for other family members or friends. The impact often goes unnoticed or unrecognized. At some point in many people's lives, things change and they may find themselves caring for someone. No one prepares you for something like this. It's something we do as people. In many cultures it is expected. Apart from the many rewards that caring offers to the carer there are also numerous challenges.
Caring can be very demanding and often restricts the lives of individual carers and their families and can impact on one's relationships, health - emotional, mental, physical, - career or job prospects, finances, travel etc. Some health problems, like back problems, anxiety and depression, can be directly linked to caring. Many people who look after someone are chronically tired and desperately need to refresh with just one night of unbroken sleep, a day off or an extended period with no caring responsibilities.
How do you cope as a carer? How do you look after yourself? What supports do you have?