Before I start on my blog for Sunday (and the end of Mental Health week) I just wanted to say that I am extremely proud of Rosie. She has taken the time this week to write about her mental health journey. It has taken a lot of courage to go so deep into her break down and recovery. As I say I am incredibly proud of her for doing so. Well done buddy!
As we keep saying here at 2 Spuds, we are just doing our part and trying to help as many people not to feel alone in their own mental (or physical) journeys.
Now it is my turn to say a few words. I thought a lot about what to write about. I could write about my own journey through Functional Neurological Disorder or I could write about how exercise is great for mental health. But I have decided to take a different angle and write about caring for someone with a mental health condition. It is something we haven’t really covered through 2 Spuds to date.
No one ever asked me to be a carer for Rosie during her breakdown and diagnosis of anxiety and depression. I didn’t really have a choice under these circumstances and as love was involved then the question was already answered. I was going to be there.
Being a carer is hard work, the hours are long, you feel exhausted ninety per cent of the time, there is no pay, no holiday allowance and the list could go on. You just try and get on with it to the best of your ability. Rosie’s needs during the height of her illness came first and mine were second. During those 5 months that was the way it was to be.
I have been with her every step of the way. From drinking the juice, the melt-downs, the crying, the night time nightmares, the trips to the GP, the not knowing how you feel when you wake up in the morning. The devastation of seeing your partner in crisis is something that is going to be with me for many years to come. Rosie may have a mental health condition but at the end of the day she is my wife and I will be there.
It was a testing time as we were in the process of moving to Scotland and I had started working at a different gym. I’m not going to lie, it was hard, we weren’t sleeping, we weren’t eating correctly and our whole routine was completely out of whack. I took over the organisation of Rosie’s GP, mental health, and psychology appointments. I would quite often drive her to wherever she needed to be then talked her through what was going to happen. I became good at waiting and catching up with waiting room magazines. At the GP’s surgery I became her voice when Rosie was struggling to say what she needed to say.
I watched Rosie on one particular visit to the GP pacing the floor when an anxiety attack suddenly announced itself. I saw her car park meltdown and had to think quickly to get her back to a safe space. I held her hand through many airports as we travelled from Glasgow to London for her work meetings. We bought her noise cancelling headphones so trips to the supermarket were less intense for her. I would often leave her in the coffee aisle as I ran round getting what we needed. Sounds bizarre but my reason being, she loves coffee so she could look for packets she liked which would distract her mind.
After living with Rosie through the whole of her mental health crisis I now know the tell-tale signs of when an anxiety attack may hit, or her depression may pop its head up. I think this goes for most people living through these events. You end up knowing the signs before the person who suffers from the conditions usually does. I have learnt how to distract Rosie when her condition heightens, and we now have lots of tricks up our sleeves for when it does. We have worked hard together to put things in place, so Rosie feels secure and able to let her mental health “out” if she needs to.
I would say the bottom line of being a carer is to ask for help if you need it. On the flip side of that if you see someone who could use a good old cup of tea, dinner brought round in a Tupperware box, a shoulder to lean on, or just some chocolate then offer it to them. They may turn it down as they may be too strong to realise that is what they need but then leave that dinner in the Tupperware on a table somewhere (or their doorstep!) for them to get later. It may be too much to say thank you at the time but nine times out of ten they will be very grateful, and I can almost guarantee that when things are quiet, they will say thank you. At the end of the day even a phone call to someone can be worth millions. It is better to have these things out in the open than bottled up inside. There is absolutely no point in you both being unwell.
Rosie and I had my parents who helped us out through some of Rosie’s mental health and for that we are incredibly grateful.
One last note, I can remember on many occasions Rosie asking me where I was going? I kept answering with where am I meant to be? Rosie was terrified that I would up and leave as it got tougher and her mental health crisis got more intense. I was constantly reassuring her that I was going nowhere. We proved that we were stuck with each other when we got married (in secret) in December 2018. There are lines in our wedding vows which says it all really:
H – I will look after your wonky brain.
R – And I will keep you company during your aches and pains.
I don’t think there is anything else to say except love is love and as a carer you do the best you can.
Photo credit to Natalie Holt Photography.