I hope you have been finding these blogs helpful? Particularly if you have found yourself in the position I did of caring for a loved one after they have suffered a stroke. Please do feedback with any questions you may have.
Today I want to focus on a very important part of caring for someone and that is your own mental health. Sadly mine became very bad over the period I looked after my mother and I was very depressed. I suffered panic attacks and I carried a huge amount of anxiety on a daily basis.
Let me put it bluntly, I would go into my mother’s room in the morning and I did not know if she would be dead or alive. Often she would suffer a major nose bleed in the night; the doctor informed me this would have been a clot on the brain and a further stroke if not a nose bleed. It was like perpetually living on a knife edge.
My mum had no empathy or awareness of what was going on and it was an exceptionally lonely two years of my life. When you are a carer, it is paramount you look after your own mental health. I had a very good doctor at the time and I was offered anti-depressants which I refused, as I am a migrainer and I felt they could make my head worse.
I also began to see a counselor and talk about my issues around caring for my mum. Most of the time I would end up in tears at the sheer weight of the responsibility. My counselor gave me coping strategies such as
- Booking a nice treat to look forward to – a facial or massage were two of my favourites
- Taking a break and either getting in paid care of having family and friends look after mum
- Booking a nice holiday even if it is just for a weekend to get away from it all
- Going on nice walks in the countryside
- Exercising regularly to keep yourself fit and healthy
The main thing you must remember with depression is how far you go down before you come up. I often thought about ending it all as I couldn’t cope and I know now I was very poorly. I wouldn’t let my mental health get as bad ever again but I was young and in an extremely vulnerable position.
The coping strategies I learnt and I still use today as I can still have a bout of depression like we all can are these:
- Get out of bed. It sounds simple enough but when you feel that low you really want to just pull the covers over your head and shut the world out.
- If you live on your own, call someone. It is amazing how talking to a friend can really help as it takes you out of yourself and your problems
- I have discussed this at length in my earlier blogs, regarding eating a healthy balanced diet
- Going out and seeing friends and family. You won’t want to but once you get out it will again lift your spirits
- Lastly and by no means least, looking at the improvements you have made and the person you are caring for
When we find ourselves in a hard time in life it can feel like it will go on forever and much like this pandemic we find ourselves in, it is the not knowing which is the hardest. I can speak from experience about this. It will end and the sunshine in your life will return.
Call the Samaritans (116123), if life gets that hard and please keep talking, it may just save your own life.
Looking after my mum is one of the proudest times in my life. She gave so much to me and kept our family together while caring for my dad after he suffered a stroke. He was disabled for seventeen years. She was my hero and I loved her deeply. I miss her every day and it was a privilege to give back to her for all the years of love and loyalty she gave to me.