I can’t explain what it is like to care for someone with a mental illness. When you get a physical illness, there are often clear guidelines for treatment. You try treatments A B and C, down to Z. There is a beginning and an end.
But how do you cure a mental illness? What is the right treatment? How do you support someone? What helps?
Is it medication? Family support? A job? A home? Meditation? Sport?
Well it can be one of these things, or all of these things, or none of these things. It is like a lottery, where the odds are pretty bad and your luck can change in a split second.
This post is for my Dad on Father’s Day, who has been caring for my Mum for 20 years.
They have been married for 43 years, which I think is bloody amazing!
When Mum got sick, I think I was about 12, we didn’t really know what was happening to her. I just thought she was confused. And stressed. (Which is kind of what mental illness is anyway isn’t it? Being confused and stressed?)
There was no Beyond Blue, no carers manual, not much support and a lot of community stigma.
I came home from school one day and Dad told me mum had gone to hospital for a rest and that we were not to tell anyone about it.
Eventually, with my Dad as the lead, we learnt more as a family about what Mum was going through.
Dad eventually said ‘buggar it’ and told all their friends and just supported my Mum. And has been there for her from that day on.
The thing that sucks about mental illness is that EVERYTHING IN YOUR LIFE CAN BE FINE, BUT YOU ARE NOT FINE. For no reason.
There is nothing you can put your finger on that might change things. Options A – Z of treatment might do everything for you. Or nothing at all.
Growing up my Dad has showed me that being in a relationship is give and take. You enter marriage and you never know what might happen to your life. You don’t know what roles you will take on, or where you will end up in 43 years.
That is the gamble you take of committing to share your life with another person (and isn’t life just a gamble anyway?)
Dad did the grocery shopping, made us hundreds and thousands sandwiches every Friday for lunch, took us to Saturday sport and was the key enabler to my cat obsession.
Mum took on extra hours at work, did HSC marking and made us read and read and read and study and told us that only boring people got bored.
Dad liked snow trips. Mum liked beach trips.
They accommodated each others needs and wants and supported each other and us. Now in his semi retirement, Dad flies to Cambodia and helps build houses for people, for his ‘holiday‘. (Super amazing my Dad is, but Mum is amazing too if you want to read about her here.)
Perhaps the biggest thing my Dad has taught me about caring for someone and maintaining a successful marriage, is you just have to be there, wherever there may be. If the other person is there, then there is where you are too.
You don’t have to always do something to help, which can be hard, (for a miss fix-it person like myself.) And sometimes nothing you do can help.
You just have to listen and be there.
I love you Dad and I am so proud to be your daughter.
Happy Father’s Day.