The Carer Mentality
And when you don’t need it any more.
This post is something that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time now, and until today, haven’t felt that I, a: had the words to do it justice, and b: could actually face writing it. So, I’m hoping that today is the day when I can really write it, with the appropriate amount of feeling, to accurately say what I want to say.
This is a hard topic for me. I became a carer for my sister, and best friend when I was seventeen. In October 2017, she passed away. I was 32. So, I had been caring for her for fifteen years.
Carers are often in the news, and people say that they should be applauded, but I don’t honestly think that anyone who hasn’t been a carer can truly grasp what it’s like.
As a carer, your needs always come last, to the needs of the person that you’re caring for. You could have a really bad headache, or feel so tired that you’re dead on your feet, and yet, whereas any other person would just say that they were going to bed; as a carer, you can’t do this, because the person relying on you needs help.
Obviously, there are varying levels of being a carer. My sister had both physical, and mental health issues, and if I’m being honest, caring for her was very hard at times, especially when her mental health was particularly bad.
It’s hard to explain the anxiety of knowing that someone you love and care about is suicidal, and knowing that there’s nothing you can do to make it better for them.
You can sit with them. You can talk to them; but in the end, they are the ones trapped in their own downward spiral, and they are the only ones who can pull themselves out of it.
It took me a long, long time to learn that. The truth is, sometimes, I think I never really did learn it, because every time I noticed her mental health take a dip, that knot in my stomach came back, and sleep would evade me.
I tried to wait her out once, and ended up having to listen to the movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in it’s entirety (if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I am NOT a horror girl).
The thing is, that as a carer, you do it. You don’t think about how scared of horror movies you are. You don’t think of the night’s lost sleep. Your focus becomes completely based upon the wellbeing of the person that you care for.
The hospital trips, the doctor’s appointments, the therapy appointments, to say nothing of just general trips out, and the usual fetching and carrying, food preparation and cleaning.
Being a carer consumes your life.
I’m not writing this post as a “poor me” type post, and I hope it’s not coming across in this way. I love my sister, and I would give anything to have her back, but that’s the thing with death. It slams the door on you, and there’s no way to open it again (but that’s another post entirely).
The thing is, being a carer consumes your life (yes, I’m repeating myself, because this is just so important to grasp). Your first thought in the morning is for the person you look after. Almost every thought is for them.
But, what do you do when your care is no longer needed. What do you do when you’re made redundant?
I have trawled the internet for information on this, and have found nothing.
What do you do when that first thought is still for the person, and then you realise that you don’t need to think about them like that any more. This is when the pain of grief is doubled, possibly tripled.
It’s been almost a year now, and I’m still not used to it. If a friend asks me to go out for lunch, I still find myself thinking that I need to check for appointments, or plans that my sister might have made.
When I get ready for bed, I find myself thinking that I need to make sure that she has everything that she needs.
These thoughts aren’t just something that go away instantly. It takes a long time. Sometimes I wonder if they ever will. Part of me doesn’t want them to, because when they do, I will have to fully admit that she’s gone and that she’s never coming back, but I know this isn’t a healthy way to think.
So when the thoughts come up, I try and force myself to put them to the side, and plan for things that I want to do instead, rather than thinking on things that I should have been doing if she were still here.
I hope that in time, this will allow me to truly set her free, and in return, I will also be setting myself free.
Li Carter is a writer, artist and crafter. She lives in South Wales, UK, with her family, and five rescue dogs. She’s on Twitter @rbcreativeli , Facebook: Rainbow Butterfly Creative, and Instagram @rainbowbutterflycreative and is the author of My Only True Friend: The Beginning. She is currently working on a new series titled The QuickSilver Chronicles. She is the original Rainbow Butterfly, and wants to fill an ever darkening world with a little bit of beauty and creativity.