Spotlight on Caring by Sarah Robinson

If you'd asked me a couple of years ago to acknowledge that I was a Carer to a close family member with emotional difficulties, then I would have never owned up. I was far too embarrassed to admit that someone close to me suffered with crippling emotional mood swings which made them feel isolated, depressed and tearful to the extent of suicidal thoughts one minute, to being as high as a kite and loving life the next. For an observer of these moods and as someone who had had to adapt to the daily change in that person, it has been like a rollercoaster of emotions for me too and only now have I put my hand up, put the stigma aside and said "I am a Carer and I need support too".

For people dealing with regular differing mood swings is terrible in itself and people who don't understand how complex mental health issues really are and the highs and lows that go with the illness, should never underestimate how bad it is to manage every day life. What outsiders sometimes don't realise is that somewhere close by, an unofficial carer, often a parent or an adult child, is constantly waiting for that cry for help or an emotional phone call from their relative who is quite frankly desperate for someone to off-load their emotions on or take their mood out on. It is those people who need to be recognised and supported too so that they can continue to give that essential 24 hours a day support to their relative.

When things became too much for me emotionally recently, I made contact with a lady called Andrea Emmens, Family Intervention Co-ordinator at Bassetlaw Hospital. I had resisted help from anybody for so long believing that I could cope. I had put my life on hold to care for my mum and I was really struggling physically and emotionally. I was desperate after 5 years to take a break from the day to day. I had got married and had a son in the years just prior to and following my dad's death (the trigger that had massively impacted on my mum's anxiety) and I had never had any time to myself or with my new family to enjoy what should have been two very happy milestones in my life. I needed to get away – far away – but what could I do about my mum and how would she cope without me. I need not have worried. I got lots of support and encouragement from Andrea who could see I needed the break. I made contact with Social Services and they have since got me some extra support for mum so I can get back to work part-time and spend some quality time with my husband and son. I still support my mum just as much as I did, but I have a better balance in my life. I also have had two very worthwhile and important Carer Assessments, which I would actively encourage all Carers to participate in. It is vital that you are recognised as a Carer and that you pursue any support that is available to you and your loved one.

To that end and with the contact I've had with Andrea and her colleagues, I have also been involved in setting up a local Carers Support Group which meets every month in Newark, Nottinghamshire. There is no expectations at these meetings, we simply go along and chat with each other and offer support to each other where we can. Often just talking through our individual issues makes them less daunting and it makes us stronger to tackle the next day. We have access to third parties too who visit our group throughout the year and update us on vital changes in mental health procedures.

To be a Carer every day is tough, particularly to a close relative, but with the 'job' it is important to know that help and support is available to you – you just need to find it – like me.


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