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Your Stories: Surviving as a Care-Giver

January 26, 2017

We appreciate your courage, dear contributors, and are the first to say you *must take care of yourselves first. We imagine this as a safe space for conversation and feel that sometimes there is something -- dare we say -- liberating, even validating? In putting the words out there for others to hear. You are not alone, you're not screaming into a void, no matter how dark the universe may seem sometimes. 

And we say thank you, as ever, for sharing. The identity is confidential, the story, the trauma is clearly there on the page, and if you read this, you'll hear the compassion and empathy and love that underlies the very real struggle. 

 

The Journey So Far

I will start with my own encounter with a psychiatrist, who I went to recently, just to check if everything was fine with me, the care-giver of so many people with mental health issues...He asked me why have you come?
You don't need any medicines, nothing, maybe a counsellor once in a while. I said, "I am constantly watching those who have lost their minds, and what if I lose mine, who will see me lose it?"
 
All care-givers become some kind of healers -- we try everything and lose and we lose, and then suddenly one day, the person in depression will get up and go for a bath, like my mother did the other day...She bathed and went down (out) into the sun. It's the miracle days, when this happens, and you wonder what you did right this time.
 
The mind is the most invisible thing when it works right, and when it works wrong too. 
 
In all these self-help books we hear about how to work the mind, the will, (how to) make friends, influence people...What if your mind if the exact opposite of this, and what if you land up living with someone, whose mind is the biggest hurdle in the progress of a day?
 
My mother's clinical depression of four years, triggered by my father's brain stroke, my sister's bipolar (disorder)...Intensified by my mothers depression...I didn't have time to think of my own survival -- it was all so dense, and maybe I didn't survive it. But i have good normal friends and I do things to manage my days and nights.
 
The days in the beginning looked a bit like this -- mother waking in the mornings, going to my father's room, he all piped up on the bed and (her) getting shocked, seeing him like that, then the anxiety attack would kick in, the bipolar sister would wake up -- if she had ever slept in her mania -- and then some strange mess would arise, her screaming and my mother collapsing in pain, a very intense pain, which was her mind folding into her body. An anxiety attack that she would take on in full pain, collapsing in pain and my bipolar sister, screaming...I used to think of Bhakra Nangal dam, standing between them, holding them both with sternness and love...That was all I could think of -- being a dam between them, because once they got together it would get worse. 
 
 
 
Yes these incidents are so real, that those who have not seen them, or been through them are unable to understand. These are not your usual run of the mill, home fights, sisters and brothers arguing, this is something else. This is when there is so much screaming, so much pain in the air that you can't hear or feel, you just feel, numb and functional, you don't think of destiny or your life, you kind of exist just standing there, trying to hold the worlds together. 
 
Over the years, the sister left, and mother was left in her blurry zone, of pains, anxiety attacks, memory loss and severe darkness. If she got out of bed, it was to switch off the lights, winters, summer, anything, just the lights had to be off -- they used to be too sharp.
 
You get used to living in a dark house, you actually don't, you keep running away from the house, leaving it to nurses and house helps, I was trying to write a thesis in this house, and it wasn't working, I was getting yellow bed covers, I was getting new lamps, new art, nothing was working, setting up new rooms and corners, but it won't work, cause every other night the anxiety attacks would return, my mother would suddenly go back to being clear about the reality that her depression has been blocking, but reality was too much for her, she would again, get anxious, insomniac, walk around looking around for sweets to eat -- sugar, the best high for a depressive, this is the drug they don't tell you about...Sugar cravings -- you have to hide the sugar bowls in the house, they won't stop unless they get the sugar. 
 
So how do you live like this ? In a house where one person is in a depression and the other in a coma?
 
You live because you have no other choice but to survive, death is not an option.
 
I can imagine how many times, care-givers wonder, why they have been put through these tests of life, the person who is ill is unaware of what they are doing -- the person who is aware, who witnesses, suffers the illness more...
 
So you build schedules, you do yoga, you go running, you meet friends, and then everyone goes home, and each time you are returning home, you wonder with jitters, why, why can't you just leave?
 
Your friends will say, even we have difficult mothers, even we have fights etc in our house, but this is not explainable...Even a doctor friend who knew all this medically, sometimes didn't get how it was to live with someone who has these issues,.
 
It exhausts you and then you start again, always wondering if it has changed your personality, if you are being rational or reactive, if you are losing it yourself. 
 
Views expressed are of course personal.
 
If you or anyone you know suffers from a likely mental health condition, please do reach out for help at the earliest. We will be updating our database through recommendations, in a rolling fashion.

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