Boy, oh boy.
I don’t know how my missus even copes living in the same house as me, never mind supporting me and loving me along with our five children.
I can’t cope with the daily rigmarole of routine and worry and consequently, she fills a number of roles including dealing with all the bills a, keeping the house clean and organising the children’s routines.
I am just a tool, a driver and a pair of strong arms to lift and screw things into walls. I do cook and I actively participate in my children’s lives but without my partner, I probably wouldn’t have a house, a car and my children in my custody. Essentially, I would have no life whatsoever and would quickly find myself dead or in prison.
To say I put her on a pedestal is an understatement.
She is overwrought by stress, having five children to cater for and two of them extremely testing due to mental illness. Then there are my demands, my needs that take cash out of the household budget and mess up the finances for the month. not only that, if I forget my medication then I am moody and unstable, refusing to take the tablets and heaping abuse on the mental health system.
She has stayed with me for fifteen years, through drug addiction and alcoholism, atrocious behaviour and financial ruin, perhaps seeing something in the roiling chaos that might be worth saving. I struggle to see why she would stay with me and in the end, we did separate briefly prompting me to seek recovery.
She bears such a responsibility that she is suffering both physically and mentally but here’s the reason for this blog:
She is one of the hundreds of thousands of carers who will not seek help with her own burden, will not attend groups specifically designed for the partner’s of recovering addicts and the mentally ill, will not accept the holistic therapy sessions offered to partners through a free scheme on the National Health Service. She will not discuss her private life with others and I respect her for it but it is crippling her emotionally.
Whenever I get her to talk, it usually descends into a heated debate about her doing everything, me doing little and the kids being insufferable. Of course, she is absolutely spot-on with that and my own personal release is to retreat into a secluded space with a laptop and a coffee and begin writing something, getting my angst down on virtual paper. She cleans to get rid of the frustration and cleans religiously.
I can’t help thinking that we are all, quite literally ‘driving her mad’; inducing some kind of OCD behaviours that by some miracle isn’t alcohol or drugs. We are breaking her down but she carries on, carrying the ever-weighty cross for us all, making sure we are alright in a selfless gesture of affection and commitment.
I’m banking on the new scheme at the DWP to get me a good job so that I can support my family, as I used to do in a half-hearted way as an alcoholic.
Here’s an interesting irony: when I was a functioning alcoholic, I had a variety of good jobs (I kept getting fired but talking my way into other employment often with the use of false references) and I had an extensive social network of so-called ‘friends’. If Facebook had existed, my Friends page would have been stuffed full of loosely connected associates linked to crime in some form or other. As it stands, my blocked list is bigger than my friends list so that shows you the kind of person I am.
I had some kind of kudos for being a ‘clown’, a comedian and therefore readily accepted into the fold of society. Nobody ever accused me of being an alcoholic apart from my own partner. The people around readily accepted my drinking and drug habits and being as I had a job, eventually children and a home I was seen a a useful member of society.
I wasn’t, I was a lazy addict with no moral fibre. I did as little as possible to get by and relied heavily on the goodwill of others, exploiting them and eventually alienating them.
In sobriety, I became a mentally ill jobless relic that is stuck in the system like a piece of broken gear-tooth, rattling around as the cogs mesh together and the wheels grind for the fortunate. There has been little in the way of support after the initial therapy ended over six months ago. My partner has been the only constant in my life and I cannot thank her enough for her sacrifice. It is truly an act of love and I can never reciprocate it, no matter how hard I try.
But I need to find something for the proud people who have responsibility levied upon them through mental illness, those that turn away from support-groups and self-help measures. Not through denial but through pride, mostly, a desire to hang onto their last bit of dignity they feel they have.
It is a foolish misconception. Carers are the most noble of people and an undervalued group in society yet they endure much emotional stress. I have known carers turn to alcohol and drugs to alleviate their weariness yet this is not a fix for their problems.
Thankfully, new measures introduced in 2014 put a lot more focus on carers and an assessment can be requested to see just how care-giving impacts the carers life and what help might be available to offer some respite.
These measures for carers can extend to financial bursaries to provide a bit of ‘me time’ for the carer, perhaps funding a favourite activity or a new piece of equipment that might relieve stress. It is well worth checking out if you are a carer of somebody with mental illness, parents included. I will try to persuade my partner to have a look at it, see what she thinks.
Carers Allowance is available to those caring for someone with extensive needs and does not usually affect any other benefits aside from Housing and Council Tax Benefit, something to consider before making an application. As far as I’m aware, since last year Carers Allowance is not included within the ‘benefits cap’ threshold meaning that any income from it is not counted.
Let’s hear it for the carers, those selfless individuals and agencies who put others needs before themselves. It’s about time they got some care of their own and for once, I am actually pleased with the Department of Work and Pensions for recognising that carers are as important as the people they protect.