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The shift: from aspirations to managing what is

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When my son first displayed symptoms I felt a desperate need to try and help him. 

Part of that need was born out of my own feelings of guilt. The remainder was fuelled my desire to alleviate his psychological pain.

Over the course of my son's diagnosis, there has been a huge shift in me. Initially I could not accept that nothing would help . I embarked upon a frenetic search for that illusive fix. I thought, 'Where did I go wrong? Why can't anyone help him?'

For a very long time I believed that his condition was a transient state and that with time and appropriate support it would self-correct. I was wrong.

I soon lost my optimism and fervour to find a cure. When I came to realise that his condition was chronic I had to deal with the emotions, often finding myself overwhelmed with isolation and utter despair. 

After every available medical and therapeutic support system had been exhausted, I had to throw my hands up in the air and concede defeat. My son's mental illness was here to stay. 

I knew that my mental attitude had to change if I was going to ride this out and stop fighting a war that I could not win. I shifted away from seeing his diagnosis as transient and fixable, to accepting that it is a long term mental illness. 

Through this I was able to give myself a well-deserved reprieve from the exhausting medical and social merry-go-round. And I became a better carer. Instead of feeling like I am an ineffective carer, I now feel like the rock of stability that my son needs. I've gone from feeling powerless to acknowledging how influential I am to his wellbeing.

I am no longer as hell-bent on finding a solution and exhausting myself in the process. I no longer believe that there is a cure just around the corner. This shift has brought a reduction in my own anxiety.

Even though my son does not leave his bedroom, I now consider this stability as a blessing I am able to give to him. Although far removed from my initial aspirations, I find comfort in knowing that at the very least I have been able to achieve a connection with him. Anything above this now presents as an unexpected and grateful blessing.

It may take time to 'shift' our aspirations, but our role as carers is not about desperation to find a cure, but one of total acceptance. Only once we fully accept the longevity and inevitability of the mental illness affecting our loved one can we rise to become good carers. This is not to say that we become complacent. It's about being grounded in our reality and learning to deal with the situation. 

The key to caring for someone with a mental illness ultimately rests in the carer's unconditional acceptance. 

At the end of the day there are no easy solutions that fully satisfy all of our needs. Despite brief interludes of support, my son's care fundamentally falls back on me. I'm giving myself a huge pat on the back for what I have done and continue to do. I have done well and I have done enough.

Julia cares for her teenage son. To connect with carers like Julia, join SANE Forums. An online peer-to-peer community for carers and people affected by mental illness.

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