They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well I believe it takes a community to care for people. If you’re caring for someone and feeling isolated, you’ve got to reach out. You are honestly not alone, there are so many of us out there.
I have two wonderful children who bring me great joy and drive me to distraction at the same time. I am also living with the love of my life, my husband Mick. I would describe Mick as a strong, passionate man of integrity. A straight shooter. What you see is what you get. Mick also has bipolar disorder, and I am his carer.
Caring for Mick can be incredibly challenging and frustrating because I have no idea what the illness is doing to him. I can only empathise with how he’s feeling. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up feeling sad for no reason, or to wake up feeling incredibly high for no reason.
Mick first spoke to me about his mental illness on our second date, over a glass of wine. He brought up his tremors, which I’d noticed the last time we’d met. He told me the shaking was from his medication, and that the medication was for the treatment of bipolar. He asked me how I felt about that, and I said I honestly didn’t know. I’d never had any interaction, that I knew of, with someone with bipolar. Mick was amazing. He encouraged me to ask all the questions I wanted, and wasn’t offended by anything I said.
As the night progressed, I still didn’t know exactly how I felt about his admission, I just knew I really liked this person and wanted to see where it would lead. Let’s just take it as it comes, I thought, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
I guess at first I didn’t realise I was taking on that caring role, but, by default, you’re with that person, you are taking on a carer’s role.
It’s so easy to forget about your own needs when you’re caring for someone, but it really is vital you look after yourself. If you’re not functioning well, how can you take care of another person? I am so fortunate in that I have a strong, loving relationship with the person I am caring for. We’re in it together, and that’s not always the case.
Mick cares for me just as much as I do for him. He’s incredibly intuitive and picks up on times when I’m neglecting myself. He’ll always try to direct my focus inwards to me, which I think is an amazing ability for someone who’s all up in their head dealing with their own demons.
When I was first caring for Mick when he was unwell, I didn’t know to seek out help from others. He was the one who pointed me to places that provide support for carers. Mick introduced me to SANE and one of the carers’ forums, for bipolar. I was able to gain real insights into the tools people used to care for their partners, and I think that’s just made me stronger and feel like I’m not doing this alone.