This is the 4th post by Anna on being a caregiver. Earlier posts are The Depression Dialog, Know the Enemy and Trigger Unhappy.
I’ve been asking James to take our old mattress to the waste dump for about 4 months. Today, I decided enough was enough. I asked an understanding friend (whose husband also has depression) to help me transport it. She has a car with roof racks. It took a while but we got it onto the roof, and tied it down with baling twine. It was not exactly satisfactory, but James had taken the rope to work and left it there.
So we drove that way and the mattress stayed on for about a mile before sliding. We checked it, and checked it again, and continued like this until we were nearly there, when a truck passed us with speed and the mattress flew off altogether. (Queen size by the way.) The twine was still intact, but the mattress handles were shredded. So we eventually limped in to the dump, mattress carefully balanced on top and hazard lights on. It was a funny experience and we had a lot of laughs.
I’ve written about this because it says a couple of things about how I handle my role as a caregiver.
Know the limits of what your partner or friend can do
Removing a mattress was overwhelming for James. He put it off, and ignored it, and put it off some more. The reason was that the task – mental as much as physical – was insurmountable to him. It’s quite different from laziness, as anyone with depression will know. But the mattress was stopping me from getting to my wardrobe and it had to go. My frustration was building up, despite knowing what was going on in James’ mind. I decided to just do it myself rather than let it become a big issue. That’s not to say I’m being a doormat. When I stop and think about it I recognize what’s happening under the surface and take a practical approach.
My support network is crucial
I have a small network of friends who will help me in this sort of situation. Through bitter experience, I know that some people are understanding about mental illness and others are not. My close friends are. I also know not to wear them out, so I share my problems around. They give the emotional support I need when I’m not getting it at home. They let me vent, they help me in practical ways, and they still share good times with me. They also think highly of James even though they know how awful he can be. That’s very important to me. I’m very fortunate as a caregiver to have supportive people around me. I know that many people are struggling along without much help. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to develop those supportive relationships, for friendship, for emotional support and for practical help for things like moving mattresses.
My mental health is crucial
I have to be proactive about having time out, having a break from the intense times, and even some fun. I used to feel guilty about this, but it’s actually wise to keep looking after your own health. My family are good with giving me practical help, like taking the kids, when I need to do something on my own.
Learn to forgive and grieve
It’s easy to feel sorry for myself, but I’ve learned to forgive and move on. James forgives me for a lot of things too; it’s not a one way street. I’ve had to mourn the life that I thought James and I were going to enjoy together. He is not at all like he was when we married. But I always remind myself that I should be thankful for what we have, and what I have, and not dwell on what we don’t have, and to pray on all occasions.
Click here for the fifth and final post in this series, Loving the Person You Care For.