This blog is for the many who are caring for a loved one with mental illness. You are strong, amazing, and resilient people. Your loved one is lucky to have you.

I used to believe that I, the one who battled internal demons endlessly, was the most hopeless and the most out of control in my life.

While I thought I was being considerate of my family and friends by not sharing certain events or thoughts with them because I didn’t want them to worry, I was also being inconsiderate by letting them struggle blindly through my illness. I always reasoned with myself that if I couldn’t explain my “craziness”, then how could I expect them to understand it? But the truth is that nobody needs to fully understand what I am going through (nor would I ever want them to understand) in order to support and love me.

It was never just me on this seemingly invisible journey. I now realize that my loved ones felt maybe even more out of control than me. After all, they could do nothing more than speak words that fell on my deaf ears while watching me walk into the suicidal abyss.

It can’t be an easy experience to be the pillar of strength when you want to crumble under the weight of the world too. Your loved one may need you, but you need you as well.

Here are 3 tips to care for you and your loved one during hard times.

One:

Stay hopeful. Easier said than done, I’m sure. But right now you are holding the hope for your loved one until they are ready to receive it. Keep an open mind to treatment possibilities. Encourage your loved one, but also encourage yourself and other carers. It’s not an unrealistic expectation to think that everyone will recover, but it does takes time, patience, and hard work.

Two:

Take “me-time”. Even if it means time apart from your loved one, self-care is vital so that you can stay strong and continue to support them. Try to include fun activities in your day that you would normally take the time and do. You are allowed to have fun even when your loved one is unwell. Trust me, they want you to do things you enjoy.

Three:

Seek support. Talk to friends and family who are in a similar situation and cope together. Find help before you get burnt out. Collaborate with healthcare professionals. Ask your loved one if it would be okay to have a family meeting to discuss the treatment plan. This is a tricky one because your loved one may say no which you need to respect. But do let them know you want to be part of their recovery process.

A bonus tip:

Stop judging yourself for being tired and feeling emotional. This is tough stuff!

Looking for more support? Try this website: http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/services-and-support/support-for-families-and-caregivers/

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.