The Therapy That Lives in Caregiving

Caregiving can be both exhausting and rewarding. Personally, I’ve found so much positivity through caregiving. Through being of service to my wife, I’ve found my voice and strength I’ve never thought I had. I’ve often wondered what my purpose in life was, and I feel confident in saying that helping my wife where I can has given me direction.

That’s not to say that caregiving is my sole driver in life. I’ve also found myself. Through being apart while my wife was in hospital, it gave me quite a bit of time to reflect on who I was and wanted to be. I’ve always had a constant desire to be helpful to people and try to assist in any way I could, helping my wife has given me an outlet to help and be of service to somebody.

Through my experience caregiving, my opinions and outlook on the world have changed dramatically. For the better I hope. Its made me much more compassionate and understanding towards others. In fact, its been my desire to help others that has driven me to begin this blog. Its been the hope that the experiences of my wife and I would maybe, just maybe, be of benefit to other people.

I imagine I’m not the only one who has found caregiving therapeutic. It can make you feel really good about yourself because you’re giving as opposed to taking from somebody. Plus, what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger right? How many of us have had dreams growing up of wanting to be a hero? To help others when they need it? To give somebody else a lending hand. I grew up full of those dreams. Dreams of being a doctor, a firefighter, just a good Samaritan, and you know what? I’ve done one better for myself. I’m working with my wife to help both her, and our marriage to thrive.

I feel as though I am a gardener planting a lily. Gently covering it in soil and lovingly watering the seed, and then getting to experience the joy and pleasant serenity in watching this flower grow and bloom. Its an interesting thought because it doesn’t matter how much I water that seedling, it still has to break through all the dirt and pull itself up. Teamwork. I can’t just will that flower to grow, there has to be work on both ends. While the journey may be different for the flower than the gardener, they need each other. Because without the determined lily, the gardener’s flowerbed wouldn’t be the same, would it?

To all the lilies out there, Keep breaking through that soil so us gardeners can enjoy watching you thrive.

Hope: The Foundation of Life

Note: I am not a psychiatrist or medical professional. My experiences and opinions are due to having mental illness and living with somebody who has schizophrenia.

One of the most recurrent ideas that I’ve noticed on the journey of caregiving and mental illness, is hope. To never lose hope, to always hang onto it. But if we’re being honest, that’s easier said than done. So just what does it mean to have hope?

Having hope doesn’t mean that you never get frustrated or never fail. Having hope means that even when you fall from the sky and crash and burn, that you get up, dust off your wings, and take off again. Why do you rise again? Because you have hope. To me having hope means that you have a vision and a goal of where you want to be in the future, and that you strive for it. That goal is different for everybody and may change quite regularly, but the vision is usually similar. I think its safe to say that we all envision a better spot on the road than what we are on now. Maybe you see a better world for everybody, or maybe you just see another milestone to beat. Its not the surface content of the vision that matters, it’s the underlying drive, which for me, and hopefully for you too, is hope.

There’s always hope. Even if you can’t see any sign of hope, its there. Because even when you’re at your lowest point, there’s still hope. Hope that pain will disappear, hope that things will get better, hope that somebody will hear your SOS. I’m not saying that its all unicorns and rainbows and lollipops (I wish lol), but hope is the first building block of any great wonder. The Wright brothers for example, guess what made their dream possible? That’s right. Hope.

So just remember, if you’ve recently been diagnosed, that doesn’t mean your life is over. Is it a punch to the gut? It sure as hell can be, but its not necessarily the end. Maybe you’re having a hard time in recovery, maybe you’ve had break-through symptoms or another episode. You’ve been through it before, this isn’t your first spin on the merry-go-round. Just keep your eye on your current goal and never lose sight of your vision. Maybe you’re contemplating that lonely road that is suicide. If you are, I want you to know, and I mean this, you aren’t alone. And you know what? Every storm breaks. No matter how dark the sky may seem, it’ll pass. The sun always rises. All I ask, is that you have hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to life than this.

Stay strong friends, talk to you soon.

P.S. DON’T LOSE HOPE!

Marriage and Schizophrenia

What’s it like being married to someone with schizophrenia? Well I guess you could say its like any other marriage. It has its ups and downs, good days and bad days. but mostly, it has, and needs, lots of love and compassion.

Like any marriage, its not an easy road, but man is it ever rewarding. My wife is still my wife, as she always will be. Between the hospital stays and psychotic episodes, which are getting fewer and farther between, there are moments with just as much power and love and devotion as any other marriage. Some couples have to deal with financial issues, others the death of a child. For us its mental illness, and I’m alright with that.

My wife’s diagnosis allows me to be helpful and stand by her in a way that’s unique to our marriage and situation. I talk her through psychosis, I help her keep track of medications, appointments, and everything in between. I also take her to the movies because I like to (even if its romance), I like to drive around with her and spend time together with our families. Our marriage is just as unique as any other marriage.

Sure, it can be stressful, but stress can accompany just about anything and everything I do in life. We love doing things like going to the zoo, or going out for dinner. Honestly the only real difference is that sometimes we have to take extra precautions. For example, we have walked out of restaurants or movies because sometimes its just too loud for my wife due to her schizophrenia. Other times we have to be prepared for the possibility of something that may trigger an episode. But for the most part its just as unique as any other relationship. We live, laugh, and love together on this journey known as life.

Is marriage involving a “disability” (I quote the word disability because I find it misleading but that’s a story for another day) for everybody? No, everybody handles these sorts of things differently. But for us it works. If you are really in love with somebody and are willing to go to hell and back for happiness together, then go for it.

Things to Remember as a Caregiver

When one becomes a caregiver, no matter the reason, the amount of thoughts and information that bombards the brain can be overwhelming. Questions abound and worries and fears can seem to send one’s hopes crashing down. I’d say that these feelings quite often are normal. But with all the information at the tips of our fingers and coming from everybody from the doctors and nurses, to neighbours, and maybe even the family dog, how is somebody supposed to separate the critically important knowledge from things that can be figured out down the road? Well, there are several things that I’ve discovered and found to be particularly important to keep at the forefront of one’s mind.

Firstly, Mental illness is real. This may sound like a no-brainer, but because mental illness doesn’t show physical symptoms in the way that something like cancer or a broken leg does, it can sometimes be hard to accept and understand that it is just as legitimate and serious as any other health condition. Mental illness is not attention seeking, faking, or shameful. Its another condition and shouldn’t be seen as any different as other health conditions with regards to credibility.

Secondly, and this kind of ties in with the last one, when somebody is in psychosis and may be experiencing things we can’t even fathom, don’t forget that while it may not be “real” for us as outsiders, it is perceived as real for those that experience it. Let me tell you how utterly powerless one feels watching somebody suffer from psychosis. All you want in that moment more than anything is to be able to help that person, to bear the pain and anguish for them even, but you can’t. You have to just stand by and try to do damage control to protect the person until help arrives.

Thirdly, remember to keep calm. The way I say it is, pardon my language, but I can’t afford to “lose my shit.” When the person with the illness is already stressed and maybe getting upset, it doesn’t help if we as caregivers get all worked up. I’m not saying that its not stressful, but in the heat of the moment it is critical to keep cool and be the voice of reason.

Fourth thing, don’t expect anybody in the equation of mental illness and caregiving to be perfect. We are only human, no matter how hard we try to do our best, we are going to make mistakes. It happens. The point is to do our best, but also understand that sometimes mistakes happen. My mother always used to ask me when I was upset about something, “did anybody die?” as you can imagine my answer was always “no.” What I’m saying is hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Just like anything, caregiving has its good days, and its not so good days, and that’s okay.

Fifth, never lose hope. That’s right. Because hope is the bedrock of successful recovery for anybody involved with mental illness.