Greetings for the day people. I am a 34-year-old privileged cishet female with a post-graduate degree in medicine. I also have a mental illness. I deal with depression and generalized anxiety. Mental illness has been my compatriot for more than a decade now.
I write about my experiences hoping that I can make at least one person feel less alone. I write, so I may try and educate those neurotypical individuals out there who may just end up being caregivers to those of us with mental illnesses.
One of the most exhausting feelings for a caregiver is guilt.
I remember my rotation in psychiatry way back in 2009. This was a brief rotation of two weeks. This was part of my training and I remember being amazed at the convoluted ways in which the human mind could falter. But most of all I remember feeling the despondence, dejection, and sheer frustration of the caregiver. The burden on the mental and physical health of caregivers is oftentimes trivialized and ignored.
A caregiver possibly feels many emotions. Fear for the life of their loved one. Frustration and fatigue at the sheer fastidiousness of mental illness. However, in my opinion, one of the most exhausting feelings is that of guilt. Guilt for being neurotypical. Guilt for not being patient enough. Guilt at seeing your loved one in pain, and being defenseless against it. Guilt for experiencing resentment at a subconscious level and not being able to control it.
Today, I write to and for the caregivers. The neuroatypical person i.e. us with mental illnesses see you. Please know that.
We neuroatypical individuals (those of us with insight) in addition to our biological illness deal with guilt as well. We know that our suffering is also your suffering. We know that the caregiver in you wants us to feel better. We know that the caregiver in you deals with almost constant anxiety as you see us devolve. We know that you would give us anything to make us feel better. We know that you experience our pain in ways that we cannot even fathom. Trust us, we know! Trust us when I say that we feel guilty for being the cause of your sorrow. Trust us when we say that we wish things had been different; for us and for you.
May I be audacious enough to make some suggestions? May I be audacious enough to try and alleviate your suffering while I still don’t know how to alleviate mine?
Please know that we love you. Please know that we feel your pain. Please know we appreciate you and your existence. Please know that we feel your support and your efforts to assuage our suffering. Please know that we feel your despondence when we weep without an apparent reason. Please know that we match your guilt with our own. Please know that we don’t necessarily need a solution to our mental health issues, just like you wouldn’t be expected to cure someone’s fever or cancer.
Please just be there. Please just hug us. Please just let us get better with treatment, like with any other illness.
To all you caregivers out there. We feel you appreciate you and we love you, but you are not the answer to a biological illness.
Most importantly, caregivers of the world, please also take the time to heal.