Rachel Kelly
Writer, Mental Health Campaigner, Public Speaker

Caring for someone with a mental health condition

@hubbydepressed is mum to three kids, runs her own busi­ness and has an amaz­ing hus­band who also hap­pens to have de­press­ion and an­xiety. She writes to help her cope and help oth­ers who, in sec­ret, are sup­port­ing a loved one with a long term ment­al il­l­ness. You can read more at hub­bydep­ressed.wordpress.com. You can also fol­low her on Twitt­er, where she's @hubbydepressed. We have kept her ident­ity private, as per her wis­hes.

Just like no one grows up ex­pect­ing or plann­ing to have a ment­al health con­di­tion, no one grows up plann­ing to be the carer to some­one with a ment­al health con­di­tion.

When I met my hub I was 17, he was 21 and we both wor­ked as newspap­er sub-editors. He de­sig­ned the front page and the lead sports page, and all the other high pro­file stuff. I did the pages in the bowels of the paper that no one rea­l­ly reads in bet­ween at­tend­ing uni­vers­ity clas­ses. I wasn’t a big fan of his to start with, in fact I was dat­ing some­one else in the newsroom, but after drinks, he ended up walk­ing me home and we kis­sed out­side my parent’s apart­ment. The rest is his­to­ry. Twen­ty years, three kids and two grandparents li­v­ing in a gran­ny annex at the bot­tom of the gard­en later, we are still togeth­er.

I love my hus­band de­ep­ly and am con­stant­ly amazed by his tenac­ity and com­mit­ment to our fami­ly. There are days, weeks and some­times months where his de­press­ion and an­xiety mean he can bare­ly get out of bed, that tak­ing the bins out feels too much and the medica­tion he is on makes him feel like a zom­bie. I know he’s had mo­ments where he has felt that we would all be bet­t­er off with­out him. On those days, I know his love for us and sense of duty is all that gets him through. I know dur­ing those times the last thing he wants to do is re­spond to a tantrum­ing three-year-old who has the wrong col­our bowl, deal with a father-in-law with de­men­tia or break up a war bet­ween a feud­ing 8 and 10-year-old. I am so proud of him, that he re­mains driv­en and focused by our fami­ly and the kind of hus­band and dad he wants to be.

While I am seen, and clas­sified, as a ‘carer’ to my hus­band, I don’t see myself that way. Ours is not a re­lationship of hierarchy or de­pend­ence, it is a mutu­al end­eavour and I get just as much out as I put in. I’d en­courage all ‘car­ers’ to think about why they do what they do, and what they get out of their par­ticular set of ar­range­ments. We aren’t knights in shin­ing ar­mour sav­ing dam­sels in dis­tress! If my hus­band wasn’t at home I would­n’t be able to have the care­er that I do, nor would we have been able to give my el­der­ly parents a home at the bot­tom of the gard­en. I care for my hus­band, I don’t ‘care’ for him. Most of the time the label ‘carer’ is ir­relevant and I don’t use it. In fact, it is only rea­l­ly in the last year or so that I’ve come to ac­cept it at all.

But this isn’t just a love-fest where I tell you how fan­tastic my hus­band is, and how we have a great and rock-solid re­lationship. The rea­l­ity is, hav­ing a partn­er with a long-term ment­al health con­di­tion is shit and I wish he didn’t have de­press­ion and an­xiety. There’s so much I still don’t get, and I often say the wrong thing and do the wrong thing, ex­acer­bat­ing is­sues and mak­ing th­ings worse.

My hus­band won’t tell peo­ple about his con­di­tion, which means as his partn­er I am often isolated, feel alone and have to make up ex­cuses when he doesn’t ar­rive at a fami­ly gat­her­ing or event with friends. Some­times I get cross when I have to come home at the end of a long day at work and have to cook, clean, help with homework and put the kids to bed, be­cause I get tired too!

My hub’s de­press­ion and an­xiety feel like a big cloud, a dark sec­ret and some­th­ing he is as­hamed of. I know it is a med­ical con­di­tion, and there should be no shame in­vol­ved, but that’s just me and I know he is in a total­ly dif­ferent place.

The bi­ggest ad­vice I have for other car­ers out there is that it is a tough jour­ney and you need to move for­ward on the basis of un­con­dition­al love. We have grown clos­er through the years, but I know for oth­ers that it can rea­l­ly tear a re­lationship apart. Know that you are not alone and seek sup­port in whatev­er way you can. For me, twitt­er and my blog have been a real li­feline en­abl­ing me to con­nect with other peo­ple in similar situa­tions, and get th­ings off my chest. Over the years, I’ve moved on from try­ing to fix my hus­band and make it bet­t­er to an ac­ceptan­ce of his con­di­tion. Through trial and error, we’ve come to ident­ify the pract­ical th­ings we both need to do when he has a major epi­sode. Sim­ple th­ings like mak­ing time to be alone togeth­er, check­ing in on him whilst I’m at work, giv­ing him quiet space alone by tak­ing the kids out and tak­ing deep breaths when I am about to ex­plode all help. An­oth­er thing that helps is re­flect­ing that the con­di­tion is cycl­ical, it has highs and lows; and when he is in a deep de­press­ion it helps me to re­memb­er that every time be­fore he has come out the other side and he will again.

We don’t have all the an­sw­ers, and life is an­yth­ing but easy, but we are com­mit­ted to each other and we are gett­ing there.