Hameed Khan is a member of Verita’s Mental Health Advisory Group
Becoming an unpaid carer of a family member can happen to anyone. I often think about how my life changed, from having very few responsibilities to becoming an around the clock carer for my mother.
I grew up in a loving family with 4 siblings and loving parents. My mother was a strong and hardworking lady, dependable and resilient. I recall my mother beginning to show signs of mental health issues, in subtle ways, during my teenage years. I denied the onset of her paranoid and agitated depression until I had to eventually accept that my mother had mental health issues. Over time her physical health also started to deteriorate.
In my early thirties, without much planning, control or choice in the decision, I became my mother’s full-time unpaid carer. This is when my own struggles began. Taking on full time caring responsibility obstructed the development of my own life. My siblings are all married with children and have little involvement in my mother’s daily care. Due to the guilt, I initially internalised my frustrations that my life had been impacted in this way. Each day I became more socially isolated, mentally drained, physically tired and depressed. I began resenting my mother yet simultaneously resenting myself for resenting her for my own distress.
In 2011 I began attending a carer’s support group to get support and advice on accessing services to help me balance my life with my caring responsibilities. Whilst the demands on me as a carer have in no way lessened, thanks to this group I have learned to manage my caring responsibilities struggles much more effectively.
My key message to carers like myself is that you do not need to suffer in silence. Open up and allow others to help you to manage your caring responsibilities and struggles. Do not struggle behind closed doors.