It sounds like an easy process.
You love someone. You look after them. You help them and you care for them.
But I won’t be the first person to tell you that caring for someone you care about is not easy. It is actually one of the most trying situations someone can deal with.
For the past six months it has been my situation. And I have never known so much emotional and physical strain.
My dad has always been unwell. But around six months ago his health started getting worse. His body started giving in to his many illnesses, liver failure being just one of them. And he started to need care. Badly.
He couldn’t walk, his memory started lapsing and he was in and out of hospital. He needed help, but refused to get anyone in. So my sister and I stepped in.
We started helping him dress his sores. Started cooking the specific foods he required. Started helping him in and out of the shower and in and out of bed. Our days and nights were filled with meeting his needs. Most of the time we were too consumed by those day-to-day tasks to worry about ourselves. Then cold sores began to appear. My nose began to turn into a dripping tap. And my mental state went completely downhill.
Emotionally I was incredibly exhausted. It was a feeling I’d never known before. Little things, like going out and socialising, became impossible.
I lost contact with many friends because I just couldn’t comprehend thinking about anyone else than dad. But when people asked me how he was, I didn’t want to talk about it. I started blocking things out. Blocking people out. And then I started to feel alone.
It came in phases. Because I was spending every living moment with my father, I didn’t have time for myself. I didn’t even have time to think about myself. But I knew the outside world was still carrying on – and then I started feeling sorry for myself.
A feeling I’m not too proud to admit. I was left out. I was out of the loop with my friends – but it was nobody’s fault. I just got down. I didn’t let on to anyone. Our family was going through enough, I thought. I don’t need to burden anyone with these petty issues. And if I told anyone, it would make dad feel guilty. I have to keep on keeping on, I told myself. And I did.
Around two months ago though a close friend reached out to me. She said, “Why don’t you have a night off and come to dinner?” After thinking about it, and making sure someone would be home to watch dad, I agreed. I went to dinner. I did something for myself, and my mood lifted. I spoke about how I was feeling. And I learnt that I needed to start looking after myself – so I started changing things.
Instead of saying no to every invitation, I made sure I was available to see my friends once a week.
Instead of bottling things up, I started seeing a psychologist, as did my dad and my sister. And it changed the way we approached looking after him, and each other.
My sister and I started exercising. I can’t tell you how much this changed our moods. We went on long walks and used it as a release.
Simple things like taking time out for yourself to watch your favourite TV show or eat your favourite meal really can make a difference. Because no matter what your circumstances are, whether you are caring for someone with a physical or mental illness, addiction or disability, it’s always going to be a difficult situation for both the person suffering and for their family and friends. But if you don’t look after yourself? It only makes things harder.
Have you taken on a carer role and how did you manage?
Similarly, being affected by someone's gambling problem can be overwhelming and isolating. It can affect trust, self-confidence and finances.
Whether you’re a partner, friend, child or family member, support for you is as important as help for the person you’re concerned about.
If you’re affected by someone else’s gambling, we can help you with support, advice and counselling.
Call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 for free, confidential, professional advice and support. Or visit Gamblers Help to find the support that’s right for you.