One thing I learnt as a non-professional supporter was that in a home environment there is not always much of a chance to escape and recharge your batteries. You might even share a bed with the person you are supporting. It is no joke being woken up at 5 am and subjected to a three hour ramble by someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health issue. You are worn out before you even get out of bed in the morning.

You look forwards to them going out for a few hours. During the worst of times, I had a break from about 1 pm when he managed to get out to work until he came back again about 7 or 8 pm. The first hour or two were spent doing all the things I had been asked to do before he left only then could I sit down and recover. I could not rest for long because I had my own life to live plus the evening meal to prepare.

Things changed during lockdown

You were told to stay at home wherever possible. No shopping trips as it is delivered. No break when one of you goes to work as you work from home, if you still have a job. I look back at what my life used to be and wonder how I would have survived during the lockdown.

Again during the worst times that I experienced, the doctor would call to check on us regularly but that is out of the question during a pandemic. No one comes in to see what things are really like. You can hide a lot of the practical issues related to mental illness when a professional does not come into a home to see the situation for themselves.

There again where do you turn for help? The first time I felt the impact of one of his breakdowns was the same day as I was planning to go to a seminar. One of the leaders of that weekend seminar was a family doctor during the week and he was kind enough to help us during the first few difficult weeks. This included telling me what to say to my own doctor to get the help I needed. Once the medical system knew that there was a problem and there was a diagnosis it was much easier to access the help that the whole household needed.

Why did I use newspapers as this image?

The answer to this lies in the story of one of the tough days. A chain reaction that started with newspapers led to me taking him to the accident and emergency department of the local hospital. It was not as bad as it could have been but definitely bad enough.

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