When growing up, you have a rough idea of when you wont need to rely on your parents anymore. I know I did. I was going to move out at age 21, have my own house, a full time job, a gorgeous boyfriend, and a dog.
Sadly, as you can probably imagine, none of that came true. I am 21 at the end of 2018, and I don’t even have an academic college education. I also have several, full time carers. Not professional ones, they aren’t helping me out of bed every morning and putting my clothes on for me, but they’re still carers.
The obvious ones are my parents, sometimes even my younger brother. Then there’s my boyfriend, who possibly has it the worst out of all of them. Also my best friend Lottie. They’re all considered my carers, as they look after me due to my mental illnesses. They all have different jobs and responsibilities, as it would be unrealistic to expect one person to take them all on.
I have these people looking after me because I have a severe personality disorder called Borderline Personality Disorder, along with slowly recovering from chronic anxiety and depression. I also have traits of psychosis and OCD, so as you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in my head! I need some people to help me to deal with that, which is why they’re there.
Being a mental health carer usually isn’t an official title, however it’s a very real thing. My boyfriend would be considered my main caregiver at the moment, as he’s the one that I go to with most of my mental illness related issues. It’s more difficult for him to help me with certain tasks such as hygiene, productivity, motivation in day to day life, cleanliness, etc, because he lives in America. My parents help with that kind of stuff, as they live with me and are able to.
As for my best friend Lottie, she was my main caregiver before I started dating my current boyfriend. She’s 5 years younger than me, meaning it was also difficult for her. Most of the time, I don’t choose who my caregivers are. My parents are obvious candidates as they are here all the time and they know my entire life story like the back of their hands. The other people who come and go, are people who have been my ‘favourite people’. This is a term used in BPD to describe a person who I’m more attached to than everyone else.
In my instance, my caregivers at home will mainly keep an eye on me nowadays. It’s more about making sure I haven’t relapsed, listening to my thoughts and processing them to check if they are considered dangerous thoughts. Things like irrational thoughts, impulse decisions, would be considered concerning. On top of that, they help me with productivity; like cleaning my room and doing my laundry (no thanks), motivation to go to work, or to go to an appointment. They also help me in a crisis, and we have an at-home plan in place for things like when I dissociate, when I self harm, and so forth!
My boyfriend and my best friend help me with everything else. Which makes it sound like a lot, and it is, but it’s not as much as you might think. My boyfriend talks to me every single day, for most of the day, meaning that he knows what’s going on the best out of anyone. He is able to pick up on what mood I’m in (Applaud him, I have a literal personality disorder which changes my mood every 10 minutes), and tell when I’m in danger. He also helps with moral support, making me feel better if I’m upset, and he can tell my parents or Lottie if thinks I’m in crisis and he can’t handle it himself. It’s been a long journey to get him to the point he is at now, and he never used to be able to handle the amount of responsibility. I’m so proud of where he is now, and thanks to him, I don’t feel alone anymore.
Finally, there’s Lottie. As I mentioned earlier on, she used to be my main caregiver before my boyfriend came around. So she used to do everything that he does now, plus be my best friend on top of that. The most amazing thing about the people helping me is they are able to disconnect who I am when I’m ill, to who I really am. They are two very different people.
Having a caregiver at age 20 isn’t fun. When I’m having a bad night and I can’t think for myself or look after myself, it reverts me to feeling like a child again. I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to ask my boyfriend if something I’m thinking is rational – but I do. It also causes a lot of guilt for me, especially after something like a mental health crisis, where it is traumatic for everyone involved.
The reality is that everyone can try to convince you that what they’re doing is their choice, that they want to be helping you, that it’s no trouble. It doesn’t help though, the guilt is horrible, it consumes you. That’s how it can quickly turn into suicidal thoughts like ‘If I wasn’t here it would be easier for them’, and so on. It’s an extremely slippery slope, and you’re constantly trying to stay at the top of it.
I am very grateful for all of the people who care for me, and I know that without them I definitely wouldn’t be here on this earth, typing to you.
If you’re mentally ill and you think you might have a carer, please send them these links so that they can get the support they need, to help you in return: