“Don’t let people silence you. Ask for help.”
62 year old Anne has been caring for her son who experiences psychosis whilst juggling other commitments and experiencing her own mental health issues. Here's her story.
I’m 62 years old and a single parent with two children – a daughter aged 35 and a son who is 30 years old. I’m also a carer.
When my son was 19 years old, he showed signs of being ‘a bit different’. He was quite alternative and travelled a lot. When he returned to the UK after his travels, he started university but after being pretty sociable, he started staying in his room and became reclusive, which caused him problems with the university.
Over the next three years I would say that he seemed to suffer from what seemed like depression and he stayed in his room mostly, but then he went travelling to the Far East. While there, his behaviour seriously declined. Although usually careful with money, he spent a large amount. I’m certainly not rich but I sent what I could over to him. He was acting recklessly and spent it mostly on drugs. I knew something was seriously wrong, so I got someone to get him on a plane back to the UK.
When he was back, I contacted the doctor who eventually referred him to the Mental Health Team and Early Intervention Team who said he was experiencing psychosis, but he dismissed them after a couple of weeks. He refused to get help, cut himself off from his friends and wouldn’t go to the doctor.
He refused to get help, cut himself off from his friends and wouldn’t go to the doctor.
My daughter lived miles away and it was terrifying being alone in the house with a grown adult male who firmly believed that the FBI were after him. His paranoia led him to tape up the windows, set fire to things, dismantle things and roam around all night. I went to bed with my handbag and car keys in case he tried to drive the car. I would be woken up with the sound of him slamming doors. Medicine and therapy helped to stabilise him, but once he stopped talking to his therapist, he was without help for four years and refused to work or sign on.
The second time he experienced psychosis I recognised it coming before it happened. I rang the doctor and called the Adult Mental Health Team. The police told me they could only help me if he actually did anything wrong. I refused to let them take him 20 miles away, with no money or phone, and was told not to call again unless he was threatening his life or mine. My son could hold it together minutes at a time; long enough to appear ‘normal’ enough for them not to take him away. Again, medication helped improve things.
While he improved, my elderly mum who has Parkinson’s disease had a fall and my daughter had a breakdown. I myself have struggled and have had two breakdowns.
I feel my life is a continuum. My son hasn’t really worked for the past six years, and I sometimes feel he has been living half a life. Three years ago, he received a diagnosis for bipolar disorder, and I have had a recent diagnosis of bipolar type 2.
I feel my life is a continuum. My son hasn’t really worked for the past six years, and I sometimes feel he has been living half a life.
Now my son lives with his girlfriend, and relies on her to go outside. My mum now lives with my sister. At times I’ve felt lonely because no-one could keep up with my dreadful story, but I finally reached out and a friend suggested a Carers Group run by Rethink Mental Illness. I wish I had sought support before, but I was working full-time and didn’t ask for help. I have one-to-one support, but I also practice mindfulness, I spend time gardening, playing with my grandson, and walking in the countryside which helps calm my mind.
I now appreciate the importance of talking. Don’t let people silence you. Ask for help. I know I’m lucky my son didn’t take his own life, but I’m proud that I managed to keep him alive too.