Carers Week 2018: Caring for my brother
Digital team's blog
When you look after someone with mental illness it can be easy to get caught up in the day to day duties of being a carer and forget the person underneath the diagnosis. In this blog, Yasma from our North West Regional Committee discusses her relationship with her brother and how a shared love of travel has been key to helping him find his confidence again.
My older brother is a wonderful person! He has taught me to be truly patient and forgiving even at the hardest of times. He has also taught me the importance of respect and compassion - two very important words when caring for someone living with mental illness.
Hussein was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18 years old and sadly he never achieved his dream of going to university. Over the years he has rode motorbikes from Cornwall to Scotland, washed dishes in restaurants, been homeless, and read hundreds and hundreds of books. At one point he even showed an interest in Judaism, even though he was born a Muslim!
Over the years I have called the Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line on several occasions and the telephone line is a great place to start if you need practical support. The website has a lot of information for carers too – invaluable if you don’t know where to start.
Last year, filled with new confidence, Hussein attended the Rethink Mental Illness's National Member’s Day and was looked after by a great volunteer mental health first aider - another step in helping my brother find his confidence again. It was great for him to meet other people affected by mental illness and to learn more about what support is available to us both.
Before he became unwell, my brother was a seasoned traveller but this seemed to disappear as his illness took hold and he lost his confidence. Now, thanks to the support we have had, we take regular holidays together and this shared love of travel has helped him come out of his shell. We have recently returned from a holiday in Turkey that we both found relaxing and enjoyable. From start to finish everyone who met us were amazingly compassionate and understanding of my brother and his special and quirky way.
While we enjoyed our break - it wasn’t easy! We did have a few of those sibling discussions, as I am sure most siblings do! ‘Stop staring… and pull your trousers up’ – I would tell him, much to his bemusement. If we stayed focussed and planned our day then Hussein was happy and it was fantastic to see him relax and find himself again.
If you are a carer, my tip would be to take your loved ones away from their everyday routine, spend quality time together to connect and remember the special bond you share – these moments help you so much as a carer.
Do you look after a sibling or a loved one with mental illness? Our Caring for Yourself guide is a great resource and includes tips on being a carer, setting boundaries and how to managing problems. Click here to download your guide today.