How Paul found belonging by caring for his wife
It wasn’t until Paul retired that he became aware of his wife’s struggles with bipolar disorder. Feeling let down by the health care system, Paul turned to a Rethink Mental Illness carers group for help. After finding a sense of belonging he and his wife have helped the group go from strength to strength. Paul is currently our Member of the Year (pictured). This is his journey.
For the past few years, I have been a carer for my wife who lives with bipolar disorder. Back when I was working I never knew the impact that being at home alone with our children had on her, my usual greeting of ‘how was your day’ was invariable met with the answer ‘fine’ – even though it wasn’t.
It wasn’t until I retired that it struck me like a bolt of lightning, the stresses I felt during my working day were nothing compared what my wife was had been dealing with at home. I hadn't known that my wife had been ill the whole time.
Three years ago, my wife and I joined the Rethink Mental Illness Canterbury & Coastal Carers Support Group and the change has been phenomenal! Not just for my wife – but for me too. The group, run by Chris and Cheryl Ives for over 25 years, offers a safe, relaxed and professional space that carers and their loved ones can meet and exchange tips and shared knowledge; information that goes beyond the support offered by any professional agency. All backed up by the wonderful Rethink Advice and Information service.
The group has offered true fellowship and has had a profound effect on us both. Knowing support is there 24/7 from our friends in the group has helped change both our lives for the better.
Having retired a few years ago and with more time on our hands, my wife and I decided to take up a more active role in the group. Enthused by the support we received, we started a bike ride to raise vital funds for the group – no mean feat at 63! Our sponsored bike ride from Cloisters to Oysters was born and every year a large group of us, aged from 40 – 80 ride this stunning route across the Kent countryside in the crisp spring air!
Now cycling has become an important part of our routine, we go out for weekly rides, sometimes too far (!) but it is worth it for that improved sense of wellbeing and that feeling of freedom that accompanies it.
After all this, last year I received the 2017 Pringle Award of Member of the Year. It was an amazing personal achievement and such a proud and humbling occasion. It could only have been achieved with all of the amazing people around me - the amazing Rethink staff, our local carer group coordinators - Chris and Cheryl Ives, other members of my family and friends and most of all the encouragement from my wife that contributed so much towards making things like our first Cloisters to Oysters sponsored bike ride happen.
I’d recommend joining a Rethink Mental Illness carers group – the sense of belonging and satisfaction you will get from other carers is invaluable.
Are you a carer or supporting someone with mental illness? You can find out which carer support groups are near you here.