A guide for those who have a chronic disorder or look after someone with one.
- Find professional help that is effective. Look for people with a compassionate nature, informative style, and an interest and willingness to support you in understanding and accessing the resources necessary for managing your condition and coping with life… someone who feels like an ally.
- Be a student of the condition – learn what you can about its cause, it’s course, its possible outcomes – and especially options for treatment and management. The opposite course of action – refusal to acknowledge or talk about the condition (denial) – is a recipe for misery and anguish.
- With many chronic conditions, our natural instincts, our theories and conclusions are very often an unreliable guide to managing, coping and caring. Why would we expect to be skilled at something like this that comes into our lives? Seek information and learn skills.
- Chronic conditions and disability are not rare. They may seem to be, but that’s because they are not talked about. Many in your community are dealing with these in their immediate family.
- Keep a watchful eye out for blaming (the victim mentality), either yourself or others, either silently, or spoken out loud. This can be especially detrimental to your attitude, outlook and well-being, not to mention the effect on others.
- Also watch out for self-sacrifice (the martyr mentality). Always being the one to do without will not help you cope effectively, or care effectively if you look after someone. Sometimes carers feel guilty about not having the disability, and this can translate into self-sacrifice which is negative and detrimental to everyone concerned.
- The alternative to being a victim or a martyr is acceptance… acceptance of the condition, combined with a determination to minimise the limitations that come with it, and a determination to make the most of the opportunities present in your life or that you create. This is the difference between being positive and negative. You are not your condition and it is not you. If you are a carer, don’t make someone else’s condition your life… it is just a part of it.
- For carers and the cared for to spend large amounts of time with each other may not make things better and can easily make things worse.
- It is important to establish and maintain your own social relationships and activities (both carers and the cared for), particularly those that take you outside the home.
- Talk about and establish appropriate independence for both of you. Respite for carers is an acknowledgement of reality, not an admission of failure.
- Seek to understand the origins, or root causes, of the pressures to which you are subject. This understanding is essential to managing and coping.
- Pay attention to the needs of other members of the family in relation to the part the condition plays in everyday family life, and to the care for the family member with it.
- Achieving and maintaining good mental health for both carer and the cared for is worthy of time, attention and personal investment. At the end of the day, it is the ability to adapt and change, to see things differently, that distinguishes those who manage and cope well from those who do not.
- Don’t be slow to seek professional help to achieve and maintain good mental health for both carer and cared for. This may involve a counsellor, support group, reading material or a combination of these, together with tools such as skilled relaxation and lifestyle choices conducive to a positive outlook.
- Above all, and first and foremost, take very great care of yourself.
Beating the Blues: A Self-Help Approach to Overcoming Depression
by Susan Tanner and Jillian Ball
Dos and Dont’s for friends: an article on the SP Foundation website http://sp-foundation.org/content/community/tips-friends.html
http://moodgym.anu.edu.au a free, interactive, online self-help guide