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Christine talks about her life after caring for her husband for 18 years - and how her local Mind in Newport, South Wales, helped her with her own mental health.
When I first came to Mind, my husband had just died.
I had been caring for him for 18 years as he had been ill with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and lots of other illnesses which meant I needed to be there for him 24 hours a day. I couldn’t even open the blinds because he would see people outside who weren’t there. His hallucinations and panic attacks were so frightening for him that I couldn’t even go to the toilet without him calling for me. I had to sleep in the chair next to his bed.
During this time I had cared for and lost my mum, dad and other family members so I didn’t really have any time to stop and think about what was going on or grieve for my family.
"I didn’t know where to go or what to do, I was in a terrible state. I worried about letters coming through the door, just a constant fear of what’s next…"
When my husband died I suddenly had time to think and grieve. Then I had to move from our home because I had two bedrooms and got hit with the bedroom tax. I had massive problems getting benefits. For 18 years I’d been out of work, looking after family.
I would do it again, but I lost everything looking after my husband. Every penny had gone. My carers allowance lasted for 6 weeks after he died and of course all of his money stopped. I even had to send back some of the payments. I was deemed fit for work even though I had been diagnosed with depression, suffered panic attacks and was waiting for a brain scan to check for MS.
"Without Mind, I don’t know where I would be."
I didn’t know where to go or what to do, I was in a terrible state. I worried about letters coming through the door, just a constant fear of what’s next… I was at such a low, then I found Newport Mind.
They were excellent. I came and had an interview and they were wonderful. They took their time to listen to everything that was going on. Claire at Mind was absolutely fantastic. She filled in all the benefit forms in for me and explained what needed to be done. She put the claim to the tribunal and came with me and helped me with a letter of support to get a new home. They filed in the supporting the application and referred me to housing and tenancy support. Without Mind, I don’t know where I would be.
The depression had been there for a while but I felt like a prisoner in my own home. Nobody came, friends had vanished as their lives continued while mine stopped. I used to be very self-reliant. I’ve worked all my life.
"I don’t want to do anything. I smile and try and fake it as much as I can but inside I can’t really remember the last time I felt happy or content."
I’ve run offices, I’ve worked for the police, I’ve had a lot of responsibility. I’m so used to be able to sort things out myself that to admit that I couldn’t was very difficult. Once I had, it was a relief. Like a pressure has lifted and I can begin to move on.
Everyone says that carers do a wonderful job, but once someone has died I feel like it is ‘tough, get back to work’. People don’t understand how depression can affect you. I want to lock myself away. I don’t want to go out or people to come to my door. I don’t want to do anything. I smile and try and fake it as much as I can but inside I can’t really remember the last time I felt happy or content.
Coming to Newport Mind is fabulous. I actually do things that I’ve never done before. I’ve never sung, painted or done anything like that. The art class gave me two hours of not thinking because I’m concentrating on creating something in front of me. I’ve got other people to talk to and I know nobody is judging because we’re all in the same position. I really enjoy the art course. Now we have a breakaway group and Mind has agreed to let us come here and practice art.
"It’s all about small steps."
The other thing that gives me such a good feeling is singing. I never used to sing; I’m too embarrassed. I would pretend to sing and mouth the words.
I sang the very first day I went to the group.
I am going to go back to the singing group. It makes me feel, it’s like adrenaline. I come out walking on high. By learning new songs I found out I’m a soprano! It gives me a wonderful feeling. It doesn’t always last long but for that period of time, I feel good. I’ve actually joined the choir in the church. I never in a million years would have done that before.
I come every Thursday for the art and I’ve just finished a craft course. I’ve done the My Generation course, depression and anxiety course. They give you techniques to cope and help you recognise when the depression is starting. It’s all about small steps.
"It takes a long time. I will have days that are bad. But sometimes the better ones outnumber the bad."
People might think that there’s a stigma to ask for help from Mind but there’s not, and it can benefit you a great deal. The first move is the hardest.
It takes a long time. I will have days that are bad. But sometimes the better ones outnumber the bad.
I am going to get back to who I was before. No, not who I was before, an improved version!
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