Living with the feeling that you are never doing enough.
Sitting, looking at my phone ring.
'Mum' written on the screen. I know I should pick up, but I just can’t. I can’t face it.
It stops ringing. I get no sense of relief, just guilt and worry. That uncomfortable feeling in the stomach, that I get even writing this.
My mum struggles with her mental health and I am her main support. It is a constant battle for her and unfortunately, she often breaks under the pressure of it. She has tried to take her life on many occasions.
I remember walking past her flat on the way to a friend’s house on a Saturday night a few years back. I could have popped in but didn’t. I just wanted a night off.
What I didn’t know is that she was suicidal and took an overdose later that evening.
Fortunately, it was unsuccessful. But she spent days in hospital because of the damage the overdose had caused.
I live with the guilt I feel for not popping in. Knowing that I might have been able to prevent it if I had. The guilt of putting my own life first. Knowing that I could or should have done more.
I get that feeling every time I miss a call or haven’t seen her in a few days. My mind instantly jumps to the worst conclusions. And of course, most of the time it isn’t that serious because she is calling for a catch up or to tell me there is a programme on TV she thinks I would like. If only my brain thought more rationally.
When it is someone you love, you always feel like you could do more and therefore always feel like you are not doing enough. That guilt weighs heavily on the shoulders of so many.
I also know my mum feels guilty. The thought of being a burden to me, I know, really hurts her and she would do anything to change it.
What has helped me cope with it? I don’t cope that well to be honest, but three thoughts help:
Simply recognising it and calling it out, helps in trying to be less hard on myself.
Remembering that I am doing my best
Recognising that you have to look after yourself first sometimes. Telling myself it is not selfish. It is self-protection and in the long run, important for both my mum and I.
Understand that you don't have to go through this alone. Connect with others in similar positions who "get it" in our private online Facebook group for unpaid carers. It's a space where carers are welcome to ask all sorts of questions to do with caring, and we help each other out with our experiences and wisdom.