So October 10th was Mental Health Awareness Day I wanted to write about it but decided to wait because for those people living with mental illness, their friends, family, health professionals and neighbours everyday is mental health awareness day.
Both my half sisters have mental illnesses and it impacts on them every day of their lives, it also impacts on us as their family.
One sister has Bi-Polar disorder and psychotic episodes - the psychosis is controlled by medication the bi-polar is not. How it impacts on day to day life varies depending on her mood - some days she doesnt get out of bed, she doesnt clean her home or herself, she will refuse to take her meds or self medicate with alcohol.
She has three adult children, the oldest lives with her foster parents who have been responsible for her since she was around 4 years old - she is now 26 and has learning and physical difficulties - something my sister would never be able to cope with. She visits my sister regularly but doesnt understand why her mother is dirty or refuses to go out and do things. Her comments hurt my sister who doesn't understand why her daughter is ashamed of her. The second is 24 and moved out just before she was 16 - due to her mother's issues she was provided with her own small flat. She moved out because she couldnt cope with living with her mum, the state of the home and her mother's lifestyle. She rarely contacts her mum or the wider family and suffers with depression. The youngest is 18 and has aspergers, she lives with er mum - she has severe social anxiety and unfortunately like her mum has poor personal hygiene which doesnt help with the social anxiety and awkwardness.
This all has a huge impact on our family, from checking on her every day to make sure she is okay, on her meds, not taking someone elses meds (she did that one time and it took us like 2 weeks to get the doctors and health professionals involved and helping and then it took like another month for her to stabilise on her own meds again!), to trying to get her house clean and in a livable state to stopping her from getting involved with people who would harm/take advantage to her, to making sure her animals are okay (she has a ridiculous amount of pets from tarantulas to dog to lizards/reptiles!).
It's exhausting and it's a thankless task - she doesnt appreciate our help, she doesnt want it a lot of the time, she can say horrible nasty things, she can be needy, her home and body odour are disgusting and she can be an embarrassment. But on her good days she is a lovely person, she can be kind and caring and smart and funny but mental illness has caused her to have more bad than good days.
My other sister has mild learning difficulties and suffers with depression and ADHD. When people think about ADHD they think of hyperactive kids bouncing off the walls - they think it's something people grow up and out of. How it impacts on my sister is different. She struggles to concentrate - this means she will start doing something like cleaning the kitchen and then she will get distracted. She will look at a room thats untidy and not know how to start to clean it - she gets muddled and clutter fatigue. She hoards things. She can't manage to budget her money, pay her bills etc If she gets £100 a week on a Monday and has a bill due on Friday of £50 she wont plan to save £50- she will spoil her kids and grandson with the £100 and then come Friday she wont have any money left to pay her bill! She has 2 children. The oldest is 24 and has a 6 year old son. The youngest is 3. The oldest and youngest live with her and the grandson spends every weekend and most of the school holidays. She loves the kids and grandkids and will do anything for them but she isn't good at being a parent - she wants to play and have fun and they all love being with her but she isnt so good at things like discipline, routines and is more of a friend than a mum to them.
Like with my other sis we have to call her or see her everyday - my mum will call her every morning and make sure she has done her house work, planned her meals, knows what appointments she has to attend, remind her to pay her bills and so on. We also call her every evening to make sure the kids are sorted, the houseworks done and to check everything that needs to be done for the morning is. We also take her shopping, make sure she has paid bills, make sure she has electricity / gas / water etc
This sister is a lot more fun to be around, she's generally happy and easy going (depression is controlled well with medication) she wants to please people and is generous to a fault but we spend a lot of time checking up on her and making sure everything is okay - when we are on holiday we have to call home and check in every other day as well as staying in touch on FB (thank god for the internet) - in fact on our recent holiday she forgot to pay her phone bill and spent her money so we had to sort that out from the USA!
Neither of my sisters have carers so keeping an eye on them falls directly to their family and friends. So like I said at the start we live mental health awareness every single day! We have to make council officials, health professionals, friends, our employers etc aware of mental health issues. We have to ensure that they are both safe and because they both have children we have to make sure they are taken care of too. Both are considered to have full mental capacity so we often struggle to get information from health professionals - even though neither can manage without support! It's a difficult situation to be in.