I have never shared my feelings or thoughts with anyone before, including my husband/families and best friend. I’m have not been medically diagnosed with mental health issues, but deep down I know that I’m living in a high pressure situation and I know my emotions are ‘sneakily’ melting down every day. But I pretend to live a normal life.
My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his teenage years… as much as I love him as a brother, unfortunately the whole family has had to suffer a lot bearing the various troubles he has caused over the years. I take the financial strain in providing support to my parents and brother (Background information: my mum has been a housewife all her life and my dad’s business went downhill towards his retired age. My brother has never been able to work to support himself as a result of his mental health situation).
There have been many ups and downs over the years, too many to go into details…but there was a turning point when I was pregnant. My brother had returned to Sydney and lived with my parents due to trouble overseas. My parents thought it was an opportunity to get him back to Sydney for some professional treatment. Unfortunately, during his stay he created more trouble. I was pregnant and working full time yet still had to stretch my energy to deal with him needing to go to hospital, the police and comforting my poor crying mum… So I could only pretend, pretend everything was going to be ok and be the strong one. I had to be the last one standing as no one else could help me. But deep down I was so scared, scared that myself, my husband and baby, and parents would get harmed if my brother lost control at any one split second. I was scared about losing my job as I was about to go on maternity leave – how could I continue to financially support everyone? I was scared and worried about so many things whilst dealing with the pregnancy hormones.
When my brother “escaped” back overseas because he didn’t want to be admitted to hospital and the doctor had let him I decided to cut ties with him entirely. I know this sounds very selfish and unsupportive of my brother and family, but seriously, no one, not even my own parents and my eldest brother have ever shown any understanding that this was the only way I could keep myself continuing to think, live and work and function as a normal mum. I needed to protect my own family and my child and feel peace before I headed towards a nervous breakdown.
The consequences of totally cutting my brother out of my life hasn’t been easy. I have to bear with the guilty feeling every day. I even have nightmares about it, mixed scenes in my dreams – sometimes it was the happy sibling moments we had as kids, some were him calling up at midnight asking for money, some were violent where he kidnapped my child and tried to harm us.
But I try hard to put those emotions behind me and try to continue to build and stabilize my own life and family. I have been fortunate enough that both I and hubby have decent jobs and, with all the lessons learnt, I put in lots of effort saving money whilst sacrificing things myself. All whilst I continue to support my parents and provide a decent environment for my child. However, my efforts don’t seem to get appreciated much. Instead, I get blamed from my parents and eldest brother that I shouldn’t be so heartless to cut my brother out of my life. Other family members often make bitter comments on what a good life I’m having as we live in a bigger house than my own parents (they obviously have no clue that even though my parents are living in a small place, I’m the one paying for it!). Or, even from time to time, the random comments on why I’m not having a 2nd child – so little do they know I had four miscarriages since having my first child and it was a tough decision to stop trying considering the emotional strain, physical exhaustion and financial burden I have.
I know my story is not unique and there are many more mums out there that are having tough lives. In a way, that’s what helping me to keep moving on and stop feeling pity for myself. But I just know the fear, the guilt, the pretending everything is great in life, playing a supportive role to everyone around me but not being able to share my true feelings and thoughts just eats into me every day.
I guess I’m trying to share the message across that it’s important not to overlook the mental health of carers who often aren’t able to receive the appropriate support to manage the situation.
I did attempt to raise the topic with a few different professionals over the years but unfortunately I haven’t had much luck with receiving good advice.
Maybe it’s a law of attraction that somehow most people around me appear to be “weaker” and the expectation of me to always be the strong and capable one? Who knows – it’s just the one way street feeling is very draining…