Understanding makes all the difference.
Living with children who have mental health issues is incredibly taxing. When you don’t know what the issue is, those feelings become even worse.
Jane Bartlett returned to Australia from New Jersey, USA when her son James was nine years old. She had separated from James’ father and returned with her two boys to be closer to her family. James didn’t handle the move well, struggling to cope with the loss of his friends and with his father remaining stateside. James began adopting behaviours he felt would help him cope with his father’s absence but these actions often resulted in awful shouting matches between him and his mother. Jane says: “He wasn’t really depressed but nonetheless it was a terrible time for him.” James subsequently suffered from bullying at school but despite this as he got older he became an ‘A’ student.
At age eighteen James was diagnosed with a cerebral abscess. He required two craniotomies to evacuate the abscess. Doctors said that physically he should be fine but that it may take a while for him to get over the experience. It was at this time Jane noticed a change.
James began drinking. Any form of rejection triggered aggressive behaviour. Relationship breakups brought out the worst in him. Jane recalls he would start pulling his hair out and would hit his head against objects. “Once he put a golf club through his car window”.
For over ten years Jane lived with uncertainty over James’ condition. He was firstly diagnosed with depression and put on medication. This seemed effective at some times but not at others. Some consultants even said they thought he was bipolar. But all Jane saw was James projecting his pain. “I just didn’t know what to do”.
Repeated attempts to kill himself resulted in police intervention and subsequent hospitalisations. This propensity for self harm caused Jane so much worry. She recalls: “It consumes you. It consumed me — he sucked me dry”.
It was only recently, during James’ last hospitalisation, that a doctor presented Jane with a diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’. It was the first time she had ever heard of it. But finally it made sense. She learned that there are nine symptoms of BPD and that James exhibits about eight of them. Finally Jane has something to work with.
Jane researched BPD and managed to find therapy for James in the form of ‘Dialectical Behaviour Therapy’. She says it is working well and that it seems to be the only thing that helps right now.
Now, with James finding support that works, Jane decided to seek help for herself as his carer. This she found with ‘HelpingMinds’. “The course at HelpingMinds has saved me — it’s just fantastic”. Through her course at HelpingMinds Jane realised that she had been saying all the wrong things, which had actually inflamed the situation. “I used to tell him to pull his socks up – but that is the worst thing to say”. Now, she will diffuse his anger by giving him a big hug, acknowledging his pain. “It completely calms him down”.
Jane understands that her son will always live with this condition but that utilising agreed strategies will considerably help. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just that it is the longest tunnel”. She recalls: “A year ago it was horrible. I was saying all the wrong things”. Now, following her course with HelpingMinds, she understands what to say. “He is doing his course and I am doing mine. It puts us both on the same page”. Thankfully James now accepts what he has and is able to use the strategies provided to minimise his anguish.
Jane is doing volunteer work with a local school. She says the volunteering is doing her good. Down the track she would like to become involved in helping other carers who are undergoing similar situations. She feels that a lot of families are too ashamed to admit what their child is going through. “It’s like they are embarrassed by it”. She says her course with HelpingMinds has been so helpful. “Being in the course with others who are in the same situation helps, but what they show you is really really good”.
She says she feels for people who are going through the same thing. She wants them to know that there is hope out there.
Her advice for anyone in a similar situation: “You have to get help. Don’t try to do it alone”
The economic value of informal mental health caring in Australia
Debbie Childs CEO of HelpingMinds, explains who informal mental health carers are and highlights the key findings from the recent report 'The economic value of informal mental health caring in Australia'. Read more at helpingminds.org.au/the-real-value-of-informal-mental-health-carers/ ... See MoreSee Less
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