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Hi! (Newbie). - Carers UK Forum

Hi! (Newbie).

Tell us a bit about yourself here.

I'm Cat, I'm 23 and currently caring for my fiancé who has depression and problems with alcohol. I'm studying medicine full-time as well as working part-time. My fiancé and I have been together for about four years and we're getting married around three months from now. He's struggled with his issues pretty much the whole time we've been together and has ended up in hospital once before after intentionally taking too many painkillers. I have tried to get him to seek help a number of times with varying success. He's been prescribed medication but stopped taking it after a while, and recently went back on it but the side-effects made him stop again. I also managed to convince him to seek some sort of talking therapy as I think this would be particularly good for him and he got a referral but did not reply to the letter they sent him so he will need to get another if he wants to pursue this. I never thought of myself as a carer before, so many people on this forum have to deal with so much more than me and are doing an amazing job, you guys are so strong. But even so the emotional and physical support I have been trying to give has begun to take a toll on me over the years and is now affecting my studies, work, mental and physical health. I recently called my (incredibly supportive) sister and she suggested I look online for help for carers of people with mental health issues and I guess that's how I ended up here. I think talking to people in similar situations/people in general would be really helpful and I'm looking forward to meeting you guys :)
Cat, hi, and welcome to the forum.

That said.... (!)

If I were your mum (and I'm old enough to be, my son is your age), I'm pretty sure you know what my first reaction would be to you - and I'm sure that with all the psych training you're doing in med school you know this as well....but....

You are looking to take on a LIFELONG commitment. Now, yes, I know you'll say 'well, lifelong commitment is what marriage is all about'.....but, and this is the HUGE but, in marriage, commitment is a two way street. It just has to be.

Now, never mind whether one thinks that 23 is a young age to marry, especially someone one has been with since a teenager, but to commit one's life to being a carer to a young man who, whatever his wonderful qualities (and I'm not 'insulting' him in ANY WAY) has what is likely to be a lifelong condition.....is a very, very serious step.

I'm not saying 'never ever marry him!' - (because you wouldn't believe me anyway!!!!)(I doubt I would at your age), but it would be hard for any mum to want you to rush in on this.

I defy just about any mum here, or in the world, not to advise EXTREME caution, and, ideally, to take a break away from this relationship. Find out how you cope apart, and how, far more importantly, he copes. If he copes well, that is an EXCELLENT SIGN! It has to be. It shows he is not totally dependent on you, it shows that you can truly support him, rather than segue into that oh-so-easy-to-do-but-oh-so-dangerous 'enablement' whereby you become his guardian, and his crutch.

At the very least I would say this - and I would say this to anyone who has a relationship with someone with MH problems. He HAS to accept treatment - whether it works or not isn't the point. The point is that he is TRYING to 'heal' as best he and his MH can manage. To me, refusing treatment - endlessly avoiding it - would be the critical deal-breaker.

Whatever his problems, whatever the cause, however much you love him, and he you, he HAS to 'try', he HAS to 'put something in' to this relationship. Otherwise you are not his wife, or his carer - he is your patient. That isn't a healthy way to relate to one another.

May I ask, why the rush to get married? These days, living together is 'the norm', very often until children are wanted. You are still in education (what does he do by the way?), and you say you are also working part time, so why rush to marry? Plus, you already recognise that it is taking an increasing toll of your strength.

I'm sorry, sorry, sorry if this all sounds negative - it isn't meant to be. There are good marriages where one partner has MH (sometimes even when both have it!), but it is NEVER EVER EASY. 23 is a hideously young age to be committing to a partner, husband with MH.

Please do read around on this forum, all the posts on MH, and I hope that you will find encouragement and support, but in a 'wise way'.

(I can especially recommend that you dig down into the Mental Health section, and read Robin's extensive and heartfelt posts - he knows exactly what happens when one gets closely involved with someone with MH, and what it does to one's studies.....)

Wishing you (both you and your fiancé) as well as can be - Jenny (anxious mum!!!!)
(Sorry, forgot to say I was raised by a mum with paranoid schizophrenia, so I do know, first hand, how MH can impact lives and families.)
Hey :)

I really appreciate all the advice - I am in complete agreement that 23 is pretty young to get married (I'll be 24 by the time we do, not much difference though!) and I was never in any rush. We have lived together for about 2 years now and it was him that first brought up the idea of marriage (in a general way before we moved in), and my opinion was that I wasn't in any hurry. We talked about it a lot and I got more used to the idea, and he didn't rush me in any way. We then got engaged (and to give you an idea of how great he can be when he's in one of his happier periods, he did it by taking me to Paris and proposing next to the Eiffel Tower..) and partially decided to get married this year rather than waiting due to the place I'm at in my studies and potential difficulties finding time in the future. I know it sounds kind of crazy. And my mum is super supportive but also very sensible and she's made sure I'm aware of all this (and she knows about his MH problems), but ultimately knows that I have to make my own decisions. However, I totally hear what you're saying and I'm at the point now where we need to make a definite plan for his treatment and follow through with it, and if he doesn't agree to this I think this would definitely be a dealbreaker. I guess I'm just trying to balance the sensible part of myself and the part of me that loves him to bits, and hope for the best.
I'm going to be presumptuous and call you sweetheart. (Because my 1st granddaughter is soon to be your age) Please sweetheart, much as you love your fiance don't take on being a carer without some sort of commitment from him to help himself. You are young, and should be enjoying life. I married very young. Had a happy marriage, obviously with lots of ups and downs. My hubby now in a nursing home, declining rapidly. I am grieving for him. However, if I think hard enough I have lovely memories. At 23 you have memories to make. So think very carefully. It's good you have supportive mum, and yes she is right, the decision is yours. Take a step away from how much you love him, hard as that is ,and think about your future. Am sorry if it sounds harsh. I do know what it's like to be in love honestly!!
Welcome to the forum. Please check out the many threads under 'mental health' and note how often phrases like
Walking on egg shells
Balance on a tightrope
Cannot get off treadmill
appear, and how often a carer is still waiting for their caree to change after many many years
Then really ask yourself how you can balance something similar with a high pressure job and possibly a family too
You talk of balancing heart and head. Imagine how hard that balance would be with a very very heavy burdened added
For me I'd need to see some commitment and results from him before going further
And I say this as the Mum of a depressed boy who I'd love to find a nice girl like you, but even I would wonder how you could cope with your busy life and him too
I really don't want to be negative but you sound practical and level headed. If the relationship is right it will survive a few years while he recovers