I have been so honored to get to know Terri @ Second Run Reviews over the past few months: from flailing over her gorgeous photography, to chatting about her insightful posts, it’s been fun! When Terri said she’d like to do a guest post for the event, I was so excited- especially because of the point of view she offered. So enough of my nonsense, here’s Terri!

As I sat down to write this post, I started to freak out. I don’t know why I volunteered to do this guest post. It’s scary, but I know there must be others out there like me–the ones who may not have mental health issues themselves, but live or care for someone who does. I want to be able to say, “You are not alone.”
I’m not going to go into the details about whom I care for and what their mental health issues are. That’s their story to tell, not mine. I do know that it’s painful to watch someone suffer. To want to help, but every suggestion you make falls on deaf ears or is shot down as being stupid. It’s difficult to walk away, when you have reached your emotional limit. And it’s a heartbreaking decision to walk away, when walking away means, perhaps, never looking back.
One thing to remember when dealing with a loved one: you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself or herself. It’s a cliché, I know, but I have learned it is the truth. I’ve survived two situations where one person wanted to help themselves and another where they did not. Through both situations, I learned three things.
Keep talking to your loved one. As long as they are talking, I learned that they are thinking, looking for a way out, seeking help in the only way they know how. I have learned that throwing out suggestions about how to improve things kept my loved one thinking about how to make the situation better; it kept them searching for solutions. And yes, sometimes the solution they picked was one I suggested ages ago, but the person had to get there in his or her own and work out the logic in their own head. It had to be the right choice in their heart, in their mind.
When your loved one decides to get help, take a quick minute to do a mental Dance of Joy
then move on and continue to support your loved one in the next steps wherever they may lead.
Know when to shut up. Sometimes people just need to talk. Sometimes people just need the physical presence of someone. Sometimes people just need someone to listen. I do a lot of listening. Many times I can’t offer assistance to make something better, but I’m a good listener and I’m a comforting presence. Remember that the best gift you can give, some days, is just being in the same room as someone waiting for them to reach out. Be present in the moment. Put away your smart devices, your ego and your insecurities and listen.
Know when to walk away. Sometimes you need a break. That might mean heading to a coffee shop for a decent cup of joe or going out for drinks after work. It might mean taking a short weekend trip with your friends. It might mean seeking medical assistance in the form of a therapist or a group meeting. Whatever the case may be, you need to clear your head. You need a break. You can’t lose yourself in the madness of your loved one and their issues. You’ll be of no help to them if you aren’t in the right headspace yourself.
And when you take your break, don’t feel guilty about taking a break. I’m still trying to grasp this myself. I’m still trying to learn that sometimes what I find fun and relaxing is not something everyone enjoys. It’s hard and sometimes my heart aches to share the joy I feel when I’m on my breaks. I constantly remind myself, I need to do this for me. This is my time.
Know when to walk away for good. It can be hard to walk away for good. I can honestly say that I’ve never done this. So for me, for good means something a little bit different which can be summarized with the following.
When I feel myself getting sucked into a situation where I start to lose myself, I have to remind myself that sometimes watching the car wreck happen and working through its aftermath is not worth the emotional pain and disappointment. I have to live my life for me and the good people I’ve surrounded myself with. It can seem brash to cut ties, either partially or all the way, but if the loved one you are dealing with is not able to meet you halfway on a semi-regular basis, you may have to consider moving on with your life without them.
There’s not necessarily a right and wrong way to care for loved one with mental health issues. Above all, it is important to no lose yourself in your care for them. Remind yourself constantly that you are important. You deserve the same love and attention that you are giving that other person. Make the right decision for your health and your well-being even if it maybe the most difficult decision of your life.
You are important and you matter, too.

About the Author

Terri M. LeBlanc is the Director at Second Run Reviews, a blog dedicated to book reviews, the occasional odd movie review and author promotion. Her In the Spotlight feature promotes authors via interviews, guest posts and book release announcements.
In her spare time, she spends time taking pictures, riding her horse, Jezebel, and watching movies with her equally nerdy husband and their adorable cats, Coal and Asche. | @2ndRunReviews |


I just want to take a minute to thank Terri so, so much for sharing this story with us. One thing that Kayla, Inge, and I wanted to make sure we spent time on in this event is the people who who suffer from mental illness via a loved one’s struggle, and I think Terri’s post captures that perfectly. If you are dealing with this yourself, or know someone who is, please think of and pass along Terri’s tips, because they are phenomenal, for both the person with the mental illness and a caretaker. A million thank yous 🙂 

Do you fall into the role of caretaker or know someone who does? Have any tips to share? Or just want to talk about Terri’s tips? As always, anything goes!

Posted August 13, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Guest Post, Mental Health / 40 Comments

40 responses to “A Caretaker’s Mental Health Guide: A Guest Post

  1. Oh, wow. This was such an amazing post, Terri. I have a few acquaintances also who suffer from mental illnesses, and while I may not be close with them, I do hope for the best. I think this post can apply to many things too. I typically am sucky when it comes to trying to say things to help better, but I always listen and I can be a shoulder to cry on. And definitely know when to stop–if you feel like you’re hurting other people or yourself, take a break or leave for good.

    • Just being there for someone can be just as important as talking with them. When I was going through a particularly tough time in college, one of my friends came over and did his homework and I did mine. Not being alone was important at that time. I try to remember how good that felt when I’m caring for my loved ones and have nothing to say. Knowing that I was loved just by someone being in the same room can be just as important as giving sound advice.

  2. Taking time for yourself is important. I’ve tooted this horn before, but NAMI’s Family-to-Family free 12 week course was amazing, AND it gave me a guaranteed evening “off” each week. I’ve also gotten better at not letting my husband’s depression drive everyone’s activity level. A few times this summer I said, “I would really like to do X, and I would love it if you come too, but if you are not up to it, I’m going to take the kids/ask my sister to help out/go anyway.” It has helped both of us, because the pressure is off him, and I am less resentful.
    My amazing sister has offered to come over one afternoon a week, start some laundry, greet the school bus, and get dinner on. This will let me stay later at work one night a week without guilt or worry. The balancing act of caregiving, parenting, and working got the best of me last spring, and I wound up taking 2 weeks of family leave to get a handle on it. I’m hoping this will prevent me having to do that. I know that many caregivers don’t have their own caregiver, but if you do, accept help gratefully.

    • Wendy, I’ve done that as well…I would really like to go do this and X said they would go with me if you don’t feel up to it. It works quite well.

      It’s great that you have family members close to offer help and support when you need a break!

    • I am SO glad that your sister has been such a wonderful support for you! It is so, so hard to balance everything without running yourself into the ground, especially when you are caring for every person in your house. I am glad you have found some great solutions, and thank you SO much for sharing them! <3

  3. It has to be hard taking care of someone with mental health issues. I think that everyone’s different in what they need and it’s hard because sometimes there is nothing you can do. Try not to feel hopeless yourself! Someone just being there to listen means so much.

  4. I really love how you acknowledged that sometimes there comes a point where you have to walk away for your own sake, and it’s not selfish. It’s simply knowing when you have reached the end of your capabilities and need to find someone who is better equipped.

    Thank you so much for this guest post, Terri!

    • Most people are very giving people. It’s hard not to think of it as being selfish when you walk away. But your own health (physical and mental) needs to be in the right spot or you’ll be of no help to the other person.

      And I’ve learned that some people don’t want to be helped. While that does make it harder to walk away, sometimes it is for the best.

      Terri M., the Director
      Second Run Reviews

    • That is such a good point. I think you’re both right- most people DO have limits to how much they can give- it isn’t selfish, it’s just trying to keep themselves functional! And some people don’t want help, or don’t know how to BE helped, or maybe the help they need is something you just can’t provide. Either way, I think there’s nothing wrong with knowing your limits and parting ways, as long as it’s done kindly and responsibly!

  5. Thank you so much for this post, Terri. I know we’re all talking about how much it sucks to have anxiety and depression, but it’s so important to see it from other people’s points of view as well. My mom is my anchor at the moment, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like for her, having a daughter who’s been house bound for the past two years. She lets me be, she doesn’t pressure me, but she’ll let me talk if I need to. But I completely agree in that you sometimes have to be selfish and keep looking out for yourself first.

  6. Rae

    Everything you said here hit close to home with me, Terri, especially when you said: “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself or herself.” It’s so frustrating to have that happen and that feeling of helplessness sucks, but whenever that Happy Dance Moment comes it’s one of the best feelings in the world!

    Taking a break is difficult for me to do, but you’re also totally right on the regard that it’s the best thing for the both of us. Thanks for the excellent post! It’s important for people struggling with depression to know they’re not alone but I’m glad to see that, as a friend/caretaker, I’m not alone in my position either. 🙂

    • It’s hard not to lose yourself when you are caring for someone else, Rae. But know, for your mental and physical health, taking a break is sometimes best for you and the one you care for.

      You are NOT alone. *hugs*

    • I am so, so glad that Terri’s post helped you feel not so alone! I think that taking breaks is absolutely necessary, for everyone’s well being, especially your own. You just cannot give ALL your energy to another person- you’d be left with nothing for YOUR life, and that simply isn’t fair to anyone. BIG hugs <3

  7. TheSeedQueen

    This is amazing advice. I’m just at the beginning of my journey as a caretaker in some ways. I’ve just admitted to myself that my loved one actually has bigger problems that I can help with. What is particularly heartbreaking to me is I still feel the person I care for should be the one caring for me.

    • That’s a tough one to deal with and trust me, I have been there. I seek the advice and support of my friends and other family members when I need care. It’s not exactly the same, but I know I can count on them more than that other individual.

      Take care. *big hugs*

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