Being ill has a rather crippling side effect, guilt. In some ways it is a positive product of being someone with empathy, who knows the burden and pain, on loved ones, of being seriously ill. I look back at my life in 2015 and reflect on not only how unwell I was but how emotionally tough it was on my former fiance. There were many days I was unable to process and cope with the fear of daily life. There were days when the darkness was grotesquely black on my mind so I needed to self harm or juggle the horror of suicidal thoughts. In the middle of a panic attack or my inability to stop screaming and crying, my ex-fiance had to try and comfort me and also find comfort for herself.
That wasn't easy because even though she had the love and care of friends and family, it was only the two of us in our house. When one of the residents is a ghost of himself, you effectively feel as if you are utterly alone. That makes me feel guilty. It also highlights the vital importance of people, who care for someone seriously ill, having safe, constant support. If you care for someone who is suffering, whether physically or mentally, you are a saint and deserve to know you are not alone and others know your battle and struggle.
It's very tricky to know where to turn though and find a safe space which isn't too overwhelming. It's a daunting prospect to approach others when wanting to talk about the challenge of caring for someone. There can be a sense that by speaking about the challenge you are somehow undermining your loved one's illness. You fear being judged for speaking up that it is really, really tough and you're feeling emotional, drained and lonely. I am fully appreciative of anyone who cares for an unwell loved one and recently discovered a new charity named Never Alone. It's a simple, free service which equips carers to connect with others in similar circumstance.
I cannot stress how important it is to have a safe, strong and loyal set of family and friends when dealing with a serious illness. They will be unconditional stability when you feel as if you are going to capsize. They are the shoulders wet with tears and the tea bringers and hug givers. You're vulnerable, let them help you find strength. It's nothing to be ashamed of. There are times though when you need to hear from someone who actually knows what you are going through and that is why I am hugely supportive of charities like Never Alone. It was founded by Gemma Firth when she realised the need for carers to have online support. She had to care for her husband Mark when he was diagnosed with cancer and felt the crushing isolation being a carer can bring. She founded Never Alone in order to ensure there was a safe space to share your pain, but also a simple place to share life with others, without judgement.
Online communities and charities are a vital element to modern living and if, like me, you face days of going outside to feel rather daunting it's comforting to know you can access services online to provide friendship. It also means it doesn't always have to be so serious; you can just be normal on websites like Never Alone and chat with someone about the latest box set to binge on.
Being a person who has been blessed with so much love and care in recent months I also deeply appreciate the emotional weight of supporting someone like me. I understand how terrifying it is for those around me and also how it can put life into a weird sort of stasis in which life is simply dominated by the illness being fought. You need to make sure you find an avenue in which you can breathe out, have a cup of tea and know others share your pain and are there to support you.
You can find out more about Never Alone at www.neveralone.org.uk