As Caregiver For 2 Family Members With Mental Illness, Mother’s Day For Me Is About A Different Kind Of Love…

With all the stress haunting me each moment, with no hope in sight, and with my dreams all crushed to pieces, I gave up the thought of bringing another life into my world.

The fetus moves about in the womb, sucking its thumb; its tiny fingers, perfect, its features, sharper than in the earlier video.

I stare at the screen and feel tears roll down my cheeks. Why couldn’t I have that? I wipe away my angry tears as I brood over the events that changed the course of my life.

A few days into my marriage, I discovered my mother-in-law was a victim of schizophrenia. Four years later, I made another shocking discovery: my husband suffered from Bipolar Disorder. Two mental illnesses in the family left me not just heartbroken, but severely anxious, worrying for my sanity.

Playing the role of a caregiver saps you of your physical strength. But more than that, it takes a toll on your mental and emotional health to such an extent, that the dark shadow of fear follows you everywhere you go, day in and day out. More so when you care for patients with an illness that transforms them into terrifying strangers.

With all the stress haunting me each moment, with no hope in sight, and with my dreams all crushed to pieces, I gave up the thought of bringing another life into my world. How would I care for that life when I didn’t have any strength to look after myself? The agony of living life with anxiety and fear left me hopeless and exhausted.

My four legged baby

But, I have realized, that the Universe sends us help in the most unimaginable forms when we least expect it. Like it sent into my world an angel with four legs and a tail, who would wipe away my tears, follow me like a shadow, and give me the strength I needed the most.

My pet dog wasn’t a planned baby. He strolled into my life, unannounced, and changed the way I viewed the world. It was love at first sight for us—the kind of love that promises to be by your side through good times and bad, that doesn’t judge you however weird you may be on some days, and gives you its silent company when you are weary of the chaos around.

I was a first-time mother to a dog and had no idea what was expected of me. But my “son” taught me to simply be me, and that it was okay to make mistakes because it’s only through our mistakes that we learn the ropes of our jobs as mothers. Not everyone will understand this, but he made me feel like a mother, made me feel “complete”.

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Motherhood is the toughest job in the world. Having a dog as a child didn’t make it easy as I still had to look after my MIL. I also worried about my husband’s health. And the stress still left me too fatigued to give my time and energy to look after my baby, the way I would have loved to. But my angel only had to wag his tail to let me know he was fine, that we would be fine, come what may, and that I was doing a good job.

He pulled me out of depression

My pet dog was the most important part of my life for 13 years. He was my son, my pillar of strength, my sounding board, my secret keeper, and my therapist. He was the blanket that kept me warm on cold and lonely nights when I cried myself to sleep, tired from the constant anxiety,  worried about what the next day might bring along with it.

If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have survived the many storms that hit my world, rocking my ship, threatening to topple it with every wave that assaulted my senses. Today, I am thankful for the turns my life took. Thankful for sending into my life the angel who looked after me like a true son; a caregiver who helped heal my wounds, mend my broken heart, gather its pieces and put them into place, and make me believe in a love of a different kind. The canine kind.

Earlier, on Mother’s Day, I would wish I had someone who would make those cute greeting cards for me, shower me with love and kisses, and tell me I was the best mother in the world. Ever since my pet came into my life, every day felt like Mother’s Day. He didn’t make cute greeting cards, but imprinted my heart with his cute paw prints, showered me with his sloppy kisses, and told me with his big brown eyes how wonderful a mother I was!

My baby left this world five years ago. But his love stays with me to this day. And, it reminds me of the times I felt complete and so full of love, so overwhelmed with happiness, that I thought my heart would burst!

Image source: a still from PregaNews ad/ YouTube

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About the Author

Shilpa Gupte

With the help of words, I share my life. Words that inspire, words that touch a chord, words that share stories of battles we all fight. read more...

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