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Staying resilient in the face of uncertainty

By Raymond Anthony Fernando, Mental Health Advocate & Caregiver

Some caregivers who have to care for an immediate relative with mental illness will experience anxiety, sleepless nights, anger, frustration and feelings of isolation. Others may feel guilt-ridden that they do not spend sufficient time with their care recipients. Caring for a mentally ill person requires sacrifice and commitment. This will leave the caregivers vulnerable to falling ill and even becoming depressed.

Some caregivers give up their jobs to provide 24/7 care for their loved ones suffering from mental illness. Having a serious mental disorder can be like walking through a minefield – you never know where or when the bomb may explode.  

However, without their jobs, caregivers lose the financial security of a regular income and the social support of colleagues.

Likewise, it was extremely difficult for me to quit my job to manage my wife’s schizophrenia for 40 long years, in addition to her advanced arthritis condition that left her mobility impaired. However, I was prepared to look after Doris for these compelling reasons. Firstly, I was heartbroken when I witnessed how schizophrenia had ravaged my wife’s life. The tears in her eyes tore my heart apart. That was when I made a vow that I would stick by her through thick and thin. Strangely enough, it was her suffering that made me grow to love Doris more and more each day. 

What struck me most about Doris was the beauty of her heart. She had also touched me with her sincerity. She taught me how to be prudent with spending, advising me not to waste money on taxi rides, but to travel by bus. When I was courting Doris, her salary was doubled mine, and often when we dated, she would pay for our meals. Most certainly, she has always had my best interest at heart. This is one of the primary reasons why I took her to be my life-long partner even though I knew I would face huge obstacles during our journey together as husband and wife. 

  Raymond and Doris 

If we were able to overcome obstacles through sheer determination, we could use that wealth of experience and resilience to motivate and inspire both patients and their caregivers to treasure their loved ones and find that rainbow after the storm. That was how Doris helped me to become a successful writer of 30 books, a motivational speaker, and a staunch advocate for the mentally ill and their caregivers.

When you love what you are doing, you can be highly productive. My advocacy work, although at times thankless, gives me a purpose in life. If it were not for Doris, I would probably just do a 9-5 admin job which I am not cut out for.

Another way I manage my stress is by listening to music, ideally foot-tapping country music and ballads and watching some of my favourite TV shows like Wheel of Fortune. Occasionally, I would go to a lounge in Balestier Road and listen to Filipino singers belt out some good ole’ oldies which I can sing along to. It is a great way to unwind! 

Social engagements with friends and former school mates are yet another way I relieve my stress. Yes, humour is a good way to get me to forget my worries, and that is why I often crack jokes with the wacky DJs on Gold 90.50FM –my favourite radio station.

It is so important to stay connected with friends at the start of the day, and this I do every morning after I pray to Doris at the columbarium where her ashes lie. With a bowl of my favourite pork porridge, I would gabber away with some of my morning “kakis” and even though they may not be able to solve any of the issues I may have, a listening ear can make a big difference.

Social media, like Facebook, is another way I beat boredom and stay connected with my friends.

A member of National Healthcare Group ISO   Comm Chest Award Bronze