Who cares for the carers?

By Sylvia 

Getting ill with ME was a terrible time in my life, and one of my respites was the regular Friday trip by my partner and me to the pub across the road to meet up with friends. But while I longed to talk about how difficult life was for me then, no-one ever asked me how I was doing. Which I was quite offended by, until some ten years later when our roles were reversed, my partner was going through an acute mental health crisis, and when we got to the pub (same pub, same friends) they all waited until he’d gone to the bar or whatever then asked me, not him, how he was doing. And yet, like me, he’d have really appreciated having someone listen to how he was feeling. And as for me, I’d have loved if someone had asked how I was coping – after all, while experiencing acute anxiety and depression isn’t fun, nor is living with someone who can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t sit still, and can only talk about themself.

How have we got this so wrong? Do we treat carers as if they were minders? Whose only job is to tend the “ill” person, not to have needs of their own? To be a hero, maybe, but not a flesh and blood person?

For the first years of my illness I was living in inner London and was involved in running a local ME support group. Thus, when researchers of various varieties were looking for ME subjects to study them often came to us. At the point where I done several such interviews, always interesting, we were contacted by someone looking to interview partners, so I volunteered mine. The interview lasted an hour and a half, and afterwards he was so happy. He said that no-one, in all the years of him caring for me, had ever asked him like that about how it was for him (not easy, presumably).

Early on, I read a very good book about coping with ME – whose author I have, predictably, forgotten. In an excellent chapter on relationships and how ME affects them, she suggested making a list of all the additional tasks, physical and emotional, that your partner now has to do, because of your illness. Take out the rubbish, shop, cook and wash up every time, listen to your despair, not go out because you’re too ill to, keep your spirits up and theirs too. Then you read through the list and ask, is this a reasonable expectation for one person? Of course the answer is no. So then you go through the list again and consider which tasks could be outsourced to someone else sometimes. Maybe friends would come round and cook? Maybe when you’re feeling particularly miserable you could phone someone else and get your flood of tears over early, rather than dumping it on your partner the minute they walk through the door home from work. Etc.

We somehow assume that if we have a partner, it’s their job to take care of us “in sickness and in health”. As we would do for them if the situation were reversed. If we could. But relationships burn out, carers burn out. Maybe the rest of the world has to be a bit more prepared to step in and help. And ask  the carer what they need, too.

A Healing Call

A guest post from Potia Pitchford about her new, virtual healing circle.

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature. There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself. Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one. When I sit at meals I look across at this whiteboard so I am reminded daily of those people.  Even if only briefly I pray for their well-being, when things are quieter I sit beside my shrine,focus my mind and send out healing energies.

I’m not medically trained. I’m not trained in any of the many and varied healing and associated professions and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work. What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise. What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Gradually I have felt the need to do more and a few months ago I was inspired to do a full moon healing ritual.  I put a post on Facebook about a day before I did it in case anyone wanted to request healing and I was surprised at the number of people that asked me to include them.  But still I felt I needed to do something more. I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group, something that would send out healing more regularly.  I mused on ideas for a while and asked in a couple of Facebook groups if anyone would be interested in joining some form of distance healing circle.  I got replies from a few interested people. I bounced my ideas around with a few of those, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups. I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join but that would send healing out to those of any faith who requested it.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual. I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through. And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

In May this year I decided to set a virtual Pagan Healing Circle up and I think this is something that can grow. The group is still young but already there are close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address of paganhealingcircle@gmail.com or via Facebook. I’m cautious with accepting requests.  Consent of the individual the healing is to go it is vital so ideally the requests need to come from the individuals themselves.  There are always cases where that is not possible though.  If the healing is for a child or for someone unable to give consent themselves then we trust the parent, guardian or carer of that person.  If the healing is for a beloved animal companion (hasn’t happened yet but we are very open to that possibility) then the consent would come from the person who care for that the animal companion.  Sometimes healing requests come via a third party, if that is the case I confirm that the individual themselves is aware of this and agrees to the healing being sent.  This may sound over the top to some reading this, I know  people who say if you send healing with good intentions it’s fine.  But I have known people who have become upset and angry when they have discovered someone sending healing being sent to them without their permission.  I also know people who are very sensitive to incoming energies and if they do not know something is being sent to them it can cause them problems.  For these reasons I strongly believe that consent of the individual concerned wherever possible is very important!

Once I receive requests I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round in a little notebook I have. The current plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending. A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for although more information such as the approximate location of the individual is also useful. If the request comes via email I do not circulate the entire email just the essential information to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

Some of those we send healing to have been on the list since the beginning and have chronic health conditions, sometimes multiple conditions.  We are not expecting to “cure” situations like this, we are not miracle workers although we might like to be.  We seek to help, to provide support and healing energy boosts.  In return we ask for a little feedback, this helps us target our efforts to what is causing the most problems for that period of time and also helps us feel better connected to the person we are sending healing too, it helps build a relationship. Feedback also helps us feel valued and it’s always good to feel valued.  Some people request healing for short term illnesses or injuries and knowing that is coming to them often helps them improve more quickly than might be expected. We also sometimes ask for healing ourselves. Several of us have very personal understandings of chronic health conditions, we are wounded healers and circumstances in our lives can mean it is us who need the additional healing boosts as well as others that have requested healing from us.

If you would like to join this virtual circle of healers or wish to request some healing please contact me at paganhealingcircle@gmail.com