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What’s a carer? Why would I need a caregiver? Can’t I just take care of myself?

Carer is equivalent to caregiver: an unpaid friend or relative who helps a disabled individual get through daily life (the difference in terminology is regional). I genuinely admire the bloggers I follow who provide that support for someone they love.

Creepy egg face by asruge on Flickr.

But I take offense at the insinuations I see everywhere that people with bipolar disorder need caregivers. Massive, egotistical, irrational offense. Needing a caregiver implies an inability to manage the daily grind, a lack of self-sufficiency, dependency on the kindness of others, in short: disability. Oh, wait. Bipolar disorder is a disability. In the US, bipolar is a disability legally meritorious of ADA accommodations and sometimes SSDI. Egg on my face? I’m wearing an entire omelet.

Since when do I need someone to take care of me?

To be truthful, I have always needed help to get by. I hate to admit this more than text can possibly express: it made me cry when I first typed it. Perhaps I value my independence more than I ought (typical American, eh?) but I only lived completely on my own for a brief period in college, and I was quite mad at the time.

Since those days, Mr. Chickadee has taken care of me, but not in the way that I imagine when I hear the words “caregiver” or “carer.” More in the way I associate with the word “husband.” He gently reminds me to take my meds, but is less consistent about it than I am. He listens to my rants and talks me down from my moments of fury. He holds me up when I’m too sad to stand. He helps me keep the stable schedule that reduces my mood swings in frequency and severity. He just cares for me.

When we first moved in together, I fretted over the notion that this was some sort of co-dependency (ergo a threat to my independence) but eventually I decided it didn’t matter. I always thought that this was just part of caring for a life partner (isn’t it?) and while I do a few similar things for him, I realize that it’s an unbalanced equation. I can’t help but feel a bit ashamed and guilty about that, but it is what it is, and we are happy together.

I talked myself into believing that I don’t need someone to take care of me, that my life is entirely my responsibility and I’m plenty capable of handling it just fine, thankyouverymuch. It’s not true, but I do manage myself pretty well most days. I’m high functioning, as they say, so it’s easy to think that I don’t need help to survive everyday life.

I do need help. Every day. And I am grateful, every single day, for the loving kindness that my husband offers without hesitation.