It’s something in the region of eighteen months since Husband had his breakdown. He’s currently in hospital for the third time since then, and if I’m honest there’s been no significant change in his overall mental health since his first admission. He kinda gets by for a while, however difficult that may be, and then he hits tipping point and we’re back to phoning the Crisis Resolution Team and jumping in a taxi to A&E. Apparently there are no tablets that will significantly help and what he really needs is talking therapy…the waiting list for which is, of course, somewhere between nine months and two years, depending on where they eventually decide to send him. I’d be lying if I said that things haven’t been hard, and if it doesn’t look like things are going to continue to be hard for the foreseeable future.
Particularly with his first admission, Sigyn was very much there for me. It was like Loki was hanging out on the ward to take care of Husband and Sigyn had come home to look after me. She gave me Her strength, and She also showed me a strength of my own that I never knew I had – or, to be more accurate, strength I thought I had lost long ago. She taught me many things (I wrote about this in a little more detail in https://ravensblog2017.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/sigyn/), and it was then that I began to wonder if Sigyn might not be the Goddess of carers.
It makes sense if you think about Her role in mythology; the mourning Mother holding a bowl over Her bound Husband to catch the venom and save Him from whatever pain She can spare Him from. Being a carer is not entirely unlike that some days.
She couldn’t free Him. She couldn’t take away His pain – or Hers. All She could do was hold the bowl, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, unable to eat, unable to rest, until She was forced to empty out the venom and feel like She was somehow failing as poison fell on Loki, despite the fact that She had no choice but to empty the bowl. I mean, at least I get to sleep and eat. But like Sigyn, I can’t actually fix the situation I’m in – Husband has the problems that he has, and nothing I can do will actually take them from him. All I can do is try to figure out the best way to help and try not to destroy myself whilst doing it.
I have twice now seen Sigyn with heavy scarring on Her face and hands, like acid burns or something. To me, this is like a visual form of what She had to suffer in the cave. It’s purely my own UPG, but from what I’ve seen it looks like venom fell on Her too – maybe it’s just something She does to illustrate a point to me, I dunno. But I understand the message; there’s a lot of collateral damage when caring. It’s not you going through whatever it is that the person you care for is suffering…Yet, in another way, it is. The snake was there to drip poison on Loki, but by choosing to remain by His side and attempt to protect Him, venom wound up burning Her too. Her sons were killed to punish Loki, but that left Her in agony too. Loki was imprisoned to punish Him, but it left Her trapped in the darkness too.
And that’s another thing…She isn’t trapped down there, technically speaking. She could actually get up and leave, and there are those who would not blame Her. There are those who would even encourage Her to do so. But what are the consequences if you run?
I ran, the second time Husband was admitted into hospital. I don’t mean that I actually left him or anything, I just…didn’t want to go through it all again. His first admission, just over a year previously, was still pretty fresh in my mind. And fresh on my skin – as I write this, I have scars from that time that have not fully healed (scars are fully healed when they go flat and pale and finally stop f***ing itching. Most websites will tell you that scars can take ‘up to a year’ to heal fully, but I can assure you that I have one or two that are taking longer). I was afraid of having another breakdown myself.
So I lied to myself – I told myself that I wasn’t so vitally important, that he had a professional psychiatrist to make the best decisions about his care and a CPN to back him up and make sure everything happened the way it was supposed to do. I’m just an uneducated bloke off a council estate, I told myself. I didn’t even finish secondary school. What do I know about what Husband really needs? All I have to do is visit and provide moral support. I don’t need to attend those stressful ward rounds where all the decisions get made.
And everyone backed me up in this cowardice. Even Husband. Everyone I know encouraged me to take a step back and let the professionals deal with it…and what happened? A far-too-early discharge from hospital, two months of Husband barely existing, and now this. And that’s just what happened when I wimped out of ward rounds. Imagine if I packed up and left entirely.
If Sigyn were to put down Her bowl and leave the cave, no-one would take up the slack for Her. The One She loves would be left to endure His agony alone. And who would She be, anyway, if She did that? The choice is clear, and yet…Gods, what a weight that is to carry. To know that if you go, all will crumble in your wake. To know that if you fail, or break, the consequences will fall on another more harshly than on you. To know that you must keep it together and fight on, no matter what the cost, no matter what the pain, with no idea when – if ever – things will get better…And to know what will happen if you don’t.
The sacrifices you make. For Sigyn, the sunlight you don’t see, the fresh air you can’t breathe, the friends and family you’ve let go of. For me, the family I’ll never have, the prosperity I’ll never see, that ‘real life’ that I see other people living but can never quite reach out far enough to touch myself. We could have those things that we want, if we just walk away from our ‘burden’…If we can live with the knowledge of what we’ve done to the person we love the most in the world, of course. If we can live with the person that doing such a thing would make us.
Which we can’t.
So we don’t.
Sigyn, and all other carers, just carry on and on and on, because all other options are unacceptable. No matter how depressed, stressed-out, suicidal, lonely or plain exhausted we may be, we find the will to keep on living and breathing somehow. Not knowing when it will end, maybe not knowing if it will end. Fighting and praying for it to end in healing and not death.
Sigyn understands every single thing you can go through as a carer, because She’s been there Herself, except worse. And I’d suggest that, perhaps, She has a special understanding of those of us who care for people with mental health problems. People are often far less understanding about mental health problems – whilst someone caring for a person with a physical disability may be praised by others (well…maybe), someone caring for a mentally ill person is far more likely to be told ‘I can’t understand why you put up with them’. Mentally ill people sometimes do strange things, or frightening things, or things that will make their problems worse. And people don’t half judge them for it, totally failing to see that their behavior is a part of their illness. Sigyn also sees Her husband judged by people who don’t understand, and She too is judged for Her choice to care for Him – even to be involved with Him in the first place. When no-one else seems to understand you or the one you care for, Sigyn will.
I thought I was done, but Sigyn has one more thing to add; She’ll be there to remind you why it’s all worth it. Every moment of pain, every tear shed, every sacrifice made, is worth going through. Sigyn can be there and remind you of that when you’ve lost sight of it.