Improving My Mental Health Has Made Me a Better Carer

How columnist Somi Igbene processes difficult situations and relieves stress

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by Somi Igbene, PhD |

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Motherhood has beautiful moments, but it certainly comes with a dose of anxiety and emotional roller coasters. Add any type of impairment or disease to the mix, and you might find yourself on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Caring for a child with sickle cell disease is both fulfilling and challenging. It’s fantastic to see my child thriving against all odds, but simple tasks can easily become complex.

For example, going to new places or leaving my child in another person’s care is never straightforward. I worry about many things: How clean is the environment? What infections could my child be exposed to? Will the food available meet his dietary requirements? Will they remember to offer him plenty of water? Has he dressed adequately for the weather? The list goes on.

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These questions are important and valid, but constantly going through a mental checklist and worrying about things that could go wrong is distressing. I miss being spontaneous and dealing with situations as they arise. I miss being carefree about little things, like letting a child play outside even if it’s cold, or enrolling them in swimming lessons and not overanalyzing every detail, like the water temperature or when the pool was last chlorinated. I miss not panicking about sneezes and runny noses. I dislike going to hospitals so frequently. I despise opening hospital appointment letters, and I hate seeing my son cry when nurses draw blood for tests.

Distressing as these moments are, I know my concerns and my son’s care are necessary, so I will continue to face it all. However, I’ve had to find coping mechanisms to protect my mental health so I can give my son the best care possible.

Listening to music, going on long walks, and weightlifting are my favorite stress-relieving activities. I picked up crocheting in June, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. There’s something so relaxing and therapeutic about it. A 2020 article in the journal Perspectives in Public Health suggests that crochet can improve personal well-being, with some people using it to manage chronic illness, grief, and pain.

Even though my hands are busy, my mind is calm and peaceful. I can process things much better, and instead of worrying about problems, I think of solutions or better ways to handle difficult situations. I also try to focus on the positive aspects of every situation and remind myself to take it one day at a time.

Looking after a child, healthy or otherwise, is hard. The silver lining is that a child enriches your life and helps you grow in ways that may not be apparent immediately, but that you appreciate and cherish later.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


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