Zalifah is a part of Team CAL that was supposed to fly off in April 2020 for the #YOLO2020 Everest Base Camp for the mental health advocacy hike. Unfortunately, COVID-19 happened. The likelihood that she may not realise her aspiration to surmount Everest Base Camp has caused her to conceive the Round Island Route (RIR) #YOLO2020 Walk With Me instead.
Through the challenge that Zalifah set for herself, she hoped to raise greater awareness of mental wellness through conversations with her friends and to raise funds for the work that CAL do to support fellow caregivers like her. What started off as a personal mission turned out otherwise – she was overwhelmed by the support and encouragements received, especially by the CAL family. Throughout the five days of the walk, Zalifah was accompanied by colleagues and friends who rallied and supported her and the cause.
Zalifah normally does her thinking and reflections best when she is out walking. Here, she shares her thoughts that caregivers need to know that they are not alone in their caregiving journeys.
Caregiving is like climbing a mountain
For five days consecutively, the weather was very unpredictable. In the morning, the sun could be shining mercilessly, but in the afternoon, it could be raining heavily with strong wind. There were occasions that the team (consisted of Zalifah plus colleagues and friends) was literally showered by passing vehicles as they walked along the roadside.
Generally, the team looked forward to checkpoints because of the sense of accomplishment achieved and it made the team feel closer to completing the journey. However, on day four, it was real challenging for the team, as they had to walk endlessly from the starting point to the next checkpoint which is also the end point for the day. Imagine walking endlessly for more than 30km in the temperamental weather with no sight of the checkpoint. With the challenges faced, it was tempting for the team to give up or even pretend that they completed for the day.
Likewise, caregiving is quite the journey. There are ups and downs in caregiving, the uncertainties whether caregivers are doing it right by their loved ones, the frustrations when loved ones are not medication compliance, the caregiver burn out, the overwhelming feeling when things get tougher, among others. The team do not wish to discount the caregiving journeys of caregivers. The team persevered because they know how important this advocacy walk for fellow caregivers and mental wellness. No amount of blisters, abrasions, broken toenails or fatigue could stop the team from completing the walk.
Caregivers are not alone in their caregiving journeys
Going on the RIR drove the point home on the importance of having a good support system. Zalifah was thankful for colleagues and friends who came onboard the walk. Some colleagues, including CAL’s Executive Director, Mr Tim Lee even fetched the team to the starting or from the ending points. Family, friends and colleagues checked in and monitored their progress through the team’s private shared live location to make sure that the team was coping well. According to Zalifah, the encouragement from others cheered and motivated the team to take one step forward each time they got sluggish or tired. Zalifah was also happy to be the follower and allowed others who were more familiar with the route to lead the way. These small little gestures, among others, made the team grateful for the encouragement and support extended to them.
As a caregiver caring for a loved one with depression and a suicide survivor, Zalifah feels safer sharing her caregiving journey with fellow caregivers. Why? Because they are able to understand the emotional journey that she experiences, especially when her loved one suffers a relapse. CAL provides caregivers a safe environment to share their caregiving journeys during the Caregivers-to-Caregivers Training Programme (C2C) and opportunity to tap on each other’s lived experiences.
Zalifah would like to remind caregivers not to feel guilty to take time-off to recharge and self-care. She encourages caregivers to care for themselves first so that they can be effective caregivers and extend better care to their loved ones. Burnout is a serious problem for caregivers, especially if they have nil support of network.
The journey of a caregiver to a family member, relative or friend with mental health issues is long and challenging. If you know of any caregiver to a family member, relative or friend with mental health issues, please encourage him/her to attend our upcoming Caregivers-to-Caregivers Training Programme (C2C) to understand his/her loved one’s condition better and learn to become a more resilient caregiver: https://www.cal.org.sg/caregiver-training
Though the walk is completed, please donate generously to this worthy cause so that CAL can continue to reach out and support caregivers of persons with mental health issues: https://www.giving.sg/caregivers-alliance-limited/CAL_YOLO2020