Real Stories: How a vet's family dealt with his breakdown

When we first approached Vetlife for help I was working part time one and a half days a week and doing some catering work from home as and when it came up. Michael was and had been the main breadwinner and when we knew he would be dropping down to ’statutory sick pay’ we found it pretty scary. I knew I couldn’t up my hours as I would need to be around to keep an eye on Michael as things progressed. Michael wasn’t in good shape and having to try and discuss our finances and make some serious decisions with him was near impossible, so it was a matter of going it alone and cancelling anything I felt could be. My biggest concern was the house and the mortgage we had on it. The sensible thing seemed to be to sell and downsize but that would all take time and I dreaded us getting into debt. The children were teenagers and moving was going to be even more instability for them to cope with.

It was with this all whizzing around my mind that we received a letter telling us that Vetlife was going to give us financial support. I really cannot begin to tell you how we felt when we read that. There was disbelief that anyone could be so generous; overwhelming relief and a feeling that a huge burden had been lifted from me. Most importantly it meant we could stay in our home as your donation would cover the mortgage.

Living with Michael during the two years was incredibly hard as you lose the person you married and know to become a carer for a stranger who barely knows you are there. The children lost their father and this time round they were old enough to see it all happening. It took its toll on them in different ways.

Our teenage daughter became very reclusive and would seldom leave home. She also developed some worrying OCD rituals in an attempt to have some control in her life. She was born to dance and the money Vetlife gave us during this bad time allowed for her to continue her lessons and was a real blessing to her. Over the last few years she has got on top of her problems and is a happy and confident young lady now, still dancing as many times a week as she can manage.

Our son just closed himself off from his dad and managed in his own way, talking to me when it all got too hard. He lost any respect he had for Michael and just saw him as ‘weird’, but how can a 14 year old understand mental illness. Their relationship took time to build back up and repairs are still going on.

Michael and my relationship took a fair bashing but we are still together, happy and stronger . Michael has even found a new enthusiasm for veterinary work, feeling it a real privilege to be able to do his job and hopefully make a difference to people and their animals. We have made some big changes to try and prevent, as best we can, Michael getting ill again. Michael renegotiated his contract and now works 2/3 of his original hours. I am now working 3 days a week as well and between us we are probably bringing in close to the same income as before. The children get to see a lot more of their dad and we even get to eat together, which we never used to.

Everyone we have spoken to connected to the Vetlife has been nothing but kind and supportive and our thanks to you all. Continue to do the good you are doing, we know how much it means.

* Name changed to protect anonymity.

Vetlife has been there to support me through this extremely difficult period of my life.