Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Struggle With Guilt, Balance and Self Preservation As A Carer



When my mum was first re-diagnosed with breast cancer, which was now incurable, I was just in the process of moving jobs. I was wanting to free up more time for my freelance hair and makeup work; assisting some of the best stylists in London on photo shoots, so I had found a part time job in a beauty salon in Clapham, near to where I lived at the time.
Of course with this colossal news now weighing heavy on my shoulders I wasn't sure what would happen.

I decided to be completely honest at my new job and email them in advance of starting to explain my situation and that I would try not to let this affect my work, but couldn't guarantee, and may sometimes need to be a little flexible.
I was incredibly lucky that they were so understanding and went on to just be wonderfully caring and so compassionate throughout my time there. I actually worked 3 days a week with them throughout my mums whole time with cancer, only leaving a month or so before she died.

The reason for speaking about this today is that even though I know how lucky I am that I was only part time and worked for an amazing place, I struggled massively with guilt still.

If you have lived with or looked after someone with a chronic illness before then you will know that every day is different and it is so bloody hard.

My mum and I lived together, just the two of us, so I was the only person there to help. I also had technically moved up to London earlier in the year, so I now lived 3 days in London where I worked and would travel home to Sussex for the rest of the week to be with my mum.

For the majority of the time throughout the 2 1/2 years my mum wasn't really too 'ill'. She had a fair amount of pain due to the cancer being in her spine, but we tried our best to manage this on many painkillers, so if it was controlled well then she was ok. Not great, but ok.
However living day to day knowing that you have incurable cancer can be horrific on your mental health, and I think that this is what my mum struggled with the most and I completely understand why.

My problem was that I had to work still. For money, to grow my career and also to be totally honest for my own sanity.
My mum of course wanted me to be at home with her as much as I could, as otherwise she was on her own, and I also practically had to be around quite a bit as she had very regular appointments for blood tests, injections, treatments and checkups which I needed to take her to.

It was a juggle to say the least.

Now we did have the help of my mum's best friend who supported us both immensely, but there wasn't many other people locally. The rest of my family weren't super close, meaning that it was a lot.

I was so happy to be so involved with my mum's practical support, but I also wanted to try to keep as much of myself and my own career and life as possible.
To be brutally honest this was because I was terrified that if my life was solely based around her then when she died I would have nothing left.
I was trying to preserve myself so that I had some existence after....and this was sometimes heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking to take up the great work opportunity for the day, or go out for the evening, or go on a weekend break knowing that your mum is desperate for you not to go and will be at home feeling terrible.

I used to feel such horrendous guilt and feel so utterly selfish if I said yes to something. The joy of it was taken away for me. I didn't actually do this very often as I couldn't bare to, but just enough to hold on to the outside world.

I wanted to share this to let you know that I believe ultimately that this was the right thing to do and that it is ok. I never would have left my mum for an evening if she wasn't feeling well and it wouldn't have been safe to do so. Also my mum knew that too, and did know that I needed some time for myself as well, despite her own feelings.

You need to take care of yourself just as much as the person that you are caring for, or you have nothing left to give. You need to continue your life and relationships, and create the best balance that you can.
Your work should understand and it is best to be completely honest with them. It is quite likely that they have dealt with something similar in their own families. People are kind if you give them a chance to be.

Lastly....don't be afraid to ask for help. Especially if, like me, you are the main 'carer' and don't have a lot of family close by. It is a huge weight to carry daily and it isn't possible to do everything. I wish that I had asked more.

All we can do is our best each day. Try to build a wonderful community around you that can take some of the load, and don't beat yourself up.


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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

What Mary Poppins Returns Taught Me About Grief



So it is now 2019, and I guess I should wish you all a Happy New Year.

If you are in a similar situation to me then this may perhaps be a difficult phrase to hear.
To me, when the clock strikes midnight it simply signifies that I am entering another year that my mum will never see; will never live in. It pushes me further away from her, with the fear of losing her a little bit more.

For a split second the dreaded wave creeps over me again, the feeling of sheer panic and deep sadness. But I have learnt to deal with that a little better nowadays, understanding that it will pass again.

If you felt the same way, or maybe are still struggling to get into a routine again and feel like you may be leaving someone behind heading into 2019, then I wanted to share something with you.

Now trust me with where this is heading....I went to see Mary Poppins Returns after Christmas and I completely adored it. I always have been in love with musicals anyway, and my mum was too, with us both having spent many years on the stage.
The magic within them and the stories completely transports me. The beautiful choreography and the music too. I am a complete sucker for it all, and admit that I enjoy living in a fantasy world for a while.
My mum also used to get called Mary Poppins because anything you ever wanted she would have in her handbag, it was quite impressive honestly!

So besides falling in love with the whole film and the characters, I was also really touched by how brilliantly the film dealt with the issue of grief.

For a little context Michael Bank's wife has sadly died, leaving him with 3 young children, (and without going into any detail so not to spoil it) Mary Poppins does return to look after them all.
One night Georgie, the littlest boy, is really missing his mum, and Mary sings them a song to get them to sleep.

I want to share the lyrics with you all on here as I find them just simply beautiful, and so comforting to hear as we start this new year.
It is such a cleverly written song and a wonderful reminder that nothing is ever truly lost.
Do take a read, and a listen, and please do let me know what you think.

It makes me tear up every time I hear it, but it is a perfect way to think about grief and loss, and a great way to explain it for any children growing up without a parent too.


Do you ever lie
Awake at night
Just between the dark
And the morning light
Searching for the things
You used to know
Looking for the place
Where the lost things go

Do you ever dream or reminisce
Wondering where to find
What you truly miss
Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

Memories you’ve shared
Gone for good you feared
They’re all around you still
Though they’ve disappeared
Nothings really left or lost without a trace
Nothings gone forever only out of place

So maybe now the dish
And my best spoon
Are playing hide and seek
Just behind the moon
Waiting there until
It’s time to show
Spring is like that now
Far beneath the snow
Hiding in the place where the lost things go

Time to close your eyes
So sleep can come around
For when you dream
You find all that’s lost is found
Maybe on the moon
Or maybe somewhere new
Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you

So when you need her touch
And loving gaze
“Gone but not forgotten”
Is the perfect phrase
Smiling from a star
That she makes glow
Trust she’s always there
Watching as you grow
Find her in the place
Where the lost things go.



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