Published in thejournal.ie, 13 August 2017
I CAN COUNT on one hand the amount of people I have shared my troubles with. Intensely private and protective of my mother, I have brushed aside texts from pals and I have made little effort to meet anyone recently.
I am functioning through a crisis. Am I doing it well? Probably not and I know why. Because I won’t talk about it. I am the person who will plaster a smile on my face, laugh at people’s jokes. I will meet clients professionally and no one will ever know what I am dealing with.
So, I am going to talk. I am going to share a little part of my life as it is now, not for sympathy, but for awareness. I’m writing for everyone else who shares my worries, my despair and my hidden and silent cries. I am not alone in this and there are many out there struggling with the same things as me.
My mam’s conditions
My mam suffers with degenerative spinal disease, rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes type 2 and she survived a heart attack a few years back. I nearly lost her more than once and there were months I spent by her side in hospital, willing her to get better and weeping alone in hospital halls.
I am not one to cry, anyone who knows me, knows I am the person who will never show emotion. I’ll grit my teeth and grin through every ounce of pain, lumps will lie in my throat and I will choke back every tear that might escape.
Up until a few months back she had limited mobility but could manage to get around with the aid of rollators and her wheelchair. Though she required oxygen and care, it was manageable. But nothing ever lasts forever, does it?
Needing constant care
Now things have changed, she has recovered enough to leave hospital but requires 24-hour constant care and is currently in a local nursing home. I now shower her, do her hair and nails, feed her and do the toilet runs.
She cannot grip anything, nor hold even light things and standing is impossible for her at this stage. I must rub cream into her, check for bedsores and do everything for her. Unfortunately, I have two more weeks before she must leave her nursing home and herein lies my biggest problem, what am I going to do?
My house is not equipped to care for my mother. With no downstairs bathroom and not even an extra room my choices are limited. And then, here comes the self-indulgent part of me. I am 33 years old with two children of my own and I have a husband to consider too.
Could I do it all?
What about my writing aspirations? Could I do it all? I don’t want to lose that part of me. Having only found writing in the last two years, my world has changed. I want to be a writer so much that considering losing that would probably break me into pieces.
But you know what else hurts? Leaving my mam with inappropriate care. It keeps me awake at night leaving me breathless and panicky.
The last few weeks or months I am in a continuous stage of guilt, guilt for leaving my kids each day over the summer. Unable to do many trips, they for most part, have sat around all summer. When I am with my mother I feel guilty for being there and when I am with my kids I feel horrendous for abandoning her. I can’t win this, I will never please everyone and I will never be able to do it all no matter how hard I try and believe me I am trying.
Apart from the tiredness, probably caused by my inability to sleep, my body aches from the lifting and transferring her from bed to chair to toilet and back again. I leave the home in a state of exhaustion and walk on home blaring music in my ears to drown out my thoughts. The walking I do to and fro, and to meetings adds up to two hours a day.
Struggling through my daily schedule
I get up at 6am or so, work all morning either at home or in-house depending on my schedule, I spend the afternoon with her before returning to work, making dinner and once again doing more work. Every day, I may get a coffee break and in most cases I could go all day without eating anything till dinner time.
I struggle to find time even when I manage my diary so strictly and each morning I wake with a sense of dread and must will myself to get up and do it all again.
The truth is the world doesn’t stop turning because mam is ill, the bills will still shoot through the door and my work still must be done. I have masses amount of work to do for next two weeks and I know I will get it done but I am literally functioning with little or no rest time.
I can work on my laptop while she sleeps. In between the countless toilet runs and her dinner/lunch, washing and popping her in and out of bed. Is it easy? No, but it is about doing the right thing for family.
Family is everything, and as I look at my two young daughters, I want them to know how we are defined by what we do and how we treat people, not entirely by college degrees or accolades. In life, we are often told to put ourselves first but in some cases, that isn’t possible and I am not that person.
Putting myself first is not an option even though I have the most to lose but living with regret is something I never want to do even if it means losing parts of me through this journey.
Emma Hayes is a professional writer and social media consultant for businesses and websites. You can follow her here.
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