Mother’s Day 2018

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. A Mother’s Day blog. I’ve written and deleted sentences in my head. I’ve opened and closed Word. I’ve scrolled every single social media site… again, and again… and again. I’ve searched my past blogs for things I’ve written before, wondering if past-me had any words of wisdom past that I could use (she didn’t). It’s now the day before Mother’s Day and I’m yet to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

The words aren’t coming this year. On the surface of it – Mum’s dead. It’s crap. What more is there to say?

But I think those surface thoughts are just masking the fact that I do have things to say. I have so much to say and I know this because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have this feeling that I need to blog. The problem is, the words are stuck. They’re joining the feelings in a place so squashed and so buried that I can’t access them.

It’s like when you have a bin, but the weather is grim so you don’t want to go outside and empty it. Instead, you squish down the stuff inside it to get more in so that you can hold off taking it outside for another day or two. But the weather doesn’t pick up for a while, so you keep squishing it down and shoving more in, until the day comes when you do want to empty it but you can’t, because everything’s stuck.

I don’t actually mind Mother’s Day itself.  In some ways, it’s quite nice. Social media is filled with people celebrating their Mum’s, Grandma’s, and honorary Mum’s, and it can be really nice to see that. It’s a welcome break from the sheer number of depressing and frustrating news stories that often occupy my feeds.

I think the thing I find difficult is the expectation that I won’t be okay. That it will (and should) be difficult.

Some of this expectation comes from others. The posts on social media entitled ‘for those of you without Mum’s this Mother’s Day’, or ‘for those of you grieving’, or something like that. The tweets with helpline numbers. The kind and thoughtful messages from friends and family members letting me know that they’re thinking of me (thank you, lovely people!).

All are very well-meaning, but all are a reminder that while others can take their Mum out for a nice lunch, or buy them a box of chocolates, the life-to-death postal service isn’t currently in operation, so I can’t do those things.

Some of the ‘you should feel rubbish’ expectation comes from myself. I almost feel like if I don’t struggle with Mother’s Day, then it means that Mum wasn’t as much of a Mum as she might have been. It’s stupid, because how I feel or don’t feel on Mothering Sunday or any other Sunday of the year has no bearing on what Mum meant to me, how Mum was as a Mum, or anything much else related to our relationship.

Tomorrow is just another day. It’s 24 hours and it will pass just like every other 24 hours does. I won’t be buying any chocolates, sending a card, or going out for any meals. I’ll remember Mum, I’m sure. But I remember Mum every single day, because she was a big part of my life for 21 years, and has continued to be part of my life since she died.

To those of us who do find Mother’s Day difficult, please try and up the self-care a little bit. To those of us who don’t have a Mum we can take out, but aren’t really struggling with the fact it’s Mother’s Day – please remember that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel okay. (It’s okay not to feel okay). To everyone else – celebrate your Mum. Give her a hug. Send her a happy text. Have a lovely Sunday.

Is it getting easier, or am I just numb?

There have been a few things that have happened in the past few weeks which would normally trigger off ‘missing Mum’ alarm bells. They range in size, from those that would have knocked me for a few days, to ones which are just a bit tricky.

Things like:

  • Christmas (without Mum)
  • New Year (oh look, you have to survive another year without your Mum)
  • Getting a new phone (my old one was inherited from Mum, but there’s only so many times you can apologise to the person on the other end of the phone for the fact that your alarm is going off (while on the phone) and you can’t switch it off because your phone has frozen… before a new one becomes a bit necessary. I have mitigated it slightly by putting my favourite picture of us as my background, so I’ve still got Mum in my pocket)
  • Feeling ill (my flatmate and I had a discussion last night over which of my meds it might be a good idea to take, whether NHS 111 might be a good plan (nah, they’ll either tell me to go to bed or to A&E, and I don’t feel like going to A&E) and eventually concluded that heat packs, gaviscon and sleeping tablets with a ‘maybe it will be better tomorrow?’ would be a good plan)
  • An exam (who knows how that went as I’m currently a person of no brain and not really well enough to do much at all never mind take an exam, but I couldn’t postpone it again, and the invigilator said that I’ve aged well, so I feel like I won a little bit)
  • Upcoming appointments that I’m not feeling too fab about (Mum’s are good people to text ‘arghhhhhhhhhh’ to).
  • Feeling like generally, with my health, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, and what to believe (Mum was always fairly blunt, if I walked in looking like I was dying she would tell me)
  • My mental health being a knob (seriously, as a twenty-something year old it’s hard enough to navigate life and try to keep yourself alive without your head attempting to kill you)
  • New year new diet crap (which she would have healthily laughed at and torn apart whereas every time ‘veganuary’ and ‘a researcher has decided that breakfast is bad for you’, I wish I was well enough to join in)

However, despite all these things, the ‘missing Mum’ part of my brain appears to have disappeared (along with the rest of my brain, arguably).

It’s not that Mum doesn’t ever enter my head, but when she does, at the moment, it’s in a much more clinical sense, with all of the emotion removed. It’s not that she never enters conversation, either, because she does (most recently this evening, with the exam invigilator), but when she does, and people say they’re sorry, I normally meet it with a bit of a shrug and an ‘it’s life’, where it might previously have set off cartwheels in my head.

I’m not sure if it is actually getting any easier, or if I’m just numb.

A lot of things, or perhaps everything, is pretty numb right now. It’s not as bad as it might sound – I’d rather be numb than distressed. I often end up in a weird depression-anxiety battle, with depression pulling at me to do nothing, and anxiety screaming at me to do everything; at least when I’m this low the battle pauses because anxiety gives in. So with everything being a bit numbed, it’s hard to know whether grief is lessening, whether it’s becoming the ‘new normal’, or whether depression is just smothering it.

For now I’m just going to keep plodding along, because I’m not really sure what else I can do.

Why I’ve Been AWOL.

There has been no ‘proper’ blog this week because I haven’t been well. I did try to write something today but it was shocking, so we’ll leave that in the ‘save’ box and come back to it at another time when my head isn’t clouded by painkillers.

Sunday night I found myself in Leeds A&E and discovered the magic powers of morphine. Monday I came back to uni, then found myself in an ambulance before arriving in York A&E. Both hospitals were excellent and looked after me very well, our NHS is amazing, although Leeds did beat York on the #hellomynameis front.

The last two days I’ve been on ‘rest’. Though I am incredibly awful at this resting business and have chosen to interpret that term somewhat loosely. I have received some wonderful Netflix suggestions, though and a lot of love from my friends which is always appreciated! I’ve also caught up on a few emails (though none that involve more than about 5 seconds of thought) and slept a tonne.

So all being well next week will return to normal(ish – when is life ever normal?). Let’s just keep hoping!

Why am I blogging this?

I was going to wait until after essay hand-ins before I started blogging about this, but as it’s Dying Matters Awareness Week, (check out #YODO on Twitter) now seems like a good time.

My Mum is awesome. She’s brought up three kids (and I reckon we could have turned out worse!), had an amazing career in palliative medicine, volunteered for the church and sold Fairtrade for years, taken part in various exercise-related things, and still found time to attend a gossip/book club and spend time with her friends.

Unfortunately, in February 2014, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s a fairly crappy situation, but we’re lucky to have some amazing family and friends around us to support us, so it could be a lot worse!

Why do I want to start blogging about this? Well, considering that cancer is something which will affect most people at some point in their lives – it’s still a bit of a swear word. We don’t talk about it! I don’t know if that’s because people think that they’ll contract it if they talk about it (don’t worry – that’s not how it works), or they just don’t know what to say, or quite what. It’s in movies/films a fair bit but in all honesty I think I’ve only ever seen one that comes close to explaining what cancer is really like.

As a young person living with a parent who has a terminal diagnosis, I’ve discovered a fairly considerable hole in the people-dying-support-system stuff. There is a lot of support out there for children with a close family member who is dying; there is a fair amount of support for spouses and for parents of people who are dying. But not really anything for those of us who are adults-but-not-really, i.e. those of us who are over 18, but still haven’t quite worked out what a mortgage is and see cereal as an appropriate dinner (fairly sure this lasts until you’re around 25, correct me if I’m wrong).

This is incredibly isolating. I’m really lucky to have two brothers and a Dad who I can chat to, a great uni welfare team (and a very understanding academic department), and some wonderful friends. Furthermore, because of Mum’s previous job, a number of our family friends understand the whole palliative medicine thing a lot better than I ever will. But unless you’ve actually been through it, or are going through it, you don’t quite ‘get’ it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely grateful for all the people we have around us and I wouldn’t be without them, but sometimes there’s no substitute for someone saying ‘I get it’ and knowing that they really do.

So I’m writing this for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m hoping it will help me process things, I find writing very cathartic at times. But the real reason I want to write this is to reach out to others in a similar position to me. Those of us who are attempting to work out life whilst trying to understand death. Because I don’t believe I’m the only one in this position.