Mum came home from the palliative care unit in late November. She was “herself” for a little while because she was secure and comfortable at home, but the non-healthcare environment of home and having non-healthcare professionals (my Mum’s partner and I) at home meant she soon started to deteriorate. It was difficult.
My Mum was a bit of a hoarder. She loved having “stuff”. Not to the point that it was obsessive – it was that objects held memories for her, and those memories meant a lot, so she didn’t feel she needed to have a clear out and chuck stuff away every so often. That meant that when she came home from the unit, it would have really benefitted her for the house to be a bit clearer of objects and furniture, but it wasn’t, which made it hard for Mum to move around by herself. This made her not get out of bed, which made her muscles deteriorate, and by January she couldn’t stand up by herself.
I was at work for 40 hours a week, studying at university (still doing both of those), and finding balance between spending time with Mum, spending time with Sam and other members of my family, and ensuring I kept up my social circle. The period of time between November 2017 and March 2018 was a stressful and challenging time. I didn’t want to be at home because I hated seeing Mum in the condition she was in, but I didn’t want to be away from her because every moment I couldn’t spend with her felt sombre. It was both rewarding and conflicting being at home with Mum.
I found it difficult to look after myself in this period of time. I wanted to make sure that Mum ate whatever and whenever she could, so I didn’t care about what I was eating, I hardly cooked for myself. I was so sad all the time, I didn’t really go anywhere or do anything of real value for myself. I stopped trying to stay on top of my university work, I stopped being enthusiastic about being at work. Life was difficult. I was difficult. All the while, I realised that I hadn’t thought to ask Mum how she was feeling about what she was going through. Then one day I decided to start that conversation. It pretty much went;
- “How are you feeling today, Mum?”
- “Physcially shit? Are you in pain? Is there anything I can get or do for you?”
- “I feel shit because I know this is the end of my life. I’m constantly tired and in pain, there is nothing you can do but thank you”
We talked some more and went into depth about Mum’s feeling of imminent mortality. I cried and she hugged me, reassuring me and telling me not to be upset. Imagine that – knowing you’re going to die pretty soon but reassuring your perfectly healthy 23 year old daughter that everything will be okay.
When I look back at those few months, I feel so distant from who I was and my actions at the time. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to not suffer from anxiety or similar mental health issues, but in those months I had it in bucket loads. I wish I could go back and spend more time with Mum, have more cuddles, create and share more memories, ask more questions.
Retrospect can be bittersweet.