Memory Problems

I’ve never had a particularly good memory.  I did well in my school and college exams but only because I meticulously learned everything parrot fashion otherwise I couldn’t remember a thing.  I’ve always had to make written lists of things I needed to do – relying on remembering stuff would have been disastrous – and wish I’d taken out shares in Post-it Notes because I’d have made a killing.  And then along came my meningitis, which turned into severe M.E., and my previously poor memory became dire.  Add to that the looming menopause and I honestly feel like an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient.  Which sounds dramatic, until you realize my Dad is currently being tested for Alzheimer’s and I’m sitting in on the tests with him, doing them along in my head and often scoring worse than my Dad.  I don’t know whether to laugh about it, or be absolutely terrified.

The front door to my parent’s apartment is security coded – you have to punch in a set of numbers before you can open it – but I have to keep the code in my mobile phone because on several occasions over the years I’ve stood by the door and not been able to recall a single digit even though they represent numbers both my parents and I should find easy to remember.

I’ve sat in my automatic car and forgotten how to start it.

I have to have alarms on my mobile phone to tell me to put the dustbin out each week and don’t get me started on the recycling, which is every other week with garden on one day and the household stuff on another – I’d be completely lost without reminders.

I have reminders to tell me to blow the car tyres up and check the oil.  Reminders to clip my dog’s toenails.  Reminders to do mine and my parents online grocery shop each week.  Reminders to charge my mobility scooter battery and, having put in on charge, a reminder to turn the sodding thing off again.  Even a reminder to have a bath, otherwise I can go 10 days and forget to wash!  There have even been days where I’ve forgotten to eat lunch and it’s gotten to 4pm and I’ve suddenly realized I’m ravenously hungry.  FFS.

Another memory issue I’ve always struggled with is recognising people’s faces and, since getting M.E., this has gotten totally out of hand.  There’s a woman who lives in my village who I’ve regularly seen to wave to or have a quick chat to over the past 12 years, but I recently saw her in the supermarket and walked straight past her like she didn’t exist.  Because she was out of the context of the village I simply didn’t recognise her and now she must think I’m a right snotty cow who only talks to people when she feels like it.  Same thing happened at a local country fair the other week.  I went with my camera to take some pictures and this man came up to chat to me, also carrying a camera.  He obviously knew me and his face looked familiar, so I winged it and decided he must belong to my Camera Club.  I’m asking if he’s entering the competitions this season and if he’d been on any of the club trips this summer and could see he was looking slightly puzzled, until 20 minutes into the conversation I twigged that he was indeed a Camera Club member………..just not of my Camera club but one 30 miles up the Motorway! I felt soooo stupid and he must think I’m totally off my rocker.  Then there’s the time I asked one of my Club members where he lived and he looked at me like I was mental because I’d actually been to his house to pick him up the week before!  And don’t get me started on people’s names.

I’ve become one of those annoying people who says the same thing not once, not twice but often three or four times.  Then I see the look of annoyance on people’s faces and the exasperated “yes, I know, you’ve already told me!” and feel really, really dumb.

I’ve now gotten to the stage where I’m honest with everyone.  I’m giving a talk at my Camera Club next month on some new software we’ve all been using and am starting with “I live with a mild brain injury, which affects my short-term memory so I really struggle to learn new things …….”  and can only hope it will explain some of my strange behaviour and that the members will be more understanding of me in the future.

The one thing my poor memory has given me is compassion for other people, particularly my parents both of whom now struggle with their memories.  It’s easy to get irritated with someone who’s told you the same story 10 times, but to them they’re telling it for the first time so I try and listen like it’s the first time I’ve heard it.  We laugh about them calling things “wotsit” and play the “guess the item” game when Mum in particular can’t remember the name for something.  I guess it won’t be quite so funny though when my Dad forgets my name or the fact I’m even his daughter.

When my brain fog is really bad, and my sensory overload is really bad, and my sound and light sensitivity is really bad, and my memory is really bad, the world outside my quiet, calm, ordered bedroom can seem like a frightening place to be.  But I’m trying to put in place strategies to help me function, as I assume things will only get worse as I age.  Which is depressing, but I refuse to look into my future with dread or fear.  Whatever the future holds is whatever the future holds – I’m not going to start worrying about it now.

I try to be as forgiving of my own brain symptoms as I am of my parents’.  I wouldn’t dream of castigating them over their poor memory, so try hard not to beat myself up over my own.  Instead of standing there feeling stupid over the things I do I’m going to make a concerted effort to admit to other people that I have difficulties – hopefully I’ll feel less like a nut job and they will learn compassion and understanding and that it’s not just old people who can be forgetful.


Weekly roundup

Better late than never🙂

This week has been sunny, warm (not hot) and dry………..and I’ve felt brilliant!  Loads of energy and motivation and my pain levels have been good.  I do really well in this kind of weather, the only down-side being I use my energy to catch up on all sorts of jobs I can’t do the rest of the time, which leaves me over-stimulated and unable to sleep.  So my new-found energy only lasts about 5 days before I crash from exhaustion due to my insomnia.  Rock v hard place.

Before I start on my roundup I just thought I’d let you know that I learned something new when writing yesterday’s blog post.  I learned that the 3 friends I mentioned were all hiding wealth – isn’t that odd?!  Two of the people had wealthy families they were hiding and the other had a spouse with a really well paid job that was kept very much under wraps.  Funny I hadn’t seen that until I wrote it down.

Monday was my step-Dad’s 77th birthday.  We went up the lakes for lunch and had a lovely time because Mum wasn’t too drunk and Dad wasn’t too loopy which in my world = happy days!

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked on a project in my garden – more on that next week.  Also on Tuesday I discovered my elderly next door neighbour, the one who lost her husband earlier this year, was in hospital.  She’d woke up Sunday morning unable to move – turns out she’d broken her hip in her sleep!!!  Despite now being in the Infirmary for an entire week she still hasn’t had the surgery to fix it, as she has a really bad skin condition and they’re trying to get that under control first, worried that it will infect the operation site.  I think it’s barbaric to leave an 84 year old with a broken hip for a whole week, but then I’m not a Doctor.  In a strange twist of fate, I’d asked her just a few days earlier if I could take her photo, so here is Mary.  It needs a lot of work still, but you get the drift:

Thursday my Dad had asked me to look at the water butt in his garden which wasn’t holding any water.  I got it dismantled and this was the ensuing conversation:
Me: “Have you shoved a bamboo cane up this water butt hose Dad?”
Dad: “Yeah, I did now you mention it.”
Me: “Why did you do that then?”
Dad: “Just thought I’d give it a clean out.”
Me: “Was it working before you ‘cleaned it out'”?
Dad: “Yeah.  Why have I buggered it?”
Me holding up a 2″ piece of bamboo cane: “I found this lodged in the hose – must have broken off and was plugging up the hole.”
Dad: “Eee, fancy that.  No wonder the water couldn’t get through!”

Friday my bezzie mate came through to see me.  As she’s Coeliac and my kitchen is a gluten nightmare she usually has lunch first, then drives the 45 minutes to my house for 1pm.  Only at 12.45pm I get a text to say she’ll be late as the traffic was awful.  By 2pm she still hadn’t arrived and eventually the phone went to say there had been a crash on the M6 motorway and she hadn’t moved an inch in over an hour.  Several phone calls later and she managed to get off at the next Service Station and escape the gridlock by taking a little service road used by maintenance vehicles which I knew about as I once broke down on the M6 and the AA man towed me home via said service road.  She finally reached me at 2.45pm, shattered and nearly two hours late, only to conk out 2 hours later (she has ME) and have to drive home again!


Be careful out there

I was going to do my customary weekly roundup post today but I have something more pressing on my mind.  It was a friend’s birthday this month but I didn’t want to send her a gift, although I did.  I didn’t even want to send her a card, the reason being our friendship (if you can call it that) is at the end of the road because I no longer trust her.

I met this person about 16 years ago through an email support group for people with M.E. from which we both suffer.  She was intelligent, sweet and creative, and we were the same age and both single.  We had several online friends in common and soon became buddies, emailing each other and eventually regularly chatting on the phone.  We even met up and went on a short holiday together which I really enjoyed.

However, for some considerable time now there have been alarm bells.  This person knows I’m on Facebook, and that several of our mutual friends are on my friends list, yet she’s never sent me a friend request.  I know she’s on Facebook because some years ago I searched for her email address thinking I’d add her, but although her profile contains her real first name it has a different surname, so I didn’t even tell her I’d found her.

She’s been ill nearly as long as me and been in receipt of sickness benefits from the Government, but several years ago the DWP contacted her to say there had been a problem with her initial application and she actually wasn’t entitled to receive the benefit and had to pay it all back.  So she suddenly had a huge debt to repay and, being too ill to work, was also without her main source of income.  Despite that, she decided to move house.  The property she bought, however, cost over £100,000 more than the property she sold so she had to have a huge mortgage.  How did that work?  What bank lends £130,000 to a person with virtually no income?  She obviously had an income source she wasn’t telling me about, which of course is her prerogative, but she constantly pleaded poverty.  She made a big deal of telling me she bought all her clothes second-hand from Ebay or charity shops and had no cash for a newer car.  Big red warning lights were flashing.

The place she moved to was hundreds of miles from where she’d been living, which again I thought odd as she didn’t know a soul.  But it turned out she had a brother living there who she’d just never mentioned who apparently has some serious mental health issues.  She’s told me that mental health issues run in her family (yes, I know this should have struck warning bells but we all have weird family members and it’s no reflection on us!).

The new house turned out to have some major structural issues and to cut a long story short she’s just spent tens of thousands of pounds rectifying them.  Apparently she was given the money by family members who I’d been told she didn’t get along with, so it seems fair to say she comes from a well-off family and is closer to her siblings than she’d led me to believe, which is fine but why lie about it?

Not only did the new house have loads of issues, her neighbour (an elderly married committed Christian) was apparently letching and spying on her and she involved the police, telling them he was a peeping Tom.  The situation put her under enormous stress and she installed CCTV cameras to keep an eye on him.  I’ve got to be honest, although I tried to be supportive I wasn’t sure what had actually happened or that I believed her version of events.

She’s recently had a handy man who’s done lots of work in her home steal from her.  Which is horrendous but at the same time all a bit weird.  The police have apparently told her to go and search his outbuildings secretly while he’s not there to see if she can see any of her belongings and if she finds anything she has to let them know and they will interview him.  Hmmmm.  I’m fairly sure no police force would tell a vulnerable, sick single woman to search a suspected thief’s premises (isn’t that actually illegal?!).  She then told me this handyman has guns and that’s how they met – he’d taken her on a 6 week course to learn how to shoot.  Er, why would she need to learn how to shoot?  I thought she was horrendously ill with M.E., at least that’s the reason she’s given me for only ringing me once this year.  And as if all that weren’t weird enough, this handyman is apparently in the support group for ESA (ie sickness benefit) yet she’s employing him to do work for her.  And he’s well enough to shoot vermin on acres and acres of farmland.  And she told me he does handyman jobs for a local Magistrate, who knows he’s claiming ESA but employs him anyway.  Really?!

Even if I could swallow all this drama and half-truths, as I mentioned above she’s only rung me once so far this year.  This is apparently because she’s had so much stress with all the work being done on the house, and then the theft, that she’s just been too ill to be in touch.  However, when I bought my little cottage and found 2″ of sewage water under my lounge floor, and needed a new roof, and found that I had a bulge in the entire side of the building that my surveyor hadn’t even noticed and I had to sue him which took 2 years, I still managed to go on holiday with her.  I still managed to email her when my Mum nearly died from her lung surgery, then her heart attack.  I still managed to keep in touch when I was having several anaphylactic episodes a day, then travelled 600 miles alone three times to get diagnosed with MCAD.  And I’m single too, and have 3 diseases not 1, and on top of all that am looking after my parents and have to cook every single thing I eat from scratch.   So the “I’m ill y’know!” excuse just doesn’t wash with me when I know she goes to various classes, has various friends she does stuff with and goes on several holidays a year.

She texted me on her birthday to thank me for my present, but said she was too ill and exhausted to ring.  Yet she spent her birthday meeting a friend in the morning, then going to a garden party in the afternoon – obviously really poorly then.  We finally spoke yesterday.  She texted me at 11am to say “fancy a chat this morning?  Only I’ve lost my address book and don’t have your landline number, so you’ll have to ring me.”  Modern phones have contacts lists built in them FFS, she must think I’m totally stupid.  However, I texted straight back that I would ring her which I did – but the call went straight to answer phone!!  I did leave a clearly-pissed-off message to say “I thought you’d pick the phone up being as though you’ve just asked me to ring you!”.  She then waited 10 minutes to call me back, even though I’d told her I had to go out at 11.30am.  It was the last fucking straw if I’m honest.

I seem to’ve met my fair share of women online who are secretive and untruthful.  As regular readers of my blog will know, in 2014 I fell out with a long time friend I’d met online.  In our 16 year friendship we’d never spoken on the phone and I’d never seen a photo of her.  Neither had any of our dozens of mutual friends.  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight she could have been anyone – she might not even have been female.  She wouldn’t send text messages because she said the signal affected her, yet she’d get her husband to text me who was sat right next to her – or did she?  Was it her texting and saying it was her husband?  She moved house without telling me (or anyone else) which was bizarre.  She didn’t get on with her Mum and told me she used to dread her visits, yet when she died this person spent 2 years on Facebook writing posts about how much she missed her “darling Mum” eliciting loads of sympathy from people who didn’t know the real situation.  The same happened with a friend, who she hadn’t spoken to for 4 years, who died and this person was writing posts online about how much she missed her “darling sister-friend” again getting loads of support from people who didn’t know the dead friend had ignored her for years.  And dozens of other little, and not so little, stuff which all added up to secretive, strange behaviour and outright lies.  Yet I was castigated for pointing this stuff out!  This person is so “lovely” and believable that no-one takes a step back and questions her story and when I did I was made out to be the Devil himself and unfriended by the majority of our mutual mates.

Another friend I met through the same online support group I used to talk to every single day.  She was originally from Pakistan and, although she was hard work at times and very demanding, I felt for her being ill in a foreign country where she hadn’t had chance to make friends.  She ended up going into hospital and myself and 2 other friends sent her some flowers, which were returned because there was no-one of that name in the hospital. Turned out she’d given us all a false name which is fine, we all use pseudonyms online to keep us safe, but to go 4 years without telling your closest friend isn’t right.  It also turned out this person came from a very wealthy family in Pakistan and I’m fairly sure she’d fed me an absolute load of bullshit about her family situation and her need to escape an arranged marriage.

There seem to be a lot of fantasists out there, who create personas for themselves online which I honestly think they end up believing themselves.  There are also a lot of people out there with mental health issues, who can appear completely normal and reasonable online but who in real life have some serious problems.  And when you’re a kind, compassionate, open person, who takes people at face value and thinks everyone is as honest as you are, you tend to attract these people like a magnet, then when you find out that someone you have told everything about yourself to has been dishonest about their lives it’s deeply hurtful.

I’m now much more wary of people I meet online, even if they seem “lovely”.  As Doctor Phil so wisely says “people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing”.  I am distrustful of people who have Facebook pages that don’t contain family members or personal information, especially if they’re on my friends list because my Facebook page contains details of my real life.  No offence to all you lovely people out there, but I’m not going to give my personal details out on my blog because I have no idea you are who you say you are and I’ve already had a couple of run-ins with nutters and some with people who are just plain rude.  It’s a sad fact of life that the anonymity of the internet allows people to make up any persona they like, act any way they like and tell any lie they like without consequence – well, apart from hurting nice people like you and me.


Bucket List

Bucket Lists, ie a list of stuff you want to do before you die, are popular at the moment.  I look at them and wonder when people list “swim with dolphins” or “jump out of a plane” exactly what kind of hole jumping 10,000 feet into thin air is going to fill in their lives.   How empty can a life be that swimming with fish is the pinnacle of achievement?

I seem to think very differently to the majority of people.  I don’t understand sport for example.  The current obsession with the Olympics baffles me.  That someone would spend their lives training to the point of exhaustion to chuck a metal ball on a bit of string to see how far it will go.  Or spend their lives running round and round and round a track in circles or chasing a ball of air up and down a pitch.  It’s all just so……..pointless.

Someone posted a different kind of bucket list on Facebook recently, which at least has a bit more thought behind it but his bucket list seems like really hard work to me.  It feels like a shed load of pressure to be perfect, instead of accepting our flaws and loving ourselves with all our imperfections.

I thought long and hard about what I would put on my bucket list and I couldn’t think of anything.  That’s because I already do the things which bring me the greatest joy every day.  I gaze into my adoring dog’s eyes and feel love so profound it makes me tearful.  I get lost in nature with my camera, watching with fascination the soaring life of birds and the hard-working toil of insects.  I marvel over the cycle of birth, life and death and watch with awe the changing faces of the seasons.  I am appreciative of the food I eat and the warm bed I sleep in at night.  I set myself challenges and goals every day, whether it’s to take a better photo, or write a paragraph of my book or to do something to help my parents, even when I don’t feel like doing any of it.  I appreciate my friends and I try to be kind.

We in the developed world are so spoiled.  We constantly seek out new thrills, new stuff to be bought, new horizons, new adventures…….and forget we already have everything that truly means anything.

If you wake up every morning with a passion for the day ahead, with gratitude at what you have not regret at what you don’t, and joy that you get to spend another day on this wonderful planet of ours then I’m not sure what else there is to a well lived life.  My bucket is already full.

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”  Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.

Misery loves company

I’m sure some of you reading my posts about my Mum must find my attitude towards her a bit harsh.  I get that.  You’re reading snippets of my worst thoughts and feelings about the situation and I’m sure I appear pretty hard-hearted.  However, I’ve lived with my Mother’s “issues” for 48 years now and I admit to having compassion fatigue.  Dealing with her is exhausting and I’m already tired from dealing with my own shit.

At the heart of my disengagement with her situation is my lack of understanding that anyone would waste their life being miserable.  And my Mother has been miserable my entire life.  I’m sure she’s had things to be unhappy about, don’t we all, but at some point you have to let that stuff go.  You have to forgive yourself, and others, for mistakes and poor choices.  You have to come to terms with the fact your life hasn’t turned out as you’d hoped.

Due to my shitty childhood, caused for the most part by my Mother, by the time I was 18 I was clinically depressed.  I would wake up every morning wanting to die and I spent nearly an entire year holed up in the house, sleeping half the day away and not answering the phone.  But despite my overwhelming unhappiness I knew I couldn’t live like that for the rest of my days and I sought help.  Two years of therapy, anti-depressants and doing as much exercise as I could manage later and I was in a much happier place.  But no-one came knocking on my door offering a quick fix – I had to ask for help and then I had to do the work.

There are some things we can do absolutely nothing about.  I can’t change my health no matter how hard I try and I can’t change my financial situation being as though my lottery numbers annoyingly haven’t come up.  There are things I wish were different – I’d love more friends and I’d love a partner, both of which have remained rather elusive.  So I have two choices – I either find a new way to be joyful in this life that has been forced upon me, or I’m miserable for the rest of my days.  And that’s the bit I just can’t get my head round – that anyone would choose misery.  And it is a choice.

My Mum retired 16 years ago.  She parked her arse on the couch and has spent the intervening years smoking, drinking and watching the telly.  She must be lonely as hell and miserable as sin.  But she’s only been unwell for the past 5 years – before that she had 10 years where she could have done something with her life.   She could have become a volunteer which would have given her a purpose, a sense of achievement and would have meant she got to meet new people and make new friends.  She could have taken up a hobby.  She could have gone to classes for the elderly to learn how to use a computer which would have opened up a whole new world – she worked for 20 years in an office so it’s not like it would have been totally alien to her.  While her sisters were still alive she could have taken them for days out, or to the pictures, or for lunch, or to the theatre – but she never did, she just told us all how much she missed them after they’d died which I find bizarre being as though she didn’t seem to appreciate them a whole lot when they were alive.  She could have taken an interest in her step-grandchildren, who are lovely and visit her regularly, instead of barely ever contacting them or doing anything with them.

It seems to me that some people just like being miserable.  But it’s no way to live.  Despite everything life has chucked at me and, let’s face it I’ve had enough shit chucked at me to last 3 lifetimes, I absolutely refuse to be unhappy.  I will not waste my life – it’s the only one I have and it’s flying by at an alarming rate of knots.

I am not surviving in a war torn country.  I do not live on a rubbish heap.  I do not have to beg for food.  I was not forced to marry at the age of 11.  I am not bare foot.  I am educated.  I drink clean water every day.  I flush the loo and my poop disappears.  I have a beautiful home.  I have freedom of speech.  I am not persecuted simply for being female.  I have so much to be thankful for.

This week there was a funeral in my village.  A 44 year old Mother of two who died of a brain tumour.  My friend in the village, who is 54, is slowly dying from cancer.  And I found out this week a family member, who is 58 years old, has leukaemia.  You can’t think you’ll be happy somewhere down the road – you have to be happy now.  Today.  Because there might not be a tomorrow and you will have wasted your whole life being miserable.

My Mum grew up in poverty – one of 7 children in a house which had one room upstairs, one room downstairs and a loo at the end of the garden.  Yet she ended up owning her own home and travelling the world.  She went to Australia (4 times), Rome, Venice, Scandanavia, Austria, Singapore, Malta, France, Germany….the list goes on.  She has always been surrounded by family – brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews by the truck load.  She has children and grand-children, including a daughter that would do anything for her.  She has a husband of 38 years who everybody, but her, loves.  Yet she appreciates none of it.

I gave up some years ago trying to work out why my Mum’s unhappy and making excuses for her.  She’s been a grown-up for a long time now and if she hasn’t sorted her issues out then I can only assume she doesn’t want to.  She might want company in her misery but she’s not getting it from me and if that sounds harsh I’m OK with it.  I’m OK with my choice not to engage in her negativity.  I’m OK with my choice to care for her but not be dragged down by her.  I’m OK with my choice to be happy.



Weekly roundup

Gosh, where do I start?  This week has been a bit nuts but I achieved a lot so I guess it was worth it.

Monday my Dad had his first appointment with the Psychologist who is doing some more in-depth testing for his dementia.  My Dad still doesn’t know he has suspected Alzheimer’s so doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about just because he’s “a bit forgetful at times”.  The Doctor was lovely and over the next 4 weeks is going to build up a picture of the areas my Dad does well in and the areas in which is struggles.  This should help target strategies to help him deal with his symptoms.

Monday afternoon I painted the wrought iron hand rails which lead down the steps to my parents’ apartment.  It’s almost impossible to get tradesmen to do small jobs like that and I find it less stressful to do it myself and just put up with the consequences to my health.

I’ve had to arrange for my parents to have a new washing machine, which was arriving on Wednesday morning, so on Tuesday I had to go and disconnect their old one ready to be taken away.  It was a right faff because it’s integrated inside the kitchen unit not free-standing, but with a bit of huffing and puffing I managed.  I can’t believe I have 2 perfectly healthy brothers who live in the same town as my parents but leave me, the sick child who can barely get dressed or feed herself some days, to do all this stuff:-/

Once the new washer was delivered on Wednesday I had to plumb it in.  The delivery company would have done it for a fee of £90 (a third of the price of the bloody machine!), however because it’s integrated if the kitchen door and plinth didn’t fit exactly they wouldn’t have put them back on leaving me to do it in any event.  I wasn’t about to pay £90 for the plumbing work, which is basically screwing the cold water feed pipe on and plugging the machine in, so did it myself.   Thankfully it only took an hour or so to fit the new machine and with a bit of adjustment the kitchen door and plinth fitted over the new machine no problem.  Whew!  I did strain my shoulder pushing the machine in the cupboard, shredded the skin on the back of my hand trying to adjust the feet, banged my head on the cupboard ten times as I judged the distance badly so now have a bruised forehead, and did something unknown to my SI joint which is now killing me, but at least my parents have clean clothes again😉

Despite all this I also went out Wednesday night.  I was nauseous with exhaustion before I even set off but I’d said I was turning up so turn up I did.  It was a Camera Club outing to a local deer park followed by a bar-b-q.  Unfortunately it was a typical British summer day, with rain that came down in stair rods, so by the time I’d sat on my little seat stick and took photos for an hour I was like a drowned rat despite my waterproofs!  And being vegetarian bar-b-qs do nothing for me, particularly as I knew everyone was eating the cute little bambis I’d just been photographing :-(  However, I stayed for a luke-warm cuppa and a chocolate doughnut just to be sociable before heading off and getting straight into a warm bath!  I haven’t had the energy to edit the photos yet but here are a couple that I’ve played with:

Thursday my car was in the garage all afternoon to see if they could find the reason I get white noise and engine whine through my stereo speakers.  They couldn’t, so a waste of time that was.

Friday was my lovely Bertie boy’s birthday.  He was 2½ when I adopted him and is now 8 – where the hell has that time gone?!  He spent virtually the whole day eating treats and not understanding why he was suddenly allowed to stuff his face, but he was happy😉

Also on Friday I’d asked someone I know to model for me.  One of the competitions this season is called “geometric shapes” and I had in my head an image of someone blowing smoke rings.  Actually photographing the smoke rings turned out to be tricky and involved charring my bedroom floor and burning a hole in my jeans but I’m happy enough with the final image:

Apart from the pain, fatigue and insomnia a busy week like this brings it also makes me “emotionally labile”, which in my case means weepy, so I’ve spent the weekend feeling fragile both physically and emotionally.  Even after twenty years I still find this weirdly exhausted emotional state hard to live with as isn’t in my personality the rest of the time.  This is when being single sucks, as I’m sure a nice cuddle and someone offering to make a meal, run me a bath or put the bins out would help no end.

The shameful secret

I attended a Camera Club event on Wednesday night (more in my Weekly Roundup post tomorrow) and got chatting to one of the Club members who I get on well with.  She must be in her late sixties I’d guess and her husband has severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) the same as my Mum.   I asked her how he was doing and she replied “he has COPD, heart failure and drinks too much”.  “Sounds like my Mother” I replied in sympathy, and we both realized we had a hidden story in common.  Alcoholism.

We quietly chatted some more and I discovered he had been an alcoholic for 20 years.  Luckily I’ve not had to deal with it that long, just 5 years in my Mum’s case although my Mum’s drinking has definitely featured my whole life – it just hasn’t been a “problem” until recently.  It was so nice to talk to someone who gets it and who obviously has similar feelings to me about the situation: anger, frustration, anger, resentment, anger, rejection, anger, despair, anger, fear, anger.

What makes it worse for me, is that my Mum and I had always been best friends until her drinking took over.  She was always my soft place to fall and now that’s been taken away.  I read a shared Facebook post this week which contained a bucket list (more on that in another post) and one of the items on the list was this: “I want to greet my family every day the way I greet my dog”.  It really hit home.  When I visit my parents my dog Bertie goes bounding up the stairs ahead of me, where he has a treat waiting for him on my Mum’s side table.  He gets hugs and kisses off both my parents and their eyes positively light up with joy when they see him.  They tell him how gorgeous he is and how much they love him.  I come trailing after, usually laden down with bags (I take my lunch with me so I don’t eat their food, I often have shopping I’ve done for them, or DIY stuff to do jobs for them) and some days I barely even get a hello.  No cuddles or eyes lighting up for me or being told how much I’m loved.  I don’t even get a brew made.

The lovely lady who walks Bertie for me also does my Mum’s cleaning.  I’m pleased they get on well because Mum rarely sees anyone these days (her choice I hasten to add) and enjoys the company and different conversation but when the cleaner leaves she gets a hug and a kiss.  When I leave I get nothing.  My Mum never touches me these days.  Have you any idea how hurtful that is?  That my Mum will hug the fucking cleaner, and the dog, but not me.  I’ve tried to remember when the hugging stopped and it’s been a while.  Before Mum’s drinking started I’m sure.  I’ve no idea what the problem is but I resent it, hugely.  It is so hurtful at the very core of my being that it’s difficult to put into words.  I am an exceptionally good daughter by anyone’s standards, leaving aside the fact I’m ill myself.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my parents and they know it.  Without me their day-to-day lives would be unsustainable.  My Dad at least shows me some appreciation and affection – not in the cuddling stakes so much, but we go off and do things together and he walks my dog for me and picks my bread up on the days I’m not well enough to get into town.  My Mum, on the other hand, does fuck all and on top of all that I receive zero affection.

I’m sure there are all sorts of complex reasons my Mum acts the way she does but y’know what – I’m not interested in them.  I don’t care if she resents me or her situation or all the myriad of reasons I’m sure exist for her behaviour – she should bloody well fake it.  I don’t care if she wants to hug me, she should do it anyway.  If she can hug the goddamn cleaner she can hug her only daughter.  I manage to hide my anger and resentment towards her every day of my life and put my love for her to the fore – it’s do-able.

My Camera club friend ended our conversation by saying “when I meet people, they all ask how my husband is and I want to say he’s a selfish, lazy, drunk arsehole but of course I don’t.   No-one bothers to ask how I am”.  I get where she’s coming from.  What I haven’t told you is that my friend has Parkinson’s Disease so our stories really are very similar.  That the people who are supposed to love us the most make our already difficult lives harder through their drinking is tough to live with.  That they allow themselves the luxury of getting drunk and feeling better at the expense of making us feel worse.  That everyone you meet shows concern and sympathy for them when we’re the ones holding everything together despite battling our own ill-health and keeping the secret of their alcoholism.  Because it usually is a secret.  A huge, shameful, embarrassing secret.

I know some of my readers also have alcoholics in their families and will totally relate to my story.   In fact, I’m amazed at how prevalent it is particularly in the elderly population.  Alcoholism isn’t a disease, whatever alcoholics say.  Parkinsons is a disease.  Ehlers-Danlos is a disease.  I can’t wake up one morning and choose not to have EDS any more than my friend can wake up one morning and choose not to shake, but alcoholics can wake up and choose not to drink, albeit they may need help doing so.  My Mum chose to start drinking at the ripe old age of 70 and she could choose to do something about it if she wanted to, but of course she doesn’t want to.  She’s happy in the oblivion alcohol brings her every day.  And my Camera  Club friend feels the same way about her husband.

I will continue to care for my Mum until the day she dies, but my love for her diminishes at an alarming rate.  I’m now at the stage where I just go through the motions – to me, the Mum I’ve known all my life is already dead.  Drowned in a vodka bottle.