The Change

I’m acutely aware that I’m in a period of transition.  We talk a lot these days about teenagers, their hormones, moods and worries and the allowances we should make for their behaviour.  We talk endlessly about pregnancy and childbirth and the fact that our lives will never be the same again.  We also talk a lot about the elderly, their often increasing isolation and frail health and whether they’re receiving appropriate care.   What we don’t talk about, it seems, is the Menopause, at least not in public – it’s kind of the last taboo, yet it’s something every woman will go through and is as life changing as puberty.

Being chronically ill doesn’t stop us from going through all the same life events as healthy people.  What it does do, however, is make it harder.  Sometimes much harder.

Menopause can be rough – physically, psychologically and emotionally – even for healthy people.  We sweat, flush, can’t sleep, are nauseous, weepy, angry, exhausted, have palpitations, never know when Aunt Flo will arrive and our brain and memory go awol.  At the same time it happens at an age where we’re often looking after elderly parents or hormonal teenagers, grieving the death of our parents or facing ’empty nest syndrome’.  Whichever way you look at it The Change is just that……a life changer.

I never thought in a million years I’d be sitting at the age of 48 Googling “my elderly Mum is an alcoholic”.  There’s never been any kind of substance abuse in my family and it’s all new and scary.  The result of my search was confirmation of something I already knew………that I can’t change her, or cure her, or particularly help her.  But what I can do is help myself.  And I think that’s pertinent for all of us women of ‘a certain age’.  If society refuses to even acknowledge the toughest 5 years of any woman’s life, then we have to look out for ourselves instead.

We have to make sure we have hobbies and interests, particularly if we have children who are leaving home.  We need the distraction, the opportunity to meet new people and to have new goals and passions.  We have to make sure we have ‘down’ time, even if it’s just a soak in the bath for an hour with a good book or lunch out with a friend each week.  We have to learn to say “no”.  No Mum, I won’t paint your windows but I’ll gladly arrange for a decoarator to come and do it for you (which is the conversation I had with my Mum this afternoon!).  And all this is doubly, triply, important when we’re sick ourselves.  There are no medals for working ourselves into the ground taking care of others.  We too have lives to which we’re entitled.  To leisure time to which we’re entitled.  To time off to which we’re entitled.  And we’re also entitled to not feel guilty about any of it.

When we’re ill ourselves we simply don’t have the physical resources to be able to take care of others in the way we, or they, would like.  What we are often good at, however, is employing others to help – we’ve had to do it in our own lives which places us in a good position to help others.  My Mum’s cleaner quit recently and it took me all of 5 days to find a replacement.  She needs some plumbing work done so the plumber is going next week.  She wanted some new doors which were ordered and hung within a fortnight.  And all because these are people who have done work for me in the past because I can’t do it myself.  Being largely housebound I do everything online – groceries, shopping, banking.  And now my parents are unable to do these things it’s been fairly easy to do their groceries, shopping and banking online.  We sick people have skills we don’t even think about and which come in really handy when caring for others.

I’m finding middle age is a time to set new boundaries, both for myself and the people around me.  To recognize that my life is altering, I’m facing new challenges and responsibilities, and that I need to look at how well I’m adapting.  I’m finding a new maturity and re-evaluating my life and whether or not it’s meeting my needs as well as the needs of those I care for.  It’s a work in progress but so far I think I’m doing OK.

Today I finally feel like a grown up.  Even though I’ve lived independently since the age of 21 I’ve still always felt like someone’s daughter.  I’ve always had my parents for back-up, support and advice.  And it’s no longer there.  Now they turn to me for back-up, support and advice and it’s taken a lot of adjusting to.  But I know I’m up to the Change.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Change

  1. Glo

    Good for you. Too many people don’t know how to say no. Don’t know how to relax without guilt and don’t look for easy solutions to things such as elder care. I know healthy people who are running themselves into an early grave trying to take care of everyone and everything else. Not necessarily because they have to but because they feel guilt if they don’t. I’ve been fortunate to have never had a problem saying no. This has made me unpopular with many people. I help as and when I can but if I can’t I’m guilt free. I have also noticed that there are many people out there who will take advantage of others who are helping them. They ask for more and more with no thought of how this impacts the person they are asking. I may sound selfish but I’m on my own and need to look out for me. There is nothing wrong with saying no, but maybe you could try doing this, to a person. Trying to give easy alternatives so people can help themselves.

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  2. Catherine

    I’ve experienced Alcoholism to be a vastly underestimated illness . It has challenged me profoundly as the family that I had alive were drowning in there alcoholic soup. They were totally unavailable on all levels to me , my needs ,to a thriving life . Huge amounts of communication were caught up by ignorance of what we were all caught up in . On my part my ignorance as I was only ever going to be able to change myself. Equally I was the one able to remain sober and therefore more motivated .When I was younger I was the victim of their very complex disease until I reached out and began to understand how I was being affected , what I could do , what wasn’t appropriate . It’s a chemical , emotional , physical , on going process that distorts individuals sense of there worth. It is intense , insidious and can deeply affect every single aspect of the alcoholics living.Equally it affects those living alongside it .
    Al-Anon is an incredible source of help and support when anyone find themselves living with someone else’s alcoholism .
    It also became a reason why the syndromes that I have, weren’t diagnosed for so long .
    My mother , one of the now dead alcoholics in my life ,we now know ,was partly self medicating the same syndromes that I have .
    Im so sorry that you are having to contend with that as well .Your courage in sharing, with your clarity , maturity and the impact its having on you is incredible . From my own experience I know how almost ,unbelievably tough ,I experienced it to be. It also challenged me profoundly to grow up in ways that have ended up making my life more precious and joyful ultimately !
    I read yesterday about a refugee saying ” I’ve spent most of my life nearly dying in trying to just find a safe haven to live ” .
    It struck me that in a very extreme ,but obviously externally different, life that I have had that if I’m deeply honest I was able to identify . I dared to have a sense of his comment ,as “no” I haven’t been running from physical bombs, from terrorising regimes but my own syndromes , with its endless consequences and then the mess that alcoholism causes has been similar .My life has shown me the similarities I have with others struggles , no matter what all of the external differences are . Then ,particularly with the endless opportunities to dare to keep creating ways to thrive . The complex web of the actual realities of being willing to thrive , not just survive three generations ( that I know about) of EDS/ POTS/MACD/CELIAC with the alcoholism of more family members than not ,has been a mind field of metaphysical bombs . Alongside terrorising ignorance from people of authority , let alone others ! It’s a huge relief to me personally to know ,NOW (!) that the real authority I have is from inside myself , that I do have the tools inside myself to remain a loving person to myself and others , responding to the realities without bitterness , finding ways to thrive with all the challenges that life is !
    Huge thanks for your writing and sharing .

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    1. Jak Post author

      What a brave and moving comment, thanks Catherine 🙂

      I think one of the reasons I can show compassion to my Mum is that, like you with your family members, my Mum also shares both my EDS and my mast cell diseases. She’s not interested in looking into it, or being diagnosed, but it’s blatant I’ve inherited both from her. So I’m sure there is guilt there on her part for passing on these genes, even though obviously it’s not her fault. She’s been depressed my whole life and that can be caused my MCAD too. Maybe if she’d had the medical help she needed for her diseases she wouldn’t be self-medicating with alcohol now.

      You can be loving and caring towards people but not become embroiled in their dramas or problems, which is what I try to do. I couldn’t live with the gult of walking away as my parents have been great parents to me in many ways, but as you’ve also found it’s healthy to have boundaries in place.

      Jak x

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      1. Catherine

        I’m totally new with all this computer way of connecting !So I’m hoping this is going privately to you ? To borrow some one else’s brilliant phase ” computers and me curdle “. I have metal implants so a BT engineer explained to me that I’m a walking mast (!!! Yep you will get the joke of that 😏😄🙈👀👀!) Anyway , thanks for responding as I was anxious having sent it . When subjects matter so much sometimes words can come across so maddeningly .

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

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        1. Jak Post author

          I worried about writing such a person post Catherine – as you say, it’s hard sometimes to express things well online and with people who don’t know you or your situation and so make judgements based on a tiny paragraph.

          However, your post is public – anyone can read it, as you can read other people’s comments. So as it was quite personal if you’d like me to delete it now I’ve read it I can do that? No-one sees any person information about you though apart from your user name, so it’s anonymous in that respect. Jak x

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          1. Catherine

            No ,thank you though for asking . I am glad I know and I will gradually get the hang of this all ?!!The nittygritty of our realities is important . It needs airing with respect and care , as there are so many struggling , with sometimes the terrible illusions that they are alone in the miseries . Very happy you are out there 😀👍🏻🙏🏻😄👒🐳🐬

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