Something’s got to give. It might just be me!
Tonight, having reached the end of an ever-fraying rope, my soul and self fell into some kind of liminal space. A shadowy crevice in which I am now caught, trapped by anger and a deep sense of frustration. I, me, myself, the sum of all my parts – body, soul, persona – have been fossilised like amber for nigh on three years.
Three years. Has it really been that long? In many ways it feels like only a few months ago since I noticed my mother was showing signs of confusion and memory loss. In others, it feels like forever. A continuum of the longest day. Groundhog Day at the Madhatter’s tea party.
I can take the big world things in my stride but the small things, innocuous things, they flip me out. Having to juggle a project on deadline with multiple medical appointments whilst organising a holiday and trying to retain a semblance of sanity? No bother. But, walking out into the extension to find puddles of cat puke or diarrhoea, or worse both, lights my fire.
Worse again, walking into the bathroom only to see that one’s bath brush has been used to unblock the toilet, and all the unclogged, shit-stained paper has been dumped in the bath, well, that’s my switch tripped. Current status.
It’s hard caring for a very elderly parent. Full stop. Their increasing dependency, along with growing fragility and vulnerability eats away at any semblance of personal life. Add dementia to the mix and quality of life flies out the door. Throw an errant and highly erratic and stubborn father with mobility and memory difficulties into the pot and well, what can I say? The door of life slammed shut a long time ago.
I no longer look in the mirror except to comb my hair. On the few occasions I apply make up, it takes less time than it does to mop the cat spew up from the concrete floor. These days my choice in clothes is practical and comfortable; gone the snappy outfits and pastel colours. A manicure, what’s that for God’s sake? I barely have time to file my nails and usually only do so when one snags or breaks.
I spend both days and nights ‘on loop’, repeating the same sentences, forming the same words with a mouth that’s growing more lined by the week. My once clear brow is now furrowed, ploughed by the sorrow of life. My shoulders stoop, my gait sags, my once laughing mouth remains closed and pursed. Laughing … I can’t remember the last time I laughed a deep, unbridled, side-aching belly laugh.
I don’t laugh, I don’t sing. I no longer listen to the music that used to bring me so much joy. These days I find solace in the classical delights of BBC Radio 3 and company in the dramas of R4. The radio is my BFF, my forever friend to whom I can turn when the repetitive chatter, and silence of isolation become too much.
I had no objective at the start of writing this piece. I still don’t. I just needed to write. I needed to say what was churning around. To unfurl the feeling.
Tonight I spent two hours on my feet, emptying bins, stripping beds, putting in and out washing, mopping up and slopping out. It’s Saturday night. I’m a relatively young woman but I’ve turned into a scullery maid.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother. But, I also loved my life. The life I no longer have, and will never have again. When these duties are done, I will be a different person, facing into a very different and altogether more solitary future. Maybe these days of continuous isolation will prepare me well for what lies ahead. Who knows?
For now, my life will remain as is. Endless rounds of repetition, talking baby talk to an adult once revered for her acerbic wit and razor-sharp brain. Making soothing noises to assuage, wrapping calming arms around shaking shoulders to ward off nightmares and hallucinations. Waking every other nocturnal hour and listening out to make sure my mother returns to bed after yet another round of the late night walkies.
I am tired. I am lacklustre. I am frustrated. I am isolated. I am alone.
Me, and countless others like me. Alone.
Silently screaming, crying tears of frustration, despondent, beaten, exhausted, confined.
There is no help. There are no magic pills. There is no support for people like me. Only endless rounds of phone calls and home visits that eat into precious time. Lots and lots of promises and platitudes and free toilet seats. But no help. Nothing.
And so it will go on. Each day the same. Buying papers I rarely read and listening to shouts of ‘it’s Christmas in two weeks and I’ve nothing done’ at the end of January. Sweeping floors and shaking out throws strewn with crisp crumbs. Scraping uneaten dinners off plates whilst being berated for serving up the same meals again and again (I don’t). Wiping away tears and cleaning sticky marmalade fingers.
And in the midst of all that, trying to fit in moments of ‘life’ between work commitments, housework, and caring. Trying to grab moments alone only to be continuously interrupted (during the time it has taken to write this, I have been interrupted six times by mum, each with the same inquiry as to when her stripped bed is going to be remade). Even getting five minutes in the loo is an effort.
Life … I once had one of those.
Something’s got to give. It might just be me. But not for now. Not today, St Brigid’s Day, the first day of Spring. Time to look forward. Time to renew, recalibrate, recharge. I’ll try. It’ll be hard, but then, when hasn’t life been?