Content Warning: Bad Language, Suicidal Ideation, Death, Possible Mental Health Triggers
If You’d Asked Me Twenty Years Ago…
I would never have expected I’d be a carer. I’m thirty-two now. I’ve been a carer for my mum since I was twenty, without even realising it.
Growing up, I was a selfish child. Maybe it’s the curse of growing up as an only child? I doubt it. There are plenty of people without siblings who were never as selfish as me. The truth is, it was probably just something in my nature. My parents worked hard, but I came from a working-class background. We couldn’t afford a lot of the luxuries my peers at school were given. When my father bought me a £1,000 PC (yes, they did used to cost that much!), I was narked because it was a Pentium 133, not a 166. What an entitled bitch, eh?
I could try and defend myself, here. I was bullied at school. One girl, who shall remain nameless, used to find any reason she could to pick on me. I was too tall. I was a swot (slang for intelligent, if the kids don’t still use that term). When I developed pubic hair before any of the other girls at school, I was humiliated in the changing rooms for having a hairy fanny (if you’re in the USA, it’s the bit around the front). We could have done with that particular sex education lesson a few weeks earlier.
Not having the fashionable clothes, the latest accessories and the rest of it just further added to the ongoing torture that was my school life. Of course, being the stupid kid that I was, I didn’t blame my tormentors. No, I blamed my parents. They were the ones who were responsible for it, so I demanded more, more and more. I was convinced that my misery was their fault.
Of course, it wasn’t their fault.
My parents did the very best they could for me. Looking back, with the gift of hindsight, I can see that. They supported everything I wanted to do. That £1,000 computer? It was bought for me because I preferred computers to “girly” things. I didn’t play with dolls or throw make-believe tea parties. No, I was pratting about on an old Amstrad 464 writing code in BASIC.
My dad would later buy me a book on how to build PC’s, and take me to computer fairs to buy the components for me to actually do it!
I could cite a hundred or more examples. They paid for my equipment to play hockey. My parents paid for me to have music lessons. Even though they couldn’t stand it, they’d buy me heavy metal CDs because I couldn’t stand The Spice Girls and Boyzone.
They were parents that were there, who took an interest, who wanted me to be something. All the trinkets and fashionable clothes in the world couldn’t replace that.
It took me a long time to realise just how much they had done for me. Sadly, it was too late.
21st April, 2001.
My father passed away on the 21st April, 2001. I was seventeen. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour earlier that year. There was nothing that could be done.
If I’m honest, my father’s actual date of death was some time before that. Whatever demon inhabited his body in those final few months was not my father. It was a spiteful, hateful beast that I couldn’t bear to look at.
My mother never gave up. She nursed him as best she could throughout it all. No matter how awful he was to her, how abusive, how difficult, how paranoid his rantings, she was there. All day, every day.
Me? I was hiding. I couldn’t stand it. Regardless of any resentment I may have felt during my adolescence, my father was a respectful, polite, strong and unshakeable man. To hear him calling my mother a “whore” and other choice names was killing me. I didn’t want to look at him, and I didn’t want to acknowledge him. And for some daft reason, in my head, I was convinced that he wouldn’t die. I was certain that during one of these hospital trips, they would say they could operate after all, haul him in, take out the cancer and I’d have my dad back.
And then he dropped dead in front of me. His final words were “thank you” – to me! To the bitch of a daughter that had ignored him for the past few months. A thank you to the pathetic little coward who hid away in a self-constructed fantasy land to avoid reality. The ungrateful little wretch that had made his final seventeen years a thankless hell.
No “thank you” to my mum, his carer, the woman who had stood by him through everything.
A Carer For Me
As if mum didn’t have enough to deal with, she was now stuck with me. My grades started to suffer at college. I began drinking too much and using cannabis with too much frequency. And, if I’m honest, in the immediate aftermath of my father’s passing, I had more regretful sexual encounters than the average porn actress. I doubt my mum ever had enough of a chance to fully grieve for my father because she had her hands full with me.
More than a few times I considered taking my life. My dreams were haunted by images of what my father had become. If you’ve ever seen Pet Sematary, it wasn’t entirely unlike the disturbing images of Zelda. A seemingly eternal darkness began cloaking me. I was angry, afraid and lost. Angry because my father deserted me. Afraid because the idea of becoming that terrified me. Lost because I no longer had my father to guide me. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to experience the death of a parent.
My mum became my carer. I’m sure she didn’t really know what to do; how to handle a teenage girl going so spectacularly off the rails but she damn well wasn’t about to give up on me. Oh, it was embarrassing to be admonished in front of friends when I’d come home late and plastered but I know now why she did it. Eventually, I had to sober up and I had to stop smoking weed to make myself forget and feel better.
It worked. My mum’s second spell as a carer resulted in me getting my head together. I found myself a job, and things began looking up.
A Carer For Mum
A couple of years later, my mum started to struggle with day to day tasks. I’d get home from work to find that she hadn’t eaten, or that she hadn’t even had anything to drink! If you’ve read my posts about caring in heatwaves, or coping with caring, you’ll know that my mum can be a bit stubborn. She refused to see a doctor. “It’ll pass” she claimed, self-diagnosing herself with whatever ailment “Our Mary” had back in 1986.
More often I found myself needing to take care of things for mum. I started nipping home on my lunch break to make sure mum got some food, and had been able to drink. My weekends were no longer about hanging out with friends, they were about doing the chores at home.
I didn’t realise it then but I had become the carer.
Realisation hit when I came home from work one lunchtime to find mum collapsed, but conscious, at the foot of the stairs. After ignoring her protestations, I phoned 999.
Upon investigation, my mother was diagnosed with a degenerative, chronic condition that is incurable. Drugs are prescribed to manage the condition but it will only get worse. I felt like I had failed her for not ordering her to a doctor earlier. I enabled her delusional self-diagnosing, though I can take some solace in the fact it wouldn’t have mattered.
And that was that. I had to quit my job to look after my mum. Ever since, I’ve been a full-time carer. Me! The self-centered, ungrateful little witch described in the paragraphs above.
To Be Continued
I will write a new post in the future discussing my life-adjustments on becoming a full-time carer. There are many difficulties and challenges I’ve had to deal with over the years.
Thank you for reading this. I hope, in some small way, it might be of use to someone else at some point.