The past fourteen weeks of my life have taught me so much. Yesterday made me realise I have got to stop apologising for my feelings, and stop the guilt surrounding the fact that I’m not fit for work. On Tuesday, during a conversation with my own GP, he asked me how a day at work, away from this situation, would look for me. I couldn’t even begin to imagine leaving my Parents to resume normal life. I’m repeatedly told that having unwell Parents is a massive cause of stress, and that I should not feel guilty for needing to prioritise my Parents right now. Why do I feel guilty about putting my Parents first? This guilt undervalues their importance when they mean so much to me. Bottom line, I hate letting people down. However, we don’t get to choose our circumstances. As my GP signed me off for yet another month, I felt the guilt, I really do champion that fuckin emotion.
I do also miss my identity as Teaching Assistant. Right now, I’m Primary Carer / Enabler to my Parents. I miss my lunchtime chats with the kids, knowing that some of them, sadly, don’t have a Parent at home who will give up their time to listen. You give me the choice of a staffroom full of adults, or a room full of kids, and I’ll choose to sit with the kids every time. I love that part of my job; chatting to them, listening to their problems and sharing banter. I miss my team, and the friendly faces too. However, yesterday came the realisation, that I’ve got to stop feeling guilty for things that are out of my control.
My Dad had an early appointment with his GP. As I arrived at their house to take him, I could see Dad’s mood was very low. On our way to the surgery, I told my Parents that Dad should go into see the GP alone. This was met with much resistance from Mum. Every appointment that Dad has with the GP, post stroke, Mum and I are present. Yesterday, I wanted his GP to see just how low he was, and without any interruptions from Mum. Dad asked if just I could go in with him, but I told him that we’d both be sat in the waiting area for him. As the GP called his name, I knew Mum wanted to override my decision. He was in there for twenty minutes, before the GP called Mum in too. When they came out together, ten minutes later, my Dad was in tears. I can’t begin to describe the feelings I felt as I saw my Dad broken. I have not seen my Dad cry for years. As we walked back to the car, I was holding him and he kept saying how he just couldn’t stop the tears. He told me that his GP had asked to see me, but Dad had explained that I felt it should just be him in that room on this occasion. Mum told me that the GP was going to ring me for a chat. As I drove them home, my Dad was still crying and Mum seemed really unaffected by it. Again, another indicator, to me, that things are not right with Mum. Dad has never be one to cry, and if he ever had, it would have really upset Mum to see him that way. Yesterday, Mum was hard. As we got home, Mum got out the car and went into the house. Dad and I sat in the car for a while.
Watching Dad, overwhelmed with emotion, I could see he was desperately in need of help. His GP had told him he was severely depressed and that he needed psychiatric intervention. Sitting in their car on the driveway, I was looking at Dad and seeing just how mentally fragile he was. I took him into the house, where Mum was buzzing around. She said that she’d asked the GP if depression was common after a stroke… During Dad’s two week stay in hospital, in July, I’d collected lots of booklets about strokes. Mum has so much information at home about post stroke fatigue, depression and so on. In Mum’s own situation, the ability to remember things is hard work for her.
My Parents had a Mental Health Practitioner due at the house at 10.30am. I told Mum that I was going home, during the assessment, as I felt the Practitioner needed to see them, in their home environment, without anyone else there. It seemed an appropriate day for this assessment, given the mental fragility of my Dad.
Knowing the assessment was an hour and half, I went home and phoned our Key Worker for a chat, in light of the harrowing morning. This woman is amazing. I don’t phone her very often, as I don’t find asking for help at all easy. She knows this, she really seems to get the true measure of the Sophster. As I attempted to try and do my usual apologetic narrative, she said “Don’t you dare start apologising for ringing me!.” I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this person. She listens and allows me to organise my thoughts.
Since I was 11, I’ve seen many years of mental health issues with another family member. I know, firsthand, just how overstretched the mental health services are. As a child, I can remember my parents’ frustrations over not getting the help when it was needed. During the last 33 years, I’ve seen lots of changes to the mental health services, but it still screams overstretched, sadly. A family has got to reach a crisis point, before the situation is tackled. Yesterday was certainly our crisis point. On Tuesday night, I’d even said to my hubby, that it felt like “the calm before the storm.” Yesterday morning, my gut instinct was confirmed.
After their hour and a half assessment, Mum phoned and told me that the Mental Health Practitioner was going to give me a call. Dad was exhausted by the long morning of heavy appointments, so I told Mum to make sure he had a rest. Since Dad’s stroke, Mum has always struggled to understand his need for naps during the day. This lack of understanding is exacerbated by the energy levels she seems to have these days. Furthermore, her total lack of empathy is completely out of character. Mum has always been the epitome of empathy and understanding.
In the afternoon, my Mum had a reflexology appointment, with the lovely Amanda. As I was parking in the High Street, Dad got out as I was reversing into a space. Mum put her window down and was shouting at him. Telling him to get out the way of the car and how “ridiculous” he was being. Her pitch was high. After I parked, my anger got the better of me. I was just so bloody furious with how she was speaking to my broken Dad, “Don’t you ever shout at my Dad like that, how dare you attack him when he’s so low.” In all honesty, I could not wait to see my Mum across the road and have an hour’s peace from her. Her frustrations are so detrimental to Dad’s current mental health. As I walked over to Dad, who was holding Evie, my dog, he looked so totally lost.
We had an hour, whilst Mum was having her therapy. So I thought a walk would do both Dad and I good. He was telling me how he low he felt. I could see this with my own eyes. He was saying how Mum wasn’t well herself. Since his stroke, he has days where he forgets the concerns he’s had about Mum for the past three years. As he was talking about her yesterday, I questioned him and asked him what was wrong with her. He said “She’s got dementia, we think, don’t we Soph?.” I could just feel the weight of the world on this exhausted man’s shoulders.
Throughout my life, my Mum has been an amazing example to me, of strength and determination. When a family member has had difficult spells in their life, both my Parents have always dealt with the situation so compassionately. I know they must have felt incredibly anxious, but they were always so driven, to get the best possible help in place for that person. My Mum, would never dream of shouting at someone gripped by the most debilitating depression. She would have all the love and patience in the world for them. I’ve watched her deal with things with such determination and positivity. It’s so sad to see this is not the case now, and I can’t help but feel defensive.
After our long walk, we picked up a calmer Mum. Dad was tired, so I took them home and made sure Dad rested.
Last night, after not hearing anything from the Mental Health Practitioner, I phoned the surgery and asked if my Parents’ GP could ring me. He phoned me back within the hour, explaining that he’d now referred Dad to the mental health team. He told me that the assessment that morning had been for Dad. (Therefore, my Mum is still in the system, awaiting assessment??). I very much feel that I have to take the pressure off with Mum’s situation, as Dad needs to be priority right now. This plate spinning is so hard. However, I’m grateful for one thing, that Dad’s GP saw for himself, just how unwell my Dad is. Today, I’m hoping steps will be taken to help Dad, if not, that’s the direction I will divert my attention, and put my energy into fighting for help.
My 2am blog today has been sponsored by McVitie’s. Insomnia fuelled snacking. Can’t beat a good biscuit, or seven!