Two Options

choices.pngGenes are a funny thing. I’m not sure just how much they have to do with mental health but if I had to hazard a guess based on my own lineage I’d say they are instrumental.

While it was never actually articulated , my dad definitely lived with both depression and anxiety, I know this now with the gift of hindsight, and not just because I asked my nurse friend what his prescription drugs were for. He spent weeks not leaving the house except to drink at the weekends and then crawl back onto his bean bag in front of the tele until the next weekend arrived.

My mum’s a  funny character and again when I revisit my childhood, adolescence and young adult years, I can attribute much of her behaviour to the same demons. She was so anxious when her house was for sale that she hid in my brother’s wardrobe while the agent showed potential buyers around. We spent time told to be silent and lay down on the floor when visitors knocked at our door, friends were not allowed to stay for meals and sleepovers were out of the question. One of my biggest regrets is from the time when she passively attempted to end her own life by not treating her diabetes, and ended up very very sick in hospital. When she was eventually moved from the ICU to a ward to recover the nurse asked me did I think she was depressed ( dad had died a nasty death two years prior) I answered no. I had not yet even began to understand my own battles at that stage so I certainly couldn’t recognise them in anyone else. I was swamped with my own grief from losing dad and was in no position to comment on anyone’s else state of mind. Mum is still reclusive, guarded, overly private and confidential and I wonder now if she’d got some support back then would  her years have panned out differently?

I finally realised I wasn’t okay after listening to Andrew Fuller, a prominent psychologist, talk about mental well-being. He talked about ways to check in with yourself and one resonated deeply with me “when did you stop singing in the car?” As well as being a boating family we were always a family with music around, the radio always on and mum and dad singing when they were in good spirits, and dad whistling his way around the place too in his lighter days. I have always loved a good sing and in the car on my own was and continues to be no less attractive than with friends and family. So when I heard these words my journey of self awareness began. My next clue was a friend pointing about my extreme weight loss as I was obsessed with walking the hills around my house, the biggest clue was when I thought I might like a ‘minor’ car crash, I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to be left alone for awhile.

I could go on for pages about my brothers, we’re a boating family and it’s suffice to say that they are definitely in the same boat as they rest of us, possibly a little further out to sea though…

Enter the next generation, my children. Fabulous, gregarious, intelligent, funny, caring they almost sound too good to be true. But my daughter hasn’t escaped from the tendrils of anxiety. She even succumbed to the Black Dog in grade 7. But I always knew this about her, I saw the signs being a consummate anxiety sufferer by now, she knew I suffered too and so she told me when she was not ok. She told me!

My boy though, he didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask. We had what I thought was a great open relationship- he told me lots of things, which I now think of as distractors, deflectors from the real him. Through his writing he has now told me that he’s right there alongside the rest of the family, for better or worse he’s trapped in the web of inane insecurities, constant self reflection and the battle to simply feel content.

So where to now? I can choose to wallow in self doubt about my parenting, dive head first into a bubbling pot of self deprecation, and finally drown under  a tidal wave of self hate. Or I can remember that it’s ok to feel anxious sometimes, that the feeling will go away, that there are more highlights than bloopers in the film reel of my life so far, and I can share this with my son so that he too can rise above and break out from the web of fear and apprehension that anxiety weaves. I choose option two!

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Glass half full

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We are waiting to see if mum can have some immunotherapy to slow down the progression of her disease. With only 10 weeks between PET scans the tumours have increased in her thigh, lymph node, liver and lungs. She seems more tired and her leg pain has increased. When the doctor examined her, despite claiming she has no pain or symptoms, she winced when he palpated her liver. The lymph node tumour can now be felt. The one on her lung is making her breatheless but she will admit to none of this. The treatment being considered cannot cure her but may buy her some more time, but it’s not an option if her blood tests show that her liver and/or kidney function is not good enough. It seems she probably has between 4 and 6 months left without any treatment😢 Mum wants us to help her decide if she should have the treatment, to weigh up side effects and “down time” against possibly gaining a few months. Big decison, and we may not even get to make it if her liver and kidneys aren’t ok. I guess I need to get my optimism back on and do some cup half full thInking- I’ve still got my mum for now, she’s still enjoying life, we might be able to keep her for a bit longer and it’s only 2 sleeps until we find out if she’s a candidate for the therapy.

Making Memories.

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Been quite awhile since I had a cathartic write. A lot has gone on, but at the same time nothing has gone on. Mum doesn’t know that all of us kids and grand kids know she’s got a ‘use by’, having said that , one grand kid doesn’t actually know- her mum took her interstate years ago and she’s had no contact with her dad ( my little brother) she’s let me follow her on instagram so at least i have a way of contacting her if/when it’s necessary.

Christmas Day was 8/9 parts great. My 2 brothers, little sister and her husband along with mum came for a late lunch and dinner. We feasted and drank too much; well, again, 8/9 of us drank too much. My big brother insisted on driving, refused to relax, looks awful in the family photos and abused me for taking photos with my new selfie stick!! Apart from that, if that was mum’s last Christmas, as we’ve been told, it was a pretty good one. I really got on well with my little brother, which is such a gift as we’ve never been very close. Mum is trying hard to make sure I’ve forgiven my big brother as she’s clearly worried about him after she goes. He’s a total dick but I’ll never leave him alone at Christmas.

It’s funny in a way, but her biggest cause of pain and discomfort is her arthritic knee, not her metastatic cancer! We’ve been out for lunch since Christmas, had her down for lunch and a movie and lots of ‘phone calls. She’s keeping up a very brave front and is a great role model for us all.

My little sister struggles with it all as she lives away and can’t maintain the very easy contact that the other 3 of us can. She’ll be ok though, because like me, she is her mother’s daughter and we cope, as my daughter will too as she inherits our strong genes.

I’m struggling with my son also moving interstate in a couple of weeks. Have you seen the movie “Boyhood’? That really struck a cord with me, at the end when the son moved out. I’m really going to miss the afternoon coffee meets he, mum and I have during the working week.

Her next oncology appointment is 22nd January and I’ll be interstate helping my son move, so I’ve asked her if she’d like to change it or if she’s happy with my med student daughter taking her- she’s thinking on it.

For the meantime, I’m on summer holidays and have lots of time to make memories with my mum.

Rocket Man

space stationSo discombobulated, I can’t think straight, I can’t eat. My brother came down and ‘let’ me tell him about mum. He was nasty- I know it’s because he’s an emotional luddite but it was still horrible. My little sister is coming home for Christmas, but she’s staying at a hotel instead of with mum so she doesn’t get stuck with our brother too ( 53 and lives with mum!!). Mum’s sad about that now- even though she understands that she’ll actually get to spend more time with my sister as she’ll come and get Mum and take her out each day while she’s down. Our brother made it very clear he wouldn’t be going out of his way just because it’s mum’s last Christmas, but he’ll go out of his mind if the rest of us do stuff with her and he’s left out.

Parents are supposed to die, it’s still not ok when it’s happening, but it is a normal part of living.I can do death- I know my feelings are normal reactions to learning that my mum is on limited time. But why oh why do others have to complicate everything with selfish attitudes and ostrich behaviours? A lighthouse doesn’t seem far enough away at the moment, might need to consider a space station….

Please don’t put me underground

imageI don’t want you to think I’m a whinger or a pessimist, in fact I am the exact opposite, at times positive to a fault. I’ve had a fabulous day,my school had it’s annual fair which is such an amazing community effort. It warms my heart to see so many people come together for a common cause. I’ve been comfortably busy all day, with no spare room in my brain for maudlin thoughts. Then came the drive home. I was quietly content, very pleased with how the day had gone. My kids and husband came along to the fair and helped out- one of the many times when my work and home life melded seamlessly. My playlist kept me smiling- some Arctic Monkeys,a bit of Temper Trap and even a walk down memory lane with Bruce Springteen. Then Megan Washington was soulfully singing ‘Underground’. This is an amazing song about what she wants to happen  when she dies. The chorus begins with ‘if the day is sunny let my father say some words and if the night is starry let my mother tell you all her stories’ . I lost my dad 16 years ago and it certainly doesn’t look like mum will be around to tell any stories, not that I expect nor want her to bury her children, but I’d hoped she might tell a story at my 50th next year. And with that chorus my contentment was gone and reality was back. I so don’t want my mum to die.