Blogging – what’s it for?

Writing my truth anonymously in a blog helps the frustration come out in a safe way.

I had precious time away with friends who have known me since university days. Two live south, two live north, so we meet in the middle, in Yorkshire, at a hotel with self-catering lodges.

We have to share a room, or even a bed; fortunately two of them are best friends so they are OK with that. Two of us – not the same two – are insomniacs, so there is a race to see who gets to the living room sofa first.

chevinlowres-9096There’s no wi-fi, which makes it surprising how popular the place was this year. It meant being a bit cosy with strangers in the hot tub, but everyone was willing to cooperate.

Over dinner on Saturday evening, I disclosed to these trusted long-time friends that I’ve recently started writing this blog, and that – since it is anonymous and cannot be linked to me in the real world – I write the truth about my feelings about being a sandwich filling. They agreed that there are things we can’t say – because of social taboos – even to our closest friends, because inevitably we are judged by what we say. Fortunately, there is not yet an Orwellian thought police, but I explained that writing my truth helps the frustration come out in a safe way.

One of ‘the girls’ – the one who has been most successful in the way it is usually judged in our society (she has achieved a very senior position in the profession in which we trained) – immediately tried to give me a boost by saying that I was always a good writer/editor and that I should publish my blog. [A discussion ensued about Brooke Magnanti…]

Her motive was admirable, but I was a bit dismayed that such a sharp cookie, and very nice person, should so fundamentally misunderstand the whole point; if I published these thoughts that I have, I would die in a hail of hate mail.

There’s also the small point that I’ve only written five posts so far, so I’d be several chapters short of a book even if I had ambitions to write one.


Thursday is my day off – it’s when I get to go to work

I don’t know how typical this is for carers, but going to work is as good as a holiday for me.

For a few years now, my elderly mother has gone to a ‘lunch club’ on Thursdays. She gets picked up by a volunteer driver at around 10 am, has social time at the club followed by lunch at noon and is taken home again at 2.45. I’ve come to cherish it as my ‘day off’ because it’s the day Mum doesn’t call me in the morning wanting me to go and keep her company or take her out on some errand.

Except that in the last few months Thursdays seem to have acquired a podiatry appointment before lunch club and a hairdresser appointment after lunch club, meaning that my ‘day’ is actually just five hours from 10-3 because both of these activities require me to drive her.

Her vascular dementia is worsening at quite a pace in recent months, and she is now often confused in the mornings, although often by mid-afternoon she is completely lucid. So this morning – a Thursday – she left a message on my answering machine while I was in the shower, sounding befuddled and saying she didn’t know what to do today. There was also a text message from my brother to say she had called him but he was at the dentist. So, I called her back and had an impossible conversation with her like this:

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Your’re going to lunch club today; a driver will pick you up as usual.”

“But I don’t know where I’m going.”

“It’s OK, the driver will take you.”

“But I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”

“You go to lunch club; it’s Thursday, and someone will take you, as usual.”

After several minutes of this, I said I was going to say goodbye and hang up. Then she said she didn’t feel well enough to go to lunch club. And this is what makes caring for her so hard. I don’t think she does it consciously, as a planned strategy, but she always manages to construct a scenario in which I am supposed to say ‘OK, I’ll come down and spend the day with you.’

But I have a life, too. And on Thursdays I usually do my own free-lance work.

So, I hardened my heart and said, “Well, see how you feel when the driver arrives. I’m working today, so I’ll talk to you tonight. It’s now 1.45 pm and I haven’t heard from either Mum or the lunch club leader, so I guess she must have gone…



Leave me my name!

“Because it is my name. I can have no other one in my life. Leave me my name!” [John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller]

My son is studying The Crucible for Higher English so we watched the DVD of the 1976 film last night. The screenplay was written by Miller, so it is reliable as a study aid. As it turned out, John Proctor’s anguish at the end helped me release my own emotion of the day.

While we were away at a university open day Mum had to manage by herself from Friday tea time until Saturday bed time. She was furious (actually she was frightened) at the prospect of her safety net (me) being unavailable, and for a few minutes I seriously considered staying at home, just letting my husband and son go. However, she has her ‘red button’ emergency service and I prompted my brother to call her.

I felt bad about going, but she insists on staying in her own  house, and refuses to have local authority carers, so I hardened my heart and did my parental duty instead of my filial one.

I phoned her on Saturday, early evening, and she said all was well, so we agreed I would go down and see her on Sunday morning. When I arrived I immediately noticed that her large and very heavy coffee table had been moved, but she was not able to tell me how that had happened.

A couple of hours later a local woman I don’t know rang the bell and came in. She said she had just popped in to see if Mum was  all right after her fall last night! It turned out that Mum had fallen on the living room floor and had yelled for help as this woman and her husband passed the window. The door being unlocked (a double-edged sword), they were able to come in and help her up. She was not injured.

Mum didn’t want me to know about this fall. I understand that. But I was gobsmacked to realise she had told me a totally convincing bare-faced lie about not knowing why or how the table had been moved, including that nobody had been in the house (I specifically asked her that).

What happened next, though, has rocked me. Mum was cross that this woman had spilled the beans about her fall, and said to the woman, “I didn’t want her to know; she is vicious.” Who me? What? Where did that come from? The poor good samaritan realised she had caused a problem and beat a hasty retreat.

I was really taken aback by what Mum had said – nothing has ever happened between us to warrant that choice of word. Impatient? Yes. Argumentative? Sometimes. But vicious? I’m actually quite a kind and cooperative person – you know the kind of person who sees the bigger picture and wants the best possible outcome for all (a bit of a utilitarian, perhaps?).

In fact, this is not the first time she has described me using that word; she has said it twice before to my knowlege, once to her GP and once to her elderly care team key worker. [There is another potential blog post on kicking the cat – avoidance and deflection as coping strategies.] I’m now realising she might have said it more often to other people.

This time she has said it to some random person in our very small town, who doesn’t know us well enough to know that Mum has vascular dementia, but knows us enough for me to be tarred with that epithet. The more I reflect on it, the more serious I think this problem is, but I have no idea what to do about it.

Her words hurt my feelings, and I just have to hope they don’t hurt my good name.