Thursday, June 21, 2012


So... I’m a carer. A working carer. A mummy. A wife. A doctor.
I am a sometime daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend, caught up in the day to day business of a seemingly perfectly imperfect life.

But when an earth am I me?

Who is me?

I found her after she became a couple, rediscovered her after she had children, but I have lost her since she became a carer and I really don’t know where she is now?  I don’t know where to look; I don’t know where she is hiding.

I think that it is rather common for carers to lose their identity, caught up in the life of the one they are caring for, forgetting to care for themselves. The In Sickness & In Health Report demonstrates this: our physical and mental well-being is our last priority.

Looking back through my diary, I found this entry from last June, my priorities as at 14.15 on 9th June:

What a moment of insight and now, looking back, I haven’t moved on from that position of lowly importance.  I knew then that I wasn’t looking after myself and now I’m a year further down the line, a year more tired, a year more frazzled.

She found a deeper hiding place.  She doesn’t know how to be found.

This year the first sign of how lost I was feeling was when I read a post by Is there a Plan B?  It was a simple post about the small stuff; a list of the small things she loves and knows to be important.  It made me sad, the post emphasising that I no longer knew what I loved or enjoyed, that I no longer took notice of the small stuff that I was once so grateful for.  In fact, I felt that I no longer knew me.  Sitting down and taking the time to think about the things I loved, the simple things which bring me joy and smiles and laughs, the simple things for which I am grateful, I struggled.  My husband and my girls – obvious but so, so true.  And then…

She no longer knows where to look for joy.

It was to mark the start of a rather low period for me as the realisation that my depression had returned hit me.  I restarted my anti-depressant, knowing pragmatically that although it wasn’t going to change my life, that they would allow me to cope better with my day to day; that is exactly what they have done, thankfully with little in the way of side effects.  With time,  improved clarity and a little insight I  now know that I am neglecting myself, that I have lost sight of who I am, but equally, that I do have the ability to help myself.

She lights a flare, looking to be found.

I know what I need to do so that I can in turn care for my daugter; I need to care for myself but that's easier said than done.  I know that I should sleep more - but Eilidh needs turning through the night; I should eat more healthily and exercise - but I have no motivation; I should spend time with friends - but feel guilty that I'm not at home.  I know what I should be doing, but it's so difficult because it feels selfish and yet if I don't look after myself, who will?

The mirror marks the spot.

A poem was read to me on Tuesday and as I listened, the silent tears fell.  I know where to look for her now - she is within me and always has been, but she needs time, love and gentle nurturing and only I can give her that.

Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott


Renata said...

Beautiful post. One that I'm sure will resonate with a lot of carers. I know it does with me. Take away my jobs, and I'm not entirely sure what's left.

h0peful mummy said...

thank you, renata. i wonder if we had more time whether we would be kinder to ourselves, taking time to be "me"?

Midlife Singlemum said...

I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a carer when you know the next stage of independence is not on the horizon. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that next year she'll ne able to dress herself or play for longer by herself. I am humbled by all carers, whether they care for children or older people, you are God's angels. xxx