Although I’m writing this blog for selfish reasons (to make myself feel better), please note that it’s not a bid for sympathy. It’s simply venting.
Why vent publicly? Because it’s like throwing a drop of dirt into an ocean… it will get distilled and washed away into insignificance, it will become just another part of the ocean and everyone will forget about it by tomorrow. However, if I keep it to myself, it’s like injecting myself with that drop of dirt which doesn’t belong inside me at all and it becomes potent and harmful to me and will stay with me for ages… maybe even give me cancer!
I know, because I’ve kept most of it to myself for the last 6 years and it hasn’t helped at all. Instead it’s changed me into a person I don’t like and don’t want to be anymore so I’m trying something different. I’m trying a different way to let go and come to terms with it.
Just like a really bad fart (or anything toxic for that matter), it’s better out than in! And instead of allowing it to be silent and deadly (killing me on the inside), I’m letting it all out.
My mother is dying!
Who isn’t? Dying I mean… we’re all gonna get there eventually. The only difference now is that we have a notification of its imminence for my mother.
If this is news to you, please don’t feel bad, it’s old news… She’s been dying for the last 6 years and quite frankly, I’m over it. She could possibly be dying for another 6 years or more, God forbid. At this stage nobody knows.
This is why I need to vent. What I’ve come to realise is that her dying has changed me over the years and its eaten away at me slowly until I’ve come to this point where I feel like I’m dying inside and I’m now angry, really angry about it and I just want it all to be over.
Those who knew me before I first heard of this news, would probably have described me as positive, cheerful, enthusiastic, fun loving, open, friendly, caring etc. I really liked that version of me and I’m sure others did too. However, my mother’s long drawn out affair with death has meant my deterioration from that energetic, loving, light-emitting being, to a minimised, mostly introverted, pessimistic, angry, cynical, self centred, disempowered version of me. Urgh… I don’t like this version of me very much.
Those who have only recently met me would think that this quieter, distant person is actually me because this version is now so prominent. Well, it is me… it’s another version of me but I feel sorry for you because you never got to meet the awesome me – the one that will actually make the effort to connect with you! The one who actually cares. Instead, you’ve met the person that makes every effort to keep disconnected or keep you at arms length, the one that tries really hard not to care because she’s practicing for that big day when it will make a difference between coping and not coping.
The small few I’ve kept close would not need an explanation for this change in behaviour and even personality because they’ve seen both sides before and that this disempowered me is only temporary. They know that my mum was diagnosed with cancer back in 2008 and they would know what torments I went through, throughout my life with her and therefore what emotional distresses and conflicts I’ve gone through (and am still going through) within myself, to deal with her prognosis. They would also just let me be disconnected and allow me to reconnect with them at any time later without judgement or expectation. For their unconditional love, support and acceptance, I’m forever grateful.
So…. since I’ve kept it for 6 years, why would I bother saying anything now? Well, because I don’t like the person I’ve become by keeping it in and I want to let that person go. The disempowered me has been around for way too long and it’s becoming normal… I’m hardly seeing the happy me ever. Also I need to just let it all out because it’s cathartic.
Last week my sister contacted me to let me know my mother had to be put into palliative care. They’re trialing it for the week. Basically, there aren’t any more known cancer treatments left that are going to be effective for my mum. She’s got myeloma, has lost her mobility and therefore her independence and now needs full time care.
As good as I am at disconnecting from my stresses or feelings, on hearing my sister’s shaky voice with the news, I spent last week pretty phased out. I’m sure I lost at least 5 days consumed in my own thoughts and feelings about the situation. So I wasn’t present, I couldn’t get anything done without taking forever or just leaving everything half done and I’m just glad Tony gave me that time to be completely hopeless.
I did finally reach out to a couple of friends and it’s gotten me to a point of being sane again and actually functional. Luckily I have a friend here (who’s father died of cancer) to remind me that my reactions and how I cope are exactly that – they are my reactions and my ways to cope. She reminded me that there is no normal or supposed to, there is no right or wrong way to deal with this or feel about this… there just is and everyone’s going to be different.
This advice has helped me a lot in the last week to be comfortable in my yo-yo of emotions and to be willing to be ok about being psycho and random with my feelings. It’s allowed me to be easy on myself when I don’t get certain things done and to just take each day as it comes. It also helped me realise that speaking about this (for me) is better than holding it in and although it’s a lot more anger (rather than sadness and crying) that I’m feeling, I’m finally just allowing myself to feel which is an important part of letting it go.
You often hear about the person with the cancer, their journey, their fight, how inspiring they are but you don’t often hear about what the people around them are going through. The anger, the sadness, the blame, the guilt, the helplessness. There’s really no way to explain what happens emotionally to a person when they get told that someone they’re strongly connected to is dying. Each person’s reaction will be different depending on their relationship but how does anyone prepare for it?
You just can’t. I’ve tried…
I’ve gotten so well practiced at disconnecting and feeling numb that I just alienated myself from everyone at a time when I probably needed all the support, love and connection I could get.
I also think the anticipation of the inevitable is so much more stressful and harder to deal with than if you just had to deal with the grief when it’s over and done with. You know, say your goodbyes and move on.
In the case of my siblings and I, it’s been 6 years. 6 years of she’s dying, she’s not, she’s sick, she’s ok, she’s getting better, she’s getting worse…
In the last 6 years she was diagnosed with cancer, got treatment for 2 years, went into remission for 2 years and then got diagnosed again 2 years ago. First she’s in hospital then she’s not then we have to fly home quickly because she’s probably not gonna make it, then there’s completely no cancer, then she has a tumor but then she’s going on holidays, then she’s on chemo again, then she’s fine, then she’s in a wheelchair.
6 years of a big fat cloud looming over your head casting a shadow on everything you do, with a tiny voice sitting in the back of your mind saying “She’s dying. What are you going to do about it?”
6 years of I care but I don’t care, no I’m not going to care because the last time I went into a panic about this, nothing happened and I’m losing sleep and riding an emotional roller coaster for absolutely no reason but if I don’t care and it’s something bad then I’m a horrible person for not caring.
6 years of roller coaster emotions every time I get an email from her. Is she ok? Do I have to fly back? Oh, no she just wants me to collect a parcel for her friend…
And this is from overseas… not even seeing her day to day. I can only imagine what her partner is going through or what my siblings have to go through every time she calls them (she doesn’t ever call unless she wants you to do something for her or to tell you she’s dying… again).
You see, my mum is a very proud person. I think it’s because of this fact that when she was diagnosed with cancer, she kept it secret from everyone outside the immediate family and by implication, we had to keep it secret too.
We weren’t allowed to tell my dad (they’re divorced) because “he’d tell everyone” and we weren’t allowed to tell anybody because she didn’t want anyone “feeling sorry for her”. Her pride meant that we had to suffer the consequences of keeping her sickness (and therefore our feelings about it) secret.
6 years… I told my closest friends but I’d feel guilty for doing it because it was against what my mum wanted then I’d feel resentful that I’d have to hold it all inside, so eventually I would just say it if it came up in conversation… Me:”My mum’s got cancer.” Reply:”Oh I’m so sorry to hear that” Me: “Yeah, it happens, everyone’s got cancer these days” End of conversation, switch on numbness, disconnect. Talk about something else.
6 years of keeping everything inside. 6 years of not telling anyone how I feel (other than Tony), not even my mum. 6 years where even my siblings and I don’t talk to each other about it. The updates are of everything else. The updates are of what’s happening with treatments but not of how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking.
I don’t know about her or anybody else but I am so fucking over it!! Hence the venting. Now everyone’s going to know and I don’t care because it doesn’t make one difference to me who knows and who doesn’t know.
Bottom line is, she’s dying and nothing I do or say is going to change that. What I feel won’t change it either so why can’t I express how I feel? Because you know what? That’s what’s going to make me feel better… to feel things so I can finally let those feelings go.
I’m angry that I had to hold it all in and I don’t want to be angry anymore.
If I could yell at her without killing her, I would. I mean seriously, 6 years!!! I feel like throttling her.
I would say “You’ve spent 6 years dying!!!!!! Why can’t you just make up your fucking mind?! LIVE OR DIE!! JUST PICK ONE AND DO IT ALREADY!”
For 6 years, she’s been sitting somewhere in between…. not yet dead, not exactly living life… and she took us there with her and I’m angry at myself for sitting around waiting.
In 2008 when I visited her, she said something to me like “Maybe it’s time for me to go. I feel like I’ve been made redundant. You’re all (ie all 3 of her children) grown up, you can look after yourselves. You don’t need me anymore.”
I can tell you one thing. I don’t like pity parties… and this was a pity party if ever I saw one. You may think I was harsh but I said something along the lines of the following:
“Fine. If you want to die then die. If you think you’re no longer needed and you’re redundant as a mother then go! If you think we don’t need a mum anymore just because we’re all grown up, if you don’t think it’s worth living to see us get married or to meet your grandchildren, then die because I guess there’s no reason to live anymore is there?”
She always does the opposite of what I say… so she lived, even went into remission.
Right now, I’m back at that point again. Really, it doesn’t matter to me anymore whether she lives or dies especially if her version of living is to be in a constant state of dying.
I just want to get some certainty, feel what I need to feel, let go and move on.
Disclaimer: I told you I was being selfish with this blog. I’m just reminding you of this fact before you start saying that I’m only thinking of myself and going against my mum’s wishes of telling people when it’s my mum who’s got the cancer. I get it, I’m selfish. Go tell my mum, she’ll agree with you.
I also told you I don’t like pity parties. If I wanted to hold one, I’d invite nobody so I can sing “All by myself” all by myself, while accompanying my wailing vocals with the world’s smallest violin. I remind you of this also, so you remember that this blog is a feel and release kind of a blog… ok? It’s not a please feel sorry for me blog… It’s more like the world’s longest, ugliest, smelliest, out there fart in public… that is all. I guess that’s why they call it venting.
Thanks for reading / listening. Now laugh (because farts are funny) and move on before you die from the fumes….