Six Months Later

It’s been six months since I’ve written on here and I feel like it’s time to give you all a bit of a catch up on where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to for the last half a year.

My life has quite literally been a rollercoaster since my mum passed away. I can’t describe it any other way. In exactly one week my mum will have been gone for a whole year. That’s 365 days where I  haven’t been able to speak to her, or see her, or have any sort of contact with her, and when next Thursday arrives, I’m predicting that my emotions will be all over the place. I’ll possibly be an emotional wreck, so you might want to avoid me that day, unless you’re fully prepared for the breakdown I may or may not have while you’re here.

So? What’s new?

June 15th 2016 – Mum passed away after a 4-month long battle with cancer.

September 6th 2016 – Doctors appointment for bloods after realising my monthly cycle was 17 days late.

September 7th 2016 – Test came back negative.

October 4th 2016 – Experiencing minor symptoms of pregnancy still; did a cheap 99p pregnancy test in the toilets in town just to put my mind at rest. Test reads positive.

Doctors confirmation a few days later also tests positive.

My life felt like it was over. I’m sorry to say it because I’m fully aware that there are people out there dying to be in that position of seeing the two blue/pink lines appear on the pee stick saying they’re bringing life into the world, but that’s how I felt.

My mum was there for me for the birth of my two daughters and after watching me, and supporting me through two very tough pregnancies and labours, and one child experiencing separation anxiety whilst I was battling crippling agoraphobia, she knew 100% that I never ever wanted to go through pregnancy ever again. I wasn’t strong enough to pull myself out of that level of anxiety again; I simply didn’t have the energy to drag myself out of rock bottom again.

Yet, here I was, finding myself about to be a new mum again. I was petrified.

The first few weeks were hit and miss with my emotions. I’d spend my days feeling extremely anxious about going through pregnancy and labour again, and my nights holding my hand tightly on my tummy and whispering “I love you” to the baby that was inside of me; growing with every minute. Apart from a select few close family members I made the decision not to tell anybody I was expecting. I hadn’t yet made up my mind whether I was even continuing with the pregnancy; my negative thoughts were hitting me hard and I was struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, I knew I couldn’t terminate my pregnancy, not in a million years. I have nothing against people who choose to abort their babies; it’s not an easy decision to make. I just knew it wasn’t a decision I would be making. This basically meant that whether I liked it or not I was going to be a mum to a newborn again, as well as a 4 year old and a 7 year old.

Everything was going well with the pregnancy and I paid to have an early gender scan on 5th January, which was what should have been my mum’s 52nd birthday. I already had two girls so I was adamant I wanted a boy. But fate had other ideas; I was having another princess. And the crazy thing was; until I had my dating scan my original due date was 15th June. A year to the day Mum died. There was no other way to look at this pregnancy than to see it as a gift from Mum.

At 26/27 weeks pregnant I started feeling the anxiety I’d previously felt when I had the agoraphobia creeping back in and it didn’t take long for it to completely take over my life again. At 28 weeks I went to the hospital for a scan, got myself stupidly worked up, had a massive panic attack, and ended up led on the corridor floor at the hospital, surrounded by every other pregnant woman there for scans, countless sonographers, and loads of midwives. My auntie the poor woman had no idea what to do; she was like a rabbit caught in headlights, but she stuck around and waited for the feeling to pass and then helped me calm back down again. From that day she called the attacks my temper tantrums because I had to go down to the floor before passing out. I think she’s the only person ever to have made me giggle about a panic attack!!!

That day the consultant spoke to me about anti-anxiety medication and we agreed that I’d try Sertraline. I was on 25mg for a month, and the first night I took one was absolutely horrendous. I spent the entire night wide awake, sweating ridiculous amounts, and convincing myself that I was crazy and I needed sectioning for my safety. I tried to read articles on my phone about anxiety because this had always helped my irrational thoughts become rational in the past, but my brain told me that if I picked up my phone the signal would interfere with my thoughts. A strange thing to feel, and after reading an article the day after I realised that these ‘all over the place’ thoughts are perfectly normal when starting out on medication. A month into taking them and my anxiety was still horrific. Possibly even worse. I couldn’t go to the hospital for my appointments for fear of another attack, I stopped going out with family, I stayed upstairs the entire time during the day and spent hours and hours fighting back anxious thoughts. How the hell was I expected to look after myself, 2 children and a newborn baby?

Eventually, at around 35 weeks pregnant I felt the effects of the higher dose of medication and I could feel myself becoming less anxious about irrational things, but I was still incredibly anxious about becoming a mum again; especially because this was the only baby I’ve had without my mum there by my side as a birthing partner. She was my rock when I was in labour and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope without her. Part of me told myself that if I couldn’t have her there, I didn’t want anyone to be there other than the midwife delivering my daughter. But I knew I needed support so I’d planned for my Auntie and my sister to be there.

1st June 2017 – I’d been awake most of the night with stupid Braxton hicks which I’d had for months, but the odd one this time was coupled with an ever so slight little back niggle which was new.

5:20am – Still getting the niggles, so I decide to time them to see if there’s any regularity to them whatsoever. 13 minutes, 8 minutes, 3 minutes, 10 minutes, 7 minutes, no nothing regular at all. I went to sleep for an hour or so and at 8:20am went for a wee and at the same time I lost my mucus plug. Labour could still be a few days away but I arranged for my mother in law to take the kids to her house just in case. She was at my house for half 9ish but decided that she would stay with me until my sister arrived at 12 ish, and my sister in law would take the girls with her, just so I wasn’t alone. By 10:30am the pains were getting a little stronger and around every 8 minutes for the majority of them. By 11 I could feel them starting to hurt me and the pains had quickly moved to every 4 minutes. I rang the labour ward to ask if I should go in, and after asking a series of birth related questions, and listening to me have pains, the nurse on the phone said to go in and be checked over. I rang my dad at 11:15 and asked if he could take me to the hospital and my mother in law would come too until my auntie and sister arrived. He said he’d be at my house at 12. 11:30 and I rang my dad back. My pains were now every 2 minutes and really hurting so I wanted to get to hospital sooner. He arrived just before 12 anyway and I felt like my pains were on top of each other and becoming excruciating. We arrived at hospital at 12:20pm and went straight to delivery suite. As soon as I got on the bed I needed to push. At 12:44pm my beautiful daughter was born, with my mother in law and my step mum by my side. The pair of them were amazing birth partners. My midwife Rachel, and the student midwife Sarah were absolutely amazing. Sarah was a first year but she delivered my baby girl into the world perfectly, leading me to need no aftercare for damage done down below. My auntie and sister arrived 15 minutes later and my auntie just burst out crying and apologised countless times for not being there. She couldn’t help it, she was on the way back from picking Deborah up from Manchester. She’s devastated that she missed the birth, but she’s an amazing auntie regardless.

My beautiful daughter was born weighing 7lb 8oz, 53cm long, and I named her Emily Louise.

She’s now 7 days old, and I can’t tell you how much I love her because the words don’t exist to describe it. I’ve felt zero anxiety since I gave birth to her; but I know it can rear it’s ugly head whenever it feels like it, but I absolutely love being a new mum again. Alex and Anya love the bones off her and Anya has taken to being a big sister amazingly well. There isn’t a jealous bone in her body.

Having another baby without my mum around has been one of the most difficult things to get my head round. Knowing my mum won’t ever meet her is heartbreaking to say the least, because she would absolutely adore Emily. I’m not a superstitious person at all but I truly believe that Emily is a gift from Mum. It almost feels like it’s her way of grabbing me by the shoulders, looking me in the eye and saying, “Alison, you can do this. You’re a strong person and you need to see for yourself how strong you can be even when you don’t try.” I’m so much calmer with Emily than I was after Anya’s birth and I’m honestly in love all over again.

In a weeks time it’ll be the one year anniversary of mum’s death. She will have been gone for 365 days. Of those days I’ve spent 268 of them pregnant, 7 days of them being a new mum, and every second of every day missing my mum like crazy, all while suffering from the most crippling anxiety ever, and having to open up to a lot more people this time round because Mum isn’t here to help. But guess what ..?

I’m still here.

I’m alive.

I’m fighting.

I’m doing amazing.

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It’s All Too Much.

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When we opened the box for the decorations this year we found no less than 31 unused foil decorations, not to mention the tinsel and baubles. I think my mum thought she lived in a mansion!

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The tree we decorated this year. Nowhere near as beautiful as she would have done it but I hope we did her proud.

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The reason behind me being so quiet lately, isn’t that I haven’t had anything to say, nor is it that I’ve necessarily been too busy. It isn’t even because I’ve been struggling, because don’t get me wrong, I’m struggling now more than ever, but the reason I haven’t posted for about a month is purely because I haven’t been able to put anything in words to make up a half decent sentence. I’ve tried to write a blog post a few times over the last few weeks, but I’ve had that much going on in my head I had no idea what direction to take the post in so if I had have written one, it wouldn’t have made any sense whatsoever. In fact, it would have probably been the written equivalent of a toddler attacking a canvas with as many different colours as they could.

This year hasn’t been a good one for me, regardless of what anyone thinks, there is literally not one single thing that has made this year anything other than shit. I’m naturally an overly anxious person, and everything this year has thrown at me has just made it all ten times worse and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it other than try my hardest to keep my chin up and stay strong. And I’m trying, I really am, and some days are good, whether it’s because I’ve started to feel anxious but managed to shake it off and carry on with my day, or whether it’s because I haven’t had any anxiety at all. Then other days are awful, those are the days when anxiety strikes, and panic moves in-for what seems like an eternity, and on those days I can’t function as a person. I stress, I cannot concentrate, I don’t open my laptop, I don’t look at pictures, I rarely answer my phone, and on these days all I do is either lie on the couch with my kids and watch movies, or we all sit at the table colouring and drawing. Even though those are my bad days, I don’t mind having them, well, obviously at the time I do, but when I look back on them I realise how much I loved those kind of days with my own mum, just me and her, or even my sister too, just colouring, or reading, or watching movies, and then I smile because my own children are bringing me memories of my own childhood that at the time I didn’t think were particularly important or significant.

At this time of year so much is happening that I find myself struggling to keep up. I have all my assignments that I’m rushing to get finished in time, which I find really strange because when I was looking after Mum I always had my assignments finished well before deadline, and back then I had nowhere near as much time as I do now. Perhaps it’s because when Mum was still here, doing my uni work was my way of taking myself out of the world for a little while and focusing on something else. Anyway, I’m still aiming to get high grades this year, though I’m not too convinced I’ll get them, I can at least say I’ve tried. When I had my one to one tutorial with my tutor last week she said something that really made me want to work my ass off and get my degree. She told me that when I graduate, and I go up on stage and collect my degree she will be cheering particularly loud because she, and all my other tutors are proud of what I’ve achieved with everything I’ve got going on. Now I know some people would read this and be a little miffed, because I’m not the only one whose had a tough time this year, and I’m not the only one whose struggling with things, but I tell you one thing, I wouldn’t wish my year on my worst enemy, but I would LOVE for just one person who is sceptical about whether I really have struggled with everything this year to go through what I have been through this year. Everything, from every single appointment, to every single bit of news, to every single bit of negativity and every single event, just to see if they’d change their mind about how they think.

On top of all the uni work I need to do, it’s also coming up to Christmas, and also to the six months mark. Knowing it’s only a couple of days away from being 6 months since Mum died is hard by itself, but the fact that it’s also Christmas soon makes it ten times harder. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, I am crying as I write this bit, purely because I really cannot get my head around the fact that I am about to celebrate my first Christmas without Mum here. Birthdays, mother’s days, anniversaries of her death, her diagnosis, her funeral, her burial, they’re all hard enough, but Christmas in particular, feels like it’s the hardest. I’m almost certain a lot of my family feel the same way about this season. You see, Christmas time was when my Mum turned into a big kid, ask anyone who truly knew her and ask what her house was like at Christmas. Before she met Neil, Christmas was just Christmas to her. I don’t ever remember her going over the top with the decorations, she always made it a magical day for us all and we always got a mountain of presents each, and she always made the most amazing Christmas dinners. One thing Mum was always good at making was a cracking roast dinner. When Neil moved in that’s when Christmas changed for Mum, and there’s no way I can explain why, or how she changed, but she did and Christmas suddenly became this magical holiday and instead of doing the whole keeping up with the Jones’ thing that everybody had going on, it was keeping up with Karen, except it was pointless even trying because nobody stood a chance. She spent hours and hours watching the shopping channels on TV looking for decorations for Christmas which would stand out, ones that not just anyone could buy from the shops, and we’d always take trips to as many garden centres as possible so she could pick a new colour tinsel and baubles every single year, and she always went over the top.

November 1st; as soon as Halloween was over with the decorations came out, and that’s the day they got put up, just don’t ask me when they came down because if they did come down at all, the date was nearer to April! Everything would be strategically placed on the floor, either in boxes, or in nice neat piles on the chairs ready to be put up wherever she wanted it. It would always be a big family thing that we all did together, with Christmas music being on so loud we could barely hear her asking us what to pass over. The tree was her thing. She’d find the perfect place to put it, then separate the branches perfectly before wrapping a mound of lights around it, bearing in mind it’s a fibre optic tree so it’s already covered in lights anyway, but Mum’s motto was “you can never have too much.” Then she’d place the baubles on the branches so that baubles of the same colour were never touching, and everything was spaced out evenly, and once she was satisfied, she’d ask everyone if it looked okay, admire her work for a few minutes whilst she had a fag, and then she’d wrap a shed load of tinsel around the tree, basically hiding everything she’d just done. Once the tree was finished it would be time to do everything else, and this was when tempers started and the arguments kicked in. Mum never just stopped at the tree, which got bigger every year! Oh no, no, no, there was wall decorations, ceiling decorations, clocks, pictures, cushions, throws, teddies, ornaments, baskets, calendars, and a lot of those really annoying singing ornaments that light up and only ever seem to come with an on switch and have batteries that last for years!

After hours and hours of placing things where they looked good, and countless “hold it higher,” “too high,” “too low,” “don’t let go,” and “NEILLLLLL” the house was decorated. Now, from the outside you’d never ever tell that there were any decorations because she never focused on the outside of the house, she preferred to be able to admire her handy work whenever she pleased. Once you walked into the house you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d just walked through the gates of Narnia and into another realm. It was insane! There wouldn’t be a single part of the living room that was left untouched, and you can ask anyone you like, when it was finished the walls looked like they’d had acupuncture from the amount of pins stuck in them to hold up the foil decorations, the ceiling was probably only being held up by the hundreds of little gold tacks holding up the ceiling decorations which Neil, being 6 foot something had to manoeuvre his way through whenever he wanted to get to the kitchen, the carpet looked like twenty-five glitter bombs had gone off from the excess that had come off the baubles, and instead of putting the tinsel on the tree it looked like she’d shredded it and decorated the floor. We spent days finding glitter EVERYWHERE, us poor kids looked like an extra decoration. But that was Christmas, it was amazing, it was magical and each and every year we loved it.

That’s why this year Christmas is going to be difficult this year, I’m not feeling the Christmas spirit much and if it wasn’t for my kids I probably wouldn’t want to celebrate at all. I’m dreading that moment on Christmas day when all the kids presents have been opened, the meal has been eaten, visitors have stopped coming, and I have those few minutes where I get lost in my own thoughts and have a cry because I’ll be thinking about my Mum. At that particular time I’ll go up to her tree and speak to her, wish her merry Christmas and have a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

I probably won’t be posting again before the new year now, but Merry Christmas xx

My Weakness Is My Strength.

7853d6e1d43f721333f3c46e71165759It’s no secret that I’ve spent most of my adult life battling against crippling anxiety and it’s a battle that I not only have to put up with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it’s a battle I feel like I’m losing. The thing with anxiety is that it’s constant, there’s no stop or start time, there’s no magic cure, and there’s no quick fix. For some people there are triggers which set off their anxiety, so they have a slight upper hand in the sense that they can avoid those god awful panic attacks if they try hard enough. I used to think I had a trigger, but I was wrong. I have several. Being outside in places where there is no quick exit, public transport, feeling sick, feeling dizzy, being too hot, not having money or food in my bag incase I feel faint at any point, the list goes on.

Anxiety is a tough illness to explain, especially to those who don’t suffer from it. To those who are ignorant to it, it simply sounds like something someone has that makes them nervous and on edge. Those people don’t understand that it’s not like that at all. For me personally, anxiety makes me very wary of the world that surrounds me, I am very aware of my body and when I don’t quite feel right, and I have to know what I’m doing during the day so I can prepare myself for it. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. A 26-year-old woman, too afraid to go on public transport, too afraid to go shopping incase the queues are too long, too afraid to get drunk because I don’t like being dizzy, all these fears increase because I’m afraid of having a panic attack. But for me, that’s my fear, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can fight against it and go on a bus, like I did this morning to take my daughter to nursery, but it doesn’t help me, I still have the same fears the next time I have to go on a bus. Just because I do it once doesn’t mean I’m suddenly cured, like people seem to think.

If my heart starts to race for whatever reason, I panic. I cannot cope with any sort of hyperventilating. My biggest fear is anything medical related. I hate going to the doctors, I hate having blood tests or injections, and I hate waiting in waiting rooms, especially at the hospital. I usually always get a sudden wave of panic, unless I’m seen almost right away. And let’s face it. This is Britain, that rarely happens.

But one thing I hate more than anything, as I’m sure is the same with everyone who suffers from anxiety, is admitting that I’m a wreck, admitting that I’m a mess, and admitting that I can’t cope with fighting this battle on a daily basis. But I do it. I’m still here to fall asleep every night, and I’m still here to wake up every morning. I don’t just do that because I’ve got kids. I do it because I am my mother’s daughter.

Like my Mum, I’m stubborn. I refuse to let life weigh my down and I refuse to let it drag me down and keep me at rock bottom, I’ve been there and I have no intentions of ever revisiting that horrible place. Like my mum, I’m strong. I know I am even if sometimes I don’t feel very strong. Some times I feel like I want to break down, and on the odd occasion I do, I allow myself to cry, a lot, alone, and it makes me feel like the weakest person on Earth for allowing myself to break down. But then, when I wake up after crying myself to sleep at night, I smile, I look at my beautiful children, and I realise, I allowed myself to cry, and now I feel okay, and that is pure strength. I want to teach my children that it’s okay to cry, and that it’s okay to feel weak, and it’s okay to let yourself fall down, and to rely on others to pick you up. I want my children to be like me, because I’m like my mum, and if my girls can be as strong as she was, and I can be as strong as she was, then I know we have the best fighting chance in this world. But one thing I don’t want my children to do, which  is something I do often, and that’s not speaking up when they feel upset, or down.

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Those around me keep telling me they’re there for me, and they tell me that if I ever need them then I know where they are, and it’s true, and I know that all I have to do is message them and tell them how bad I’m feeling, and they’ll ring me, or call round to mine, or sit texting me until the early hours of the morning, but I can’t bring myself to tell them when I’m feeling this way. And it wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I realised why I have such trouble doing this. It’s not because I don’t want to speak up, and it’s not because I don’t want help, it’s purely because when I’m feeling low, or I’m having a panic attack, or I need someone to talk to, the one and only person I want to ring, and the one and only person I used to ring in times of need was my Mum. She was the first person I rang when I had a bad day, or a good day, or something new happened, and she had a special way of just making me feel better. I don’t know how she did it, I think it’s just mother’s intuition, I have it with my own children. I could ring my auntie’s, or my best friend, or my siblings, but none of them can help me in the way she could. So a lot of the time I find myself crying into her wedding ring, begging for her help, begging for her to keep me strong, and wishing she was here. I don’t want my family to take offence or get annoyed that I don’t tell them when I’m feeling this way, I don’t mean anything bad by it, I just want them to understand that it’s just who I am, and I haven’t yet accepted that I have to find other people to talk to when I need my mum.

Although, there are a few people I’m learning slowly to speak to and be honest with. My Auntie Kelly is one, my friends Jemma, Matt and Katie are others, my friends from uni, Danielle and Natalie are a couple more, and occasionally I’ll speak to others who have lost loved ones because grief has brought us together. But mostly, I’ll speak to my little sister Deborah. Words will never come close to explaining just how amazing that girl is. She understands my anxiety and my worries more than anybody and she knows when I’m having a bad day and will always go out of her way to ring me and cheer me up. She’s crazy, and she drives me insane sometimes, but I love her to bits.

I’m aware this post has been mostly about myself and my own battles, rather than my journey through grief after losing my mum, but I’m hoping this post will help those who read it why I am the way I am.

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xxx

It Will Be Them One Day.

Firstly, like I’ve said in my most recent blog posts, apologies for not posting regularly.

It’s been a strange few weeks I’ve had recently. It’s almost like my grief has been paused while the rest of my life tries to catch up, but its done that and more, my life has rushed so far ahead all of a sudden that I can’t keep up. My anxiety has come back with a vengeance, and it’s a mean one at that. It’s becoming almost uncontrollable again, and that’s something I absolutely don’t want. The last time I lost control of my anxiety was shortly after I had given birth to Anya and I ended up with agoraphobia .. which is not something you want when you have a newborn baby to care for.

It’s been tough trying to gain control over my own mind again, which sounds silly, but anyone who has experience with the nightmare that is an anxiety disorder, you’ll understand, and I’ve just taken everything in baby steps. I’ve taken a couple of weeks off university and placement, and pretty much stayed in, through choice, going out occasionally. I feel like I’m getting there, slowly.

I’m not sure whether this sudden pause in my journey is down to everything suddenly hitting me at once, or something else, but whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll manage.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I’ve come to a decision. I have ONE mum. I will only ever have ONE mum. Nobody, not one single person, no matter how amazing they are, will ever replace her, and I will never allow them to. Lately I’ve felt like a few people have been pushing her out a little bit, either from their lives, or mine, whether it’s in the way they speak, the way they act, or something else, it’s simply just how I feel. It’s like the rest of the world is moving on, while I’m here, stuck in one place, unable to move forward, only moving back. It hurts, feeling like I should forget she was here, or like I should move on, but I’m not going to apologise or feel bad for saying anything about her. My mum was the most amazing woman on this planet, not one single person comes anywhere even close to being as amazing as she was, so it’s pointless trying to take her place.

But lately, when I think about the day when I eventually see her again, it’s felt like a bit of a hard smack in the face with a sharp object. I’m looking forward to seeing her, so much. They say that in heaven a second passes for every year on Earth, so though it might be 50+ years for me, it will be less than a minute for my mum. However, for me to be able to see her again it means I have to say goodbye to my own beautiful children. It means I have to leave them without a mum, grieving just the same as I am now. My only hope is that when my time is up, I am old, with a lifetime of memories behind me, and I won’t have spent my final months fighting a horrible disease with my children around to watch. While my journey through grief is so new, and so fresh in my head, I’m planning on writing letters to my children, explaining to them how to live without a mum. I understand to some this might sound completely morbid, but I feel it’s something I need to do. My mum tried in vain to help me understand what it would be like, because she had lost her mum at a young age, but nothing prepared me for this. I so desperately wish I had videos of her just to I could see her smile, or hear her voice one more time, but it’s not something I ever took. We never really appreciated family photos until we found out mum didn’t have long left, and then we took plenty, but it’s sad because on each one we know she’s ill, and we’re reminded of a time when we had to watch our world fall apart day by day as we watched the deterioration in her. I never want to leave my children, but I know that one day that choice will be taken away from me, and it’s hard to accept. Had I not had children before mum died, I can 100% guarantee that I would have opted to never have any because I couldn’t bear to imagine leaving them in the same situation as I’m in now. But to not have children would mean that I’d never know true happiness, and I’d never fully understand what people mean when they say “unconditional love”.

Death. It’s such a morbid subject, that practically nobody wants to talk about. It’s something I’ve found myself thinking about a lot lately, and though shortly after my mum died I didn’t think I was afraid of dying anymore, I’ve realised how wrong I was to think that. My mum died when she was 51. My auntie was in her mid 50s, my grandma was in her early 60s. My grandma had cancer, but it wasn’t cancer that ended her life, she died suddenly in her sleep. My Auntie had cancer, my mum had cancer. The chances of me getting cancer are pretty high I’d imagine, and I’m 26 .. how do I know I’m not already half way to dead? It’s truly terrifying.

My main fear is having my life defined by a tough battle with a terrible illness. I’ve watched far too many people fight with cancer and lose, and I don’t want to be another one.

Life has a way of throwing us around and giving us a false sense of security, before throwing us in the deep end with no way of resurfacing. I plan to keep paddling as long and as hard as I can. Whatever my future holds.

I’m Hurting.

I’m hurting. The pain is raw and agonising. It feels like a hot knife being slowly and excruciatingly dragged through my fragile heart over and over again, stabbing back into the top once it reaches the bottom, only to repeat the painful motion once more. The pain is so intense, and no matter how much I try, I cannot scream, I cannot stop the pain and I cannot make it go away. All I can do is lie motionless, unable to move, unable to alert anyone to my pain. Tears stream down my face as I plead so intensely with my mind to stop feeling the pain, but the more I try, the more it hurts. I close my eyes and lie still for what seems an eternity, and when I open my eyes the pain has stopped, the darkness has lifted, and as I look down towards my chest to assess the damage, I see there’s nothing there. Not a scratch, not a scar. The entire thing was all inside my head, my own mind tricking me into thinking the pain I felt was physical. My own mind; my worst enemy.

But you see, that’s exactly what my pain feels like. After I lost my mum I felt, and still feel, a complete whirlwind of emotions. Anger, sadness, fear, guilt, small bouts of joy from time to time, but mostly confusion. The pain I feel from losing her is one of the mind. The constant reminders of the fact that she’s gone, and the constant memories of her whizzing round in my head, they hurt. It’s idiotic to assume that a person only feels grief within their mind, and it’s stupid to assume that the person who is succumbed to that grieving process will only feel sadness. I feel an array of emotions on an hourly basis when I am reminded that my mum has gone, but the pain is raw, and it’s physical. I feel the pain in my heart; when it feels emptiness once I think about Mum’s short battle with a vile disease. I feel the pain in my chest; when I’ve cried for so long that my lungs and throat are burning from doing that heart-breaking sob that little kids do when they’ve hurt themselves. I feel the pain in my eyes and my cheeks; when I’ve been crying for so long that I’ve rubbed what feels like ten layers of skin off my face from unnecessarily drying my eyes, and the salt water from the tears is beginning to burn the raw skin. I just feel pain, well, everywhere.

I’ve been through some awful shit in my life, from a crappy childhood and school aged bullying, to my parent’s divorcing and experiencing a lifetime battle with anxiety. However, in all those years when I’ve battled with whatever it’s thrown at me, this year has by far been the worst. I remember saying at the end of last year that 2016 was going to be my year, and I couldn’t have been anymore wrong if I’d asked for it on purpose. Mum was diagnosed on 11th February, on the 15th she was moved into palliative care because there was nothing more that could be done for her, some time in April she was told she had a life expectancy of 6 months from diagnosis, and on 15th June she lost her life. You’d think that the universe had had enough of throwing stuff at me, but it would appear not. I’d say I’ll be glad when this year is over with, but that’s a pointless thing to say because this is my life now, living in constant grief, remembering every day that I no longer have a mum, and desperately wanting time to fly by so I can get to a day when I no longer feel constant sorrow, but also desperately wanting to stay as close to this year and its memories for as long as possible for fear of eventually forgetting.

As much as I don’t feel like I am, I know I’m a strong person deep inside, and I know I deal with things really well, considering how other’s could and probably would deal with the stuff I’ve been through. But it’d nice if the world would give me a break every once in a while. I’m trying my best to live through grief, raise my children, and get a degree, but there’s only so much more I can take before I explode.

Apologies for not writing for a while by the way, it’s just been a really, really tough week and I’ve had some things to do for myself, and I haven’t felt like focusing on writing much.

Thanks for reading.

Telling Everyone She’s Gone.

“She’s gone.”
“My mum’s died.”
“It’s happened.”

All of the things I never in a million years wanted to say, but this year, on June 15th, they’re the things I pretty much said the most. It’s not something I can honestly say I think about, telling people, but today I began thinking about how I managed to do it on the day mum died, only seconds after she took her last breath.

Mum died at 7:40am on the morning of 15th June 2016. We had already been told less than 48 hours previously by her Macmillan nurse Jo, that we were on our final couple of days with her, so we knew it was going to happen soon. This is why the night before Deborah suggested us all spending the night at mum’s so that we could have one final night together, so that none of us had to take the burden on our own, so that we could all try to get a bit of sleep, and most of all, so that my youngest brother who slept downstairs didn’t have to be the one to wake up and find her not breathing. I genuinely don’t think he’d have coped with that at all. Martyn, my older brother was already staying the night at mum’s anyway, Deborah arrived late that night, and I went at about 11pm. That last night with her wasn’t nice, but I’m glad we did it. I was planning on going over the morning after at about 8am, and if I had waited until then I’d have been arriving to the house with the news that she’d gone, and I couldn’t have lived with myself if I wasn’t there for her.

If you’ve read previous posts you’re probably already aware of what happened that night, but I’ll tell you again, just because it’s a night that sticks in my head.

When I arrived mum’s skin had already started to change colour in the areas of her extremities, her toes, her fingers, and her face, had gone quite pale, almost like a grey colour, and I’m presuming that’s because the oxygen in her body wasn’t reaching these parts as much as it should do. Mum was put on an oxygen machine a few weeks previous but she came off it for good on the Monday when she had the syringe driver put in, and this was to avoid prolonging the process between life and death.

We all spent most of the night talking amongst ourselves, laughing and joking as we always did. Mum must have thought we were right weirdo’s if she could have heard us, but I hope it was a comfort for her hearing us all sat in one room, supporting each other, laughing and giggling and trying to make light of the situation. It was the way our family dealt with this situation from day one, we always tried to make a laugh out of it somehow. From me and mum completely crying with laughter when her legs gave way in the bathroom at Preston hospital, to calling her tumour Timmy the fat t*at tumour, there was a giggle there one way or another.

Anyway, as the night went on, well early morning really, mum’s breathing became louder, and her chest was moving up and down less, but when it did it rose higher, as if she was trying to get more oxygen, but she didn’t seem to be fighting for it. As she breathed she’d make a noise, almost like a croaky rattle, which was slightly comforting because it meant we could close our eyes and still hear her breathing. Kurt spent the night upstairs with Neil watching TV in his bedroom. I think he was afraid, like the rest of us, but with him being so young I think upstairs was the best place for him. Nobody needs to witness someone’s final moments, especially not their mum’s, and not at 13 years old. Jordan went upstairs at 3ish I think, and Martyn went to sleep on the floor around the same time. Me and Deborah curled up on the couch listening to our music, and at 6am Kurt came downstairs. I think he just needed his older siblings to comfort him. I gave him a cuddle and told him to lie where I was and get some sleep. I moved over to the armchair and as Deborah fell asleep, and so did Kurt, I put my music on, presuming we were in for another long day.

7:30am – I’m curled up on the armchair at the back of the room. I can’t see mum because I’m behind her but I keep looking over to the bed. I put my earphones on and start listening to music. I listen to a couple of songs and then after skipping a dozen I turn the iPod off. I can’t concentrate on the lyrics, and I don’t want to fall asleep while everyone else is dozing. I put the iPod back in my bag and look over at the bed. Mum’s arm is hanging over the edge. Why? The most she’s moved for the last 24 hours is to itch her face or pull at her top, presumably telling us she’s a bit hot, or it’s twisted. Her arm hanging over the bed is unusual for mum. I get up off the chair and stand, carefully avoiding standing on Martyn, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about my brother over the years, it’s never wake him up when he’s sleepy! I look over at mum and realise her eyes are wide open. She’s still taking one big breath every 5 seconds or so, and then nothing for the next 5. I remember my Auntie Kelly telling me that she might open her eyes just before she goes. Her words exactly were, “if she does open her eyes, be there, don’t leave her.” I look over to her, grab here hand and tell her I’m here. I tell her I love her and kiss her cheek while gently squeezing her hand. In this moment I feel strength. I lean over so she can see I’m there, but her eyes never meet mine. They’re staring towards the ceiling, and as I look up I realise. She’s either looking at the photograph of all her kids on the top of the bookshelf, or there’s someone come to take her away; something she so strongly believed. I wake Martyn up to tell him it’s time. I go upstairs to get Jordan and ask him to take Kurt upstairs. He doesn’t need to see this, and I can’t promise everything will go smoothly. Deborah wakes up just before mum takes her final breath. Mum isn’t alone, we’re all there, we each tell her we love her and let her leave in peace, knowing she’s loved with every piece of our beings.

7:40am – She’s gone. Mum’s taken her final breath and there won’t be anymore. At this point I didn’t feel sorrow, I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t cry and break down, I felt strong, I felt like it wasn’t the right time to cry, and I don’t think Martyn or Deborah shed a tear at this point either. Martyn takes on the task of closing mum’s eyes and mouth, to make sure they stay closed when rigor mortis sets in, and I rang Auntie Arlene to tell her mum had gone. Still no tears. I rang Auntie Kelly to tell her the same thing. Still no tears. Auntie Arlene arrived and called the doctor out to come and confirm her death. Still no tears. District nurses arrived to remove all the medical equipment. Still no tears. The funeral directors came around 10ish (I think) so they could take mum’s body** to the chapel, and that’s when the tears flooded. I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t control them. They just kept coming and coming. It appeared that the adrenaline had worn off and the truth hit me. Watching mum’s body** come out of her house, on a metal bed, covered in a black body bag, was heart breaking and it’s  a memory I hate, but I will never be able to forget. The outside world continued exactly how it would have done any other day, not a care in the world that my mum’s body** was being taken away, a part of my life missing forever. It started to rain but me and my family stayed outside, pacing the streets, looking for anything or anyone to tell us it was all just a horrible dream, our cheeks stained with tears, and our shoulders stained with the tears of our loved ones trying their best to offer some sort of condolences.

**I feel very strongly about saying body, simply because as soon as my mum took her last breath her soul had gone. Her inner person is the part that left Earth to be with other relatives who had gone, her physical body, the one we could see, was the only part of her left with us. It wasn’t my mum who had been taken in a body bag, and it wasn’t my mum who was cremated at the funeral, it was simply the cage her soul was kept in until the day it was set free.

My dad was away on holiday on a cruise at the time so contacting him was difficult, but I’m guessing my brother or sister texted him to tell him what had happened because I got a phone call off him at dinner time. He said he was sorry he couldn’t be with us at this awful time, and tried to make sure we were all going to be okay. He was coming home a couple of days later, and truth be told, I couldn’t wait to see him. He asked me to contact his sister to tell her about mum, which I did. After that, messages started pouring in left, right and centre from people I knew offering their deepest sympathies, and ensuring me that if there was anything they could do to help they would. But more than anything, it was people apologising for my loss. None of it helped, none of it made me feel any better, because nothing anyone could say or do would change the situation, it wouldn’t bring mum back, and it wouldn’t have changed her diagnosis.

For those people who didn’t know about mum I left a Facebook status informing every one of mum’s death, and again this was met with deepest sympathies from everyone. I’m almost certain I cried myself to sleep that night, and a few nights after too.

I’ve got no idea where the strength came from to tell people my mum had passed away, and I guess that’s why I began this blog. It’s my outlet, it’s my go-to place when I’m feeling down or having thoughts about mum, and it’s my way of informing those who care how I feel, without feeling like I’m shoving it in everyone’s faces.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the day mum died, it hurts to think about it, but the reality is that this is my life. I DON’T have a mum anymore, I have a guardian angel instead. It’s hard, and it won’t get easier. I’m just doing all I can to keep talking about her and keep her in my thoughts.

Today me and my brother went up to tidy the tree a bit. The flowers are still blooming well to say they’re spring flowers, and the buds on the tree are starting to open up. I’m even impressed with my photography 😀

It’s Just Not Fair.

First of all, my apologies for leaving it so long to post another blog on here, I’ve been otherwise occupied.

As most of you are aware I’m currently on my second year at university and the teaching, and the independent study, and the homework, have all been REALLY time-consuming. I’ve literally spent almost every spare minute I have doing uni work to a degree and it’s meant that my blog has taken a back seat for a little while. I can’t promise I’ll get to post every week but I’ll post as often as I can without disrupting study time, or time with my girls. I’ve made it onto my second year with flying colours and not had to do a single tweak to any of my assignments, and it’s just made me so determined to get through the second year and come out with a commendation (B grades and above). I’ve really knuckled down and I’m starting my year off being organised as much as I can.

Tuesday just gone (27th) was also my first day at my volunteer placement and I absolutely loved it. For anyone who doesn’t yet know, I’ve signed myself up to volunteer for 3 hours a week to begin with at my local hospital. This is the same hospital Mum had most of her tests, and it’s the hospital we were in when we were given the devastating news that the reason mum had so much pain in her back was due to a cancerous spinal tumour, amongst other cancers she was diagnosed with later on. When we got to the hospital on the day of her diagnosis we were sent up to the acute medical unit B, (AMU-B) where mum had a bed and was taken from the bed bay to the CT room, the MRI room, and then back to the bay to await results. The staff on this ward was so kind to mum, and it was clear that they knew what was wrong with her a while before we did because they had access to her medical records and they knew why she was having certain tests. Anyway, I was initially going to be working in the A&E department, but when I arrived for my induction the week previous to starting I was being moved to AMU-B. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but when I had time to think properly about it, I decided that it was the best way for me to get over my fear of hospitals and it’d be like throwing myself in at the deep end. Well, it didn’t get much deeper than working on the ward my mum spent some of her time before being transferred for specialist care in Preston.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first day, and I even worked alongside the nurse who was the one who fitted mum’s cannula the day she got to the ward. The vein ended up collapsing so the nurse had to retry with the needle, and there was blood everywhere, and me being me, the wuss that I am, practically passed out. I’m immensely proud of myself for not only throwing myself in at the deep end, but proving that I can swim. And I can’t help but feel that I have an advantage to working on the unit, because not only have I witnessed my mum receive devastating news while on that ward, but I’ve also been in the position of the families who are being told their loved one has a terminal illness, or a horrible disease that changes lives. I can not only sympathise, but I can empathise, and the difference is huge. I can’t wait to go back next week.

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I know my mum would be so proud of me

 

In terms of how I’m doing without mum, truthfully, it’s not good. On the outside I might look fine, I smile, I laugh, I eat, I sleep, I don’t break down, and I don’t contact people to say I’m feeling shit. But the truth is, I’ve just become a professional liar. I hide my sadness, I eat because I need to, I smile because my kids need to know I’m okay and it’s easier to smile and pretend I’m okay, I sleep because I’m exhausted from fighting the demons in my head who are begging me to understand what not having mum here means, and I hide my tears by crying in my own time, or pretending I’ve yawned to explain the watery eyes.

The reality is that I’m broken. I’m a mess. I’m not the girl I was before mum became ill. I’m never going to be that girl again. I’m always going to have a massive part of me missing from my heart, my mind, my soul, and my life. To someone on the outside my mum was “just another death.” People die every day, and when we’re don’t know that person, or don’t have a bond with them, we simply don’t feel the loss, but rather we feel a natural occurrence. But to me, death is different now. When other family members have died I’ve felt the pain, I’ve felt the sadness, and I’ve experienced the grief. Mum’s death was nothing compared to all of that. I feel utter sadness and disbelief every damn second of every single minute. I apologise to anyone I hurt with the wording of this next sentence, but it almost feels like it’s easier to forget she existed, than it is to remember that she’s gone. I try not to think about my childhood memories I have with mum despite them constantly being at the forefront of my mind. And as I sit here, tears streaming down my face as I write about the harsh reality of what’s going on inside my head, I now realise why my mind embraced the short break from blog writing. It’s mentally exhausting trying to make sense of what’s going on in my head, especially when I don’t even understand it.

Now more than ever, I feel like I’ve done the one thing I didn’t think I’d do and pushed myself away from everyone, but I’m beginning to accept that this is simply just my way of coping. I stay in contact with those I need to. It’s unbelievable the amount of people I suddenly don’t hear from anymore since mum passed away, the amount of friends I no longer hear from is shameful. I’ve managed this far on my own, and I intend to carry on. I was speaking to my little brother the other day and we were saying how we’ve been keeping ourselves busy, and that’s purely because that’s exactly how mum got through everything, she didn’t wallow, she didn’t let it drag her down, and regardless of how impossible winning the fight was, she still fought. It’s my lifelong mission to do as much as I can now to make my mum proud when we meet again. I will overcome my fear of hospitals, I will teach my girls what’s important in life, I will graduate with a good grade, and I will change my life in the best way I possibly can.

It physically hurts thinking about what it means to not have mum here today, and it hurts even more when I think about the short battle she had with her illness, and it hurts even more than that when I think about my future without mum here. When I finished my first shift on the ward on Tuesday I pulled my phone out my pocket, and I was just about to ring mum to tell her how my first day went, and then the usual happened where my heart sank and I tried not to look disappointed.

I have my wall full of photos of mum directly across from where I’m sitting now, and as I look at them all I notice one thing more than anything, on each and every picture she’s smiling. On some pictures, if you look close enough, you can see the sadness, the fear, and the pain in her eyes, but on the pictures where she’s with me, or her other kids, her smile is genuine, her eyes show love, and her position is always leant towards us. I have pictures of her with her arms around me and they make me cry more than most, because as much as I didn’t want to, I’ve forgotten what it felt like, no matter how hard I try to recall that memory it just doesn’t work. It’s painful looking at those photos and knowing just how hard it was for mum to hug us again after she became bedbound. She was always so loving growing up, and she used any excuse to wrap her arms around us. Knowing I’ll never feel that again hurts deep inside, and I always make sure my girls get plenty of kisses and cuddles, and I tell them I love them at every single opportunity.

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Anya’s recently started something new and it just melts my heart. She normally kisses the ring on my chain because I told her it was a magical way of getting kisses all the way up to heaven, but last night and tonight she told me she wanted to kiss my hand, which I thought nothing of, then she told me to do the same, so, not wanting to upset my clearly not tired 3-year-old I did. Then she pointed my hand up to the ceiling and blew it really hard. When I asked what she was doing, she said she was blowing the kisses really hard up to the sky for Grandma Karen. I gave her the biggest squeeze ever, I can’t believe I created something so perfect. I’m so proud of the little ladies both my girls are becoming, I just wish so much that I had pictures of them with mum to give to them. Who knows, maybe I can find someone whose really good with Photoshop and come up with an idea somehow?

While I could sit here and write all day about mum, I’ve got a mound of uni work to get through so I’m going to have to call it a night. Hopefully I’ll feel up to going up to the tree this weekend. I went up a couple of weekends ago purely just to check if the solar lights were working, and they were. I need to start planning how to make it look Christmassy without breaking cemetery rules. Any ideas?

Love you mum, forever and always xxx