I must confess I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, negative and a little lost lately. So many things have happened and I’ve struggled to keep up with it all. I’ve been unable to write, focus or even summon the energy to respond to emails.
It’s been a tough few months.
2017 has been hard in many ways, even before the chaos of the last few months. Gilbert started high school and struggled to adapt to the greater expectations, work and pressure of Year 7. He has done remarkably well to keep up and keep at it and I’m proud of all he’s achieved, but it’s come at a cost. Anxiety has dogged him all year and it’s been hard to see him continually caught up in its depths.
Matilda is currently in the process of completing her transition to high school. She’s trying to process a whole lot of big and opposing emotions and it’s taking its toll on her. She struggles feeling positive and negative emotions at once and I’ve had to encourage her to draw her feelings as they are too much for her to verbalise. This strategy is helping but it’s still not easy to understand exactly how she’s feeling.
It hasn’t helped that puberty has arrived at a force of knots and everything is an effort right now, for her and for us. It’s the same for Gilbert. So many changes, so many emotions and so much angst!
Like her brother, Matilda’s also fighting anxiety and fear of change. It’s been a challenge to balance their fears while also encouraging them to get to school each day. It’s no surprise that school refusal has been a daily battle and I find myself utterly exhausted after completing the school run. It’s draining to remain calm, patient and understanding every morning, when all I want to do is curl up in bed and avoid the inevitable confrontation, times two.
No wonder I haven’t had the energy or focus to write lately!
Meanwhile, Delilah will no longer have a sibling at school with her next year. I know she’s worried about her sister moving to high school and leaving her behind. She’s had an emotional year, with night anxiety and random fears cropping up regularly, disturbing her peace. I can only hope she will be okay finding her feet, on her own.
If those challenges weren’t enough to deal with, we’ve faced a succession of health issues too. Matilda had abdominal pain late last term, with a suspected “grumbling appendix” (chronic rather than acute appendicitis). She has since recovered but it was a real worry for a while there. We’ve also suffered our fair share of cold and flu, with the entire family currently down for the count with a viral cold.
I’m the latest victim. Suffice to say, I don’t do “being sick” very well!
Things went up a notch a couple of weeks back when Nathan suffered a health scare at work, involving an ambulance ride, two hospitals and a two night admission. His experience affected all of us deeply. Just like my health scare three years ago, it’s forced us to re-evaluate our priorities and the way we live our life. He is okay now but will be closely monitored for a while yet.
The kids were freaked out and I struggled to keep it all together for me, let alone for them. Thank goodness for the support of friends and family, that’s all I can say. I just hope we don’t have any more unexpected hospital visits or health scares – do you hear me, Nathan?
On top of it all, my caring responsibilities have ballooned over the last four months, with several health scares for my mother. First, there was the urgent visit to Bali to support her after she fell and fractured her shoulder. There were a few complications following this visit which led us to follow-up with more testing when we returned home. The result of this led to another serious diagnosis, which requires ongoing monitoring and treatment.
It’s safe to say 2017 has not one of Mum’s better years…
And then, a week or so back, she suffered an additional health scare, landing her in hospital, yet again. It’s been an unbelivably stressful time, involving lots of travel, many appointments and too much uncertainty. And there’s no end in sight yet, with extended family also struggling with various diagnoses plus the fact I need to undergo some additional medical testing myself.
It’s a lot to deal with, process and manage.
I feel I’m in an impossible position at the moment. I have a caring role for three generations and it’s not possible to balance these roles equally. I’m responsible for my kids. I’m responsible for their appointments, activities and wellbeing. I’m responsible for my husband, who needs my love and support, now more than ever. I’m responsible for my Mum, who requires greater care now that she lives on her own and faces some tough times ahead.
I know I can’t do it all. I can’t be there for everyone, whenever they need me. I’ve had to prioritize, make some tough decisions and ask for help. When Mum ended up in hospital the day after Nathan was released from hospital, I had to call for help as I couldn’t leave my family. I’ve also had to call on Nathan’s parents to help with the kids on those days I’m travelling and attending various appointments with Mum.
I’ve had to utilise different strategies to cope. I’ve learned to compartmentalise every issue. I visualise putting an issue in a box, closing the lid and placing it in a cupboard. This helps me acknowledge the issue and accept I need to deal with it, while allowing me to put it aside so I can concentrate on what’s in my open box. I can’t think about it all at once. It’s overwhelming and I’d likely lose it if I tried to open every box.
I’ve had to step back from work and blogging too. After my rush to get my book released and my presentations ready for APAC in September, I was spent and I needed a break. This is the first time I’ve been able to sit down in nearly six weeks to write. I’ve been too drained, emotionally, physically and mentally, to focus on anything other than my family. It feels good to let the words flow but it was also good to live without obligation for a little while.
I’ve also needed to look at the bright side. Life has certainly served up a smorgasboard of lemons this year. I could have let them bury me, but, instead I’m trying to make lemonade.
On the light side, at last count, I’ve racked up visits to six separate hospitals over the last few months. I really think they need to band together and sort out some sort of frequent visitor/loyalty program. Maybe, 5 visits and you get free parking, or, better yet, a free coffee?
I also enjoyed having a week at home with my husband. Sure, we spent most of it attending a multitude of medical appointments, but it was quality time we would not have otherwise had.
I’ve also enjoyed a lot of quality time with Mum over the last few months. As an added bonus, my medical vocabulary is growing exponentially – I was even asked whether I had a medical background by one therapist. Perhaps, I have found a new calling?
There have been plenty of crappy moments in recent times, but there have also been many proud ones too.
Matilda heading off on school camp, despite her anxiety.
Gilbert participating in his showcase evening at school, rocking the ukulele.
Matilda being asked to display her art at a recent digital media festival.
Delilah receiving a silver award at school.
Yes, life can serve you lemons sometimes but the old adage is true – when you are given lemons, turn things around and make some lemonade!
How have you been making lemonade?