It's Carers' Rights Day today and I'm looking back over the past year and what I've learned.
Last year was characterised by panic and emergency. This year we've had our share of emergencies and I've often been overwhelmed, exhausted and frightened, but the hyperventilating midnight panics have worn off and I'm learning to surf the crazy waves like a zen surfer. Patrick Swayze in Point Break, that's me. On a good day, at least.
I've been thinking again about love.
As my panic and desperation to make everything all right recede, there is more room for the simplicity of love.
The love is always there, but lately I'm feeling less resentment, less guilt, and more compassion for Nick, and for myself.
Finding it easier to be present - just hanging out in the room together, spending time. As I get older the concept of "spending" time is interesting and I want to spend it wisely, luxuriously and not let it run through my fingers. Spending time with someone who has a progressive illness makes this particularly apt.
It is really really important to have time out for yourself too, to come back to yourself and re charge your batteries. Loving can't half take it out of you.
Exercise. Humour. Sleep. Friends. Pets. Music. Films, a fabulous book you can escape into, any kind of parallel universe that takes you somewhere else for a while - all these things give you perspective. And nature. Nature is the thing that saves me. And art.
As carers we're all surfing those crazy waves all the time while making it look easy; it's amazing to think how strong and skilled we must be.
What keeps you going when you're looking after someone? And how are you going to celebrate yourself on Carers' Rights Day 2018?
We don’t have the right to claim holiday or sick leave from our caring responsibilities, or the right to any NHS exemptions despite the known effects of caring on health and wellbeing.
Thank goodness then for Matt and his campaign to appeal for carers' rights and for a change in the way they are recognised by the state. This affects the whole social care system - unpaid carers are that important to the status quo.
Please, whether you are reading this as a carer or if you know anyone who cares for a relative or friend, please do add your signature to this petition. Help us to appeal for a change.
There is strength in numbers.
We have found a PA for Nick who has started taking him out for lunch midweek, and she is jolly and sensible and kind. She hasn’t batted an eyelid over the cumbersome wheelchair, while the others had been saying it wouldn’t fit into their cars or that Nick was too heavy to push, and last night she and her partner took him out to a gig!
Invariably I would tell the agency so and beg them for more appropriate timings for the bed-bound and needy, invariably they would promise to "escalate" the issue but we both knew it was the equivalent of closing your eyes and going, La la la I can't hear you.
Really, the whole business of social care, and local authorities using the lowest common denominator for their contract agencies, is just a soul-curdling thing.
So I continue to look for another provider, and this seems to be much harder than you would think as Nick's needs are complex but the address seems to be the real deal breaker, living as he does on the cusp of two postcodes. But in the meantime there is lovely Helen the PA, just for a few hours a week, and oh my goodness what a game-changing blessing that is.
I've had enough of this f***ng muppet and his noise.
(But there was no noise in the flat. I took Nick's radio away six weeks ago and the TV wasn't on. The only sound was the kettle boiling. And Vic shouting.)
What noise, Vic?
He moves closer, right into my space.