A Colouring Book for Carers (Geography saved my life)
Geography kind of saved my life last year. Once upon a time it might have been a DJ I guess, but my son is the night clubber of the house these days.
In the first few terrifying weeks of my brother arriving in Sheffield and me realising just how ill he was and how completely reliant on me, I walked around in a state of grief and shock.
One day, absolutely banjaxed by everything and wondering how the hell to go on, I noticed that the local branch of MIND was just opposite Nick’s flat, and I just went in.
I knew there would be massive waiting lists for counselling and didn’t think I stood a chance, but I just needed to talk to somebody. It was just pure luck that it was across the road from Nick, literally within shouting distance of his front room.
To my amazement there was a free counselling programme available for carers in their fifties and I could put my name down for it and be seen fairly soon, and in the meantime let’s have a chat and take some details…
Even doing that was helpful, being able to say out loud what was happening and feeling not quite so alone. It’s one of the biggest things for new carers, that utter clobbering of overwhelming emotions - guilt, fear, rage, exhaustion, sorrow and a love that you don’t know what to do with. It’s no wonder that for most of us in that situation, mental health takes a steep decline. You spend so much time and emotional energy looking after this vulnerable person that it can suck out all your juices until you genuinely feel there is no longer any you at all.
So, cut to the early autumn and I started seeing Olga who I quickly realised was very, very skilful in her work and more to the point, really got me. I spent the first few weeks just crying and ranting but gradually somehow she helped me to see a glimmer of light and hope in the situation. She helped me come back to my own life in between the caring duties, and even though it is a constant juggle, identify things that I love to do and that recharge my batteries. All this helps me to be stronger and more able to care for my brother.
By the time we finished the 24 sessions (lucky me) I felt like a different person – still clobbered daily by the unexpected and the ongoing grief of this living bereavement, but capable of happiness too, remembering who I am and what I want and just feeling ten times stronger.
I wanted to be an artist – I always have been one, but never really took myself very seriously and it always felt like the life that might have been. But Nick’s situation changed that – seeing how precious is the time we have and what are we waiting for? Why not just follow that crazy dream?
I honestly don’t know how I’ve made time for it, but somehow I have managed to start making art again and this month I’ve got a small exhibition of my illustrations and astonishingly, it feels completely natural and normal.
And I have made A Colouring Book for Carers and would love to share it with you.
A Colouring Book for Carers started life as a leaving present for Olga, but I realised that it might be useful for other people and that I wanted to share it.
I had started drawing some doodles while I waited on the phone during the seemingly endless admin involved in caring for another person, and thought it would be fun to do a “colour yourself calm” style book specifically for carers, with situations we would all recognise.
It has ended up as a cross between a colouring book and an illustrated self-help guide and I could have made it three times the size, but small is beautiful, hey?
If you would like a copy, it’s available from Airy Fairy in Sheffield while my exhibition is on (throughout November) and soon in other outlets, or contact me for mail order.