Roller coaster

It’s fair to say that I’ve been struggling since we returned home from our holiday at the end of July. Not that anyone would know it, unless they knew me extremely well and even then perhaps not. The signs were there before we went away but I managed to keep all the important balls in the air and the slight wobble in my voice under control. Recently, though, the big ‘life issues’ that are going on here have overwhelmed me and have tipped me into a form of panic mixed with inertia. Classic rabbit-in-the-headlights. I’ve been waking in the night, my heart racing and my mind working overtime.

I know that if I sort, tidy, put away, throw away, wipe, brush, scrub, and so on, it will help me to feel a little more in control but I am in a slump and finding it hard to shake myself out of it. I’m on top of work, putting meals on the table, walking the dog and doing the laundry but that’s about all I can manage at the mo. Another tell-tale sign that I don’t have my sh*t together is that I haven’t been posting much here, so I’m making time today to write in the hope that it will give me a boot up the bum to get my act together. A happy medium mindset somewhere between Eeyore and Pollyanna would do. I was going to put together a quick Monday vase but I feel the need to write about other things – I hope you don’t mind.

The main issue by far that has been occupying my mind is my dear mum. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease back in 2012 which was a shock for us all at the time. She isn’t the first person in our family to be affected by Parkinson’s. David’s dad lived with it for over 20 years before he very sadly died a few years ago, so we have some experience of it but how the disease affects one person isn’t how it will affect another. It is a disease of the brain and although it does cause physical symptoms it also alters people’s mental state and personality. It’s hugely complex and my poor mum is coping with a complicated set of symptoms that seem to grow by the week and are getting increasingly worse.

It doesn’t help that there isn’t one point of contact – there are different medical departments involved, different doctors all prescribing different medication. And then there are the cancelled or postponed appointments and the phone calls. We haven’t so far been able to get a handle on what exactly is going on which is incredibly difficult. And, of course, all this is understandably affecting my dad. My mum is only 74, he is a few years older; they had so many plans. I have been through a whole range of emotions over the years – anger at the unfairness of it, frustration at her apparent acceptance, sadness for her and my dad and because my mum is no longer able to do ‘mum’ things. She was the first person I would turn to in time of need but I can no longer do that. Now she and my dad need my help. I confess that my heart feels broken – for them and, selfishly, for me.

While all this is going on, we’re in exam results season. Last Thursday was A-level results day – those important exams where the grades take you on to university or not. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already know that my elder son unfortunately didn’t get the grades he needed for his first choice of uni. An anxious and frankly flipping stressful 6 hours followed where my son, David and I rang every good university in the land to find out whether he was eligible for a place on any course related to history or politics. A lot of coffee and sheer adrenalin fuelled our quest and he ended up with a few decent options, finally opting for a course that seems tailor-made for him at Reading Uni. The word ‘relief’ doesn’t do the feeling justice.

He’s heading there, funnily enough, for the Reading Festival on Wednesday and we have agreed to postpone any talk of lists and plans in general until he gets home next week. I have had a peek at a few ‘Things you absolutely can’t do without at university’ lists on the internet, though, and have earmarked some of our old glasses, plates and other kitchen items that I’ll gladly send him off with so I can buy some nice new ones for us 🙂

Next, we have GCSE results day on Thursday and my younger son is getting a little twitchy. I think his brother’s results were a cold reality check and he now says he has absolutely no idea what to expect. I just want him to feel he’s done himself justice and hope he gets good enough grades to be accepted into the sixth form.

Thankfully, there have been moments of escapism among all this Real Life. My daughter took part in a two-week ballet course which culminated in a run of six performances of Coppelia. Weird story line aside, the show was a triumph and the sight of my girl dancing on stage brought a huge lump to my throat. I was hoping that the intense and exhausting experience, blistered feet and sore knees would put her off a career in dance but she still absolutely loves it. At one point, during the two weeks of rehearsals, she turned to me with a big beaming smile and said ‘I really feel I’m winning at life, Mum!’. I gave her a big hug and wished with all my heart that she could hold on to that feeling, dancing or not.

Two trips to the cinema last week also provided much-needed light relief: Incredibles 2 (fantastic, funny, clever) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (daft, funny, colourful, musical and pure, unadulterated escapism). I’ve decided to try to go to the cinema much more often. And I haven’t completely forgotten the garden, although to look at it you might think otherwise. I spent a few hours vigorously pulling out weeds, wrestling with brambles and listening to the crickets in the long grass yesterday. I think I need to do more of that.

I know there are plenty of people who are worse off than me and I do have much to be thankful for, but sometimes sometimes the scales tip and everything seems overwhelming. It won’t last – I will give myself a good talking to, go and pick some raspberries, phone my mum and tell her I love her. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a good week.

PS You won’t ever see me on an actual roller coaster, btw – real life provides all the adrenalin I can cope with.

50 thoughts on “Roller coaster

  1. I just sent you a long comment which I fear has been swallowed up into the ether. Damn! anyway, just want to say how sorry I am, especially about your mum. Parkinson’s is so cruel isn’t it. Be nice to yourself won’t you. Life can be crap sometimes, but you know somehow we do get through it and come out the other side. Take care, and a big virtual hug.

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  2. This might sound bizarre but it helped to read your blog – it makes you realise you are not alone in being dealt a tough hand. I’ve totally lost all interest in my blog, Instagram and my allotment. I’ve struggled since retiring at the end of January, not sure if I’ll settle in my new home – I miss my friends and my old garden. My Mum died last year and I miss her dreadfully, to cap it all off my dearest Dad died last Sunday. All I want to do at the moment is lie on my bed and sleep 😴. I have to wait until mid September to speak to a counsellor, by which time I hope I’ve bounced back. As the saying goes ‘You never know how strong you are until you have to be strong’. Chin up there is always light at the end of the tunnel xx

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    1. Oh gosh, Ronnie. You are coping with an awful lot of change and grief, no wonder you are overwhelmed. I’m so sorry. I hope you are able to talk to your friends and have support. Do be kind to yourself, won’t you? The allotment and your blog, etc, can wait. Take care x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Sam
    You really touched me with this blog… It’s so painful when parents health deteriorate… You can do so much for your parents, but you cannot make them get physically better. I remember that you moved in order to be closer to your mum so above all else your actions will have had a positive mental impact on her these last few years. Not many people are able to make such a massive gesture of love. Live in the moment, take one day at a time… GCSEs are a lot easier than A-levels so don’t worry. Us mums feel everything for our children, but there’s nothing you can do about the exam results except drum home that they are not the be all and end all… and they are certainly not a good measure of intelligence. The Most important thing is health, Which they probably know anyway because of your mum❤️ I’m really sorry you’re having such an overwhelming time… Hugs, Lucy X

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  4. Oh, Sam, what a horrible time you’re having – I’m sorry life is so hard at the moment. Best wishes, of course, to your son and congratulations on his place at uni: exciting times ahead! Clearing is a nightmare – both of mine went through it and it was easier the second time around, although I don’t suppose you want to hear that at the moment! But things worked out well for my two boys and I have no doubt your son will flourish and enjoy!
    I can offer little to help with your mother, only sympathy. Chronic conditions are so horrible and rob you of so much.
    My mum’s been ill for about six weeks: now on her second hospital admission, for severe sepsis, she’s a shadow of herself and we will have to look for a nursing home. Last week was dreadful but this week I’ve decided to get a grip, to stop crying, go back to work and get my routine back – to seize control. Because who knows what next week will bring?
    ‘Incredibles 2’ is indeed brilliant! Best wishes and take care X

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    1. Oh Lou. I’m sorry your mum has been so ill – I hope you manage to find a good place for her and that she recovers some of her strength soon. Challenging times, that’s for sure. You take care of yourself. X

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  5. I’m so sorry things are rough at the moment, the situation with your mum sounds very difficult indeed. It is a hard enough thing to deal with without having to wrestle bureaucracy and different medical facilities as well. I’m sending you a cyber hug. I’m glad your eldest got a place at a good university in the end on a course that should be just right for him. I always find things can be a bit gloomy after a holiday, so no doubt that isn’t helping either. Hang on in there my friend, and I hope you’re feeling better soon. Hugs. CJ xx

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  6. Sorry things have been so difficult for you recently, Sam – don’t forget that however well you normally juggle those balls you are allowed to drop them sometimes, so allow yourself time and whatever else you need to get your mojo back. And give yourself the opportunity to offload your thoughts and feelings too – as you have done, very publicly, in this post, but it doesn’t need to stop there. Take care, and please accept a virtual hug from me too

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  7. What an honest and heart felt blog. Remember when life is good, it will change and won’t always be good. Equally when life is tough, it will change and won’t always be tough. I’m hear for you lovely lady. Xx

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  8. There may be people who are dealing with more, but I think you’ve got plenty going on! I’m glad your son found a place, that your daughter is happy, and hope that all goes well for your other son. I’m so sorry about your mother, and hope that things start going more smoothly.

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  9. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to share with us my dear. Life does keep throwing us curve balls. Please take care as we all should remember to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for being strong enough to write this post. It seems so many of us are coping with the stress of looking after elderly parents who we love dearly. At times it has seemed that I am on a treadmill. Just about keeping my head above water. My father died 2 months ago and we are trying to find somewhere for my mother to live. She does not need a care home yet but an assisted living facility where she would have some independence would be the dream. She has spent the last 7 weeks with us but yesterday she went up to my brothers house. I have so many conflicting emotions but the main one is relief that I will be having a break.
    Congratulations on your son getting a university place and good luck for the GCSE results. My daughter was also a ballet dance for years and it is still her passion although not her career. You are doing a great job as a Mum and daughter. Take care of yourself.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about your situation, Catherine. It must be incredibly tough caring for your mother while coping with your own grief. I hope you are able to have a good rest for a while. Thank you for your good wishes and for reading and commenting.

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  11. Oh my Sam, you do have a lot on your plate. I am so sorry that your mum is unwell. The transition from the cared for child to the caring child is painful even without chronic disease in play. On top of dealing with chronic illness you also have to wrestle the weird and wonderful ways of NHS England. I am really sorry that there is not a one stop clinic for individuals with Parkinson’s that cares for all their needs, including other age related problems.

    I am glad that your son found a University course that suits his personality and interests. I imagine it very stressful to go through Clearing but I am glad you and David were there to support him.There is too much emphasis on a narrow set of grades and not enough on the broader aspects of education and the person that is working hard to achieve those grades. The Scottish system is different with regards to breadth of education but has its own flaws, as I found out. My oldest wasted everybody’s time (including his own) by doing absolutely nothing for an entire year because he already had unconditional offers after 5th year…. he failed all his 6th year exams. I am heartbroken that he didn’t show any self respect and decided to hang on for a year instead of gaining experience elsewhere….

    I do admire your daughter’s determination and I am really hope she can hang onto her dream and become a professional dancer. What an amazing (if hard) choice.

    Wishing you a more settled peaceful week. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can only do so much for our children, can’t we? Hopefully, your son will have taken something from the whole experience but I am sorry that it has caused you heartache. It’s lovely to hear from you, Christina – thank you for your generous comment xx

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  12. Sounds like life has been a series of ups and downs lately. Sadly, I feel like the older I get, the more of them I have. Hopefully life has taught me how to live more graciously with these difficulties. But I find the hardest thing to deal with is when I’m depressed with no apparent reason. Everything is fine and yet it doesn’t feel that way. I have learned to cope better with slowing down and listening to the crickets as you said. It is those things that make life complete, and me aware of how sweet it still is. Hoping your road smooths out for you.

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  13. A cry from the heart was my immediate thought when I read your post.
    It sometimes helps to write it all down; somehow it lessens the load.
    Of course there are always people worse off than you. However, you are facing your situation and only you can deal with it in your own way. As the comments read, others are facing similiar difficulties.
    Take a little time for yourself, find a quiet place and just sit for a few minutes. Sit with your eyes closed and really listen to the sounds around you.
    I’m sure you can find a place, if not in your garden then where ever.
    Best wishes
    Alphie

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  14. Dear Sam, I’m so sorry you’ve got all this on your plate. Life can be so tough at times can’t it? Great news about the uni course though- I expect he will end up in the right place relieved he didn’t get the other grades, life has a habit of working out like that I think. Have you thought about having some counselling yourself? Thinking of you xx

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  15. Oh Sam, it can get tough cant it? Aging parents must surely be one of the more difficult things we have to deal with in life. My parents are (thankfully) still active, fit and both working. But, my mum has lost both her parents in the last few years and I know she still struggles with accepting it all at times. Uni/post school days are still in front of us but I can only imagine it can get stressful. Take care x

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  16. So much to deal with at once – no wonder you’re feeling as you are. We put pressure on ourselves not to be affected by the downs of life, but telling it like it is can sometimes be helpful. You are right in the middle of that sandwich of concern for parents and concern for children. I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s condition. My own mum died of cancer when I was in my early 30s, when my first child was 15 months old. It’s the great regret of my life that she never knew the joy of seeing grandchildren grow up. My dad was so hard hit by her death that he had severe depression for the rest of his life. He died 2 years ago after being housebound for the last 10 years of his life. I can understand how your heart feels broken for yourself – that is exactly how I felt, switching into reverse parenting.
    And oh, exams, how I hate them! My son did exactly the same as yours. He had excellent Highers which would’ve got him unconditionals to Scottish universities but he turned them down in favour of conditionals from English unis based on Advanced Highers. In which he didn’t get the grades because he thought his HIghers were so brilliant he didn’t need to work, and so we did the Clearing thing and he ended up…at a Scottish Russell Group uni. Full circle with needless stress. While the unconditional offers based on Highers can lead to the trap (mostly for boys, I have to say, based on working in university admissions) of relaxing in 6th year, we don’t have the refusal of entry to sixth year that seems to be the case in England. Students can still progress with their year group for the most part, just take a different level of subjects.
    It’s fantastic that your son got into Reading! I spent nearly 30 years in the university sector, including working at national level, and can confirm that it’s a very good university indeed, with good levels of student satisfaction. I hope your boy will be happy there (and that you will be too!)

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    1. Thank you, Linda – that’s good to hear, and I’m glad things worked out for your son in the end (stress notwithstanding).
      I’m so sorry to hear about your parents. I think I’ve been fortunate to have been relatively unscathed by life’s challenges so far and I am having to adapt. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  17. Sounds to me like you very much have your act together, your just dealing with an overwhelming combination of challenges. The blog can certainly be set aside while you come to grips with all that is going on in your life.

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  18. It’s tough when you’re dealing with problems for the generations above and below, especially when you feel that everything is sliding out of your control. Sometimes we forget that we’re not WonderWoman and just have to let everything fall and pick it up again. On the plus side, two of my children went to Reading Uni and loved it. x

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  19. Hi Sam, Sorry to hear your life is a roller coaster at the moment. I can appreciate some of what you are going through as my Dad suffered from Parkinsons and it was hard seeing his personality change as the disease progressed. It was happening at the same time as the children were starting at Uni and sitting exams and it is hard to deal with so many demands from both generations at the same time. I’m glad you managed to find a suitable course for your son, I’m sure that it will work out well for him. Sarah x

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  20. I am very sorry to hear about your mum, Sam, and no wonder it all feels too much. I wish we had a more joined-up health service because the inefficiencies are draining. Hope you take all the time you need to be sad and just do what you feel you can do today. Xxx

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  21. Oh I am so sorry to read about your Mum’s Parkinsons, and the stress you and your son endured post exam results. Yes of course there are always people worse off (drought, famine, flood, fire etc etc), but you are living the life you are living, and you’re having a tough time, and its ok to feel miserable about that. Its very hard when care is fractured and splintered, and often contradictory; the NHS is wonderful in many ways, but joined up care for chronic conditons has a long way to go. Hope you find a way through X

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