I was about 20 when I felt the full-force of supporting my mum. It wasn’t unexpected … in my late teens she used to call me a lot … some friends would comment “Is it your mum AGAIN?!” and yes it was.
She needed me. She needed to hear my voice, she needed my reassurance, my support and for me to listen to her hourly struggles in order to decipher a world she has never truly felt part of.
Everyone wants to feel needed. But this was a different need…an endless one with no reward. That sounds pretty harsh but I mean reward in terms of problem-solving, which is what I like to do. I like to conquer a problem head on and see an improvement of some kind. I have rarely ever been granted that wish whilst caring for my mum.
I have, however, been told I’m the “worst daughter ever” “useless” and “a selfish cow” … the list goes on…but that’s OK! I mean, as a daughter I don’t send my mum flowers weekly or ask her for the answers to the life questions that I need answering. My mum sees the ‘perfect’ mother-daughter relationship as us skipping arm-in-arm down the road but this has never been my world!
One of the most heart-breaking moments for me was the afternoon after I gave in my dissertation. I had just spent the whole night drinking cans of red bull (totally not advised) and constantly peeling my eyes open to stay awake to proof read my 11,000-word dissertation on mental health in the media.
I really wanted it to be the best piece of work that I had ever written and was forever reaching for a first class piece of work. My mum had been unwell part of my second and the whole of my third year.
She was so mentally unwell that I honestly did not think she would be around when I graduated. My uni was awesome and I was offered extra time to complete my degree so that I could look after her. I decided not to take it and finish when the rest of my cohort did…after all, I had such lovely friends at uni and really wanted to graduate with them.
Giving my completed dissertation in on time was by far the BIGGEST achievement of my life. It had been a year full of trauma, tears (that could fill rivers) and continuous worry about my mum’s mental health.
After passing the document over with the biggest grin on my face and skipping out of my uni, I went to see my mum to check in on how she was.
In hindsight this wasn’t the best idea, I had zero sleep in over 24 hours, I was recovering from the red bull intake and was very emotional that the last three years of blood, sweat and tears was over.
As soon as I arrived to see mum, she demanded I drive her up the road straight away. I asked if this could wait a moment, to which she replied that “everyone says you are the WORST daughter ever”. Just what I wanted to hear at that moment in time. Well, actually there is probably never a time to hear that.
I was continuously shouted, screamed and sworn at. Hmmm not sure it’s exactly how I envisaged the completion of my degree to be. Ah well.
I honestly didn’t think I would ever come back from this moment, my heart physically ached. I couldn’t believe that my parent could speak to me and treat me this way after I just achieved the greatest thing in my life.
But I did come back from it and many, many years later not a lot has really changed…other than I have become so much more understanding (I think). I really understand that if someone is unwell and they see the world in a certain way then there really is no point challenging it. All you can really do is just be there to support them.
Daily I have a deep heartache for my mum. I am so sorry she lives with such sadness, worry and confusion. I will ALWAYS be here for her. These days, I can actually relax her…years of practice and actually she doesn’t say I’m useless anymore (yay). Nothing will really ever make me feel better to see someone struggle so much and encounter so many continuous difficulties but if I can help even a little bit then wahoooo.
I guess the reward is that I can make my mum feel reassured and a little bit better and that I have learnt that I will never ever make judgements about anybody else. Everyone has a story and I will never ever judge someone else or their life choices.
With love and care for my mum always x
Rebecca has a Postgraduate in Psychology of Dementia Care and is the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Representative Volunteer for North West London.