Category: being a carer

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?

How do you go on when in your heart you begin to understand , there is no going back?

There are some things that time cannot mend, some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold…”

LOTR- The Return of the King



Having returned to my home city after graduating from university with a scraped pass in my master’s degree, at the beginning of August I started my job as a trainee pharmacist. The first word that comes to mind when I think about those initial weeks is ‘exhausting’. I know that any young person going from student life into full time work will initially feel a bit of culture shock and have to deal with the adjustment and I knew that I would be no exception to this and with the job/career path I was entering perhaps this adjustment had to be greater still due to the inherent responsibility of the job. So being exhausted at the end of each day did not greatly surprise me…..



The above I typed sometime around the end of October, and evidentially fell asleep before I could finish… ironic given what I was saying!

I think the point I had been working towards was that this initial exhaustion from starting the new job didn’t fade away as I’d hoped. It got worse, and I battled to keep going and to show the enthusiasm I had initially felt about the position and the new learning opportunity it provided. I started to have nightmares, some I recognised revolving around the time I was caring and responsible for my mum, and other new ones. The worst of these were the strange ones I had that centred on the idea that my mum had ‘gotten better’ and yet I hadn’t seen her for years and so she was angry with me for ‘ignoring’ her, you know the way these things only make sense in dreams!

I was offered help and eventually (after quite a battle through the red tape and bureaucracy of the occupational health department, which was in the middle of moving offices and therefore in a state of some chaos) I started seeing a psychologist.

She was the one who looked at all the symptoms (including the panic attacks I’d been having in the dispensary) I was presenting, and looked at my history and what I’d been through and realised that what I had been suffering with was not simply depression but Post traumatic stress disorder. This made so much sense of a lot of what I have experienced over the past few years, including flashbacks and nightmares so bad I often preferred to go without sleep.

I continued seeing the psychologist once a week, and I should elaborate that by this point I had been signed off work as unfit for a few weeks. I felt such a failure to have gotten through my degree and then to only complete about 2 months of my training year before stopping. Serious discussions with my boss (who was in charge of the training programme) and a member of HR after much time to think and organise, came to a head with 2 options for me. The first of these was to return to work and training from January on a part-time basis, so that I could complete the ‘year’ in time for the next possible exam session. (at the end of the training year there is a registration exam to be passed) The other option was for me to quit, and to take some time to re-evaluate what my next step was and whether I even still wanted to work as a pharmacist.

After an agonising few weeks (that I don’t think I can fully describe) in which my decision ranged from certain on option 1 to certain on option 2 and back again within 24 hours (and sometimes less!) I eventually decided that I should leave the training position, that if I was ‘meant’ to continue with it I would know, and I didn’t.

This was honestly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make alone, the whole time I just kept wishing someone could make the decision for me (careful what you wish for right!)

I say this is the hardest decision I’ve had to make alone as the hardest (although in a different way) decision I have ever made, was together with my aunt and was regarding my mum’s care. She was in hospital, for supervision more than anything else, could no longer swallow properly and so was not eating and had been losing weight rapidly. We were asked how we wanted to proceed with regards to her nutrition, we could either have her fed by IV or by a PEG tube (which if you don’t know is like a direct line into a person’s stomach) or just leave her to go without. By this time she was very confused and my aunt and I decided that having an IV or PEG tube attached to her would distress her and there was a high likelihood she would try to remove either one, so we decided to leave her be.

I have carried a lot of guilt associated with this decision ever since, and it comes back to me so clearly when describing it, but I mention it as it was one of the very good points that was put to me by the psychiatrist. I had explained to her this decision I had made and how I had felt especially bad since a lecturer on my course had expressed his personal opinion that he believed that depriving a dying person of food/nutrition was cruel, unnecessary and tantamount to killing the person (when he said this I got up and bolted from the room!) . The psychologist pointed out to me that to feel guilty suggested that I felt I had done the wrong thing, and asked me what I believed ‘the right thing’ would’ve been. I realised that I had been in a situation where there was no ‘correct’ answer and (as I imagine is often the case in choices around care of terminal patients) there wasn’t a ‘good’ choice really. So my guilt was in fact based on the idea that I could have done anything better than I had when in fact I had made the best choice available.

I still can’t say I’m 100% comfortable with the memory of making that choice, but it certainly sits easier with me now than it did before.

And since I decided to leave the training job, I decided that a complete break and a chance to mentally regroup was the best plan, so I booked myself (very last minute) on a trip to New Zealand. I will be posting my travel journal as a separate blog on this account if anyone is interested.

As I think back to the quote at the beginning, I suppose I must say I strongly identified with it when I first typed it out, now however I’m not so sure. Although time can’t change what has gone before that does not mean new experiences can’t affect your perception and interpretation of both your past and your present.

Some hard choices behind and a few more to come, but I am feeling much better equipped for them than I was before,




Over the past few weeks I have mused a lot on the expression about being a ‘big fish in a small pond’ or a ‘small fish in a big pond’. I’ve often found some pearls of wisdom in expressions like this and although I know the meaning of this one it still won’t leave my thoughts.

I’ll be leaving university soon, leaving the city I’ve studied in and called home for 4 years, leaving behind the  community in which I am known and safe, where I am a big fish in a small pond.

When I leave I’ll be returning to the city of my birth, my hometown, but I haven’t lived there since my mum died (in the second year of my degree). The choice to go back was a tricky one, but I was offered a training position (the essential next step to becoming a pharmacist) there and more for fear of not getting any other offers, I accepted. Since I made that decision over 6 months ago I have ranged through just about every emotion possible.

It’s all so complicated, what in life isn’t I suppose, but the strange mixture of longing to return and anxiety about doing so is making my head spin! The thought most prominent in my mind is that the city isn’t the same place I left 4 years ago, time has moved on, and most importantly my mum will not be there waiting for me (a reality that hasn’t quite sunk in on some level yet). But I suppose what I am more concerned about is whether I am the same person who left there. Silly concern really, as of course I will have changed, I have spent 4 years away ‘fending for myself’ and learning so much (both academically and about life) that even without the unfortunate painful events that happened alongside my studies I would have expected to return more mature etc…. I guess my concern is that with all that has happened and any changes it has had on me may have made me less than the girl that left there 4 years back. Another expression to muse on, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Not sure if I believe that one! I have certainly learnt and gained things from caring for my mum, dealing with social services, but if it has made me stronger, well I’ve yet to see any evidence of that.

I wonder how I’m going to handle this move home, so much so familiar and so much so different. It all remains to be seen I guess.