365 days – Are you the same person you were a year ago?

I can honestly say, I’m not.

2013 has been a horrifically stressful life-or-death type of year. And despite giving up my job to become my mother’s full-time advocate and carer, I’ve never worked so bloody hard in my life.

2012 Amy was still shy and reluctant to challenge authority. This year, I’ve not had that luxury. I’ve had arguments with doctors so vicious other people have been forced to intervene. A doctorate means nothing to me now. If you can’t do your job properly, I’ll fire you after making a formal complaint and find a replacement. Three times I’ve done exactly that.

NHS doctors were telling me left and right there was nothing wrong or passing the buck between physical and mental health services (“It’s her psychiatric medication” or “No, it’s her physical health”). Severe and chronic pain and a sky high fever so bad, suicidal thoughts were entering the equation. Rather than lose my mother, I paid for private testing. That doctor turned to us with a look of shock and horror on her face, and that shock has been repeated with other specialists I’ve had to consult.

In May, we found out my mother has aggressive inflammatory arthritis so serious that she had a total left hip replacement in November, and in the coming spring there will be a right shoulder replacement. They also recently found degeneration in her left knee and left shoulder which need to be monitored. Ugh.

My fight for sufficient pain medication was finally much easier.

Multiple polite, yet aggressive, complaint letters have been written, of which many have been remarked upon and has led to invitations to meetings in which improvements to certain NHS services are discussed. They’ve also weirdly earned me notoriety, promptly causing my mother to nickname me her ‘pitbull’, to be unleashed when necessary.

My dedication has been rewarded with not only results, but with praise. While my mother was in (a private) hospital for the hip replacement, I was by her side for an exhausting 13 hours a day until she was ready to be discharged (5 days) because as an agoraphobic with social phobia she was understandably anxious. The nurses and healthcare assistants called me an ‘angel’ as they’d not seen any sons or daughters do the same for their parents. I believe they also contravened policy for me by charging my guest meals to the NHS instead of invoicing me. They were wonderful with my mother and I was very thankful for their kindness.

People say they play many roles in their lives and 2013 has seen me play more than ever.

Researcher, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, physiotherapist, psychiatrist, daughter, carer, sister, friend, chef, housekeeper, secretary, accountant, and god knows how many others. As a result, I’ve become kinder in some respects. A couple of weeks ago I gave some change to an old couple so they could get coffee while in a hospital waiting room, and I never do things like that.
The pressure took its toll, however. Only Superwoman could maintain this workload. Medication to prevent migraines and insomnia sometimes failed and increasing quantities were needed to keep me going, until my doctor cut me off. Revealing my predicament earned me more shock and all the meds I wanted, thankfully.

But, there was a point in September when the pressure intensity was so high I started to crack. Laughing inappropriately at sad news, at yet another electrical appliance dying (cooker, TV, iron, etc.) or household feature malfunctioning (dirty toilet flood, kitchen’s incoming water pipe bursting, radiator knocked off wall, shower leak, etc.), and that’s on top of the 10 or more medical appointments per month to attend with an agoraphobic mother.

I recovered, but I’d changed. I don’t give a shit anymore. I’ve acquired that old lady, filterless speech thing. I told a doctor that I hated all doctors, like that isn’t offensive. At the same time, I’ve been told, I’ve cultivated an air of quiet authority. I’m not afraid to ask questions, research treatments, or challenge a decision.

Despite all of this, I’ve lost 20 lbs using MyFitnessPal so now I appear so youthful that I’ve been asked for ID several times; I started this blog in October that’s earned me thousands of views already (thank you for reading!); and I learnt to drive (and been in my first car accident – not my fault), passed my theory test although I’ve yet to pass my practical. Disappointingly, fewer than 100 books have been read, although when I look back at my year, I’m surprised I’ve managed to read so many.

I’m definitely pleased with my performance in 2013. I’ve succeeded where so many others may have failed. I’m incredibly thankful for all of the resources at my disposal. Google, especially Google Scholar, has been my best friend.

Throughout the year I’ve striven to become these words said by the Emperor of China at the end of Disney’s Mulan:

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all

2014 should, in theory, be an easier year. I’ve sought out good doctors to rely on for quality care so I should have more time to relax and read. Just this past week, over Christmas, has given me the chance to do just that and now I feel human again. I’m still awed by the power and the effect that reading has on me.

To reading more in 2014!

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14 thoughts on “365 days – Are you the same person you were a year ago?

  1. Hang in there. Some of us have a tough row to hoe but you seem like a person that can find the silver lining. My books help me to weather the storm when necessary. I can always escape, if only for a few minutes.

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    1. Thanks. There are some great funny authors I read when I’m really down that never fail to make me feel good. Their books are better than anti-depressants!

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  2. Your mom is lucky to have you for support! It really is best if family takes an active role in support and recovery–there is so much information to remember and so much stress/anxiety with being sick that it is easy to be overwhelmed and not advocate for oneself. Family can do that, even if it means being a ‘pitbull.’ 😉 Glad you are also finding some time to take care of you. Hang in there–migraines are awful. I get them too.

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  3. I spent nearly 20 years working in various aspects of community healthcare and yes you mother is extremely lucky to have you for a daughter, but somehow I would like to believe that it’s because you were raised by an awesome mother (that’s the mother in me sneaking out). My family has also spent the past year struggling to ensure our mother’s well being and it has been a challenge with 7 of us (of which 5 are able and willing to help) so to say you have my respect and admiration is an understatement at the very least. You should be proud of what you have done for your mom this year and as a mother of a 27 year old who I am incredibly proud of I’m sure you mom is equally as proud of the wonderful person she has helped raise you to be.

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    1. Hey Ames, have you ever read Bob Munsch’s book ” I’ll Love You Forever”? It’s a children’s book but it has the most beautiful message, if you’ve read it then you already know and if not, get a copy read it for you and your mother it’s an awesome story. My kid still has the copy I bought for him when he was little. I think you and your mom would both enjoy it. I hope 2014 brings wonderful things to you both, good health and many special moments to make you smile and laugh.

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    2. I’m glad you’re going to read the Bob Munsch book it honestly won’t take more than a few minutes but best children’s book ever. I think all new parents should read it to understand we what unconditional love is. Just a bit of background the author wrote this book for a child he and his wife lost, it was his…memorial, tribute I’m not sure how to word it to their child. I think it’s just a wonderful expression of love. Enjoy.

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