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This Isn't My First Lockdown

I am an only child and my parents split when I was a toddler. When it came to Mum’s end of life care it was all on me.

I made the decision to take her home to Cornwall and go with her until the end. We took her in the car with a portable oxygen tank, she was too weak to climb down the stairs so Dan carried her. He stayed the night and headed back to Bristol the next day. And, then it was just me and her.

Care had been arranged and the Occupational Health team brought a commode as our bathroom involved stairs and Mum couldn’t make it. The commode came before the care. I messaged my client who is a nurse and she recommended a scarf with some perfume on it. I really wanted the care team to come quickly so I could just be her daughter. But when they did come, Mum didn’t really want them to do anything and it was up to me.

I would go in at around 8am and ask if she wanted breakfast, she was awake but drowsy, she would probably eat a mouthful or two then have a nap. I would wash up, maybe do some washing, then start thinking about lunch. I would ask Mum what she wanted and she would ask for something that invariably we didn’t have so I would justify an outing to the shops. That was one reason to go out.

In the afternoon sometimes I would attempt to do some work, I built an entire online fitness programme in the 2 months that Mum was ill but I never made any money from it. I had no income and no real purpose other than to try help my Mum deal with the fact she was dying whilst trying not to completely fall apart.

I did the only thing I could, I completely shut down. My world became extremely small, tasks could be stretched out, things what would normally take 5 minutes would take an hour. I had two ‘normal’ events each day and they kept me alive.

My friend Megan was getting married, had recently had a baby, had started CrossFit and she invited me to join. It was on a Monday evening, it was February and it was pitch dark and freezing cold but it was the highlight of my week. I had 60 minutes where I could thrash out a session and just be ‘Lizzie’, and then I would go home, settle Mum for the night and say goodnight. After a while Megan and I would go to the gym too, she would pick me and up and we would go and train, it was the best part of my day.

Once I had been to the gym I would have a bath and watch something on TV, I imagine it is how many parents feel when their child goes to bed.

Because Mum was so ill she didn’t want to be alone at night so I couldn’t go anywhere, we had a few night sifters but they didn’t work out so well so I only saw Dan twice in those 2 months. Mum didn’t like the carers, she said they spoke to her like an ‘ill person’. She only wanted me, so I was in lockdown too.

As we live in this uncertain time, lockdown due to Corona Virus I remember the strong desire for my lockdown to end, I didn’t want Mum to die, but I didn’t want her, or me, to live like that. I went out of the house for two things; to buy food or medicine and to exercise. I had no idea how long it was going to last and I was very very afraid.

There were 2 things that kept me alive;

Enjoying activities that previously felt like chores including cooking, washing and shopping. But mostly, it was my friends and family. We spoke and messaged all the time, I was incredibly lonely physically but emotionally the support was amazing, and it kept me alive, it made it possible to survive. I learnt how incredibly resilient the human spirit is, that we do not know how strong we can be or what we can tolerate.

And those times changed me, they broke me, but as I mend, as we all will, I can trust that I will survive, because if I can survive the thing that I was most afraid of, I can just about survive anything.

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