I cared for my Dad, first of all as a distance carer for over three years after Mom died, then moving in with him to be his full-time carer in 2007 when his health and mobility declined. He passed away in June 2008. I suppose in many ways I was lucky, I was able to stay in the family home and managed to find paid work again a few weeks after Dad’s funeral. It should, in theory, have been the beginning of a new stage of my life, but I feel in many ways I have not moved on. I had a little bit of money left to me and hoped to travel a bit, but then I had a spell of ill health and an accident in the years that followed, which kept me closer to home, and also knocked my confidence. Also, being in my fifties and in a small town in the Midlands, I found paid work harder and harder to get, having been made redundant from my first post-caring job due to the recession in 2009, and have had to rely on a diminishing number of short-term contracts.(Thank heavens there is no mortgage!)
Right now I feel really down. I work mainly on a self-employed basis, most of my work being on an ad-hoc basis for the local authority. The good news is that a lot of it involves supporting current carers (and some former carers),which I am really happy doing, but now that I am in my sixties, and with my SRP age goalposts having been moved, I feel less than totally secure financially, especially now that I have had to draw down some of my private pension to supplement my sporadic earnings. More than that, I seem to be more and more isolated, my family (cousins basically, as I am an only child and don’t have children of my own) have never been that supportive, Things have come to a head in the past year. In October I had to say goodbye to my lovely cat and then around Easter time I had a god-awful virus, the combination of which seems to have left me really down and quite depressed. None of my family, some of whom live within half a mile of me, seemed at all bothered that I was really poorly with the virus, let alone that I have been left with depression in the aftermath. I get the strong impression that “you’ve been a carer, if you are ill you can jolly well look after yourself!”. One cousin even said, in so many words, well, you’ve bounced back from everything in the past, why can’t you deal with this? I’ve had some counselling which has now finished and has helped me realise that I need to look after myself a bit better, but it really worries me that this - having to cope with crises entirely on my own - is going to be my future! Has anyone else been through anything like this?
I can identify with this. In the last 20 years I’ve had too much thrown at me, too many carees, too much illness, too many operations. Fortunately, I am financially secure, but it’s been incredibly tough.
After I was widowed, I bought a book called “Starting Again” by Sarah Litvinoff, really designed for divorcees but very relevant to anyone entering a new chapter of life. It’s available cheaply on ebay.
I knew I should concentrate on doing things I liked, but having been married and a mum for over 30 years, I’d always done what everyone else needed. I had to learn how to be much more self focussed.
In the end I found it easier to drop things I did NOT want to do any more,
Finally, I rediscovered the other love of my life that had lurked in the background for years, SEWING!
When I lived in Australia, husband working 7 days a week to save money for our future house, I would make a dress on Saturday and blouse on Sunday, just to pass the time away. My husband called it my Occupational Therapy when I was just 21. He could see how much pleasure it gave me. He was a mechanic who just loved mending things for work and play. In later years that would include a steam traction engine!!
So maybe over the next few months look at what you do that gives you pleasure, and what you do out of habit that really doesn’t please you any more. It doesn’t have to involve money. In fact I’m just finishing off the cheapest dress I am ever likely to make. I saw some lovely fabric at our local boot sale, closer inspection revealed it was a brand new quilt cover from Matalan, but it had some oil spots on the inside, it cost 25p. I’ve just used to top layer so far, and turned it into a lovely tropical looking zip front beach dress. In due course, the other side will be a co ordinating jacket!
I’m not suggesting you take up sewing, but just find something that gives your soul pleasure. Painting, a pet, knitting…
For me, it has to involve actually doing something craft related, as opposed to reading.
I’m glad Henrietta has seen your post, she will definitely have good advice based on her situation, which is similar to your own.
I don’t have much family either. My Mum and sister live too far to easily visit and my extended family is small and dispersed throughout the UK and beyond. I too am faced by the ever changing goal posts for my state pension. I am still caring and have been juggling work and caring and its exhausting. It’s hard to reinvent yourself. Perhaps I should take a peek at BB’s book recommendation as well!
Thank you so much for all your kind responses. I am going to think through all your very helpful suggestions over the next few days, but straight away they have lifted my mood quite a bit and put me in a more positive frame of mind!
Dee, I too can relate to this. I am 3 years post caring, single, still working, very few family members.
Most of the time it doesn’t bother me but when there is a crisis / illness, I think it does leave you vulnerable and wondering what the future will bring. In a sense, I think it is a form of PTSD.
For me, I find exercise helps. It improves the mood, releases feel-good endorphins and is cheap. Also, when you are feeling well and positive, it may be worth investigating in the local area what support there would be, paid or otherwise, if you were to be ill.
Do you have access to the internet at home for example to do online supermarket shopping, in case you were unable to go out? If you are on any medication, do you have a list of those medications easily available? You may laugh but I actually have a hospital bag packed with a small aount of money, cheap mobile and charger. if I were to collapse, at least I would have some key possessions around me.
There are no easy answers and one solution does not fit everyone but I do understand the fears,
Thank you Melly and Anne for your responses and for the practical ideas for support. These are all great suggestions and I will bookmark them for reference.
Today, I went with a friend to visit Shropshire Cat Rescue at Bayston Hill. I’m not quite ready to take on the care of another cat myself as yet, but I always love visiting SCR with their kitten nursery and the wonderful Moggies’ Retirement Village for the seniors! Plus, a shortage of parking spaces today meant my friend Joan and I ended up parking on Lyth Hill, just above the rescue centre,and although we both grumbled a bit about the inconvenience, the views from there out over the Wrekin, Wenlock Edge and the Stretton Hills are just stunning. I must try and plan more of this sort of activity, it really does lift my spirits.
I’ve joined a gym this week- they were doing a good offer of £20.00 per month for normal gold memebership which gives access to swimming, classes and gym and it is fairly near. I had a one to one with a special coach with expertise in body mechanics and was really interesting and helpful . This is part of my “look after me now” campaign. Keep an eye out for offers, I chugged around 5 or 6 gyms and found the best deal was the one I would have chosen anyway. Proabably a good time to join before the autumn rush in Sept.
Dee have you ever thought about volunteering at the cat rescue ? Or, if that one is too far how about one a bit nearer to you ? Most rescue centres are crying out for volunteers - to do everything from cleaning out pens to socialising with the cats/kittens.
I adore cats (original mad cat lady me !) and volunteer at my local Cats Protection rehoming centre - although I haven’t been as much lately (due to my own health problems) I really do love the job it gives me great satisfaction and the sense of being needed, something that’s been missing in my life since I stopped caring after Mum died.7 years ago.
Great idea Susie- having a pet -in my case the mad dog lady gives you an identity again. Instead of being Dad’s daughter I am now double dog mummy. Just another idea on th esame line- I now do support work for a young lady with learning needs. Like you said I think it fulfills that being needed and being useful that is so absent after full time care.
I would love to volunteer at the cat rescue, but there are a couple of practical difficulties. The main one is that, being self-employed, my hours aren’t predictable and right now I wouldn’t be able to commit to a set number of hours on set days of the week (that would change if I could find sustainable part-time work with a regular set of hours). The other is that Shropshire Cat Rescue IS slightly off the beaten track (but in a totally wonderful setting!) and I don’t drive. I don’t know of another, similar charity that would be any closer or accessible to me. But it is definitely something that I would like to do if my working hours stabilised or when my SRP finally arrives (2024 under present rules, but who knows?). For the time being, it looks as if I will have to content myself with visits on their open days and with sponsoring the mother and kitten nursery, which I have done in memory of my lovely Kelvin, the cat I had to say goodbye to last October. I also follow them on social media and get lots of lovely updates!