Happy 2017. Well, that was the plan. 2016 was such a horrendous, hard clusterfuck of a year. Everyone I have spoken to found it hard. On new years eve we watched fireworks from our street and lit sparklers in the hope of warding off whatever crap-laden hoodoo was weighing over us like a shroud. Clink went the champagne glasses and I awoke the next morning with a sense of hope. It had felt like a long time since that had been the case.
The last 18 months have been filled with worry. Peter found his workplace uncaring and bullying. This lead to a HR nightmare, complete with every trick in the book to break him (such as not paying him and hoping he would quit). Then casual work proved sparse and irregular. Money became tight, and as the person with a regular income I began to feel the pressure of keeping us afloat. My job was all consuming and stressful in it's own way. 2016 felt like a treadmill of work, sleep, repeat. Life got smaller as we tried to live off one wage...that actually doesn't cover all our bills. And then one of our dear cats, Bella, who had been with me for over 12 years died. It felt like the last straw.
Many of us, for whatever reason, spoke of 2017 being different. Better. We had realised that surviving through 2016 wasn't enough. Things couldn't continue as they were. We had to change. I exhaled. Paused. And then I hurt my back. Talking to my lovely chiropractor he spoke of the connectedness of my back pain and subsequent tightness and spasming of my diaphragm and stomach. I said how stressful last year had been and I began to cry a little. You see, I can cope for the most part except when someone digs a little deeper. Asks me how I really am. My veneer shatters and I find my eyes welling with tears and a huge lump in my throat. He gave me a hug and said 'the sun will still come up tomorrow'. Prolonged stress was the cause of all of this. My body was telling me that enough was enough.
Summer is kitten season and the hole in my heart left by Bella needed to be filled. Enter Pepper - a gorgeous weirdo black and tan tortie girl who is 12 weeks old. Alas she came with cat flu and infected our other two cats. In between vet visits and antibiotics for fevered and unhappy kittens, chiro visits for the torn muscle in my back and tender, upset stomach, Peter ended up in Emergency with an aggravated gall bladder and immense acute pain. Yes, all five of us were in the wars. Hey, 2017...this wasn't the deal!
I have been wondering in the last couple of weeks how to make changes when you don't have money. This background stress doesn't seems to abate. I never feel like it's something I can put out of my mind 100%. The other thing I've wondered is...who cares for the carers? I am not alone here. Many of my friends have taken on similar roles for their partners or children. So how do you make sure that your wellness well doesn't run dry?
I'm trying small changes at the moment. Practical things like diet to help with my cranky stomach. Smiling at the antics of a new kitten helps too. Talking to my friends who understand, emotionally support me and are free and flowing with hugs makes a huge difference to my own mental health. But I guess the reality is something has to change in my situation. So keep your fingers crossed that the pox on our house abates. That circumstances change and the pressure and load are lightened. That perhaps just a little bit of luck comes our way.
And to any fellow carers...I salute you and hang in there. I know how hard it is to put yourself first. Or even second. In the meantime, here's photos of Pepper to help make us all smile.