I would firstly like to preface this blog by saying I am not doing this for any personal gain sympathy or otherwise, that this is my experience and I am sure it is different to yours, and that this article comes from a place of gratitude and respect.
The last month, and to be honest probably the last few months my presence with The Balance of Being as been dismal to say the least. It was not from a lack of caring, love or respect for this wellness hub I am creating for all of you, it was from my personal life at home taking all my extra time, energy and focus. Being a carer for my Dad had taken its toll and since his recent passing I felt the need to take a step back for a while and look after myself first for once like I always tell my clients to do.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 adrenal cancer in September 2012. I was 17-years-old at the time, my brother 15-years-old and my dad only 47-years-old. A very rare cancer, with very few treatment options, which ultimately led to his terminal diagnosis. With little symptoms presenting it was extremely lucky he was diagnosed when he was, with large tumours already developed on his kidney and liver. For those who are unaware, your adrenal glands are little peanut size glands that sit on top of your kidneys and help to regulate the stress hormone cortisol. With the chance of getting adrenal cancer being less than one in a million, dad definitely drew the short straw.
From dad’s diagnosis to his passing he endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a trip to Germany for alternative treatment, 5 major surgeries, more hospital visits than one could count, numerous near death experiences and enough prescription drugs to sink a ship. From the beginning he was determined to live for as long as possible, and he wouldn’t have survived the past 5 and a half years without that unrelenting drive to live.
The past 5 and a half years has been the most exhausting, stressful, hard, yet rewarding years of my family’s life. Nothing prepares you for the stress of looking after a loved one who is sick, just as nothing prepares you for loosing a loved one forever no matter how much time you’ve had to prepare. And whilst the last few years have in some sense sucked the energy out of us all, made us think the world can be cruel and given us premature wrinkles and grey hair, what the last few years did give us was extra time. Time to be a family, to create more memories, to get to know dad better and to form stronger relationships with him. Would I trade all of that for him to still be here? Absolutely, I would do anything for that. However, we don’t have that luxury, so being grateful for what we have had instead of what we won’t will always be my saviour.
When I suddenly moved home from Queensland last year I was thrown into a world of practically full-time palliative care for my dad so he could stay at home. I was happy to move home to spend more time with him, take the pressure off my mum and to help out as much as I could. However, those who know me well will know that I am not very good at doing ‘nothing’ (or my version of nothing), hence I started my pilates instructor course and began nutrition consults in Warrnambool. I welcomed the distraction from home and loved that dad got to see me start my business in the big adulting world. I won’t lie and say that looking after dad when he was sick was always glamorous or nurturing for our relationship, somedays it would down right suck. Somedays I would be frustrated that I had to grow up so quickly and take on so many responsibilities, other days I would be so full of gratitude for being able to hear him roar with laughter. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least!
To help me cope with the emotional roller coaster I have seen a variety of psychologists as well as many other health practitioners over the years, and all I can say is that when you find a practitioner you connect with hold them close! Seeing a psychologist has been one of the best things I could have done for myself and the people around me. Having an external person to vent to, cry to and laugh to has really helped me cope with all the extra pressure and stress I was dealing with. Especially on top of studying a science degree and going through the normal life changes in my early twenties.
Everyone deals with things in life differently and no ones pain can be quantified against another. Therefore, what works for one person may not work for the next. Personally, I think the most important thing to identify when you are going through a hard time in your life is what fills your own cup up. By cup, I mean your feel good, energy filled, nurturing cup that makes you feel like the best version of you! For me having time to myself is how I fill up my cup. Whether it is watching a movie, listening to music or going for a walk by myself, that is how I re-energised myself when I am feeling crappy. For you it might be catching up with your friends, going out for a boogey or going to an exercise class. Everyone is different, but finding your own cup filler and allowing yourself to do those things with zero guilt will serve you and your mental health a world of good, I promise.
If you can take anything away from this post, please let it be that asking for help is okay, it is MORE than okay. All of those friends, family and colleagues surrounding you, they will help if they know you need it, the biggest step is asking. And if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your loved ones about it…Then let the professionals step in, a quick visit to your GP and they can set you up for a psychologist referral, or call a help line such as Life Line for a chat. I am so grateful for my support network around me, I’d be lost without my amazing friends and family.
I can’t promise that over the next few months or years to come I won’t have patches where I feel unmotivated, sad and exhausted, grief likes to come and go in waves like that. But I do hope that I will be able to provide all of you amazing humans with lots of recipes, nutrition information, pilates exercises and support, just like you have all been supporting me!
And remember, it is okay to put yourself first. It doesn’t mean your selfish, it just means your giving yourself some well deserved self lovin’!