Mum had terminal cancer for 20 months, and the more ill she got, the more my life changed. I went from changing pretty much nothing in my life (other than implementing a little extra support), to dropping almost everything, attending lectures sporadically, accessing a lot of extra support, and going home every night to visit Mum and the rest of my family.
Perhaps naively, I assumed that once Mum died, things would go back to normal, whatever normal may be. That’s not exactly how things have gone, though.
For one, I’d forgotten to factor in emotions. Emotions are often useful, but since Mum died the majority of the time they’ve been a nuisance. They’ve left me lying in bed on a morning trying to remember how to get dressed and what I’m doing that day. They’ve made it difficult to get to lectures or to engage in social commitments. Sometimes they make it hard to get to sleep, to write, to see people or to speak.
I keep getting really annoyed at myself for feeling unable to do things that I could do two or three years ago. I used to be super busy, incredibly active and fairly extroverted. I wouldn’t have a spare five minutes in the day – always on the go seeing someone or doing something. Some days at the moment, it’s an achievement to get up, showered, and dressed.
I hate letting my friends down. They’ve put up with so much over the past months and years when I’ve been unable to plan anything or had to cancel last minute. When I’ve fallen off the radar and stopped replying to texts and other messages, they’ve kept contacting me and inviting me to things. I want to see them all again and do fun things with them. I want to be going out on an evening, going on day trips, chilling at home and watching a film, all of the things people my age usually do. All of the things I used to do.
Since Mum got ill, I’ve had increased anxiety, too. It’s not surprising really when you’ve been through what we have over the past few years. I’ve had to adapt to Mum’s changing health and the changes that it has brought for my family. I’ve had times when any moment my phone could have rung telling me that Mum was in hospital again. When walking around the village, there was a period of time when I couldn’t leave the house without someone asking me how Mum was – all because people care, but nonetheless catching me off guard as I went about my daily life.
I’d half thought that when Mum died this would disappear, because I’d no longer be waiting on a call to hear about her health, and nobody in the village would ask me how she was because she’d be dead. It’s not quite worked out like that though, I still find myself getting anxious about things and it makes it incredibly difficult to do the things I’ve always done.
I’m getting frustrated. I feel like I shouldn’t be accessing the help I’ve needed before because Mum’s died now and I should just move on with my life. I feel like I should just be able to dive back into my degree, attend all my lectures and engage with them fully. I feel like I should be jumping back into my social life and my volunteer work and everything I did and was before Mum got diagnosed again.
Last week, I sat down with someone and was airing some of my frustrations, they looked at me and basically said “Naomi, your Mum died last week”. Mum died and my body is grieving. It’s why some days feel like sludge. It’s why I’m so tired all the time no matter how much I sleep. It’s frustrating and annoying but it’s how my life is.
I expected to feel a lot of things when Mum died. Low, sad, upset, angry, tearful, yep, but frustration was not something I expected to feel. I’m probably expecting too much too soon, in fact I expect nearly everyone around me would tell me that I’m expecting too much too soon and that I need to be kind to myself (as my Mum would say) and be patient with myself. I can see where they’re coming from and the more I try and do things and can’t, the more I realise that they’re right. I just so desperately want to be a ‘normal’ 21 year old again, and some days it can feel like that’s never going to happen.
We’re currently collecting for Yorkshire Cancer Research in Mum’s memory. If you would like to donate, please do so here.
I’m Naomi, a 21 year old from Yorkshire, currently at University in York studying Psychology in Education. I’m a Team v senior mentor for the North this year, having been a Team v mentor last year and a leader for Leeds the year before. I’ve done some work with the Boston Spa Neighbourhood Plan and continue to work with Young Minds, Shout Out Leeds and Scouts! I’m also the Disability and Access rep. for my college, colleges volunteering liaison for my students’ union, and have two part time jobs, one as a student ambassador and one as a nanny. I’m always up for a laugh and say yes to almost anything. I’m permanently busy and spend a large proportion of my life running on not-enough-sleep, but I love every minute of it. Anyway, this is me, one girl, from a small village, stumbling my way through life.Naomi.
Read Naomi's blog: https://storiesofayoungvolunteer.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter @naomi_barrow