I have written this post in 3 parts. The first part (this post) has some content regarding cancer, treatments and PTSD that might trigger some people . So I am giving you the option to skip this and go straight to part 2.
Trigger Warning – Topics containing causes of cancer, cancer, death and treatments.
For the first 3 months following my mums passing, I was frantic and desperate for memories. We had already lost her, I was terrified that I’d now forget her too. I wanted to hold on to our memories so tightly as if they were helium balloons. Like a child at the fayre, I daren’t loosen my grip in fear that they’d float away and be forgotten forever.
I remember one night, in October, lying in bed crying so heavily because the only memories that I was able to recall were intrusive and horrific flashbacks. Evee sat next to me reading a list of memories that she had been compiling. I was so broken, she was so calm. I always admire her strength in those moments when I have none. I felt like she could go on forever reeling off these memories. I just lay there gripping on to a scarf of Mum’s that we sprayed with her perfume, willing so much for this to not be our reality. Evee continued reading: “Number 45) When we would have hot chocolate before bed and Evee would always spill it on the bed sheets. Number 51) When we used to make pizzas in the bungalow.”
Flashbacks often consist of getting pulled straight back to the evenings where Mum was in pain and throwing up. It was terrifying. I was terrified. I get an awful feeling in my stomach just writing this. I had no choice but to suppress this fear, there was no room for it. I had to remain calm, because I was the adult here. I had to be able to think clearly. I knew all of her medicines, what she was allowed to have when. I gave her anti sickness tablets, Domperidone or Metoclopramide, but more than often she wasn’t even able to keep them down. Oxycodone used to work but eventually she needed more and more. There were times she’d swig it straight out of the bottle, and I’d spend the rest of the night just watching her breathing, to make sure she still was. I needed a real adult so badly. I was too young for this. I remember thinking that I was going to change my career choice to become a nurse because then at least I would know better how to help relieve the pain.
Before we knew that it had spread so severely, and before we had the support from the Hospice at Home team, and Marie Curie, I’d often have to ring 111 (non-emergency medical helpline). I had to use all of my strength to control my anger as the voice on the telephone had to read out the list of questions to rule out whether my mum was having a heart attack or not. I wanted to scream “She doesn’t have a bloody heart condition she has cancer and we need help now from a real adult now!”
One night I remember phoning 111 at 8pm, and a doctor wasn’t able to come out to us until 2am. He was so calm, and in control – finally – a real adult. He gave my mum an anti-sickness injection and she was finally able to settle. After he left, we both agreed that that man was a real-life angel and she told me I would marry someone like him one day as she drifted off to sleep. That was one of the scariest nights of my life, I wanted to wake up from the nightmare. I couldn’t believe that that was my reality. I still get horribly anxious thinking about how small and fragile and in pain my mum was and how helpless I felt. But at the same time, I’d go back there in a heartbeat just to hug her again.
These are the types of moments my mind was pulled straight back to with such force after Mum passed away, less so now. They’d creep up on me just as I was drifting off to sleep. My heart would be pounding, and it was difficult to breathe. I began taking my mum’s sleeping tablets just to be able to sleep, but my dreams were dominated by my mum crying, and I’d be filled with that same sense of helplessness and dread. I thought that these dark recollections would be the only memories I’d ever remember.
Thankfully, I soon started both Counselling for Carers and Bereavement Counselling with Balloons. In the next post, 2/3 Memories Were The Best Things You Ever Had, I share a technique that helps me to overcome this episodes of PTSD and anxiety.