Back in December, Evee and I were new to our grief journey and, looking back, it is fair to say that we were drowning, not knowing which way was up. We were exhausted and our days were planned around our counselling sessions.
One day was particularly bad. We went to the coffee shop to meet with our transition worker from Bright Futures, only to realise that Evee had got the wrong day. It didn’t matter though, I thought I could use the time to revise for an upcoming exam. I had been putting it off revision to my low mood and inability to concentrate. Evee also had another counselling session with C4C booked for the following hour. So, it didn’t really matter.
When she left the café, I turned on my laptop and got my revision books. I opened the PowerPoint presentation and began writing notes – relieved to finally be able to sit down by myself and revise.
Almost instantly, I got a phone call. It was Evee walking back to the café, overcome with tears and anger, barely able to talk. She had gotten the wrong time again. Automatically, I tried to comfort her and told her we’d go and buy her a diary, it’d be okay, and I’d wait for her to walk back.
When that phone call ended, I buried my head in my hands, overcome with my own sadness and began uncontrollably crying (sidenote: I understand that this all seems very trivial now and we have actually giggled about how terrible that day was).
Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and I looked up, too upset to be embarrassed. A lady sat down beside me and asked if I needed her help. I briefly explained the situation through ugly tears and shortness of breath. Her name was Lynne and I think she was an angel.
“In a plane crash, you are always told to put your own oxygen mask on first. You need to put your oxygen mask on before your sister’s. She’s 19, she’ll sort herself out, and you need to sort yourself out first”.
I will always remember this period of our lives. I will always remember how Evee and I were propped up against each other just to be able to make it through another day. I remember how she would scream out in the night and exhausted as we were, we’d sit up for an hour or so talking about her nightmare and then she would comfort me as I would cry after the shock of waking up to the screaming. Messy.
But I will always remember the advice that that lady gave me. Put your own oxygen mask on first. How can you possibly give to another person if you are running on empty yourself?
Self care is essential. It’s essential to your self-worth and you deserve to give yourself all the care in the world, regardless of your situation.
Evee and I have a much healthier relationship these days, as people, we are much less intertwined. We are closer than ever after what we have weathered, but we prop ourselves up now before the other. We were discussing this on the drive to Swansea the other day for my graduation. And as if by magic, a car drove in front of us with the quote: “Love a lot, trust a few but always paddle your own canoe.” I think it was a sign from our mum.
I’ve been thinking a lot after completing the Camino de Santiago, and recently I chose to paddle my own canoe. It is the first time in my life I’ve had this choice and I’ve never felt so free.