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|The worst six months of my life|
I’m not a regular poster here any more, but sput has been a regular hangout for me for well over a decade. The last six months have been absolutely abysmal, and it’s only now I’m finding myself beginning to process a lot of what has happened. As I come out of six straight months of feeling like I’ve been stuck in survival mode, I’m experiencing a lot of delayed grief, confusion, and exhaustion. I’m not looking for sympathy, or pity. What follows is my attempt at organising, for my own benefit, an ordered account of my thoughts and experiences over the last few months, accompanied with some music, both old favourites and new discoveries, that have helped me along the way. The contents of this list might be confronting for some. Read it, or don’t; I don’t care. I’m doing this for me.
Time (The Revelator)
My mother passed away on the 12th of January after just over a month in hospital. The way the story was relayed to me, she woke up one day and her ability to control her motor function was just gone. She was diagnosed with very late stage, delocalised brain cancer. She had a few days where she was still able to speak, but then that went too. She was 58.
My mother and I were estranged for the last few years - an estrangement that I had instigated after her behaviour became increasingly erratic and nonsensical. She would compulsively lie and contradict herself; she eloped overseas to secretly marry a man she barely knew, then moved him in to the family home with my younger siblings, and swore us to secrecy not to tell my father, who she had divorced months prior. I thought it was, and still believe, distance from her behaviour the best thing for me at the time, but I would be lying if I said I still wasn’t racked with guilt over the fact that I spoke to her in person twice in the last three years of her life.
|3||Jackson C. Frank|
Blues Run the Game
It’s strange to look back and think that all these behavioural changes were probably the result of the cancer growing in her brain.
Some nights I lie awake and wonder just how much of her life the tumour was influencing her behaviour; how many half-remembered weird comments and strange actions, how many of our arguments were the result of a cancer slowly eating away at her neural pathways. It was apparently a slow growing cancer - had I ever known a mother who wasn’t sick? How do you separate a person from the cancer in their brain?
War All the Time
I spent every day for three and a half weeks, including Christmas and new year, at the palliative care unit, waiting for her to go. There wasn’t much else to do. She couldn’t talk, or move. I like to think a part of her could hear and recognise my voice, and feel me holding her hand, but I’ll never know. The last thing she said to me before she lost the ability to talk was that she didn’t like my moustache.
|5||Magnolia Electric Co|
We do not have voluntary assisted dying here, and although I can’t know what my mother would’ve chosen in the circumstances, I do know that at least giving her the option to go would’ve been kinder than forcing her to go through what I witnessed. Fluid and nutrition were withdrawn because she could no longer swallow. It took her two and a half weeks to finally die of dehydration. Palliative care staff tell you that patients in this condition are too far gone to feel any pain or discomfort, and that might be true - but her slow death did not look or sound peaceful in the slightest.
Sleep Well Beast
I ran out of paid leave from work, and had to go back to pay rent. My mother passed the next day, with only her husband present. As the eldest sibling, responsibility for my mother’s estate fell to me. My younger siblings, excused themselves from the process. Although adults in their 20s, just like me, they struggled to visit my mother in hospital, and I don’t think they’ve developed the emotional maturity to deal with grief. I organised the funeral, and began dealing with the legal side of things.
|7||The Afghan Whigs|
Imagine my surprise when I found out that, due to an error by her solicitor at the time, my mother died without a valid will. What has followed has been a five month legal battle on two fronts: first, to get the court to recognise that the will prepared for my mother, though invalid due to a legal technicality, should still be binding in spirit; and second, to fend off a legal challenge from her new husband, who is after more of the estate than he was left in the disputed will.
In amongst all this, I’ve been trying to keep a failing relationship afloat. My partner and I have been together for two years, but were having problems for a while before my mother got sick. My partner was suffering from worsening chronic pain and mental illness, and it was really taking a toll on the relationship. We had nothing resembling a sex life at all, and fought constantly.
|9||Only Living Witness|
Just as the dust was settling from my mother’s funeral, my partner was put in a situation where they needed an emergency spinal fusion. Though the surgery was a technical success, there were significant post-op complications, and they were in the ICU for over a week. Suddenly, I was back to visiting the hospital every day; then, after they were discharged after two and a half weeks, visiting them while they recovered at their parents’ house across town for a while. Then they went back into hospital, hospitalised due to a psychotic episode brought on by the painkillers they were prescribed.
While this was happening, my father’s father also passed away. This one wasn’t as much of a surprise, as he had been ill for decades, and also suffered from Alzheimer’s. My father though, already devastated by the one-two punch of hearing about my mother’s terminal illness and new marriage from me just weeks before she passed, hasn’t been quite the same since. He’s always been the stoic, silent working man type, and we’ve not been very close, but I haven’t been able to fall back on him for any emotional support through this. I feel like I’ve lost both parents at once in some ways.
The Unquestionable Truth - Part I
In a moment of stupidity, lost in thought, tired and stressed, one day I came into my driveway at a bad angle, going too fast, and completely shredded the front bumper and splash guard off my car. This one was just the consequences of my own actions, and it’s easily to laugh at now, but god, the couple of thousand dollars to fix that one hurt at the time too.
Odd Fellows Rest
The last three months has consisted of intense physical therapy, with my partner having to learn how to walk and move again, and needing assistance to use the bathroom and shower, while also tapering off high dose opioid painkillers. They were made redundant from their job after surgery too, and now will need to find a new one when they’re well. We almost broke up before I got the news about my mother, and some days, selfishly, I wonder if it hadn’t have been easier if we had. Still, I made a commitment to be there for them, and I didn’t want to be one of those men who ran off as soon as their partner got sick. Some nights I do wonder how much longer the relationship will last once they’re recovered though; and how much I have left in me. They are slowly coming good now, but their condition is still far from perfect. I think the gradual reduction in their care needs is why I suddenly feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train - I finally have a moment to start feeling everything.
I’ve tried to keep myself together with self discipline and routine. The gym has become my one place of escape, and for just over an hour, six days a week, I get to let my anger out throwing big metal things around while listening to big riffs. I’ve cultivated an interest in south Asian cuisine to try and keep eating relatively healthy, and have been cooking new meal prep recipes every week. I tried to cut out binge watching junk TV, and I’m on my 12th book of the year. I started buying cigarettes again after three years off, but I’m a month out from my last pack now and feeling better for it. Part of me is still waiting for the next catastrophe, and the legal battle is still far from over, but finally, I think, I’ve got some space to take a breath and process everything that’s happened over the last six months. Now it’s time to survey the damage and figure out what’s left.
|This was exhausting to write, but I feel better for it. Thanks if you made it this far. I’m off to prune the garden. |
|hang in there brother. |
|Brother we don’t chat much anymore but I have always been fond of you and reading all of this is truly heart-wrenching. You’re a good person, I hope things shape up for you and all your loved ones. Best of luck. |
|you are much better off getting these thoughts and feeling out in written form trust me. needless to say my shoutbox is always open. I cannot say sorry enough for all of this, but someone needs to tell you youre doing an incredible job and you should be proud of how youre handling all of this.|
|Glad you’re keeping it together after all that.|
|I respect the hell out of your decision to stay with your partner but after they recover it's time to put yourself first. They will absolutely understand and if they don't you were never meant to be with them. Seriously, that kind of relationship will destroy you. |
|holy shit dude hope things get better from here. we're pulling for you|
| on the admirability of sticking things out for your partner through all this, you’re a good man, take care of yourself |
|i don't know you, but i just read all of that and i hope you feel better soon.|
|we're pulling for ya man  |
|Hope things look up for ya. Would you be interested in writing down your story? Might help you to organize and process it and if you felt up to it, you could shop it around to publishers if a substantial amount came of pages came from it.|
|  on the admirability of sticking things out for your partner through all this, you’re a good man, take care of yourself|
|Hang in there Butkuiss, your last paragraph was very encouraging - it seems that you know what it takes to get your health and mind back on track. As we grow older, we realise how hard life really is, and the non-stop challenges that present themselves one after another. Sorry about your Mom, losing a parent is one of the hardest things we can ever experience. Stay positive buddy, you're going to make it...|
|The comments in here are heartwarming, both from old friends and new ones alike. Thank you all, I appreciate it. |
|sometimes life just hits you relentlessly. It's cool that you have a routine and are trying things out to stay curious and engaged with the other stuff happening in your awareness-time that isn't suffering.|
I also think it's important to have at least a basic spiritual outlook to contamplate things. Prayer as an act of greatfulness, meditation set on soul-healing. You don't have to believe in it in any sort of factual way like some dude in the sky is listening to you or something, but simply seeing it as a way to reset and restructure your body-mind-experience flux.
|I went through a lot of struggles both with family death, manipulative family, issues with my partner and also them getting sick right after the death in my family, all near the same timeline, so I really feel for you bro. I will say, after I thought nothing was ever going to look up, I’m at a high point in my life right now, so stay strong things will get back. Much love to you |