england

Going to England was a different experience for us. Daniel and I have never actually travelled together just the two of us. When I came home from England the first time, his visa was not yet approved so I had to come alone and he came a couple of months later. The next time we went, we had Stephanie with us, and all subsequent times we had kids with us too.

Deciding to go – just the two of us – was hard. I didn’t doubt Stephanie, Dean or my Mum’s willingness to make sure that the kids were looked after. I did struggle with whether or not there would be difficult moments or incidents and whether or not it was fair or reasonable to leave them to deal with that. Abigail had really wanted to go. Not because of anything in particular, but because she doesn’t like to miss out on things and she doesn’t like to think that we aren’t there to do what she wants or needs. When we pointed out that she’d be bored as batshit because there would be no internet and no TV (the accounts/TV license etc were all cancelled soon after Allan died,) no other young people to talk to, and the majority of the time would be spent sorting through and cleaning the house, and it would be fucking cold, she decided maybe it wasn’t so bad to be missing out.

In the time between when we got booked and got the dates finalised and when we left, I did all I could to make them all as prepared as possible so it would be as easy as I could make it for them to manage. The three kids actually took it upon themselves, with no prompting, to plan out a menu for themselves for the not-quite two weeks that we would be gone and I stocked the cupboard/freezer with all I could in advance to minimise the amount of shopping Stephanie and Dean would have to do. It was arranged that Abigail and Kristian would go to my mum’s over the weekend, so they planned with her what they would have/do while there as well. That way Stephanie and Dean got a bit of a break. During the week the kids had to go to school as well so it was not like full 24 hour days that they had to be supervising them.

I still had a bit of worry that there might be an explosion or something, but Stephanie and Dean knew what to do if that happened and I kept reminding myself that we don’t have to cancel our lives because of that possibility. What we need is also important. It was important to Daniel to go. We did not go when Lisa died. That wasn’t a problem, we had seen her six weeks earlier and we were quite aware that it was going to be the last time. We were comfortable with that choice. But this time it was not ‘just’ Allan. The things that needed taking care of, the house that needed clearing out, the belongings that had to be sorted, donated, thrown away, etc. It was both of them, even though he was the only one living there for the last four years. It was the last chance to do something for his parents, and he wanted it not just for himself but so that it didn’t all fall to his siblings to handle. As it is, there is a lot they have to do anyway because we are simply unable, being so remote. When I say ‘they,’ I mean Nikki and Lee, because.. well, Sandie. Chris is the executor anyway so technically it’s all his job but it’s not like anyone is going to just ignore it all and leave for him to deal with.

Something else I thought about a lot is whether or not I was physically up to doing this. I wanted to go with Daniel for multiple reasons, of course primarily because he’s my husband and my heart and I wanted to support him because his Dad had died and it’s pretty shit. But there was also that the whole diabetes thing was still very new and being my strict and paranoid self, I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone else to look out for his needs as obsessively as I would. And like, England food is different. We had been eating so much salad and I knew that winter in England would be.. not very salady. He also was committed to doing the right thing and eating smart, but sometimes forgetful or just not aware when things were ‘yes’ or ‘no’ since I am the main meal planner and maker and had done a lot more research than he had a chance to given that he works full time. So my second reason was because he needed me to look after him. He said he needed me too, not because he’s a useless idiot who can’t look after himself but because he is unaccustomed to having to think about a lot of these things since those are my responsibilities in our team, and trying to start thinking about them all in a foreign country while you’re in a heightened emotional state is a big ask. And it was good to have him say he needed me. So often I feel like I don’t do enough, because I want to be able to do so much more and to have him tell me that he does need me and that what I do does make a difference was really meaningful to me.

Anyway. In terms of my health, I figured that my activities would not be so different in terms of physical demand to my normal life and if it did turn out to be too much, I made sure I bought plenty of medicine with me, which it would not be a problem to take since I did not have to make sure I was available as a responsible and alert adult who could drive. (We only had access to a manual car so I couldn’t legally drive anyway.)

As it turned out, I had a really good couple of weeks. A lot of what I usually do was greatly reduced as well as being shared by Daniel. We only had to feed ourselves, we only had our own clothes to wash and dry, when we went to the supermarket he was there to help and we were free to move as slowly as I needed because we had the luxury of time to go at my pace. The first day after we got there I was feeling pretty terrible and had to keep refreshing the PFs regularly, but I think that was a result of airplane confinement and the ludicrous amount of walking that happens in airports. And though we did a lot of emptying of cupboards and shelves and drawers, and sorting through all of the stuff we found, I was able to sit for a lot and we also took regular breaks when it started to get boring or painful, and the breaks were actually breaks. At home when I take a break from one thing it usually means going and doing another thing for a while so that one part of my body stops hurting and another one starts. Hips hurting from doing dishes? Go and fold up some washing until the burning in my back becomes too much. I didn’t have other jobs to do and other responsibilities to make sure I managed to complete before everyone got back from school and work so when I sat or laid down to take a break I could actually let go and relax. It was ok if I fell asleep for a bit. The opportunity to take real breaks and listen to my body and move at my own pace without constantly feeling the push of the clock and the weight of responsibility and the need to manage everything before I got too tired and too sore was quite eye-opening. Because I am figuratively wading through molasses so much, making a lot of effort to achieve what sometimes looks like so little; because I am so exhausted by what I do manage but I am also victim to that social expectation that the modern woman should be able to manage home, kids, hobbies, a job, a side business, a perfect relationship, charitable work and do it all with ease and grace; I feel like I am letting my family down. Not having to manage what I usually do made me see that I do a lot more than I often give myself credit for and having the luxury to listen to my body to keep the pain and exhaustion at minimal, manageable levels was a reminder that I am doing enough. It was also a bit sad to feel so comparatively good and remember that for most people, that is normal yet for me it felt almost revelatory.. oh yeah, this is what life is supposed to feel like. That you become so accustomed to hurting and aching and pain and exhaustion that you literally cannot remember what it is like to feel ‘normal’ is one of the hardest and cruelest parts of having a chronic illness. Because the aching and hurting and tiredness become normal to you, it is easy to forget that your normal is not everyone’s normal, and when you feel like you’re not achieving much it’s so hard to not blame and doubt yourself.

I even felt good enough for us to decide to go for a recreational walk around the lake one day. I don’t know when the last time I felt like that at home was. Sometimes we try to do things like that anyway, because I get tired of not doing things, but it’s always with the knowledge that it’s going to come at a price. Anyway. We did try to go for a walk and it was nice but we stopped for a rest at a bench and then we decided that was enough of a walk not because it was too much for me but because it was FUCKING FREEZING. It was also very late in the afternoon, like maybe 1530 or something ridiculous so it was starting to get DARK and even colder so we were like, nah, fuck this.

england

it just keeps going

Life. Time. Whatever.

It is meant to be that a big thing happens and then that will settle down and I can figuratively catch my breath and recover and get used to whatever ways this thing has changed my life and then I can be ready for the next thing. Except it has all been a series of Big Things for a while, without the settling down and resting part in between. Someone has really dropped the ball on the scheduling.

By this point I am not even sure if I have track of all the Big Things. I think the first one was Daniel and the diabetes. That was back in early December. Yeah, like last year. Like 6 months ago. The doctor catching it when he did turned out to be an incredibly fortunate timing. Daniel had just been generally unwell, I can’t remember, a cold or random shit like that and had a couple of days off work and also needed new prescriptions soon so we took him to the doctor for the medical certificate and to get the prescriptions. It had been a while since he just had some general check up things, so the doctor said “I think we should have some blood tests just because it’s been a while and we live in a country that allows us to do general blood tests even though there is nothing specifically wrong with you which is pretty awesome, so stick out your arm, bro.” I mean, I paraphrased a bit, it has been six months after all. And we had to go next door for the bloodletting also.

Next day the doctor’s office calls Daniel and said some of his results already came back and the doctor would like Daniel to come back to talk about it. It’s not urgent, but could you come today? So he made an appointment for after work and of course I decided to go with him too because I am the prime authority on Daniel’s health and well-being and, well, Daniel can’t always be relied upon to properly relay details and names of diseases and the specific test results and all that. Which I need to have.

Turned out his BS meter was off the chart. Haha. But really. His blood sugar was pretty high, and so was another that gives an indication of average blood sugar over the last three months. Just getting a high blood sugar reading doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it having been at the high level for months meant that he was immediately diagnosed with diabetes.

The reason I say that this was all very fortunate timing is because once we had this information, we realised that there were some things that Daniel had noticed going on that were obviously a result of the high BS. In particular he had been having problems focusing on some things, especially at a distance, but he had gotten new glasses about a month earlier so at first he thought maybe they weren’t quite right or it was just an adjustment to them. It was almost getting to the point where he was going to go back to the optometrist to ask about it. But he was just a few points away from where he could have been at serious risk for coma and stuff so him having been sick and having the blood tests done came within a day or two of him maybe having reached the Very Serious complication stage.

We have changed a lot of things we eat, cut out a lot of types of carbs and sugars and replaced some of them with wholegrain varieties so that we aren’t completely deprived of the lovely stuff. I don’t buy potatoes anymore though which is so sad because I do very much love them but with his pancreas being stingy with the insulin and my liver wanting to hoard fat we just gotta be grown ups and accept that lovely potatoes have now very much become a “rarely occasionally” type treat. I am trying to include more meat and the fruits and vegetables that are “approved” and it is going ok. The part where it is difficult is finding things that are ok to eat, affordable to eat and that people will actually like the taste of to eat.

At the moment he only has to take pills (metformin) to keep it under control, as well as the diet changes we have made. He has a blood sugar monitor and as long as he is feeling good he doesn’t really have to keep track of it too much. I would like it if he would do it once a week for my peace of mind but his memory is not so good at managing that so it ends up being more like two or three weeks. Which I do not like but it is his body and he’s the one who has to poke holes in himself and even the doctor did say he didn’t really need to monitor it at this stage so I am not nagging and complaining about it even though it makes me feel better to have numbers and data.

I was a bit hesitant initially to tell some people about the diagnosis. Daniel is overweight, and there is a decent portion of the world that subscribes to the idea that the way you get diabetes is by eating too much bad stuff and if you end up with diabetes, it’s your own fault for being fat and piggy. And I just don’t want to deal with anyone who might suggest that. Even before the diagnosis we had been slowly and surely making changes to our food and drink consumption. And yeah, they were slow, but we have been successful in making and keeping to the changes. One of the biggest for him was drinking water. It is not something that he ever learned growing up, probably because water in England tastes like shit and it’s also not anywhere near as hot so it is easier to have a lower water intake. Over the last couple of years he has pretty much switched to only drinking water apart from our morning coffee and special occasions like going out to a restaurant or a birthday or Midsummer. That alone was a huge adjustment.

I’ve bought a lot of different foods over the last six months, things that are alright to have in combination with the other approved things he’s eating. Some of them are good and have become new regular inclusions. Some of them really are not good and we tossed that shit out or tried to give it away to someone else. Haha.

So yeah, that was the first Big Thing. And it’s kind of a forever Big Thing in that we have to make these changes for life and establish good habits and remember that doing the “wrong thing” isn’t just like a failed day on a diet, it could actually have real ramifications. So it’s all very much learning when and how much you can have the treats and how to not feel too ripped off when you know you can’t.

The next thing was Christmas.

it just keeps going