My Mum got her test results today. The good news is that the cancer hasn’t spread beyond where they already knew it is (breast and lymph) and that it is treatable. The bad news is that treatment (chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy) will take about a year, including recovery, so 2020 looks like being a stressful year for all of us. We don’t have a proper treatment plan yet, so I’m assuming that is only a rough plan; I’m not sure exactly how that would differ from an official treatment plan.
This is a side of the NHS I’m not used to seeing: fast, friendly and effective. I think Mum even has a support nurse who she can turn to with questions and for emotional support. It’s scary how different mental healthcare provision is from cancer treatment. I’m not sure why mental healthcare is so under-resourced, whether it’s stigma and public apathy or simply the fact that mental healthcare is very labour-intensive. Psychotherapy in particular can go on for years with no clear end in sight, making mental health a potentially bottomless pit for funding.
The prognosis seems to be good, but it’s scary to be suddenly confronted with my parents’ mortality. I’ve never entirely been independent from them because of my depression (and, perhaps, on some level, because of the autism) and I’ve worried in the abstract in the past about how I would cope without them, but this makes it all more real. I’m also wondering how it will alter the family dynamic. I’m used to being the only person who is ill and now that will change, which is likely to be disconcerting to all of us, at the very least.
My sister and brother-in-law came over in the evening to eat dinner and discuss my Mum’s treatment. We had a reasonably good time, despite the conversation being initially very serious.
I seem to be struggling with sleep even more than usual since Mum has been ill. I’ve gone from sleeping ten hours a night to twelve hours, and I wake feeling exhausted and depressed enough that I would probably sleep more, or at least stay in bed longer, if Dad didn’t insist that I get up. I know it’s not surprising, as sleeping more is always the first sign of depression in me and the last thing to improve (I haven’t really had a fully healthy sleep pattern since my teens), but it is frustrating. It’s pushing me into a more nocturnal life, as I stay up late because I’m not tired and because I want to accomplish some of the things I didn’t manage during the day, but that probably just perpetuates the problem.
Although I felt a bit better after breakfast, I still struggled to get dressed and start the day. Perhaps that was inevitable given that Mum had her big appointment. Maybe I was unconsciously trying to push it off somehow. Even after lunch I felt listless and unwilling to do anything. I tried to practise self-care, turn down the Shoulds and so on, but it’s hard. I still struggle to turn off the Shoulds and the self-criticism for fear of turning into a bad person. I don’t think genuinely bad people are much bothered by self-criticism and I’m worried that if I stop criticising myself, I will turn into a bad person.
I did manage to do a few things. I signed up for my local public library on their website, which I had neglected to do since we moved here. I stopped using my public library when I went to university because I didn’t want to risk losing public library books by taking them up to Oxford, and then I got out of the public library habit because I got into the charity shop habit. I can be possessive about books anyway and buying books for £1 from charity shops reinforced that and created an expanding To Read pile that I felt I should address before borrowing other books. Still, if I’m going to be unemployed for a while, it makes sense to join the library, particularly if I need to do research for writing projects. Plus, I’ve come to accept that a lot of the books on my To Read pile are going to stay there indefinitely; when I’m depressed (and it seems I will be depressed for the foreseeable future), I’m not realistically going to read The Iliad or heavy non-fiction or to re-read books like Great Expectations and Crime and Punishment, much as part of me would like to.
I felt too distracted to do much that was useful today, at least until Mum phoned after her appointment. I spent some time working on my bibliography, but was easily distracted. I managed to write up about fifteen references. I’m now about halfway through the bibliography, but some of the remaining references will require a lot of work to locate, and to find out how to reference properly (I need to check how to reference DVD production subtitles and supporting features). I’m hoping to get it finished by the end of next week.
Chaconia commented to say that I might still be eligible for ESA (benefits), but I’m feeling quite confused by the whole situation. I should probably find some time to sit down and work out how many National Insurance credits I have, if I’m still getting them and if there are any benefits I might be eligible for. I find the government benefits website rather confusing to navigate, perhaps deliberately.
As if knowing I would need cheering up, my Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers arrived moments after Mum and Dad got home. They are pleasingly chunky and usable, with sound effects and, in some cases, lights and extendable parts. I suspect that the ones seen on TV more recently were designed with merchandising opportunities in mind, for collectors and cosplayers (people who dress up as fictional characters) as much as for children. I suppose now I officially count as a cosplayer myself, if my Tom Baker/fourth Doctor scarf didn’t already qualify me. To be honest, three of the six screwdrivers in the set are virtually identical to each other, but the other three are all very different designs, so I’m glad I spent the extra £10 to buy the set rather than just buying the fourth Doctor one and maybe spending more to buy another one somewhere down the line. I showed them to my family after dinner and everyone was impressed, although I haven’t told anyone exactly how much they cost – at nearly £40 it was rather more than I am usually willing to pay for a fairly frivolous purchase and an impulsive one at that, but given that I don’t usually spend that much money on things, I think I can be forgiven one frivolous expense at a time of emotional stress. It is making me rather more excited about Purim, which was the purpose of the exercise, although there’s another month to go.