Caring for someone when I don’t care about myself by @AtHomeActivist

Cross-posted from The Agoraphobic Feminist

orig. pub. 7.3.15

I’ve been a carer for my grandmother for years.

I don’t talk about it often, and I honestly didn’t realise I was a carer until a couple of years ago.

It’s just something you’ve gotta do.

I made plans to go away to Uni when I was 19 like my sisters did (a little late but I’m always playing catch-up with them). But I couldn’t do what they did – go off and have a life – mainly because her care needs grew as she got older, and also because I couldn’t deal with the guilt of leaving her behind with no one to care for her, besides district nurses and paid carers.

If you follow me at all, you’ll know I talk about guilt a lot. It tends to make my decisions for me.

Let me tell you about my nan.

She’s 92.

She’s not my ‘real’ grandmother (whatever that is). ‘Biological’ then. She’s lived next door to my family for years.

A constant.

She was born in Scotland and moved to Wales with her husband when she was 17 and a half. (The half is important; she always says she was 17 and a half, not just 17.)

Her husband died 23 years ago. I remember that because he died a couple of months before I was born. It’s strange growing up knowing that the number of years you’ve been on the planet is the same number of years that someone has been dealing with a loss.

She has a saying. People die to make room for other people. Of course I know that’s untrue. But in my darkest times I think how unfair it is that a kind, gentle, funny man died to make room for ME. Selfish, useless me.

She’s a heavy smoker (like 40 a day). How she’s still alive I don’t know.

She has 1 eye. She lost one to cancer. When she was in hospital, the surgeon told her that she had 2 options: remove just the tumour and keep the eye (although she’d never be able to see with it), or remove the whole eye (better because it reduces the risk of the cancer coming back). Her response? ‘Rip the bugger out’.

So you get the picture. She’s tough, reluctant to show any vulnerability. Sometimes this translates into frustration with me. Some days I get angry. Most of the time I let her say what she’s going to say, because I can’t deal with an argument (she usually wins).

She’s losing her memory. We’re not sure whether it’s normal ‘old age’ or whether it’s something like dementia. I want her to get tested because then we’ll get help, but when I asked her about it yesterday she was very reluctant. She doesn’t want any new diagnoses at 92. Fair enough.

So there you go. Now you know a little bit about my wonderful, infuriating, beautiful grandmother. She sort of knows I’m writing about her on my blog.  She doesn’t know what a blog is but assumes it must be dangerous because it’s on the internet.

I wish I could teach her all about the internet. All the amazing connections you can make with inspiring people. The ability to work wherever you are in the world. A support network of people just like you, hiding under their blankets, all over the world.

But mainly I want to teach her about the internet because she loves cats.

And let’s face it, that’s 99% of it.


Agoraphobic Feminist: I’m a versatile freelance writer that suffers from depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia. My writing covers a wide range of issues including feminism, equality, social issues and mental health.” If possible, I would also like to include the following links: (@AtHomeActivist)

One thought on “Caring for someone when I don’t care about myself by @AtHomeActivist”

  1. Hi
    Just felt I resonated with you as I became agoraphobic and was diagnosed a few years ago along with other mental health issues. I’m unemployed right now but hoping to change that. However my dad is 79 and has bouts of poor physical health following a stroke and other stuff. Since I’m the only one of four grown up kids around during the day, I’m there to do the every day stuff when he needs help. Like you say we just do it. I appreciate my dad more now he needs me to help him like he has always helped me in his own way. It’s humbling for me. Plus it’s forcing me to go outside to help him. It’s so much easier when you are doing for others in my case anyway. Love your story x

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