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On the Days I'm Overwhelmed By Life as a Chronically Ill Single Mom, I Remember This

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I have been quiet for a while. This tends to be because I am out living life as much as I can, going on adventures and challenging myself. Whilst this is true, on this occasion it’s also because I have been exhausted. Too exhausted to sit in front of my laptop and put words next to each other in any way that makes sense. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am lucky that I have been able to get out there in and on the sea, I’ve been to gigs and on trips, I have been volunteering and writing for other sources, helping people when I can. But the overriding thing I have been feeling lately is frustration. I am back in one of those phases where I feel overwhelmed by what is expected of me as a single mother and as a seriously ill woman. I spend my days making a million tiny choices between using my energy to do the washing up or to take the kids out to park, do I go for a swim and take care of myself or do I run the kids about and supervise yet another activity? 

All I really want to do is sleep, if I’m honest. To just curl up in a ball, hibernate and be left alone for a few days, or weeks…

For whatever reason, I’m not sure why, these moments of pain, exhaustion and weakness are when my kids seem to fight, have existential crisis after existential crisis and challenge my patience. Just yesterday in a local store, two of them had a huge row that lasted a good 10 minutes over who got to hold these paint color strips. We didn’t even need the aforementioned strips; we were stuck in a queue to pay for the items we did need and neither of them would let it go. I was tired and fed up with parenting. I felt like screaming, but instead calmly told them to cut it out or else they would be going in the bin (the strips, not the kids).

You see, there is a downside to this positive, strong exterior — people forget. They forget how ill I am, how much pain I am in every day, how exhausted I am. Of course I don’t want my kids to worry all the time — that’s not what I’m saying at all, I want them to live life as normal children that just happen to have a sick mother.

So I’m loathed to say I struggle, that I find it tough, that no, sometimes I don’t cope.

I’m human though, right? It’s been two years, 24 months, 104 weeks, over 700 days and nights. Every sickness to treat, every appointment to attend, every bill to pay, every tear to wipe, every show to watch, every meal to make, every form to fill, every speck of dust to clean, every nightmare to soothe, every bit of exercise or fresh air to take, every sock to wash, every decision to make, every difficulty to help them overcome.

All. Me.

It’s no wonder I’m shattered when you look at it that way.

Does anyone really feel like they have their life under control the whole time? Are there any parents, single or otherwise, who feel like they are perfect and don’t screw up every other day? Are there any chronically sick people out there that feel they are enough even when in crisis? I wonder if these things I struggle with are normal or are they related to my health and marital status at all?

woman sitting on paddleboard on lake

Speaking to my siblings and friends lately, I figure that I’m not alone, I’m not incompetent at all, I’m ordinary. It’s completely OK to feel this way sometimes. Life as a grown-up is tough. Having children is tough. Of course it goes without saying that we are blessed and lucky to have the care of these little souls in our hands — that doesn’t mean it’s all laughter and smiles, though. 

Is anybody’s life that simple, when you look behind the lens?

I guess the bottom line is, are you doing your best? Do you start each day as a new dawn and a chance to do better than the day before? Do you push yourself to live a better, happier, healthier, fuller life despite your limitations?

Can you look yourself in the eye and say, “I’m trying?”

Go and do it right now — what do you see?

I see a woman who has lived. I see a woman still standing. I see a 39-year-old mother of four in the lines of laughter and age etched on my face. I see a woman who cares deeply about the world she lives in. I see a woman who wants to do better and be a better version of herself.

I see me.

Mama. Wanderer. Adventurer. Thinker. Writer. Volunteer. Teacher.

I don’t see an ill woman. I don’t see a failed marriage. I don’t see all those things I worry about in these fleeting dark moments.

I feel like I am doing the best job I can. I shout and sometimes cry. I have moments of deep despair over my ability to keep going, but i don’t ever just walk out because life’s too tough. I make mistakes. I do and say things and make decisions that I’m not proud of, but I am not ever afraid to say sorry. I don’t quit on myself or my kids even when they drive me potty. I don’t run away, even when inside i want to.

I get up yet again at 6 a.m. to face the day in physical pain, with four humans who need me to keep going.

I put one foot in front or another.

I try.

Some days, simply doing that is enough.

I. Am. Enough.

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Originally published: August 10, 2017
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