The Loneliness of the Long Term Carer

I’ve been storing this subject for a while now.  I’ve not written about it because, frankly, it’s embarrassing.  And a bit self-absorbed and depressing.  It’s strange how coincidences occur to jog you into doing what you’ve put off.  So, fuck it, I’m going to write this.  Today, I read this blog post on loneliness written by @flendog_ on Twitter.  While our circumstances are different, I can definitely relate to her point of being incredibly lonely.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen this photo.

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It’s me sitting at a table with a bottle of water.  An innocuous and, let’s face it, dull photo.  It was last Friday and I was in a cafe.  I cherish those moments I get to do something vaguely ‘normal’.  Something I see evidence of other people doing on a regular basis.  Having fun.  Or, at least, sharing their daily lives with others – be it with family, long-acquainted friends, or people they know only through social media.  I see it a lot and I envy it greatly.

What I didn’t tell you was that, shortly after that photo was taken, I made my way home trying desperately to stop myself from crying like a baby.  Some bloke walking through a shopping area in floods of tears would’ve been a rare old sight.  Probably worthy of some ridicule on some social media.  (I might have gone viral.  Shit, missed an opportunity, there.)  Thing is, that wasn’t the first time that’s happened.  And the catalyst for this was an almighty wave of loneliness that hit me hard during the time I’m supposed to have for me.  That wave has hit me quite a few times.  And each time it leaves me feeling more stupid and hopeless than the last.

Here’s another self-absorbed bit – I don’t have much of a social circle to speak of.  I talk to people on Twitter a lot of the time.  I’ve said before that without them, I’d be in a bucket.  I’ve had several offers of a listening ear from various people on Twitter, and I’m grateful for every single one of them.  And your names are noted because I intend to take you up on that offer in the right circumstances.  I just would like to actually see people.  In the flesh – clothes optional.  You know, like a lot of you out there do.  I know my circumstances are very unusual and that when you ask me how things are, I feel obliged to be honest with you.  And it’s dark.  As of yesterday, I’m living with MW *and* my mother – and what 40-something doesn’t want that lifestyle?  I’m providing round-the-clock care for MW and seeing my mother through 18 weeks of chemotherapy.  These are not light subjects to touch upon.  I don’t mind talking about them but this doesn’t mean that my entire oeuvre of conversation is geared around those subjects.

Where my feelings may differ from those of @flendog_’s is that I start to wonder whether people see me for what I do rather than who I am.  Am I pigeonholed as just ‘that carer bloke’?  Or am I such an arsehole that no-one really enjoys spending time with me?  An irrational thought?  Perhaps.  A self-absorbed one?  Most definitely.  Right up my own arse.  It’s an inescapable feeling, though.  And not a pleasant one.  It’d be nice to get a hug (or several, I’m not fussy) and be in the photos that people take of smiley people doing sociable stuff.  Y’know, Instagrinning.

You might be reading this thinking “what about MW?  Doesn’t *she* feel lonely too?”.  Yes, she does.  All she’s got is me faffing around her all the time, which is fine, to a degree.  But we’re not supposed to spend 24 hours a day with each other.  For 9 years and counting.  The bright point is that she has carers coming in who she likes and enjoys spending time with.  It’s not perfect but it’s the best we’ve got.

I haven’t got a clever ending for this post.  No bringing it back to the beginning and tying it all off nicely with a quote or a line.  Because I haven’t got an answer for it.  So, if you see a bloke on his own nursing a coffee or a bottle of water, go and say hello.  Maybe offer a hankie.

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