In September 2021, for a myriad of reasons that are far too complex and far too emotional to explain in a blog post, I found myself in the slightly unexpected position of now being a full time carer to my adult son.
I say slightly unexpected, because I knew the day would come, but to suddenly find out in the space of three weeks that the placements you had envisioned would be available for the next three years, turn out to be so completely wrong you can’t quite believe what you were thinking when you applied on your son’s behalf, it’s a shock, trust me.
I now found myself the primary, full time carer for my adult son, and it changed everything. I have always looked after him from the moment he woke up to the time he went to school, and from when the school day had finished until he went to bed, but now, there is no break. From the moment T gets up, to the moment he goes to bed, I am looking after him – and it’s exhausting, physically and mentally.
Due to various elements of T’s condition, respite isn’t an option at the moment, so it’s up to me to be here and be present for him. Meeting friends for a coffee or a lunch during the week are no longer an option, and the only free time I get is when my husband comes home from work, or at the weekends.
I can imagine you reading this, wondering why I am writing a post like this – I mean, after all, you are thinking, this is meant to be a blog about books for goodness sake.
I guess it’s just that I want to try and tell people what it is like being a full time carer. It’s not easy, it’s full on, and it takes over your life. Suddenly, all the things you thought you wanted to do are put on the back burner, and honestly, I came very close to stopping running Years of Reading a number of times. How could I be a good blogger if I can’t find the time to read, to write reviews.
It can absolutely feel like you are being left behind if you can’t read and review. I feel guilty for all the books I haven’t been able to read, for all the reviews I want to sit down and write, and for all the times I can’t attend events or take part in bookish things because to be honest – T has to come first. It makes you doubt yourself and your love of reading. Am I still a book blogger if I don’t actually blog about books? In the ever increasingly growing and fast moving book blogging community, where do I fit in if my life changes and I am simply too exhausted to be part of it anymore?
The one thing that has got me through this huge life change is reading, and the bookish friends that I have made since I started blogging. Before I started blogging, I was always a little sceptical that you could have friendships with people you have never met, but they have been the very thing that have kept me going through the last year. I am so lucky to have such incredible friends in my life who have been there for me when I needed to vent, or to simply just talk about books for a while. Amanda (@bookishchat) has been the best bookish friend I could have wished for. We have both had a lot to deal with personally this past year, but as well as chatting non stop about books and Real Housewives, for me, having Amanda there to talk to, and us having created @twofondofbooks has meant everything.
Honestly? We don’t talk enough about what it means to be a full time carer. Of the immense isolation and loneliness that you feel, of how your world often shrinks to the four walls you have to live in for much of your day. It really hurts sometimes as you see friends and family doing all the things you wish you could, without a second thought or a whole load of planning and complicated strategies that you have to put into place before you can even step outside of the door.
Reading has always been my escape, my time away from reality, but over the past year it has become so much more. It is a snatched ten minutes of joy for myself when I am not needed, it is a chance to lose myself for just a little while in worlds like and unlike my own, and it is way to be constantly connected to those who love reading and books just as much as I do. I have never appreciated books, reading and the friends I have made in the bookish community as much as I do now.
If you have read to this point in my blog post, thank you. I felt I needed to explain just why writing and blogging has had to take a back seat for a while, and to share that if you are going through something similar too, I hear you, and we need to talk openly and honestly about what being a carer is really like. It’s hard, it can be relentless and like you are constantly trying to be heard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
All I can say is thank goodness for books, reading and the incredible bookish community I am so pleased to be part of, because I really don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have them, and my life would certainly be a lot less brighter without them.
Lots of love,