I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help

559 words, approx. 4 minutes to read

In her second blog, Emma talks about caring for her mum after her dad’s death.

My dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year. When he passed away in January this year, reality finally hit me. Despite knowing the cancer was going to kill him, we didn’t expect him to go so soon. Thankfully, his death was peaceful and he was spared the horrific pain we’d seen others go through.

But the suddenness of his death meant nothing practical had been sorted out. Dad was the primary carer for my mum, who has supra nuclear palsy. There was so much he did for her that he didn’t have time to share and, as an only child, it all fell to me when he was gone.

Unexpected events

Although my mum had been poorly for a number of years, we only found out in November what was really going on. Her diagnosis gave me yet another research job, which soon made it clear that she was going to deteriorate rapidly too.

My mum entered hospital a week after my dad passed away. Part of her disease means she can’t think broadly – unless she’s asked a specific question, she can’t tell you anything hurts or is wrong. One morning, while I was planning my dad’s funeral, I found her on the floor. I rang an ambulance which took her to hospital, where we found out she had sepsis. She’d ignored a water infection which had spread up into her bladder, kidneys and lung. 24 hours later and she’d have been dead – always a useful thing to hear from a paramedic when you’re already terrified!

Sharing the load

I thought I was the only one going through what felt like hell, completely making it up as I went along. But that’s where PACT came in. Nobody’s experiences are the same, but there are similarities – like the complexities of caring – that bring us together and form the basis of a strong support network. We’re all there for each other, whether it’s just a silly picture, a hug or some treats when we’re having a hard day.

The past eight months have been tough to put it lightly. I’ve lost my dad and brought my mum back from the brink of death, while running two households and darting between both to care for our family pets. I’ve been trying to register for probate and navigating the wonders of the social care system, without having any idea what I’m doing. Working full time alongside all that would take its toll on anyone’s mental health, and it’s stretched me in a way I never thought possible.

A positive view

That stretch has taught me a huge amount about what you can do when you put your mind to it. I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help. I’ve learnt how important it is to give myself a bit of a break from time to time, and hold onto the happy things in life. Ultimately I’ve learnt that it’s all about perspective; I’ve got friends I know will be there for me for years to come, and that makes the future much brighter than it seemed a few months ago.

If you’ve got caring responsibilities, might have them in the future or are managing someone with caring responsibilities come and get in touch with us at PACT. Although our experiences are all different we know what it’s like and are always here to support.

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager

 

If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email pact@coop.co.uk.

Post-natal depression and me, how talking and support have helped

480 words approx. 4 minutes to read

In support of mental health week, Charlotte Bleasdale shares her experience of living with post-natal depression.

I was diagnosed with having post-natal depression 7 years ago, a few months after the birth of my son, Jack. I have two children, Jack and Holly.  I can still remember how ashamed I felt admitting I needed help. I was so low during a period when I should have been so happy. I felt like such a failure not being able to pull myself together and be the bubbly, happy person everyone knows me to be.

I kept my feelings to myself for a few months before asking my husband, Andrew for help.  I was in a place of trying to understand why I felt the way I did and not wanting to see anyone or leave the house.

Over the years, the way I feel and what I can only describe as periods of darkness I feel, haven’t changed. But the way I handle myself and cope with my feelings has got easier. I’ve found coming to work has been a huge help. There are days I just want to hide under my duvet and not face the world but coming in has helped me bring out the best in me and be the person I want to be again.  I find this hard to say, as I realise at home, with my loving and supportive family they are the ones who suffer the most from me not being the best mummy or wife.

Moving forward

Until recently, I hadn’t ever wanted to share how I feel with anyone at work. I felt I couldn’t. It would be career suicide. I was worried people would think I was some sort of crazy person.

But in January this year this changed. Over Christmas I’d been ill with the flu, things just spiralled and I didn’t want to come to work at all.  I met with Andy, my manager, cried and cried, and shared my feelings. Andy was brilliant, he listened, didn’t judge and was as supportive as ever. Nothing has changed and I haven’t been treated any differently which is what I was most worried about. My biggest fear is that people see me differently and then act in a different way towards me.

I cannot express the sense of relief I felt to share my feelings; it was like a huge weight had been lifted, like I could be open and free.

Support and encouragement

It is okay to not be okay. My friends, family and work family are all amazing and love me no matter what I am feeling or going through. I realise now everyone is there to support me and doesn’t judge me.

I wanted to share my story in the hope of inspiring others to reach out for help and support and to encourage managers to be as supportive as mine.

Charlotte Bleasdale
Programme Manager, Supplier Engagement and Change Integration

 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story you may be interested in joining Aspire and our parent and careers network, PACT. You can email Aspire at aspire@coop.co.uk.

For more support, you can also contact:

PANDAS Helpline – for women experiencing pre and post-natal depression: www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/helpline/.

Co-op Employee Assistance Programme: colleagues.coop.co.uk/employee-assistance-programme.