This is the post excerpt.
About four years ago we made a decision that was to change our lives completely. We suggested to my then 96 year old mother that she comes to live with us. There were sound reasons behind our decision as she was not looking after herself very well and was looking very weak and wobbly. We also felt that her relationship with us was good and vice versa and we would make this work. We really had no idea what we were doing; what we were taking on or how it would affect us.
Or in this case the first stone in weight off. I am thrilled to have finally found an eating regime that actually works for me and isn’t a penance, in fact I am enjoying the cooking and the planning.
The Real Meal Revolution (RMR) is a well thought out and balanced eating plan which provides support, advice, meal plans if needed and a huge supply of recipes to start you off which are family friendly and easy to do. There are also lists of foods that can be eaten always, those that need to be limited and the red list of ones to never eat. It is easy enough to devise meals using the green lists. The secret is definitely in the planning but you could probably say that of all diets in truth. The difference with the RMR is that it actually helps you to train your mind and your body in order to enable you to lose weight. It is not a quick fix and is a regime to be followed for life. Being ultimately a foodie I was initially worried that I would find the low carb restrictions too difficult but that has not been the case. The plan turns everything we have always been told to do about a balanced diet, upside down and it did take me a few weeks to get my head around it all but that is a necessary part of the learning curve. I certainly feel better, have less aches and pains and walk the dogs with greater ease. Mind you, this stone is just the first hurdle, I have several to clear over the coming months but at least I feel positive about reaching my goal weight.
The AP is aware that I am losing weight but doesn’t seem to understand how because we do all appear to eat the same meals. This is one of the bonuses of it all, she cannot meddle or tell me what she thinks I should be doing from her standpoint of no knowledge. Before we made the fateful decision to have her live with us the AP was living on sugar laden Heinz tinned soups and bought snack cakes, full of artificial flavourings and trans fats. Need I say more!
The only downside to it all is eating out. I love to go out for lunch or dinner but it is difficult to find anywhere that gives me any variety of choice. Pub meals in particular seem to focus on chips with everything, pastry dishes, bread rolls, breaded and/or battered fish, shellfish or chicken. Then there is the ubiquitous prawn cocktail which is enjoying a revival. It is invariably coated in a thick layer of glutinous mayonnaise of suspicious origin served, you guessed it, with bread and butter and I mustn’t forget the inevitable British favourites, sandwiches usually with a garnish of salad and crisps, filled baked potatoes, the ploughmans, lasagne with garlic bread and last but not least, curries with rice, poppadums, naan bread and sweet mango chutney. In the midst of all this there may be the lone salmon fillet to be had with salad and when I am really lucky, chilli beef with salad. Never mind though it will all be worth it in the end and I guess there is always an omelette with salad for added variety.
Where are we with the AP? Rolling towards our month of freedom and trying hard not to wish the time away, only four and a half weeks to go. She continues to irritate with her overbearing and condescending attitude and it will be lovely to have some time together doing our own thing.
It is eleven days since I wrote a blog and what have I done in that time. I guess nothing much of great interest. I called my blog ‘Shrinking Horizons’ when I began writing but really I should change it to ‘Shrunken Horizons’. The LSO and I live in this slightly surreal world and despite us trying our hardest to not become bored with our extremely limited existence, every now and then we are overwhelmed by a sense of futility. We really go nowhere and it’s sad to say that even a trip together to the bottle bank is a novelty. The picture on this blog says it all really, the door to nowhere, no glass, no knocker, no number. Its actually in the side of a barn, totally random.
The AP is becoming increasingly mentally challenging as she cannot recall anything she is told, only remembering when her bank statement is due or the payment of her tenant’s rent. She never seems to understand what is said to her either by us or anyone else. Tales become garbled and nonsensical and information relayed by others is mostly wrong.
Here we are, both in our early seventies and the AP shows no sign of flagging physically but I guess when you have nothing to do except cope with yourself it’s easy. If anyone is flagging it is us because as well as coping with ourselves we shop for her, wash clothes, towels, bedding changing everything as well as cooking, cleaning, managing her affairs, making her appointments then ferrying her backwards and forwards to them. It is exhausting both mentally and physically and is taking it’s toll on both of us. We are aware of time passing and the fact that we are not free to do what we want, when we want to.
I do wonder if the AP actually considers or even realises, how having her living with us has brought our lives to a standstill. If she does, does she care? I somehow doubt it because she has become totally wrapped up in herself and her levels of empathy and understanding have deteriorated. The AP has no idea what we do in the day tending to sit in her room or go to the summerhouse and assumes that we sit watching television. How she imagines everything gets done I don’t know.
We can never go far without her and truth be told we really don’t want to take her with us either. Conversation is becoming impossible to the point of irritation, with us becoming as confused as the AP as we try to make sense of what she is saying. If she was a pleasanter person I would feel some sympathy but the nastiness is always just under the surface waiting to break out.
We do have a break coming up thank goodness but I am trying so hard not to wish the time away. The AP is doing that for us very effectively. Am I bitter about the decision we made? I regret it but no, I am not bitter, just resigned to it all.
Well no matter how much I try to put a positive spin on the situation the LSO and myself find ourselves in it all inevitably turns around and the dreaded all encompassing cloud creeps in.
This time it is the LSO who finds the AP’s rudeness and general nastiness too much to deal with and like all these situations it is a build up of many small incidences that are ignored and then finally the end of the road comes and the abyss appears. This particular last straw was the AP taking nearly fifteen minutes to come down for her dinner last night. It completely incensed the LSO and finally after she had departed to her room he exploded. I can fully see his point of view but I have managed to become more detached to the AP’s ridiculous behaviour and if she wishes to eat on her own and a cold dinner into the bargain, that is entirely her problem. But the LSO, quite rightly says it is just plain bad manners after a great deal of effort has gone into preparing meals that she can eat. Agreed but unfortunately we are not dealing with someone who is either logical or caring. The AP is utterly selfish and only thinks of herself and just to put the lid on everything she has also become both nosy and intrusive, demanding to know things that are none of her business.
So how do we now deal with this? The AP just sails on like a galleon leaving chaos in her wake and is completely oblivious to the damage she causes.
Well deal with it we must. We are both desperately in need of having our lives back and are hugely aware of time passing. The AP has taken an important part of our time away from us but not in a good way, which was something we never realised would happen or even considered when we made our decision to have her live with us. Anyone out there who thinks they know their parents, think again. I thought I knew my mother but I don’t think any of us actually do. I realise now how much my father many years ago, protected me from her because he also knew how she drove my brother away, something I was totally unaware of at the time. My father must have been as stunned at that as I am now by her patronising manner as well as her controlling and bigoted attitudes.
I refuse to go back to the darkness and angst and misery she has caused us; somehow we will find a way through all this.
For those of us who remember Jesse in The Fast Show, he would emerge from his shed which looked very much like an outside khazi to tell the world about his latest dieting fad; then he would depart back to the shed. So in this blog I shall be mostly writing about my weight loss programme.
Well my new regime is not a fad and it is definitely having the desired effect. In 5 weeks I have lost 10 and a half pounds in weight and feel so much better than I did before. My blood pressure is slowly reducing as is the terrible angst I had been feeling and to improve matters further the AP cannot wind me up anymore. I thought cutting down so much on carbs would be really difficult but it hasn’t been and I no longer feel the need to snack in between meals. I generally don’t cook different meals for myself but just add the desired carbs to his and the AP’s plates. For example tonight is Beef Stroganoff, I will have buttered cabbage with mine and they will have rice and with the handy microwave patna rice available now it’s a doddle. The RMR has some excellent recipes on the site and really help if I get a bit stuck on what to cook. The meal plans also provide me with some excellent guidelines and I am becoming better at planning in advance instead of that morning.
I have battled a little with the protein balance but suddenly realised that if I am a bit excessive one day I can reduce the proportion the next day. Eating out no longer fills me with horror because I have discovered that restaurants will substitute the carbs in their dishes with extra vegetables or salad. The down side of eating out is the fact that in pub restaurants in particular an awful lot of the menu is dedicated to breads, batters, mash and the ubiquitous chip so I can be a little limited in what to choose. The wine is a bit of a problem because I do enjoy a glass or two in the evenings so although at the moment I seem to have found a balance I can see it becoming more difficult in the future.
I have also discovered some really quality gins that can be poured over lots of ice and I have found that a tot of good single malt whisky in a large glass with ice and soda makes a great summer aperitif. No carbs in sight but I guess too much alcohol would not be a good plan.
At the end of the day the regime cannot become a penance, life needs to be enjoyed, even if we still have the trials and tribulations of caring for the AP. So if I slip back slightly at any time I will not beat myself up about it but will just revert to being sensible the next day.
Indeed it is really an ‘oh dear’ time in more ways than one. The AP is definitely old but not a dear unfortunately. The brain is disintegrating and her powers of understanding are on the decline but she refuses to accept any of this and yesterday was another fine example of her inability to get things right.
Our new boiler system had decided to pack up on us and being a Sunday there was not much we could do about it. The LSO and I looked in the boiler house and realised we had no idea where to start so we emailed the installer in the hope he could come over on Monday. We did appear to have cold water and just hoped that it wouldn’t stop and although it was windy, grey and a bit damp the weather was warm.
We patiently explained the situation to the AP over lunch, going over several times the need for just using the cold tap until we can get it all sorted out. We could still flush loos and wash hands. After lunch she asked me how everyone else in the area was going to manage in this situation. I pointed out that it was our system that had stopped working and that it would not affect anyone but us. After a pause I was asked ‘well don’t we share a septic tank?’. I explained that we didn’t have a septic tank and it was the water system that had stopped working. I was ignored and she then went on to tell me that my cousin in Cornwall shared a septic tank with three other houses. I asked what a septic tank had to do with our current situation as I was feeling pretty confused at this point of the discussion and after a pause I was informed tartly that it was just a ‘point’ of conversation. This is the AP trying to turn her own inability to absorb and understand information around and to try and put me in the wrong. It’s strange that no matter what happens she is never wrong or responsible but in the midst of all this she never forgets when her bank statement is due or when her pension or the rent on her flat goes in the bank.
We are experiencing some more odd mannerisms appearing. I asked the AP on Saturday if she would like to use the summerhouse, if so I would open it up. The response was not a yes or no but would it be ‘suitable’ for us. Why wouldn’t it be? I asked again and this time she did manage a sarcastic ‘yes thank you’, which I managed to ignore. Why the sarcasm? She will frequently ask me if I am using the living room after lunch and if I say no, she will say she’ll spend some time in there. It’s so unnecessary and I have no problem with her being in there. The AP is happy to spend the early part of the evening in there with us so I am not sure what point she is making or even if there is one. In truth, it is all trivia especially when looked at in isolation but we live with it twenty-four/seven and it is wearing us down.
We have non conversations now. It’s a bit like playing a game of verbal consequences. She latches on to something she has watched or heard and then strings sentences together coming out with something that if you didn’t know the facts could sound alright. But most of the time she is just plain wrong. If we manage to fill in the gaps which are many, we can sometimes get a coherent solution. Oh dear indeed!
On the boiler front, our lovely plumber came over on Sunday and sorted it all out. It turned out that a fuse had blown, probably because of all the power surges we have had lately and that in turn had caused the pump to shut down.
The twentieth of September is not far away.
There is no doubt that this on-going heatwave is extremely debilitating. I find myself rushing to the coolest room in the house, which is our North facing living room and only emerging to prepare and cook meals then rushing back to my fan and an element of coolness but also an element of boredom. A trip in the car to the bottle bank is a joy because of the air conditioning which unfortunately our house doesn’t have. In fact the solid eighteen inch thick Victorian walls act as a giant storage heater.
It is also sad to see so many of the garden plants dying off whilst the weeds inevitably continue to flourish but the tomatoes in the greenhouse are looking good as are the chillies. But we really are suffering from the stifling temperatures. The two Jack Russells with their thick coats just lie around listlessly and a walk can only take place in the early morning. Not particularly good for them nor for us.
The LSO potters around but comes in looking exhausted. At least sitting in the relative comfort indoors I can plan my menus and check the balance of the carbs, protein and fat I am consuming. I am still loving the RMR way of eating and my weight is slowly going down even though it is not a given at this stage of the process, so a bonus. It is such a pleasure to find my love of cooking returning and to feel generally so much better. Unfortunately my blood pressure is needing a little more encouragement and the drug dosage has been doubled as it had only dropped to 148/80 after a month of medication. Still, it is going down and I cannot expect an instant recovery after four years of being in a permanent state of flight or fight mode, pumping massive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline into my system which in turn has caused a myriad of problems. Now at least everything is finally heading in the right direction both physically and emotionally.
The AP is being kept firmly in her place these days and we are quick to deflect her unreasonable requests and her difficult behaviour before they become a problem for us. Astonishingly she still keeps trying to push us but now has nowhere to go. The LSO and I have become a lot more relaxed and detached generally; we have become better at handling the situations that arise when she tries to bully and dominate us. How I wish we had understood all this four years ago. The LSO said today that the AP has wrecked the quality of our lives over the last four years; we can never have that time back. He’s right of course but it makes it even more important that we stay on top of our health and wellbeing in order to enjoy the years left to us.
The AP heads North to Scotland in less that eight weeks and we have a whole month of freedom to do what we like and to have spontaneity back in our lives again. We will also have our personal space back be it only for a month with no bat hanging in the shadows.
Once again some time has elapsed since my last blog but I have not been idle. Since starting ‘Banting’ I have lost eight and a half pounds and that is quite an achievement because the first week is eating normally and I am now one third of the way through the six week period of restoration discovering a whole new way of thinking about food in general.
My blood pressure is slowly reducing and I have yet to check my blood glucose but I feel that must be improving too. One of the biggest plus points is the fact I feel so much better and much more like my normal self; I no longer am oppressed or depressed by the AP and indeed will take no nonsense from her. That doesn’t mean I am cruel or uncaring, just determined not to be bullied in any way.
The last four years have knocked holes in the LSO and myself but now the AP cannot push us around anymore, we have finally got the measure of her and in truth of ourselves too. But it took a rather terrifying situation to make us both realise how serious it had all become and how at the end of all this we need to be fit and well in order to enjoy what time is left to us. We cannot dwell on what has passed but we are now improving what is in the present and hopefully the future too.
Another result of this new found way of life is that my pleasure in cooking has also returned. I had begun to wonder as I sank further and further into illness, depression and despondency if this was going to be how our lives were going to play out, bored, boring and disinterested in just about everything.
Thank goodness for our hugely supportive medical practice and the intelligent and ultimately workable advice and support from our children, in particular our daughter whose in-depth dietary knowledge has been a godsend.
I can in all honesty say this time that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel.