Aside from the pandemic, it’s been a particularly rough year for me so I decided to take advantage of the Shakti Women Let’s Talk service and I’m so glad that I did. My counsellor has been helping me to work through a depression and a difficult relationship with my mother. We’ve been speaking for an hour most Sunday nights for the last couple of months.
Just to give you a bit of context (not because I want your pity but because I’m hopeful that sharing will encourage others to talk through their difficulties with someone and not bottle them all up), my mother and I have always found it hard to communicate with one another and the stresses of the last year have brought these difficulties to the foreground.
My dad has terminal lung cancer. We found out in January last year while I was working for a school in Ecuador. I’d flown home to attend an interview for another school in Thailand and had a few days to go and see him in hospital. That’s when they told us his diagnosis. It was a shock. We knew he was in a lot of pain. The year before, he’d broken his back and never been the same since, but we didn’t quite expect to hear that they thought he only had a few weeks to live.
I spent a few days in and out of the hospital, by his side, as he had his first and only round of radiotherapy. It was horrific for him and seeing him so broken was devastating. Sadly, I had to return to Ecuador while he was still in hospital. My headteacher had been great, but I had a contract to fulfill, students to teach.
In the meantime, I got the job in Thailand and accepted it, not knowing what was just around the corner.
As soon as I got back, I booked another flight to the UK to be with dad for the February half term. By that time, he was back home, recovering from the radiotherapy and the trauma of being quite seriously ill in hospital. Life as his full-time carer had just begun for my mother. While she wasn’t at work one or two days a week in the local cinema, she was doing an amazing job of looking after dad, as she still is. Even so, his pain was out of control.
It was hard to leave the both of them again to fly back to Ecuador, but I had to.
Then came the pandemic. The city of Quito went into full lockdown two weeks before the UK and I started to worry that I wouldn’t be there for my dad if the worst happened. I booked a flight home but it was cancelled. I booked another one, but that was cancelled too. As my teaching went online and the Ecuadorian government imposed a strict curfew, I was increasingly afraid I wasn’t going to make it back to the UK at all and my dad was going to die while I was held hostage by the pandemic in my apartment.
In the end, I asked the British Embassy to help get me home. Within a week of my desperate Tweet to them, I was on a packed KLM flight, wearing a mask and trying not to touch anyone or anything the entire way a