amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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Dusting off my soul

I have been all over the place this week: great heights and deep lows. I have been inspired and moved to write some good blogs yet it’s wednesday evening and I can’t bring myself to publish any of those posts.

I got introduced to the artist Piet Mondrian this week. Firstly by a wonderful friend Lana,(http://www.smarttinker.com) whose passion, to develop children as learners so that they can face anything life throws at them, is inspiring. Secondly by my brother in law Andy, who keeps his sanity with grace even though he lives with 4 of my female relatives (his wife and kids, my sister and nieces for those of you had a “say, what?!” moment there).

There is just something about art that lifts us out of the compactness of our lives and into a bigger space. A space where we can just be. We can appreciate or criticise. We can absorb or reflect. Most importantly for me, it takes us out of ourselves.

We often often forget about art, especially when the responsibilities of parenting and care-giving pile up on us, leaving us with little time to stand still. So I want to share some art here that I looked at today and invite you to stand still. No comment from me, just the artist and the pictures. I hope it brings you something. Share your thoughts in the comments. Or not. Take a moment out of yourself, maybe go and look at some more art.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” Pablo Picasso.

Piet Mondrian: Broadway Boogie Woogie

Mondrian_Broadway_Boogie_Woogie

Piet Mondrian: The Gray Tree

Mondrian_gray_tree

Salvador Dali: Swans reflecting elefants

Swans_reflecting_elephants

Fayeq Oweis: No!

no2

Pablo Picasso: Violin and Candlestick

Violin_and_Candlestick

Last thing to say:  dear William, I am glad you are home.


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Planting the seeds of confidence

This post is going to be a bit different.  It’s not about chronic illness and it’s not about struggle.  Something happened this week that made me happy and I want to share it.

In my first ever post I talked about my journey to finding my daughter, seeing the child behind the illness.  Ever since, I have been doing something more consciously and deliberately.

I have been acknowledging my daughter.  It’s kind of like a compliment but I don’t praise what she has done, I acknowledge who she is.  It goes something like this:

” You know, you are smart, you figure things out.”

“You are funny and cheeky”.

“You are intelligent”.

“Even when you are scared and nervous, you try new things”.

“You know what you want”.

When I first started doing this I was met with shyness, a shake of the head and often an embarrassed “stop! why are you saying this?”

It seemed too much for her and she got embarrassed.  I think this is something we all do when the attention is turned to us and who we are.  It’s so personal and we are not used to it.

As time went by she starting getting used to me doing this.  Then she started to ask me, shyly, to “do that thing, when you say stuff”.  She would smile, my heart would melt and I would oblige.  I was happy, she was happy.

I have been working a lot lately so this last Sunday when I was helping her get ready for the day I took the opportunity to acknowledge her.  It’s been a while.

I started talking and she started smiling.  Confidently.

The she spoke and blew me away.

“I know” she said.

We both grinned and hugged.

I thought “this is beautiful”.

So I have new definitions of beauty (to add to my collection).  Beauty is someone glowing with the confidence of knowing who they are.  Beauty is the connection created between two people when they share this knowing.

And I know that with a simple acknowledgement, by saying “you are …” you can help build self worth.

Yes of course she gets insecure or disappointed in herself but she also knows that she is smart, funny and brave.


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Finding my daughter: the child behind the illness

In taking care of a child with a chronic illness something, seemingly insubstantial, is lost.

The worry

Will she be ok? Will she live a normal life?  Will she be happy?  Will she live?

The worry is clear, solid, like a monolith pressing on your heart.  It is substantial.

The work

Preparing and administering medicine, waking up multiple times at night not because they wake up, but because you need to give medicine, clean up vomit.  The extra washing from a baby that projectile vomits 12 times a day.

The work is heavy, the weight of it builds up and presses you down.  It is solid.

The learning

So how do you insert a nasal gastric tube into the stomach and not the lungs?  How do you get a pill into a baby using a syringe because you need to give it via a feeding tube?
Turning into a nurse and thinking “I never thought I would need to know how to do this” and secretly loving the fact that you know how to handle a syringe.

This you know.
These are real.
They take up time, freedom and energy.  This is a very real loss and you know it.

What caught me by surprise and was the greatest tragedy of my life, was looking at my 2 year old daughter and seeing a person for the first time.  There had been glimpses, moments, along the way where we connected as mother and daughter but it wasn’t until her condition was stable that I could relax and I actually saw her, a person.
Her life was less precarious, the stress was less, the work less intense, she was having good days, feeling good, laughing.  I had time to breathe and breathe deeply; to look and see this is my daughter, my baby.
Looking at her face light up with joy, the mischievous look in her eye, the brilliance of her spirit I wonder: how often have I not noticed?  How often was I too busy with the syringe, trying to keep vomit out of her hair or had turned away once the task was done?  How often have I looked at her and seen only the illness, not her?

This loss often goes unnoticed, and therefore seems insubstantial.  This is the greatest loss.  Losing the one you love when they are right there, with you, wanting to be seen.

I do see my daughter.  I can separate the attention I give her illness and the attention I give her.  She feels it too, although she never mentions it.  I can see it in her eyes.

However, I know that if I don’t do something that gives me energy, if I don’t recharge, have fun, laugh, cry, have time to myself; then I lose her.  I stop seeing.
The illness is always there and is demanding.  It screams for attention and gets it.  Uses up my energy until I am weary.
She doesn’t scream.

So I have learnt to look after myself.  I find a way to have fun, cry, let off steam.  Let someone else care for her, even if they won’t do it as well as I would.  I need it.  I take it.

Then I can see. 

So who is she?
Funny, smart, quick, shy, too hard on herself, cunning, determined, scared.  She is beauty, in all aspects.
She is a person.