Beforehand – I felt quite daunted to think of an hour-long interview on Mearns fm radio about my non-fiction writing! Elaine May Smith, the programme presenter, helped make things much easier – with Elaine I chose the pieces of music which had meant so much to me during those years when Jay my daughter was so ill, yet refused all treatment when it was suggested by the doctor she should be in hospital.
Music and writing were what really helped me survive and get through those really tough times. Collected together copies of ’Families, Carers and Professionals: Building Constructive Conversations’ which Wileys published in 2007, ‘Skills-based Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder….’ which I co-authored with Professor Janet Treasure, and Anna Crane, pub by Routledge in the same year, as well as ‘Anorexia and Bulimia in the Family’, my first ‘big book’, 2004, pub also by John Wiley and Sons…the listeners wouldn’t be able to see them though.
What was I going to say?….Talking about those difficult years – struggling on despite no information, trying to work out what best to do to help Jay and what not to do, plus constant worries about possibly doing all the wrong things due to my ignorance – certainly brought back so many memories. All, I now know, in common with so many other family carers in a wide variety of circumstances including multiple sclerosis, autism, schizophenia, bipolar disorder, acquired brain injury, alzheimers…. and so many other difficult conditions.
And when I read my poem Chair on air, written at a workshop I attended when Jay was so ill (and included in both my books published by Wiley), I worried that my voice was going to break.
Chair by Gráinne Smith
Each day I give you comfort.
Each day since we came home together
I support your weight, increasing with the years.
You should look at me you know,
be aware of the burden I carry,
feel the cracks as my skin rubs, wears.
You should attend my worn springs,
sturdy frame and broad smooth surface.
Why don’t you brush down the worn coat?
Listen to my creaks and groans?
Come here, stroke me, touch
with love the faithful arms
waiting, fearful that you might not return.
Why don’t you feel the warmth of my heart
beating at the sound of your feet?
Why don’t you, just once,
look at me? I am tired
of your careless demands,
the way you blindly take
and take and take and take.
One day my inner strengths
Glad to say I got through to the end without my voice breaking. The hour simply flashed past! – great feedback too since the broadcast too. Many many thanks to Elaine for all her help and support, and for inviting me back to talk about my non-fiction work, giving an opportunity to talk about the writing workshops for carers, ‘Journeys in Words’, which I’ve been asked by VSA to present in Stonehaven and Banchory Libraries on alternate Thursdays starting on 1st March. (More details from Stonehaven Library and Banchory Library)
My beloved Jay is now well, getting on with her life, working fulltime, great social life… it could so easily have been otherwise. Knowing so many other family carers now, and working with the Open University Development Group which includes service users and carers coping with a very wide range of conditions and situations, I count my blessings every single day.