Breathe Issue 29

Change is constant. Mostly, it’s slow, almost imperceptible and then one day makes its presence felt in an unexpected moment. Occasionally, it’s so swift the very ground seems to give way.

This is perhaps especially so when it comes to the person who raised you or someone who helped shape your life. Think of a seemingly indestructible parent lifting heavy garden pots as though they were bags of sugar or running to the bus faster than Usain Bolt could ever hit the 100m mark. One day, you notice those pots are now on wheels and the sprint is a stroll. It can hit hard – a sign of a time when the lines between cared for and carer might become blurred. Sometimes, the obfuscation of roles happens overnight. An out-of-the-blue illness or accident brings irreversible change. But whether gradual or sudden, the altered state can cause distress and confusion for both parties.

It takes honesty, understanding and a good sprinkling of humour to negotiate this delicate and challenging transition, but it can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences and bring a renewed sense of bonding and intimacy as well as surprising insights into one’s own strength and the fortitude of loved ones. The important thing is to try to avoid chastisement if tempers fray, to keep a close eye on one’s own physical and mental wellbeing and not to be afraid to ask for help.

For some, of course, opening up about mental health concerns feels impossible, even inappropriate. But anxiety doesn’t discriminate and in a world where recent upheavals have been so fast and so great that the ground beneath us really does seem to have shifted, it’s essential that people are given safe spaces to discuss their feelings, their emotions and their hopes without fear of being judged.

Change can be challenging but it can also open up fresh opportunities for compassion, communication and connection and maybe by acknowledging and embracing that we all need help sometimes we can come together as a global community and begin to understand our collectively altered state.