One of the first things I did when I got online this morning was check the statistics on my WordPress account. (I know, I am that much of a sad geek!) Anyway, I noticed for the first time a hit originating from South Korea. My insides buzzed and my first thought, perhaps illogically, was ‘Oooh an Olympian!’ So this post dear reader from South Korea is for you. It is actually one I have wanted to write for a while.
For many years I have been cared for by a variety of caregivers. They have been an extremely diverse bunch from every walk of life you can think of and for the most part, I have enjoyed meeting every one. I know you are sitting there thinking “But Heidi, you hate most of your carers!” And yes, that is probably the case! Yet, every single one has taught me something valuable about myself.
As a family joke, we have kept a list of all the carers I have had from my current agency. Every time a new one starts they get a number. I am currently on number eighty-three. Eighty-three is a large number. To put it somewhat into context I have been with the agency seven and a half years and last year I experienced my worst year with over thirty different carers.
All joking aside, living with a stranger does put a toll on things. Even though it is your home, you cannot truly be yourself. You have to take into account the feelings of someone living with you. They are in the tricky grey area of it not being their home and also having to integrate at times as if they were one of the family. I sometimes think that carer changes are harder on the carer than the client. However, on some occasions you find a rare gem. A carer who is actually better than good at the job and crucially they are someone you feel so at ease around that it does not feel like a carer is in your home. It is a tough bill to fit.
Many of the carers I have had have been astounded that I manage to greet them all positively, even in the face of grief. When one carer stole from me, I was able to continue with others and not hold one woman’s grievance with me, against them. I did not start hiding things, or becoming paranoid when I had to send carers into drawers to fetch items. It very much hurt me that someone could take something they knew I loved. However, I consciously chose not to let her hold that power over me. She wanted to get to me, and whilst I am hurt, I turned the other cheek and carried on. My pain would not define my relationship with innocent others who are not to blame.
One carer was homophobic and told me my life was not worthwhile. I continued to be nice to her and treat her with respect until she was removed. For weeks I gritted my teeth and told her I could only respectfully disagree, whilst being so polite and not telling her to shut up. I greeted her replacement with a grin and openly acknowledged that I was gay. It may have taken me a lot longer to say it with pride, but even without pride, I knew I had to hold my head up and fight for my right to live the lifestyle of my choice. The homophobic lady thought me the value of being true to myself. She taught me that even when your back is against the wall, you cannot give up. If you know deep down that you are right – and that doing this is being true to yourself – you have to get the courage to stand up and face your daemons. Months later, I am able to proudly say I am a gay woman. I am sure I am because I am willing to go through hell to be comfortable.
When I had a carer question my choice not to have children, and told me that I was not a full woman if I did not want them, I still held my head up. Even when she told me I could not possibly love my nephews if I did not want my own offspring, I looked her in the face and calmly told her she was wrong. I asserted my right not to procreate and I affirmed how much I loved those three boys.
When I had a carer who inappropriately grabbed my breasts and buttock, I stood up for myself and very clearly told her to stop it. I did not accept that she was oblivious to what she was doing, and I called the company for an urgent replacement. I stopped things as soon as they started. I have not worried since about any carer providing my care because I know that if I have another issue, all I have to do very clearly is say “No!” and report it. Whilst I know that these incidents do occur and that – statistically – I am likely to have another, I also know that most carers have deep-rooted intentions to do well. I cannot let the actions of one of those eighty-three mar the obvious evidence that carers are good people.
So, as I go through life, I am struck by this: in order to live the best life I can, I must spend every day with as positive an attitude as I am able.
And that, dear potential Olympian, is what you must do in order to get your gold.