Last time I wrote anything for Sick Note, I explained that I’d have to take time off, though I didn’t know how long, because my mum’s lung cancer was back. Unfortunately, as you might know if you follow me on Twitter, Mum died less than three weeks later, on April 11. She died at home without pain, surrounded by family.
As I wrote in that post, Mum and I were extremely close. She was truly my best friend. We talked every day, texting back and forth from when I woke up until she went to bed. Figuring out how to live my life without her has been very slow and hard, and the last couple months have been the most difficult of my life, by far. They have been made immensely easier by other conditions: I have a supportive husband and family; I have a fake-ass job, and Substack generously told me to take as much time as I need before returning to Sick Note; I have had access to a wonderful psychiatrist, in my insurance network (!!), and the time and resources to do therapy from home. None of this is close to guaranteed in America, much less common or usual, in times of bereavement or other significant life interruptions. This country does not care how sad you are or how tough your life is; it only cares if your body functions enough to work and ideally create value for someone richer than you, no matter how much damage that does or how much it shortens your life.
Having said that: I am still struggling more than I expected to. I wanted to start Sick Note up again at the beginning of June, and I was, and am, determined to write my first real post about Mum and her death, and what I learned about palliative care from it. I started writing that post last week, and tried again yesterday, and found that I couldn’t handle more than an hour or two before I had to stop. It makes me cry so much that eventually my brain just empties of thoughts and the ability to put words to screen, and also makes my face hurt. I thought I would just keep pushing through it this week, and that the existence of the (fake) deadline would necessarily make it possible for me to write it. But I don’t think that is the case. I don’t think I am ready.
So, I am taking just a little more time for myself. It doesn’t feel possible for me to start Sick Note up again without paying full tribute to Mum—she’s why I care about healthcare, after all—and writing the article I’ve been intending to write since she died. On Thursday, I am going to stay with my husband’s family for eight days, for the first time since the pandemic, and instead of treating that trip as a hard deadline for me to get this painful task done, I am going to treat it as a vacation, and try again when I’m back. My brain is going to be empty and silent, like a vast, cool cathedral.
Why am I telling you this? Mainly, I feel guilty that I haven’t sent out anything at all since March. (Subscriptions are still paused; if you’re a paying subscriber, you won’t get charged for Sick Note until I’m back to posting regularly, and I’ll make sure you know when that is.) I feel even worse that I’m even able to take this sort of time when almost no other Americans are when something like this happens to them; without the hard pressure of running out of PTO, there’s nothing forcing me back, which is incredible and should be true for everyone, but does create the difficult task of assessing myself when I’m actually ‘ready’ to work. I’ve been going through this very counterproductive loop in my head, where I try to write or even think about writing about Mum, feel too sad to do it, then feel bad that I’m not getting it done, try again, and so on. So I thought I would shut that stupid process down by just telling you, and myself, that it’s going to be a little while longer—but I am here, I am better than I was a month ago, and I am determined to get back to Sick Note, because it matters so much to me and it mattered to Mum too. I even have some cool content and ideas lined up already that I want to share with you. I just can’t bring myself to start it until I can say what I need to about Mum and her death, and I can’t quite bring myself to do that yet. But I will soon.
Thanks so much for your patience and support; it means the world to me.