We all appreciate that being poor and struggling to make ends meet is difficult, but what about being wealthy? Is it really as desirable as we might think? Does it solve our problems and make us happy?
I invited Alice for an honest conversation about what it’s like to grow up in a wealthy family and to live with wealth. It’s certainly not a very woke subject, but it has a place in this series of conversations. Challenges go both ways and life is life whomever you are. Alice adds a thoughtful commentary on the nuances of living with wealth; its freedoms and complexities.
In this Episode
- Trust in friendships
- The indifference of health to wealth
- Wealth inheritance and stewardship
- Finding a life purpose
Follow Cath at Drawn to a Story
Music by Grant McLachlan
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You're listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story. I'm Cath Brew from drawntoastory.com. I'm an artist who illustrates and educate about marginalized experiences for positive change, with a particular interest in identity belonging, and expat life.
Cath: This podcast is about the lives that challenge us and the difficult conversations around them. It's a place to listen openly, to absorb people's truths and to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone. Now, we all know that being poor is difficult. We all understand that and we can have an appreciation of what that might be like, but what about being wealthy?
Cath: What's that like? And is it as desirable as we might think? And talking about money is still to some degree a taboo, at least in the UK, but I have seen this changing even in the last 15 years that I've lived here. It's not such a
dirty word, but there's still a sense that it's bad taste to talk about your wealth, particularly in a world with such disparity between the have- nots and the haves, but I'm not sure it's that simple. And as you will know, with me, there's always unspoken layers to be explored, which help us gain a greater understanding and grow empathy. So I'll come to today's guest Alice. Now Alice grew up in a wealthy family and I've invited her here today for an honest conversation about what it's like to grow up in a wealthy family and to live with wealth. How does that shape a person? Like what impact does that have on your life? Is it as desirable as we're led to believe? And the honest truth is that I actually don't know. So I've asked Alice to talk to us today to tell you her story. Hello, Alice, and on this fine sunny morning welcome to Drawn to a Deeper Story.
I feel the need to mention the sun. As this Australian is grasping with the ends of summer, it is October it's well, and truly autumn, but I live in hope. I don't know if you've got sun where you are
Alice: Yes it's actually beautiful. I'm sat here in the sunshine, so I can't complain that it's exactly cold outside.
Cath: So Alice, this is an interesting subject to talk about and as I introduced you, I was kind of having this image of listeners with their tiny violins playing, thinking about wealth not being desirable.
Cath: And you and I have talked about this before, the discomfort of talking about the challenges of financial privilege. It's not a very woke subject, but I think it's important to talk about it. As I said, we know that being poor is difficult, but I also imagine that being wealthy has its challenges and I might be wrong, I mean, please tell me if I'm wrong, but if this is the case, what are some of these?
Alice: Well, I think that the first thing I would say is that the challenges probably
are in almost no way comparable. So I don't have to worry about my next meal. I don't have to worry about whether my, my home is heated and I think those concerns, on a hierarchy are a lot higher than any of the challenges I might talk about with you. But obviously, as you said, that doesn't mean there aren't some. So for me, I have inherited wealth and I became wealthy independently when I was 18. And that's because my father died when I was a teenager, but to have wealth like that at a young age, I've always felt a burden.
Alice: I didn't earn it. So I felt like, I owed a debt to my father because he was the one that worked incredibly hard for it and that try and be sensible with it, but it's hard sometimes I think, to live up to the expectations that people have of you when they know that you're wealthy, or even, you know, the way that you dress or the way that you speak or the car that you turn up in, these automatic assumptions of people. Now, I think particularly with friends
and people around you, most of my friends don't have as much money as me, in fact thinking about it, none of my good friends have as much money as me. So it's always making sure that I appreciate them and I want them always to be comfortable around me. So if that's like, if I say let's go out for dinner, if I, you know, thinking about where I've chosen, should I, should I pay for it?
Alice: You know? But more than often, yes, I think. Because, you know, I appreciate them and I love them and I think part of that, the joy of being wealthy, actually, I know we're talking about challenges, but it's, you're able to share it so to enjoy something.
Cath: I think that duality is important to acknowledge though, that we can't deny that it is a privilege and it is a benefit and it can be wonderful, but the burden that comes with you also for you, you don't want to not enjoy being able to share it with the people that you love and the people that you want to spend time with as well.
Alice: Yes, exactly. It's definitely making a balance. I have quite a small circle of friends and that's because I think I've mixed in
circles where I've met other wealthy people my age and actually, um, I'm not inclined to be friends with them. I like to model myself, it's almost the opposite, like trying not to show off, trying not to like, oh, you know, let's go out for dinner 20 people, I'll pay for everything. That's not me. I'd rather just, do a bit here and there, but it's, for me, it's about making people feel comfortable around me and not being like, oh God. You know that awful feeling? We've all been there when we're at dinner and somebody is ordering loads of food and you're sat there wondering, like oh my God, are we splitting the bill? What's going on? So I'd always like pre-empt. I often say, oh, should we split the bill? But I think it's, you know, doing it almost in advance so that people will appreciate, and I say, come on, I'll pay for tonight's. We'll start with a nice glass of wine or something like that.
Cath: Yeah, I think that's incredibly important because this is part of what this series is about is learning to see people so that we actually see who they are. And you're demonstrating that beautifully in that you're allowing that space to see that someone's might be sitting there anxiously thinking, oh, shit, I can't afford to pay for this, but I want to see my
friend Alice, like, how am I going to do this? So the fact that you can pre-empt that, is wonderful and shows a huge amount of awareness
Alice: That's been learned over a few years cause I'm in my thirties now, but definitely I feel like I would, never want to make anybody I care about feel uncomfortable when they were with me.
Cath: Was that modelled to you as you were growing up? Because I imagine as a parent, there's huge responsibility with bringing you up to be aware, to appreciate your privilege, but also to be aware of what other people don't have.
Alice: Yes. Absolutely. So, my dad was incredibly kind, almost too kind. He's kinder than I am, so he would pay for everything all the time. And he made a huge amount of friends, in that way, but my auntie described it for him as an excitement. So, my dad up to the age of 40, didn't make his first million pounds and he was running his own business and really wanted to be successful. So he died at the age of 45. So
actually his wealth and our wealth came in the last four years of his life but I think that made him, I mean, to be fair before, before he was 40, he still used to pay for everything, but he used to run out of money. He never had to get loans or anything, but he would really go down to the red in terms of being kind, and prejudgment, but I feel we're more cautious.
Cath: I think also with women, there's a lot of double standards in the world and I think women are often, very aware of all the layers and actually the need to be independent financially and to not get to that point.
Alice: Yeah, absolutely and as I said earlier, like I don't feel actually, I think I've grown into my wealth. I think, I feel like it's mine now, but particularly in the first 10 years, um, no, I didn't feel like it was mine, so I felt like I was a guardian of it actually, but going back to challenges we talked about earlier, a real challenge of mine is, it sounds a bit twee, but to try to be a good wealthy person. So make charitable donations, but not tell anyone, you know, like monthly subscriptions to for me, it's homeless charities and the RNLI and things like that. But the
problem is I feel like I feel like I never give enough particularly as a wealthy person you have, uh, well I have a fairly big life. So I have a big house. I have two expensive cars. My child goes to private school and actually you fill you, you sort of grow into the money that you have. So I spent quite an enormous amount of money on my life, but just those things I've talked about, like those day to days and then you think, oh gosh, have I left enough to, you know, to, to be a good person? Um, probably not, probably not is the answer.
Cath: But the fact that you even question that, to me, shows that you are a good person.
Alice: Aw, thanks.
Cath: But seriously, if you don't give a shit like it's oh I'll do it next month or whatever, like, I think that's the fundamental difference and the fact that you question it, shows that you are. That was going to be one of my questions is how do you manage? I mean, you've kind of answered it already really, but managing friendships and relationships with people that aren't as fortunate as you and particularly building trust. So do you ever feel judged for
having money or people behave differently around you and you're not quite sure whether you can trust their motives or their interest in you?
Alice: Yeah, so there's sort of three aspects to friendship that I can think of. The first is with my normal friends, I think it is just maintaining friendships in the completely normal way. So care about them, remember important dates, I'm terrible with birthdays. I don't know why I said that. I can't remember the last birthday
Cath: You've been exposed hahaha.
Alice: I'm big into Christmas, because then it's one day it's like a catch-all is check in with them, see them enjoy time with them. So you know, normal friendship stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, um, my best friend who was my best friend from, oh my gosh I think I was probably about 9, 8 years old. We grew up together and when my dad became incredibly wealthy, we used to travel a lot and she came with me. So she's essentially became like my sister. But in the last five years, she was always on the left side of politics, but
she became a very well, essentially I think she'd called herself a communist actually. Excuse it, but that's what it is.
Alice: She unfortunately it disowned me. I think really sickly, because she couldn't cope with the street cred of having a best friend who was incredibly wealthy. And so she would tell me what she would do. So she'd give all her wealth away and I said, you know, actually we only talked about it once, but I remember feeling like, oh, wow. Like, cause I've never considered that.
Cath: To me, for my two penny's worth, that doesn't actually solve anything. It doesn't make any difference.
Alice: But you were saying earlier about how they judge you. I find the most difficult thing as if they've heard about you before they meet you so you know, oh, let's go see Alice and then she's got this big house and nice life, and then you meet them and it puts you on the back foot, because they have all these expectations of what you might be like and actually, I think I'm quite disappointing because I'm not flashy.
You know, I have have nice things, but I'm almost a boring, like caricature of, what I should be, I think.
Cath: Yeah. When someone arrives at your front door, do you find yourself behaving differently trying to get over that first step if I haven't met you before? Do you find yourself feeling like you're over-friendly or over a certain way to try and make them like you?
Alice: Um, I think I'm quite proud of the answer I can give to that is absolutely not. I'm very confident in myself now. This is a really terrible thing, gosh, this is like a confessional. I think if a new person came in, yeah, it would be me judging them as in that's how I would, I would take them at face value.
Cath: We can talk about judgment because it's human survival, isn't it? That we check people up very, very quickly to assess whether they're safe, whether they're like me, whether they're not, whatever to help us in a situation. And so for you, given that the wealthier, a are smaller percentage of the majority, I imagine that's in your life a lot of the time and it's interesting
Cath: [00:12:00] how you deal with that.
Alice: Yeah, so I think, um, the only thing I would say that I find quite surprising is that when people meet you and they know that you're wealthy, they often talk about the wealth that they have, which I find really awkward. I mean you were saying it that we should be doing this more and I just sit there like, oh God, please stop speaking.
Cath: That's really funny. Isn't it?
Alice: I think they want to, often they want to prove that they are worthy of being my friend, but little so they know that actually, most of my good friends really don't have very much at all.
Cath: Which also shows as a society, how much value we put on financial, like people will I mean, one thing I've often talked about with, with my partner and this idea of you can go for a walk at night and see everybody sitting there with these massive TVs on their walls or the big car or whatever, but a lot of it is on credit and there's this striving to pretend that you're a certain way and that you've got this wealth and I just find it a really curious space that when you don't have it, it is still this taboo. We don't talk about it. There's a weirdness around it.
Absolutely and I think for me it would be easy to say, oh, you know, if I didn't have money, then I wouldn't be like that, but I don't know because I've always been able to have those things. So yeah, I don't know what I would I be like.
Cath: That leads beautifully into my next question is that for most people, working is a necessity, like having a job as a necessity to pay bills, but one of the things I love about work is it also gives me an identity and a purpose. So if you don't have to structure your day and your life in the same way of going to work every day, how do you create a life that's got purpose and is meaningful for you?
Alice: Yeah. I think that's, for me, that's probably the question of the moment, because I'm very much in a flux of life at the moment. Yeah. So my daughter's just started school and I really am at a complete loss as to what to do with myself at the moment, but I did think yesterday, actually there were probably like thousands, if not millions of mothers, actually in the same position as me, you know, they brought up their child for the
first five years and then off they go and some moms would struggle to go back to what they were doing.
Alice: So, uh, yes. I mean, that's definitely, that's definitely a difficult question at the moment. I don't feel like I have purpose in my life, but, I'm a striver and I'm going to keep looking for things. My daughter's only been at school for a few weeks, so I'm giving myself not try not to be too hard on myself, but it's definitely true because my bills can be paid without working. I think the overriding sensation is boredom. Now saying that nobody's going to give me sympathy right.? I don't want sympathy. I'm just being honest. It can't be quite boring. I don't have much like free spending money because I have a fairly big lifestyle that takes up my money. So, um, yeah,
Cath: I think that's a really interesting point to make because I think sometimes that actually having choice is harder than not having choice.
Alice: I think that's true.
Cath: I think when we don't have choice, we feel that it can be difficult and all we want is to be lying on a beach with a piña colada and having a
holiday, but after doing two or three days of that, it's like, oh, okay, well, what do I do now? Like, there's gotta be something more and I was thinking also with relationships. Being around your husband all day long and being around people like your day's structure must be so different.
Alice: Yeah, my husband and I, we met each other when I was 18 um, and we actually met on a boat that we were both working on at the time, and actually from the very first day we met we've lived together. It sounds sort of entertainingly romantic. We are almost just one person that we send all of our time together. We literally never argue. We're very much in love and it's wonderful and I'm super lucky. So, uh, the only thing is I do lose my own identity in that pairing. And I was watching, 'The Thick Of It' this morning. I was thinking, you know, all these people in politics, they're very much their own brand, their own person and I would like to feel like that one day, but equally I am, I am happy being, being paired up, but I think having wealth
makes that easier, you know, we're very lucky and you know, if we're having a bad patch - or marriages do, then we could like book two nights away in a hotel or do you know what I mean? Those are the things that we're really privileged, but at the end that help any relationship I think.
Cath: Yeah definitely, but also I was thinking, um, you talking about losing identity? I mean, that's something that I've grappled with, with moving to this country to start with, is the different culture, but then also moving into someone else's house, having a relationship and it's like, who am I? And. I actually consider myself lucky that I've got the work that I do. I mean, this work I love, cause it's all about this stuff.
Cath: But prior to that, I could go and have a job. I had my own life. I play darts locally, but it's like, if all of those things are taken away, it makes me think that you have to work extra hard to create them because you have choice, which is a weird dichotomy.
Alice: Absolutely. and think if you don't manage to pick, so I've, I've moved from career to career and that was only because I had the
ability to leave when I was unhappy and maybe that's not helped me. I mean, I'm in a fairly good place in life right now, apart from feeling like I need to find a purpose. You know, I could have, or if I had not been, had as much money, I would have been a barrister by now.
Alice: You know, I left because I didn't want to be away, I didn't want that terrible work-life balance. I got a master's in the Merchant Navy. I probably would have been working in the Merchant Navy or in shipping law. And it just hasn't happened because I mean, I was stupid. I picked careers that were actually like, always away from home, which has maybe I had the ability to go actually, no, don't want to do that.
Alice: So, um, yes, definitely. Um, the last flux of my life that I hit, I decided to have a baby, which she's now five and for my reasons I'm not having any more. So I can't do that again as I hit the second flux in my life.
Alice: Yeah, well,
Cath: You're very good at leading into my next question. You talked about doing things to fill that space or to make you feel better or to give you a next step forward. We're told by society that that's succeeding
financially and being wealthy is the answer. It solves things, it makes life easier as you've talked about, but what can it not solve? It's all well and good having the ease of being able to buy something or to do something, but what does it not solve?
Alice: I mean, there are absolutely problems it doesn't solve and I will come onto those. But my first thought with solving problems was that it actually really, really helps, and that's something I've really come to appreciate and, essentially sort of a burden. And I actually feel because a lot of problems can be solved. One example after I had my daughter, I had severe post-natal depression, but I didn't realize I had it because I never had depression before and she was a few weeks old. Um, and I went to the gym and my husband was looking after her and as I came out to the gym, I stepped out in front of a bus and I did that completely on purpose and the bus wasn't going fast enough.
Alice: I didn't have my glasses on. I only hit the wing mirror, but that was the first time I realized I had depression and I went home and I told my
husband and what we were able to do, we packed up our bags and we went to Dubai for three weeks and we stayed in the hotel.
Alice: I have to say that didn't solve it. I didn't come home without postnatal depression, but during that holiday in Dubai, there were things like I was completely empty, you know? Suffered with depression that you just don't notice or care about anything. And I remember walking along the corridor in this beautiful hotel, and I looked up at this lovely sculpture of a, some seaweed made of glass and I remember thinking, oh, that's beautiful. And I went, oh my God. I thought it was beautiful. Like, um, I'm on the mend now. That is absolutely something that money helped with. Like my postnatal depression was literally reduced probably in half. I'd say.
Cath: Yeah, that's fascinating. I love your realizations now talking about it and the observation that you've had from, from kind of looking at it in that way. And as someone who has experienced depression I can appreciate exactly that, that
numbness where just nothing penetrates and the excitement of recognizing that you've felt an emotion is massive. I really liked that. I guess it, to me, it reveals the duality of this amazing stuff that it can bring, but also, you're still living a normal life in the sense of shit happens. Like life is life, whatever money you've got, whatever you are
Cath: and to get to that point and to do what you did with the bus is a very human thing. Like you can be as poor as you are as wealthy as you are and it wouldn't have made a difference. You still would be in that state, but it gives you a space.
Alice: Yeah, my dad, he's, um, he was actually extremely unwell so he died when he was 45 and had quite a lot of illnesses. And, I mean, he wasn't able to essentially fix or help with any of those, despite all the wealth that he had made for himself. I mean, he decided to go all out in those last 4 years knowing that he was going to die, in order to make money for us so that we would be able to be comfortable.
He managed to do a little bit more than that, and that's down to his remarkable efforts, but yeah, he still died. You know, within four years of finding out that he was unwell. Yeah. But money does not solve everything.
Cath: No. No, exactly. When I talked about what it can solve or what it can't solve, you said there were two things you started talking about with how it can help problems but I you've also talked about or alluded to your own health issues.
Alice: Yeah. Yeah, so unfortunately by the diseases that my dad had, which were lupus, haemolytic anaemia, and also severe deep vein thrombosis. So I have lupus already and I have the genetic disposition, so acquired both haemolytic anaemia and thrombosis. So my dad died when he was 45 and it's literally my aim in life to get past that, to get past that milestone. Now I might go miles past it, I don't really know. I don't think about it too much to be honest, but, it's certainly something that I carry
with me that I do notice that my friends of my age definitely don't. I dunno, I like to think that it makes me a more rounded person, because it certainly doesn't worry me. It doesn't keep me up at night or anything like that. But yes, I mean, that's certainly something that anybody, my age or anybody in my position would deal with. It doesn't matter how much wealth they had because actually private healthcare is really not, not that great. I don't use it. I have used it in the past that it's not my go-to.
Cath: You, you say it's not massively present, but you talk about wanting to get to that milestone, how does that impact your life then in terms of, just going back to talk about purpose because if you, if you think you've got less time, then there's a level of striving to do things and you talked about your qualifications and things that you stopped that you didn't want to do, or they took you away. I'm interested in how that shapes the decisions you make and whether it holds you back or whether it's like, sod it I'm going to do this
because I might not be here.
Alice: It's a difficult question to answer actually I think at the moment it's actually holding me back and the real reason for that is my daughter. I want to be present for her. I want to be here when she gets home from school. Now I actually find that that life which is an admirable life being a very good mom is a hard job, but it's not one I enjoy. Now, that's my own feeling on it, but my dad died when I was 13 and he wasn't, he wasn't around very much because working so hard. I'm almost going to go too fast at the opposite end of that and literally always be available. I don't think I, will you know, I'm gonna look for something to do, but I wouldn't, for example, I wouldn't pick a job that would take me away often for that exact reason. I was watching a documentary last night. It's on. And I play about the climber who died. So his mom died when he was like six or seven years old as a climber. She died on K2 and then he died when he was like 25 climbing a
mountain, a hundred miles away and I remember when she died in the documentary, I was so angry with her and it was weird anger and actually, I even said it to my husband. I said, I'm feeling really cross with this woman. She had two young kids under the age of eight and she goes and climbs K2 without oxygen, and oh surprise she died. And I was really cross with her. This is interesting cause actually if that was a man with two young kids, I probably wouldn't have said a thing, probably wouldn't have even thought about it.
Alice: But yes, that was a very heart wrenching documentary and I was sat there actually thinking, oh my gosh, how old do I think she's going to be when I die? Do I need to think about this, or should I completely ignore it? It preoccupied my mind last night, but generally it doesn't thankfully.
Cath: From an inner thought process that that is a really hard space to sit because, you don't know the answers and you won't know the answers and you could get to 70 having kind of, kind of held off because your health is there, but actually it's like, shit, what have I done? Trying to live with no regrets, but also
managing the reality of your situation. I imagine that's incredibly difficult.
Alice: Um, yes. Um, yeah, it is, uh, I think my husband, I know. So I owe my husband a great deal. For the last five years, I've been extremely unwell since I gave birth to my daughter, not with depression? thankfully, that was only the first six months, but the lupus I have now came after I gave birth and it's been a really, really tough five years, hopefully on the other end of it, that he has been my absolute rock. Like he's looked after me at every point. He's never, you know, when I sleep, I probably sleep for three or four hours more than him. Again, this is something that I'm very privileged to be able to do. I can lie in and I do recognize that. I do owe him and I'm happy with that. You know, I married him. I wanted to choose my life with him, but I owe him a career that's something that will give me the time to spend with him because he's actually rubbish on his own. He doesn't enjoy it when I'm not around, but really I was so lucky to be able to say that.
So do something together, given that we've already had this romantic image of the like two peas in a pod.
Alice: We literally are. It's quite sickening. We've had our struggles, we had a down year two years ago. We had a real down year. So like absolutely every marriage.
Cath: How do you live a fulfilling life when you know that like suddenly in a few days time...
Alice: I don't know Cath. You're making me feel....I don't know. Literally, I do not have the answer.
Cath: But you're living it. You're living it now, like in a few days, time, you might end up in hospital or like, I guess is it a mindset?
Alice: If it's a mindset then I need to change my mindset. I would like to leave this earth with having achieved something like good, good for, it sounds a bit, again, it sounds a bit blah, but I don't know. Um, you know, I'm sat here in a really beautiful house, but what have I done for anyone? You know, I've looked after myself the last five years. I've needed to, but you know.
Cath: Yeah, but to me, I think this is all about how we view
success. It comes down to each person so what each person's thing is, and I mean, you're talking about raising a daughter, living in a marriage, you're talking about friendships, all those things are really good things in life and I think it's really important to acknowledge those things as well.
Alice: Yeah, I think just after being ill for five years when, um, so when you were really ill, when you were in a hospital, um, I mean, many of your listeners probably already know this but your whole aim is on trying to get better. So that's what purpose. When you're unwell, I feel that I have a purpose in life, so I'm like, right. I'm going to get better. That's my purpose. And then when I met her, I'm like, oh now what. Um, so that is a challenge and I don't enjoy being unwell, but it occupied a part of my mind that is then unoccupied when I'm well again.
Cath: In that space, you don't put pressure on yourself I imagine.
Alice: Oh absolutely!
Cath: Because you can't and so emotionally that's the safest space to be because you know, you can't do
anything. You're not putting pressure on yourself.
Alice: So then you come out into the cold when you were well and be like, now what? Uh, particularly when you're a mother and you know, you haven't worked for few years. I think it's down to me though. Like, you know, I've got, as I said earlier, I've got everything behind me, I've just got to essentially pull my finger out.
Cath: public humiliation. So can you tell me a bit about your experiences in hospitals? What would you like to say to the emergency doctor who first sees you when you turn up in emergency?
Alice: Oh, gosh, I think to be honest, if you ask my opinions on the healthcare in this country, I think I could probably go on for hours. It was fairly bad as in I think the NHS has held up a little bit like you've got these days, which I'm not highly in favour of. You know, it had its struggles years ago and now honesty is at its absolute knees. I've seen some truly, truly terrible things in A&Es, in resus departments, um, on wards where elderly ladies get treated badly.
Now that doesn't mean that I don't see really quite a lot of good things, but those bad things, they creep in more and more, and that's not something I don't think that even as a one person crusade, I'm not going to achieve anything, but it does worry me. Our local hospital I think is particularly bad and I've actually said to my family, look, if you're poorly here, please just keep driving, go to another one.
Cath: When you're ill, you're not in a space to be really making decisions. Like you just want to be looked after.
Alice: Yeah. It's not like that in the NHS anymore. I mean, you have to fight for yourself in the NHS. If you want something, you have to ask a million times, you know. They're under strain.
Alice: They're under horrendous pressure, these are not the faults of individual people, this is the fault of systematic abuse of a service over 10 decades. Really. I don't know how long it's going to be before the cracks start to show on more than just the people who use it all the time. When I started hearing people just saying stuff more recently that, you know, my grandma was on the floor for six hours. Unfortunately, it's becoming more.
Cath: Yeah, it is. There's a lot of, I don't know
if you've, if you've watched them, but there's an awful lot of TV documentaries about following ambulance crews and particularly during the pandemic, they've, talked a lot about mental health issues and how the ambulance comes to pick someone up, it's a mental health. They can't actually deal with it. So then they get, just get passed onto the next service. And it starts to clog up the system.
Alice: I think paramedics generally are actually absolutely wonderful that my problem is actually with the hospitals and not the staff. It's the system. But as you're saying with mental health problems, I've been picked up by paramedics on numerous occasions where they'll say very politely and jovially, oh, it's nice to have a proper job. And they mean a medical job where they can sort out exactly what's wrong with me medically. But I've had that so many times. I mean, maybe 20% of the times I've met them, which is quite a, quite a number they would express relief that I was somebody that they could actually fix, look after or help.
Cath: That's a real indictment, isn't it of the system and the struggle that the national health services have got at the moment.
Alice: Yeah, absolutely. I tell you the last six months it's doubled in worseness. So the last six months, it's
just, I mean, I was in a queue, this was about two months ago so very recently in a hospital in the Southwest, queuing in an ambulance for a resus bed, which is the most critical bed in the hospital. The ambulances queuing up outside A&E. I was in a queue of 10 ambulances and I had an A&E nurse in my ambulance with me because I was really poorly. They found me a bed in resus, which I waited for three hours for outside the hospital and I was extremely unwell and when I got there the nurse said, you know how lucky you are? This is the only bed we've got in the entire hospital. And she didn't say that in a horrible way. Jeez. Like that's not, you know, that's not right.
Alice: And that row of ambulances then become like mini hospitals. They just get expanded out.
Cath: All praise to the people that are working in that kind of system.
Cath: It's hard. Is there anything that you feel that people don't really understand what you're dealing with, like what do you say to the average person? I mean, friends and people will understand what your life
is like with, with health issues, but, there still must be a level of you having to protect yourself and having to say no to things and do people really get what you're dealing with?
Alice: I don't feel like there's anything particularly I want to say because actually I think most people, maybe not most, at least my third, half of people are struggling with something difficult. I don't make many new friends, but I made a new friend a few weeks ago and she told me after I met her about three or four times that she'd actually had breast cancer two years ago and she's my age. I mean, just be kind, I suppose, you never know what people are struggling with. I had to tell my husband that's because he gets grumpy with people and I say stop it, be nice. But yeah, I think almost all struggles are hidden.
Cath: That's the thing I'm really interested in is that struggles are hidden. Like you say, we never know what someone's dealing with, but also we all have our own biases and our own views about what something means. So one person's struggle can
be for us, it could be, well, that's not really a struggle cause I've dealt with that. Like there's levels of struggles. I think a lot of the time, we're behaving in a way that I almost want to say, like we're telling ourselves that we're okay. Like we're trying not to show vulnerability because we associate vulnerability with weakness, not a strength.
Alice: There's a limit though isn't there because if you become too vulnerable you literally do become weak. I think, you know, people say, you know that all the stiff upper lip is a bad thing. I actually don't think it is. I think there's a lot to be said for carrying on but picking your moments, picking when to tell people that you're having struggles, um, picking when to cry in public, you know what I mean? I think I'm becoming old fashioned in my view of that, because, yeah I mean, I think I'm quite proud of this country's ability to pick up a carry on.
Cath: I'm obviously new to this country, but when you come here, you learn that there is keep calm, carry on. There's this resilience to keep ploughing on, but I also think there's a point
when sometimes that becomes unreal because you're not allowing that space to acknowledge. And there are the moments to acknowledge.
Alice: Yeah. The important moments. I think I need more as well if you really try to keep going and then eventually let something out. I think people listen more.
Cath: Do you find that you try to protect your friends and family about how much you share about your health then?
Alice: Yeah, I definitely don't tell people that I'm ill as much as I am. I don't know why. Actually, why do I not do it? I think it's because the two parts of my life. Like, it's such a horrible, exhausting part that actually I don't want to tell everyone. I don't want to sit there texting 10 people. You know, people who are well and then go into hospital and they might push on Facebook. I'm not going to judge people that do that, but they'll get, you know, 30 messages maybe or comments and, oh, how are you doing God, I couldn't cope with that every time I was ill, I'd just be like, oh, I just need my time.
I think also it shows that there's a level of not wanting to worry people as well. They always say that when you're the one that's ill, it's the easiest person to deal with it because you're in it and you know it and you know, there's an element of you know, what's bad and what's not. So you can potentially worry people unnecessarily.
Alice: On the other end of the spectrum though, I actually find that my family have got so used to be coming in and out of hospital that sometimes they assume I'm fine and I'm really just like, guys, I feel terrible. Like, you know, I've been in hospital for four days, you know, when you come out of hospital after like four days, you've got muscle wastage and you've got like this weird, like already like indoctrination where you expect someone to bring you three meals a day.
Alice: I mean, that goes fairly quickly, but you know, you've been completely and utterly looked after for four days and suddenly, boom, you're at home on your own. You got to do your washing, you know, you've got to take my daughter to school, things like that. And sometimes I could definitely do with more support from my family. I think, um, God, I feel bad saying that. I definitely like them to just to realize I felt shit sometimes.
I think they do know, but as I said earlier, with that whole like keep calm and carry on, I think they know, I think they just. Okay. I just, that that's the best way to deal with it is just assume that I'm going to keep going.
Cath: I think there's also a responsibility that comes with talking about responsibility of wealth, but also the responsibility of health of they know that you will really let them know if something's really not great.
Alice: Your problem is when you're really, really unwell, particularly with the pandemics and nobody has been with me now for like however long it's been going on. You can't do it. You got cannulas in your hands, your phone's in your backpack. You've got one tiny NHS blanket. Nurses do not have time to sort that out for you. When things go really tits up and hospital you felt very much on your own unfortunately which has made me extremely resilient, but it may be a bit hard I think.
Cath: This is a completely different subject, but with me living here and all of my family being back in Australia, there's a certain level of [00:37:00] having to separate your life from them, because if you're in their life all the time, it's too painful because you can't live on that day-to-day when you're that far apart. So you have to emotionally remove yourself and I was thinking with you as well, there's a resilience, but is there a level of having to remove, I want to say, I wouldn't say hope, but remove the, the kind of ordinary expectations of life? Does that make sense?
Alice: Completely. I think it pushes you, to do stuff, that you maybe not even wouldn't think possible, but like wouldn't, wouldn't normally do. So going back to if you were in hospital on your own, particularly if you were in A&E, my condition makes me so I have a problem with my heart and I get very, very sweaty and, if I know, because I've been through a lot, I can figure out where the bedsheets are and literally just go and change my own bed sheets with like, with like lines of my arms and hands and like maybe oxygen or pulling a drip stand and. You know, things that you used to be able to do where people help, like going to the loo.
So my husband used to be there to help me like stupid thing. But again, pull down your pants. If you've got things in your arms, now doing it by yourself is hard. It's really hard. And it's horrible. And it's actually, it's a little bit demeaning. Like you feel, you know, a hot mess basically. You're like, yeah, I can, I can do that.
Alice: I could've done that. You know, for the last two years, I didn't realize I had done that on my own. I think it's good to be pushed, but I think, I think all of us though, at the moment are reaching limits of what we're, what we have means very much. So we all need a holiday.
Cath: Can we all take a year off?
Alice: Yeah, that'd be great.
Cath: I'm hearing that a lot with people all over the world that people that are used to living challenging lives in terms of I mean, just looking at ex-pats of moving regularly and setting up a life again. And, I've one friend that talks about people living Olympic level lives.
Alice: That's so true.
Cath: And then you put a pandemic on that as well. I know I'm tired, I'm tired. I
needing like just to disappear for a few weeks. Um, and I think everyone is. I think it's really important to allow ourselves to, to be a hundred percent what we are in this moment. Like I haven't got enough money or I'm tired or I want a holiday, like, whatever, it doesn't even have nothing to do with money, but then someone says, oh, but it's um, you're lucky. you've got a job and you've got and you're like, and all I want to do in that moment is honestly say fuck off, just allow me my shit day.
Alice: Absolutely. Yeah, I agree.
Cath: And I just, I think sometimes that in trying to make people feel, better we can actually gaslight them almost like they're not allowed that shittiness.
Alice: It would be doing yourself a disservice. I think it be fake. I think it would be false to just deny the way that you're feeling about anything.
Cath: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we've come to the end of our conversation, Alice.
Alice: Okay, cool.
Cath: [00:40:00] Fantastic. I wanted to take you, properly because I know we've laughed a bit about this before, but that talking about the challenges that come and not wanting it to be a poor me, but I'm also very keen to have an honest conversation and actually just talk about that.
Alice: And it's been really interesting, because I've not talked about it with anyone.
Cath: Thank you. It's good. I'm really grateful that you agreed to come on and were happy to share as much as you have because, it has the potential to be an awkward conversation, but I think you answered beautifully and I'm really grateful. So thank you. Thank you very, very much.
Alice: It's lovely. Thank you.
Cath: Good. And you've been listening to Drawn To a Deeper Story with Cath Brew.