family, mums, parenting, Uncategorized

NEW YEAR NEW CHANCES

This morning life came back to reality with a bump… 6.30am the alarm went off and downstairs I went with a toddler in my arms then made some coffee and toast for my husband and off he went to the first day of work for 2018.

Taking my coffee and heading to the sofa I flicked though Facebook, looking at people’s New Year snaps of clinking champagne glasses, beautiful homes and embraces so warm that it makes me question how two people I didn’t even know each other now appear to be BFFs. It then occurs to me I am bloody jealous of other people’s joy, and that is not a nice side of me. Social media is the worst for looking at other people’s lives and then comparing it to your life, at times it makes you grateful but if I am honest most of the time it makes me feel like I haven’t achieved enough and I’d even go as far as saying it makes me feel like I have failed.

I haven’t failed, I am married (to my second husband) and I have 3 daughters (from 2 past relationships), 4 step children and I live in a beautiful home in Essex. These are all great big ticks in life boxes but if I am truly honest I haven’t yet found myself. I don’t have a career or any idea of what I want to do/be/become. I have spent the past 12 years being a mummy and now Frankie is starting school this year it’s time for me to “find myself” and maybe just maybe become more than ‘just a Mum’. (Although I know that nothing will ever come close to being ‘just a mum’).

So as I have sat here and looked through people’s posed photos of happiness that have strangely made me question my life, I have made a decision that change has to happen. The truth is that I probably think/say this every year but the first step was to write it down (first blog done ✔️), and with the written word it now has to happen, right? Well no, but it’s a touch more likely.

So my initial plan is as follows

  • Write a blog (writing is something I have always loved and hopefully is cathartic)
  • Promote myself in a positive way, initially by promoting my blog (this is terrifying to me)
  • Read more about spiritual enlightenment (along with writing I am hoping to help my awful sleep and busy head)
  • Start something new (a business, a job, this blog)

And so with this blog I want to write about the highs and lows of being a mother, also the trials of trying to keep looking alright although year by year it’s getting tougher and finally follow my journey of finding myself in some way (see even saying it I am wishy washy). Here’s to an amazing 2018 and to being stronger, happier and healthier.<<<<<<
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blogging, body image, children, depression, family, health, help, instagram, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, women, writing

Standing on the precipice of mental health

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Sometimes it feels like I am in a movie and i’m clinging onto a cliff edge while the ground beneath me is slipping away. As with most blockbusters I survive and get back onto safe ground. Although I just feel that I am never very far away from that threshold at all times and the potential to go over is always there.

I am not talking about suicide (not for me anyway), I am talking about the feeling of falling into poor mental health and it spiralling out of control. Where that spiral will take me is anyones guess and I spend my life making sure I dont end up there but living with that threat and fear isnt always easy.

My own struggles, which are prodemanently depression and anxiety, although having had an eating disorder in the past this is something that will always make a unwelcome appearance every now and then. My goal in life is to bring my children up well, to allow them to be filfilled in whatever they do and to respect themselves (mind and body). To do so I have to have the same goals. This is tricky when you feel like you are standing on a precipice of mental illness.

Recently I have been struggling more than normal. To visualise it I would say I am probably only a few feet away from that cliff edge where as at a stable time I am comfortably a few metres back.

A mixture of financial stresses, not being able to find work, having been physically unwell and a few family issues have my mental health take a turn for the worst. When it does it very to see a way back, I always say it feel like a fog decending on me.

What we must try and keep in mind is that we can claw it back, we can and will feel better again, but it doesnt have to get to breaking point to do so. For myself I keep a close eye on signs that I am slipping deeper and closer to that edge.

To give you an example here are …

My Signs

  • lack of concentration
  • insomnia
  • questioning my food choices
  • worrying that people dont like me (I think this all the time but normally I can rationalise my thoughts)
  • worrying that people are talking about me (same as previous)
  • questioning myself about normal daily tasks
  • social withdrawal
  • over talking
  • anxious more often than not
  • feeling like I have put on weight when I weigh the same

I cant stop these “things” from happening and I also can’t just give myself a talking to and then “get on with it” or just “cheer up”, but i can try and help myself. An obvious option is for me to go back to my doctor which if all these feelings carry on I will and I have already considered raising the amount of medication I take but I would like to give myself a bit of time with my present dose (I take Sertraline for anyone wondering) and a lot of self care.

What we sometimes forget is that we have to help ourselves, giving ourselves time will in the long run be far less time consuming that fixing a broken version of yourself.

But where do we start?

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It is all about small steps and the very first thing I do is write two lists.

The first one is a long term list (say within the next month), and the second is a daily list.

For example

Long Term List 

  • Do a face mask
  • Give yourself a manicure
  • Finish your book
  • Make nativity costume
  • Clean out kitchen cupboards
  • Sort through the girls clothes
  • Organise class christmas party

Daily List

  • Wash hair
  • Put on make up
  • Take anti depressant
  • Stick a wash on
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Clean kitchen
  • Mop floor
  • 5 minutes meditation
  • 10 minutes yoga
  • Walk dogs
  • Vacuum lounge
  • Put away ironing
  • Call to book hall for party
  • Pack girls bags to go to their Dads
  • Go through calendar with christmas dates
  • Apply for 5 jobs
  • Finish Blog
  • Pick up girls
  • Go to shop
  • Cook dinner

The point of having two is that its great for your own wellbeing to get some instant gains, looking after yourself and your home will make you feel instantly better. Tick off the items once they have been done and write a new one every morning.

Some of you will think that having to put wash hair on a list is ridiculous but I am telling you we all need to remember to give ourselves a few moments. Being a mum at home I sometimes think it doesnt matter what I look like as I “don’t have a proper job”… its not true, I do have a job and I do have to look after myself. Sure wear a tracksuit to school but do so with clean hair and a bit of mascara.

Three times a week on my daily list I also add a run but I have made an effort everyday to meditate using an app plus a simple yoga routine I have found on youtube. Anyone can do it and I am not sure I am doing it correctly but its about feeling calm even if its just for a short preiod.

The long term list is because we all know that with a busy life we have to grab moments, so finishing a book could take a while but I promise you it will help with your concentraion plus means you are not on your mobile which is a huge contributer in poor mental health today.

So this is my current plan, I am unsure it will be the end of this chapter and maybe I will need more medication but c’est la vie, at least I am trying. No negatives can come of it and thats all we can do. Hopefully one day I will complete a daily list but for now I will just focus on the ticks.

adventures, blogging, body image, children, family, health, help, hospital, instagram, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, school, self love, Uncategorized, women, writing

Childhood Mental Wellbeing

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World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. 

 

Well that sounds like a pretty important day to mark if you ask me. I spend a lot of my time on social media talking about my own experiences when it comes to my mental health. I do this to try and normalise mental health and do my little bit in reducing the stigma attached to it.

While that goes on what I also feel incredibly passionate about is childhood and adolescent wellbeing. Depression, anxiety and many other mental health battles are becoming more and more common amongst young people. 1 in 10 young people will be affected by mental health problems but unfortunately 70% of these won’t get the appropriate interventions. 

It’s become clear that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health. Just last night I went to a talk about teenage anxiety and it was filled with great and simple advice to help our children. 

  • healthy eating 
  • Exercise
  • Good sleep
  • Less social media 
  • Less screen time
  • Turn off phone at night 
  • Keep hydrated 
  • Talk 

This all being said the government have promised changes and to increase the budget given to childhood mental health services because at the moment needs are not being met due to huge shortfalls in the system. The NHS is stretched and waiting times for initial interaction after a mental health referral from your GP is 18 weeks and even after that your child/ the child may not meet the criteria as only the most critical cases can be seen. This means we as adults whether it’s parents, friends, teachers, grandparents, family members etc, we need to help this younger generation. There are a huge number of websites out there which have great references.

Here are some great sources of support

  • Great site for young people and parents. It even has a parent hotline.

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https://youngminds.org.uk/ here

  • A brilliant page for young people to feel safe and can speak about their problems

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https://kooth.com/ here

  • Get some ideas and downloads for ways to cope. We have to help ourselves.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk// here

  • A fantastic site for parenting advice. They also run handon workshops! We all need help and advice when it comes to parenting.

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http://www.theministryofparenting.com/ here

blogging, child, children, depression, fake news, family, football, footballer, health, hospital, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, Uncategorized, women, writing

Let Harry Kane get on with being a Dad

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Yesterday my Husband told me about a tweet that he thought would interest me. He was right, I did and it has played on my mind ever since.

Harry Kane (Tottenham and England footballer and all round nice chap) had a new daughter this week and sent a quick tweet out letting everyone know baby Vivienne had been born and also to say how proud he was of his fiancee going through labour pain-free. I am sure the tweet was made in the blink of (a very tired) eye and he didn’t think much more about it.

Well maybe he should have because The Guardian felt that the tweet was so insulting that they got a journalist to write an entire article criticising him for doing so and basically telling him he had offended and added pressure to a large amount of women in the process. I really hope that Mr Kane and his lovely fiancee are ignoring it all focusing on baby Vivienne’s poo, feed and sleep patterns (in that order).

So to this article written by Barbara Ellen for The Guardian. She gives it a subtitle “As the England footballer has discovered, how you have a baby is as competitive as football”. For goodness sake Barbara where did you get all this tosh. He simply said he was proud of her. He didn’t say she was better than any other mum, he didnt say he wouldn’t have been proud of her had she had pain relief, he was just proud she hadn’t. Perhaps it was because him seeing a baby come out of his partners vagina looked like the most painful thing in the world (he is right) and he himself could not imagine doing it without being on 17 morphine drips. (Although I am speculating here).  Like most men viewing childbirth (or any woman) its mind-blowing.

In your article you seem to compare it to someone having their appendix out without pain relief, it’s not the same and you know it. Something happens in childbirth (I am not medical so wont even try to name stuff) which means we (mothers) have loads of adrenalin in our bodies that allows us to go through it, with or without pain relief we will experience some kind of pain (before, during, after) yet we go through it again if we have another child. The magic also happens in the way the cervix dilates to 10cm and allows a surprisingly big head to travel out. Add to this the euphoria of finally meeting your darling child and I think you get the idea. If you had your appendix out they would cut you open, the adrenalin would not be there nor would a little cut suddenly grow to 10cm and the removed appedix is hardly worth meeting. What you are suggesting is too hard to fathom. (Although if someone has had an appendectomy done it without pain relief then bloody hell credit to them).

I have since read tweets with reference to the article where women agree that he should not have said anything to do with pain relief and he should focus on the health of the baby (and mum). All I can say is that he just tweeted a quick tweet and honestly it is their  (the Kanes’) birth story and they should be allowed to focus on which ever bit they want. I went on to read that by praising the lack of pain relief he was not highlighting the importance of breastfeeding or mental health, this made no sense to me. Every time we praise anyone for anything we could be offending someone else who can’t or hasn’t done it. Why does everyone make everything such hard work.

What I am trying to say to you Barbara is that you didn’t need to write the article, you are making “fake news” and by doing so I am sure you have added stress to the lives of a couple who have just had a newborn baby. I can’t work out why you wanted this, as we know a mother is in a very delicate situation after giving birth and even the slightest thing could send a woman into depression so shame on you and shame on the guardian.

Lets just leave it – as all women who give birth with pain relief, without it, with a planned or emergency cesarean are all women we are proud of. Congratulations to Harry, Kate and their beautiful healthy daughter.

blogging, body image, herione, spinal cord injury, Uncategorized, women

The day I met a real life heroine – Marrianne Rooprai

35508636_1953950764618012_288844264417263616_nSometimes you meet people who truly inspire you, in fact they truly inspire everyone that they meet. At a summer ball I went to recently I was lucky enough to meet a woman who is truly coragious and showed more strength than I have ever known. Her name is Marrianne Rooprai.

On June 12th 2004, Marianne’s life would change for ever. After attending a friend’s wedding she was involved in a devastating car accident which left her in intensive care, she had a broken neck and was fighting for her life. Initial diagnosis made her friends and family fear that she would be paralysed from the neck down forever but they were determined not to just accept it. The fight was on. At first it was just the family fighting for her, but when she could, Marianne determinedly took over.

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Marianne was moved to a spinal unit in Sheffield and suffered some scary dips in her health. However, Marrianne’s tenacity began to show as she started to battle the physical minefields ahead.

Every step of the way she was suprising the doctors by reaching milestones ahead of time.

At the beginning of August she was able to breathe without the help of a ventilator and 9 days later her traction (which was keeping her body completely still with the use of weights) was taken off over a month ahead of the inital schedule. She was fighting back.

The boundaries didn’t stop being smashed and as soon as she could Marianne was in the physio gym where she spent as much time there as she could till she left hospital. It was with all this hardwork her medical team could see a small amount of movement in her right arm – which blows the smoke out of being told you would be paralysed from the neck down. This is only the beginning.

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From this point Marianne started to “blaze her own trail” in the SCI (spinal cord injury) world. She and long term partner, Andy,  would listen to advice given but essentially make decisons for themselves about the best route to take.

They were not under the illusion that some miracle cure was going to come along but through hard work physically and psychologically they would ensure that Marrianne would be ready if and when any new developments in research were to come along. Marrianne’s goal is to one day walk again.

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In 2005 Andy made the decision that they should set up the Rooprai Spinal Trust. He wanted to start a trust that would give Marrianne every possibility to become mobile, but also explore all the types of rehabilitation available to anyone with SCI and the progress that could be made with it. They wanted to break boundaries that were currently in place and that is exactly what Marrianne has done. She inspires people all over the world with what she has achieved.

The couple say that they found the greatest team of physios at Prime Physio and they are motivated and driven. This means that they will accept that progress can be made by everyone given the right amount of time. The work they do with Marrianne every week (she goes there twice a week for 2 hours each session) has enabled her to use an ESKO walking machine which has allowed Marrianne to experience the outdoors on her feet. Something we take for granted is walking outside in the sunshine, I can’t imagine having that taken away. Seeing how magical it is for Marrianne to be able to feel the freedom again will make me feel grateful for the little things.

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I have included a link so you can watch Marrianne in action Video

Andy and Marrianne also make an annual visit to Miami, to go to The Miami Jewish Home and Hospital (The MJHH). It is home to the laboratories of The Brucker Biofeedback Team – devised after a lifetime of study by the late Professor Bernard Brucker. In short what they do is try to improve and identify weak connections between the brain and the muscle to try and gain more movement. They have very sophisticated machinery that will measure neurological connection between the two.

Marrianne-Dr-Brucker

Through the work that Professor Brucker has done it has been shown that the body can repair itself years after injury. The amount of repair may be tiny but tiny can mean a great deal with SCI. Marrianne’s annual trips are a great boost from the other 12 months of ‘rehab’ and show her how far she has come along.

Along side this the couple have equipment which is used daily at home. Andy and Marrianne work together and use techniques they have learnt. They do have a fair amount of equipment now but it has taken them a long time to build it up. They tell people thats it is not just by spending huge amounts that they will get results. It’s about believing and putting in the effort that will make the difference. I think it’s very clear that Marrianne has done exactly that.

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Meeting Marrianne and Andy was such an honour for me. Not only are they a fantastic couple who obviously deeply loved each other but they also have a fantastic understanding between them. Life hasn’t taken the course they had planned but they are now making it their own.

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I danced with Marrianne, I drank prosecco with Marrianne and her personalilty and smile are captivating. I can understand how much she must inspire so many, especially people who have had similar injuries to herself. To be told that you won’t be able to do something again and to fight against that is the epitome of bravery.

I have the hugest amount of respect for this woman and I am sure I am not the only one who believes that she will one day walk again.

If you would like to support the Rooprai Spinal Trust or read more about Marrianne’s amazing story then please have look at their website and you can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

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anorexia, blogging, children, depression, health, instagram, mental health, motherhood, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, writing

Time To Change Champion

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Why is there still a stigma attached to mental health? Why are we much better at talking about physical ailments? These are questions that I think about a great deal and when I read about the Time to Change campaign I knew I wanted to be part of it. A month ago I met with Sarah who heads the West Essex team and talked through becoming a Champion.

The Time to Change Campaign is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, its goal is to change the way people think and act about mental health problems.

I think that before I write about how chnage needs to happen I do want to say that huge steps have already been made in addressing people preconceptions and attitude towards dealing with and accepting mental health problems. This being said we have a long way to go.

Mental health probelms will affect one in four of us, yet many still fear seeking professional help  or simply voicing their issues to family members due to a stigma that is still attached to a health problem that should be as normal as telling someone you have broken a bone. When I struggle with my mental health it is like something is a little broken in me and like a broken bone it can be fixed but the crack will still be there and is a bit weaker that it had been. Telling someone you have broken your arm will always be greeted with concern and well wishes (perhaps a little joking about how it happened). Telling someone you have had to go on anti depressants and are struggling with anxiety may (at times) be responded to fairly differently. Dont get me wrong, many of my friends and family are excellent at dealing with mental health but there are still some who on learning that I have these issue will give me a wide birth or simply not know what to say. They may find the topic awkward and outside their comfort zone. With a statistic of 1 in 4 I think we need to bring mental health into all of our comfort zones.

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The Time To Change Campaign is doing exactly this, it works on many levels, from promoting good mental health with your friends it also reaches out further into the community. When I met with Sarah from West Essex Mind she was telling me about how she was trying to get the Time To Change campaign into the workplace and was contacting local businesses to give them free advice and information so that they have a mental health strategy operating. Too many employers do not have any eductaion in caring for the mental health for their staff, this is not necessarily their fault as perhaps the information hasn’t been redily available. At times employees find that they cannot admit problems that are occuring until maybe its too late and are signed off by the doctor for stress or other issues. If procedures are in place it is shown that less time off would be needed, Sarah is doing an amazing job for businesses in Uttlesford. Time To Change also works with schools and young people, I am well aware now looking back that I was depressed in my teens and at the time due to thinking that the normal teenage angst was, well, normal. I didnt do anyhting about it. More and more teenagers and young adults are needing help, which shows that we are getting better at seeking it but also says we need to educate from a younger age. On the Time To Change site there is lots of useful information for teachers too. The video below shows just how important it is to educate young people.

As a small team, the West Essex Mind hope to spread the word in the community and have stalls at local events where they offer a space to have a cup of tea and a chat. We have plans for having more of these events in local towns, maybe at fetes or country shows too, so if you are running any events and would be able to offer us a stall please get in touch with me at jojohnson8083@gmail.com.

If you feel you could offer any time to volunteer or want to become a champion yourself and live in west Essex please send Sarah an email at  sbevan@mindinwestessex.org.uk. If you live elsewhere here is the link to the main website to sign up to become a champion http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-change-champions/register-champion

Below I have added a video from the Time To Change website, I think it shows what they are trying to achieve and just how important it is.

adventures, blogging, body image, child, children, family, health, help, hip dysplasia, hospital, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, school, Uncategorized, writing

My Daughters Hip Dysplasia

 

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Some of you will have heard of hip dysplasia and some of you will not have. I am sure you remember at the hospital when they check your babies hips at birth, part of what they were checking is for hip dysplasia. When babies have it there are many different treatments. Some are placed in a spica cast which immobilises the movement in the hips, so allowing them to heal or form properly and others have operations early on. It must be hard for mums and dads to have to see this but from the numerous groups I am now a member of many of these babies go on to be absolutely fine and have no future problems. Having said this there are babies and children who aren’t as lucky and end up having to have quite a few procedures throughout their early years. With my daughter it was a very different case, as with her there was no indication when she was very little.

 

5 years ago Anya started complaining about pain in her hip, she was 7 years old. It wasn’t constant nor was it so painful that I initially felt there was anything to worry about, I thought it was growing pains or something like that. After a few episodes when I could see she was uncomfortable and then her teacher mentioning it at the end of school I took her to the doctor. We were sent to hospital for an X ray but came back with nothing to show on it. This went on for another 2 and a half years, trips to A&E and being told there is nothing wrong. Then one day a few months after an x-ray was taken I got a call from my GP saying that it had been reviewed and that they thuoght Anya had Perthes disease. This is when blood doesn’t reach the bone and so eventually the bone will deteriorate. Obviously I was very worried and we were referred to an paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Addenbrookes Hospital.

 

It was at this appointment that we were told that it definitely wasn’t Perthes disease (huge relief) but it was hip dysplasia (worry again). It was clear from the X rays what the problem was and before I could catch my breath the surgeon was talking of which surgery would solve the problem. Anya’s hip didn’t sit correctly in her hip joint, it was as simple as that and surgery was the only option, if we wanted her to be pain free. It was also explained that if we didn’t operate, early arthritis and a new hip would be likely.

 

Over the next 6 months we had a few meetings with the surgeon. It was decided that she would have a femoral osteotomy on the right leg which would change the direction the hip sat in the socket. It was major surgery and as I had never seen any of my babies put under anaesthetic before, let alone cut open, bones broken and pinned together, the whole thing was hard to take in. The waiting time was lengthy with the NHS but eventually in November last year (Anya was 11), we went in to have the surgery.

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Anya was so brave. She had had a small procedure in the summer to put dye in the joint, so she was aware of what the going to sleep process would entail. She didn’t like it much last time so they gave her a pre-med which made her cry with laughter by the time time she got to theatre mearly from being pushed down the halls and waving at strangers. We left her for nearly 5 hours in theatre, I know this is Anya’s story, but for me those hours were the strangest and hardest of my life. I had complete faith in the team but still there were always risks. It was a struggle seeing her in recovery too as she would not come around and hours later she was still sedated (I think she just liked the sleep). She had also lost a huge amount of blood in surgery and was lucky to not need a transfusion, which will obviously lead to a slower recovery.

 

The next day the realisation of the extent of what had been done hit home. Firstly Anya was very sick from all the drugs and in huge amounts of pain, the morphine button was being pressed constantly and she went days eventually without eating. The hardest thing to see was that though they assured us the operation was a success she really couldn’t move at all. Though I think part of it was her fear, for the next 48 hours they spent managing her pain and eventually she sat up. The 3 days expected in hospital became a week, but in that time Anya became able to walk with her crutches and was taught to get up the stairs safely.

 

I am now going to jump to where we are 5 months later. It’s been a long 5 months with the logistics of getting Anya to and from school and catching up on school work. Then there were the few falls that she had (one of which was me throwing her out of her wheelchair – worst mum ever), these falls resulted in a pin that was keeping the plate on her bone in place moving. Her bone growth was also slower than it should have been but we are where we are.

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So now, we still have weekly trips to Addenbrookes for physio and just last week we faced our next huge hurdle to overcome. Anya’s legs are now different lengths, to such an extent that more surgery will be needed. I have to say I am pretty devastated but at the age of 12 being told by orthotics you will need to have “special shoes” made for life, I know it is something we will have to do.

In fact Anya will need another 3 operations, 2 (at least) to correct the leg length and one to remove the pins and plate and shave some of the hip bone away at this operation as her physical shape has changed. It is now wonky (her words are “I am like KIm K but only on one side). We knew it may show but not to this extent. There is an element of vanity here but I don’t believe that a girl her age should live with this if there is another option and they will be doing an operation anyway to remove the pins and plate when they shave the bone.

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Anya has shown the most amazing amount to courage to get through all this, the time in hospital, missing her friends, the endless appointments, the pain, the scar, having to walk with a crutch still. I don’t think many 12 years olds would cope so well.

 

We are not at the end of Anya’s hip dysplasia story and so I hope soon to write another blog about a child who can run again. I know that what we have had to do is so that Anya is pain free but I would be lying if I didn’t feel so much guilt about so many aspects of it all. If only I had spotted the issues earlier, if only I had pushed when we had the endless trips to A&E, if only I could be the one going through all this instead of her.

I know that it could be a great deal worse for Anya, and I am well aware that there are a huge number of children (and adults) coping with much more but as a mother I have found this extremely challenging. We are lucky to be where we are, and have the NHS, but I just wish this chapter of our lives will be over soon.

 

I have asked Anya to write her feelings and outlook about what is most definitely her journey

 

“When I was told I had hip dysplasia I was quite shocked and scared. When the surgeon showed me (on an x ray) what was wrong it seemed really obvious. In some ways I felt relieved because I finally had some sort of resolution to the problem. It was overwhelming, because they immediately started talking about operations, but I felt like I was in good hands.

 

Now I have had the operation the pain that I had in my hip has gone but I have pain elsewhere because of having the surgery and my (now) uneven legs make my back hurt. I am not nervous about having to have the upcoming  operations but I know that the results are not guaranteed so that scares me a little. I think the biggest issue is that it’s been so frustrating, I can’t do things I want to do, or see people I want to see but I know I am so lucky to have the care I have from the hospital and my family.”

blogging, child, children, depression, family, health, help, instagram, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, writing

My family and my mental health

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The past month has been a struggle, I have felt myself slip backwards into depression and I have tried to fight it off but last week I knew I needed a helping hand, so I went to my GP and have gone back on antidepressants. Obviously part of me is disappointed in myself, though I know it’s not my fault but I think there was proud feeling in myself for being off the pills and coping solo, but was I coping? Or was I struggling through?

Having to take antidepressants and/or having depression is a sign of weakness to some, many feel they can cope on their own and even just admitting that they are not coping can seem like a personal failure. Another huge problem that occurs amongst mothers is that mental health can be used against them, by other parents, by friends and even by partners, I have had situations where I’ve been referred to as “bonkers” or “a nut job” once people knew about my depression. As long as people treat mental health like this people will not push to get diagnosed and then help.

The problem with all of that is that your mood and mental state really does affect people around you, so by not wanting to accept what is happening, feeling scared of other reactions or wanting to try and control something that is out of your control you may actually be damaging others as well as yourself.

As a mum it is our responsibility to look after our children (same for dads, but I am speaking from my outlook). So yes, I did well to come off the antidepressants and not feel quite so numb by them but I have also done well by asking for help and getting myself back up to where I should be. When you are stuck “in the fog” as I call it, it’s hard to see out. Early last week my daughter came in from playing outside, she was crying and explained she had ripped her school trousers, “oopsie daisy” I replied and she looked at me shocked with tears rolling down her face. She wasn’t crying because she was upset about ruining her trousers, she was crying because she was worried that I would get cross. We spoke about it and she said I got cross a lot at the moment. She had a point, my fuse was short and I was snapping. I blamed it on tiredness, which will have added to it, but I realised that she was right and that little kick up the bum by my 7 year old made me pick up the phone and call the doc. Inside my fog I couldn’t see that for myself.

My daughters worry about me, as all children worry about their parents, and when I am sad, they will feel sadness too, when I am angry, they will sense it. On the flip side when we are happy I believe that children feel in their element, spurred on by their parents joy. It works both ways, as we mirror our children also, but sadness/ anger/ disappointment, these are all emotions that are consuming and ones that dont we want our children to be dragged down to.

So here I am, a week into a new course of antidepressants and I don’t feel too different but I wouldn’t expect to after a week. I do feel pleased with myself for taking a positive step and know I have done right by my family. My main concern is that the new drugs will numb me and prevent me from expressing myself (I have only be writing my blogs since January and have been medication free all that time), so I hope that my mind allows me to write.

The most important factor in all of this is that my kids need me stable, they don’t want to see me cry and they dont want me snapping. Normally I am an over excitable, fairly immature mother, it may not conform but it’s what my kids know and who they love so when depression makes me something different it’s time to change.

I hope that any of you who are feeling on the edge will give themselves a break and go and see a doctor, you may not need medicine, maybe just a chat, it will help and its integral for us to care for our mind. It’s the most important thing, physically, mentally and spiritually. We owe it to our children and our family to make sure we are okay. Let’s teach the next generation that mental health is acceptable and support each other and respect ourselves.

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OOTD (outfit of the day)

I love clothes and I love shoes (especially trainers) but I wouldn’t call myself “fashionable”, i just wear what I like and what is comfy. A couple of months ago I started sharing some of my OOTDs (outfits of the day) on Instagram and I really enjoy it, initially I thought it would make me make a huge effort everyday but that was hugely unrealistic and no one wants to see perfection (and if they do they don’t follow me).

So instead I post when I can and want (some days I just don’t feel like it), but I thought I would post a gallery of my pics on here to share one of the aspects of my life that I enjoy. I  know there is an aspect of vanity in posting selfies of myself and I understand why people may see this like that, but the other side is that I am a busy mum who tries to keep herself looking okay (in my opinion) and I like to see what other people are wearing so I can get inspiration for outfits, so I thought they might like to see me too.

My clothes are all high street and charity shops (my mum has an eye for a charity shop bargain, so I reap the rewards). I have some clothes as old as my children and now I am lucky enough to be able to raid my eldest daughters wardrobe too!

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Separated parents, parenting together

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We live in the modern world and a considerable percentage of us are not with the mother/father of our child. This is the case with me, but I have 2 ex’s and 3 children. My eldest two from my first marriage, and my youngest from a relationship after that. Having to deal with ex partners/husbands/ wives can be a nightmare, especially at the beginning, but what I have learnt along the way and what I am still learning is that having a “bad” relationship is unhealthy and destructive to your child, but also for your own well being.

When I was going through my divorce I never thought my ex husband and I would ever be friendly again, we couldn’t talk to each other and used (very expensive) lawyers as go between, by the end of the divorce and child residency I alone wracked up a bill of £30,000. It is such a ludicrous amount of money, but when I look back at it now do I regret that cost? no I don’t, because through it all, through all the courses and meetings, mediation and solicitors letter, I learnt a great deal and I am proud of my relationships that I have with my daughters fathers. I learnt from my first break up how to deal with the second and a lot of it is quite simple.

There was a stage where, during our court process, the only words that were passed between my daughters’ father and I were via a ‘communications book’, now thinking of it it seems awful but actually it was a very sensible way to ensure that no bad words were ever passed in front of the children, also this communication book could be called into court at any time so it made us be think before we wrote (this was a valuable lesson). It is something that both the court and CAFCASS would recommend if needed. In fact the suggestion of a communication book came about because we were both sent on a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course by the judge. You go separately but I wasn’t sure about it but knew I had to, and I am so pleased I did. We were shown a heartbreaking film which demonstrated the impact that poor communication between separated parents has on children. As a group and with the teachers we discussed the film, one point that was reiterated and is very common in the modern age were messages sent via texts and other apps, due to not having to face the person, nor hear the voice it is easy to let the situation become angry and words can get typed that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face (obviously this is the most common way to communicate, but while things are fraught its most likely the worst approach). If an argument happens in this way, the parent who has the child in their care will be affected by it and that will impact the child, it made me realise how destructive it was. Sometimes now, when I am in a conversation with either Dad and I can feel it veering towards bad vibes the conversation stops for another day. 9 times out of 10 nothing more needs to get talked about, it was all in that moment and could have easily escalated.

Whether it’s in the early stages, or further along (when new partners are involved, or house moves happen), it is sometimes very hard to come to an understanding of what is going to happen with decisions to do the children, it is easy to always find fault in the other parent’s suggestions due to anger you may feel. What was reiterated by SPIPs was the fact you cannot control the other parent (whether straight after the separation or 5 years down the line) and you can only be responsible for yourself. What I also found very true was that up until recently you had been in a relationship with this person, you had loved them at one point (most probably) and you had chosen to have a child with them. So to then change your tune after breaking up and conclude that the other parent is incapable or has faults will not only seem insincere but also will be projected onto your child/children as perhaps a feeling they did not come from a loving relationship. Your job as a parent is to be the adult, and the best thing for your child is to support the other parent.

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After our course we came up with a child residency order which was agreed on but then was altered a few years later. During the second round of the court process we were sent to CAFCASS and we had meetings with a team who spoke with great insight into co parenting and the benefits for children. We covered many topics and made ‘contracts’ about the upbringing of the girls, they helped us open up communications and taught us that it was imperative for our kids to make decisions together. I am not saying it was all easy, but due to the fact we were not in the midst of our own break up, it allowed us to be productive rather than blaming each other. Some relationships, even years later constantly blame and have a power struggle, but I will talk about that next). The point that was very evident was that we were not in a relationship anymore  and so though we could make it hard for the other person and throw words at each other, the only person it will ever hurt is the child.

When my next break up happened, things could have been very difficult and I think that our relationship and break up could have ended in a high conflict situation, but I am really proud at the decision from both of us to to have a unity for our daughter. We knew she was and is the only thing that matters and once you come to terms with the fact you are not together there is no need for anything other that parental duties.

High conflict parents will be the first to tell you that it’s not their fault, I have met many people like this, and it is not a criticism (I absolutely understand how it feels, its where i was many moons ago), but it is hindering themselves and their children. They will always blame the other parent and I can clearly remember a judge in court one day telling me that once you get in to a situation where you are constantly arguing it is only with mediation that you will have some calm. To quote The Happy Family Lawyer “They will be so far involved in their own conflict that they won’t be able to see the ‘wood for the trees’. Only with specialised professional assistance can these parents improve their parenting techniques.”. It is also key to remember that it doesn’t matter who started or didn’t start an argument, you are not in control of anyone else but yourself, it takes two to tango and I am sure when these explosions occur between two ex’s the starting discussion is a distant memory.

So to conclude on my journey, most of the time I have a calm and steady “friendship” with the Dads of my daughters, I have learnt that they will ALWAYS be in my life, so why would I waste my energy feeling any anger for them (not that I do), but when something annoys me, I don’t rise to it, as long as my children are safe and well that’s all that matters. I also always try to be respectful, so always including them in decisions about the girls, for example which school they go to or whether to have certain immunisations. No matter who the children reside with the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you the right to be sole decision maker. (That being said it is not the resident parents job to inform the other of when events are happening or school choices are being made, both sign up to school emails and both keep upto date with the milestones of your children).

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I have summarised a few important factors that I learnt so far on my journey and I am always interested in hearing feedback from my blogs, or just any other information anyone has about successful co parenting.

I will attach links to a few websites that I found very helpful, especially the programme booklet for the SPIP course I went on.

  • Respect that your children may have different feelings to your own
  • Do not use your child as a messenger
  • DON’T make it a power struggle
  • Think about what you can do, not what your ex partner should/ shouldn’t be doing
  • Make small steps towards the end goal
  • Look after yourself and be the best you can for your children
  • Have faith in the other parent, no matter how they treat you don’t fight fire with fire.

CAFCASS

SPIPS

THE HAPPY LAWYER

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And Then There Were None

Is your child starting school in September? Are there nerves on your part? Here I discuss my feelings and how they are not as straight forward as just seeing my baby taking the next step.

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In 6 months time my youngest baby will be starting school and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it. Having been through this process twice before I know what to do and I know the process involved, the dilemma of whether its too early to get the uniform in July (they may grow a whole metre over the summer holidays!!!), the mad trip to Clarkes to get a generic pair of shoes that you have to prize from your child’s feet so the patent stays intact come their first day and the dreaded visit from their teacher to your home where all of sudden you come over all Kirsty Allsopp, baking bread, buying soft furnishing and lighting candles (and then blowing them out pronto as you don’t want said to teacher to think you would ever have a flame within a 100 yards of your precious 4 years old, bad mummy).

No, I am okay with the starting school prep and so I was unsure what this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach was all about.

Frankie is definitely ready for school (and that’s not always the case, especially as she is a June baby, but with 2 older sisters she wants to move upwards). I have no doubt she will be a child that clings to me at the door but eventually it will get easier, she is definitely my cheekiest child, partly due to encouragement from her siblings but her preschool tell me she is one of the quieter ones so hopefully school will bring the balance of cheeky and quiet to a level. She is ready learn, she wants to write and read but with all the kids it’s hard to give her enough time but she copies her sisters and knows letters and small sums (I think this is genius but I am sure its not!!), she has also taught herself to get dressed in preparation for PE (its bloody handy for me too in the mornings!). I mean this all screams of a child counting down the days to September, yet I am not counting them down, I am wanting them to slow right down so I can savour having a little person at home a bit longer.

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I know now that there is a double edge to this sword that is reception class. Not only am I going to be passing my final child over to the institution that is education (which is not a negative, just that it’s hard to swallow that she is no longer “mine”) but, and this is not as easy to admit, I also have to work out what the hell I am doing?

Up until now I am a full time mum, I have 3 daughters, 4 step children, 2 dogs and a husband… but in september though I will still have those things, I will also have 6 hours free (apart from a house to clean, washing of the masses, cooking, shopping, dogs etc), but to the outside world those hours are free (Monday to Friday). So basically if we cut  the crap here, I need a job, I need to do something, I need an income. Of course with that will bring the changes to our household, potential breakfast and after school clubs (bloody expensive), the fact the housework, cooking, cleaning the toilets etc will have to be split between myself and my husband (will it work?) and that I may not be there for the school runs nor have as much time with the girls full stop. It’s impossible (almost) to find a job that fits in with school hours, but, the positives would be that I am contributing financially and feel equal in the household which is not something I have felt, well I did when I was a single mum (and I am sure many of you understand where I am coming from with this). What fills me with dread is that I don’t know what I can do, nor who the hell would want me! I have been a mum for so long I feel useless as a fully fledged adult, I will have to get used to being Jo and not Mum (how very odd).

So with this I realise that while my 3 year old (4 in June) is making all the necessary and natural changes and progression into school life, I need to take note of her actions and apply myself too, I have 6 months to sort this shit out. It’s an exciting stage for our family and I need to grow some balls and get on with it, if Frankie can do it, I can do it too.

The next journey for Frankie and myself is a positive one, and though daunting on a maternal and personal level, there are so many joys to come. In myself it’s the start of letting myself grow and the restraints of small children becoming looser, and for Frankie the joys of the first nativity, learning to read and I can’t even imagine her little twig legs at sports day (but if she is like me then competitiveness will be ugly). I know lots of you out there will be feeling something similar (or at least I hope you do) and whether it’s your first, second or fifth child to have their very first day in september, good luck and take your tissues.

I will write a follow up blog to this with the outcome, it may not be pretty or it may be bloody glorious, who knows???

Thanks for reading

Jo

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