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Ten New Years resolutions that will help your mental health

2018-background-celebration-714703It’s New Year’s Day and I am hungover. Not the best start to the year but my mind seems to be in a good place and I am determined to start this year as I mean to go on. My mental heath is a priority to me, and in my opinion it should be everyone’s priority. Some of us may assume that our mental health is always going to be good but why take it for granted.

I have made ten resolutions that I think will help you stay mentally healthy…

1. Get more exercise

I try to run three times a week, I plan on continuing this and also would like to add some strength exercises because I am not getting any younger and my arm skin is starting to flap. The benefits of exercise are multiple, not only does it help you stay in shape but for me it’s a mental exercise, a time to reflect and also gives me the best sense of achievement. Get yourself moving!!

2. Get more sleep

I am a terrible sleeper, I regularly wake at 2.30am and stay awake for hours. So this year sleep is going to be my priority. I am going to ensure I relax in the evening, read instead of being on my phone and get to bed early. I have said it time and time again but lack of sleep is my number one trigger for my mental health to slip, so it makes sense that it is my priority.

3. Get off your phone

The new iphone updates remind me of the amount of screen time I have had. Its shocking and I am pretty sure I am not alone. The problem with our phones and social media is that its a constant comparison competition and thats not healthy. We rarely post a pic of a really average fairly lousy day but we do post the happy moments. Even though we are aware that this isnt a true reflection of peoples lives we still compare ourselves. So for me, the phone is going down more and I am going to enjoy my life and those around me.

4. Learn something new

For christmas I got roller skates and I am determined to become good at it (i will be cursing myself when I am sat in a&e next week with a broken wrist). Its about doing something for yourself and having a sense of achievement. I also want to make some crochet goods (a crochetting roller skater I hear you say). Pick something that you have always wanted to do and go for it (it can be big or small).

5. Plan your life

I love lists and I love a calendar but I still forget things. When I forget something I feel bad in myself. So lets plan more. I like to have a full page diary so I can list what I need to do each day. I also have a calendar for the whole family to use. A sense of being organised is incredibly calming for your mind.

6. Learn to meditate

At Christmas I was discussing this with my brother and we both want to work on taking my mind to a place of calm, to clarify our thoughts and have more peace. I have an app on my phone but eventually I want to be able to just do it myself, anywhere. By giving yourself a couple fo minutes everyday will give you so many benefits and massively reduce your stress levels.beach-calm-dawn-267967.jpg

7. Keep a diary

Whether its a blog or an actual diary its very cathartic to write down your thoughts. Its sometimes easier to read your thoughts once written down, plus I dont think we write enough nowadays. I plan on having a physical diary and from that I will use my thoughts to write blogs, or not… its just about releasing some of your feelings, worries and stresses.

8. Be kinder to yourself

Self belief is not something that comes naturally to me and I am very critical of myself. So this year I want to work on the words that I tell myself become kinder. I want to cut myself some slack and look at the positive things that I do. Self affirmations are a great way to start, write a list of what you want to hear about yourself and what you want to achieve in your day “I will be great today” “I will be kind today” “I am a strong person”.

9. Help others 

By helping others you are able to leave your own troubles and focus on someone else. It also allows you to connect with other people. I am not saying that you have to go out and volunteer all of your time but just the odd job here and there. Help a friend with the school run? Help an elderly relative take their shopping in? It doesnt matter what it is but I always thing that these good deeds will be payed back to you when you need help.

10. Be Thankful

Stop and think about all the wonderful aspects of your life (list them if need be). I soend so much time worrying about things and focusing on things that I cannot control I have prone to forgetting what I have. Take being thankful into your everyday and your outlook of life will become far more positive.advertisement-advertising-font-519

So I hope these 10 resolutions will help you, I have also written a few more personal ones for myself but I think these are pretty good all rounders.

Happy New Year to you all, since writing this my hangover has lessened slightly and i feel inspired to get my arse into gear and get dressed. Heres to a brilliant 2019.

xxx

 

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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.

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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

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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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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.

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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.”

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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

anorexia, blogging, body image, children, depression, diet, family, food, health, help, meatfree, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, self love, Uncategorized, vegan, writing

When it comes to body image, how can I be a good role model?

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After having my first daughter I developed an eating disorder, I suppose it would come under anorexia as I really struggled to eat and felt like even the smallest amount of food would make me fat, I would skip meals by telling people I was going out for dinner later (and so wouldn’t eat lunch) and then do the opposite later on in the day, some days I wouldn’t eat, on days I would eat I would then make myself sick. I looked awful, really really awful. My skin was bad, my body was all out of proportion and my hair was thinning. I weighed 7 and a half stone, I had a BMI of 16.4 (that’s seriously underweight and should be between 18.5 and 25). It impacted into every part of my life and it would cause me panic when it came to anything food related for example family events, weekends away and birthdays. It was a very low point in my life.

Fast forward to now (11 years later) I weigh 9 and half stone and have a BMI of 20.6. I try and keep myself around this weight although last year I was a stone heavier, I only lost the weight again (very slowly) so my clothes would fit better as I can’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I understand that I will always have a strange relationship with food and that I can slip into a negative place from time to time, but I have come a long way since those darker days, but what I must make sure is that I do not project this bad relationship with food and body image onto my children, but just how does someone who has had (and will in a small way always have) an eating disorder do that? How does any parent do that? We all have hang ups don’t we?

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I have used my experience as a mum to three girls (one of whom is at a very delicate age of nearly 12), plus I have done a fair amount of research. Here are my ideas how we project a positive body image onto our children.

  • Listen – When my child comes to me, I listen, no matter how silly or small the problem is I give them time. Obviously there are times where you have ask them to wait till you are free, but they do get my ear eventually and I do listen. When I am faced with problems about the body, or things that have been said about their image at school I sympathise, it doesn’t matter if what has been said is ridiculous, if it has hurt your child then its serious to them and to you. I let my girls know about situations in my life where I have faced similar scenarios as by letting them into my life I feel they let me into theirs a bit more. Yes we need to be strong for our kids but they also need to know we are human too.

  • Skills, talents and achievements – As we know there is so much more to us in this life than just how we look, but as a child/ teenager there will be stages where it doesn’t feel like that. As well a listening we need to make sure that our children know that their skills and achievements are acknowledged. Many of these skills (especially academically) will stay with them forever, where as the way we look will change drastically (looking back at photos of me aged 12 is actually hysterical and only my Mum would be able to tell that it was me). We are all special and unique, we are all good at things and we should all be proud of ourselves, this doesn’t come naturally and we must help our children realise their potential. So pay your children compliments, about the way they look AND what they are good at.

  • Self Love – This is the hardest one for me, and I cant preach that I am remotely good at it, but I do know its important. We must try and show outward body confidence, easier said than done, I know, but while researching for this and contemplating writing this bit of advice (as I feel hypocritical) it got me thinking that we all must try to be more confident for the sake of our children, and I think the more we do, the more we will believe it. Remember, our children think we are the most beautiful women in the world, lets not burst their bubble!

  • Self affirmations – A while ago, my best friend Jennie said to my girls that they must believe in themselves and love themselves, she told them to write self affirmations and say them to themselves every morning. Well, they sniggered at her. Later that week I made them do it, and though they don’t read them everyday, they decorated them and we have kept them, so when we have a down day we can get them out and read them. I kept them relative to their age, very simple to more meaningful, but not too complex. I have photographed mine and an example of a child’s. Give it a go, it helped me at least.
  • Dads – My girls are lucky enough to have a Dad and a Step Dad. A man’s perspective on women and themselves is incredibly important. The way that your husband or partner talks to you and them about appearance (men and women) is as integral as you as Mum. The same goes with the way they feel about their own appearance.

  • Food  – An essential part of life is eating and if you are like me, then sometimes it can be an issue. The way I see it is that you should show your children how to be healthy (by making healthy food choices and cooking homemade food) and also by having some treats. Let them see you eat a slab of cake once in a while, or a big burger and fries. Never eat in secret, this is a something I have real knowledge of and is very harming to children, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to eating. I know some of us women like people to think that we live off lettuce leaves and air, but when we get home will be eating ham or another quick fridge find straight out the pack. Well I am telling you, we shouldn’t do this, for ourselves and our kids. Food is great, and is a social enjoyable thing, family meals are so important too, sitting toegther and enjoying food will give your children a healthy relationship with it.
  • Modern technology –  This is THE BIG ONE. The world has changed/ evolved and nearly all kids have use of the internet and eventually social media. I read a horrendous statistic today in an article called ‘uncomfortable in your skin report’ that young girls who use social media are bombarded by up to 5000 digitally enhanced images every week, what on earth will that be doing to the way they feel they should look. I don’t believe that we can stop this, yes we can educate our children to follow appropriate people but if you have a daughter like mine I think I am asking the impossible. She loves the Kardashians and that’s that. I think as parents in this day and age we have to adjust our mindset and work with this being part of our children’s lives, we have to teach them that it’s not real and I think we can show them some amazing people who are far better role models, so that they may follow them alongside the digitally enhanced loves of their lives. I have found a few amazing instagram/ web sites that are fantastic for every one to help with body image, firstly the beautiful Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) and Taryn Brumfitt (body image movement) both pages are rammed full of fantastic content. I have also attached a link to Taryns trailerHere  for her amazing Embrace documentary, give it a watch and if you want to you watch the full film on Netflix, I recommend it for all you Mums and Dads out there and then decide if you want to show your children, they advise on the website that it is for age 10/11+ but as that’s at the parents discretion.

I hope this has helped and as always I have found it invigorating to write. I hate to imagine my children being unhappy with their perfect bodies but I think we have to accept at times it will happen (I know I have already faced a fair few problems with the kids), it’s about us dealing with them and supporting our children in their journey.

Thanks for reading

Jo

blogging, children, depression, family, health, help, mental health, motherhood, mum blogger, mums, parenting, Uncategorized, writing

Today the fog came down

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My name’s Jo and I have depression. It’s not a badge I wear often but it is something that I live with, it’s something that so many of us live with and what us people (who live with it) will know is that some days are a great deal harder than the others, what those of you who don’t have depression won’t know is that the hard days can feel impossible and it’s like a grey fog descending onto your world, a thick fog that almost makes it hard to move let alone see clearly.

Today is one of those days and I have never written about how a bad day feels like so I thought, with my journey of writing and self improvement, it could be a cathartic exercise.

I actually felt the fog come down yesterday evening, it came on all of a sudden. I am very tired (I have previously said that lack of sleep is my number one trigger to the dark place) and I am  coming out of having the flu, so my body isn’t really playing ball physically. I had worked all day, done the school runs, done the clubs, been to the shop, made two lots of dinner (for the youngsters and then us adults), hung up the washing, then did bedtime,  and that’s where my line was drawn, I had had enough. If it had been up to my head I would have just gone to bed and probably should have done, I felt achy and my lingering cough was annoying me. I sat on the sofa and even the dogs’ sleepy breathing was getting to me. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault to my mood being this way it was simply my depression reminding me that she is still there.

There is no logic (apart from sleep deprivation) to the ups and downs of my depression, I am on a good run at the moment and am really trying to improve my mental well being by making positive steps in my life. This blog I have started is doing really well and I am really enjoying it, I am using my brain when I write and I find I am reading so many more articles that a broadening my learning.

If I just look at where I am with my week I should feel I am doing really well, I have just survived the kid weekend and the house stayed relatively tidy (as I had a big push on Sunday to get jobs done and not get myself into a panic), I have been to my little job (which over the past month just hasn’t happened due to illness of myself and kids) and the husband and I are going away next week for our anniversary which is going to be amazing. Life should be looking peachy, yet as I am well aware of this means nothing when it comes to the fog.

I woke this morning immediately knowing it had not left (not helped by Frankie waking 3 times in the middle of the night) but I set off with my routine and my normal techniques to keep the mood at bay. I make a nice coffee, I get the girls to school and I wrote my list of jobs (my daily list is my way of keeping on top of things but also reminding myself of what I have done and achieved). It does help and as I tick those jobs off, safe in the knowledge the kids are happy at school my mood sometimes begins to budge, but I can’t shake this off today. I note bad days because if I go over a week of it I will maybe book in with the doc,  but generally this doesn’t happen. The sun is even shining which normally helps me hugely (I don’t know if I actually suffer from SADS but a grey sky really hinders my outlook).

I am trying so hard to be positive but I still want to give up a little and cry. On days like today it is the children that get me through because deep down I want to curl away from the world, I want to shut the door and shut everything out. I can’t, because I am a Mum, but today the school run was a struggle, keeping eye contact was hard and even being interested in my daughters day I find myself zoning in and out, but I did it.

So as I sit and write this I realise that it has in fact helped me. Just noting the good and realising that I did too much yesterday puts my head in perspective, I am human and not indestructible, it was understandable that I got to my limit. I must look after myself, because going a million miles an hour and not stopping to eat and rest will put anyone in a bad mood. This evening my friend is coming for tea with her kids, it will force me stop and I have prepared everything so that we have food ready and even a bottle of wine if we fancy a little glass.

I just need to remind myself that life is good, it’s Wednesday already,  and come the end of the week I will have a little break from the kids and I will enjoy my days with my husband and our anniversary (and hopefully a few cocktails!). I am also going to work hard the next few days to be ready with blogs to post up next week so that I dont panic when I am away. I will even get my nails painted as a treat. 

I am so lucky and need to just stop and breath a bit more. None of this will stop me having depression, but my aim for the future is to have a little more control over it and instead of letting it rule me completely, I would like to own it even if just slightly.

I am almost through today and hope that tomorrow feels lighter. lts about taking one day at a time. 

If anyone has any good daily tricks and tips to break through a temporary mood please let me know, I am on a journey of self improvement and in no way do I know it all. I think if we can help each other we will all feel good for it.

Jo xx

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