Ever so stoic.

These are the words someone used to describe themselves whilst talking about my ability to hold back my emotions today. Ever so stoic. So true. I feel so completely uncomfortable in my own shell that a stoic hiding of emotions feels ever so natural.

Today I led the briefing reflection at my school. I had written the reflection on Friday evening last week when a moment of inspiration hit me. It was all about the inevitability of change. I used my dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s as the focus of it.

Composing it felt natural. Reading it back to myself, perfectly fine. But today reading it aloud was like my soul being torn open. I delivered it fine; no one would have known the effect it had. But immediately afterwards I felt the swell of pain. The deepest, darkest emotions were bubbling.

I am very good at burrowing these feelings away. I fail to admit to myself most of the time how I feel about many things, including my dad’s illness. But today after reading I felt like I had been bowled over by a bowling ball.

A friend remarked on my ability to read it so clearly without bubbling with emotion. I had. But afterwards the emotions were all too much. And now I had to go and teach for a whole day.

I felt physically sick. I felt like I could have been knocked over as easy as a feather. I felt tears just behind the eyes. I felt like I was shaking. I felt scared.

I felt scared because I didn’t feel in control. Teaching my classes was horrific today. My mind was anywhere but the room. A normally patient and kind teacher I felt like I was snapping at them.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to quit the day there and then. I felt like a panic attack was brewing. I felt shattered. I wanted to hide not perform in front of 30 students.

I survived. I got to the end of the day. I feel torn. I feel broken. I feel anxious. I feel unable to cope.

I need to deal with these emotions. It is positive to share. But perhaps before a 5 lesson day wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I’ll think that one over more next time.

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Depression and the Poo Episode

If I thought yesterday was bad with my post entitled Failure all I could muster up, today brought its own challenges. I really don’t feel well right now. Anxiety is coursing through my veins and depression beginning to weigh me down. I’m hoping it will be short lived.

Today I woke with anxiety. I shook with worry. I had two separate visits to the doctor to deal with for my son’s flu vaccine and my smear test. Anxiety is completely irrational but it’s so real. This is why the poo episode was worse than normal!

The poo episode

It’s about 9:15 and the plan was to do a few jobs round the house before leaving for the doctors for my son’s flu vaccine at 10:15.

A five minute sit down I thought before the jobs start. My 2 year old seemed happy playing with his toys. Suddenly “Mummy I need a poo!” I jump off the sofa, pick him up and run up the stairs to our bathroom. Pull down his pants and there is a little poo already there. I sit him on the toilet where he argues “no poo coming mummy”. Change of pants number 1.

Ten minutes later I’m hanging up washing on the airer. It is suspiciously quiet. I shout to him (in another room)

“Thomas are you ok?”

“Yes mummy”

“Thomas do you need a poo”

“no”

About 30 seconds after this conversation. “Mummy I done a poo.” We repeat episode number 1 although this time Thomas has kindly touched his bum with his hands, spreading his poo onto his jumper and his trousers. In the bathroom whilst wrestling a 2 year old to take off his clothes covered him poo, we now have poo everywhere. All over my hands, the bathroom seat, the floor. Change of pants 2 (plus now no jumper or trousers on).

I decide perhaps I need to allocate some time to poo gate. Thomas and I sit in his bedroom. I read The Gruffalo whilst he sits on the potty trying to push out a poo. In reality what this looks like is a 2 year old who keeps jumping up to give me a hug whilst I wrestle him back to the potty as poo is coming out of his bum. No success, tiny, tiny poo- but now poo on his T-shirt, leg, potty, millions of wipes used. No change of pants we hadn’t got any on!

So now Thomas is completely naked (he still has socks on) wandering around upstairs. I am losing the plot knowing that a poo is on its way sooner or later. Also the time seems to be disappearing it’s now 10:05 and we need to go out in ten minutes. So now my patience has completely disappeared. We are having a poo standoff in the bathroom. Thomas is on and off the potty whilst I demand a poo. I threaten taking away toys, offer rewards and even threaten putting nappies on him again to which he shouts “no I’m not a baby” and I shout back “do your poo then”. A 10:10am I give up. I put him in a completely new set of clothes, put on his shoes and coat and make him promise he will be good at the doctors. We then fly out the door.

Nothing unusual here. A normal mummy day. But it’s how I am dealing with these events that doesn’t feel normal. I am in self destruct mode where I’m blaming myself for everything.

I blame myself for the fact my 2 year old isn’t pooing on the toilet yet. I blame myself for putting on the tv after lunch because I’m tired. I blame myself for how I have brought up my children when they are whiny when we have a play date. I blame myself when watching my eldest son at football after school and he is standing not joining in. I blame myself when I snap at my husband for doing nothing other than breathing.

I can’t stand my own company right now. I just want to hide. I’ve been off the antidepressants for about 4 weeks and it’s tough. I don’t want to go back on them even though some people will tell me that’s the right step; I don’t agree, I’m feeling again! I also think it’s not helping that for a complicated reason I don’t have any counselling for 5 weeks. I haven’t got my usual talking outlet.

Thank you

T- to all the people who have shown me love today. The texts, the smiles, and the offers of help have all helped. They have made me feel valued. They have made me feel cared for. They have made a difference.

H- hiding has been what my mind has desired today. I have desperately tried to do the opposite. Isolating myself is never a good plan, things just get worse.

A- anxiety is probably at its height right now. The list of what I’m anxious about is so extremely long. Without any counselling to release these I feel the list is just getting longer.

N- nights are the worse. I hate the shorter days and the dark. They make it much harder for me to find the positivity.

K- keeping me on my toes are my children. My youngest is extremely whiny at the moment. He seems grouchy about everything and beyond clingy to his mummy. It’s tiring and I’m struggling to keep my patience.

Y-yawning. I’m so constantly tired. It’s not even a lack of sleep it’s more than that. The anxiety on overdrive makes adrenaline course through my body and leaves me feeling shattered.

O- out in the air tonight, I went for a run. I dreaded it but it actually felt good. I only went for 18 minutes (I didn’t have long before putting the boys to bed) but I jogged much more than I walked and I felt such a release.

U- understanding. My major bugbear right now. Today I had a lovely conversation with someone who agreed with my views about the need for understanding of others issues. Not getting mental health, not really knowing much about it isn’t really an excuse for a lack of understanding to others. Come on everyone let’s just so everyone some love.

Depression: How to understand the invisible?

Blog posts are starting to flow, which means I’m feeling poorly. I always write when I’m not quite right. Depression and anxiety always gets my creativity going.

Tonight I feel again like this is my life forever. However many times I try to get over depression and anxiety I fail. It has become me. It is not something I will ever be completely be free of, it’s something I cope with.

Today I came across a lack of understanding of mental health. Stigma exists. Mostly I would say this stigma isn’t intentionally hurtful (although sadly that does still exist). But an honest lack of knowledge. An honest lack of experience. An honest I don’t get it.

It’s really hard to help people understand what cannot be seen. I get why people don’t get it. I appreciate how hard it is. I don’t blame them for their lack of knowledge. Depression and anxiety are so irrational in many ways that we can’t explain them clearly.

This doesn’t mean I will give up. This doesn’t mean I will stop trying to help people understand.

Being completely honest about what goes on in my head scares me. I worry that if my husband, counsellor, doctor knew they would section me immediately. My head is irrational and dramatic. It isn’t all bad.

More than anything opening up truthfully often leads to advice. I’m not one for people telling me what to do. I like it when people listen. I don’t like not being in control. It’s not that I always know best but I have had this for a long time now and I know what does and does not work.

So I’ll try to be honest to help people understand if you promise not to worry!

  • I self harm every day.
  • When I’m at my worse I have had suicidal thoughts daily.
  • I have been about to commit suicide.
  • Even now much better than before I still think about suicide sometimes (luckily not seriously currently).
  • Sometimes I can’t get out of bed I feel so low.
  • Sometimes just to get out of bed is an achievement.
  • I feel like I have a tonne weight on me holding me back.
  • Anxiety makes me sick.
  • I worry about everything I do, say, write. I analyse it over and over and over.
  • I am scared of everything.
  • I have zero self belief or confidence.
  • I think I am a rubbish mum.
  • I think I am a rubbish teacher.
  • I feel worthless.

And these are just a start.

No mental health illness is the same. I have friends who have issues but theirs jare different to mine in many ways and same in others. Essentially I’m not sure you will ever fully get it unless you have it. But I do ask that you all try and show a little bit more compassion. You make time to listen. You make time to learn more and try to understand.

The cruelty of Alzheimer’s.

I’ve never written a blog post about this before. To be honest my family have always been the don’t share type. We aren’t great at expressing our emotions or talking about deep things. This way of living which has become so engrained is a problem for me now but is the norm. Certainly my mum’s Irish Catholic proud, don’t want any sympathy or help attitude is something I unwillingly share.

So I’m apprehensive about this blog more than any other. This isn’t really my story to tell. This isn’t something my mum would approve of. This isn’t something my mum would want anyone to know. So I do ask for those of you who know me personally or more importantly know my mum please don’t share that I have written this with her. She is broken enough as it is, she doesn’t need anymore.

But as normal with most of my blogs I really feel the need to pour out my emotions tonight. I’m already crying writing this and it’s tough! My dad is 75 and he has Alzheimer’s and it is breaking me right now.

Alzheimer’s is cruel. Sometimes I wonder is it worse than death? Slowly your loved one is taken away from you. They seem to disappear before your eyes. At times the change is small and unnoticeable for a while and other times it’s catastrophic.

My mum believes my dad has had Alzheimer’s for a long time, over 10 years, although he has only had an official diagnosis for 2 1/2 years ; the proud thing got in the way there.

Why am I writing this now? Because recently I’m finding it harder to cope. There are two things I’m struggling with:

a) being my mum’s rock. She doesn’t talk to anyone else about how she is feeling. I am her only outlet. The tears are becoming more frequent and the desperation more obvious.

b) before I knew my dad was changing but I was holding onto glimmers-this I’m finding harder to do.

What ultimately makes me cry? What is the hardest thing to bare? I think it’s watching this capable, loving, caring, respected, well liked, man, who used to be a bank manager slowly fade. Seeing him not be able to do the most basic of things.

  • He can’t tell the time on any form of clock.
  • He doesn’t know where things are in the house when he has lived there for 30 years.
  • He can’t work anything like the tv, kettle, or lawnmower. Or do jobs he has always done like go up in the loft.
  • He can’t make even a sandwich.
  • He doesn’t remember what he has done 5 mins ago or what he will be doing in half hour even if he is told over and over.
  • He cries regularly about not being able to do things or mucking things up.
  • He repeats himself often.
  • He isn’t allowed/can’t drive.

This is list is endless.

But what upsets me most and I suppose is more a recent thing is how he is with my children. My dad has always been the best with kids. Endless patience. Playing on the carpet for hours. Great fun to be with.

Now even with his Alzheimer’s he has still shown this. My eldest son who is 5 is besotted by grandad. He is his best mate. But recently I have begun to see my dad even struggle with this. He seems to lack the patience, he struggles when my two boys both want to play with him. He is either overly negative with them or the opposite extreme he is like another excitable child. For the first time I am starting to see him struggle with the thing that makes him my dad the most for me. The other day my youngest who is obsessed with puzzles was desperate for grandad to help him, but got quickly frustrated when grandad couldn’t even help him with his simple child’s puzzle.

I am scared of the changes. I’m clinging the times where the dad I know shines through. I worry that I won’t remember him as he was before. I really don’t want my boys to lose their love of grandad because it would break me and him.

Alzheimer’s has no cure. But it also has no common path. No one knows what is next or how long it will be. It’s cruel because physically my dad is so fit and well but it is like he is being eaten from the inside out.

I hope your loved ones never have to suffer. I hope I can be strong enough to support my mum. I hope my dad is proud of his daughter. I love you dad and always will.

Depression turmoil

My head is spinning it’s turning me in and out,

I don’t know whether to hide, cry, scream or shout,

Even writing is hard right now a desperate release,

I would love to escape it all, forever or for just one day please let it cease.

I’ve been poorly for weeks now laryngitis, chest infection and now my ear is sore,

It’s left me tired and broken, I’m not sure I can take much more,

The pain is now increasing, but when to fit in a doctors visit I can’t think,

Life is too full, too busy there is no time even to blink.

Being poorly has stopped the exercise my way to stay sane,

The weight is piling on again, all I seem to do is gain,

The pounds increasing are making me low,

Every time I try to crack the weight something sends another blow.

Work is exhausting, especially when feeling ill,

I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on till,

Each day anxiety is there, the self doubt creeping in,

In front of 30 students anxiety can quickly mean the lesson should be thrown in the bin.

Outside of work other things are playing on my mind,

I’m worried about my eldest boy at school I don’t want him to be behind ,

What can I do to help him, being a mum is a constant worry

I don’t want the lines between loving mum and teacher to be blurry.

Other things are hurting me more than I can express,

Alzheimer’s is the cruelest disease it’s hard I confess,

Watching parts of my Dad disappear before my very eyes,

Hard to be the rock for my mum and hear her cries.

Right now life is really overwhelming me,

I’ve come off the antidepressants leaving me alone and free,

No counselling for 4 weeks my lifeline missing at this time

I think a new strategy shall come to play … bedtime!

“Mum it’s the wedding day”

“Mum it’s the wedding day” are the words that greeted me yesterday morning at 6:15am when I got up with my two boys (5 and 2). I’d been up since 5am and had little sleep all night due to coughing up my lungs. But I left my husband sleeping in bed (I was feeling guilty for coughing all night and disturbing him).

“Mummy are you excited?” “Yes of course”. Whilst inside I was thinking I feel horrendous, my voice is barely back after laryngitis, my chest hurts and I just want to crawl into bed. Add the anxiety thrown in of all the peopling I will have to do; can’t wait!

So here is my day:

1. A two year old is always right?

Having an early lunch I say to the boys “after lunch we will get ready. In the church we need to be really good and quiet. ”

My 2 year old screams “no mummy, we are not going to church we are going to a wedding”

I try and explain that the wedding is in the church and the dancing he is looking forward to will come later in the evening.

What was the point? Don’t try and reason with a 2 year old. It never works. He just kept shouting:

“No we are not going to church but the wedding. I WANT TO GO TO THE WEDDING!”

2. Getting ready and out of the house.

I ask the boys to play whilst I get my make up on. 5 mins that’s all I wanted. I have perfected the ‘that’ll do’ in my own looks department. Mascara was interrupted by “come see my dance moves.”Eyeshadow was disturbed by screaming as the eldest jumped on the youngest. Lipstick nearly got applied before “mummy I did a poo” (in my pants).

The next half hour took a rather chaotic turn:

  • I got boy boys changed and ready whilst my husband sorted himself. I mostly said “stay still” on repeat.
  • Now ready the oldest decided to put a hanger through my tights.
  • The two boys ran around at my feet whilst I tried to pull my dress over my head.
  • The eldest got threatened “you are not coming to this wedding” probably 10+ times.
  • Me and my husband snapped and shouted at each other over how to parent!
  • I polished the eldest shoes whilst they were on his feet as I noticed they were brown not black seconds before we went out the door.
  • Youngest got snot on the eldest’s trousers.
  • Husband has started the car but I’m still sat on the stairs not being able to do up my own shoes.

3. The wedding at the Church

For the first 20 mins (before the wedding began) the eldest clung to me, hid under my jacket and pulled down the front of my dress (always a great one to show the self harm to the whole world). He is majorly sensitive and anxious in social situations (just like his mum).

Through the ceremony I felt like a broken record, whispering “stop it” “don’t do that” “stand still”. The pew in front of us was pushed and pulled in all directions (lucky no one was on it). The knee rest went flying in all directions. I was hugged, pulled, kissed, asked can I have something to eat and is it over yet, several times.

However during the final hymn there was one of those wow mummy moments. Both boys (stood on the pew) hugged into me and each other and stood their cuddling for the whole of the hymn. Bliss. Moment to treasure.

Whilst the register was being signed I turned to my youngest child’s god mother to have a chat. Obviously not acceptable in the mind of my two year old. I got told off “mummy stop talking”.

4. The wedding reception

“Mummy can I go there?”

“Mummy can I have this?”

“Mummy can I have something to eat?”

“Mummy can I run around?”

Mum mind goes into overdrive. Where are they? What are they doing? Who are they upsetting? Are they safe? Are they being well behaved?

I always struggle with the fine line in parenting between letting your children have fun and hoping they don’t cause chaos or upset anyone else.

Dancing, running, colouring, full on wrestling, chasing each other, hiding behind curtains! A tantrum about not having a colouring book, a tantrum about not wanting to eat, a tantrum about sitting at the table. So much could possibly go wrong.

“They are boys, it’s perfectly normal- it only gets worse” people say! Heaven help me!

5. The disco

My boys are divas! They definitely take after their dad! With their pyjamas on. The lights dimmed. The disco lights circling and the music blaring my two are lording over the dance floor. Complete freedom. Not a care in the world for them. Just expressing themselves however they wish. Watching them, joining with them- such joy!

6. Being a mum

My boys are my world. They may: pull me in every possible way, test my patience and exhaust me but they are the light of my life. My joy. I am so proud of them. I love them both for their special quirks and characteristics. I wouldn’t change a moment.

And boys I do try my best. It’s the hardest job in the world being a mum but also the most rewarding.

Unexpected positives

Recovery is possible. Life can be good again. Positives really exist.

1. I love my job:

At times it causes me stress. It exhausts me. It challenges me in the most unexpected ways. But I absolutely love it. For those who are new to my blog I teach religious education to children aged 11-18 in a secondary school in England.

Term has only just begun and it’s hard to have full days of teaching back to back. But this week I have thrived in front of a class. When depression was at its worse I couldn’t even walk into the building!

I love inspiring them! I love explaining new things. I love being honest with them. I love talking to them. I love engaging with them. I love making the most difficult topics understandable.

2. Unexpected praise makes me feel great:

This week I had someone link to my blog and my book from their blog post. So I clicked the link and followed to read a lovely blog post they had written about the book I wrote. I published Be there for me on kindle back in November. It hasn’t had much of an audience and over the last few months I have stopped looking to see if anyone had even looked at it.

So it was very unexpected when a complete stranger had taken the time to read my book and even more had written a lovely review on their own blog. I was deeply touched. Thank you.

3. Counselling is still needed.

I have been feeling significantly better for a couple of months now. Many times recently I have considered giving up the counselling. Mainly because it can be hard to go out at 6:30pm on a Friday evening after a long week. Especially when my 2 year old cries and shouts I want to come with you and my 5 yr old asks millions of questions about my “meeting”.

I know I’m not fully recovered. (I truly wonder whether I ever will be). The self harm is ever present. The self esteem and anxiety not great still. But I’m coping.

But this weeks counselling session was a revelation. I have so so so much still to be resolved. Essentially my in ability to express my emotions is still deeply affecting me. In particular my self esteem and confidence. It’s ok though I’m making progress slowly.

4. Running isn’t that bad!

I have now done 11 runs since starting 4 weeks ago. I honestly hate running. I used to be extremely sporty but it was always the competition element I liked. Running is just boring. Relentlessly tiring.

But I’m learning to love it a bit. It’s getting easier. I’m making progress. I’m following the couch to 5k app. The feeling after a run is glorious. I have more energy. I honestly believe exercise is helping keep my mood good. I’m determined to get healthier and lose some weight too.

Please whatever is positive in your life try and grab it. If you are in the thick of depression I have been there. It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.

4 Tips for recovery from Depression

Anyone who knows me or who has been reading my blog will know depression has crippled my life. For me I feel like it is an illness I will now live with for my whole life but it is about how I can manage it to live a full and happy life.

Nearly two years ago now I fell into the second deep depression of my life. Suicidal, self harming daily, I became extremely poorly and withdrawn from my normal life.

Now as I begin to come off my anti-depressants after feeling stable for quite a significant time I wanted to reflect and share on my journey to recovery.

These are my 4 tips:

1. “It will get better” at my depths two of my great friends who I shall call B and M regularly reminded me of this. M would turn up on my doorstep regularly and state this when I was so low I couldn’t even talk. B using her own personal experience of her husband would remind me of this during our long chats.

At the time I couldn’t see it. At the time I wanted to shout back no it’s like this forever. At the time I wanted to commit suicide as I saw that as the only way out of it. Looking back they were right! When I couldn’t see it. When I couldn’t believe it. I needed people to remind me there was an end in sight to how I was feeling. So tip number 1 try and believe it will end sometime.

2. Don’t try to rush the recovery. It’s honestly taken nearly two years for me to feel better on a more regular basis. I still have low points as well. I wish I could wave a magic wand. I wish I could make you immediately better. I wish there was a magic pill. Countless times I have prayed and begged to feel better. I have willed it to be over. I have beaten myself up for it taking so long. I have told myself off. But I have learnt it’s no good trying to rush it. The only way is to accept whatever time it takes. There is no one pattern fits all. For some it maybe a quick journey for others it may go on for years, decades even. Please don’t try to rush a recovery. Please don’t criticise yourself for taking your time. You deserve patience for yourself.

3. Take whatever help you need. If anti-depressants help – take them. If they don’t – don’t take them. If you need time off work – take it. If you need to work to keep busy – do it. If you need to stay in bed all day – rest. If you need to go for a run- get out there. If you need to talk to anyone who will listen- talk. If you need to hide away from people- find somewhere safe. If seeing a counsellor helps – talk as much as it makes you feel more like you. If seeing a counsellor is far from anything you can manage – don’t feel guilty.

Depression is so different for everyone. There is no right way. I have taken anti-depressants (4 different types) to varying degrees of success and I’m still a bit skeptical. I have been seeing a counsellor for 18 months and I will continue to do so because I think it helps me. I have friends who I can chat to when it gets tough. I have things I like doing to get some space from the world. Do what you need to do to survive.

4.  Try and find some joy again. It maybe something small. Whatever it is look for the spark of joy. Try and find something that makes you smile. Try to find something that makes you happy. Try to find something that gives you something to focus on. It might be a pet. I have heard they are good to stroke and take care of, something to distract the mind. It might be a new project. For me writing helped. It enabled me to pour out my feelings. It might be your family. For me I have learnt to try and hold on to the moments of joy I get from my two boys. When I have been really low it has helped to go back to those times. Whatever it is try to find something that helps give you a bit of love of life again. However small something positive can grow.

Ultimately recovery is a journey for everyone. It is going to be completely different for everyone. I can only offer my thoughts. They have helped me.

I also know I still have a way to go to be exactly where I want to be. There are still issues that I am working on. My self confidence and self esteem is still not where I want it to be. My self doubt and self image are still very low. As a result this makes me question every conversation; I am my biggest critic.

My self harm hasn’t stopped. It has decreased. It isn’t such a crutch but it is still there. Another goal is to remove it. Let’s hope.

Recovery is an unfinished journey. I’m not ever sure I will be fully rid of depression. But it can get more manageable. It can get better.