An overload and I’m scared

All was going well till Wednesday evening. Then an overload hit and my already fragile state feels poorly.

  • My grandad can no longer have dialysis and he will die very soon. He is 97 so he has a good and long life. But it’s rocked me. He is my inspiration. I have always admired him and loved talking to him. He is so special to me.
  • My dad’s Alzheimer’s is so much worse. I don’t like to share too much here as my mum and dad are very private and there are people who know him who may read this, but all I can say is it’s going downhill fast and although I knew things would happen, it doesn’t make it any easier.
  • My mum is finding it hard to cope with my dad. With my grandad dying it isn’t helping. He is my dad’s dad but it is my mum having to deal with that too. And it’s me who tries so desperately to be her rock.
  • Finally my rock is poorly. My husband is off work with stress and he is very wobbly and shaky. I am trying to support him in every way possible and I hope he knows I will always be there for him. He keeps apologising because he says he should be strong for me right now but things don’t work quite like that in life.

Right now the build up of life is impossible. I’m terribly overwhelmed. In a weird way I feel better than I did a week ago as I’m purposefully trying to hold it together for everyone. But underneath I’m incredibly wobbly. I can really feel the illness circling me like vultures. I’m desperately swatting it away.

I’ve told some colleagues, I’ve told a friend and I’ve told a boss; all to try and get the support there if the fall occurs. Currently I’m ok. Ok as in life is pretty rubbish right now but I’m ticking all the boxes and keeping going.

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.

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.

“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.

Feeling emotional.

I haven’t written a blog post for a while now. To be honest I’ve been feeling so well. I’ve been happy and content. I know I should be sharing this as much as the bad but for me my writing only ever seems to flow properly when I feel low.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful 6 week summer holiday with my two children and my husband (who is also a teacher). But the last two days I have felt absolutely pushed and pulled in all directions. I feel drained. I feel very teary. I feel uptight.

What’s the cause? I’m getting better at trying to think this through rather than leave it as a jumble in my head which usually disintegrates into depression.

1. My children are driving me crazy! I love them. They are my utter world. I would do anything for them. But right now I am seriously thinking of changing my name to Bob, anything but mummy. The last few days they have been so whiny, demanding, moany and not only that they have been winding each other up as well. For one hour this afternoon my toddler must have screamed at his brother every 5 mins.

I know they both have colds. I know they are both tired as they have been up at night with coughs. I know some days it’s harder to be kind to your brother when you are stuck in the same room of one house. But seriously mummy is struggling.

And the worst thing is they are so loud about it. We went out for dinner tonight for my mum’s birthday and the whole pub would have heard them whine at every little thing.

2. Today is my mum’s birthday. A day I now find quite difficult. So in the weeks before her birthday I usually now buy my mum a present from my dad as his Alzheimer’s means he can’t do that. I then have to somehow give it to him to give to her without making him feel like I’m taking over or him feel like he is useless. I then worry all day about how my mum will feel. Dad used to be great at birthday presents and taking her out on her birthday etc. Now she has none of that from him and I end up feeling bad for her.

It also always hits me hard on occasions like today how much of the dad I used to know I have lost. Sometimes it is easier to forget how things have changed as I like to block it out but today I can’t. It really hits home to me how difficult it is for my mum and how different my dad is.

3. Sometimes my husband drives me mad! I know he will probably read this blog post so it’s a risk writing this here but it’s not meant to be a criticism so I hope he doesn’t take it this way. We have a different way of parenting at times. He is loud and snappy at the kids at times where I prefer the softly approach. I’m not saying either is better or worse, there are probably times when one is better than the other. But today I have struggled with his snapping at the children and his demands on them. He is completely right to expect better behaviour than we have seen today but I just can’t handle anyone else shouting and screaming!

Also he is very short with me at the moment. Sometimes I seem to ask an innocent question and he jumps down my throat with the response. He is super defensive all the time and I feel on edge that I’m going to do something to upset him.

4. Finally work is round the corner. My glorious 6 weeks that I was desperate for and look forward too so much is nearly over. Im feeling sad. I’m gutted. Work isn’t too bad. I like the people I work with. The students are generally amazing. But it’s work. Back to juggling being a mum and a job. Having more to worry about on a daily basis. Having the prospect of the added stresses throwing my depression out again.

I know these aren’t major things. But for me life is feeling a little topsy turvey. I’m very emotional and just need a massive hug (minus the whinging or moaning that can come with it)

Please don’t worry.

The last few days have been horrific for my mental health. Primarily a lack of sleep have compounded the fragility caused by recent counselling sessions. It’s still staggering to me how quickly I can spiral into darkness.

The self harm has returned to its worse. Last night I went out with a friend but came back and couldn’t stop. My mind was racing with the conversations and anxiety for today. Self-harm used as my comfort blanket.

The suicidal thoughts are back. I’m honestly not about to go and do anything at this moment. (Husband…take a deep breath and calm down). But the ideas are certainly flying around my mind. Walking past a previous precarious location at the weekend sent my mind wandering where it is not wanted.

The lack of focus is really bad. I haven’t really got back into reading since this episode of depression started 18months ago. But a tell tell sign for me right now is that I can’t even focus on anything to watch. I can’t make a decision even about that.

Another sign I’m doing the pushing people away thing. At work I’m too scared to talk to some people because they will immediately read how unwell I am. Other friends I’m putting off and not wanting to see because I’m just too tired and can’t face company.

And the sleep completely gone to pot. This never helps and makes me feel perhaps much worse than I would if I had some good sleep.

But please don’t worry. I haven’t shared this to get you all running. I haven’t written this because I’m in crisis. I haven’t written this because I want any different treatment.

There is a part of me which is trying to hold onto the message that it will get better. There is a part of me which is trying to hold onto what a good friend said yesterday “the tiredness is making this so much worse”. There is part of me which knows it will hopefully turn a corner again sometime soon.

I can still function. At work today I sat with colleagues as the directors spoke to us and I felt comfortable and at ease. At home this evening I played with my boys like I didn’t have a care in the world.

Let’s hope a good nights sleep helps.

P.s. I went for watching the film nottinghill on Netflix as I can just zone in and out of that I have seen it so many times!

It’s all about balance…being a parent and a teacher.

I have just read an article by @thosethatcan that advocates You can be a great teacher and a great parent. A year ago I would have argued wholeheartedly that she was wrong. Off work with stress and depression from my role of part time head of department in a secondary school, the combination of parent and teacher seemed to have sent me to breaking point.

After going back to work when my youngest child was 8 months old and also having a 3 year old; it wasn’t long before I was off work with stress. Juggling the work load and the extreme student expectations that leadership had, brought me to breaking point.

Depression returned. Self-harm hit me again with ferocity. Suicidal thoughts became reality. 6 months off work. Teaching truly seemed incompatible with parenthood.

Eventually I returned to work. Still very poorly but feeling like I needed to earn money to keep my family afloat. I didn’t think teaching and parenting was a long term option. It had made me seriously ill.

One year on and my thoughts have changed. I have returned to the same job. I haven’t had a day off with stress or depression in a year. I have managed to find a balance between my two loves being a parent and a teacher.

How have I done it?

  1. I have hold tight to the promise I made myself. My first priority are my own children. I want to enjoy them whilst they are young. Be with them. Treasure them. I don’t allow work to get in the way of that.
  2. My expectations of myself are lower. I’m not a perfectionist. I will try my hardest whilst at work. I plan good lessons, I interact with the students and I try to inspire them. However I have learnt to accept some things can’t get done. I have to say no more. I still believe I’m a great teacher without all the extra stuff.
  3. I care less about what others think. One of the things that made me so ill was the expectations of leadership for mine and student performance. Now my attitude has changed. I am content with the belief that I am doing the best I can for the students. My lesson observations are always outstanding. The students enjoy my lessons and want to learn. If I don’t pass these arbitrary targets set for my performance management then what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I know I’m a good teacher and I can’t do anymore or I will be ill again.
  4. At one time progression in my career was so important. Now nearly aged 35 I have been head of department of a core subject for ten years. I have come to terms with new goals. Right now career progression is not on the cards as I don’t have the time or the inclination. My children are my priority. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent and progress your career. It is just for me I have found out balance and wellness comes with being content in what you have.
  5. Rest! What you say parent and teacher when does that happen? I now make it happen. An occasional nap when my 2year old naps on my days off. Watching tv in the evenings instead of working all night. Tiredness makes me stressed and pushes the depression I suffer with out of control.

Now I am at the point where I am most of the time being a great teacher and a great parent. I have the balance right for me. I’m lucky my husband is a teacher too and he gets the stresses and the strains. We also have amazing holiday times when we are all together as a family.

I’m so glad I have found a way to manage. I love teaching and being a parent is my greatest achievement and brings the most joy. You can do both if you work out a way that works for you.

Sun, sand, sea and my mental health.

The last few days we have been away with friends. It has been a treasured time. It has helped myself and my husband relax. It felt like the change of scene was a magic wand.

Firstly the holiday was shared with friends who have boys a similar age to ours. That was so special. Seeing them play their games. Seeing them interact. Watching without always having to come up with the entertainment. Sharing in the pure joy of being away with your best friends.

Secondly being with fellow parents who share your ways with their children. Follow the same type of routines and patterns. New friends that are such good company. I feel relaxed in their presence. Lots of laughter and fun.

Thirdly the bank holiday weather was glorious for us. We spent three days at the beach. The four boys sparkled with complete joy. Playing in the sand. Making up their own games. In the sea pure excitement. The complete bursting fun of a two year old discovering the great time that can be had jumping in the waves. All four of the boys running in and out of the water with such energy.

My mental health really does go up and down like a yo-yo. But right now it’s up on a lovely level page. I feel content. The sun, sea, sand holiday has really settled my brain. It feels like the wind and sea has blown away my worries. It feels like seeing my children’s joy has planted the seed of happiness deep within my being. For now the holiday has lightened my spirits.

Positive things…

I’ve had a good couple of weeks. From the depths of depression I have once again managed to find a way out. The ladder was there. The last week has been a positive one which is nice to share.

It started with my brother in law’s wedding last Saturday. A wedding not normally an event I look forward to because of the anxiety that lots of people causes me. But I had a lovely day. I was in a positive mood going into the day which helped but it was truly relaxing and enjoyable as well.

My boys made a huge difference, they were amazing. They made me smile and laugh. Both were kings of the dance floor! Also my husband’s family are so lovely. I am truly lucky. Thankfully they get me and there is never any pressure and people just make me feel at ease.

The working week then passed without much drama. Friday turned into a bonus day off where I managed to get loads of work done, the joys of motherhood. I was mid teaching period 1 when I received a phone call from my son’s nursery requesting someone pick him up immediately because he had been ill. Hence the day of tv and me managing to mark all my year 10 mock exam papers. I felt productive. I was pleased to have got that job out of the way.

Saturday and the normal events of swimming lessons and time in the garden on a gloriously hot day were great. Just the chilling out I needed. Saturday night a date night with some friends. A lovely curry. Great company and even a newly planned holiday for 3 weeks time!

Sunday involved an hours drive to Hemel Hempstead to pick up my 97 year old nan. She has had a bug. My grandad, who is also 97, has been in hospital with it as he has to manage dialysis 3 times a week as well. Bringing her back to Bedford for a few days break staying with my mum and dad. After that job was done my husband and I enjoyed some cinema time watching the new avengers whilst my mother in law babysat. Then an hour planting in the garden with the boys=Bliss.

Bank holiday Monday and once again we have been blessed with a beautifully hot sunny day. A bbq for my mum, dad and Nan. Time in the garden with my husband and the boys. Relaxed and fun.

I wanted to share how life with depression can be positive too. It takes it toll on me a lot of the time. There is no guarantee whether tomorrow will be a low or high day. But this last week has been a good one and sometimes it is about taking the positives when you can. Even trying to hold onto them when the depression curse strikes from no where.

A day in the life of a mum with depression

It started pretty normally…being woken at 6:30am by my 2 year old son shouting poo poo- this means he has done multiple wees and his nappy is full.

I woke with dread because a man was coming to clean our oven this afternoon. My husband had arranged it. I hate people in my house and i was dreading it.

Walking my eldest to school and the day seem to be taking a very familiar almost mundane line. The normality of it all was quite refreshing. When I am feeling so poorly at the moment it is easier to drift not having to think too much.

My back was sore and aching. It’s pain was weird it was making me feel sick. This isn’t the first time my back deteriorates as the stress and depression worsen.

Normality continued : Tesco’s, washing, cleaning, tidying. The jobs that just ensure the house keeps ticking over. After lunch my mum came to look after Thomas whilst I went for some blood tests.

Well here it all went a little pear shaped. They always struggled to get blood out of me! I think it now causes me to get worked up prior to going in! It took 4 attempts for them to succeed this time. I was so embarrassed because after the 2nd attempt I came over all faint and sick. I hate being made a fuss of.

When I arrived home the man had arrived to clean the oven. My mum mouthed to me he is a little weird. He certainly was and loved to talk. I was thankful though as I had to go out soon to pick up my eldest from school, surely he would nearly be done by the time I got back.

No when I got back he was still going! My mum kept texting me asking me if he was gone. I kept saying think he is going to be sleeping here tonight. The amount of small talk I had to make was impossible. The anxiety levels were through the roof.

At 6:25pm he finally left the building! 4 and a half hours he had been on the job. Yes my oven is spotless. It is shining. It is sparkling. But seriously!

This meant everything in our house was delayed. My husband out at a parents evening. Me left feeling stressed about the time and getting the boys bathed and put to bed.

I snapped at my two boys as their own tiredness meant they had no patience for each other. And now I feel like I have run a marathon when in fact I have done hardly anything today. I am exhausted from the anxiety. I am exhausted from the adrenaline. I am exhausted of today.

p.s. I forgot on the way home from school my 4 year old declared he wanted to be Gordon (the tank engine) for number day at school tmrw. Hence the major adhoc craft process after school tonight (see image)