Words from the Wise…..

Hey all, how are we?

I’m very conscious that I have been quite quiet recently. The main reason for this is that since I’ve been struggling with being so down I’ve not wanted to just come across as negative and moaning. I have so many wonderful things to be grateful for and I am trying to work on all the other sides of my appallingly low self esteem which I believe is the root cause of many of the issues I have had over the years.

I go back to work after six months off on Monday, this time has incorporated illness, major surgery, recovery and now my issues with me. Am I ready? No! Do I have any confidence? No. Would I rather curl up in a ball? Hell yes! I of course cannot do that, I am a professional, working mother and a huge part of who I am is someone who works. Not just because we need to cover all the bills and the mortgage but also because I like that I have another avenue in my life, a place where I am not just a mum and no one will shout at me because they can’t find the head to the green ninja from Lego Ninjago.

For so many reasons I now realise that I am the reason for a lot of the bad things that have happened in my life because I tell myself I am no good, I can’t manage it and I don’t deserve whatever it is. I spoke in a previous blog about mental health and needing to be okay with me otherwise I wouldn’t be able to manage with anything or anyone else.

So while waiting for my initial counselling assessment I have tried to start my journey on my own and do some small things to help me get through this time. One of the first things I did was look to Pinterest. I have had an account for years but never really used it but have been sent many things from it in relation to my youth mentoring. I set up a number of boards one being, ‘quotes to live by’ and another, ‘things to read’. I began to find inspirational quotes and pieces about mindfulness and stockpiling them to read and to look at to remind myself of all the good and positive things in life.

I started to track my moods and work out what sort of things made me low and the things that made my heart sing. I focussed more on being a happy, healthy me and the mum and wife my family needs. I also spoke to others who have been through similar and have found themselves where I am. I realised that my priorities needed juggling and that not everything I prioritised was making me happy and healthy. I realised I needed to let some things go and work much harder at others. I basically realised that for me I was in a new phase and almost starting from square one.

As we all know the beginning of anything new is hard, leaving your comfort zone and trying something you are not used to doing is like trying to win a gold medal at the winter Olympics in ice skating when you have never skated before. It feels odd, abnormal and very lonely at first but after time it becomes more normal, almost a habit and you start to feel like you can manage.

I challenged myself to do some things I had never before been comfortable with. Since I had been ill I struggled with my running and whilst ill I have put on quite a lot of weight. Running was something I would happily do on my own as it gave me a space to think and to breathe. I couldn’t imagine walking on my own though, in fact I found the thought quite embarrassing, wouldn’t people think it’s odd that I’m out walking on my own and I don’t even have a dog?! As you can imagine when I started actually no one batted an eyelid and I have been enjoying some brisk, long walks out and about in the sunshine which has given me that space to think and breathe again outside in nature.

Things haven’t been perfect and following my assessment I am now on the waiting list for starting sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I’ve never done before and is described as a more proactive type of therapy. Things are moving in the right direction, going back to work, getting back to my mentoring and being braver with my thoughts and outlook are all going in the right direction, I just need to not muck it all up!

So to sum up, who knows what will happen next week, just walking through the door of the office seems like a marathon to me at the moment. Hopefully it will be much simpler than that but if it’s not I will have to deal with it because as we said earlier I can’t just curl up into that tiny ball!

I wonder if any of these which are some of my favourite quotes that have helped me through recently will resonate with you?

‘You have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t helped. Try approving of yourself and see what happens’

‘Bloom where you are planted’

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’

‘It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are’

‘You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. You were created to be victorious’

‘Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining’

‘She was unstoppable not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them’

‘Only grow things in your brain that you wouldn’t mind putting in a vase’

‘Some days she has no idea how she’ll do it. But every single day, it still gets done’

‘Don’t let the muggles get you down’ (Wise woman that JK Rowling!)


 

 

Mental Health and Me…..

This post is going to come with a disclaimer…… you might find it tough to read or get extremely bored. Please read on if you are happy with that!

Since I was twenty I have had a very interesting relationship with my mental health. So much so that it has at various points throughout the years since (I’m now thirty three) been something that I have been unable to ignore, that I’ve been able to work around or in general we have worked quite harmoniously together however it has always been something that has been a big part of me.

I have always felt envious of people who never seem to struggle with negative aspects of their mental health, who are able to get that balance right and not to be pulled down by their overwhelming emotions. I salute those people and commend anyone who is able to deal with their own wellbeing in a positive and efficient manner. Of course it will be no big shocker to you that I am not one of those people. I am in fact the polar opposite of this and have been made acutely aware of this again recently.

For anyone who has ever suffered with depression and anxiety issues you will know that there are good times and bad. There are times when doing anything other than laying under a blanket and pretending that the world outside the front door doesn’t exist is impossible and other times when you feel you could climb a mountain and do a pretty good ‘Sound of Music’ rendition when you get to the top. There are also times in between in which you cope relatively well and are aware of any triggers to your issues and can deal with them accordingly.

I bounce around between these and every couple of years or so end up at a real low and some of you may have noticed here I am now! I’ve been grumpy, miserable, made bad decisions, upset people and generally been a pain in the arse to anyone that knows me (except Alf the Cat, thank the lord for him!) I now find myself in one of those phases where I could literally shut the whole world out and really wouldn’t mind doing so.

Of course we can’t do this, when it was just Karl and I this wasn’t an option and now I have the boys they need me to be the best mum I can be (yes I know, middling at best!) so the only option is to deal with it. Sounds so simple doesn’t it, pick up the pieces, move on, grin and bear it, keep calm and carry on (insert a million more inspirational quotes!) But how do you actually do that?!

Well I took the first step and referred myself back for counselling. Something I haven’t done for two years when in the middle of my last down phase I decided it would be a fantastic idea to stop eating. This consisted of a phone call to one of the suggested local practitioners and answering some questions trying to ascertain how urgent my need for help was and how long I could wait. The nearest available appointment for an initial telephone conversation was in a months time. I of course took the appointment and as I jotted this down in my diary tears streamed down my face. Its such a horrible thing to feel like you have made no progress at all and you are back to square one.

I acknowledge of course that this isn’t square one, in fact I’m not sure the squares even have numbers. They are just slightly different colours to the ones I have been on in the past and I need to work my way out of each and every shade. I cannot do this on my own hence my asking for help. I hope that this time I will be able to enter into a new, brighter period in my life where I can acknowledge that its okay to need help and to ask for it when you need it.

It is massively hard just being a grown up in our world and the amount of pressure on each and every individual is vast. When you add work, home, family life, parenting, friendships, money, politics, education, confidence, self esteem and just managing to all of this I think it is understandable why so many of us can at times struggle with our mental health. Women are particularly bad at allowing themselves to feel things for worrying that they will look weak, lose respect of others or be judged negatively because of their actions.

I wonder how many other mums like me today walked into the school to pick up their children feeling inadequate, like they aren’t good enough and embarrassed to hold their head high. I feel like that more often than not at the moment and it can be debilitating. I know deep down of course that people probably aren’t thinking all the negative things about me that I am and that they are just going on with their day and probably struggling with or through something themselves.

I wonder if you would notice should a friend or family member be displaying these behaviours, would you be worried? Would you question their welfare and see that they were not quite themselves? I imagine many of us wouldn’t as we get so wrapped up in our own lives that it’s easy to see past what appear to be tiny things. I ask you to have a look around you, if you think someone is low say hi, crack a joke, ask them how they are. You never know that might be the only time that person smiles that day. If that person is like me running after a small child up the High Street the best thing you can do is offer cake (its one of the few instant mood elevators in my book!)

I enter this new phase with uncertainty, I am determined to pull myself out of this current lull but I’m not quite sure how to do it yet and how long it will take. All I ask of you is patience, love and understanding and I promise I will give the same back.

When someone who struggles with depression is at their lowest they can often be tough to love, it’s hard work with little or no reward. I assure you though this is the time that a person who is suffering needs the most love and understanding from you.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It has been hard to write and believe me I would love to just be writing about the number of parenting faux pas I’ve made this week (27,000 and counting) how I managed to spend fifteen minutes trying to put my jeans on backwards, how I poured milk in the kettle and the worlds worst bit of parallel parking you have ever seen witnessed by open mouthed members of the public who almost laughed and pointed but I needed to let you all know that I’m not okay and for now that’s fine.

I as you know love a quote and am a huge fan of Sex and the City, one of Carrie Bradshaw’s most profound moments was this…. ‘ As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost and when that happens I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda buckle up and just keep going’.


 

 

wellbeing, creativity and violence?

I read a hilariously funny thread on The Motherload Page on Facebook this morning about a mum who had some choice words to say about Kirstie Allsopp and her home made Christmas programme. The thread turned into such  a laugh that I had to stop reading as my post surgery tummy really couldn’t handle it.

This has got me thinking this morning about just how differently we see and think about things as mums. For any of you who haven’t seen it Kirstie has made a series of shows for the last few years about her making and crafting things for Christmas. These have included things such as driftwood trees, garlands, embroidered gifts, homemade chocolates and chutneys and on this weeks show pears dipped in gold leaf and used as place settings. The whole ethos behind it is to lose mass produced expensive gifts for handmade and cheaper unique alternatives.

Now I am a bit of a Kirstie fan and love her ideas of creating things for your home from old peoples junk. I also view this with dreaming eyes as I know I neither have the time or the cash to invest and renovate in old items. However it is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine to watch such shows and come Christmas I do get a real kick out of all the amazing crafts, artisans and ideas that her programme showcases.

In real life I like to do craft, I am a fan of drawing and lettering as you all know and I love a bit of papercraft. This does not mean I am very good at it though and I can recall last Christmas getting very uppity after watching what felt like a million you tube videos on how to fold paper stars and not actually achieving any and making what resembled boomerangs. Karl however tried one and ended up folding a perfect star which I still have on my dressing table now as a reminder of how much I made him laugh pouting as I couldn’t get it right!

I have found this year a way of making cardboard barn stars which not only have I managed but I also really enjoy so now the house resembles the bit in Elf where poor Buddy goes into overdrive making snowflakes. Cooking and baking, I barely get by, crochet and embroidery, I’m more likely to stick a needle in my eye and end up in hospital and things like felt make my teeth go funny when it rubs together and makes that funny noise! Anyway my point is as much as I enjoy watching and looking at such crafts I am no good at them and leave it to the professionals. For me though there is a kind of relaxation or therapeutic element to watching such arts being undertaken.

Some of the comments on the Motherload this morning however spoke of wanting to punch Kirstie, how unrealistic her ideas are and how the money she was spending (gold leaf on a pear for example) would be much better spent on other more important things (like prosecco or chocolate Baileys I thought!) I did note that her own children didn’t take part in the show and she uses other children who do not belong to her and do crafts well and behave impeccably. I imagine this is because she like the rest of us knows that if you try and do anything with your own children they see it as a cue to misbehave, cause merry hell and eat everything in sight. Kirstie is a mum to boys too so she like me will face challenges such as arm wrestles over who gets to eat the most cherries, tears and tantrums over the metallic sharpies and constant games of hide and seek because the scissors have gone missing…… again!

It can be seen as yet another pressure on busy mums at Christmas that not only do you need to buy everything, get it all wrapped and ready and have the kids at home for two weeks you also need to make things yourself and spend countless hours doing so and then delivering them with a smile looking glam and not pissed (because of all the prosecco and Chocolate Baileys!)

Kirstie Allsopp will have at the very least, a team of researchers, a make up artist, a hair stylist, an assistant, a runner, someone who cleans up as she goes, someone who buys the stuff in for her to use and childcare on tap. She is also a famous celebrity who has plenty of cash to spend on gold leaf, artisan chocolate and things that are sold at posh Christmas Fairs. This is clearly not and never will be me, I am just happy if I get a compliment about my cardboard stars and a few likes on Instagram. I don’t think Kirstie wants to pressure us mums into a craft induced anxiety attack she is just doing her thing.

It really doesn’t matter what is under the tree this Christmas but who is sat around it. Whether that be your family, friends, moaning children, sleeping elderly relatives, drunk, sober, on their third bottle of chocolate Baileys or whatever. My point is that we are all bloody amazing and our families and friends are grateful to have us even if they haven’t got a place name marked with gold leaf or nothing but beans on toast for their dinner. Christmas is what we make it, we are who we make ourselves and no amount of gold leaf will do anything about that if we don’t believe it.

I leave you with a quote from Lady Cora from Downton Abbey, ‘You are being tested, and you know what they say my darling, being tested only makes you stronger’.

Applicants please……

So when I was at school, 1995-2002 (yes I am that old!) I went to an all girls grammar school. It was a very good one, high on he league tables, full of amazing teachers and somewhere I could absolutely flourish.

One of the strongest memories of school was that we as women could do anything, we could be whatever we wanted to be and were encouraged to think outside the boxes convention had in the past put us in. I couldn’t tell you just how many conversations I was involved in about what we were going to be when we grew up, what our further education would be, what in the world would we change and how exciting those prospects were. I actually remember once totally judging another girl who said she wanted to be a mother and have a family. I wasn’t thinking about anything like that at that time in my life. My ambition and drive would get me a career way before I had the time to think about marriage and children.

How wrong and misguided I was. Please, please don’t get me wrong every single person in this world should be able to be what they want, who they want, to do what they want to do and to be happy but I also think we should remember that one of the most important and hardest jobs we will do will be to raise others in this world.

I have a career and it is massively important to me, I have worked hard and I have achieved things that make me very proud. I however back in the days of sixth form and dreaming of the life ahead of me would never have read the following job description and even considered applying:

‘WANTED: unpaid vacancy, 24 hour cover, sole responsibility at certain times for small human boss. Always on call, can never be absent without prior planning and permission, ability required to deal with situations under pressure, on demand and with a view to taking a lesser role after an 18 year probationary period however may be longer depending on the needs of the employer. Always financially responsible and expected to assist with all kinds of personal hygiene and bodily fluids.’

It’s funny as I wrote this I had to stop as Leo loudly exclaimed that he needed his bum wiping!

As women we have the ability to rule the world, we are also responsible for raising the future leaders of our world, the people of tomorrow are down to us and that is one hell of a job description. This is course the same for men and women but I do feel like at my school in particular we could have been more open and honest about the fact that although we could do whatever we wanted we also would have another hugely important and massively rewarding job if we chose to and that it would be the hardest, most testing and possibly the one we should be the most respected for in the future.

Just a thought for all for today xx