Here is why I am the worst, and best, mother around.

I haven’t spoken about my daughter too much on this blog. That is mostly to protect her. What I will say about her is that she is a dream child. I am genuinely both a dreadful mother and an amazing mother and I am going to tell you all why.

I am going to start by saying the area around my pregnancy was extremely traumatic, despite being blessed with a wonderful pregnancy. By the time she came into the world, I had buried the trauma as deep as I could. As many of you know, I was already messed up before the pregnancy, after suffering 7 years of abuse that started when I was 6. I tried to be supermum with her. When she was four weeks old, I sat my GCSE’s. Despite breastfeeding her, running in to do an exam and then running out to feed her again, then running back in for another exam all day, and despite VERY little sleep, I managed to get 1 A*, 1 A, 5 B’s, 6C’s and a D in Graphics. So I was pretty damn proud of myself. Then, after the summer holidays I went back to school as an A level student. I would drop her off at nursery at 8.30 in the morning, go to school and then pick her up in the evening. I was completely burnt out by the time she got to 9 months old though, so I ended up in a mental institution for adolescents. After my 2 week respite I went back home but I was still not coping so I had to tell a lie to be able to go back to the ward. I said that I had had thoughts of harming my daughter. It wasn’t true, but they were the words of someone at the end of their tether. So off I went back to the funny farm for 3 months.

By the time I came out of the funny farm, I had realised that living in the house where all that abuse happened was no longer an option. So after many phone calls my parents managed to find me a place in a hostel. From that hostel, I eventually moved to their sister hostel which was even more independent than the first hostel. One month after my 18th birthday I was lucky enough to be given a gorgeous flat from a housing association. If you had read this blog in the past you may remember the posts about my wacky neighbours… which is a shame but the flat itself is gorgeous.

The plan was always to get Mia back. Unfortunately my mental health has deteriorated over the years so it has never been possible.

Here is what makes me a great mother though. Despite the circumstances surrounding her, I have ALWAYS put her first. I looked at what I could give her verses what my parents could and I knew she would be happier with them than she ever could be with me. With my health problems I am often confined to the flat for weeks at a time. I don’t drive and I am terrified of busses so we wouldn’t be able to go to all the places I want her to see. My parents are able to do all those things with her. Just last week she got to ride in a stretch limo to go and see Disney On Ice in London. She adored it!

When I look at the incredible young lady before me, I knew I made the right choice. She is healthy, happy, hilarious, gorgeous, well-mannered, polite, respectful and kind to others. I couldn’t have wished for a better child, we really struck gold with her.

Admitting you can’t be a good parent is extremely difficult. The easiest thing in the world would be to have her here with my like I always wanted. But I had to admit that my parents could offer her more than I ever could, and she deserved her best chance.

If you take a glance at me without knowing the full story, I would be considered a deadbeat mum that doesn’t care about her child. The truth, however, is the complete opposite. I live with the pain of her not being here so that she can be happy.

I am lucky because I still get to see plenty of her and when I am feeling up to it I take her on days out. We have an amazing bond, which I am forever grateful for.

Despite everything, as I said above she is healthy and happy. I couldn’t ask for more! So before anybody calls me a bad mother, I would urge them to take a closer look. Sacrificing what you want so your child has their best chance in life is EXACTLY what a good parent does.  I simply adore my child.

If I have to spend every day for the rest of my life in pain so that she can be happy, I will do so without complaint. More than that though, I have spent every day since she was born trying to better myself for her so that I can be the mother she deserves.

Of course I am not the worlds best mum. But I am certainly not the worst mother on this planet either. I have never introduced her to a string of boyfriends, I have never gotten drunk around her, smoked drugs around her, hit her, called her names (aside from Mia Moo!), swore around her, introduced her to anyone I wasn’t 100% sure about, I have never put her in danger. I have always tried to be the best mother I can be, and in my case that meant letting her go so she could be happy.

I have had a few people decide to judge me on my parenting skills recently, which is what triggered this post. But the simple truth is that I try my best, and nobody can ask more of me than that. Look at this gorgeous young lady and tell me she is not well looked after.

Mia again

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Is medication right for you?

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I take a frankly ridiculous amount of medication daily. And I am not going to lie and say I enjoy taking them, because I don’t. But each tablet I take was prescribed after careful research and consideration on the parts of both myself and my GP. I weighed up the risks and benefits of each medication, considered if I thought it was worth it (in terms of risk/ benefit), and considered what the next steps would be if this particular medication didn’t work. Both my and my doctor also took into account the fact that the more medications you take, the less predictable the interactions can be.

Medications, however, aren’t always- read usually- the ‘magic cures’ we believe and want them to be. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a magic pill that works for everyone all the time. That is why the decision to start on medications is such a huge one. It can be much more of a long-term commitment than people realise. Of course, there are plenty of lucky ones who find the perfect medicine first time, but for many people finding the right medication or mix of medications at the right dosage takes time. True, most medications we start we don’t need to take for long, but there are plenty that are a longer term commitment. It is also important to note that in terms of antidepressants and similar medications, sometimes you need to take them for a few months or even years before you are able to stop. But it would be a mistake to assume (except in rare cases like meds to stop you rejecting transplanted organs) that you will have to be on these medications for life. Antidepressants are there to help you regain control of your life and the aim is always to be able to live a healthy and productive life without them in the future.

For most people, there will be a medication, or combination of medications, that control and manage their symptoms. Getting to that point is well worth the wait… however it can sometimes be a relatively long journey that involves trying a number of different medications and doses while you are figuring out what works for you. Since some medications can have bad side effects it can be disheartening to discover yet another medication isn’t working for you. I can only urge that you continue looking. It is very important you are honest with your doctor. If the side effects to a medication are unbearable then let them know. It is worth remembering though that in a lot of cases the side effects lessen and eventually disappear once you have been on the medication a while. My personal recommendation (always to be discussed with your GP) is to give the meds 3/4 months before deciding to move on. Unless they make your symptoms worse or you are unable to cope with the side-effects, that is. For minor issues you may well find they disappear with time.

Medications, particularly for mental health issues, are not the only (or even the best) way to help yourself though. These medications are generally there to help you get into a better frame of mind so you can tackle the things that are behind the mental illnesses. This may include counselling or therapy. That, in combination with medications, can often mean a faster and more complete recovery.

For some people, medications are simply not the answer. There are a hundred reasons that could be the case, including simple patient preference. If you don’t want to start medication for whatever reason, please don’t feel like you are powerless. There are still plenty of things you can do to help yourself. Perhaps the most important (and most often overlooked) way to help heal your mind is to heal your body. And I realise that sounds counter intuitive. But doing what you can to eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients will help every aspect of your health, including your brain and mind. Getting exercise releases endorphins (or ‘happy hormones’) that make you feel happy, safe and secure. It is also an excellent way to reduce stress. Getting the proper amount of sleep is also vital to both good physical and mental health. Anyone with insomnia can attest to the fact that a lack of sleep affects everything from memory to stress levels, it slows healing and can lead to a myriad of health issues including heart problems.

This is something I struggle with immensely, but it is also worth remembering keeping a clean and tidy home will also help your mental health. The saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ is very true.

Here is the issue… having mental health problems can make doing those things a million times harder than usual- and they aren’t easy to start with. But it is not impossible. A lot of it involves getting the right support around you, so let your friends and family know what your goals are and what they can do to help you achieve them. Love yourself unconditionally. Accept there will be days where you fail or where you just can’t be bothered.. and that is perfectly okay so long as you get up the day after. Don’t give up on yourself, and others won’t give up on you. If you really want to help yourself, there are relatively easy ways in which you can do it, with little cost involved.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to take medication is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, and as much as I wish I could… I can’t make the decision for you. The only thing I will say is that if you go down that road then prepare yourself.. it may be a longer road than you want.. but when you get to the right mix you feel like you gained your life back and it is a little bit magical! All I can say is… look after yourselves!

I am not a doctor, and I don’t play one on the internet. As with any medication, it should be carefully discussed with your doctor, and you should do your own research to ensure it is right for you. You are your own advocate so if you don’t feel like something is right, let your doctor know. Trust me, they genuinely want you to feel better and will do whatever they can to make that happen. And just like you should never start a medication without talking to your doctor first, you should NEVER stop taking one without talking to your doctor either. I have seen it a million times where people feel fine so stop the medication that is helping them feel that way, and they have often gone back to square one pretty quickly. If you feel like it is time to come off a medication, particularly one you have been on for a while, it should be done slowly over a number of weeks under close supervision.

My Family, My Rocks.

 

As you travel though life, there is little as important as your family. Family doesn’t always mean genetically related, but whether you are lucky enough to have your own genes supporting you, or you are lucky enough to be able to have picked your own family (or variations thereof)… life would be almost impossible without them.

I have touched upon the support I get from my family quite a lot on this blog. That is for two reasons. Firstly to show how much I appreciate them and the love they show, but secondly and perhaps most importantly because I would never have been in a position to share my story without them.

My mental health issues can make me feel alone sometimes… and since I live on my own I do get lonely from time to time. But I am fortunate enough never to have been in a position where there was truly no one I could call for help, no matter how alone I felt. My crisis box has a big list of numbers of people who I can call on in a crisis. Family doesn’t mean never feeling alone, or never being lonely. Family means never *being* alone. Family is the people who support you no matter what, that offer their hands to help you get back up when you fall (even if they laugh first!) and who love you for who you are.

My family has been through a lot with me. They have seen me fall pretty hard. They have been frustrated beyond words with me, spent sleepless nights worrying about me, wasted petrol and time coming to help me out, or take me to appointments, or take me shopping. They have been genuinely scared by my actions, worried I wouldn’t be there the next morning. They have had to clean up my messes. They have had to offer me a shoulder to cry on even when they were angry with me. They have stood by me even when walking away would have been easier. And they love me despite knowing I will hurt them again. They have had to re-evaluate all their priorities and put their own lives on hold, at great personal cost. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But that is what true love is…. it is weathering the storms the best you can, because the rainbows and sunshine after it are worth it.

I have never been a perfect daughter, sister, mother, friend, niece or cousin. I never will be. And that is okay. Because the reward for dealing with me at my worst is seeing me at my best. I know my strength has carried people through difficult times. I know that I am 100% there for my family too. I know that the bad times are gradually becoming further apart and less severe. And that means the good times are coming. And most importantly I know I am capable of doing great things.

I have been feeling quite down recently. I have been having issues with my neighbours (I will post about that soon), my mental health hasn’t been great, and finding the right medication and therapy combination is proving particularly difficult right now. And then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago my dad asked me to go on a mini-holiday with him (and my daughter <3). He decided to take the time out and spend it with me. We are only going for a long weekend (in the week lol) because that is all the time he had spare. And despite that he chose to spend it with me. If that isn’t love, I am not sure what is. More than that, I was supposed to be doing something with my best friend on one of those days. When I talked to her about it she didn’t even hesitate for a second before telling me to go and have fun. That is despite the fact she could have used me there. Again, that is love.

Families don’t keep score. Don’t get me wrong, they will bring stuff up at the worst possible moments, they will laugh at you as well as cry with you and they don’t always make the right move… and they will bring up your past without question… but they don’t hold it against you.

You… you reading this. You have family. Probably a lot more family than you know really. Make sure you appreciate them, and thank them for being your Number 1 fans. They are special, and a little recognition is never a bad thing. Having family also means the tables are turned and you are their family too. So everything they do for you, you do for them.

They say love makes the world go round. Well of course it does! People stomping away after arguments with their loved ones make the Earth spin and so do all those doors that are slamming shut!

Suicide doesn’t stop love… and why we should fight stigma.

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Today marks 8 years since a young lady, just a teenager, decided to end her own life. She was beautiful, popular, funny, intelligent, and talented. She had a smile for everyone. And yet, inside, she must have felt so alone. She either decided that we wouldn’t care, or that we would be better off without her.

I understand feeling like that. I have been there. What she never knew was just how much love there was for her in this world.

She is one of the reasons I started this blog. In my own small way, I wanted to make sure that people know they are not alone, and offer guidance and support, along with details about how to access more direct help. I didn’t have anything like this when I was first diagnosed with mental health issues. Me and my family had to stumble through in the dark without out dated and unhelpful information. It left us sorely unprepared for the realities. With this blog, I aim to help ensure no one else feels that alone.

But I can’t do it alone. I need your help. I hope once you realise you are not alone yourself, you can help make sure none of your friends are feeling isolated. A simple message saying “Just wanted you to know I am thinking of you and hope you are okay” can transform someone’s day. It takes a few seconds to do.

Mental health issues don’t care if you are rich or poor, what colour your skin is, what post code you grew up in, how old you are or what your job is. At least a quarter of us will suffer some form of mental health problem in our life time. ALL of us know someone who has had, has, or will have a mental health issue. And to be honest most of us know a lot more than just one.

This is a shared problem that affects every single person on this planet. So it is time to stop the stigma. Stop the naivety. Stop the prejudice, the discrimination, the hate just because people are scared. It is time to educate people about the realities of mental illness, thereby enabling even more people to get help rather than trying to face it alone.

I find people often get stuck on what to say when they find out someone has mental health issues. The best advice I can give is to start with ‘Hello’…. or “Howdy” if you are feeling really adventurous! We don’t tend to explode without warning you know. We don’t bite! (Well….most of us anyway) We don’t want to make you feel awkward. What we do want is to be treated like human beings and not like problems. If we can get rid of the stigma, maybe we can help our friends, family and loved ones before they get to the point where they can’t see a way out.

By writing this blog, I hope I can help a few people. What I really want, though, is for YOU to help a few people. Then those people to help a few more. The only way things will ever change is if we get the issues out in the open. And if you are reading this thinking it doesn’t apply to you? Well I am afraid you are mistaken. xxx

Check out this if you are ever in a crisis situation. And this if you ever feel you are at rock bottom.

If you need help and don’t know where to turn, check out this link.

The truth about: living in pain.

Pain can take many forms. Most people will be acquainted with physical pain, but there is mental pain too, and phantom pain. I am writing this because I live in pain. It is constant. I have both mental and physical pain.

The problem with pain is that it starts of a cycle. I am living in so much physical pain that it starts to hurt mentally. You start trying to find ways to cope with the pain… and when hot baths and morphine don’t help where can you turn? If you are me, you turn to cutting*. Mentally, you start to get really, really fed up with the pain. You ask “why me? What did I do?”. You wonder how you can cope with another day in so much pain. The physical pain makes the metal pain worse. The mental pain makes you less able to cope with the physical pain, which feels even worse.

The truth about chronic pain is that it destroys lives. I can’t do the things I want to with my daughter. I am confined to my bed often. I sit and cry because I don’t know what else I can do to cope. It is pushing me right to the edge and there is nothing I can do about it. The pain isn’t going to get better. There is no end in sight. THAT is what chronic pain does to someone.

So next time someone  you know lashes out a bit, next time you get fed up of someone moaning about pain yet again, please try to imagine what it is like to go through. Imagine how happy you would feel when you hurt constantly. In some people, the pain will be obvious. In others, they may look perfectly normal to you. But you don’t know the struggle they go through.

Friends and family of those with chronic pain can feel quite helpless… after all, there is no magic wand to make it all better. The truth is chronic pain isn’t something you can imagine easily. That makes it harder to empathise. We get that. The truth is if someone you love is struggling with pain, they need  you more than ever. Make the effort to give us a hug. Make the effort to go over and talk to us since we may not be able to get to you. Don’t abandon us because we never come out any more. You may never know just how close to the edge we are.. and your kind words may help us cope.

The truth is pain isolates you. You feel alone… like no one understands. We have more time than most to sit and think… which inevitably leads to us to hating ourselves for not being able to do much. There is nothing you could say to make us feel worse, so your opportunity is to make use feel better. It doesn’t take much, but a few kind words can mean the world.

 

*If you feel like self harming, please refer to my crisis box! xxx

 

Take stock of the important things, and never let them go!

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So it is 2.43am and I can’t sleep. Which, of course, means I am here talking to you guys!

The last 12 months have been a rollercoaster for me and my family, and, as for many people, there have been more downs than ups. One of the huge ups was the wedding of my sister. With that union came a whole new branch to the family- one that I am honoured to be a part of even in a small way. Unfortunately we recently discovered my new sister-in-law, who is still just a teenager, has cancer.

It is a dreaded word around the globe, and unfortunately it is also a word that most of us have been a little too close to before. But there is one good thing that inevitably comes out of cancer, and that is the strength of the love shown to all those affected by its touch. People run entire marathons just for other people battling the disease. Families pull together, dig deep, and find strength and courage they never knew they had. Friends show how much they care, and never, not for one second, are they allowed to forget how much they are loved.

There are no words that will make things better, no magic cure to remove the hurt. But sometimes just knowing that you can, and will, pull through, no matter how impossible it seems, is enough. That all important light at the end of the tunnel is always shining whether or not we can see it yet.

My dad once said to me that to make a beautiful diamond shine, it first has to be hit by many rocks, it must be polished, and bits must be cut away. That is after it has been hardened under extreme pressure for an age. After all that though, you are left with a product that can cut steel, shatter concrete, and is one of the hardest materials known to man. Life may crush and batter us, but we can make the end product something of beauty if we work hard. And there is no doubt in my mind that this young lady will shine as bright as the stars by the end of this journey.

No matter what hardships you face, keeping an eye on the prize and feeling the love of those around you will carry you when you feel weak.

As my family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, I thought it only appropriate to include a song from their Songbook. The lyrics are hauntingly beautiful and full of hope. Just what we need here I think! It is called ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Prize’.

1. When eyes of blind ones see again
And ears of deaf ones hear again,
When deserts blossom as the rose
And from parched ground fresh water flows,
When lame ones leap just like the hart,
When loved ones never have to part,
Such blessed times you’ll realize,
If you keep your eyes on the prize.

2. When tongues of mute ones speak again,
When old ones will be young again,
When earth will yield her rich increase
And all good things will never cease,
When songs of children fill the air,
When joy and peace are ev’rywhere,
Then, too, you’ll see the dead arise,
If you keep your eyes on the prize.

3. When wolves and lambs will feed as one,
When bears and calves bask in the sun,
A mere young boy will lead them all,
And they will heed his childish call.
When tears belong to yesterday,
When fears and pain have passed away,
You’ll see how God these things supplies,
If you keep your eyes on the prize.

A letter to my sister on her wedding day

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Ladies and Gentlemen, meet my sister! She is getting married today and there are some things I wanted her to know.

My dearest sister,

We have had some really tough times together. We have had to be brave, fight, hold on to tiny bits of hope and remain strong. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but looking at you now you should be so proud of yourself for all you have accomplished. You know I carry a lot of guilt about certain things, but when Andre proposed to you the way that he did I knew he was the right person to take the torch and be your protector. You have a man that loves the bones of you, and you so deserve it.

Things wont always be easy. You are both going to have teething issues to begin with. But I wanted to give you one piece of advice- one thing that will always keep your marriage and the love you have for each other as strong as it is today.  Just one word. Talk. Never stop talking to each other. Never go to bed angry. Never forget to say ‘I love you’. Compromise where you can. As long as you are both willing to talk your marriage will be safe.

We shared some bad times, but we have had far more good times together than bad ones. I used to hum to you at night when you were scared, read to you, cuddle you- and draw on you with felt tip pens! I couldn’t have asked for a better sister. I genuinely feel honoured to have you in my life.

Today is going to be emotional. A new chapter can’t start without the previous one ending. But you are blessed with a family that will go to the ends of the earth for you.

Today you will transform from Miss to Mrs in front of our eyes, and I am so happy I get to share this special moment with you. Your family is about to double in size, and that really is something special. I have no worries about you. I know you will make an excellent wife, you have chosen the right man, and I know everything is going to be okay. You have a man that is going to give you chocolate and hot water bottles when it is ‘that time of the moth’. A man that will bravely follow you when you are in a strop. A man that will always do his best for you.

You just be firm to keep him in line when he goes a tad overboard!

This will be the most special day of your life. Please enjoy it! Leave the stress and worries to other people. This day is a day for looking forward, not back. And I am glad we are remembering lost friends at this time. You can call me Deirdre!

I hope you have the amazing day you deserve. I know things will run smoothly and I know whatever happens you will be amazing. You have never been anything short of that. Darling I love you so much. I am so proud of you. After what we have battled together, this will be a breeze!

All my love,

 

Hayley

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