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?

meds

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!

Things you should never say to someone with mental health issues.

There are some things people say that really get my back up. And it isn’t because they come from a bad place, it is mostly ignorance and a lack of forethought. So I thought I would create a general list of things people with mental illness really don’t want to hear. It is imperative that you don’t compare yourself to someone who is mentally unwell. Our brains work differently, we cope with things differently, and we experience things differently. This is true even of completely ‘normal’ minds, but when there is mental illness involved it is a completely different kettle of fish. It is like comparing oranges to apples, black to white, and stripes to spots.

“Just…….”

Putting ‘Just’ before a sentence implies what you are asking someone to do is easy. There is no ‘just’ when it comes to mental health issues. They are by definition messy and complicated, and different for everyone.

“Get over it”

Again, this implies that it is something easy to do. You wouldn’t tell people to get over a broken leg, so why tell them to get over a broken mind? If it were that simple, don’t you think we would have done it by now?

“You’re making excuses”

This one really is a pet hate of mine, as I have a friend who says it all the time. I am not making excuses, I am giving you reasons. Just because this is something you can do doesn’t mean we all can. Imagine trying to teach a 2 year old algebra. Their ‘excuse’ is that it is just to hard for them. Do we try to guilt them into learning it? Or shout at them for not knowing it? Do we make them feel stupid for not doing it? Of course we don’t. We know that their brains just aren’t quite ready to handle it yet. There are some things my brain is perfectly capable of understanding, but not capable of doing. When I tell you how something is going to make me feel, that isn’t me putting limitations on myself or making excuses, it is me knowing how I will react. Say if I walk 10 steps, on the 11th step I would fall over. If that has happened the last 100 times I have walked those 11 steps, it is more than reasonable to expect it will happen again. Of course, I cannot be 100% sure until it happens, but expecting it to happen and preparing for it to happen is not the same as making an excuse. In fact, preparing is the smart thing to do, and if I can arrange it so I only walk 10 steps at a time and not the 11th all the better.

“You have the same illness as _____ and s/he manages just fine”

A broken leg may be a broken leg, but it could be a fracture of the femur, tibia or fibula. And even on the same bone, you could have a hairline fracture, a clean break, a spiral fracture and so on and so forth. So while I may have the same mental illness as someone else, it doesn’t mean I will experience it in the same way. More than that, finding the right treatment plan can take years. The amount of time you have lived with a mental illness plays a role in your recovery too. For example, BPD generally gets a little better with age. So it is really intense in your teenage years and slowly gets better until (for most people, particularly those diagnosed in their teens) by the time you are in your mid thirties it has mostly gone. If you didn’t get it until your 30’s, however, the age at which you recover will be later. Therefore it isn’t fair to compare one persons recovery to another’s.

“You seem normal to me”

I get this a lot. People generally wont know I have mental illnesses unless I tell them, and most people are very surprised to hear just how many I have. I blame the media for this. ‘Crazy’ people in films are often shown in the middle of huge breakdowns, unable to communicate properly, unclean and untidy, often sitting in a chair muttering and rocking back and forth. This isn’t the reality of mental illness. The truth is unless you know someone very well it is easy to miss the signs, and we can come across as perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean we are normal though. There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors, and we aren’t at rock bottom all of the time. Mental health waxes and wanes, sometimes you are okay and sometimes you aren’t. The chances are you aren’t seeing the whole picture.

“Stop focussing on the bad stuff”

You are assuming that simply focussing on the good is all we need to do to get better. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Also, lots of mental health issues make you think of the bad bits without really wanting to. Depression sucks all the colour out of the world, PTSD shoves painful flashbacks and nightmares in your face, BPD amplifies negative emotions 100 fold, GAD makes you excessively worry all of the time. Mental illnesses can be all-consuming. That is hard to fight. And it doesn’t mean we don’t cling to the good either, it just means we can’t simply blot out the bad.

“It could be worse”

That is true. For every single person on this planet, their problems could be a LOT worse, and there are always going to be people who suffer more than us. And I know people say this to try to make us feel better. But I don’t feel the way I do because I think nobody in the world has suffered more than me, I feel the way I do because what I have been through sucks. Knowing someone else is going through worse makes me feel bad for them, but not better about myself. I count myself as very lucky, and very blessed. Making me feel guilty for complaining when others have it worse though wont help. When you get a flat tyre you don’t think “well at least I don’t have cancer!”… you think “damn, I have a flat tyre. What a pain”.

“It is all those tablets you’re on, you should stop taking them and then you will feel better”

This infuriates me. And I hear it a lot. It makes me cross for two simple reasons. 1) If I was fine, I wouldn’t have gone on them in the first place. I didn’t wake up one day and think “Hey! I know what! Today I will go on antidepressants! Because they will make me have mood swings and put on weight and make me numb and that will just be so great!” 2) I dread to think what I would be like off the meds. Here is a simple fact… without medication I wouldn’t be here today. It really is as simple as that. And I know that medication alone is not the answer, and I know medications aren’t right for some people. But you aren’t my doctor, you don’t know my medical history, and you don’t know where I was without them. So don’t comment! Advising people to stop taking any medication is dangerous and frankly stupid. Please don’t do it.

What makes me sad is that people with mental illnesses (or any other ‘invisible’ illness like Fibromyalgia or ME) still have to justify themselves to others. I shouldn’t have to explain why I feel the way I do. If you love someone, you should love them warts and all, and realise the line between encouraging someone and doing them harm is frightfully thin. Raising your voice and demanding people snap out of it, or just do what you do, or just get on with it is harmful. More than that, it is out of order. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop making a fuss, get off the crutches and start walking already.

Getting a diagnosis: Mental Health Issues

Having a mental illness is an emotional roller-coaster, right from the start. But getting a diagnosis is a life changing moment. It is both terrifying and relieving. It is also the start to your road of recovery.

Probably the first emotional you will feel is relief. Finally you will have a reason for the way you think and feel. You aren’t simply ‘crazy’, there is a reason you feel the way you do. It means you can start doing some research on what you have, and it is amazing how many times you will think “wait… that is a part of this?!”. But more than that, it is a relief to finally have something to call this demon you have been living with.

Next, you will probably feel fear. Suddenly you are officially ‘crazy’. You have a label. This isn’t just a bad phase, this is something you are going to have to learn to live with. And for some people, it is a life long struggle that may never leave completely. It is also about the time doctors start talking about therapy and specific treatments tailored for that illness. And then you have to worry about meeting the other ‘crazies’. And when you do that,  you will meet some people who are going through an even harder time than yourself and you will wonder if that is what you look like to the rest of the world. You will worry about what your friends and family will think, about how your employer will react, who you have to tell etc etc.

It is a scary place to be. And I have gone through the same emotions each time I have been given a new diagnosis.

The truth is, however, that an official diagnosis opens doors. It helps you get a tailor-made treatment plan in place and helps you explain what you are going through to others. It takes a bit of the mental strain off too. Sometimes I do or think things I don’t like… but instead of hating myself for it, now I can say “well that is [depression/ BPD/ GAD/ PTSD/ DID etc] in play”. I am not sure about other people but that certainly helps me get through the day.

Don’t hate your diagnosis. It does not define who you are… no more than a broken leg does anyway. It just tells you what you have. And once you have that, you can start looking at why you have it, what treatment is best, and most importantly how you move forward. When you first get a diagnosis, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s the end of the road, but it is just the beginning.

Make sure you take the time to research your diagnosis. I made it my business to learn all I could about mine and it gave me back some of the control that the illness had taken. For example, I had no idea that my spending issues could be traced back to my Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I was just terrible with money (which I still am lol). But now I know what the issue is, I have been able to put things in place to help. Now all my bills are paid by standing order the day the money goes into my account. That way, I can’t spend it. At least it means I am not falling behind on my bills any more! The more you understand the more you can help yourself. And it may help your family to do some research too. As my mum says, she doesn’t often like what I do but knowing the reasons behind it helps her cope. So, don’t give up. This is just the first step!

Here are links to some previous blog posts about the different things I have been diagnosed with and how they affect me:

The truth about: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The truth about: Generalised Anxiety Disorder

The truth about: Dissociative Identity Disorder

The truth about: Borderline Personality Disorder

The truth about: Depression

The truth about: Insomnia

And where to get help when you need it:

Help!

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

 

The Truth About Suicide.

Suicide is not the end. It is the beginning. For those left behind, anyway.

I have stood on the edge of that cliff, and a few times I was shockingly close to jumping. I know what it is like, and I know how easy it is to convince yourself that your loved ones would be better off without you. It is easy to convince yourself you are doing the right thing. And I know that when you are on the edge like that, there is no such thing as ‘the bigger picture’. You get tunnel vision. All you can see is the end, and all you feel is pain. There is no room for anything else. No room for family, friends, anyone else.

Those that commit suicide often convince themselves that nobody will care. That is what a young lady I was friends with thought. She believed suicide was her only way out, despite being just 15. What she didn’t know was how much it would affect her friends and family, and just how many people would be devastated. She forgot how many people loved her, and she had no idea that we would NOT be better off without her.

I still cry about it, nearly 8 years on. I still wish I could have done more. I still wish I had taken the time to talk to her when she asked (I asked her to wait as my baby was screaming for a feed). I wonder what was the straw that broke the camels back. I wonder if I could have saved her. I wish she didn’t feel so alone. She was popular at school. She had the voice of an angel. None of us saw it coming.

I know you feel alone when you are standing on the edge. I know you can convince yourself they will be better off without you. The truth of the matter is that you are sentencing them to a life time of pain, ‘what ifs’ and anger. You might be out of pain but those who love you wont be. And if you happen to think you don’t have anyone that cares, think again. EVERYONE has someone.

The truth is suicide is never your only option. And trust me, I know how tiring the fight can be. It is soul-destroying at times. But there will be good times, and they are what will help you pull though. I have a page full of useful websites and numbers for if you find yourself in crisis.

Suicide is an answer, not the answer. And trust me, it is the wrong answer. If you could only see the bigger picture you would see just how much love surrounds you, even if you can’t see it or find it just yet.

I have included a contact form. If you ever feel like committing suicide, please email me. You are not alone. I will reply to everyone that emails me.

[contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form