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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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!

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

 

Q&A: My guilt is taking over my life.

Q&A

Dear Hayley,

I have done some thing in my past that I am not proud of. I am trying to move on but guilt about my past failings is preventing me from being happy. I feel like I don’t deserve happiness after what I have done and it is really getting me down. I am not sure how to cope and how I can move on? Any advice would be great!

Sue*

Hello Sue!

Feeling bad about our past is perfectly normal, and I have yet to meet someone with absolutely no regrets. I know we spoke in detail about this, and the things you have done, and I hope I was able to assure you that they weren’t the most awful things in the world!

I know you have come so far since your ‘darker days’ and you shouldn’t forget that. But since this is causing you so many issues in your day-to-day life, including anxiety, I suggest you visit your GP. They may be able to give you some temporary medication to help you back on to your feet whilst you await some counselling. I think talking things through properly with someone will help you forgive yourself.

I suggested writing a letter to your younger self, telling her the everything will work out okay. Sometimes comforting the part of you that you feel let down by can be a massive comfort, and it can help you see things from the perspective of the ‘younger you’. As we get older we get life experience; experience earned only through having gone through what we have. If you had never done what you had, you would not be the person you are today, and that is something else to cling on to. You are so much stronger than you think and you ARE a good person!

The most important thing I can say is that you WILL pull through this. Your past may not be perfect but you are trying to better yourself now, and that is so important. Many people keep repeating the same bad circles, never learning anything, and they are the ones that will struggle to find happiness. The fact that you could see where you were going wrong and have tried to change it is proof to me that you will make it.

I asked you a question, and found your answer interesting. I asked you if you would think any less of your best friend if she came and told you that she had done everything you told me you did. And you said “of course not!”. So why is it any different for you? You are a completely different person now than you were years ago, so why not try forgiving that person rather than forgiving yourself? That may be easier.

I wish you all the best!

 

 

 

*Names have been changed

The advice I have given here is my opinion only, and it should never replace that of a medical professional. I have been emailing Sue for a few months now. She has started therapy, and it is going well. She is also on some medication for her anxiety. She has approved both the shortened version of her original email I posted and my response, and is now ready for her story to be shared. She hasn’t found things easy, and has uncovered some deeper issues during her therapy, but she is coping really well and feeling positive about the future. She wanted to share her story because she felt alone. She said, and I quote, “The world is so much harder when you don’t like yourself, it is like being around an enemy 24/7 and you can’t escape, not even for a minute, so the hatred just gets deeper and deeper”. I have to admit, I can see exactly where she is coming from, I am not particularly fond of myself a lot of the time either. And that is exactly what living with a mental health problem is like. But there is a sentence to live by: If you don’t love yourself, no one else will be able to love you enough. It is true that there is a void that can be filled only by us. And that is why having the best support network in the world isn’t always enough. But it is a very good start, and sometimes seeing how much other people love you helps you see yourself through their eyes, not your own.

 

I will keep you updated with Sue’s progress as she continues on her journey. It is still early days but the if the improvements she has made already are anything to go by, this story at least will have a happy ending!

Clinging on!

1eb88-how-people-lie-every-day

So it is nearly 4am, I can’t sleep, I am in pain… so where else would I be?? 🙂 I thought I would write a positive post for once. As the readers that have been with me for a while will know, my birthday is coming up (17th April). This time of year, I usually have a dip in my mental health. I am not sure why, but I think it is because I get fed up that I have had to fight for another year. It gets me down and wears me out.

This year, however, I am not doing too badly. Whilst I can feel my mental health dipping a little, normally I would be in the gutter by now, and I am not. This is fantastic news!! When I was younger, my mood swings used to be much more frequent, and I would go up for a few weeks then down for a few. Over the years, the gaps between my dips have gradually gotten larger, and now I tend to dip in April and August. It makes sense, as both of them are anniversaries. I have hope, however, that the fact I haven’t dipped QUITE so far yet means the time between dips is once again expanding.

I still suffer with nightmares that make me wake up screaming, and I still struggle with anxiety… but the fact that I am coping a little better each year gives me hope that this battle wont be so hard forever. Of course, I could be completely wrong. It could just be that last years August dip was SO bad that my mind feels it has done its work for a while.

Either way, I am counting my blessings and enjoying it. After all, I don’t know how long this will last so I have to make the most of it while it is here.

It is hard sometimes when you are climbing a particularly tricky mountain to take the time to look down at how far you have come rather than up and how far you have to go. When I look down, it is like looking into an abyss. It is dark, and ever lasting, and miserable, and impossible. If I gaze up a little, I can see the beauty around me. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by so many beautiful people it is sometimes a wonder how I manage to feel sad at all!

So here is my advice to you… if you are reading this and have mental health problems, no matter how bad things seem right now take a second to look back. If it helps, do what I did. Set up a private Facebook group that only you have access to. Write in it all the good memories you have, all the good days you have, all the people you love and everything that makes you feel good. When you are in your darkest moments, you have a good read of that page, and remember the good times. If you do that, you will start to see the beauty around you and you will start to look at how far you have come and what you have got, not the fact that you can’t even see the top of the mountain yet because it is covered by a huge black cloud. And just think, when that cloud clears and you have reached the top…what a view you will have!!!!

That journey will have made you empathetic, sympathetic, a wealth of advice, and your muscles (strength) will be phenomenal. It doesn’t matter if you hit an icy patch and slide down the mountain a bit, because if you do it gives you the opportunity to see that view again. And that is what will help you up.

It helps, of course, if you have a guide to help you navigate and some friends to help egg you on when you get lost. You may lose some of them along the way but you know the ones that are with you when you reach the top will be with you forever. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more people you bring with you the easier it will be. And despite what you think, you will never be alone if you don’t want to be.

Everyone has someone

Now is the time to ask for help. Be that from your best friend, your parents, your GP, your MH support worker, the crisis team or Samaritans, there is ALWAYS someone who will be willing to talk to you and who will want to help. And why not talk to other people in the same boat? After all, some will be able to help you and pull you up, and others you will be able to help, which also gives you a boost up. So what’s your excuse! Get going!

As always, my inbox is always open and I will reply to every message, though it may take a day or two as I get so many. If you feel alone, you have a friend in me!

I am not a wall flower!!

It is very easy to treat someone like me (with mental health problems) as fragile and in need of protecting. It is certainly true that my Borderline Personality Disorder means I display emotions very openly and I am prone to crying. A lot. Like all the time. At stupid things like adverts. However, that crying is merely a release. It passes quickly and it helps me cope. I spent so long bottling things up and it did so much damage. So now, I let things go, and I am not ashamed about the way I react to things. It shows I care.

That being said, I am one of the strongest people I know. The things I have been through, the things I have faced would break many people. Hell, it nearly broke me. But I got through. And that makes me the BEST person to lean on. Because I wont buckle.

I don’t need to be protected from bad news. I need to be told it as soon as is reasonable so that I can process it and then do something about it. The later it is left, the longer it will take me to process it and the harder it will be for everyone, including me. I might burst in to tears while my brain spends a couple of minutes sending the news to the right places but after that you wont find a stronger person to lean on.

I have seen some of the worst things life has to offer. It sometimes feels like I have stared at the devil right in the eyes. And I still won. If you want someone who can handle the bad stuff so YOU get a bit of support, talk to the person that has spent their life fighting. Fighting a little harder for a while wont be a problem.

I understand the desire to protect people from the bad bits. I expect some of my friends and family will worry that I am on a knife-edge and one wrong move could knock me down. But the truth is no news has ever broken me, it has only ever been self sabotage that has landed me in serious trouble. The only thing I need to cope with life is the one thing I have always had and always will have, and that is the love of my friends and family.

If you know someone with mental health problems, please understand that it is a constant battle. And a battle like that makes warriors of us all. You would be surprised what I can cope with. In fact, you would be surprised what I HAVE coped with.

What I need isn’t protection. What I need is for someone to tell me that I have done a good job fighting. That they are proud of me for what I have achieved. That I have come so far. It is much better than hearing the disappointment when I do mess up. Trust me I do a better job of beating myself up than anyone else could do. I need recognition for the good things. It seems there hasn’t been too much of that recently. I am not a constant screw up!

My life isn’t easy. It isn’t perfect. And it isn’t what I want for myself and my family. But what it is, and what it has always been, is progress. And the motivation to do better. Ten years ago I was bottling things up, I didn’t trust anyone, I was self harming all the time and self sabotaging even more. I hated myself. I was putting myself at risk. Last year, I had a huge wobble. And guess what? It only made me stronger. If you mix a tornado with a volcano I will still win.