Can someone explain to me?

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It’s been a while. I’ve got all kinds of excuses as to why I haven’t blogged but in reality I’ve just not had a strong enough opinion about something to rouse me out of my apathy to put pen to paper…..until now! I woke up this morning enraged and outraged by something which has drawn me to write, I’ve written about it before; I can’t seem to let it go or stop thinking about it so I thought I’d write about it in the hope it helps.

A friends child is in year 7 (that’s the first year in secondary school for all those who are used to the old way of making year groups) at an academy school that prides itself on its strict rules and regimented regimes. Anyway, late on Sunday evening this child suddenly remembered that their school shoes had a hole in them. Not a small hole, but a hole the size of a 10 pence piece. It was 8pm, the shops are closed, even if they had been open my friend doesn’t get paid until Tuesday next week and so my friend did what any sensible parent would do; she wrote a letter to the school explaining the situation and sent her child in wearing black trainers.

Back in my days at school that would have been the end of the issue. The school would have accepted the situation; maybe offered some financial help to get some shoes before the mothers pay day and everyone would have been happy. The child would be educated, the mother would have felt like a decent, hard working parent and the teachers would be satisfied that a child was learning and it would all be forgotten about as soon as the mother got paid and bought some new shoes. But not today. Oh no, not today.

Monday morning the child went into school in full school uniform, but wearing the black trainers. The child was picked out at the school gate by the teacher guarding it. The child was told to go home and change into school shoes, when the child then produced the note from the mother and tried to explain, embarrassed in front of school friends, she was sent to the school principles office, where she once again handed over the note and the headteacher made her sit while he called her mother.

The mother, also embarrassed explained that she couldn’t purchase school shoes until the following week and was told by the headteacher that her child would, in that case be put in isolation and have work set by her teachers to do there! There was no offer of help or understanding from the school.. They just put her daughter into isolation. For over a week. For something that was no fault of her own. Not for misbehaving, or not working, but as a punishment for something totally out of her control. Because her mother couldn’t afford to immediately go out and buy school shoes this child was to be segregated from her friends and her classmates for 6 days! She was going to have work set for her; miss out on the learning experience and the benefit of having lessons, because she was wearing the wrong pair of shoes.

I’m fucking outraged. As many of you will know I work with prisons. In a prison it is recognised that segregation is one of the worst forms of punishment. The impact that segregation can have on a person’s mental health is so great that there are prison service rules that mean that a person put into segregation has to have a full physical and mental health check undertaken by a clinician to agree that they are fit and mentally well enough to be there. It is seen as so damaging that this has to be undertaken within 24 hours of them being put there. There have been countless studies into the effects of it in prisons, in conclusion they nearly all say the same thing: solitary confinement has a negative effect on an individual’s wellbeing.

And yet we are socially and physically doing this to school children because they are wearing the wrong school uniform; through no fault of their own.

Let that just sink in a minute… We are risking a child’s mental wellbeing because their parents can’t afford a pair of shoes. We are risking them falling behind in class as they have missed the benefit of lessons, because a school can’t put education over a pair of shoes.

Countless studies have shown that the connections that teachers make with their students in classes make a difference to the child and an impact not only on their learning but their overall wellbeing and resilience. And. We. Are. Risking. This. Over. A. Pair. Of. Shoes.

I’ll just take a moment to let that sink in; Wearing the right shoes or having the right bag, or coat or haircut is more important than the education, and future mental health and the wellbeing of our children.

It is that simple. I get having rules. I get having a uniform. I understand that. But how can we say that a child can only have one day off of school after the death of a grandparent on one hand because the education they will be missing is too important:

Schools minister Nick Gibb warned in 2015 “taking just one week off during term time can impact a child’s GCSE grades…. Any absence, even if it’s illness actually, can damage the long-term chances of a child achieving good GCSE’s if they take just a week off a year.”

and then stop them going to class for 6 days over a godamned pair of shoes. And somehow, this is seen as a positive thing. Can someone explain to me how exactly? Schools mete out this isolation punishment as the first level of a behavioural policy, as if it is nothing. And yet it is damaging out children for things that are no fault of their own.

And we wonder why we have a disenchanted generation of children growing up.

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What does it matter.

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I’m on holiday in the South of France with the two youngest boys and my mum; the eldest ditched me to stay at home. Can’t say I blame him, I would’ve at his age!

We have had a lovely week. The sun is shining, we’ve swum, played games, sunbathed, read books. It has been awesome. I’ve read three books in 6 days and started a 4th. This never happens. I love spending time with my mum and kids. I don’t get enough of it.

Whilst I am officially on annual leave, I have spent a lot of time emailing and calling work over the past two days as I am changing jobs and had issues with my start date. I’ve done this laying by the pool in between diving in and out, or watching the kids attempts to learn to dive themselves.

Whilst I’ve been doing this the boys have been playing with their friends and my mum has been reading on her kindle, watching TV on her ipad or crocheting. She’s never without a crochet hook within easy reach. She is bloody amazing at crochet. She makes loads of fantastic stuff. She can’t help herself.

Anyway this evening on the last day of our holiday my Mum said to the boys in front of me “I have to say your Mum is always on her phone”.

For some reason this raised my hackles. I have fully participated in this holiday. It is my holiday too after all. Despite the fact that I drove for 14 hours to get us here, whilst they were all watching TV, or reading or crocheting in the car. I’ve swum, taken the kids go-karting, and climbing. I’ve read over three books. I’ve cooked every night (with help from my Mum, of course), but I was being judged because I was using my phone a lot.

Whilst it annoyed me immediately, it’s not worth stressing over and so I forgot about it until I was in the shower. Whilst I was washing, I started to think about how some things appear to be acceptable for others to comment on, but somethings not. For example, I never watch TV. Anyone who has been to my house knows that I actually don’t know how to work my TV. And I don’t have Sky or Virgin, just the standard TV channels. People always comment on this. “You don’t watch TV?” As if I have some affliction..nope I don’t watch TV, not on a regular basis. If I’m not working I read or I catch up with friends, that may be in person or on the phone or via text. I don’t sit and watch crap on TV.

But somehow it’s socially acceptable to sit all evening watching TV. Or all day, and to judge me for not doing the same.

Lots of people spend all their spare time knitting, or like my Mum, crocheting. No one would ever dream of saying to them in a slightly acusatory and judgemental way “Oi Doris, all you ever do is knit” or “Brenda, you are always doing those jigsaws, can’t you do something else”.

What does it matter to anyone else if I’m on my phone rather than doing something that they feel more suitable and appropriate? How is me being on my phone different to any other pursuit, such as reading or sewing?

I don’t get a lot of time that isn’t occupied by work or childcare or other life admin; I keep in touch with those I care about using my phone. Instead of buying newspapers I read the news on my phone. If I’m reading, I often do so on my phone. If I want to watch a documentary I’ll do it on my phone. If I’m working, I can often do it on my phone. I really don’t see a problem with that.

Riding the waves.

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I live life to the full. I pack in more in some days than others do in a week. I socialise, I work, I organise and plan. I plan and re-plan and change plans. If I’m your friend I will be there for you if you need me. I throw myself into everything and people always tell me to slow down. To relax. To take some time to be myself. To look after myself. But I don’t. I can’t. I’m terrified of not having people around me. Of solitude. Of having to face up to the demons inside of my head. Of finding the time in my life to look at what I am doing and working out where I want to be. Because, in all honesty I have no bloody idea.

I seem to lurch from one thing to another. No concerted plan or design. Rolling with the onslaught of waves that never seem to stop coming. Just as I pick myself up from one thing another comes rushing up to take its place, pushing me back over, throwing me back. Like a wind whispering in my ear “know your place” forcing back. And I’m standing here drowning and everyone thinks I’m doing a great job at staying in the water. Well I’m not.

I don’t know how to get out. I don’t know if I want to. Because getting out will mean examining all of the things that took me to this point, and I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. I’m not sure I ever will be. And so I’ll keep riding the waves and battling with the tide in the hope that one day, soon, it will turn. That it will run in my favour. That I won’t have to work so God damned hard to just stay where I am; on an apparently even keel.

And the pretence will remain, as will the illusion of peace. Because all the while no one knows you are drowning, they don’t have to reach out a hand to help you.

Why I left.

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I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while; it seems important to note the reason why I finally left; especially because I wrote a blog about few years ago talking about why I stayed.

Domestic abuse and violence is something that we rarely talk about. It’s kept hidden by both the perpetrator and also the victim, as well as family members and friends who know about it. It’s a shameful secret that feels in no one’s interests to uncover. The abuser will go to extraordinary lengths to hide it and the abused is so scared of the consequences in terms of further abuse, of telling people that they often become complicit in covering up and excusing their abuse. That’s what I did; I explained away the bruises through a variety of accidents that even to the most naive listener must have seemed less and less plausible; tripping down the stairs; walking into a door; shutting my leg in a car door you name the accident, I’d probably used it as an excuse to explain away the broken nose, the cuts and the times I winced in pain from hidden injuries.

And no one ever really questioned it. Like no one ever questioned the way I no longer could come and go as I pleased or the way I never had any cash. My abuser had an excuse for everything; I couldn’t be trusted with money, I’d lost my purse, I would disappear for hours with the car if I went out alone. He even picked my clothes out for me on a daily basis. I had to wear whatever he wanted me to, even if it was filthy or inappropriate for the day ahead. I wore it or I was punished. And punishment could take many forms.

If I was lucky it would just be a punch to the side of the head. There were times when I was kicked down the stairs to our flat, beaten with the hoover pipe in the stomach whilst pregnant. Others when he would act as if everything was OK, but I knew it wasn’t. The tension in the air would be palpable. He would just be waiting for the time when I least expected it, to pounce; to dish out whatever form of punishment he felt I deserved that day. It might be as simple as withholding the cash for sanitary products so that I was forced to roll up wads of tissue into makeshift sanitary towels. Anything really to make me feel so humiliated and grateful when he showed a tiny sliver of humanity to me when he eventually gave me the money to buy some tampons.

Other times the punishment might be to lock me out of the house half naked when there was snow outside; getting enjoyment from my begging to be let in.

Sometimes I didn’t need to actually do anything to have a storm of torture unleashed on me. I could have done everything asked of me and think that everything was fine. I’d trod on eggshells all day and managed to not break any of them, but someone would piss him off in the pub and so I’d have to pay the price for some perceived slight. Sometimes I would know it was coming, so I’d run myself ragged trying to stop what in reality was inevitable; I’d bend over backwards to be perfect, to do the right thing that would shift his mindset and stop the hell that I could feel was intended for me when we got home, but it would very rarely work. I would be forced to leave the pub with him knowing that the beating was coming. Preparing myself for it. Being ready.

Other times it would come from absolutely nowhere. I might be cooking dinner, and he’d come into the kitchen and decide that I was cooking wrong and the next thing I’d know the pot of potatoes cooking on the stove would be flying at my head, boiling water and all.

And there was never any apology. Never even any acceptance that he had done anything; let alone done anything wrong. He broke my nose twice and would ask the next day how it happened. Denying any knowledge when I tried to remind him that he’d punched me; saying if he’d done that I’d have worse injuries than a black eye or a broken nose or fingers.

He also abused me sexually. In ways that 16 years later I am too full of shame and disgust to speak about publicly.

And yet despite all this I still thought I loved him. That he loved me. Somehow I deserved this. And in reality he was all I had. He had isolated me from all of the people who could have helped me. Either by stopping me seeing them or by turning their thoughts about me against me. He continually told people what a terrible person I was, how untrustworthy and sneaky I was and eventually they believed him.

He would play little mind games with me. He would give me money to buy things in a pub full of people and then take it back when no one was looking. He’d then berate me for asking for money for baby food or nappies; getting all the people in the pub to agree they’d seen him give me money. “What had I spent it on? More drugs? Fucking junkie bitch.” Other peoples perceptions of me changed. They saw him as a good man trying to help someone who just abused his good nature.

And I put up with it. I put up with the physical abuse and the sexual abuse. Its not that I didn’t try to stop it; however anytime I tried to seek help it didn’t end up being help at all. Like the time I called the police after he had pushed a full filing cabinet down the stairs on top of me and the officer turned up and saw that I was a raging mess and couldn’t talk coherently due to fear and panic. And my abuser, who was now calm and friendly explained that I was crazy; a drug addict who had called the police for attention, and in the face of an officer of the law who was clearly unsympathetic and thought the worst, I couldn’t speak up. I couldn’t articulate in a rational way the way I was being treated. I just kept raging that he tried to kill me and the police needed to do something. So the police officer helped to carry the filing cabinet back up the stairs and told me to calm down else he’d arrest me. And then he left. He left me with the man who’d tried to kill me. He left me to face the wrath of a mad man.

Or there was the time that I told a friend and they told me to stop taking drugs and it would be OK. Only I knew this wasn’t about drugs. It was about control and power and I had none. Or the time I contacted Women’s Aid and all they did was give me a key worker who wanted to meet once a week for a chat, something that’s difficult to do when your abuser won’t let you go anywhere without them.

And when I had the baby that my abuser had tried to ensure would never be born; had tried to kick out of my stomach when I was 20 weeks pregnant. The baby that not once had he ever acknowledged or cared about or wanted. Despite this, he managed to keep up the show that he cared by organising a limousine to pick me up from the hospital. So that everyone told me how lucky I was to have a partner who cared so much.

The violence escalated. In ways I’d never imagined. He’d beat me whilst I was breastfeeding the baby. He put a cigarette out on my chest whilst I was breastfeeding so that the ember dropped onto my sons eyelid and burnt him. And it was around that time that he started to strangle me.

He’d strangle me whilst I was holding the baby; something would annoy him and he’d grab my throat and he would squeeze, sometimes stopping just long enough to allow me to remain conscious; occasionally until I collapsed completely. And I’d wake up in a heap on the floor with my son screaming underneath me and it was after a time that this happened that I had an epiphany. I had been strangled, beaten and abused until I didn’t know what to do and he had left the house to go to the pub. I walked into the kitchen and I saw a small but very sharp knife and I knew I was going to kill him; it wasn’t even a decision I made. It was just an acknowledgement of a fact.

Goodness knows why it took so long to happen but I suddenly realised that this relationship was heading only one way; he was going to kill me or I was going to kill him. And I wouldn’t be killing him in the heat of the moment; no, I was going to wait until he was passed out drunk and I was going to push this knife into his chest, into his heart. And I was going to repeat it; time and time again until he was dead. More than dead. Until the rage I felt from his continual abuse subsided.

And so that’s why I left. Something about that moment of clarity changed me somewhere deep inside. It terrified me. I was calmly and seriously considering murder and I actually could see myself doing it. And it wouldn’t be self defence; not in the conventional sense; I wouldn’t be doing it to protect myself in the heat of the moment. It would be planned and cold blooded and it would be self defence but only to stop him killing me; either by design or by accident, at some undefined point in the future it was going to happen. Because in that moment I knew with certainty that he would kill me if I didn’t kill him first and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

And it took many more months to get away from him. It took planning and returning to him once I’d left and it took every ounce of my depleted strength to finally break away. And the only reason I left was because it I was terrified. Not of what he would do to me, because I’d accepted my own death a long time before that, but because I was terrified of the person that he had turned me into. I was terrified that I could and would commit murder. That he had made me want to do this;I didn’t recognise the person that I had become. So that’s why I left; not to protect myself from the violence, but because I was terrified of what I’d become capable of.

My story into abuse can be read here: https://themadnessthatismylife.com/2015/01/23/imperceptible/

Temporary release.

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Sometimes, when life is going swimmingly and everything is all right with the world I struggle to understand why anyone takes drugs. I especially cannot imagine why anyone who has been to hell and back through addiction would ever pick them back up again. You know what it’s like both sides of the line and you know that it is infinitly better on the drug free side.

And then something will happen, it may be something catastrophic, or it might be one small thing, that, pulled on top of all the other small things just makes you forget the negatives. And you remember why. It’s like a switch in the brain that wipes the times you just wanted to die because you’d had enough of addiction, the craving, of being sick and tired. It erases the feelings of withdrawal and the constant nagging that used to sit in your gut wondering where you were going to get your next hit from, and it is like someone got a highlighter pen, or hit “control+B” to emboldened only the memories of the good parts and greyed out the bad.

You remember the way that the skin pushed against the tip of the needle as you gently pushed it against the vein underneath. The push of resistance before it pierces the life of you. You remember the colour and rush of the blood as it forms a cyclone as you hit the right spot, drawing it into the barrel of the syringe. It’s almost branded on your brain; the feeling of anticipation as you move to push back plunger. As you turn the tide of the blood and begin to push the golden brown liquid into your body. Knowing, as only an addict can know the nothingness that will inevitably, slowly, if only temporarily, come.

Because every addict I’ve ever known has been someone who felt too deeply; who struggles to manage their own emotions. That’s one of the reasons they ended up addicted. The pull of absolution promised by the release from the struggles of life, is sometimes more than they can bear. So they turn back to the needle, to the quietness that they crave. To the almost irresistible feeling of momentary peace.

How many people can honestly say that they’ve never just wanted the world to go away and leave them the hell alone?

To know that you can not feel confused, scared, an emotional and physical wreck, and instead feel nothing is a hard knowledge to live with, because who wouldn’t, addict or not, occasionally just want release from all the pain stress and heartbreak of real life. As an addict you know better than anyone that that release is available. And that, unlike a lot of other solutions, it works. Once you know it’s possible, there’s nothing stopping you apart from fear of going back to addiction. And when you feel confused enough to be considering using, you probably aren’t in the right frame of mind to think that far ahead. You forget that one hit is too many and at the same time will never be enough.

So occasionally, not using, even after years of recovery, can be a life or death battle. And sometimes people don’t win it.

I’ve always been lucky enough to have people to pull me back from the brink. Who I can turn to to unload before I get to the stage that I’ve wiped out the memories of addiction and replaced them with thoughts of oblivion. And I’ve always managed to speak to them before I walked off the edge. Not everyone is that blessed.

So before you judge someone for relapsing, for turning back to drugs and all the turmoil that ensues, imagine that at your very lowest; if someone offered you a temporary release from all your problems, would you consider it? If only momentarily?

Bone tired.

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It’s an expression that you hear and it doesn’t mean much, and you will think that the person saying it is being melodramatic, attention seeking even. And then one day, all of a sudden, you just get it. You know what those words, that phrase means.

You struggle on day after day, same old, same old; work, food shopping, kids clubs, cooking, cleaning, washing, money management, budgeting. Life admin that just keeps building up, letters to write, letters to post, emails to send, car insurance to get quotes for. Household items to replace. Lawns to mow. People to see. Sheets to change. Things to fix. Things to remember. Appointments to go to. Trains to catch, children to drop off, pick up, take to parties and you do it. You do it all, sometimes you even have time to remember to brush your hair.

And you forget. You forgot just how precariously balanced it all is. How the slightest most insignificant thing can just throw you over the edge. A thoughtless remark, an unexpected bill, a difficult phone call, then boom, just like that, the smallest thing exposes you for what you knew you were. Incompetent. Over committed and under resourced. And you know this to be the case because the thing that tips the balance from excelling at life to fucking it all up badly, is so bloody insignificant that you can’t understand how it’s brought you to your knees; from having your shit together to hiding in the bathroom silently sobbing so that the kids can’t hear you. So that no one knows how goddamned tired you are.

No one knows how difficult it is to pull your shit back together. When you haven’t slept properly in what feels like months because your brain can’t shut the hell up from thinking about how rubbish you are; scared that at any point it’s all going to go tumbling. Worried that you are doing life wrong. Tired. Right through to the bones; to the point that you can feel it in every fibre of your being.

It is at that point that you are feeling your worst that you need to reach out to people. You need someone else to hold the weight of your soul for you, even momentarily. For a minute, an hour. Long enough for you to pick yourself back up, shake yourself down and put back on your smile. Everyone needs that at some point.

So next time you get a message from someone, maybe out of the blue, or an email or a call, asking to talk, to meet up, or even just saying hello, take the time to respond. If you see someone upset or distressed, even a total stranger, take the time to stop. Maybe a simple “are you ok?” is enough to break the cycle. To let them vent. To make things OK for them once again. Take the weight. Give them a chance to pull themselves back up. To connect; adjust and move on.

We all need help at some point.

Lingering around.

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I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had recently delivered a baby. She looked phenomenal, with no remnants whatsoever of the baby weight lingering around.
“How the hell do you look like that?” I asked, not even attempting to mask my utter annoyance.
“Oh, you know,” she explained. “Since I had a baby plus a toddler, I just spend all of my time running after them so the weight fell off. Plus, I just never seem to remember to eat!”
That was not the response I wanted to hear.
I’ve seen countless celebrities singing the same tune and it always makes me crazy. I have three kids and I have never once found myself running after them. Maybe I’ll dash over if I hear a loud thud followed by silence, but certainly not often enough to break a sweat. Sure, I’m with them constantly, but my normal pace is more like a saunter. My heart rate is steady and you could never call gently pushing a kid on a swing an aerobic workout.
And, how does one forget how to eat? Like, ever? The only time I ever came remotely close to not eating three square meals plus snacks daily was when I had bad morning sickness! Babies eat regularly. Kids are constantly asking for snacks and meals and treats. Never mind, that their plates constantly need to be “cleaned/finished”. As a mother you are surrounded by food– how on earth is it forgettable?!
If you’re rocking a post-baby body and I ask how you got it, please give me a response like:
“I’m starving and miserable, but I really wanted to get in these freaking jeans again”
“I work my ass off at the gym 24/7.”
“Genetics. You should see my mom.”
“Honestly, I have no idea how the hell it came off so fast.”
Or, even the dreaded, “I’m eating less and moving more.”
Those I can understand. I can’t relate to them, but I can live with them.
But, please don’t give me the running around and forgetting to eat bullshit.
I’ve been there. I know better.
   

Battle call. 

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I am a mother of three children. 

I am a wife. My husband lives abroad. 

I work full time in a stressful job that requires me travel a lot. 

I have a part time job. 

I am a school governor. 

I am learning a foreign language. 

I am writing a book. 

I am all these things and I am also, today, struggling with my mental wellbeing. 

I am tired. I am anxious and I am feeling miserable. I am also making life miserable for those around me. 

I know why I am anxious, and tired and stressed; I only have to look at the list above to see why I feel like this, only I can’t seem to stop it. I take too much on. I can’t relax. I don’t even think I know how to anymore. It’s got to the point where I don’t even know what relaxing is. 

Take today for example. Today is my only day off. I work 6 days a week and today, I don’t work. So what have I done today? 

Well; 7am I was up and off to my Bulgarian lesson which is 30 minutes away and started at 8am. I then drove back to pick up the kids from Paul’s where I stopped for a coffee and took the boys  clothes shopping.

 I then did shoe shopping for the eldest before buying birthday presents and doing the weeks food shop. 

Back home, I put the shopping away, made snacks, put a load of washing on. Did the kids homework (with them, not for them!), then put washing on dryer.

 I baked a birthday cake. Wrapped 6 presents (3 grandparents birthdays in 2 weeks!), put a load of washing on, cooked a roast dinner. Put washing in dryer, got kids school uniforms ready, ironed uniforms, sorted out piles of socks. 

I then Hoovered and steam cleaned the floor (never get shiny white floor tiles, you will live to regret it). Put another load of washing on, emptied dishwasher and finished cooking the roast. 
I then changed sheets and bathed kids and put on another wash. I still need to do so many things, but my mind is buzzing and I’m finding it hard to cope. 

I slept for 4.5 hours last night. About 5 the night before. I’m a terrible insomniac, who struggles to sleep then wakes up constantly. 

I feel guilty because I haven’t visited any family, especially my elderly aunt, who will definitely have noticed that I didn’t go see her. I feel guilty because I want to go see my sisters but I cannot summon up the energy. 

I feel guilty because I have 4 unanswered emails regarding school governor stuff that I really should look at and that’s without mentioning the other 263 that require attention. 

I feel guilty that I have reports to write for tomorrow that I haven’t had time to do. 

I feel guilty that I haven’t spent enough time with my children.

 I feel guilty that I am doing my full time jobs far less than perfectly because I’m trying to cover the jobs of 3 people. I feel that I am letting people down left right and centre and half the time I don’t even know why I am doing it or how not to. 

I feel guilty that I actually hoped that a patient would die so that I could go home and not have to stay late to deal with her. And that’s when I knew that I am on the edge. Because, that is not me. I am not that type of person and yet last night that was the type of person that I was. 

And so I am writing this very jumbled blog, because I know that I cannot go on like this. I need to take a breath. I need to surrender stop trying to do everything and I need to cut down my commitments. But then I look at the list and I can’t see what to give up. I care passionately about all of it and my mind is too confused to be rational. 

But I need to reexert some control in my life. I need to rebalance, to stop reacting and start preparing. Start setting realistic goals rather than think I am superwoman. 

My mental health is not great right now; Today. Tomorrow it might be different and I will have regained my equilibrium. But for today it is ok to be overwhelmed. And it is ok to say that I am not coping. Because I am not, and there shouldn’t be any shame in saying that. 

And this is not a cry for help. I do not need people to offer their help or say I am doing great etc etc. Because this is a battle call; to myself. And it’s a battle I’m going to win. 

Completely unblemished. 

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I think today is a safe day to post this. I can’t be sure, as I’ve not really had any time to go on social media to check but here goes anyway, because if I did actually check no doubt it would be another day that passes without me being able to post this for fear of upsetting someone. For fear of someone, anyone, on my friends list thinking it is directed at them. To be clear; it isn’t. 

Anyway, I really need somebody to explain it to me because I’m not really understanding the attractiveness,  in more ways than one! What is this obsession with putting effects on every picture that people seem to take? 

Above: an alien, below: a filtered me. Spot the similarities!


When did it become acceptable or even desired to make your face look like that of an alien  just visiting from out of space? You know; over large eyes, small pointy chin (slimmed, I believe they call it). Slimmed my arse, it’s weird. And it’s not as if anyone believes that that is you, do they? Because it’s not. It’s an exaggeration of a person. You are making yourself look more like a cartoon than a person. 

Am I being overly critical to think that anyone you meet for the first time after having seen a photo of you is highly likely to be disappointed!  Because no one actually looks like that. If you did, you would probably be ostracised and bullied by the very people you seek approval from.  

Am I the only person who looks at someone’s filtered photo on Facebook or twitter and just feel slightly sad for them? What is wrong with their faces that they feel the need to filter out any true reflection of them? Because every single one of my social network that I have seen posting these doctored images are pretty outstanding people in their own right. They are beautiful inside and out, and yet they insist on posting images that don’t resemble them. 

So I have a message to all of you who can’t post a photo on social media without editing it and filtering it within an inch of its life and turning it into an imaginary image: 

There is nothing ugly about being you. Naturally you,  with no editing or filtering or slimming needed. You don’t need to change. 

In 5 years, or 10 or 15 years time you will not be able to look back on photos of yourself and see how you really were, because you no longer exist. You wiped the real image of you from existence and you are comparing a computer generated image to a real one. And do you know what, you are going to feel bad; because you will be comparing yourself to an image that never really existed. Because that is not you!! 

You are a beautiful individual, whose beauty doesn’t just exist on the surface. Your face is a reflection of a tiny part of you, and it’s not even your best part. Your wit, empathy and understanding. Your big heart and terrible singing. Your clumsiness, your messiness. They are the things that make you beautiful and attractive; not larger than life eyes, completely unblemished faces and abnormally small chins!

So please; stop filling up my news feeds and home pages with imaginary pictures, especially if you are not admitting that you’ve used a filter or six!! Everyone of my friends has blemishes and spots and imperfections. Because we are human. 
If I’d wanted alien friends I’d have joined a space program!

The magic of Christmas

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I love Christmas. I’m the one who has a minimum of 15 guests for dinner, cooking for hours in the kitchen so that we can sit; parents, brothers, sisters, children, ex husband and current husband, on borrowed tables and over eat together. I save up for Christmas presents every month throughout the year no matter how skint I am, because I know I’ll be more skint at christmas. I start buying presents and decorations on January. As I said; I love Christmas.

As a kid Christmas was a magical time. It was looked forward to pretty much all year. It was the reason that the cold and dark evenings of winter didn’t matter as much as it should have. Christmas was always a time where we were all together, I remember it as happy; snuggles in the house and warm.
Advent calendars were exciting. I remember back before we had chocolate ones; the excitement of not knowing what would be behind that thin scrap of paper. What picture would be revealed? Then came the chocolate ones which, for the first year at least was so exciting; chocolate? Everyday? Yes please. However advent calendars somehow lost their charm; they became about a piece of chocolate and not about the unknown.

And more recently, in addition to this piece of chocolate we have the addition of a new count down, I’m not sure what they are called, it seems to be different in every house. Some call it Ernie, others it’s Pixie or Twinkle, it’s elf on the bloody shelf. And I just do not get it; so some elf, misbehaves making a mess in your house every day, in some houses bringing a gift each day in the run up to Christmas? WTF? Why?
Yes yes I know that all my Elf on the Shelf loving friends will be shouting at me right now that it’s about the magic, it’s the anticipation, it’s exciting and you will see their little faces light up as they go seek him out each day, but why? Why do we feel the need to make something that when I was a kid was the most exciting day of the year even more exciting? Surely it’s exciting enough?

What does some cuddly toy making a mess in your house everyday add to that? Can we not keep our kids excited without sprinkling flour all over the place, or spilling milk on the floor and sitting a stuffed toy next to it? My kids make that kind of mess everyday, they don’t need me adding to it and pretending it’s an elf doing it.

And I know that some people will say it’s a way of getting children to behave in December, which does make me kind of think how the hell do they get their kids to behave the rest of the year?
Nope. I just don’t get it. For me the magic of Christmas is built up by the slow drawing in of the nights. It is the Christmas songs on the radio, the plans of families getting together. It is the cold days. It is the wrapping presents. It is the simple things. And that’s how I want Christmas to be for my boys. I don’t want to ruin it with more expectation.
Plus I’d never remember to move the damn elf every night!!!