Tag Archives: memories

Don’t count the rain clouds, count the rainbows

I remember being very small and very sad. Mummy and Daddy seemed very sad and very angry. When Daddy lived at someone else’s house, Mummy cried lots. She seemed lost. When my stepdad moved in everyone was very happy. I didn’t like having to share all my things or having to sleep on the fold out bed because it was closer to the door, closer to the toilet. I had lots of bad dreams and lots of wet sheets. 

Mum got very sad again when the Baby was born. We all thought she was lovely but very noisy and very smelly. When I was 9 I went to live with Dad. My sisters came too but not the Baby because she had her own Daddy. It was weird living with Dad. We didn’t see our brother everyday anymore and Mum never seemed to smile anymore. Then Grandad got sick and I wasn’t allowed to cry because it would make him feel bad. I wasn’t allowed to sit on his armchair with him anymore, we needed to be very gentle with him, just like we were with the Baby. Mum let Baby come to visit when our brother did! We showed her how to use the dollshouse and we played in the garden. Grandad died when I was 11. I would smile everyday because Grandad liked it when we smiled but I didn’t want to smile. I wanted to cry every day.

At school we were told about taking drugs, how bad they were, how even paracetamol could be very bad for you. I remember wondering how bad it must be, it couldn’t be any worse than the way I felt inside. I stopped looking in the mirror. I stopped caring about good food and ate lots of chocolate ice cream with fresh orange juice. I stopped talking to people, no one listened anyway. 

Dad had a few relationships with other single parents. They all seemed very nice and they liked that he was taking care of us girls. They just didn’t seem to like us very much. I preferred it when we were left home alone. I would stay up until 2am watching rubbish telly. I kept paracetamol on me all the time. We had one of the medicine bottles and I could hold just enough tablets inside. I liked counting them, making sure there was the same amount all the time. Dad’s new girlfriend was just like everyone else. She seemed nice enough but had no interest in us girls. She had two of her own and that was more than enough. 

I wrote a note one day. I was so sorry, I didn’t want anyone to cry, I wanted them to know that it would be better without me. My sister came home from school early and I chickened out. My Dad found the note but never mentioned it. My kind of stepsister took an overdose. She had to have her stomach pumped and drink charcoal liquid. I opened up to her, told her she could confide in me at any time. I can’t remember us ever having a conversation after that day. I didn’t mind, I didn’t want to talk to anyone either.

At 14, I moved back in with my Mum. I wanted to take my younger sister with me but she admitted that she didn’t really know our mum nor did she know her. I missed her terribly but I would see her every school day. My Dad was very angry with me. I just felt numb. He would call me names, hurtful lashing out, but I couldn’t stand being ignored anymore. 

I tried to be happier at my Mum’s. I got to talk to my brother, play with the Baby although she wasn’t that anymore! Mum would cook with me, make sure my uniform was clean every day, that I had brushed my hair. I stopped carrying the pot of pills everywhere. It wasn’t perfect but it was my home. I felt loved and wanted. I felt happy. 

At 15, I was trying to become independent, find friends closer to my new home. The first friend I made raped me. He took advantage of my caring nature and I found myself alone with a fairly drunk, slightly older guy. At any other time, I would have fancied him but actually I had a boyfriend (well, kind of, in a silly teenager way) and I wasn’t the kind of girl to mess around.

He stripped me of my innocence and violated my thoughts. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind, every face in the street was his, every squeaky male teen had me struggling not to wet myself – I didn’t always manage to prevent accidents. Going to school every day was like walking through hell for me. I couldn’t tell anyone, how could I explain it? I had put myself in a position which made me weak and vulnerable. Why had I been so stupid? 

The guilt, the shame, it stayed with me for years. The following years at school saw me skip more of it than I actually attended. Even when I got a proper boyfriend, I craved attention, I needed someone to notice how numb I was. At school I would jump around on tables, act ridiculously, sing and dance and be a fool. Then I would spend nearly every Wednesday alone, I would draw my isolation, dark sketches of my broken mind. Still it went unnoticed. My pill pot came back into use, the pills being counted out one after another. 

I resisted the urge, I swung back and forth between my parents, I lashed out, I clung to the few wonderful friends I had and I focused on staying alive. It took every part of me to stay alive. It would have been easy to opt out, to follow through on my carefully constructed plan, to stop the pain.

I didn’t, couldn’t, go through with it. I looked at my two younger sisters who I love and adore and realised that these two were happy to see me, willing to waste time with me. I had to keep going until these two were old enough to stand alone.

When I first saw Mr Bear, I instantly fell in love. I do not make light of this. I whispered to my friend standing next to me “I’m going to have his babies”. I didn’t even know his name or even if he was into women (he was and is a very metrosexual male – confident in his own skin and happy with his life). I was in awe of his ease, how he didn’t even notice that a fair few of his female cohort found him extremely likable. I was so lucky to have him know people in our small group of friends, blessed to have his bestfriend know one of my closest friends and so I got to know him well very quickly. He seemed so comfortable with life. I watched him as he went through trading cards, as he finished homework, as he ate pizza like I ate biscuits but he was satisfied and full whilst I felt empty yet fatter by the bite. 

When I was with him, my pain dissipated. In his arms, I slept for the first time in two years without a nightmare rerun. I am so safe with him. He is the love of my life.

He hasn’t cured me. I have bouts of depression, normally triggered by the most mundane things yet their consequences gain momentum in my mind and the darkness descends yet again and I question my worth, my value to society and to my family. Being a mother is everything I ever wanted and more and I wish these human beings were enough to push away the vacuum that sucks me in whenever it feels like.

Postnatal depression is the most common name they’ve used to describe me. The flooding of hormones, the waves over the body as you adjust to life without a mini being inside of you, they would once again show only the dark shadows and the place of rest looks warm and inviting once more, a place where there is no more pain, no more failure, no more guilt, just the end of everything.

My children are everything to me but the darkness is all consuming and I fight with all I have every single day to keep the waves away. Some days the fight beats me. On those days I want to hide away from the world and forget that anything else exists. That isn’t a very practical response and I most commonly find myself at a stay ‘n’ play, a fake smile playing on my lips and the words of other mothers merging into a string of convenient white noise. It is oddly comforting, to be reassured that the world is still turning, the universe still expanding. These days ebb and flow, my physical pain often leading to more frequent bouts of shadow. The longer the flare the harder I find it to climb out of the pit but I have to. I can’t give my children the early childhood we had. My mother loves me, I know that although she has never said it or shown it. I tell my cubs at every opportunity that I love them, that they are most loved and most wanted. I couldn’t be half the parent I am without the Mr’s help and support. He can be a proper irritant with his teenage strops but he steps up to the plate and he tries his hardest to be a very active and enthusiastic parent. None of us are perfect but he does an excellent job of pretending he is.

It’s strange how I have ended up suffering from two very different, very similar, invisible illnesses. Both are under explored and under funded, both leave me in pain which we try to manage using only one type of drug, one is hidden in the brain, the other in the muscles, nerves, and immune system. It is only within my relatively short, relatively recent time of diagnosis that Fibromyalgia has been recognised and reacted too. Poor mental health, especially amongst young women, has been known about since the dark ages and the use of trepanning to release demons from the cursed and yet we still do very little to treat the illness but prefer to hide it under a layer of mood suppressants and stabilisers. 

Have we come so far only to ignore the increasing recognition of poor mental health amongst society? Why do we turn our backs on friends and family when they need us the most? 

Today was Mental Health Awareness Day. I want to stand up and be counted amongst the many other people who I know and love who struggle daily to avoid the shadows, who orbit the black hole of depression each night terrified that it might be the last night it can stay in orbit, who haven’t made it but who still desperately show a glimmer of survival amidst the darkness.

Never stop reaching out. That friend desperately wants to join you for coffee in the park café, they just haven’t been able to make it out of the house yet, but she will, if you just give her the chance.

I was told a story of grey iced cupcakes with rainbow coloured cake which sparked a beautiful friendship between two extraordinary women. I wish we could all find our rainbows. One day, I hope to reach my own.

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Enjoying the little things

I don’t have particularly fond memories of school. I stood out in Primary for being the first in my class to have divorced parents and then we had the only Stay at home single Father who was loved and adored by all the mothers and even the all female staff. When I moved to Secondary I was placed in a very small class (18 students) of exceptionally gifted and talented 11 year olds. It seems I had a natural gift for English and Maths which put targets on all of us. We were the geeks and/or nerds of the school and expected to lead the way for excellent results during the next 5 years. My saving grace was an incredible group of friends. 

We were a quirky lot, got down to work when we had to but also found the time to laugh and break the stress of the day. We all dressed in black one year to fundraise, one of us could speak passable Klingon, another hid a shed full of animals and is now a Vet Nurse. We were good for eachother and I made some life long friends who will never understand how much they meant to me at a time when I felt extraordinarily lost. 

One of the girls and I had a very up and down relationship; she was my bestfriend and also my achilles heel. She knew so many of my secrets and she occassionally slipped up and would dump me in it with one boy or another that I was head over heels in lust with and it would all end in tears. Looking back it was fairly typical teenage hiccups but, also, I thought of her as a cousin or stepsister. That’s the relationship we had. I told her all the darkness and she would try to find me some light. I put up with her catty side because I loved her dearly and it was nothing to the way my own sister treated me. Her family were, and are, awesome. Her parents are some of the coolest going and they never seemed to get fed up with my constant visits. They are truly diamonds of the South.

My bestie and I fell out around the time of our GCSEs. It was a biggun and it took me a very long time to forgive. Too long. We would find eachother over the next 14 years and have a quick catchup. I was at a different point in my life to my school friends. Happily married, a houseful of kids, chicken pox, washable nappies, and the start of my aches and pains. She was a working woman, living her life the way she wanted to and still getting through her own baggage. 

Then we hit 30 and whilst I was still making babies, she was starting a rollercoaster that she never planned on. 

She was having shoulder pains which they were struggling to indentify and eventually a bit of a push from mum about an “unrelated” issue made the doctors look a little deeper. Yeah, cancer. This woman who had lived her life in the positive had been hit with a killer blow. That’s when it stopped being about where we were in life and it came back to a group of friends who had each others backs. 

I had missed my bestie. The odd sense of humour, the dark laughter, the sage advice. I was glad to be able to reconnect even if the circumstances were less than ideal. Oh, who am I kidding? Less than ideal? They couldn’t have been worse. It shouldn’t have taken cancer to bring us back together. Any hurt that happened half our life time ago should have been well and truly buried. It was buried. I knew that we were a couple of teeny boppers just finding our feet and hurting inside because of things we had no control over. 

We laughed again, giggled inappropriately, enjoyed giant yorkshire puddings and afternoon tea. It was simple. I want anything for it to be simple again. 

Her cancer isn’t shy. Her Doctors have been doing a fabulous job at pushing it back, holding the flood gates. The multipe surgeries have helped, certainly she finally got the breast reduction which had always been a back seat “one day” – something we had a dark laugh about. We also chatted about the special one of a kind face mask they use to hold her head completely still for targetted treatment. She tells us that there are these fabulous murials on the ceiling rather than crappy hospital tiles. The staff are extraordinary too. They go above and beyond to make sure that all of their patients are as comfortable as possible. 

We often moan about waiting times, prescription costs, time hanging on the phone whilst sorting out appointments, and yet, our NHS has gone above and beyond to help my beautiful friend. It does so every single day around the UK. 

That word seems to be said so often now. Cancer. There is sound scientific reason behind it too. We have a 1 in 2 risk of being diagnosed with cancer across the course of a lifetime. That’s some seriously scary odds. The good news is that we are increasing the odds of surviving every single day so for the majority of people who get dealt the Big C card, they will beat it and go on to live happy, healthy lives. www.cancerresearchuk.org

My friend got given the rubbish hand. She has managed to hold off her ending for longer than she was first told. I am so glad she did. I found my friend again, just when I needed her. I’m so incredibly blessed. She has helped me to live again, just at a point where she can’t. Hold your loved ones close today and everyday. Don’t weigh yourself down with hate, work through it and let it go so you can enjoy the daily grind – okay, not enjoy but you have to count the days that are normal as a good thing. I do the night rounds at home, checking in on each child, removing the hard plastic dinosaur, tucking teddy back into bed to avoid an early wake up alarm to find him, turning off the cd player, and brushing the fallen locks off the faces. Today has ended well and I enjoy knowing that we made it through another day. 

I don’t know what happens next, I suspect it will be awful. I want to remember the little things like daisy chains and pizza parties, blue lemonade and bent chips. It’s the little things that matter the most, they all add up and make amazing memories. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’m glad I have the opportunity to revisit, to make anew, and find time to look back.

Love you, V xxx

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.