Tag Archives: mental health awareness

Pay it forward

Every now and again I stumble across a post on social media or a blog and I find myself relentlessly scratching an itch which may well lead to being blocked or worse, the ending of a friendship. Hopefully, this evenings’ itch won’t have gone so far but it has left me wanting to try and release the valve without hurting any feelings so here I am again, writing on my very dusty blog, trying to sort out the different threads of thought that are weaving loosely around the jelly of my once firm memory bank. Ho hum.

I love teachers and teaching assistants, playgroup volunteers and nursery staff, scouting and guiding and cadet leaders; all of those adults who are still so passionate about preparing the next generation for adulthood that they give up *extra* time and energy on top of their working hours to mark out a path of safety, strength, education and futures. I adore them all. With the restrictions and paperwork now in place it is often a thankless and penniless vocation.

Do you know what else is taken for advantage? The modern parent. Often, all of those people who take care of our children in ways almost unmeasurable, are also parents. They are people who lose time with their own children because they know how much they have already benefited from their passions. For example. I have spent all of my “spare” time this past month trying to get a Stay and Play group up an running. Unfortunately, because of my Fibro and my new meds still trying to settle, my spare time has often been squeezed into family time. Whilst my kids enjoyed a movie put on in the local community, I sat in a side room typing up safeguarding policy. Of course, knowing my own children and husband, Mr Bear sat watching the movie (and multitasking with a game on his mobile) whilst the majority of our Cubs did not. A lot of hummous and PomBear crisps were consumed. I like to mix the good with the bad. There was also birthday cake and pots of yummy olives. See? Ying Yang all the way.

This dichotomy is probably seen more often in my day to day life. I do not have enough hours or enough energy to do more than try to keep the balance as much as I can. I fail miserably far too often. I lose it and shout at my smalls. I have to nap leaving my bigs to be young carers. I forget to collect my meds to the point that I count out the pills to ensure I have enough to last me the next 24/48 hours. I say “maybe” far more often than I am happy with because I just don’t know if I will be up to taking them all to the park after school. I am constantly on technology too and this has reached breaking point this last month.

I use modern tech for as much as possible. To remember my meds, I have an app on phone that rattles away in the same way I imagine my insides to do. I make use of the Google calendar. I have a personal list, a family list, a husband list, a school list (or three) and all of the public holidays to point out how terrible I am that I didn’t remember to send Mothers/Fathers Day cards etc. I also play memory games because if I don’t use it, I may just lose it! I catch up on my friends and loved ones that I don’t see daily via social media accounts. I stumble over delicious vegan recipes to keep my Big Boy happy and exquisite brownie recipes to please us both. I get my daily news on the web. Seriously, I do. I also listen to the local talk radio that helps but I definitely don’t buy newspapers anymore. My diary often rambles into my blog these days and any letter I may have once handwritten is now neatly typed and emailed to those people who need to read my nonsense. I also find communicating with the secondary school teachers extremely convenient (hopefully for us both) and I prefer to have a “good old fashioned” paper trail (or internet bits…)

I organise our entire life via my mobile and laptop. Sometimes, I even find myself tapping away or catching up with Person X, Doctor Y, or Teacher Z at the school gates.

I know for some, this gets a few points knocked off my mummy scorecard. I’ve stopped caring, to be fair. Occasionally, 3:15 is the only time for these things to happen. To some it will look like I am not paying close enough attention to my 5 year old who has exited her classroom full of the joys of Year One and, maybe, they will see me again at 3:25, two more children in tow, still desperately getting stuff done on my phone. I’m sorry if you think that makes me a lesser mother. Actually, scrub that, I’m not sorry.

You aren’t walking in my shoes. You aren’t taking my meds. You aren’t making sure my kids are fed each and every day and you are most definitely not parenting my children.

You never knew that day when I was on the phone to my husband that our benefits were cut.

You were never told when I was speaking to CAHMs about the mental wellbeing of my older child.

You didn’t see the fridge the day I was on the phone to the Supermarket pleading with them to please try my card again so my children’s dinner would still be delivered.

You weren’t aware that my friend’s baby arrived safe and well that very day after a terrifying pregnancy.

You wouldn’t have noticed me wince as I turned my head away so my children didn’t see as my back spasmed at just the wrong moment.

You couldn’t tell that day when I had just found out the devastating news that my friend had terminal cancer.

Sometimes, it might not have been quite so life changing but you didn’t know it wasn’t when you judged me, either.

I ask my children every afternoon how well their day has been, what new fact did they learn, what did they most enjoy, what did they wish they could change. Every night, I kiss them and wish them sweet dreams. Some days, these things will happen from my bed which I haven’t been able to leave, I wonder if I still get judged as a stay at home parent when I don’t collect my own children. What do you assume I am up to when I don’t even turn up to collect them? Or, worse still, the days I can’t leave the car to walk them in.

If I had known seven years ago just how much our lives would change, I might have done things differently. Woulda, coulda, shoulda and all that.

When I see you, I wonder how you fit in the time to complete your makeup, and I am in awe of your organisational skills.

When I see you talking on your phone again at 3:15pm, I wonder if I should offer to help you with the pick up so you have an extra few minutes to talk in uninterrupted sentences.

When I see you push to the front of the queue, I wonder what you have cooking for dinner that means you’re in such a rush to get home today.

I look at our children and I am thankful that they are here, happy, healthy, educated, fed and loved. I don’t want to question your choices because I don’t want the reasons to be anything like my own. I don’t wish my medical restrictions on anyone. Nor do I want to imagine that a loved one is in pain, although please feel free to spread the joy of a new baby!

The world is so full of judgment already. We are constantly split into groups, measured by the colour of our skin or the jobs that we hold, divided by the haves and the have nots, forced into political camps that label as Lefty Liberals, Far Right Racists, Crunchy Greenies, even Recycling Rebels (but at least that’s better than the Breastapo or Feminazi. Urgh.)

Be kinder to eachother, please. Life can be so cruel all on it’s own that the idea of us biting and clawing at eachother chills me to my core. Spread the love not the fear, smile if you can, and remember that even rainstorms can bring rainbows.

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Does every black dog have its day?

Today was a day of self reflection and understanding. I am now emotionally raw and yet I desperately want to get through the second day of an extremely fascinating and informative course.

It was tough growing up in a “broken” home, being separated from siblings and losing friendships and cousin-friends overnight. It tore me apart and I’m still dealing with the repercussions of it now, 27 years later. Anxiety and overeating came first, the loss of my grandfather hitting me hard causing a spiral into depression. I don’t remember ever feeling free from my emotional toil.


I first considered suicide during secondary when it felt like everyone was talking whilst I became more and more invisible. I was bouncing back and forth between my parents’ homes and I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

By the time I reached 15, I was numbly coasting along. Getting raped is one of the hardest and most life altering events a person can go through. For me, it probably saved my life. I decided something for myself for the first time in my life. I wanted to live. That isn’t to say that my mind suddenly quietened and all was right with the world, far from it. I began truanting from school on a regular basis and I would spend days on end sat in Crystal Palace Park reading Discworld books or drawing my emotions. I hated the winter months when I would have to stay in school or pretend to be ill. If only my mental wellbeing was as important as my physical wellbeing, someone might have made the connection. I became good at lying, good at hiding things, good at stealing small items of makeup from shops, good at being the reliable daughter who they could worry about later. I was angry with my parents, the adults who were supposed to be able to help me. We tried family therapy and 1-2-1 sessions. I couldn’t talk freely with my counsellor. I was paranoid about them spilling my secrets to my dad and frustrated by adults talking *at* me, never seeing the whole picture and how much pain I was in.


Meeting Mr Bear, falling in love at first sight, feeling safe in his presence for the first time in years, gave me no purpose and the space I needed to feel safe and secure once more. I knew I would have his children from the first moment and said so openly. Being near him calmed me and my recovery could begin.

It is never that simple though. My depression has ebbed and flowed throughout my life. It is my constant companion both an allie and an adversary, the light and the dark. It is as much a part of me as my laughter and joy, my pretence and the unadulterated love I have for my family.


I am not my depression but my depression is a huge part of what makes me me. Just like my shadow, it lives with me growing and shrinking as my life is lived. I wanted to beat it, to somehow push it away and stop it from returning but that’s impossible. You have to learn to minimise it and lighten the load so that it doesn’t continue to consume and crush and rage against you. I’m almost dependent upon it. Knowing that it is my constant companion is hard. I’m jealous of those whose depression is a footnote instead of a glossary It isn’t fair that my depression is still a raging storm whilst others are enjoying their rainbow. But I get it.


Mental Health is not created equal. I wish it were. We are all different heights, different shapes, different IQs, and different sense of humours. Why should we expect anything less of our mind? Don’t many of us now accept that the brain is a complex and mostly unknown quantity? If we know that, why do we try so desperately to pigeon hole depression and ask for a one size fits all approach? We have shoes not only in a range of sizes but also in different styles. The fact that we have so much choice in what keeps our feet comfortable, safe, and fashionable but that the many facets of our psyches are expected to conform like neat pins in a board or soldiers on parade never ceases to amaze me. We are not born equal. We know a little of why some of us have to struggle against or live with poor mental health but there is still so much more to do.


I hope that our sleuth of bears are able to access the best mental health care and that any struggles they may face can be head on. After all I have lived through, the idea that our cubs might have to go through similar sits heavy within my heart. Are they doomed to relive the cycle? Have I passed along my fragile mental health genes? Only time will tell. In the meantime I will be doing my damndest to keep my black dog on its leash and teaching my cubs how to be mindful and mentally healthy as well as physically so.

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.