Tag Archives: teenager

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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Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

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.