About Me

Mum of 2, suffering my own mental health issues, I began to write this blog as a way to release feelings and emotions. At 13 my daughter was terribly bullied which has led to her having serious mental health problems of her own. She is now 16. I wanted to document our journey and hopefully be able to look back and see how far we have come.

Friday, 4 October 2013

New school year

Emily has made enormous steps forward.  From the start of the new term she has been back full time.  There have been ups and downs, but I remind myself that all teens have these regardless.  In a few short weeks her confidence has grown.  She will now speak in class, join in discussions and has put her name forward to be an anti bullying ambassador.  She is showing a high standard of work again and is receiving good marks.  I am so very proud of her and I think she is of herself.

For me, life goes on.  I am currently supporting an 18 year old at work who has comlex mental health problems.  When others don't know how to handle mental illness, they turn to me and I can not let them down.  This, however, does impact on my own wellbeing.

Its my own fault,  I have taken on too much.  Work, my family, supporting others in need and now by joining the committee for a charity I hold dear to my heart.  I sit doing work from home and all around me there is overdue housework screaming at me.

My lack of wellbeing has been most acute these last few days, and during these times I find it hard to talk.  This morning I wrote a little ditty and thought it summed things up.

The pain I feel is deep inside,
locked away and trying to hide
The sad thing is there's no escape
from the demons with carnage in their wake 

Today i'll struggle, tommorow too
You don't see it's hidden from view
The exhaustion of facing each new day,
makes me want to slip away 

Over dramatic this may sound,
but my sanity can not be found
I do not want to feel this way,
despite what people often say 

The fight goes on, for now at least
Be quiet you multi headed beast
My children still need their mother,
for them there can be no other 

I can only hope the day will come,
when you'll find me laughing in the sun
Until that day the fight goes on,
pretending to all, the monster is gone
  

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fingers crossed

When I look back I see a long road. It twists and turns with mountains and deep ravines. Some trials we could see on the horizon, others were thrown in our path just in front of us.

Many, many times the obstacles have looked so huge it seemed they would forever be in our way. Sometimes they have come one after the other so quickly, we hardly had time to catch our breath. It has been exhausting. At times Emily and I have hated each other. Two people hurting deeply, not always able to help the other but despite this we found our way. We learned to say sorry, we learned when to talk and when to stay silent, when to laugh and when to be serious. But most of all we learnt about each other.

So here we are. We have climbed, we have bridged and we have blasted our way through. Each obstacle overcome took strength, determination and courage.

We are now close to the top of one such mountain.  Emily will do her first full week at school next week to prepare for the next term. She is excited and frightened, just like a normal teenager.  But Emily will always be far from a normal teenager.

Yesterday she found a diary she wrote during her darkest times. She laughed about how ridiculous some of her comments were. She can not understand being in that place now. A blessing maybe, for I can remember everything.

We have travelled far, but there is still a way to go, but if we ever need proof of our ability to succeed, well, here it is.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Life goes on

It seems an age since I last wrote.  You may think that my lack of blogging is down to life being on the up.  It isn't.  I have been despondent really, I am fighting my way through every day.  I have little strength left.  Emily has done so well, she is now attending mainstream school 3 mornings per week.  This is a huge acheivement and I am very proud of her.

Despite these acheivements there are always set backs and my inner demons gnaw at me.  Sometimes the responsibility of going to work, running a home and being mum to 2 teenagers is more than I can bear.  There is no downtime, no off switch, no time off.  The kids seem to need me constantly and there is always a part of me that dreads this.  I do not have a magic wand, I can not fix the world around them.

I did at least speak to Emily's father.  I actually told him things face to face.  I had to, I needed him to take some responsibility and I also needed to stop hiding and stop resenting.  There is enough poison in my head without him in there too.

He does at least help with the midday school runs when I'm at work. We will always be poles apart and our roles very different but at least we can be civil again.

Very often I wonder if I would still be here if I had never had children.  They are the only reason I am still dragging myself through this pitiful excuse for a life.  I feel like I should be punished for wanting to give my life away when there are those out there who are ill and are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their last breath.  Those who have gone through terrible situations and hardship.  I have faced none of that, pathetic really.

But for now what else can I do?  Life goes on and so must I.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Retracing our steps

It's the school holidays and I am in York. We were here last August. I say we, but there were only three of us. At that time Emily was a  resident in the mental health unit. She could have come with us but she couldn't, she was too ill.

I remember that holiday. We were only here for 3 days and crammed in as much as possible for the benefit of my boy. I bought annual tickets for the various attractions, which would admit 4 for the whole year. I told my son, who missed his sister, that the tickets were proof that Emily would return with us the following year. I said it, but I didn't actually believe it.

Last weekend I was ill, as in could barely walk. When it came to Monday, the day to get to the train station, I sat in my living room and sobbed.  I cried because; I was tired, I felt ill, I was leaving my beloved animals but more so because, this time, Emily was coming with us. I just felt spent.

Why would that make me cry? Well the feelings were overwhelming, I never thought we really would get to this and it kept building up inside me.

It's not been easy on holiday. Emily switches into stroppy teen quite easily and it is difficult maintaining boundaries without squashing independence. At times she looks vulnerable and a moment later she is off out of sight. Managing her needs with everyone else's is exhausting. I am still feeling unwell and I will be glad to be home.

In the back of my mind I also remember that the first major signs of her illness manifested over Easter last year. Again that brings tears to my eyes. The year has been a very long one and yes, on the surface, it seems we have come a long way. In reality, the journey has only just got started.

As I retraced my steps around the beautiful Minster, I thought of the candle I lit for Emily and I almost wanted to light one for myself.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Letter to my ex

There have been a few times when I've wanted to write a letter to my ex. I even came close to sending an email once. To be honest, it was filled with ranting and venom. Maybe what I felt, but as he considers me unbalanced and ridiculous, it would have only fueled the fire.

But I think it needs to be written, whether he will ever reads it remains undecided. So here goes.

Ex,

When you met me I'd already been suffering from mental health problems and had a failed suicide attempt under my belt.

Although I didn't see it at the time, I was so desperate to belong somewhere and to someone that my history at the age of 20 was littered with big mistakes and complicated messes. Mostly as a result of trusting others over my own judgement.

And so, we met at work. I had just split up with my fiance and had to pull out of buying a house. Outwardly I displayed confidence and loved a laugh and a joke. In private I cried.  I had come so close to leaving home and becoming my own person I couldn't let it go. I found a cheap flat for sale and went for it.

You flirted with me all the time. Married and 17 years older than me I wasn't really sure how I should respond. I thought it was a bit of office banter. I did like you, you made me laugh and work was a fun place to be.

One day you asked to meet me after work. My internal alarm bells were screaming, but I didn't like to offend you by saying no. How ridiculous does that sound? I should have said no. I knew it then, I know it now, but I just couldn't say it. That night you kissed me and I didn't know what to do.

You offered to come and help do jobs in my flat. It was in a bad state of repair and I did need help, but I should again have said no. There was only ever going to be one outcome to this. It was a car crash waiting to happen. You told me how you were unhappy at home and I could genuinely see this was true.

It wasn't long before sex came into the mix. All the time I knew this was wrong, but I didn't know what to do or how to stop it. You seemed to really care about me. I couldn't hurt you by turning you away.

Within weeks your wife discovered the affair and threw you out. When you arrived at my door, you told me you had nowhere to go.

What else could I do? My weakness had brought us to this place. I literally thought to myself 'I've made my bed, I need to lie in it' I let you in, along with panic and fear.

Don't get me wrong, I did care about you. You were my friend and I felt responsible for you.

In the months after we followed a frightening and very bumpy road. I feared every knock on the door and every letter the postman brought. A venomous wife, solicitors threats and disappointed families. Just writing this brings back the knot in my stomach and the tears to my eyes.  Is there any wonder my mental health problems worsened? I was so scared, I felt sick all the time. 

You cared about me, I think, and I cared about you. This mess was of my making and so it continued.

Was I in love? At the time I presumed I must be. So when you said it to me, I said it back. I guessed this was what it was about. Looking back I knew it still wasn't right. I couldn't watch romantic films or read happy relationship stories. Why? Because they weren't real. No one felt like that did they? If I had accepted that it was possible to feel so much for anyone, I would have to admit that I was unhappy and living a lie.

I was not strong enough to face that as it would have brought the awful reality sharply into focus.

Again, do not get me wrong, we settled into a routine and for the most part we were good friends.  But intimacy was always a problem for me and this regularly became a source of major fall outs.

The years progressed. We bought a house and I suggested we got married.  To me, it seemed the right thing to do, the expected thing. I don't remember much of that day, but I do remember crying and I do remember making an excuse not to be intimate. On that day and the days leading up to it the alarm bells rang again, they were muffled because I couldn't face the implications, but they were there all the same. I wonder, did you hear them too? I just kept thinking, this was obviously my life so get on with it. 

The years moved on and produced two wonderful children.  With the children came a worsening of my mental health. You did try to help me, but you tired of it. You are firmly from the 'pull yourself together' brigade. If I made you unhappy I am truly sorry. You could be cruel and thoughtless at times and you had no understanding of the hold my illness had on me. But think back on what I've written, is there any wonder my health suffered? Do we not both need to accept some responsibility here?  I was unknowingly living a lie, were you?
You made me feel a failure for being ill. I didn't need your help with this, I could beat myself up all on my own. 

Daily life was up and down. Arguments and tears, sometimes you took your frustrations with me out on the kids. Or that's what I thought you were doing. I've seen you hit my daughter so hard across her face that she was thrown off her feet. She was probably around 6 at the time.  you shouted so loud at our even younger son, his eyes had the look of a frightened animal.  I could never forgive these actions, but I do accept the blame.

As you know, I met the man I'm now with, over the internet. Despite what you might think it was innocent. We both moderated forums and all the moderators chatted on MSN. I needed friends to talk to, people, male and female, who didn't know my history, people who knew only what I told them.

My online friendships grew and it wasn't long before we talked about our lives. My new friends listened to me, but more importantly they comforted me in a way you never could.

One man in particular, 'A' stood out. His comments were funny but caring at the same time. He was easy to talk to and, as he lived outside the UK it seemed safe.

We worked together on quizzes for the forum and it was fun. You didn't like the time I spent online. You had always been possessive and stifling, I guess you felt out of the loop. The atmosphere at home got worse and as it did I turned more and more to my online life.

A was always there in the evenings and it wasn't long before I started talking about my situation.
The more we talked the more I was drawn to this caring man.  We had never met but it showed me something. It showed me I could feel something. Something more than pain and unhappiness. You blamed A for breaking our marriage, but it was broken before it started. Do you not see it?

I admit I did start to feel something for this man I'd never met, it made me realise that there was more to this life than making do. He gave me the strength to look inside myself and do what I should have done 12 years before. I said no, no more.

I'm pretty sure I was making you unhappy, would you really have wanted that to continue? Was your fear of being alone worse than the misery of being locked in a shell of a marriage?

I told you I didn't want to be married anymore. It was horrible, you were devastated, despite being in the same book, you were several pages behind me.

You did and said some horrible and deeply hurtful things in the days and weeks that followed.  At times I fought back, other times I sat in a heap and cried.

And then you turned your attention to A. This was all his fault after all. You told me to meet him and 'get it out of my system'

I did want to meet A, when I was free to, but I wasn't lurching from one man straight to another. How could I not want to eventually meet someone who had offered me something I felt I'd never had? I'm not talking about love or sex, I'm talking about a deep understanding of me, someone who had an amazing ability to make me feel better and give me hope when my life was in ruins. Can you understand that?  You couldn't at the time. I guess your head was full of emotions and thinking about things logically didn't figure.
I couldn't make you understand that it wasn't about him, it was about me finally admitting what I'd known all along.

In the end I called your bluff, if that was what I needed to prove we were through.

A agreed to fly over. The confidence he showed behind the pc was missing when I met him at the airport. He was a very shy and nervous man. I did not fall instantly in love with him and I had no idea where the friendship would go, but I knew it would not change my need to be apart from you.

Despite your protests and plea's about our marriage it took only a couple of weeks for you to move on with another woman. While I moved out and rented with the kids, she pretty much set up home in my house. I didn't mind you moving on, but it was too quick and her spending so much time in my house was wrong. You even introduced her to our children before I knew you were seeing her. That was just nasty.

Since we split I have always tried to be fair. We shared our assets straight down the middle, we did our own divorce.

You moved on with your life and bought a new house.

I had to buy you out of the old house to get us out of a fix. I didn't want to come back here. I hate looking at the legacy you have left me, dodgy extensions and bad DIY. But you don't care do you? You were able to take the money and run.

I've lost count of the number of nights I've sat comforting your crying children. You'd caused those tears with selfishness and unkind words and acts. You put yourself and your new wife before your children and that will never be right. When A and I decided to move in together, I made it quite clear that the children will always be my priority. He accepts that. I have made so many excuses for you to those children, reassuring them that you do love them etc etc. What have you done for me? I understand you laugh about me to your wife, suggest I am a bad mother, say that I don't feed them properly.

When you had no job, I took no money from you for the children. Now you pay very little still and I let that happen because we can manage and I wouldn't want to cause you hardship.  What do you do for me? You go on holiday every few months and brag about it. You don't take the kids though, you don't want them do you? You don't even consider them, because you do whatever pleases you whenever you want. But you can, because you have me here taking care of our children. I keep quiet, I will not use them to score points. I will not force them to come to your house so we can have a break.  But the injustice eats away at me.

When you got married you decided to do it at Gretna Green and asked me if the kids would mind not being there. Your daughters biggest wish at the time was to be a bridesmaid. It's a no brainer really.  You told me, as you were off on two weeks honeymoon straight away, if the kids wanted to go, I would have to take them. Words can not express how angry this made me. I took the kids and we had to stop over night too. I made a point of being at the ceremony, as you'd said I could be. To be honest the only reason I did it was to make you both feel as uncomfortable as possible. Petty and childish I know, but you should be able to relate to that?  I had no choice but to bring them, how would they feel not being there?

When I got married last year, I was going to invite you out of duty to my children. I certainly didn't want you there picking fault with everything, your favourite pass time, but there I was again, trying to do the right thing.

You didn't even open the invitation, you left it behind, saying you were going on holiday. You never asked who would look after the kids on my wedding night, or who was having them while we had a honeymoon. You didn't care. I think this was the pivotal point in our relationship.
My poor mum had the kids as usual and due to Emily's illness we just spent 2 nights in a local hotel.

And now we come on to Emily herself.
Where were you when the bullying started?
Where were you when she sobbed every night?
Where were you when your son needed support?
Where were you when I had to fight to get them moved to another school?
Where were you when your daughter had a mental breakdown?
Where were you when she was admitted to a mental health unit?
Where were you when I needed a break?
Where are you now, when I'm desperately trying to juggle work with Emily's appointments and part time school hours?

You were probably on holiday or else in your own little world.

If I didn't have my elderly parents we would be sunk, we would not be able to manage at all. Did you know that, do you care?

Throughout Emily's illness we have had to stay strong. There have been so many times I thought we wouldn't make it. But we are inspite of your selfishness.

You think I've exaggerated Emily's situation. You've ignored me and gone behind my back, only to have the story confirmed by professionals.

You think I'm neurotic and something to be pitied. I now need to realise that your opinions do not matter.

You think I'm turning the kids against you the reality is they now see you for what you are as I no longer make excuses for you.

You think I'm a bad mother? I'm not perfect, but tell me, what would have happened if I wasn't here?

So why have I written this? Because for so long I have stayed silent so I don't upset the kids, but in the process the hurt and  resentment has built into a monster. Better pray I never unleash it

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Time to listen?

Emily still has her down days, but I feel these are finally beginning to reduce.  She has managed to detach herself from the Unit and is slowly starting to build confidence in 'normal' life.  Her school visits are still limited to 1 lesson a day on 3 separate days, so there is a long way to go and a lot of catching up to do, but it is progress.

I have been proud to see how she has begun to do things outside her comfort zone (our house).  In the last couple of weeks she's been shopping with my Mum, visited the nearby shopping centre with a friend and showed prospective adopters around on her own at the cat sanctuary where we volunteer.

These may seem like small things, but not to us.  These are real achievements.  In meetings with school she has now stopped mumbling and looking at the carpet and instead makes eye contact and is able to put her point of view across.

This is not the end of the road, but the ground seems to be levelling a little.  I now need to learn more about dyslexia and different ways of learning.  There is a lot of catching up to do if she is to stand a chance at GCSE's, but I know she is a bright girl and even if she has to do some exams at college later, she will get there in the end.

Recently she opened a teenager account with HSBC and we have agreed a clothing allowance.  With an allowance and a debit card and is learning the value of things and how to budget.  This is something else that is helping her to feel in control of her own life.  I'd recommend it for every teen.

And me? Too many downs and not enough ups.  Work has been terribly stressful.  I've got to the point where I have been doing 12 hour days rather than the 7 hour days I should do.  This has been a real problem and has been dragging me down. Whilst I only work 3 days a week, my other days are also frantic.  When I'm not rushing around taking Emily to one of her lessons or appointments, I'm having to fit in meetings and general stuff like shopping and house work.  My cats are a great love of mine, but they too create work for me.  It very often feels that I am on an never ending treadmill. I'm sure everyone can relate to this.  .    Adding in my issues around my weight and at times I've wanted to give up.

It's easy to get caught up in your own problems, but just recently someone gave me a wake up call.  Through Twitter I received a direct message.  A woman of a similar age to me, who I have only ever exchanged 'tweets' with and do not know in the 'real' world, reached out.  I do not want to go into her story here, it's not mine to tell, but I think she really needed someone to hear her.

I used my own experiences to help me try and understand. We have continued to message each other and through her, I realised that sometimes, when someone really needs you, a strength will take over.  We can all try to make a difference to others.  Those of us who understand what it is like to live part of our lives in darkness, in fear, in hopelessness, can help those who are there right now.  Readers of my blog have done this for me, not only just by reading what I write, but by commenting too.  Some of the supportive comments I have received have really helped and I cherish them.

Its made me want to turn my Twitter posts into something more.  I want to try and make people think, to realise that they too can make a difference to others.  We all stumble at times, when you are strong, help those who aren't.

Maybe 'Time to talk'  should be 'Time to listen'


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What if you don't want to talk?

I feel compelled to write, as it's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  But to be honest I really don't know what I want to say. 

Do I talk about the two sessions I've had with a counsellor? Given the waiting list for this, in my first session I found myself struggling to recall why I had been referred.  Which aspect of my upside down life was I there to talk through and was it still relevant? The second session I threw caution to the wind and dragged us back over 20 years.  I sobbed as I recalled a 20 year old girl settling for the adulterous older man thrown out by his wife, because she felt she must "do the honourable thing".  The honourable thing lasted about 12 years.

And where is this man now?  The father of my children?  Cosy in his home, where he does not have to consider a sick child in his daily or even weekly routine.  Am I bitter?  You're damn right I am.

Do I have a moan about my lack of self control over the things I put in my mouth, which are allowing my ample frame to ever increase? The chocolate, the alcohol, anything that might give me a moment of pleasure, anything that might make me feel something other than dead inside.

Do I tell you that Emily will be leaving the unit at the end of the month?  Should I explain how she will start to build up her return to school by adding 1 lesson extra each week, but on different days?  I understand why it is being done this way, but all I can think about is how I facilitate this and still get time to go to work.

Maybe I should tell you that the closer we get to her discharge, the more anxious Emily becomes and the more I worry.  Every time she leans on me I feel the weight is too much to bear.

Shall I explain how I want to shut myself away or that I crave sunshine on my face? I want to get drunk and dance, I want to set off on a journey, I want to do many things, none of them here.  I want to forget all this crap and give my open sores a chance to scab over before the next onslaught.

There is a big mental health campaign at the moment, "Time to talk"  What if you don't want to talk?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

How far?

Today I sat in a shopping centre crying. The reason for the tears was not sadness but pain, pain in my heart, pain caused by memories tugging at me .

Emily had asked me to take her for school stationery supplies and inbetween shopping we'd stopped for lunch.  As we chatted she asked me if I thought she had made progress with her illness.

I said 'yes, of course' straight away, but then her words sent me back in time. My mind began to dig deeper into my memories.

Sat across from her I looked into her eyes and said, "You have no idea how far you have come.  When I think back it scares me" and it did, really scared me to the point that I could not stop the tears from forming.  Once formed they began to overflow and make their way down my cheeks.  I sensed people noticing me, but I really and honestly didn't care.  Emily reached across the table and took my hand, saying sorry for upsetting me.

I told her it was ok.  It has been a roller-coaster of a journey and we are not at the end.  A year ago we were in a terrible place and, whilst things are far from perfect, they are at least better.

Emily looked at me as though she couldn't comprehend.  She still considered herself to be ill.  I suppose she is, but from where we were, we have come so far.

She looked almost puzzled.  I told her that I had written a diary and that one day  I would share it with her.  Then she would truly see how far she had come.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Thanks for all the snow

I'm sat in a supermarket car park at 8.45am. I've just dropped Emily and her brother at school. Today is the first day that Emily will attend form. She's then going to one lesson and then I'm taking her back to the unit.
School have, against normal policy, agreed to move Emily from her old form into her brothers. It means she has him for support and she also knows a few others from her junior school.  Even so, this morning she was showing classic anxiety symptoms.

When the form change was first suggested I spoke to my son. He was ok about it and understood. Yesterday and this morning, however, he has been a typical stroppy sibling. A pound each for sweets hopefully has smoothed, or maybe bribed the way.

Earlier this week, we woke up to a good few inches of snow. I didn't fancy going far in the car. My son walked to the school bus,  (which didn't come, unsurprisingly) grumbling all the way I should imagine.
The big story however came from Emily. She said she'd go by tram on her own to the unit. Not only would this be a complete first, going solo since her illness, but she would also be on with school kids from her old school.

I checked and double checked. She was adamant.

Her journey was slow and there were constant texts between us, but she made it.  I told her I was so proud of her and that she should be really proud of herself.
Not only was it a huge achievement at the time, but it has become a resource she can continue to collect dividends from.

As the tears and shakes started in the car park this morning I reminded her of that tram trip and that this was nothing in comparison. She nodded.

As I watched them walk of to school together, something, at times, I thought would never happen again, a voice in my head said "thanks for all the snow"

Thursday, 31 January 2013

New information

Dyslexia has been a word I've heard around Emily for a few months. When her teacher at the unit first mentioned it to her in passing, Emily grabbed on to it. She spent a weekend testing herself online. To me it felt like it could be just another thing she'd latched on to. Like she was looking for explanations and this was another potential candidate.

Today I went to the unit to meet with a specialist who has been carrying out a series of tests. I'm told Emily has a strong possibility of being severely dyslexic.

Some of the tests kids should do well and some not so well. Emily follows the correct pattern.

I had previously discounted any possibility of this and so had the rest of the family.  How can someone be high achieving through junior school if they are dyslexic?

It seems the slower pace of early school, and our out of school encouragement to read and write, may have given Emily enough to get on well.  She is, after all, a bright girl.

And then to comprehensive school, suddenly you are expected to work quicker and harder. No wonder the transition hit her so hard, adding bullying to the mix and you have a breakdown waiting to happen. Which as the rest of this blog tells you, is exactly what did happen.

As I listened to the specialist I realised I struggled with similar things. I'm told it can be hereditary, so now I wonder about my son, who, to be honest, has always struggled with school work.

So, here we are. There is no point in looking back. I have new information and I intend to use it to make things better.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A visit to the past

Once again reading Twitter has got me thinking, well actually remembering rather than thinking.  I was lead to a page on bullying.co.uk's site.  It gives some really good advice on what to do if your child says they are being bullied by a teacher.  Think it doesn't happen? I'm afraid it does.

For me it was over 30 years ago, but I can still remember all the details and I wonder about the damage it may have inflicted on my relationship with my parents and the way I behave today.

It was junior school, I guess I was around 9 or 10.  I was always a pretty solitary child, at home I loved to read.  I had a favourite book, which was all about history, and I would spend hours in my bedroom absorbing information, dates and names.

One day at school, the teacher, Mrs V asked if anyone knew the date of a particular event in history.  As luck would have it, I'd read about the very event the evening before.  My hand shot up, how pleased the teacher would be that I could answer!

'Yes?' she asked me.  I gave my reply and waited for the praise.  It didn't come.  Instead her facial features sharpened. 'Don't be ridiculous, you can't possibly know that, no one does!' she snorted.
I could feel a cold wave wash over me.  'I read it in my history book' I quietly replied, hoping to recover the situation. Instead 'No one knows the date, so you can't either' was the curt reply and the classroom erupted into laughter, laughter at me. 

The next day, I went to school with my history book and attempted to share it with Mrs V.  I think that was when her real hatred of me began.  I just wanted to show that I wasn't a liar, I wanted to be vindicated, I wanted to make it all ok again.  Interestingly, as an adult I still have this compulsion, I don't think it will ever leave me.  I hate it when people judge without having the full facts.  I hate it when people are unfair and do not consider the impact their actions have on others.

From that day Mrs V began her bullying.  Of course, I didn't understand that as a child, as far as I was concerned she just didn't like me and was mean to me.

The days that followed took a similar path, we would do work and then have to take it to Mrs V's desk. All lined up waiting for our praise.  My work was neat and I always tried my best. I was shy and quiet child, I did as I was told.  I put my neat book down on the teachers desk, confident in the knowledge that I had done a good piece of work.  Mrs V did not agree.  She hardly looked at my work before shouting 'Rubbish, do it again!' As she tore the page out of my book, I felt light headed.  I could feel my bowels wanting to release, my heart thumped in my chest and I felt dizzy.  Within seconds the tears started to well in my eyes and it took no time at all for them to flow freely.  Mrs V assumed she hadn't yet done enough and as she handed back my book she followed up with a loud 'oh look at the cry baby everyone'  The sound of cruel childish laughter once again filled the room.  Humiliation complete.

As I walked home that lunch time I was still sobbing.  My Dad shouted at me for crying and when I tried to explain what had happened my Mum told me, 'Don't be silly teachers don't do that, now stop crying'

Weeks went by.  Mrs V continued to 'make an example of me' in front of the class and my parents assumed I was making it up.  Everyday I took up my work and everyday Mrs V tore it out.

It was a chance meeting which brought my misery to an end.  My Mum bumped into one of my classmates Mum's in the street.  The other Mum remarked on my terrible treatment, 'isn't it awful what Mrs V does to your daughter' kind of conversation.

I'm not sure my Mum has ever forgiven herself for not believing me and not doing anything about it.  Once she realised I'd been telling the truth she wasted no time in going up to school and getting it sorted.

For me I think the full impact of these events may never be known.  The teacher was one thing, but the lack of support at home, was quite something else.


A counsellor once asked me what I would say to that little girl if I could walk back into that classroom.  I wouldn't say anything, I would hold her tight and cover her ears, I would take her out and I would take care of her.


A visit to the past can very often be painful but it can also shine a light on the present.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Fragmenting

Today, I waited at reception to collect Emily from the unit. I should have known all was not well when a nurse met me instead.

Emily was very upset on the ward and was insisting she wasn't going to school. The nurse took me to a room on the ward and brought Emily in. She was shaking and tear stained. I'm ashamed to say my first thought was, 'oh for goodness sake, it's only an hour!' but I knew I couldn't. The nurse left us alone while she tried to find a therapist.

Emily continued to shake, cry and chew at her clothing. I began speaking to her, asking what was wrong.  All she could tell me was that she couln't go, she'd do it next week instead.
As we spoke I could feel something rising in me. I recognised it as rage, but borne of frustration, not hate. I wanted to run away, I could see no answer, no path for us to take. To me right there, my mind told me that if she couldn't do this, then all was lost.

I fought with my inner voice and began to speak again.
I told her there were no expectations on her other than to be in the classroom.
I told her she was protected, the teacher knew the situation and the bullies went to another school. I told her she would feel proud of herself for going.
I told her I would be waiting like last week.
I told her to shut out all those negative voices in her head, to reach inside and grab hold of those hidden strengths, that I knew she had, and to tell herself she could do it and she had her tangle and time out card if it got too much.

I guess something I said must have worked, as I'm now sat at school while she is in her lesson.

The hour is not yet up, but I'm keeping everything crossed. As I reflect I realised something. In that room earlier today, we were both fragmenting, blowing everything up out of recognition, but we also started to put the pieces back together.

Maybe we will both always 'fragment' but if we can begin to understand that it leads to rebuilding, it might make the road a little less rocky

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A very long week

It's turning into a very long week and it's only Tuesday.  My husband set off in the early hours of Monday morning ,through the snow, to get a train to London.  He's there all week on a training course.  To begin with I was quite looking forward to having a few nights to myself and not have anyone snoring next to me in bed.  The reality has been much less rosy.

Yesterday, due to the weather, I ended up working from home, school was shut and so was Emily's unit. We managed, I did a reasonable amount of work considering,  not enough to fulfil my deadlines but then what's new?

During the evening, I could hear Emily pulling down the loft ladder.  A short time later she came into the living room with a baby doll in her arms.  She talked to it, cuddled it and, to be honest, I was a little taken aback.  More recently Emily has been desperate to turn her bedroom into a teenage pad dolls were, at her request, put into the loft some time ago.  Now there are baby dolls in a large wooden cot.

Emily clung to me saying that she wanted the doll to be real, she wanted to be a Mum so that she had someone to love and take care of.  I could understand that in some way.  I tried not to make anything out of it. 

This evening she has told me that she worries that the doll is no longer alive.  When I talked to her about this, she accepts that the doll is just that, a doll and has never been alive.  Then she tells me that 'they' are taking the doll away from her, and making it into something bad.  She can not explain to me who they are.

I've suggested that she is perhaps anxious about her next school visit tomorrow.  I'm beginning to worry again that she won't get through the hour.  It's like she regressing.  I am really starting to panic that she's never going to get an education.  Just thinking that brings tears to my eyes.  This isn't fair, she's so clever, she would have got good exam results, but I just don't see how that is going to happen anymore, how can it?  Almost a year out of school now and I can't see her ever being strong enough to go back full time.  It feels like a life of opportunity just wasted.  I should be doing something to change this.

I watched Emily cut up a carrot for the guinea pigs earlier and I found myself checking that she had put the sharp knife in the sink and not taken it to her room.  I see something in her eyes and I don't like it.

To compensate I'm eating chocolate instead of real food, washed down with a little brandy.  I'm calling the brandy medicinal as I'm pretty sure there is a cold fighting to get out.

In between all this, messages come from my husband.  He hates being away from home and is desperate for news of the kids and the cats.  I tell him everything is fine, he'll only worry otherwise and there is nothing he can do.

It feels like there is nothing I can do either.


Monday, 21 January 2013

A safe loving home

I have a confession to make.  Its not just food and alcohol I have an addiction to.

I am also terribly addicted to cats.  I started off with one, a black tom.  He, like all my cats, came from a rescue centre.  The first thing I noticed about him was a pair of wide yellow eyes staring out in fear in one of the pens.  I remember saying they were like Owl eyes, I knew I wanted him straight away.  I was told he wouldn't let anyone near him, but that didn't put me off.  Once in his enclosure I talked softly to him while he hissed at me.  This didn't put me off either, he was just a very frightened cat.  I adopted him 6 years ago and it wasn't until I let him out of the carrier on that first day that I noticed his poor feet.  Deformed, badly. In some way that made him more special, after all, none of us are perfect are we?

Since then a number of cats have joined my family.  An unwanted kitten, Two abandoned sisters, an old chap of 11 who's mum had to go into a home.  A 5 year old tabby who had been left in a box with her kittens.


It seems I'm always drawn to the 'under cat'.  I could have brought home dozens of cute fluffy cats and kittens, but then I see black, black and white or older ones and I'm told how long they have been there.

I do wonder if the need to rescue a cat comes from my own wish to be rescued too.  What I do know is that there is nothing nicer than a loving cat cuddle. If you've been keeping count you will be up to 7 as they are all still with us :)  I love seeing all their little faces around my home.  All little personalities who can be quite entertaining at times.

It was when I went to adopt my latest young man, I heard the centre were short on volunteers.  Emily and I jumped at the chance.
My new boy :)

We've just done our second Sunday morning.  It's a bit smelly at times, washing litter trays and cleaning out rooms and you certainly get a sweat on, but it doesn't matter.  As soon as we've finished our work we can go around and spend time with the cats and kittens. The youngsters are as you can imagine, adorable.  But we also make time to encourage the shy ones and to fuss the older ones too.
Cute kitten waiting for a home

I do want to bring them all home of course!  But I know the kittens will get homes quickly and even after a couple of weeks I can see one or two of the older cats getting adopted.

It gives me such a good feeling inside, although its such a small thing. When I think about days when I just want to hide in my bed, I know I wouldn't want to let the Cat centre down.  It's a good incentive, at least if we do nothing else at the weekend, we will have both been out.  I'd recommend volunteering to anyone, it doesn't have to be animals, just something you're interested in.  Help yourself by helping someone else.

Some of the cats are frightened, some naughty and some are fuss pots, but at the end of the day they all just want a safe loving home.  Sound familiar?



Sunday, 20 January 2013

Twitter, tweets and twits?

A few days ago I checked out Twitter in a personal capacity.  I love facebook, but I never really got Twitter.  Then, when the snow started to hit Yorkshire, it seemed like another way of keeping up with local information.  Once I'd set out on this little journey, I realised it was possible to have an account purely to go with this blog.  Suddenly I had the freedom to go out and see what else and who else was out there, whilst being safely hidden behind my anonymous exterior..

I was amazed how many Anti Bullying tweeters there are, some higher profile than others. Add to that the huge number of people twittering about Mental Health and, well lets just say, are my eyes well and truly open.  There are things happening, in research and law for example, that I had no idea about.

Some opinions on teenage depression have left me reeling, "blame the shit parents" opinions don't go down well with me.  I have made mistakes yes, but still...everyone is different.

Then there are others out there that are doing incredible things, this post on Netmums, What to do if your child is being bullied really caught my eye.  I'm following the author on Twitter, Alex Holmes.  His post is refreshing, written by someone who really knows the score and understands the realistic options open to parents.  How I wish I had seen this a few years ago, I wonder if things would be different?  He is making a real difference running the Anti-Bullying Ambassador Programme  which is being taken out to schools.  Find out more by visiting The Diana Award website.  I urge you, if you are reading this because your child is being bullied, go to these pages.

Another post I came across was this, Teenage Angst: A Rebuttal.  Reading this made me think about things from my daughters point of view, which is no bad thing, a reality check perhaps.

Tonight Emily has been seeing things again.  As I sat and listened to her talk I could feel part of me thinking "here we go again".  I did not show this.  I talked things through with her.  It's quite likely that the return to school is bringing anxiety to the surface once more.  Oh how I wish I had a magic wand.

So Twitter, tweets and some twits but all in all some great info and organisations.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

What if she's right?

It's been a long day.  I've been trying to work from home in between running the kids around.  At lunch time I collected Emily from the unit.  We came home so she could get into her uniform, there were shakes and tears before we left for school for her one hour lesson. 

Once there, waiting for Mel,  Emily said she felt calmer. We were soon joined by a member of staff and it wasn't long before Mel got to us.  They quickly walked off to the lesson and I followed the teacher to her office.

I borrowed a desk and accepted a cup of coffee.  I took out my husbands net book and tried to do a bit of work.  I really needed to make up my hours, but to be honest my concentration was off.  As I sat and tried to work, my stomach churned.  If she couldn't manage this hour where would that leave us?

An hour later, back at reception I noticed I was wringing my hands, desperate for the two girls to reappear.
Emily looked calm, she even spoke to the teacher and made eye contact with her.  That doesn't always happen.

I was relieved as we chatted later, she'd managed, but it could have been better.  The class were revising for an exam Emily can no longer take, so the teacher had given her a book to read.  It was good that there was no pressure for her to produce work, but there was also nothing to distract  her either.

I e-mailed the school this evening and asked if, next week, Emily could be given something like a worksheet to concentrate on.

This evening I sat, at the dining room table, trying to catch up my work. I wasn't aware Emily was no longer in the living room.  As soon as I realised I went to her bedroom, she seemed to be ok, but in reality she wasn't.  I was about to step back out of the door when she lifted up her arms to signify the need for a hug.  As soon as I embraced her I felt her body shake and the sobbing began.

It was a while before I was able to get her calm enough to talk.  She's not cried like this for a while and to be honest, it scared the hell out of me.  I can't go back to this.

Emily talked about the person inside her, the person who wants her to be mean to people, to break things, to be someone she isn't.  I tried to explain that we are all a mixture of emotions and can be compelled at times to do things out of character, but she looked unconvinced.

I started to hear familiar phrases, "I can't do it" and "I don't want to do it any more"  We are walking such a fine line, she needs to get back to school and build up her attendance, but to push too much too early could set her back months.  She's also terribly behind on work. But, and I said this to her, there are no expectations on her other than attending one lesson per week.

Eventually, she seemed to calm, although the tears occasionally reappeared. Two hours later I felt I could let her get ready for bed, but a part of me remains uneasy.  What if she's right?  What if she can't do it, what will be left?


Monday, 14 January 2013

Facebook's not all bad..

There have been times, since the New Year, that I have seen a new confident Emily.  There have unfortunately, been a few times when I have seen an over confident Emily.  This over confident version is rude, selfish and gives no thought to the feelings of others, her comments can be hurtful and unexpected.  I guess this version is a standard teenager. 

On one such occasion, when she had ridiculed me in front of my wider family, I asked her not to speak to me like that, she shrugged it off with a bit of a grin.  Once at home I had to distance myself from her.  The way she'd spoken to me, hurt more than I can say.  Maybe my own dark thoughts were pushing through, but I went to my bedroom and I cried.  I couldn't understand how a girl I had been through thick and thin with could talk to me like I was something stuck to the bottom of her shoe.

A positive to come out of the confidence is a new friend, or at least a renewal of an old friend.  Mel and Emily were best friends in the early years of junior school. When the time came for Comprehensives, they went their separate ways.  Emily to the local school full of bully's and no discipline, (obviously I didn't know this at the time) and Mel to the fantastic school my kids have now been transferred to.

It started with a Christmas card being sent via Emily's brother.  Emily was surprised as she assumes no one really wants to be her friend, they must just pity her or being doing it for 'a laugh'.

I jumped on the opening and suggested she track Mel down on Facebook so that she could send a message to say thanks for the card.  Reluctantly, Emily agreed.  The friendship request was accepted and the message was, after more coaxing, finally sent.

A few more messages were exchanged, about presents received, and then Emily was reluctant to 'push it' any further.  I suggested inviting Mel to our house, Emily said no, Mel already had friends.

A couple of days later I was considering trying to get in touch with Mel's mum.  We'd also been friends during the junior school years and it was only when the kids no longer needed meeting at the school gate, that we fell out of touch.

Funny when you're thinking about someone and they actually contact you instead.  I got a text from Mel's mum asking for Emily's mobile number.  In the end us two Mums worked out a meet up, with the girls involved too.  With Emily's permission I explained her illness and how it affected her, Mel and her Mum were shocked and very supportive.  Emily was very anxious about starting up a friendship, which was why we'd arranged an activity, she worried she wouldn't know what to talk about.

The next day I took my kids and Mel out for a few hours and they seemed to have fun.  Back at our house they danced on the Wii and watched a bit of TV together.  Later Emily said it had been ok, it had been easier than she'd thought.

Last week saw a meeting with one of the Mental Health Workers and a number of people from school.  We went through all the worries Emily has and what might help in particular situations.  They had no problem with anything at all.  They have been so accommodating.  I thought when Emily asked to just do one lesson in the first week, that they would think it ridiculous.  Far from it, it didn't matter, whatever it takes to get her back in school with as little anxiety as possible.  I was amazed and immensely grateful.  They also agreed to move Emily to the opposite side of the school year so that she can attend some lessons with Mel.  Again, I thought it a long shot, but they agreed it was a good idea, it will give her a new chance at friendships away from the failed attempts last spring.

Emily has worked hard to get to where she is, and she will need to continue, but I have a much lighter heart knowing she will have a friend by her side.  So it turns out, Facebook's not all bad.