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.

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.