Selling myself… Not an easy task!x

Apologies (especially to Lizzie!!) for not writing recently. Being back at uni, doing my last year of a psychology degree, has sent me into a mini breakdown! I do so much reading for an assignment and then get totally overwhelmed with what direction to take, so I end up getting frustrated and achieving nothing!! But I know I’ll get through it just as I have done up until now.

So I’m having to start thinking of what to do when I finish. I was planning to go on and do my masters and PhD but have decided against that. So the plan is now to try and get a job where I can fully use my degree and maybe continue learning at the same time. Therefore application forms need filling out and I need to sell myself – which I am totally rubbish at!

But how do you make yourself sound amazing but not big-headed?

The application form I am completing at the moment is asking for scenarios when I have demonstrated leadership, relationship-building, and self-awareness to name but a few! I also had to do a video saying why I want the job and what I have to offer. Luckily Lauren has got a good set up due to filming for her youtube channel – so at least the lighting was good, the acting not so! We wrote a script and then Lauren read out a couple of sentences that I had to repeat as she was going to edit it afterwards. Well it took 27 mins (mainly of swear words I won’t repeat) to end up with 1.30 mins! I haven’t watched it back as just hearing it, while she was editing it, was enough. I’m not sure it will win me any Oscars and I’m fairly sure it won’t get me through to the next stage, but hopefully it will give me a bit of experience in completing applications as its been many years since I applied for a job. Please keep everything crossed for me!

So in other news… Lauren is doing OK, not great but OK. I’ve been up to Leeds every few weeks to see her as she’s not managed to get home. I just love our girly time but would love to be able to pamper her at home. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before she can manage it.


Broken legs and broken minds…

Sometimes I find it difficult to make people understand how it is for Lauren. I know everyone is sympathetic and tries, but I’m not sure they really ‘get it’! But then how can I expect them to when I don’t sometimes – and I’m not even sure Lauren gets it 100%! So I tried using an analogy for my sister the other day (she really is a concerned Auntie who just wants the best for L) as she was struggling with the idea that sometimes there is no point in setting goals, as no matter how hard L tries, it just doesn’t make a difference. I’m not sure if the analogy was correct but Lauren seemed to agree when I told her later – the pain she feels, and the struggle she faces, is like someone who has two broken legs who has just been told they have to climb up Sacre Coeur (which has a tight spiral stair case with 270 steps). I was just trying to get her to see that although we all know it’s the mind that causes anxiety, the symptoms are as physical as any other illness and therefore she can’t just ‘make’ herself better just as someone with a broken leg can’t ‘wish’ themselves better.

I think it finally made her realise that this wasn’t a case of mind over matter, thinking positively, and pushing through it, and that Lauren is doing everything in her power to conquer this even though at times it seems an impossible task!

Well it’s been a few weeks since I was last in Leeds, and wow what an improvement. Last time Lauren couldn’t get much more that 100 meters from the flat but today we went on a long walk, crossed busy roads, and went in 3 shops!! And then we went for a 10 minute car journey. To be honest that was all she could manage today, but we will try again tomorrow. I was meant to be picking her up and taking her home for a couple of weeks, but I’m not sure that will happen now, but that’s cool as I still get to spend a few days with her and it’s amazing to see her happier and more confidant that she will get through this particularly bad episode. And if she does manage the journey then that will be a bonus – but no pressure, just love and support.


Looking back… Looking forward!

Three years ago today my Facebook status was ‘Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the thought that this time next week we’ll be travelling North! So excited for my baby girl tho’.

Time is a funny thing…I can’t believe it is almost three years ago since Lauren ‘left home’ to start her new adventure at university in Leeds. But at the same time it seems a lifetime ago!

A lot has happened since then I guess. I started my access course at college just after she left and am now about to start the final year in my degree. Lauren did a year in Leeds, moved to Brighton, and then Crawley (on her placement year), and has been back in Leeds for the last year. She is also about to start her final year doing her degree.

Kieron travelled to the other side of the world whilst backpacking for six months, and is now back home working, and partying, hard.

Wow, when you think back so much has changed in three years…

So I wonder what the next three will hold? Trying to think that far ahead blows my mind a bit. I’m a massive planner, and like things to be set in place, so not knowing is kind of difficult for me… but it’s also fabulously exciting!

Bring on more adventures…whatever and wherever they may be.


How would you describe it?

There are many words associated with mental health – many of them technical terms that we don’t always understand, and are sometimes too scared to ask for clarification.

But the truth is there are many ‘everyday’ words that describe how someone, living with any form of mental health issues, feels. Now as I’ve said previously, I have anxiety issues that can limit my ability to do things at times, but generally I am in control – however it means I can relate to these feelings.

Words such as frustration, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, sad, scared, weak, despair, concern, dread, worry, frightened, but also hopeful, wishful, happy, determined, excited, lucky, fortunate, strong, optimistic, to name but a few – and I’m sure you could add 100 of your own to this list.

As a ‘parent, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend’ of someone with mental illness, these feelings are just as real, sometimes even more so as looking from the outside, unable to help or take the pain away, can sometimes feel completely overwhelming.

At times I have wanted to shake Lauren to get her to see what she has going for her. I have definitely shouted at her, got arsey with her. And if dragging her onto a train by her hair would help, then believe me I would be willing to do it. I was telling a friend the other day, that if I could do anything to make Lauren better, even if it meant she never spoke to me again, then I would do it in a shot (as I’m sure any parent would). But these are in my moments of desperation… desperate to see her live her life to the full, achieving everything she wants, have a happy life. But if I’m being totally honest I guess it is for selfish reasons as well. Lauren and I have such a good relationship and we love spending time together. We can laugh at situations that no one else would find funny, take pleasure in the little things, and are just generally best friends. So I miss her! I still love curling up and watching a film, cooking a meal together, coming up with mad business ideas etc. But I miss going shopping, having meals out (whilst watching coaches go past with naked men on them – that’s a story!! Haha), and would love to be able to go on holiday with her sometime. But most of all I miss seeing her happy.

I know in my heart that these things will happen again, soon I hope for her sake, and therefore ‘patience’ is another great word as a Mother to someone with mental health issues. Patience, love, and understanding… these are the words I try my hardest to live by.


Happy and prouder than proud!

Just wanted to write a quick post to say how happy and excited I am this evening. Lauren has been really struggling for the last month with her agoraphobia. When I went to visit a couple of weeks ago she could hardly leave the flat, and the one day we managed to get more than a few feet away, she had six panic attacks – you can read about it here

She is due to come home in two weeks, and although I will be driving up to Leeds to pick her up (as she hasn’t been able to do public transport for over a year now), and she feels as comfortable with me as she does with anyone, she was panicking about the journey and wasn’t sure she would manage for four hours home. I obviously told her not to worry, as I would just drive back home and then go back to Leeds for the weekend, no pressure and no problem for me – well apart from the fact that it would break my heart.

So I went out to friends BBQ on Saturday evening, feeling very worried, upset, and deflated that I may not manage to get my baby home for the two weeks we’d planned. But then I got a message from her to say she had just been for a walk after downloading a meditation app, and had gone the furthest she had gone since this really bad episode had begun. Hope started creeping in, and I felt so happy that she had had a ‘breakthrough’ moment. But I was also feeling very scared that this was a one off. But today she has managed it again, even going near a busy road that has caused her so much fear over the last few weeks.

Now I know this does not mean she has magically ‘got over’ agoraphobia, and I am aware there may be setbacks, but it really feels like she may have turned a corner and things are looking positive. Lauren has written a post about it, click here to read it, which just shows how optimistic she is feeling.

I am so thrilled and proud.


We just want the best for our children…

Having children can break your heart! When we give birth we want their lives to be filled with love, success, and of course good health. We want them to have a better life than ours, to be filled with everything they desire.

I can remember my Mum telling me she wanted me to be more that she is. I used to think she was silly as she has a great marriage to my Dad, they have a lovely house, she was a teacher (which she loved) and they were reasonably comfortable financially. Why on earth would I not be happy with that as my lot? But now I get it, you want your children to have everything, an amazing family, a beautiful house, a good career, and health and happiness always.

So what if this doesn’t happen? How are you meant to feel? Guilty that you didn’t do a good enough job? Angry that you couldn’t make it happen? Sad that your child does not have a ‘perfect’ life? (but then again what is perfect?) Frustrated that, no matter how much you wish you could help and take their pain away, there is sod all you can do?

I think all of the above, with many other emotions added to the mix. Watching your child suffering is the worst feeling ever. Not being able to ‘fix’ the problem is heart-breaking. And not knowing why this is all happening to your beautiful baby is so difficult to handle.

Sometimes there are no reasons for the shit that happens… but unfortunately sometimes that are.

From the age of 15 to 18, Lauren dealt with panic attacks and eating disorders. As I wrote in a previous post, she went to Canada a couple of months after she turned 18. I was desperate for her to be well again, and baffled as to why she was ill in the first place. But then I discovered a letter…

I spent the week after she left in tears. I remember doing a supermarket shop and just bursting out crying in the middle of an isle. For months before she went, my main focus when shopping was buying things to tempt her to eat, suddenly she wasn’t there to look after anymore and her recovery was out of my hands. Then I started crying even harder, realising that she was alive and had a chance now and others weren’t so lucky. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but I felt lost and desperate!

I needed to feel close to her, so I decided to clean, tidy and sort her tip of a bedroom, so it would be perfect for when she got home (which was not for another six months!) Tucked at the back of one of her draws was a folded piece of paper addressed ‘Mum’. So I sat down to read. A cold feeling of despair took hold of my entire body as I continued to read – Lauren had written about the experience that had happened when she was 13 and I knew nothing about. I screamed for Big G to come, he ran up the stairs wondering what on earth was wrong. I just passed him the letter, as I couldn’t talk due to shock and tears. As he read I could see his body slump, wtf, how could this of happened to Lauren, and how could we not have known?

But what could I do about it? Lauren had only been gone a week of a six month trip. Should I ring her, email, skype? How was I meant to talk to her about this other than face to face? Should I jump on a plane? But how could I? She’d gone to Canada as a last resort so how could I jeopardise her recovery? Having discussed it with Big G, my sister, and my best friend, it was decided that I would keep it to myself until she returned home. I’m still not sure that was the right decision but you can only do what feels right at the time. It’s fair to say it was the longest six months of my life, for many reasons! Sometimes I wish Lauren had had the confidence to talk to me about what had happened before this, but I’m so pleased that she managed to eventually. Since then I think she has shared everything with me. I know she worries about me getting upset, but she knows without a doubt, that I would always rather know how she is feeling. I don’t need her to protect me – I’m the Mum, I’m the grown-up – I can deal with everything she needs me to deal with, and will be there by her side (even if I can’t help that much or make it all go away).

We don’t know for definite that this experience, at 13, triggered her mental health issues, but they have certainly had a major affect on her life. If only we could turn the clock back…


Heartache and empathy…

Until it happens to you can never imagine how you will feel…

This can be said about many things and although we try to empathise with someone in pain we can never truly experience what they are feeling, until it happens to us.

One example of this is miscarriage. I was expecting my third child seven years ago this week, but a scan at 10 weeks revealed there was no heartbeat and so I had to go into hospital to have my baby taken away. This child was a surprise, not planned, and it had taken Big G and me a few weeks to get our heads around it. It finally sunk in with him, whilst waiting for the scan, that this was a baby we were talking about, not a ‘problem’ and the excitement fully set in. Within half an hour that joy was well and truly stamped on. The total grief I felt was all consuming.

I had always felt sympathy for anyone who had suffered from a miscarriage, and unfortunately it happens far too frequently. But I also reasoned that something must have been wrong, it was nature’s way of sorting problems, everything happens for a reason. And then it happened to me and I realised what a load of bullshit that is. I cried, howled even, grieved and yearned for my child. I know I’m one of the lucky ones as I already had two beautiful children, and for that I feel blessed, as many people are unable to have children. The doctor told me I could try again, but as I said, this baby was a surprise and I didn’t just want a baby, I wanted THAT baby.

Seven years on I have come to terms with it, and my life is good. I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do with a young child, so I have to believe in the ‘everything happens for a reason’. Since this happened I have had family members and friends that have had this tragedy happen to them, and at least now I really know what they are going through having walked in the same shoes. Although I would never wish anything bad to happen to anyone, these experiences make us more understanding, empathetic beings which surely can only be a good thing.


Looking back…

Looking back I guess Lauren has always lived with a certain level of anxiety. When she was at junior school, her anxiety led her to have to a couple of hypnotherapy sessions which gave her the confidence to deal with things and ask for help. But the panic attacks started around the age of 15. These meant she hardly went to school, and when she did manage she spent most of the time in the medical room and I had numerous phone calls to go and pick her up. Then it was the summer holidays, and she hardly left the house, just spending her time watching TV and eating toast! She did receive some CBT at the time, although this did not seem to help. But then, as quickly as they started, one day the panic attacks stopped!

Life seemed to get back to ‘normal’ for a while. I’m sure Lauren had stuff going on but I was unaware of anything at the time. So now we jump to a few months before her 18th birthday. So Lauren is lying on the beautician’s table having her legs waxed and I feel this wave of panic wash over me when I look at her legs. Now I knew she’d lost a bit of weight, but as a teenager she was very private about getting undressed around me so I hadn’t realised just how much she had lost. I can remember feeling sick to my stomach and had no idea how to tackle talking to her about it. I can’t really remember what was said, but I remember feeling that I had to ‘fatten’ her up before it got any worse.

It was a battle between wanting to force feed her and also not to make a big deal out of food as I thought this could make the situation worse. So every time I went shopping I was on a mission to find things that would tempt her to eat just a small amount. I was so scared of losing my baby but had to put on a brave face as didn’t want her to feel any of the fear and anguish I was facing. So we plodded along for the next few months, she got thinner and thinner but I think I was too scared to take her to the doctors for fear they would diagnose an eating disorder, thus making it real. So I continued burying my head a bit, trying to get her to eat, and willing her to get better.

Christmas came and went and Lauren went back to school, or so I thought! After a week of her leaving the house at the normal time, and coming home at the end of the day, she admitted that she had dropped out of 6th form before Christmas! I didn’t have a clue how to react – my baby was throwing her life away and I didn’t know what to do. But then I took a minute and realised that her health and happiness were far more important than her education, and that she could always go back the following September.

Within the next few days I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment – maybe she could go to Canada and stay with my family for a few months. This was a crazy idea as neither of us really knew this family (I’m adopted and we are talking about my birth mother and the family she had since married into) but I was getting desperate. Nothing I was doing was helping Lauren get better so I thought maybe a complete change of scenery would be the answer. I knew it was a ‘do or die’ situation, literally, but what other choice was there.

So I jokingly suggested it to Lauren, who immediately messaged Canada, and within a couple of days her flight was booked, passport ordered, and she was leaving in three weeks. Looking back it was a very brave move, for both of us, but I have no doubt it saved her. I still feel guilt and shame that I couldn’t ‘save’ her (after all it’s my job), but also proud that I had the courage to let her go. But in the end it doesn’t really matter what, or who, helped her through that awful time – just that she got through it.


Thank you!

Maybe one day I will get used to the support, encouragement, and lovely comments that this blogging community offers, but for this morning I am bowled over!

I’d better fill you in on me a little…

Mum of two – Lauren (who you all know) and Kieron (who you will hear more about I’m sure). I was divorced from their Dad when I was 30, and then met ‘Big G’ when I was 33. We got married four years ago, and I’ve never been happier.

I started hairdressing when Kieron first went to school (I was 28) and although I loved it, and I still do to some extent, I got bored! I couldn’t wait to leave school at 16 but as I got older I developed this desire to go to university. The aspect I still love about my job is talking to people, finding out about their lives – they are fascinating. And it’s true what they say; hairdressers really do get told everything!

I took an access course at a local college and then started at UEA doing a Bsc in Psychology two years ago. In September, I start my final year and therefore I need to start making decisions as to what I do next…

Anyway that’s me for now!

The one thing that concerns me a little about writing this blog is the fear of hurting or insulting anyone. Lauren and I have our own way of talking about mental health and I’m sure not all of it would be considered ‘PC’! So, please, if I get the terminology incorrect, or if I cause offence, know this would never be my intention and I apologise from the bottom of my heart.