The Good Girl by Fiona Neill

‘The Good Girl’ is a thought-provoking novel with an extremely important message held within it.
The story centres around two female protagonists, Ailsa, the mother of three children and a head teacher at a local secondary school, and Romy, her seventeen-year-old daughter, and heeds a warning for all parents and their children in this modern day world filled with technology, where naïve decisions can have disastrous consequences.
The two different voices of the main characters are distinct. One being written in the first person and the other in the third aids this, and as you read it soon becomes apparent that the story is being told retrospectively. Readers are shown the disastrous event that the novel is leading towards in the prologue, and are carried through the months leading up to it, all undoubtedly with a feeling of dread in their stomachs. The dual narrative enables the reader to see the different viewpoints in relation to the disastrous event and the thoughts justifying each of the characters actions. It’s a fascinating and clever insight into the parallel lives of a mother and daughter relationship and how things can be viewed differently depending on who is doing the observing.
And either way, in the end, the consequences of Romy’s actions have far reaching effects that no one could have anticipated. And both Ailsa and her husband, due to their own past misdemeanours, feel in many ways responsible. For how one is brought up undoubtedly has an impact on who they are and how they parent their own children. However, times have changed an immense amount in the last few generations and parents now are often unable to relate to the lives of their offspring. Technological advances mean that nothing is ever fully erasable or forgotten. Something uploaded onto the Internet loses the ownership of the person in the photo or video and, once out of the hands of its stars, can spread all over the world.
Fiona Neill is very scathing of social media and the Internet and is very clear throughout the novel that she believes it can have a negative impact on a person’s life far after they have had their five minutes of online fame. It’s a lesson that everyone needs to learn. The novel also explores sexting and becoming addicted to Internet porn, both very real issues for all ages.
The book also looks at the different attitudes to males and females with regards to sex. In how men are somehow deemed manly and are revelled if they are highly sexually active, however girls are often broadcast as sluts and deserve everything they get. The inequality is a theme that runs through the book through Ailsa and her husband Harry, as well as their older children. Luke, Romy’s older brother is allowed to bring girls home by the dozen with his parents showing a very relaxed attitude to his private life. And, because he has chosen not to make a live video of said private life that is exactly how it stays.
The sharp writing carries this book along and I found myself thinking about the issues it raises long after I had finished reading it. The characters contain someone that everyone will be able to identify with – even the quirky sex therapists from next door – and the family dynamics make your empathy for each character shift over time.
This book is contemporary and intriguing and definitely something that every adult of teenage children should read. In a world of over-sharing and an Internet that is awake twenty four hours of every day we all need to be thinking about our digital imprint and the effect it could have on our lives and those close to us if something intended to be private reached the wrong fingers tapping at the wrong keyboard.

Thank you to Mumsnet Book Club and Penguin for sending me this book to review. I’d highly recommend it.

Sorry

Sorry: feeling regret or penitence.

I’m sorry if I forget your birthday, or your child’s birthday. I’m sorry if I don’t seem excited when you tell me about your holiday plans for the summer. Or revel in your good news as much as I should. 
I’m sorry if I forget to reply to a text or an email. Or I never answer my phone and call you back. 

I’m sorry if I forget who I’ve told about what, and I repeat myself or leave out important facts. Or that when you ask me how I am I either snap ‘I’m fine’ whilst grimacing, or spend the next twenty minutes moaning. Or cry. 

I’m sorry if you have to hear what has been happening from the mouth of someone else. 

I’m sorry if I seem unfocused and distant and that I often need to hide away and ignore life sometimes. Or that I forget to ask how you are and miss something significant that’s happening in your life. 

I’m sorry if I make excuses and cancel our plans, especially if it’s at the last minute. And I’m sorry for saying no to offers of coffee or wine. Sometimes I just need to be by myself

I’m sorry if o ring you at a bad time because I need to speak to someone right then and there and it can’t wait. And I’m sorry when the phone call is focussed solely on me. 

I’m sorry I can’t say I’m fine anymore.

I’m sorry that I’m a bit broken. 

Sorry

Sorry: feeling regret or penitence.

I’m sorry if I forget your birthday, or your child’s birthday. 
I’m sorry if I don’t seem excited when you tell me about your holiday plans for the summer. Or revel in your good news as much as I should. 

I’m sorry if I forget to reply to a text or an email. Or I never answer my phone and call you back. 

I’m sorry if I forget who I’ve told about what, and I repeat myself or leave out important facts. Or that when you ask me how I am I either snap ‘I’m fine’ whilst grimacing, or spend the next twenty minutes moaning. Or cry. 

I’m sorry if you have to hear what has been happening from the mouth of someone else. 

I’m sorry if I seem unfocused and distant and that I often need to hide away and ignore life sometimes. Or that I forget to ask how you are and miss something significant that’s happening in your life. 
I’m sorry if I make excuses and cancel our plans, especially if it’s at the last minute. And I’m sorry for saying no to offers of coffee or wine. Sometimes I just need to be by myself
I’m sorry if I ring you at a bad time because I need to speak to someone right then and there and it can’t wait. And I’m sorry when the phone call is focussed solely on me. 
I’m sorry I can’t say I’m fine anymore.
I’m sorry that I’m a bit broken. 

 

Preparation

Preparation: The action or process of preparing or being prepared for use or consideration.

How do you prepare for something you are dreading and that affects the whole family and a wide circle of friends? It is not easy, but it is necessary, for when the event happens, whatever that event may be, preparation is always the key to it going more smoothly. Yes, there may be bumps and bruises and unexpected hideousness along the way, things that are out of your control, but preparing as best you can for all eventualities, in my opinion, can only be a good thing.
Next week my six year old son is going to have a lobectomy and this week I am trying hard to prepare for that, both practically and emotionally, and I thought that if I wrote a blog post about my top tips for preparing for a young one be in hospital, it might help me, as well as maybe someone else.
It’s a scary thought, whatever the operation, and having spent a lot of time with my son in hospital recently, watching him have two general anaesthetics in as many weeks, I am more aware of what is to come this time.
So here are my tips:
Avoid Google – Oh this one is so important. How many times have we all Googled something and wish we hadn’t? Because it always ends up with the worse case scenario EVER!! My advice is to speak to people who’ve been there and done it. I was ever grateful for a close friend who took me aside before my son’s first general anaesthetic and told me that children fight it. That they don’t often fall straight to sleep in a fuzzy, relaxed state. And she was right, he did fight it and it was upsetting, but it wasn’t shocking because I knew it was coming. I have since spoken to friends of friends whose children have had parts of their lungs removed (everyone knows someone right?!) and their stories have been heartening tales of a vile few weeks, but a worthwhile outcome. (The operation is a bit like looking at labour when you’re pregnant for the first time, you forget that you’re going to have a baby/recovery time afterwards and that in itself can be harder than the op.)
Don’t Google, ask the doctors and the surgeon and find people. Ask all the questions you have.
Clothing – For both you and the patient! Hospitals are hot and uncomfortable places and the comfier and looser your clothing the better! They do not need to be designer or expensive, you’ll probably throw them away when you come out or save them for doing the decorating, but they really do need to be comfortable!
Parking – Parking in hospitals is pretty hit and miss. A few now allow you to pay by credit card, and some even let you pay as you are leaving so you don’t have to rush out mid appointment to pop more change in. Either way the trick is to do your research. There is often a cheaper public car park nearby. Keep some change in the car and if possible park in a car park that lets you pay on the way out.
Distraction techniques – Yes, you will need to be strong and find ways of distracting yourself during the operation. Personally I write, be it a blog post, a diary entry that no one will ever read, or my novel. It is hard to focus and I know half of what I write is rubbish, but that’s not the point, in writing I am stopping myself from catastrophising, which is good for no one. Watch Netflix, read a magazine or a book, get an adult colouring in book and treat yourself to some fab felt-tips, crochet, or do your tax return, it doesn’t matter what you choose, but you must make sure whatever you choose is at your disposal. Pack a bag in advance with these things in. Mine is in the study all ready.
Food and nourishment, for you – In that bag of distractions you need something to keep you going. Having a child in theatre is a sure fire way for your body to use up all of its reserves and you are no good to anyone if you are fainting in the waiting room. I pack flapjacks, slow release energy foods and water to keep hydrated.
Necessities – if you are staying in overnight with your child then there are some things you absolutely have to have. Earphones!! They don’t cancel out every noise, but they help and at least make you feel like you are shutting off the outside world for a bit. Face wipes. I know beauticians are now going ‘ah no they are the work of the skin drying devil’ but needs must. They work to clean not just your face as well. Dry shampoo. I did not want to leave my son for a second so showers were rare, dry shampoo saved me on many a day. And when I did have a shower I made sure I used my poshest shower gel and pampered myself! And finally, if like me you have a lovely friend who gives you her Netflix password, and another equally nice friend who allows you to borrow her husband’s noise cancelling headphones, then I suggest you get yourself some of these as well!
Buy a notebook – I have a notebook that I keep with me at all times. And every time a doctor speaks to me or anytime I think of a question in it goes. It is invaluable because your brain will not be in a state to retain certain bits of information, or you may only focus on the worse things you are told, if it is all written down in black and white it can be reassuring and help you make sense of everything is going on.
Friends and family – This goes without saying. You need your best friends on speed dial. People who don’t care if you phone them at 3am and do nothing but sob. People who bring you endless cups of tea and bars of chocolate. And remember they need your support too. I am very fortunate to have the most wonderful family and friends. People who know that, when I say they are suffocating me, to take a step back. And others who, when I isolate myself from them, know how to take a step forward. I’m learning that no matter how people try and help, I need to accept their help, even if it seems misguided at the time. Communicating with everyone s vital. People want to know what is going on. And that includes my other children. The three year old knows his brother is poorly and has to go to the hospital and that he will be looked after by his amazing Nana for a while. And then there’s my fourteen year old. Does she know that the surgeon may have to stop the operation to prevent her brother from bleeding to death? No, but she does know it’s very serious and that for a short while my focus will be elsewhere. And that I love her as much as I always have, even if I am not able to show it right then and there.
There’s not a lot that can make the harsh reality of risky surgery on your child any better, and for all my preparation I know will still be that mum in tears at the hospital next Thursday afternoon. But I also know that I’m ready, we’re all ready, and will have done everything in our power to prepare to support each other through it.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis: the identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms.

This time next Thursday, I will be sat at home with my fasting six year old, waiting to take him into hospital for a lobectomy. Surgery where he has to have part of his right lung removed because it is permanently collapsed, and what remains is a hot bed for mucus and bacteria.
This diagnosis and operation has been a very long time coming and, whilst I know that it needs to be done urgently before the rest of his lung is affected and he needs a more serious remedy, the preparation for a stay in hospital and surgery like this is not easy.
When my son was born he was a healthy baby weighing in at 8lbs 10oz. I had a normal delivery and we were home the next day. He fed well and after an initial scary weight loss continued to thrive. There were a few strange things that happened, which each of them on their own should not have rung alarm bells, but looking back now maybe were all connected. He failed his newborn hearing test, in itself not unusual, and soon after passed one at the hospital and was given the ok. He had reflux, as many babies do, but vomited blood one day when he was a couple of weeks old. The doctor checked him over and said it was nothing and a one off, which technically it was. Then at four months old he had an anoxic seizure. Again, he was referred to the hospital and checked over and they said it was a one off, which again, it was. (We did buy a breathing alarm for the cot after this, which thankfully never went off.) He had the usual coughs, colds and viruses, but nothing that required hospitalisation or more than one dose of antibiotics.
But he was always full of snot and mucus and had a permanent cough. It was present in the winter, spring and summer and was no worse day or night, but it was there and ever present and when he was two and a half was diagnosed with asthma. I remember telling my mum, right then and there after that diagnosis that he wasn’t asthmatic. That it was something else. But we trusted the doctors and gave him a brown preventative inhaler every day.
And he started to waste away.
Dark circles appeared under his eyes and he began to fade in front of us. He looked skeletal and every photo I have of him at that time I have had to delete because they broke my heart.
Again back to the doctors we went and he was put on protein shakes, as he was malnourished and failing to thrive. This was when the phlegm vomiting started. If he laughed, cried, ran too much or sometimes simply for no reason at all, he would cough until he threw up a yellowy grey pool of mucus. An urgent referral was made to a paediatrician, however the wait was for twelve weeks minimum.
We couldn’t imagine what would’ve happened had we have had to wait those twelve weeks and were so lucky that my husband had private health insurance. I spent over a day on the phone to various different people and ended up getting an appointment for the next week.
At that first appointment my son was checked over, had his chest and heart listened to and the initial thoughts were that maybe he had a cow’s milk protein allergy, reflux and possibly something wrong with his immune system. Bloods were taken, we were given Omeprazole for the reflux and advised to go dairy free, with a follow up appointment made for in a few months.
When we returned a couple of months later, I said that he was better, but not fixed. So we were referred to an ENT specialist who said maybe his tonsils needed to come out, but because he was not 100% convinced this was the problem and I did not want my son to have an unnecessary operation, we decided against it. The ENT doctor gave us some Flixonase for allergic rhinitis and off we went again, now with two different sorts of medication.
A few months later we were back and yes, again I said things were ok, the early morning marathons of coughing and retching were less frequent, but still I didn’t think we’d cracked it. So this time we were sent away with Montelukast to help my son’s lungs as the cough and phlegm vomiting were ever present.
I remember during this long period of time, when I was back and forth to the paediatrician, how frustrated my husband and I were. The paediatrician always said that with children they work very differently to how they do with adults in that they don’t do any investigative tests and work empirically. To us it seemed like they were just throwing medicines at us and I wondered if we’d still be going there in ten years time with our son now on a hundred different types of medication.
But what choice did we have other than to trust them and go with it? He was improving after all, and with each new medication we hoped we’d finally cracked it and solved the puzzle.
We returned again, a year ago, and this time we were given Certirizine, which is an anti-histamine.
The phlegm vomiting and cough all but disappeared and we started to reintroduce some dairy. He began to put on weight and had more energy than he’d had in a long time. The combination of the four different types of medication seemed to be working.
However in December, the paediatrician noticed that he had some clubbing of his fingernails, a sign of lung disease, and ordered an immediate chest x-ray, which showed a collapse of the lower lobe of his right lung.
Our son needed a four-week course of antibiotics in an attempt to re-inflate the lung. It didn’t work.
We were then referred to a respiratory paediatrician who told us some hard facts.
This could be congenital and he was born with a diseased lung. Or it could’ve happened from him having a nasty virus that damaged the lung. He could’ve aspirated something, which had caused the collapse. Or he may have a genetic condition called PCD, which had led to this happening.
There was so much to take in and the advice was that he would need antibiotics for the foreseeable future before having to undergo a bronchoscopy to look into his lung, followed by a two-week stay, on IV antibiotics, in hospital with vigorous physiotherapy to try and re-inflate it.
We spent three long weeks in the Children’s Hospital and he had IV antibiotics, two bronchoscopies and intensive physiotherapy all to no avail and so, at the next outpatients appointment, were sent for an immediate CT scan, which showed permanent damage to the lower lobe of the lung. It was never going to inflate fully again and needed to come out before it infected the rest of his otherwise healthy lung.
The operation is risky because the lung has been collapsed for so long and I’m dreading it, but that is where we are. He has on-going tests to try and determine the cause of the collapse, which we still don’t definitively know, however several results do point towards the genetic PCD condition, which has implications for his younger brother, who too coughs constantly.
He is a wonderful six-year old who has, remarkably, taken all of this in his stride. He hates cannulas (or ‘nasties’ as he calls them) but knows they need to be done, and if you ask him how he is he will tell you, in a very matter of fact way, that he has to have some of his lung chopped out, and that afterwards he will feel better and get all the presents in the world. Children are so resilient and are masters at not worrying about something unless they have to.
I could learn a lot from him.

Opinion

Opinion: In general, an opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective.

There was, as you are all undoubtedly aware and completely unsurprised about, another Twitter debate that involved/angered a large proportion of tweeps earlier this week.
And I watched and read every tweet with interest. Just as I did after the election.
But not just because of what the debate/argument was about, but more to see how it played out.
You see, I have been involved in many debates of the last few months, mostly during university sessions, and I have become fascinated by the way in which they work. People have always interested me and I always try and look behind the bravado and the words and to work out why they are saying or behaving in the manner with which they are.
Usually it’s about what has happened to them. Their past and all of the many varied experiences they have had which culminate in this thing we call an ‘opinion’.
And, more often than not, when people no longer have a valid argument or line with which they can follow, their response is ‘well it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.’
Entitled.
I think it’s that word that sits uncomfortably here. What makes someone ‘entitled’ to something? And does being entitled to an opinion qualify it and protect it from attack?
I’m thinking…no.
Opinions are constructed over time from influences both socially and culturally. For example, natural desires and behaviours corresponding to the female body are born from natural occurrences, whereas feminism stems from cultural constructiveness.
Everyone’s differing points of view are huge bubbling pots of individuality, into which ingredients have been slowly added and combined since each individual was born. In went what their parents thought. Followed by what they heard from their peers. Spoonfuls of ideas gathered from reading magazines, books, and newspapers. A large dollop of what they have watched on the television, or listened to the radio. Snippets soaked up from having travelled to different places peppered with the suffering of a range of illnesses and hardships.
And then…the wonder that is confirmation bias enables people to surround themselves with likeminded people who compound their beliefs. That flavour their opinion soup, so to speak. I mean, having experienced something that means you’re entitled to an opinion on it…right?
But then doesn’t everyone experience everything in a unique way? So won’t each person’s opinion be a different one?
I’m digressing somewhat. Which isn’t a surprise given that I am attempting to discuss something as diverse and complex as this.
Let’s take parenting a newborn as example. You’ll find that everyone has an opinion on that whether they’ve had a baby or not. And, oh, what a variety of opinions on how to handle a newborn there are, some of which are extreme polar opposites. They vary between genders, classes and generations. Instincts are those natural occurrences that feed desires and behaviours whether we are aware of them or not. And then there is the culturally constructed side of parenting. The attachment parents, the cry it outs, to name two. I’m intrigued as to what makes one mum differ so much from another and believe, sometimes vehemently so, that their opinion on how babies should be handled it without doubt the only valid one. It’s like the old nature verses nurture debate. Or…
Nature v Culture. Or…
Naturally occurring v produced. Or…
Natural instinct v human nurture. Or…
Emotion v reason.
I could go on.
The debate this week wasn’t one sided, it wasn’t even two sided, and was almost too complex for me to follow at times. But what I did follow was anger towards someone, who was technically expressing an opinion, a thought, voiced through many differing opinions. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground or initial questioning of the tweet that caused the outrage. There were sweeping statements and judgments and at times became painfully personal.
For me, what there wasn’t enough of was evidence. Some people believe that in order to have an opinion that you are ‘entitled’ to, you don’t only need to have experienced something, but studied it. Learnt the facts. Be able to back up your argument with truths and statistics from reputable sources.
One could argue that your own emotions are a reputable source and that you have an opinion because you wholeheartedly believe it.
Trouble is, those opinions are the easiest to attack and criticise. Not so much opinions, but beliefs maybe.
They are personal. They are individual. And they are real to the person who holds them.
In my opinion, we all need to be a bit more tolerant of those who do not share our views. Especially where those individuals in question are attempting to support and help others.
You are entitled to your own opinions, but what you are not entitled to do, is attack someone else because they don’t share the same ones.

Running Shoes

Running Shoes: slang, related term: give someone his walking papers. 

 

Depression has been in the news a lot over this last weekend and, sadly, for all of the wrong reasons. 

It is as though there are two clear camps on either side of the debate; those who have had depression and ‘get it’, and those who have not, and believe it is simply a state of mind and not an illness. Something that going for a quick run can nip in the bud before it gets a little too self-absorbing. 

There are many forms of depression, each one individual to the person suffering. Some may recover with counselling, some may also need antidepressants, and others will need a combination of the two. And yes, some may even find that putting on their running shoes and exercising will help them as well.

Depression can occur on its own or with a multitude of other issues. It may last for days, weeks, or years, coming and going out of your life like that unwanted friend you’ve tried to cut from your life several times in the past. It is not the same experience for anyone and each individual will need their own treatment plan. 

Before I had depression, I admit (rather ashamedly so) that I thought some people who claimed they were depressed could do with pulling themselves together. I wondered if they liked wallowing in self-pity and playing the victim. However, since suffering from it three times, I know that those beliefs are an utter load of rubbish and I’m horrified that they were ever something I thought were true. It is a very real illness and incapacitates people every day, buit doesn’t mean that when successfully treated they can’t do their jobs, or raise their children,and I don’t for one single minute think it means they may want to harm hundreds of innocent people. 

But I don’t know. 

What I do know is that whatever is going on in the poorly brain of someone suffering from depression more often than not makes perfect sense to them. Suicide isn’t cowardly. It isn’t selfish. It is a rational decision to the suicidal person. They think it is the best for everyone andseems like the most sensible thing they may ever done in their life. They don’t feel they have a choice. 

It is shocking that there is such a lack of understanding surrounding depression nowadays and it is causing so much damage.

I’ve never had a miscarriage, yet am able to support others through it. I have never had to deal with being terminally ill, and yet I have watched both my father and a close friend die and have helped others going through the same thing. Compassion and empathy aren’t difficult concepts and yet when it comes to mental health people seem unable to find it within themselves to imagine, for just one second, what it is like to suffer from depression unless they have experienced it for themselves. They judge. They reduce themselves to petty updates on Facebook and Twitter. They spout dangerous opinions,which harm others. They compound stigma and make people afraid to speak out. 

I am not afraid. 

I have depression.

I am taking anti-depressants.

I am having counselling.

I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, sister, a friend and an aunt, and having depression does not make me any less of those things.

I am fighting and working every day to beat this illness and I will not let anyone make me feel worthless or pathetic for having it

And may I kindly suggest, that if you don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to mental health, you keep your mouth closed. 

Put your running shoes on and jog as far away from me as you can.

Collapse

Collapse: verb (used without object) to fall or cave in: crumble suddenly: to sink into extreme weakness: (of lungs) to come into an airless state.

 

There’s a lot of time to think when you are in hospital for two weeks. Seconds, minutes and hours to get lost in your own imagination…or frustrations…or neuroses. 

You see things differently when you have a child who is unwell, at least I have. I don’t care about my weight, or money, or housework, or the little things. So what if someone is rude to me for no reason – it’s their problem and a reflection of how their day is going not mine. Who cares if I’m a bit late, or forget to reply to a text message the same day – true friends understand. 

These two weeks have taught me many things. 

already knew that I am very much a person who is both a people pleaser - desperate to be liked - and someone who can be quite intolerant of people. In many respects the latter has intensified during our time in here. Some people really do stress about the most ridiculous of things – which I guess are relevant to them, but still. And yes, that may sound harsh, but I…don’t…care. 

I’ve learnt how amazing nurses, physios, doctors and anaesthetists are. They are seriously awesome. They work so bloody hard and go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis. There are so many things that happen in children’s hospitals that have blown me away. Right now, my 5yo is sat with Wilf, a bubbly storyteller who is reading him a monster book that he is allowed to keep thanks to a wonderful charity called Readwell. My son isn’t usually a talker, but has opened up and is chatting like he’s known Wilf for years. The people who work here know children, and know how to make them feel safe and important. And of course they are wonderful at supporting us parents too. 

I’ve also learnt about the never-ending resilience of lovely little people. They simply go with how they are feeling at that moment in time and never, ever wallow in self-pity. They get on with it, day after day. No matter what is taken out of them, or injected into them. They may complain at the time, but when it’s done it’s as though it didn’t happen in the first place and their smiles are soon back in place. (Disclaimer: bribery and corruption may, of course, help to inject them with a bit of bravery!)

And of course, although my son is seriously poorly with a collapsed lung that is proving to be very stubborn and reluctant to inflate, and although he is puzzling the doctors as to why this has happened, even though he has a list as long as my arm of other symptoms, he is in himself doing a very good job of appearing to be a perfectly healthy young boy. There are many reasons why a child may be unwell, and varying degrees of how this affects them, I am talking here about my experience with my son. 

I knew sleep would be rare, but I’ve learnt that I can survive on less slumber than I thought. I’ve had a hunger that has in no way been satisfied, but have learnt to listen to my body and eat whatever I’ve craved – my figure will still be there under the blubber and waiting to return when I stop stuffing my face through comfort eating.

I didn’t know I could spend so long in one room (my son has been in isolation) and have dealt with my anxieties and stresses in ways I hadn’t considered before. (You all need Omvana in your life!)

I’ve learnt that one of the most painful sounds is that of a sick, young baby crying. 

I’ve learnt that noise cancelling earphones and Netflix have been the best way to spend the evenings and distract me from the many noises a hospital emits.

The generosity and love from others has been overwhelming. I don’t like being pitied, and have never been good at asking for help, but I have learnt that everyone wants to help and even if you don’t let themthey often do so anywayI’ve also learnt that everyone helps in their own individual way – ways as individual as the people offering the help are themselves - and to gratefully accept it all.

still need to learn to lock myself away from the outside world a little less, but must admit I have found it hard repeating my son’s current condition over and over again to so many different people. I love that they care and I am so humbled by the amount of people whoare thinking about him and need to know how he is, but at times it’s been too hard to talk to them all. What do people expect me to say when they ask how I am? How the hell do they think I am? I’m drained. I’m broken. I’m in a constant sleep deprived, anxiety ridden state. We’ve been here for two weeks. Two intense weeks of general anaesthetics, bronchoscopies, ciliary brushings, blood tests, X-rays, mucus tests, biopsies, physio, antibiotics, nebulisers, tubes up noses and into stomachs and more. There have been no diagnoses, only things we now know it’s not, and the lung is still partially collapsed. Harsh as it sounds it’s beeeasier to ignore people who ask me how I am than to tell them the truth and for that I am sorry. I’ve cried, I’ve had panic attacks, I’ve shouted, but I’ve done it. And I couldn’t have done it without every single one of those people who care having been behind me all the way.

I’ve learnt how my son is so very much loved. The get well soon’ cards and gifts from his friends have filled his hospital room, meaning he has never been short of things to do. Visits and video messages have put that infectious grin back on his face and given him renewed energy and strength. 

I’ve learnt how mature a thirteen year old can be. My daughter has been such an amazing support and has quietly got on and organised herself whilst we’ve been to and fro from the hospitalMy two year old has also surprised with me with how aware he is that something isn’t right. He’s needed a lot more cuddles during the last couple of weeks when I have seen him. Mind you, so have I. I miss being at home as a complete family. 

I knew my mum was wonderful and amazing and supportive and she has done nothing but cement that knowledge. She is the best.

I knew how bloody brilliant my husband was. He’s stepped in during the night shifts when it all got too much for me and I needed to go home. He’s listened to me rant. He’s wiped away my tears. And he’s not complained (much!) and was always there when we needed him. He has been such a support whilst also dealing with his own emotions. Not to mention the fact that he had to cancel his yearly snowboarding holiday. That did not go down well!

I’ve learnt that some illnesses are hard to diagnose and even though you want your children to be fixed, it’s not always straightforward. Trusting doctors can take a lot of effort at times, amazing though they usually are. 

I’ve learnt that I can cope with more than I realised. 

And finally…I knew that my five year-old son was awesome…but he has blown me away these last two weeks.

Fingers crossed we get some answers soon – I’m still learning to be patient.  

       

Backwards

I wrote this post a couple of months ago, and today, on #timetotalk day where everybody is encouraged to take 5 minutes to talk about mental health, I thought I’d temporarily come out of blogging retirement and publish it.

Backwards: (of an object’s motion) back towards the starting point.

So where am I right now. Well, it’s safe to say I’m not somewhere good. It would seem life is handing me more shit and I’m firmly back at square one. Back where I never wanted to be. Except now it’s not post natal depression, it’s just plain old depression. And it fucking sucks.

It all started with a panic attack that came out of no-where and knocked me for six. A few weeks of trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I was fine only served to allow the depression to fully take hold until I couldn’t do anything anymore except take myself back to the doctors and admit it. And now, four days into a brand new batch of antidepressants, I am feeling worse than ever. It’s so cruel that the one medicine that helps cure this evil illness makes you feel a million times worse before you feel any better, and that it can take weeks and even months before you do feel better.

I forgot how much hard work goes in to simply surviving when you feel like this. A shower can feel like a huge achievement, actually managing to leave the house a fucking miracle. My anxiety is at a level I never knew existed and insomnia has taken hold once more. And we all know sleep deprivation is bloody cruel. My body feels like it is on fire and I am battling minute by minute not to let it overwhelm me.

Oh and the guilt. I feel like such a failure for being here again. I feel like I am letting everyone down. My husband, already not fully recovered from the last time I lost it, my children, all now that little bit older and that little bit more aware, and my friends, who have to deal with phone calls and texts at all hours when I can’t get my fears and emotions under control. I feel like a burden to everyone.

I am angry too. Angry that I’m here again. This year has been one of the most challenging in a long time and I thought I was coping well. Turns out that sitting at your desk on a daily basis crying because your job is so horrendously stressful, then leaving said evil job and embarking on a Masters with three demanding children possibly isn’t the best thing to do for good mental health. If only I spoke up more and asked for help and support instead of putting on the smile, being the joker and hiding behind my, often inappropriate, sense of humour. I knew a long time ago I wasn’t right, but refused to admit it or do anything about it. Powering on through really is a load of bollocks at times.

So what now. Well now I will wait for the side effects to go and the tablets to kick in. Thankfully this is the last week of university before we break up for the holidays so once my assignments are handed in on Thursday some of the pressure is temporarily relieved.

I will not let this beat me. I recovered once and I’ll be damned if I can’t recover again.

Done

Done: no longer happening or existing.
“her hunting days were done”

Social media and I have had a bit of a falling out recently. I’ve not blogged for ages and have taken a bit of a step back from Twitter. I’ve been mulling over this a lot, and whilst I haven’t definitively come to any particularly conclusion as to why this is, I’ve certainly realised a few things.

Social media is a very powerful tool. It influences millions – sometimes positively and sometimes in not such a positive way. When I first joined Twitter I was breastfeeding a newborn baby and enjoyed stalking celebrities at 3 in the morning. Then, as PND took it’s hold for the third time, I frantically used it to find people going through the same thing, either to convince myself I wasn’t ill or to reassure me that you can indeed survive on very little, if not no sleep. I was becoming obsessed with confirming all of the things I thought in my very poorly head and whilst Twitter, blogs and forums provided some comfort and helpful suggestions there were also a lot of dark and dangerous things on there. I read some things I didn’t want to read and saw pictures that once seen, can never be forgotten.

Thankfully I have very wise friends and family who helped me channel my energies and into getting better and starting a blog. Wonderfully cathartic, it felt amazing to be able to write openly and honestly about things I was experiencing. Chats on Twitter were fun, supportive and honest, and some of the people I have met through Twitter and blogging are truly amazing. But recently, I’m beginning to wonder if it all offers a bit of a false sense of security. Some people claim they can only be themselves on Twitter, that they cannot be real in real life and that all of the friends they have are virtual ones. And some say that when they have a problem – sometimes an extremely serious problem – Twitter is the only place they feel they can go for help. Help from people who are not experts. Who do not actually know the person in distress, do not know their triggers or their history – in fact they know nothing about them at all. And I see people offering advice about babies they’ve never seen, giving mental health advice to suicidal people, and becoming outraged for someone they’ve never met, only ever hearing one side of the argument.

Now I’m obviously not saying don’t ever go to social media for support and advice – my goodness no it can be a wonderful place and so many people and organisations on there are doing amazing work for smashing stigma, supporting sufferers of mental health and aiding new and overwhelmed mums, and that’s wonderful when it’s done properly – but sadly social media lets anyone join, and when you’re vulnerable and fragile you can easily take the wrong advice, from the wrong person.

The deeper I have gone onto the world of blogging and social media, the more disillusioned I’ve become. In some parts it’s a hugely supportive and comforting group of people, yet in others it has cliques, comment rings and a whole load of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ shenanigans I had no idea existed until recently. Some people deliberately provoke, whilst others constantly seek attention. Some blog from the heart, and some do so for ratings and to up their stats. The lives and personalities people project online are often very different from their reality – even mine. It has all increasingly unnerved me over time, and do you know what? I don’t think I can do it anymore.

I’m tired of Twitter arguments. I’m sick of the monthly scoring system which seems to drive everyone bonkers and become totally competitive. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. And it can be extremely upsetting at times.

When I started blogging it saved me and has quite literally turned my life around. I was able to find my voice again after an evil illness. I found new confidence through writing and having people read, comment and enjoy my blog. It has opened doors to me that I never dreamt possible and the future is so unbelievably exciting for me right now. But I do feel I’m done. I’ve reached a point where I’ve no more to give with ‘mummy blogging.’ I don’t want to review endless products; the power of trusting your instincts as a mum has become so wonderfully recognised by so many; and writing about PND is about to happen in a novel. Put simply, my writing and I have moved on.

I will still write, I will always write (and tweet!) and I may even start a new blog all about that. But for now – with heartfelt thanks to all the blogging community has given me and to every single one of you who has read my blog – I’m trusting my instincts, and I’m done.

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