Confessions of a chronically ill mum #19

Hi. It’s been longer than my usual long while since I posted COACIM. In fact, I haven’t been writing anything much and definitely nothing so personal. I’ve had neither the inclination or the ability, and I’ve barely been keeping up with my medication not least my mothering responsibilities. It’s all felt like such a lot lately.

Not sure if I mentioned here before, but back in March I saw a consultant about my cholesterol. It was ridiculously high, putting me at serious risk for heart and cardiovascular diseases. I resisted starting medication because I’d not long commenced HRT. I’m already quite heavily medicated for my anxiety, fibromyalgia and migraine, and statins have a bit of a bad rep for side effects. Anyway, last month the consultant called me and said I had no good cholesterol in my body and without medication ‘it’s not a case of if you’ll have a heart attack or stroke it’s a case of when’ adding firmly at the end ‘you’re a ticking time bomb.

This conversation took its toll on me mentally, as you might imagine it would. Especially because since the appointment in March I’d been working really hard on looking after my health and essentially this consultant was telling me it wasn’t good enough. I felt at this point as though I had little choice, so I ignored my reservations and started the statins.

Long story short, so far the side effects are indeed awful and I have been really unwell. The worst flare up in my fibromyalgia symptoms I’ve seen for some time. I have been wading through treacle each day, or at least that’s how it’s felt with the level of fatigue I’m suffering. Brain fog and my memory, which had worsened significantly since starting HRT anyway, is now shot to bits. I’ve always prided myself on having a good memory and taking in information but for the last two weeks I have barely remembered what day it is, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve led in bed on days I’m supposed to work and been confused at why my alarm is going off and Kaiser’s dressed for the childminder. I’ve not been able to write because I can’t remember what it is I’m trying to say. It sucks, and this post itself has taken me a week to finish.

As you may know fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and profound fatigue. Since starting statins this has worsened and I have severe muscle pain, while also feeling as though I have the flu, all the time. I’m napping during the day when Kaiser naps and having to throw water on my face to stay awake during a work meeting. I can’t lift my son because my body feels too weak.

Parenting is kicking my proverbial. Day and night, night and day. Even after having a break last weekend to sleep and recharge whilst the kids were with my mother in law – it doesn’t feel like enough. I need a break after 10 hours. Shaun and I are drifting with no real idea where the fuck we’re going because we’re too exhausted to hold a conversation. He is knackered from picking up all the slack and it’s pretty shit because I don’t know what my alternatives to these tablets are. The consultant made it sound as though their wasn’t one. Kaiser has started walking and yes…he’s a total babe, but he’s also hands down the most exhausting human I’ve ever come across. I find being his mum a privilege and sometimes, like now when I’m not feeling my best and being brutally honest… a chore.

I have a feeling Ciara might be going through some developmental changes, because her emotions are all over the place and it can be hard work trying to prize out of her what’s going on. She is a tiny perfectionist whom hates doing badly at anything and it’s become more pronounced this term. I don’t know why or how this has become such a big deal to her because we rarely ever tell her off and absolutely never for getting something wrong or making a mistake. It’s gut wrenching to see your child grapple with their emotions. She also has the hearing of an elephant and questions everything you say, remembers it, then recites it back to you… so there’s no hiding in this house and sometimes let’s be honest, mums want to hide (well I do anyway)

Finally, I wanted to add that I’ve been feeling quite sentimental and at times, extremely lonely. Your world can become horribly small when you’re unwell and people do drift. I’m not blaming those people because I know it’s nobodies fault – when someone (me) is constantly cancelling plans and letting people down, often last minute, you lose your place as first on the list as an invitee…. I just think Covid and everything else that’s going on in the world right now has highlighted to me how insular I’ve become. It’s a bit of a dichotomy for me to be honest, because part of me loves being in a familial bubble and not having to explain myself to people or show up for small talk, but the other part of me is in need of genuine social and human connection. What I do know is I don’t really have a lot to say about much other than my health and the kids, and I’d like that to change soon, adding a bit of me back into the bargain.

Overall, and in spite of what you’ve just read, I’m happy. I’m trying and sometimes even succeeding to not letting myself be sucked down into my usual negative cycle of mum guilt and self loathing. And I feel immense gratitude to be embarking on new journeys and to have had some really amazing and exciting opportunities come up for me recently. I will elaborate at some point but ultimately what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want this post to be all doom and gloom, because my life isn’t all bad in fact it’s mostly good but it’s still hard to live with poor health when parenting small and impressionable children.

I do also have a HRT update for you but for now I can’t even begin to concentrate enough to fill you in on that, too. It’ll come soon if I can manage it! 💙

Confessions of a chronically ill mum. #4

It’s all been going on! Since last week’s news about my health, I’ve been determined to go full steam ahead with the diet change. For us, living on takeaways we can’t afford and binging on food instead of our pre kid vices like booze and fags, has been the norm for so, so long. Shaun set us a goal of no takeaways in February and I know we’re only 2 weeks in but for a couple who ate pizza and mail order brownies several times a week, we’re smashing it. I’ve signed up to do a diabetes prevention course which I’m keen, but also stressed about getting started on. Keen because I want to make the best changes possible, but stressed because it’s another thing to try and squeeze in to my ever full appointments calendar.

Kids

Kaiser has started crawling! At seven months old, Ciara was crawling at six months plus two weeks, so this didn’t come as a huge surprise. But how annoying are kids that move so soon?

Confession - This week Kaiser had to see a paediatrician. I won’t go into detail here but, we need to get a urine sample from him. Note I say need and not needed because after two hours of trying to catch his piss in a plastic tub, inside a waiting room on the children’s ward, I gave up. I also, and shoot me for being a terrible mother, wished they would just do a bastard heel prick blood test and let him scream! After failing in my attempts and wrestling him into a position that wasn’t comfortable for either of us, I left the appointment sweating profusely in unbearable pain and doing a lot of cussing. Nobody wants to see their baby in pain, but dear god I would of preferred the blood spot over that pantomime. Worse still I am going to have to endure the debacle all over again in my second attempt. Have googled whether it’s ok to wring out a nappy, but have been sadly informed it is not! Fucking Kids!! To top that, Ciara had an appointment at Bristol Eye Hospital and fainted! My second confession is that I was glad it was Shaun that was with her and not me. I know that sounds awful but I also know I would have panicked so badly I wouldn’t of been able to cope. Or maybe I would, maybe I’d have dealt with it on autopilot. Right now though, I’m just glad she’s safe and seems to be otherwise fine. She’s so desperate to go to school tomorrow for her non uniform day in aid of Childrens Mental Health Week that I’m letting her sleep with me tonight so I can monitor how she’s doing. 

Hormones

I’ve been struggling immensely with TMD and went to the dentist on Monday only for them to shave off half of one of my wisdom teeth and then tell me that probably won’t work. PSA, it didn’t! Unfortunately, hormones (those bastards) really flare up all of my pain and it’s not unusual for me to experience horrific TMD during ovulation and through luteal.

Speaking of hormones, I’ve been taking progesterone for around 4 months now, and whilst I am seeing some relief from the mental health symptoms, physically things are no better. In fact I may even go as far as to say they are a little worse. It’s hard because I have to weigh up what is worse, and realistically I know it’s the crippling anxiety and thoughts of suicide, along with inexplicable rage. But knowing this still doesn’t make the physical symptoms any easier to manage.

Breakthroughs

What I will say though, is that I am managing the mental symptoms I am experiencing, much, much better. And I think I have therapy to thank for that. It’s a slow burn, therapy! It makes you feel vulnerable with each session, but the more vulnerable you can allow yourself to be, the less that vulnerability is able to take hold. Then suddenly, seven months later, you realise you are doing better! You don’t always feel it, but you know it’s true. The feeling of drowning in quicksand every time you have a bad day gets less, and it starts to feel more as though you’ve just been inconveniently splashed by a car driving through a muddy puddle.

I’m not saying I’m cured, or that I will never have episodes of dread and impending doom again. But I feel right now, that if I do experience that again, I have more tools in my arsenal to help me fight it. I’ve another eight weeks of group therapy to get through before I can be discharged from the perinatal service. Discharge looms, like a black cloud really, because I’ve been helped in so many amazing ways by the team that I’d like to be able to talk to them about my trauma forever. At some point in the not so distant future, I’m going to have to hold my own hand.

Is Elf On The Shelf making you feel like a crap mother?

Apparently, according to the world of social media, the answer for some is yes. But I’m gonna call bullshit on this one and say it’s likely not the elf but the comparison to other mums that’s making you feel inadequate.

Let me explain…. As someone who uses Instagram to share family life, and who chooses to celebrate and share both successes and failures, I am very aware of how seeing things online can impact your mental health.

There are a whole host of topics that could or should be banned from social media. Topics that in my opinion elicit trauma, and if it was up to me I would choose not to read or see the things that trigger me.

Oh wait, for the most part is IS up to me.

I am able to mute, unfollow, ask not to see this again, in order to clean up my news feed.

Hence why I find it just a little bit unnecessary when someone has a rant about how Elf on the Shelf is making mothers (them) feel inadequate.

People who have tidy houses, are hugely successful and look like supermodels make me feel inadequate, but it would take me one hundred years, most likely bitter years, to successfully call out all of these people on their pretentiousness, but why would I want to?

Don’t get me wrong, as a disabled mother on a low income, I know what it’s like to be hard up. I’ve experienced trauma and I know what it’s like to struggle with your mental health. We all have triggers. All of us. But we also need to take stock and stop blaming others for triggering us.

The mum posting her child’s toy elf prancing around on a plastic dinosaur is not doing so to make you feel inadequate.

Realistically, she is probably doing it to make herself feel better, a silent high five to having remembered that Fergus-Frosty-Pants the elf needed to move his matchstick body, to another part of the house after her kids were tucked up in bed.

Similarly, the mum who takes pride in her home and posts pictures of it, is not doing so to make you feel inadequate. She’s sharing something she’s proud of.

I’m not a big fan of sharing hauls, or how many presents my kids get, mainly because I’ve always been brought up not to place too much value on material things, but you know what? If I could afford to do all the things with my kids that I’d like, if I could afford to shower them with gifts that fill rooms, I probably would. Of course we need to educate our children not to place value on how much they receive, I had a conversation just yesterday with my daughter about being grateful for all that she has as opposed to being sad about the things she doesn’t. It started when she sulked walking back from the shop because they didn’t have the Christmas tree biscuits we usually buy to decorate this time of year. We had a good chat about all the lovely things we’ve done and the crafts we’ve made in the run up to Christmas and that sulking about not being able to decorate some chewy gingerbread, kind of pales into insignificance if we compare. We talked about how there will inevitably always be things we want that we can’t have. Things others have that may make us jealous or resentful, but this is part of life. It’s literally something we all, even us as adults (clearly) will experience often. Comparison is the thief of joy and if we focus on what everyone else is doing and allow it to make us feel shit about ourselves, we lose sight of all the great things we have and if I’ve learned anything in the last year (and I like to think I’ve learned a whole lot) it’s that gratitude is not only a healthier way to eradicate the feelings of inadequacy that comes with comparison, it also helps us to feel better about what we have.

I see posts all the time saying ‘it’s ok if you don’t have XYZ this Christmas’ and of course it is, but I’m nonplussed as to when anybody suggested it wasn’t.

I myself am guilty of previously following trends, especially with the kids. Always wanting to make sure my daughter has a birthday party as great those of her peers. Don’t forget the photo ops, balloon arches and all that. However, I’ve learned that actually she’s happy if there is food and dancing, and she doesn’t really give a shit if she has 100 balloons positioned into a giant rainbow at five years old. I’ll add as well that all of these things are available in DIY and don’t cost the earth if you’re prepared to graft yourself.

We’re all human, trying our best, wanting the best for our kids, and it’s hard enough to avoid the never ending guilt that is placed on us as mothers, without turning on each other for moving around a felt elf, two weeks a year.

Just do you. XOXO

Tired and Needy – the follow up to Love For Lockdown.

I wrote a post a little over a week ago about my love for lockdown. I still love lots about it, like the family bubble and not having to worry about the outside world. In fact I still love it—full stop! Buuuuuut, I’m also losing my shit a bit. I’m still worrying about stuff that isn’t on the scale of importance to most people.

Like it’s a rollercoaster, right?

Up, down, plateauing and plummeting.

I struggle with life under normal circumstances I don’t ‘cope’ well on a daily basis. Well some might say I do cope well, and others think I’m mad.

— Balance

Writing is my salvation but I have to admit there’s little inspiration flying about my gaff, so I’m losing my creative flow and my anxious mind is finding room to fill up the creative space instead.

If you suffer from anxiety you may relate to some of this. Or you might think I’m a nut job. I am.

I have a brain that understands rationale but doesn’t practice it.

I have a desperate need for reassurance and it’s exhausting to be honest: it’s exhausting for me, it’s exhausting for my friends, my family, and  it’s exhausting for my husband.

Years of therapy and we’re no further forward in killing the bug that is my insecurity.

I know where it comes from – I don’t need a £50 an hour shrink to tell me about it (again).

I know it’s not rational or reasonable but I genuinely can’t help it.

I can’t help how I feel inside my head sometimes. I say sometimes, because it’s not all the time. Sometimes I am content, it can be fleeting, but it does happen.

I am one of the first people to harp on about getting the help you need when you need it for your mental health, but I have had help, lots of it in abundance, and variety.

I’m not fixed, because you can’t ‘fix’ people.

I manage better, better than I did 10 or 15 years ago, but my neediness and insecurity hasn’t dissipated, it probably never will, because it’s part of me.

It’s in my makeup to worry, fret & overthink.

During this lockdown I’ve occupied my days with all sorts of filler. Some of it has been really pleasant and some of it has been unintentionally damaging. The trouble is you don’t always know which is which until it’s too late and even things like reading books and watching TV can play a whole heap of havoc with an anxious mind.

If you too are feeling tired and needy I can only reiterate the importance of having a mental clear out! You’ve probably heard this a lot during the span of Coronavirus. I’ll say it again anyway.

Take time to find things that bring you small wins.

—Something that makes you grateful.

—Do something you enjoy like painting your toenails or going for a walk.

—Cook something exciting.

—Phone a friend.

—Be wary of what you’re watching and reading. I love nothing more than crime thrillers to read, but sometimes they get inside my head and it can create a state of heightened anxiety without me even realising it.

—Pick something you love about yourself and focus on it for a little while.

—Cuddle your kids and remind yourself you’re doing your best.

—Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s a tough time for all of us.

You’re not wrong for feeling how you feel. You can’t help it, but you can try to do little things that reinforce the positives. I’m trying to take my own advice today. I’m trying to do a few small things that help me feel better about myself and the current situation. Some days are all consuming and it’s ok to fall apart every now and again.

Feeling guilty about it won’t help. Instead try and concentrate on what’s needed to put yourself back together again.

I won’t profess to own the secret to a positive mindset, it’s something I battle with daily, but it’s also something that really does work if you can get the can of it. Positive minds attract positive vibes.

A Decade Of Lessons

The last 10 years

Well, it’s been a testing decade that’s for sure, but it’s also been the most amazing pilgrimage of self discovery I’ve ever been on.

I feel like the last decade is where I really became an adult and anything before was part of my youth.

In 2010 I was glassed in a nightclub in an unprovoked attack whilst out with friends, and it shook me beyond measure and took me to a place I didn’t know existed. I’d been in fights before, been given a slap when I probably deserved it, in my teens, I’d even (believe it or not) been hit with a bottle before, but it hadn’t shattered the first time and this was on another level. This was in response to me just being out having a laugh with friends, and it could have left me blind. Thankfully, physically most of the scars are on my décolletage and not my face (though I do have a dent in my skull) it could have been a lot worse physically.

But despite keeping up appearances, mentally I was scarred beyond recognition. I was scared too just by the weight of the attack, but in being scared I got angry.

I went ‘mad’ for want of a better word. I was wild. Following that night every time I went out I braced myself for a row and alcohol only fuelled that self destruction. I got in more rows and fights than I’d ever had before. I rowed and physically fought with my then partner, and when I ended that relationship I continued down a rabbit hole of hell.

I did some messed up things and 2013 saw the catalyst to that phase of crazy.

I lost my job, almost my house, and I was alone. Friends had given me a wide berth and my nights out were spent with people I didn’t even really like and who only hung out with me for some drama or entertainment.

I’ve always had a need to fill the shoes of the life and soul of the party, but I’ve filled them by acting like a fool. Being the loudest, the craziest and the wildest person in the room.

I met my now partner at the end of that year. I saw the new year in in Ireland with a good friend and it was like something just clicked, an epiphany if you like, and I didn’t want to be that self destructive, unemployed mess, that I had become.

I got a job, a pretty good one, and from there life has progressed at a steady pace. The following year I was shaving my hair off for charity and raising thousands of pounds. I’ve had some backslides, like being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and it’s affect on my both my physical and mental health. Having a baby wasn’t an easy feat for me, and it can be hard work just being ‘normal’ most days, but I’m surviving it, and thriving too.

Last year my mum nearly died from a freak fall and I can say with certainty, I’ve never been as scared as I was then. It puts what’s important into perspective.

Nowadays I don’t feel like I’m falling from Beachy Head every time I wake up. I don’t want to hide for a week after a night out anymore, and I don’t wish I was dead. Even on the bad days, I’m glad to be alive.

I still feel like some days I fight stigmas and a bad reputation, but it took me a long time to make it, so I guess it’s only normal that it will take me a long while to break it, too.

That being said, my future is bright and I’m lucky. All the people in my life are in it because they want to be and contribute in some way to helping me be and feel better. So I’d say, despite all of that drama, this past decade has been pretty spectacular and I’m looking forward to the next one. Taking nothing for granted is my only resolution.

Happy new year 🥳

Save me

I started writing this last week and it’s taken me ages to finish because I have so much to say but also it could probably be more condensed. Bear with….

To anyone feeling like they’re making a mess of their life and unsure which way is up. I have some advice, it may not be the best but it comes from a place of empathy and sadly experience.

Have you ever heard the expression

‘Some people can’t be saved’

Whilst thinking about this I came to the realisation that they can, but they can only really ever save themselves.

I always say that my daughter saved me. Saved me from a depression so deep rooted, so old, it was painted shut, that it’s presence under the surface of my life was always there. If I’m being wholly honest it’s still there sometimes, but it’s not painted shut anymore, it’s not glossed over like a sash window that no longer opens. It breathes. I talk about it, honestly, and the window opens a little more each time.

Shaun helped save me too, save me from another bad decision or a kick off I couldn’t take back. But in the end it was me that picked up the broken pieces and got them ready for gluing back together.

I believe you have to hit rock bottom in order to resurface your new self. Half hearted attempts don’t work. YOU have to work for it. You have to meet your worst case scenario and move up from there, you have to feel like you have no other way to go, and I’ve been there.

I’ve lost friends, loads of them. I’ve lost a job or two inadvertently, because I couldn’t commit. But most of all I’ve felt like I had nothing left to fight for, all the anger and fear I had used previously to power me through another drama was gone. There was no risk of people I loved giving up on me because they already had.

There was no risk of being called names and gossiped about because the worst things had already been said. I had accepted I wasn’t popular because of my behaviour and so came the time I wanted to prove them all wrong. You have to want saving. You have to want to save yourself.

It’s not easy to rebuild your life when you’ve spent so long bulldozing through your happiness. When you’ve been so insecure you’ve picked apart everyone who provided reassurance. I found substance abuse is usually something that fits comfortably along side being depressed, that false sense of ‘everything will be alright tomorrow, after just one more hit’ it won’t. In fact, it’ll probably look much, much worse and you won’t remember what it is you did or said. You won’t remember who you hurt & if you do remember you’ll justify it by convincing yourself they deserved it. They may well have deserved it, but it’s YOUR mental health that will suffer because of your actions, more so than anyone else’s. It’s you that will have to pick up the pieces of your broken life and convince the auctioneer they’re worth something. You better polish them up good, so they’re shining brightly for the highest bidder because if you let them go for less than their value, they’ll be smashed to smithereens again in no time.

I don’t qualify as a mental health expert and I always feel like I’m being really patronising when I try and give advice because I remember so vividly how fucking infuriating it was when all these lovely people with lovely lives tried to help me.

In the end it was the tough love that really did the trick. It was the realisation that I was losing people I loved from my life because I didn’t know how to behave. Some relationships are still beyond repair and that’s something you have to live with when you make mistakes. Now I won’t pretend that a reputation can be erased or easily saved. It my experience, it cant. There are some people who genuinely want to see you fail and some people you might hurt too deeply to expect their forgiveness so if you’re after a quick fix to sort your life out, you won’t find it in redemption. Redemption is life long. Recovery is life long. Looking after your mental health is a commitment you have to make more eternally than any other vow. You have to pick yourself up from the gutter and swallow any pride you ever possessed. Pride is useless it doesn’t salvage anything. It wont protect you, and it definitely can’t fix you. Swallow it, even if it chokes you. Admit defeat even when you feel you were coerced into behaving like a total cunt, just admit that you fucked up. Say sorry, mean it and move on because waiting for an apology from someone who hurt you can easily end up with a life wasted on bitterness and the hope of revenge. Tell the truth even when it’s painful, because people need all the facts before they hand out forgiveness like sweets on Halloween.

So if you’re reading this and wondering if you can be saved. The answer is you CAN but the only person who can save you is you, and it’ll be so worth it.

How’s this below pic for a comparison and a bit of Monday motivation? 9 years later and with a few less bad habits life looks better, but I’m under no illusions that I’m still digging myself up from the hole I dug myself into and probably always will be. The difference is now I want to get out!

10 things I’ve come to accept after having kids.

1. Being ignored – yep, you can kiss goodbye the idea of a toddler listening intently to anything you have to say. Their cute little elfin ears are only there for decorative purposes!
2. I’m a shit cook. – I must be because I can’t fathom another reason why my kid prefers Birdseye fish fingers instead of my lovingly prepared, home cooked food. 
3. My body will never be the same. – the piles are here to stay by the looks of it. But it’s ok, it’s brought my fiancé and I closer, him, closer to my asshole when I need him to help apply ointment.
4. Nobody else really matters. – You still care about all of your friends and family, but random opinions are better shrugged off when you have kids to care for. Oh you don’t like me? Not got a second of free time to care hun. And even when I do care, I’m better at moving on.
5. I am going to be skint forever. – Me: gets a bonus, I know….. I’ll buy my child another months worth of plastic shit, instead of buying those Dr Marten sandals I so desperately desire, or using it for something important like paying the TV License (Disclaimer I do pay my TV License, BBC!)
6. Punctuality- It is no longer my ‘strong point.’ For years I used to give this as a strength in interviews, you’d be surprised how well it worked. Not anymore Sunshine, have you ever tried getting clothes on a moving three year old whilst they’re in the middle of an episode of PJ Masks?
7. Quiet sex- gone are the days I’d try and imitate a Cathy Barry squeal. Now I have to lie there pretending I believe in Scientology because if you make me wake the kids up, I’m gonna cut a bitch.
8. I can’t be bothered – That’s right, I don’t have a good excuse for everything anymore. I’m so tired I just can’t be bothered. Wanna come over? Sounds great, What shall we do? Erm… you watch the kids and I’ll sleep how does that sound?
9. Date nights aren’t the same – Don’t get me wrong they’re still great and necessary, but they’re no longer spontaneous, they don’t hold the kinkiness they once held. You get ready whilst trying to put your kid to sleep or get them over to the babysitter and just before you’re about to leave, you eye the other one skeptically, almost telepathically asking them if they’d prefer to go to sleep, because, you know, you wouldn’t be offended if they said they would.10. Life is short – clichè but so true. The years whizz by faster than you can catch your breath when you have kids. They age overnight, as do you. Life is a collection of memories, and with this knowledge I try and create better ones everyday. Don’t waste a second worrying about the things you can’t change. Do the things that make you smile. Don’t hold on to anything that makes you miserable. If like me you struggle to let go, talk to someone. Never regret anything that helped shape you. You are special because of what you’ve been through.

Parenting with booze

Friday is coming around quick smart and we’re off to Beni with the diva, on her first abroad holiday. I’m already dreading the plane journey, I know a potty accident or a tantrum is bound to occur.

But whilst I moan and await my child’s drama to unfold, I got thinking about the ‘booze Britain’ culture and whether or not I’ll indulge in a cocktail or several poolside.

I have a bit of a hang up about drinking booze around Ciara. I promise you this is a non judgemental post so if that’s your thing I am definitely not judging, but I remember how I perceived drunk people as a kid and I didn’t like it, so for me I tend to avoid booze when she’s in our presence. Let’s be clear here that Ciara is only three, she isn’t quite self sufficient yet and therefore it’s always in my mind she may wake up in the night and I’d be too pissed to hear her, or too comatose to get up and change her bed after an accident.

That said, I know plenty of people, friends and family who do like a drink or two with their kids and they are still great parents.

I just don’t personally feel I’m at my best when I’ve had a few jars, and if you know drunk Steph you’ll probably understand why. My language is atrocious!

The honest truth of it is: I don’t like the restricted feeling I get with booze when Ciara’s with us. It’s a high alert feeling and I tend not to be able to relax fully.

Some people use alcohol to relax but I use it to get in the mood to party.

To me 1 or 2 beers is as interesting as a cup of tea.

It’s gotta be 5 or 6 or I’ll give it a miss.

I’m aware this makes me what people like to call a ‘binge drinker’ but it seems to be where my relationship with alcohol is at.

I avoid it at all times accept in social situations and then I have a no restriction approach. I say no restrictions loosely, it still means I need to be responsible enough to know my own limits, sometimes that’s the case, sometimes not so much. When I do overdo it. I pay for it. Not just with a headache but mentally too and I can become anxious and depressed. Therefore even with the occasional binge, I do try to know my limits.

I know all the info about binge drinking and it’s dangers and implications, but I still choose to be able to have a bigger booze once in a while, over a few drinks often.

That’s not to say I won’t have a couple on holiday, maybe I will, it’ll ultimately depend on my ability to relax. What I do know is I won’t be getting steaming like I am in the below picture – main reason is: The hangover is sure to make me feel like the worst mother in the world.

I love nothing more than knowing Ciara is well looked after at Nanny’s when I’ve got a bad head from too much booze. That way, I know she’s safe and I don’t feel guilty for being too lazy to do anything with her. Just as I wouldn’t feel guilty for leaving her to go to the spa or for afternoon tea. I know grandparents and babysitters are a luxury some people aren’t afforded, and I’ve been lucky that when I do need a night out Mum is on hand to save me from mum guilt the next day!

Bottom line is, happy kids usually means happy parents and vice versa, so I think if you know your own limits and your kids are well looked after, it’s ultimately up to you what they’re exposed to, or not.

I can still relate to the mum’s who post pics of their wine at the end of a long day as easily as I can, the ones who post about drinking a hot cuppa, and even the ones who get wrecked on a night out, because I’m a mum and we all have vices to get us through the tough days.

I know not everyone will agree with occasional blow out culture, and that’s fine, because as mum’s we all have our own way of doing things, we all parent differently and each of our children will be different in different scenarios.

Maybe if Ciara didn’t wake in the night I might feel more able to relax, or maybe when she’s older I’ll indulge a bit more in her presence, but for now my relationship with booze is more like an occasional booty call you can enjoy every so often, as opposed to a marriage.

5 things not to say to someone with mental health problems.

1) But why are you depressed? What have you got to be depressed about.

Maybe nothing. Why have you got a cold when it’s warm outside? Getting the message? Things that seem trivial to some are huge for others and maybe there’s not a specific reason. Remember it’s a chemical imbalance, an illness like any other.

2) It could be worse, you need to think yourself lucky.

And you Karen, need to shut the fuck up. We know it could be worse. It could always be worse. But honestly, that’s irrelevant and unhelpful.

3) You just need to ______ (insert unsolicited advice here) go to the gym, eat better, go out more, lighten up. Etc etc.

Again, unhelpful and bordering on offensive. A) We may have already tried what you mention or B) We may not feel able or ready to tackle these ‘small’ things yet.

4) Chin up, cheer up, smile…

Suck a dick, eat shit…. see where I’m going with this?

5) At least you haven’t got____ or you’re lucky to have_____

Don’t state the obvious. This is the reason many people feel unable to speak out, in fear of being ridiculed or not taken seriously.

These things may seem obvious, they may seem a bit pedantic but to be frank, they could save someone’s life. In my experience someone who is really suffering mentally needs the opposite of what these words convey. They need a listening ear and empathy, not an I told you, you should… or a chin up! The age old saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, doesn’t apply to people with depression. All it takes is a little bit of rephrasing on your part. Nobody expects you to walk on egg shells but try to put yourself in that persons shoes and ask yourself if you would find the above 5 things helpful to hear in your time of need. If the answer’s no, stop saying them!

Hamster Wheel

Do you ever feel like your on a hamster wheel?

Round and round you’re turning but you still can’t seem to heal?

You’re doing what they say, talking and moving, eating drinking.

But you’re still not able to stop your mind from over thinking.

Intrusive thoughts they grow, as if from a planted seed.

They are watered daily by you, even given feed.

You want to stop the cycle but you’re not sure how.

You try to spread awareness but it doesn’t seem to help.

You feel like you are failing, as a mother and in life.

But you’re so not failing, I wish you could see.

How strong you are getting through everyday and going about your routine.

People don’t seem to notice, but don’t do it for them.

Do it for yourself, write a journal, grab a pen.

Whatever makes you feel better is an improvement, an act of self care.

Don’t let other people’s opinions ruin your hard work.

They aren’t you, they’re not there.

You’re doing so amazing, I wish that you could see.

To others, to me, just how strong you seem.

Rejection

Rejection.

I’ve never taken it well. From my father to boyfriends, one night stands, friends to colleagues, interviews and talent shows. I don’t even like the word –

R E J E C T I O N – ugly isn’t it?

As an adult you really do have to accept it to a certain degree, applying for jobs and not getting them, trying to get your writing published and getting turned down, it’s all par for the course on that journey we call life. However that, for me, doesn’t make it any easier to handle. I find rejection a real personal slight and I internalise it in every which way possible.

I applied for a job last week that I had convinced myself was the only job I wanted and needed despite it being a draining drive all the way there.

When they emailed me, yes emailed because in business these days people seldom call you to tell you when they don’t want you – when they emailed me to say I had most of what they were looking for but lacked knowledge in a specific area, I was gutted. They then proceeded to say they were putting the job back out for advert. So, go figure, I have almost all the desired skills but rather than train me on the few I’m lacking you’ll just keep hoping the better person will come along. Thanks hun.

They may as well of just said ‘No thanks, you’re not good enough’ – Ok I’m being a bit melodramatic, but seriously I find that kind of recruitment so unconventional. Whenever I’ve interviewed people before of course they are judged on their skill set and have to tick boxes, but I also get a feel for them as people and their desire for the job in question.

Do they want it?

To add insult to injury one of the articles I’d written for a magazine was also declined. It was about taking antidepressants whilst pregnant, a really relevant topic with the mental health crisis being as it is, and maternal mental health being still such a taboo. I’d edited it to a standard of polished finery, it was good.

And their reason for not publishing it, it didn’t set the tone they were after. Which is weird considering they asked for honesty, real life, feminist type topics. Everything my article contained.

I often think my style is an acquired taste because I do write with an honesty that can sometimes be construed as offensive although that’s never the intent.

I have to defend myself here and speak up though, because I know I have a niche and I want to be heard. I know my writing resonates with hundreds of women. That’s not being arrogant, it’s ok to be good at stuff you know!! I love words and I feel I use them well. I use my voice to speak up about parenting, chronic illness and mental health and I know that all this rejection I’m receiving is ammo for a new article – queue this post. However, I can also write reports, stories poems and so on, so I think I really do have to learn to accept rejection, learn from it, and keep plugging away.

People will tell you you’re not good enough, but what they really mean is they have an idea of what they want and you’re not it. The secret is to try and see past the rejection and use it to prove them wrong. But I have never really been very good at secrets and I can’t help but feel like I’m failing. I feel like I need validating, as if that will prove my worth.

But even after this, off I went, geared up applying for more jobs, saw another I knew I could do and wanted – pay wasn’t amazing but right now it’s about ticking over whilst I write, rather than making my fortune. Filled out the application, again to a standard of polished finery and got to the bit where they ask if you have any criminal convictions. I do, and whilst now spent, this role included providing details of even spent convictions. So I wrote down my 2 convictions and 2 cautions.

All from a time long ago, when I was at rock bottom and a bit of a reprobate. Also all pre my life with Shaun and Ciara.

I filled out the form anyway – nothing to lose, and I’m sad to say I’ve not had even an acknowledgement.

So how, I ask are we supposed to rehabilitate? I’m not defending myself, I know I was a knob and did some stupid shit age 22/23 like kicking off in the street and breaching the peace, my worst crime was driving drunk. Something I will never forgive myself for as I know the damage that could of caused endangering others. I’m so sorry for that, and thankful I didn’t hurt anyone. It’s something I have paid the price for though, I can assure you and something I’d never do again. Ever!

I didn’t commit fraud or burglary, I didn’t bring harm to people or get involved in hate crime. I just didn’t know when to hold it down and my decision making was erratic. They were all, (accept one when I was 13) offences committed whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.

You often see these amazing inspirational stories of people turning their lives around and that’s me, I did that too, but I’m not always being given a chance to prove it. We had Ant back on our tv’s after doing the same thing and we still love him. He made a mistake but he’s not a bad person. He didn’t have to deal with job rejection when being honest about what he went through. I understand some roles don’t fit if you are potentially at risk of reoffending especially, crimes involving children and the elderly. We have to protect people’s welfare first and foremost but we also sometimes have to take a leap of faith. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and take a chance. I’ve not just done bad things in my life, I’ve done some amazing things too. I’ve raised over £10,000 for charities, been a good friend, a good mum, kind… there is always more to people than meets the eye if you’re willing to educate yourself.

Being rejected is something I wonder if I’ll ever be able to cope with but I am determined to keep trying, I’ve turned my life around and I want to show my little girl that her mummy never gave up when trying to be a better person than she was the day before.