It’s OK to not be OK

Today is World Mental Health day. A day to break down the stigma often felt, experienced or targeted against people as a result of their mental health. We are brought up from a young age to go and see our GP (or other health professional) whenever we feel like we have any physical health issues. So why is the same not true for mental health?

Because it can be perceived as a weakness. There can be too much shame attributed to it. Too many times people are told to “just get on with it”. There isn’t the same obviousness to any mental health issues the same way as say a broken leg or even just a sore throat that can be immediately identify by other people. Nor does it get the same support as conditions like heart issues or cancer. As soon as anyone hears of someone having one of these illnesses they immediately understand the severity of the situation, even if they don’t personally have any experience with it.

We need to start giving the same compassion to mental health issues. They, and I am talking on a personal level, can be totally life encompassing. Right now my life is on hold due to my mental health while I work towards recovery and healing. And I strongly believe that if there wasn’t a social stigma in admitting that you are suffering with mental health issues, and that you needed help and support then then I possibly wouldn’t be suffering to the extent that I am now. That I would have been able to hold my hands up earlier and asked for the help that I am now getting.

But I couldn’t.

I was more concerned about what people would think.

And that’s not right. It’s ok to not be ok. What matters is being able to say that right now I’m struggling, I want help and with that help I can heal.

The Black Dog

Today my therapist showed me a short video. It was about the black dog of depression. I’d heard the term before but had never really looked into any message it was trying to convey, or what it was about.

But wow did this speak to me! I really saw myself as the man in the cartoon. The way he described the impact his black dog had on his life was totally relatable to me. So much that you could put a cartoon Jane in there instead and it would be 100% accurate!!

It’s something I’m going to rewatch a few times as I really think it will help me to put words towards how I’ve been feeling. This isn’t something I’ve been able to do very easily due to the brain fog, yep another thing that the ghastly dog is responsible for!! But now that I’ve found something accurately and personally descriptive it’s going to be a good point of reference for me.

Oh and as my therapist told me today the the term “black dog of depression” was coined by Winston Churchill (did not know this!) I will be naming my own black dog after the current prime minister. As he is a pain in the arse puppy who makes a mess of things, needs training, jumps all over you, doesn’t listen and generally upends your life. So my black dog is now known as Boris. And he will hopefully one day move out!

Recovery aka Operation Jane

That’s what my therapist is calling it. With the goal result being helping me develop coping strategies to deal with the traumas he says I’ve suffered in the past, as well as to better face things in the future.

Because my way – pretending to deal with things and then stuffing them away in a figurative box never again to be opened isn’t working. It’s just like having a messy closet that has been stuffed full over the years. Eventually one day it will burst open, make a mess and it’s difficult to get it all back in without sorting through it all first.

This is what happened. My mental closet burst open in the summer. The result was serious anxiety and depression which has had a major impact on my life. I’ll write about that another time when I’m able to.

For now, I’m taking one day at a time. Today Jacks school shared a post about having an optimistic October from Action for Happiness (https://twitter.com/actionhappiness/status/1443601008786034688?s=21). So I’m going to try my best to follow out. Hopefully it will be one of the steps towards a better, more positive outlook xx

News that changes both everything and nothing

“Yes, Jack does indeed have an autism spectrum disorder” – Those were the words last Monday that both confirmed a long believed theory of mine (and Ronnie’s) and also changed the way that I look on life for Jack in an instant.

When I say changed the way that I look on his life I am by no means suggesting that he cannot fulfil the same future that he could without the diagnosis.  Far from it!  In fact I am going to make it my main purpose to ensure that he flourishes in every way possible. He is just different, not less.

What I do mean is that I will no longer make any presumptions with regards to his understanding, comfort, development.  Everything has to be 100% the best that is available for him.  There will be no chances and no “oh I’m sure he’ll be ok”.  I will not put him in any situations that he could find overwhelming.  His happiness and freedom from anxiety is key to any decisions.

But as far as everyday life does an autism diagnosis really change much?  Well no it doesn’t.  He’s still my Jack.  My funny, inquisitive, cheeky, resilient boy who has already proved at such a young age that he can cope with the worst that life can throw at him in losing his daddy.  The Jack before Monday and the Jack after Monday are exactly the same.

What does change now is my mindset.  That it is me that has to change.  I have to learn to stay calmer with him when he’s overstimulated.  Learn not to be frustrated when he’s being repetitive.  Learn to read him a bit more to try and pre-empt any meltdowns.

All I can do is my best and I hope that is enough for him.

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Revival of the blog

So I haven’t written anything since the New Year.  Mainly that was a deliberate action as written things down was my cathartic release of thoughts during the first year. I’d survived year one of widowhood and found a way of getting things out so I didn’t bottle them up and they’d possibly eat me up inside.

So when Year Two began I took a conscious decision to step away from the blog. Felt like it had done its job.  I had a new proper job, just the weekends with jack and we had our dream holiday to Florida to look forward to.  Yes it was tiring. But really what parent with a full time job isn’t exhausted all the time??

That took us up to the 18month mark. And that meant the holiday to Florida. The happiest place on earth (really it is, I’d live there if I could!). And an amazing two weeks we had.

But since then it’s been back to reality with a bang.

The reality that I have no life outwith my job and being a mummy. And that’s hard to accept.

It’s so difficult going from being a family unit to just being the one who is responsible for everything.  There is absolutely no down time.  No longer is there someone to take some of the load off.

So I have reached a point where I am completely and utterly exhausted, mentally and physically, all the time.

So as of this week I am reducing my work days to 4 days. Yet jack will be staying in nursery.  That may sound selfish but I need some time to be me.  To just do things to look after me.  Or we’ll both suffer.

I need to be a person again. And not just a widowed mummy.

New Year Musings

2016 was undoubtedly the worst year of my life. It’s a cliche and sometimes people are so blasé in saying it. But when a year begins with experiencing one of the worst things ever you do measure the rest of the year by that yardstick.

So yes I was glad to see the back of 2016.  A new year is always a clean slate and an opportunity to look forward to new possibilities and beginnings and that is exactly what I plan to do.

After finding some inner peace on what would have been our wedding anniversary in May I certainly approached the second half of 2016 in a more positive manner and can absolutely say that Jack and I are happy.

Yet when looking at the year as a whole it is still difficult to not let the circumstances of how it began cloud my whole 2016 sunmary.

So how did I celebrate the end of this horrible year? By myself and in bed well before the bells as I’m loaded with a cold.  For a few mad moments I concerned keeping Jack up later than his 7 o’clock bedtime but considering he becomes a cross between the Hulk and Tasmanian Devil when he’s overtired I decided it wasn’t worth the extra effort just for some company.

But just knowing that someone, just one, had the foresight to ask if i wanted some company would have been appreciated. Especially knowing that without Ronnie I’d be alone once Jack was in bed.

And that’s hurtful.

Yes I have Jack and so am limited in what I can do but it would have been lovely if some of the “we’ll always be there for you” or “thinking of you” had actually materialised.  Now I think of them as empty promises/thoughts and something that people just say for the sake of something to say.

Spending a night renowned for celebrating with loved ones is incredibly lovely. I’ve not gone out on Hogmanay for a number of years and have been happy spending it at home.  But spending it at home with someone is completely different than spending it alone.

Just because I’ve said that I’m happy and moving on with life doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t appreciate the offers of company at times like this.

It’s incredibly difficult to admit that you may actually want the help and company that had previously been offered.

So my 2016 ended exactly as it began. With tears and heartache.

But with a renewed determination to build an amazing life for me and Jack and to do whatever I need to ensure we are happy. 2017 will begin, continue to be throughout and end happily.

Celebrity deaths take 2

Earlier this year i wrote a blog about being completely unaffected by celebrity deaths since Ronnie died and that i found the whole outpouring of grief when a celebrity dies rather fake.
Today was different.
Today I was in tears on waking up and finding out that one of my favourites George Michael had died.  And with Ronnie being a big fan of 80’s music I knew that he would have been devastated as well.

In fact, the news affected me so much that I did one thing that I never do.  I felt that I had to contact his partner Fadi.  Especially when I read that it was Fadi that found him dead in his bed.  Exactly how I found Ronnie.

There is a stabbing pain that goes through you and stays with you for a while when you realise that the person you love and are trying to wake is never going to wake up.  That they are not just sleeping peacefully but sleeping forever.  That the last time you spoke to them before they went to sleep was the last time.  Yet you never had any inclining that it would be the last words you will ever say to each other.

I know that Fadi will never see my message.  Yet I felt like I had to let him know that he is not alone.  That he needs to focus on the memories and the happy times.  That even though he may at this moment in time feel like he is all alone that he is not and that there are others who know the pain that he feels just now.

George, rest in peace and give Ronnie a hug from me and Jack when you see him xx

Christmas thoughts 

As Ronnie died in January this is the first Christmas without him. So inevitably I’ve had the “I know Christmas will be tough” and “I hope you manage to have an ok Christmas”. But you know what? This Christmas is exactly the same as others. Just with one less person here.

I love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of the year. And especially so this year as it is the first Christmas that jack has really started to get into the magic of it.  

Does that mean I don’t wish he was here? Of course not.

But I refuse to be drawn into the realms of “what’s ifs” and “what could have beens”.  Things are as they are and a can’t change that.  Thinking otherwise is far too dark a place for my liking.

So instead I approach Christmas with the same positivity that I hope I have done every other day of this year.  And that is to live it as fully as possible.  To ensure that Jack has an amazing day because if he does then so will I.

So don’t feel like you can’t wish us a merry or happy Christmas. Because you can.  As that is exactly what we are going to have.

Merry Christmas! 🎄🎅🏼🎁

How to help the grieving

I saw this shared on a support group i’m on and it really struck a chord with me.  I’m not going to say that it all applies to me, or will i even say which parts of it still do, but at various times throughout the past year i have felt or experienced every single part of it.  And some of it i still am.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more
comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk
about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get
comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know
when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You
can’t catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid
to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I
most need to be cared about. If you don’t know what to say, just come
over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, “I’m sorry.” You
can even say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you
to know that.”

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I
feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I’m just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel
that you don’t see me.

I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I’m
grieving and that’s different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after
my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. For
I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was
with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my
loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and
love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be,
and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear.
Both are okay.

I don’t have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has
happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just
not acceptable.

When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and
alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don’t
make it worse by telling me I’m not doing this right.

Please don’t tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start
dating again. I’m not ready. And maybe I don’t want to. And besides,
what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren’t. Whoever comes
after will always be someone different.

I don’t even understand what you mean when you say, “You’ve got to get
on with your life.” My life is going on, I’ve been forced to take on
many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think
it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So
please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and
support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget
and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your
hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need
to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in
my own way, and in my own time.

Please don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” I’ll never call you
because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could
do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you
some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the
anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t
make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the
opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach
out on this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I
may say no at first or even for a while, but please don’t give up on me
because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you’ve given up
then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples,
to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations
where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don’t judge me now – or think that I’m behaving strangely.
Remember I’m grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel
deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I’m
experiencing a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before and one that can’t
be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don’t worry if you think I’m getting better and then suddenly I seem to
slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don’t
tell me you know how I feel, or that it’s time for me to get on with my
life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank
you for praying for me.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss – when you need
me as I have needed you – I will understand. And then I will come and be
with you.

Dr. Virgina A. Simpson in “What Grieving People Want You To Know.”  http://www.drvirginiasimpson.com

Celebrity deaths

The death of Gene Wilder has provoked a social media mass grief.  But why?  None of you knew him.  He wasn’t part of your family.  Or a friend.  Or even an acquaintance.  He was merely a stranger that happened to be in some films you may have seen.

And he was 83 so not exactly a young man.  He’d had a long life and a successful career.  He wasn’t 41 with a young child who now has to grow up without a daddy.

In no way am i saying that its not sad because he happened to be old.  Of course it is sad.  It’s a sad time when anyone dies.

What annoys me now is the social media posts with people suddenly being overcome with fake emotion.  And especially since there have been a lot of celebrity deaths this year the posts are even more dramatic with claims of “this year has been the worst”, “i can’t take anymore deaths this year”

Really???  The death of someone you don’t know is having that much of an effect on your life.  I seriously doubt it.

Yes by all means share the news of celebrity deaths.  But stick to it being a sharing of news post.  There is no need for the fake sentimentality.

All that does is insult the people in your life who have actually suffered a traumatic loss and actually are having the worst year ever.  The people that you are supposed to care about but haven’t shown half the amount of compassion to as you have to someone who you only know about because they happened to be famous.