Saturday 24 September 2016

Mental health and autism, a rollercoaster ride

As the track clacks rhythmically under the carriage and my grip tightens on the handlebars slowly we climb higher and higher into the unknown.

My stomach flips as I fight to keep my eyes open when every fibre of my body is telling me to squeeze them shut tight and it will all go away.

I reach out to comfort you but my grasp can’t reach you, you’re just too far away from me.

Fear and adrenaline are pumping through my veins, my sense are alert, I am on the edge waiting for the fall and my body feels weak and jittery.

Higher and higher we climb, the world fades around us and all I can see is the two of us surrounded by a sea of nothingness that is swallowing us like a mist.

I wanna get off, I can't do this I scream inside.

Beads of sweat trickle down my forehead, but fear has gripped my hands in place.

I am frozen on the spot.

You turn around and catch my eye. There is a deep sadness that breaks my heart.

We jolt to a stop, suspended in mid-air, silent and still. We wait.

Time stands still.

Below I can see the miles of track that awaits us. The twists and turns, the loops and bends. And the drop. The drop that we are teetering on the edge of.

I want to get off, I can’t do this.

“It’s gonna be OK buddy, I’m here” I whisper to him as I catch my breath and swallow my pounding heart.

I close my eyes as the carriage kick-starts into motion, I can't stop this, I have to ride this with him, I have to be there for him… somehow I have to be brave. No matter how scared I am, or out of control I feel, we are in this together….

Sometimes being a mum feels a lot like being at the funfair. There are moment of immense joy and excitement, thrills and laughter. Those photo moments that capture the memories to treasure forever, that keep us going and give us strength to fight on.

But there are also moments of fear and anxiety, self-doubt and worry. That feeling of adrenalin when you queue for the Big One, or that sickening feeling when you think for a split second that you have lost your child in the crowds.

Some days I am the smiling mum waving proudly as my kids ride the carousel.

Some days I am the driver in the bumper cars, knocking obstacles out of their way.

And some days I am sat behind them on a roller-coaster. With no control over what’s happening, no way of getting off and wondering how on earth we are going to survive this as my basic instincts take over my body.

This is the situation I have found myself in.

You see my sons special interest has decided to take us on an unexpected roller-coaster ride into the unknown. It’s become all-consuming and life changing.

I have always encouraged my sons special interest. I have never seen them as a threat before. For me they have always been a way into his world. They have allowed me to share precious moments of connection with him and they have always been a way of engaging him with the world around him.

But over the last few weeks his all-consuming love for animals has opened the doors to obsession.

It has quickly seeped into every aspect of his life. Swallowing him, filling him with fear and anxiety.

Why do humans eat animals, why is there such cruelty, how can we let this happen?

His obsession and anxieties have stopped him interacting with people, made him confused and angry and taken away his ability to function in school.

How could I let this happen? How did I not see the warning signs?

I feel like I am the top of that rollercoaster, useless and scared.

How do I get him back, how can I help him see that his obsession is making him feel so sad? His love for animals has become something I now fear. He won’t eat, he can’t talk about anything else, and  I feel like he is losing himself. The special interest I respected and admired has become an obsession that I can’t contain.

Mental health and autism provision is chronically underfunded in this country, and I know there are many parents like us up and down the UK in the same position as we are. Scared, overwhelmed and worried for the future.

I know I have to ride this white knuckle drop on the roller-coaster with him, and somehow I have to find the strength to fight for services, support my son and navigate through the issues he is currently facing. I will do that because I love my son. My children are my world and I will never give up no matter how insecure and alone I may feel. No matter how much I want to shut my eyes and make it all go away… it won’t, so I have to do this.

I can’t take him to the doctors and get him a prescription to make it all better like I could if he had a cough or a cold. But his mental health is just as important, if not more so… so should be taken by seriously by the government and policy makers. Because there are thousands of families like mine struggling to do the best for their child. Struggling to help them and barely keeping their head above water in the process.

And I know deep down that I can’t beat myself up for not seeing this coming. The dance that my son tiptoes with his mental health is so delicate, and intrinsically linked to his autism, that it means that sometimes these things are out of our control, and can creep up on us when we least expect it. No one could have seen this coming. All I can do is my best.

So for now, I will hold on tight, and keep going. As scared as I may be, I will never give up, I will never leave him to face any of this alone.

We’re on this roller-coaster ride together my darling boy, hold on tight, I’ve got you x

Wednesday 14 September 2016

'A day in the life' of a bonkers mother

One of my favourite all time songs just came on the radio; ‘A day in the life’ by the Beatles. It’s a song about nothing really, but it literally takes me away to another world. I crank up the volume and immerse myself in the sounds and mystery of all its nonsense for a few brief moments. My body stills as I soak up the sheer brilliance that is the Beatles. All my worries melt away. And then just as my mind begins to follow suit and relax…
It ends abruptly and I am back in the real world.
The real world of being a mum and a world in which my Mind. Never. Shuts. Up.
I don’t know about you, but my mind is always talking to me… all the bloody time. Overthinking and worrying, nagging and stressing. 
So it got me thinking, what would ‘a day in my life' look like?  What if I took notice of what was going on in my head every second of the day? It would be chaotic, bonkers and moderately embarrassing I reckon!
Take this morning for example-

The alarm went off, and my brain hadn’t quite awoken from its slumber yet so all was quiet and still up there for now. That was until my teenage daughter decided that the alarm hadn’t done its job properly, so she would! She achieved this by screaming at the top of her lungs that she had “lost the dry shampoo and she was now late for school.”
Everyone, including the neighbours three doors down, were now awake.
So I heaved myself out of bed still half asleep, found her lost dry shampoo (it was in her room of course) and attempted a tinkle in peace. Before there was a loud knock on the toilet door prompting me to stop hiding in the loo and face the day. "Here we go" I sighed, and this is how the conversation in my brain went...
  • First I hobbled down the stairs avoiding the shoes strategically placed on the bottom step to trip me up on purpose I reckon, and I wandered into the kitchen filling the kitchen sink with hot water to wash last nights dishes (“I must remember to post that letter today or I’ll get charged again, where did I put the stamps?”)
  • Next I filled the kids cereal bowls with chocolate cereal (don't judge me it is all he will eat) and sniffed the milk before pouring it half way accross the table missing the bowl entirely (“It’s gonna be a nice day today, and the bloody lawn looks like a jungle, how are we ever going to afford to replace the broken mower, I’ll have to borrow my mums while she’s on holiday or the neighbours will start to gossip”)
  • I flicked the kettle on to make a brew catching my reflection in the window (“Blimey I look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards, never mind a lawn mower I need a hairdresser)
  • I let the yapping dogs out narrowly avoiding a slug by the back door ("When am I gonna squeeze in an hour to catch up with Poldark?”)
  • I lay out the kid’s uniform (“Oh crap I think I had the dentist yesterday!”)
  • I made a coffee… and let said coffee go cold (“I am gonna have to phone them up and pretend I was ill or they won’t let me back ‘cos I have already missed two flipping appointments already this year”)
  • Next was the packed lunches with all the same stuff as yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…you get the idea he likes routine (“Shit, shit, shit I'm going to have to grovel this time!”)
  • Threw some clothes on… anything will do (“Ugghhh, I don’t know what to wear in this weather and I haven’t shaved my legs, so it looks like its black leggings and UGG boots again for me”)
  • Scraped my hair back in a bobble (“So much grey, where’s that dry shampoo again?”)
  • Reminded kids to get dressed (“I need to brush my teeth”)
  • Pick up the wet towels off the floor (“And announce to the thin air as no one is actually listening that YET AGAIN I AM PICKING UP THE WET TOWELS OFF THE FLOOR!”)
  • Put toothpaste on my son’s brush or he won’t brush them (“Bloody hell how is it possible for them to get toothpaste on the blind, oh give me strength and the ceiling?!”)
  • Empty the kitchen bin (“Curse profanities as the bag splits all over the long grass... I won’t repeat what my mind was saying at this point”)
  • Shout upstairs for the kids to get dressed again, then go and wash my hands ( "Aghh I forgot to wash the pots, and my flipping hands stink now”)
  • Shout up the stairs “have you all brushed your teeth” (“Actually, have I brushed mine? (breathes on hand) hmm? I’ve not got time now, shove a mint in and I’ll have to do them later”)
  • See my son off to school in his taxi (“I hope he has a good day, I hope he eats his lunch, I hope he’s not too worried about today’s PE lesson, I wish he would drink his water bottle ….”)
  • Drive my daughter to school, and listen to her fill me in on the latest episode of the Next step, whilst trying not to lose the plot as some idiot cuts me up in the rush hour traffic (“Right, I’ll clean the house, walk the dogs, wash the cushions, nip to the shops and try and squeeze in Poldark after lunch…”)
  • Then I cleaned the house right through (“Whilst wishing it wasn’t so darn hot today, its meant to be bloody autumn already, am I the only one not happy its sunny today, why am I so grumpy …maybe I am going through the early menopause ‘cos I keep having hot sweats and mood swings, maybe I should see a doctor, but no wait … when am I gonna find time to do that, and I'll probably forget the appointment again anyway,look at the bloody state of this room, can no one change a loo roll in this darn house!”)

Now this is where I will stop folks, never mind a day in the life… its already 10.30 am and I have written over 1000 words of nonsense already!

So I won’t go on to tell you all about how I have just sat down to attempt another cup of coffee, only to drop my hobnob in the mug, and then realise 20 minutes had passed by and said coffee is again stone cold, but this time with an addition of a soggy lump of oats congealed in the bottom. Mmmm nice eh!

And how  I have managed to waste those 20 minutes watching two videos on YouTube of dancing grannies 'giving it large' in their kitchens, stalked all my friends on Facebook, liked a picture of a smiling dog, and lost 5 minutes of my life I can never regain by attempting to rig a quiz to tell me 'which book character I am most like'. (I was hoping to come out as Jane Eyre, you know all dark and mysterious… but instead it was proud to tell me that I was in fact closest to Willy Wonka, middle aged and slightly bonkers it is then!)

You see I’m afraid if you were reading this blog hoping for some words of words of wisdom, a deep and meaningful message or a powerful moral tale; well I guess you have noticed by now that this blog contains no such pearls.

In fact, it’s nothing more than nonsense really.

However, for a few brief moments as you have read my ramblings, hopefully your mind has slipped away from reality and realised that maybe the fact that you forget appointments, lose the plot sometimes and feel like a hot mess some days is actually OK…because I do too … it’s what makes us human you see.

Or maybe you have realised that you’re not the only one who’s coffee goes cold, that other mums indeed use dry shampoo and curse as they have to change the loo roll for the 3rd time in a day. You're not alone.

Maybe you will see that it’s OK to escape into Facebook, watch dancing grannies, listen to the Beatles, or even grab 5 minutes at the school gate sat in your car reading this silly blog as you wait for the kids... if that’s what gets us through the craziness that is motherhood.

Because maybe a little nonsense in our daily life is just what the Dr ordered? And after all Willy Wonka himself said; “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” Never a truer word said I reckon (even by Jane Eyre herself.)

Now, I’m off to find a Wonka-bar to dunk in my cold coffee, oh and to make that phonecall to the  dentist...wish me luck!

Yours, as always

Mrs M x