Anxiety, self discovery and all you need is love

The other day Facebook dutifully reminded me that it had been three years since my last spinal operation. Whilst these daily Facebook memories are meant to be a nice thing, perhaps reminding you of lovely memories of years gone by, my reminder that three years ago I was in hospital wasn’t a great one.

On one hand it’s nice to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come since then, but on the other hand it’s an unwelcome reminder of a dark and unhappy time in my life. Three years ago I was a mess, I spent much of the summer in the grip of anxiety and having the worlds longest panic attack. I couldn’t bear to be in the house after eight months of enforced exile and once I got out it was one long non-stop party, all great fun until the hangover kicked in and I was alone with my racing, panicked thoughts again.

During that summer in many ways it was like being a teenager again, always out at parties and on boozy nights out. I was part of an intense little group of friends who propped me up and enabled me in equal measure. I still see them now, though not as often and our nights out are less wild and carefree than they were.

Since 2013 I’ve been on an intense and sometimes painful journey of self discovery, there have been long and intense periods of navel gazing and introspection. I know and understand more about myself and what motivates me than ever. I’ve had therapy and CBT which were useful and useless in varying degrees, but importantly, most importantly, I’ve had very good people around me.

People who have posed questions about me and my actions and what drives me. People who somehow manage to completely understand what is in my heart better than I do. People who love me for who I am and without coddling me, love and support me when I’m down and champion me when I’m up. I am lucky, so bloody lucky.

Some people come and go, but they always leave their fingerprints on my heart however fleeting our friendship. I am intense, I know this, but if you’re my friend I will love you, support you and fight your corner. My best friend (who knows me better than myself) says that I love unconditionally; which is a beautiful, innocent thing, but it does leave me open to bumps and bruises. A slight snub that most people would brush off, a passing remark, a small criticism, it all hurts and scars.

I know I’m not alone in being tender hearted. The world is full of people quietly breaking their hearts over a half imagined injustice. There’s no known cure other than toughening up, but why should I? I have a heart full of pure love, why should I harden it and become like the others? I know I probably sound like some old hippy, banging on about love, but an old hippy once said “all you need is love”, and they might just have been right.

Friendships, when’s the right time to say goodbye?

A little while ago I wrote about a toxic friend and how I really need to cut them loose. It’s a friendship which is negative and makes me very unhappy. I’ve realised over time that I have unwittingly found myself with some quite negative people. Don’t get me wrong, some of my chums, most of them are ace, but some are upsettingly negative. I’m not sure if they mean to be or not, but they are.

There’s an undercurrent of gloom. An unspoken need to do me down a little bit, keep me in my place. They know my self esteem is rock bottom and fragile, so there’s a part of me that wonders if they do this on purpose. Maybe they’re just so messed up themselves that they have to feel altogether superior to someone else. That inferior person is just me.

My triumphs may be small, but they are my triumphs. I may not earn their money or get to go to the places they do. I may not be skinny, or beautiful, or glamorous, or even exciting. I am me, living my little life with my little family, trying to make the best out of the cards I’ve been dealt.

It really annoys me and frankly disappoints me that a “friend” can be so dismissive of me and what I do, but in the same breath expect me to fire off a party popper every time something nice happens to them. And I do. But what’s that about?

Decisions need to be made. I think a reshuffle of my friendship cabinet is in order. But life never runs on straight lines, friendships are forever changing; coming and going. Maybe it’s time this one was going.


Dear son, on your 5th birthday…

Dear Ben,

I’m writing this here because you know what your dad is like for putting things in a safe place and then losing them forever. I’m sorry, I’m going to get all squishy about you now, I’m not sorry actually, because you should never be sorry for loving someone.

Dear Ben, today you are five years old. In your head you’re a big boy now, able to do everything yourself, apart from dealing with buttons, zips and fiddly yoghurt pot lids. I look back over the last five years and see what an incredible feat of development childhood is, how you’ve gone from completely dependant on me for everything, to where you are now, shouting at me because you can’t get into your pudding quickly enough.

You are awesome. You take so much of life in your stride. For most of what you can remember of your life I’ve been “poorly” or in chronic pain as the doctors call it. You can’t remember me chasing you around, swinging you over my head, rolling around giggling with you. I can.

I don’t think you mind (yet) that I can’t do those things any more, and you help me out, taking my shoes off, doing my bending and lifting for me, fetching and carrying for me. You’re a star. At five years old people think you shouldn’t have to “care” for someone else, but caring for other humans we love is part of life and part of loving someone. Selflessness seems to be an increasingly rare quality, and my son, you have it in spades. 

You are so full of love for everyone, you tell me you try and play with everyone in your class so no one feels left out, that you love everyone in your family best, and that you love dogs. Really love dogs. It’s a very good thing to love dogs Ben, dogs will be your best friend for life if you let them, you’re never lonely if you have a dog.

I can’t believe that you’re five now. Just like I won’t believe it when you’re 10, or 18 or 21 or buying your first house. Time is a horrible thing, it moves too fast when you want to grab it and hold it to your chest, like a tiny little baby, or a five year old boy, or a grown up lad with his first broken heart.

Time ticks on, runs away from you, the trick is to make the best of each moment, you might not get it right, but good enough with no real harm done is often the best you can hope for. Life is far too short to be unhappy, so be happy and if something is stopping you from being happy, change it. 

Ben, you fill my heart with so much love and happiness, your dad too. I hope you have a brilliant birthday, that you like your new bike and all of your presents, and that you enjoy having all the people who love you best around you on your special day. Keep being brilliant Ben, because you are.

Love you to the moon and back!

Mummy xxx

5th birthday

The healing power of friendship

I’ve been through some tough old times these last few years. I didn’t realise quite how much having a good, solid network of friends to rely on would mean to me. Friends tend to come and go, a couple of years ago I met a whole bunch of new friends through Twitter; when I couldn’t leave the house and was bedridden, these were the people who I’d chat to at 3am because I was in pain and needed distracting. These were the people who kept my spirits up through the long, hazy days and nights when I was dosed up on pain killers, or having a panic attack about my next surgery. These people kept me sane, or closer to sane than I would’ve been without them.

Two years on I’m still more or less in the same group of friends. We’ve all changed, grown up a bit, moved on or moved away; but when times are tough we rally round and look after each other, which is how it should be. My physical pain, is now classed as chronic and is usually at a level I can cope with. Sometimes though I am overwhelmed with emotional pain, depression, anxiety, just blind panic. It is  my friends I turn to for support and for calm.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who love me and understand me better than anyone. Friends like my BFF Bobble who always knows the right thing to say to stop me mid-meltdown, or make me laugh when I’m crying. Another friend Daisy knows me inside out and keeps an eye on me, even when I think she’s not looking. Liz offers pints and bar snacks (better than tea and sympathy).  Jon is like Yoda only taller, less green and understands how sentences should be properly structured. Guy offers sensible and sage advice. And Lou tells me to think about donkeys – it’s physically impossible to cry when you think about donkeys, try it.

These are only a few of the awesome people I call my friends. Each one has held my head above the water a whole bunch of times, each one has gently persuaded me back from the edge, each one I’ve laughed with and love more than they’ll know. My friends, my friendships are healing me. Slowly, quietly, most definitely they are helping me grow stronger and more able to stand by myself.

I like the unnamed people who check in on me daily, weekly, whatever, just to see how I’m coping and if I’m ok; the kind people who comment on my blog; plus other friends and acquaintances from real life, the close “mum” friends I’ve made in Jane, Liz, Carla, Rachael and Sarah (amongst others). And my husband, my best friend for the last 20 years, who understands what it means when the light in my eyes changes and has seen me at my very worst. Collectively the healing power of friendship is huge, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

To my friends, I love you, thank you for throwing me a life belt and for helping me to grow a little bit stronger every day.

It’s the International Day of Friendship on the 31st July 2015, which seems a pretty good excuse to celebrate the brilliant friends that you’ve got and to tell them what they mean to you.

the healing power of friendshipThis post was written in collaboration with TheCircle.

Happy Birthday to my little big man

My, how you’ve grown my little big man. You’re four years old today and absolutely, 100% the love of our lives. Don’t get me wrong kiddo, you can be a stubborn little handful (just like your Dad), but you are our most favourite child, our best friend, our reason for everything we do and we quite like having you around the place, despite all the mess, fuss and snotty cuddles.

Your birthday is always a time of reflection for me, about the year which has passed and all the years before then. I can’t help but think about our difficult start, but as the years go by that is vastly overshadowed by all our love, adventures and mischief we get up to as a family.

4th birthday

I still find it hard to believe we made such a beautiful creature. It was love at first sight. You were all dimples, squeezy cheeks and long eye lashes. You were and still are a pretty peaceful chap.

4th birthday

This was you on your first birthday. See, you’re still ALL dimples and cheeks. You loved opening your presents and we loved helping you. You were and still are a really happy little chappie. We still couldn’t believe our luck, we are so lucky to have you in our lives.

4th birthday

This is you on your second birthday. You’re all rosy cheeked because we’d been to a soft play centre for the afternoon, then stopped at TGI Fridays on the way home. You weren’t that keen on eating, but you enjoyed doing lots of drawing and stealing our chips.

4th birthday

Here you are, all dressed up for your third birthday party. You’re so grown up looking here, we’d had a really tough year as a family but your birthday was a real highlight for us. You even had a huge Thomas the Tank Engine cake.

4th birthday

This is you just a couple of days shy of your 4th birthday. We threw a train party at a local miniature railway. I think you had an amazing time, all your friends liked it too. What a year it’s been, you’ve started nursery at the big school and you’re growing into a proper boy and you’re no longer our woddling toddler.

Little Bee, my little big man, Happy Birthday, you are the love of our lives, the apple of our eye and you’ll always be our best friend. We love you, always have, always will xxx

Letting go of a toxic friend

I have a friend, a toxic friend. A friend who messes with me, builds me up then knocks me right down. I build a wall, take a step back, they knock down the wall, offer the hand of friendship, a glimmer of kindness and then they turn on me again.

It’s like a game to them. I’m sure it’s not a conscious decision. If it is then it’s a particularly nasty thing to do. I am nice, too nice. I am too nice, patient, forgiving and too open for my own good.

When I met this new friend, I was equally delighted and appalled that they reminded me of an old chum who I was very fond of, but had done the exact same thing to me. I didn’t know at the time that history would repeat itself. But when you laugh like a drain with someone who seems like they might’ve been handcrafted to be your new best mate, you don’t think that all that is good will soon turn out to be all that upsets you.

I hate this, it all seems so playground. I’m 37 and so and so is picking on me Miss and making me feel pretty crappy about myself,

Why do I care? I have no idea. Why do I keep allowing toxic people in? I don’t know, really I have no idea. This time last year I was a mess. Toxic friend number one was busy messing with my head and now toxic friend number two is doing the same. I’m all confused. My head is buzzing with a combination of anger and frustration as well as a strange, almost desperate need to please and smooth things over.

I don’t know what to do. Wise friends keep saying cut them out of your life, but that’s hard, you hope that things will get on track and you can sit in a beer garden laughing your socks off with them again. But in reality that’s not going to happen.

So what do I do? Carry on with this destructive cycle or find a way to let go? I need to let go and not look back, because looking back gives them the chance to return. Toxic people have no place in my life, but somehow they always find a way in.

Toxic friend

Mental Health Awareness Month 2014

This May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In the UK we have Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year is 12th-18th May. This year the focus is on anxiety which is something which affects a huge amount of people, me included.

Given that a lot of people who Google “Anxiety” seem to end up on my blog, reading about my struggles, mainly with anxiety, but also depression, self harming and suicidal thoughts, I thought it was about time I pulled together an anthology of my misery and musings on mental health.

Some are hopeful and positive, some are me bouncing off the walls bonkers, most are me just getting things out of my head and making me feel better. Have a root around, please have a read about what takes your fancy, ignore what doesn’t. If you find something useful, or something that resonates then great.

If you’re struggling reach out, reach out to a friend, a lover, your GP, The Samaritans, anyone. Someone will listen and although it might not feel like it right now or when you’re in a dark hole, someone will care. You are not alone.

So in no particular order…

mental health

My Role Model

When you’re growing up, a lot of emphasis is put on having a role model. Someone you can look up to and aspire to be like; someone you can turn to with your troubles; someone who will praise you when it’s due.

For me, my role model (along with the rest of the school) was Mr Singh (RIP). He was my form tutor when I was 13. He was a chemistry teacher; he played in a band, went on Family Fortunes and was possibly the coolest, funniest man I’ve ever met. We all adored him. But he left at the end of the year, went on to bigger and better things, then sadly passed away at a depressingly young age.

Really your parents should be your role models and I think mine were for a while. Then I discovered their flaws and limitations. They also weren’t big on praise, problem solving or pushing yourself to achieve greatness. They tried, I’ll give them that.

After Mr Singh no one really stuck as a role model. People came into my life, nurtured me a little, then moved on. I had a couple of decent bosses who did what they could to push me forward, a few friends who encouraged me, but no one really slotting into that role model/mentor role that I craved and needed.

I know I’m constantly banging on about my brilliant husband. But he is well, brilliant. He’s not my role model though, but I hope very much that our son will look at him that way. He is wise, loving, patient, caring, hardworking and an all round good great amazing guy.

I’ve been massively lucky to stumble across some incredible people recently. Some top local bloggers have taken me under their wings, offering advice, guidance, contacts and some really fun plus one invitations. There are a couple of lads off Twitter who are refreshingly down to earth, and stop me being an idiot, whilst at the same time loving and caring for me as a brother would. I know I’m lucky, seriously amazing friends like that are hard to find.

I’m even luckier because I’ve found someone who’ll step into Mr Singh’s shoes. One of my recently acquired chums, (I will call him Dave because that’s his name) is a proper, stand up guy. He comes husband approved and is determined to make me stand on my own two feet and be the person he and everyone else knows I can be.

He’s currently trying to get me to write a novel. He believes in my writing and is determined to pull a book out of me. I’m not convinced, but he is, so I know it’ll happen one way or another. It’s great to have someone else apart from my husband, behind me who truly believes in me and helps me to clear any obstacles, real or imagined from my path. He’s no pushover and he challenges me if I try and make excuses.

He’s like a father, friend, editor, teacher and mentor rolled into one. He’s got a good job, isn’t a weirdo, he’s just a decent bloke who probably read Pygmalion at an early age and fancies himself as a bit of a Henry Higgins type.

I’ve floated aimlessly through life for years so it’s great to finally have a mentor, especially after the year I’ve had. I need someone not close to me to tell me my value, what my gifts are and to push me forward instead of me constantly taking a step back. I’m bored of hiding my light under a bushel, thanks to Dave and my wonderful husband and friends it’s my time to shine.

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Here’s Where The Story Ends

I had my first therapy session yesterday. Obviously it stirred up a lot of thoughts and feelings I thought I’d worked through, buried or come to terms with. I felt ok about things yesterday, but having slept on it I realise that I’m feeling very sad about one thing we discussed.

Friendships come and go, they are not linear and it’s unusual to keep lifelong friends. I’ve got some fantastic friends and I’ve hung on to the very best of them. I had a friend this year who was amazing, he emotionally supported me through all the hell, he kept me company when I was (very) lonely, he always said the right thing at the right time to cheer me up. I was very fond of him.

We fell out, something and nothing, but we stopped contacting each other. There was no big row, no crisis point reached. We just stopped. I guess he couldn’t cope with my madness anymore. I was sad for a while. I didn’t really understand and I still don’t really.

In therapy yesterday we were talking about who had been there for me this year. I started talking about him (amongst other people) and told the therapist the story of our friendship. Then I started crying. I don’t cry, I’ve stopped being able to cry, but I started crying.

She was incredibly understanding, I know it’s a small sadness amongst many that I need to address and just get over. I’ve got new, better, lovely, caring friends, but losing his friendship after he supported me so much and for so long was a blow.

She asked me why I was sad. I said that it feels a bit like watching a film and switching off 15 minutes before the end. I’ll never know how his film finishes. Then she said, “And he’ll never know how your film ends, and that’s his loss”.

I don’t think about him very often these days, but I do sometimes wonder about the last 15 minutes of his film. Closure is a bigger deal than you’d think. Closure is good. You don’t need to watch the whole 90 minutes and the closing credits to get closure. Sometimes you just make the choice to stop and move on. I’ve stopped and I’ve pretty much moved on. Progress.



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I’ve been stupid. This is nothing new for me I admit, but this time I’ve really messed up. I’ve got issues like anyone and sometimes, just sometimes I lean on friends too hard. They’re not trained professionals. They don’t know how to cope with me, my moods, my anxieties, my weirdness. I say and do things that are sometimes just wrong or hurtful or inappropriate. I don’t mean to.

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*Some* of my meds

I seem to have got myself into fortnightly cycles of downers, I’m fine for 13 days and then, boom, my mood goes through the floor and I act up, act down, act weird, do stupid things, say stupid things. This is really not cool. This is really not me. This is really not how I want to be.

As I write this I’m crying. On the verge of losing another friend over this. I’ve got to take ownership and control of my moods, my life. This just cannot continue.

I need a strategy. Previously my strategy was to drink massively and to excess, it was my first thought this morning but I’ve not touched a drop. That’s progress. My second thought was self harm, I’ve not cut or burnt today. Progress. I am getting somewhere. I need a non-destructive way to deal with stuff. Until I find that I’m stuck with dark, harmful thoughts in my head but not wanting to fall back on my old ways of dealing with them.

So, to friends old and new, friends I’ve lost and are losing. I’m sorry. I won’t use my mental health as an excuse for poor behaviour. Pull me up on it, challenge me, don’t let it float by. But love me and hold me when I need to be loved and held. It’s a scary old rollercoaster in my head right now. I know I am getting better but it won’t happen overnight. Bear with me, please, and I’m sorry. I really am.