Bank Holiday Chills

Shout out to any one who just got the chill of bank holiday. The sudden realisaton that the shops will be closed and you have nothing in the house to make a substantialmeal with. If you’re a fully fledged grown-up with no dependants that’s quite uncomfortable. Now imagine your’e a parent and/or a full time carer, in crisis. I’m fading off in to middle distance just recalling it.

There was a time I genuinly feared school holidays, no respite, no routine, no easy way out of the house, all the responsibility. Those would come with colourfull letters from school and big chatty build ups- school isn’t going great, exlusion iminent ” but don’t worry because its half term soon.” thanks Becky! “You must be looking forward to the summer holidays” MUST you kick me when Im down Karen! Though I feared them I had time to plan and means in which to try to cope. Bank holidays are far more stealthy, perhaps there is an un noticed increase in friends asking what you’re up to at the weekend, even invites to a bbq or sunday lunch.

Then it hits you, it’s a Saturday evening and it’s not been great day, some challenging behaviour mixed with the need for a 3 hour deppression nap, a wave of prickly sweat comes over you, not only do you have to do Sunday alone, but Monday too. Panic! What are we going to do? Have I got the stregnth to do a trip out? Is there enough money in my account to do some thing and get food? Which reminds me how do I sort out a benefits sanction because I missed signing on this week because I got called into school and forgot to look for the bebefits office number to tell them I was missing the appoinment. I can’t do this on my own, whos doing what? Where are my friends going to be? Is it safe to try to go see them? All I have to eat in the house is 1 frozen pizza and 2 packs of super noodels, theres and inch of milk left and no bread. When are the shops open till? All the kids on the street will be playing out, we can’t stay here there will be another fight. When will I get to have a bath if not on Monday morning?

I would often get pangs of guilt for feeling all of this and regret that I wasn’t a better person/parent, this is basic stuff right? It was so scary. ( but 100% no shame, I wasn’t well and didn’t have the right support)

Generally the weekends were good because it meant there was more chance of seeing grown ups we were safe with. People that ment I was distracted from my head and the intensity of Dynoboy and my relationship was diluted to safer levels. It is like this still to a degree now. Parenting stressfull, mixing undiagnosed cPTSD x2 and it’s very difficult to do alone on a daily basis. I was so iscolated by sercumstances, to a degree I still am, perhasps I’ve stopped looking because I do have My Village now, but there are still ellements that of parenting this sort of extra that I haven’t come across support net works and communities for additional needs or specific disabilities. I tried making one once, in conjunction with a niche chartiy but there were quite a few hurdles that I wasn’t prepared to climb over at the time.

ANY WHO, bank holiday special.

If I didn’t see it coming, it was often disasterous, dangerous even. If it went well, just the two of us, it could still feel ingredibly lonely. Even if we did get invited places, holding us both out of the house was either too difficult, so I chose to stay home or we went out and it was so exhasting that it made the rest of the day or next day more difficult. The emotioal zing around all this is present in a lot of my painting and drawing, particulally female figures and waves, all that holding takes used to doing, I think I have it most of the time, and when I don’t there is my village to help me.

I applied for an art prize, not some thing I ever remeber doing before, I thought I’d explore it a bit. I’ve never applied for arts council funding either, should get on it really. Heres the image submitted to the prize. It’s quite fitting for this post.

Stay safe, you are worth peoples time and the space you take up xXx

No tech Tuesdays

#notechtuesday 😲

A while back, as a family we went to a workshop by the very interesting chap @PaulJungo it helped introduce ideas that are sometimes better heard from someone else, “erk, whatever, no way!” is a standard reaction to the idea of putting in more tech boundaries in.

We’ve successfully implemented no tech at night(unless it’s a difficult time and some soothing tunes or stories are needed) and introduced alarm clocks. Actual physical alarm clocks in our bedroom to avoid having our tech next to our beds.

Recently as a consequence for a boundary broken, the PC was out of bounds for 6 days. I would often avoid this action because then I’d have to live with a grumpy, bored young person, they are the WORST, worse than hungry toddlers for sure.

I had to put on my Big Mum pants on and be extra focused on asserting the boundery lines but we did it, and we thrived. It’s benefits were so obvious that I’ve implemented #NoTechTuesday which sounds worse than it is to a screen addict. From school finishing time until dinner time we’re both going to have no screens. Instead, Lego, building airfix models, painting, table tennis(in @castlemall), dog walks, cooking or baking, life skills, (Dynoboy suggested ironing! Who is he? Erk no, was my gut reaction, but ok sure ironing!) Some how get some of the awesome ideas he has into a notebook/writing stories together. Endless UNO and Battle ships. I’m going to get taught how to skateboard.

Fundamentally it’s to offer time to the young person I adore, to try to build good habits and make more space for compassion, for one’s self and others. Which is actually not that easy, if you’re used to giving yourself a hard time it’s easy to do the same to others. To break that cycle takes time WITH people, to care and be cared for. This stuff is HARD.

This is week 6, he still hates it but we are getting good stuff done.

💛

Halloween beats Christmas

Halloween doesn’t come with the weight of expectation or the sense of loss that Christmas does. You can celebrate it for two weeks or just one day. In our immensely dysfunctional family, grown-ups were depressed, absent or intoxicated around the time of Christmas, they always pulled through in terms of getting gifts under the tree but there was an unmistakable diss ease from November until boxing day. Even those who were in attendance weren’t ever fully present.  My birthday is the beginning of December. Around 8 I started asking for a tree instead of Polly Pockets or a candle making set, always a real one, fake trees and tinsel were banned, the appearance deemed too tacky. If I could make it look good, maybe everyone might feel better. The children would decorate the tree together, as I got older I would perfect it when they had gone to bed.

Terms such as ” I just can’t be bothered, do what you want” and “We’re fucked, Christmas is cancelled.” were heard a lot. There wasn’t a sense of hiding struggle, won’t somebody think of the children! The grown-ups were children, unable to cope with the responsibility or understand the impact of their actions or behaviours. I feel like I can say that because I parented in a similar way for 7 years but now I know where they were coming from. Intergenerational trauma is a bitch to sidestep.

Halloween didn’t hold dark secrets like the festive season.

As I got older my tree responsibilities grew, by the time I was 14 I knew that the two white ribbons I had been instructed must always go underneath the vintage angel where in-memory of two pregnancies that didn’t make it to term. Christmas was about holding on until the emotional triggers of the grown-ups raw traumas were no longer all around us.

Spoopy Finley
Dead Mummy Dynoboy 

We weren’t allowed to go trick or treating because it “appeared” to be begging. So by the time, my child was 4 and youngest sibling was 8 we had engineered how to meet our own needs.  We loved dressing up, consuming sweets but didn’t like turning off the lights and hoping the neighbours would think we weren’t in or writing notes to tell them we had no sweets to give. We decorated the front facing part of the house and gave out goodie bags of sweets (American ones to outdo the neighbours). By this time I was the grown up and take control of how big we went with the decoration, costume and dress up. We had to do the decorating and faffing because the other grown-ups wouldn’t. It was easier to pester and be bold at this time of year than it is at Christmas. Halloween is easy to do on the cheap, on the hop with little organisation.

Halloween is our Christmas now because it doesn’t come with a cascade or uneasy feelings or sadness. We wrote this time in for ourselves, to keep making side steps and big leaps away from what hurt us, so we don’t hurt ourselves and others. We eek it out for at least a week, decorating the living room with creepsome treats, made a big night out as a fam squad to go get spooked at primEVIL, an evening of pumpkin carving, scary films and an evening of Spooky City This time of year isn’t all about families getting together, now more than ever we feel the loss of the undead. Those significant relationships, parents, grandparents were so toxic that they are alive, some just around the corner, but are not present in our lives…….and that’s ok.

We always looked after our selves, now we do it without the hope of it looking all John Lewis or caring if Mum’s gone to Iceland.

 

Me, My work, Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Today, World Suicide Prevention Day, The Guardian Printed An article to which I gladly contributed. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy allowed me to understand why I struggled with my mental health and how deeply trauma had effected how I process information and how little authentic confidence I had.  While doing EMDR I drew and painted to further process the nightmares and violent thoughts that occurred during recovery. This was my Eyes, Teeth and Vagina’s phaase. I was understandably very angry, and needed to put it somewhere safely. By this point I had a working studio, where I could paint, then walk away. Ensuring my bile didn’t spill out at home. This was during one of the worst times of my life, except now not only was I dealing with what I was living through I was FEELING as it happened. I moved out of dissociation and started feeling and learning to name it. I was most disgruntled to be honest. Dissociation is has its perks.

Doing EMDR allowed me to turn and face my truth, to own that mess. It allowed me to feel confident and incontrol, of myself and life but as a parent, allowing my child to feel confident that he was contained and safe. It was during this period that I also used my voice to ask for help. It gave me the confidence to lean into the feeling that I was enough,to be cared for and supported. This is when and how I grew #MyVillage, because I was able to be honest and present. I learnt to say out loud some of the most vulnerable sentences that I thought I would never be able to say. By saying them I was able to understand how very wrong the “normal” I had been born into was. EMDR is how I found my voice, The Compass Outreach is how I learnt to use it. Which is why I create Finding a Voice exhibitions, a cellebration and a platform for these voices. The #FAV17 Finding A Voice 2017 was about my celebration of having done the work in therapy and no longer needing intensive involvement of services. This year #FAV18 is about celebrating those voices that “get it” and other “service users” who happen to mothers and artists too. Sometimes a voice isn’t verbal.

When I become a philanthropist ( we all need a dream) I would back and fund The Compass approach, because it works, and what I learnt has stopped the behavioural loop of intergenerational trauma, priceless.  

Read the full atticle here theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/10/mel-b-is-watching-flashing-lights-to-help-with-trauma-but-does-emdr-therapy-really-work?

 

Suicide isn’t catching

Suicide prevention Month

10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day

Im writing because in many ways I am lucky, I have never experienced a loss caused by a death by suicide, I have experienced it’s edges. My own personal plans at age 14 and a life endangering recklessness and self harm from then till 21, then a steady depression into my 30s, my brain often shows me how it wants to die, but I have to acknowledge it and get on with something else. Like caring for Dynoboy who has from time to time had strong urges to end his own life.

Im a fulltime carer because of my child’s mental health. I live in a house with one blunt kitchen knife, razors hidden and anything that could be used as a noose I keep tabs on. This is the advice given to us from CAHMs and school, school takes the same precautionary measures. Im disclosing this because, I don’t know many people like us, which can be frustrating and lonely. This is one of the reasons I speak about social isolation and Loneliness, it sucks!

Talking about lived experience means less people feel alone. 

I got through to  NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by going through the GP, it took a lot of time even though it was an urgent case. Depending on your postcode the services offered will vary as will the waiting lists.  I strongly urge any parent who is worried about their childs MH to seek help soon and be persistent, chase appointments and find out what is available in order to ask for it, I learnt to be pushy. For us the services and schedule offered by CHAMs wasn’t robust or flexible enough, I cannot understand why there are only a set number of appointments given to a patient, why they can not be treated until they no longer need it. (it’s lack of funding I know, mega eye roll)
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds worldwide counting for 8% of all deaths In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people, accounting for 14% of deaths in 10-19 year olds and 21% of deaths in 20-34 year olds” Suicide by children and young people, National Confidential Inquiry

The boy who lived with a Big Bad Wolf
The boy who lived with a Big Bad Wolf. pencil on paper 2016

If it’s you, your child, a family member, or a friend, ignoring suicidal thoughts won’t make it go away,

but naming it won’t cause it either.

You cannot put the idea of suicide into someones head just by talking about it. It isn’t a communicable disease either.  If you are worried, say it out loud. There is a lot of pressure on those with mental health problems to talk, but that can be one of the scariest things in the world. So why don’t you do the talking. By naming it, and offering a space to talk you are offering a life line, listen without judgment. If they still try, call a  social services crisis team (in norfolk you call the general line for Norfolk County Council and wait to get through to the “ if you are worried about an adult/child bit). If they still try, it’s not your fault. It’s important that you’re able to be safe and supported to, look in your local area or on line for support.

You may need to call 999 or take yourself, family member, or child to A&E, it isn’t an easy choice to make but if you need help, this is how to start it going. (take snacks and drinks and a charger)

  • In 2016, 5,668 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.

www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics

Don’t be alone.

This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. Go be with people, have a friend over or go to a friends house. Go for a walk with someone. To get through the summer holidays me and Dynoboy hang out with grownups that are good at regulating their emotions and making us feel safe and respected. It sounds intense, but if one of us is feeling vulnerable for a sustained period it can be a strain, if we hung out with our more unpredictable high energy friends we would both suffer from heightened anxiety.

Keep Hugging, soothe & smile

 

How do you feel when someone smiles at you when you walk into a room? when some one is happy to see you? it feels good, don’t be stingey!  The most spectacular parenting advice given to me in crisis is “keep hugging him” it sounds simple, but esspessially as teens and if we are feeling cruddy or we have sensory overload, physical contact can be difficult, but always make it available. It it’s not something you are used to, go with it, there are good brain chemicals in hugs. So have dinner with someone kind, get them to come to you if you need. If thats not doable right away make plans.  Call or msg someone, just for banter or for more if you trust them. Throw a message into an online forum or private facebook group. Pop round a neighbors for a cuppa, you don’t have to disclose the gritty. Just don’t be alone. You and your family are worth caring for, worthy of space and time in the company of others. This is why we have #MyVillage. I’ve fallen in love with twitter becasue it is there that I see the most discorse and supportive language around MH struggle. #survivourculture is a current favourite. Come join in @Findinga_Voice

 great resources, information helplines, websites, messaging services and practical advice can be found

here Youngminds.org.uk and here www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide

 

Mum Mode

#MumMode I’d love to be brutally honest but I’ll tone it down, to keep me and my little family safe. I don’t blog or use social media anonymously. My family isn’t nerotypical & our struggle isn’t a secret, but the details are masked. There is a picture of Dynoboy and I alongside the mention of difficulty in an interviewby the NSFT about FAV17 with the local paper a year ago. My mum mode is fully acctivated, were almost half way through the summer holidays, in a few weeks I will be running on reserves.

I’m still reluctant to share his image on posts freely, I have a strict internal venn diagram about when it feels right to and when it’s not appropriate, the caption alongside makes a huge impact too. The context of my painting and activist work and the audience I’m sharing it with bring huge connotations that could be miss read because I haven’t strictly underlined where we sit on the domestic abuse and mental health map (there is no such map that I’m aware of) Recently networking a hypnotherapist asked “What’s your background?” my flippant reply was “all trauma”. I have since learnt to say “Artist and Family Mental Health Activist”. I’ve been incredibly angry and frustrated recently because I know our truth. It’s so full and loaded but I have to be contented that I KNOW.

It makes me uncomfortable, parents sharing their children’s unwanted behaviour online, it comedy relief, sure or is it – help I’m a victim if my child! When it’s negative behaviour, there is a vulnerability that’s so frickin obvious it makes me sad. Sometimes it’s comical and how we get through it, parents being in the same boat, I get that. Maybe it’s about balance, maybe I’m just hypersensitive or maybe not down with the times. I’d be heckin pissed if my childhood deviance was chronologically laid out and my struggle shared without my creative input.

I’m sure I used to do it too, I know I’ve thought about it, I know there are images of me fed up with him in the back ground  but I’ve never openly shared the bigger natative. What makes me uncomfortable now is the line that gets crossed where the parent is advocating for their child with overexposure of the struggle. It’s totally different when it’s in private groups, for example parenting social media groups have strict guidance on what to share within the group, in order to keep the families safe. These spaces often hold those who are in crisis, which is often messy af. I see it a lot from autism speaks type parents, the autism community is fighting back with it’s own voice, Kirsten Schultz wrote a compelling open letter to The Mighty about it.

Being a neurodivergent young person isn’t easy, being their parents is tough too. Sometimes it’s like having a much younger child. Sometimes it’s like living with a much more mature person in an adolescent shell. Yes having teenagers brings its own struggle but if someone is off loading to you, DO NOT SAY “oh that’s just normal for their age.”  Any way I’m just here to say that parenting is hard.

Parenting Extra is HARD.  

School holidays means the responsibility of laying out structure and routine is primarily on the one person who stays home.That’s me, it means the times I get to be just me, to meet friends for life giving coffee and chats is less. More planning has to be done to keep my own routine of weekly therapy and support in place. To get in the studio and leave when I’m ready doesn’t happen. An appropriate child care situation literally doesn’t exist. It’s all about containment. My identity has to hold on for a while, I have to just hold on in there and keep on keeping on, and that’s OK, because this is so much better than it ever has been.

I don’t want sympathy or applause. I just want to share because I know I’m not alone and I know you probably know a family in a similar situation. So go have a cuppa, send a message of solidarity, let them rant. Forgive them and reschedule plans if everything went wrong or plans where broken.  Don’t judge what you can see, because you can’t see it all. It can be chronically lonely for parents and support is hard to come by, if it isn’t a burden on you go see them, bring dinner, go to the park with them. This stuff is priceless.

Repairing damage from previous relationships for us both and assisting the growth of a wholesome young person is my responsibility, it’s a privilege I share with a trusted few.

We are nothing without our village.

 

Drowning Monsters

Growing up surrounded by masked monsters it was inevitable I would unknowingly inherit some of their traits. As I gear up to talking at another mental health conference I have to balance what I write and say publicly to avoid becoming vulnerable to the tempers of abusers that squat at the very edges of my world. I understand why they are frightened and how that makes them dangerous. I’m not here for them. My responsibility is to keep my family little safe and to be happy.  Im doing, talking, making, writing for me. I do what I need to do to be happy, which in turn makes my family happy, that is what matters to me. I tried pouring from an empty cup and it almost destroyed me.

2018-08-04 20-1450679317..jpeg

I was unaware of my mental health needs, of the significance of my own traumas. I couldn’t see. It’s impossible to be accountable for your mistakes if you’re too busy avoiding or denying them. I was an empty cup that couldn’t protect my son,

that is the monster I became.

An empty void where he needed a containing safe place, emotionally unregulated when he needed stability. You can only parent what you know though, unless shit hits the fan so hard you have to change your approach or lose everything.I had been a reactive intuitive parent. I became depressed and non responsive. That is scary.  I understand where my responsibility starts and ends in this story. I do that often by inspecting how I feel, often with an ugly visual. I will continue to talk and visually explore the difficult parts of parenting and mental health, under the domestic abuse umbrella because it helps me to continue to make sense of it. I often draw myself at different ages, through different events, waves are a predominant motif that helps to convey different emotional states. When I talk about emotions it helps to have the sea as a reference. Very early on in my recovery I drew women battling sea monsters. Now I realise the monsters aren’t mythical and I can’t drown them, but I can be safe. What I’m discovering more often is that by being equally

vulnerable and courageous,

helps others do the same. To hear a similar story and see a positive outcome soothes us, makes us feel less isolated in our circumstances and less alone in the world. Feedback Mental Health  conference “Shedding the Light on Loneliness and Isolation” is a space that I can use to promote the tools I used to recover after crisis and re build throughout our recovery.  I built a village that serves us beautifully, because we are enough to be cared for and loved. Abuse can make you unable to believe you are valuable and worthy. I hope buy showing my ugly others will feel less ashamed and more able to seek help and

lean into the discomfort.