8 thoughts for Mental Health Awareness Day…

Today has been Mental Health Awareness Day and there are lots of nice posts going around that are useful or informative or comforting. They make me think about a lot of stuff.
What you’ll read below is more a collection of slightly uncomfortable musings than a coherently constructed reflection on mental health awareness and the issues arising from it. But still, I think maybe some of it is helpful…

1. Talking about mental health is a lot less awkward than talking about mental illness

Contrary to popular commentary, I think we’re getting okay about talking about ‘mental health’. Like, how we should talk about our feelings and listen to/make time for others, and all the things we can do to help keep ourselves mentally healthy, from exercise to mindfulness.

We’re not even that bad at talking about mental illness anymore (a subtly different and more medical/scary subject than mental health I think). Even the Tories bang on about how there should be ‘parity’ of provision for mental and physical health and it’s sort of okay to mention you’ve suffered with “mental health issues” in polite company nowadays.
But I read a tweet the other day and thought ‘yeah, this.’

If you’re talking about something you’ve gotten over stoically or heroically it’s okay. It’s also okay if you’re talking about it in the abstract, or if you’re talking about ‘feeling down’ – we can cope with those things. It’s harder to say stuff like ‘everything is a struggle and I can’t see how it’ll get better’ or ‘I wake up every morning with an almost paralysing fear of the day head pressing down on me’. That’s still awkward, isn’t it. Even worse, admitting you take mood-regulating medication… erm… #NutterAlert*

2. Sometimes people get poorly

There are lots of things you can do to care for yourself but, just like with physical health, mental illness can’t always be prevented, even with all the exercise and good vibes in the world. Sometimes we need professional help.

3. Sometimes it’s a one off

Some people have a mental health episode just once and it’s often triggered by a life event/trauma. For them it may be like breaking a limb; immediately debilitating, slow to recover from and perhaps leaving a scar or slight weakness that needs to be kept in mind.

4. It can be a chronic illness

For some people depression/anxiety/psychosis is a chronic illness, something they have to manage daily, that makes them poorly periodically and something they fear flaring up every time they fell a bit wobbly.

5. There’s a difference between thinking about suicide and being suicidal

I can say with a strong degree of certainty that you know several people who regularly think about suicide. There’s probably someone you know who totally has their shit together who thinks about suicide several times a day. These thoughts are just something they have learned to live with, like the ache from a dodgy joint; not life threatening, but tiring and really not nice.
(if you are one of these people, you’re really more normal than you think but that doesn’t mean it does suck, try not to worry too much, thoughts only have the power we give them, hang in there, and talk to someone if you can.)

6. Sometimes we need medicine

Anti-depressants are just medicine, they aren’t a ‘crutch’ Yes, like everything else they aren’t right for everyone, have side effects and sometimes they get wrongly prescribed, but they also save lives. Goodness knows how many.
Depressives can manage their condition with things like exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness and talking therapies, but for many our brain chemistry just needs a constant bit of help in staying not-mad.

7. You don’t HAVE to get ‘off your meds’

There is a certain pressure to get off anti-depressants or any mental illness medication; it is a goal to which people like me feel they should aspire. And it’s a goal that can make some of us feel like shitty failures. Sad but true.
Think diabetics and insulin; there are lots of things diabetics can do to manage their condition but even with all those things in place you would never expect someone to ‘get themselves off the insulin’. If your depression is a chronic illness then the same thing applies. Coming off your meds because ‘it’s about time’ or others think you should is potentially dangerous.
Anti-depressants saved my life, and continue to in my opinion, I can’t stand how they’re talked about and lamented so often by all sorts of ‘woke’ people.

8. People die of mental illness

How different would things be if you when someone with a long history of mental illness died at their own hand we said ‘she died of depression/bipolar disorder’ instead of ‘she committed suicide’. I know not all suicides can’t be explained in this way, but many could.
I have never heard anyone say that someone died of depression, or anxiety, or schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder or anything like that. But they do, every day, and maybe if we start saying it then the ‘parity of care’ might come a step closer.
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If any of this stuff affects you please do leave a comment, but more importantly take care of yourself and ask others to when you can’t. http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx
*chill out, I take mood regulating medication, read on my friend
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Sometimes our best is a bit shit…

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Sometimes I time everything wrong.

Tonight I let my boy eat the chocolate someone at nursery gave him at 6pm, we pissed about in the garden til gone 7, I let him watch TV until almost 8 in the secret hope that he would fall asleep on the sofa and the evening would be mine. He did not fall asleep on the sofa.

Instead, he is a ball of angry toddler at the bottom of the stairs. He’s refusing to come up to the lovely bubbly bath I’ve run for him.

It’s got your favourite toys. I say. Let’s have a nice bath time. We can play dinosaurs.

My tone is getting pinched and I’m counting to 10 in my head. It’s not working.

With threats and coaxing I get him up the stairs. He is beside himself. He wants his daddy. He doesn’t want a bath. He wants me to put his pyjamas on without going to get them, which would mean ‘leaving him’. He is all exhaustion and melodrama.

I am hungry.

By the time we make it to his room he is curled up in a ball. Tonight he’s not playing any games. When I try to manoeuvre him from a crooked position on a rocking stool to the bed he screams like I’m about to administer some form of medieval torture.

I just can’t.

I wrestle his pull-up on and let him go back to his crumpled position on the chair. It’s a foot from his perfectly good bed. But I just can’t.

I tell him I going downstairs and will check on him soon, because I can feel that other me rising up. The one who snaps and yells at a tired three year old. The one I only show to the littlest, best person in my world.

And it’s there he falls asleep. In the chair. No bath, no stories, no songs. Not even the chocolate brushed off his teeth. I put him into his bed and lather cream on a few spots I’m supposed to have washed in the-bath-that-was-not. And I feel glad that at least I got him into his pull-up.

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Tonight, this was the best I could do. Sometimes our best is just a bit shit…

Lies, damn lies and mental health promises…

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PM Theresa May saying nice-ish stuff about justice and mental health in an almost convincing manner.

Talk is cheap. Something I’m sure Theresa May is aware of as she continues to embark on her programme of saying nice-ish, sensible things whilst backing them up with fuck all.

Today it was all about the ‘shared society’ (very different from the ‘big society’, you understand) and reforming mental health services. Today she uttered the ground-breaking words that will, no doubt, go down in history:

“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”

Well, thank God a political leader is finally talking about this… If only we’d had someone like Theresa May in a prominent cabinet position for the past six years… Oh wait… Continue reading

Still not enjoying it? That’s still okay.

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Being a mum… Bleurgh.

That’s right, I’m back bitches, and how better to burst back onto the blogging scene after three months in the wilderness than a good old honest post about how much parenting blows sometimes. (I agonised over whether to add the sometimes to the end of that sentence, right now I feel like it’s most times)

Approximately two and half years ago (!) I wrote a post called ‘Not enjoying it? That’s okay.’ It was all about how when you have a newborn loads of parents with older kids say crap like “cherish this time, it goes so fast” and you smile and nod in a way that implies that you’re finding ‘this time’ truly precious, whilst internally you’re screaming “I FUCKING HOPE IT GOES FAST! GET THIS CREATURE OFF MY BOOB AND LET ME SLEEP FFS!” Or something along those lines…

So that post was all about how it’s okay to not enjoy parenthood from the outset cos it’s bloody hard and you’re sleep deprived and all that. It was an attempt at reassuring those many millions of humans out there who think they should be feeling things they just aren’t feeling. Well, I’m here to tell you, my ‘Bubs’ just turned three years old and I’m still not enjoying it as much as I think I should be. True story.

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I made this chart a while ago, on reflection I think 25% was probably quite generous.

Some context: Dear Reader, you know when you feel like you’ve got your shit together and life decides to give you a good hard throat punch? Without going into any detail (this ain’t that kind of blog) this year my particular throat punch has resulted in becoming unexpectedly single after ten years, and consequently becoming a single mum. Now, things aren’t that bad; we share childcare fairly evenly and in many ways I’m happier than I’ve been in years. But still, FML. My life admin requirements have soared in recent months and, I’m not sure if it’s a direct correlation but enjoyment of parenthood has somewhat plateaued. #understatement

“I love my son… I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother.”

Let’s get something straight from the start: I love my son. I love him fiercely. I’m a frickin’ lioness of a mother. And I like him, he’s a frickin’ joker. Sometimes we cuddle up on the sofa and watch a film and I’m all loved up. On the other hand, I like him a bit less when he comes up to me just as I’m trying to show the gas man how to read our electric metre and says, with a gleeful look in his eye, “I did a wee on the sofa”. But you know what I mean.

He’s a great kid, I wouldn’t swap him for any other kid (except maybe my friends little girl who hoovers up after herself, that is the dream). But loving my son is a very different thing from enjoying doing all the shit that comes with parenthood and sometimes, more frequently in recent months, I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t, and I don’t care who knows.

Being a parent is hard. And doing it alone is hard. Even if you’re in a partnership you can feel like you’re being stretched too thin, like you’re fraying at the seams with all the different directions you have to push your mind in. Money, work, family, friends, children, children, children, children, children…

Recently the classic “I’m a bad mother” thoughts have begun to enter my head. Why? Because whilst I’m bathing, reading stories (and doing all the voices) and singing lullabies to my happy, healthy son I’m longing to be downstairs with a Pinot Grigio. Because occasionally I get so wound up that I raise my voice a bit too loud at an unnecessary moment. Because, basically I am a human with flaws that I sometimes let my child see.

Big. Fucking. Deal.

“Most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up.”

The problem isn’t really any of that stuff; it’s my feelings about that stuff. I know that some people genuinely do love being a parent; it’s their vocation and for one reason or another they just take to it. But most of us are fumbling around, just doing our best not to completely fuck our kids up. We are loving them fiercely and trying hard but also occasionally wishing that this wasn’t our lives. Right? You can admit it, Dear Reader, this is a safe space.

Every now and then I have a momentary thought that I just want out. Out of this motherhood malarky. I can’t cope. I’m shit at it. Let me out!

The consequence of this split second thought is utter, corrosive guilt. It’s as if that very thought proves I am simply not qualified for parenthood. How could any loving parent think such thoughts? Am I the actual worst?

The answer, of course, is no. Those thoughts (and I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one who has them) aren’t directed at our children, but at our lives in general, at the relentlessness of it all and the fact that, in that moment, we really can’t deal with a small person shouting ‘I hate you’ in our faces. We just need some sleep. And some fun. Leave us alone! 

“There is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.”

The thing – as this is a big one so listen up – there is literally no thought that can make you a bad parent. None.

It’s very hard to define what a ‘good parent’ is, but we could all list the traits of an objectively bad one: neglectful, demeaning, abusive. We are not those parents. We are simply not.

Because, whilst you may be thinking “someone get me the fuck out of here I can’t watch another fucking episode of In the fucking Night Garden” you are also making your child something to eat, playing whatever strange game is the order of the day and, yes, letting them watch CBeebies for a bit so you can clean up their mess/check your email/drink a cup of tea. You are making sure there is enough money so they can eat and be clothed and have stuff. You are probably doing a thousand things besides this, with very little credit for any of it. Women, especially I think, are just expected to do all this, you not gonna get a medal for motherhood, though it’s the hardest, longest serving job you’ll ever have. And on top of that, there’s some weird unspoken thing that requires you to ‘love every minute of it’.

Fuck that.

“The real wonder is that we enjoy it at all!”

When you think about it in that way, the real wonder is that we enjoy it at all! These small people are unfathomable and unreasonable in the extreme, but we love them fiercely. And they make us laugh. And sometimes it’s really really nice. Like, the nicest thing ever. In the whole world. But sometimes the nice moments seem rarer and the tense clock-watching-til-bedtime moments feels much more dominant. We’re tired and often lonely and we can’t love every minute, or even most minutes, however much we love our kids.

Well, all I can say is, that’s okay. And it’s bloody normal!

Isn’t it?

 

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Do you also not always feel completely in love with the whole parenting thing? Please share! The comment section is waiting for your outpouring of FMLs!

You can also tweet me or show me some Facebook love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another 6 things that prove the world hasn’t gone to shit…

Oh dear. The news.

Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary and the Department for the Environment and Climate Change has been scrapped, but astoundingly that’s not even close to the worst thing that’s happened in the past few weeks. If it’s not the ugly, power-grabbing underbelly of British politics then it’s racist abuse and attacks on our streets. If it’s not that then it’s the deaths of more innocent young black people at the hands of the police in the USA, or misguided, tragic attempts at ‘retaliation’ that also spread mindless violence. Then there’s more atrocious violence in Nice on Friday and Turkey not long ago (oh and the coup that seems to be occurring as I write this), as well as the continual bombing-to-shit of Baghdad by ISIS and the uncomfortable truth that we seem to care a little bit less when it happens there than in Western Europe or the USA. Then there’s the Chilcot Report, and all its unheeded reminders of the dangers of the ‘West knows best’ attitudes of so many powerful people. It’s enough to make you think that the world is unequivocally bad to its very core. Bleurgh.

Back in December, shortly after the Paris attacks and the UK’s decision to join in the bombing of Syria, I wrote a sort of ‘reasons to be cheerful’ post listing some actual good news stories that had been lost amidst all the horror. I thought that we could do with another one of those right about now. So here they are, 6 more things that prove the work hasn’t completely gone to shit…

1. Tanzania and Gambia just voted to outlaw child marriage.

On opposite sides of the African continent two governments have moved to put a stop to child marriage once and for all. 

Unlike the UK and many parts of the USA, parental consent is no longer a factor that can weigh in and ‘approve’ of marriage at an earlier age (nor should it be!)  – neither boys nor girls can marry before they’re 18. This will make it much easier for campaigners to save young girls from forced marriage, which can only be a good thing!


My favourite bit about this is how the Gambian president, Yayha Jammeh, affirmed his commitment to enforcing the new law:

“If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see…”

Bad ass.

2. The United Reformed Church just voted to welcome same-sex couples to get married in their churches. 

This is one of those things that simultaneously shouldn’t be news at all and is actually AMAZING news. Slowly the church is cottoning on that loving who you love is something to be celebrated and marginalising LGBT people is probs not what Jesus would do.


Just last week the United Reformed Church voted to allow local churches to welcome gay couples to get married in their churches. Nice one.

Talking of churches…

3. One church in Tottenham has turned itself into a shelter for men that even charities won’t help.

A few years ago, one random church in Tottenham decided to put its money where it’s mouth was, literally. After every service the congregation stack the chairs away and give the space back over to its main purpose; a shelter for 50 destitute men. Many of them also donate 10-20% of their income to keep the shelter running.


These men are some of the most troubled people in our communities, sometimes addicts and thieves, sometimes dangerous – many charities and government services won’t touch them. By some miracle of bravery the church provides a space for people most of us would be afraid to walk past on the street, and they see results. A recent study estimated that For every £1 invested in Highway House, £5-£8 is returned to society due reduced strain on public services. Boom.

4. The Eiffel Tower has new wind turbines, and they are beautiful!


Clever engineering types have installed wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower and they are powerful enough to power the whole first floor (restaurant and all that jazz). Very clever, and very beautiful. Somehow they’ve also managed to make them look good and not interfere with Form of the iconic structure, daaaarling. (This video isn’t the best but you get the idea)

5. This guy…

Responding all of the racist, xenophobic bullshit that followed the leave vote, one lovely man posted this note through his neighbour’s door…

6. These guys…

Okay, this video isn’t new, but since there will inevitably much prejudiced nonsense spoken about Muslims and Islam after the Nice attack (#YouAintNoMuslimBruv), if you haven’t already seen this you really should…

This is the British version,  but check out YouTube for Dutch, German, Chicago versions and more. I defy you not to smile!

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Share the love, let me know some more good news in the comment section, tweet me or like my Facebook page.

The Archers Aftermath: 13 questions we’re all asking

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Well, that’s it, despite my FOURTEEN suggestions of satisfying, Archers appropriate deaths for Rob Titchener that didn’t a) traumatise Henry or b) turn Helen into a stabby attempted-murderer, they’ve done both. Bloody BOTH. Not only this, but in the aftermath there has been literally nothing hopeful, apart from the odd magical appearance of Anna Tregoran (#TFITregoran). We’re all counting on you Anna!

Nope, instead of a nice, humiliating, satisfying end to Titchynob (as he’s affectionately known on Twitter) we have a horrible, bloody mess. And, frankly, more questions than answers. So here they are, or a few of them anyway, for the purposes of my own catharsis and your reading pleasure: 13 questions we’re all asking about The Archers. Continue reading

Of home births and hero worship.

Recently, it’s really struck me how we all (or at least those of us who spend too much time googling shit and carry around an abundance of middle class guilt) aspire to a certain kind of birth. Pain-relief free, in a birthing-pool and, ideally, at home. The natural way.

(Incidentally, this line of thinking partly started because of the whole Helen-home-birth storyline on the Archers, which has since paled into insignificance).

Before I go any further I should say – if you did give birth at home, then props to you. I ain’t no hater.

But I do feel like women who manage to do it all ‘naturally’ receive a particular, celebrated status. They are sometimes talked about in a way that I rarely hear women who had assisted births being described. “Such a hero”, “amaaazing” etc.  And I don’t think that status serves anyone. Because, for one thing, it dictates how you should feel about your labour. At home with no pain-relief? You should feel good! In hospital with an epidural and some ‘assistance’. Bad. Obvs. Continue reading

14 satisfying, Archers-appropriate ends for Rob Titchener…

Well, we all really hate Rob Titchener, don’t we? The Rob and Helen saga  has hit somewhat of a nerve among those who are used to tuning in to Radio 4 for 15 minutes of conversations about curtains for the church hall and the reassuring sound of lowing cattle.

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Helen and Rob: it’s not okay

We’re all sensible, grown-up people (sort of), and really we want to see justice served. Rob should be exposed and held to account, preferably with a good helping of public humiliation thrown in. I’d like to see (hear) him shoved forcefully into the back of a police car by Harrison Burns during some sort of village green shindig, just so the whole of Ambridge can get a good view… and maybe throw a few pastured eggs while they’re at it. (my money’s on Rob for the hen house arson, by the way, for no other reason than him being a complete dick).

But we don’t want a trial on the Archers do we? It isn’t Brookside for goodness sake. No, we either want that all to happen in the background, and then for Helen to happily announce that “Rob’s got a 40-year combined sentence” (for fraud, coersive control, rape, sabotage, assault etc) in a few months time. Or… Well, we’d like him to die. Wouldn’t we? Continue reading

28 times we hated Rob Titchener a little bit more…

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Public Service Announcement: This man is the actual worst**

Is The Archers sending anyone else into a borderline-panic-attack state recently? Seriously, this shit should come with a trigger warning.

In fact, trigger warning. This post contains reference to eating disorders and domestic and sexual abuse. Sigh.

Catching up on Friday’s episode of The Archers, I was physically shaking. The Rob and Helen storyline is car-crash radio at it’s best/worst. It just gets more and more disturbing, yet I can’t look away. Actually, I might have to, it’s not good for my mental health.

So, in order to excise some of this trauma, I thought I’d share my anger/grief/fear with y’all. I’ve been on Twitter, so I know I’m not the only one with #RobRage. Please enjoy this rant/romp through some of the highlights of Rob Titchener’s most hateful moments. (put the kettle on and settle in, we’ll be here for a while). Continue reading

7 reasons we all hate Waybuloo, don’t we?

As my regular readers may know, I am big fan of using television as a parenting assistant, especially CBeebies. Bubs knows that ‘scissors are sharp’ because Mr Maker told him so. He also knows the difference between a stegosaurus and a triceratops, all thanks to Andy and his dinosaur adventures.

 I  like to take the piss out of In The Night Garden, and make valid/hilarious points about general gender stereotypes, but I hope CBeebies know just how I treasure their existence!

I can pretty much tolerate all of the programmes too. I mean, I’ll take a Hey Dugee or Dip Dap (best thing on TV) over an ep of the Teletubbies any day, but it’s all good, I can cope… I can even abide the occasional saccharine episode of Everything’s Rosie. But there’s one exception to this rule. When I hear the plinkedy-plonkedy music of the Waybuloo theme start I invariably let out an involuntary groan. Sometimes I even do a swear. Dear Reader, I just hate it. Continue reading