Sunday, 27 March 2016

My baby died.....

I haven't posted in a long while, that's because my baby girl died.

Emma, a beautiful name for my beautiful daughter.  She was born 12 weeks and 1 day early, but she died two days before.

And since worrying about money, work, nothing really matters.  One of the most important people in my life was taken away from me.  No amount of worrying could prevent that from happening.  I could have been poor on the streets, or a rich aristrocrat, nobody could have saved her, medicine was not advanced enough.  No diagnostic test could have prevented it.  She was already gone when I saw the plus on the pregnancy test, when I saw her dancing inside me on the ultrasound, when I felt her kicking me.

It has been two months since I gave birth to her, when I said hello and goodbye at the same time, screaming.  I still miss her.  I still feel a whole in my chest where my heart should be.  The room where she should be sleeping is still empty.  The nights are deathly silent.  My breasts which have long since dried up should be ripe with milk for her to feed off.  I sit here writing this with tears running off my cheeks, listening to sad songs, when I should be in hospital giving birth to her, alive.

I worried about so much.  I worried about what my friends thought of me when I said that thing that nobody took any notice of.  I worried about that headache that ended up being nothing.  I worried what letter could have turned up on my welcome mat, instead it was just takeaway menus and annual statements.  I worried about so much, and nothing happened.  Until I heard that something was wrong with my daughter.

I remember sitting on my balcony at home with my husband, half cut on wine and smoking cigarettes.  Despite still feeling the raw, agonising pain of losing our child only a few days before, I tried to keep my husband and I sane.  I recalled my favourite memories, the water fight with my family and new friends in Turkey, the time we jammed on the train back from Lewisham in 2012, our wedding day, the things that made us laugh.  I tried to remember the joys that life could bring us if we allowed ourselves to be happy, and to lift my husband from the feeling of failure and grief.  We smiled, only it felt wrong.  Was it really wrong?  What I wanted to do was to remind ourselves that, in life, we were happy before this cruel tragedy, and we will be happy again, only it would be without our precious daughter to share those new memories with.

I admit, I worry A LOT.  I worry if my husband's headache is because of a brain tumour, even though its the tension of depression.  I worry if that left pelvic pain is an ectopic pregnancy, when it's not.  I worry whether we will ever have a child.  But when I think back on those stupid things that I worried about before, they meant nothing.  Worrying... Does... Nothing.  Things just happen, and we just have to get through it.

We had to make painful decisions that we hope we, and other parents, would never have to make again.  Painful decisions that we know were the right things to do that will burden us for life, for the sake of the life of our baby.  Worrying did not do that for us, love did.

This blog will not cure you of your anxiety.  Yes, awful things in life happens, but do we waste our life sitting here worrying about anything and everything that COULD happen?  No!  Of course not!  There is a life out there if we grasp it and make the most of what makes up happy.  I look at the photograph of our honeymoon sitting on the bookcase, it's the happiest photograph of us, and that serves as a reminder that we shared such joy that our teeth showed and our faces creased with sun-burned wrinkles.  If we could be that happy then, we can be that happy again.  Our daughter will always be remembered and will always be in our hearts and our thoughts.  And when we are that happy again she will still be with us, in our souls, forever, we will share that happiness with her.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Scars of bullying

After a scroll on Pinterest I noticed some bullying awareness pins that touched a raw nerve.  One was a long image of different people with written messages on their hands and faces relating to how people judge them and what they conceal inside.  Having anxiety and depression, and having to conceal my true feelings from the judgemental, I could empathise greatly.  But it took me back to why I am as I am.

I have always been a quiet and reserved child, why, I don't know, that's too far away to analyse.  But maybe that was why I was bullied.  I was an obvious target, I never spoke up and I learnt to believe that it was my fault why I was picked on.  Primary school was not too bad, however I do remember the pain of being excluded from friends.  If I'm honest, it sounds normal, who has not been excluded at some point?  But once my primary education was over, it got worse.

If I could delete memory like deleting computer files I would erase everything from 2001 to 2006.  Sounds pretty extreme, and I do risk ridding good memories, but if it meant never experiencing my most horrendous panic attack, being imprisoned in a year long depressive episode and being mentally healthy today, then sure!  The bullying I experienced affected my life so greatly I now, at the age of 25, have no confidence in my ability to do anything, hate every aspect of myself (physically and emotionally) and have little friends because I cannot trust anybody.

So what happened to screw me up?  I shan't go into detail, but run over it briefly.  You'll see why soon, and you'll thank me for it.  I started year seven with braces and short, curly hair.  Right there my appearance was mocked and taunted, especially when other students were trying to fit into their new peer groups at my expense.  Because of this I became quiet and shy, another trait to pick, because I could not speak up to defend myself.  Then came my enthusiasm towards learning, you see I came from a school which was in special measures, had an embarrassingly low GCSE pass rate and a dire reputation for poor behaving students inside and outside of the school grounds.  The school was an awful institution.  Anyway, I was picked on and called a 'boffin' for listening to my teacher and actually doing my work.  I'm rubbing my forehead in disbelief as I type this.

It was established that I was the girl who everybody picked on.  Girls, boys, years above and beneath me, even a couple of teachers joined in too!  And speaking of teachers, well, they knew full well what was going on, they just turned a blind eye.  Some felt sorry for me, but that was as far as it went.

And then, at the beginning of year nine in 2003 it got too much and something broke inside me.  I had my first panic attack, and my worst.  I thought I was dying.  Only a few months before I was diagnosed with a scoliosis, a curved spine, and now I was tormented with a mental illness.  This became new material.  I was bullied for being deformed and mad.  For a thirteen year old girl, who was trying to make sense of the world and my place within it, this took a massive hit on my self image and self consciousness.  And then, right on cue, the depression hit.

I couldn't eat, I slept most of the day, I didn't wash, I didn't want to speak to anybody.  A, then, 14 year old girl, spending all of her time in her dark bedroom in week old clothes.  That was not normal, whether you are 14 or 40.  But nobody thought the same.  People didn't think that teenage girls could get depression, there was no reason to get me help.  'She'll grow out of it' they said.  That never happened, instead the depression took a tighter, and more damaging grip.  Then there was the 'They're jealous of you' excuse- jealous of me?  Sure, they can have my depression if they are that jealous!

Despite being so ill and still being bullied day in day out, by which point was becoming physical (hit by tennis rackets, stones, rulers and other unidentified objects), I still went to school every day.  I have no idea how I did not commit suicide, because by that point the bullying had been going on for two and a half years continuous.  I couldn't tell you if I was brave, or still had hope, or whatever, but by God the deadly, crippling thoughts were there.  I still think back to that determination to continue, because if I was put back there I don't think I would last again.

But, I'm sitting here today, alive.  I have accomplished many things, I am married to my best friend, I am lucky enough to have a mortgage and I have even written a book.  OK, I don't have a social life, my phone barely rings, I see myself as a total failure and I never did accomplish getting a degree, but one has to remind herself that life is not all that bad.  But that's hard, because one is still depressed.

Do I forgive my bullies, the stupid teenagers who picked and picked at a human life so much that they left it broken and scarred?  No, I have tried, but deep down it still hurts and no amount of counselling, therapy or spirituality can stop that.  I have to live with this, I doubt they do.  I doubt they even remember who I am or what they did to me, and that hurts in its own way.  I suppose it hurts to not even receive an acknowledgement that what they did to me left a permanent scar which I have to live with forever.  If I'm honest, it would not make a difference to me, it would not undo anything.  But what about the adults who stood by and watched, the ones who could have done something?  That just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  If it were me I would not and could not stand by and watch, I would say something!  Children and teenagers rely on adults, be it their parents, guardians and teachers, for protection, and we should give them that protection.

Maybe it's because times have changed.  Today we see childhood bullying as abuse, whereas when I was at school is was just seen as part of growing up and pot luck whether it happened to you or not.  There was no solution to it, it either went away on its own or you moved schools.  I'm glad, for the sake of today's and tomorrow's children, that there is a better attitude towards bullying thanks to research into the damage that bullying can do which, I'm afraid to say, lingers long into adulthood.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

What I learnt about mental health well-being on a counselling course

September last year I embarked on a level three course to pursue my career in counselling (that’s the talking therapy kind, not the politician kind, as I have had to remind people).  I enjoyed the smaller three month course that preceded it and I knew I would enjoy this one.  But did I prepare myself for the momentous amount of self-reflection and discovery, ow no I didn't!

Some people can be afraid of self-reflection and discovery, either because of not wanting to learn dark truths about ourselves or to relive painful memories and emotions.  Some people view it as tosh and nonsense.  But, from a mental health well-being point of view, it was very much worth it.

At the beginning we explored issues like culture, malpractice, ethical issues and limitations in the counselling environment.  Interesting stuff, you may learn where your tolerances are, but not mind blowing stuff.  Then comes the psychological theories of Freud’s unconscious and psychoanalysis, Adler’s attachment theory, Jung’s archetypes, Roger’s six core conditions, Berne’s theory of game playing and Ellis’s ABC-DE of irrational thinking.  I like science me, so this was fascinating and kept my attention.  This was when the self-analysis really kicks in.

Also, be it a counselling course, we learn a range of skills to allow our clients to freely explore their world in a safe environment provided by ourselves, physically and emotionally.  We practise these skills with our classmates, taking it in turns to be the counsellor and the client.  I imagined myself talking about mundane issues, I mean, like hell am I talking about my deepest and darkest issues to mere students, but I felt empowered to really go deep, ask myself why like I never did before, let the words flow out.  But, on the flip side, to allow your client to freely explore their world, to you, in the environment that you provided, is an honour.  There is a great satisfaction in knowing that, just by being empathic, you have helped somebody learn just that bit more about themselves and their situation.  Sometimes what they have learnt is negative, but that’s OK, because we can explore that further.

So, with all of the above, it is hard to not learn about yourself.  You think about your impulsions and childhood experiences against a psychodynamic theory and your anxieties against a cognitive behavioural method.  But it’s more than that.  I don’t know about others but I have become conscious of a lot of what I do, say and feel.  I recognise certain ‘neurosis’s stemming from my experiences of being bullied at school, like my fascination over perfection and inability to accept failure.  I have even learnt, for the first time, that it is OK to be angry, as this was an emotion that was looked down upon in my family.  I even people-watch differently now, I question why people behave the way they do.  This makes character development for my novels easier!

I suppose I could look back on this course as a very expensive therapy session.  But that’s OK.  My philosophy in life is that if we learn to fish we can feed ourselves for life.  I like to be shown how to do things, I want to learn as much as I can, and this remains in mental health well-being.  Somebody said to me that we buy better food and gym memberships to improve our physical well-being, so why do we not invest in talking therapy to improve our mental well-being?  The first argument against this is cost, one can exercise and get fit without the need of an expensive gym membership or equipment, but is that the same for mental health well-being? 

Talking is very important, but talking to the right person in the right environment is also important.  I am very lucky to have been in a classroom of empathic and congruent people who have enabled me to explore my world for me to get where I am today, but others will not be as lucky.  Talking therapies on the NHS are limited to a handful of sessions, and if you do not develop a working relationship with your therapist then tough.  If what you want to talk about is lengthy and complicated, then good luck condensing it into six sessions.  And if you want to go private then you better check the bank account first, as experience and quality of therapist is reflected in their costs.  So what can you do when the NHS can’t help and you’re skint?

This is my issue, right there.  And it hurts.  But, as one takes responsibility and control over their physical health one should over their mental health.  I would like there to be opportunities for people to talk about their problems and issues to anybody, a pen pal maybe, or even a good friend.  We need to talk to keep our health in check, talk about relationships at work, what decisions to make, niggling memories from the past.  Humans are social animals.  If we talk more I believe that anxiety and depressive symptoms will drop.

Our society is becoming more tolerant (in some areas, anyway).  Homosexuality is no longer illegal in the UK, people are free to practice whichever religion they want and women’s rights and equality is improving.  I have noticed how people are starting to become more open about mental health.  I am not afraid to stand up and defend mental health.  I have explained to people the pain of being depressed when they complain about their friends and how I conquered my demons in panic attacks and anxiety. 

And, on that basis, we should be open about everything.  OK, this is dependent on the person and time, I don’t think I could invite my postman for a tea and a chat about reaching self-actualisation, but if we could be a little more open than we are now, how much better could we all feel?  Let’s be honest and assertive with ourselves and each other, because I think that’s what we all need right now.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Show a little respect

First and foremost, I apologise for the long spell of silence.  Unfortunately, the depression had taken such a strong grip that I could not ignore the ‘You can’t write!’ and ‘Nobody reads these.’ thoughts.  Whilst I struggle to ignore these thoughts I shall write my blogs for my purpose of therapy, if nothing else.

As a student studying counselling skills one cannot avoid self-reflecting.  Since my teen years, where I spent many hours alone, self-reflecting has become a habit.  Whilst it is useful to think back on what we have done, how it could affect ourselves and others, and what we could have done better, it can be the basis for depressive thoughts.

Fortunately, I can reduce my self-loathing, morbid thoughts to ‘how can I get better?’ ideas that I had overlooked in the past.  The first being:  Respect.

Something that annoys me and, at times, upsets me is the lack of respect people show for one another.  I have seen doctors ignore care assistants in a hospital, middle management disgrace retail workers in front of customers and people disrespecting beliefs and life choices of people they have never got to know. 

As cliché as this sounds, we are one of seven (or eight- depending on when you read this) billion people who live on this planet.  We separate each other by the landmass we happen to live on, further separated by country, region, birth right, culture, race, faith, disability and so forth. 

It frustrated me that, despite us all being human beings, we see fit to treat people based on how we value others.  Because they follow a belief system different to our own, because they did not have a privileged upbringing, because they were born somewhere else.  Differences should be celebrated!

And for somebody who has depression, just having some respect could mean the difference between having a good day and an unbearable day.  But don’t be nice to people because of their mental wellness, do it because we are humans, do it to spread kindness.  You could make somebody feel better about themselves if you smile and share a friendly ‘hello’, or hold a door open for them (whether they are male or female).  A little effort will mean a lot to somebody else.  Even being mindful of what we’re saying could make a difference, keeping false information to oneself and not spreading hatred.

So, today, let’s vow to respect one another.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


This blog is not on the subject of mental illness, but on freedom.

As a writer I value the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, freedom full stop.

The death of the innocent twelve from Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7th January 2015 and the policewoman on 8th January 2015 have shaken the Western world.  But, in true spirit, the West have united by standing tall, holding hands and expressing our rights.  The cartoons drawn in the wake of the attacks demonstrated this.  The satirical cartoons were both humorous and heart-breaking.

I do not draw cartoons (I cannot draw at all), but I can write.  And no radical will ever take away my freedom, they can never take away our freedom. 

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