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From red carpets to rattles this is the journey of one working mother attempting to see if you really can have it all....

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A step in the right direction


I have just seen the news that a well known former model and television personality has taken her own life, or committed suicide.  I vaguely recall someone once telling me that you shouldn't use the term "committed suicide" as it implies the person is making an informed choice, or was that taken their own life? I'm not sure it matters really, when it comes down to it, she is gone.

It is sad, incredibly sad actually, when anyone takes their own life, and when that person is high profile suddenly the issues surrounding their death becomes high profile too. People are often shocked at why someone who seemingly had it all would end their life. Surely being successful, beautiful, talented is more than enough to conquer any kind of mental health problem. It's not.

The thing about mental illness is that it can affect anyone, like cancer it's a bit like a postcode lottery. Sure you can try and do things to keep your mind healthy and happy, same as someone can try and do the right things to prevent themselves from getting sick, but at the end of the day you can only hope that the big black dog doesn't choose you to invade because if he/she does you're in for a battle...

It doesn't matter if you are young, middle aged or elderly. If you are successful or have a loving family. If you have a mental health problem all of that can pale into insignificance compared to the pain you are going through.

I'm talking as if I understand what it's like to suffer from a mental health problem, but I don't. If I did I might have understood a little more of what my father was going through before he took his own life in 2002. For years he had battled depression,aggravated by an incident at work that unfortunately wasn't handled as well as it could have been. I knew that my dad, the most loving, witty and generous man you could hope to meet, could have days where he couldn't get out of bed, would sleep on and on in an attempt I guess to block out the world. But I didn't really get it. With the naïveté of a teen I used to tell him to go for a walk or join a squash club as excercise was known to help lift moods. I'd tell him off for being down, didn't he know how lucky he was compared to so many people out there? He seemingly had it all so what was his problem?! If only we all knew then what we are starting to know now.

I know it's only a little over a decade since my dad's death but when it comes to society's attitude towards mental health it could be a lifetime ago. Back then no one talked about depression, or suicide. I remember after Dad died people, friends, being so shocked that he had been unwell, not many people knew just how strong and brave he had been for so many years. More alarming was the number of people we knew that then spoke out about their own battles. People who had contemplated suicide, or attempted it. People who had loved ones who had taken their own lives but had always maintained they had died of something else. These were all successful, wonderful people. It made me realise that my family was what I had always believed it was, terrific, unfortunately being a terrific family doesn't make you immune to depression.

At his wake my god brother, yes in my family we have these, said that I should think of suicide in the same way as cancer. Some people survive cancer and some no matter how hard they fight just can't defeat the disease. I really like the analogy. Maybe if we started treating mental illness with the same gravity, openness and reverence as cancer we wouldn't loose so many?

With suicide comes a terrible fear of stigma. I remember my main concern after dad died was what would I tell people? I knew I wasn't ashamed of him, in fact I was proud that he had fought his battle for so long. But I also didn't want people to think badly of him, those that might not know him might make assumptions about him that were wrong or might make assumptions about us as a family. I remember bumping into an old school teacher a couple of weeks after he had died, one that I always got the impression wasn't my biggest fan. Suddenly, and in front of a group of people I didn't know she asked me what Dad had died of. Panicking and also sensing this was not coming from a place of concern but rather a place of curiosity I blurted out that he had suffered a heart attack, it had come out of nowhere and it was massive, he didn't stand a chance. The town I come from is a small place, to this day I'm sure she already knew what had happened, she just wanted to get it from the horses mouth. I went home and cried about how I had betrayed my dad. My mum told me not to be silly, I was protecting him. She said I would know who to tell and who to lie to, I still follow this advice.

Very few people that didn't know me before dad's death actually know what happened. I always worry that people will judge, or even worse will pity me. I know I'm not alone, work is a breeding ground for stress, anxiety, depression so there's no way some people there haven't experienced some kind of mental health problems themselves or have loved ones that have. But unlike other illnesses there's no way any of us are going to say anything. I have sat and listened as people around me have used the most offensive terms when discussing a news story that involves mental illness. Yet these are the same people that preach about what term to use when describing suicide. Ironic much? 

At the time I said that one day I would use my position, whatever that might be, to speak out about mental illness. Show people that it can happen to anyone. I still haven't had the guts. But there is still time.

I'm starting to realise that I am part of the problem. How can I preach about how we should all be talking about mental illness and how people should stand up and shout if they are struggling if I myself am not brave enough to so.

At the moment it's easy to tell ourselves that suicide isn't really there, it's just something that happens in the darkness, only exposed when it happens to a celebrity that people 'care' about. And yet the statistics are frightening...

1 million people across the globe die by suicide each year. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds.

* More people die by suicide each year than by murder and war combined.

* Suicide is the second biggest cause of death worldwide among 15-19 year olds.

* 100,000 adolescents die by suicide every year.

* Suicide is estimated to be under-reported for reasons of stigma, religion and social attitudes. Many suicides are hidden among other causes of death, such as road traffic accidents and drowning.
(Source: International Association for Suicide Prevention)
 

I'm going to post this now because I'm worried that if I pause I might chicken out. I apologise for any spelling or grammatical errors I don't really want to read it back to check. I hope that by writing this I'm taking a step in the right direction, a direction that I vowed at my dad's cremation 11 years ago that I would go.


- In memory of Thomas O'Toole and all those affected by mental illness.





Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I am who I am

I am who I am because I knew you.

I am who I am because I loved you.

I will be who I will be because I lost you.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Grief

It's consuming, overwhelming and inescapable.

It is the missing of someone you might not have seen in a long time. 

It's the longing for conversations that are yet to take place.

It's the regret of time wasted and thankfulness for time spent.

It's hours of blissful forgetting followed by that single, breath taking moment of remembering. 

It's memories that provoke a smile while at the same time producing tears.

It's all consuming but isn't exclusive. 

It can make someone feel like the only person in the world. It's an emotion shared by all in this world.

It binds strangers together. It can rip loved ones apart.

It's an internal pain buried deep within your soul and an external pain shining from your eyes.

It makes your heart hurt and your soul cry.

It's filled with unanswerable questions; what if, if only and why?

It's a constant companion that never leaves us but falls a few steps behind over time.

It allows us to remember and it forces us to never forget.

It lets us know how greatly we loved and how great love can hurt.

It brings us to our knees. It gives us the strength to keep breathing.

It is death. It is life.


Monday, 6 May 2013

In that moment...

There are plenty of things we take for granted. I think when life is going well it is normal to expect that it is going to stay that way, it is natural to get a little complacent. And then life comes and gives you a giant kick up the backside...

Our kick came today and I think it is going to be a long time before we take the simple things for granted again, in fact I would like to think we never will again.

I think one of the scariest aspects of life is the unpredictability of it all. You very rarely, if ever, get a warning that something untoward is going to take place. You will be going about your day and then bam something happens that can change everything.

That moment happened to us today. Before I start I have to put that thankfully this story has a happy ending.

Today's bank holiday meant the chance for one of us to have an extra sleep in and today was my lucky day. So while I slept soundly DD got up with the piglet and gave her breakfast, which he later remarked wasn't very large, but at the time he put it down to her being a little gummed up with a cold. She was tired apparently so had a morning nap, again nothing unusual with this, the morning was textbook.

When she woke an hour or so later DD decided enough was enough and that daddy daycare was closed for the morning so bought her in to me for a cuddle. Terribly congested she kept snuggling into my neck which was welcomed but slightly unusual, as since she has learnt to crawl she wants to be on the move all the time and cuddles just slow her down. 

"Wowsers she is a hot little bunny,"  I casually remarked.

"I think it's time the winter sleeping bag was retired for the season"

"Haha look she is trying to stop herself from falling back" joked DD as the piglet did a jerky movement while sitting.

But then she jerked again. And then again, and in that split second our smiles were gone.

Our baby was fitting.

In all honesty the following sequence most likely took seconds, but it did feel like an age. 

First she was fitting, her eyes rolling back and I was picking her up from the bed. Then I was throwing her at DD who ran downstairs with her whilst I scrambled to put clothes on. It is funny the things that go through your head in moments of crisis but I remember having an internal arguement with myself over whether I had time to put on a bra...

Running for the lifts I tried not to look, I think I knew that if I gave myself a chance to process what was going on I wouldn't be of much use to anyone. DD later explained how it felt like he was holding a dead person, how her body was limp and her eyes not blinking. I'm glad I didn't look.

The lifts in our complex have been playing up so after a few seconds of nothing we made a run for it. Normally when we go down the stairs piggy makes a little sound with each step, a noise that's a bit like a mix of a burp sound and a humph. Today the only sound I could hear was DD pleading with his monkey to make any kind of sound at all.

The hospital is 8 minutes away, today it took 5 minutes. I'll probably get a speeding fine, but I don't give a damn. Half way there she started whimpering. It was a 'thank god' moment when we were given a clue that things might not be as bad as we first feared. I think that was when DD and I started to breathe again.

The medical term for what happened today is a febrile convulsion. It should be called giving your parents a heart attack. They take place when the body suffers a huge spike in temperature. Apparently they are quite common. DD had one when he was the exact same age. But although bloody terrifying, they are not overly serious. There are several causes, illness is the most common. A small percentage of babies have one after they have had their immunisation shots. Piggy had her shots on Saturday, but as we found out today she has a bad virus, so either or both could be to blame in this instance.

A few distressing tests, some pain relief and some monitoring over a few hours and we were discharged. We were told to keep an eye on her temperature,to keep her cool at all times and were assured that this would most likely be the end of it all.

It was after we had put the pickle in her cot for the night that the tears started. Neither of us bothered to justify them, we both knew exactly where they were coming from. A mix of relief and a horrible sense of what might have been.

I'm writing this from the floor of her room, I'm taking the first shift. Tonight I won't grumble if she wakes in the night for no other reason than she wants a cuddle. If she wants a night feed she has got it, to hell with 'the routine'.

We had one hell of a day, certainly not the nicest way to spend a bank holiday but tonight we are the luckiest people in the world. We came home with a poorly but otherwise healthy little girl. Many other parents are going through much worse right now and my heart is hurting for them.

The cliches are true, moments like this put it all in perspective. Nothing is more important than the health and well being of our loved ones. We could have the best, most fulfilling jobs in the world. We could be super rich and be able to buy whatever, whenever we wanted. But if we, and those we love don't have good health we have nothing at all.

I hope I remember this the next time I feel hard done by...

Friday, 18 January 2013

D-day

There's not much you need to know about the day the piglet was born. To be honest childbirth isn't the most pleasant of dinner table topics. Nor is it something I really want to relive in minute detail as I try and turn it into some kind of meaningful prose. Therefore this isn't going to be the longest of chapters.

Thank god I hear you say. For a moment there I bet you thought I was going to tell you how my waters exploded straight into the face of my unassuming midwife. How she got a little more than she bargained for when she went poking about quite late on in the piece...

Likewise I won't write about how nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for just how much those contractions hurt. Not even watching the omnibus of One Born Every Minute gives you the heads up.

Watching OBEM was handy however when it came to instructing DD on how to behave in the delivery suite.

One relevant episode saw a D2B (Dad to be) fall asleep during his partners labour. Now to be fair to the man it was a very long labour and his only companion for the duration was his incredibly boring mother-in-law. But still, he did manage to snooze through a fair amount of screaming so I'm wondering if he snuck some earplugs in? At one point he even asked her to keep the noise down. I don't think I need to tell you her response....

Anyway, nothing was said at the time but I did notice that DD was watching that episode quite intently.

"Can you please make sure you get some cans of redbull for your hospital bag." Requests DD a week before D-Day.

"Nah, it's ok. I've been told water and sports drinks are better during labour. But that's cool that you have been thinking about what I will need to get me through, very sweet." I say, feeling very smug that I should have such a caring, thoughtful husband. "Not for you, for me!" He reply's passionately.

"I need you to make sure I have plenty of redbull to hand ok, so can you please make sure you buy a 12 pack today and put them in the fridge so that they are chilled and ready to go."

"I'm sorry are you confused? Is it you that will be giving birth? No! In fact I have the honour of that particular task. So why the hell are you the one that will need the energy drinks?!"

"You know how I have a habit of falling asleep easily." He answers.

This was true he did sleep like a baby (this was obviously written by someone who had never had a baby as they do not sleep, making this analogy entirely misleading in my opinion.)

"You could have a long labour and I'm worried I might get sleepy like that guy on TV and you'll go nuts."

"Umm I think seeing your first born entering the world will provide you with enough adrenalin to keep you awake dont you?"

"Mmm I wouldn't want to bet on it. Remember that time I fell asleep in the middle of that huge argument.."

I do remember, I also remember wacking him around the head with a pillow to wake him up. He had a point. A 12 pack of redbull was purchased the very next day.

In the end DD only needed 4 cans and we managed to avoid any pillow walloping.

As I mentioned before my waters breaking was a highlight to all in the room, other than the midwife obviously. And apparently the gas and air made me sound like Darth Vader. A fact made more amusing when I turned to DD after one particularly intense contraction and declared that I had just "made that contraction my bitch."

So after 6 or so hours of conquering some pretty intense contractions a little person entered the world and I can't begin to describe how it felt. Anyone who has had a baby will tell you it's the most amazing, surreal experience you will ever have. They are right.

We decided not to find out the sex of the baby before the birth and actually we were so happy that everything seemed ok we forgot to find out after. So after about 10 minutes or so the midwife said we really should find out what we had got, lifted the baby off my chest momentarily, and declared it was a girl.

A girl. I had a daughter. And what a perfect, pint sized, scrumptious, utterly edible daughter she was.

It's true what they tell you. In that moment every ache and pain, sickness and swelling, contraction and agony is worth it. In fact it suddenly disappears. You know that you've been in the most intense pain of your life but you honestly can't remember it. You have your baby in your arms and that's all that matters.



Thursday, 22 November 2012

"Does my bump look big in this...?"

A funny thing happens when you are pregnant, your body becomes public property.

Now I'm not one of those people that hates people touching their bump, in fact I like to think of it as people giving B2B (baby to be) a little cuddle. But it is rather disconcerting when you are walking through the office or other public place and people you hardly know tell you very animatedly just how humongous you are.

It's not that I'm ashamed of my bump, I think it's the coolest thing in the world that I am genuinely baking my baby. But I'm certainly not planning on posing nude Demi Moore style...sure the offers haven't exactly been rolling in but even so...

I guess it's just hard when you've spent most of your teen/adult life hoping people will not focus on your body to suddenly have that as the first place people look. "Hello, my eyes are up here"

What I've also discovered is that there is quite a bit of competition amongst the mum to be set when it comes to bumps. Oh how those with the 'neat' bump smile smugly when the umpteenth person exclaims how tiny they are. While those of us lucky enough to be 'carrying all around' feel the need to explain that you honestly haven't been eating all that many chocolate eclairs.

At the end of the day all the wives tales about how people can tell what you're having is just that, a tale.

Like the size of your boobs or butt, the size of your bump comes down to genetics and the way the baby is sitting.

So here's a little tip from someone who has experienced the smug feeling when my bump was neat and tidy at certain points in this pregnancy along with the evacuate the lift of all extra persons when it went from little to large almost overnight.

If you come across someone with a BOB (baby on board) don't risk catching us at a particularly hormonal moment. When you see one of us waddling down the corridor don't tell us how big or small we are, just tell us how beautiful we look. It may not be true at that exact moment, but we'll take it.

Oh yes and this goes for other DD2B's out there. Saying your wife looks like one of the Ribena berries from that television commercial is not a compliment, nor is it a wise move....don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Eating for two

"Honey do you really need that? It's your second helping, and you had a pretty big starter."

"Oh my god are you saying I'm fat?!"

"No of course not! It's just since the pregnancy you have kind of put on a little bit of weight."

"Oh my god I can't believe what I'm hearing! So yes I did put on a bit during the pregnancy but that's totally normal by the way. And I'll admit it I haven't been that quick to loose it but I have a new baby for gods sake! I'm tired, I'm doing my best you know. I'm sorry if I'm not like those celebs that lose their baby weight in a matter of days. I think my hormones are still over the place to be honest. I can't believe I'm even having to justify myself, to you of all people. You should understand. I've just had a baby..."

"But that's the thing darling, you didn't actually have the baby, I did...."