Strange Days

Sometimes days are too much.When escaping and hiding under a blanket can be classed as self care.

This blog originally appeared on firefly.

 

It’s one of those mornings.

 

I wake at 5am to hear a determined 13-year-old trying to exit her room by squeezing herself under the stairgate at her door. It doesn’t work as she is blessed with the booty of her mother’s mothers, so she gets stuck and shouts.

 

I left the marital bed at 1am for the spare room as the snoring had become deafening so I figure it’s not my problem.

 

Shaken out of sleep I realize I am a terrible mother and wife, and so am wide awake, while the escapee and snorer have both managed to fall back to sleep.

 

Just for fun I run a few of my favourite, back stories in my head. I am the star of these glorious productions, and while I consider myself, failing in a myriad of ways I make absolutely no concessions for my age, tiredness or general humanness in the tale. Each failure is utterly my fault and could only be resolved if I was an all-round better person.

I’m not.

 

Thirteen years of caring hit me like a brick on the forehead.

 

I was going to write about self-care this morning.

How important it was to eat the rainbow, do the things you love, exercise religiously and surround yourself with sunlight.

47483_157852777564008_6821741_n
Exercise religiously and with Pearllike determination

Instead I offer you this.

 

On the  mornings you wake up imagining that the teachers at school talk about you behind your back because you lost your child’s reading books again, these same books that your child only manages to listen to the first word of (This you understand ,not because she has huge cognitive challenges, but because you have not used your professional skills to gradually increase her attention span, but have let her watch The Wiggles on her iPad)

 

On these mornings forget the Instagrammable meals and to do list.

Get your child out of the house onto transport as soon as possible-stay in your pyjamas, cleverly disguised as exercise wear. In fact, if you like put your running tights on so you look like you’re just about to go out-they are as comfortable as pyjamas anyway.

 

Shut the front door. Turn off the phone. Find a carb if your liking and consume it with a cup of coffee.

 

Grab a cat if you have one. Put it on your chest and lean into the purr. This is an animal that knows the importance of rest. Let it be your teacher.

oHclvn6tQymHjTSu1leDnA
New mindfulness delivery from Prime

Turn on the tv (books are available but at the bottom of this well of tiredness who even has the concentration?) and watch anything you like without fear of judgment.

 

At some point you may have to get up to boil a kettle or eat something. Do not be drawn into a chore. Resume the position you only have a few hours before the school taxi returns.

 

Rest is important, vital for recovery and progress. It is not an indulgence it is a requirement. Nobody will die if you don’t put a wash on. There is absolutely another day tomorrow.

 

There are other days when getting up and setting yourself a task like getting dressed is the way forward. (if all you tomorrows are like today and getting off the sofa becomes an impossibility then another level of self-care needs to kick in involving a GP and extra help.)

 

Nobody told me there’d be days like these. They don’t tend to be ‘grammable.

 

Strange days indeed.

 

 

Power to the People!

I have a bucket load of experience in hospitals, many of us do. I love the NHS, but it can be easy to feel disempowered and remember what to say in appointments.

Top tips from me, top tee from Mutha.Hood​.Originally posted on firefly

 

A close relative who is also an Occupational Therapist has recently found herself on the Special Needs journey. She works in hospitals four days a week. People consult her for advice and opinions.

On her other days in hospitals for appointments, with her Mum hat on, she has noticed something strange.

Her opinions are an afterthought.

“We’ll do this and this and this. Alright Mum?”

Opinions and appointments are offered as a foregone conclusion.

If she knows an investigation is available or helpful, she has to repeat herself.

Again. AND again. She has to employ more assertiveness and determination her mum role than she does in her professional one. There is an imbalance of power.

 

I am not offering this as an example of how bad professional are. She is one, I was one.

 

Only a generation ago Doctors and Health Care Workers weren’t

required to work collaboratively, they were Consultants, the ones with the answers.

Naturally good doctors always have been great communicators, but if they weren’t it was rarely questioned. You had less choice in who you saw, and knowing a Medics first name, much less using it was a very rare thing. This is the medical model-you see a medic they fix you.

 

Things have changed a great deal, and some have stayed the same

The Medical Model continues to haunt the NHS-and let’s be honest as users it is what we would really like. Imagine if I took my nonverbal girlie to the Paediatrician and she was given a pill and came out talking!
In the beginning of the Special Needs journey this is what most of us want and expect.

There must be an answer, mustn’t there?

 

So, the imbalance of power is partly historical, partly to do with a Western idea of medicine, and partly handed to the professional by us. (Think “my child is broken please fix it”)

 

There is are other reasons though that we find ourselves disempowered as parents.

One is very simple. We are in crisis. A situation has occurred that we have not encountered, most of our friends and family haven’t experienced and we are not taught about at antenatal. We have a child who is different, and we don’t know what it means, for us for them or for the future.

 

When I was working as a Speech and Language Therapist, I had loads of experience of Speech and Language problems. None of this experience was personal.

I had met and become close to lots of clients with language issues, but I had not lived with them.

The Hospital I worked in was my place of work-for the community it was a place of crisis.

Friends and relatives had experienced the worst moments of their lives there, and some had lost their nearest and dearest.

My friends worked there with me, shared coffees and lunches. The work was emotionally taxing (health professionals are generally an empathetic bunch who experience some degree of vocational calling) BUT at the end of the day I went home.

 

I offer this as an explanation not as a solution.

 

Professionals can become excited by new therapeutic solutions that won’t work for you, for your child or family-so how can you come to hospital meetings and not be overwhelmed or feel confused or railroaded into plans you are not happy with?

 

Feeling emotional, confused and vulnerable is normal. You are in an unusual situation. In the early days try not to go to appointments alone. If you don’t have friends or family able to come, local parent support groups should be able to offer you an advocate. This is great as along with having another person on your side of the table they can debrief you afterwards.it is entirely possible to go in to an appointment and feel you’ve understood everything only to immediately forget it all.

Trust me I’ve done it!

 

Think of what you want of the appointment. Write it down before you go in and try to get your questions answered.

 

If somebody says something you don’t understand ask. You are not being stupid; they may be using language they take for granted in work life that normal mortals just don’t speak.

 

Try to summarize what has been said in the meeting to check you both understand

“So, you’ll make an appointment and I’ll get it in the post?”

 

You may not get on with every Professional you meet. That is OK they are not your friends. If, however you think they are not working in your best interest, despise you or seeing them makes you feel physically sick you should probably talk to someone, because that is NOT alright.

 

Finally treat yourself! If the idea of appointments and the amount of emotional strength you need to get through them makes you anxious try to trick yourself with the promise of coffee cake or McDonalds on the way home. It works for my 13-year-old, and frankly me too!

 

The dream is meeting Professionals who you get to know, form a good working relationship with and who you look forward to seeing. It will happen and when it does, when they understand you and your child that is momentous. Cherish those people and reward them with chocolate if necessary, they are worth it!

 

 

Goodbye to All That..

This post originally appeared on Firefly at the beginning of the new school term.

 

Hello and congratulations!

Made it through the school holiday?

Feeling smug?

Or, like me utterly exhausted and considering out sourcing your parenting to someone more qualified and altogether calmer?

Is the undoubted joy of handing your child over to someone else, tempered by fear of the consequences?

Then you are probably the parent of a child with additional needs.

Perhaps you love someone spectrumy who is managing in mainstream, but struggles with change and has to enter a new class, with a new time table, and new teachers?

Maybe your small significant other has complex needs and you have to trust someone to keep them safe, well, clean and alive, along with the curriculum?

Do you love someone moving from Mainstream into Special Education, and fear that there will be associated stigma?

Or is your small special person moving into Mainstream?

How do you balance the relief at having time to go to the toilet alone, with the concern that someone else who doesn’t have a parent’s eye is caring for them?

How do you relinquish control?

Pearl is now 11 and has left her beloved Primary School and is heading off somewhere new.

To be honest Pearl, although apprehensive, is excited and looking forward to making friends.

I do however, expect an increase in challenging behaviour and mood swings over the next fortnight.

And Pearl may have some too!

There is always a wistfulness to this time of year.

Taking the dogs out early this morning mist hung in tunnels over the fields.

The blackberries are going over (they have, “the devil’s claw”, an old term I particularly like for the fusty, past their best ones).

There is a feeling of change in the air.

Change of weather, change of season.

Shortening days and cooler nights.

I have been involved in the education system for 45 years, pupil, student, school therapist and mother.

Autumn is intertwined so tightly with the new school year it’s impossible for me to extricate my emotions from the season.

Tomorrow when Pearl puts on her new uniform and gets on a new taxi, to go to a new school I will be tense.

Will they understand her?

Will she fit in?

Will they see how wonderful she is?

Did we choose the right school?

I know I’m not alone.

From experience, I know this season will be replaced by the next, routines will be reestablished, and life will go on.

So fellow travellers, let them leave, take a deep breath, put the kettle on.

 

 

 

 

The Way We Were

A stream of Horton consciousness .

Change occurring always opens up a stream of memories of places, people and things.

Today I bring you a stream of Horton consciousness.

The School trip to the Snow Dome in early years. Pearl and I traveled together and arrived early. As we waited she grinned at me and signed vigorously. Although I wasn’t very familiar with Makaton at that stage I knew exactly what it was.

“Yes” I grinned back

“I’m excited too!”

13240649_1321277617888179_4913748902418132136_n

The Horton fundraising triathlon. All the children swam ,wheeled, walked, stepped. Those who could rode bikes, while others pressed buttons to move a cyclist on the computer. It was done in class teams and while it was another teams turn they were supported with whoops shouts and shakers for encouragement.

47483_157852777564008_6821741_n
Watch out world,she’s on her way.

 

School plays. This years nativity in which I, Mother of Pearl, was the proud Mama of the Mother of God.

25487403_1912856655396936_7277592187444259917_o

 

The environmentalist one about polar bears (!?) where 4 wheelchair users bedecked in Christmas tree lights were by danced by TAs in formation while “Northern Lights” played in the background.I’ve seen some world class theatre and contemporary dance but watching this was right up there.

The fortitude the staff showed one dreadful year when  Horton lost three children with life limiting conditions in two terms.The way they continued while supporting parents and children and managing their own mourning was commendable and impressive.

img_4704

A visit from Paralympian Ellie Simmonds,when Pearl was reluctant to return the Olympic gold she’d been allowed to hold.

 

16463530_1562524223763516_7927489843266961338_o
Thank you Ellie,you don’t want it back do you?

 

The Oscars when children are presented with Oscars for proper achievements like fabulous community spirit and great communication aid use while dressed up for the occasion.

IMG_0750

Oh and the leavers assemblies when the handful of leavers a year are remembered,teased,and commended for simply being who they are, part of Horton family. Huge apologies to the friends whose children left in the last couple of years, I just couldn’t bear to see them go so stayed at home.

I would go on, but now it’s time to go to a leavers assembly I also feel emotional about, although this time staying at home isn’t really an option.

This post is part of a blog a day for Horton.You can donate to help us say thank you here

 

logo
A blog a day for Horton

 

Ch – ch – ch – ch – Changes.

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

Pearl is currently in transition. In non jargon she has spent half a day at her new school, and today is spending the whole day. The rest of the week, it’s back to Horton for goodbyes, parties and general end of term shenanigans.

I too am in transition.The new school seems really promising, a new start is quite exciting. The holidays are coming, there are still house moving boxes to be unpacked, Pearl has a new set of wheels from wheelchair services.

Last night I dreamt someone told us we couldn’t live in our lovely new house anymore. We went back to the old one, and the new owners had spoilt it, and wouldn’t let us have it back. Then a variety of people I love and respect appeared and told me they hated me. It was one of those nights when I may as well have stayed awake.

When I am very stressed, I get busy. (At one point I was doing three part time jobs and caring for two children with additional needs, plus one with mental health issues) at others I’ll set myself challenges, or overcommit to volunteering.

It works well as a distraction strategy, but it doesn’t actually make the stressful situation go away. If I allow it to, I become totally overstretched and have to drop everything.

It is just possible I am writing a blog a day, to distract myself from the very purpose of writing it.

 

fullsizerender-6
All the feels, just all of them.

Pearl is leaving Horton. All the people who have known her for the past 8 years, watched her grow, faciliated her development gone. The staff who encouraged me when I was wrangling with the LA for a place at Kiplings, the people at Kiplings who have washed her, put her in her PJs and tucked her in, will all fade into memory and no longer be part of daily life. Pearl’s marvelous Paediatrician, who has been with us even longer, now works for Staffordshire and has a clinic in Horton. She has listened to me whinge and rail against injustice, provision and NHS shortcomings, and celebrated with me when Horton turned out to be the place, the very place for Pearl. She too will be replaced by someone from our Cheshire, because it makes logistical sense.

I am not good at goodbyes, not good at all, and leaving all these people will be a tremendous wrench.

When my children stay away overnight, I have always put a lipstick kiss on a post it, and written ‘a good night kiss from mummy’.

Just in case I become emotional and rush off on Friday, here Horton is one for you all.

 

IMG_0647
A thank you kiss from Mother of Pearl

 

 

 

This blog is part of a blog a day for Horton.So far we have raised, through your generosity £390 for the Parent, Friends and Staff Association.To add to the pot and help them provide some extras that make a real difference to the friends of Pearl donate here.

 

logo
A blog a day for Horton. 

 

Thought for the Day

In which I review my favourite inspirational messages-and a fair few that just don’t make the grade.

This post originally appeared on Firefly Community and can be viewed here 

Inspirational quotes, you know the ones. They pop up on your face book feed with a beautiful picture of a sunset, someone climbing a mountain, or jumping in the air with pure joy. They are a mixed blessing. Some can really resonate, a quote from an author, a word of scripture from a holy book. Some can irritate. Some are just plain wrong, I’m pretty sure that Winnie the Pooh didn’t make the “I have a dream” speech, and the things that Oscar Wilde reportedly said, well just don’t get me started.

Hand in hand with this come the helpful little phrases people choose to share with parents of children with additional needs. Most of this comes from the right place, although “God only gives special children to special parents” should be shoved somewhere else altogether.

fullsizerender-1-4

I have compiled, for your reading pleasure a short summary of some of the most common. You probably have some favourites of your own. If any come to mind that help you/make you want to punch somebody please share with the community below the line!

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.

In parenting a child with disabilities, as in life generally, this is not entirely true.

We brush up against mortality, severe illness, pain and struggle on a regular basis, plus the big questions of faith, meaning, love and loss. It’s not all small stuff.

Whether you have enough likes on your Facebook Page, if you have sent a birthday card a bit late, if your house is a bit untidy this my friend is the small stuff. You have my permission not to sweat it.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

This has always been one of my favourites. However now I wonder whether to replace it with

“what doesn’t kill you makes you exhausted, sleep deprived, Clinically Depressed, the possessor of a fierce and dark humour, snappy and reliant on alcohol”

Self-care suggests the first reading is preferable. On the days where the second is more accurate be kind to yourself.

Which brings us neatly to

Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

You my fellow parent, if you care for a child with additional needs you are fighting a hard battle. The person who has parked in a disabled space with no badge, I have less sympathy for.

The Local Authority responsible for providing care and support for you, your family and your child? Well they are paid, and should be working on your behalf.

For most special parents this could be adapted to Be Kind for everybody is fighting a hard battle with the Local Authority. It shouldn’t be accurate but there we are.

What cannot be cured must be endured

Must it? Well in reality yes, and emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back and keep on keeping on is useful tool in the special parents armour. I would argue however that you need to find people who get you, family friends, parents in the same position, so you can endure it with a better grace together. It may be that you can (whisper it quietly) even enjoy it!

I will leave you with my current personal favourite, which happens to be biblical but I think describes us, our children and our struggles well no matter what beliefs we do or do not have.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.

As I frequently find myself perplexed, despairing and feeling forsaken this curiously helps me. Despite all this I am a treasure in my 47 year old body, as is my beauteous daughter in her tricky, muscle weakend, wobbly, treacherous, one.

We are all the same no matter what our abilities or disabilities and that,to me is rather wonderful..

Happy?

In which I ponder the black dog, his habits and my reluctant relationship with him.

This post was initially published on Firefly.You can see the original here

 

I have always been a big thinker. I don’t say this out of pride, in my experience it is not necessarily an advantage.

 

An introvert adolescent and the youngest of three, I spent plenty of time alone growing up. I didn’t mind.
I liked reading. I liked thinking. I very clearly remember saying to my mum when I was about four ” but what is a human being?” The philosophical thoughts of a preschooler are enough to make most parents shudder, but I’m not convinced my thoughts have moved along much.

 

The main problem of having a mind of your own is that you have no one else’s internal workings to compare it to. Your normal is the normal.

 

When does being a loner, a thinker, a ponderer, tip over into something pathological?

 

Are all introverts depressive? In an attempt to resist over thinking this I’ll tell you how it is in the grimy recesses of my brain.

 

Depression to me is hard to explain and harder to admit to. It colours  other people’s perspective of you. Go to the GP and I believe a little flashing link appears on the case note screen.

”I think I’ve torn a ligament Doctor” “And how long have you been on the antidepressants Mrs. Scott?” (I exaggerate but…)

 

I have long felt that any bad health I experience, physical or mental is a character failing. If only I worked harder, ran faster and was an all-round better person, I would not experience this thing. As my excellent GP really did say “you are extraordinarily driven” Well duh?!Through sheer force of will I can, I will, be better!

 

Oh dear, that definitely sounds like the workings of a depressive brain. Couple that with the fact that I think I’m probably putting it all on. A double whammy.

 

Also, if I’m not depressed I’m happy. I don’t really do in between. I feel things extremely intensely, or I’m depressed when I don’t really feel anything at all.

 

In the absolute grip of it I long, long, for it to be over.

 

So what is it?

 

An absence of feeling. An abundance of desolation. A loss of appetite for food, drink, touch, smell, life. A deep hole which seems impossible to scale the walls of. A heavy sadness in my very bones. An utter and total loathing of myself, and a certainty that my family, my friends and indeed the world in general, would be better off without my draining existence.

 

Where does it come from? I know it comes from a lack of serotonin. I know that. But how, and why, and where has my quotient gone? Does somebody else have my measure? Is my happiness so happy I spent all my serotonin on a good day? Where does it go?

 

I lie some mornings in bed, sniffing the air. Is it here?  Has it gone? It’s gone! I leap up! Oh. No Still there. On days like this I would amputate my own arm with no anaesthetic if someone told me it would make that thing, black dog, cloud, slough of despond, go away.

 

Sometimes I sense it creeping up on me. If there are too many hospital appointments or LA fights, I keep my wits about me and take action before it settles in.

 

Occasionally its stealth amazes even me. It quietly whispers into my unconscious brain “you’re worthless” So quietly that it becomes background unquestionable fact.

 

Most of all it lurks invisibly. People don’t see it in me, I keep it well hidden. Well would you go out in public if you felt like that?

 

Recently I’ve been naming and shaming. Get it out there in the light, show it up for what it is, in the hope it will burn up and fade.

 

Mainly at the moment I thank Big Pharma for the little white pills. They contain the right dose of my elusive serontion. I have hated them, I have resisted them, but now I welcome them.

 

Just now, right at the moment they help. They can’t solve my problems but they can smooth over the rough edges and help me muddle along.

 

Isn’t that all that any of us can really do?