When love just isn’t enough

My eldest daughter has complex additional needs. Her diagnosis is far from clear cut and includes a couple of conflicting conditions, which aggravate, mask and exasperate each other. Getting her help is never going to be a magic pill which miraculously transforms her into the girl she normally manages to pretend to be.

See this is the truly heartbreaking nature of it. If you were to meet my eldest daughter you would find her to be charming, personable and engaging. If you got to know her well you might think her a little socially awkward but these complex additional needs, well her mother is obviously neurotic.

Only I’m not. Ok, well not in this instance!

My darling, kind, funny daughter has two sides. A side that she shows to the outside world. A mask she can maintain when everything is calm, safe and predictable. Sadly, her conditions mean that very often the world to her is far from calm, safe and predictable. She lives is a heightened state of anxiety. A state she is completely unable to cope with.

In this state of anxiety the other side of my daughter makes our family life miserable. We call them meltdowns. Probably the easiest comparison is to a toddlers temper tantrums. But in a 12 year old and with a 12 year olds stamina. They can, and frequently do, last for days.

During these periods we all have to endure being screamed at, insulted, physically threatened and what is worse watch her treat people we love so horribly. It absolutely is emotional abuse in a pure and potent form. If she was my partner I would be packing up and running. But she’s my daughter.

This behaviour is functional. She is attempting to communicate her distress. I am massively sympathetic to that and on hand to help in anyway I can. But when she is in this state she is beyond reason. In this state she absolutely does not want to sit down calmly and tell me how a classmate’s perfectly innocent comment has left her confused, hurt and entering into a primal fight or flight adrenaline roller coaster.

No, in this state all she is capable of is trying to show me how she is felling by making me feel the same. I’d describe myself as pretty empathic, finding it incredibly easy to imagine how another might been. If she was able to articulate even a fraction of what she was experiencing I’d get there. But she isn’t able to identify, untangle and discuss her emotions in this way. She just doesn’t have the ability.

How she communicates is by inflicting pain. My girl who isn’t really able to understand that the sensation she is feeling is cold and can be fixed by putting on a jumper is an absolute master at finding a point of sensitivity and exploiting it, mercilessly.

I am used to screamed insults, my younger daughter will frequently play in the middle of what should send a less desensitised 4 year old crying to their Mummy, my husband normalising the physical interventions when he has to get in her way as she flies at me. Our family life is frequently a battle ground. And I am without a weapon.

I need to find a way to protect myself and those I love without wounding a confused and distressed wee girl.

39

It’s my 39th birthday today. I’ve scheduled this post in anticipation of being far too busy unwrapping Tatty Devine boxes and eating cake.

I love my birthday. I’m the eldest of four and as a kid my birthday was the one day it was all about me. I’ve not quite grown out of my prima donna tendencies and relish the opportunity for a day where I am Queen of the Universe. Sadly, g refuses to entertain any of my delusions of grandeur and I will not be reclining on the sofa with him popping peeled grapes into my mouth.

What I will be doing is marvelling at the fact I’m 39. Do you not need to be a grown up to be in the last year of your 30’s?

I’m ok with ageing. I know that I’m not meant to be. I should be raging against wrinkles, battling bingo wings and saddened by saggy bits. Societal daftness about my needing to look like I’ve been dooked in the fountain of youth hasn’t taken hold here.

I like that my forehead advertises how much I frown when I’m concentrating. The crinkles round my eyes show off that I smile, a lot. The lines from my nose to corners of my mouth well they frame my choochy cheeks. I’m constantly disappointed at how few grey hairs I actually have, I’m desperate for long silvery locks. Previous bleaching disasters mean that I am waiting for Mother Nature on this one.

All that said, 40 is a very big number. It appears to have got me thinking. I’m approaching it with positivity aware that I want to be fabulous at 40. So I wrote a list.

40 things to tick off before next November. Some daft, some heartfelt and a couple of biggies. I’m not going to share them here, mainly because I doubt that you are reading this to cure insomnia.

But rest assured. Not a single one of these 40 things involves expensive anti-wrinkle creams, intensive exercise regimes or in any way trying to erase the story my face can tell.

Emotional Continence

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Obviously not literally, I like mad jewellery but that would be pushing even my boundaries. I’m trying to say that I’m not really capable of hiding what I’m feeling.

As the name of this blog suggests, I am the proud owner of an impressively witchy cackle. When I’m excited I squeak. I kid you not, like a slightly broken guinea pig and don’t be mucky I didn’t mean that kind of excited! If I’m passionate and enthusiastic about something I will be loud and hold on to all breakables I’m the terrifying combination of clumsy and a gesticulator. Confusingly if I’m angry, tired, hormonal, sad or especially happy I will cry. Good luck tying to figure out why I’m leaking.

I’m quite happy to ride a rollercoaster with my emotions, bouncing between extremes. Admittedly, given the amount of liquid eyeliner I wear the fact that I cry most days is a little inconvenient. Well it was until that review and welcoming Kat Von D into my make up bag. I’ve digressed.

I cry most days. I also laugh multiple times every day. I’m not depressed. I have been. I didn’t cry, or laugh, or really feel anything at all. For me depression is a numb, desolate place where even my emotions are muted. My normal is running the gauntlet of lots of powerful emotions and dealing with them openly and often loudly.

It seems to be the crying that causes people the most discomfort. People know how to respond when I’m cackling, are generally too worried about breakages when I’m enthusing and when I’m excited hilarity that a grown woman has just ‘squeed’ will follow. Tears have most people stumped. It’s horrible. A good cry is a magnificent thing. The palpable release of tension. A signpost for those people who care that you need them. But much more than all of this we need the tears to really feel the laughs.

Life is never going to be all about those belly clutching, ‘I think I might have just peed a bit’ laughs. In order to truly and better appreciate them there needs to be an opposite. The mascara ruining, multiple hankie, blotchy faced sob session.

I believe that in embracing the snotty sobbing we expand our range. Enabling us to reach headier heights of happiness. And if you need some suggestions here are just a few of the things that have made me greet.

  • When the cake I bought was pastry with cinnamon and not enriched dough and cinnamon.
  • Charity adverts.
  • G and the girls finding loads of fly agaric toadstools when I couldn’t go for a walk because of my stupid ankle.
  • If I think about Flash for too long. Flash was my cat, he had to be put down in 2015.
  • Bad haircut. Ok, several bad haircuts.
  • Part way through a massage.
  • During a stupid fight with g over a hedge.
  • Some nights when I tidy up my duvet dancing girls. Eternally grateful that we get to tidy up sleeping children.
  • Almost every book I read.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. The beautiful rainbow on an otherwise perfectly miserable day. Picking up my phone to call someone just as it begins to vibrate with them calling me. Those coincidences reassuring me that this is all part of some kind of grand design.

Other days I don’t need to wonder. The universe is crystal clear in her rallying cry, no decoding required.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a shout. Possibly even a banshee scream.

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I tend not to read non fiction. I’m all about the story, the more fantastical the better. So when I found myself in the library’s non-fiction aisles I was a bit unsure what I was doing. But I was drawn to the spine of Big Magic. When I saw the headline on the cover ‘Creative living beyond fear’ all the wee hairs on the back of my neck woke up.

I thought I’d read a couple of chapters to see what I made of it. I read 120 pages before stopping to feed my poor, starving children. Fed them and immediately went back to the book. Inhaling rather than reading.

I wrote notes, nodded and giggled throughout. Gilbert’s style is warm, conversational and never preaching or highbrow. To be told that I don’t need to conquer my fears is massively liberating. I can own being a scaredy cat. But I will no longer stagnate, frozen in fear.

What struck me the most about Big Magic was the infusion of joy. Gilbert does not pretend that creating is an easy option. She instead mounts a convincing and appealing case for it being a positive, happy and nourishing endeavour.

Ultimately, I would love to make a career from writing. That said, I don’t write with this in mind. I write because I need to create. I write because I always have. I write because I don’t know how not to.

The universe steering me towards a book that celebrates this right now. Well that’s Big Magic

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

It might have been because I was wearing my bright yellow jacket and mahoosive rainbow blanket scarf. But I hope that an acquaintances recent statement that I was a bit ‘Sunshine and Rainbows’ was more a comment on my sunny personality and steadfast determination to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

For the purposes of this post we are going to assume she is not a serving officer of the Fashion Police and that my similarities to Pollyanna were being noted.

It is a description I like. One that I have every intention of putting to use the next time I need to describe myself. However, I’ve become aware that I’m guilty of vastly differing standards.

I will go out of my way to smile, chat and engage complete strangers. Make a conscious effort to remain positive and ensure that I am talking kindly and sending love and light out into the universe. Words are powerful, with the ability to help people soar or to tether. We manifest what we speak. The stories we tell shape. I am mindful that I want to project kindness not only to those I love but further, much further.

With one small, I previously would have said insignificant, exception. I treat myself like shit.

I criticise, admonish, disparage, undermine and downplay myself all the time.

I’ve only been aware of it for a couple of weeks and I feel so sorry for me. Hell, if a friend’s partner treated them the way I treat myself I’d be telling them to leave the bastard and helping the packing. I’d probably even put clean bedding on my spare bed and move them in. No, Mother-in-law the bedding would not be ironed, I still do not iron.

It’s hard to break a habit. I’m taking little steps, often. Refusing to beat myself up if I catch myself, well, beating myself up.

I’m writing daily gratitude lists to remind me of all the good in my life. Yesterday’s was:-

  • Surprise french fancy for the Bake Off. Best husband ever.
  • Denim pinafore and all the witchy brooches. Halloween is my favourite.
  • New make up contained an extra product that I wasn’t expecting.
  • Knowing that writing calms me. Thank flip I’ve got something. Today was tough.
  • Surprise Throne of Glass book. Might have forgotten that I pre-ordered that.

At least once a day I am making a conscious effort to prioritise myself over everything. It feels ridiculously decadent to say ‘sod it I’m giving myself a manicure’ when the house is a tip, the girls are engaged in guerrila warfare and the dog needs walked. It makes me feel like some kind of feminista rebel. One with beautifully filed nailed and tidy cuticles.

I am working really hard to speak to and about myself the way I would a friend. Remembering that just because it’s said to garner laughs does not make it kind.

The one causing the most hilarity is affirmations. To date I have done an awful lot of laughing in the bathroom mirror. I’m really visual I need to see myself as I repeat affirmations, hence the mirror. I am going to persevere until I can look myself in the eyes and believe

I am creative. I am powerful. I am confident. I am Sunshine and Rainbows.