Breathing again

Last week, frozen in my car unable to move, I felt the slow suffocation and paralysis of old. I gripped the steering wheel, focused on my breathing and waited for it to pass. The thing is I was never an anxious child…. not that I can recall.It is only in the past few years  that the emotional and mental ball seizes me momentarily. To be honest I know people who suffer anxiety attacks a lot more… I really shouldn’t complain… I never do… They’ve been my dirty secret…. the crack in my veneer.

Over a year ago my children and I left our old life and embraced freedom and happiness. I can honestly say we have never been so happy. The girls are settled, secure and so content, it makes me smile everyday. And me…. I am the same, yet still for some reason now and then an attack consumes me just for a few minutes and thankfully always when I am alone. Other things like tiredness that I thought would magically dissipate have also hung around. Until recently I spoke to someone who shed much light.

We can take ourselves out of a situation, we can change our lives for happiness but unless you can move forward without the past you are always moving backwards. I spent the last year asking questions; about me and others, how things could have been different, what I could have done differently. The answer is it honestly doesn’t matter. It is done, over with and I refuse to waste any more time or energy worrying and carrying around bad memories of misgivings. I know it takes time to heal but I finally feel that personally I am on the right path.

My guru suggested that I spend so much time worrying about everything and everyone else, perhaps I should give myslef some time each day. Immediately I thought about everything that needed to be done, how short the day is and who would mind the kids. Besides what would I do, sit and drink coffee and inevitably my mind would rake over the past or join a gym or a class… but that’s not it. Mothers run from work to home, from home to the gym, to a slimming class or a coffee with other mums to reiterate all the crap they’ve had to deal with that week…. which is therapeutic but it’s not time for yourself.

Now I am on a mission…. to find me again and to find peace once more… ten minutes out of a day is nothing… ten minutes where you are not running, cleaning, organising or thinking…Lie on your bed, listen to some soft music or nothing at all and don’t think…. imagine no lists of necessary groceries, calendar dates, things that need to be done, no screaming child or thundering boss…. Ten minutes to empty your mind and let your body heal.

As for the past, deal with it; stamp it and pop in the post with no return to sender. Life is too short, we all just need to learn to breathe once more. x

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Moments

That moment when they are both sick, you have run out of medicine so you bundle them into the car with you to go get more.

That moment when you tell him she needs new runners and you know you’ll be paying on your own.

That moment when she tries to call him, he doesn’t answer and you have to pick up the pieces again.

That moment when you have to choose the course of action for her tooth and know you’ll be doing the research and making the decision on your own.

That moment when he doesn’t make her performance and you have to explain to her that he is busy.

That moment when the sink is blocked, the car is broken down, they have homework to do with you, the house is a mess, the dog just threw up… and you are alone.

That moment late at night when you hear a noise downstairs and realize that you’re on your own.

That moment when someone passes and you hug yourself and tell yourself it’s okay to cry.

That moment when it’s lashing rain, they are sick, the dog needs a run and you do laps around the green while waving frantically at them in the window.

That moment when you share a movie night with the dog.

That moment when you realize your toes don’t hurt from walking on tiptoes.

That moment when the house is quiet.

That moment when you realize you are doing a great job.

That moment when they tell you that they love you.

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Ties that cannot be broken

It’s often difficult when you relationship status turns to single yet half his/her friends are still on your Facebook. I’ve known friends not to change their status for a year for fear of upsetting other people.

We start a relationship with two people, then friends and family intervene. Next thing you know he’s playing pool regularly with your brother or your mum is calling her for that recipe.

Relationships are never about just two people and when kids come along the diaspora becomes even more complicated. Although marriage no longer binds people til death do us part, children do…. A judge in a family court ordered everyone to go outside and talk because “you guys are stuck with each other for at least the next eighteen years.”

My in-laws are a whole continent away but it doesn’t mean I didn’t have a relationship with them or that I don’t continue to send letters and pictures of the girls. Yet we have talked less since the separation, they often ask for me through him and more conversations are relayed rather than spoken which is weird but okay… better than a stilted one…

He lost his grandfather today and even though he wasn’t blood and I only knew him for one ninth of his life, he was my grandpa too. I never stopped loving, never stopped writing to or talking about him. I could sit and talk to him for hours and there was never enough time spent with him.

Some people don’t understand… unless you’re blood you’re a blow-in. His aunt didn’t understand. Fortunately his uncle did and we got to say goodbye. The heart wants what and who the heart wants. Sometimes it feels like betrayal, almost like you are living in the past with his family when you are surrounded by your own. Yet he placed an indelible stamp on my heart that will remain forever.

It’s difficult to grieve… not just the distance but the little voice that says ‘it’s their place, not yours.’ We were so close… from the moment he first hugged and called me a darling. But I’m outside the circle now, a mere bystander, heartbroken with a field of memories.

I will always be grateful for those memories… grateful for his southern drawl and boundless love. There is life after separation/ after divorce and there is also love for the people your partner introduced to you. I will always be grateful for the two beautiful daughters we had together and I will always be grateful for him sharing his wonderful grandfather with me.

Rest in peace Grandpa Bill xx

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A little kindness goes a long way

The world would be a far better place if people could be a little kinder. Ever felt like you would love to move to a desert island far away from anyone? Or that people really should think before they speak?

Or are you’re the recipient of advice such as : “she needs to toughen  up…. Survival of the fittest….. she is too soft.”  What if I said she’s not too soft…. she’s not at fault? Perhaps we simply need to teach our children to be kinder? And perhaps we need to set a better example.

So here is my list of why we should all try a bit more kindness and think before we speak:
1) Happiness makes the world go around… it’s a proven fact. Happy people are more productive people.

2) You know that warm fuzzy feeling of just down right contentment when someone smiles… wouldn’t it be nice to see that and feel it all the time?

3) A smile or a kind word can lift someone and maybe make their week, let alone day. Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors, nobody truly knows anyone else. Your furtive looks and giggles don’t go unnoticed. Sarcasm rarely lifts the spirits or depression. Perhaps that stony faced man with the red eyes has just lost his job and is trying to work out how to tell his wife and kids… perhaps if you weren’t pointing at him and laughing, he could see past the dark tunnel in front of him.

4) Nasty words can break a heart and rot your mind. You think her stutter or nervousness is funny? Perhaps if you’d spent your life being put down, you’d have one too.

5) What if I told you that little old lady has no family left and walks past the school to the shops at ten to nine every morning so she can feel part of life once more. Would you still push past her or grumble at old people being allowed out? That old lady would treasure a word of kindness or a smile all day long.

6) What if that girl you’re pushing around or ignoring was you? What if it was your sister and you could hear her cry herself to sleep every night through the bedroom wall?

7) Kindness has a longer shelf life than sarcasm. An act of kindness can change a person and in their darkest days give them solace. As Maya Angelou so eloquently put it “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

8) Wouldn’t it be nicer to sit in a pub and make someone smile, rather than watch them squirm at your laughter and sarcasm?

9) To build someone one up and watch them flourish is far more rewarding than watching them crumble.

10) At nine months pregnant, I couldn’t get a seat on a high speed train. A little boy of seven offered me his seat… I thought that’s the way I want my child to be. Kindess reaps rewards… one being the joy of watching your child grow into a beautiful person.

Some super articles if you are interested:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10218924/The-importance-of-the-right-kind-of-kindness.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-smalley/why-kindness-is-so-import_b_114669.html

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From the sidelines

I knew it was coming. There was the little innocent comment last night…. “mum, do we have camogie tomorrow?” followed by the sigh and shoulder slump. Yes, mutiny was definitely on the cards.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not a camogie nut (the sight of my sister with her head cracked open put me off before I could begin.) However a few weeks ago the girls begged to try camogie, all their friends were doing it, they had tried it in school and they loved it. Temporary goals of jumpers and water bottles were hastily erected and my eldest was adamant she would wear her county colours.

I always pitied those kids dragged to activities, forced into sports or music who clearly didn’t want to be there and thought how ambitious their parents were, questioning whether they were trying to live vicariously through their child….

Until I became a parent and I was the one yanking up tutu’s whispering just try it for today and knowing that when I came to collect my daughter she would be beaming broadly, happy to show me her new steps.

The mutiny is now in full swing… “mum I don’t like it anymore…. Mum maybe I’ll go again next week…” The thing is we’ve been through this before…. Hip hop, ballet, even Irish dancing which both now love. The rule in our house is simple…. You start something, you see it through. Ballet classes were paid in advance and so my little girl did not miss one, even though she decided afterwards it wasn’t for her.

Half the time children don’t know what they want and the other half they want instant gratification. They demand it in books, in computer games and in life. If they don’t win a game or miss a step, it’s “I’m just no good at it… I want to do something else.” The truth is anything worth having takes time, practice and more than one go.

As my mother says “it’s the getting them there….” It doesn’t help that last week was raining and training cancelled. They seem in that brief moment of time to have forgotten how much they love running on the pitch, smacking the sliotar…. the thing is I don’t. I know it is simply the allure of the couch, TV, toys, the dog…. the allure of not moving from the house.

So the girls are now armed with helmets and hurleys. My ‘mean mama’ prickling conscience will hopefully soon be relieved when I see them laughing on the pitch with their friends. Maybe they’ll find their passion, perhaps they’ll find something else but at least  they are not just watching life from the sidelines.

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Single mummydom

As a kid, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was always the same “a mummy and a writer.” Funny how back then there was little mention of a husband…. Not because I didn’t want a husband but because well that was kind of taken for granted. Being a single mum was definitely not part of my five year plan. Yet here I am and I am so blessed with my two wonderful daughters that sometimes I forget just how hard it is but then sometimes I wonder if it will ever get easier.

Like tonight and yesterday and in fact the whole week… Monday was spent disputing whether I should be liable for my ex husbands debts. Tuesday was spent in the dentist with my youngest who it transpires has an abcess. Wednesday my oldest had a tummy bug and I discovered that my youngest possibly has dyspraxia. On Thursday I discovered my youngest did not have a simple rash but worms. On Friday tired and worn by a week long fight I gave into temptation, a glass of wine and my laptop.

It’s not that other parents don’t have these same issues, suffer the fright of uncovering illnesses and ailments in their offspring. It’s the not having that person to run to, to share with, to lean on…. It’s having all the responsibility: financial, emotional, physical and spiritual and watching as he wins them over with toys at the weekend.  It’s the loneliness punctuated by the relief because he never did anything anyway. It’s the calling to update him and being quickly cut off by “sorry to hear that, have to run, meeting someone.” It’s the lying in bed cuddling a teary eyed little sweetheart and trying to coax her to sleep while her father drinks the possible maintenance money.

The best line I’ve heard comes from a feel good movie called ‘The single mom’s club’ where one mum shakes her head at another and tells her not to think about if. If you think about it at all you’ll sink, you just gotta keep going. You know what I’ve been taking that advice, shoving out the negative hurt and pain caused by my ex, closing my ears to the “I need some time” and “I can’t do all this” because you know what I can. I just don’t have the time to think about it, cry about it or overanalyze it… so I am going to go empty the washing machine, wash the dishes, sweep the floors and climb the stairs to bed more wrecked than he ever will but I will have the greatest reward. Before I fall into bed and sleep for an hour or two before one of them wakes for a cuddle…. I get to kiss my children goodnight, pull up their duvets and listen to their contented happy little snores and suddenly it’s all worth it again.

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Being human; accepting depression

Just this week I discovered an old friend had gone to meet his maker. Now normally when someone tells me this I cluck sympathetically and wonder “was he sick?” It’s nicer to think of someone being released from a sickness or going into the light than ponder why someone would choose to end his life.  Yet my friend made this decision, he reached such a dark place that there was no other way forward for him and he ended it. So instead of the clucks and understanding nods, there are the averted gazes, shuffles and “shit man, that’s crap.” Even after death, it seems we still can’t handle depression.

According to Aware as many as 300,000 people in Ireland currently have depression and over 500 take their own lives each year. We have all heard of depression and sufferers yet what do we really know and why do so many feel they cannot come forward. Why are there still so many suffering in silence? Perhaps it’s the old stigma attached to it or perhaps it’s the fast paced world in which we live that seems to have no time for people suffering depression. “Social media depression” appears to be one of the latest forms of depression: a term for people left feeling depressed and emotional as a result of using social media. Online bullying can be a direct cause, as can jealousy because of pictures or stories shared by friends. On top of this the amount of people replacing real friends with technology is increasing and depression and loneliness and take hold.

It seems most of us have felt the loneliness and helplessness of depression at some stage; sometimes in lesser more manageable waves. Often it is triggered by the loss of a job or a family member. For others, the trigger is less visible and one morning out of the blue the dark cloud just refuses to lift.  So many people walk around under the darkest cloud everyday afraid to show weakness, afraid no one will care. Yet for others it is a constant battle. I have heard depression described as selfish, yet the people I have met are soldiers battling daily. Depression is not a choice; it is not a person’s conscious decision to suffer from depression.

Aware chief executive, Geraldine Clare describes depression in Ireland as ”under-reported and under-diagnosed, and in many ways a hidden illness in this country.” How many people suffer in silence? Until it’s talked about and accepted, it’s not our problem right? Once we don’t have it… The truth is it’s everywhere today and it seems less people can fight it. The truth is ‘different’ is still stigmatized, ‘weakness’ is still stigmatized and society still wants us all to fit in its neat little boxes. So we swallow down the pain and pretend it’s not real; whether it’s ours or someone else’s. In the wild, an animal will cry or strike out when in pain. We are told to take pills, suck it up and it will all go away.

Ronald Reagan once said “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.” In a time when it seems that many of our leaders have forgotten us: their people and more and more people are losing jobs and homes we need to unite even more. Recession breeds depression and mental health is our wealth. Depression is a lonely place full of stigma and judgement. Sufferers of depression are often fighting a constant and lonely battle to just seem normal; to simply live. Until depression stops being taboo; we embrace and try to understand it, too many people will be left alone in the dark and too many families will be left broken.

 

Interesting sites:

http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=10867

http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/depression/questions/social-media-depression.htm

http://www.geeksugar.com/Social-Media-Bad-You-31165748

http://www.medicaldaily.com/heavy-facebook-usage-linked-declines-happiness-social-media-platform-making-you-depressed-251415

http://www.aware.ie/

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