Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Domesticity rules

The toddler is with his grandparents - I pinned them down to a morning of childcare. I find it hard to know whether they want to look after him or not - at times I get the impression that they love having him, but at other times I feel that they are making excuses why they can't. I don't ask them more than once a week, or once every couple of weeks. But it would help to know whether they really want to, because if they don't I will stop asking. I don't need them to look after him, although it is nice to have a break occasionally. I think that they do like to have him but don't want to feel obliged, and also that they quite like the power thing of saying no. But why does it have to be so complicated, and confusing? I suppose part of it is that I am over-sensitive - I must teach myself not to care so much, just accept the 'yes' or 'no' at face value.

Anyway, he will get his pre-school grant soon, then I will get some regular me-time. I have found a lovely nursery - the only problem being that the sessions are long - he would get funding for two days, instead of five mornings as he would at a pre-school. But that might be good - I could get a lot of writing done on those days, and then enjoy my time with him on the other days.

I was just playing with the puppy in the garden, and I trod on her foot, which made me feel awful. Not that she held it against me - animals are so wonderfully uncomplicated.

The pup is shaping up nicely, though I will be relieved when she gets older and easier. She chewed a piece of the decking in the garden yesterday. I thought my husband would be cross about that when he got home from work, but he was very philosophical. Today I found one of the kids' books in the garden, chewed - she pulls them off the bookshelves, which we have at child height. She also pinched a cuddly toy and was chewing that - but she was very taken aback when she set off the musical device inside it. Suddenly her 'victim' started singing to her 'Yes, my name is Iggle Piggle...' - she yelped and quickly took several steps backwards!

I have just had a Sainsbury's delivery - the delivery man was charm personified, as was the last one (this is only my second Sainsbury's order online). The Tesco's people are not nearly so pleasant - one of them was nearly apopolectic when I arrived slightly late home once and he was waiting for me. I apologised profusely, but he was having none of it - 'You just can't do that!' he kept blustering at me, 'You just can't do it!' I refrained from pointing out that I already had.

I hate confrontation, being a classic people pleaser, always trying to ingratiate myself. Yet another of my character flaws - I am well aware of them, and you would think that would help, but no, despite this self-awareness I am still in thrall to almost all of my bad habits.

Anyway, enough for now. x

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sun and so on

Hi all

Well, the toddler now has a rash - so that may have been the cause of his disgruntlement, although I still think it is more to do with the heat, and the new canine addition to the family. I have started putting him down for a daytime sleep again, which helps a lot. Today, though, he woke up after ten minutes, screaming in terror that there was a gruffalo in his room. So I let him stay up - it would have felt too mean to send him back to bed, because he was wide awake by then.

I have not been too well myself - I have been dizzy, and had odd aches in my left arm, as well as my usual IBS stomach pains. I am an experienced hypochondriac by now, and I know that the arm aches are just stress related, and best ignored, although I still sometimes vaguely wonder whether I am going to have a heart attack and drop dead. The dizzyness is getting worse though, and I think I probably have an ear infection, so I will head to the doctor soon, tomorrow if possible. I also have sore feet - long boring story, that one. Basically, I need to learn to sit still, instead of rushing around in the heat sorting out washing, cleaning and cooking all day. In view of the fact that my husband is at work I could really spend a lot of my day relaxing, if only I could let myself. I could condense all the housework into evening bursts. The way I operate though, is to do all my jobs in the daytime, then collapse exhausted in the evening and go to bed early. Silly.

The getting up early for the puppy dog has not lasted. Now I am back to my old ways of staying in bed until my husband brings me a cup of tea. This is because the pup now sleeps later than the children, and the children are in the habit of not bothering Mummy in the morning - they go straight to Daddy's side of the bed, he gets up, and often I don't even know anyone is awake until I get my cup of tea at seven o clock. Pity. I quite enjoyed being an early riser, for a week.

I had to take the puppy for her second jab today, and get her microchipped. Poor little thing didn't enjoy that one bit - but just one more week and we can start walking her - fab!

I see in today's Times that there are going to be more stringent rules applied to incapacity benefit. I have mixed feelings about that - on the one hand I am certain that I couldn't cope with a workplace, on the other hand I feel kind of cheated that the protection my benefit affords means I won't ever find out whether I could cope. Does that sound schizophrenic?

BTW, I hate when people use the schizophrenia word out of context - as I just did. In fact, I am starting to hate the word itself more and more. I may start campigning for use of the 'nervous debility' term instead. So much more ladylike. So much kinder and more forgiving.

Back to benefits - I really hope not to be on them for ever. I would like to earn my living as a writer, and gain some self-esteem along the way. I hide the fact that I collect benefit as I hide the fact that I have a diagnosis - with a sense of shame and inadequacy. But I am sure that the money has helped to keep me sane over the years - letting me relax about one element of life, the need to pay my own way, which I have found to be a great source of stress. Who doesn't? you might think. But as someone who has spent three months of her life in a mental hospital, on three separate occasions (i.e. nine months in total) I think I am living proof that I don't cope well with stress.

Anyway, I hope it all works out okay for any of you out there who find yourself in the same boat. Maybe you will be recast as working members of society, maybe you will carry on with the benefits. Whichever way it goes, remember you are still worthwhile, just finding your own path through life and perhaps taking a longer and more roundabout way than others to do so.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Taming the Toddler

My lovely little boy is becoming upset by all the fuss about the dog. I knew he would be bothered by the decrease in attention now that there is somebody other than him who needs me in the daytime, but at first the change was minor. He was a little unsettled, so I did my best to reassure him, and I thought things were going well.

Suddenly, though, things have taken a turn for the worse. For the last couple of days he has been incredibly bossy and blustering - shouting and crying and demanding things. I am finding it quite hard to manage, especially because he is usually so easy and so good.

Funnily, the puppy is calming down just as the baby is becoming difficult. But I know that things will soon sort themselves out. A lot of it is tiredness - the toddler is two and a half now, and he hates me putting him down for a daytime sleep, so I have been letting him stay up. Today, though, I put him to bed, and I know that he and I will both feel better for the rest. Then I just have to be calm, firm and consistent with him if he tries to test the boundaries again, and soon he will be back to his usual charming self. I hope.

On the other hand, he could be feeling a bit under the weather, or coming down with a bug perhaps. I know with my other children that sometimes when their behaviour was challenging it was because they weren't feeling well - and often it is only a couple of days later, when the chicken pox spots or whatever appear, that it makes sense. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, things have been busy. I like to take the toddler out while the others are at school, but now our outings are more hurried because I have to make sure we don't leave the puppy for more than a couple of hours. Which is fine, it is doing me good to be at home more, in that the house is more organised which makes me feel less stressed generally. And the puppy is such a pleasure - she is lying with her little furry head on my foot as I type now, and it feels so nice. I couldn't have trained her to do this, she just seems to want to do it naturally and it is a lovely aid to the writing process - I don't want to move from here now!

The older children have a lot going on - school trips, sports days, fund-raising events, ballet shows and exams, piano lessons. The list goes on. It is all stuff that benefits them, which makes me feel good about doing it, but I will be pleased when it is the end of term and we can all relax a bit.

Wonder what will happen with the footie this afternoon? It's not really my thing, and I won't be watching the game, or not much of it, but you can't help getting pulled along with the wild tide of public interest about some things. I do sort of want England to win - despite my disinterest in football usually - just because it would make such a lot of people I know so excited and pleased. I don't even know who we are playing this afternoon, but I expect the kids will watch it and I will maybe just keep half an eye on the TV. x

Saturday, 19 June 2010

More Doggy Business

We have had our puppy for almost a week now, and she really has revolutionised our lives. The biggest change is that I have been getting up early in the mornings to let her out. I can't bear the sound of her whimpering in her crate when she needs to go outside, or the thought of her soiling her crate and being upset. So I heave myself out of my bed and stagger, eyes almost shut, and let her outside. Now the thing about puppies is that you have to go out with them when you are housetraining them, otherwise they think they are being punished and they just want to come inside again, and then they do their business in the house instead. So then I find myself shivering outside in my pyjamas, summoning the enthusiasm to congratulate the dog when she wees, and by the time she obliges I am wide awake.

For the last six days, therefore, I have been up at a quarter to five (once), five thirty (once), six fifteen (once) and six thirty (three times). It hurts. I have never been an early riser. I find the process of waking up very difficult, and my husband has accommodated this over the years, looking after the kids when they get up early and bringing me a cup of tea every morning at about seven thirty, so that I can slowly acclimatise. Of course, this is not fair on him, but he does seem to need a lot less sleep than me - he still goes to bed quite late, whereas I am usually exhausted quite early in the evening. The arrangement does cause some contention - because although he gets up first he doesn't do the stuff like getting the kids dressed or breakfasted and making the sandwiches for school, so when I do drag myself out of bed I have a very stressful hour trying to do all that needs to be done.

Waking up early is a massive improvement then, in a lot of ways. It is hard to adjust to having a couple of hours less sleep every night - one night I went to bed at nine, but generally there is too much to do in the evenings to go to bed very early. But I have been intending to adapt my waking habits for years, and getting nowhere with it - suddenly I am forced to, and this is no bad thing.

I have been firmer with the dog today - she had started terrorising the children, biting their ankles and chasing them, and although I know she just wanted to play I realised that this wasn't fair on her or them. The toddler has been spending a lot of time on the sofa where she can't reach him. The dog needs to know her place, so I have been following the advice in my puppy book, not always giving her attention when she asks, putting her in her crate to calm down for a few minutes when she gets too excited and so on, and it is working well.

We found the time to go for a family swim last night, and had such a good time that we will go again tomorrow. Of course it is Father's Day, and I am determined to make a huge fuss of hubby. I have bought him a very nice watch, and the kids have got him some Maltesers. We have hired a Star Trek film for him to watch. The children are planning to make him a 'special breakfast' too. When they take it upon themselves to make a special breakfast it is usually fruit salad, and so I have told them as usual not to add cucumber and tomatoes, though as usual they probably will anyway. They don't seem able to distinguish between fruit and vegetables, and it makes for a strange assortment of flavours. Bless their cotton socks.


Friday, 18 June 2010

Condensed Words of Advice


I had a lovely response to my last post, which raised the question of what I do to stay well. I tried to reply as fully as possible - a lot of the information is available elsewhere in the blog, but I realise that it has become too long to read in full. So if anyone else wants a bit of capsule advice on how to ward off mental illness - nothing innovative or earth-shattering, but just what works for me, please read the comments attached to the last blog 'Doggy Days'.

Speaking of dogs, my puppy gets better every day. She is sleeping now, her tiny head on my feet as I write. I have only had her for five days, but already I don't know how I managed without her. She has really lifted my spirits.

However, getting a dog as therapy is obviously not a good idea. Taking someone else's for a walk might be a really good plan though - you not only get exercise, but people stop and talk so much more than usual. I will have to watch that my toddler's feelings don't get too badly injured - he is not used to playing secind fiddle.

Speaking of toddler, he has just awoken and is in need of a cuddle. More later.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Doggy Days

OOH, three followers! Though I prefer to think of you as readers - otherwise it makes me sound like the initiator of some horrible cult, or a meglamaniac. I haven't looked up the spellings of either of those words, which is a terrible thing to a perfectionist such as myself, but I am so tired I don't care - or not enough to do anything about it.

I am in a bit of a dilemma with this blog. Aagh, another possible spelling error. Where is Word when I need it? Anyway, I love the anonymity of blogging, but it makes it rather difficult to actually write anything - because anything I write could lead to a clue regarding WHO I MIGHT BE.

Belle de Jour must have felt like this. Although, strangely, she turned out to be completely gorgeous, sparklingly bright with a fantastic career, and quite blase about it all in the end. But then, she didn't have kids - and mine are getting to the age where they have the potential to become embarrassed of me for such heinous crimes as - talking to people in the supermarket! How would they deal with being known as the children of a schizophrenic? How would anybody?

Sathnam Sanghera (yes, sorry back to him again) obviously coped really well with the truth once he discovered that his father was a schizophrenic - but then his father was pretty ill when he was young, so he always knew that there was something wrong. Whereas I am, to all intents and purposes, normal - albeit with some quirks, but who doesn't have those? So the news of my mental illness - or history of mental illness - will come as a shock to my little darlings. I do intend to tell them though, one day, because I think they need to know that they themselves could be at risk through their genetic inheiritance.

Anyway, blah de blah de blagh. I do like blogging, because it does have the effect of at least making me try to be more interesting. But I am aware that I am sometimes repetitive. Most of my writing these days is in diary form - I spill my guts out onto my computer, and it is really dreary stuff. I don't even know why I do it, except that it does feel therapeutic - if anything is worrying me, it seems to help to write it down. But I am terrified that one day my boring angsty ramblings may be read by somebody - so I occasionally resolve to wipe my computer clean - then I don't because I don't have time and I don't know how (though I am sure my husband, or even my kids, could teach me how to delete files).

I will get around to it one day. Because even if I never get famous (and there is still a tiny deluded part of me that thinks I will one day be famous for my writing) then I don't even want my kids or my grandkids or my husband to read my self-obsessed, worried and tangled thoughts.

This blog is slightly different. I have a hope that it may help someone somewhere who is ill, or who has been ill, to realise that we are all basically the same. And I don't mean just the mentally ill, I mean everyone. We all have doubts, we all have fears. We can all let our minds get carried away. We are all susceptible to paranoia. We could all, given the right (wrong) circumstances, break down under the pressure.

And we all have the capability to heal. If our circumstances come good, if we stop feeling lonely and isloated, if we are easier on ourselves, if we can banish guilt and worry, we can all be well again. That is something I truly believe.

I have seen some evidence to the contrary. I have met people who I was in hospital with twenty years ago who are still suffering, who are still visibly and floridly ill. I know that some have passed away, in awful circumstances. But anyone who is still here can be well again. I know that for a fact, because nobody could have been lower than I once felt, nobody could have been more out of control. Yet now I lead a happy and fulfilled life, and I firmly believe that things will go on getting better.

Anyway. I don't know where all this rhetoric comes from. I am going to write a self-help book one day - I reckon it would almost write itself. I like reading them a lot - I guess it shows.

Where was I? Oh yes, the matter of what to divulge in this blog. I know that I don't write in it very often, but I am really interested in blogging, and think that online writing is something that I want to pursue. And these days, when I write my diary, it feels like wasted writing - I feel as though time is getting shorter and I should write for a reason, and get my stuff out there to be read.

What I have been wanting to say is - we got a puppy this week! Not earth-shattering stuff, but it feels kind of personal. I was silly enough to mention to my sister-in-law the other week that I was writing a blog. I do this sort of thing from time to time, boastng, trying to make it sound as though I have some kind of writing career because I want people to take me seriously, or want to make myself feel more important. It is a low self-esteem thing. So of course her interest was whetted, and she wanted to know where the blog was, and I said it was anonymous. Then she sort of went into bloodhound mode - what was it about?, was she in it? and so on. And she took it as a sort of challenge when I said she would never find it (because let's face it, there are thousands of blogs out there - millions - and how would anyone ever find mine?)

She seemed quite sure that she would though. And she does seem to have a kind of private detective mindset - she said she looked me up on Google once, and saw something I had written on the Times website. I was quite embarrassed about that, and I saw it as a pretty odd thing to do, looking up people you know on Google. And the worst thing about that is that I have started doing it now (occasionally, not habitually), and I can kind of see the attraction of being super nosey. Yikes!

I have a feeling she may uncover me - may even be one of my anonymous followers. Or is this paranoia?! Not that she would discover anything she didn't already know - she is well aware of my diagnosis, as my last breakdown, ten years ago, was after my first daughter was born, and it was all very public and very terrible.

Now, readers, you may wonder in that case how come I think I am keeping anything secret from anybody. And the chances are that I am not really. There are certainly a number of people locally who know all about how ill I have been in the past. But lots of my friends and contacts have only known me since my children were born, or since they started school, so I kind of feel that most of my private life is still private. I could be totally wrong though - I live in quite a small community.

My sister in law came round to visit the puppy today, with her son. SO now, if she is reading this, she knows who is writing it, and if she keeps reading it, she will know all my innermost thoughts. But then, it probably doesn't matter. The fact that I am writing it at all means that I am accepting the risk of more people finding out that I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia - and maybe they would not all think badly of me if they did know.

The reason I wanted to write about the puppy is that I became quite ill during the process of getting it. Firstly, the children and I had persuaded my husband - who has been insisting for the last ten years that he has a pet allergy and will not, ever, never have a pet - to get a puppy. That wasn't easy, and was a worry to me - I don't want to make him unhappy. Having managed to nag him into it, I then had to find a suitable dog. I settled for a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, because they are good family dogs, easy to train and undemanding by nature. I chose one puppy, then worried so much that I had made the wrong choice that I went all through the process again, and chose a different puppy (from another litter). Then I worried that I had let the children down by changing my mind. Then I worried that the puppy I had chosen was far too big to be a genuine example of the breed, that there must be something wrong with it. Then I switched my worries to - how on earth would I cope with a dog? and why did I ever think it was a good idea?

By the time we went to collect the dog I was almost beside myself. I felt there was no going back though, because the kids knew we were having a puppy, and so regardless of how I felt I had to go through the process.

Now the puppy is home, and she is absolutely delightful. She is eight weeks old, sleeps through the night, does her business in the garden. My husband, who decreed that she was not allowed on the bed, was found, to the children's great amusement, cuddling her in bed this morning. I found him again this evening sitting on the floor gazing at her as she slept on the sofa. When I came into the room he said, 'Isn't she beautiful?' and continued to gaze at her, besotted.

So now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief and calm down. I know it is not normal to have reacted the way I did about the whole thing - to decide to get a dog and then to worry myself to the point of illness about it.

But now everything is OK. So I can assume I was not mentally ill, I was just stressed. Admittedly, rather too stressed for the circumstances. I can relax about my mental health though, rationlise that lots of people worry excessively, and put the episode behind me.

I clearly remember all three of my breakdowns. After the first one I asked my psychiatrist how I would know when I was better. He said that I would be properly better when I had forgotten everything that had happened during my illness. But I haven't forgotten, and as I have got older I have learned that actually psychiatrists don't always know all the answers, not for everyone. We are all living our own lives, through our own experiences. Mine has been more difficult that most at times - my twenties were a nightmare. But I feel that I have more than my share of joy these days. I am truly happy, and I feel truly blessed in some sort of spititual way that is hard to express, but is to do with my family and my home, from the sense that I have survived adversity and am therefore ready now to really appreciate my luck.

Ta da. Enough drum beating for one evening. I have been up since five thirty this morning, and after a long day with the enchanting but exhausting puppy and the slightly jealous toddler ('Put her in her crate' is his constant refrain) I need an early night. X.