This weekend was an emotional one…

Having our own business and working on it full time has never made this ‘work life’ balance thing easy, particularly with our Little Miss and Big Lad. The Big Lad may be old enough and capable of seeing to himself most the time but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be there to do it for him. That’s what Mums are for, right?

Work has been crazy these last few weeks. We were offered a potential business opportunity that could possibly be life changing for our future. That has brought with it more work, pressure and stress than we have ever known. It’s been like being back at university again, pulling all nighters to meet deadlines. We’ve worked more, slept less, stressed more and relaxed less, and all of this is not exactly conducive to family life.  I am justifying this because if we manage to pull this opportunity off, it will change our lives and our kids are, of course, part of that.

Whether it’s been snapping at the Big Lad for not tidying his room (when I’ve already asked him 1037 times) or opting for episodes of ‘The Wiggles’ on Netflix as a means of entertaining the Little Miss instead of the usual interactive play, messy play and story reading we usually do together, I’ve not been the best Mum in recent weeks. More time has been focused on work and less time on the kids and whilst I can justify why we are doing it until I am blue in the face, it doesn’t feel very good. It feels bloody awful, in fact.

Despite having a whole boat load of work to do over the bank holiday weekend, we ditched it in favour of some family time. That sort of time is good for the soul. And our souls could do with some goodness. Whilst out at a farm, the 4 of us, we got to talking about the Big Lad’s plans for after he leaves school. Whilst university feels miles away, he’s already doing his GCSEs and it scares the shit out of me how quickly time is flying by.  University has always been part of the grand plan for the Big Lad. I didn’t take the conventional route to university and ended up doing my degree long distance whilst working full time and raising my baby boy (many moons ago!); it was tough going. Like really tough. I don’t believe that a degree is essential to get where you want to be in life, but he has a clear idea of where his future lies (which is more than I can say for me at his age – I think I still believed I was going to be a Radio DJ at that point….) and in order to break in to that sort of career, he does need a degree.

My Big Lad is quiet and sensitive, thoughtful and loving. He still holds my hand when we are out and about ( and I absolutely cherish those moments. Every single one of them.) and becoming a big brother has seen him flourish in to a mature, caring, kind and compassionate young man. He’s a home bird. He loves to hang out at home, he loves family days (he prefers the xbox but he definitely does like the occasional family day!) and he likes to stay close. When letters come out from school about skiing trips to France or trips to New York (I know! New York! New bloody York! Beats the glamorous outdoor pursuits residential weekend in the Lake District (in the torrential rain, no doubt…)that we were offered at school!) and we ask him if he wants to go, he answers instantly with a firm and clear ‘No thanks’ (or maybe minus the ‘thanks’ bit if he’s being particularly teenage angsty…). He isn’t interested in trips away, he’s quite happy remaining at home, in a familiar place with familiar people.

We’ve talked about university before. We have four fantastic universities within a 30-40 minute drive away so moving away to a university further away has never even been something we have contemplated in a conversation. Until Saturday. There we were, casually strolling around the worst smelling farm my nostrils have ever experienced, and the words ‘I think I’d quite like to move away when I go to university’ left his mouth. They left his mouth so carelessly. But with every new syllable my heart dropped further and further in to my stomach. I laughed it off. I used the, you know, ‘I’m smiling and I’m sort of laughing but on the inside I’m literally dying. Dying I tell you!’ laugh. I started off casual, with the, you know, old ‘Who’s going to make you a sunday dinner on a Sunday?’ ‘Who’s going to wash your clothes?’ ‘Who’s going to make sure there’s food in your cupboards?’ but when he answered (a little too promptly for my liking) ‘A local carvery, a local launderette and Tesco’ I needed to ramp it up a little. The conversation gradually built up and up until  I was metaphorically clinging on to the backs of his trousers screaming whilst sobbing ‘Pleeeeease don’t leeeavvve meeeee.’

It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. But I think because I know I’ve been the shittest mother ever to walk the planet these past few weeks, I instantly laid the blame at my door. He wants to leave home because I’ve not been home enough. He wants to leave because I’ve been nagging him about his room. He’s leaving because he’s sick of me questioning him on whether he’s brushed his teeth, changed his boxers and used deodorant every morning. He’s leaving, well, because he’d rather live alone than live with his Mum. The guilt. Oh the guilt. It washed over me like a wave. Actually, sod that, it washed over me like a fecking Tsunami.

I couldn’t even count on my husband for moral support. He made a comment like ‘Good for you, son. Get yourself out there’ or something of that nature. I couldn’t hear the exact words for the deafening sound of my heart breaking. I know what you’re probably thinking right now, you’re thinking I’m being dramatic, aren’t you? Well, there is nothing more dramatic than your son telling you that he actually wants to leave home at an undetermined point in the future. That’s just not okay with me. Jokes aside, I’m not ready to let go of his coat tails just yet. And a couple of years isn’t going to make me feel any better, I am certain. I’m being selfish. I know I’m being selfish because what if him leaving home is the making of him? What if this is his chance to make his mark on the world? And I want all that for him. I want his life to be limitless. I want him to have it all. Because he deserves it so much. But I just want him to come back to me afterwards. I love him so much.

This one conversation sent my hormones haywire for the rest of the weekend. The following day we set out on a day trip just the hubby, Little Miss and I (despite my best attempts at persuasion, the Big Lad decided that the Xbox had more appeal on this occasion) and we were travelling in the car when I glanced back at Little Miss. I glanced at her like I glance at her a million times a day, every time we are in the car together, only this time something got me. She was asleep, her little head resting against the side of the car seat. Her eyes closed tight with her long, day eyelashes so still. Her tiny, puffy little hand laid gently on top of the other. Her little feet swaying with the motion of the car. She looked so beautiful. So fragile. I felt something. Like the biggest pounding to my stomach. It was the realisation that in no time at all, she would be having the very same conversation with me too. Because I can’t even begin to emphasis how quick those years have flown over. Time is so precious when you are raising children. You can’t get time back. Every day we spend is a day that we lose. Every moment we share with our children is gone in an instant. I have never been surer of the need to cherish every single moment with my two children. Even the moments where you’re frazzled, drained of all energy and surrounded by poo and vomit. Because these moments are time limited. We will spend a lifetime afterwards trying to recall the every detail of these precious moments as we create a lifetime of memories in our minds.

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That realisation flooded me with emotion and I instantly began to cry. I think some of those tears was about the fact that I feel like my time with the Big Lad is running out and the guilt of wasting some of the time during his childhood being wrapped up in work; and some of them were about me becoming overwhelmed with the fact that I have another childhood to enjoy, treasure and cherish with the Little Miss. I wished I hadn’t bothered spending so much time on precision eye liner because within seconds I looked like someone out of Kiss. Thanks goodness it was sunny enough for me to realistically justify wearing sunglasses, avoiding the ‘I’m wearing sunglasses in the dark like a Z-Lister’ look.

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They may be 15 years and 18 months old but I want to protect them until my dying day. I want to see to their needs every single day of their lives. I want to protect them from heart break. I want to protect them from disappointment, upset, feeling sick, scared – the lot. I know that they have to get big and grown up one day. I’m not daft, I know they can’t stay with me forever (although that won’t stop me trying to come up with reasons why they should….) but I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m not ready to think about that right now. This weekend has served as a reminder that being Mum to my two children is a privilege. It’s a privilege that not all people get. Whilst life will invariably place a strain on me being Mum of the Year from time to time, I want to be the best Mum I possibly can be because when I wave them both off to enter in to the big wide world on their own (when they’re like aged 62 or something….) I want to know that I did the best I can and made the most of every single precious moment of their childhood. I don’t want to think ‘I wish I put my mobile phone down more’ or ‘I wish I put the laptop away on an evening and spent it with the kids instead’ or ‘I wish I’d taken more time as a family’ because I can only imagine how difficult it would be to live with those thoughts. As mums we feel guilt as a default emotion; most of the time it is misplaced and it is certainly a pointless emotion as no good can come of it. I don’t want to feel guilt. I just want to know, in my own mind, that I’ve done the very best I can. Because, then, I can live with that.

 

Don’t befriend me. I’m not good at the whole friendship thing.

There’s friends and then there’s ‘Facebook Friends’, i.e. people you once knew but will never see again, yet you remain interested in gawping at the wedding dress they have chosen , their Great Aunty’s third cousin’s ex husband’s holiday photos, or their weekly mirror selfie demonstrating how their weight loss journey is going, or what their third boyfriend in six weeks looks like, or how perfect their brand new high gloss white kitchen looks (they’ve got no children, obvs). They are the friends that never forget your birthday, but they only ever speak to you (aka type) on your birthday. They don’t speak to you on any other of the 364 days of the year, but you get a happy birthday from them at the very least.

I have a group of amazing friends. One bestest best friend, a couple of really squeally good friends and a number of friends that I’ve met in various circles that I see every so often. I know that I could call on them at any given time and they would be there for me, without question. They bring so much to my life and by God have I needed them in recent years. Since having Little Miss though and going back to work from maternity leave, I feel like I don’t really deserve the title of ‘friend’ in return. I am fast fading in to the Facebook realm of no return. I am going to be one of them. I am going to end up a Facebook friend. A Facebook friend to someone I genuinely love and care for. They’ll have a neb at my photos every so often and nothing going on in my life will be of any interest to them. Nor will they need me. Because they’ll have real life friends for that.

Is it because I’m a horrible person? I don’t think so. Is it because I don’t want to be their friend? Hell no, I love the very bones of each of them. Is it because I don’t care? Absolutely not. In fact, I think about them more so now than ever before. So why? Why am I paling into insignificance in the friendship stakes? Because I’m just not good at it anymore.

My best friend lives on the other side of the world and, frankly, it’s a good job she does, otherwise she’d have binned me off by now too. I can manage the occasional phone call, the weekly text messages and emails and Facebook exchanges; that’s all good. But when it comes to doing friendy things, like actual things with my friends, hanging out with them, coffee dates, long drawn out telephone calls where we put the world to rights, cocktails and drunken chat, delivering McDonalds the morning after the night before and devouring it in our jim jams because we have both never been so hungover in our lives before – all of this I once did. Now not so. It’s getting less and less (and I’ve definitely not drank enough to have the mother of all hangovers since circa 2003 so that last one definitely hasn’t happened this century) and every time I say ‘no’ to an invitation I can feel myself slipping further and further away from my friends.

It’s not even that I don’t want to go. Show me a frazzled mamma who doesn’t want to meet their friends (for either caffeine or alcohol, one wakes me up, one sends me to sleep so at this point in my life I favour caffeine over the good stuff. Falling asleep on my friends wouldn’t do me any further favours in this situation after all…) and have idle chit chat, refreshingly adult conversation and find common ground as we compete as to how sleep deprived we are and how bad our baby brain has become. If I could, I would accept every single invitation I received and I’d rock up those coffee mornings, cocktail nights and soft play nightmares with bells on. I’d be there every single time. But it’s just not that easy.

The reality is that I am a mama to an 18 month old baby and a 15 year old boy. They need me in equal measures right now. My boy has his GCSEs round the corner and suffers from social anxiety so we spend a lot of time working with him, supporting him and ensuring he is equipped to go to school and fulfil his potential. Then there’s my Little Miss, she is currently getting sick a lot; almost on a twice monthly basis right now. Even when she’s well, she’s not always a great sleeper, and with her going to nursery Monday to Friday, I really value the time I have with her after nursery and on weekends. Our time as a family on weekends, bank holidays and so on is so precious. More precious than anything I’ve ever known or seen. After years and years of building our businesses and working seven days a week, we know how lucky we are to have our weekends as a family. Because we know what it is like not to have that quality family time, it’s not something I ever want to happily give up.  Then there’s the working full time thing. I manage our family business, which doesn’t allow me or my husband the privilege of knocking off at 5pm. It’s not that easy to promise lunch dates or ‘after work coffee meets’ because every day is so unpredictable and at the end of the day, our only income is from this business. My husband and I have no choice but to give it every single thing we’ve got in order to take care of our family.

Even when that is all taken care of, I just don’t even have the energy most days. Once I’ve got the kids sorted and to bed, I’m literally lucky if I can muster enough energy to carry my sleepy (and rather big) ass to bed. The thought of getting dolled up to then go out and hold down an adult conversation without falling asleep mid sentence and drooling over a Mojito, is enough to make me cry. I know I’d feel much better for going out but that doesn’t change the fact that I am completely exhausted.

I have friends who don’t work or work part time. They meet through the week, soft play one week, baby sensory class the next, swimming the week after. They think because I own my own business that I should be able to make it to these play dates. I tried it once. I thought I’d actually take a lunch hour for once and meet my friend for a coffee at a coffee shop nearby my office. It ended with me being away from my desk for an entire half day because once we got chatting, we lost track of time and before we knew it hours had passed by. We hadn’t seen each other in months and months (obviously) so naturally we had a lot to catch up on. I ended up coming back to work to find 108 unread emails, five squillion phone calls to return and a mound of paperwork that would give Mount Everest a run for its money.

Maybe I’m getting boring. Or Old. Or both. Yeah, definitely both. On a Saturday night I look forward to getting in my jim jams (supposing I actually made it out of them that day…) at like 5pm, getting the kids sorted, lighting a few scented candles, ordering a take away and watching something on the TV that doesn’t require a brain cell, wrapped in a duvet on the sofa. My days of standing in the taxi queue half drunk (actually, disclaimer: I was never ‘half’ drunk, I was definitely ‘full’ drunk, whatever full drunk actually means…) wearing next to nothing in the bitter cold, dipping chips in to the smelliest garlic sauce on the planet, are definitely numbered. Maybe even over for good. These days I prefer the simpler things in life. There is nothing more important in my life than my family. Doing simple things with the people I love the most means the world.

I feel like I say ‘no’ a lot when invited out by friends. There was a time when I said yes to everything but never actually made it out due to poorly babies, a work deadline I had to meet, lack of babysitter, feeling ill and exhausted myself – the list is endless. I felt like I was letting them down every single time. I worried I upset them. I would feel crap about it for days after. But, let me tell you, there’s only one thing worse than having to say ‘no’ to a friend when they invite you out and that’s not to be invited out at all. I’ve been there with friends that I have now lost contact with. The term ‘party animals’ doesn’t really do them justice; ‘Party Beasts’ suits them better. They went at it hardcore every single weekend. A couple of drinks and a meal with them only ever ended one way: passed out on the (very sticky) floor of some dated nightclub at 3am. I like a drink as much as the next mama but pulling chewed chewing gum and washing spilled beer out of my hair the following morning is not the way I like to start my weekend. I did think that our friendship was deeper than me just being another person to add to their night out headcount but obviously not because after saying no a couple of times, the invitations stopped and now I’m a Facebook friend to them and vice versa. But even though the way they spent their Friday and Saturday nights wasn’t my idea of fun, it still hurt when they stopped inviting me. I felt like they’d given up on me. I’d now become ‘the one that never says yes’, ‘the one that never goes out’, ‘the boring one we don’t waste our time on anymore’. You know what social media is like, there is no hiding the nights out that I was missing. The pre-drink selfies, the dance floor selfies, the eyes rolling into the back of your head drunk selfies and the like. I’m sitting at home in my jim jams watching the photos update over the course of the evening and the most exciting thing to happen to me all night is that I missed my mouth and spilt strawberry yoghurt all over my PJ top. It’s not like I even wanted to be there! Why does this upset me! I am a crazy lady! I go from ‘not caring’ to feeling totally left out and isolated in three point five seconds. My feelings about it all were completely nonsensical but I was feeling them regardless so they were real to me.

With that life lesson under my belt I don’t want to lose my support network because I’m no longer present in their lives. I need to find a way of making it work. My friends, particularly my close friends, love me unconditionally as I do them. They are there. Always. So I need to work it out. I feel like the worst friend on earth. I feel like I’m never there (or ‘available’) when they need me, I’m never able to make plans when they are free and I rarely say ‘yes’ to invitations anymore and busy or not, exhausted or not, they do deserve better than that because they are good people and beautiful friends of mine. They deserve better.

They say life is all about balance, don’t they? I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, but if ‘they’ are able to advise me of how to keep all the plates spinning and keep up my friendship duties, I would be oh so grateful to them. After all, we all need friends. It doesn’t matter how solid our family network may be, you will always need a friend at some point in your life and that works both ways. Life is short; we are here but for a while. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a ‘Facebook friend’ to people I love and adore. Besides, my craic on Facebook is piss poor so I’d probably be demoted from even being that.

I think I’m finding myself again

I’m sure many of you will understand me when I say I think I’ve lost myself for a little while. I’ve never been one to think or feel that in becoming a mum I lost myself, because I definitely don’t feel like that is the reason for it. I’ve been a mum for fifteen years so although we have a baby (more a toddler these days but I’m not ready to part with the term ‘baby’ just yet..) being a mum isn’t new to me. After ten years of trying to conceive our little lady, becoming a mum again was something I had dreamed about over and over and over again. My arms yearned to hold a baby; my heart yearned to be a mum again. When Little Miss came along she completed our family and with her she’s brought such joy. Both of them have.

 

So why do I feel like I’ve lost myself? I suppose I hadn’t really realised I had, to be honest. As a working mum, I throw myself in to the same routine every day, getting ourselves up and ready, getting the Big Lad off to school, getting the Little Miss off to nursery, getting to work, dealing with whatever work throws at me, then home with the kids and the bedtime routine ensues. By the time they have both settled down I am fighting with all my might to keep my eyes open.

 

As much as I love work and as much as I am passionate about my business and excited by where we are taking the business, I got myself in a rut, doing the same routine day after day with no time reserved on any day for doing anything specifically for ‘me’.

 

Last year I went through a period of going swimming a few times a week, only for half an hour each time, but it offered me some time just to focus on nothing other than myself. I was feeling much better on a physical level and it did me good to get out and do something outside of our usual routine. Then the winter came and I got lazy. I opted to curl up on the sofa in my pyjamas rather than head out for a swim. And now I’m out of habit of doing it and there just never seems any time for it anyway.

 

It wasn’t until my Mum and I went to a Psychic event and one of the Psychics picked up immediately on the fact that I had been feeling down and not feeling myself that I even recognized that I hadn’t been myself. It was like, in one statement from the Psychic, I suddenly realised that I had been feeling pretty low and not myself. I guess as mums we push our own emotions to the side and we rarely have the time or inclination to process them and really consider why we feel what we feel.

 

The revelation made me really thoughtful. I realised that I had stopped doing even the smallest of things that used to bring me pleasure as an individual. Not as a mum, not as a wife, not as a business owner – but as me. I realised that I hadn’t read a book in a very very long time. As an ex English Teacher, I’ve read hundreds of books and thoroughly enjoyed many of them. So why had I stopped reading? Maybe because I didn’t have time. Maybe because I didn’t make time for it.

 

The one thing that really lights fire in my belly is writing. I have always written creatively and nothing gives me greater satisfaction. Yes, I’ve written the occasional blog post but I haven’t explored the daily ideas I think about for future pieces of writing and I can’t understand why; there has been nothing stopping me doing a bit of writing after the kids go to bed each night. The only person stopping myself from doing it is me. I can’t even begin to understand why I would stop doing something that gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment.

 

Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have really made an effort to pursue time on a daily basis dedicated to what I want to do, dedicated to what will bring me enjoyment for me. I have started writing creatively again and it genuinely excites me. I have bought some new books and have started reading again. I might only manage ten minutes of reading a night before my eyes decide to close themselves out of sheer tiredness but that doesn’t matter – at least I am going to bed each night knowing that I have had some time out of that daily routine all about everybody else, to focus on me and what makes me happy.

 

As a woman I think we naturally tend to put others before ourselves. We’ll happily do whatever it takes to make our children happy, make our husband happy, or our parents, sister; the postman or the candlestick maker; we are generally far more comfortable devoting time to making others happy rather than spending time on ourselves.

 

I have had a realisation that in order for me to the best Mum I can be, I need that time for me. Having that time for me means that on an emotional level I am so much more happier and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this has on our parenting.

 

Being a mum, or taking on any other roles, doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves. I hadn’t even realised that I had got lost in the routine and monotony of the every day. I’m sure it won’t be the last time it happens. I think even just by acknowledging the fact that as people, as human beings, we deserve time for our interests, our ambitions, our hobbies, our enjoyment; is a huge step in the right direction.

 

I know how full on it can be as a Mum. I’ve done the nights where Little Miss has resisted sleep until the small hours and then you’ve got to get yourself straight to bed so that you’re able to be even the slightest big functional in the morning. I’m not daft enough to believe that there will always be time to focus on ourselves every day but we should definitely take ownership of that time where it is possible. Grab the five minutes here, the ten minutes there and spend it wisely. Spend it on something that ignites your soul. Something that excites you. Something just for you. Because, ultimately, we deserve it. It’s working for me. I’m so much better for it too.

This Old Dog is Learning Something New!

Who knew that, at the ripe old age of (almost) 37, I would discover a new passion AND learn something totally new. This old dog is learning new tricks and LOVING IT along the way.

It’s one thing learning new skills at work, like how to use a new software application, or a new procedure,  or learning new skills at home, like how to make a bottle of red disappear in record timing (just joking) (or am I?!) but it’s another thing entirely to discover something totally out there that is exciting, intriguing and interesting all in one.

I totally accept that what I’m learning isn’t for everyone. It’s a regular talking point (or arguing point, more like) in our office, and at home actually because my hubby thinks it’s absolute poppycock but I’m slowly reaching an age where I am less and less bothered about what other people think, and focusing on what I think of it instead.

I’ve always been quite spiritual in the sense that I believed in the after life, I’ve had regular readings from both psychics and spiritualists over the years and have had a few experiences in my home that I believe are the work of spirits. Like most people, up until fairly recently, I fully believed that to be able to communicate with spirits, angels and so on you had to have a gift; it wasn’t something that couldn’t be taught. You were either born with it or without it.

My interest in this peaked when I had a reading around a year ago. My Little Miss was a few months old. My Medium told me that she had the gift. She asked if people gravitated towards her when we were out, and she was right, they did. Whenever we are out and about, complete strangers would come and talk to her. I put this down to her being a baby (I mean, doesn’t everyone love babies?!) but my Medium told me that it wasn’t that. She explained that people were drawn to her because of her light, because of her sense of spirituality. She told me that my Little Miss had spirit guides and explained who they were. She warned me that Little Miss would continue to have this gift as she grows older and she advised me to train her to manage the gift, to know when to use it, to know how to protect herself and told me how to protect her energy from the potential negative energies from others around her. It felt like a huge responsibility. I knew nothing about this world –it was a whole new world that I had dabbled in and out a few times over the years but I certainly was not accustomed to this sort of thing. The Medium told me that she had had the gift from being a baby but that she was born in to a pagan family who embraced witch craft and helped her to understand how to use these special ‘tools’ she had been gifted with. She spoke of the significance of her father in training her how to open herself up to receive messages, but more importantly, how to close herself down to them too. I was like a rabbit in the headlights.

My hubby laughed when I told him. He certainly didn’t share my view that we needed to consider how we could best support Little Miss growing up if she did indeed have this ‘gift’. He told me to put the kettle on and the conversation was over. He just can’t even begin to consider that this world exists. And that is totally Okay, I know many people who have this belief – either as a result of religious views or simply because they can’t get their head around it and they believe in the logical, the proven.

The more I started to pay attention to my Little Miss, the more I started to notice that possibly she was able to see spirits. I was told by two separate mediums that there was a little girl spirit in our home that likes to dance at the bottom of our bed. Apparently this little girl is a playmate for our Little Miss. I do sometimes see her attention focus on something we can’t see and we have had a few happenings where the toys downstairs will suddenly start playing in the middle of the night, despite being switched off before bed. I think even my Hubby was a bit scared of what was going on that night (not that he’d ever admit it, of course).

I learned that my Medium was launching a weekly class aimed at introducing various spiritual practices. I decided that this was my opportunity to learn more about this world and I asked my mum to come along with me. To say we loved our first class would be the biggest understatement of the year – it was mesmirising. Every week we learn something new, focusing on new practices or therapies. They aren’t always spirit based, for example, we have had workshops on hypnosis and reiki. I am a huge fan of reiki healing anyway and have used it on a number of occasions but it was really special to hear about the theory behind the practice that has brought me so much comfort in the past.

One of the first things we learnt to do was to use a pendulum. The pendulum works with energies and spirits to indicate a yes or no answer. It was incredible to watch the Medium work with the pendulum, she would say ‘Is my name…’ and make up a name and the pendulum would tell her no, she would ask the same question for her actual name and the pendulum would start swinging in the opposite direction to denote a ‘yes’ answer. When the Medium handed out some of her spare pendulums to give us all a try I thought never in this world would we be able to learn this skill. Surely this is a gift, not a taught skill. We spent a while connecting with the crystal pendulums on our own, charging it up in our hands. We then worked with the pendulum and it was nothing short of amazing how absolutely clear it was that the pendulum was working with us to give us the answers to our questions. We asked it questions that we knew the answers to, to test its ‘powers’ and it got it right every time. We them had fun asking it questions about the future. Unfortunately it told us we weren’t going to win the lottery. I hate to say it, but I think it might be right there too (although, obviously, I’d be open to it being wrong on that question…).The excitement I felt at learning something completely new was something I can’t honestly say that I’ve felt in a long time. I got a real buzz from it. You don’t expect to stumble across something new at my age; especially not something that genuinely excites you. We went from the pendulum to working with angel cards. When the Medium set us up in groups to work with angel cards, I really was cynical that I could learn this. I had seen the Medium use the same cards during my one to one readings. She would always ask me to pull three cards out of the deck, one to symbolise my past, present and future. Then she would stare at each card for a while and interpret a message from each one. They were always so incredibly accurate, I was always bowled over by how apt each of the messages were.

So when the Medium told us that we would be working with the angels to deliver messages in the same way, I thought there was no way that I was going to be able to even try and do what she does with me in my readings. She sat with us in our small group and helped us to read cards for each other. It is difficult to put in to words the process we used as it wasn’t a logical one, or one that is easy to explain in writing. We tapped the cards to connect with the cards, and then we would hold the chosen card and simply stare at it. Some cards just had images on, some had writing on, some had a single word on, or a combination of any of those. We were told to take in the card, hold it in our hands and just say what we see, whatever message comes to us. It was incredible to see how the messages varied from person to person despite the cards being similar. I was so nervous about reading for another group member but when I looked at the card and absorbed what was on the card, a message did filter in to my brain. I can’t really explain it. The shapes and images on the card suddenly started to look like images relating to the message. A bit like when we look up at the clouds and we see faces or shapes. They are clouds, but if you look hard enough, you see other signs and images. I didn’t give a particularly long message but I was supported by the Medium who told me that if the card gives you nothing more, you don’t push it, you just leave it there.

We have since done a lot more work on angel cards and I am truly loving learning something new that can potentially be used to support myself and others through their day to day life. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly goes down well with me. We have done other things such as ‘Psychic Circles’ where spirits have been invited in to communicate with us. That was a weird one. But equally interesting. We have done crystal meditations and crystal healings too. Every week we learn something new. It’s really exciting, and I love that I get to spend some one on one time with my mum learning something new that we are both interested in together.

I have affectionately termed our class ‘Weirdo Class’, as a nod to acknowledging that some people will think we have lost our minds and gone absolutely cream crackers. However we are loving it, and isn’t that all that matters?!

I might be looking for some guinea pigs soon! I would love to do some practice readings on willing participants! Practice makes perfect afterall!

World Mental Health Day: Let’s talk about it.

When I was 18 (which, frankly feels like a whole lifetime ago) I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, sometimes referred to as major depression or major depressive disorder. I rarely think about that period of my life for obvious reasons – it’s a time I don’t care to remember but as today is World Mental Health Day, I found myself reflecting on my experience of depression and took time out to give consideration to those who are experiencing the same.

 

Almost twenty years ago, there was a huge stigma surrounding mental health. People didn’t talk openly about mental health and this only further compounded the situation I was in. I believe that my poor mental health was triggered when I made the very premature (and rather silly) decision to leave home at 17 and move in with my boy friend at the time. I found myself trapped in an abusive relationship; he had manipulated me in to giving up college, moving further away from my family and friends and I was incredibly isolated. Talking openly about mental health just wasn’t the done thing then. The only person I talked openly with was my Community Psychiatric Nurse and GP. I was isolated and I experienced crippling loneliness, stuck within the confines of the four same walls day in and day out.

 

It affected me in many different ways – and probably in more ways than I can even remember – but I certainly remember becoming so bad that there was no Monday to Sunday and there was no day or night: I simply existed. From one hour to the next. I didn’t have a routine. I didn’t get up at 7am and go to bed at 10pm. I simply slept as much as I possibly could because being awake was just too painful. Every day became the same because I had nowhere to go, nobody was expecting me anywhere and I had absolutely no purpose and no reason to get up and go out. I didn’t even have a reason to shower let alone get dressed.

 

I distinctly remember one night in particular. I had argued with my boyfriend and I had overheard him speaking to one of his ex girlfriends who had suddenly come back on scene. I had such a low opinion of myself that I could not see a world where he would choose to remain with me over her. I’m not even sure why I even wanted him. He was pretty damn awful. The truth is, he didn’t make me happy. In fact, he made me distinctly unhappy. But as isolated as I was, I felt I had nowhere else to go. My Mum was supportive and would’ve welcomed me home within an instant but having left home at 17, I felt like returning home would be like admitting I was wrong. And I thought I knew it all at 17 so admitting I was wrong seemed almost worse than staying with a man who contributed towards making me mentally ill.

 

That night I remember standing at the front door of the maisonette I was living in. It was dark and it was cold. I can remember the shape of my breath as I sharply inhaled and exhaled the bitterly cold night air. I felt like the world around me was spinning and whilst it spun around me at such a speed, I was unable to process my thoughts. I couldn’t make sense of how I was feeling; I just knew I felt bad. Really bad. Worse than ever before. I had become so upset that I was hysterical. I tried techniques my CPN had advised me to use when I felt situations were getting out of control, such as breathing exercises, but it was almost as if it was far too gone for those sorts of things to work. My heart pounded so hard I thought it was going to thump through my chest and my whole body was violently trembling. I had lost my grasp on the world. I couldn’t think. I just wanted it all to end. I could not see a world in which I would get better. I could not see a world in which I would be loved. I could not see a world in which I would not be lonely. With each and every thought I took one more unsteady step towards the railing on the balcony.

 

I remember looking down at the ground and trying to make some sort of vague calculation as to how likely I was to die if I threw myself off. I didn’t want to just hurt myself. I didn’t want to wake up in hospital injured but alive. I wanted to die. I did not want to be there. There was nothing about my life that gave me any hope for a better future. I hated my present and my awful present made me think I had nothing but an awful future ahead of me. It feels wrong to speak of suicide so flippantly now, but back then I saw suicide as my ‘get out of jail free’ card. I would reassure myself that if things got too bad, I’d always have suicide. To think that that idea gave me comfort back then makes me feel sick to my stomach.

 

Luckily for me, a complete stranger was passing and instantly recognised the struggle I was having. They talked me down. They calmed me down.

 

Fast forward just two years later and I had got out of that relationship. I had moved back home. I had got a job and built up a network of new friends and, most importantly, I had met my soul mate who is now my husband. When I say that the life I am living now was completely unimaginable to me when I was in the depths of depression would be an understatement. I had absolutely no hope that my life would change, that I would regain control over my own life, that I would be happy again. And yet I was wrong.

 

If I could give two pieces of advice to anyone going through a similar experience with their mental health, the first would be to breathe through the bad moments, the ones where you feel crippling pain, fear or anxiety. I always say to anyone going through a bad time to ‘do whatever gets you through the day’. If that means sleeping, sleep. If it means listening to music, put some tunes on. If it is writing, then get scribbling – you do whatever you need to do to get through those crippling moments. The second would be to always view your present as temporary. I lost myself in my depression the day I convinced myself that this was to be my life. There was no getting out of this alive. Never ever forget that what you are experiencing is a moment. It is one moment in time. It is not forever. This time will pass. It will get better. Breathe through it. Do whatever you need to do to get through it. Things will get better.

 

To think that I may have jumped that night and may have ended my life over the life I was living at the hands of an abusive man, who quite frankly wasn’t even worth crying over, makes me shudder. The thought that I may have deprived myself of the opportunity to meet my husband and fall in love, bring my two beautiful children in to the world, make precious memories with my family and friends and lead a life that brings me such happiness and satisfaction, makes me feel physically sick to the stomach. I love my life now.

 

Just keep breathing. Do whatever you need to do to get through it. This is temporary. It is not forever.

How many minutes a day do you dedicate to yourself?

What does ‘me time’ look like when you are a mum?

Being a mum of a boy who was hurtling through his teens saw me regain a huge amount of time that I could dedicate to myself so when I fell pregnant (incidentally I hate that saying – who ‘falls’ pregnant? Like, woops, I tripped over your foot. Bam! I’m expecting!’) I knew that going back to nappies, night feeds and colic was going to have an impact on the amount of time I found for myself.

In fact, for the first few months of my daughter’s life, ‘me time’ wasn’t even on the radar. At no point did I have time for me; at no point did I make time for me. But actually, at no point did I even register that I was having no time for me. That was the scary bit. Once my husband was back at work after paternity leave, there were many days where I didn’t even find the time to get changed out of my PJs or take a shower. He’d come home from work around 5pm and find me in exactly the same way he left me eight hours previous – hair not brushed, not showered, not changed. I would think ‘how do people do this? How do people have a baby and still manage to shower, get dressed, have a hot cup of coffee, chat to friends?’ I felt like I was failing at life.

Of course the reality was that whilst I was sat there in a zombie like state, my baby girl had been bathed, massaged and dressed immaculately. She had milk in her belly, clean nappies on, she’d been cuddled, winded, rocked, shushed, read to, sang to and played with – she had had my undivided attention all day long (and all night long most of the time too!) so I’d clearly had the time to do all those things; I had simply chosen to dedicate that time to my baby rather than myself. I thought that made me a good mum.

I think she was around the five month mark when I started to feel more than just the ‘I’m tired from the sleepless nights’ type of tiredness. Little Miss was having a rough time with reoccurring chest infections so sleep was at an all time low and I was constantly in a state of panic, checking her temperature, watching her breathe for any signs of struggle. I was not only physically exhausted but exhausted in every meaning of the word. I felt drained. I remember sitting in her nursery for hours, holding her upright on my chest so that she could get some sleep without coughing. I sat there for as long as I possibly could, ensuring she was in a deep sleep, before trying to put her back down in her cot again. I crept up to the cot and gently laid her down, as if she was fine glass. I held my breath and said a prayer internally that she would remain asleep so I could get to bed.

And she did. Until I laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes and then the coughing started, and then the crying resumed. I sat up and felt so emotionally fragile. I cried. I was so desperately in need of some sleep. But not only that, I was desperately in need of time for me. I felt drained, physically, emotionally and in all other ways. This was more than just tiredness; I felt like I had lost myself almost.

I felt guilty for thinking about ‘me’ when I was so blessed to have a beautiful baby daughter that needed me but in five months I hadn’t left her side once. I hadn’t met a friend for coffee as adults, I hadn’t spent any child free time with my husband, I hadn’t so much as had half an hour to read a trashy magazine or a book. This wasn’t for the lack of offers either, whilst we don’t have a massive family network, we have family members that had offered to look after her, but I had not wanted to leave her. I don’t know whether this was because she had had such a traumatic start to life or whether I’d have felt the same regardless, I don’t know. I had waited so long for my beautiful baby girl, spending time away from her just hadn’t occurred to me.

It was only during a chat with my Reiki Healer about how rubbish I was feeling that I fully realised that I had really done myself an injustice in not ensuring that I had time for me. She asked me ‘what do you do for you?’ and I couldn’t answer. I had a small baby, I thought. I don’t have time for me. She asked me to identify one thing I had done out of sheer enjoyment just for me in the last week and I couldn’t answer it. I hadn’t read, I hadn’t written, I hadn’t sat in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet, I hadn’t met a friend – nothing. She told me (in friendly but no uncertain terms) that it was absolutely essential that I find time for me in every single day. I almost laughed. Time for me? Every single day?! That was going to be impossible. She maintained that it was essential for my wellbeing though. She told me to start by reserving one ten minute period for me every single day. It was acknowledged that we all need more than ten minutes of ‘me time’ a day but we needed to be realistic here or it just was never going to work.

I thought about what I could do in ten minutes. I could (probably) drink a small coffee (whilst hot maybe!), I could read for ten minutes, I could meditate or listen to some music, I could pamper myself or you know what? I could just lie down in a dark room and drink in the peace. Ten minutes isn’t long but when you have deprived yourself of any time for you for several months, you’ll take it with open arms and you’ll run with it. Fast.

I scheduled these ten minute periods. I mentally popped them in the diary for when my husband got in from work and could take over on baby duty, or for when I got Little Miss down for one of her naps. Instead of opting to get the bottles cleaned and sterilised or hoovering or being in a rush to do something practical like changing the beds, I took that time and thought ‘this is for me.’

Happiness is created through our enjoyment of things. I enjoyed my baby so much but there needed to be an acknowledgement that I had a right to enjoy something for me too. The Reiki Healer was right, once I started to dedicate time for me, doing something I enjoy, even if for just ten minutes, I felt happier. I felt more balanced. I felt stronger. This had a hugely positive impact on my ability to be an upbeat all-singing-and-dancing mum too.

Those ten minutes each day may not be much but they are a nod to the fact that us mums are people in our own right. We shouldn’t need to accept that every minute of our day should be dedicated to doing things for others. It’s Ok for us to be selfish some times and say ‘this is what I’m doing for me,’ not for the husband, for the dog, for the kids, the mother-in-law or the neighbour down the road – for us. For me. In fact, that isn’t selfish at all. It’s doing what is right for us. What is healthy for us.

When that Reiki Healer asked me what I did for me, I was confused. The fact that I found that question so confusing is exactly what was so very wrong. In my head somewhere, I subconsciously believed that as mums, our whole lives should be dedicated to our little people. And for all we love our little people and for all they make our world go round, it is not good for our health, our state of mind or emotional wellbeing to neglect ourselves in the process.

Ask yourself the question, what have you done for you today? If you can’t answer it, I hear you. You are probably just as exhausted as I was. You may be thinking it’s not possible to have ‘me time’ and be a mummy but please, give it a try. Reserve ten minutes out of your day tomorrow and find something to do that you enjoy, do something that makes you happy. See the difference it makes to how you feel.

I know that having time for me makes me a better mum. I’m more patient, I’m more energised, more balanced and I’m happier.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Have you found the right balance?