Mum Defined

The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t think to ask.

I have been sat pondering for a while on how to write my first blog post. Where do you start? How do you get across years of experiences, emotions, feelings and knowledge? How do you decide what to write about first? How can you transfer your personality through words on a page?

I probably over thought the whole thing like much of the things I do in life, I like to have a plan and I like to tick off lists. I am a slight perfectionist and I am happy with this. So for me perhaps my first blog post should start at the beginning.

One of my biggest struggles in life is being a Mum. The quest to be the ‘perfect’ Mum. For me though, it took a long time to become a Mum and even longer to begin to feel like a Mum – I mean how do you define being a Mum?

In 2012 after a year of being married and several years of talking about children we decided to venture down the path of adoption. The process was long, self exposing and an emotional rollercoaster. We had to try and absorb so much knowledge in such a short space of time it was incredibly overwhelming.

Then in 2013 we had our son placed with us at the age of 10 months. He was a gorgeous, happy and content baby. He had a few wobbles as was expected – waking at night crying even though he had slept through at the foster carers. Went off of his food even though he was a good eater. All the usual expectations of a child being placed in a new environment. We felt prepared for this though and had tools for coping. As time went on the stranger we had brought home began to become more familiar. Then my husband went back to work…

I found it incredibly hard to transition to being a Mum. I was a very sociable person and had worked in a very busy environment. I was at home alone. I had not had an opportunity to meet other parents with children/babies of a similar age. I had friends in fellow prospective adopters that we had met at different courses but they had either not yet had children placed or had children placed at different ages with different needs.

I began to become isolated in my own home. I started to clean – in a bid to break up the day or keep me busy whilst my son napped. However this soon became obsessive and I began to be ritualistic in my routine. We went out twice a day – to walk the dog and to go to the park. I didn’t talk to anyone there for fear of questioning. I had been advised by my Health Visitor to go to groups and meet other Mums. I went to a few, feeling like a complete outsider. Not yet feeling like a Mum defined.

I felt tired and exhausted all of the time. Tearful for no reason – crying for hours when my son was in bed at the end of the day. I felt like not only a failure to myself but a failure to my family, my son and social services. I had been selected for this job and I had failed. I had no idea why I felt like this as surely we had what we had strived and worked so hard for?

In January 2014 I eventually went to seek help from the GP and was diagnosed with depression. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with high levels of anxiety and depression and commenced counselling. Several months later I was diagnosed with Post Adoption Depression – something I didn’t even know existed. I had no knowledge of this prior – no mention of it in any of the prospective adopters courses we went on. No one stressed the importance of self care or feeling like your world has not only been flipped upside down but also put through a blender.

Now in 2018 I look back on those days and feel residual shame and embarrassment and this makes me angry.

Angry that I should still feel like this.

Angry that it could have been prevented.

Angry that there are still so many adoptive families being failed and parents suffering with PAD’s.

So now I am on a mission.

To raise awareness in the adoption community.

To raise awareness and understanding in professionals that surround adoptive families.

To reduce the stigma around Post Adoption Depression and feeling like a failure.

I feel like I am beginning to own my past and shaking the shame and the colour Blue that washes over me when I talk about it to others. This shame I will always take with me and instead of holding me down it makes me stronger – it makes we want to push harder to ensure other families receive better services, particularly in those first few weeks and months of placement.

Hoping that with each day I become more Mum Defined.

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Is school Ace?

The kid who has experienced trauma is not trying to push your buttons.

Two weeks ago was parent feedback at the school. I went alone as I like to allow the teacher to be completely truthful and I don’t think it is fair for Magpie to hear any ‘negative’ feedback or where his struggles are. I am sure from the recent frustrations we have surrounding phonics and writing that he is completely aware of his own struggles.

I have become more and more aware that I am one of ‘those’ parents. The one that emails weekly with suggestions for improvement. The one that hangs behind to call the teacher out on something I feel is going to damage my child. I can see the faces of the teaching staff looking at me. But I quite frankly have learnt to not give a hoot what they think. My child is my priority and I need them to understand why he has his struggles and why a reward system based around shaming is not appropriate in Year 1.

So off I went to parents evening. I had compiled a list of my concerns and observations on my child’s learning ability. As far as I am concerned he is progressing well for his age. I feel as a society we expect far too much from our children and I am just chuffed he approaches learning with fun and excitement. I just wish the school would foster this more. The feedback was on his poor handwriting. His inability to focus for long periods sat down. His tendency to distract other children when he is meant to be working. The fact he doesn’t ask for help when he is told he needs to be independently learning. I was fuming and subsequently the session with the teacher went on for 40 minutes. How they can expect any 5/6 year old to sit and learn independently, seeking help if they don’t understand? Why is handwriting such a big issue – I only read an article yesterday on how children’s fine motor skills are not ready for handwriting (particularly cursive) until the age of 8 years. Until that point they will struggle holding pencils for long periods and the marks they make will be messy. I would just be thrilled that he has attempted to write and has shown an interest in his learning.

As for the reward chart – who ever thinks that sitting children on rain clouds when they have been ‘naughty’ should not in my mind being working with children. When a child reacts in a way (distracts, can’t sit still, refuses to work) they are usually trying to communicate something. Which I don’t think is – please sir can I sit on the rain cloud so I can feel even more bad about myself. There is always a reason behind a behaviour. As a professional who works with children you should be willing to look at what that behaviour is saying and work on that.

It was clear to me looking at Magpies work that he was a child that is finding learning difficult to access. That he is potentially still struggling with the fact that the ‘temporary substitute’ teacher has been with the class since January. So I sat with patience and explained what my child has experienced and why he behaves the way he does sometimes. I gave strategies for using in different circumstances and we came up with a plan for Magpie to gain some confidence with his work.

I am still waiting to hear where his pupil premium plus will be spent and am still awaiting a meeting with the designated teacher for looked after children. I no longer become disheartened about this though. I become fuelled. I just wish that schools on a whole were more trauma informed. This wouldn’t just benefit our children but all the children in the school.

Up to 72% of children and youth will experience at least one Adverse Childhood Experience before the age of 18. A trauma-sensitive or trauma-informed school will have educators who are aware of what the impact of these ACEs are on their academic achievement and behaviour. For children who have experienced trauma, learning can be a big struggle. However, if you identify the trauma as the root of the behaviour, schools can adapt their approach and help children to cope in the learning environment. The idea of being trauma informed means that intervention is put in place before a child reaches crisis (usually when they are teenagers requiring mental health services).

When I was discussing ideas for Magpies class the teacher was suggesting Magpie wasn’t included in things. So if he does the reward system then Magpie won’t be included – but I wanted to shout for the other children. That I am standing up because I know my child’s trauma and I am aware it impacts his learning but actually if you change the whole classroom into a trauma sensitive place all the children would benefit from this. The benefits for being trauma informed are endless for every child. Not just mine.

So why are we not pushing for trauma informed schools as a basic standard?

You were born with the ability to change someone’s life. Don’t ever waste it.


The Motherboard

If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.

Banksy

This week has passed by in a blur. With me consciously aware of what I have, and most importantly, what I have not done. There are weeks where I feel so completely in control and that life goes quite smoothly. Other weeks leave me feeling incredibly erratic and that I am barely holding on. This week is the latter. Rather annoyingly there is no rhyme or reason to each week. I do things fairly similarly each week. I try and prioritize self care where I can. The only thing I can think of is my womanly cycle, the amount of sleep I get and how my trusty lists tend to at certain times combine into one.

In order to try and reduce the amount of pressure I (and life) tend to put myself under I have 3 lists that I run by.

List 1 is the things that NEED to get done. Things with a short deadline. Things that really should get done sooner rather than later – things like food shopping when there aren’t even beans in the house.

List 2 is those things that I WANT to get done but aren’t of high importance. I would quite like it if they were done this week but actually they have a longer deadline. We won’t starve to death if these things don’t get done.

List 3 is those things that I LIKE to get done. Things like clearing through Magpies drawers and throwing out his pants that are aged 3 years and far too tight but he keeps insisting on wearing them and then spending the day pulling out of his bum (maybe this should get moved the the NEED to list soon…) These things I would like to get done but actually they don’t need to get done and they have no deadline.

These lists work well for me…when I remember to write them.

This week I have refused to rewrite my lists because my fear of why I am so erratic is because all of these lists have in some way or another reached their deadlines and are all amalgamating into one giant list on the NEED to get done. The list that shouts at me that I need to pull up my socks and get on with it. When in reality all I want to do is curl up and pretend none of it is happening.

Except it is all happening so I need to start ticking off those tasks. World Book Day today lent itself to a major amount of stress when I had placed it on the WANT to list when we were informed 3 weeks ago. This got neglected and left on this list until last night at 8pm when I had to roll up my sleeves and fashion a dragon costume and golden star for a Zog loving Magpie. When it was completed I sat surrounded by glitter and fabric staring at the floor and questioning my life – which feels like most days of parenting.

I had a conversation with a friend this week about how we got here? When did we reach the point of being an adult and having responsibility? More importantly – who gave us this responsibility and all this trust? We laughed about how this is even possible.

I have a fairly professional job that requires responsibility and adult decisions. I am a parent responsible for keeping a small child alive, healthy and growing into a functioning member of society. I often drive into work and feel the panic attack enveloping me of all the pressures of the day and that this is all on me. My drive into work is always rushed due to an always late school drop off. I am turning over in my head what needs to get done at work. Once I am at work I organise my day and then start thinking about those things I need to get done after work and what needs to happen after school, what food is in the house for tea, whether there is a school club, if I need to be anywhere (parents evening tonight – stress level 10/10). My brain is a constant whirl.

Round and round it all goes. I dip in and out of my thoughts making mental notes to do things that invariably will take several weeks to get done when it has reached its deadline. I think how productive am I actually being? I am so busy and have so much going on that I find myself shutting down.

I reach the point where I feel my brain can no longer take on any more information – like the motherboard on a computer. I have reached the point where I have frozen and need a damn good reboot.


A warm and fuzzy spot

Allow yourself to transform as many times as you need to be fully happy and free.

I am in a good place. I feel happy. I feel organised. I feel surrounded by people who support me and bring value to my life. I feel like I have reached a point I have aimed to get to for a long time. So why do I find it so hard to verbalise and acknowledge this? To fully let go of things that have happened in the past and to embrace the new. I know I am not the only one. It is like we have been conditioned by society to not allow ourselves to be happy. To always be striving for perfection and constantly falling short. But today I am bathing in the happiness.

This morning I dropped Magpie off at school for the first day back after half term. I was sad to drop him off as we have had a really good week off and nowhere near as bad as anticipated (see again with the low expectations). He went into school without a wobble. I left the school feeling lighter and ready for a day off for myself. For a very long time I have worked full time. Mainly due to finances and the fact we never do things simply and took on a project house that is still ongoing. Partly though because of expectations placed upon me by others. The looks of horror and disgust if you even slightly suggest wanting to be a stay at home Mum or only returning to part time hours. So for 3 years whilst being Mum to Magpie I worked 50+ hour weeks. On a busy ward. Working unsociable shifts. The move into community based work was needed due to my pure exhaustion and unhappiness in my job. There was very little work/life balance. I would go 48 hours without seeing Magpie and barely even passing my husband. When I was off of work I was exhausted, either recovering from back to back 13 hour shifts or sleeping off night shifts.

Most recently I dropped my hours again to a very lovely 22.5 allowing me a whole day on Monday to do with as I please. It also allows me to do school pick up which I love. Work/life balance restored. When I dropped my hours though I had to really prove why I wanted to do it. I had to explain (mainly to myself) and felt like I was ‘letting the side down’ and ‘not pulling my weight’ at home. Family would look on and I felt blame for any future financial mishaps. What I wanted to say was that I am physically and mentally broken and unable to continue working at the pace I am. I am working 5 days a week, parenting and keeping a house together and running. I was at the point of exhaustion and had already had to have 2 weeks off from work for feeling completely run down. I was tearful most of the time and angry and cross the rest. Enough was enough.

This afternoon I sat in the sun, working on something I feel truly passionate about and it filled me with happiness. Happiness that made me feel like I was glowing. It felt like I had sat on recharge and the fully charged button had finally clicked on. I instantly thought I should blog this – but then I thought would my readers want to read about happy times? Don’t we all get pulled to read others stories because we can relate to them or because they allow us to rationalise and put perspective on our own lives. My blog started in a bid to share my experiences of PADs and being an adoptive parent. I am pretty open and honest and will share dark dark times in order for others to feel like they can share their own feelings and experiences. Do people want to hear when others are happy? Or does that make someone who is struggling feel worse?

After a lot of deliberation I concluded that I think we should always verbalise both our happy and sad times. I think everything has a balance. We all ride the rollercoaster of life, experiencing our ups and our downs. We only tend to share the downs as that is human nature and what seems to be quite a British thing. We like a good moan and can pretty much moan about anything. Give us a topic and we will find some negative morsal in it. I know though that I don’t want my blog to be only documenting the lows. I want you to see adoption in all its glory and more importantly that you can recover from mental health. You may be suffering with PADS, PND, anxiety or depression but there is light at the end. You will find happiness and hope. You will have blips but because of your experiences you will be prepared and cope. You will get through it. You may not feel it now but your mental health, darkness and all, will make you a stronger person and when you are fully charged you will shine brighter than ever before.

And if I didn’t think the day could get any better, I finished the day having trifle for tea.

The Gradual Unit

I don’t believe that we own our children, they’re their own souls who make their own choices, we just guide and support them.

Last night I had the pleasure of going to see the new film ‘Instant Family’. For those of you that haven’t seen it I would definitely recommend it. It is a superb entry level mainstream film about the realities of adoption. There were parts where you felt maybe they could have gone more into depth (dysregulation being one) however, I think if they had they would have lost the balance between light hearted and warming comedy and the heartbreaking moments when the light clearly shone on the current state of too many children in foster care and not enough adopters. The part about the birth Mum coming back caught me and I had to hold back the ugly crying then. I think as adopters perhaps we hold that close to our hearts. The fact that our children don’t belong to us. We are sometimes seen as keepers. Doing a favour for the birth family and the state. We take these children on and take the pressure off of everyone else. This is often to the detriment of ourselves.

During part of the film (I will try not to spoil it for those that haven’t seen it yet) one of the children has an accident that involves a trip to the emergency room. This was another part that I had to hold back ugly tears. For it is moments like this that you realise how much you love each other. When Magpie was 11 months old he had bronchiolitis. Up until this point he was rejective of us. I was caring for him but not ‘loving’ him. When he was poorly all he wanted was me. He would lay on me for hours. I would take in every angle of him. Smell his hair. Watch how his hair would shimmer like spun gold in the sunlight. How his chest would rise and fall. How when he coughed his little hand would reach out for me. This was OUR moment. The moment he started to trust me. The moment I truly allowed myself to love him and realised how much he had grown in my heart.

For us we were not so much an ‘instant family’ more of a ‘gradual unit’. Yes it invariably feels like it is instant. One night you go to bed as a couple and the following night you go to bed as parents with a 10 month old asleep in the other room. It took a long time for me to feel like a family though. It was something we really had to work at and as a result of my Post Adoption Depression it took time to feel like a Mum.

I don’t think I have ever seen a film though where I am laughing one minute and crying the next. That is what makes this film so special. It truly depicts our lives. Just this past week I have ridden a similar rollercoaster. Where I am laughing and joking one minute and the next I am hunkered down in my blanket fort crying until there are no more tears. This is adoption. This is living with trauma. This is loving someone so much and doing everything you can to repair damage even though sometimes you sacrifice yourself.

For me I have had one of THOSE WEEKS. We have had dysregulation from issues at school. Magpies teacher who went off sick is now possibly not coming back. Magpie questions where this teacher has gone. Verbalising missing them and wishing they were back. This teacher seemed to ‘get us’ and for adopters this is the holy grail. To have a teacher who listens and actively works to allow your child to access education. This loss of a teacher has been felt even harder from the introduction of a reward system from the new teacher. Magpie spent all day sat on a rain cloud and came out full of shame. Needless to say I have been in a battle with the school over the week and have successfully had said reward chart removed but as of yet have not had any feedback and the new teacher appears to be avoiding me….

Then I headed off on Tuesday to talk to the Chief Exec and his Executive panel (NHS) about the risks for adoptive children and families and I always share my personal experience which I have learnt over time, takes a lot out of me.

I also found out I have been selected to speak at the Public Health England conference in May again about adoptive families and the support required for children to reach their potential. This is next level stuff for me and my anxiety when I think about it rockets to the moon! I am just hoping I do it justice and that some change can begin to happen.

So life does invariably ride that rollercoaster of emotion similar to watching the film. Up and down we go. Some days are good. Other days are what we like to refer to as write offs in this house. Whatever happens though we dust ourselves off and get back on the ride. Ready to go all over again.

We’ve come so far…

oznor

The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson.

I have just got back from a 4 day break in Barcelona. It was a much needed break and other than the 2 day hangover I am feeling refreshed. I think I will probably do another blog post of how my heart and soul was nourished in Barcelona but today I have been inspired by the above picture.

In Barcelona we saw a building located at Plaça de Viçenc Martorell in Barcelona’s El Ravel neighbourhood. The building dates back to the 16th century and was originally an orphanage called la Casa de la Misericordia (the house of mercy). A common feature of orphanages and convents of the time was a rotating wooden turntable called a foundling wheel where parents could leave new-born babies that they were unable to care for. The mother would approach the wooden turntable, place the baby inside, turn it and then place any money they had in the coin slot. On the other side of the hatch was small room with a cot and a bed where a nun slept, ready to take care of the newly abandoned infants. The foundling wheel at Plaça de Viçenc Martorell was in use from 1853 until 1931. During this time it received hundreds, if not thousands, of orphans. The nuns who ran the orphanage renamed the children, giving them the name of a Catholic saint and the surname Expósito.

These children are still known in Barcelona because of the shared surname. But none of these children/adults would have known where they came from. Who their birth parents were. No way of tracing back to their history, their bloodline.

More and more as adoptive parents we learn and realise the value and importance of knowing where your children have come from. For our children it is incredibly important for them to understand their history and the reasons why they were adopted. This information is theirs and builds their life stories. We are simply the keepers of this information until they are ready to know it.

Progress has been made since the orphanages in Barcelona yet there still feels like more work to be done. Choosing to adopt is a big decision. It also feels like you sign up for something that then comes along with lots of add ons. I tend to look at our journey as an iceberg. When we chose to adopt we saw the adoption process as the tip of the iceberg. Then as we have moved through the years it feels like we are seeing more and more of what is under the water. Life story work and talking about birth families is something sat deep under the water. At all our preparation days we had a few talks about life story work but it didn’t go into a vast amount of detail. For us it just looked like a book we filled in regularly (which reminds me I haven’t written in it since Christmas). How wrong were we?!

Our son was 10 months when he was placed so life story work didn’t start until a few years later. We spoke to him about his life and his book sat proudly on the shelf. However, we didn’t start to really talk about it until he was 2/3 years old. Now at the age of 6 years we have lots of questions. Who was my Mum? Why did she give me away? Will she come back? Can I meet her? The questions feel like they come from nowhere and often hit me sideways. I don’t think it will ever get easier. The flip in my tummy and reminder that he is not biologically mine. I feel prepared for these questions because of the reading and research I have taken it upon myself to do. Not because of anything I was given at preparation weekend or anything from post adoption support. Not everybody will do this though. The solid life story information needs to be at the beginning and regularly throughout.

It needs to be clear from the beginning that children need their identity information in order to gain a sense of themselves. From speaking with adoptees one of the thing that is talked about alot is how and when they were told. Those that were told at a later age expressed feelings of anger, lack of identity and a loss of both the family they are in that they no longer feel a part of and the birth family they know nothing about.

As I gazed at the foundling wheel in Barcelona I couldn’t help but feel so many emotions for those babies. Never knowing where they came from. Never having an identity. I am glad we have moved on since then but we do have so much further to go. Adoption shouldn’t be an iceberg that we sail towards, unprepared and at risk of collision at any moment.

RED January – realising strength.

btf

You’re not a failure when you fall down. You’re a failure when you don’t get up.

Stedman Graham

For a long time I have believed that I was/am a failure. I felt that I wasn’t cut out for being a parent, let alone a parent to a child with trauma. I wanted to walk away, bury my head in the sand, give up, throw my hands in the air. I couldn’t live up to the expectations that I had set up for myself. It was only on reflection that I realised I had felt like a failure because I had set myself up for this. My anxiety and spiralling depression made me create unrealistic expectations that I could never reach. Being a parent is such a landmark event in your life, throw into that how it feels to become an instant parent and bring a stranger into your home that you will never be able to remove the pain of loss from or begin to understand how they feel.

Slowly you learn to cope. You become aware of strategies and how to have conversations of loss and worry. You nurture and love and become the parent you felt you never could. What I have also learnt over the years is to not set myself up to fail. To break things down. Take it step by step. Not to compare myself to others and to understand that even when people look like they have their shit together they have their own demons behind closed doors. We are all doing the best we can. I think the world would be a better place if we exposed our demons more and stopped posting filtered images of our ‘perfect’ lives. #blessed – more like #surviving.

What I also get a lot is when I open up about my bad days – the 6 months of struggle. The 3 months of being so utterly low and in a dark place. Shock from people that I am ‘such a happy and bubbly person’ like that should mean I couldn’t possibly have had anxiety and depression. Except that mental health doesn’t discriminate. I am quite a bright and sparkly person. I would much rather enjoy life and I do try and put on my positive pants most days. However some days I lose my sparkle, anxiety raises it’s head above the parapet and I find myself needing to introvert and switch off. This doesn’t make me any less me and it doesnt mean I am no longer a happy and bubbly person. The two versions of me can co exist.

What I have found recently through, writing more and reflecting, is that because I often go easy on myself I don’t always push myself far enough. I take the easy option, I find a loop hole or I procrastinate. Each year I pick something that will push me further. I have run a half marathon, swam 5km, ran a 5km race across a tank training track with puddles up to my waist. So last year in anticipation of the 2019 challenge I signed myself up to do a triathlon. For a long time it was a year away. Now it is a mere 4 months away and I couldn’t feel any less prepared or fit. So in December I thought I needed to find something to push myself. Something to kick the training off, shed some of the festive pounds and to improve my fitness. So I signed up for RED January. (Run Every Day). Now not everyone has run every day as the point is to just move more each day. Improve your own mobility, mental health and raise awareness. Whilst raising money for Dorset Mind.

I knew I would have to be hard on myself though and run every day. This is because of the loop holes – I would easily find an excuse to not do it. I move regularly each day anyway – walking the dog, dancing, running. I needed something extreme. So I said to myself I would run at least 1km every day for the 31 days of January. On the eve of my last run I can say it has been the best thing I have done. January has been tough but this has given me focus, I have found strength and determination I forgot I had. I have had days I wanted to quit and walk away (or hobble). My legs have felt heavy and tired and I have questioned my own mental health whilst running in the ice and snow and attempting to remain upright.

Day 22 and an ankle injury almost ended RED for me. However with ice and elevation and some small slow runs I then went onto run my fastest 10km run on Day 26. I can’t describe how I feel, a mixture of pride and satisfaction. A deep feeling of belief in myself. That I am not a failure. That I have strength and determination and if I put my mind to it I can achieve anything. What a brilliant way to start the year! Standing strong like a warrior ready to take on anything.

Second rate self care

In today’s rush, we all think too much – seek too much – want too much – and forget about the joy of just being

Eckhart Tolle

This week has felt like the longest week, yet I also find myself with not enough hours in the day and the ‘to do’ list continues to grow. I have always prided myself on being ‘in the moment’ and for taking stock, standing still and taking it all in. However, sometimes life gets busy and it is hard to pull yourself out of that spiral where all you see is down.

A clinical psychologist came to speak at our work meeting this week. She was there to improve staff morale and to help people get out of their own spirals. We did a lot of problem solving, talking it out and some mindfulness. A lot of the time she spoke of the importance of self care. Taking time out for yourself to readdress the balance or imbalance in our case. I sat there looking around the room. Heads would shake and people would say they couldnt remember when they last had time for themselves. I sat upright. I felt confidently that I am a master now of this self care malarky. I practice what I preach and I take time for myself. There would be no need for me to change.

That afternoon I drove to school pick up. In the car is one area I practice some self care in terms of switching off and creating that boundary between work and home. I put on music, sing loudly and lose myself. That evening I went for a run and then to dance class – time for me to socialise and to stomp it all out. I also can act like the true clown I am. The following day I had a bath. The day after that I caught up on some TV. All sounds pretty positive. Self care every day. Or so I thought…

What has dawned on me and come over me like a dark rain cloud casting shadows across the ground is that for all my self care this week I have failed to be present. I have allowed my brain to keep ticking. In the car I made lists of what I needed to do and where I needed to be. Instead of sitting outside of the school gates and reading or closing my eyes for 5 minutes I replied to emails or scribbled ideas and costings for a project. When running, again I kept thinking over the same things, trying to reach conclusions or solutions. I felt like my problems were chasing me (although it didnt make me run any faster). At dance I laughed and joked but I failed to let myself go like usual and I forgot steps I had nailed the previous week. In the bath where I usually close my eyes and practice some mindfulness I lay making lists, planning what I needed to do when I got out. I stayed in there for the 20 minutes required for Epsom salts and got out. It felt like more of a chore being there than a relaxing time out. As for the TV – if you asked me to give a synopsis of what happened I would fail. I sat and gazed. Replied to emails. Googled random stuff and made – you’ve guessed it – another list!

I have spent this week feeling frazzled, run down, busy, unorganised and late. I was refilling my cup not realising that there was a hole in the bottom and the self care was simply pouring through. I wasn’t present. I wasn’t practising self care. I was going through the motions but not allowing myself to be. I was missing everything around me. I was allowing things to get to me.

Magpies subsititute teacher has implemented a reward system where they sit on a sun. If they are good they get to go to the rainbow. If they are bad they sit on the raincloud. Magpie came out and said he is scared of school incase he ends up on the rain cloud. My cup was empty when he told me this.

I am writing a lot at the moment, about my depression – about Bob. I wrote a lot the other evening. My cup was empty when I wrote this.

As a result this week I have felt erratic, overly sensitive and paranoid. Not wanting to ask anyone for help for fear of being annoying. Not wanting to be the Negative Nancy. Voicing frustrations and then regretting them. Snapping at small things. Spiralling out of control.

Today I ran. (I’m doing RED January so running every day). I ran with purpose though. I didn’t think. I took in the noises around me. My breath that I could see with every exhale. The sun rising and causing a purple sky. I stood and breathed that in for a while. My cup was filling. I drove to work and listened to an old album I haven’t heard in a while. Like an old friend I slipped back into the lyrics and sang along. I felt the music through me. The warmth it emanates within me. The clouds over the town I work in looked like meringue mountains and I took a mental image of them. I drank my coffee before starting work. I even ate food at lunch time. I left work slightly late so that I could finish my tasks and leave with a blank list. I sat in the car outside Magpies school and read. I also read at his swimming lesson instead of writing. My cup is filling.

As a result I feel calmer. I have ticked off all my jobs this week in one day because I was focused. I didnt procrastinate or avoid. I was able to attack them head on. I have made a plan for how to address the school reward system. I have refilled Magpies cup who went to bed happy.

Self care is so important but it needs to be first rate. It needs you to be present. Other wise you are simply going through the motions and your cup will never fill. With being present, with regular self care I hope my cup will remain filled.