2019 Good Riddance – A Dad’s blog.

It’s been quite some time since my last blog, so long I can’t remember the last time I wrote one to be honest; quite a lot has happened in Reilly’s life, development and this has changed the dynamics of the house somewhat and had a profound effect on us all as a family.

The first 6 months of the year seemed to pass without too much incident in the grand scheme of things from Reilly’s point of view (I think), our boy rolled with his routine, he settled into his Monday to Friday routine of going in his school transport without too much issue, developed academically very well, he’s by all accounts a helpful, keen student even taking it on himself to collect the class register and participate in running 1 mile a day with few of his class mates and his teacher.

After school in the lighter nights Reilly is keen on playing out in the street, going swimming, going to Air box trampoline park, the Cinema (we tried numerous times but it’s just too overwhelming for him and he is off before the movie starts), Weetslade country park; Fridays are different we always get the bus, same X8, has to be a double decker so he can sit up stairs and get a good vantage point on his journey, straight off the bus at the Haymarket and into Greggs for a sprinkled donought and a bottle of Dr Pepper light then through M and S up the glass lift and depending on his mood its Fenwick’s toy department or HMV or both.

After shopping it’s like clockwork off to Subway for a Bacon sandwich and pop sitting in the front window watching the Buses pulling out of the station.

So good so far right?

During this period of relative stability as I have mentioned in previous posts I have wrote ordinary life goes on, bills have to be paid, work commitments have to be fulfilled, cars will still break down; even in times of really unsettled behaviours unfortunately the same applies.

The first 6 months of 2019 were tough for many reasons personally, like most in modern life we are spinning numerous plates and modern life is stressful enough and parents often neglect self-care; too busy earning money to pay the dreaded bills, keep the car on the road, the roof over the head, rushing between kids activities, probably sounds very familiar to most I would imagine.

I will try to explain the gradual decline that spiralled out of control that with self-care I could of I am sure handled it better, the problem is if you’re in a lifestyle that doesn’t include regular self-care you like me probably won’t see the signs of what is coming and you dig in and think it will pass.

Towards the end of 2018 we lost a dear friend, a really kind soul Glenn who suffered like myself with mental health issues; in January we lost another dear friend Eddie to cancer after a short period of diagnosis, both fine young men were far younger than myself and should have had the world at their feet and deserved to live full and happy lives.

At this point I am seriously considering morality, Reilly’s complexities potentially may or may not need to rely on a support network as he moves into adulthood; we have little in way of support as parents get older, health declines and he’s an energetic bundle as he should be as a young lad. The first thoughts of what happens if it’s me next creep into my head, who will look after him? Who can he rely on? At this point it’s a daily thought and I try to rationalise with myself that’s not going to happen everything will be ok…..

A short period of time later I lost another friend, Gavin the word character could have been invented for him; Gavin was slightly older and like myself a father and like Glenn and Eddie he should have had years life and happiness ahead of him.

Watching the pain, anguish and struggle of bereaved parents is unbearable; I know what they are going through the fights they face and as kind as peoples intentions are bar odd chinks of normality nothing stops the living hell of how final it is. I know because I am a bereaved parent.

The rationalising with myself is now becoming more frequent and my worries are becoming more and more real in my own mind….

Still trying to hold myself together the crushing news comes in a phone call my friend Anthony is in hospital, diagnosis pancreatic cancer; kind, funny, principled, slightly younger than myself and also a father.

Again the first thoughts are this is shit, just wrong, a very fit young man, regular half marathon runner, he should have his life, a long happy life. The battle in my head is now all consuming in fact its lost, well and truly lost at this point. I make an appointment to see my GP and continue as best as I can to function at work and as a parent.

Getting back to Reilly, at this time my head is a mess, I spend time with him and all I can think of is what will become of him, will he need support, will he have a career and who will care for him, protect him and support him? The day before I was at the GP’s I attended a concert at his school and all I could do was cry, not out of pride but fear, real fear for his future.

I left that concert and went home with stomach cramps, never slept and rang in sick the next morning, went to the GP’s unloaded on him and was as honest as I could be, top tip to any men if you don’t be honest you can’t get the correct help. I will be forever grateful to the GP and my friends who recognised the signs and offered unconditional help and support.

The severity of the cramps had been on and off for periods of months and In my lost battle in my thoughts I was terminally ill, the GP took what seemed like a dozen samples and reassured me it was stress related and proscribed a new course of anti-depressants, diazepam and signed me off work for 3 weeks.  Work were supportive thankfully, the next few weeks existed of wondering around the house and waiting for the kids to come in to have a sense of purpose.

Fast forward 2 weeks and results day at the GPs, I was physically sick before I went I was that convinced I was seriously ill. The GP got straight to the point and advised me I had neglected my own care in short, was suffering with stress/depression related illness and I was type 2 diabetic undiagnosed for considerable time. I have never been so relieved in my life as a result I have had to alter my lifestyle, take the medication, slowly build up my mental health and taking enjoyment out of my life and being a parent. I returned to work after 6 weeks and have nothing but praise for the way I was supported and treated since, it’s easy sometimes to forget who helped you when you needed it, but remember you should and repay them and stay loyal to them in the future.

Anthony was a dear friend and comrade, whether it was that daft message, a phone call, quick pint, a music session or a day out to the football there was never a dull moment.  His battle and outlook on life will stay with me forever, so brave and dignified.

My outlook on the future is still very much a case of uncertainty, I still question my morality and the what ifs creep in but I can shut them out and replace them with positive thoughts and behaviours; the truth is even neurotypical kid’s parents will have worries of their kids futures but unfortunately it’s not a level playing field with a child or a young adult with ASD is it?

For any readers who aren’t familiar with me I am very opposed to the current government and their savage cuts on social care, the NHS, education and the welfare state; I will openly challenge people in person or on any platform available. I make no apologies and stand by position, an example is £0 yes £0 extra funding for SEN schools from 2023, the current lot don’t want to educate my child never mind care for him if god forbid the what ifs ever became reality.

So when you think here he goes again banging on about Labour or Socialism or the likes you now have a deeper understanding of what makes me and my wife tick, I like you want an equal, fair and accepting society for my kid as you do yours; I don’t expect special treatment just a level playing field it’s not too much to ask. What isn’t ok is 1000’s of kids and families struggling out of education, unsupported, confused and suicidal in a world they don’t understand, parents struggling relying on charities and kindness as the magic money tree doesn’t stretch to our kids.

Recent political goings on don’t fill me with long term confidence so we have options to consider what is in our best interests as a family, for Reilly individually and what can we do to remove uncertainties and improve the outlook for families, ASD kids and as importantly young adults.

If we don’t take the lead who will? No one is my guess, bar our own community bubble of teachers, parents, families we are very much on our own in my opinion.

Ps. the second 6 months were an absolute disaster in terms of Reilly and his behaviours bless him but that’s another blog.

Time out – Fringe

I’m lying in bed in Edinburgh reflecting over the last couple of days. I love Edinburgh Fringe firstly. It’s buzzing. There are people from all walks of life from all over the world in this brilliant arty melting pot.

I’ve used the last couple of days to spend time with Ellis my 12 year old. Whisk him away from the absolute carnage and chaos our home has become since the schools broke up. Reilly has been pretty reclusive so at home A LOT! That becomes a problem for myself and Ellis as he hates us eating, weeing, coughing and so on. We do our best to avoid meltdowns for our own sake as well as Reilly’s but sometimes it’s just impossible. We are back to 2 plates left in the shell of a kitchen we’ve just started renovating.

Time is priceless. We have eaten meals out, chatted, shared secrets, watched TV, caught a show and Ellis has watched our show numerous times. This is so beneficial. He sees how the parents are trying their best. He sees how the sibling loves her brother but feels guilt at the resentment she feels. He sees how difficult life can be for Reilly.

I have loved my time with him. I’m having a rough time at the minute and this was much needed. It has made me reevaluate my own life and how I spend my time.

The play is smashing Fringe. The feedback is outstanding. I’m so proud to work with such incredible people. I watched a lady sob in front of me today during the performance. I watched her nod in agreement at every familiar phrase and reach for tissues in moments of poignancy. I got out the door first at the end of the play so I could give her a cuddle. She needed it and so did I.

One week to go. Come see it at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/life-of-reilly xx

What would we talk about my boy and me?

It’s my birthday I’m 46 and feel 90!! It’s bittersweet for reasons many of our friends will know. ❤️

Shane took a day off work so we could grab a few hours together child free. Trip to the metro centre for some new make up, god knows I need it and some Lebanese food. Perfect.

Home just in time for the kids arriving home. Reilly as per usual throws his car keys at me which means let’s go mother and I always oblige. I asked him where he wanted to go and usually he would grab my phone and type it in. It’s usually in no particular order Airbox, Burger King, Spar, skatepark or Ace Playce. I need season passes for all of them. This was his reply today ….

Now what can I say about this. I drove away feeling incredibly emotional. I’m always told accept him as he is. I do but god I want to talk to him. There’s a pit in my stomach that aches to have a conversation with him.

What would we talk about? His enormous hate for undercrackers? Why he puts his chin in my eye socket when he’s trying to fall asleep? Why does he headbutt the wall when we try and wash his hair and slam his knees onto the bathroom tiles with such force it cracks them? What is he thinking about when he roars in spontaneous laughter? What’s his favourite song? Why always vanilla with a flake? Why is the food always beige? Why the back seat on the right hand side? Why’s he terrified of The Lion King? What’s his favourite colour? Does he like school? Why I can’t drink a cup of tea? Why he’s never cold or the attraction of the sea? The list is infinitive. There will never be a question that doesn’t need an answer.

Today I saw progress and I felt hope. I’m happy. Today is a good day ❤️

Safety First

Today I had the absolute pleasure of being able to help Reilly’s amazing school. I’d had a conversation with them before Christmas about how difficult it is when our kids are ill, communication being the main factor. When Reilly is feeling unwell he doesn’t tend to point to where he hurts, he doesn’t talk; he lashes out at me. His way of showing me he’s not happy. As a parent your main priority is to mend and make better – this is no easy task with Reilly. Then there’s the going to the doctors, the treatment, new equipment he’s never seen before, lotions, potions and medicine etc. It all needs explaining, he needs to be prepped.

We decided that new PECS cards to keep at home and some social stories would work perfectly to ease frustrations on both sides.

So today I organised for my good friend and amazing first aid trainer Chris Bull from FIRST AID NORTH EAST to come along to the school and teach some of us parents what to do when there’s an accident or emergency. As many of you know I’ve run a charity with my sister in law for the last 6 years and Chris has done numerous training sessions for us. He again gave his time for free to help today and I’m incredibly grateful. I learned a lot too. Each parent had the chance to focus on their main concern and ask lots of questions too.

It went so well we will be working with Chris further to provide future sessions of the same style.

** I’ll be posting a link to children’s first aid kits with these PECS cards attached in the next couple of days. Another great contact at JAX FIRST AID can provide them at a discounted rate.

“My first aid kit consisted of a liquorice allsorts tin from 1994 with 5 plasters some out of date savlon and some drawing pins. Not anymore!!”

12 years

12 years ago after the birth of my second son I had a breakdown. It was the worst experience of my life. I had severe post natal depression and peri-natal OCD. Peri-natal OCD is possibly the cruelest form of a mental health problem I’ve come across. This isn’t lining baby bottles up or being tidy. This is trying to make a bottle and convince yourself that you haven’t filled it with salt (obvs haven’t but you check, you check again, one more check, you throw away – just in case, you start again). It’s exhausting. You have this teeny human to care for and all you can think about is the harm that they could come to (obsession) and spend your life making sure that doesn’t happen (compulsions).

This is not a combination I would wish upon anyone, not my worst enemy. I couldn’t travel alone on a bus into Newcastle, couldn’t nip to the shops or take my oldest to school. On the rare occasions I did venture outside I wouldn’t/couldn’t speak to anyone. It was the darkest place I’ve ever been to. I ended up moving home with my parents, only they knew the true extent to how bad I actually was, taking sleeping tablets 6 nights a week for some respite from my inner turmoil while anti depressants settles themselves in as my new sidekicks (still with me, couldn’t live without them). I could no longer work in finance and found myself with no job for the first time in my life. I felt I was a failure and the world would be a better place without me.

If you’d said to me then Christine hang on in there. You are going to make a difference. You’ll play a part in saving lives through the charity. You’ll produce theatre shows and a film. I’d have christened you barmier than I was. But look what’s happened! Granted I still take meds – no shame in that, I practise mindfulness and really try to keep on top of my mental health.

When I talk about being driven you have no idea how much I’m driven. I see these opportunities as second chances. I see them as my way to cover up some of the cracks in my own walls. Being driven fuelled with anxiety on most days is bloody hard. I hate anxiety, sometimes I want to get the kids off to school and then hide but I don’t I sometimes need some encouragement to keep it moving and I do my absolute best.

The Life of Reilly is cathartic for me. I love writing when I get the chance. I love to share our experiences and feel I’ve evolved over the last 3 years of writing. I hadn’t a clue when I wrote my first blog that it would be viewed all over the world. I get thanks from countries I’ve never heard of because they feel like they aren’t the only ones ballsing this parenting lark. I get it wrong. We all do but I do my best.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that the stage play travels. I will work my nuts off to make this film. Wherever possible it will include autistic people. Acting, crew, runners. Everything in my power to make it happen. There are important issues to raise and millions to educate but I need your help to do it.

If you can help with any aspect of the film be it donation of time, sponsorship, product placement, locations, expertise then please shout. We have some great fundraisers coming your way including a Midsummer Nights Dream Ball!!

Moral to this one is no matter how shitty you feel there is hope on the horizon. Keep your chin up, seek help, take the meds, speak to the counsellors just do what you’ve got to do when times are blue. Never be afraid to speak up.

Great things could be just around the corner xx

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-film

Shear(er) delight!

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Alan Shearer Centre with local group SPARCS. I’d never been before but Reilly is a regular and has attended many times with school to use the hydrotherapy pool.

Its fully accessible for those with limited mobility and located just off the A69 its set in over an acre of beautiful grounds complete with woodland walk, sensory garden and specially adapted play area.  A hidden gem.  Plenty of seats and perfectly kept lawns for those budding number 9’s to have a kick about.

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Inside there is so much to do.  The ladies on the reception were incredibly helpful and enrolling Reilly as a member took all of 2 minutes, membership and use of the centre is FREE.

Reilly loves all the sensory activities the centre has to offer and was very welcome for a cool down on an incredibly hot day.  I love watching these incredible kids at play.  Fascinated, focused and happy. I also love watching parents, grandparents and carers being able to relax, without judgement in a place they feel very welcome.

 

 

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While there I arranged for Reilly to visit the hydrotherapy pool in the summer holidays.  It can be booked for sole use in hour sessions which is perfect for and the general public who don’t need to be subjected to me in my cozzy.  We’ve chosen to share that date with Kelly and her little one, Kelly is one of the fab parents I met when talking about Reilly’s blog at a coffee morning earlier in the year.  I always get so stressed about keeping Reilly happy in the holidays,  I see a lot of time being spent here in the summer, even a cafe so no need for soggy sandwiches and warm pop.

 

It is well worth checking out SPARCS who run meet ups for autistic families at some excellent places around the North East and of course The Alan Shearer Centre and all they have to offer.  As well as the activity centre they have The Alan Shearer Short Break Centre and The Specialist Residential Home.

Check it out and if you see us there make sure you say hi!

x

 

Yoga

A few weeks ago I signed up to a beginners yoga class.  I practise mindfulness daily and love it.  It helps ground me a little and puts the brakes on the internal chatter my mind partakes in constantly. Yoga seemed to be a natural progression.

Myself and Kelly got there for class at 6.30 all the teas had been prepared before I left, my dad was watching Reilly until Shane returned so happy days I was off to de-stress.  We decided to try Yoga Hens after a recommendation from a friend.  The room was dimly lit with candles, warm and was playing some ambient music.  Perfect.  The mats were lined up on the floor with little cushions and blankets, maybe I was going to get some kip as well this is just win win win.

My stress levels of late have been through the roof.  Half term saw the shoot for The Life of Reilly as well as our first charity heart screening weekend.  That’s a lot of juggling for the work life balance.  Ellis my 11 year old has been stressed to bits because of SATS, SATS for gods sake.  I said to him do what you can and that’s it.  Do not worry about results because I won’t.  He is also feeling the burn at the moment from Reilly and his superglue attachment to me and it’s highlighted the need that we need to work harder at our family dynamics as it is far too easy to just keep Reilly happy as we can and siblings can and do suffer.

I ran out of melatonin and had none for most of half term week.  You can never get it next day its always a few days so that meant that I also had little sleep.  I do all I can to try and keep stress at bay.  I’m eating better, i’m going to the gym, I meditate every night but I’m still incredibly anxious.

I was excited to start yoga but I made a fatal error.  I had beans on toast for my dinner before the class.  I have never ever in my life been that stressed.  I actually pretended I had cramp in my foot to get out of my downward facing dog because an upward facing fog was about to descend on the room.  Awful.  I was shaking with fear on letting one slip.  Next week there will be no beans or pop.

All in all I loved the experience, I’m incredibly not bendy to my disappointment I wanted to be all goddess like and graceful. Instead I fell off balance constantly but tried my best, I muttered Jesus Christ more times than I fell over and felt sorry for the lady behind me having a massive clothed moon in her vision for most of the class.

I’m hoping my path to enlightenment is a quick one and I can be all chill and wear lycra without fear.  Can’t wait until next week and see what we have in store.  No beans I promise.

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