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

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A gut feeling

Like most parents of autistic children I read, a lot. I read other parents blogs, scientific studies, general books on autism, self help books, how to use the toilet books, special needs rights books, communication books. A lot of books.

There is one thing that I keep seeing – in forums, studies, blogs, even a TedTalk and that’s about how prolific the link between the gut and the brain is. I decided I would delve deeper after I watched the documentary The Truth about Sleep, in which there was a lot of talk about pre and pro biotics.  If you don’t know probiotics are good bacteria that lives in our gut, prebiotics is a fibre that we can’t digest but allows our probiotics to flourish and fight the bad ones.  If you do take time to read more on the subject you will see the gut/brain/autism study where the mice became more social, less anxious and displayed ‘less autistic behaviours’.  There are parents actually doing fecal transplants to change gut microbes in, I shit you not, crapsules.  I’ll leave that there, it makes me feel a bit sick. 

In the documentary it talked about people who get less than 5 hours sleep per night, that’s me and has been for as long as I can remember and they’ve found not getting enough sleep can cause changes to our gut bacteria.  We have trillions of micro organisms living inside our intestines that keep our bodies running along. When it’s thrown out of kilter there is mounting evidence that it links to IBS, allergies, obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, brain function and neurodegenerative diseases. It will also make you crave sugar PMT style.

A recent study showed that getting less sleep changes the levels of specific strains of bacteria. The amount of certain types of bacteria decreased by almost 50 percent ― and that was after only two nights of not enough shut eye.

I’m no science teacher so I’ll try getting to the point.  

My beady, black tired eyes lit up like fireworks when I read that pre and probiotics can be beneficial when targeting anxiety, depression and OCD.  My threesome. So off to Holland and Barrett I went today like a medical encyclopaedia looking for a new chapter. 

I am the guinea pig. I took my first capsule tonight and will monitor daily if it makes a difference. I will be honest you can be assured. Could this help sort out the restless, anxious, biscuit craving, foggy brained obsessive fatty that I’ve become?

 Maybe not but let’s give it a shot if it helps with my anxiety, sleep, sugar cravings, stomach pains and allergies it may become a permanent fixture in this house.   I’ll report back on this in a week 😀🤞🏼.  I’m off to sleep. 

Ps not on commission, not selling anything. 

Mental threesome 

It’s mental health awareness week so thought I’d do a post. I’m pretty vocal when it comes to discussing mental health and I wish more were too. 

I have a threesome regularly – depression, anxiety and OCD. Depression and anxiety are of equal shittiness, OCD the king of the castle.  OCD is vile and it’s hard to explain.  I don’t spend time lining up things and making sure the house is tidy or washing my hands.  I do however get overwhelmed with ridiculous thoughts. Like a broken record. They are exhausting and it takes every ounce of energy to deal with it.  It’s like anxiety on steroids, the what ifs? Become amplified WHAT IF’S? Harder, better, faster, stronger as Kanye would say. 

Anxiety is an everyday occurrence. I’m not plagued 24/7 like some people but parts in everyday will be spent with pins and needles coursing through my limbs accompanied by a loud pulse, a foggy brain and an urge to get out of wherever I am.   It often greets me on waking like an elephant sat on my legs.  When anxiety is high OCD is worse, OCD in turns feeds anxiety; see my hamster wheel? I wish it would f@ck off.

Depression – if you know me you know my story it has ups, it has downs and it has some wayyyy downs and my depression I believe stems from my past, my genetics and the two beauts above.  They go hand in hand in hand And it’s hard sometimes to function “normally” I should add lots of my friends and lots of my family suffer from depression, anxiety, some even from OCD too. It’s beginning to feel like the norm.

We have to be brave enough to talk about it though.  I talked about my OCD and found 5 people close to me who were suffering too, in silence, not anymore. 

ASD is usually accompanied by depression, anxiety and often OCD in some form.  To think of Reilly, or any of my kids ever suffering like I have in the past breaks my heart in two but I’m armed.  Armed with knowledge, empathy, experience and understanding.

The thing that works best for me is distraction, I keep busy.  It’s a well known fact that anyone suffering from bouts of depression feel worthless at some point.  My charity work not only helps others but it helps me, there is a method to my chaotic life madness – it actually helps me too.  

I’m mindful, I listen to podcasts about anxiety and learn from others, I read up on alternative therapies, I take meds, I’ve had counselling. 

I’m defo 1 in 4 have been for longer than I care to mention.  You wouldn’t guess it 90% of the time as I’m a great pretender, we all are. With mental health problems rising rapidly in kids we need them to understand mental health issues,  how can we do that if we suffer in silence? 

#mentalhealthawarenessweek #itsoknottobeok 

Dark clouds gather

You ever have one of those days where you wake up and you can barely get out the bedroom because your anxiety is up with the larks? That was me this morning.

I hate those days, I’m partial to them I can’t lie.  Days when you are happy your phone is broken  and that you have no plans because getting out of your pyjamas takes more effort than what you’ve got.

I hate anxious depressed days such a massive waste of time and energy spent ruminating over everything. Everything being the important stuff like 10 reasons why it is absolutely impossible for me to die as no one can take care of the Things like I can but also worrying about utter drivel. I hate that the most for example the tiles on the outer edge are missing in the hallway Reilly’s escort will think we live in squalor, WTF but yes that was a genuine worry of the day.  I knew I couldn’t watch the documentary about the 16 year old non verbal boy today as I may still be crying now that needs to be watched on a less emotional day.

I’ve spent the day trying keep as busy as possible. My self preservation involves being busy with minimal human contact and watching old America’s next top models that I’ve missed. So here I am at almost 1am feeling completely normal and wanting to hang onto that peaceful feeling so putting off sleep a teeny bit longer.

When Reilly came back from school he wanted to go out, I really really didn’t want to but I put my trainers on and figured some fresh air might do me some good so we went to the park and for something to eat.  It does always brighten me up if I can get past the doorstep.  In this mood I’m prone to a bit of people hating, can’t help it for example I hated a mam shouting at her little one for walking too slow, I shouldn’t judge she may have needed the toilet or was catching a bus or whatever but I did and hated her for it anyway.

My temples were pounding, my left arm was pins and needles and my legs like lead weights but I did the 2 hours out and I did feel better for it.  The good thing is I can say to Shane what an utterly shit day, I felt like crying and have been really anxious and he gets it, priceless.

The black dog barks at my door a lot and I do try and keep him on a tight leash.  Medication, mindfulness, etc help too. I’m 44 in a few weeks time and have felt like this for about 20 years off and on some times worse than others following life events.  Caring for Reilly ups the game on the anxiety stakes that’s for sure.

I get so pissed off, I accomplish a lot but what would the Christine minus anxiety, depression and OCD be capable of?  It’s exhausting but as they say without darkness we’d never see the stars.

What’s your method for dealing with the dark days?

New day tomorrow hoping for a good one x