What Village?

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

Recently there was a campaign on Instagram of women all doing peace signs and singing the praises of their own personal villages. And I totally love that, don’t get me wrong, I dig women empowering each other and feeling supported and kicking life where it hurts.

It’s just, with a bit of thought, it left me feeling cold. I didn’t feel like I could join in and feel #blessed with them.

What if you don’t have a village? What if you don’t have a wealth of support around you? What if you don’t have grandparents to take the kids for sleepovers  – or just a few hours? What if you don’t have close friends to take turns holding playdates with? Or even a trusted babysitter you can rely on?

What if your only chance to recover from being overwhelmed and touched-out and talked-out is when the kids are asleep and let’s face it, you should be too?

The last time I went out out with my partner, I shit you not, was to see Sex and the City 2, and we all know what a fucking let down that was.

What if you are the village? What if it’s all down to you indefinitely, forever and ever, amen? I’m not trying to sound like a martyr, I’m just saying for a lot of us, that’s just what life is.

My family are scattered all over the place and are so fractured I can no longer keep up with who is talking to who – or in most cases, not talking to who. And yes I have friends, who I can send smoke signals to in times of crisis but at the same time they have their own shit to deal with and I totally respect that and don’t want to add to their problems.

As for blogging, I’ve been dipping my toe back in the pool of writing stuff and getting out there and talking bollocks on Twitter and doing carefully thought out, arty photos for the grid, but the community spirit I loved a few years ago just seems stale and a bit broken tbf.

So I guess what I’m saying is – where else is the village? Is it just an exclusive club if you’ve got over 10k Instagram followers?

What Not to Say to Someone with Bipolar

Are you still taking your meds?

The weather is so bipolar rn.

OMG my friend is SO bipolar, we’re always arguing.

Wow, you’re so moody.

Well you were fine yesterday.

Cheer up.

We all get down.

Have a nice bath.

Try not to worry so much.

You just need to get out more.

Snap out of it.

Oh I’m a bit bipolar too!

It’s just all in your head.

You’re just doing it for attention.

Wow, you’re dark.

You don’t need medication, you need nature / yoga / aromatherapy – delete applicable.

It hasn’t done Stephen Fry any harm.

You never know, it might never happen.

Oh like Stacey from Eastenders?

Are you sure you’ve taken your meds?

Think positively.

Chin up.

Smile!

Stop being so negative.

Happy mums have happy kids!

Get a grip.

Well you sound OK.

Man up.

Stop being so selfish.

What have you got to be so unhappy about?

Oh I read an interesting article in the Daily Mail about bipolar, it said –

Go take some happy pills.

 

What to say to someone with bipolar:

It’s OK.

Same here.

I’m here if you want to talk.

I understand.

Write it down.

Do you need anything?

I know.

Do you need some help?

I’m not going anywhere.

I’m listening.

Did You Know This About Me?

While my brain has resulted into some kind of Mini Eggs flavoured soup (yay Easter holidays) I thought I’d write one of these old skool meme type blog posts that I saw over on Mummy Barrow’s blog (originating from Nickie at I am Typecast). Let’s get started shall we? And if you fancy giving it a go, give me a shout on Twitter so I can have a read innit.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

About 2 weeks ago when I failed my driving test. I held it together from the examiner telling me and the drive home but as soon as I opened the front door, I had a little sob. And another when my other half and Noah presented me with flowers for just giving it a good go.

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE A FRIEND OF YOURSELF?

I like to think so, I really hope I’m a good friend but I’m utterly shit at replying to texts and I hate talking on the phone.

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?

Of course not.

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?

Their mood and their eyes.

SCARY MOVIE OR HAPPY ENDINGS?

I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched a film the whole way through but I wouldn’t watch a scary film if you paid me.

FAVOURITE SMELLS?

Tomatoes growing on the vine take me right back to childhood and making dens in the garden. Original Dove shower gel because it reminds of that first, very sore bath after Noah was just born at the hospital. Noah’s hair, admittedly it smells more like sweaty boy now but I still can’t resist sniffing his head on the rare occasions I get a cuddle.

WHAT’S THE FURTHEST YOU’VE EVER BEEN FROM HOME?

Maybe Naples? I realise that’s not very far at all!

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL TALENTS?

Erm, I can fit my fist in my mouth.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?

From a pretty young age I wanted to a tattoo artist, but I just don’t have the patience (read talent) for it.

HOW MANY COUNTRIES HAVE YOU BEEN TO?

Not enough, maybe 4 or 5.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE / WORST SUBJECT IN SCHOOL?

Favourite was English or art, worst was maths.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DRINK?

The first coffee of the morning, every time.

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE NAMED YOUR CHILDREN?

I named him Noah when I was about 5 months pregnant and luckily he looked like a Noah when he was born. I’m not in the least bit religious but I do have a thing for biblical names and have a list for possible future babies.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE YOUTUBERS?

I don’t watch YouTube, but Noah is on there all the time and I can just about tolerate Dan TDM’s voice.

HOW MANY BOYFRIENDS HAVE YOU HAD?

3, but the third I’ve been with for 10 years this year and have a child with so that makes the other 2 look a bit, ya know, childish.

FAVOURITE MEMORY FROM CHILDHOOD?

To be frank, a lot of my childhood wasn’t great because of my mum’s mental health and drinking but I always enjoyed being outside, making dens, catching frogs, hunting for bugs.

TELL US ONE OF YOUR BAD HABITS…

Not listening, pretty often my thoughts are whizzing around my head like a Rolodex and the simple task of taking in more information or a simple “Mum! Mummy, look!” is too much.

Rush

Don’t forget that guest post you need to write – Where’s that email address? – I need to sort out my inbox – I’ll do it later – The tumble drier’s finished – Change the bed sheets – Noah’s run out of Nurofen – Write it down on the list – Where’s the pen? – Fuck, I need to call the vets – Have we got anything for dinner? – Check the freezer in a minute – Write down that blog post idea – Where’s the pen? – Charge phone – Text mum – Change the bed sheets – Reply to comments – Photos, you haven’t taken any bloody photos – Sort out SD card – Ask OH to sort out SD card – CALL THE VETS – Tea, I need tea first – Sort out Noah’s Pokemon cards – They’re every-fucking-where – Write it down on the list  – Only an hour until you need to pick him up – Check emails – Put kettle on – CALL THE VETS FFS – Just need to read these emails quickly – Reply to emails – Oh shit, the bed sheets – No, call the vets first – Tea, where’s my tea? – I didn’t make it – Put the kettle on again – Reply to comments as kettle boils – Check time, 45 mins – Leave the comments – Change the sheets – Collect dirty washing from upstairs – Empty bin – Oh CHRIST what has that child done to the toilet? – Where’s the toilet cleaner? – Can’t find any, add it to the list – WHERE’S THE PEN? – Make tea – That’s it, where have all the pens gone? – Check the cupboards – Check the bookcase – Nope – Fuck’s sake, buy a new pen – Dig out change from pockets and purse for a pen – SHITCUNTS, CALL THE VETS – Right, sorted – How long now? – 20 minutes – Dinner, what can we have for dinner? – Sod all, do a Tesco order tonight – Have you taken your pills for today? – Check emails – Reply to emails –  Raid cupboards for after-school snack for Noah – Shit, gotta go – WHERE ARE MY KEYS – Gonna be late – Leave – Text Mum while walking jogging – Forgot money for pen – Not enough time to go back – Already late – Fuck’s sake.

Accountability

 

New year, new me bollocks.

I know the whole mindset of YOU MUST LOSE WEIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS YOU QUALITY STREET EATING MONSTER is wrong and unhealthy, but I feel in my case, it’s long overdue.

After years of riding the bipolar train up and down and back again, trying every known medication and every cocktail of said medication in an attempt to remain stable – I’ve put on a lot of weight (shout out to the mood stabilisers that conveniently increase your appetite and utterly zonk you out, therefore you crave sugar to give yourself a some kind of boost (Goodbye dear full fat Coke, my friend) and the crippling anxiety stopping me from actually doing anything).

However *jazz hands emoji* I’ve been stable for a good 6 months and it’s time to do something about the extra 4 stone I’ve put on thanks to the meds and my poor choices and tackle my nonexistent fitness.

So that’s the plan, lose the extra 4 stone and see where I go from there. Ya never know, I might become one of these running addicts and live in active wear every day and keep going, innit. But for now, little steps, little goals.

This is where the accountability comes in. I don’t want to do this for a week and quit. I don’t want to buy a Fitbit to encourage me to move and then find an excuse not to wear it even though it is bloody ugly. I don’t want to be disheartened by losing little and often rather than 8lbs a week (the lady at Slimming World told me people starting their plan often lose REALLY big in their first week and proceeded to give me the death stare when I lost 2lbs – I didn’t return and cried for 3 days).

I want this to stick, I want to do this. It’s a marathon, not a race innit. So I’m putting it out in the world (or to ya know, 4 people, let’s be honest) to make myself accountable and responsible for this decision. Suffering with a mental illness, it’s easy to make life choices big or small, and then ditch the idea because it’s just too hard or I become unwell suddenly and my little world comes to an abrupt halt.

In the past year I’ve proven to myself I can stick to things even when a little voice is telling me it’d be easier to stop and hide in bed until I don’t feel guilty anymore. So this year I shall be mostly losing 4 stone and getting fitter. I will share my progress on my Instagram weekly and will check in here every so often.

Btw – I’m mummyneversleeps@gmail.com if you want to add me on Fitbit

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to prep my lunch and sweat my arse off on the treadmill in my fancy active wear.

What is Cyclothymia?

 

Cyclothymia (or Cyclothymic Disorder) is a rare, chronic personality disorder.

It’s bipolar’s slightly younger, highly annoying little sister. She tries to emulate bipolar in every way she can, but gets it a bit wrong along the way. On the surface they look the same, they even sound the same, it just comes to how they both behave that differs.

Hypomania:

I was misdiagnosed for years because of this. I was always asked by professionals if I ever felt moments of “happiness” and the answer was (is) always simple – no. I don’t. Hypomania is always misconstrued as elation, an invincible high, like a helium balloon caught in a breeze, and most commonly – happiness.

I don’t experience it like that, I’ve come to fear the highs just as I absolutely dread the periods of low mood, or minor depression as the official term is. With the highs, I find it easier to do things, I want to do things, I want to do everything all at once. My mind will pinball around hundreds of different ideas, it’ll settle on one thing, one idea, one plan for a nanosecond before zooming off to the next. I may look happy on the outside, I may sound more animated and alive, but invariably I’ll be getting frustrated with not being able to settle on anything, I’ll become irritable and inevitably, I’ll lose my temper as my mind feels like it’s vibrating with thoughts and I’ll want to curl up in a ball just to make it all stop.

It gives you the air of self confidence that you know what you’re doing when really you know anything but. It makes it impossible to trust your own judgement – is this actually a good idea or am I manic?

Hypomania also comes along with other, stranger symptoms; I get easily overwhelmed by too much noise, as it feels as if sounds are jumbling up with my zooming thoughts. I can’t listen and have a tendancy to interupt conversation with whatever pops into my head.

Minor depression: 

I don’t think I need to go too far into explaining this one.

I have a tough time with describing depression as minor, as far as I’m concerned, depression is depression. For me it’s the bone crushing inability to do anything. It’s world wide indifference. It’s staying in bed all day. It’s not bothering to look after myself or shower. It’s not bothering to speak because what’s the point? It’s simply not caring. It’s numbness and it’s pain.

Mood swings:

Now we know the moods I experience, one of the biggest things with cyclothymia is how rapidly these moods can swing and change. I can go from one end of the spectrum to the other in hours, if not minutes when I’m triggered by something stressful or exciting. When I’m in a bad spell and my medication isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, I frankly don’t know how I feel, I may have been fine in the morning but high by lunch and down again by the evening.

I was diagnosed with cyclothymia in February 2016, for the forseeable future I will need to take mood stabilisers (traditionally known as anti-psychotics) to balance the swinging scales of my moods and anti-depressants so my lows aren’t as bad as they could be.

2.0

New year, new blog, new domain.

I could pretend this was an intentional way to kick off 2017, yay fresh start and all that and post some artfully arranged daffodils in a jam jar to signify new life or whatever. But it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.

I fucked up.

In a medicated haze of “yeah, maybe later”, I decided to ignore the glaringly urgent emails screaming that my domain name was about to expire, thinking they already had my details to take their $26.00 and all would work out fine when I looked the other way long enough.

But it didn’t. They didn’t. And now almost 5 years worth of writing has disappeared because of twenty six sodding dollars. The comments, the links, all the complicated stuff in the background I still don’t fully understand. Gone. Poof.

Why? Because at the time I was happy without writing and I thought blogging was dead anyway. I liked knowing it was there if I needed it, ya know, like ice cream or 26 episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras on my Sky planner. But once it was gone I immediately knew I wanted it back. Cos ya know, that’s how shit works.

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything properly, let’s be honest, aside from stuff I’ve been paid to write and the thing is, do people even read normal blogs anymore? If they don’t come with professionally published candid books or quirky jumpers and tote bags to buy in the sidebar? Or without viral stories where you’re pictured pointing at something that has gone out of it’s way to wrong you personally (picture with snivelling child for extra bonus points)?

The answer is, I don’t know.

Does it make a difference? Last year’s me would have said yes, because why else am I doing this shit when I should be sleeping or acting like a normal human being if no one’s reading it? But looking back, one of the reasons I stopped writing was because I felt suffocated by the pressure to perform and be bittersweet and funny in the same paragragh. I felt if I didn’t reach a certain number of views on a post or likes on Twitter or hearts on Instagram then I was doing something wrong.

And that is so bloody wrong.

So I’m delicately shoving myself and my laptop back into the ring, and if you’re sticking with me after all this mess I’ve gone and done, thank you. Seriously.

 

The Quiet Ones Have the Loudest Minds

Generally when I meet people for the first time I’m all awkward and completely forget how to behave when I’m around actual human beings. I start to panic that when they look me in the eye they’ll be able to see all my secrets, steal my superpowers and notice that worst of all, I only managed to get mascara on one eye this morning before leaving the house in a whirlwind of book bags, permission slips and tangled hair. My voice shuts down completely, it’ll get stuck halfway up my throat and surface as a shaky whisper. I like to think it makes me sound profound or mysterious, but truly, I just sound like a have a bout of tonsillitis.

It seems that the majority of mums (and dads, obvs, we’re all equal here) take to the whole socialising with their children thing like a fish to the proverbial expanse of wet stuff. You sometimes catch a glimpse of us awkward ones, slinking around the parameter of the playground or baby & toddler group, pretending to be really into what our kids are up to (or the next imaginative way they’re trying to maim themselves or others). We’ll be looking anywhere but directly at other people. Anywhere. Oh, hang on, I must now look really intently at my phone for the next few minutes, brow furrowed, swiping that finger with purpose, I tell you. You are reading business emails, those deadlines keep whooshing in and dammit the FTSE has just dropped 100 points.

What? They don’t need to know that you’re simply trying to catch a Magikarp on Pokemon Go and that you have no idea how to work your 4G.

Don’t forget the dramatic sigh for added effect.

Thing is though, you might see us awkward folk, desperately trying to go unnoticed. Some of us performing the school drop offs and pick ups with the expertise of a ninja, speaking to no one, especially avoiding the Glam Mums, straight in and out, and in a puff of smoke – they disappear. Some being less fortunate and run in with the school PA (ya know the one, the mum who makes it her personal business to run everything yet isn’t actually on the payroll), with a homemade cake in her hand, “Excuse me, the rules do state that the children aren’t supposed to ride their scooters or bikes within the school grounds. Just so you know.”

We may be quiet. We may be awkward. We might say the wrong thing or laugh at an inopportune moment. Hell, we might even have leftover tear stains behind the bug-eyed sunglasses or hiding our quivering hands within our pockets. We could have an occasional tick and our hearts stop momentarily as a child screams, a baby cries or once we realise that we really can’t deal with crowds.

You might think we’re mental. You might even say it out loud or via a loaded glance to one another.

And do you know what?

We probably are.

Postnatal depression affects one in eight mothers. Not to mention causes a tidal wave of destruction for their partners, families and friends. Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK.

My name’s Cas and I’m a bit mental. Various acronyms have been thrown around in my presence – PND, OCD, PPD, PTSD, plus the good old depression, major depression and neurotic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in my head and most of the time I’m floating on a rollercoaster of antidepressants and mood stabilisers.

The quiet ones are all coping, somehow, hanging on by our fingernails. We’re battling stuff we could never say out loud, even if we were able to put it into words coherently.

Social Media Pariah

  • Firstly, to be at all popular on social media, you must clone yourself. Mm hmm. Yes. You absolutely need at least two of you to make this online presence shit at all possible. One of you chained to the laptop / phone / iPad doing all the geekery and the other, complete with DSLR in hand, like, doing stuff to actually talk about. Then take serene photos that you can edit and make the whole of Pinterest weep at your superior creative skillz.
  • Talk. Talk talk talk. If you can’t think of anything hilariously witty or profound to say, and your funny photos of cats with captions stockpile has been decimated – talk to other folk innit. Make little online relationships, no, not those relationships, unless you’re into all that, and take revealing selfies and take part in #tittytuesday. This is totally going all wrong here, MAKE FRIENDS, that’s all I mean. Christ.
  • Keep poo talk to a minimum. I personally enjoy a bit of a poo talk, I think working in a pub, owning a managerie of animals and most importantly, a small child, has totally desensitised me to poo. I find it amusing when my kid announces proudly that he has “DONE A NUMBER 2!” to discover that yes, he’s done a poo in the toilet – BUT OMFG LOOK, IT’S IN THE SHAPE OF AN ACTUAL NUMBER 2. Others might not like this, tread with poo carefully, both literally and metaphorically. At least try to refrain from Instagramming it.
  • Be self deprecating. Post photos of yourself looking like shit. But not in the highly annoying actually I look fine but I’ll say I don’t so people say I do mind fuckery bollocks. No. In a proper, IKR? I totally look like Dot Cotton after a bender at 6am. People like to be able to relate to your down-to-earthiness.
  • Have no shame. None. Zero. And then on top of that, have no shame for your loved ones either. Did they do something utterly cringe? Put that shit on Facebook. Preferably with a photo. Or a collage of photos. Find some selfies taken by your kid on your phone? That’s going straight to Twitter. Accidently flash the postman? Go out with yesterday’s pants stuck to your jeans? What? It happens, don’t judge me. You get the idea. Confess all in a “Forgive me Father Twitter, for I have sinned, it has been one hour and thirty seven minutes and five retweets since my last confession…”
  • Hashtag the fuck out of everything. This makes you look proper profesh and as if you really know what you’re doing. Sod it – speak solely in hashtags. Make the most of those 140 characters and just use no spaces. Efficient, right?
  • Multi-task. You have to possess the ability to tweet thoughtful witticisms whilst watching that must-see episode of Bake Off / Sherlock / X Factor as it happens. You can go deeper and do the same with Question Time et al, but you must also have balls of steel for that trick.
  • And finally, never ever take any notice of stupid lists on the internet that tell you how to be a success on social media. Just be yourself. If that doesn’t work, fake that shit.

When You Realise All Parents are Dicks

Now first things first, don’t take it personally, I’m not calling you a dick.

OK, I am. But it’s OK, because to you, I’m a dick too.

We’re all dicks.

I spent this afternoon in a building the size of an aircraft hanger in the arse end of fucking nowhere rather dubiously named the Fun Factory for a birthday party. Which is fine, as long as you class the Hunger Games for under 10’s with added hysteria, plenty of padded foam so the little ones can give each other frontal lobe damage with and ridiculously marked up refreshments as erm, fun.

May the odds be ever in your favour, kiddo.

Yeah, it’s a soft play nightmare. Run by teenage staff that send daggers into your very soul while they serve you a thimbleful of shady latte that costs over two quid and you decide it’s probably wise to not ask whether they have any contraband booze under the counter.

There’s a vast seated area where spectators parents can sit and watch pandemonium unfold and judge whether their kid is winning or not. Occasionally throwing them a towel to mop up the sweat and / or blood, a drink that’s so brightly coloured it’s verging on neon and despite the advertisements, no piece of real fruit has ever been anywhere near. A quick shoulder rub, some fight talk whispered in their ear before slinging the little ones back in so they can get back to discussing the parking at Waitrose and complain that the Easter holidays are coming too quickly.

And that’s when the realisation crashes down around me.

All parents are dicks.

The parents of the birthday boy are dicks, as lovely as they are, because why, why would you spend hundreds and hundreds of actual British pounds on this hell on earth. Where you get unlimited jugs of squash for free and a visit from Leo the Lion, the shoddy soft play mascot, is just an added extra of £9.99! Yep. They’re dicks.

The dad who’s chosen to throw himself into the pit of fury with an army of ragamuffins trailing behind him, secretly plotting his demise, who keeps shouting from the netted tower – “Ange! Ange! ANGIE! LOOK!” while he displays his I’m fucking mental, me! inane grin while army crawling through a series of padded tunnels. He’s a dick.

The crowd of middle class parents, full of hopeless enthusiasm, “Now, children, I know this isn’t like Centre Parcs but let’s try to have fun, shall we?” Dicks.

You my friend, over there, yes you, you’re a dick for naming your spawn that with absolutely no sense of irony.

The lady over there is a dick because she ordered cheesy chips and granted they probably cost her a fiver in this place but now I can’t order cheesy chips without the awkward “HAH! Oh I know! Yours just looked SO GOOD – I couldn’t resist!” *insert tragic nervous laugh* And if anything sullies a cheesy chip, it’s the sense that an entire table of adults who have nothing better to do are watching your every move. Dicks.

The mother who keeps trying to engage me in conversation to damn our kid’s teacher and form some kind of parental mutiny against her. Mega dick.

And the worst bit?

Realising I’ll be the almighty dick in three months when Noah breaks me down into handing over hundreds and hundreds of pounds for his birthday party in the house of all evil for two hours of screaming, florescent lighting and as much free squash as he can bloody well fit in his face.