Halloween

I’ve never really done the whole Halloween thing. Sure, as a kid I’d dress up and go to the school Halloween disco and dance the monster mash with 47 other vampires, but I didn’t go trick or treating. My family didn’t deck the house out with spiderwebs and rubber bats, nor did we have a bowl of sweets ready by the door to placate hordes of miniature zombies. I’ve never felt the need to do this as an adult either and my home remains undecorated.

However, I now find myself with a daughter in school and the knowledge that other children are talking about Halloween in reverent tones. I’m also aware that she takes notice of the colourful displays in the supermarkets that foist the principles of dressing up and scoffing candy upon us.

So far I’m getting away easy with just a request for a pumpkin that we can carve together. I enjoy crafting with DD so I’m happy to indulge this request, but I wonder how aware of the other aspects of Halloween she really is. The school don’t seem to be making a big deal of it so I might get away with it this year. She’s also rather distracted by the idea of bonfire night at the moment too, mostly because she knows that she’ll be staying up late with daddy.

So how do I deal with Halloween when she does take note of it? Do I get costumed up and throw myself into it with great gusto? Do I encourage her to ignore this vastly over-commercialised “holiday”? Do I encourage her to go begging for sweets door to door?

Why are the answers to these questions never in parenting manuals?

End of the road

The great marathon dream is over.

That sentence sums up the whole of this post so feel free to go back to work, daytime tv, children, cup of tea etc if you like, the rest is just details and whinging really.

As many of you will be aware, I injured my knee in a cycling accident last year which resulted in me losing my job and dropping out of university. There’s a post about it somewhere on here… You’ll find it I’m sure. As part of my recovery I’d started running again and set myself the challenge of completing the 2014 Brighton Marathon.

All was going well, running was getting easier, I was losing weight and building muscle around the damaged joint, but then the pain started again. It’s nowhere near as bad as last time, but I know that it could be if I push it. So all running is suspended until further notice. My trainers have been mothballed. My lycra undies remain unstretched.

I’m gutted.

As a consequence I’ve lost all motivation towards getting healthy and the treats have crept back in; wine, beer, chocolate, biscuits, are all back in the kitchen. Maybe I’m meant to stay fat and unfit. Maybe the pain in my knee is my body’s way of telling me to watch more tv, play more Xbox and eat more crap. I’ll listen for now, but hopefully I can ignore it again soon.

Stupid knee.

#DFictionL or The Magazine

So I’ve seen that the wonderfully talented Sam Coleman of dustandlove.com is running a competition to showcase storytelling, with the theme of parenting, in under 300 words. There’s a crazy part of my brain that likes the idea of using this to relaunch my blog and remind myself that I can write. Hopefully people will read this and think that I can write well!

Anyway… Read, enjoy and I’ll let you know if I win. Much love to you all for reading.

 

 

He considered the meagre amount of change in his hand before examining the magazine again. It was remarkably thin and lacking in content, the majority of the price presumably taken for the “free gift” selotaped to the front cover.

He glanced down to see his daughter looking up at him, her eyes imploring him to buy it for her. He saw the shelves of magazines then through her eyes, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of wonders with small plastic treasures glinting out from the front of every brightly coloured cover. He sighed and dropped the magazine into the basket before returning the pack of mince to the fridges, resigning himself to beans on toast for dinner again.

He would never deny his daughter her heart’s desire, no matter how cheap and tacky it might be.

Hikikomori

I’ve been made to feel very grateful today for the care and support I receive from family, friends and the NHS regarding my depression. I have a wife who loves me, supports me, and helps me manage my depression. I have friends who read my rantings, talk to me, and support me. My doctor takes the time to discuss my condition, prescribes me sensible amounts of medication and assesses the levels of my anti-depressants on a regular basis.

I am lucky.

I can ask for help and receive it. There are systems in place for me to talk to a counselor if I need to, I have access to the medication I need to control my depression and anxiety. I live in a civilized society where help is easy to come by and I am not judged for needing it.

I realised just how lucky I am by reading an article online regarding the young men of Japan who are suffering as a result of the economic depression. Unlike their parents who would’ve found jobs and remained in them, today’s young men are unable to find stable long term work and have found themselves at odds with the older generation. This has led to a feeling of detachment known as Hikikomori – a sense of withdrawal – where young men become so depressed with their situation and inability to reconcile their parents desires with their own. These men take to hiding away in their rooms, unable to talk to friends and sometimes family, filled with fear, sadness and anger.

I’ve been in that situation, I know how they feel. I’ve locked myself away, filled with fear, unable to talk to people, but I got the help I needed to get out of my room, get dressed and live life again. Some of the treatment these young men receive to “cure” them is Victorian at best. A lack of understanding from the parents of the Hikikomori usually leads to confrontation, anger, communication breakdown, and verbal abuse. Some parents take more extreme measures and seek help from agencies who abduct the young men and attempt to shame them into becoming what they were expected to.

The majority of mental health issues in Japan are going untreated. It’s estimated that up to two thirds of psychiatric disorders are untreated and that only a quarter receive any medical help at all. The crux of this issue is that Japan has a suicide rate of 30,000 people a year, with up to 90% due to depression and other mental health issues.

Until the stigmatization of those with mental illness ends, and the keep it to yourself society changes, these young men will remain at risk. They will keep getting depressed, they will keep withdrawing from society, and they will keep dying by their own hand.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we have it available in this country. Mental illness is not the stigma it once was. Celebrities are open about theirs, politicians have opened up about theirs, and if you need to then you can too. Remember how lucky you are to be depressed in the UK and seek help if you need it.

Dadman begins

Tomorrow my daughter turns 4 and I’m not quite sure where the time has gone. I can still remember the day she was born clearly and how it felt to become a dad…

Insert flashback style wibbly wobbly remembering lines here

It was hot. Damn hot. Hot enough to boil a man inside his own suit. So I was glad when my wife started having contractions because I could avoid putting it on and stay home instead. Even going for a stroll in the midsummer sunshine in an attempt to speed things up was preferable to putting on a tie. Unfortunately the walk seemed to put a stop to the contractions. Arse. So on went the suit and tie, and off to work went I.

I did get to leave early though when the contractions started again during the afternoon, and I went home to check we had everything ready for the big moment.

We were both remarkably calm during the next few hours as we prepared for the hospital and timed contractions. It was only as they got stronger that we started to feel any stress. My wife has a spinal condition and it wasn’t coping well with the spasm inducing contractions that were jolting her back. Sitting on a gym ball with a TENS machine attached helped somewhat, but not much. At 2am we were ready to head to the hospital, for additional pain relief as much as delivering a baby! The taxi driver looked rather panicked when he realised that his shiny Mercedes was about to transport a woman in labour and he made my wife promise to keep her legs crossed for the next 15 minutes.

When we arrived at the maternity unit we were shown to a room and waited for the duty midwife to check my wife over. We were somewhat surprised that she was only 2cm dilated and nowhere near ready to give birth! Normally prospective parents in this situation would be sent home to wait, but the ward was quiet and the midwife told us to stay put and she’d check up on us in a couple of hours. At which point I fell asleep, sprawled across 2 mismatched plastic chairs for a couple of hours.

Note: falling asleep at this point does NOT endear you to your stressed, pained and unable to sleep wife…

When it was time we were moved down to the delivery ward and introduced to our midwife team. We had 2 midwives and a student in attendance that day, and an anesthetist who really didn’t want to be there. He took over an hour setting up the push button system for the painkillers my wife needed for her back, during which time she suffered painful spasms, jolting her spine with every contraction. I was glad when he left, I don’t think the NHS approves of expectant fathers punching their staff!

Now I’m not going to go into the gory details of the actual delivery except to say that when my daughter decided to put in an appearance, the midwife wasn’t quite ready for her. She had barely unwrapped the delivery pack and managed to put one latex glove on before DD slid out into the world, and had to catch her single handed before she went off the end of the bed! She was placed carefully onto my wife’s chest for skin-to-skin contact and wrapped gently to keep her warm. Sweaty, covered in blood, tears flowing, this was the most beautiful sight I had ever laid eyes on; my wife and my baby girl, holding each other, finally able to see the person they’d known so intimately for the previous 9 months. I got to cut the cord, welcoming our daughter to a new life, and severing the physical link that mum and baby had shared. Now it was time for her to be her own person.

I remember holding her for the first time, surprised by how small she was and how little she weighed. I talked to her as she looked up at me with her dark blue eyes, and I promised her that she would always be loved and looked after. I was overwhelmed with love for this tiny person, and four years later I still am. She may be bigger, more developed and stronger than she was all that time ago, but she will always be that tiny baby to me.

Happy birthday baby xxx

In the midnight hour

How do ill children expect their parents to sleep? Oh, sorry, my mistake. They couldn’t care less if we do!

Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing but sympathy and pity for the little darlings when they’re under the weather. I’m sat here listening to the harsh cough and laboured breathing of my daughter as I type and I would give anything to make her feel better. I’d even take all the germs and make them my own, and I really hate being ill. I despise being ill. I’ve had more than my fair share of illness and it’s a trigger for my depression, so when I say I’d be ill in their place I mean in seriously.

However, my unending love for my children can be tested by their behavior when ill.

I’m sat on the sofa typing because I’m sleeping on the sofa tonight. Why? Because the kids are ill, that’s why! If I was to sleep in bed then my daughter’s fevered sleep ranting would disturb my son who’s also ill (and the lightest sleeper in the world) and my wife. So on nights like this we divide and conquer. Or at least divide…

Last night the boy kept my wife awake by coughing himself conscious at various points, whilst the girl attempted the same, with the added bonus of demanding a drink to ease her suffering at 3am and 5am. They then wanted to be up and watching Charlie and Lola at 6.15. I’m fairly certain the adults aren’t winning here…

The worst part of this is that the kids expect our sympathy and for us to meet their every need and whim whilst they’re sick. I can guarantee that when this bug finally catches up with us grown ups, we won’t be waited on hand and foot, and sure as hell no ones gonna cut us any slack!

Anyway, there’s a lull in the throaty snoring from my daughter’s room. I must try and sleep while I can so I can be awake enough to operate the Sky remote in a few short hours and kick off the morning’s CBeebies marathon in style. Sleep well dear reader.

Keep talking.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the state of my mental health, but I’m sat here watching BBC Three’s ‘Don’t call me crazy’ and I thought I’d best put pen to paper/fingers to keys.

I’m on a new set of anti-depressants and they seem to be more effective than the last ones, although they leave a nasty aftertaste in my mouth! If that’s not something to help me “get well” I don’t know what is! They give me more balance in my emotions and I’ve been told that I’m more like my old self recently.

This upsurge in emotions can probably also be linked to my knee recovery too. I don’t suffer as much pain anymore and there’s nowhere near as much swelling on the joint. I’ve not had any extra treatment for it, it’s just improved over the last few months. This has also led to me exercising again, which is a great help to many people in countering their depression, and I can feel it helping me. The only problem is that it can be difficult still to force myself to get dressed and go out to run. The mental effort is sometimes just too much.

I’m interacting more with people now too. I went on a week long training course recently to sharpen up my job skills and chatted happily to the other students, participated in roleplay exercises and got involved in the class discussions. A few months ago I wouldn’t have been able to cope. The noise and the pressure to participate would’ve left me morose and uncommunicative.
This week I met someone I chat to on Twitter for coffee (diet coke and fruit smoothies actually, but you get the gist) and didn’t panic too much beforehand. Usually the idea of meeting strangers and taking part in smalltalk fills me with dread – I don’t go out much, I’m not currently working, I don’t really have hobbies, and this leaves me rather restricted on conversational topics – but I think I coped ok! It helps that my new friend is lovely!

The little things aren’t getting to me as much these days. I’m not getting so angry or emotional over stupid insignificant matters, I don’t feel the need to withdraw from my family and spend time alone so much. I’m finding life easier. It’s like I can remember the rules again and I know how to play, whereas before I felt like I was the only player without a piece and didn’t know whether to roll the dice or spin the wheel. I’m not winning by any means, but at least I get to play.