Setting

The sun setting on another day.

Today has felt like one of those days that you need to keep pushing. Don’t push and you grind to a halt. Nothing comes easy. Always seems like it’s pushing up a hill. Nothing comes for free. No easy downhill sections.

So feeling a little worn out.

So on today’s late walk with Hawklad and the mad one, I tried to stand still for a second or two and watch the sun set. Look West. Then it’s time to keep walking. Well actually it was time to get pulled in a different direction by the hyper dog. That’s what you clearly get when there’s an accidental romantic encounter in a park between a small fluffy German Spitz girl dog and a slightly mad Cocker Spaniel boy. You get this….

So I was pulled along in a direction. Didn’t seem like I was completely in control of the direction. Just going with the flow. Life feels like that often. Not really in control. Being pulled. My preferred direction is always against the flow. That’s why life seems so hard most days. Constantly walking through treacle. So do I fight it or just go with it.

Today it feels like the answer is go with it.

Play

Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.

It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.

Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.

I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.

Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.

That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.

This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.

Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.

Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.

Blue sky or not blue sky

Sunshine, blue sky, dark cloud, storm clouds, dry, rain, snow, bright, dark.

That Yorkshire sky really sums up perfectly my mood levels since lockdown started. It’s a bit of everything really. Swinging from smiles to tear. Feeling full of the joys of spring to darkest winter coldness. Optimistic then pessimistic. Feeling contented then feeling boxed in. Calm then anxious. At ease with the world then frustrated.

Emotional never ending tides.

Yesterday I was fighting the tears. Life seemed bleak and so restrictive. Definitely feeling cut adrift, isolated and alone.

Yet today I can’t stop smiling. Ok life feels constrained but it also feels good. Filled with HOPE and WONDERFUL thoughts. Most definitely not feeling alone rather feeling part of a BEAUTIFUL world.

Ask me yesterday and I would say what am I doing. Today it’s WE can do this.

I’m the same person, I’ve not moved, I’ve not won the money lottery. No person or no asset has entered my world. So why the swing in mood. Could it be that we are permanently riding those emotional waves. Swings in outlook are to be expected. Good moments, bad moments. Maybe the secret is to look at each day. What are the things that weigh me down and try to do something about those. Then most importantly work out what are the things that lift me up so much. If you can identify those things (maybe it’s just one important thing) then keep trying to move towards those wonderful things in life.

Yes WE can do this.

Walk

So each night Hawklad tries to walk a few more yards. To extend is external walk. To slowly start to build bridges again. Last night he bailed out early as he saw people in the distance. But it is progress. It’s a start. At some stage he will be ready to even face people again. But in his own time. Whether that happens before he leaves school, who knows.

I do worry that too many countries are just thinking vaccines. No other permanent changes required. The vaccine will beat the pandemic and return us to that wonderful former world….

But surely with a mutating virus which is still spreading and still so endemic, all a vaccine does is buy us time. It gives us a chance to make changes. To find ways to live safely. To get support out to the people who need it. To increasingly try to make it harder for the virus to spread and thus mutate.

But here’s the thing. The vaccine doesn’t really help with the growing tide of mental health issues facing our society. Speaking with the team trying to support Hawklad. They are being swamped by rising child mental health problems (and the identified problems are just scratching the surface of the real volume of problems out there). Plus was the old world that perfect. Even before a pandemic there was a mental health crisis.

Society and Governments need to quickly wake up to this. There are somethings a vaccine can’t fix for them…..

Time

Finding time to live.

I think as you get older you start to realise the true value of time. We don’t have a finite amount of time to do the things we want to in life. In 2016 that point was brought into the starkest focus for me. Time can suddenly run out…..

So when the penny starts to drop the question then becomes Do you then do anything about it.

We all need to find time to really live.

I remember taking a job on the south coast of England. In Portsmouth. I was there for 6 months. It’s such a cool town, with much to see and do. It was new to me. In those 6 months I spent one afternoon wandering along the beach and looking at the naval history. That was it. The rest of the time I worked and basically just existed. Don’t get me wrong I had the opportunities to do much more with my time but I didn’t. Not much living went on there. Was I happy – certainly NOT.

Things are different now. Life has become a little too out of synch. Much feels out of my control. Beyond reach. Opportunities are not so apparent. But that fact doesn’t stop time slipping by.

Still need to find ways to live. Seize whatever opportunities that do present themselves.

We can do this. We can do some of that living.

Just ask once

I had a scheduled call with the bank today. Just routine stuff. Routine stuff which you would just a year ago pop into the branch and sort out at the counter. Nothing is routine now.

Anyway during the call the bank person asked a couple of not really banking questions that kinda through me

Can I ask. Are you ok. Are you coping. It must be so tough. Are you getting the support you need.”

That’s the bank saying that……

Now before I go on – I am ok. I am coping. A bit of support would be nice but it’s not happening. But here’s the thing. I could so easily be doing not so well in this single parenting gig. Really struggling. Getting no support. Desperate. Looking over the precipice. Sadly many are. In fact forget the single bit, many people are….

I became a single parent in 2016 following the death of my partner. In that time the only official person to ask how I was doing was that bank person. No doctor, no school professional, no education specialist, no one from the local services. NO ONE in the support areas has ever asked what the bank person asked. How many people are struggling and nobody finds out. Nobody asks. I guess the assumption is that those that struggle will always put their hand up. Sadly that might not happen.

That is such a worrying thought.

Grim

Just let this research finding sink in (press on the link for the details)

Autistic people are four times as likely to experience depression over the course of their lives as their neurotypical peers

In the UK the approach is that parents have to fight tooth and nail for any kind of support. The fortunate ones who get some support find out all too frequently that support starts to be withdrawn around the teenage years. Adult autism support is basically non existent for the vast majority.

In our little family world Hawklad is struggling. His anxieties are on the rise. He is stressed out. Trips outside of the house and the garden are currently impossible for him. We are fortunate in that we do have access to some psychological support. Sadly from a Team who are stretched to breaking point. But we still have some support. For how long that support continues – who knows. He’s a teenager. This is the only support he gets now as all the other services have already been withdrawn.

How many other of autistic families are facing the same challenges. TOO MANY. How many autistic adults have been let down by society. TOO MANY.

This is grim.

This time

I can’t blame him for these, this time. But it does explain why he keeps coming in the house with muddy paws.

I had a post yesterday about Autism. When I wrote it things seemed ok with it. But then something happened. I happened….

I’m still working through this pcurrent bout of depression. Won’t be the first or last time I do this. When depression becomes DEPRESSION with me I start to doubt myself. Question my worth. That’s what happened yesterday. I reread the post and didn’t like it. The words were wrong. Uncertain of the message. Why was I bothering. If people want to read about Autism and Autism Patenting then they would be so much better off going to other blogs. Go to a blog like Robyn’s wonderful one. Nothing I said could change my mind. The voices in my would not be satisfied until I deleted the post. Eventually that is what happened.

Today the voices are not so strong. I guess today the post would have had a slightly better chance of being published. With my depression it comes in waves. Bad days then better days. Will be that way until I finally get on top of this run of D. In the meantime I will plod on. Trying to not listen to the voices in my head too much. Focusing on those things in my life which bring joy and happiness.

I can do this

We can do this.

Street View

There are things which I should not be allowed to do when I am are feeling depressed. Here’s are a few things that can send me spiralling downwards.

Watching my so called football team

Look at the news

Anything to do with Boris Johnson

Standing on a Lego piece

Listening to Roger Waters

Weighing myself

Looking at the bank account

Watching the first 10 minutes of UP!

Looking at my face in the mirror

Now I can add something else to that list. Going on Street View…

I don’t know how but I ended up on that App, randomly looking at a street in New York. I had been searching for Science news items. But now I was in Street View. Thats when I made my first mistake. I looked up my old childhood home town. It’s a clever app as I could effectively wander the old routes I would walk when I was young. Seeing just how much had gone and just how run down it had become really made me feel even more down.

Then the next big mistake. I looked up the town we used to stay at in Switzerland. I wandered that beautiful place. At first it cheered me up. Remembering sights and sounds. But then pangs of sadness. Reminders of just how long it’s been since I was there. Then a nagging feeling. If I do ever make it back here I’m doing it as a single parent or probably on my own. Suddenly going back seemed even more unlikely.

Now I’m getting really down.

As I navigated the streets I caught sight of a building we would always walk past on the way to the train station. A shop window I would always look at. It was a steep climb up that street and it would give my partner a chance to catch her breath. But now it looks like it’s gone. Turned into luxury apartments. That made me really really sad.

A few minutes later I was stood outside in the garden. Stood alone in the darkness. Feeling really low. Yes definitely time to start avoiding Street View.

Romeo

As dark as the view may seem if you keep looking hopefully you will eventually see a few rays of light. WE can do this.

I was stood outside surveying the grey skies. Definitely feeling low. Hemmed in and a bit beat up. Thinking about life’s many constraints. Then to the west I saw a few rays of light. That reminded me of just how fortunate I am. In my low moments I seem to be better at remembering the bad stuff. Yet I am so fortunate to have really special things in my life. That thought made me smile.

Then my attention switched to our two daily visitors. Our two lovebird pigeons. Everyday at this time they meet up on our fence and basically DO IT. They don’t seem to mind an audience.

Well today I watched Romeo and Juliet move slowly together. The big moment came and Romeo FELL OFF the fence. Landing in a heap on in the grass. By the time he had recovered his poise and flown back up to the fence ….. Juliet had flown off. If I could understand Yorkshire Pigeon I think I would have heard a loud cry of PANTS.

I think I know what Romeo was feeling. Many of us have kind of been there.

Feathered Romeo you have given me a much needed chuckle. You have more than earned some extra food scraps today. I think you could do with that.