Silence….

5 Days 14 Hours xx Seconds

No my blog has not been sponsored by Jack Bauer and the 24 TV Production Team. It’s the time I’ve gone without speaking to anyone (excluding our son). I’m not sure if I should be proud or a tad worried. Maybe both.

So almost a week without a phone call, chance meeting or random conversation. Even on two long runs – didn’t bump into a single person. Its one of the prices you pay for living in a small village.

It’s an odd feeling. Have I been secretly ostracised. Has my liking for Nickelback finally caught up with me…….

I had assumed my streak would have ended today as today was the food shopping trip. However I managed to get round the aisles without uttering a word. I did smile a few times at random folk. Surely a conversation will be struck with the assistant on the cash till. But no. All the tills were full so I opted for the self service lane. No scanning problems encountered so the streak continued.

Tomorrow I have to go to the work unit but that is in a largely deserted industrial estate and I will be the only person in our building. So the streak may continue into Thursday. Hang on a minute Thursday is Valentines Day. Wow am I going to be seriously cranky by the 14th…

Anyway we have started a little wager, who will break my streak. I’ve gone for a random cold caller with my first words being “will you just bugger off”. Son is going for the postman or randomly a lost Donald Trump.

I will keep you posted…..

What works

Anxiety, sadness and fear. Three words which unfortunately are too often near the top of our household vocabulary. Along with fart, burnt food, turn the music UP, where’s the remote, sorry I forgot and Dad you Muppet.So what have we found that actually works for both of us. Here are some of the winners.

5,4,3,2,1

We have found that this technique is really good at taking the edge off panic attacks. It doesn’t work on any underlying problems but buys some time. At the first sign of increased anxiety:

Think of 5 things you can currently see,

Think of 4 things you can currently hear,

Think of 3 things you can currently touch,

Think of 2 things you can currently smell,

Now do 1 large breath.

The Sweetie Jar Oracle

If our son is going through a period viewing the world through unhappy filters we start the Sweetie Jar Oracle. Find a large clear jar and a bag of brightly coloured sweets. Not sure about the rest of the world but in the U.K. smarties, fruit pastilles or Skittles work well. Sort out say the red and yellow sweets. Then identify one of the colours as good and the other as bad. Then over a period of a few days, maybe a week start to fill the jar with the appropriate coloured sweet every time a good or bad thing happens. After a few days hopefully you will see more good sweets than bad sweets. This usually convinces our son that although bad things do happen, good stuff happens more frequently. You can then eat the sweets….

Good Memories Store

We have an old small suitcase which we use to store good memories in. It’s full of old photos and handwritten notes. Every time we remember a good memory I write it down and put in in the suitcase. When times are bad we can then dig out the memory store and hopefully receive an instant boost to the soul. Has the added advantage of making sure you don’t forget those all important wonderful moments in time.

YouTube

Just losing himself in a YouTube documentary works somedays. I remember one occasion when he had an awful day at school but after 45 minutes of YouTube watching he was a happy little bunny. Worryingly he had found solace in documentaries about Caligula. What happened to Peppa Pig…

Wheelbarrow Train of Pain

Talked about this in a previous post. It stops my sudden urge to punch the wall with frustration. Basically load up a wheelbarrow with heavy stuff then push it round the garden. The number of circuits depends on the severity of the frustration.

Lego

Found that building a Lego set really helps take our son’s mind off his anxieties. It’s also good for his fine motor skills. It’s often frustrating for me as it just reminds me that I never got round to buying the Star Wars Death Star Lego set. Now it would be cheaper to buy a real Ghostbusters Proton Pack and get Bill Murray to personally deliver it to us.

Trampoline

Almost everyday on his return from school our son heads for his trampoline. 20 minutes later many of the frustrations of the day are put to the back of his mind.

Late night dog walking

Walking the dog never really helped our son. He was often too concerned about bumping into others. We would be having a happy conversation but suddenly someone would appear on his radar and he would be lost to anxious social thoughts. Almost by chance we then found the delights of night time dog walking. At night no one is about in our village. We have the fields and lanes to ourselves. Now it has become an excellent stress reliever. We frequently use the walks to plan out in detail the next days schedule.

Bad things league table

Every so often we run the bad things league table. We both list all the things worrying us. We then work together to rank them in order of how much pain they are causing us. Points are awarded for the severity of the issue, it’s frequency and how difficult it is to solve. It quickly identifies the stuff we need to focus on or prepare for. Because it’s done as a league table our son finds it easy to talk about and work with. For the issue which is the league winner we then spend a few minutes working out a couple of actions which might help knock it off its top spot for the next league table.

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One of the activists 100% guaranteed to raise our spirits will feature in the next post…

Sunday’s, Sunday’s

Sunday’s are a time for reflection. For our son he is not at school but constantly worrying about going back the next day. Constant mood swings. It’s a transition day.

Dealing with death. That’s 5 deaths in 4 years. Again trying to comfort a heartbroken son. A quieter much less fun house. Transitioning to another period of darkness – again. Death is awful and is so so difficult for kids to handle. This grieving process is especially difficult for autistic children.

Trying to refocus for the week ahead yet still so tired from the past week. So many tasks to finish yet so many more tasks to plan.

Son having a couple of hours extra in bed. Hopefully shutting the pain out for a while longer. No laughter, no talking, no warmth. Trying to think about the coming week yet realising the house feels so empty – again.

Hopes for more social interaction yet still strangled by the isolation of the preceding week. Day after day, no phone calls, no chance meetings, no…… I am so so grateful for my friends reading this, you literally are my only connection.

Trying to plan for the educational week ahead yet so frustrated with the constant battles with school. Yes progress but why does it have to be such a tiring fight.

Trying to plan ways to make our son happy yet so broken inside.

I think that’s why Sunday morning is always the time that the icy grasp of sadness is strongest. Especially this Sunday. Ice cold thoughts echo round the confines of our home. Self doubt takes hold. I have never been able to break this cycle. I certainly won’t break it today. Probably never will.

Wheelbarrow Train of Pain….

Parenting is a great but frustrating gig. You think you have cracked it and then it bites you on the bottom. As annoyed as I was this morning it is now out of my system. So many kind words eased the pain….I can’t thank you guys enough.

Anxiety and frustration builds. It makes you tired and makes you do strange things. I always look at it like a house. Everything is fine and then something goes wrong. A pipe bursts. The house starts to fill with water. The pressure builds. The first thing you need to do is release the water pressure. Find a window or door to open. Once the pressure is released then you can fix the pipe. Everyone has to find their own window to open. It will be different for each person.

In my case I did have a rather foolish window. When the frustration built I would go outside and literally find a wall to punch. Not good. Going back to my house analogy. I am no Captain America or Hulk. As hard as I punch the wall I’m not going to break through and release the water.

But a few months ago I found a new window to open. This one seems to work and is also scalable. When the frustration builds I go outside to our wheelbarrow. Fill it with all the stones, bricks and sandbags I can find. Then I push it round the garden. It’s hard work on the grass and slight slope. For minor frustrations I do one circuit of the garden. The greater the frustration the more circuits I do. Todays was a 10 circuit frustration. I call it my Wheelbarrow Train of Pain. It does relieve my frustrations and is quite good fitness training. The dog frequently adds his own dynamic to the circuit.

Our son just laughs at the Wheelbarrow Train of Pain. He is trying to convince me to modify it. His idea is rather than increase the number of circuits I should do just one circuit but reduce the amount of clothes I wear according to the frustration level. As a result a defcon 4 frustration would see a very cold and naked man pushing his wheelbarrow. Thats not a pleasant thought. Not at all.

Changes is good just not that early

Today started off in the usual manner. Early morning exercise session listening to rock on the radio. Things going fine apart from the usual creaking body. Put me down for the a full body transplant, I’ve used this one up.

Then things started to change.

I hate doing the plank but apparently it’s good for me. This morning it became even more a form of modern day torture. Two cats decided to sit on my arched back while a dog attempted to lick my face off. Apparently this was one of the Spanish Inquisitions favourite tortures. But I survived.

Then almost immediately the radio signal disappeared. The sound of silence. So I quickly grabbed the first cd I could find. Black Sabbath Vol 4 and tried to complete the session.

Vol 4 is a fine album and features a rarity for Sabbath, a slow reflective song. CHANGES. This song finished off my exercises for the day. Normally at the end of a routine it’s an immediate mad sprint for the warmth of the shower. But not today. I just sat on the cold floor. Lost in thoughts.

A line from Changes had shaken me.

And I can still hear her last goodbyes

I can’t. As hard as I try I can’t remember hearing my partners last goodbye to me – blank. I can vividly remember her peacefully sleeping at the hospice as if it was yesterday. I can remember talking to her gently and holding her hand but as hard as I try I can’t remember her last goodbye. I can remember driving her to the hospital with our son but the conversations are gone. Why would I remember them at the time as she was only going in for a couple of tests and would be out by the weekend. I just can’t remember that last goodbye. That haunts me. Probably will always haunt me.

It’s one of those nights where everyone can sleep perfectly except for one person. I really could do with at least a few hours rest but it just won’t happen. Too many worries. When your tired the worries just keep circling around in your mind. Making you more tired but increasing the stress levels so you can’t sleep. So many worries circulating.

With the passing of his last grandparent this September this will be the first Christmas Day when it’s going to be just the two of us.. This is on top of this being the first Christmas since THAT SANTA CHAT.

Are we at the right school.

Is it time to consider sleep medication for our son. He’s got to sleep reasonably early tonight but that’s a rarity.

Which Dyslexia programme to pay for.

Should he return to school today even though his hand is still not right.

Son has not had a holiday in three years.

What happens to our son if something happens to me.

Do I replace the malfunctioning washing machine.

Can I get a couple more months out of the car tyres

Getting further behind the work schedule.

A few too many bills.

I’m not going to resolve any of these in my present mental state. I need to switch the brain off. So I’m going to try something completely left field. A hot milk (I don’t really like the stuff) and lights off then switch on. When our son was a baby he wouldn’t sleep. So we bought him a night light projector – he hated it. So tonight I’m switching on the baby projector. Lets see if the projected little blue and red stars can soothe this tired sole tonight.

Early morning

I decided to get up really early this morning to try and do a bit of work catch up. But the work gods are still against me. In my half asleep state I somehow found a way of opening up the laptop and switching it on.

“Configuring Windows Update. Do not turn off your computer”

Stumbled off to make a cup of tea (as Velma Dinkley would say – Jinkys) why did I choose this week to give up coffee.

“Configuring Windows Update. Do not turn off your computer”

Stumbled back into the kitchen to make a bit of breakfast.

“Configuring Windows Update. Do not turn off your computer”

Stumbled back into the kitchen to make another cup of tea. Clearly the last one didn’t wake me up.

“Configuring Windows Update. Do not turn off your computer”

Better sort out the smelly cat litter, like smelling salts, that’s woke me up.

“Configuring Windows Update. Do not turn off your computer”

And on and on and on. Two hours later it’s still in configuration meltdown.

So I can’t turn off the computer but it doesn’t say anything about using it as the new cat litter tray,

“Configuring Windows Update. For gods sake don’t let that cat pee on your computer”

So zero work done but I did get to see a sunrise and hear the stunning 🦅 dawn chorus. I had forgotten how magical this time of day can be.

Today

DEEP BREATHS – MOVE ON

Grief is a double edged sword. Yesterday felt like repeated thrusts to the heart. Focusing on what has been lost. That ‘why did it happen to me’ feeling. Everything reminded me of the loss. That video. Sad songs. Radio advertising – anything from where to go for your romantic Christmas meal to the perfect present for your loved one. Her favourite painting. Her favourite cat. That empty bed.

The walk, the wet walk did help a bit. It did help me get focused and ready for our son.

Today I’ve experienced the other side of the grief sword. The positive side. Now the focus is on how privileged I am. Even someone like me was able to experience 16 golden years. Romance. So many happy memories. A beautiful, perfect son. Grief is really everlasting love. That is something which can’t be lost.

No dreams

11.30pm – Finally lights out in son’s bedroom. Normally that would induce a mad scramble for my bed. But tonight I just don’t feel sleepy. Very tired yes, but frustratingly sleepy no.

12.05am – Attempt to sleep

12.40am – No sleep, no dreams. Still so tired. Bed abandoned.

12.50am – In my tired state starting to fill up with sadness. Suddenly feel very lonely.

1.10am – Only going to get more depressed if I don’t do something. My eyes glance over to the DVDs. Decision made. It’s time to watch kiddies stuff.

1.15am – Peppa Pig. Please tell me I’m not turning into a Daddy Pig.

1.30am – Ben and Holly. Found a new game – try and identify the voice actors from Peppa Pig featuring in Ben and Holly.

1.50am – Teletubbies. Annoyingly their tummy tellies are bigger than our TV.

2.10am – In The Night Garden. Scarily I remembered every single character name. Decided I want to live there.

2.30am – Hectors House. Now this is a really old one. My favourite as a kid. I’m not sure a dog walking round with a gun shouting “it’s a hunting gun” would sit well with modern TV Executives.

3.00am – Banana Splits. Can’t believe I’m laughing my head off at a letter box which is refusing to let one of the gang have a letter. Also can’t believe I haven’t woke my son up when I shouted “size of an elephant” (that won’t make any sense to you if you have never watched this)

3.30am Inspector Gadget. Why is Inspector Gadget not one of the Avengers? Thankfully this is the cartoon and not the action movie – what were they thinking of.

4.00am Paddington Bear. Made myself a marmalade sandwich to enhance the viewing experience – decided marmalade doesn’t taste great at this time of day.

4.25am Clangers. In my zonked out state I unbelievably can understand Clangers Speak.

4.40 Now I’m completely and utterly gone. As they say in kiddies tv land – time for bed…

Man up man down

I’ve wittered on about a number of subjects but not yet about books. Well let’s change that.

Over the years I’ve lived with depression. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts however after my partner died I did go to some dark places. I can fully understand the path those dark places can lead you down. Crucially for me there is our son – I have to be there for him over the next few years.

In the U.K. depression has been a bit of a taboo subject. You weren’t supposed to talk about it. You were expected to suffer in silence and just get on with it. Even suicide was reported as if it was some form of crime. A few years back I remember telling a friend that I was depressed, his response was “stop being a wimp and pull yourself together”. Thankfully things are starting to change. It’s now becoming socially ok to talk about depression.

Paul McGregor is one of the leading mental health campaigners in the U.K. He has now released a book based around his fight with depression and the impact his dads suicide had upon him. I found the book really thought provoking with many elements of the book striking a chord with me. Although it was an emotionally difficult read, I found the book completely inspirational.