Wooden

Apparently native to Yorkshire… wonder if they fancy a chat. If they don’t then I won’t get the hump.

I have never been someone completely at ease with people. Once I get to know a group then I can come out of my shell. Occasionally a bit too out of my shell. But often I was the person talking to the plant in the corner at parties. As the years went on I found that I could find a reasonable way of communicating with people. It was hard work but it sorta worked.

These days I have no practice. I have become socially very isolated. At work I often work on my own. The days of meeting people at the school gate have ceased. We live in a small village with no pub or shop. I might see a member of my family every few months. I don’t go to football matches now. Climbing trips have ceased. Team Sport is a thing of the past. Meet ups with my friends have completely dried up (it’s been a drought). The last night out with friends was in 2015. We occasionally go to a concert or wrestling show but because of our son’s Aspergers we tend to limit public exposure to a bare minimum.

You get the picture.

As a result I have completely lost my social confidence. When I do bump into people these days I am so painfully wooden. Can hardly string a sentence together. End up just being quiet and completely stressed out. Shackled with self doubt – I’m not sure I could even manage to talk to the plant in the corner now.

I am so lucky to have a fantastic son. I am also fortunate that I have adjusted reasonably well to spending large chunks of the day so isolated. So if I get completely cut off from society then so be it – at least I won’t have to get stressed out about being so wooden. But it does bother me that so many good people have experienced something similar or far worse. Isolated and cut adrift in an increasingly crowded world – alone and in need of company. I really don’t think the scale of the problem has been fully appreciated yet. If you are in that situation my heart goes out to you and I send you my love.

For me I have a job to do for the next few years. Give son the best childhood possible. Nothing else really matters. If and when he has left the nest then I will worry about the other stuff. Hopefully my hermit beard won’t be too long by then. I might even get round to working out how to play Fortnite properly. Hugging trees can be fun as well I hear.

Alone

Complete white out. Zero vision. Your boots constantly struggling to find grip on the sheet ice. All you can hear is the wind howl and your rasping breathe. Somewhere to your right are bone breaking crags, to your left a 200 feet sheer drop. Holding the ice axe waiting for the inevitable fall. The trail has disappeared. The map is useless. The compass won’t give an accurate reading. Alone. Are you too far right or god help you …. too far left. Too late to turn back. Your only guide is to follow the sharp slope upwards to the summit.

The delights of winter mountaineering. Or is a metaphor for life. Disorientation, lost, no idea where your going, unattainable goals, alone, no plan, fear and panic.

Then hope. A kind word. A caring hand in the dark. Brief enlightenment.

The clouds briefly part. The beautiful mountain summit reveals itself. You survived that crisis. Panic subsides. Your pounding heart starts to ease. The break in the clouds is short lived. But you have a path. You have a direction. You have hope. The climb continues.

Storm Bunker

We had a large thunder storm pass over this afternoon. The cat was taking no chances. After the first bang he made his way to his storm bunker.

Unbelievably the early morning cinema screening was very full. The cinema was mobbed. Not seen crowds like that since the ‘Everything for a Pound’ Store had a sale. It’s not a statistical significant sample population but from the early morning hordes I guess that The Avengers movie is going to pull in some astronomical numbers.

And yes it is an astonishing movie.

Yes the crowds unsettled our son but we took our customary place on the front row so no one could be in front of him or to the left of him. It’s so close to the big screen that I come away feeling like I’ve been chewing on magic mushrooms but it works for him.

For 3 hours we both lost ourselves in the Marvel Universe. All our problems and anxieties forgotten. Heroic deeds fill your heart. With even a bit of free grief counselling thrown in by Captain America. But sadly it doesn’t last. You eventually find yourself back in the same place with the same issues.

In fact it feels like we have regressed. Fifteen months ago we eventually secured some anxiety counselling for our son. I say ‘we’ as the fight to get some help started while my partner was still very much with us. It seemed to really benefit him. Progress was starting to be made. But now due to cutbacks that support has dried up. The anxieties are building and it feels like the system has cast him adrift again. We have been lucky really – far too many families get zero help – all they get is patronising comments from politicians who have no interest beyond their off shore bank accounts and rich friends.

So as the thunder rumbles on we try to fight demons. Health anxieties, fear of death, school anxieties, friend anxieties, social anxieties, reading anxieties, fear of being left alone anxieties…..

I’m no psychologist. I’m no health professional. I’m no education specialist. I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a parent trying to figure out this increasingly bizarre world with no one to help guide me. Doing the best I can. Deep down this scares me as what chance do I have when I can’t even come close to fixing myself. Queue worried face. 😱

Pleased to report the immediate threat to life and property must have passed as the cat has made his way back to his favourite chair again. That’s one less worry to deal with.

Bogless Garden

The Bog Garden needs some rain to become boggy again. Maybe soon as storms are forecast. It can’t be much fun being a bogless garden.

Making friendships can be difficult for our Son. Maybe it’s part of his Aspergers, maybe it circumstances, maybe it’s something else. He loves texting a cool friend but they are separated my thousands of miles. He doesn’t often get to meet up with kids his age. Son has come across a few really nice kids. They let him tag along sometimes. He does like the feeling of spending times with friends. I think we all need that somedays.

However the kids will often talk about the stuff they do. The meet-ups, the sleepovers, the trips, the clubs and birthday parties. Stuff he doesn’t get the chance to experience that often. That’s tough for a kid. Also after a while they often split into pairings and son tends to be left by himself. You see the kids walking in one direction and son heading by himself in another direction. I can tell when he comes back that he’s kinda sad. He’s so enjoyed the time with them but it does make him feel lonely. Today was a good example..

As he walked back slightly apart from two of the other kids I asked if he was ok.

“I think it’s time to go Dad. I’ve had fun and they have been very nice to me. But it was getting a bit awkward as they are best friends and wanted time to themselves. I could tell. It’s time to see my best friend my dog.”

I’m so pleased he is getting a bit of time with kids his age. But I get so down thinking about the wider picture for him. I really get how he feels for one very good reason.

I feel the same with my life. I get to link with a number of really close friends online but they are many many miles away. I occasionally get the chance to spend time with some really nice people. But they have their own life’s, their own close friend groups, their own families. I hear about the stuff they do, the holidays, the nights out, the meals, the parties, the romantic moments. I’m so pleased they get to do that stuff, they are such nice people that they deserve the happy times. But it’s stuff I don’t get to do anymore. A life I feel excluded from. That’s such a lonely and soul destroying feeling. I’m old and gnarled….. that’s just tough luck for me. BUT you just don’t want your kid(s) to experience the same feeling. All we can do is crack open a couple of sodas, hit the trampoline and see how many footballs our dog can destroy today. Time to try and forget stuff.

Why this path

I was talking to a farmer today. He was saying that he desperately needed some rain for his crops. The ground is bone dry. Wow Yorkshire needing water, that must be a first.

Its been one of those days. Dropping things. Losing things. Breaking things. Not being able to remember which things I’ve lost. Writing stupid things in comments that I shouldn’t have. Arriving in plenty of time for an appointment then spending ages trying to get parked and ending up late. Repeatedly tripping over the cat. Breaking the hoover – again. Burning the toast.

So a walk was much needed.

It’s really odd walking down this path. It’s a walk that just skirts farm land. We have much finer routes with better views. Basically it goes round in a big circle. Might be able to call it a crop circle – not sure why ET would travel all those light years to look at this bit of land unless he or she has a pressing need for sugar beet and has a rhubarb fetish.

We would often come down this particular path before we had our son. We would talk about starting a family here. Planning for the future. Then with a baby and the pushchair we stopped venturing down this route. Then the world changed and I completely forgot about most things. Recently I’ve started venturing here again.

Memories flood back. Sadness come in waves. I often feel lonely and isolated here. It doesn’t seem right walking here without her. And yet I still come. Why? I honestly don’t know. Maybe I’m waiting for something to happen here. Maybe its a link with the past. Maybe it’s because it is so rarely used by others. Maybe it’s because you get to walk near the farmers crops. Maybe it’s because you don’t get any mobile phone signal here. Maybe I’m trying to remember something important. Maybe it’s just a random thing. Just don’t know.

Maybe I will never work out why I currently need to walk this path. One thing I do know for sure is that this is Yorkshire and this path will be very muddy soon…. Maybe that’s it. I like Mud. I did have a Mud cd. I can still remember the words to one of their singles. Thats an official test to see if you are ancient – can you still sing Tiger Feet. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Plant versus Dog.

I have a soft spot for this particular plant. My mum had it in a container in her little garden. After her stroke she couldn’t get into the garden that often to water it. It looked lonely. Then the world fell in. When I started to clear her house after those 6 weeks of hell in 2016 – I felt sorry for it. I was in a completely unhinged state and I worried that the plant would be discarded. Left to die. Two deaths was more than enough for that pigging year. I started talking to it. I would tell it how bad I felt. How lonely I was. How completely broken I had become. It was literally the only thing I could truly open up to. I had to give up my job to be there for our son. I was so completely isolated. But that plant was there. Eventually when the house was sold I brought it back to our garden and planted it. It started to thrive. Then…

Then the mad pup arrived. Captain Chaos took one look at the garden and decided that this plant was going to be his ‘cock his leg’ plant of choice. Since then it’s been subject to daily dog waterings. If that wasn’t bad enough the pup then decided he could use the plant as an essential part of his escape strategy. So in addition to being constantly pee’d on it has been dug under, dug out, dug round, dug through and used as a canine climbing frame.

Yet it is still here and is still flowering.

I was discussing this resilient life form with our son. All that it has been through, all that it has survived and how it still flowers. Surely it needed a really heroic name.

Son thought for a while and said

I’ve got the perfect name … JEFF”

So meet the amazing Jeff. A survivor from 2016 and a damm fine counsellor to boot.

Sneaky Grief

Grief sneaks up on you. It often doesn’t attack head on – when you can brace yourself for impact. The big hits are the attacks from behind – the ones you don’t see coming. That song on the radio, an unexpected find, a hidden photograph, a surprise film scene.

In the U.K. Mothers Day is fast approaching. It’s not an easy day to get through but it’s no surprise. You have weeks to prepare. It won’t be fun but I guess it won’t be a complete meltdown. I suspect I will blog further on this again.

Taking the dog for a walk in the local Arboretum. It’s a lovely relaxing place. I was using the walk to get my head round a work problem. The mad dog was happy – a dog and an Arboretum full of thousands of trees …. Pup Heaven.

So I was in autopilot. Just following Captain Chaos from tree to tree. Starting to form a viable fix to the work problem. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. A sudden realisation of location. A sudden sinking heart. Suddenly hit by a sneaky grief attack.

In autopilot mode I had drifted into one particularly beautiful area. During autumn a place glowing with silver leaves. A place my partner would repeatedly visit. I can see her face smiling at the view. A place where she wants part of her ashes scattered. A flood of tears and complete despair. I feel very old and so very alone.

But thankfully for my sanity I have designated role. Our Son needs me. He deserves the best childhood possible. So I let the dog pull me away from the area to a particularly exciting unmarked giant Tree.

Put away the tissue. Breathe. Refocus. That wave of grief has passed but I know that the tide will return.

Anxiety

Anxiety is far too often an unwelcome visitor to our house. I have suffered from it since childhood. It got so much worse after the world changed. Never ending road. Virtual all the worries now focused on our son. Not sure I am that bothered about myself these days….

This morning I woke to that unwelcome guest again. So many voices in my head. All saying the same thing … son is due a anxiety meltdown. Unfortunately that was the truth.

Anxiety and Depression are real inhibiting factors for so many in our society. Research clearly indicates that the risk of suffering from these awful conditions are increased for those living in the world of autism. At least a two fold increase is often reported. Yet from personal experience this was never identified in any of the briefings or guides we received during our journey. It is just not addressed appropriately by society. This can and does have catastrophic results. In our case it took several years of pushy parenting before our son started to get some help.

It’s so difficult to unpick the anxiety for our son. Is it Aspergers related, is it Dyslexia related, is it bereavement related, is it human life anxiety, is it all four….

With our son we have a frequently returning swirling mix of worries and demons. They recede then they blast back. On really bad days they all materialise at the same time. He has many repeating spectres.

  • Dyslexia and it’s unwanted consequences.
  • Friendships and social interaction.
  • Not understanding this strange, alien world.
  • Fear of death (his, mine, his pets, his remaining family, the people he cares for).
  • Related to the fear of death is his fear of illness. Everything is catchable. Everything can be a risk. Every sneeze, every ache, every speck of dirt is a potential harbinger of a health disaster.
  • School. Homework, rules, punishments, no support, cold and scary environments.
  • Feeling different, feeling inferior, fearing the finger pointing, fearing being laughed at.
  • Running out of money, going broke, losing everything.
  • The climate, wrecking the natural world, world politics, Brexit. World is going wrong.
  • Being alone.
  • Having to fit into large social groupings.
  • Fear of being long term depressed.

This is someone so young.

Today it is the return to school and fear of illness. The anxiety vortex is building strength. The bag of tricks we try only helps take the edge off but doesn’t fix today. All we can do is just be busy. Constant activity. Try to stop the mind thinking. These apply to both of us. My world is full of anxiety today as well….

Cragfast

Somedays you wake and the world is full of hope. Yes it’s a challenge but you stride purposely towards the light.

Whether it’s the alignment of the stars, or the moon, or the lack of sleep or the weather or the cards are stacked against you or the demons have woken ….. but for whatever reason somedays the world appears different. You are alone and operating without a safety net. It’s is dark, cold and scary. Often I liken the feeling to a Tolkien like scene. You are stood on the ramparts of Helms Deep. It is cold and the rain pours. You are besieged by an evil army of Orcs. But this time you are stood alone and Gandalf isn’t riding over the hill top to save you that day. You feel like hope has deserted you. A battle you didn’t ask for and one you cannot win this day.

In climbing the dreaded word is cragfast. Basically you are stuck. You can’t go up, down or sideways. Less polite terms also exist for this ……

My mind drifts to The Eiger. Back to 1936. Four young climbers attempt to be the first to scale the infamous North Face.

Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz.

On the ill fated ascent Hinterstoisser opened up the mountain with an astonishing traverse now named after him. Tragically they decided to remove the ropes they had fixed in that section. A huge storm set in so they tried to retreat. They discovered that the Hinterstoisser traverse could only be completed in reverse with the aid of fixed ropes. They were suddenly out of options. A suicidal decent was attempted. Over the next few hours three climbers died. Rescuers got close to the remaining climber Toni Kurz. But they did not have enough rope to reach him so they had to retreat leaving the young climber stranded. They left to the echos of a climber pleading not to be left alone. The next morning a second rescue attempt was launched but they found the young climber close to death. He quietly said “Ich Kann nicht mehr” – I cannot go on. He died feet from rescue.

The German 2008 movie of this tragedy “North Face” is one of the bleakest movies you will ever see. I have stood at the bottom of the North Face. Your mind can’t help thinking of those brave young climbers. Too many climbers have been lost here. It’s a truly cathartic experience.

What is the point of this post. I am not sure. Maybe it’s just about saying that life can be bleak and dark. You will come across times when you become stuck – cragfast. You find times when you are on the ramparts alone. You hope that when that happens people will come to save you. But rescues sometimes fail – even heroes stumble. These are the times you have to stand alone. Those are grim times. Times we must endure. You hope to just make it through the night. The morning may bring new light or a hero. Or you may have to struggle on for another day alone. It’s a sobering thought.

Searching in the dark

Just after my partner died I remember reading a book which suggested that grief was like a black hole. All consuming yet over time it’s energy shrinks and eventually it disappears allowing new life to replace it. I’m still waiting….

Everybody is different. Everybody deals with grief differently. This approach worked for the author but not for me.

Maybe another way to look at it could be that life exists outside the black hole. The black hole is always there. Somedays it’s powerful and sucks so much life force out of your universe. Other days not so strong. But the key thing is that although it never disappears a new life exists outside it – it’s your choice, your journey that determines how far you move from it. – that’s a bit of my inner Carl Sagan coming out in me.

My current take is a little different. It’s a dark place with doors – maybe it’s inside the black hole. My thinking is that when Bereavement occurs doors begin to shut (many permanently) on my old world. My old world will always be there I just can’t go back to it. It’s up to me to decide if I want to continue to stand next to these closed doors. As well as doors I will also discover windows into my old world. Those windows are too small for me to re-enter my old world but they do allow memories to enrich my soul. In the darkness other doors are created. They lead to new worlds, new experiences. On my grief journey I will come across these new doors. It’s my choice whether I decide to open the new door opportunities or not. Maybe I will make a few drinks, pull up a chair and take my time.

I carry my family’s trait of not having any sense of direction. What could possibly go wrong with me stumbling about in the dark trying to find some random doors…..