Another day

Another hot one. One more day then proper weather sweeps back in.

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s overthinking. Maybe it’s these crazy times. Maybe it’s lack of sleep. Maybe it’s feeling just a little bit alone in this fight. Maybe it’s just one of those days. But today has been on off day. A down day. A misfiring day. A depressed day. I get these days. Not as many as I used to but it doesn’t really help when they strike. These days it definitely feels like good weeks and bad days. So it’s a bit of a surprise when the bad days sneak up on you. All the more frustrating because there is not a definite cause. No warning. Just wake up feeling this way.

A day when

  • The mojo has gone on holiday.
  • Life feels hard and unremittingly uphill.
  • Just feeling yucky.
  • Everything is an effort.
  • The daily workout was completed but never got out of 1st gear.
  • You just want to sit and slouch.
  • That smile is an effort.
  • Routine things become annoying.
  • Those various body injuries just hurt that little bit more.
  • An old photo which made you smile yesterday today brings a tear.
  • That inner demon is just a bit stronger today. The negative voice is just that bit louder.
  • Definitely a little snappy and quick tempered.

Basically low and deflated. It will pass but until it does then it’s no fun. I was going to swear but I won’t. Let’s get through the day and see what tomorrow brings. If it’s the same feeling then maybe a bit of shock therapy is required. I think I will ask son to fill a huge bucket with cold water then fill it with ice cubes and whatever else he fancies. Then he can dump it over me. It worked last time I was like this, maybe it will work again. Only one way to find out….

Wembley

The Yorkshire version of Wembley Stadium. Can you spot the pet trying to once again sneak into the photo.

Even comes with a discerning crowd.

If Aspergers Parenting was a football game, well today feels like we have had a key player sent off….

I always naively assumed that if and when son got an official diagnosis then a support package would be out in place to help with his life chances. How silly of me. I didn’t count on year after year, having to fight the system. Trying to prize just the hints of support from a system which has been hammered into the ground by a Government which only looks after itself and it’s friends. To summarise

  • A school system repeatedly fails kids who do not fit into the factory production line which is the UK school system. Two options, either fight for a place in one of the few special schools or accept your child being bracketed as ‘low attainment’ and consigned to the bottom set. The school will then forget about the child and then pat itself on the back if the child gets just one certificate.
  • Letter after letter, call after call trying to find a clinician who is prepared to look at your child’s case.
  • Passed from specialist to specialist who don’t have the time or resources to add your child onto their case load.
  • Service after service cut by a Government which believes that only the rich should be able to buy access to essential healthcare. A Government that sees Mental Health as no more than an excuse to avoid work. Let’s not forget they described a child taking time off from school after a bereavement as an extended holiday.
  • When you do finally get access to a service you then join the growing waiting list. Finally when your child is seen it’s virtually always by someone new, with no understanding of the back story.
  • Finally your child starts to get older and the few services he has had access to are withdrawn as he is now above the age threshold. You see the Government likes to think that after 13, services are pointless and far too expensive. Adults have to sort themselves out.

We have had three brilliant exceptions to this.

  • A Clinical Psychologist who worked with out son consistently for three years. She even delayed her retirement to ensure son’s diagnosis was officially approved.
  • An Occupational Therapy service that worked with him every few months to help with things like coordination. A service which was cut when he reached 13.
  • A wonderful Nurse Counsellor who worked with our son for 3 years helping with his anxieties and joining the fight for additional help.

We entered June 2020 with just the Nurse Counsellor left from his entire care package. And now the player is sent off.

The Nurse phoned today to let us know that she had been reassigned. She is great and some other kids are really going to really benefit from her time. We are eternally grateful for everything she has done. She is going to desperately try to find another clinician to take over from her. I know she will really try. We may get a replacement. The Nurse was the only clinician he really has connected with. Those connections are rare for him. Making a new connection is going to be tough and most certainly not guaranteed. As the Nurse said it feels like we have lost the progress made over the last few years.

Today feels like one of those tough parenting days. As a friend wrote recently we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start again. We most certainly do. But it feels like it’s a much depleted team taking on the struggle. Forgive me I’ve not used a Lord of the Rings metaphor for a while. It feels like the heavens have opened. The hordes are massed outside the walls and I’m stood alone on the Battlements of Helms Deep. Just me protecting our son now. Doesn’t feel like Gandalf is riding over the horizon in the morning. I’m going to have to just find a way of doing this myself.

I’m off now to kick the ball into the net a few times. Maybe with a bit more force than usual. Then the fight starts again.

Plant Life

It doesn’t look the most impressive plant but it certainly has meaning.

Something like 18 years ago we had just moved into the house. The garden was so badly overgrown. The lawn was more like a corn field. Took us three days to cut it. Having revealed the garden we found it appeared to have no flowering plants. Many weeds and one Apple tree. I guess that’s called a blank canvass.

A week or so later the village had a plant fare and we nervously ventured down to it. We knew hardly anyone there. We did meet some lovely people. Unfortunately over time those we get to know have either left or sadly passed away. Can’t remember much about the actual fare apart from my partner telling me that we needed to buy something. I randomly picked a hand full of plants. As we were late the selection of healthy plants was completely exhausted. Our new plants looked somewhere between decidedly unhealthy and dead. They didn’t survive long. All except one and here it still is. Who would of thought that the most sickly looking plant would end up outliving my partner and a number of the residents at the fare. Life is definitely bizarre and it is often so unfair. But that is life. We need to treasure it, treasure all life.

Swimming

Yesterday the sun was shining and the garden was filled with colour. Today the sun is gone. It’s cold, very cold. A biting strong wind blows across a grey landscape.

The weather matches my mood…..

After days of care free smiles, today the smile is a little forced. Thoughts are a little darker. The world seems a cold and increasingly lonely place. Rather than thinking of memories as precious blessings, all too easily my wanders to thoughts of what has been lost. What is no more. Waves of self doubt crash in. Problems outweigh opportunities.

But that’s life. Just like the weather you get good days then bad days. In my case the secret is to try and make sure it doesn’t turn into Good Days and then Bad Weeks. That’s the risk with my depression. It’s so easy for me to fall into that negative mindset. Nothing comes after the Bad times. Life becomes a never ending slog.

I look out of the window at the awful weather and what do I see. Yes no sun, but the white and red flowers are still there. They still have colour and beauty. That reminds me that the weather may change but hope can always remain. Got to keep working at this thing called life. Bad times will pass and the sun will return. Yes even in Yorkshire.

As I get older, I become more convinced that life, bereavement, whatever journey I’m on is like swimming. Swimming to an ever receding islands. As hard as I swim, that island can never be reached. If I stop trying then I will definitely start to drown. Somedays the waves are heavy, the tide against me. Swimming is so hard. But if I keep going then eventually the waves will ease and that tide will change. Flowing in my direction. Still have to work but suddenly swimming becomes enjoyable. Enjoy those moments, live in the moment.

So today the swimming is hard work. But got to keep going. Got to keep aiming for that island.

Old moon

A couple of full moon photos from last week. My poor old iPhone tries it’s best.

I remember looking up at the moon. I was lying on my back on the cold patio trying to keep still and give the camera phone a chance of trying to focus. Anyway I was looking up at the moon and thinking it was stunning. I really hoped that my partner could be seeing this as well. Maybe she was? Was she seeing it from a different angle? Was she looking up at it from one of her favourite places. Was she above the clouds?

These days I frequently look at things in a different way. For a long time after my partner died I felt bad about looking at beautiful things. Sunsets, landscapes, the Sea, our Son playing. It just wasn’t right that I could and my partner was missing out. She had been cruelly denied this chance. Her time ran out.

But slowly that feeling of guilt started to ebb.

Now when I look at beautiful things, I try to look that little bit harder. Look for just a few moments longer. Truly embrace the moment. Because now I’m looking for the BOTH of us.

Back to the moon. After a few minutes I was becoming distinctly uncomfortable. My back is not designed these days for lying on a cold, hard surfaces. Then a thought. What was I thinking about. My partner was the sensible one. She would be sat inside. Occasionally shouting “that’s very nice Dear”. She would not be outside freezing her butt off. She would be warm inside with a glass of something, watching one of her favourite movies.

That’s a view she would be happy with.

Sitting here

It’s early morning and I’ve just finished my workout outside in the breezy Yorkshire air. Son is still asleep safe inside. I’m looking out into the distance and seeing no sign of human life. In the far distance you can just about see the main road leading to the coast. At this time of year it should be nose to tail with caravans and cars packed with excited families. Today it is completely deserted. I patiently waited for five minutes. Not one vehicle. Then I fall backwards and look at the heavens. An empty sky. Yes clouds and fleeting glimpses of lukewarm sun, but not one single aeroplane. To the East we can see one of the main air corridors. We often excitedly get the Flightradar24 app out and check where the many planes are heading. America, Canada, Europe, Asia. Today nothing. Not one single vapour trail.

Has the world stopped turning?

Three years ago our little home stopped dead yet the world kept turning. It was a harsh lesson. Even when good people leave us the vast majority of the world is oblivious. In the days after the funeral I would question

Why has the world not stopped…..

Well it appears to have stopped now. Yet does it help. NO.

Later I am inside listening to music on the radio. It’s a sobering experience. Usually listeners are requesting celebratory songs for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Today the airwaves are frequently filled with songs dedicated to rock lovers who have lost a fight with an unseen new enemy. My heart goes out to you all. It was only a matter of time before someone requested Alter Bridge and Godspeed. The finest song I’ve come across about loss. My bereavement go to track.

Test me once again
You know I didn’t do anything
Set my life on low
You know I could have had it all
Drifting out of place
With no direction and no escape
Set out all alone
Oh to a place I don’t belong
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
No
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Test me all the way
Surely you know
I’m not afraid
Prove now once again
That I will never see the end
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out

Lyrics by Tremonti/Kennedy (source Musixmatch)

Even after a few hours the cars and aeroplanes are still missing. The world may still have stopped. But son is finally rousing himself. Our little world cannot permanently stop. He has a childhood to live and enjoy. So one more sip of my hot drink and find that happy face. Reach for that bag of tricks we all have and find a way to shut this horrible situation out for a while. Start having as much fun as we can. Let’s keep living and hope the world starts turning again real soon.

Stay safe my friends and I really hope you find your own way to smile. Maybe if enough of us do this then we might just be able to start the world turning again.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Tree

This is a tree we can see from our garden. The walk across the farmers field takes you right beside it. When we first moved here it was so much bigger. Almost symmetrical. Unfortunately countless storms and a couple of lightning strikes have taken their toll. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a big isolated tree on an exposed hill top.

So it finally happened. All the countries schools will close on Friday. A skeleton childcare service will be provided for essential workers and vulnerable kids. Our school is planning to try and run lessons online. It’s an indefinite closure with much talk of this extending into the summer. It will be an interesting trial with homeschooling in mind. Let’s see what works. Let’s see what the optimum learning time is. Let’s see if I can cope. As a single parent, the work shutdown will allow me to fully focus on son and his learning.

Life can often bring much isolation. With the new life motto – ‘Social Distancing’, more are going to have deal with the challenges that it brings. Each one of us has to find our own way of dealing with this. Don’t laugh but walking past this old tree and just giving it a friendly pat can help me. The tree has survived longer and more intense isolation than I ever will. It’s only right that I show solidarity with a fellow survivor.

I went for a walk today and almost didn’t see another soul. Plenty of sheep and crows but so few people. Hardly any cars as well. It just seemed kinda normal. I guess after three years I am getting use to the isolation. Just about. Had to make a few work calls today but that’s going to be it for many weeks now. As people increasingly keep their distance the reality is that the only person I will be physically talking to over the next couple of months will our son. Maybe an occasional telephone call with a sister. That’s why blogging will be so important for me.

I’m someone who has to continually work on my conversation skills these days. Without it I become a gibbering, shy wreck. That’s why I have recently become a crap Dr Doolittle. I am increasingly talking to animals. Not just the mad pets. The birds and squirrels waiting to be fed in the garden. The frog who comes for a warm when the tumble dryer is on. The bee trying to break into the house. The farmers sheep, cows and a grumpy bull. I’m a crap Doolittle as I talk to the poor animals but I still can’t understand what they say back. Probably a good job as I can imagine the responses.

“Will you just sod off”

“Boring, boring”

“Do you mind if I hump your leg”

So on the walk I crouched down to have a chat with a sheep. The local sheep are happy to listen to my waffles as long as I bring some biscuits with me. So I was asking this particular sheep if she ever got bored just walking in the same field and did she like these biscuits . Nearly jumped out of my skin when behind me a booming voice replied.

“If they keep producing the wool for my jumpers I will happily let them eat biscuits. This one likes Digestives, the others are partial to those biscuits .”

I had not heard the farmer sneak up on me. Another day and another …. Oh the shame. But at least I know that I need to bring two types of biscuits on the walks now. All this took place under the a much battered, yet resilient tree.