You don’t look like

Another cold and beautiful morning. Doesn’t look like the expected wet and windy weather forecast.

Robyn on her brilliant blog was taking about someone who played Death Metal music during a gym session and yet looked so UnDeathMetally. I remember a few years back going into a HMV record store and trying to buy a Hardcore German Death Metal CD. The young guy at the counter looked at me then looked at the cd and said “this might be a bit heavy for you”. I managed to stop him before he directed me to either the Country Music or Dire Straits sections. Clearly I didn’t look like a head banger. I should have warn my Motörhead Tour T-shirt.

I remember another time at work when a particularly gruesome Salesman barged into the office and asked to speak to the Chief Accountant. When he was pointed in my direction he walked up to me and announced “you don’t look like a Chief Accountant” and laughed. In an unusually sharp response I came back with “you don’t look like a person with an appointment” and proceeded to ignore him until he sheepishly left.

But apart from these two moments ‘not looking like something’ has not been applied to me much in my life. Well apart from this year. It feels like it’s been open season on me. The following have all been said to my face over the last 12 months

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

– You don’t look like that photo on your driving license

– You don’t look like your passport photo

– You don’t look like a boxer … the physio said this as apparently I had a muscle injury normally associated with boxing

You don’t look like your best pleased

– You don’t look like a single dad … said to me by someone in the village

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

– You don’t look like an XL … No but is it a crime to like wearing baggy tops for training

It’s not just me. It’s a team issue this year

Your Son doesn’t look like he has Autism …. said by a teacher

You don’t look like a boy with your hood up you have girls eyelashes … this was immediately preceded by the longest and hardest Paddington Bear Stare by our son.

Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly Cocker Spaniel

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly German Spitz

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s calmed down

– Your cat doesn’t look like he gets much exercise

These were all said very innocently and are rather mostly amusing. Some you scratch your head and think what on earth is a single parent supposed to look like. Some are worrying – too many still assume that if someone tells a joke then they couldn’t possibly be depressed. Then there are the ones which are breathtaking. An educational professional demonstrating such staggering ignorance of Autism. It makes you realise what a long way we have to go as a society.

More rain

And still it rains. And rains. And rains.

And still it rains at school.

French Homework is to complete a crossword. A French Crossword. Marks will be deducted for incorrect spellings.

Dad I can’t even do a crossword in English never mind French. I can remember the sounds but I can’t spell the words. The Teacher knows this but just says I have to try harder.

And we have more…

Drama Homework is to complete an acting related Word Search Game. Really. Very early on his previous school it was identified that he could just not do Word Searches Tables. The Psychologist who looked into this established that for some reason he was not able to visualise letters and collections of letters if they were printed diagonally or backwards. On top of this his dyslexia just made identifying words difficult. As this was stressful for him it was strongly recommended that his education did not use word based games. Fast forward a couple of years and his current school now requires him to do word searches as it’s the set task for the class.

I can see the point of a French Crossword for some kids but how is a dyslexic kid expected to complete this. Has our school system become so inflexible that we can’t just vary the teaching programme a little for each individual child need. Clearly not. The Government is committed to this Factory/Production line model of education. That’s for State Schools. Private Schools have more scope to flex the teaching programme. Unfortunately many can’t afford to go Private. But that won’t bother Boris and his buddies. As long as the chauffeur driven car turns up and the expensive wine keeps coming.

Ok I can see the point of a crossword for French for some BUT… What is the pigging point of a word search for Drama. I guess it’s all part of the Government’s drive to make every kid spell correctly the defined key words. Spelling is given a higher profile that actually understanding what the word means. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the best way to develop the next Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise is to focus on spelling. Oh hang on a minute these have dyslexia as well. So no I don’t see the point.

We just set too many of our kids up to fail. They see other kids repeatedly praised for great spelling or neat handwriting while at the same time they are just told to try harder. How demoralising is that. A phrase you hear often is that kids with learning difficulties have to try super hard just to keep the perceived learning gap from widening. DAMM RIGHT THEY DO. Too many kids are forced through the same stereotyped classroom hoop. Never given a chance to demonstrate their unique skill sets as these are not in the areas deemed valuable by the Government.

Too many kids have been failed by our society. It’s not as if our society is particularly successful or sustainable on the back of this. This has to stop. When it does stop and we start allowing all our kids to grow – just take a few minutes to think how good this world will become. That is a hope worth fighting for. That is a hope worth voting for.

Another day

Another day in Yorkshire and another day of rain.

Another day of rain and another very muddy dog.

Another very muddy dog and another very messy house.

Another very messy house and another need to clean.

Another need to clean and another news bulletin on the radio.

Another news bulletin and another interview with a government spokesperson.

Another interview from a government spokesperson and another bunch of lies.

Another bunch of lies and another radio turned off.

Another radio turned off and a another realisation that the clock is ticking..

Another realisation that the clock is ticking and another urgent search for the right colour school football sock.

Another search for a football sock and another school bag not meeting school requirements.

Another school bag not meeting requirements and another day in school.

Another day in school and another day without support.

Another day without support and another set of exams.

Another set of exams and another setup to fail.

Another setup to fail and another shed load of young anxiety.

Another shed load of young anxiety and another failure of school to support.

Another failure of school to support and another mother lode of parent stress.

Another mother lode of parent stress and another phone call to school.

Another phone call to school and another wall punched.

Another wall punched and another ice pack applied.

Another ice pack applied and another attempt to soothe the school anxiety.

Another attempt to soothe the school anxiety and another set of school homework to be done.

Another set of school homework and another list of misspellings to write out three times.

Another set of misspellings to write out and another wave of young anxiety.

Another wave of young anxiety and another search for something that will help.

Another search for something that might work and another frustrated parent.

Another frustrated parent and another attempt to bring some smiles.

Another attempt to bring some smiles and another viewing of The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Another viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy and another bedtime.

Another bedtime and another living room to myself.

Another living room to myself and another forlorn wish to turn back time.

Another forlorn wish to turn back time and another realisation that ‘it is what it is’.

Another realisation that ‘it is what it is’ and another day gone.

Another day tomorrow……

Lockdown for the Numpty

It’s a real ‘Dowly/Chucking it Down’ type of Yorkshire day. Son has had a bit of a meltdown this weekend. Combination of tiredness and school. So we are on lockdown. Excluding the outside world for a couple of days. It’s unfortunate as I was hoping to go to see one of my favourite bands for the first time. Its not looking good. But it is what it is.

It’s also a deserved lockdown for a prize Numpty.

Last night I decided to look out for some Black Friday bargains. My list of required items, computer and a large hot drink next to me – off we go. After a few hours I was thoroughly disillusioned. Hardly any deals with many stores doing nothing. Well this is a waste Ot time. Apart from some cheapish school socks and a few pennies knocked off a pack of Top Trumps – nothing. Why are many of the stores having sales next Friday. Bizarre.

Hang on a minute it’s not the 29th yet.

What a muppet. Next week – watch me post that I forgot all about it.

Perfect timing

Perfect timing. The walking woolly jumper had been resolutely looking the other way. After a minute of waiting I gave up and took the shot. Just in time for the sheep to turn it’s head and briefly pose for the photo.

Perfect timing. After 4 hours of excruciatingly boring work I needed a run. But some days the mojo is just not there. After a couple of minutes I was on the verge of abandoning. Just outside the village a car was at the side of the road. The car had conked out going through a deep flood. After a few minutes with a push start we managed to get it going again. A quite reasonable run followed and I only remembered that I was going to give up when I was sat back down at the works laptop.

Perfect timing. I made homemade ice cream tonight. For some reason my vanilla recipe came out luminous yellow. The ice cream was served midway through the Monsters Inc movie. Unfortunately we were still sampling it when we got to the scene with the yellow snow cones and the Yeti. The immortal Yeti line rather killed off the taste sensation

“Oh would you look at that. We’re out of snowcones! Let me just go outside and make some more

Homemade Yellow ice cream is now banned.

Perfect timing. I was going to do a post about school. You can guess what it would have been like. Probably done a few of those over the last year or so. But as I started writing it a song came on the radio. Not sure who the band was but the songs basic theme was

Those with depression sit in silence. Feeling they are the only ones. Those who have suffered need to shout. So others know they are not alone. So they know it’s ok to shout to.

So here goes with a change of plan. Imagine I’m shouting to some Nordic Operatic Metal music.

I am a single parent. I’ve experienced a few too many deaths over the last few years. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve become too isolated. My personal confidence is shot. The upshot of this is that I have been to some really dark places in my mind. Scary frightening places. Yes I suffer from DEPRESSION. So if your reading this and you are suffering then please remember that your not alone. If you can then it’s good to talk. Talking or writing really helps. There is absolutely no shame in admitting your struggling. I struggle. Millions struggle. Let’s shout together. We can do this.

ADHD and Aspergers

Beckies Mental Mess this week has been doing a great job of raising awareness about (ADHD) Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I’ve just read Rory’s words which explain so well what it’s like to live with ADHD.

From here in this quiet part of Yorkshire ADHD is very much part of our life. It’s now officially part of our sons diagnosis. But it feels very much like a junior version. During the long and ever so frustrating diagnostic process which he went through ADHD was an after thought. It was missed. Never mentioned. Everything was lumped into Aspergers and Dyspraxia.

Then our Paediatrician changed. In his first meeting with our Son he genuinely seemed surprised that he could find no mention of ADHD on the records. A few weeks later it was added to the diagnosis. Why was it missed?

We where made aware that Aspergers in most cases goes hand in hand with other conditions. Everything seems to merge together to give a unique set of symptoms and personality traits. It is often difficult to unpick the individual conditions. Generally Aspergers and Autism are just used as overriding terms to cover a wide and complex set of interrelated issues. In our sons case ADHD was just missed. A specialist went through the original symptoms list. Of the 16 original listed symptoms which were defined as Aspergers related 7 were later changed to ADHD.

As soon as ADHD was on the medical record we were offered medication. Interestingly although our Sons the symptoms had not changed at all suddenly the addition of four letters prompted the option of drugs. We declined. Or should I say Son declined. In his words

ADHD hasn’t changed me. I’m still the same person with Aspergers. It’s just who I am.

Since we declined medication ADHD has never been specifically mentioned again by our Doctors. They have continued to offer behavioural therapy to try and ease the young Aspergers kid into this strange old world. Due to Government cut backs the therapy is becoming increasingly sporadic. Once someone gets past a certain age the health support basically dries up. But at least something happened. From an Education point of view basically no school interventions have occurred. No assessment of educational impact has been carried out. It’s the standard education package for all regardless of any specific needs. It’s so much easier to bracket individual kids as low attainment.

This is the shocking fact in education today. Certainly here in England. Specific educational help to those with a learning disability – some prefer to call it a learning disadvantage – is denied to too many kids in our society. Effectively they are seen as an expensive drain on resources. So much easier to write them off. How do we explain that to our kids. How as a society have we got education so wrong. We need to keep shouting as one day those in charge will listen.

World Mental Health Day

Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.

Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.

It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.

I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.

So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.

The soldier

A few years back I played in the same team as an Ex Royal Marine. A huge bear of a man. He left the Marines early. He would never talk about the service much. But occasionally he would drop the occasional line into the pub conversations. I know he had a really bad time in Afghanistan. I remember him telling me once that he might be a huge intimidating figure but he was not prepared for what he experienced. He then said but your not supposed to talk about it. He on more than one occasion said that he was not the hero he set out to be. He certainly struggled big time with his mental health since he left the service. One day he without warning just moved out of his house. Disappeared off the radar and no one from the team saw him again. I often think about him and I really hope he found a better place.

Similarly my Dad never wanted to really talk about his time in the army and the fighting. In his eyes talking about it just opened old wounds. He needed to bury the pain and loss.

Recently I came across this music video on a similar theme. It’s called He Died at Home. The lyrics from this Neal Morse song resonate because they are based on real events.

https://youtu.be/88e74WaQioI

*********************

William always wanted to be a soldier
“Army men were his favorite toys,” tells his mother
He was going to be the hero of the story
Live with honor or die in a blaze of glory
So he joined when he was seventeen
Kissed his mom goodbye
She wept as she packed his duffel bag
With notes of love and pride
She’d never guess six years from then
Tortured and alone
William wouldn’t die in fields unknown
He died at home

He loved the army, it’s all he ever wanted
To serve his country and look death in the face undaunted
But after a couple of tours, the fire in him died
You can’t watch friends be killed and stay the same inside
He told his mom “you’d hate me
If you knew the things I’ve done”
“I will never hate you
You are my beloved son”
He said, “no mom, the son you loved
Died somewhere over there”
But William didn’t die in the combat zone
He died at home

He came back ill at ease with civilians
His mother woke to screaming – it was William’s
The army shrugged and gave him more prescriptions
As William’s mind grew more and more distant

Before he died he told his mom
“Don’t bury me in my uniform
No military funeral
That’s for some who gave their all”
One night he shot the soldier dead
To kill the voices in his head
They gathered at the weekly wake
They have at every army base
‘Cause more will die by their own hand
Than fall in any foreign land
They covered William in the flag
But there was not a boast or brag
When asked how soldier William died
No one mentions suicide

The cause of death is hard to say out loud
The soldier who once stood so strong and proud
His mother looks away and simply moans
He died at home

Song by Neal Morse

Lyrics from songmeanings

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.