It’s a new year, and the beginning of a new chapter for me.
Single, pushing forty, mother of four, chronically ill. To say the concept of that version of ‘me’ was daunting is an understatement. It’s not the dream to have four kids with two different fathers and be in the position I am currently in.
In the first two months after the summer I sunk into a pit I didn’t think I would ever climb out of.
Things did not go according to plan.
I experienced public shaming, hatred and disrespect unlike I had experienced before, from a single source, but it still hurt. I didn’t see it coming and it broke me temporarily. I never imagined a day when I would run out of ways to emotionally protect myself and my children without external help, but it came. Witnessing what I thought would be an tough,but amicable separation spiral out of control due to a decision I initially made, was utterly heartbreaking to watch, and the guilt, Oh my, the guilt, it ate me up day and night. I sobbed my heart out, and the pain almost destroyed me.
I was lost.
Then the tide started turning. The sands started shifting. I look back on those months that I was broken and saw a strong, motivated, dedicated, mother of four, that had kept going, nurtured, supported, fed, washed, clothed, educated, loved, laughed and cherished her children when she was in her darkest moments.
At no point did I stop being as fierce as I could in my love and dedication to my children.
I’ve done it. Ive survived my darkest hours alone with them, councilling, reassuring and protecting them. I’ve given them stability, security, safety and consistency, even though I too was broken.
The realisation that I am capable of so much more than I believed is euphoric. I am a seriously ill lady, but I am doing more than surviving, I’m living. My house is my home again, full of noise and kids coming in and out, extra mouths to feed and bodies strewn everywhere at the weekends and I truly love it.
I feel alive.
Is it extremely tough, exhausting and relentlessly hard work? Absolutely. It’s so much tougher than I ever imagined, but I’ve been doing it for over four months 24/7, ill, exhausted and broken, yet I’ve still smashed it. My kids are happy and settled, their resilience, maturity and compassion, makes me proud daily. They have chosen lovely friends, who have offered incredible support to them as individuals, and us as a family (especially you Missy❤️) My health is better than it has been for years, as I am forced to micro manage every minute, to ensure I remain standing. I don’t really go out. I rely on the mobilty aids my occupational therapist provided me to give me independence. I don’t drink much. Im in bed with the little ones most nights, but it won’t be forever.
I also have a huge, seemingly endless support network around me, of family and friends. Even when I don’t take the help offered, know how much I appreciate it. So very, very much. The voice at the end of the phone, a bunch of flowers, a hug when I needed it most, a sleepover or meal cooked for us, has saved me when I approached the precipice. I’ve deepened my bond with friends and family even further by exposing my perceived weaknesses, and learnt so much about myself in the process. I’m good enough, I don’t need to be superhuman and strong all the time. Asking for help isn’t a weakness.
This has been an unexpected exercise in proving to myself that I am strong and capable, even when I’m fragmented, and I’ve done that now. I am not in crisis mode any longer, this is our normal. Our noisy, beautiful home filled with calm, happy, bonkers people.
I achieved that.
Despite everything that’s been thrown at me.
But I haven’t achieved that without help.
We all, me particularly, love to moan about this country, but I’ve experienced support and access to services unlike anything I could have imagined. Outlook south west, offer free councilling, by phone, Skype or face to face and you can self refer. The help I have received to get mentally stonger has been priceless. I implore you, if you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in that,take ownership and seek the support you need to get yourself standing again. I speak openly about difficulties I have experienced due to my health, and public perception of me as a benefit scrounger, and now relationship breakdown. It is gradually losing its stigma, mental health; start the conversation, I guarantee you it will help. Just saying out loud that I at times have felt overwhelmed, without being judged, has helped to heal me.
Our schools have pockets of funding for all sorts of support for our young people, art therapy, music therapy, Forrest school, specialised services to help families in all sorts of crisis. If you can only be brave enough to ask for help, and seek out the support, it still does exist, for now.
The skills and expertise of the staff around my youngest children have been outstanding, the support they and I have received to develop coping strategies specific to them has been invaluable.
School is so much more than teaching our children times tables, let us never forget that.
When I read about statistics and the pressure on teachers to hit insane targets, it’s saddens me so much. The person you trust to care for your child during school hours, is there for so much more than reading and writing, the passion and dedication I have seen for my children’s holistic welfare stretches far beyond ofsted reports. Children’s services, again, a wealth of information and help for families dealing with loss of any kind; endless opportunities for help, if you choose to use it.
This intricate network that can be accessed at will, is something for us to be very proud of and protect. It’s helped my family to get back on our feet, strong and united, safe in the knowledge we have our safety net ready to catch us if we need it. It’s helped us to find our new kind of family, ready for whatever challenges are thrown at us next.
It’s crucial that we work to protect and support these services; did I know that half of them existed? No. Did I think I would ever need to use them? No. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and it’s in those times you are able to experience just how incredible our county can be. There are so many unsung heros working in those roles for minimal income, that do it for the privalage of helping others in crisis,and supporting our countries families. Let us not forget them, when we support striking junior doctors; so many who are working in education, healthcare and support services are not highly paid and are often overlooked in the crucial roles they play. It’s a small accolade, but thankyou, I hope to give back what I have taken from the pot, and return that support in anyway I can.
The next chapter has already begun. We all look to the future with hope and excitement, wondering what adventures will be next. It is so true that those darkest hours can be the ones that define who you are in such a positive way, if you just hold on, retain your dignity and strength, and ask for help. I value what I have now so much more because of the places I have been. To sit with my girls doing our adult colouring books in the evening and talking, is amazing, watching them dancing around the kitchen to loud tunes while they wash up; I’m so grateful for those small moments – times of peace, and pure joy. The look on their faces when I staggered out of the sea in my bikini in the wind and rain on New Year’s Day…. awe and pride( with a dash of “is she actually insane!?”)
I’m their mum. Strong, fierce and I will never ever quit and just ‘survive’ again.
I want to inspire them to always fight for more, never give up, no matter what life throws at them.
I want to teach them through my actions, to take ownership of their lives and choices, and let the things they can’t control slip away without defining who they are.
I couldn’t have done it alone, but can now see that despite any doubts I had in myself and my ability to cope, I have in fact, got this.