Tag Archives: challenge

Teenage Troubles

I want to be a good mum. Actually, I want to be a great mum, one of the best and I want my my boys to really connect with me. I didn’t, however, anticipate what I was in for with teenage years. I can’t stop looking back at photos of their cute little faces and curly blonde hair. Scrumptious, sweet, adorable cherubs and they adored me.

Not so much adoring going on now. Lots of doors closing in my face and sulky, sullen exchanges of words. Other people always comment on what a lovely and polite boy my eldest is, which is great to hear and I’m so proud of him for that. Sadly, I don’t see much of that side of him at home. He generally can be seen rolling his eyes, completely irritated by my presence. When did I become so uncool?

What I didn’t appreciate when I was a teenager was how much my mum and dad had to bite their tongues to stop themselves from lowering to my base level. The temptation to stamp my feet, say something really spitefully sarcastic and add a swear word for effect is huge. It’s a level of self control I never knew I had and I don’t always manage to have it either. My 13 year old has not reached quite the same level of ‘teenage’ communication yet but it will come I am sure. My eldest, B, is 16 in a few weeks. I was in his way in the kitchen today. He had earphones in and he just snarled. Literally snarled at me. I’m not kidding. If looks could kill I’d be a gonner. Then off he stomped to his bedroom, Xbox on and the door firmly shut. The strange thing is that at other times he is clearly still a child. My baby. He will forget himself occasionally and “mummy” will slip out instead of “mum” or “oy!”. He’s generally not keen on any touchy feely stuff but if I am sad then he has no problem with giving me a hug. It’s the moments where it feels as though he really doesn’t like me that are the hardest. I guess that’s what we sign up for when we become parents. Doesn’t make it any easier when your time comes though.

My role seems different now. It’s to parent from a distance maybe. To gently guide but not dictate or control. To allow him space to find his own way and begin to develop his adult personality. To let him separate from me but continue to provide security and reassurance. He needs an environment where he can take some risks knowing that there is a safety net of his family to catch him if he needs it. Goodness it’s complex when you write it down. I know I am never going to get it right all the time but I’ll do my best and my best means doing it sober. B still remembers the rubbish I used to spout when I’d been drinking. He’s repeated it back to me on a couple of occasions. I’m so relieved that doesn’t happen any longer.

I’m not a perfect parent but I doubt anyone is. I lose my temper, try to control too much and sometimes withdraw. I love them both with all my heart and watching them grow into young adults is a bitter sweet experience. So proud of them and happy they are independent and confident, but at the same time wanting them to stay little and close to me. Yep, these teenage years are tricky to navigate but I am facing them head on. I am not wallowing in a fog of booze and drowning my sorrows. Instead, I am clear and awake. I am experiencing the good times and finding the positives, of which, my friends, there are many.

Claire x

ps. The title photo is B’s self portrait for a lockdown task set by his uncle. Pretty cool eh?

Loss

I wrote this post in response to a request for submissions on someone else’s blog. The idea was to write about what grief means for us as individuals. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t posted but as it was already written, I thought I’d publish it on my own blog anyway.

I haven’t really had to cope with grief over the loss of a loved one. I mean, I have lost my grandparents which was very sad and I have attended funerals and observed others’ grief. Raw and real. I haven’t been though it myself though and I am thankful for that. I know my time will come. 
Loss comes to us in many ways though. I have experienced it a few times and the grief process is not an easy one to manage. What can be particularly difficult is when you have chosen the situation that leads to the loss. Then it becomes your own doing and trickier to grieve. What can further complicate matters is when guilt and shame are added into the mix. I look back and it’s no wonder I struggle with my mental health some days. One day I’ll write about it. When I’m brave and ready. 
Today, though, I am contemplating loss of what once was and the loss of potential of what might have been. This can include many things really. Youth and growing older, young love, old love, children growing up and away, friendships ending, marriage changing, family, security, life with alcohol. Many things have come and gone and altered. I look back and there aren’t many people in my life now who were there 15 years ago and likely it will be a similar story in 15 years time. I am not a person that lets go very easily. I absolutely hate saying goodbye. You can imagine how difficult it was to get me to leave a party after I’d been drinking. Another tick for sobriety. Endings make me incredibly sad and I often try to avoid them. It’s important to acknowledge them though and to start the grief process. That’s the only way you can come out the other side. Even when it has really hurt to say goodbye and the pain has been almost unbearable, eventually I am able to reflect back and feel positive about most of the things I have lost, even if the losing was horrible. 
I do wonder sometimes whether is is better not to open ourselves up to further loss. Why continue, when you reach the tender age of 48 and older, to form new friendships and relationships that by the very law of nature will lead to loss? People leave. It’s a fact. Situations change. Another fact. I think I will always continue to look for that connection and friendship with others though, despite feeling the grief of my own personal circumstances right now. If I didn’t reach out to others then I would not have found the support I have received via this blogging community. New friendships are always possible and endings can lead to fresh starts and adventure. So I won’t fear the future because it might bring loss and grief. That would be a life half lived. I’ll be sure to remind myself of this as and when the sun sets on another goodbye.
Claire x

Therapy and mirrors

I had a telephone consultation with my GP (doctor) this morning. He is happy with regards to me starting my antidepressants again and I already referred myself for the NHS counselling service. I have been put on a waiting list for 6 sessions and in addition I am currently following an on line CBT programme. I’m grateful to have access to anything that might help and willing to give things a go. I’m not loving the online course I have to say. There’s a lot of information I already know. My problem seems to be with using the strategies. It’s all very logical and sensible but bloody impossible when you feel like crap and logic and sense have done a runner.

Overall, I haven’t had a lot of success with counselling. I had 6 sessions CBT face to face when I was initially diagnosed as depressed and anxious. This was organised through work. I’d go as far to say, it was a load of rubbish and a waste of time. I hadn’t taken any medication at that point in proceedings and I was in a bit of a state. The lady was lovely but I just said what she wanted to hear. When she suggested I looked at myself in the mirror every morning and say the words ‘I love you’, I just knew we were on a completely different wavelength. After the final session I walked out feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that I didn’t have to go back again!

My next dabble into the wonderful world of therapy was a locally run charity. My cousin had recommended it. There was a long waiting list but after 4 months I had my first session. Unfortunately, within 3 weeks of starting, my mental health hit an all time low and I had stopped eating. I saw the GP again and there was no choice really. Time to medicate. I continued with the counselling and we talked about a whole range of things. It was more helpful than before and certainly, with the antidepressants kicking in, I did feel more positive. That said, though it’s nice to have someone to talk to and not judge, I honestly don’t think it changed anything for me. It was interesting and I learnt a few new things but in terms of it improving how I was feeling or dealing with life stuff, it didn’t. Again, the counsellor, Sharon, felt I had done really well in the sessions and called them to a close. I am really good at talking the ‘counselling and therapy talk’ by the way. I don’t know why I do it because it doesn’t do me a single favour. I still do it though.

This is most definitely a cycle. I stopped the meds not long after this period of counselling because I felt well again. Yup, you guessed it, within 4 months I had re-referred myself back to the same charity and had started sessions again, with a new counsellor, this time a man. A few weeks in, I was back on antidepressants and so it goes on. I think I possibly took more from the counselling that time. He gave me lots to read and research and I learned so much about personal development. By this stage I felt I deserved a degree. I still however could not apply it to myself. Or maybe I just didn’t try. Again, the sessions came to a natural end. I was one of the hardest working clients he’d had. Same old story. Top of the therapy class. Gold star. Still no real progress for me though.

Not long after these sessions finished I gave up drinking alcohol. Interestingly my reliance and addiction to booze had never come up in any of my counselling or therapy sessions. I’d touched on it and I’d always been open and honest about how much I’d been drinking. On reflection I think they dropped the ball with that. Since being sober I have felt so much better. Sure there are times when it’s been horrible to have to experience the emotions without having wine as my crutch but I am more honest with myself and others. I’m not giving up on counselling or therapy, I just not sure what it can give me anymore. Whilst sober and taking antidepressants I can use the information and the strategies and yes, they work. Take away the meds and it’s like I’ve never heard of triggers, behaviours, reframing etc. Maybe I’m not cut out for counselling. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘fit’. Maybe it will finally be successful one day. I am absolutely sure of two things though. One, taking the medication only ever really worked when I was sober. Two, I am never going to stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I love you’. Just saying.

Claire x

Why I quit drinking…

I wanted to share this post. I read it today and thought, like Jim’s post earlier about the evangelical sober authors, giving up booze is not easy. Life doesn’t suddenly become rosy and delightful. In fact you see life for what it is. I love how Charlie expresses it and for all those well into sobriety and those who are just starting out … it’s well worth a read.

Claire x

I had to. I mean I had a choice. I didn’t HAVE to. There wasn’t a disgruntled wife standing at the door, coat on, screaming startling accurate …

Why I quit drinking…

Going Keto

Time for a long overdue update. My recent posts have all been a little on the naval gazing side of things and too much naval gazing makes Claire a very dull girl.

A little bit of good news at last. Yesterday I had my interview for the position I’ve been covering at work for the past 4 months. I was offered the job and I have accepted. There are still lots of unknowns regarding the pay, the banding of my current role (as this is an ‘add on’) and the lines of responsibility but there has been agreement this will be addressed. This is a start and a big step forward. A month ago my stress and anxiety levels were pushed to the max due to feeling ignored and unappreciated at work and I was unsure what direction to take. I set boundaries and I communicated the issues and my expectations. I came to terms with accepting that, should the situation did not change, I would walk away. It was a really tough time and I hit a very rocky patch emotionally but I stuck it out. Now, I have been officially offered the post and I will be paid (at least something) for it. Underlying issues need to be resolved and I am quite ready to stand up for myself if they aren’t sorted. I have found an inner strength and self belief that allows me to know my worth and not accept anything less. That feels pretty darn good.

In other news, I have worked my little proverbial socks off since we arrived back from the ill fated caravan trip. There hasn’t been much time for anything else. I kick started yoga again. Boy, one week off had a big impact. I’m was absolutely not a yoga guru before the holiday but this last week I have been a creaky and squeaky old lady. Lots of muttering a few expletives under my breath as I attempted a ‘sort of’ downward dog and a very wobbly warrior three. Never have I been so relieved to hear the words, “now we will get ready for our final pose, corpse pose”. Thank the Lord for Shavasana.

My weight has been worrying me for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hugely overweight but I have gained a fair few pounds over the past year. In fact, 2 years ago I stuck a huge bag of clothes in the loft. Clothes that were far too big for me. Last week, the ‘fat clothes’ had to come back out of said loft. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, some of them were too tight! Oh the shame and mortification. I reflected on why I might have gained so much weight. Looking for reasons other than the lorry loads of chocolate I consume every night. My daily activity levels have seriously reduced during lockdown. When you reach the end of the day and your smart watch tells you the total daily steps are 82 you know you need to get your arse moving. So, I tried a run on Tuesday. It was a very unpleasant experience from start to finish. I felt so heavy and each and every step was torture. In addition, my joints and limbs have been so achy, stuff and sore recently. This can’t go on. Time to take action.

My plan is to increase activity levels and manage my food intake. I will persevere with the running and ensure that every day I at least run or walk 2 miles. I will continue with my yoga. I will, and here is the biggie, go on the 30 day keto diet. I have bought the book. I’m reading it now. This is my new ‘thing’. If I can ditch the wine, I can do this for 30 days and hopefully for the longer term. So, Dr Josh Axe, author of ‘Keto Diet’ …. let’s do this thing. Who’s with me? Anyone? Hello… Are you there? Hmm, radio silence ….

I’ll keep you all updated. Be warned, this may not be pretty.

Claire x

The unexpected (missing) joy of holidays

My last post was all about my saying ‘yes’. It was a kind of poem, sending out a declaration of intention. Sadly I haven’t really abided by many of the statements I made. All too quickly the negatives and the ‘if only’ thoughts crept in.

I’m away on holiday right now. It’s drawing to a close. I was really looking forward to coming away. I told myself I’d just sit, be happy with chilling and not doing anything much. I would be the queen of zen and tranquility. I even brought my yoga mat to take to the beach. What was I thinking?

In reality, the whole arrival and setting up the caravan was a complete fiasco. The drive took almost 5 hrs. The site information had clearly stated “levelling blocks would be required” but my husband had chosen to ignore this little nugget. As we perched at a very precarious angle on the side of a slope he finally admitted defeat and I had to race down to a caravan shop to buy ‘recommended’ levelling blocks. The van would still not level out and we enlisted the help of 5 other caravaners and a ramp, kindly donated by some bloke that felt sorry for us. Eventually we were level. Two hours later.

Level and ready to go, we started the mammoth task of unpacking. We have an old, small van and a large awning where most of our junk gets housed. Last year the awning broke. We got it fixed but one of the new poles was a little awkward. Holding up the proceedings even further. Then, no running water. The pump was doing nothing. This was something that had been a problem when we last used the van. Something that was on the list of jobs that my husband had a year to sort. You can see where this is going can’t you? No running water in times of COVID-19 is absolutely not my idea of fun. The shower blocks were set up for social distancing, two people at a time. Not only would we have to queue every time we wanted a shower or a wee (my husband bans using the toilet on the caravan) but to wash our hand and brush our teeth too. Deep sigh.

So, at around 9.30pm I had to start cooking burgers and sausages. By this point, I was seething. I kept trying to channel ‘the power of now’. This isn’t a problem. This is holiday time. Stop yelling at the world and your family and get over it. I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t and I didn’t. I raged against humanity. I spiralled into ‘poor me’ and ‘this is so unfair’ territory. I was a complete toddler and I became more difficult, with an increasing bad temper, as the night (and next day) wore on.

We managed to buy a new pump eventually. My husband was slow to sort it, waiting for me to go buy it no doubt. My mood remained uptight and stressy for a good few days. Not helped by observing my 15 year old giving me the finger when he thought I wasn’t looking. He was upset I’d asked him to put his phone away for a while. I resented everyone and everything. I knew I’d reached crunch point when I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to go and buy a bottle of wine and drink it. I’d even reasoned that although sobriety had improved my mental health for many months, it was doing nothing for me now. I was grouchy, cross and stressed. I wasn’t enjoying the moment and peace evaded me. Why not just go back to having something in my life that I could look forward to and enjoy? It was the closest I have been to drinking again in 8 months. I chose not to drink but my resolve is wavering.

Eventually, after a torrent of tears yesterday evening, I picked myself up and made the decision to say ‘yes’ to enjoying the rest of the trip. The little that was left of it. My son apologised, told me he loved me and it was a sudden ‘reaction’. We moved on.

Today has been better. I ran this morning. I haven’t done that in weeks. I wrote an email to a friend and read her lovely long reply which was immensely supportive. Her suggestion, that I maybe reconsider taking antidepressants, is something I have thought a about a great deal. I’m still very undecided. I don’t want to but I also don’t want to waste my life worrying and stressing about unimportant issues and small hiccups. The peace, calm and sense of ‘all is ok’ is not with me as it once was. I’m not crazily anxious and nor am I ‘depressed’. I just don’t have the ability to give myself a good (and well deserved) kick up the bum.

Well that’s me right now. In the morning I’m up early for seal watching with my younger son. Some quality time (another bit of good advice I followed). I’m trying not to be hard on myself and I’m trying to ignore the guilt and regret I feel at wasting this precious holiday time. I know it’s time I won’t get back. I guess there’s a lot of sadness and some deep rooted unhappiness that prevents me really feeling at ease. I can see the caravan holidays are coming to an end as a family of four. The eldest is outgrowing it both physically and emotionally. I suspect their growing up is an event I have not wanted to face. The grief it stirs up is too painful for me to even allow in. Perhaps that is something to reflect on and maybe a post for another day.

Love Claire x

Today

I have a mindfulness journal. I found it in a cheap bookshop and art store. It was £3. I have almost filled it with thoughts and emotions. There are exercises and prompts to help focus my writing and one of the final questions was …

What do I want to do today?

I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination but this is what I wrote ..

Today I want to move forward 
Today I want to feel acceptance and gratitude
Today I want love, peace and kindness
Today I want calm
Today is a day for people who love, respect and care for me
Today I want to let go
Today I want mindfulness, joy and laughter
Today I want nature and fresh air
Today I want family
Today I want friends
Today I want to look in the mirror and say ‘I like you, you’re ok’
Today I want to breathe
Today is the day it happens
Today I will move forward

The instruction was to write down one thing but as always I went rogue and created a huge ‘to do list!’ I won’t accomplish it all today, but TODAY is where it begins.

Love Claire xx

Unanswered questions …

You can never take your sobriety for granted. Never take your eye off the ball. Don’t assume you are safely through to the other side. That is what I’ve learnt today.

This past week has been full of anxiety triggers for me. Work pressures and stress, the sad loss of a very old family friend, not having been able to see my closest friend for 4 months now (and still likely to be longer) and the outlook and reporting on the news just so bloody bleak. In addition, I am fully med free having spent 4 weeks weaning off my antidepressants. I have had virtually no sleep since Friday, struggling to go off until 2 or 3am and then awake again at 5am. Then, today, for the first time in ages, the unthinkable happened. I wanted a drink.

It wasn’t a romantic, sit by a lake, enjoying a picnic, sipping a glass of Prosecco type of longing. Oh no! It was a full on, fuck this, I want to go and buy two bottles of wine (white or red – I’m not fussy) and drink the whole lot type of craving. Nor was it a, “I’m a bit curious as to whether I can moderate and be able to live with alcohol once again” moment. Nope. It was a, “moderation is for idiots, I’m going to get totally pissed and I don’t care” attitude.

Don’t panic. I haven’t. I went out and bought plants and shrubs for the garden. I bought paint for the utility walls and white spirit to mop up the paint I will undoubtably spill on the floor. I did not treat myself to a Chablis or a Shiraz. I’m not currently lying on my bed half comatose having fallen spectacularly off the wagon. It is however a sign I’m struggling again. What I can’t work out is what is acceptable and ‘normal’? Is it ok to feel anxious because problems, challenges and change are all happening at once? Is it ok that the anxiety is kickstarting my over thinking and subsequently affecting my ability to accurately read and interpret a situation? Is it ok that sleep has suddenly evaded me after achieving a consistent 8hrs every night for months and months? I suppose the question I really want the answer to is this. Is this the return of generalised anxiety disorder and is it directly linked to my coming off the SSRIs? I honestly can’t face it all again.

How long do you wait to find out? What if I’m basically just a stress head and I need to accept it as part of me, rather than blaming it on a mental health illness? Everyone gets stressed. I’m just not sure when my ‘stressed’ tips over into becoming unwell. Mental health is so complex. The interplay between lack of sleep, stress triggers, meds, personality and, let’s not forget, the lovely peri-menopause, makes it hard to tease out the cause and therefore the best way to manage it. I used a word early on in my sobriety. Tangled. It’s such a descriptive word and is exactly how I feel once more. Tangled.

I didn’t drink. I won’t drink. I know it is not the answer. Quite what is, I really have no idea.

Love Claire x

Life goes on

Last night I had very little sleep. I received a work email at around 11.30pm and stupidly I looked at it. I won’t go into details but I’m currently in one of those situations where I’ve taken on an additional role, not been paid for it but I wanted to do it to support my team. My grade for my regular post is significantly lower than anyone else doing the same job across the UK anyway and my employers have never been too fussed by that. Anyway, the long and short is the email made me feel incredibly devalued and demotivated. I have made a decision that I won’t continue with the additional role because the offer of any pay increase is minimal in real terms and the trust (I work for the NHS) won’t address any of the issues I have raised. They want me to continue working like a crazy woman but only do the bare minimum to support me. I would be a total mug to carry on.

Many reading this will wonder what the issue is. If the package isn’t right, don’t do it. The problem is more complex than that. When I’m challenged at work and have responsibility for making changes and decisions, although stressful, it motivates me. It actually keeps boredom and depression at bay. I want to make changes and influence our service for the families, children and adults we treat. I get a real buzz from that. It’s only possible to be influential if you are in certain positions and are mixing in certain circles. However, if I continue to invest the same level of time and energy with absolutely no recognition or support, I’ll likely end up struggling with my mental health anyway, just from the stress and resentment alone.

What to do? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s time for a change anyway. I’m limited with where I can go with my specialist clinical skill set and location constraints. I’ve considered volunteering for the Samaritans and have applied. I was going to put this on hold due to work pressures and time commitments but maybe that’s the way forward now. I’ve considered further education and completing a masters or even a PhD … finally using research to validate a patient outcome measure I developed years ago. Last night I was so wound up and frustrated at reading the email. This morning I cried big tears as I wrote to the individual whose role I have been covering, informing them I would not be continuing. Now, though I feel sad about the situation, I am already looking ahead and making new plans. I recognise this is so different to where I was a year ago. I’m not hungover, jaded and feeling sorry for myself. I’m calm and I will manage. I am hurting though. Life always seems to throw up little challenges and tests along the way. Decisions to be made. Keeps us on our toes I guess. Dealing with them sober is the only way I can cope. Thank God I am sober.

Love Claire xx

Rose

I’ve had one of my little blogging blocks again recently. I’ve started a post a few times this last week but they haven’t amounted to anything. When that happens I just have to go back to my tried and tested method of writing any old waffle that comes to mind. A lovely blogging friend also suggested starting with a photo and seeing where that leads. My photo is of a rose in my parents’ garden. They bought the rose bush as a gift to each other on their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. It has the same name as my first name. Claire is actually my middle name. Pretty isn’t it?

I took the photo on Sunday. We were visiting on Father’s day. A lockdown garden visit. My parents were really excited to see their grandsons. Unfortunately my husband and I rather ruined the atmosphere by arriving in the middle of a very heated discussion. Some more sensitive folk would have classed it as a full blown row. The content doesn’t matter here. The issue is that this past week (and for a little while now) there has been a regular flow of similar spats and disagreements. It’s become wearing. I can’t really work out why it’s occurring more, if indeed it is. Maybe I’m simply more aware of it. It’s very bloody irritating though. It feels as though I need to ask permission to do things I want to do. As though I have to check out if it’s ok to just be me. I know, I know. Here I go, being all over dramatic again. I am starting to figure some stuff out though and once you see, you can’t unsee.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to ‘people please’. Wanting everyone to like me. I’ve agreed to do things I didn’t want to do. I’ve allowed decisions to be made I didn’t feel comfortable with. I’ve even altered my own opinions and beliefs to match those of others around me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stood my ground in many a dispute and argument. Stated my case and my opinion loudly and at times aggressively. All when I have been as drunk as a skunk. It’s almost like I didn’t set any boundaries within relationships or make my needs known. Eventually that led to bitterness, resentment and anxiety. Mix up that little concoction with a bucket load of booze and what do you get? Fireworks. A mouthy, opinionated (and occasionally obnoxious) Claire. What do you get the next day? A sad, guilty, remorseful and humiliated Claire. A Claire who then apologises profusely for speaking her mind and expressing her feelings. Upset and devastated that people might not like her. Trying desperately to make amends, Back to square one. A little less self esteem, a little more eager to please and so it goes on.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things. One of the most important being that I have a right to my own opinion and I have my own needs. Not everyone needs to like me and it is ok to say ‘no’ or not agree with others. The knock on effect has been that I am now clear about my boundaries. What and where they are. I express myself more effectively and I walk away from situations and relationships that are unhelpful and potentially damaging. I no longer seethe with resentment or bitterness because I am being used or treated unfairly. I will either attempt to address the issue or simply disengage and try to let it go, knowing I am worth more. No alcohol means no uncontrollable release of frustrations that have built up slowly over time. No regrets and guilt at losing control when pissed equals much improved self esteem and self belief. All this is incredibly positive. It does, however, have a significant impact on some of my closest and most long term relationships. Relationships where, for a long time, I have played the part of ‘pleasing’ and ‘giving in’ to maintain the status quo and be liked (and hopefully not abandoned). Relationships cultivated and built on the ‘agree – fall in line – challenge when drunk – apologise continually – make amends’ cycle. As I have developed and changed, those friendships and relationships (including the one with my husband) are being seriously tested and forced to change too. Some are possibly not going to survive this transition. That’s a scary thought but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. I will approach it as I approached sobriety, one small step at a time.

This quote is from my home page. I believe I have started to grow back after a pretty harsh winter. Like the rose with the same name, I may have even started blossom.

Love Claire x