Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Stay At Home Mom Turned Teacher because of COVID-19

We live in Ireland, and the kids were send home from school on Thursday 12th March, they had enough work for Friday, and the week ahead, and the rest would be provided on an ongoing basis.  My son came home with a bulging bag containing all of his school books, they were home until the 29th March.  

I was sceptical as to how this would work out, but my son has often spoken about wanting to be homeschooled when my husband and I have discussed it in the past, we were thinking of moving countries and said homeschool might be an option.  So here was a good chance to see if homeschooling could work, and how it would work.  

To be fair it's not really homeschooling, it's more like school work at home.  The teachers are doing all the ground work providing a list of things to do, and as a parent at home we follow the laid out plan for the day, help where we can, google a lot and pretend we knew the answer without google!  

Well day one was such a huge success I took to social media to brag about my brilliant child, who came up with a system to do his school work all on his own, and apart from reminding him every now and again that his break had finished he managed to do all the work on his own without fights.  Naivity was at work!  

The weekend came around and we stayed home and pretended to sort the house out, but in actual fact we binge watched the TV.  Then Monday and Tuesday were holidays because of the St Patricks Day long weekened so we got lucky, not a full week of school work at home.  We had music on Tuesday though, my son's music school came up with the brilliant idea of doing his 1 to 1 lessons via whatsapp or skype, and it was amazing, a huge success.  He loved it, and for the first time in ages we got to sit in on his lessons.  It was fun for the whole family.  

Then Wednesday morning arrived, we had a plan, a schedule and a list of do's and don'ts that we had sat down and discussed with out son, and everyone agreed to them.  Oh the naivity makes me smile now.  We had a few complaints about the amount of work, and with a few fights he got the work done by about 3 with lots of obligatory breaks, lunch and outside time.  As a parent and home schooler I was nailing this routine down to a tee.  Not as smooth sailing as the first Friday I admitted - but I was still good at this!  

Thursday morning arrived, I hadn't slept that well and my son didn't want breakfast so I said I would give him an extra 30 mins of free time before we started school work at home.  I was being flexible and how lovely to allow him extra time in the morning beofre the work began in earnest.  Oh the naivity.  By the time I actually got my son to the table to look over the work he literally took one look at it and threw all the toys and school work out the cot, and we proceeded into a 30 minute meltdown.  I did the worst thing ever when said meltdown started and reiterated all the things that would not be happening if he didn't get his butt to the table and do said school work at home.  That went down like a lead balloon, and made the whole meltdown worse.  

Eventually after 30 mins in our own corners we all calmed down enough to come together to discuss what had happened.  I was really looking forward to that glass of wine early on!  We did a meditation to calm us both down, and I restrained myself from having a glass of wine and instead we then approached the work one item at a time. 

I realised the reason for the meltdown.  On a daily basis in class kids don't get to see 'all' the work that they have to do in a day, but school at home showed them what was laid out for the day, and it totally overwhelmed my son.  Now he is well able to get all the work that is assigned done in the morning if he just sits down and does it.  

But I learnt a valuable lesson that morning, school work at home needs to be done in stages, and strict routines in times like these just doesn't work.  Now as a family we are lucky that I am not working at the moment because I can be flexible with my son, and so long as we start the work by 10am I know he will be finished by 2 or 3 depending on the breaks we take.  

Now I am truly flexible, my son wakes up when he wants to.  Breakfast is between 8 and 9 generally, but if he gets up at 9 we push things to suit the day.  After breakfast he has about 30 mins to do whatever he wants, and then we start school work.  I have let him guide me in how long he can sit for, some days we will get three or four things done before he needs a break.  And then there are days like today where he needs to take a break after each bit of work.  Whatever works, and I am learning to choose the path of least resistance!  

So day 12 at home today, lessons learnt.  We are now on a type of lockdown, our leaders don't want to call it a lockdown, I like to think of it as sheltering - for now.  We are being asked to only go out if absolutely necessary to buy groceries, medicines, to help someone or to exercise.  All shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs gyms - well basically anything non-essential is closed down for now.  It is so scary, and sometimes I can't breathe my anxiety is so bad.  But I have to keep thinking about what I should be grateful for.  I am grateful my husband still has a job, so we can still pay rent and survive.  I am grateful we are all together, and that we are all healthy, I really hope we remain healthy.  

Tomorrow I am going to try and add a little 'cooking lesson' to the day, but we will see what tomorrow brings!  

Scraping my Knees from my Fall and Trying Again, with a different approach!

Well last year my posts stopped around July time.  It was my wedding anniversary in July and I decided that I'd be able to have a few drinks with my husband for our anniversary and then I'd stop again until my 40th later in the year.  Well you can guess what happened.  I am drinking, vaping, struggling with anxiety and depression and the world has gone mad with me this time!  

What crazy times we are living in, I never ever thought anything like this would hapen during my lifetime, but here we are.  I have a son who I am now homeschooling, my husband is working from home all the time and I am slowly going crazier!  No, not really, I am loving the time that I get to spend with my son, and I love doing his school work with him.  In truth I am not drinking as much as I was, but I am loving having a glass or two in the evenings with or after dinner as a night cap.  I do get grumpy when my husband drinks my wine though.  

So, where do I go from here.  In truth I don't know.  Being totally sober was a good experience, but I like having a few drinks here and there.  The key is keeping it to a few drinks here or there.  Sometimes we go overboard, but I have to limit the amount of self-abuse I dish out, and I am trying to learn to be self-compassionate and practice good self-care habits.  I think for now those are the important things for me.  

Just before COVID-19 hit I had an appointment with my psychiatrist.  I am still seeing one, and she wanted me to go back into the day programme for a few weeks on a part-time basis to do the programmes that work for me, and also it would give her an opportunity to change up my meds a bit.  Christmas was hard, and just after christmas we found out that my Mom hasn't been very well and has lost a lot of weight.  The doctors can't find anything wrong, but she weighs under 50kg's at the moment which is not good, so I have a lot of feelings and guilt around that.  Guilt because, well that's another story for another day.   

So, I was told that I could start in the hospital today, but my son has asthma and my husband has high blood pressure, both high risk conditions if they were to contract COVID-19, so I decided the risk of going into the hospital on a daily basis just wasn't worth the risk of picking up the virus at this point.  I did say that if they still want to change up my meds then I would be willing to go in as an inpatient, they are going to discuss it at their multi-disciplinary meeting and let me know.  I miss going into the hospital to see the art therapist, and I miss going in to see the psychiatric nurse for a check up, but right now my place is at home, and I have to suck it up.  

I actually hate that saying, suck it up.  It is impossible to 'suck it up' when you are struggling with anger, depression, anxiety and I guess any mental health.  It is dibilitating suffering from PTSD sometimes, and anxiety can be so overwhelming that sometimes all you can do is lay down and pray that it passes sooner rather than later.  Inevitably it does pass, but man it can be hard waiting it out.  These are the times that I struggle with the most, and instead of laying down and waiting it out I can often be found somewhere in the house practising very unhealthy coping strategies, that in the end just add to the shame I feel daily.  I am a self harmer.  

There is no point saying that I only do this when or that I only use it when or that I haven't done cutting in ages.  The truth is my self harm takes on many faces, and each one makes me feel like crap.  But on a daily basis I still feel the need to practice my self-harm tendencies.  I wish I could stop.  It sounds so stupid, a grown women unable to stop self-harm, but I honestly can't at this point.  I am using it to cover up a lot of emotional pain that I just don't want to deal with, or rather at this point I just can't deal with - maybe I'm lying to myself, maybe I'm just a coward hiding behind bad habits.  The truth is out there, and they say the truth will set you free.  I am freaking terrified of my truth, to have to face all my demons, I am just not there right now.  

So for tonight I am going to try and stop stressing about the what ifs and the hopes and dreams for tomorrow, I am going to try and stop my mind from racing with all these thoughts and feelings, and I am going to try and put the shame outside the door for just a little while, I am going to sit and have a glass of wine without feeling guilty, and go to bed to try and sleep, and tomorrow is a new day!   

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Tough Week

Ugh what a week, I was feeling ok at the start of the week, but by Wednesday I was feeling so deflated, flat and low - and this feeling has lasted all week.  I know we can't always be living on a high but I wish my lows weren't quite so low. 

I am not sure what has triggered this episode, there are a few things happening at the moment that could be the trigger.  I have been having seriously horrible dreams lately, for a few weeks now, and they are knocking me about.  We leave for our holiday on Friday, and I am going back to the place where my Dad used to live to visit friends.  I haven't been back there since my Dad passed away, and I am seeing an aunt who I haven't seen since my Dad passed away.  I have put on so much weight since I last saw her, so I think I am anxious about it.  All little things, but the little things really add up.  

I dropped by a friends house this week and she had bought one of my favourite summer drinks, an alcoholic drink.  It reminds me of home.  I was so tempted to throw the towel in and have one with her, it's probably one of the hardest moments I have had since I stopped drinking.  It has left me doubting myself all week, and my mind is playing havoc with the lies.  Just have the one I think, then it's ok to have one at the weekend, or if you have one by yourself no one will know.  Only problem is I will know.  So for now I am winning that battle, but it's being fought a lot more often than I would like.  I think it's because I am feeling flat at the moment, and drinking was my go to when I felt like this in the past. 

Next week though, on a more positive note I hit the 6 months mark.  The only other time I have not drunk for this long was when I was pregnant with my son.  I am trying to be proud of myself, because it is a huge thing to have given up drinking, especially with the amounts I was drinking on a weekly basis. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Reliving Painful Memories

Wow, it is nearly 3 years since my Dad passed away, I can't believe it!  How does time march on so relentlessly, without regard for suffering or joyous occasions. 

My emotional pain has been really high again, feel like I am being triggered.  I have had a lot of dreams recently so think that has a lot to do with it, but there are times when I am triggered and I have no idea why.  I have started to use a mantra that I read about in the Choice, by Edith Eger.  Every time I am triggered I slow my breathing down and say over and over again - I am here, this is now!  It works sometimes, other times it just takes longer to sink in, sometimes I have to hold something solid while I am saying it, other times it doesn't work and the only thing that helps the panic is to talk to my husband.  

He was recently away for a week and I was petrified most of the time he was away, it's the first time since everything happened that I have been alone with our son.  I was convinced something bad would happen and really struggled with my emotions, but I got through it.  He is going away again in August, and I can already feel the dread.  How sad that a past can take so much of a person away from them, and to rebuild takes time and a conscious effort, a lot of effort actually. 

So I am 166 days without drinking.  WOW, I know I keep saying it, but I never thought I would get so far.  Sometimes I just want to pack it in if only for a brief moment, other times I try and bargain with myself, saying things like it's ok, we will just have one drink on a Friday night, or for special occasions.  But deep down I have to remind myself that I have been lying to myself for years around alcohol consumption, so really what would be different this time, it would start with one drink on a Friday night and would slowly escalate bit by bit until I was drinking all the time again.  

So what do I do during those brief moments to help myself stay strong and not drink, especially in moments where I am dealing with the memories or emotional pain, or the sheer panic of a panic attack.  The go to would always have been pills or alcohol to try and numb the pain, sometimes it would work, other times it would not.  Now I have painting, I love painting.  The smell of the paint calms me as does the actual task of painting.  Mindfulness colouring helps when I don't have the opportunity to paint, but I am also trying to practice drawing and that helps too.  I am so grateful that I found art, it has been a life line during some of my darkest moments.  So that's what helps get me through those moments of doubt.  We all need to find that go to activity that will help settle the mind and take the focus off of our anxiety or panic.  As human beings we default to anxiety over joy every time, so another good practice is to talk to yourself about something positive, I only just learnt this technique and it really works for me.  Yesterday I woke up from a really bad dream and I was so anxious and closing in on a full blown panic attack.  Yesterday also happened to be our anniversary, we have been together for 18 years, so I sat and wrote down facts and points about our relationship.  Now it didn't take all the anxiety away, but I was definitely better off by the time I finished writing. 

Practice makes perfect, forever learning.  Two statements I am trying to learn to live by!  

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Shame, the unspoken feeling that we all have over different things

We all suffer with shame at one point or another, differing degrees and differing circumstances, but we all know the feeling of shame, and what it feels like to suffer it.  Why then is it such a taboo feeling, we never admit when we are feeling ashamed, and for some the shame is not theirs to bear.  We land up feeling ashamed because we are feeling shame.  

When I was a child I was molested by my step grandfather, I don't know how old I was when the abuse started, but it continued till I was about 7 when he passed away.  I was also abused by a cousin that is older than me, he was about 16 when the abuse happened.  I was abused by another cousin, she made me perform sexual acts on another child, she is only about 4 years older than me.  I am really struggling with accepting my history, struggling to accept that these things happened to me, and I am ashamed that they did happen to me.  Why was I abused, and why by so many different people?  I question was it something I said or did?  As mentioned before I landed up in hospital last year suffering from depression and PTSD.  

I am going to therapy every second week to work through my past and my shame.  My psychiatrist asked me a really good question, why is it that the victims of abuse feel the shame when the shame is solely for the abuser to feel, yet as a person who suffered abuse I know that I feel a lot of shame around these events in my past.  I was a victim of abuse, I am on my way to becoming a survivor.  I think to be a survivor I have to have no shame about what happened because it was not, and never will be my fault.  I also carry guilt about my abuse.  I have also been sexually assaulted and raped as an adult, and I still blame myself for these two events.  Up until now I haven't delved into these two events much in my therapy because the shame is too great.  In trying to be honest with myself I know this is probably the next big hurdle I have in overcoming my shame, becoming a survivor, and moving forward. 

So, what is shame and why does it affect victims so much.  I know for me when I have flashbacks to when I was a child I feel violated, dirty, ashamed that someone did such vile things to a child, and a lot of anger.  I think of my son and how I would feel if he came and told me someone had violated him.  I think I would go mad with rage, but I would have to hold it together for him.  So I feel justified in feeling so angry towards my abusers.  The big question I am facing is what do I do next, I have tried to go through the legal avenues against one of my abusers but it got shut down before it even began, and yet here I am still holding on to so much anger and pain that I know I need to do something to heal, yet I don't know what that something is.  

I know I have a lot of shame, and I know I shouldn't have it but what do I do with it, how do I deal with shame.  I am ashamed of my past, ashamed of my past coping mechanisms, and ashamed of what I look like today.  I am ashamed that I couldn't hold it together, and ashamed that I still have so many unhealthy coping mechanisms.  So what next.  The only thing I do know is that I have to be honest with myself about everything, I have to face them head on.  If I can't do these things I will be stuck forever I fear.                                                    

Saturday, 15 June 2019

158 Days

A year sounds so long, 365 days even longer.  I am still about 20 days off of half a year, 6 months of no drinking.  I feel amazing, love the fact that my ankles have stopped swelling, no hangovers, and as an added bonus when I go out we get to drive there and back.  So I am saving on taxis/buses as well as all the health benefits to not drinking.

The big question when people ask me if I found it hard or do I miss it.  Yes sometimes it is hard to stay motivated, and yes sometimes I miss the feeling you get after a few glasses of wine, but these thoughts are not all encompassing, they are brief, and after thinking I miss it, I reassess where I am at and how good I feel for not drinking and I realise I don't miss it as much as I thought I would.  If you had told me this time last year that I would go 100 days of not drinking I would not have believed it.  I was so stuck in the cycle of having wine every night, I remember the panicked feeling I would get if my 6pm I had no wine in the house.  Drinking ruled my life and when I wasnt actually drinking I was thinking about drinking. 

There are other benefits to not drinking too, a huge one for us is the cost.  We have saved over €3000 since I stopped drinking.

Now I do have an addictive personality and I have replaced drinking with eating junk food a lot more than I used to, my sweet of choice at the moment is white chocolate.  So, I have something else at the moment that I need to cut down, but I am going to be proud and happy with the fact that I have not had a drink in over 5 months. 

Saturday, 8 June 2019

5 Months {152 days}

My husband has been away all week in the States for work.  I was in the garage yesterday and I had serious de ja vous, normally when he is away I drink a bit more than when he is here, mainly because I don't have anyone to answer to while he is away.  This week has been so much better than what they used to be like when he went away.  I have woken up hangover free, I can't say that enough, it is so nice not waking up feeling like a bus hit me, and someone took sandpaper to my tongue, and that throbbing headache that feels like someone is taking a hammer to your head.  I do not miss these things one little bit. 

I am proud of how I coped with him being away as well, it's the first trip he has been on since I was in hospital, and there were moments where I felt really lonely and I didn't feel like I was coping, but I have a new mantra when my anxiety kicks in, or my fight, flight, freeze is triggered.  I have to put my hand on something solid and I say I'm here, this is now.  It brings me back to the present.  A lot of my anxiety gets triggered when something reminds me of the abuse, or the violence that was in our house while I was growing up, I still don't know all my triggers but I am learning!

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist recently as well, and according to her I am no longer depressed.  I feel like a weight has been lifted since she said that to me.  Now I still have really crappy days where I feel like my world is ending, or that I've fallen down a well and can't get out, but they don't last as long as they used to, and I am learning new coping skills to help me overcome these feelings. 
My brother had a leaving function at his current job and they invited my husband and I, as my husband is away I went by myself.  I was anxious about going, but I went, and it was great to see people I haven't seen in years, and I coped well.  This time last year it is something that I would not have been able to do, so new things are happening which is really encouraging for me.   I was sitting next to my brother who was drinking wine, and I was tempted a few times to take a sip.  He asked me to get him a glass of wine at one point and I walked over to the serving area with trepidation, but I did it, and I managed not to take a sip.  I just have to keep reminding myself how far I have come, and how much I want to avoid slipping back into unhealthy coping mechanisms.  My son and my husband are my anchors that I think of when these thoughts come around, they both have said they are happier that I am not drinking so that is a huge incentive. 

I am trying to cut down on the sugar consumption, and I am not longer smoking, so it's a few new steps in the right direction, long way to go still, but this week I feel strong about my journey.  I wish I could bottle up weeks like this one where I don't hit too many brick walls, life would be so much easier if they were all like this one! 

If anyone is reading my blog I would love to hear your stories, and your coping mechanisms!