Grief is hard.

The pain of loss is hard.

I wrote most of this a few months ago, but finished it while walking across a grassy field on a sunny day. Hope it helps you if you need it.

There are some instances of grief that are crippling at first but fade over time. Other losses stay equally and painfully strong over a long period of time and actually just create a space to exist; almost a hollow where you can carry that grief and the pain may change over time but it’s still there.

The process of grief is often a concealed, inner ache that is rarely discussed. The theory of the seven stages of grief can be helpful but the reality is often not so simple… These stages are:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Pain and Guilt
  3. Anger and Bargaining
  4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness
  5. The Upward Turn
  6. Reconstruction and Working Through
  7. Acceptance and Hope

The second stage, Pain and Guilt, proves the most difficult in my experience, particularly when someone close dies unexpectedly. Sometimes grief comes without warning, leaving you reeling just when you think your having a really nice day! In my mind, I still see a close friend walking into my office in only full leathers unzipped to the waist. Apparently it was too hot to wear anything else; the receptionist did not know where to look! He died in a motorbike accident in 2004 and is not forgotten, even though he was never on Facebook…

Then after my grandmother died, I kept going to the phone to call her, realising too late that she was no longer there… and a new wave of grief would hit me every time. This still happens five years later.

I wonder whether the Victorian approach to grieving was more honest. They wore black and went into mourning for a year. We seem to expect that grieving people only need support up to the funeral, but that’s not where grief ends, it’s actually where it often begins. Before that you’re just too busy with the arrangements.

Thankfully, there is now a social place to talk about the practical aspects and the recovery from losing someone. At the Death Cafe, the unsaid parts of dying are said. The practical, including how to make a will through to the grieving process are openly discussed. I’ve not been yet, but weirdly, think it’s important to.

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

There are other kinds of grief but these are not spoken of or understood so easily…

The grief of a broken relationship. The grief of a dream or hope that does not reach fruition. The grief of redundancy or even simply the loss of something precious to you, can all be painful to handle. There are some losses you may not ever recover fully from but can still move on from, even if you’re inherently different inside as a result. Just remember that there is help out there if you need it.

The Counselling Directory can help you find someone qualified to talk to. I suggest being selective and choosing someone who suits your needs at the time, as well as your personality.

I also came across some books recently that might help:

  • I am about to read ‘Michael Rosen’s Sad Book‘ (ISBN 9781406317848) written after the loss of his 19 year old son.
  • There is also ‘Badger’s Parting Gifts‘ (ISBN 9781849395144) written to help children who are bereaved, but also helped me to remember the experiences I shared with the person I lost. I’ve read it to my daughter many times.

For people who have just emerged from a broken relationship, Life After the Break training is available from Relate in Oxfordshire. I’m not sure if this is available across the country as yet, apologies.

As yet, I haven’t come across anything that helps specifically with losing a job, but maybe someone else has. Please let me know if you do!

I hope this blog has been helpful whatever your loss. If you are in mourning, please be kind to yourself. It’s not easy.

Love Ruth x

P.S. A friend, I haven’t see her in a long time since time passes so fast, is dying of breast cancer. She currently has a Crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for her imminent wedding… Please donate if you feel you are able to support her and her future husband: I just want her to have the best time she can possibly have! She’s lovely. A great mother and friend ❤️ making a valiant, beautiful choice to seize the day. Carpe diem xxx

Header photo: Photo by Tess Nebula on Unsplash

45 😳 Really?!

My grandmother always said she was 90 years old, but felt 25… (she died at 92 still with her youthful spirit and giggly attitude to life). I guess I’m starting feel that way, but honestly will probably pick 37 as my chosen age 🤗. Measured by wrinkles and personal experience, it kind of seems more believable! Anyone out there feel similar?

I was pretty depressed when a search on Unsplash for photos tagged ‘middle age’, generated a bunch of images of old people, businessmen or mums looking surprisingly unhaggard (not sure this is an accurate representation, but a bit of airbrushing never hurt anyone).

Then, I found this photo:

Photo by Sime Jadresin on Unsplash

She’s what I look like in my head. A few laughter lines, a sexy smile and a body, somewhat weathered, but still utterly gorgeous 🐣.

Many of you will know that I go on holiday for my and Nadia’s birthday, both at the end of August (one Leo, one Virgo, what a combination!). This year, I’m cancelling New Year’s resolutions and swapping to a sort of birthday ‘school report-esque’ check in on my life i.e. I write down stuff I did well last year, a few suggested changes and more stuff I want to do this year.

I may not get round to all of it, but the one plan I’m holding onto is writing a book. I’ll let you know if my seeds of ideas germinate into any half decent chapters. My aim is to finish it faster than my average project, usually a 10 year minimum term, and hopefully before my next birthday. At least, I hope to finish it before my hand looks like the old lady’s hand below:

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

Any and all ideas on what the book should be about will be gratefully received.

The basic aim of my ‘stuff to do’ list is to make sure I do the things I actually want to do each year, not just the things I need or have to do. It’s true that time moves faster as you get older, not sure why, but I suspect it’s related to a limit on the amount you can reasonably remember…

Wishing you all the best for your next school year, whatever it brings… mine is the last of being a primary school pupil’s mum. Based on this year’s leavers assembly, there will be tears 😢 at the end.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Sadly, I have now moved onto a new age category in the questionnaires. Fortunately, I’ve already switched from reading Red and Marie Claire to Good-Housekeeping and Woman & Home, so I still fall into the lower age of their readership at least.

P.P.S. Have we really gone from Summer straight into Christmas?! Brain explodes 🤯

P.P.P.S. Through my daughter, I have recently discovered the Norris Nuts on YouTube. Those kids are pretty funny 😄. Gotta love the Ozzies!

La dolce far niente…

It’s Italian for ‘The sweetness of doing nothing.’

It’s what I plan to do for the next two weeks, probably involving a considerable amount of ice cream. Often it’s my favourite choice of weekend activity too… only I never knew what it was called until I finally watched the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ featuring Julia Roberts. She plays a woman healing from a broken relationship in Italy = Eat, India = Pray and Bali = Love.

‘La dolce far niente’ is a seriously underrated pastime. It restores you and enables you to live in the moment, whatever that moment brings. Not worrying about anything or anyone for a sweet period of time.

Photo by Derek Liang on Unsplash

Weirdly if you search for it on the internet, a bunch of gurus from various backgrounds talk about how you do it and/or how you achieve it.  This seems counterintuitive to me.

It’s the art of doing nothing. Simple.

See you in two weeks!

Love Ruth x

Header Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Cheesy Mash among other things.

My daughter loves calamari but hates brussel sprouts. She’s tried deep-fried grasshoppers, but won’t eat ham sandwiches. Hates tomato in sandwiches, but will eat snails in garlic. It’s weird.

Children are often fussy eaters, it seems to start at about three years old when they try to assert their authority. After that, I was on a losing streak!

I have tried my parents approach to refuse pudding until she eats her main course. She doesn’t want pudding.

I have tried just forcing her to eat one single brussel sprout. She threw up, probably deliberately, on the plate. Eughh!

I try to make sandwiches she likes. Seriously, the only sandwich she will eat is cheese. Possibly with lettuce. But, not always.

So I’ve resorted to giving her so many things for lunch, there must be something she likes. Tried consulting her about what to cook for tea… one day I’m hoping to regain control. One fine day!

Meanwhile, there’s always cheesy mash.

My view on food (by Nadia):

“Food doesn’t always taste so good, especially if my mum cooks something I really don’t like! I promise you if you put a plate of brussel sprouts in front of me, I would probably scream for a while and then run out of sight for about the rest of the day, but as you should know, I absolutely hate BRUSSEL SPROUTS.”

If you have any other suggestions or methods of persuasion, please feel free to let me know. Could do with the advice.

Love from, somewhat exasperated, mother of one,

Ruth x

Postpartum Psychosis and Me.

This is for a new friend and for my Mum, without whom I’m not sure what would have happened.

Ten years ago, I had postpartum psychosis. It has taken me ten years to write this. Ten years, not to feel ashamed, which I suspect is a common emotion for women like me. Ten years to see that the illness was at fault, not me nor anyone around me. Well, apart from, to some extent, the medical profession but that comes later!

This is a picture taken at the time I was ill of the four generations of women in my family. You will see I was alot thinner…

I can talk about this now, partly thanks to a postpartum psychosis feature story, on Jeremy Vines’ show on Radio 2 in July 2017. The woman on the show was angry. Very angry. She advocated fighting back against the illness, and not being beaten by it. She was, I think, the start of a campaign to raise awareness by the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis ( Eastenders also had a storyline around the same time. That combined with the Heads Together ( campaign by the Royals, mean it’s easier to admit now.

I have suffered from depression for a long time. When I was pregnant, I knew I might get postnatal depression. I also found out about postpartum psychosis and looked it up in a specific motherhood medical dictionary, remember those! After I gave birth in hospital, I felt mentally ‘wobbly’ so asked the team there to assign me a midwife for 28 days after getting home instead of the usual 14 days; they do this if you have a history of mental health issues.

It was unfortunate that my midwife did not see the signs – as I clung to her when she tried to leave on the 28th day, her parting shot was to tell me to pull myself together… not helpful as it stopped me asking for help. My memory of that time is not brilliant now, it’s somewhat fuzzy due to the illness, so I don’t remember everything I’ve done or said and may have been weird without realising…

I repeatedly went to the doctor after that, I suspect they thought I was a malingerer, in the back of my mind I was wondering if I had postpartum psychosis… However, this was not mentioned as a possible diagnosis, in fact, postnatal depression was not mentioned either. Had it been considered by the doctors I saw, the midwife and the health visitor, they may have asked the right questions. For example, “Are you having nightmares?” “Yes, I dream my partner is sleeping on top of my baby and suffocating her. As a result, I pounce on him in the middle of the night in a state of panic.” My daughter was then sleeping in another room…

As I said, I did not want to say ‘postpartum psychosis’ out loud out of shame and for fear of the words making it true. I also did not have a supportive partner who might have told the doctor what was going on. We split when my daughter was a year old.

The truth is, I was bonkers. I’m not anymore thanks to my Mum, particularly as I was a single parent by this time.

My family knew something was wrong for a good while, but were unable to put their finger on what. Fast forward two years to September 2011, when I finally admitted to my Mum that I thought people were watching me in the car. She took me to my doctor who referred me rapidly to a psychiatrist. He was brilliant and put me on an anti-psychotic, firstly Risperidone which has unfortunate side effects for me, then Aripiprazole which is a newish drug and both an anti-psychotic and anti-depressant combined. All these drugs have side effects, some harder to deal with than others, most seem to make you fat! They also destroy your gums in my experience, so I have to floss every day. (For reference, the best book I have found to explain the drugs, side effects and with other helpful, readable advice is ‘Bipolar Disorder for Dummies’ ISBN 978-1119121862).

Yes I am fat, but I’m sane. I gained around 4 stone and 3 dress sizes in five years. And still it was a good choice to take the drugs!

I recently consulted the psychiatrist about coming off Aripiprazole to stop me gaining weight and he felt the risk was low, so let me gradually reduce the dose until I stopped taking it altogether in October 2017. So far I’ve only lost 1.6 kg but at least I’m going in the right direction… I am still bipolar which I manage through mood-monitoring, meditation and the occasional sleeping tablet, which has worked so far. I am prepared to take mood stabilising drugs if I need them.

This is me and my daughter now:

Being bipolar raises the risk of postpartum psychosis to 50%, compared to other postnatal women. As it happens, I wasn’t even diagnosed with bipolar until I had this, more serious, illness. Early symptoms include: elatedness, overactivity, overly social, busy mind, muddled, no need for or ability to sleep, irritable, anxious, in a dream world etc. (See this weblink if it sounds familiar Another helpful charity is Bipolar UK

As I had it so long, my symptoms were mainly hallucinations, including believing I was a witch and had magical powers, paranoia, saying weird stuff, not being able to function with simple things like eating… oh and thinking Chris Evans was sending me messages over the radio, embarrassingly I replied by emailing the show. Sigh. I also struggled to care for my daughter at that time, though she seems to show no affect now. I have told her in simple terms what happened to me, she was only two years old at the time but may still remember some things.

I wish the understanding of postpartum psychosis had been better then. The medical profession did not even to consider it as an explanation for my repeated visits and, basically my begging for help, back then. It happens to 1 in 2000 women, so while not common, it could easily be someone you know.

I think the awareness is there now. I suspect the road to recovery still involves a fight to get the right medication, understanding and appropriate medical help.

I would like the mental health service to improve postnatal care. I hope it will.

Thank you to all my family and friends who have stuck by me even when I was acting pretty oddly. I realise it was difficult for you. Your support was and is a lifeline.

Love Ruth x

P.S. My motivation for writing this is to prevent at least one woman treading the same path. It’s a long and hard one.