Hiatus over??

Well it was a forced hiatus. Sorry I was away for a whole bloody year and more, but I have been reading and keeping up with all you amazing bloggers surviving and (somehow) thriving and being generally inspirational 🙂

I was super ill. I had a massive manic period, followed by a bout of deciding to stop eating, followed by getting better and realising that I had to do something to get my family out of the trap we’d found ourselves in, so I returned to work. Fuck mental health my god if there is anything that will put a person into poverty – which yes, exists in in developed countries too, all things being relative – it is shitty mental health.

Did I also mention I melted off my hair nearly a year ago? I was trying to go blue and made the mistake of leaving the bleach on for too long. So as well as feeling like crap I had Doc from Back to the Future hair for ages (well I still do but at least I can tie it back into a pony tail now!). I literally did not leave the flat for 4 months till I had to at Christmas.

So far so good ish? It’s a senior role, it’s tough and I have been in floods of tears and had to take days off when I just could not get out of bed, but I am doing it and have lasted beyond six months in a role for the first time in Fundraising since I was 30 (I am 38 this year – actually in less than a week). I have so much I want to share on my blog and so many ideas for things I want to do – but the good thing is that I am on Fluoxetine which has helped with the crippling anxiety and paranoia I was getting on top of the lithium and quetiapine, and we stopped psychotherapy because regressing was was actually making me worse.

We are MOVING HOUSE which such a big deal I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have come close to committing suicide because of our horrendous neighbours (and you know, it is serious not just an expression – their shit dance music is blaring and keeping my baby awake as I write but NOT FOR MUCH LONGER WOOOO). Once I am into my new house, hoping work does not kick my ass too much and so on, I want to return to this blog properly.

The most important thing is that my beautiful baby girl is thriving and doing so amazingly well. I am proud to say she is a typical toddler now at 2 and so gorgeous she makes my heart burst every time I look at her. So, more to follow, I will return to this slowly. Thanks for hanging in there with this blog of mine 🙂


Update from my scribbles post

DH opened a letter just now with a blood testing form. My lithium is apparently too low. I guess that would explain my capacity to write over six thousand words a day for my fan fiction? The compulsion to write literally came out of nowhere two months ago – apparently about the time my levels began to drop and the shit with our neighours kicked off (I forgot to mention it in my last post – we had to call the police. I just wanted to die, feeling unsafe in my own home), and my frenzy began.

Now, perhaps the dumbass psychiatrist might actually acknowledge I have bipolar instead of asking me whether I think I have it which is what I got at my last appointment! Why the fuck would you ask me if I have bipolar! Isn’t that your job?!

Anyway, watch this space. I have to test urgently apparently and they want to review my medication. Hopefully more normal service will resume soon.

It’s just me and my dog….

Or it will be when the in laws vacate their apartment to go to this big family party. Not long to go. DH has already left to attend it and see all his cousins, with daughter in tow.

What should I do with myself? I have tidied up and done all the laundry, went round the shops already and poochie has had a walk.  I find I have a few hours of spare time ON MY OWN for the first time since, really since before I gave birth.

And I am not quite sure what to do with myself. This spare time is weighing heavily on me.

I feel bad because it was a big family party and I should have gone. I know I am not well right now but still, I know DH would have liked it if I were there even though he went specifically with the intention to give me a break.

I shall tell you what I want to do. And then I will report back and see if I ended up doing any of it.

1. Move the Xbox into the living room so I can upload Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 into my Keep. And then, at long last, I can have the Inquisition exactly the way I want it. I stopped midway through to replay both of the earlier games as the story just wasn’t right otherwise and it was upsetting me. The old games were on our old Xbox which is now somewhere in Xbox heaven. Then set everything up so I can game later.

2. Get a shower. I like being clean and showering every day but it has been such an effort recently. It’s also tied in with…

3. Do my hair. Which requires me to bleach my roots and then attack the whole thing again with Directons Vermillion Red. I couldn’t afford Manic Panic this time round so I hope this works. Let’s hope it doesn’t go pink again. I am fed up of being blonde. I don’t suit it and that was never the intention. So back to trying to do nice things for myself like enjoy my hair colour.

4. Snuggle in bed with the pooch and start losing myself in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m a huge fan of RPGs and especially fantasy. And this game for me is the ultimate experience. Bring on my love affair with Cullen hehe. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned love story. It’s like my favourite historical romance rolled up in the best fantasy story and the closest I’ll ever get to living it out.

I want to skip 3. Actually I want to skip all of it and just get into bed and not move. Everything is such a monumental effort at the moment. And I am sucky in the afternoon so that doesn’t help. But I did stand there and look at the washing up – only a few things – and have a panic attack at the thought of doing it. I had to go and lie down rather than clear up. The thought of putting a sponge in my hand seemed like a step too far.

When did such simple things become such hard work? I was thinking that living with a mental illness is like doing  laundry. It is something you have to plough through, something you really want to avoid doing and it seems never ending.

So with that cheery attitude, let’s see how I get on! I know I will feel better once I have done my hair. I just need to do it. Fingers crossed 🙂

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Alcohol – The Cure for Social Anxiety

This is a very thought provoking and excellent article. I come from a country where it’s almost a rite of passage into adulthood to begin to get legless at a very young age indeed. I was 14 when I first got drunk (to this day the smell of Southern Comfort turns my stomach). It’s also ingrained into British culture, going to the pub, meeting friends, grabbing something to eat. Weekends away hiking with various pub stops along the way. Drinks after work almost every night. Weekends out to the club, doing shot after shot of tequila. And this would be after a day on the beach drinking beer. And as I got older, cook dinner for friends and bring a bottle. Have a glass of wine when I got in. Once in a while is fine. For me, this was turning into every day around a bottle.

My life revolved around alcohol. When I was manic I wouldn’t eat. I dropped a huge amount of weight and my calorie intake came from booze and my staying power from cigarette after cigarette. I don’t actually know how I held a job down, looking back. I would never have called myself an alcoholic but I was on the slippery slope. I never needed a drink to get through the day but boy did I look forward to the one I could have as a reward for making it through.

What I didn’t realise at the time was the crippling paranoia and anxiety I had the next day was caused by alcohol. I would wake up and not be able to physically move as I was bombarded by all the supposedly hideous things I had done the night before. Wave after wave of self – hatred would hit me, making the anxiety even worse.

It wasn’t till I met DH, who has never had alcohol aside from once and hated it, and moved to a country where alcohol is not so ingrained in the fabric of social life, that I realised I had a bit of an issue. With my dependency on it to have a good time, and not being able to cope the next morning. Between living here and then being pregnant, I don’t think I have had a drink drink for nearly two years. The two times I did I was a walking ball of paranoia the next few days – it didn’t just last one day.

These days, I do enjoy the odd glass of very good red or white wine. I have a weakness for New Zealand red in particular! I do notice that, even after one glass, it makes my mental health problems much worse. I wake up and I cannot breath I am in the grip of such severe anxiety. So is it worth it? For me, not really. It means I can squander those extra calories on something else 🙂

800 Recovery Hub Blog

Social anxiety is the fear of  situations that involve interacting with other people. It is also worrying about being negatively judged and evaluated by others. This disorder is chronic and causes problems in almost all areas of a person’s life.

Since alcohol can reduce stress, it is a quick and easy solution ….

Correct. Occasionally unwinding with alcohol isn’t necessarily dangerous if your doctor approves. The problem is that once you start drinking, you can build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol. This

Social Anxiety Association Learn more at the Social Anxiety Association website.

can make anxiety and stress even more difficult to cope with.

According to Healthline: At first, drinking can reduce fears and take your mind off your troubles. It can even help you feel less shy. You might experience a boost in mood, and the overall result is relaxation. In fact, the effects of alcohol can be similar to those of anti-anxiety…

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A driving playlist – my top 10!

F**k the election, the backward country I come from and a pox on Cameron and his ill-thought-through promise on an EU Referendum that could see me separated from my husband and daughter, not to mention my benefits ending. Tonight I am not going to worry about how to master Dutch in a year when weighted down with this illness so I can get a Dutch passport. Tonight I am going to lose myself in the world of awesome music and, I hope, bring a few of you with me.

In the period of what I can only describe as our online courtship, DH and I swapped top 10 lists on all sorts of things. Who were the top ten hottest guy/girl actors, best films, best TV shows, and of course, best tracks. It was a really fun way to realise how compatiable we were, discover new bands and just have a bit of fun insulting each other (I have an unashamed Britney and KP girl crush whilst he is devoted to 80s power ballads). From all of this came a playlist which to this day we call The Playlist, made from deciding which songs we liked to drive to. It has by far surpassed 10 songs now and could easily see us halfway across to Poland if we played it nonstop.

Indeed, out of all the things in the world that there are to choose from, I do believe that one of the most fun, and sometimes quite tough!, choices are what songs would make your top 10. In just about anything. To ease the agony of indecision, it is fortunate I can make as many top 10 lists as I like and combine them all into one happy, mishmash of music courtesy of Spotify and YouTube.

Music evokes strong emotions and memories I thought hidden, buried for good. It also brings great pleasure, being ridiculously happy, laughter, relaxation and peace. I can rage to it when I’m mad, I can get a bit buzzy to it – and dammit I’m not going to let the bipolar take away that nice music bzzzzz. I love it when YouTube throws up a tune I’d forgotten, and when Spotify takes me to an artist I would never have heard of before and I get to discover them.

But sometimes there are only certain songs, in certain places, that will do. And one of those times is in the car. In fact, there are so many brilliant songs to drive to it pains me to try and make a list which is restricted to just ten songs. But I’ve had a go and I thought it would be fun to share. I am sure there are classics I will have missed and you will remind me of it and I will curse myself for not listing it. I think as well I’m gonna have a top 10 songs to drive to and a separate top 10 albums to drive to.

So please find below my top ten songs to go vroom vroom (and in no particular order because to rank them that way is too hard for me to choose).  I hope it provides entertainment, amusement and a reminder of good times – even with mental illness we can have fun sometimes 🙂

I’d love to hear what all of your top 10 songs to drive to are too – please do let me know!

I begin with some honorable mentions from mine and DH’s playlist – Bryan Adams – Run to You, Bohemian Rhapsody by the wonderful Queen, Dire Straits – Money for Nothing, Tom Petty – Won’t Back Down, pretty much anything by Foreigner, Manic Street Preachers (so nearly made the cut), The Cure, oh so many. There would be 100s more but I think they really do deserve a mention.

1.Through Glass – Stone Sour

I was a late arrival to Stone Sour. I also had my head elsewhere for about ten years so didn’t realise that it was a Slipknot side project. DH changed all that and more when we met. I heard this song on his iTunes for the first time and was in love immediately, not just with him but the band. I also played this song nonstop when I drove to work every day, particularly sitting in traffic which I spent an awful lot of time doing. For the record, if you ever need to go there, avoid the A13 between The Hague and Rotterdam at rush hour, unless you like a view of everyone else going nowhere. But this song always helped 🙂

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica

The Black album was a pretty formative one in my teen years. It saw the final transition from indie to full blown metal goddess – or at least how my sixteen year old self positioned herself. Never does this song sound as good as in the car. Unless you’re seeing them live then it’s pretty good too. Fooking love these guys I do. And if you are in a particularly angry mood like I was the other day, even better. Metallica at their very best. Particularly the hair. Not sure Lars could cut

3. We are the People – Empire of the Sun

I just love this group. They also make beautiful videos. In an era where music has truly become bland – thank you to the Minajes and Lil Waynes of this world for blessing us with earache – these guys just exploded with this tune. I heard it and was very wtf I have to hear that again. It was just so different. And on a long cruise from A to Z, there’s nothing better to keep you company than this Aussie duo.

4. West Coast – Lana Del Ray

My daughter was born in a heatwave just as this song came out. I spent so many days and nights of the first few weeks just driving around in the car as that was the coolest place for us to be. Then we’d get DH from work and we’d drive off to some amazing beach on the coast and find a spot for all of us to sit. This song is all about sultry, hot steamy summers to me.

I think Lana Del Ray is awesome. And sexy. And very talented. Why does she get such a hard time and so much abuse? Her songs are from the heart and really hit the spot with me at key points in my life. I nearly put Video Games on but I think this one has better memories attached to it.

5. Tennis Court – Lorde

Love this girl too. This is the same story as Lana’s tune above. And she’s a Kiwi and I have a very big soft spot for that part of the world. I listened to these two songs constantly last year. I loved the feeling that I was driving round exploring with my beautiful baby in the back. I felt so complete. What I love about Lorde’s stuff is that it is different (it is a bit of a theme with my taste in music really). But this has such a different sound. If that makes sense. And it’s good to drive around to as well. I can vouch for that.

6. Pretender – Foo Fighters

There is only one celebrity I would ever get my boobs out for at a festival and that’s Dave Grohl. I may even get my chance at Rock am Ring this year.

Oh oops, sidetracked. Just Foo Fighters. And Dave. Nothing else to be said.

7. My Curse – Killswitch Engage

KSE make beautiful metal. This song is particularly poignant for me. When I was in my darkest place ever, having just left my husband and halfway round the world with no money, no job, no friends, nothing, deep in the grip of a manic episode punctuated with liquid black running through my head and no clue at the time how ill I was, my friends in Europe all sent me songs and bands to listen to, to help me power through till I could get on the plane home. And this band was one.

It was instrumental in helping me rediscover my love of metal music, submerged for years after trying to fit in and be someone I wasn’t. I embraced it with open arms. And when I got home  I played it louuuuuud in the car. M4 back to London I think it was. And they are pretty good live too. If I ever have the courage to share this blog – my friends who introduced me to this band thank you – you know who you are.

8. One Slip – Pink Floyd

The Floyd. I could probably pick any of their songs and it would be appropriate for any self-respecting top 10 list. I have been a fan since my brother drove me home one Christmas just after he passed his driving test and played Division Bell nonstop. I know there’s a lot of fan blahblah about when Roger Waters left but actually I think A Momentary Lapse of Reason stands on its own as a classic. A very 80s sound, but it still sounds so cool. Particularly when you turn this song up full blast and hit the outer lane 🙂

9. Dakota – Stereophonics

Ah man. There are several Stereophonic songs worthy of this list but this has to be the one. This song makes me feel a hot breeze blowing over me whilst zooming along a country road somewhere. All my twentysomething summers rolled into one courtesy of the very incredible Stereophonics. Now, this song I listened to nonstop at a particularly good point in my life. I had just bought my own flat, own car and managed to get my first fundraising job. It was admittedly with the ex but we were mainly living separate lives even back then so I don’t remember the impact so much. I used to take that little car everywhere, this song blaring. I do remember a long, long hot summer, lots of bbqs with friends, and a sense of pride in my abilities. And just having a good time. It was a good few months, that year 🙂

10. Fire – Ferry Corsten

So here’s the thing – a random choice perhaps on a rather guitar-based list. But I love house and trance. And I love running to it. And I really like driving to it. And I couldn’t not have one with a Dutch DJ on could I 😀 and one from Rotterdam no less! I have the longer version on Spotify – actually I do all my dance tracks. I can run for hours (well maybe not right now but it feels like). This song has taken me around many a half-marathon. And taken me to a half-marathon. I will never forget the feeling of excitement I had, like I was proper North when I saw the Angel of the North on they way to the Newcastle Half Marathon. This song was playing at the time. And the proper North thing is a bit odd seeing as I went to university in Bradford which for the majority of the southern half of the country is some wild place beyond the Watford Gap. But this song, along with a whole  host of other dance tracks, took me all over the country.

Thanks for listening and reading 🙂

Voting and guttedness

I am so disappointed. I wanted to vote today. I arranged a postal vote and everything. And thanks to not being able to leave the house these last few days unless under supervision as I find it so stressful to go out, combined with having no concept of time at the moment, I didn’t go to get my voting form from our flat. So I couldn’t vote.

Damn this mental illness for inhibiting my one chance to have a say.

This election means so much to me too – if I find myself staring down the barrel of a Conservative gun once more, then I have to rely on my apathetic countrymen to vote to remain in the EU or overnight I will find myself an illegal immigrant with no access to benefits that are our lifeline.

What is wrong with Cameron anyway, why couldn’t he just make a bloody decision instead of holding referendum after referendum. As for why an in/out EU referendum well, we saw how well the Scottish independence referendum went and the massive fall out from that. Which I lived through too and found one of the most stressful things going.

I’m not a passionate person about any one political party. I come from a Lib Dem stronghold. In England I always voted Green because I didn’t like anyone else. I remember one election with my pencil hovering over Conservative because I couldn’t bear for Blair to get another term and if he did (which he did sadly), it wouldn’t have been  because of my vote. But I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Conservative either. In the Scottish referendum I was a firm No and think to this day how dangerous the SNP and nationalism in general is. And I think Alex Salmond is a twat (I would use the C word but that is too extreme even from Miss Sweary McGee as DH dubs me), who played people akin to what we saw in Germany in the 30s – but that’s neither here nor there. If I had the chance in this election I think I would have been a reluctant Lib Dem voter to keep out the SNP. But at a gamble with then letting the Conservatives back in.

UK politics has certainly become more interesting over the last five years. It amuses me to see the hoo ha over potential coalitions. Because most of Europe is governed by coalition parties so why the UK can’t be any different I don’t know.

Regardless of my personal opinion on political parties and others’ allegiances, I feel it so important to vote. People died for us to vote. Women in particular. I’m a historian at heart and by study, and I don’t want to see history repeating itself. Which if you don’t vote is how randoms get in. Like UKIP. (I don’t get how anyone could take them seriously but there you go that’s, democracy for you.)

I’m hoping today people turn out and vote. It doesn’t matter how crappy you think the politicians are. Look at the policies. Try and see beyond the bland samey faces that they all present. Please though, just get out and vote. It takes minutes. And this doesn’t matter where you live in the world by the way, or which way you vote, it’s applicable no matter where. On my behalf and all the others who found themselves too ill to have their say on the day, do it.

(ps – go Ed!)

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Contentment is……..driving

Driving is bloody marvelous. In fact, that one sentence says it all and I could just leave it at that. Except that might just well be the most boring post ever so I will exert myself on this lazy Sunday morning to explain my love of being behind the wheel.

A quick bit of context: I was very fortunate to have a privileged childhood in that I traveled extensively. This fueled a love of travel as an adult which I indulged in greatly during periods of mania, but also was driven by a desperate need to escape my circumstances.

Driving has played a very significant role in my life, particularly at key points. I was a late driver compared to my friends, not passing my test till I was 23. I had tried when I was 19 and, looking back, in the middle of a huge depressive phase that came straight off the back of around six months of mania. Two weeks after I failed I took my third overdose and landed in hospital. The failing and the overdose weren’t related by the way, I had a terrible driving instructor and wasn’t ready. I mention it as the two incidents were quite major to me and they stick in my mind as (not great) milestones in my life. My friends and family all took it for granted they would drive, supported with lessons and a car from family. Not me. It was a privilege I had to earn.

I don’t know why but driving has always been something to really want to achieve. I had no help with paying for driving lessons – heaven forbid that my parents did the same for me as they did my brother – and it was one of those things that showed you had moved from being a silly teenager into adulthood.

Most importantly, it represented freedom. Living in a part of the UK with the world’s crappest bus service, no regional trains and one of the hilliest parts of the country ruling out cycling as a serious mode of transport (and not having a bike either doesn’t help) meant that you drove or you used the two legs God gave you to get about. To someone who spent her formative years in the centre of one of the world’s busiest cities, traveled across the world regularly and spoke three languages, being incarcerated at what felt like the end of the world during my pre-teen and teen years with people who jeered openly at anyone who wasn’t white in the street was a living nightmare. Driving was a form of escape – you could in theory drive all the way to Goa, Durban, Malacca, Vladivostok, Lapland….you see my point. And for many years I fantasised about all the places I would drive to. Freedom to go wherever I pleased.

Driving was my escape plan.

It took a while for me to achieve my escape plan. The day I passed my test (on the curve up to a full-blown mania) I was so thrilled. I felt, for the first time, a sense of achievement. More so, even, than when I got a 2:1 at university (although that was cool too). I was grown up! The escape plan was in train; I could now go anywhere I wanted, clutching my pink plastic card – alongside my piece of paper licence because we have to be awkward like that in the UK – and people would let me sit behind the wheel of one of their hire cars. I promptly went home to drive what would eventually be my first car (a Rover Metro!) and it was one of the most splendid weekends I had. I drove all over the place for hours and hours at a time. I hooked up a CD player to the cassette player and played all my favourites at top volume. I drove from the Atlantic Coast back to the Channel. I sat on the beach letting the sun warm me and the sand trickle through my fingers.

I had, temporarily, escaped the madness that was my life in London. Actually, for a pretty damn accurate portrayal the great tune by Avichii, ‘I can be the one’ hits the nail on the head for what was in my head.

I loved having a car. People, including my ex husband, thought I was nuts to maintain a car in a city where you have about ten different options on how to get to where you want to go. The point was I didn’t want to go anywhere in London but out of it. As soon as it hit 5 on a Friday I would be racing off to Wales to walk in the Brecon Beacons, over to Suffolk to see my aunt and uncle who I was (and am) very close to, down to the Westcountry, up to Manchester many times to see my best friend, up to Newcastle for the Great North Run, to Northumberland to mooch along some of the most exquisite beaches in the world. And when that car died and we got another, better car, we were out and about every weekend. It was just amazing.

In a rise up to a manic state, and in a full blown mania, I have done some incredible drives. In fact, I can pinpoint exactly when I was on the up by where I went in my car. When I lived in New Zealand I would think nothing of driving from Auckland to Wellington and back again in a weekend to see my brother and his family, or shooting up to Kerikeri in the Northland to go running (in case you needed reminding, New Zealand is spectacular). I decided to go to Scotland snowboarding one Christmas on a whim. I drove overnight from Plymouth to Aviemore and it took around 15 hours. And one one trip to the US, I drove from Vegas to Salt Lake City for a few day’s boarding then down to Durango in Colorado for more, before heading back to LA. New Zealand and America are definitely fantastic countries for a road trip!

Edit: just remembered one more. Johannesburg to the Dolphin Coast via Giant’s Castle. Mindblowing, what an amazing country.

Funnily enough, I never went to Europe, despite Dover on a good day being two hours or so from London with dozens of crossings every day and night. I haven’t got a problem with driving on the right – if anything I found it fun to try something different in a car. I speak some French and German, and could certainly get by if I needed. I think when I was younger, I didn’t see the appeal in Europe. It was too close. My escape plan required me to get very very far away from everything I knew, which was why New Zealand fit the bill so perfectly.

So when I returned from New Zealand a newly single woman, in a full blown manic phase yet again, I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels in love with a Dutchman. I had no clue about The Netherlands except I knew they all spoke great English, smoked weed and we once had a king from the House of Orange. We both fell pretty hard pretty fast for each other and the irritating thing was that we were in two different cities with this stupid puddle of the Channel separating us. I spent hours pouring over the best and cheapest routes to go to see him at the weekends and which would allow me the extra few hours to spend with him. (He couldn’t come to me at the time but that’s another story).

Driving plays a huuuge part in my love affair with my husband. If it wasn’t for the car we would have struggled to be together. I flew from, and into, several different airports, got the train several times to Brussels and was for some reason enthralled when he said how easy it would be to pick me up as Brussels was only a couple of hours away drive from Rotterdam. He had himself just randomly decided at the age of 28 that it was time to pass his test and get a car, which he promptly did just four months before we got together. His Polo picked me up from Belgium, Germany, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and – most memorably, Dunkerque. We were too poor to afford the flights and had resolved to have a weekend apart which I could’t stand the thought of. I had just enough money for a ferry crossing and fuel and was going to surprise him in Rotterdam. I couldn’t bear to be apart from him and of course I couldn’t keep it a secret and told him. He refused to let me drive all the way (which to me was no distance at all, only a 5 hour trip or so), met me at Dunkerque, drove me to Oostend where I left my car for the weekend and then we went up to Rotterdam in his car. That Polo moved him to London and us back to Rotterdam, then all the way to Scotland before we had to very sadly part with it.

I was, and still am, fascinated by looking at where all the licence plates of all the lorries and cars have come from. I am boggled at the idea of a lorry from Russia ending up in the UK, or from Finland or Portugal in The Netherlands. I love the idea of all these people moving all around the world, that little cog in the wheel making it all work. When we drove to Scotland it was a 15 hour trip, with me in the car with the baby and DH driving the van. We also seemed to randomly be in convoy with a Belgian and Greek car all the way to Glasgow which was a long way to share the road! I really enjoyed the drive, watching the country change the further north we went. If it hadn’t been for the impending sense of doom, I would have classed that as another epic drive.

I also love putting some music on and just driving. Now I am in Holland it’s a bit challenging as everyone thinks that a long way away is going from Rotterdam to The Hague which is about the distance for me going from Streatham to Old Street so I find it hard to relate. I can be in Germany in an hour and a half or Belgium in 40 minutes. France in 2 and a half ours. We did Paris to Rotterdam in 5. I mean, how amazing is that? But DH has to still be persuaded when I say I want to go xyz. For example, Rotterdam to the Waddenzee. It’s not that far but I may as well have said I wanted to go to the moon. So now I just need to learn to go on my own.

The problem is I got sick and scared of driving last year. I hated it for a while. I was terrified to get out on the road even though there was nothing wrong with my driving. I used to drive myself to work here. But I didn’t do it and I got scared and panicked. I also don’t get the chance to drive long distance that much myself as it makes DH car sick if he’s the passenger. So he’s trying to let me drive more but it is too easy to say no.

Also we now have actually got a car for driving which is a honkingly big and comfortable SUV but wheel on the right as we’ve changed the plates from UK to NL. I find that is annoying when going to a drive-thru or car park but aside from that there is little difference. So I tried to get over my aversion of driving yesterday by taking the baby to the beach. It’s fun driving in The Netherlands as you all of a sudden come across a motorway in the air to let a boat through, as below when I got slightly lost on the way:


And we made it to the beach, my daughter and I. It was such fun driving with her. When I sense her getting a bit bored I switch my music off and put on some for her. It’s not very hardcore driving round to The Wheels on the Bus, but she’s learnt when to clap and when to put her hands on her head and things like so it is so cute to see her doing it in my rear mirror 🙂

Then when it’s my music it’s just so nice to sit and sing. To be so mindless. I know my daughter is tucked in safe and either sleeping or watching the world go by (she likes it in the car thank goodness). To know there are no demands on my time aside from making sure I follow the road. To listen to songs I have been dying to put on but haven’t had the time to listen to. Or to rediscover songs I haven’t heard in years. And on long distance drives, to watch the land roll past, everchanging. I find such peace in that moving landscape.

We made it to the beach.


You can see the port of Rotterdam extending into the distance. Also where we went you have signposts to England which I just find wonderful. Just over that water is where I am from and if I had the inclination I could just get on the ferry and go.

And even when I got lost and then there was a diversion we did it. And made it home safe and sound. And sang to The Smiths and If You’re Happy and You Know It along with a rather random mix of other stuff before stopping quickly at McD’s on the way home just as I did as a kid. It was such a nice day and I was so pleased to have conquered that drive. I felt so relaxed.

Planning our next drive already now 🙂

Contentment is…….milky

I have been trying to post this forever! I’m currently sat in the car waiting for our little lady to wake up. Then we are off to see papa and opa in Leiden for Koningsdag or King’s Day. Basically a lovely day which celebrates being Dutch and the King’s birthday. There is lots of orange everywhere, huge markets where even little kiddies put out stuff to sell and lots of beer and good food. It’s great fun.

But anyway onto the post. It’s hectic having a baby (hence taking a moment of peace to blog in the car!). One former colleague described parenthood in the early years as being ‘cumulatively tired’ which I thought hit the nail on the head. You build up this reservoir of lack of sleep and it just accumulates over time. One or two early nights is just never going to make a dent. People try and tell you about how exhausted you will be but, as with pretty much everything in life, no one can prepare you for the onslaught which is no sleep.

When they are first born you are feeding them round the clock. I am not a good sleeper at the best of times and I have a hatred of sleeping during the day, so the advice to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ was quite useless.

Our baby as I think I’ve mentioned previously was in the neonatal intensive care unit for her first week and then in a medium care ward for the second as she recovered from Strep B. A truly terrifying experience that I still can’t think about – but it also meant that again I had no sleep. Lorazepam didn’t work (the mothering instinct is overwhelmingly strong) and I wasn’t sleeping as all I wanted to do was sit in NICU and hold my baby, willing her better.

Now, I have very strong opinions on the whole breastfeeding/formula feeding argument for women with mental health problems which I am not going to go into here. I will do so in a dedicated feeding post. But suffice to say that as I continued my lithium through pregnancy and after birth, I was categorically told no breastfeeding.

I didn’t realise how much not being able to breastfeed my baby would devastate me until she was lying there helpless in her incubator and I felt utterly useless as a mother to even do something as basic as provide food and the best nourishment possible for my poorly little one.

Logic and reason dictated that I had to take increased dosages of lithium to keep me stable and sane to support my baby. But, in the first throes of motherhood, with pregnancy and labour hormones charging around, combined with the sheer hard work/exhaustion of giving birth and a mental illness on top, logic flies out the window and nature’s instincts become warped beyond reason.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also had postpartum psychosis and since then the whole feeding thing became this huge issue in my mind. It took me a good 3 months, if not more, to get comfortable with giving her a bottle. I felt quite panicked every time I had to feed her, and only relaxed when DH was home. Yet somewhere in those early months with our little potato I grew to love those quiet moments where I could gawp at this amazing creature guzzling down this synthetic fluid, able to keep her alive in a way I couldn’t.

As the months have rolled on and our potato has turned into a roaring, crawling rocket powered Womble getting into every nook and cranny possible (evidence below) – or chasing after the dog with abandoned glee at every given opportunity – quiet moments of contemplation have become rare.

Exhibit A: baby womble in action


Our peaceful moments now come at four intervals during the day, courtesy of bottle time. I have learned to cherish these breaks with her, admiring how she still has the same single minded determination in her eyes that she did at a day old to get as much milk as possible down her. It allows me time to sit and cuddle my baby and take time out just to admire how goddamned amazing she is. And to be baffled all over again at how on earth we managed to make something so perfect.

These feeding minutes of still and silence, bonding with my baby every step of the way (it is entirely possible to have just as meaningful a bonding experience with bottle feeding as breast feeding I happily discovered), bring me such peace. A recurring theme in my self-management of this illness is establishing peace. Watching my baby guzzle her bottle, putting down the phone and turning off the TV and focusing just on her is such a stabilising thing for me to do.

At 11 months we still cuddle and hold her to give her her bottle. I’m going to do it for as long as possible.

Exhibit B: optimum baby Womble feeding position


Who would have thought the poison that I was convinced was formula would end up being a leading source of contentment, just letting me hold my baby whilst she is quietly in a milky haze? Certainly not me, but these days I am so grateful for it 🙂

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To give in or not?

TW: discussion of paranoia and mental detachment

Sometimes in the deep of the night, firmly in the clutches of insomnia, my mind begins to roam. And separate.

I live with mental illness that sometimes impacts on my ability to parent effectively. That is a difficult thing for me to admit to but I must in order to make sensible decisions.

Most of the time I am normal parent. I follow the steps I need to and ensure that I medicate regularly, eat properly and exercise when I can. I also am supposed to get enough sleep which is why DH does nights with the baby. All good things to do to self manage myself.

And then there are the times I don’t take care. I still take my lithium and thyroid religiously. But if I let one element of anything else slip, then the cracks appear and my brain exploits them ruthlessly.

I have eaten such crap the last few days. I haven’t been out walking or on the exercise bike. And, crucially, I have not been sleeping. I have Promethazine available but I can’t take it as DH has not been well and I find it leaves a lingering dopeyness in the mornings which make it very difficult to get out of bed. So I can’t use it if I am home alone with the baby.

In the depths of the night, it is so easy to let the inside noise through, that which I stifle during the day. Those voices murmuring quietly that I am a burden to DH, that his life was so much easier before my arrival. Floating through my grey matter like whisps are memories of my daughter pushing me away, crying, desperate to go to her papa for solace. I am not needed or wanted.

The insomnia calls to me seductively. Would it not be nice to join us, embrace the paranoia and the delusions. Why continually fight the inevitable? Not to take my medicine, to go for long late night walks, seal myself off from the whole world in my mind?

In the dark, it is easy to see the slide into what would be madness. And it is tempting to check out for a while, especially in times of great stress that my family and I are experiencing right now.

By engaging further with that train of thought is to embrace what I consider to be delusions in the cold light of day. To abdicate all responsibility and slip into my dream world. Even just for a few hours. The whispers can get very loud at night.

Then two things happen. I inadvertently click on a picture of me and my daughter a couple of days ago. One where I had her giggling at the camera. Perhaps she might need me around sometimes. I might not be the world’s greatest mother but she’d rather I stuck around in my normal head rather than disappeared into my sick one.

The other thing that snaps me back to normality in the midst of the wee hours pretty rapidly? Poking DH repeatedly in the ribs to get him to move and not snore. Sometimes it’s the mundane that helps us back.

The whispers have faded now. I’ve got my eye patch and ear plugs at the ready to attempt to get a few hours of good sleep which will keep me on the straight and narrow. I think it would be more fun to see my baby laugh tomorrow than it would be to ramble endlessly inside my head.

Sleep well everyone.

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Contentment is…….ordinary

I realised again that feeling content comes in many different forms. Tonight it was the simple pleasure of sitting with my husband watching a programme. No stress, no parents around, baby happy and asleep, just the two of us doing something very ordinary. And it was also a healing process related to my past.

I think I finally like ordinary things.

So, to the show. We all know karma can be a bitch and a mighty one at that. But this evening I watched a wonderful documentary that moved me to tears and showed that good things can also happen to good people. Karma can be a sight to behold.

The music of Rodriguez first came into my life as a sixteen year old, feeling on the cusp of greatness as I moved to the last two years of school. I remember it as a hot golden summer – my first job, my first real boyfriend, thin enough to rock a crop top and hot pants and young enough to not give a shit about very much at all. My boyfriend’s brother returned from a year in South Africa, full of stories and enthusiasm about this amazing country and raving about this artist called Rodriguez.

‘he shot himself on stage right after this terrible gig’ I remember him claiming excitedly. ‘he’s the soundtrack of apartheid and anti apartheid and Bob Dylan can go fuck himself compared to this guy. Everyone in the whole frigging country plays these records.’ I clearly remember the brother waving his hands with an eloquent third finger to Bob Dylan as he described this as-yet-unheard-by-us-artist. One friend was outraged at the sacrilege to Bob Dylan’s name – a man he revered so much he wrote on his Biology A level paper to one question ‘the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind’ before walking out and going to get stoned.

It’s amazing how music can evoke such clear memories. Until a couple of days ago I had clean forgotten. I’m also surprised there isn’t the usual sting to the memories.  I didn’t wince as I usually do, but for the first time was able to look back at a particularly turbulent time with fondness.

Anyway, we were of course agog to hear anything which was against the establishment (I was in particular very heavily into Sepultura and Rage Against the Machine at the time – my prized possession was a shirt emblazoned with some of their more infamous lyrics).

I remember it being a particularly balmy summer evening as we sat on the beach and he put the cassette in and pressed play. I had my feet digging into the sand and was watching the sea, slightly zoned out to everything around me. Little known to me at the time, I was slipping away from my first mania into my first truly severe depression and I recognise that zoning out and detachment as part of the cycle.

Then, of course, I just thought they were being teenage boys waffling on about some dull artist and I was amusing myself in my head. Despite the detachment though, I was listening to the brother’s story about Rodriguez and I was intrigued to listen to this music that was the soundtrack to a generation.

It wasn’t at first my cup of tea. But as the summer melted along and there were many more long drives and late night sessions, with Rodriguez pretty much permanently on the music player, I grew to love the songs.

As I grew up and left home to find my own path, I forgot that long summer. Until I moved to London and lived with a bunch of South Africans who also had it on permanently. They were able to explain how interwoven this guy was into their fabric of life and I enjoyed the revival of Rodriguez’s music.

I still thought he was dead though.

And as time passed, I forgot again until checking out the very excellent a-z posts by blahpolar who mentioned Rodriguez. And that he was very much alive! Thank God for Spotify which meant I was able to play the albums and enjoy the music almost instantly. I was thrilled to see that ‘Sugarman’ alone had over twelve million listens. I was also fascinated in the story, particularly as it reminded me of such an instrumental summer in my life (I left home shortly after another blazing row with my family), and the intrigue around his identity was a mystery.

One of my many new things to do (along with getting pink hair) is to listen to music I really enjoyed before my ex and illness sucked the life out of me. It was such fun yesterday to walk along the Maas with my baby asleep in her pram, on a glorious spring afternoon, singing along to an album I had memorised so many years ago. There was even an award-winning documentary made about Rodriguez, his story had become that famous. How had I lived in such a bubble all these years?

DH and I find little in common when it comes to viewing but he found ‘Searching  for Sugar Man’ for me – a documentary about the guy – and it was so nice to snuggle up next to DH and watch it this evening. We get so little time together these days, which is shortened even more when living with the in laws. Time together, alone, is so precious and to be savoured. Sitting drinking a cup of tea watching an interesting programme with the man of my dreams and the father of my child? I didn’t know a few years ago such a thing would even be possible. But here we are ❤

If you only watch one thing in the coming weeks please consider watching this. It is an amazing story of how one man without even realising it impacted on so many people in a country that has gone through fire. I was crying at the end. Truly wonderful. A link to the trailer is below.

And the music is pretty good too 😀

Thanks to blahpolar for the rediscovery of this great musician 🙂