Category Archives: school life

It’s not all s**t.

One in three women will breeze through the menopause. They won’t suffer any side effects or notice any real change to their state of mind or their bodies. They will reach the age of around 65 and other than not having periods any more they will feel just the same as when they were 25 – maybe just a bit slower and a bit more wrinkly (ha-ha!).

One in three women will suffer from menopausal symptoms so extreme that they have to give up their job, face a breakdown in their relationship, lose friends, lose themselves. Some will even commit suicide. Some women are misinformed, uninformed, misdiagnosed, not helped.

One in three women will suffer from mild symptoms; have to take the odd day off; need to talk to their partner about what they are going through; make small adjustments to their life or their routines to enable them to carry on as normally as possible.

No woman can know which of these groups she is going to fall into until the time comes. Some women think that talking about the menopause is pointless – we all have to go through it so just get on with it. I suspect that they haven’t got to this stage yet or they are fortunate enough to find themselves in group 1. Some women think that their attitude to menopause, their healthy lifestyle, body type, genetics, are all reasons why they are not “suffering”. They may well be right. I’m happy for them.

All this week, the BBC are running a series of features on the menopause, talking to various health professionals, women who are going through it and looking at how things need to improve for women in respect of getting advice/treatment/help and promoting more awareness in the workplace. Some of the horror stories I have heard make me feel very grateful. It is proving to be very interesting and is very timely. It’s great to have menopause as a hot topic just as I am starting my own “journey” (awful expression). I promise I am not going to become a bore on the subject, but I am keen to learn as much as possible.

I am lucky that my GP is very well informed. She is a similar age to me, I have been seeing her on and off since T was born and she knows my history with PND. She is sympathetic, understanding, helpful. She has given me great advice, suggested treatment and continues to monitor me. I am also lucky that I have a great boss whose wife has experienced issues and who is very understanding, allowing me to work from home whenever I need/want to; asking if there is anything he can do to help, without suffocating me with kindness. K is learning. I have talked to him about how I feel some days. I’ve given him info to read and he is being the most caring that he has ever been in our 23 years together. More so than when I had the PND. Back then we had 2 small children to contend with and he just didn’t have the capacity to cope with a wife who was suffering. At this stage of our lives, if I don’t feel like cooking, can’t cope with stuff, don’t want to go out, it doesn’t really matter. He is not left holding the baby (literally) while I weep in a corner (truly, that rarely happens; the not cooking, hmm, more so). It’s manageable.

I am lucky. I am glad to be finding my way through this. No, I am not in group 1, but I wouldn’t want to be. Yes, it’s all a bit shit some days when I am foggy and tired and can’t be arsed to do anything but watch TV. Yes, it’s a bit shit that I am more irritable (more than usual – I know, hard to believe isn’t it?) and even more intolerant (again, unbelievable) and find myself needing to leave the room when someone is eating a bag of crisps and licking EVERY SINGLE ONE of their sodding fingers with a very audible slurp in the process – god give me strength. Yes, it’s a bit shit to have to double-check and triple-check everything I do when I am having a foggy day and then apologising for missing stuff despite all the checking.

Yes, I am lucky, even though I am not in group 1. Because hopefully I will have more empathy; be a better friend; appreciate the little things more. It’s not all shit. Some days it’s actually quite exciting. It’s making me try new things, be more daring – I am contemplating a bit of “wild” swimming with a friend as we’ve heard it can do wonders – thanks again to the reporting on the BBC. I am getting fitter because I can’t stop walking; I am way more conscious of my diet because I am determined not to put on any more weight than I can help. I’ve streamlined my wardrobe and now only wear things that I feel OK in. I’m even thinking of getting another tattoo.

It’s not all shit.

I think that may well just become my new motto.

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Snapshots

I’ve seen two photographs today that have made me sigh. (In a good way).

One was of my great-nephew, the son of my lovely niece, E. The picture was on Instagram and E had captioned it ” The cheekiest monkey”. Little J was beaming away being, well, a cheeky monkey. He is white blonde, lively and, judging by the pictures we see, the happiest little boy you can imagine. He is the spitting image of his beautiful, smart, funny, clever mum. I love her enormously, my niece and goddaughter and, despite her being nearly 30 years my junior, I admire her immeasurably. She is raising this lovely little boy single-handedly, with the support of her family (K’s brother’s side) and grandparents. His happy little face is the product of her unfailing patience and love. Yes, it’s a snapshot and I am sure he has his moments of being hard work, a handful, like all small children (and some big children!) but he is happy and loved and cared for. What more can a child want?

The other photograph is of one of my other nieces (I have 4 – greedy?) – my brother’s eldest daughter. L is 16, tall and utterly gorgeous. However, like a lot of 16 year old girls, she hasn’t a clue; would immediately point out a defect if I was to tell her so, and I wouldn’t for fear of making her feel awkward. The photograph is of her dressed ready for Prom. I knew she was going soon as her mum and I had spoken about it when we saw them last. She was describing L’s dress to me, saying that L did not want something low cut and obvious, but the dress was stunning and (despite some last minute panics that she may have had a growth spurt and it wouldn’t fit) she hoped it would be perfect. By the look of the picture, it was. She looks happy and confident and, well, stunning. She has her mum’s willowy frame and these gorgeous brown eyes. I hope she felt as amazing as she looks and had a brilliant time.

It’s all a bit of a worry

I’ve always been what you’d call a worrier. I worried about stuff when I was little, famously waiting until bedtime to talk about what had been on my mind all day. I worried about stuff when I was a teen. It carried on into adult life. Worrying about work, what people thought of me, my love life, my future, all of it. Then when K and I got together, worrying whether he really loved me, would it work out. K is not a worrier. If K is worried about something, then EVERYONE should be worried about it. He is more pragmatic; what’s the point in worrying? He has told me often over the 20 years we have been together not to worry so much, not to think about stuff so much, to give myself a break. I didn’t listen. I worried all through my pregnancy with T (it didn’t get off to a great start, so I can be forgiven) and when he was a baby, when I was pregnant with A – why was it so much easier, surely something was going to go wrong? Worry, worry, worry.

The trouble with worrying is, I have come to realise, that it doesn’t change anything. Worrying about something will not stop it happening. The problem with worrying is, it stops you enjoying things, because you are worrying that something will go wrong and spoil it when, in fact, the worrying has done that all by itself.

I had come to equate worrying with loving. If I worried about the kids it would keep them safe, like some sort of mental talisman. If I didn’t worry then I would be punished for it by something awful happening. If I feared the worst, then it wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t enough just to love them and care for them.

But, of course it is enough. I love them will all of my heart. I will always love them, forever. I will care for them for as long as they need me to, whenever they need me to. I will support them, advise them, comfort them, be happy for them. I will always want the best for them; for them to live their happiest lives. Worrying that they aren’t happy won’t make them happy. Worrying that they aren’t safe, won’t make them safe. If I am doing an OK job as a parent then they will know to take care of themselves, not take unnecessary risks, eat well, look after their health, do what makes them happy, be kind and loving to the people that deserve it. All the things I was taught to do. Everything else is out of my control. And worrying won’t change that.

Off camera

We went away for a few days over the Easter hols. We stayed in a cabin/lodge in Sherwood Forest, with trees all around us, birdsong, squirrels, even a lone stag one morning, and peace and quiet. We were 2 minutes cycle from the Sherwood Pines Country Park where we had the choice of cycle trails and were in the thick of the beautiful forest. I took some pics and posted them on Instagram. They are lovely pictures of a beautiful place.

But what they don’t show is the other stuff. Don’t get me wrong – we had a LOVELY time and the pictures are genuine and real and reflect the time that we had. BUT, they don’t show the puncture that T had and the ensuing debate about how he looks after his bike (not well) and how he needs to be a bit more careful. It was all borne of frustration and irritation that what was a fab bike ride was rudely interrupted by the hassle of fixing it, in the forest. Luckily, K is very well prepared and equipped for such eventualities and had it sorted in no time. We had our packed lunch while we were waiting for it to dry. It was fine. Well, not completely fine, a bit annoying but these things happen.

They also don’t show the kids spending almost as much time in their rooms in the evening as they do at home. This is also fine, but not quite what I had envisaged. We had a hot tub on our deck which we were all excited to use and I had daydreamed about us all sitting out there in the evenings and it being a bit of a laugh. We did the first night, and it was a laugh. But the second and third nights the blinking thing wasn’t hot enough (cold tub) and we had to get it repaired. (They were very good and have refunded us a good amount for the inconvenience of not having it for 2 of the 4 nights – with no prompting). Hence, the kids were more inclined to spend time in their rooms rather than watch TV or play scrabble with K and I (I beat him the first two games we played and he refused to play again).

They also don’t show T’s chain coming off on Thursday when we were heading off to another country park for a 15 miler. (Why is it always him?). K was convinced something had snapped off his bike and we would not be able to go anywhere – albeit much less calmly than that sounds. Disappointment on my part, I don’t like plans changing. But luckily, the helpful bloke at the cycle centre sorted it and, although he was restricted to staying in 3 gears and it will need a proper fix now we are home, we were able to do our planned ride.

They also don’t show the disappointment I felt when K said he didn’t want to cycle anywhere on our last day because his legs and bum hurt (I had found a brilliant National Trust place ten miles from where we were staying that we could have cycled round for a few hours before heading home). Remember – I don’t like it when my plans are changed! But in hindsight, he was quite right that it would have been too hot and I was very glad we opted to go elsewhere for a short walk and picnic on the lawns. Much better than getting all hot and sweaty before travelling 2 hours home. I hate it when he’s right.

They don’t show me waking up ridiculously early, knowing that the others would be asleep for hours, sitting reading my book and eating my breakfast on my own, forcing myself not to make the packed lunches or put away the washing up because I’d made a huge point about it being My Holiday Too, needing to get in the shower so I could apply my gel afterwards (which should be done around the same time each day – usually 7am at home) but not wanting to disturb K who deserved a lie in, but resenting him a bit for being able to sleep for SO LONG.

So, although they say that the camera never lies, it doesn’t show everything. Ninety percent of the break was lovely, relaxing, fun, enjoyable, what I’d hoped. But that other ten percent makes me feel a little bit of a fraud, a bit of a FaceBragger (one of the reasons why I left FaceBook) for posting pictures that make it seem idyllic. Almost but not quite.

Another version of me

  1. Feeling like you can’t keep a thought in your head for more than a few moments before it wafts away out of reach.
  2. Feeling like you can’t cope with the smallest thing going wrong.
  3. Feeling like your head is going to explode with all the stuff that is going round in it, even though most of the time you can’t keep a thought in your head (see 1.)
  4. Not wanting to be seen but wondering why you seem invisible.
  5. Questioning your decisions when you used to be confident.
  6. Feeling anxious about things that you would have never been concerned about before.
  7. Wondering if people can see that you are anxious.
  8. Making mistakes because you can’t concentrate.

It sounds like I am describing some sort of mental health issue doesn’t it?

But, combine these feelings with: joint pain, hearing loss in one ear, tinnitus, sleeplessness, irritability, weight gain, tiredness at strange times and a whole host of other symptoms and you have in front of you a peri-menopausal woman who thinks she is falling physically apart and going mad.

Thankfully, I have a lovely doctor who assured me I wasn’t going mad, wasn’t depressed, but was entering a phase of my life which changes things irrevocably. I won’t feel like the old me any more: I will feel like another version of me.

This other version of me has been prescribed an oestrogen gel which I rub into my upper arms each morning and it helps to alleviate some of the symptoms. They are not all going to go away overnight – that would expecting miracles – but there are things I can do to help some of them. I have been reading up on this a lot and am astonished at the number of ailments that result from the peri-menopause. Why aren’t we told this? Why is no-one telling employers about this? Why is it still seen as something to joke about – hot flushes (I rarely have them) and Black Cohosh? It’s not funny and we certainly should not “just get on with it”. Yes, generations of women have “just got on with it” but they weren’t told it could be different. In times gone by, a lot of women would have been admitted to an asylum because they were sent “mad” from the symptoms.

Like every other stage of my life, I am going to try and make the best of it. I am going to take all the advice I can get. I can going to nourish my dry skin; treat my coarse dry hair to a nice conditioner; I am going to go for long walks every day (work and weather permitting) to help strengthen my bones: I am going to take better care of myself.

But mostly I am not going to berate myself for having a bad day – there have been plenty and there will be plenty more. I’ve talked to K, T and A about it, told my mum, spoken to my boss (who was incredibly supportive and understanding) and I am telling my friends as and when I see them. It hasn’t been easy – I am not very comfortable talking about things that are private, my feelings (weirdly, it’s much easier to put it all down on virtual paper), but I am not embarrassed and will not make excuses or apologise. If I want to weep because, well, just because I need to, then I will weep. If I am having a bad day and can’t face the world I will stay at home and not face the world*. Friends will understand, unless they are lucky enough not to experience any of this. I am going to allow my family to make me cups of tea and cook dinner from time to time. I am not going to feel bad about shoving something ready made in the oven when I can’t face making a meal from scratch. I don’t have to do it all, all the time. This other version of me is going to have to learn to let go of the reins sometimes and sit back and let others do it. And it’s not selfish or self-indulgent, it’s necessary.

So, another chapter begins. Here’s to the journey ahead.

* A lot of women are struggling to go to work and do the job they have done for years because of brain fog and anxiety. I know I am VERY fortunate to be able to work from home and I hugely appreciate it. Equally I am incredibly lucky to have a very understanding boss. Others are not so lucky.

Great advice and info here
https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/
https://megsmenopause.com/

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A new job, a trip and growing up.

Disclaimer: Before anyone starts thinking I’ve been keeping secrets, the new job isn’t mine.

A few weeks ago, T came down from his room – not because his dinner was ready – to tell us that he had been on the Indeed.co.uk website and applied for some jobs. OK! No discussion, no advice needed. He just went on his own initiative and applied for the ones he deemed suitable – a local cafe/deli; a shop (can’t remember which one) and a pub – which I worked in at the same age! I was impressed with his motivation and resourcefulness. I was also not particularly hopeful that he would have much success.

I was happily proved wrong when he got a call about ten days later from the pub asking him to go in for an interview. Of all the places for him to get an interview, the same pub that I worked in as a teenager. Too weird. I dropped him over one early evening a few days later. He went in. And came out about 5 minutes later, running back to the car. This is not looking good, I thought to myself. Instead of coming to the passenger side and getting in he gestured to me to wind my window down. “The woman really likes me, can I do a trial shift on Saturday?” Possibly the shortest interview in history, well certainly in the history of our family! He did the trial. He did a good job, and was asked to start the following Saturday on a regular shift of 2-9pm. He’s now done two shifts and he’s very happy. Especially this Saturday when he came home with just shy of £30 in tips! He must be doing OK. He reckons what swung it at the interview, and what has helped with his confidence talking to people and being able to to do such a customer facing job is going to Cadets. I can honestly say that when he was 3 years old I thought he would never become the confident young man that he is. He would never leave my side, he was anxious and nervous of new people. I would like to think that some of our parenting has had a small influence on his transformation but Cadets has certainly played a huge part in it.


This morning, at 4.30, K’s alarm clock went off, signalling it was time to wake A up to get ready for a school trip. She was due at school no later than 5.30am ready for a 5.45am start on a 3 days, 2 night trip to France to visit World War I memorials and places of significance. It is a VERY packed itinerary and she is going to be knackered when she gets home. T did the same trip back in year 9 but I think it was 3 nights but the same itinerary! It’s a series of “firsts” for her. First trip abroad without us; first time travelling on a ferry (her message to me was “it’s weird, you can feel it moving”); first time on a trip with friends (her school trip in Year 6 was not the best due to all the issues she had with the other girls at the time) and a first time in France. She’s going to all the places that I visited when I did the same trip 30+ years ago. I am excited for her, but feel that, like T (any me all those years ago), she may not appreciate all that she is seeing. This evening they will have a meal in Ypres and watch the the sounding of the Last Post at Menin Gate – an experience that still makes me well up all these years later for it’s poignancy and beauty (the one thing I really remember moving me when I was there at age 15). I hope she feels it too.

She returns home on Saturday and I will have missed her so much I will squish her and all will be right in the world.


My kids are growing up. T applying for jobs and getting one. A packing for herself ready for her trip and being so organised. I am a very proud mumma.

Decisions

It seems there is always something to think about; decisions to make. From the mundane “what to have for dinner” kind of decisions to the more exciting “what subjects shall I take for GCSE”?

Obviously the second is a decision for A (I am WAY passed that point in my life, by about thirty years) and she is, as always, approaching it in a mature, sensible way.

She’s been thinking about it for a while. She gave up French as soon as she could in year 9 and she is equally as disenchanted with German. This means that her choices are limited somewhat: if a student doesn’t choose a language at GCSE, they are forced to choose from Gerography, History, Computing or Business Studies. Luckily, A is keen to do both Geography and Business. Strangely there were T’s choices at GCSE but I don’t think this has influenced A at all.

On Thursday night we attended the school Options Evening where we were able to listen to up to 6 subject teachers tell us why A should take up their subject. Most were unchanged from when we went through the process with T but it was a useful evening for A as it helped her make the decision of the 3rd subject she would like to choose. She was weighing up between Food Preparation and Nutrition; Health and Social Care; or Design Technology. We were unable to attend the Health/Social Care talk as the Design Technology talk overran. Luckily, A’s form teacher was taking the talk so has run through it with A in form time.

She has decided on Food Prep and Nutrition and I am glad. She loves cooking and baking, has a real interest in healthy eating and, although it will not be a walk in the park, it will offer a bit of creativity and a practical subject compared to the other subjects that she is hoping to do. She expressed concern to the teacher about her leanings towards vegetarianism and was reassured that although she would be encouraged to learn skills such as boning a chicken and filleting a fish, she would never be forced to eat or prepare anything she is not comfortable with.

We have Parents evening this week and after that she will fill in the form that will decide what she is doing for the coming two school years. I am sure she has made the right decision, following the advice of the school: to choose subjects that she likes and has an aptitude for. There is an element of pressure from subject teachers to take up their subject at GCSE but she has resisted those that she doesn’t want to do such as Drama and Music, both of which she apparently shows talent for, and is sticking to her guns. I am proud of her for that.