“You have such a perfect family!”
I got told this after sharing photos of our trip to Glastonbury this year and so I thought I would share a few pics of my perfect family. We never argue, the kids are always on perfect behaviour, our home is a sanctuary of calm, peace and love. There is never a raised voice, never a curse word muttered. We all just live in harmony.
I mean, of course, that is all bullshit. When I got told how perfect my family are based on these images, it made me think about how we come across on social media.
Yes, we had a wonderful time but I didn’t take photos of the guilt I felt when I had to nap every day. I didn’t take photos of the ostomy bag leak and me crying my eyes out. I didn’t take photos of the arguments the kids had or the time my eldest lost my youngest in a festival or the anxiety attack I had at 4am. I didn’t take photos of the difficulties of raising teenagers and the conflicts they are going through.
I didn’t take photos of three kids in a car, arguing over who is manspreading leading on to a battle over why the term man spreading is or isn’t sexist and a discussion about who had the biggest balls. Nor did I photograph the sheer anxiety of letting your 16 year old into a mosh pit alone, or the look on the youngest’s face when he found out the big two didn’t want to take him to see a band.
I didn’t take photos of my worries that my hernia was returning or the feelings of sadness and fear I had despite having this lovely family time. Or the struggles in keeping a relationship going through years of chronic illness.
I love my family, they are wonderful and I am so lucky to have them. But photos on social media only show the best of times so when you have those feelings of worry when you see everyone else having a seemingly perfect life, remember that we are all fighting our own battles and comparison to others is unhealthy and really doesn’t help!
Are my family perfect? Hell no!!!! But we get through each day and share the happy photos to celebrate the times it goes well.
For the longest time, when someone asks me how I’m doing, I said “fine thanks!” It’s bright, breezy and if we are honest, what most people want to hear.
Lots of people I know in the real world read this blog, and so when I see them, I think they feel they have to ask after my health. Being British and having the polite factor drummed into me, I respond with the usual answers of “good, how are you?” “Fine, thank you” and “not too bad!”.
Sometimes I see the confusion in their faces and realise that they’ve probably just read a heart wrenching description of my mental health and that I shat myself that morning. (Oh the joys of being an oversharing Blogger!)
It’s a worry when you have a chronic illness that you are going to become too much for those around you, that it must be hard that you are always ailing with something. I worry that people will get bored of me and my illness, that they wish I’d just be better and stop banging on about it!
I also feel pressure to be sunny and positive, I think sometimes people expect it of me because of writing this blog. I feel I have to be a shiny, happy person and not talk about all the many negatives.
It got me thinking about why I say “fine” when I’m anything but fine. And I think some of it is embarrassment, some is habit and some is my issue of opening up to people unless it’s in the written word or if I’m standing in front of an audience! Yes, I realise that’s quite fucked up.
So I thought I would start trying to be honest when I’m asked how I am. The results have varied! Most people seem taken aback when I say “I’m not great to be honest, I’m back and forth to the hospital and it’s really getting me down” I think it shocks them to get a genuine response to an everyday, casual question.
When this happens I feel a bit embarrassed and that I’m flaunting some unwritten rule that I should have a stiff upper lip, nod and enquirer how they are doing without actually wanting to know the answer.
But I’ve also had some great responses, from those who are asking because they care. In that fleeting moment where I tell them that I’m struggling and they reach out, touch my shoulder, tell me that they’re there for me if I need anything. Those interactions feel so real and genuine and human.
So you’ve been warned. I’m going to try and be honest from now on. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask!
Dear Tea Lady,
I am so sorry that I don’t know your name, but every time we have met (which has been probably 20 times over the past three and a half years!) I have been dreadfully ill and self indulgent. I do genuinely feel bad that I can’t remember your name as you have been one of the most important people in my recovery. But I’m going to blame the drugs.
So dear Tea Lady of the Northern General hospital, I wanted to write a big thank you letter to you. I have had 4 of my 5 surgeries at your hospital and benefitted from the wonderful care of top surgeons, consultants, anaesthetists, specialists, registrars, doctors, students, nurses and support workers. All of these people gave me the most brilliant support and health care, I am so lucky to live in the UK and get free at the point of care, world class treatment.
I have had my colon removed, an ostomy created, a jpouch created, a jpouch removed, two hernias fixed, a rectum and anus removed and another ostomy created. I have also spent weeks and weeks in hospital receiving medication, treatment, blood transfusions and care.
But you know the person who made me feel so much better every day? Yep, it was you!
I saw my consultant for a couple of minutes on their morning rounds, the doctors if something is going wrong, nurses through the day who are so busy and overworked and though I am sure they would like to spend a little more time with patients, they just can’t, I saw support workers, specialists and that huge team for the surgeries themselves. Yet it was your face that made me smile several times a day.
You make your rounds with your tea cart and after day one, take the time to remember, not only my name, but also how I take my tea! It is a small yet important part of my hospital day, a little feeling of personal care and a reminder of home.
You made me feel special, when you spend a lot of time in hospital, you very quickly become institutionalised, it’s so easy to end up feeling like a number. But you made me feel like a person, a person who likes their tea strong, yet milky and with one sugar.
I wonder if you know just how important your role is? Do you understand that you become a part of so many people’s recovery story. You are the person I saw the most, a constant, nurses change from shift to shift, you only see doctors if something is going wrong, yet you are the person I saw several times a day, every day. Your days off is always a sad one.
And so I want to thank you.
Thank you for all the tea, thank you for the extra biccies on the evenings where you thought I looked like I needed them, thank you for remembering me, thank you for knowing I am a person, not just a patient, thank you for the times you noticed I looked sad and came and touched my hand and made eye contact, thank you for taking your time to speak to me, thank you for the magazines you brought over when I was bed ridden, thank you for telling me about yourself, thank you for the gossip, thank you for being wonderful.
Tea Lady, you are awesome. (And I am really sorry that I can’t remember your name)
So recently, our daughter told us that she has a girlfriend and so I thought I’d do a little post about how to cope with this news.
I’m kidding, coping means dealing with a difficult situation. I don’t need to cope with this, it just is and it makes no difference at all to our relationship!
My daughter is an awesome human being, she is kind, caring, funny, intelligent, curious, exciting, passionate, loving, brave, beautiful and a total badass warrior queen. She makes me so happy and proud for all of these reasons and so her relationships bear no relevance to how I feel about her.
All I have ever wanted is for my children to be happy. And my role in her coming out is to ensure that she knows that we love and support her in all that she does.
We’ve talked a lot, she’s very open and honest with us and so we give her the same respect back. I have told her that as a heterosexual woman, I can’t know how she feels, but that I am willing to listen, learn and support. I ask questions, I hear her answers and tell her that though I may not know the answer to any questions she might have, that I can damn sure try to find out.
I told her that as her mum, I hope she can always come to me, but if she feels she can’t, we can talk about adults who she can trust and speak to in privacy.
Has it changed anything? Certainly not in our relationship apart from me realising that she is growing up and dating. Does it change anything for me personally? I suppose I feel more sensitive to comments I hear about sexuality and homophobia. I have lots of LGBTQ+ friends and would stand up with them against prejudice but it’s probably made me more aware of that prejudice.
It made me check my privilege and realise that my sexuality isn’t questioned by others. That I never worry about holding hands with my partner or showing affection in public. It makes me realise that my sexuality is never an issue for people or up for discussion.
I suppose I do feel slightly more protective to her, I want to be able to shield and defend her from any comments that will upset her.
Some responses I have had, or others have told me about have been:
“It’s a difficult life she will have now”
“Oh, but you’ll never have a big white wedding for her”
“Is it a phase?”
“What about grandchildren?”
“She’s very young to make these choices”
I find these all pretty bonkers. The wedding and children ones make zero sense. Firstly, I never assumed that she would marry or have children, she may choose not to do either whatever gender her partner is. And those are things that can happen whoever she is with!
“Is it a phase?” She has told us she is pansexual, this means you are attracted to the person, not the gender. So she may date men, women or transgender men or women in the future. She says she doesn’t know what her future holds but she doesn’t want to rule anything out. So if by phase, you mean, could she date men in the future, the answer is yes. If you mean, is she trying something new, the answer is yes, this is new. It makes me uncomfortable for others to question her motives, it’s kind of none of your business.
“It’s a difficult life she will have.” Fuck, life IS difficult! But I’m fairly certain it is more difficult to live a life where you hide your true feelings. Could she face prejudice in her life. Of course. She’s a woman. It’s going to happen regardless of who she dates. Does adding pansexuality to the mix mean she could face more prejudice? Yes. But that really is society’s issue and not her burden to bear.
“She’s very young to make these choices” Sexuality isn’t a choice. I never made a conscious decision to be straight, it’s just who I am and it’s the same for her. She isn’t making choices, she is expressing her feelings.
As a half Indian, disabled, working class woman, I have had my fair share of prejudice and it’s not a nice feeling to know others are judging you on aspects of yourself that you have no control over and the same goes for my daughter and her sexuality.
Are you allowed your opinion? Of course! But I’ll warn you now, never bring a negative opinion about this onto my child. Because I’ll go mama bear on your ass and it won’t be pretty…
The only genuine advice I would give to any parents who have recently found out their child is LGBTQ+ is to be open, genuine and accept that you may not be the only person your child needs right now, get googling, there are support groups for kids who may want to talk, my daughter is going to an LGBTQ+ youth club. Also remember that this isn’t about you. It’s about them so make them the centre of your thoughts and feelings.
I think something my daughter has appreciated is that we are asking her questions, she’s the only expert of how she is feeling and so I am treating her as such. In doing this, we can show her that we accept, appreciate and listen to her and that we know we can learn from her.
I am very proud of her, she is a fantastic person and always has been, her passion for learning, kindness of spirit and beautiful soul have ensured that pride. Yet now Pride has a capital letter in our relationship because her pansexuality is something that changes nothing between us, yet is a huge part of who she is.
So here’s to my daughter, my wonderful, hilarious, intelligent, pansexual queen of a daughter.
Chronic illness has a lot of downsides. A LOT! Apart from the physical effects, the surgeries, the time in hospital and the emotional and mental effects, it can massively effect your social life and friendships.
I think it really does show who your friends are though. I get that my illness has gone on for a long time, I know this more than anyone. I know it must be hard to be friends with me at times, I’m not the worlds most reliable person after all. I cancel on plans at the last minute and there’s times where I am so unwell that I can’t be there for the people I care about.
But it makes me really sad that there are friends who sometimes seem to forget about me. Maybe they are fair weather friends, only there when I have something to give back, only there when I am able to be fun and go out. Or maybe they just don’t know what to say to me?
I know it’s not just me too. I get a lot of messages from readers who are facing the same thing and are unsure of how to deal with it which is why I decided to write this post. I don’t want to sound self obsessed or bitchy but it is definitely an issue for people with long term health conditions.
Scope did a poll where they found that two thirds of people feel awkward around disability. Perhaps the same applies to illness? Maybe people are worried about the right or wrong thing to say? Maybe they’re concerned about offending?
I understand that feeling of being scared to say the wrong thing. Of worrying about sticking your foot in it and saying something that may upset the other person. But dude, just do it. Send a message, pick up the phone, arrange a visit.
I try to see the best in others, I think it’s better to assume the best in people rather than thinking the worst and so I try and think of reasons behind this behaviour. Perhaps they’re just really busy, they have their own shit to be dealing with. It’s easy to slip your mind when your life and struggles take over. Maybe they don’t know what to say or they are having their own issues?
I have some amazing friends who I couldn’t cope without, who are always there for me. They put themselves out to come and look after me, cook and clean when I can’t. They visit, call and text and those people I am truly grateful to.
I know it’s tough being my friend. I know there are these vast time periods when I am so ill that I can give you nothing back. Believe me when I tell you how sorry I am that there are times when our friendship is one way, I’m sorry that sometimes I need more than I can give. But know that as broken as I may be, I am loyal and loving and kind and when my stupid, bloody illness allows, I will be there for you too.
I was in the Leadmill with my friend Lizzy, her boyfriend was the DJ at a new club night and she’s got us tickets. I wasn’t going to go out but she really wanted to see her fella so I agreed.
We went and danced and partied and I was glad I’d made the effort to go out. She went to see her boyfriend whilst I went to the bar and as I looked up at the DJ box for her, I spied a man with long hair wildly dancing hanging off the booth whilst taking requests and was just a little bit smitten!
I recognised him as the bloke I’d seen a few weeks earlier in the same club skating in and dancing with friends. I’d wanted to speak to him then, but bottled it. Lizzy came down and I asked about him, she said he was called Timm and that I should come meet him.
I know people may not believe this but I used to be so shy and unconfident and I was too embarrassed to speak to him. So she dashed off and jumped up to the box and called the immortal words “HEY! My mate fancies you!”
I was mortified.
He looked down and said “the one with a skin head?” She nodded. “Bring her up!” Shyly I went and said hi and he handed me some champagne in a chipped mug. I thought it was the coolest thing ever!
Timm is my best person in the world, he makes my life happier, fuller and better and I know it sounds cliche but I genuinely love him more with each year that passes.
I worry about him. I worry that all the stress and hardships of my illness will be too much for him. He’s a good bloke though and I know he’d never just walk away but this makes me worry that he feels stuck with me, that I’m a burden to him.
I worry that he has turned from my partner to my carer and that I make him unhappy. Often people think so much about the person who is ill but their partner is expected to just cope with it all. Timm’s had to do so much for me in the last 13 years and the past 3 years and 5 surgeries have put so much strain on him. I feel sad that the cause of his stress is me.
Timm makes me feel like the best woman on earth, he tells me I’m beautiful even when I’m in pyjamas and unable to shower and haven’t slept for two days. He says I’m the best even when I know I am further towards the worst. He makes me laugh even in my darkest hours. He listens, he supports, he makes everything better.
I thought I loved Timm when I was 18. And I did! But the depth of my love for him now at 35 is so much more than I could have ever imagined. It’s a love that comes with time, he knows me better than anyone else in the world, there’s no facade, no fakery, nothing hidden.
He is my everything. And though I struggle with feeling that I’m a burden to him, and worry I’m not good enough, he has my heart and always will.
Happy Anniversary of when a skin head’s friend told you that she fancied you.
18 years bubsy xxx
I have three kids aged 15, 13 and 11. From the outside, I appear to have it all in hand. My kids are polite, friendly and fun to be with. I have managed to get to this point without losing them (apart from that one time on Blackpool Pier), killing them in a stupidity accident or them hating me. I also write about life as a parent, apparently giving the public the illusion that I know what the fuck I am doing.
Therefore I get comments and messages from people who seem to think I am the Baby Whisperer crossed with Mary Poppins. That I have some magical gift or that I know the mythical answer to parenting. This post is to let you in on a secret. I have no clue what I am doing!
None of us do! Every day is a learning experience, I am just figuring it out day by day. This means sometimes I fluke it out and things go well, but other times, it all goes horribly wrong and I am left sat in a war zone wondering how much flights to the Maldives cost.
Parenting is bloody hard work. From the sleepless nights of newborns, through teething and weaning, onto the stage when they can move themselves about and suddenly every nice thing in your home goes up onto a higher level. Toddler tantrums as they discover their own voice through to starting school and suddenly having a different authority figure in their lives. Tween dramas give way to teen dramas and suddenly the issues become more expensive and more dangerous… It is scary stuff being responsible for another human being and all any of are trying to do is not fuck them up too badly.
The only way to get through is to have other honest parents to talk to, and honest is the key word here. Don’t read social media posts of the perfect mums who have made an organic breakfast, are beautifully dressed and made up, whose children are little angels who say ‘thank you mummy’ as she passes them their mung bean and papaya oatmeal and then trot out to school so mum can start her day as a high flying business woman who has it all…
Seriously, ignore that shit.
Honest parents are the best. They will tell you about the time they saw the bin van coming as they had just finished breastfeeding and went to run to put the bins out and stood in a shitty nappy, skidding across the floor and then meeting the bin man with shit up their leg and one breast hanging out of their top.
They will tell you about the times when they lost their temper and shouted at their kids and then truly regretted it and cried outside on the doorstep until said child came and said ‘don’t cry mummy’.
They will tell you that sometimes they think their kids are dickheads and they occasionally daydream of running away from home.
They will tell you that random freezer dinners of one fishfinger, 2 mini sausage rolls, a pizza finger and some beans is totally acceptable if you stick a piece of cucumber on the side.
They will tell you that their heart aches when they try and deal with teenagers who are so angst filled and bubbling with hormones that you feel like different species. That when their kids make idiotic choices and take dangerous paths that they just wish they were toddlers again so that the parents could cuddle them and watch Finding Nemo in bed and keep them safe.
They will tell you that parenting is all practicing, that they don’t have the answers and that it is hard work.
(All of these have happened to me…)
Honest parents are vital. Because when they’ve been honest about all the challenging parts of being a parent, you want to celebrate with them all the amazing parts. Because though I sound down on being a parent here, I’m really not. I love being a mum, it is literally the best thing I have ever done.
From the moment my first son was put in my arms, I felt purpose. I knew that my life had changed forever and that I would spend the rest of it protecting and loving this bundle of joy. I remember crying about the miracle of babies, how a little part of me and a little part of my partner had made an actual human being! Though that might have been the drugs…
Seeing your child grow and change is just magical, from the baby days where they are physically changing before your eyes every single day through to teens where you can see them maturing into wonderful young adults, the process is just beautiful.
The pride as you see them learn is wonderful, teaching them about the world around them and filling their minds with information and seeing them achieve is awesome. I feel a great privilege to be mum to my bambinos, and they are growing up so quickly, I feel like I am grasping onto the last moments of childhood, especially with my eldest. This week he came and laid on the sofa with me, head rested on my shoulder and watched TV. I wanted to hug him and squeeze him but instead, I nonchalantly stayed put, slowly creeping my arm over to rest on his shoulder and quietly enjoyed the moment like he was a butterfly who would flit off at any moment.
I adore being a mum, my kids mean everything to me and I wouldn’t give this life up for the world. I am so proud of them all, the three of them are all completely different with different personalities, goals and desires, but they are all just the best. I can love them but still freely admit that I don’t have a clue what I am doing.
People ask me for parenting advice often, I don’t feel I can give it as all kids and families are so different. But if I am pushed, I say this:
- No child ever went bad from being loved too much. Tell them you love them. Often. Seriously every day. Yep, especially when you are arguing.
- If you fuck up, admit it and say sorry. You are teaching them that even their Mighty Grand High Parent sometimes gets it wrong and thats ok.
- Fill your home and your life with interesting things, people and experiences. Kids are little sponges of curiosity, teach them everything, give them culture, show them the world around them.
- Don’t go it alone, speak to other (HONEST) parents. This shit is hard work, it is not failing to ask for help.
- Boost their self-esteem. Be genuine and when they are awesome, tell them.
- Give them the gift of art. Encourage their creativity and celebrate art and music. Whether it is cartoons or the Mona Lisa, finger painting or building cardboard dens. Art is vital for kids, I honestly believe this and I think it helps them with pretty much every part of their lives.
- Be interested in their lives, there will come a day when they won’t want to share everything with you and you will miss it.
- Be honest with them. Be open and true and tell the truth about life, even if it is difficult.
- Enjoy them. They grow up so quickly. Someone once told me “you never know when it will be your last”, the last time they kiss you in front of their pals, the last time they’ll sit on your knee, the last time they will sleep in your bed… Cherish every moment.
- Take them outdoors. Mud pies, woodland walks, playing with sticks, building dens, laying in the sun, making daisy chains, playing games. These things really matter. Trust me.
- Be grateful. You have children when there are so many people in this world can’t. Don’t take them for granted, love them, revel in them and celebrate them.
When you have a chronic illness, one of the things that cause guilt and stress is letting people down, I hate that I am sometimes so slack and have to say no to plans, often at the last minute. To anyone I let down, I am sorry.
But please don’t stop inviting me…
I know it is frustrating when I call (or more likely do the cowardly text) at the last minute, I am sure you look down at your phone and roll your eyes and think ‘here we go again!’ I am sorry that I cancel on our plans, but I swear, in the cheesiest of lines, it’s not you, it’s me.
Whether it is last minute pain, fatigue or anxiety, whether it is physical or mental, I know that it can seem to you that I must not care. I know that you may analyse my excuse and logically come up with an outcome where I could make it if I really wanted to. I know that it makes you sad, or angry, or fed up.
But please don’t stop inviting me.
I know you have been there for me and come to my events, my parties, my coffee breaks. You make the effort to visit me and be an amazing friend. You put yourself out and very rarely cancel and it must be so frustrating to have a friend who doesn’t return the favour.
It must be quite difficult having me as a friend, I don’t have a normal level of consistency in my life, it is one thing or another with my health and if it isn’t a physical thing, years of living with these issues have made me mad as a bag of frogs.
But please don’t stop inviting me.
I am sorry for that time I missed your child’s birthday party, I am sorry I didn’t come on your planned trek to the countryside, I am sorry I bailed on your last party, I am sorry I cancelled our brunch date, I apologise for saying I would definitely come to that yoga class with you then abandoning you to do it alone.
I feel terrible that I didn’t call you more regularly when my problems seem to fill my whole head space, it makes me sad to know that I am not the best friend in the world, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.
But please don’t stop inviting me.
I know I am sometimes slack and I cancel on you. This illness of mine sometimes makes me selfish and clouds out everything else, but know this. I may not be present, but you are always in my thoughts, I might miss your event but I love you dearly, I bailed on your party but I am loyal, caring and my friends mean everything to me.
Even when I don’t make it to your events, please know how much it means to be invited. Your offers mean everything even if I know I can’t make it. Thank you for making me feel normal, for not being put off by my illness, my cancelations, my issues.
Please don’t stop inviting me.
It takes a very special person to be friends with someone with a chronic, life long illness. You lose friends and family members along the way when you are ill, it is a time where you find out who is really there for you. Some people can’t hack it, they walk away and don’t want to be part of your life because it isn’t all sweetness and light. These fair-weather friends are only there for the good times, when the shit hits the bedpan, they are out of here!!!
But the people who stay are true gems, and I appreciate the friends and family who have stuck by my side throughout the terrible lows and been there to cheer for the amazing highs.
Thank you to my amazing friends.
Thank you for never stopping inviting me.
I have this friend called Caroline and without her, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have coped in the past few years. She will be super embarrassed and probably tell me off for this post, but I’m going for it anyway!
We met 12 years ago when I moved to a new area, I had no friends with kids and didn’t know a soul. We met at playgroup when I saw her toddler son wearing a Stone Roses tshirt and was smitten. I went home and called Timm. “I met someone like me!” I cried. We joke that we then ignored each other for a year. But in 2005, we both had sons within a month of each other and our friendship bloomed.
When we became friends and starting hanging out together, my husband Timm was working away a lot, for months on end and Caroline and her partner Jim took me under their wings. It’s hard when you have a partner who works away, weekends are the worst as you feel you can’t intrude on other peoples family time so it can be very lonely. Caroline always made me feel welcome and helped so much during that time.
Our boys have grown up together and the other children too and Caroline and Jim have become the best of friends with myself and Timm. When we first introduced the men, we were worried they wouldn’t like each other, luckily they quickly became firm friends and from there have had so many adventures in the form of Responsible Fishing, their arts company.
Since I got so ill and started having surgeries, Caroline has been my rock. I just can’t explain quite how much she has made everything better. She was there. Not just physically but emotionally, she was there.
Looked after kids
Held my hand
Listened to me shout and cry
Taken me out
Looked after my family
Looked after my pets
Made me laugh
Allowed me to cry
Watched crap telly in my bed with me
A million other things…
She is the best friend I could ever wish for and I can’t believe my luck that I managed to find someone so bloody wonderful. I am so grateful to have such a beautiful, amazing, sensitive, loving and creative soul to share my life with. She is just the best.
The past 3 years have been the worst of my life. There have been times where I just couldn’t get out of bed, the sadness on my shoulders was so heavy. I felt as though there was a big, dark hole in my heart and it was spreading. It stopped the blood flowing to my limbs so they were heavy and didn’t want to move. It hurt my chest with it’s weight making me catch my breath. It hurt my brain by sending all the anxious thoughts in the world swirling around.
Caroline, I’m sorry if this embarrasses you, but you are wonderful and I love you very, very much. Your support, kindness and love has helped my family and myself more than you’ll ever know and I will never be able to repay you.