CPTSD and The Phoenix

my arm with a phoenix tattoo
Layla the Black Lab looking happy with her tongue out.

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You’re hot, You have a million and one things to do between the home, work and trying to entertain the small demons you created that are running round demanding everything, and if you hear “mum” one more time you might just literally explode – but you wont because you know it will still be your job to clean all the ‘you’ off the walls.

I’ve been there, I felt my children were driving me crazy, I was drowning under the constant tide of washing, cleaning and trips to the potty and I couldn’t cope. All these phrases and images were coming out of my mouth and poisoning my mind.

Our minds are so clever and able to do the most amazing things, but they are also undiscerning and pretty gullible. Our mind absorbs and takes in everything we tell it, even when it’s completely absurd.

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Every time I referred to my children as demon spawn, my mind believed it and soon a trepidation took shape that made me feel low at the idea of spending the day with them. Every time I said I was drowning under all my home, parenting and work responsibilities my mind let it in. Every time I told it I was being driven crazy, that I couldn’t cope, that I was useless, my brain believed me and soon I was having physical symptoms. I had panic attacks and felt snappy and at the point I sought help, I thought I might genuinely be crazy – because that’s the appropriate response to the extreme images I was creating in my mind and I had told myself I wasn’t equipped to deal with it.

And the best part, my children are not awful. Not in slightest. My home is not dirty and my work gets done – eventually. All I wanted was to spend time with them, have a picnic or go on a day out but these things all felt impossible to me.

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That was the first thing that needed to change. Being a lover of language, creative writing and all things literature. I had to do something that felt very unnatural. I needed to stop using such negative and emotive language. I needed to stop exaggerating the negative and start telling my brain some useful stuff. – Number 1. Ditch the negative self talk. Your children aren’t demons, hell spawn or anything else you call them. They are your children. You love them. You couldn’t imagine life without them, even if they are challenging at times. Of course you can cope, your success rate for coping to date is 100%, that is amazing. You have phenominal coping skills.

Number 2 – “Will you put your shoes on”, “We need to go, put your shoes on”, “No they are on the wrong feet”, “Where is your other shoe”, “JUST GET YOUR DARN SHOES ON RIGHT NOW!!!!”

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We get angry, we tell ourselves they are making us angry. But are they? Are they not just being mostly age appropriate children thinking it’s funny getting a reaction out of you, daydreaming and wondering what your 3rd favourite Octonaught is. I was making myself angry all those times. I was letting myself get worked up. So I changed tactics, “What are you going to put on first, your shoes or your coat?” usually works but on the days when he is really in daydream land “We are leaving at this time, if you don’t have your shoes on, you will have to walk to the car in bare feet”, is better. I say it once and the responsibility is with him to put them on or not and he will face the consequence. I only had to say it once, I didn’t get mad and luckily he had his shoes on before I had his little sister in the car.

Setting expectations like this and making sure I followed through was key. Some days it was hard, I was tired or foggy and would forget if I had already given a warning and so they would get two or three warnings and I would feel myself getting tense (notice I didn’t say feel my blood boiling, ha-ha). And sometimes even now, I still shout but it’s so occasionally and I know I’m still doing a phenominal job. I do actually have amazing coping skills.

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Finally, make time for them. Book the day out, even if you don’t feel like it. Go for the picnic or the nature walk or have the water fight. I can hear you screaming at me, “when Mel, when do I do that between the cooking, the cleaning and the laundry”. I know you think, I would if I could. But you can. It sounds counter-intuitive I know, but spending time with your children makes more time, and everyone is happier. So you spend half an hour in the garden playing with your children. You come in to get the washing on, and you put it on. You don’t need to fix a snack, answer 20 strange questions or tell them to stop fighting because they are happy and have had attention from you. You start to cook dinner and you are left alone to cook it in peace, and you all have lovely things to say about your day around the dinner table. The house isn’t wrecked because they burnt their energy in the garden so you only had to sweep the floor once. Making time for your children, makes time for you.

Putting these steps into practice, you’ll not just get to survive the 6 week break, but you and your children will get to enjoy it and you might even find a new level of confidence and gratitude from the spectacular way you cope with the challenge of parenting for years to come.

If all else fails, remember that one day they will be potty trained, they will be riding their bikes out with friends and you might even miss the constant screams of “MUM” – until then there is wine.

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How to have more time without joining the 5am clubHow to have more time without joining the 5am club

Do you never have enough time? I’d love to go out, but when? I just want a bath but I don’t have time. I don’t have time to exercise or meditate.

to do list
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I used to say these things to myself and my family all the time in between the never ending mountain of laundry, the sides that seem to make themselves sticky when I turn my back and the never ending to-do list. Not having time to go to the park because I have to get the house clean, keep the children clean, walk the dog, make myself pretty, make the thing for nursery, find clothes to donate to charity, and make a lasagne I can drop off to that friend in need.

And what did I have to show for it, miserable children that couldn’t let off steam so were constantly under my feet or drawing on the walls (add that to the to do list!). Friends I never had time to see properly and when I did, all I had to talk about was complaining about The List, the children, the husband. And, to add insult to injury, the sides were still sticky, the floor still covered in goodness-knows-what, and that mountain of laundry never seemed to get smaller.

Eventually, even the social engagements with friends and family felt like another thing on the to-do list. I was stressed. I wasn’t a fun mum. I wasn’t a fun anything. I complained about life to my amazing husband, and I complained about my husband and my home to anyone who would listen. I felt I was drowning until I literally couldn’t face it anymore.

woman on pier, depressed and burnt out sitting with her knees up and her head down
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I had other problems at the time too, problems that exacerbated this need, and this need added fuel to the already raging fire and I was consumed by an apathy and lethargy that can only be described as burn out. I cried and slept for what felt like eons, until I learnt that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a secret the media don’t want to tell you, even some women try and keep up the fa├žade…

As amazing and awsome as you are, YOU ARE NOT SUPERWOMAN. I thought I could be and it only made me and my family miserable.

Picture a bucket in front of you, with a hose filling it with water. The water is slowly filling the bucket and you come along and put one hole in it, the children. Then you put another hole in it for your partner. Then another for work, another and another and no matter how much water the hose puts in the bucket, it is getting emptier and emptier until there is nothing left to give.

woman in lotus pose balancing on suspended loop of material
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When we breath, we take a breath in, and give a breath out. We give AND WE RECEIVE. Try now, take a big breath in and then one long breath out, give everything you have and take nothing back, and you will soon find yourself in very desperate need to take a breath in. It is natural to have this balance, to give and to receive. (If you haven’t already, please stat breathing now)

Now I am able to have balance and look after myself, every part of my life and my families life is unrecognisably better. I take the time to exercise and I have more energy to play with them and feel happier because of it. I take the time to meditate, and am calmer and shout less, I make time to do these things because they are important to me and they make me a better person.

We have days out as a family, and with the girls, and even the odd date night.

My children are better behaved, and when they aren’t I am more equipped to handle it. They give me more space at home to get things done between the fun at double the speed.

Do I look like a model everyday, no, because I’m a mum with toddlers.

The pile of laundry didn’t magically go away, the sides still need wiping before I cook but my house is about the same as it was before and we are all happier.

And the children being clean…well it’s much more fun rolling down the grass hills in the rain. that’s what splishy, splashy warm baths are for and cups of hot chocolate!

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Easter HangoverEaster Hangover

Hello from the other side!!!!! I didn’t work over Easter so things have been a bit quiet here on the site, trust me, that is the only place things have been quiet!

multicolored candies
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Are you feeling a bit of a Easter hang over? I certainly am! After the chocolate binges and general overindulgence, many people feel tired, bloated and just plain icky. But don’t worry, there are ways to recover from your Easter excesses. Check out these tips for getting back on track after Easter.

As per usual, we did the normal days out to see lambs, picnic in the woods and had an Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday, it was a lot of fun and the children loved it.

The other thing they loved was being spoilt rotten! I have lost count of the amount of chocolate eggs filling my home. I succumbed and ate a couple of their eggs – to help them of course because no 4 year old needs more than 10 eggs, even if they are spaced out over the next few weeks.

By Tuesday we all felt awful; tired, moody, uncomfortable and generally low.

So I have gone back to basics to ensure that my spawn actually have some chocolate left by the end of the weekend.

It all started with a little forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for binging on stolen chocolate (although I don’t think the children will if they notice). I have strong memories around chocolate, food and Easter. The chocolate companies have marketed chocolate as a way to love myself so strongly and convincingly that it is work to undo that programming. It is a behavior I relied on for 30 years, There are physical neurological connections driving this behavior.

Next, although I have forgiven myself, I can’t keep using this as an excuse to binge eat. Now I know better, I can do better and I am committed to doing so.

turned on black samsung smartphone between headphones
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I have gone back to listening to my hypnotic recording and remembering why I eat the way I do, how eating healthily makes me feel in my body and my mind.

vegetable lot
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And during the rest of my day, I am remembering that I am making the wonderful choice to stay slim, to stay healthy and I love the person I have become.

When you have Complex Trauma, the road to recovery is never straight. I am an expert in nutrition and health, a hypnotherapist and weight management coach and yet still sometimes events knock me for six and I have to dust myself back off and remember why I choose every day to have a gorgeous, healthy body.

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