‘Tis the season to be……

….well actually, to be low and moody.

It’s cold, the days have suddenly become ridiculously short already and it’s not even midwinter yet, it’s raining, windy, foggy and grey. Who can blame any of us for feeling a bit less cheerful than we did when the sun was shining! As for those of us with mental health problems especially those linked to vitamin deficiencies, well the cooler months can be downright infused with darkness and depression.

That said, I love autumn with the fruits to scavenge from hedgerows and trees, the conkers, beech nuts, hazelnuts and sycamore spinners to find and the gorgeous colours of the leaves as they leave the trees. Winter can be beautiful in it’s own way but as a friend of mine put forward….how can you find beauty or things to enjoy on those days when it’s just….meh outside.

Part of me craves giving a history lesson into563678_10151520319509484_152449988_n.jpg how we as a race tried to make things more bearable in what would have been the most dangerous and thoroughly unenjoyable months. Yes they’ve become commercialised and segregated into the very specific “Christmas” decorations…but they began as something to remind us all that it wouldn’t last forever! Bringing in greenery to decorate the home, making sure you had enough food stock piled, a big old log for the fire that would last for weeks, plenty of candles to light the home and warm cosy clothing.

If such simple things could help our ancestors, there must be things out there now that can give us all even the smallest boost. You may not like them, may not think they’re a good idea or have ones you know are better for you…but I thought I’d have a go at a few of the things I like about Winter.

Now you probably don’t have a massive fireplace to put a yule log in, but those fake electric/gas fireplaces will still give you a warm room and a pretty glow that can be beautiful as well as functional. I know I love sitting in front of a fire with the curtains drawn and the world outside far away from my mind and so does Toby.

One that came up as I was chatting with Jay just now is candles. Again they add that lovely warm glow that you just don’t get from an electric lightbulb. If you need a bit of extra stimulus to get those senses moving then a lovely warm spicy scent to the candle will spread the warmth. I know I love a cinnamon scent over winter.

Getting wrapped up in a big snuggly jumper or blanket, without overheating! I find wrapping myself relatively tightly with something like this is very soothing and even helps with my Restless Legs Syndrome and muscle spasms sometimes.
There’s been a lots of research into deep pressure wrapping to help with anxiety (especially for people with autism), anyone with a baby will know they respond well to being swaddled and even dogs benefit from pressure vests when anxiety is high. So this one isn’t just me and it’s even got decent research being done into it…I feel thoroughly validated in feeling this is a good way to cope with feeling rubbish, though I won’t go into the science of it here.

Not the best coping mechanism for someone with weight issues but….comfort food. We all know there are certain foods that just taste much better in winter than in summer and vice versa. Stew, tatties and veg, your favourite soup, hot chocolate, spiced baked apples….this list could become very long and truly unhealthy but it doesn’t necessarily need to be fatty to be comfort food.

Looking forward to the part of winter that we all look forward to…the end and the point where we can start looking for conformation it will get warmer again. It needs a bit of forward thinking sometimes so lets talk about snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses….those gorgeous little plants who hide in their bulbs all winter and come poking back through to say “spring’s coming!”.

wpid-imag04901.jpg

The reason they need a bit of planning? well because you may not have any bulbs in your garden.

How to solve it? plant some! Snowdrops are the most awkward and can only really be transplanted/planted in spring as they’re prone to drying out…think on it for next year. Daffodils are an autumn planting and easily found in shops, plant them deep so you get nice big flowers and the bulbs do well. Crocuses….well look on the packet as some are spring flowering others aren’t, explore the garden centre and find some bulbs that look promising.

So something to do at the moment, something to look forward to…great idea (I need to get some bulbs)

For me this time of year is the time to get crafting in the evenings….well any time is really but in winter it’s great. You don’t need to be outside, the things you make can be colourful and cheerful, sparkling and beautiful! With the added bonus if you plan things out, the things you make can be given as gifts at Christmas.
I almost wish I was knitting a big blanket again this year as it does keep me warm to have the blanket on my knee as I’m knitting :p

May sound ridiculously simple, but going out to walk my dog fully geared up for anything that comes our way! Layers of clothing to keep me warm but not so hot I overheat, waterproof coat, walking boots, thermal gloves, hiking poles if I need them instead of my walking stick, trousers that can have the bottom unzip to come off in the hall when they’re filthy without having to strip the whole trouser off.
Yes I’ll still come back grumbling if I come back drenched by freezing rain…but then when I get home, there’s that lovely feeling of a warm shower or just changing into dry clothes and curling up with a warm drink! That post-outdoor winter weather self care is the most important part of how to enjoy walking in winter 🙂

When inside I just love to listen to the sound of rain on the window or especially on the roof of the conservatory! That and the noise of the wind blowing through trees (which gets a bit quieter as the season goes on and the leaves have fallen). It’s like white noise and very soothing, it makes me pretty sleepy if I’m honest.

I did mention to a friend, who struggles with this season more than I do, that i think it’s a beautiful season and we chatted about a photo challenge. Now I don’t know how to word it in a short and snappy way but I’ll be challenging myself to find photos of the things that make me enjoy winter. Those little gleams of feeling good that make the season bearable and when I do, I’ll post them on here. Since I don’t really do daily posts any more it might not be regular but I’ll try my hardest to spot them and get them on here!Peters lane bridal path, Morley

Advertisements

Sensory processing issues?

I’ve been told by some and wondered myself about getting tested for being on the Autistic spectrum. It would explain quite a lot but I’m torn as to whether there was any point in going through the stress.

Recently due to something at work (Educational Health Care Plans related) I had a sudden memory flash and realisation. Have you heard of “Sensory Seekers”? it’s a term that anyone who works with or knows someone on the spectrum may have heard but many won’t. It is what it says, someone who seeks out sensory experiences and goes hand in hand with “sensory avoidance” to culminate into a “Sensory Processing Disorder”.

“Isn’t that everyone? Everyone will avoid things they don’t like and do things that feel good” I hear you say, well yes we all look for sensations and avoid others, but it tends to refer to a certain way of going about it.

Autism.com along with the Autism Research Institute tells us

“In general, dysfunction within these [systems] manifests itself in many ways. A child may be over- or under-responsive to sensory input; activity level may be either unusually high or unusually low; a child may be in constant motion or fatigue easily. In addition, some children may fluctuate between these extremes. Gross and/or fine motor coordination problems are also common when these three systems are dysfunctional and may result in speech/language delays and in academic under-achievement. Behaviorally, the child may become impulsive, easily distractible, and show a general lack of planning. Some children may also have difficulty adjusting to new situations and may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal.”

Doesn’t sound like me? well this does tend to make us think of the most extreme versions of the spectrum. Children and adults who can’t communicate, sit rocking constantly, can’t cope with any changes at all….but this condition is a spectrum and after seeing many variations over the past few years I do wonder.

Anyway back to the memories that triggered this train of thought again. I have very patchy memories of childhood and they tend to only come to the front when triggered (rarely in a good way). Many of them were of playing alone in the back garden, it was large and with plenty for me to do but I admit I look back and I feel sorry for that little girl sometimes.

We had a climbing frame similar to this one in the garden and I was pretty good at the monkey bars back then 😀 I would spend hours climbing around on it getting to the top and sitting, standing and swinging there before jumping from the top straight down onto the grass (about 2 metres or so). If someone was around I would shout to them to watch and laugh at their surprise that I hadn’t broken a bone.

climbing-frame

I’d climb the willow tree in out back garden and do the same, jumping from one of the branches and moving higher each time to see how high I dared jump from. I was always up in trees, there was something so soothing about being up high and more than once I wished I could live in one.

Jumping wasn’t reserved for trees and I’d jump down the stairs trying to get as high as I could and still land. Slide down the rail at every opportunity and climb around the ledge that overhung the hallway. I’ll see if I can find/take a picture of it because it’s hard to understand just how high and dangerous this was until you see it.

I’d do front flips from the chairs in our front room onto a pile of cushions, over and over again. Once I landed badly, bending my neck forward and I couldn’t breathe. My mum rushed me to the doctors and they decided I had probably slipped a disc which had popped back in….lucky as I could have paralysed myself. That didn’t stop me, I just made the pile of cushions bigger.

I was obsessed with swinging whether on the swing, from the banister rails, on a metal pole like a gymnasts bar a friend of the family made us. To this day if I’m truly in pain, can’t sleep, or upset I rock myself backwards and forwards with my head in my hands. In the days when I was still flexible I could lie on my front and pull my legs over to hold them by my head, I’d rock like this watching tv.

The hall in our house was long, at least 8 metres and I would run or skate backwards and forwards until I was told to stop. The pathway in the back garden was good for running up and down too, counting the number of times I could do it and making sure I only stepped on each slab once with one foot. I was never fast, never very good at running though.

Dens were a big part of my time, a place to hide, a place to feel safe, blankets, cushions, tables I got very good at making them. Once when the Willow tree had been trimmed I even made one outside from the branches and I was sooo proud of it I wanted to try sleeping in it but it was too small.

Things like that never seemed weird, since I was the only child my age in my garden…who was I to compare it to?

As for hypersensitivity…the usual things of having my hair brushed, to the point where I actually cut it off myself with nail scissors to make it shorter thinking it would hurt less…I was right but not till my mum noticed and got the hairdresser to cut it short properly. Weirdly as I got older and it wasn’t so full of tugs I would seek out having my hair played with….still do when I can! I miss the boyfriend I had who was happy to brush and play with my hair when I was stressed. Recently I found out that that tingling feeling I get when I watch other people having their hair touched isn’t unusual and is classed as ASMR….youtube is full of videos for people who find it relaxing.

My sense of smell, I miss it now that medication has stolen it from me. As a child I could smell the change in seasons, I can’t explain it but there was a scent in the air when the world transferred from spring to summer to autumn to winter and the smell of snow in the air…I still occasionally get that. Any slight smell of “gone off” in food meant I couldn’t touch it and still can’t when I get a whiff of it.

Some perfumes, colognes etc actually physically hurt or like lavender give me headaches and nausea. That hasn’t waned, somehow they cut through the nasal problems I have and when they hit my sinuses wow it’s a shock :/

Food textures….I can’t stand the texture (or taste) of liver, kidney, cooked cauliflower, butterbeans, pears the list goes on.There’s something about the way they feel that make me gip, an almost gritty, clayish, texture I can’t quite describe. But I love raw vegetables the crunchier the better! I learnt as a child to force myself to eat things I hated because I wouldn’t get away with not…..make sure you swallow it as whole as possible and before the things you do like so it covers the taste 😉

Weirdly when it came to flavours I hunted out the strong ones, drinking undiluted squash, lemon juice, vinegar, sucking on lemons, salad cream, mixing together weird flavours other people find repulsive.

Sound wise I can’t say I have “perfect pitch” but since I can remember the slightest discord and it causes an involuntary twitch, it makes me physically uncomfortable when things aren’t in tune. Frustrating now that I struggle to control my own voice, to the point where I won’t really sing even alone as it annoys me too much that I can’t keep in tune. Not good at work where the other people can’t sing in tune for the life of them even with nursery rhymes!

I struggle when there are too many noises going on that I can’t control, if I have my music turned up loud by choice then that’s fine, even gigs don’t bother me I enjoy the almost all encompassing feeling of it. But when it’s a crowd of people, or music playing in shops, it becomes too much and I panic, I have to get out of the situation. I used to use my headphones as a coping mechanism, sticking them in before leaving the house and only taking them out when really necessary. Busses, trains, walking in crowds, they were essential to my “armour” but when I was having therapy for anxiety I stopped using them because it was stopping me facing the anxiety and making it worse.

fab

Loud noises and sometimes even just certain frequencies at low volume, make it feel like a shock running through me. The kettle clicking off, toaster popping, a doorbell, phone ringing can all make me jump out of my skin. Fireworks are terrible  especially the ridiculously loud ones that go on now, randomly banging when you least expect it, leaving me and my dog both tense, shaking and turning up my music to block them out.

As for trying to sleep when I could still hear televisions, or conversations going on or noises outside…that was and still is an impossible task for me. I find it easier to sleep with music or in front of the telly with sounds I can recognise than to try and ignore those little noises that I can hear.

No idea what any of this means for me, except it’s difficult to cope with sometimes and I wonder if there’s anything to it. At least if I have it all written down and I want to go for assessment I can show them rather than trying to remember it off the top of my head.

Tough

It’s been a tough month, at the end of a tough year, the culmination of a tough decade. Tough is the only word I can think of to describe it, a word I say to people when they complain about things they can’t do anything about (including myself).

tough
tʌf/
adjective
adjective: tough; comparative adjective: tougher; superlative adjective: toughest
  1. 1.
    (of a substance or object) strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling.
    “tough rucksacks for climbers”
  2. 2.
    able to endure hardship or pain.
    “she was as tough as old boots”
    • having the confidence and determination to cope in difficult situations.
      “he liked editors who were tough enough to make the grade”
    • difficult and requiring determination or effort.
      “we have six tough matches in a row”
    • used to express sympathy with someone in a difficult situation.
      “Poor kid. It’s tough on her”
  3. 3.
    demonstrating a strict and uncompromising approach.
    “police have been getting tough with drivers”
    • used to express a lack of sympathy with someone.
      “I feel the way I feel, and if you don’t like it, tough”

verb

informal
verb: tough; 3rd person present: toughs; gerund or present participle: toughing; past tense: toughed; past participle: toughed
  1. 1.
    endure a period of hardship or difficulty.

One thing has become clear  as I fight for my health, my mind, my ability to live a “normal” life. In order to do that you have to be”tough” and I’m not always sure that I am, today is one of those days.

How long can I be tough enough to fight this without becoming so tough I don’t let anyone or anything near me? I’m already on my way, I have pulled away from friends and family, become resigned to not having children, given up on the idea that I will find love. It’s a defence mechanism yes, but I know from experience that defence mechanisms can then become the problem.

granny starsI’m Granny Weatherwax, grumpy, alone, refusing help, stomping around in my big boots and I’m not ashamed to be like her. She cares about the world, the people in it and how things “should be”, yes when you first meet her in Terry Pratchett’s discworld she seems cold and unforgiving but look under that shell and you will see her heart. I hope that I’m the same and that people who matter see me rightly.

I was devastated in one of the last books Terry wrote when Esme passed away, changing her “I aten’t dead” card to “I is Probly dead” and prepared everything for her funeral (I’ll be doing this soon).

The world is slowly slipping into madness, I don’t have magic to help it but then most of the time the witches didn’t use it, they just made people see sense.

 

In the past I have suffered with paranoia about the world I live in and this week, even with medication that helps with it, I’m struggling.

How can I be in a world where an entire nightclub is shot up by idiots who have a problem with gay people?
How could a woman MP be killed, stabbed and shot a couple of miles from me in broad daylight?
People trying to attack women walking their dogs to hurt them and steal the animals for whatever reason.
Refugees still trying to escape from war torn countries being victimised and turned away by countries because of racism and religious persecution.
Then to top it all off my country is full of people so willing to believe lies and scaremongering about our continent that they voted to leave a community that was set up to foster positive relationships between countries.
Oh and not to forget the Prime minister quitting when he lost the fight leaving us leaderless and with a choice of nothing but idiots to replace him (yes he was an idiot but at least he was in charge).

eu4real_goodbye_eu_sad-700x350Now don’t get me wrong, I know the EU was faulty, it is being run badly by people we have no say in. But leaving it rather than trying to fix it from within, makes little sense. I wasn’t going to rant about the why’s and wherefores of the whole Brexit calamity and I won’t (I’m no economics or politics specialist), so let me leave it by saying I’m very scared by the whole thing.
This country is run by rich, overpaid, upper/middle class pompous idiots. The world is run by the same and the USA’s presidential elections coming up are another little bundle of “what the F**K!?”

I’m ready to give up on fighting, what’s the point in my buying a house that’s better suited to my declining health? Soon if our government gets it’s own way I won’t be able to afford health care anyway and I’ll end up plummeting down the MS rabbit hole faster than I have since I was diagnosed 9 years ago.

save-our-nhsWhat’s the point in trying to get my medication levelled out to balance the side effects against the benefits, if I won’t be able to afford them anyway?

I joked about it on Friday, but if this really happens and we leave the EU, what will Scotland do? More than half of my family is up there, will they leave Britain? Should I move up to be near them so I won’t need a passport to visit them in the future. There’s the added bonus that the politicians up there at least seem to understand the importance of keeping their population healthy; so have fought to keep their bit of the NHS running as it should and hopefully will keep doing it.

My response to all these questions for myself…..

“Tough! it’s the way your life is now swallow hard, get your head on straight and stop feeling sorry for yourself”

If anyone else says it to me I’d likely rip their head off, but I have to tell myself something like this and remind myself to keep fighting.

How much longer I can believe my own prompting to keep trying I don’t know. I had to quit my last job because I couldn’t physically cope and am now working with my family (which I don’t know if I can cope with mentally). My body is proving less tough than I want to admit though I keep trying to use mind over matter to make it so.

I need something, anything that will make this world seem less dark. If I send out a plea to the Universe in general I can hope something will show that there is light at the end of this ever growing sewage outlet that is the world.

Please? I’m sick of having to be tough!!

dear life

World MS Awareness day

Didn’t hear about it? I’m not surprised.

So how can I write this without sounding like I’m teaching a class or lecturing you. I’ll have to put some of the basics on but I think I’ll try and tell you what MS means to me.neuron

MS or Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, degenerative, neurological disorder. In other words it affects the nervous system, it steadily gets worse, it never goes away and there’s no cure. It’s one of the many “invisible illnesses” that anyone can be afflicted with, you could walk past someone in the street or even work with them and not have a clue they have it.
multiple-sclerosis-s2-definition

In simple terms for someone who has MS, their immune system is attacking the coating of their nerves for reasons that scientists are yet to clearly define. If you think of the nervous system as electrical wiring and the myelin coating like the plastic coating of electrical wires. When the myelin is destroyed on our nerves, the signals no longer get through properly if at all, just like when an electrical wire is stripped it shorts out the circuit.cns diagram

Since the nervous system controls pretty much all of the body this means that someone with MS can have symptoms ranging from loss of sensation and pain to losing control of the muscles anywhere in the body. Along with these we can be affected by memory or emotional problems and something we tend to refer to as “brain fog” where concentrating on even the simplest task is nigh impossible. I’ve got to mention the unmentionable and tell you that yes MS affects the bladder and bowels as well as sexual function but don’t worry I’ll leave it at that 😉

There are three main types Relapsing Remitting MS where you have relapses where the damage and symptoms are worse then remissions where things calm down again, if not go back completely to how they were. Secondary Progressive MS and Primary Progressive MS are both forms where there is a general deterioration of ability with less distinct points where the damage is happening.
Science lesson over for now, I promised to make this more personal.

My life was changed forever by this disease back in 2007 when I began struggling with my balance and nausea, a year later and I began losing my vision.

I’ve never been so scared as when I began to lose my vision.

The GP I had at the time was useless, even though the opthalmologist recommended I see a neurologist and I knew from the pattern of my vision loss that the problem was close to my occipital lobe, he tried to palm me off with “wait and see”. £150 trip to a neurologist privately proved me right and luckily the neurologist worked for the NHS too so put me straight onto his books and transferred me over to begin the journey to find out what was happening.

I could walk you through my whole journey but I think it would bore you, so suffice to say 3 relapses in 6 months, 2 neurologists, 1 MRI scan, 2 Lumbar punctures, 2 weeks of high dose IV steroids later and I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was given a choice of disease modifying drugs, taught to self inject and began a regimen of thrice weekly injections.

Have you ever heard that ignorance is bliss? Well I can vouch for knowing too much being hell. I had studied the nervous system at university, an irony that I can look back on and admire now, but this meant I had studied the worst case scenarios of a multitude of Neurological disorders including MS. I knew enough to be terrified of what might happen, but not enough to know that those “worst cases” did not necessarily include me.

So lets get past the point where I panicked and quit teaching, where I was ready to give up on life completely, to when I accepted this was going to be a part of my life but that I still had a lot to offer and was determined to keep doing what I could for as long as I could.

MS is a horrible thing to live with, but we CAN live with it. I’m nearly a decade down the line from the first major symptoms I exhibited. Yes over the years I have been slowly introduced to taking enough tablets to make me rattle on a daily basis but they keep me moving and control some of the more unbearable symptoms.toby
I can still walk, if slowly, not too far and with a stick. I will keep walking as long as I can! My dog and I still enjoy a constitutional to meet some furry friends and get some fresh air.

I can still see even if I have to admit it’s nowhere near 20/20 and sometimes when I’m tired too foggy to drive so I have to be sensible.

squares and pouchesI can still use my arms, though they’re weaker than they were and my hands tend to be clumsy. But I can still type, cook, crochet and knit which I do for myself as well as making things for charity which makes me happy and feel like I’m doing something good for the world.

I can still talk and those people who know me will vouch that I do at every opportunity! Yes I struggle to find the words sometimes and I stumble, stutter and get confused but I still do it. I have never been an operatic singer but I still sing to myself in the car and my kitchen, apparently it’s good for helping keep the throat muscles working so a great excuse to belt out some tunes.

My mind is still my own, I can think, solve problems and a lot of random information is still at my disposal. I struggle to retain new information like names etc. but I keep trying, I still enjoy reading, watching programs, learning things I can bore people with. I may become confused when I’m tired or stressed but I’m determined to keep exercising my mind and not lose it.

In other words I’m still ME. Daft, annoying, needy and geeky me.

MS has changed my world in so many ways, I’m not where I imagined I would be in a million years and I do sometimes still wish that plan had worked out but really who can say that their life is exactly how they expected it to be 10 years ago.

The one thing I would ask of the world is understanding, for people to at least have a passing knowledge of what MS is just like depression, anxiety, autism, diabetes, parkinsons disease, motor neuron disease, epilepsy and all the other invisible illnesses that people cope with day in and day out.

One day all people with MS hope that there will be a cure and a way to repair the damage that has been done, until then we will keep plodding on and keep trying to live as best we can.

 

 

Looking back to know how to go forwards

Maybe it’s something that comes with getting older but I’ve become intrigued with my family history. I never heard many stories about my Dads side other than the bare minimum, for example I knew that my Grandfather was involved in WWII he taught dispatch riders how to repair and ride their bikes. I only found out most of the facts that I do know once my grandparents had passed away, they had all gone by the time I was 12 years old so I had not reached the point of wanting to know where I had come from by the time they had all gone.

I tell my Dad that he should write down his memories before he forgets them completely or he is gone and those stories are gone forever, adding to him that I wish he had told me those stories about his childhood when I was younger rather than repeating the same old stale stories time and time again then I might have shown more interest! Anyway…I’ll get to the point, I’ve realised that my memory is not good and I should really write down the little tales he does spin, when he tells me them, as boring or mundane as he thinks they are.

Today we were discussing his childhood, I mentioned that I had been looking at pictures of the area he grew up in after reading a blog post by another writer about the area he grew up in. It set off his memories and as sparse as they are they linen housesmade me smile, made me sad, gave me a connection to his past that I’ve not had for some time.

My dad grew up in Northern Ireland, a post WWII baby boom child with three older brothers. The family owned and ran a linen bleaching Mill that is actually documented in a book about the Linen Houses of the Bann Valley (scary to think that I come from such stock as common as I am living on a council estate). I never hear many memories from my dad about he and his family from that time so the little stories tend to stick.

As young children my Dad and his one brother that was still at home by the time he remembers, would play at the mill watching the linen being laid out on the green meadows to dry in the sun. They would run around the mill playing around the machines and probably pestering the workers in the same way that I did with anyone who came to the house when I was a child.

Older than my dad but the same sight he would have seen on a regular basis
Older than my dad but the same sight he would have seen on a regular basis

They would get the men who were piling up the rolls of dried linen to help them make forts out of the rolls, creating the biggest temporary fort any child could want. With gaps to use as doors and windows they would play in it until the rolls were collected to be taken to another factory, pretending to be soldiers and such as the factory worked around themFormer_Cowdy's_mill,_Banbridge_-_geograph.org.uk_-_260516

The Mill has seen much better days now and I'd be surprised if it's still even in this good a shape
The Mill has seen much better days now and I’d be surprised if it’s still even in this good a shape

While looking into the family tree I found a document that even my dad didn’t know existed. It’s a ships boarding record showing my Grandmother, Dad and uncle all going to South Africa back in the 1950’s to visit my Grandmothers family. I’ve found quite a few od them now and will be willing to pay the websites annoying fee (I’ve gone past the free period now) to print them off so he can see them. It saddens me that those boarding lists show that my Grandmother would take her younger children with her to visit the family in South Africa, leaving the older children at their boarding school and my Grandfather to run the business (or so I assume).

Leaving for months at a time due to the journey length on a boat, separating the family that was already emotionally distanced from each other. She trained as a home economics teacher so surely she must have know that the relationships that children have when young are important? I guess that unfortunately at this point in history it was seen as more important for young boys to be strong, to be trained to be independent and able to cope with the horrors that their parents had lived through. Discipline was everything and caring, loving them would always come second if not last.

What shouldn’t have surprised me was how few memories my Dad has of his grandparents. They lived in a house down the road from them but the only thing my Dad could tell me today about his Grandfather was that they used to see him on a Sunday on the way to church, where he would give them a mint imperial. His Grandmother even lived with them after her husband died but he couldn’t tell me much about her at all, the true legacy of an upper middle class family, no warmth, no connection between the people who are supposed to be bonded by blood.

I heard so many times in my childhood that ‘Blood is thicker than water’, that family is important and you ‘Should’ do this and ‘Should’ do that….I have now accepted that what my old therapist said is true…’Should’ is a bad word for me, it’s one of the reasons why I feel so appallingly guilty for so many little things. I try not to use it in my vocabulary too much now but it’s damn hard.

This whole ‘family’ thing confuses me a lot and always has done, especially since my fathers side classes people as cousins and ‘close’ family who I’ve never seen, barely talked to or in most peoples eyes would not really be part of their family. Third cousins, second cousins twice removed….in other words so far away in the blood line that marrying them would be completely legal and not result in deformed offspring, people I shouldn’t care about at all.

The digging into the past will continue, my Grandmothers side is intriguing and a post may follow about hers but more and more I realise my parents have improved on what theirs did to them, it’s just that they didn’t improve enough to avoid my emotional struggles.

.

70 years ago today (may contain disturbing images)

This past few days my mind has been full of worries about my life, “will I keep my driving licence? can I keep working? There’s another form to fill in I must get it done.”

But in amongst all these worries my mind has been in the past, 70years in the past. auschwitz-concentration-camp

70 Years ago today Auschwitz was liberated and after accidentally flicking onto a program last week about a survivor of the Holocaust I have been watching many programs that have been made about the German death camps, prison camps, work camps throughout the second world war.

auschwitz_survivors
Liberation of concentration camp survivors

It puts every worry I have into a stark perspective. I have a home, food, clothes, heating, sanitation, medical care…..what in truth do I have to worry about?

I watch these people talking about their time during the war and what they had to survive. I am humbled and horrified by the things that humans can do to each other and the strength of the people who can survive it.

Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, anyone who was seen as ‘Undesirable’ to the Third Reich were tortured, starved and killed in the most inhumane ways possible, it’s hard to believe that this happened in the 20th century.

ebensee-survivors

If you listen to the survivors the biggest thing that they are desperate for now is that what happened is not forgotten. That what they went through is not hidden, is believed and that the next generation understands what can happen if the hatred of a few is carried out by the many.

I’ve learned more about the reality of it by listening to these people over the past week than I ever did sitting in a classroom. The horrible truths that they speak of will stay with me forever.

The separation of the weak, the sick, children, the old, pregnant women who were all immediately gassed or killed, then thrown into pits or burned. Their clothes, belongings, hair, teeth all taken from them to be sent back to Germany or to be reused in the camps.

Children who were twins, experimented on in horrible ways to try and ‘find cures’ for diseases to benefit the ‘pure’ Germans.

twins experiments
Twins experimented on in Auschwitz

Those that were left were worked on starvation rations, housed in sheds where people could barely sit never mind lie down. Covered in lice and surrounded by human excrement they were almost certain to contract a disease such as typhus or dysentery and many died from these if not because having them meant they were picked out as sick and murdered.

Unfortunately there are so few of the survivors left alive that their worry is once they are gone it will drift into the mists of history as ‘just another story’ and listening to them speak to camera they are trying to pass on their memories to the children of today so that it will continue in the collective memory.

I didn’t know that when the camps were liberated, the Allies made the locals come to the camps and look. To see what they were living next to and turning a blind eye to! They were walked around the camps, past the piles of the dead who had been left there to rot because the prisoners couldn’t bury them, to see the crematoriums where hundreds of thousands of human beings had been burnt en mass. I felt a certain amount of angry satisfaction that the Allies did this, as well as making the SS guards and other German workers that were captured when the camps were liberated, take over the tasks they had made the prisoners do. To bury the dead, to clear up the horrific mess that they had helped to create.

Locals being walked around a concentration camp
Locals being walked around a concentration camp

Not surprisingly this subject makes my blood boil. It doesn’t matter to me that I am not one of the ‘minorities’ that were targeted, I am a human being and that is enough for me to empathise with those who have suffered at the hands of people who were “just following orders” and committing atrocities.

The saddest thing is there are still people in command of countries that try to make this sort of thing happen. There are still those that believe they are better than others just because of their faith, the colour of their skin, the way they dress, the country they come from. How can this still be happening in this day and age? Why can we not accept that we all have differences but that does not make us any better or worse than others?

All any of us can do is speak out when we see people hurting each other, try to accept that we are different but that is not a bad thing and teach our children to do the same.

quote-in-germany-they-came-first-for-the-communist-and-i-didn-t-speak-up-because-i-wasn-t-a-communist-martin-niemoller-348521

Let what happened remain in our memories for the human race to learn from and never let it happen again.

I turned 30…yeah big deal

Last year I turned 30, now my friends and people I know seemed to make a big fuss out of this when they did and tried to do the same to me. They didn’t quite get that I really don’t give a monkeys about my birthdays. I like a card, I like cake, but that’s about it! Long story short, my birthday is in the middle of the school holidays so I never really had the whole fuss at school, people often turned down party invites because they were away on holiday…I learnt not to expect an awful lot and now hate having to make a fuss about myself so why bother.

In the clear out I’ve been having of my house this past couple of weeks, I found my pile of 30th birthday cards and the version my sister and family had done for me. It was genius and made me smile so as much as I can’t stand the woman I will admit that it was a damn fine piece of thinking. If you want to smile, ignore my notes, ignore the ending of this post and smile away I won’t judge you or be upset 😉

Here’s what they did….

30th birthday c 30th bir

and yes they were right, I would like to be younger again. But with the knowledge I have of how things should be and how to stand up for myself (and preferably with a better big sister) so that I don’t end up this messed up!

30th birt30th birthday

I wouldn’t say that but I’m sure there were times when it was fun even if I don’t remember many of them. Plus when I was little I didn’t know any better, I didn’t know that my family life was not the idyllic scene that we all wish for.

30th b 30th birth

Yes I probably would have been offended if they’d got it a year or two out, but that much difference I think I would have got it…..I assume that this was just to fill a card and explain their intelligent comedy.

30th bi 30th

Woohoo! they got the maths right.

and with the cards I got a couple of silly things including a coke bottle with my name on it…not a full coke bottle, an empty one. Yeah, that’s what they think if me. OK so apparently the kids had insisted on sending it to me, but really? could they not have sent a full one and bought another one to drink? Bah

So if you ignore the background history of my sister and I, it’s a lovely gesture! It’s funny and shows affection but whenever a post about sisters comes up on facebook, an advert comes onto the telly saying about sisters or siblings and how important they are I sit and swear at it! I scream in my head “no they’re F&*$*&%g not! I wish I’d never known mine!!”

My family to a Tee. Abuse each other, ignore each other, treat each other like crap, but when it’s a birthday or Christmas then a polite card, a note and an obligatory gift to pretend that the rest of it was all BS.