Notice the title of this article isn’t: “how to love your autistic child,” or “how to love your SEN child?” That’s because a challenging child can happen to anyone. Additional needs or not.

Cards on the table: I’m going to come right out and say that parenting my own challenging child is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

It pushes me to my very limits, whilst simultaneously making me feel like an absolute failure. I have never felt so torn in my life. Every tiny decision I make has to be carefully considered. All options weighed up, to ensure it doesn’t end in complete catastrophe.

The seemingly smallest thing can have the biggest knock on effect. We can be having a lovely time one minute, and the playing field can dramatically shift thirty seconds later.

All emotions are felt. Every. Single. Day!

I have to be on my game, one step ahead, the entire time. Otherwise it’s meltdown central. I probably don’t need to tell you how exhausting it is, especially on such broken sleep.

So I thought I’d write down some of the things I’ve learnt on my journey of loving my challenging child. It’s more to remind me than anything else, but I figured someone somewhere might also find it useful.

In the heat of the moment, it’s best to say nothing

Zip your lips and throw away the key. Honestly, in the midst of sparks flying, it is best for all concerned to keep your mouth shut. I’m not ashamed to admit that this is my own biggest challenge, especially during certain times of the month. It’s crucial though. Which brings me nicely onto my next point.

Don’t be afraid to self-reflect

We absolutely must be kind to ourselves, because we ALL mess up. Me usually on a daily basis. However we must also be willing to look in the mirror and admit when something is our fault, so we can find ways to do it differently (and better) next time. Having a challenging child on your hands will test your patience, strength and faith in life. It’s vital to work as a team though, and find solutions to your troubles together.

Offer comfort, but be prepared to give it on their terms

In parenting fantasies, before I had any of my own children, I used to think that spats with kids would be easily rectified. A few hugs, a few sorry’s and voila, everyone has made up. In reality, it simply does not work like this with a challenging child.

They can be spiky beyond belief, and even when they’ve been the root cause of the destruction, they will more than likely think they are the victim. I always offer comfort, but I’ve learnt that it often isn’t taken up when I think it will be. But when they are ready to accept the love, they will come and ask for it.      

Do not, ever, compare your children to each other or to anyone else’s kids

It would be easy for me to get into the mindset that my high functioning autistic eldest daughter Polly is always the most challenging child, but this isn’t actually true. All three of my kids have their moments. 

If 3yo Freddy has had a particularly fitful night, and is running on four hours of broken shut eye, he can be exceptionally challenging. If 5yo Clara is unwell or not sleeping great it has a massive effect over her ability to communicate without screaming in faces. They are so different from each other and other kids we know, that it would be deeply unfair on all parties to compare them.         

Kindness rules

This is obvious, but when tempers are lost and fury is in the air, kindness can all be but forgotten. As the adults however, we need to summon the strength from somewhere, somehow, to rise above it (which I know, is so much easier said than done). If we aren’t being kind to our kids, how can we expect them to be kind to each other?   

Start the day with a clean slate

No matter what happened yesterday, or last week, we absolutely must start each day with amnesia. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning if I was holding grudges for the things that have gone on inside these four walls. My husband has a great mantra:

“Only love today”

It’s a good one to hold close.   

Respite is utterly essential

Not just for the primary caregiver, but a break from the challenging behaviour is super important for the whole family. We’re only too aware that Clara and Freddy suffer when times are super tough, so it’s essential to give them a break from the doom and misery. A few hours love bombing, going to the cinema or being taken swimming on their own with just hubby or I is a real treat for them. It goes a long way to repair the hurt that they’ve endured. 

As for us parents, life cannot be 100% about the children 100% of the time. We all need a break from the norm now and then, and especially when we’ve got a challenging child on our hands. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing for our kids to see that we have a bit of a life outside of them. 

Are you parenting a challenging child? What have you learnt on your own journey? I’d love to hear from you! 

Why My Autistic Daughter and I Are on the GAPS DietIn Spring 2014, shortly after my third child was born, I read a book which changed my life. Gut and Psychology Syndrome, written by doctor and mother Natasha Campbell McBride, details how central our gut bacteria is to our overall health, and outlines a gut healing diet. 

For more information on gut health check out this fascinating lecture by Professor Simon Carding at UEA’s Medical School.

The book touched on much of my own medical history, and the premise of gut and psychology syndrome (also known as GAPS) made complete sense to me. I knew instantly that I wanted to try the diet. 

Dr. Campbell McBride claims that you can reverse autism by following the GAPS diet, because an unhealthy gut can be a factor. I am hugely sceptical about this, and personally feel that it’s a fools errand to try and ‘cure’ autism. I do however, strongly believe, that eating the right foods can help alleviate symptoms that present challenging behaviour. Not just in an autistic child, but in any child.   

What is the GAPS Diet?

Eating the GAPS way means removing all processed food, starches, refined sugar, grains (not just gluten) and commercial dairy. There is plenty you can eat, provided that you make it yourself. 

The GAPS Diet has two parts. First comes a six stage introduction plan which sees you stripping away all food, then slowly, and systematically, reintroducing it. How long it takes to work through the six stages completely depends on individual symptoms. 

GAPS-bookAfter working through all six stages, you transition over to what is known as the Full GAPS Diet. This comprises of a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.  

My main motivation for trying GAPS in 2014 was food intolerance which wasn’t getting better through standard exclusion diets. I was also perpetually exhausted, but put that down to having three kids, one with a sleep problem.

When I went onto GAPS first time around, I had already been mostly refined sugar free for seven years, and Paleo for two. I say mostly, because none of us are saints are we? Trying to eat ‘perfectly’ 24/7/365 will probably do you more harm than good, as it would be so stressful.

Although GAPS was a massive challenge initially, I adapted quickly to my new way of life and was astounded by the results. After just a few weeks on GAPS, I was full of energy and felt properly clear headed for the first time in years. Gone was the brain fog, and wading through treacle. To top it off, my usually problematic skin was beautifully radiant. I looked and felt amazing! 

I documented the entire journey from the first day, to a one year update on this blog: Mummy Tries GAPS.

GAPS worked for me, but I didn’t stick to it for long enough. 

I tried to, of course I did, but life got in the way. 2015 was a ridiculously stressful year what with going back to work, and dealing with awful childcare challenges. Worse still, Polly was floundering at school, and absolutely miserable at home. This is where we faced up to the writing on the wall, and were led to her high functioning autism diagnosis

My redundancy was fortuitously timed, although career suicide in terms of going back to the City. At the end of the summer holidays I sent Polly into year two with a very heavy heart. By the October half term we had made the decision to home educate her.

This all took its toll on my well-being. Although I was still adhering mostly to a Full GAPS Diet, I was drinking far too much alcohol. This carried on into 2016, and I spent large chunks of it feeling depressed and incapable of meeting the varying needs of my children. Home education was a roller coaster I wasn’t mentally prepared for, and remains the steepest learning curve of my entire life.

The divide between my girls got bigger, to the point where they could hardly stand being in the same room together. Freddy’s sleep went from bad to horrendous. My husband and I were bickering far more than what I consider to be normal. The going got tough, so I took solace in my friends, which almost always involved excessive drinking. It was lots of fun at the time, but would come with a hefty price afterwards.

By the end of last year, I was at tipping point and knew that things needed to change. 

GAPS dietI was playing a dangerous game, which is ironic given the book I wrote a couple of years ago. Just goes to show that none of us are exempt from the dark clouds. What is more ironic, is that GAPS is wholeheartedly recommended for those who are suffering from depression. The last thing you want to hear when you’re feeling low is that your lifestyle is contributing to your mental health issues, but it’s often true. 

GAPS worked for me last time, and I am desperate to feel that good again. Yes it’s boring, in comparison to going out and getting smashed. Yes it’s hard work, in comparison to buying food ready to eat. There is no doubt that the first few weeks are super hard going, but starting anything is always hard. 

I wrote a post a few months back, about how sad Polly often is. How tough it is to watch her be so miserable. How helpless I’ve felt, when she’s taking her frustrations out on Clara and Freddy. It went way past standard sibling in-fighting long ago, and morphed into full-on bullying.

But I am done feeling helpless, because we always have options. We sometimes just need to open our eyes, take a big deep breath and put a little faith in ourselves and our abilities.

My view is this. If you and your children are healthy, don’t catch every bug going and are generally happy, then chances are all is hunky dory with your gut. You would never need to even entertain the idea of doing GAPS, or anything similar. Due to being in such optimum health, I’d hazard a guess that you’re also able to exercise the everything in moderation rule.

If you aren’t blessed with a spick and span immune system, because of whatever reason, you need to think outside the box a little.

Which is why myself and Polly are currently working our way through the GAPS Intro Diet.

GAPS diet - cashew and courgette pancakes

our breakfast this morning, delicious pancakes

I talked about GAPS a lot in the run up to new year, and Polly was adamant that she wouldn’t be joining me (even though I hoped she would). Then the day before I was due to begin, she told me she wanted to do it as well.

“I want to give it a go mama. Maybe it will stop me from being so mean to Clara and Freddy.”

I was seriously taken aback by her maturity, and have continued to be every single day. Polly is learning to listen to how food makes her feel, both physically and emotionally, which is the first step to self-regulation, and a lesson we could all use. She’s also eating tons of new food that she was previously refusing. 

Today was day ten, and the improvements in my girl so far have been immense. She is consistently calmer, kinder and happier than I’ve seen her since she was a toddler. We’ve had one full on difficult day, compared with one decent day out of ten, which had become our norm. I’m incredibly proud of how well she’s doing.

As for me, I’m getting back to myself again. I’m no longer engulfed with negative thoughts, and am not filled with doom about the future. I feel in control of what’s going on, and am not in a state of despair. No longer am I feeling the need to reach for the bottle in the evening, to ‘treat myself’ after yet another hard day. For the first time in over a year I feel like I can kick life’s butt, instead of it constantly kicking mine!

A few friends have voiced their concerns

They are worried that GAPS is too restrictive, and that it’s too much extra work for me. These comments come from a kind hearted place, but ultimately these people are looking at my situation through their own eyes. They know that GAPS would push them over the edge, and be a major cause of stress, so it’s not an option for their family.

I look at it completely differently though. I adore being in the kitchen, inventing recipes and making awesome food out of unlikely ingredients. It’s been my forte for a decade, and I don’t see it as a chore. It doesn’t cause me stress at all, but watching my kids tear each other apart, and all of us being miserable day in day out, most certainly does.

As for GAPS being too restrictive, no-one would bat an eyelid if we were following a strict exclusion diet because of allergies, or decided to become vegetarians would they? Cutting out the crap and eating natural food is never going to be a bad thing for any of us. 

We aren’t doing GAPS because we’re hoping it’ll ‘cure’ Polly’s autism. We’re doing it so she has a better chance to be a happy, healthy little girl. Surely that’s all any parent wants for their kids?

home ed three month updateIt has been three months since my husband and I made the decision to not send our high functioning autistic 6yo daughter back to school after the half term break. Although her autism wasn’t diagnosed until last year, I’d long had my suspicions that something more than the usual was at the bottom of her incredibly poor sleep and challenging behaviour.

Lots of well meaning friends told me that school had been the turning point for their kids, the magic cure that equated to a happier child. One who was so exhausted from all the learning that their sleep problems disappeared overnight. That external discipline was just what they needed to nip those challenges in the bud.

The lions den

To be honest I had a strong haunch that this wouldn’t be the case for us. Also being a July babe and significantly smaller than her peers (children do most of their growing while they’re asleep after all) it felt like we were throwing her into the lions den in September 2013 when she joined reception.

It probably didn’t help that this was the year the government raised the expectations of reception aged kids. These four and five year olds would now be doing a lot of the work that wasn’t previously being done until they went into year one. I remember her teacher at the time telling me that the days of reception being an extension of nursery were long gone.

We sent her to school in good faith though, and I mostly kept my mouth shut about my reservations. We weren’t in a financial position for me to stop working until quite recently anyway, so I wouldn’t have been able to home ed back then even if I’d wanted to.

It’s worth saying that I believe for some families school is a wonderful thing, and I can see it might be the magic bullet for minor problems. Unfortunately for us, it quickly became apparent that school was too overwhelming for our girl. Being so high functioning and sociable, her autism largely slipped through the net, but even after diagnosis it wasn’t taken very seriously.

Bullying, safety and other concerns

Reception year was tough, but we also had our third baby mid way through, so put most of our difficulties down to that. Then came the bullying issues – in year one, involving two mean boys, and in year two involving one of her so-called best friends. She was forever being pushed over in the playground and coming home with injuries, and the week before we pulled her out she’d been pushed off a tall climbing frame and hurt her back.

She’s a bright spark who coped with the work for the most part, and was capable of holding it together while she was there, but she would take out her frustrations on us when she came home. Her behaviour got steadily worse – the pinching, name calling and spitefulness towards her younger brother and sister broke my heart on a daily basis. The post-school meltdowns became all consuming, and would last up to two hours.

We were in a perpetual cycle of sleep and behaviour slowly getting worse as the end of term neared; then hubby and I would plough all our energies into getting her back on track during the holidays, only to dread sending her in again. We were living our lives in anticipation of what state she would be in come 3:30pm, and her mood dictated the happiness of the entire family.

Ultimately, with two younger children to factor into the equation, and her getting more violent with them with each day that passed, we’d all had enough of dealing with the fallout of school.

What to do when you’re part of David Cameron’s ‘squeezed middle’, earning too much to qualify for help, but not nearly enough to pay for a private education?

The answer is exactly what we did. Our story wasn’t nearly as horrendous as others that I’ve heard, but there was only one way it was heading, and we weren’t prepared to stand by and watch it happen. As the writing had been on the wall for as long as it had, it gave me the chance to orchestrate voluntary redundancy from my part time job. We also carried out a ton of research, so should we go down this road, we were fully prepared.

As soon as the decision was made it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The first few weeks took me by surprise with P pushing to do her work, and being very willing to learn. It didn’t last long though, and over the course of the following month it got to the point where even the mention of learning was causing her anxiety, so I declared Christmas holidays almost two weeks before the schools broke up.

It was a lesson in flexibility for me, and recognising the need to change tact. I’m very pleased to report that a nice long break was what we all needed, and since resuming our learning at the beginning of January, we’ve had a whole load of ups as well as downs on this little roller coaster of ours.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still having plenty of moments. P is still autistic, and I still have two younger children to also care for, but progress is being made in the right direction, and that’s all we can ask for. I’ve found reading other parents stories invaluable, so I thought it might be useful to share some of my main insights.

Trust your gut

Home ed certainly didn’t limit Ryan’s career options

First and foremost trust your instincts, and do not let anyone rail road you into not doing so. My daughter is smart, outwardly confident and articulate, yet she has only recently been able to put into words how difficult she found school. I truly believe that our parental instincts are one of our most valuable tools, and we should listen to them more often.

Don’t let others opinions influence your decisions

As soon as I put it out there that we were thinking of home ed, everyone had an opinion. From worries about socialisation; to concerns that we would limit future career options. Being six, four and two, we aren’t even thinking that far into the future. We have always been a sociable family, and are blessed with lots of great friends who have children similar ages to ours, so there are certainly no qualms there. Our biggest priority right now is repairing the damage that has been done to our family, and encouraging the three children to play and bond as much as possible.

Don’t disregard or under estimate the need to de-school

If your child was previously attending mainstream education, chances are they will have issues of some description which must be considered. You’ll always have an adjustment period, and pushing them to achieve academically during this time can do even more damage. Everyone is different, but avoiding sensory overload at all costs is hugely important for us at the moment. What’s working is keeping life low key, slow paced and often child led. Absolutely nothing is as important as their mental health well being.

Kindness

Which brings me onto my next point. It is vital to be gentle on yourself and everyone else, while the whole family gets to grips with their new situation. Regardless of the family dynamic, the need to be kind to ourselves and each other will be a common theme. Eating well and being mindful helps us tremendously.

Focus

As any parent will know, you can’t give your child/ren undivided attention every second of every day, but you can give it to them in short bursts. I’ve found this is the best way to aid learning, and sitting with P while she is doing her workbooks helps with her productivity.

Create the rules together

P likes to know what’s coming next, so we sat down together, along with my husband, and devised a timetable which has been a real success. Like many other children her age, if she helps to create the rules she’s more likely to stick to them. We don’t have times on our schedule, which means we can be flexible. If we’re having an off day we can compress all the core learning into the morning, and chill out and watch films in the afternoon, or go and run around in the park. This is the beauty of being able to do things on our own terms.

So, what do you do all day?

We spend around two hours doing focussed learning spread across the day; prioritising numeracy and literacy which is done first thing in the morning. As well as workbooks to progress P’s understanding of the English language, we’ve been spelling useful words such as months and days; practising her handwriting and she’s been getting to grips with typing emails. She did do a touch typing lesson but said it made her hands hurt, so we scrapped it for the time being.

We’ve signed up to computer based maths lessons, which P loves and could sit and do all day (but I limit to an hour max). If she’s having an off day though, I prefer her to stay away from the screen, and we have maths workbooks and games we play instead. 

We then alternate every other day between Spanish, places in the world, people of the past and animals. This was borne from going through her old school timetable and picking out her favourite things, because we want her to be as engaged as possible. As well as this, all three children help me in the kitchen and we’ve just started prepping the garden for seed sowing. It’ll be our first attempt at growing food, and I want them to be as involved as possible.

What we do is very basic – for example I printed a Spanish memory game that I found on Pinterest where you have to match two cards; one is a picture and the other is the Spanish word. We have various printouts stuck around the house – such as Spanish numbers 1-20 – and the kids love listening to Spanish songs. It’s all very simple, yet very effective, and the bonus is that everyone is learning not just P.

Hopes for a happier family

Ultimately, my main priority and biggest goal right now is to get our family working more harmoniously together. We were in a terrible way three months ago, and have made huge leaps forward since we’ve been home educating. It’s still early days for us, and life isn’t perfect – but honestly when would it be with three kids?

If we continue making this sort of progress for the rest of the year, I’ll be one happy mama!

sorry about the noiseWe live in a lovely house on a private estate, and I’m proud to be part of a proper little community. Just like in the olden days, we let our kids play out and at times it can feel as though the only socialising we do is with the people on our doorstep. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. We are exceptionally fortunate that many of our neighbours have kids the same age as ours, and lots of us are on the same page when it comes to our outlook on life.

There are of course exceptions to this rule. Like the delightful woman that gave me a character assassination in front of my own children, after a nine hour trip back from Greece last May. Her beef was that we hadn’t informed her in advance that we were having work done on the house in our absence. Unfortunately the workmen had upset her by making a racket too early.

Apparently this was all my fault because I’m “so selfish”! 

She has gone on to complain to us and our landlord a handful times in the last seven months – about the noise levels. Most recently giving my poor hubby a telling off because he had lost his temper and shouted that morning. This woman has one child who has just turned 16, so it’s been a very long time since she’s had experience of witching hours and kids that wake up in the middle of the night. While I don’t care for her one little bit, there is a small part of me that wants to knock on her door and spell out for her how difficult our lives are to muster some empathy.

I want her to know how grinding it is to have a child who pushes you to the end of your tether every single day. How incredibly hard we are trying to stay cool, calm and collected in the face of adversity, but how beaten down by life we feel far too often. And although we are sorry about the noise, it is not at the top of our priority list. We have bigger fish to fry – like getting our daughter to a happier place and helping our family back on it’s feet. 

Oh by the way, did I mention that Polly is autistic? No probably not because her diagnosis came after we stopped exchanging pleasantries.    

I felt so bad for my poor hubby, because I know how hard he’s been trying to not lose his temper. To stay calm and not shout. To follow all the rules and GET. IT. RIGHT! 

Except there is no getting it right is there? All parenting is hard work, but parenting a child with autism is so challenging it’s likely to bring even the toughest of us to our knees

I think it’s too easy for parents to judge other parents. After all they’ve got direct experience of the situation. Or so they think, but they haven’t of course. No-one knows what goes on inside your four walls apart from you and the other people that live within them.  

If you hear shouting and screaming coming from your neighbours occasionally, please don’t assume the worst – that they must be awful human beings who are damaging their children. You have no idea how hard their day has been, and how tough their lives are. 

As for me, I truly am sorry about the noise, and wish it could be a different way.

Really I do. 

welcome to the Polly show

welcome to the Polly show

There has been something going on with my eldest daughter Polly since she was a tiny baby. First it was reflux and eczema covering her face – related to reacting to dairy coming through my breast milk. Then came the multitude of food sensitivities which we discovered at two and a half.

A few months previous to that she stopped sleeping (both during the day and at night) and was waking up ten times plus. Even now she hardly ever sleeps through, and she is six next month. On top of all this she never outgrew the toddler meltdowns, and her violent outbursts have been steadily getting worse over the years.

Always something

Something has felt not quite right for a very long time, and I just knew there was more to this story than everyone else allowed me to think.

“She’ll grow out of the allergies, don’t worry”

“She’ll be so tired when she starts school that she’ll start sleeping all night, don’t worry”

“It’s all normal kids stuff, mine fight like cat and dog all the time, don’t worry”

The well intentioned, yet largely unsolicited advice, has been of little comfort to me over the years.

I’m kooky when it comes to my gut instincts, but they very rarely let me down. Last summer P had a whole bunch of gastro tests done, to investigate whether there was something medical going on, but every single one came back negative. It was a huge relief, I had major stomach surgery at 5yo and would do anything for my own kids to not have to go through the same. It left us not really knowing where to turn next though. So on we plodded with the best parenting we were capable of on no sleep, and a diet so wholesome that her teachers regularly comment on how envious they are of her lunch.

Last September I wrote this over on my GAPS blog.

“I’m going to set the cat among the pigeons here. What if her problems aren’t being caused by standard allergic reactions to food, but by a toxic overload and leaky gut syndrome? What if the super clean diet of cooked from scratch organic goodness she has been eating all her life is the only thing saving her from an ASD diagnosis? It’s no secret that ASD and food sensitivities go hand in hand. I’m starting to think that my hubby and I have been tearing ourselves into pieces looking in all the wrong places.”

wpid-img_20150509_103810.jpgChristmas saw my family in absolute dire straights. Hubby and I then went on a mission to try and turn it all around, and totally eradicate our own negative behaviour. Which trust me was bloody hard, but we didn’t so much as raise a voice over the two week holiday. We saw improvements but it didn’t work the miracles we were hoping it would. By Easter her sleep had gone to pot again, and her violent outbursts were getting more frequent and intense. To the point where we couldn’t trust her to be alone with her baby brother in case she hurt him. I conceded that what we were doing wasn’t enough and that perhaps my theory about autism wasn’t so whacky after all. Then I read this post by fellow blogger Reprobate Mum and alarm bells started well and truly ringing.

Our biggest red flags
– lack of empathy
– inability to read body language or communicate non-verbally
– toddler like temper tantrums
– obsessive about her likes
– has to be in control
– incredibly poor sleep

Getting the help we desperately needed

We are lucky to have private medical insurance through work, and jumped the queue massively to see a top specialist at The Portland Hospital two months ago. Dr. K assessed Polly and asked me a million questions, all the time being privy to her full range of emotions. Dr. K told me it would be high functioning, but there was definitely something needing to be investigated. I booked a follow up (again lucky enough to queue jump) and in the mean time had to complete more questionnaires, as did P’s school and our GP. We had the appointment yesterday and went through what the sheets said, and were asked even more questions. Dr. K also got to see the way P interacts with her little brother (little sister was left with the Grandparents).

To be completely honest I think Dr. K had made up her mind about Polly last time, she is a leading expert in autism and sleep disorders after all. The questionnaires seem to be just a formality. We were asked whether we wanted to contest her diagnosis of High Functioning ASD, and see another doctor to have an independent assessment done, but we declined. She was just confirming what we had already come to terms with. Now we have a diagnosis on its way, we can start to access the support our family so desperately needs.

It’s Official. She’s on the Spectrum. Now What?

Why am I writing this and telling the world that my kid is autistic? Quite simply because there is no shame in having a child on the autistic spectrum. P’s condition hasn’t been caused by anything that anyone has done, or could have done differently. There will be no guilt, and there will be no apologising. This is the way she was born and what my husband and I now need to do is start equipping her and the rest of the family with the tools we all need to live a happier life.

Attitudes will only change once people start talking about this stuff out in the open.

I keep hearing the term early intervention over and again, and because she isn’t even six yet I am very hopeful that we will be able to get ourselves to a much happier place fairly quickly. Hubby and I will be tapping into the support networks and parenting groups that will help us do this. You can learn more through the National Autistic Society.

A plea to trust your gut

I’ve also written this as a little plea to parents to trust their gut instincts when it comes to your kids. If you know something is up then fight for an answer, and do not allow yourself to be rail roaded into thinking that everything is fine, when you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not.