I’ve had a week of highs or lows, with not much in between. In all honesty, this is often the case when you live a chronically stressful life like I do.

My week started last Saturday with going to BML17 (formally Brit Mums), one of the biggest annual blogging conferences here in the UK. I only managed about four hours of the conference in 2015, and gave it a miss last year for one reason and another. When my ticket was first booked by my lovely sponsors Fantastic Services, I was super excited about the day. If nothing else, these events are always a brilliant opportunity to catch up with blogging friends.

As the day rolled around, however, I found myself wanting to find any excuse I could to cancel. Suddenly the idea of being in a room with hundreds of other bloggers (at varying levels) felt overwhelming and unappealing. Day to day I try my hardest not to compare myself with others, but kind of knew it would be inescapable at BML.

When I was at my worst about it all, I received an email asking me to be one of five keynotes speakers at the end of the conference. It was a massive honour, and huge confidence boost. I was asked to read my Open Letter to Autism Mama’s, and saw it as a chance to stand up and represent those like me, who lead chronically stressful lives.

To say I felt sick with nerves would be an understatement

I tried not to think about the task at hand too much, because every time I did it made me want to run for the hills. I started a Twitter conversation with the other keynotes speakers on the Friday, and it seemed that everyone else felt this way too. Which I admit, did make me feel a bit better.

The day itself was lovely, catching up with friends. Some I meet up with regularly, and others I’ve been chatting online to for over four (!) years without ever properly meeting in the flesh. It was fab to finally meet Tim and Julie, among others. I also attended a few of the sessions*, hosted by other bloggers. 

Unfortunately, familiar pangs of self-doubt, and inadequacy reared their ugly heads for me. So many people who set out blogging at the same time as I started this blog in 2013 now have Sunday Times bestsellers under their belts. Or uber successful YouTube channels. Or are making a small fortune from their blogs. Not usually one to fall foul of the green eyed monster, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t allow those feelings to get the better of me.

They totally did.

So much so that when it came to reading my blog post out, I wanted to do anything but. I did it though, and know I should be proud of myself for it.   

Here’s the video, just in case you’re interested.

When you don’t have a sad story, but a sad life

I’ve come to realise that most people can’t handle those who live a chronically stressful life. It’s not a tragic event to ‘get over’, or a sad story to tell. Most people just don’t have the time or inclination to fully comprehend the challenges you face, after the stress becomes chronic. Who can blame them really? 

When the stress is every day.  

Day in day out.

It gets boring doesn’t it? People need a happy ending GODDAMNIT! 

I’ve made no secret of the fact that this year has been brutally hard. Some weeks tougher than others, of course. This has been one of those weeks. Anyone who saw my Instagram post on Tuesday will know that it was especially troublesome. Clara’s hand got trapped in the door, and I thought at first that she had broken her fingers. Fortunately they were just badly bruised, but it shook me up beyond belief.  

I don’t have the capacity for another one of those weeks. They are breaking me, and destroying my soul. 

Thankfully though, mostly through blogging, I’m lucky to know many other people who are also in my position. Who live chronically stressful lives, and are dealing with seriously challenging children. They have empathy, they are supportive, they don’t leave me feeling empty after being in their company.    

 

TRIBE ALERT! ♥️ I am very lucky to have the support of several wonderful groups of blogging friends. This particular gaggle photographed here are from a foodie collective, and we understand each other on a totally different level. ♥️ We get what it’s like to parent exceptionally challenging children. We know how it feels to exist on four broken hours sleep a night (for years and years). We support each other’s blogs, champion each other and pick each other up when we’re crumpled in a heap for whatever reason. ♥️ Yesterday some of us spent the day on an MSC Cruise ship, being shown around and learning about what a cruise holiday would entail if we were to come onboard. During the Q&A with the senior management team we were the ones with the awkward questions. ♥️ “Are your kids club teams epi pen trained?” “What’s your policy on dealing with diabetic hypos?” “What provisions do you have for autistic children?” “Do you have options for those on strict exclusion diets?” ♥️ We are the mums who’ll always have the awkward questions. Being those mums can feel isolating more than words could articulate, but knowing that these wonderful ladies have each other’s backs certainly takes the edge off. ♥️ Big thanks to Sally and Co, and the team at MSC for organising such a fab day!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I guess my main thoughts from this strange week, are things I’ve known for a long time

    • don’t add to your plate when you don’t have the capacity to handle it
    • which means not being afraid to say no from time to time   
    • take comfort from your smallest of wins 
    • don’t compare yourself to others, no matter how tempting it might be 
    • know when to step back from social media for the purposes of self-preservation 
    • always be true to yourself, and never compromise your integrity  
    • work out early doors who your real friends are 
    • take my own advice and read Become the Best You when needs be  
    • know when to admit defeat, call it a day and have a gin
    • give less fucks, as advocated by Louise and Emma in their fab (and funny) YouTube session* at BML

What are your tips for winning in the face of a chronically stressful life? Get in touch @mummytries

“I hate you, and wish you weren’t part of our family.”

Screamed 3yo Freddy, in another one of his rages. It was fuelled by me insisting that he went to the toilet when he got up this morning. I know, what a terrible mama right? Anyone who has lived with a threenager will know how tricky they are. Super sweet, caring and loving one minute. The next all hell has broken loose for suggesting something that should only be worthy of a nod. 

I do hope it’s just a phase, I find myself thinking multiple times every day. I can’t spend too much time contemplating the other option. That there’s a whole load of learnt behaviour going on here.   

“I hate school, why do I have to go when Polly and Freddy don’t?”

Screamed 5yo Clara on Friday night. In fairness she has point. Why does she get forced to do something that’s causing her so much anguish when I’m already home educating the rest of the family?

With each month that passes, Clara becomes more difficult. It’s hard to witness her meltdowns, which are getting more and more violent.

“You’re so stupid!”

Screamed 7yo Polly, before she threw the hairbrush directly at me. It landed on my arm and bloody hurt. The violence on display from this child frightens me. I find my mind drifting off five, ten years, and wondering what she’ll be doing by then. Polly’s challenging behaviour is here to stay, and we simply have to adapt our own accordingly. Which is easier said than done. 

we must never lose hope When you give everything you have to your kids, and they treat you as if you’re the enemy. Well, it hurts doesn’t it?

To say that April was tough going would be a monumental understatement. It can be hard holding on to hope when the chips are down, and the knocks keep coming. I tell myself that we’ve been in dark places before, and have made progress, but my positivity is waning.   

This year, I’ve had days that terrify me. The behaviour displayed by these three has upset me, worried me, shocked me and disgusted me in equal measure. Watching them treat each other like crap is beyond difficult.

The abuse hurled at me is easier to cope with, but some times the only option I have is to lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes. To try and talk sense into myself. To try and quieten down my internal monologue so it doesn’t drive me insane.

Some days I’m so livid that I can’t stop myself from reacting. Even as the words are tumbling out of my mouth I know I’d be much better off keeping it closed. We’ll never be able to take these words back, I think to myself once it’s too late. When the tempers have been lost, and crisis plans have been chucked out the window.

Same old crap, different week, different month, different year. Only the kids are bigger now. They’re going to remember these days.

Most of my own childhood was so miserable I have no memories before I was eight years old. I’ve blocked them out – clearly a defense mechanism I learnt at a very young age. It kills me to think my own children will be doing the same. That their own sadness will come back to haunt them the way mine does.

I do so desperately hope not. 

They say kids are resilient, but mine aren’t.

They feel every teeny tiny knock, and take it personally. They don’t forget a single detail, and will hold you to account on everything you say. Again, this isn’t a bad thing as a parent, but it’s devastating when friends say they’ll do something and don’t. Try explaining to an autistic child that sometimes people say things they don’t mean.

“But why did they invite me for a playdate/sleepover/party when they didn’t want me to come?”

Cue meltdown central, and an hour long fallout. 

In the last two years, I’ve witnessed from near and afar, ten relationship breakdowns. Only two have survived and are coming out the other end. Mostly they’ve led to divorce – bitter, twisted, horrible divorce. Almost every story is the same. Irreconcilable differences between the grown ups, but the kids are just fine.

Those kids fly the flag for the phrase ‘children are resilient’. The fact is they enjoy the company of their parents much more now that they aren’t living under the same roof. They get better quality time, and benefit from a happier mum and dad. When my friends were ready to move on, they found new Beau’s who are nothing like their former partners. They themselves are worlds happier, and their only regret is clinging onto their dying relationships for as long as they did.

I know it’s not been easy for them. Every one has been to hell and back, but oh how I’ve envied their fresh starts.

The separation time they get from their kids helps to make them better mums. The mistakes they made with their exes has led to wonderful relationships this time around. Those who aren’t ready to settle down are having the most amount of fun.  

Living life to the max. The way I used to.

Before autism, chronic stress, sibling in-fighting and sleep deprivation so severe that my body doesn’t know what to do with itself if it gets more than five straight hours.  

No Matter How Dark Our Days Get We Must Never Lose Hope There’s a romantic idea of autism that litters the internet. Of how it creates special bonds between brothers and sisters. I’m sure in some family’s this is true. Once the neuro typical siblings get their heads around the autism, and start to understand that their brother or sister is different. They can become another advocate, and help other kids understand autism too. How wonderful this dynamic would be.

Perhaps it’s simply a case of my kids being too young to understand. Or perhaps, the option I’m leaning towards, all three are on the spectrum. Another can of worms waiting to pop open.

So much time has been, and continues to be, invested in our diagnosed eldest daughter. Meanwhile the other two aren’t always getting what they need. To help them become resilient and fully functioning.

And happy.

We can only do our best, and when all is said and done, we can only hope that it was enough.

I can’t tell you how much it breaks my heart to hear Freddy say that he’s sad but doesn’t know why. Or to watch Clara’s hands flare back up with stress eczema the week after the Easter holidays.

I honestly don’t know what the future holds for my little family, but I do know that I’m some times part of the problem. Happiness begins by taking control over the situation in front of me, and some days I don’t seem capable of doing that. Some days I lose hope that there are brighter days around the corner. 

When the chips are continuously down, it’s hard to imagine a happier time. Maybe I expect too much, and should just feel grateful to get through the days? Trouble is, I’m fed up with merely surviving. I want to thrive, and flourish. More importantly I want my children to.

It’s not all doom and gloom, one look at my one line a day diary confirms that. There are some wonderful memory-making moments thrown in. There just aren’t enough of them to get me through the exceptionally challenging days without feeling like an epic failure.

“I wish I never saw the sunshine, then maybe I wouldn’t mind the rain.” the fabulous Beth Orton sings in one of her many beautiful songs.

So this is for anyone else living in perpetual limbo. Not knowing how they’re going to cope with the next set back that comes their way.

What will be will be, right?

I’m sure you’re doing a marvellous job, even if you can’t see it.

Take care of you, and make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first.

Above all else, don’t lose hope. Brighter days absolutely must be around the corner.

 

#tbt to four years ago, and one of my very favorite photos of Miss. Polly. 💖 Back to a much simpler time, which I remember thinking was super hard work, but in hindsight wasn’t a patch on now. 💖 Back then I had a hunch that there was more than met the eye when it came to my strong willed challenging child. 💖 Two years, many sleepless nights and a lot of heartache later, Polly was diagnosed with high functioning #autism. 💖 Fast forward another two years, and I find myself wondering when the magic turning point will be. It felt like it was in sight a couple of months ago, but a series of unfortunate events have triggered off possibly our worst ever cycle. 💖 Violence, verbal abuse, refusal to learn, not listening to a word I say. I know she’s hurting, but my word it’s hard to rise above it some days. 💖 I’m the adult, and should have full control over my emotions. But on days like today I look in the mirror and see the person I’ve tried so desperately not to become. 💖 And it breaks my heart. Teeny tiny piece, by teeny tiny piece. Let’s just hope tomorrow is a better day.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

chronic stressYesterday was International Day of Happiness. You would never have known in my house, it was more like yet another day of chronic stress.

This is doubly ironic given how my last blog was all about how well we are doing. How it feels like we’ve turned an elusive corner with our 7yo autistic daughter Polly, and can finally see some light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

Not that we’ve had a break from challenging children, oh no. 5yo Clara has seen to it that there has been no respite in that department. Not that it’s her fault, I can’t blame the poor kid for hating school and demanding to know why she gets ‘sent away’ (her words) when her sister doesn’t.

Two steps forward, three steps back

As we were doing so well, Polly had a few days at her grandparents last week. She came home out of sorts, which hubby and I were fully expecting. The change in routine, eating food she isn’t able to tolerate and having undivided attention was always going to mean a thud back to earth upon returning. We were finally getting somewhere when she had an unfortunate incident with a neighbour’s dog. It’s only a puppy, not even a year old, but Polly doesn’t enjoy jumpy over-zealous animals.

Regardless of whether the dog was ‘just being friendly’ or not (the owners words), it knocked her flying and she was terrified. She also grazed her elbow and knee quite badly, which caused her real pain. Every time we change the plasters it reminds her of the scare she’s just had. Every time she went out to play over the weekend she was worried the dog was going to be there and would chase her. Then she was disappointed with her friends, because rather than support her they made fun of the fact that she was scared of a friendly, adorable little dog.

This is where Polly’s autism comes shining through her mask

We had a tough weekend, not just because Polly was anxious about the dog. Chuck into the mix a sad Clara and a cough-ridden 3yo Freddy who is hardly sleeping, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster on your hands.

This continued into yesterday. The girls fought all morning, and Clara went to school in floods of tears because her sister was calling her stupid, something she hasn’t done for months. She was pinching her brother, and taking his toys. She refused to do any learning, and the meltdown that then ensued because I said she couldn’t just vanish into the ether with her tablet was off the chart.

chronic stressKicking and hitting and screaming in my face wasn’t enough. At one point she threw a sharp knife in my general direction. She crossed the line, and my inner calm vanished.

Count to ten, they say. Leave the room if you have to, they say. Deep breaths, meditate, they say. Don’t take it personally, they say. You’re tough mama and you’ve got this, they say. Have a drink, they say (not going to do that on a Monday morning). 

When you live in a state of chronic stress      

Last night I collapsed in a heap in my bed directly after the kids fell asleep. I was spent, good for precisely nothing. Today is a new day I told myself. Today is a new day my husband told me. I was full of resolve and my positive head was on my shoulders.

Then Polly got told no, for something very minor, and her first response was to scream in my face and kick me in the shin.

And I flipped.  

I went right back to yesterday. I started sweating profusely, and my head felt like it had cotton wool in it.

“I am not doing this again!” I yelled. Bad mama.

Thankfully hubby is working from home, so I left him downstairs with the kids while I came up here to write this. Because sometimes, this blog is better therapy than trying to meditate.

Sometimes, getting the words out of my head make them less toxic. Sometimes, it’s just what a I need to calm me down and get me back to happy.

Thanks for reading, and here’s a hug for anyone who needs it!

 

Today’s been super hard. I started my day on a sleep deficit, after being up for hours in the middle of the night with F. The girls have been cranky to put it mildly. All three have spent the day on a knife edge, kicking off at the slightest thing. Tears on the way to the park, more tears on the way home. It’s been exhausting, and my head is pounding. 💖 I used to pride myself on my together-ness, but days like today push me to my limits limits. My mind starts drifting off into a bleak future, and I think f***, if I can’t cope now what will it be like in a few years time? I start worrying that the foundations of my marriage aren’t strong enough to take the strain of this pressure cooker environment we call life. 💖 Then I remember to breathe. And I remember that the days are long but the years are short. I count my blessings, and think of the empty armed mama’s I know, who’d sacrifice a limb for what I have. And I remember that I’m made of tough stuff, but I’m not a robot. 💖 Is parenting the toughest gig of all? I’m starting to think that yes indeed it is. We can only do our best, and hopefully our best will be good enough.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on