Monday, 30 March 2009

Après Disneyland Paris

The trip to Disneyland paris was a great success. There were eight of us on the trip - Joseph & Orla, Collette and Carla - two of my grown-up daughters - and Carla's three children. The hotel, Sequoia Lodge, was very comfortable and had a great swimming pool with a jacuzzi and water slide etc. The food (we had booked half-board, which gave us the choice to eat at many of Disneyland's restaurants as well as all of the hotels) surpassed our expectations and the restaurants were all extremely child-friendly. The hotel and parks staff were superb (in the parks, the staff are called "cast", and because most of them are playing a role in a fairytale land, this is probably an apt term), and since I have had plenty of experience of Gallic condescension, British indifference and American fake, over-the-top friendliness, this was a welcome change. And the Disney parks had plenty on offer to entertain anyone from the age of 2 to 102.

Joseph (7) and his couple-of-years older nephew, Lee probably had the best time. They were able to go on almost all the rides, and were old enough to appreciate almost all the shows and other entertainment. Both Joseph and Lee had their first "white-knuckle" ride experience on the roller coasters there, and now, having conquered the fear of such rides, consider themselves "white-knuckle" ride veterans. Joseph, who just couldn't believe that such a paradise as Disneyland existed, tells everyone who will listen that Disneyland is the best place in the whole world...

Reece (4) also had a really good time and had lots to enjoy, while Orla (3), although restricted by age and comprehension from getting the best out of the parks, was still impressed enough to tell me that she wanted to live there! Reece also wanted to move home to Disneyland, and on the day of our departure was most upset and asked if the French children had to go home, too. He must have thought that French children could live there!

Shannon (13), although she enjoyed the trip, probably got the least from it. Adolescent attitude prevailed, and I'm sure that if she had had a friend accompany her, or found a "fit" boy to spend some time with, her holiday would have been more fun.

I also had a very enjoyable time. I was able to share in the excitement and enjoyment of my smaller children and grandchildren, of course, but of equal value was spending so much time with my two older children. I see them regularly, but never for such prolonged periods. Their companionship was a real bonus for me, and they seemed to enjoy my company too. I can truthfully state that none of us had even the slightest disagreement during the whole trip. That is a rarity in itself!

The Disney parks aren't for those who seek peace and/or relaxation. We walked countless miles during our holiday (yet still managed to put on a little weight, such was the appeal of the food there) and practically collapsed into bed at night. It was a happy tiredness. On my return home, it took me a couple of days to recover from my break. This was expected by all of us and we had all booked an extra day or two off work to accommodate it.

y business missed me, more than I thought it would, and it took me a full week of being very busy to catch up.

Meanwhile, Marie had been having an enjoyable and (almost) anxiety-free time at her parents' house. She had (mostly) kept up her hypnotherapy and Linden method exercises. I had kept her informed of the highlights of our trip by text, including pictures, and she watched my video efforts when we got home. The children and I had missed her and we were, and are, all very happy to be reunited again.

We have decided that the next Disney trip will be in 2013, when Orla will be seven. Carla is going to go then, too, and I'm sure that some/all of my other grown-up daughters will come too. We're planning to go to Florida this time. Let's hope that Marie can join us!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Conquering agoraphobia with The Linden Method

Some years ago, after reading advertisements online, I bought the rather expensive (£117.00) The Linden Method for Marie. The picture shows what I got for my money - plus 12 months unlimited telephone support. Click on the picture if you want to go to his website. It was going to take away her anxiety, I was promised - moneyback guarantee - so it was money well spent, wasn't it?

I can't comment about the efficacy of The Linden Method because Marie didn't read it. She skimmed through the book, perused the CDs and DVDs, put the whole lot down and never looked at any of it again. I read the book and considered it amateurishly written. I said so in part of a post some time ago. I also questioned the accuracy of some of the claims made in the advertisement.

Some months later and much to my surprise, I received an email from the author himself, Mr Charles Linden. He expressed his distaste for my comments and suggested that Marie and I should visit him so that we could see for ourselves how effective his method was. At that time, I didn't believe that Marie was sufficiently motivated to take Charles up on his offer. My belief was confirmed when I told Marie about the email, and she showed no interest whatsoever in it.

Times have changed.

Without any prompting from me (or anyone else), Marie emailed Charles Linden on Tuesday. On Wednesday he phoned her and we are going to visit him in Kidderminster, in England's East Midlands, in a couple of weeks. Kidderminster is about 3 hours' drive from our home, but I don't mind that, if it will help Marie. The reason why we're not going sooner – I'm off to Paris this weekend.

Yes, later on I'm taking my 2 little children, 2 of their big sisters and 3 of my grandchildren to Paris, where we shall be staying in Disneyland – more specifically, Sequoia Lodge in Disneyland. We might visit the lovely city of Paris itself, but the current exchange rate is a great discouragement. Marie will be staying at her parents' house for the week.

<<A bientôt, mes copains!>>

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A little less agoraphobia

So, is Marie getting better?

Yes, I think, a little. Or, as Marie thinks, a lot – it depends on one's perspective.

Here we have Marie checking out how much

rice she can fit into her mouth at one time.

We have been going out more. Marie has been accompanying me on some business trips – those that don't start early in the morning and don't require her to walk more than a few steps from the car.

On Friday evening, we dined at the Mariam Indian restaurant in Taunton, since the children were visiting one of their older sisters – Colleen. They have an excellent and extensive menu. Superb service. We had an excellent meal and paid surprisingly little for it.

Marie allows me to go a-wandering deep

into the countryside as long as she can see me.

On Sunday afternoon we toured around West Somerset for a few hours while the children attended a birthday party. We had lunch at Exford Bridge Tearooms. We sat and ate in comfy armchairs beside the open fire. I cannot remember the last time I sat beside an open fire! Great local food which might seem pricey at first, but it's really only average for the area. We had to park the car across the road, and I was pleased to see that Marie was able to go there. Another small sign that things are improving.

Blaze is 8 months old now. Time to see how good he is at snogging.

I'm pleased to relate that Marie still prefers me.

Afterwards, we enjoyed the lovely early spring sunshine (yes, the trees are budding and some buds are sprouting embryo leaves - spring is on its way) on top of one of the Exmoor hills. I am at my most relaxed in the countryside and despite her anxiety, Marie feels relaxed too. Blaze, who accompanied us, had lots of fun rolling around in the heather, sniffing the country smells and running along sheep tracks - never going too far away from Marie & me.

On Monday, Marie and I were once more driving around West Somerset while the children were at school/nursery school. This time we stopped in the beautiful medievil village of Dunster where we had coffee in the rather expensive Cobblestones café, served by indifferent staff. We'll go somewhere else, next time. Again, the car was parked across the road. Marie not only coped with this, but also managed to look at a few of the shops around the café.

Beautiful Dunster is dominated by its castle,

but Marie isn't able to explore it just yet.

On the home front, things haven't changed much, except that Marie is getting up a little earlier.

Marie believes that her change of attitude and new impetus to get well has come about as a result of her hypnotherapy. I believe that her attitude had already changed when she took the trouble of locating and contacting the hypnotherapist, and arranging the first appointment. Furthermore, she has listened to his mp3 every night for the past 3 weeks. This dedication to the cause is a first.

Yes, Marie is getting better.

Monday, 2 March 2009

My Autistic Son - Part 6 - major trauma

In case you missed some or all of them, here are the links to the previous parts of this story -

Part 1 Part2 Part3 Part4 Part5

Colm's 13th birthday party at McDonalds, Lisburn.

Colm is at the back, smiling.

Spring 1994.

This is the BBC Northern Ireland news at 12 o'clock. A suspect car bomb has been discovered in Lisburn town centre. Police and an Army bomb disposal team are at the scene. The town centre and surrounding area has been sealed off to traffic and the Police are advising the public to avoid the area until the all-clear is given...”

I heard this news bulletin on the car radio as I was driving to a business meeting. It sent a paroxysm of fear down my spine. Colm's school was right beside Lisburn town centre!

I rang the school on my car phone. There was no answer. I tried again. And again and again. Still no answer. I had to fight hard to stop panic taking over. Why didn't they answer? I rang the Police - no reports of any major disasters in the area, but it was "a fluid situation".

I cancelled my meeting and went straight home. Irrational fears invaded my consciousness. Unlikely violent scenarios played out in my imagination. I had to wait three long, anxious hours to learn that the all-clear had been given. A bomb had exploded, but there were no serious injuries. One hour later, Colm arrived home via the school minibus, instead of his normal taxi. Taxi services had been disrupted by the bomb.

Then I heard the full story -

There had been a phone call from the Police to the school. A suspected car bomb had been found nearby. Move everyone to the safest part of the building, they demanded. There was the risk of the bomb exploding at any time and it would be too risky to try to evacuate the area. The staff and pupils at the school moved to a part of the building considered the safest – i.e. it had a good solid roof and no windows or doors nearby. But no phone! When the massive car bomb exploded some time later, the whole building shook. After 10 minutes or so of quietness, they all returned cautiously to the main building. Apart from a few shattered windows in adjacent rooms, not much damage was done to the school. No one had been injured.

It was a very traumatic experience for Colm. I try to imagine what it must have been like for him, confined with the staff and other pupils in a small space for over two hours with no explanation given (to avoid worrying the pupils). Although the staff tried to amuse the pupils during this time, there was obviously a tense atmosphere. Then suddenly, and without warning for Colm (and the other pupils), there was a deafening “BANG!”, the entire building shook, followed immediately by the “WHOOSH!” of the blast and then the tinkle of broken glass falling... Some of the pupils began to scream. Others cried. No one was allowed to move for a while in case there was another blast, or the broken glass hadn't stopped falling. All of this must have been incredibly frightening for a 13 year old boy with limited understanding.

Colm's last photo at Parkview school, autumn 1994. Colm is on the extreme left.

It's now 15 years later, and Colm still mentions that bomb from time to time.

This incident was the catalyst which set in motion a family move away from the troubled land of my birth. It wasn't the only reason. I had problems coping with living in such a divided society where not supporting one of the two warring tribes led to mistrust by both: I had received death threats for refusing to support one or other of them: I had been asked for – and refused to pay - protection money: my father, a relatively recent widower, had never quite shaken off his PTSD brought about his horrific terrorist kidnapping some years earlier: and my marriage was disintegrating. A new start in a new place held out the hope of a new, less stressful life for us all.

After much research, we decided to move to the south west of England. We sold everything (for less than it was worth, because we were in a hurry to move) and had emigrated before the year ended.

After that, things began to improve for Colm.

Actually, things began to improve for us all. Our lives had been changed forever.

Now read part 7