Sunday, 28 March 2010

An eventful week

One week ago, Marie took the kids for a short trip in her car.

She hasn't driven or left the house without me since.  Her days are almost exclusively filled with eating, sleeping and the internet.

For the rest of us, family life continues relentlessly.

Around lunchtime on Tuesday, I got a call from Orla's school.  I was to come immediately to collect her.  She had fallen in the playground and was a bit upset.

I arrived at the school to find Orla crying hysterically in the First Aid room, her hand firmly clamped over her mouth.  Her school uniform was drenched in blood, she had a bruised eyebrow, bruised cheek, a scraped hand and a cut knee.  She wouldn't let anyone inspect her mouth, so the first aid lady didn't know what damage had been done there.

I got Orla home and simply nursed her for the next hour and a half, after which she became more settled and let me look tentatively at her mouth.  She had pretty much mashed up the inside of her lips and it looked as if a couple of teeth had been damaged.  Later on, I was able to clean her and change her clothes.  I fed her ice cream (she wasn't able to eat or drink) and put her to bed.

She looked so pitiful and vulnerable, sleeping.

On Wednesday evening, Joseph and a team from his school swam for charity.  He swam a creditable 250m (about 275 yds) in a 40 minute session, while Orla (who has been stuck to me like glue all week) and I looked on.  His enthusiasm made me very proud of him.

On Friday morning, Joseph went on a 3 day school trip with a group from his school.  I collected him this evening.  His teacher told me that he had been a pleasure to have on the trip, and he had got an award for his skills as a team leader and for his consistent good manners.  Again he made me proud!

While Joseph was away, Orla and I had spent a lot of time together - just the two of us.  It was just what she needed after her terrible tumble.  Yesterday afternoon she felt well enough to go to a school friend's birthday party, although she insisted that I stay with her.  Her friend's mum, looking with horror at Orla's bruised face and swollen lips, instructed the other little girls to be careful not to hurt her; the instructions were duly followed.

Today, most of Orla's scabs came away and although still swollen, she is definitely looking a lot better.  She is to attend the dentist tomorrow to see what can be done about her damaged teeth after which she will go to school again. eventful week - both good and bad events - but I hope that this week will be quieter.  And it would be nice if Marie could improve a little too!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Marie and Lucas

The Marie that the children and I know and love came back to visit today.  It seemed the appropriate time to chat about her current state of mind.

It seems that Marie, having achieved so much during her London trip, realised how much she had yet to achieve to have a "normal" life.  She looked at the big picture, and its vastness daunted her.  It seemed to her that there was no point in getting up and fighting agoraphobia each day.  Her virtual world, in which she is as able as anyone else, held more appeal than her physical world.

In other words, depression had set in.

She feels stronger now.  Things will, she assured me, improve.

Just to prove the point, she took the children out for a short trip in her car.  It was the first time she has got into her car since her return from London.

I should have recognised Marie's depression, but sometimes I'm so busy in the day-to-day business of running the family that I can't see beyond it.  Marie's depressions rarely last long, and there is no reason to suppose that this one will be any different.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Youngest grandson Lucas, about 10 weeks old now, spent Saturday evening, night and all of this morning with us while his parents had some well-deserved time to themselves.  Marie insisted on doing the overnight feeds, and I didn't to argue with her too much about this!!

Lucas is a happy, content little lad who is spending more and more time looking around him, observing his environment.  He has started to smile, laugh and gurgle now.  He brought a happy aura with him.  Orla couldn't get enough of this real live doll and, truthfully, she was gentle and careful with him.

Lucas doesn't realise it, but his presence made Marie happier and I am sure that he contributed significantly to her depression easing.

Thanks, Lucas!

Friday, 19 March 2010

The panic party - before and after

In my Rollercoaster Agoraphobia post, just over two weeks ago, I related how Marie's positive attitude was helping her to expand the number and types of activities she was comfortable doing.
This continued.
Eleven days ago, Marie went to her friend's house near London to stay for a few day.  I stayed at home with the children.  Anticipatory anxiety had plagued Marie on the days leading up to this short break.  London without me is well outside Marie's comort zone, but she had done a lot of preparation -
  • Her friend's house was only a couple of metres from the road.
  • Her friend had borrowed a car and it would be parked outside at all times.
  • Mobile phone reception was excellent.
  • She could get a taxi within 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
  • Her friend knew that she couldn't leave Marie alone at any time.
  • I would be able to come and collect her without notice should her anxiety level become too high.
Alas, the best laid plans can go wrong.
Marie's friend had to return her borrowed car, and was unable to borrow another. Marie decided that she would risk panicking and stay anyway.

Marie's friend had to go out a few times on personal matters.  Without a car, Marie couldn't go with her, but she managed to stay in her friend's house by herself!

Bouyed up by this significant progress, Marie started to take her friend's dog out for a walk.  Okay, the walks may have been really short, but this is another activity she did by herself.

On Saturday I left our children with older sisters Collette and Colleen, and drove to London to pick up Marie and her friend and take them to a panic party in Milton Keynes.  The lunchtime "meet" had been organised by No More Panic.  About 20 anxiety sufferers, some with their partners, gathered at a rather attractive pub.  Naturally, parking spaces immediately outside the entrance were available!  The panic party lasted for several hours and seemed to be a great success for all those who attended, including Marie.  Many attendees were pushing their boundaries to the limit just by attending.  There was much laughter and chatter which created a lovely ambiance.

It was a tired, but happy and elated Marie who returned home late on Saturday night. 
The next day was Mothering Sunday, and I persuaded the children to let Mum sleep in, until their patience ran out about 11:30 am.  Then they woke her up, giving her their cards, gifts and a specially prepared breakfast of all Marie's favourite morning foods.

Although Marie was suitably enthusiastic about the morning activities, she was simultaneously oddly detached from the children.

This has not changed.  Since Sunday, Marie has gone back to the excessive sleeping, lethargic, depressed, detached state she has been in before.  Fortunately - and sadly - the children and I operate really well as a unit and everything goes on as normal.  We've even been entertaining some of their school friends.  My business activities suffer, of course, and I am exhausted most of the time, but my family is my priority.

The children and I are hoping that happy, vibrant Marie will be returning real soon...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mothers Day in pictures

The pictures say it all.

 Joseph made a Mothers Day card.
He composed a Haiku poem for his mum.
Orla also made a Mothers Day card -
but she decided to draw on it after giving it to Mum.
Joseph and Orla chose a Mothers Day card,
based on the words inside (awww).
Orla picked this balloon.
Colm is only 7 months younger than Marie
but he has adopted her as his mother.
Marie got breakfast in bed,
lots of flowers
dinner cooked
and all the housework done.
I think she was well pleased!

Saturday, 6 March 2010


It's odd.
Although I have seven children, all of whom should have had to face the same inescapable facts of existence, I cannot remember how I helped each child how to cope.
Did I help them all in the same way?
What worked best?  I can't remember.
For example, each child - except Colm - has had to face the inevitability of death.
Somehow, Colm's autism has spared him the anxiety normally associated with the realisation of one's mortality.
I do remember Joseph being extremely worried that I was going to die.
I told him that he would be grown up before I died and he wouldn't need me then.
That didn't work.
I told him that I wouldn't die until I was 100 years old.
I was trying to put off the day he was fearing so far into the future that it didn't matter right now.
That helped him, but didn't completely remove his fears.
Then I told him that after I died, I would become a star and would always look down on him from the sky.
He liked this.
I got quite a lot of questions about stars, but in general, he liked that idea.
He has slept soundly ever since.

Now it's Orla's turn.
She was crying sorely, in my arms, at bedtime.
What would happen if I died and mummy died?
Who would look after her?
Who would love her?
Joseph, who was nearby, told her "Don't worry, daddy will be a star.  You'll be able to see him in the sky."
Joseph was being kind, trying to help.
He brought no comfort whatsoever.
I told her that I wasn't going to die before she was a grown up woman.
That is working.
For now, anyway.
She slept soundly.

All parents have to face this problem.How have you dealt with this?
All help gratefully received.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Rollercoaster agoraphobia

Since my last, somewhat bleak report of Marie's level of agoraphobia (you can see it here), things have changed.  As they do.  Regularly.

The most important change is in Marie's attitude.  She is now in positive mood.  Looking forward to a better future.  Here's what she has been doing -

  • Doing the school run.  For the first time ever, Marie is doing almost all of the school runs.  I had been doing them for 5 years.
  • Taking our dog (Blaze) out for exercise.  Just Marie and Blaze - no safe person.  Okay, so all she does is parks her car at a large field and waits for the dog to walk himself, but while she's there, she's been trying to move further away from her car.  So far she has only managed a couple of paces, but at the start of the year, she couldn't even get to the field on her own!
  • Driving to nearby villages.  She has managed to drive 3 miles away from home with the children in the car.  
  • Going to shops by herself, and seeing how far away from the door she can get.
  • Going to shops with the children.  Marie feels safer with the children than alone, so she uses this to go to shops which she can't get to on her own.
  • Visiting friends.  Driving to see them on her own.
Here is a pic of Marie with Blaze, about 4m away from her car!  She can do this without me being there :0)  (We've been having nice, sunny weather for quite a while, now.)

On the family front, Marie has been spending more time with our children.  When she's anxious, she withdraws from them.  She also gets up every morning and shares in the morning routines with the children and me.

On the business front, Marie has rekindled her interest in her jewellry business.  It is still a very small enterprise, but every time Marie takes an interest in it, it blossoms.  This is her business, so I take almost no part in it.  This way, Marie can see the results of her own labours.

As I've mentioned before, the enormity of the task of reinventing herself sometimes appears daunting to Marie, but she now has some victories under her belt to encourage her to progress.

Yes, Marie is riding the rollercoaster of her agoraphobia...and we're rolling, in a somewhat leisurely fashion, downhill at the moment.  I'm sure that there are more, difficult, uphill stretches to negotiate...but right now, we're enjoying the good times!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

TV dog

Our dog, Blaze, arrived here in November 2008, so has been living with us for 15 months now. He has settled down (well, he should have by now, shouldn't he?) and this has allowed his unique personality to shine through.

And what a beautiful personality he has! He is the perfect family dog, obedient, uncomplaining, easy to train, sociable with both humans and other dogs and incredibly good with children. He's extremely good looking too (it turns out that he has an excellent show dog pedigree, but we're not interested in showing him). Everyone loves him. I didn't really want a dog, but he has won even me over!

One of his little idiosyncrasies is that he watches the tv.

He's got quite good taste. For example, he doesn't watch any soaps (ooops! - have I offended anybody?) or trashy movies. He prefers intellectually challenging nature programmes. He likes to watch dogs, of course, but also most other animals. When he hears animal noises, his ears prick up, he sits up and pays attention to the tv screen. If he hears distressed animals, he cries; with cross animals, he barks. It's quite amusing!

For some unknown reason, he has adopted me as the leader of the pack, and although he has got very affectionate towards me, he is not possessive.

At this time of year, we go walking on the beach more often than inland. The reason - Blaze always comes home from the beach clean. Additionally, he loves swimming. As soon as we get to the water, he runs straight in and splashes around. Afterwards he often swims in deeper water. Here he is during a short winter twilight walk.

I've posted pictures of the beaches near my house before, but never pictures I took during the short winter twilight. Following is a selection.

I love these walks on the deserted twilight beaches. Since Blaze came on the scene, I think I'm becoming a bit of a softie!