The bully meets his match?

Well, the summer has come and gone and whilst I had every intention of blogging I found myself just enjoying the long summer days and before I knew it, poof, the summer was gone.

It has been an interesting summer, I don’t want to dwell on COVID 19 in fact let’s skip that subject as much as possible. This summer resulted in my eldest daughter getting her A Level results, again lets try and skip the politics of that area, let’s just say it was a very stressful time and I’m glad it is over. The outcome though was amazing and she is off this Saturday to start her Law degree at Bristol University, I am hugely proud of her achievements and whilst I will miss her immensely I am just bursting to the seams with excitement for her.

Bonnie has had an intense summer, the continuation of being in such close proximity to the 5 members of our family has not been without its issues and her anxiety levels have been incredibly high. It is her OCD that has been very distressing to watch and as a result of appointments with her therapist a decision was made to try and tackle the OCD head on.

Now Bonnie and I have read every book going on OCD, we have watched every programme and we have scoured every website, and we get it. We understand the whole concept of OCD and how that bully really should just get lost and leave her alone, and yet it is still there every night-time filtering away through her body until she goes and picks up the object(s) from the bathroom (predominately toilet rolls and towels) finally allowing her to sleep. So the decision to tackle the bully head on resulted in much the same way as if you tackled a bully in the playground and it fought back. Now, normally I would encourage Bonnie to continue to fight the bully but at this moment in time it was too strong because I felt that we were giving it too much power. Again much like the bully in the playground we have been feeding its ego and boosting it up to seem something big and important, in actually fact it is just weak and feeding off of someone else’s pain. So we have tried another tact, ignore it. Try as best as you can to distract yourself and not let it feel so powerful. Find something else in your life that can feel an accomplishment that the bully cannot take away from you. It doesn’t mean that it goes away but what it does mean is that you spend a little less of the time worrying about it.

So Bonnie has decided to invest more time in her studies, she would be year 11 at school but she has been homeschooled since year 6. This is amazing for me, do you know how long I have waited for her to come to me and for her to suggest that she focuses on her exams… well it’s a long time. Don’t get me wrong we have completed many online courses and art programmes and bought lots of books but I am talking about a clear path to sitting GCSE’s.

Some of her decision to do this was brought about by the eldest daughter achieving her exams and going off to Uni but a lot of it was as the result of time and trying to beat the bully. Since she was 10 years old and left school I have encouraged her to make sure that she was in the right place mentally and physically for life, and that her exams could wait. It was a difficult decision and met with objection by some family members and some friends who questioned (continually) my approach and who have really caused me anxiety and stress. They also left me wondering if I had got it right, was I creating further issues and distress for Bonnie further down the line ? Well it’s taken me a while but to all those people I now really feel as though I can say Nah Nah Nah Nah… I finally feel able to have the confidence in myself again and in fact I should not have doubted myself.

The teaching aspect is coming from tutors. I am truly grateful to have found a wonderful maths tutor who is kind and considerate and who constantly tells Bonnie how wonderful she is. How amazing is that !! I am capable of walking Bonnie through the concept of maths but at the same time I am not, you see I have the ability but I am not very good at breaking things down and actually teaching them. So the introduction of Anne is a life saver and to be frank I do not feel that I have failed, I feel as though I have succeeded in what was the initial plan. It’s early days but hopefully 2 years down the line Bonnie will have the results required to take her to the next step of her life, be that further education or a job, lets wait and see.

As you can tell from my spelling and grammar the English tutor is also not me. I may well have that old A level result tucked away in my portfolio but my abilities here to teach this area are severally lacking. A friend I have known for over 40 years, since we were 4 years old, has very kindly picked up this honour. Her credentials are impressive and for want of wanting to keep her down off the high pedestal that she should be on I shall not list them, but rest assured she is an excellent teacher and should never ever doubt her ability to encourage and enthuse others. She has an understanding of Bonnie’s situation and of the fact that Bonnie gets extremely tired from the sensory issues and so she is able to work with that in mind. The best thing of all is that she can let Bonnie choose texts that she would like to work with, this is brilliant because although Bonnie may understand MacBeth she chooses not to study it because it is set in a colder climate and she doesn’t like the cold. She also allows Bonnie the ability to debate areas which obviously could not happen in the same way with a class of 30 children.

So I am finally starting to see a clear path into the future. It looks promising and hopeful and full of positivity and whilst it will take some time to tackle that bully at least he is not getting the same head space that he once was. In fact bully I think it is about time you go and do one! If only it was that easy.

Mental Health Awareness Week ! You are having a laugh.

Oh gosh, so where do I begin ? This has been one of those weeks ! Sometimes I can ease the stress of my harder weeks with a large bar of chocolate and a glass of wine. This is not one of them…

I have two teenage daughters, both of whom suffer from social anxiety but with varying levels. The eldest daughter is nearly 17 and I am fully aware that she experiences anxiety when dealing with certain situations, for example she recently had a job interview and she felt very anxious about it. That’s normal right? I think it is and she understands that it is too. She knows that if she has to attend several interviews that the anxiety will ease and she will know what is to come and what to expect. I am not down playing her anxiety, it’s not easy. When I was in a high powered role at work I often used to get very anxious about meetings. How would I get there? What if I got lost? What if I was late? Who would be there? However, for both of us we understand that these feelings of anxiety are normal and also that some level of anxiety is good for you. As a family we were recently able to have a tour of some African elephants and we were told that they too needed some level of anxiety or they became bored. So anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to understand it.

I am also aware that I need to respect her boundaries, she is at that age when she is becoming an adult and she needs some privacy and so I only get involved when she asks for my advice or needs my help. I try to get the balance right but I am sure that at times she wants me to interject more often but sometimes I miss the signs. I know I don’t always get it right, I know because she tells me. Ultimately though I feel that she has enough people around her that she can turn to to ensure that she is safe.

The other teen in my life Bonnie is soon to be 14 and she is also experiencing anxiety but because she is home schooled and autistic we spend a lot of time talking about her anxieties. Some of them seem to be crazy (some drive me crazy), but they are real big issues to her. The things that I find hardest about her anxieties are that they seem to have really bad physical effects on her. For example if she is worried about something, even ever so tiny like the length of her hair, she obsesses and obsesses about the problem until she feels faint, her heart races, she sweats and has a headache. She also can experience psychological feelings and because I am not a professional, I really worry that I am not giving her enough.

So this week we visited the local GP. Bonnie explained how she was feeling and the doctor suggested that she be referred to CAMHS. As you may have discovered from reading previous blogs, Bonnie and I are not big fans of CAMHS. I still have yet to find anyone with a positive experience of CAMHS so for Bonnie this was not an option. We did ask for advice on private autistic counsellors but the doctor was unable to suggest anyone. In this day and age ? (big sigh). We talked about medication to help but due to the fact she is under 18 he could not prescribe this and that she would need medication from a consultant. As Bonnie’s intelligence levels are very high she is aware of the downsides of such medication, having researched this area thoroughly, and she is therefore very wary and would only use medication as a last resort but she feels that she is at that last train station and where does she go from here. It seems to her as though all avenues have been shut down and that she is left alone.

So we talked more about counselling to the GP and Bonnie explained her fears that she felt that counsellors would twist her words and not understand what she was trying to explain. The GP then asked her “Are you suicidal ?” “No” she replied. “But what if you were, would you know where to get help from?” “But I’m not ” she replied “Can you talk to mum? if you can’t, then you can text her from another room” Oh seriously this dude was pressing every button for me. Bonnie replied “I can talk to my mum and once again I am not suicidal”. We took his couple of cards with suggested online counselling, which by the way Bonnie tried the minute we got home, but that they were hopeless, with no understanding of autism and just left her feeling more isolated. What Bonnie found unbelievable though was that she had told this GP that counsellors would twist what she was saying and not really listen to her and here was a prime example of that. She was flabbergasted that he continually asked her about suicide. By the way GP top marks for putting the thought into her head, you did a great job there, really helpful (yes that is my sarcastic voice).

I know what he was trying to do was cover himself. He had no time to discuss these issues with her, he could not provide a clear path for her to follow to get help, he was clutching at straws and trying to cover himself by saying that he had discussed what she should do if she was suicidal. Oh that’s great for him if the sh@t hits the fan and she does try to kill herself but what about her ! To top it off we are in Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, with programmes about the help you can get etc. Well where is that help ??? The programmes that have been shown highlight the long waits that people have to see the counsellors, they quoted 14 months in one programme for CBT counselling https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/how-it-works/. 14 months wait for a
mental health issue is disgusting, no wonder the GP is talking about suicide and no I am not being sarcastic now, I am angry that we are still failing those in society that need help.

So there we go, that’s my week. It’s been a pretty horrible one for me but an even more horrible for her. I would like to end on a positive note though so any suggestions that you have on coping strategies for her would be really appreciated. We have tried herbal remedies, writing in a diary, yoga, exercise, diet, talking etc and these all help slightly but not enough so I am open to any comments that you may have. As Einstein said ” Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new“.