January 2019 – The Fall and Rise of Shaz (Again)

With all the 10 Year Challenge stuff going around a few days ago, I started thinking about what my life was like 10 years ago. In January 2009 I was making mistakes left right and centre. But what I remember about that time of my life is the blogging. Back then I was on Blogger and my site then was called The Fall and Rise of Shaz, so called because I was having a run of bad luck and I was full of plans for getting back on my feet. Little did I know, life was actually pretty sweet then and I didn’t appreciate it. I just kept on making mistakes.

This January there have been a few good points. Firstly, I have had my most successful blogging month in years. I’ve had more page views, more unique visitors and more engagement than I have since 2007 when I was blogging on MySpace, and funnily enough, writing quite a few mental health related blogs. There might be something in that… My blog’s DA also hit 18, the highest score so far. For those who don’t know, Domain Authority is a score given to your blog by the powers that be which shows how authoritative your blog is, 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest possible. 18 isn’t great but it’s higher than it was in December and this time last year it was as low as 11.

Secondly, I have had my most lucrative book sales month for over two years. The release of Leger In The Blizzard, the promise of a whole year of Leger books to come and the promotions I’ve offered have resulted in renewed interest and my book sales hitting three figures this month. Needless to say, I am pleased! I have a new book coming out this weekend and I’m super excited about it.

lacey dearie books seasonal cat sleuth story leger's valentine february

Also, my Twitter following has increased again. This might be the reason for the blogging and e-book upturn. I’ll take it. Last year I considered deleting my social media presence altogether. One too many trolls had scunnered me. But, it’s all part of Rock Paper Spirit and…well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I can take as many breaks as I need.

Regular readers probably saw the news that I am going to start volunteering soon. I’m just waiting for one reference to be returned to me and then the charity will allocate me some shifts which is honestly a lifeline. Although there are other positive things happening in my life, they haven’t helped to boost me the way that this position has. It’s happening out in the real world, whereas everything else is online and invisible.

There’s also been a lot of positives for my life as a mother including some new additions to Luke’s diet, a Silver Award for his behaviour and conduct at school and a 2nd place Burns Award at school for “Excellence In Scottish Literature.”

robert burns award poetry autism

It’s also the little things that make me feel lighter. For example, I’ve found a new dentist who just gets the dental phobia thing and doesn’t see me as a drama queen, and I’ve been allocated a new mental health support mentor – finally – although I haven’t had any meetings with him yet. I wouldn’t say things are rosy. My moods are still very low and I feel overwhelmingly angry on a daily basis. But the positives I’ve noticed in the first month of the year are a good place to start rebuilding.

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Seeing Results

I just want to do a short post today because I’m busy finalising the latest Leger story. I do think this is worthy of a mention on my blog though.

For those who don’t know, I have a seven-year-old son named Luke. Luke has faced many challenges in his short life but he has also had a lot of love directed at him and been given many opportunities that I never had, for example travelling. Luke was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of four. He wasn’t able to communicate in a traditional way or as expected, although the communication is always there. We had minimal help and support from medical professionals. Sadly, in Scotland, this often happens and they don’t take the concerns of parents seriously.

However, from the day I discovered I was pregnant, I read to my non-existent bump. He’s been raised by a writer mother and a book obsessed father, although he showed no interest in books himself, preferring the stories told in computer games. Alex and I even took a speech therapy course ourselves so we could help him. We had kind of given up on him taking any interest in books. But…

Luke received a Burns award at school last week, for “Excellence in Scottish Literature.” Children’s books aren’t his thing, but poems are. I never stopped to consider that possibility. There’s a story, rhythm, alliteration, repetition. Poems are short and can be recited or sung. When you look at it that way, it makes so much sense. Of course he likes poetry.

robert burns award poetry autism

I’ve included a picture of his award. He works so hard and it was a special moment seeing him collect it. He ran rather than walked onto the stage (in true Luke style), ran past the presenter and had to turn back and then punched the air, shouted YES! and despite the rule that he had to go back to his seat after collecting his certificate, he skipped into the crowd to show us. Nobody minded! We took him to Pizza Hut afterwards to celebrate his achievement – it was definitely worthy of a 16″ pepperoni pizza.

 

Putting Out The Fire

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist and cannot offer anyone any advice. I can only tell my own story.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have been struggling a lot lately and part of the problem is a lack of support. I’m not yet ready to talk about everything that’s been happening and there are a few things I can’t talk about for legal reasons. They’ll be shared as soon as the person who triggered this problem has had his trial but for now, I can talk about my own life and the challenges I’m facing as a result of the trauma.

I decided to consult a psychotherapist. It seemed like the responsible thing to do, given how bad I was feeling, although I did have my doubts. A considerable amount of damage was done by a healthcare provider so I wasn’t that keen, but when you’re a mother, you do what you need to do. However, I got as far as two appointments before I decided this woman I had consulted was totally wrong for me.

I’ve spent a few days not knowing where to turn next. I even questioned my judgement. Was I just looking for reasons not to go back? Was I trying to avoid the responsibility of taking care of myself? Or was I completely justified in my decision? I’m one of life’s overthinkers. It’s the downside of being a writer. But here are the reasons I decided to walk in the other direction of the therapist I started seeing – and not turn back.

Interrupting

If a therapist does this, I think it’s a sure sign that they’re not listening. If they’re not listening, it’s probably a good indicator that they won’t be giving me the treatment I need – or the respect that I deserve. Finding someone who listens to what I have to say is probably the most basic of requirements when choosing a therapist. Even if you are getting help on the NHS, you are still entitled to ask for a change.

They ask what upsets me – then do it

My two triggers are 1) therapists talking to me about their own problems and 2) playing “devil’s advocate”. I just don’t like either of those things. At my first appointment, my therapist asked me what I find triggering and what qualities are important to me in a therapist. Those were the two things I specified not liking at all. At my second appointment, she did them. It seems like a massive red flag to me. I know there will be some bullshit excuse about testing my boundaries, and that might wash with some people but I’m not down with that.

They use techniques I have asked them not to use

Some people might enjoy being challenged and might actually feel like it nurtures them, but it’s not for me. I’ve been a massive ball of anger and sadness since my last session and it’s just not what I need to be feeling. Provocation therapy is just what it sounds like – they tell you your worst fears are true and that the person or people who caused you the pain were right to do so, in an attempt to draw out that fighting spirit. She did this to me. It turns out, I have no fighting spirit in me at the moment. She looked panicked when she saw just how upset I was at her provocation therapy techniques.

They mock me

I always want to feel respected and treated as an equal. The approach I am looking for is for two people to work together as equals toward a shared goal – making me feel like I can cope again. What I don’t like is when people tell me that events that have happened, that I have witnessed and have proof of, are a figment of my imagination. “There’s that imagination again,” she said, more than once. That’s really upsetting. She has no basis for that and it’s nothing short of gas-lighting. I have letters of apology as proof of one of my traumas as well as witnesses who have lived through it with me. I don’t know if this is some kind of psychotherapy technique too, but it’s not making me feel stronger. Quite the opposite.

I just don’t trust her

This is reason enough. Trust is vitally important. Listen, for anyone who is about to jump in and comment that therapy is hard, I know that. I’ve had therapy before, but I’ve never had any of these red flags before. Some of the questions she asked me felt wrong and she was trying to drag me down this road where I analyse things that happened when I was a baby in my pram. I understand that part of therapy is digging into your past and trying to figure out the root of the feelings, but there is a time for that. That time is not right now when I am barely surviving.

Put it this way: if my house is on fire, I’m going to need to put that fire out before looking for the match that started the fire. I made it very clear that what I wanted was to learn coping techniques and strategies, to guide me through the intense emotions and help me to help myself. I don’t want to feel the level of anger or sadness that I do but it’s so powerful that sometimes I just can’t get away from it. I also don’t want to die, but there are times when it feels like the only option. Surely the best place to start is to show me where the water is so I can put that fire out? Then, and only then, will I start looking for the match, if I ever feel like doing that. And it will be MY choice.

I honestly feel bad for people whose first and only experience of therapy will be this person’s approach because they will think it’s normal. It certainly hasn’t been like this any other time I’ve seen a therapist.

What I plan to do, now that I am processing what happened, is seek out a soul-centric therapist who, instead of going over what’s wrong, will focus on what’s right and help me to rebuild my world rather than analysing the wreckage of the past. I have a lot of positive things and people in my life and I have a lot to offer the world. I’m not so far down the hole that I can’t see that – today, anyway. I’ve found a couple of people who offer this service in my area so I’ve contacted them to get prices and then I’ll take it from there. If I need to eBay some old shit to get the money together, I’ll do it.

It still feels weird writing these kinds of blogs again. I used to do it all the time but then I got self-conscious and wanted to be professional, not realising that writing these posts is far more useful to more people than a lipstick review will ever be. If all I do is help one person see that I am going through the same as them, it’s been worth it.

Why I Think My Best Ideas Come At 4am

Some of you might already have read Friday’s blog about how I was looking for a fresh start. And how I am going to get it. Well, here’s what happened.

On Friday morning at 4am I had this weird determination that I haven’t felt in a long time. Almost like I knew that this was what I had to do. I can’t explain it. I then listened to an audio book to try and get back to sleep. It worked and by the time I woke up again at 7am, I wasn’t feeling it. But the vibe was so strong at 4am that I decided to listen to that part of me. That’s usually when I get my best ideas and do my best work.

Over breakfast I decided that if I’m going to have a fresh start, I have to start by looking for work in another town. So, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Barrhead and Paisley were out. So, I decided to try Irvine, Prestwick and Troon. I put on my suit, printed out some CVs and Alex let me borrow his car so I didn’t have to drive my old jelly bean on wheels.

The first place I tried was a charity. And they said yes! I thought my best chance of success was seeking out a voluntary position. Some will say I am aiming too low, but I did this for a few reasons. Firstly, I have had so many knocks and rejections and failures that I NEED a win. I’m in a more fragile state than I have ever been. If I have to aim low to get that win, I’ll do it. Secondly, charity work will make me feel good about myself and it will look great on my CV. Finally, I’ll learn something new. Those who were surprised at my happiness on Friday and see this as a step down for me don’t realise how low I’ve been recently. This is a step up.

They gave me some forms to complete and I need two references, so I have asked the editor of OxGadgets and my next door neighbour, who are probably best qualified to give an accurate opinion on who I am now – certainly better qualified than any former employer. Plus, most of my old bosses are dead now.

As soon as I get my references back, I start volunteering. It’s four hours per week minimum and I plan to do that for three months – until this academic year finishes. Then I’ll have new skills, new references and I will hopefully be stronger in every way.

It’s a new chapter. Maybe even a new book. We’ll see.

Coming Face to Face With A Goblin

I came face to face with my goblin the other day. Well, one of them. She wasn’t looking her best. The powerful, woman who usually has her shit together was dishevelled and struggling.

What bothers me is that she has so much power and influence over my life and others. The decisions she makes can be live changing, life saving or life ending. She has the future of thousands in her hands on a daily basis and yet there she stood, her ponytail falling out, bits of hair pointing in various directions, wearing a jacket that smelled like baby sick and struggling to get a baby’s pram through a door.

If I had been a saint, I might have helped her. I would have held the door open, made a kind comment or a joke and given her a warm smile. I ain’t no saint and I never will be. It wasn’t what came naturally at the time.

If I was a demon, I might have pretended to open the door and then let it swing shut in her face. In retrospect, part of me wishes I had. It’s no more than she deserves. But I ain’t no demon, and I never will be. That too wasn’t what came naturally at the time.

What I did was look at her and see the human being in front of me. The one who farts, shits and feels powerless. The one whose breasts leak at inappropriate times and the one who needs help sometimes.

And then I said, “hmm” and walked away. I felt no pity. I felt no urge to help. I did feel hate but to be honest, I was on a day out with my family and I wanted to visit the toilet then get back to them and thrash them at the arcade. I left her to fix her own mess like she left me to fix my own mess. But the difference between me and her is, she created mine and it stays with me day after day after day. I don’t know if it will ever be cleaned up. But her mess is a fleeting moment that is just one of those things that happens to new mothers. And some kind soul will step in and help her. Even if nobody does, she’ll fix it in a matter of seconds.

Still, I take some comfort in knowing I wasn’t a demon, or a saint. I fell somewhere in between.