Not just a grey pencil!

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Our home-made Advent wreath

Hrrrmmmmmmmmhhh. Pfffff. :-(

It was one of those desolate “the world just ended” sighs that small children do when something awful just happened, (the last flat piece of lego is jammed stuck to the second last piece of flat lego which is completely the wrong colour, etc.) and I turned round quickly, activating the on-switch to the SOS box of Mummy’ll fix it tricks in my head. He was sitting at the table, clutching a 1.5cm long stub of pencil and shaking his head miserably: “Mummy, about after next Thursday I won’t be able to do drawing ever again :-( “

“Oh! Why’s that Poppet?”

“Becau-ause” he mused “my grey is almost all sharpened away.” This was followed by another desolate “Hrrrmmmmmmhhh” and more head shaking.

Now, my child is a colourful character in heaps of ways, but is going through an extended ‘drawing and colouring everything in grey and blue’ phase. Consequently after 3 months of school, he still has a generous assortment of brightly coloured pencils in his case, but the blue is on its way out and the grey … well, as he said.

After much empathising and debating on our options, I deliberately left the conversation open and bustled him off to some other important thing like teeth-cleaning to give him something more dominant to gripe about. Meanwhile I made myself a mental note.

Switching zones for a second: Here in Bavaria, Advent is huge and is celebrated everywhere in a big way from 1st December with markets, wreaths and candles, street decorations etc, but the one thing which has boomed, particularly where I live, is the whole Advent calendar “culture”. These days, the average Bod spends more on an Advent calendar than my folks could afford to shell out on me as a kid for all my Christmas presents put together. Much as I love Lego and Playmobil (no ad. intended) and much as I have to tip my hat to them for them locking down on another niche market, I have to admit to finding the extent of commercialism behind the calendars just a little bit (lot) displaced. As if Christmas wasn’t enough, here in Germany we celebrate Nikolaustag on

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Cleaning boots for Nikolaus

6th December (the value of presents generally given here is already off the scale (what traditionally was a tangerine and a walnut dropped into a polished-up boot by the door has evolved into full-blown electronics/jewelry/complex-lego-sets frenzy) ) and to top it all off and ensure we start the next year totally bankrupt, we now have the (drum roll) Advent Calendar. Gone are the days of little windows exposing a star, a donkey or a Christmas stocking for the kids to ooh over, it’s about the cult: how expensive and exclusive can we make the little “things” that sit behind the doors and (for the kids) “is my brand more “in” (or whatever the “in” word for “in” is in 2013) than Zeno’s down the road …”

So although the advent calendar stands do like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn and appear out of no-where at some point in September, I avoid them like the plague, and prefer to collect “bits” throughout the year, often from flea-markets where you can pick up fabulously interesting (often weird) ((but we love weird)) assorted “accessories” for next to nothing with a bit of luck and haggling. L. is developing a taste for the “slightly off the wall” (bit lucky really) but is also starting to really appreciate the thought behind a present rather than the financial value of it, so I love the challenge of finding tiny things that he can use, that will fire off his already fantastic(al!) imagination or that will make him laugh and all for a few cents each. Not easy but with a creative head on it IS possible!

So where is this going? Well, I’d like to knead my little analogy into a message from MJM to the marketing genii at Lego, Playmobil, XYZ Exclusive Chocolates and Jewelry etc…. Dear Sirs and Ladies, we do love you but sorry, we don’t need you for advent calendars; My boy did a minute-long whoop that is still ringing in my ears 2 days later at the fact that he found “the exactly right-coloured” grey pencil in number 3 on Tuesday.

It is as simple as that.

Blimey, wouldn’t life be so much happier if we could just go back to our roots! With kids, it really can be easy as long as we offer them an alternative perspective from day #1 – i.e. that the biggest and most expensive aint necessarily the best, … but that requires us parents to strip back, stop over-complicating stuff ourselves and hone in on the little things. It never ceases to amaze me, but it does actually work. (Sometimes!) :-)

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MJM.

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Happy Anniversary – Four Years!

This just popped up at me: Happy Anniversary to me eh!

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Funny, I was only thinking yesterday about how increasingly I am aware of the passage of time and how much more worthless by the day my life is becoming. With every new box of dishwasher tablets I crack open, another couple of months have evaporated around me and what have I got to show for it? Absolutely zilch. Four years after my first positive “I’m not gonna let the bastards grind me down, I’m gonna go and high-five this crappy life and change stuff” blogpost, I’m still slumped in the same corner at the same desk in the same room, having gone no-where and achieved nothing other than a more deeply-set haggard look and an even greater debt than I ever had before. My energy is lower and my intolerance for everything I didn’t do with my life is coursing through every vein and jangling every nerve. Constantly.

I’m tired of firefighting. Very, very tired.

The fog is back and the last 6 years of desperately trying to do the right thing turned on me this summer and laid me out. KO.  My prime thought hammers in my head “You stupid cow, you’ve cocked it up. Definitively. You had dreams and you’ve let it all go. There’s no way out of this mess – you’ve made your bed and will be well and truly buried in it. What a bloody waste of life.”

 

Eh well. In the words of Yaz: “The only way is up”…  but after fighting for so long I’m actually really struggling to believe it.

 

MJM.

 

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Trigger Warning – Your daughter or mine?

The following post carries a < t.rigger_warning> for content. It also contains explicit images.

If you self harm and / or think you might be vulnerable, please think carefully before scrolling through this post.

I have spent the last 2 weeks re-drafting this to get it “right” and today I accepted, there is no right here. So I’ve turned off my head and am going to write from the gut. I want to get a point over, so I’m afraid I am not going to wrap the content in cotton wool.

The terrible fact is, that here, under our noses, in our own houses, schools and youth clubs and public toilets, kids are cutting, burning, pummeling, scratching, starving, and poisoning themselves.  There are any number of reasons for this, not least, exposure to others who do it at school. It can be as simple as that. Please don’t say “This would never happen to my child … it could. It really could. Please, finish the post and look at the photographs below… this affects all of us – it could be any one of our daughters, granddaughters, sisters, nieces, pupils or friends on them. Yes. It could.

Self harm is prevalent in both genders but tends to be more common in adolescent girls.

Personal exposure to self harm through my work over Christmas has stirred something in me which is so strong that I want to remind every parent, family member, friend and teacher of what a young person is truly capable when reaching the limits of their emotional capacity – both in terms of hurting themselves and, more to the point, in hiding it. Still reeling from the stories, the experiences, the feeling of desperation and hopelessness of so many girls, I hope that what I am about to share with you will bring home what each of us could potentially have to face – any of us, at any time, with any child.

A report issued by the mentalhealth.org.uk a few years ago (I am still looking for up-to-date statistics) publishes the following facts relating to self harm:

  • Deliberate self-harm ranges from destructive behaviours with no suicidal intent, but which relieve tension or communicate distress, through to attempted suicide.
  • The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population (these figs. were published in 2007; According to Alpine Connection Counseling,  the US recorded a statistic of approx. one in 200 girls for 2011, based on around 666,000 ER visits, but claims this figure is undoubtedly much higher – the majority of sufferers struggle alone so the figures are extremely vague).
  • There is a high correlation between self-harming behaviour and mental health problems. Most of those who attend an emergency department after self-harming would meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric diagnoses. More than two thirds would meet the criteria for depression.
  • People with current mental health problems are 20 times more likely than others to report having harmed themselves in the past.
  • People who have self-harmed are at significant risk of suicide.
  •  A study found that the risk of a person dying  by suicide within a year of being treated for self inflicted injury was 66 times the annual risk of suicide in England and Wales, and that there is a significant risk even many years later

The  girls I am in contact with allude to suicide regularly. They are being comforted by their online peers while, at the same time, promoting their pain by sharing images, feelings, dark thoughts and all the negatives of depression in an overwhelming tumult of “cameraderie” or “sistership”. Ironically, it is the feeling of close companionship with others through shared experiences which is crippling their own capacity for self-recovery; the more they seek help from others with the same issues, the more out of control their individual situation becomes. And so it goes on. Girls as young as 11 are not only cutting regularly, but modern technology is enabling them to keep and share a visual diary of their latest “handiwork” – posting images via mobile phone or laptop with messages which is immediately and usually publicly accessible across the web. And the audiences are increasing in size – Self harm has its own club, and the only thing you have to do to become a member, is self harm.

Girls as young as 11 are promoting suicide as an option-out as freely as a doctor might prescribe Paracetamol for a headache. Many have, at such a young age, already convinced themselves there is no other alternative, have given up the fight for life and, even if they want to address recovery, are generally too fearful to speak out and seek help. “Just attention seeking?” … actually no. Many of those who voice their intention to “put an end to their pain” are at serious risk. They are prepared to go the whole way and despite their mutual cajoling and heartfelt “Stay strong, we care, we love you” messages to others in a bad place, it is generally known that if they go down, they will take others with them. You know, I’m actually sure they do.

Some of the causes of self harm are listed as being:

Triggering from Eating Disorders

The majority of the girls I talk to are suffering from an overriding desire / need to be “skinny”. Some aspire to enter the modeling industry but have received feedback that they are “over-weight”. Almost all are inspired by “stars” and public figures. In striving in vain to “be like them”, they lose their own identity and with it all self-respect. They can neither emulate their idols, nor be happy with themselves as they are. They attempt (often secret) crash diets which invariably fail. Hunger and the ensuing feeling of physical weakness is a further cause of depression which can in turn lead to spontaneous binge eating. Back to square one and the resulting frustration turns to a passionate hatred of themselves which can trigger a craving for self-harm. Once caught up in such a cycle, the importance of other aspects of life – hobbies, going out, seeking “fun” and to a major extent, the will to change. wanes quickly and the only release to their pain, is, ironically, the infliction of more pain.

One thing is clear: advanced as we are technologically, we need to go back to grass roots with our children and take responsibility here – not just for our own offspring but for society in general. We often hear words such as “ah, they are just attention seeking, they need to just grow up and face their lives!” or “they don’t want to be helped, so leave them to do their thing… they’ll grow out of it” but actually, it is not as easy as that. Self-harming is an addiction, and, like any other addiction, is not so easy just to give up. These kids need professional help and / or, at the very least, a good deal of care, patience and some healthy alternatives to enable them to break the established routine of harming.

There are no rules as to the background or status – self harm can be triggered by any of the causes listed above and, particularly in the case of peer pressure, any child can be vulnerable if exposed.

Many girls cover up their cuts by wearing long sleeves or trousers. Cuts to the wrists may be hidden behind bracelets or bands. Some girls cut themselves in less exposed areas of the body such as the inner thighs, hips or stomach to avoid attention in PE or swimming.

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Many of these girls are desperate for help. Many are desperate for help but cannot ask for it and do not trust anyone enough to seek professional advice.

WhyAmIDoingThis

The girls exposing their fears and their cuts online are generally anonymous and leave no hints as to their geographical whereabouts. If we can’t find them, our capacity as online support forums is limited to just that. ? ? Who are they ??

That’s where you come in. That’s where we all need to pull together and look out for our children.

Thank you for reading.

Self Harm Resources – Info and help

A comprehensive, factual site providing information, help and further resources for sufferers and carers:

http://www.helpforcutting.com/2011/12/19/statistics-for-self-injury/

Childline – Information and help resources for children and youths who self harm:

http://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/DamagingYourself/Pages/SelfHarm.aspx

How to self-harm safely (information on sterilisation of blades, cleaning cuts and stemming bleeding):

http://www.therealsupermumblog.com/2012/09/how-to-self-harm-safely/

MJM.

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SOS Contact Numbers and Links – Christmas 2012

Christmas can be a tough time of year for a great many reasons. Anyone is vulnerable and each person has his or her own story which is unique to them.

The important thing to remember is that it is not a crime to feel down, blue, isolated or overwhelmed during the festive season and that there are people out here who can help you get through it.

The following is a list of help numbers and contacts on and offline which are open and available this year, 2012, for You. You don’t have to carry your burden or your loneliness alone. Please. Let someone help you to help yourself.

If you know of someone who is struggling and who is unable to help themselves, please put them in touch with an appropriate support organisation – or, if in doubt, do it for them. You could save a life – or at the very least, someone’s Christmas.

Please stay safe all and have a peaceful and restful holiday.

Merry Christmas to you.

Fleur. Founder of @NotAlone365.

 

Suicide:

  1. Suicide Prevention (US)  1-800-273-TALK (8255)     FOR VETERANS PRESS 1    EN ESPAÑOL OPRIMA EL 2
    http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  2. Preventing young suicide // www.papyrus-uk.org
  3. Twitter @Unsuicide /
    “Not comfortable using a phone, seeking alternative help for emotional crisis? Directory of mental health services available online (live chat, email, forum, social media, telehealth, more):”
    http://unsuicide.wikispaces.com/Online+Suicide+Help

Multi-issue:

  1. Samaritans UK / 08457 90 90 90* (UK)  1850 60 90 90* (ROI)
    Lines open 24 Hours a day.
    Email : jo@samaritans.org
    www.samaritans.org
  2. For people in Northern Ireland / 0808 808 8000
    www.lifeline.info
  3. NHS Direct UK / 0845 4647
    www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
  4. Twitter @NotAlone365 #notaloneatxmas
    Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Notalone365

Children:

  1. Childline UK /  0800 1111
    www.childline.org.uk
  2. @beatBeatbullying /
    http://www.cybermentors.org.uk/
  3. Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network: Includes Grief and loss, bullying, trauma, disasters, abuse and neglect, medical trauma … and many other important issues.
    http://www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au/
  4. For Children Under 18 And In Need Of Support UK  0800 1111 Free and completely confidential
  5. Shelter:
    http://england.shelter.org.uk/

Pain / Disability:

  1. Arthritis Care Santa Service UK / 0808 800 4050
    http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/PublicationsandResources/Someonetotalkto/Helpline

Mental Health:

  1. MIND / UK 0300 123 3393
    www.mind.org.uk
  2. SANELine / 0845 767 8000
    A national out-of-hours telephone helpline offering emotional support and information for people affected by mental health problems.
    If you’re worried about a child, we’re here 24/7 by phone and online. It’s free and you don’t have to say who you are.
    www.sane.org.uk

Depression:

  1. Depressionalliance
    www.depressionalliance.org

Eating Disorders:

  1. Eating Disorders Association / 0845 634 1414
    www.edauk.com

Family issues:

  1. Family Lives / 0808 800 2222/
    Family Lives offers a confidential helpline service which is free from landlines and most mobiles. Our opening hours are 7am – midnight.  If you need to speak to someone during the night we can divert your call to the Samaritans who are available to offer emotional support. We currently answer 90% of callers with over 70% answered first time.  If you don’t get answered first time please do try again.
    http://familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/confidential-help-line

Grief, Trauma, Loss:

  1. Miscarriage Association UK: 01924 20079
    @CatMac70
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/208106969238866/

  2. @MiscarriageA / #MiscarriageLetsTalkAboutIt
  3. @thepinksnblue
  4. Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network:
    Includes Grief and loss, bullying, trauma, disasters, abuse and neglect, medical trauma … and many other important issues.
    http://www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au/
  5. Cruse Bereavement Care helpline : 0844 477 9400 Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
    Cruse promotes the well-being of bereaved people and enables anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss.

Single Parenthood:

  1. Twitter @OnlyDads and @OnlyMums – UK 07786 877718
    Email: info@onlydads.org or info@onlymums.org

Alcohol and Drugs:

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous / 0845 769 7555 /
    www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/newcomers
  2. Frank; Call Free 0800 77 66 00 Or Text 82111 – Open 24/7 365 Days
    For People With Drug And Alcahol Issues – You Can Use This Even If You Are Worried About A Friend Text with a question and they will text you back or visit their web-site
    For Further Help And Support http://talktofrank.com

Domestic violence / abuse:

  1. Womens Aid – Freephone 0808 2000 247 – 24 Hour Helpline
    For Help And Support For Those Who Need Help With Domestic Violence
  2. Refuge / 0808 2000 247
    www.refuge.org.uk
  3. @OneStopKingston07917 271 549
    Drop in service providing advice and support to those experiencing domestic abuse in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

Bullying:

  1. @beatBeatbullying /
    http://www.cybermentors.org.uk/

Loneliness:

  1. http://www.meetup.com/

Sexuality:

1. http://www.stonewall.org.uk/about_us/2532.asp

  1. London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard / 0207 837 7324

Homelessness:

  1. Shelter:
    http://england.shelter.org.uk/

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

This list was compiled and posted by @NotAlone365 here as the NotAlone365 site is unfortunately down this evening.

Acknowledgments :

The Ramblings of Mrs Bebe blog: here

Aunty Cags (Twitter: @therealnicebrit )

Many contributions by our Twitter followers on @NotAlone365, thank you to all.

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Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday – We survived!

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Silent Sunday

Copyright Metajugglamum 26.08.2012

Metajugglamum 28.08.2012

Copyright Metajugglamum 26.08.2012

Copyright Metajugglamum 26.08.2012

MJM.

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Silent Sunday

*

MJM

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Still here

Hello.

I am still here. My finger-nails are not and there are lots of sore bits around the edges where they were but I am still here.

I guess I realised that while I was on here, I was thinking .. and tweeting .. and writing about stuff that was hard .. and that while I was doing that, I wasn’t “doing” anything about it.

So I had to stop tweeting and writing, shake myself the hell up and go “do”.

What did, however, occur to me, was that it was being here and on Twitter for so long, that had taught me how to get a handle on me, so that I could do just that.

I’m still doing. It’s not got the better of me yet but it keeps trying so I still have a long way to go. You’ll therefore forgive me if my return is somewhat brief and impersonal. I will come back and write, once I’ve sifted through the bonkersness. Promise.

Bloody hell, life is complicated.

Miss you all

MJM. x

Posted in Home, Life Stuff, Philosophising, Single parenthood, Work-Life Balance | 4 Comments

Futility

It’s a heartbreaking thing to watch someone die.

My old neighbour was 87 in October. I live in the appartment directly above where he resided for over 11 years. He lost his wife to cancer in the summer of 2007 as I moved at Christmas – exactly 4yrs ago … I was crazy with confusion and self-hate, he, crazy with grief. What transpired was an odd symbiosis of mutual empathy and we very quickly became each other’s new best friend.

As time went on, he became less and less mobile and, where in the first couple of years he had been extremely active and involved in the community here, in many different ways, he gradually stopped going out as often and would prefer the comfort of his sofa to an evening out playing chess or dining with friends.

About a year and a half ago, he suddenly took a turn for the worst and spent the following three weeks in hospital. Psychologically, he never recovered and, although he regained his health to a certain extent, it was clear that his will to live was waning fast. It was like he had suddenly given up.

He had told me often enough that he hated the fact that he had outlived his wife and, rightly or wrongly, I often playfully chastised him for not counting his blessings – he has a fantastic and loyal family, many of whom he sees regularly and who go out of their way to be there for him; He was always popular and had a great many friends who visited and contacted him daily; he was active and mobile, could drive and most definitely still had his wits about him. But still he claimed he was not long for this world and would rather go now, before he became a ‘burden’. That much, at least, I guess I could understand.

As time went on, he pretty much stopped going out altogether and with that came what we all silently acknowledged would become an irrevocable decline in both his health and of his psychological state. He began suffering desperate breathing difficulties, combined with horrific bouts of coughing due to an increase in water build-up on his lungs. The rest took its gradual but steady course and there were times when he was admitted to hospital again and then again, that we thought he would not survive the night. But he always did.

From the beginning of last year I was visiting more and more often until his family requested that I become his official carer, helping to look after his hygiene needs as well as in the kitchen and with odd jobs that he needed doing around the house. This I did with pleasure as I’d been doing almost all of that anyway, but it was at that point when he really started to open up to me about his greatest wish – to die and to die soon. He didn’t want to fight any more. He wasn’t going to fight any more.

From being an avid political and cultural debatteur, my friend suddenly became insular and totally self-obsessed, speaking of nothing other than how passionately he hated his life. I always listened, but it saddened me beyond all belief as I watched him disintegrate before my very eyes.

In the meantime, his granddaughter had a son – Helmut’s first great-grandson and, although I’m sure it meant the world to him deep down, he expressed little emotion at the birth where, at the beginning of her pregnancy he had announced it to everyone and anyone with an enormous amount of pride. Nothing, and I mean nothing, seemed to be important any more. His standard phrase was the German equivalent of ‘whatever; I really don’t care’.

2011 was for him, from then on, simply an endless stream of hospital visits .. three weeks here, 2 weeks there, one month of rehab, home for a few days then back to hospital.  From the summer on, he spent more time in hospital than out of it, but not in a vegetative state – some days perfectly coherent, others less so but due only to the weight of drugs prescribed to ‘calm him’. He was driven slowly mad from the boredom instilled on him by his now very evident physical disabilities. His internal organs were starting to fail and he has since been in constant pain in his back. The psychological had given up on the physical and the physical has since taken a downturn to the extent that he has become fully dependent on others, for everything. In the Autumn, after a serious of falls and a major problem with his digestive system, he finally accepted that he could not continue to live at his appartment alone, however much help he had, and he consented to moving into a home in town. Despite the house being a truly wonderful place and a marvelous example of how retirement homes should be, he despises being there and yearns even more for the end to put him out of his misery. When he speaks to me of death now, I get it.

I can’t really put into words my time with him over the last two months and, particularly over the Christmas period. The last few weeks have consisted of daily visits just to hold his hand –sometimes for hours on end – often while he dozes. He doesn’t want to live any more. He is wasting away before our eyes, nothing but skin and bone, his internal organs failing with a slowness I can only refer to as excruciating.

He speaks to me occasionally but falls asleep mid-sentence, awakening in distress at his own confusion, no longer knowing where he left off the conversation. He tells me again and again that he wants to die and these days he looks at me directly in the eye when he says it, his eyes pleading.  My empathy is meaningless; he knows I cannot help him, I know he knows, but he says it anyway: “The best thing would be for someone just to shoot me” .. he cares nothing of the potential implications of his speech, nor for the despair of his loved ones, floundering in their own futility. He has become a shell of a man who just wants to leave this world. If he were a family pet, the law would have obliged him several months ago. But he is not. He is a person. With rights. But with no right to die.

I will continue to go, just to be with him but my sense of helplessness is off the scale. He needs me to be there, but my presence is irrelevant.. He is the epitome of loneliness but I can no longer reach him. I cannot help my friend, other than to hold his hand and watch while he passes time. I know he feels that, but it is far from being enough.

It’s a heartbreaking thing to watch someone die.

But it’s even more heartbreaking to watch them die so slowly.

*

MJM.

Posted in Germany, Home, Illness, Life Stuff | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments