Daring Greatly

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Feral Families 

So I responded to a thread on Facebook.

Not something I normally do. I know that it’s a more public forum when it comes to people you know in your day to day life. At least with blogging there is some sort of a sense of being a faceless person – or at least of being able to pick and choose who knows who you are … 

This post was talking about a documentary on Channel 4 called Feral Families. These parents had taken their kids out of school and were teaching them at home … or letting them do their own thing … mostly with a no-rules attitude. 

Someone had watched it and was surprised that they weren’t as adverse to it as they thought they would be. Comments followed from varying view points, but the biggest concerns seemed to be about the children’s futures –  would their lack of education and/or standard life skills be a problem for them when they were adults? Would they regret the way they were raised?

Enter myself. I am a grown up product of an alternative education. Granted I have had added religious and abusive factors which has affected not only the way my parents handled the homeschooling, but also my experience of it and how I look back on it now. But still I am someone that has grown through homeschooling, come out of the other side and can give an answer to those questions about what the future kids will feel – not the only answer, but a valid one none the less.

I’m not sure if I was overly honest, overly critical, overly supportive, overly biased – it is very hard to tell. But these are many comments. 

I decided to watch this program after reading this thread … especially as this is quite a personal topic for me. I was homeschooled from 3-16 and ‘left school’ with no GCSEs or A Levels, poor 11-year old maths and basically no chemistry or physics. I was one of 4 siblings and we only had 3 face-to-face friends between us. There was no way we would have been classified as no-rules, as it was a religion-based choice. However ‘schooling’ was a loose term and my education was basically down to my own efforts from 13. There were other complicating factors in my childhood, but I left at 21, have lived mostly-independently since then, have held down jobs and even got accepted onto a university course. Mostly by my own determination, but I was taught very good reading, writing, communication and reasoning skills. Will I homeschool my own kids? Not unless there’s some overwhelming issue that makes it a necessity!!

On the flip side, when I was 16 I started working as a mother’s help for another homeschool family. She brought in a tutor for the subjects that she didn’t feel confident she could teach herself and would drive hours every week to make sure her three children went to clubs and socials with other homeschooled and regular-schooled children. All 3 have since got multiple GCSEs and A Levels. No 1 has gone to a good university and now has their own flat and job. No 2 decided they wanted to do their A Levels at a local college. I have a lot of respect for the persistence and strength of the Mum. 

If you have read this far – thank you so much! I felt the need to present a bit of an insiders perspective of the story! 🙂

Having re-read my comment, it might sound like I am supporting this parenting style (although I can see some benifits – definitely not!). Despite my parents belief (and I think a widely held belief of the small number of parents who started homescholing in the ’80s) that homeschooling would set us apart and universities and employers would snatch us up because of the self discipline it would demonstrate, I have found this to be far from reality! To answer Jen Ann and Joanne Hall – yes, it has a massive inpact on the child’s future! Job searching has been a massively stressful and largely unsuccsessful mission. Eventually I have found jobs in childcare, where I have the most experience – thankfully I enjoy it! But not allowing your children to take the exams by which every educational facility and employer filters their applicants – disabling. And I don’t use that word lightly.

Thank you for responding! 🙂 I don’t advertise my background and I think that sort of answers your question in itself! I am more ashamed than proud of my unusual upbringing. As I said there were other complicating factors which I hope makes my experience abnormal for homeschooled/homeraised kids. I believe everyone’s past experiences and how they handle those shape the person you are today, so would I change that person? Difficult, but I’ve fought really hard to become the person I am so … no. Most of the time! Even at 8ish I was desperate to go to school and be like other children, so I think I would have been better in a more standars route. But each child is different and I have heard amazing stories of children flourishing from being at home. I felt that at the time of programming, the children were still at the age that *of course* they prefer being at home and getting to do whatever they want – what kid wouldn’t?! Do you regret it later? I have. I think a parent should look long and hard at the motivation for the choice and should put extra effort into thoughts of their children’s future, because have they taken on a massive responsibility or what?!

When Anxiety Wins

This evening I was meant to be baking a birthday cake. 

The cake didn’t get made.

Was is just because of exhaustion? No. If I had just been tired, I would have made the cake. 

I was anxious. And my anxiety won. 

Now I’m going to have to make it tomorrow morning before work … ever heard about chronic lack of sleep and mornings? Yeah … 

My husband just asked if I’d made the cake this evening and when I said no I felt like I had to justify it (what’s new?) and said that after work, shopping for cake bits, phoning my Grandma, supper and doing a couple of days worth or washing up, I just didn’t have any energy left to bake a cake … I can imagine him thinking that, as I knew I needed to make a cake, I shouldn’t have phoned my Grandma. 

PLEASE NOTE: this is what I’m thinking, not what he said! I am probably wrong (as I usually am in these cases) and he is just looking sympathetic of my exhaustion. This is my anxiety/issues talking, not him. And later it turned out he really did understand …

This week I have been thinking of my Grandparents a lot and thinking that I should call them. Maybe because it was my birthday this week, so I normally get a card from them. Maybe because I am mourning the loss of my immediate birth family and that makes me think of my Grandparents who have been so faithful and supportive.  Whatever the reason, I meant to call them every day this week …

When I didn’t get a card from them on my birthday I (mostly) dismissed it, but the next day I was battling the paranoid thoughts that something awful had happened. It’s a long story, but basically my parents have kept emergency stuff about my Grandparents from me more than once, so I worry it will happen again …

This evening when I got home from work I was relieved to find a birthday card from my Grandparents.  It had the usual birthday cheque inside and a very typical amendment to the contents made by my Grandad!

Despite the relief of getting the expected card, I felt like I should ring them. I was exhausted and knew I should really make this cake … no, I NEEDED to ring them. 

I got on with some aimless bits and bobs, downloaded some programs to watch, but some fish fingers in the oven for supper (L was out) but got more and more panicked as the minutes went by.

I became convinced that if I didn’t phone them this evening, I would regret it for the rest of my life; that if I didn’t phone them this evening something awful was going to happen to them and I would always blame myself for not talking to them one last time …

Logically irrational? Yes. A very real, panick-inducing force? Absolutely. 

So I phoned my Grandma. The expected 10 minute chat was half an hour. Lovely, upsetting, exhausting. 

I knew when I put down the phone and started a late supper that the cake wouldn’t be made tonight. I was done. 

My week, my working day, my needed tasks, the panicked pressure to call family, the attention and emotional energy needed for a Long talk with my Grandma….

It was always going to be a slim chance of me baking after work, but my anxiety decided for me. 

Do I really think my Grandparents are going to be in some horrific set up tomorrow? Of course not! Not really … I mean, a little part of me …
Anxiety how I hate you. 

Hours Count 

This has been the first week when I’m working an extra afternoon a week. Granted, this week one of those afternoons was a morning , but the principal is the same. 

An extra afternoon a week you say? I work nine-to-five, five days a week, every week, what’s your problem? Fair question. For someone dealing with CPTSD, chronic depression and anxiety and extreme exhaustion … an extra afternoon a weeks work becomes a big deal.

So this week I worked an extra half day – one that had me leaving the house before 7:30 in the morning … kind of a tough call if you’ve spent most of the night tossing and turning, between nightmares of past experiences mixed with your present day challenges, repeats of nightmares from your childhood, and painful people spewing horrible words into your current worries…

The little boy I look after had an accident just before I got there on Thursday and had to be taken to an emergency service for stitches. The little sister was distressed and worried all afternoon; too young to verbalise her worries, but knowing her playmate was missing and something was wrong. I spent the afternoon trying to soothe and calm, hug when needed and distract as I could, but knowing I was no real substitute for the family she was missing.

Add in a very poorly husband and all the usual tasks of cooking, shopping, washing up, laundry, bin collections, and sorting time with friends and you have someone who has messed up. 

I’ve missed dates with friends – I’ve even completely forgotten some. I haven’t done all the washing up I should have – the dishes are piling up. I know if I don’t do some laundry tomorrow we’ll be out of underwear – I think. I really don’t have the honesty to talk about the fridge; trust me on this – I’m embarrassed!

Next week I hope there will be a husband that isn’t poorly (and hopefully not me either!) and that super-early morning will be an afternoon. Hopefully next week the washing up, laundry and cooking will be more of a natural rhythm – here’s hoping! Maybe next week the nightmares will recede and I won’t have any flashbacks – we can always hope, right?

Until then … until then.

Until then,  every action is going to have a cost. Until then, every thought is going to have a battle. Until then, every night is going to be exhausting. Until then every hour is going to have a cost. 

Every hour has a cost. 

Not Black and White 

Sometimes win,

Sometimes lose,

Sometimes good,

Sometimes bad,

Not all things,

Are black or white. 

Sometimes peace,

Sometimes strife,

Sometimes good,

Sometimes harm,

Not all things,

Are black and white. 

Sometimes help,

Sometimes wound,

Sometimes hope,

Sometimes scar,

Not all things,

are black and white. 

Sometimes relief,

Sometimes anguish,

Sometimes comfort,

Sometimes pain,

Not all things,

Are are black and white. 

Sometimes destroy,

Sometimes restore,

Sometimes burden,

Sometimes relieve,

Not all things,

Are black and white. 

For Now…

I really wanted to post some words and thoughts that have been bubbling through my mind for the last few days, but after two efforts and fails at posting I’ve had enough for tonight … 

So here are a few photos I really enjoyed taking in the gardens of the property where we stayed … I was gutted to realise I’d left my proper camera behind, but very grateful that I had a good camera on my phone … 

Lights Out

There was a loud click, the slight whining of electrical units shutting down and blackness.

This evening the power went out for the entire postcode area where we are on holiday.
L immediately asked if I was ok, because he’s just that thoughtful and that aware of different things that could frighten me or make me panic.
I was totally calm. Absolutely fine – almost like I knew it was coming so wasn’t surprised. I just reassured L and turned the flashlight on my phone on – glad to say it’s fricking strong!
I went in to super-capable-Ruthie mode. Obviously L, already having only 10% of the vision the rest of us have, is completely blind in a phone light lit blackness, so his hand grasped I led the way outside to see if the cottage owners – who lived in the next cottage, thank goodness! – could help.
We were standing in the drive trying to see if there were any lights on in the house – or any house close by – when the lady came out apologising, said the whole street looked like it was out and she had candles she’d get for us. Bless her for remembering us and being so sweet. She later texted me and said the whole postcode was out.
We had spag bol – which had just about finished cooking –  just without the spag and with bread and butter instead. We ate almost all of it by candlelight and just as we were finishing – bam! The lights were back! They were a bit flickery to begin with, but way too many hours later they are still working perfectly. Beyond thankful for how short the blackout was for and that we have so much access to electricity all the time.
It was only after L asked if I was ok after supper, and I’d said of course I was fine in a slightly hyper tone, and he’d then asked if I needed a bit of me space before we watched a film,  that I realised …
I’d responded to a slightly scary, unexpected event with a typical PTSD response, one that I do often and can recognise in others, but just in that moment I identified when I do it myself … and how often I do it.
I thought I was just quite good in emergency situations. Even when I was little I was the one who kept her calm when others didn’t. When my mother and sisters folded under stress, emotion, shock, exhaustion… I was the one who kept on going because that was what needed to be done. Someone had to keep going and get things done, and apparently I was that person.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my moments! I think there were a good number of years, when I was most ill, that I hid from life and all but abdicated responsibility for my life. But throw an emergency at me …
Tonight – as in so many other situations – I slipped into fight or flight mode. I’m not often one to run away. Fight is my go-to setting. Yes, yes! It really is. Maybe not in an outward way that many of you might recognise, but trust me I’ve never really had a time when I haven’t been fighting. Stealth is my game! 😉
Without acknowledging it at the time or even being aware that it’s happening, I hone in on the immediate issue, blocking out all of my emotions. I can sense other people’s and take their needs into account, but it’s like anything personal to me is just, gone somehow.
I act sensibly (mostly) and compassionately (I hope) but it’s like it doesn’t bear any relation, or have any impact, on me. I do, I prepare, I reassure, I make plans for the worst case scenario, I am overly cheerful.
Then the situation/threat/emergency/hard task is over. Exhaustion floods me to my bones. My heart is beating really fast. I realise my chest is tight and I’m not breathing naturally. My muscles are stiff and I’m on super high alert – paying attention (often subconsciously) to the slightest change in sound, a flicker or shadow  – even a tiny change in the tone of a voice or an expression.
Oh yeah, adrenaline has just been pumping through my system like crazy, only magnified by my brain hurtling straight to DEFCON 1 in a millisecond.
It’s five hours after the lights first went out and my brain and body are still feeling wired. It hasn’t been helped by some minor noises – L taking his boots off and plonking them down on the floor – and surprises – me not hearing L coming in the room – which have scared me enough to make me jump and gasp … what can you do but laugh at yourself? I do anyway!
We’ve watched some film, listened to some audio book, had some much needed brandy. Against all my common sense I’m still on edge listening and waiting for the next ‘thing’ to happen …
Why I hadn’t fully connected my calm in emergencies/crisis to my PTSD before I’m not exactly sure. I was recently going on a bit of a private guilt trip that here I was being all ‘tired’ for nothing, because my symptoms are pretty minor to nonexistent, I was just making a big deal out of an un-officially-diagnosed condition that I was using as a cover for my own laziness (whole different story, don’t ask).
Umm,  maybe not. Maybe it’s easier to see those symptoms and how they affect daily life in other people. Maybe it’s easier to be understanding and considerate to other people. Ok, not maybe – definitely.

I don’t really have a conclusion to what has turned into a bit of an essay… I just startled and had a shock of fear go through me when L, sitting in bed next to me listening to his audio book, said a word out loud to ask if I knew what it meant … I guess I haven’t calmed down then yet.

Maybe … just be kind to yourself today. Take a little time to understand your thoughts, your feelings, your reactions. Take a little time to give yourself some love – some of the love you’d show to a friend. Make yourself a cup of tea when you’re tired; don’t force yourself to cheer up when you mourn the loss of a situation, friend, time; don’t beat yourself up over dropping the egg, forgetting to post the birthday card or whatever little thing you didn’t manage, because right then, for you, it was too big a thing, for many reasons.