Category Archives: Family

New Year: The best advice I’ve seen!

It’s New Years Eve and I find myself in the same mindset that I have every year, to make resolutions or treat this the same as any other day of the year?  I’m always torn, I like to try to treat every day as a new start so my brain argues that the 31st December should be no different, but, at the same time, measuring life and success in chunks can be a handy reference point.

The whole thought process this year has been harder as I haven’t been well the past few days so the trusty brain hasn’t been working efficiently, very frustrating.  Anyway, what is my conclusion?  Well, thanks to my very good friend Paul McGregor, I have decided to follow his excellent advice and do the following:-

– Set smaller goals

– Reward small wins

– Remind yourself ‘why’

– Stay accountable

– Be patient

He’s right, we tend to fall by the wayside with our New Year Resolutions because we set our goals so high that we fall at the first hurdle.  Disappointment in our efforts just creates a negative impact on our self-esteem and self belief, we’ve proved again what we proved last year, we can’t stick to our goals!  NOT HELPFUL!

And we do need to reward small wins AND remind ourselves of what our ‘why’ is whilst staying accountable to ourselves and others and being patient.  So this year I’m not going to be so hard on myself and I’m going to recognise the small successes because it’s the small stuff that adds up to the big stuff.

I have huge ambitions to change the world and the way we treat people with mental health challenges, reduce the number of suicides and challenge the way we perceive people with ‘differently wired brains’.

Recent figures show approximately 120 suicides are recorded every week in the UK but this number doesn’t include suicides not recorded as such  for a variety of reasons and those committing ‘passive suicide’, the real figures are much higher.  So many of these deaths are avoidable if only the appropriate  help was available to more people when they need it, when is the lack of support going to become unacceptable?

We need more openness, more acceptance and more understanding alongside better services that are ‘fit for purpose’.  Join me on my journey this year and let’s see if, together, we can make a change?


Autism and why Santa has ruined Christmas for me forever!


I’M APPALLED!  The song ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ will never be the same again for me, the very epitome of Christmas has been ruined forever and shed huge doubt on one of the greatest, most generous and caring of men to have ever existed.

What am I talking about?  Well, have you ever listened to what the song is actually saying?  Any decent headteacher or boss would be seriously alarmed if such practices were taking place in their establishment and would probably be liable for a lawsuit, but Santa seems to be perfectly ok with it?

You know how the song goes:-

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
Their beautiful ‘goody two shoes’ image hides a sinister secret
So far, so good. Lovely reindeer with beautiful names who pull Santa’s sleigh every year to help him deliver millions of presents globally (no mean feat I might add and much here to be admired!).  However, listen to the lyrics as they continue and we see a much more seedy side of life at the North Pole.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games
BLATANT BULLYING!  Just because Rudolph is different from the other reindeer he gets called names, laughed at and isn’t allowed to join in with the games the other reindeer play.  How could Santa possibly tolerate such despicable behaviour from his beloved reindeer?  It really does beggar belief.
No wonder poor Rudolph looks so sad
And the sorry state of affairs doesn’t end there!
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history”
One minute the other reindeer are behaving in such a disgusting way that any tribunal would be awarding Rudolph huge damages and the next they’re sucking up to him because meteorological conditions are making delivering the presents one year impossible, so, suddenly they need his ‘difference’ in order to get the job done.  They were lucky he was such a nice guy and became the ‘bigger person’ to save the day.
(We we won’t even bother to go into the infringement of various ‘Elf and Safety issues here with regard to flying in such inclement weather, although I’m sure the ‘Elf and Safety Executive would have a lot to say about Santa’s recklessness and the risk to life of the reindeer in his charge, which are, of course, his sole responsibility)
Santa flagrantly ignored ALL ‘Elf and Safety guidelines
How shallow of them!  “You’ll go down in history!”.  All of a sudden he’s their best mate and everyone’s hero!
Now, Rudolph may not be autistic, but how many autistic people suffer from the same bullying and isolation because they’re different?  I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot!
But, how often do autistic people have the talent and unique ability to solve problems that the rest of us can’t…HUH??  Just have a think about all of the miraculous gadgets and systems that these amazing people have created that make our lives so much better?
Without Bill Gates there would be no Windows and anyone who remembers the days of MS-DOS will know that Windows transformed everyone’s lives.  Without Steve Jobs there would be no Apple, no iPhones, no iPads, no nothing Apple!  And without Sir Isaac Newton we might still be scratching our heads about why things always fall down, not up?
Hands up if you would be lost without your iPhone?
Some of the most creative and forward thinking people have transformed our lives, and if you look at the list, a lot of them are autistic!
Now, we can’t turn the clock back and prevent poor Rudolph from being bullied so mercilessly, but we can learn a lesson from his experiences.  Just because someone doesn’t conform to the generally held idea of ‘normal’ doesn’t mean they don’t have a huge amount to offer the world and the people around them.  We never know when we’re going to need their unique abilities and really they should be grateful that Rudolph didn’t tell them all of to ‘shove it’ when he was suddenly put at the top of the list!
Don’t bother looking for any deep meaning to this picture, it just made me laugh!
So, the next time you listen to ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, let it remind you that we need difference, in fact, we would all be in a sorry state if it weren’t for the people in our world who add something a bit alternative, life would be extremely boring as well!
I hold Santa accountable for not intervening and stopping the bullying that Rudolph suffered for so long and hope that he learnt a good life lesson about protecting the vulnerable..and may we all learn the same.

The Mad Shanks Residence: It’s raining Cats!

The saying is that ‘everything happens for a reason’, and it certainly is the case that, in retrospect, we can often see that something that happened that didn’t appear to be so good at the time turns out to be for the best.  So far, so good…

In the ‘Mad Shanks Residence’, weird stuff happens all the time, mostly it seems with absolutely no rhyme or reason, even our friends tell us that you couldn’t ‘make this shit up’!  So the tale I’m about to tell is exactly one of those ‘you couldn’t make this shit up’ occurrences.

Tuesday Morning

Lorie is working on a film set at Wroxhall Abbey, is running late and takes a tiny one track road that most of us never use for safety reasons.  Half way down she comes across three cats, what look like a mother and two of her tiny kittens.  Lorie rings me and I shoot down in my car to see if we can catch them but they’ve disappeared into the bushes.  Lorie has to go, and I have a meeting so can’t keep looking, but I resolve to look again when I get back.  I search in vain later that day and decide to come out again in the evening.

Tuesday Evening

Jamie’s partner, Ben, has taken the same lane on return from work and has seen two adult cats and one kitten on the same road?  We all ponder whether he’s talking about the same cats that Lorie had seen in the morning?  Cat carrier, food, head torches, cat treats etc…are bundled into Jamie’s car and we drive down the lane….nothing!  I’m driving so Ben and Jamie get out and walk while I hold back a little in fear the car engine might spook them, but after a few minutes I drive down to meet them.  In the middle of the road are two adult cats and two kittens, mystery solved it would seem regarding the disparity between Lorie’s sighting and Ben’s report.

With not a lot of coaxing but a fair amount of food Jamie manages to get all four into the carrier whilst Ben wandered a bit further down to make sure there weren’t any more.  Unbelievably, he hears rustling in the bushes and a tiny ‘meow’, Jamie rushes down while Ben puts the other cats in the car and eventually Jamie manages to reach the terrified third kitten.

Back in the car with the fifth cat wrapped in a blanket and back home where Jamie and Ben settle them in their bedroom whilst I rush to Sainsbury’s for cat litter and a mountain of food, these cats are starving!  Back home again and I have a chance to look at them, they’re so friendly, no way are these feral cats, they belong to someone.


Jamie, very responsibly, spends the day with the cats and takes them to the vet to be checked over, they’re all very skinny and riddled with worms and fleas, but otherwise pretty much ok.  The vet concurs with our theory that they’ve been dumped by an unscrupulous owner who couldn’t be bothered, and it turns out that the second larger cat is actually another daughter of the mums but from a litter several months previously.

We are now a baffled and bewildered family ourselves trying to work out how we have suddenly become five cats richer (we already have seven!), and what on earth are we going to do with them, they’ve been through hell living rough for a couple of weeks so we need time to think, but for the  moment, they’re safe, fed, warm and all together.

Thursday Night

The early hours of Friday morning, 3am, and Lorie is restless in her bedroom on the ground floor of the house.  As she tosses and turns she thinks she hears a tiny ‘meow’?  No, she must be dreaming, and she returns to trying to get to sleep again.  Another tiny ‘meow’, this time Lorie jumps up and rushes to the window, as she looks out she sees the kitten that has been named ‘Basher’, a tiny tabby.  Jamie had let the cats have a roam about before bed and Lorie assumes this is Basher, who has, somehow, managed to get out.

Half asleep she dashes outside and manages to grab him and takes him upstairs to the room that has been allocated as our new ‘cat sanctuary’.  Still half asleep she looks for mum so she can return Basher to her and she can know that he’s safe, but, as she looks around the room, ‘Basher’ is lying on the bed, fast asleep.  Lorie looks again at the cat on the bed and then looks at the cat she is holding, she rubs her eyes, she looks again, mystified, she does a head count and arrives at six cats!  She tries again and arrives at the same number, we’ve just ‘grown’ a cat stronger!  She wakes Jamie up and gives her the news and all hell breaks loose!

Eventually the house settles down again and we all return to bed…


Friday Evening

Nikita’s boyfriend has stepped outside the back door for a cigarette, suddenly he shouts and we all jump to attention, it sounds urgent?

‘I heard a cat!’ he screams whilst running down the field in the direction of the noise, Nikita in hot pursuit and me not far behind them.  In all the kerfuffle the three dogs are now also on the loose and running around barking in every direction!  Cody, the smallest of the dogs runs off at every opportunity so I turn my attention to catching him and his brother whilst Rory and Nikita search for the cat.

Suddenly an animal appears and seems to have run off with something in its mouth, at first Rory thought it was one of the dogs but it turns out to be a fox who drops whatever was in his mouth (we still don’t know if it was the kitten) and runs off down the road.  It’s chaos!

Eventually, they found the kitten, even smaller than the smallest of the four we already have and she is safely delivered to mum who is more than delighted to see her.


Beautiful….but SO many!

So, returning to my initial point, if everything happens for a reason, what on earth could be the reason for us having seven cats dumped on our doorstep?  As a family, we are now all hyper-vigilant and constantly listening out for cats in case another one turns up!

As I said earlier, you can’t make this shit up!

What do we do?  This a family of cats, a very close family, a family that has been through hell and it feels unconscionable to split them up, but, with seven elderly cats already, keeping them doesn’t feel like an option either.  Meanwhile, the kids have become more and more attached to them, especially as they are the most beautiful, friendly cats, and to be honest, I’m becoming attached to them as well!

Years ago we had managed to get to fifteen cats and the ‘mad cat woman’ hat was fixed firmly on my head!  One by one they’ve met their end (sadly mostly being run over on the lane by drivers using it as a race track) and we’ve been whittled down to seven, keeping this family would take us back up to fourteen again!  I’ve only recently been able to, tentatively, take the ‘mad cat woman’ hat off, do I really want to have to put it back on again?

So, your assignment is to work out what the ‘everything happens for reason’ is behind this latest ‘you couldn’t make this shit up’ occurrence in The Mad Shanks Residence!  Answers on a postcard please to:-

You Couldn’t Make This Shit Up

Everything Happens For A Reason Street








The real meaning of life? It’s 18, not 42…

Not many people are aware of the staggeringly horrific statistics regarding suicide.  18 people make the ultimate statement of how unbearable their life has become by committing suicide, EVERY DAY.

How can any of us feel that this is acceptable? Whether we have been personally affected by losing someone close to us in this terrible way or not, we cannot accept that this is just a fact of life and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

So much can be done, we just have to convince the government that funding and better support for people with mental health issues is crucial.  Let’s get the right support in place, let’s speak to the people who live with mental illness and see what they say would help them.  Let’s stop listening to our learned professors and doctors who have never experienced the desperation associated with wanting to end your own life, talk to us, the real people, with the real knowledge.

Most of the support offered by the current mental health system isn’t help at all, in my experience it’s just an added stress that I can’t cope with.  I’ve asked many people, and from my own experience, what we need is, as Kacie puts it, ‘a hug in a mug’.  A place where we feel safe with people who really understand and know what to say to enable us to feel supported, not a doctor in a clinical room asking us (in a clinical way) if we feel suicidal.

I met with CALM recently and was so impressed at the work they do, targeting exactly the men who are at risk, with very appropriate support that ACTUALLY helps.  We held a charity screening of ‘Kingdom of Us’ in conjunction with CALM and Pulse Films and I sincerely hope we can do more work with them in the future.


PLEASE can I ask everyone to sign the petition they are running and then share and share and share, we need a government minister who is responsible for preventing suicide and currently there is no-one.


World Mental Health Day: The key to Happiness=Resilience

Today is World Mental Health Day and there will be an abundance of information across all media reminding us of the importance of understanding, being aware and being more compassionate towards those who experience mental health illness.

But, how many of us can understand the logic of how we should look after ourselves, and how many of us are actually able to do that?  The conditioning of our outlook on life starts at a very early age, and sometimes, it’s that conditioning that gets in the way of us doing what’s right for us, and being able to understand how challenging life can be for some others.

The new proposals for better awareness of mental health issues and critical life data in schools is wonderful news, the younger we start, the better the outcome.  The real problem is that everyone knows that one, single, comment from a parent, teacher or other person of authority can skew our thinking for the rest of our lives, so how do we overcome that one?

The only solution to being able to withstand the influence of the outside world is to build resilience within ourselves, with resilience comes confidence, and with confidence comes the ability to not cave in to peer pressure, or allow someone else’s point of view to tarnish our beliefs, therefore helping us to believe that we can pull through the challenges of life.

Building resilience is another matter entirely!  Some people seem to be born with more resilience than others but it is a skill that can be learnt and practiced, you just have to want to do it!

The ability to become resilient can come from many different motivators, when Paul committed suicide, mine came from knowing my children had been through enough, and trying to give them the best lives I could, in spite of the adversity they had encountered, just wasn’t up for debate.  Prior to Paul’s death I’d been grateful for my resilience in facing up to the challenges that came with living with a man who had a plethora of mental health challenges as well as having had a difficult life up to that point as well.

Survival is another great motivator when it comes to building resilience and the day my father tried to strangle me really did help with my decision to leave home at 17 and move to London, knowing that there would never be any turning back or help available if I needed it.  I was well and truly on my own, but, I survived, and indeed, I thrived!

It doesn’t really matter what motivates you to build more resilience, you just have to want to do it, it’s a state of mind helped by a few learned strategies.  It’s a case of believing you can, and in the inimitable words of the great Henry Ford:-

I’m part of the Global Resilience Project spearheaded by Emma J Bell who is fascinated by the question of why some people are more resilient than others.  She sought out 50 people from all over the world who had encountered extreme adversity, and, not only survived, but also thrived.  I feel very humbled and honoured to be one of her 50 Thrivers and Emma has discovered the 9 secrets to building resilience and her findings will be available shortly.

In the meantime, this is the page on the MIND website that talks about building resilience, you can do it, everyone believes in you, do you believe in yourself?

Film: Kingdom of Us

Book: Unravelled

TED Talk: Why my Autistic children don’t need a cure


Autism: The fun bits, courtesy of Lorie!

My wonderful daughter, Lorie, is not renowned for her culinary skills but last night was a bit too far, even for her!

Just for clarity, the items on her plate include baked sweet potato (vaguely recognisable), a pepper, courgettes, mushrooms and a dollop of tomato sauce (for health reasons!).  I was going to run a competition to see if anyone could ‘guess the meal’ but it felt impossible that anyone could manage to even remotely start to get their head around it so I decided not to, for humanitarian reasons….

Definitely not renowned for her skills regarding food, further proof below!

She tells us that she put the vegetables in the oven and it didn’t occur to her that there was a time limit as to how long they could stay in there and still be edible (?), raised eyebrows all round.  And their were many eyebrows to be raised last night, 15 in fact (a couple missing in the photo) we were having a get together to mark the fact that Meg is leaving us to go to uni in Gloucester, it was a kind of ‘send off’.  We’ll all miss her 🙁

Lorie comes in for a lot of stick but the photographic proof below shows exactly why!…..anyway, she knows we’re laughing with her, not at her!

Exhibit A: Eating an entire ‘Red Velvet’ cake, straight from the wrapper!

Exhibit B: Trying to eat a meal with 2 forks and not even realising until she was half way through!

I could go on, but for the sake of Lorie’s self-esteem, I will stop there.

Lorie keeps us all laughing, she is an endless source of joy and hilarity, intentional or not, we all absolutely adore her.  We all need to keep laughing so we don’t end up crying…laughter really is the best medicine.

Thank you Lorie, and please, don’t ever stop being you!!

The Mad Shanks Residence: Lemons to Lemonade!

I’ve been looking back at my last few articles and it’s all become a bit serious hasn’t it?  Nothing wrong with serious, we need to give subjects the weight they need and deserve, but we also need to have fun along the way.  In fact, I wrote about just that a couple of years ago in my blog, it’s actually imperative to have fun once in a while, we get a bit grumpy and sour otherwise!

The last few weeks at The Mad Shanks Residence have been, shall we say, ‘not very nice’.  I was talking to a friend about all the goings on and she commented that ‘you really couldn’t make it up!’, no change there then, it’s always like that but not quite to the extent of recent times.

But the ‘bouncibility’ of my family never ceases to amaze me.  Jamie had a horrible experience but a few days later she was climbing the very overgrown tree on the front drive and sawing branches off like there was no tomorrow!  I stood underneath as any self-respecting mother would, imploring her not to fall out!


By the time she’d finished venting her anger on the foliage around the driveway there really wasn’t much left!  And no, I’m not moaning, it was well overdue and needed a damn good pruning.

She then proceeded to put my new bed together (no mean feat with Ikea flatpacks!) and move my entire room around to the way I wanted it.  I was grateful for that.

No comment on what’s going on here, but this is Fudge!

On another note, we have 7 cats (long story!), the trouble is that 4 of them are Tabbies, 2 of them are easily distinguishable whereas Tufty and Fudge (I know, I know…not the most imaginative names but chosen by the children when they were a lot younger) are so alike that I sometimes struggle.

2 nights ago Jamie was lying in bed and heard a thud followed by distressed meowing, a cat had been hit by a car…that didn’t stop!  They went hunting for the cat and eventually found him and Jamie declared that it was Tufty.  He had obviously been hit on the side of his head but we had no idea how serious his injuries were, or whether they were life threatening.  Off to the vet at 1.30am with said cat.

They kept him overnight to observe him, meanwhile Jamie was so distraught she was almost inconsolable, Tufty is far away her favourite cat.  Once we picked him up from the vet and brought him home with orders to keep him as quiet as possible, Jamie fed him luxury food in a little tin (something they never get, they’re farm cats!) and fussed over him.  Then the subject of collars arose, all of our cats wear reflective collars so that cars can see them at night, they all drive way too fast down the lane and it’s the cats only protection.

Someone mentioned that one of the cats had lost their collar and they rang me to get another while I was out, which I duly did.  By the time I got home though, the whole house was in uproar, it turned out that the injured cat (who, somehow, miraculously, is fine now) wasn’t Tufty…it was Fudge!   Whilst Jamie was fussing ‘Tufty’, Tufty walked in and started eating, making everyone do a double take!

I must confess that I suspected that we were calling the injured cat by the wrong name but Jamie is normally very reliable at knowing which cat is which, so I just trusted her, whilst all the time thinking it was Fudge because of his tan coloured ears.  I should have trusted my own judgement!

I think the vet still thinks they treated Tufty but unless they need to go in again it doesn’t really matter, we can always correct it next time.

Stuff happens but life goes on and in the fabulous words of Jean-Paul Satre:-

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

LIFE: What does that mean to you?

If I said to you ‘what is life?’ and you had to say the first thing that came into your head, what would it be?  Do it now…and I would love to know what the first thing you thought was.

That’s why I’m writing this, I’ve just been thinking about life, firstly thinking about Pippa and something I’ve just sent her about BPD that I found online….

Matt here, mental health contributing editor for The Mighty, and it just so happens that my partner lives with BPD. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the things I want my partner to know about my perception of BPD.

So, here it is, my dearest one, and everyone else out there who believes their BPD makes them “manipulative,” “broken” or “unsuitable” to be in a relationship.

I see how it hurts you, not only the stigma of others but the stigma you place on yourself. You believe I see you the way the stigma portrays you: as somebody who can’t possibly be in a loving relationship without your supposed “inherent toxicity” driving it into a smoking crater. But, that’s not the truth at all. I see a woman made raw by her trauma, stripped bare and left to scar without any kind of healing. I see the fear you will be abandoned, and I understand it. You’ve been abandoned so often, made to feel like you’re worth nothing but loneliness. I see you compare yourself to other women you believe are more beautiful and worthy than you, and expect me to do the same.

These things you feel toward yourself are not true. Your worth lies not in your scars, but in how you’ve survived them for so long with no guide to life but yourself. You are worthy, and strong, and fierce, and beautiful, and all of these things and more. You are not broken. You are not evil. You are not “too much” for me, and if anyone else believes you are then they definitely don’t deserve you. You were touched by trauma but not infected by it.

You’ve got this, and I’ll stand by your side the whole way.

She’s just told me that she relates to this totally but life is still hard for her.  Pippa’s story is so incredibly complex, from her autism to her Cerebral Palsy and endless operations, to her Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder, from her PTSD from her father’s suicide to the constant Anxiety and depression she fights every day.  She’s been through so much and yet she’s become a strong woman in spite of everything that could have stolen her life before it has really started.  

I’m incredibly proud of Pippa, proud of how far she’s come and how she keeps battling on, proud of how open she was in the film and how many people have contacted us to tell us how much her openness has helped them, it took a lot of courage for her to be so brutally honest.

That’s all very deep and meaningful but ‘life’ means so many things to so many people and, on a lighter note, as I started writing this I accidentally opened the photos on my phone.  So, from mental health to fish!

We have a huge number of fish in our pond, they’ve discovered breeding and now they’re doing a lot of it!  But the ‘Grandaddy’ of them all is a Koi that I’ve had for several years, we don’t see him very often but this morning he was lying half under a Lily pad so I took some photos.  The pictures don’t really give much scale but I can tell you he’s about 12″ long and looks like ‘the monster of the deep’!


So, the word ‘life’ means something totally different to everyone and sometimes my personal perception changes depending on what’s going on in my life at the time, and sometimes, like today, it has many different meanings all at once.  So, here’s a picture of my fish (and the pot I planted last week that I’ve managed to keep alive so far!)

Why am I so proud of this pot of plants? Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have ‘killing plants’ on my list of hobbies (gardening isn’t my strong point!)



To Die or Not to Die?: Living Life After Near Death

A near death experience is a funny one I’ve found!  I’ve always assumed that my reaction to one would be to embrace life even more than I already do and spend my time treasuring every second.  The reality has been entirely different and I’ve discovered that I’m not the only person, by a long way, who has responded the way I have.

The heart attack I suffered last year should have killed me…no, really!  Had I not already been in hospital at the time I wouldn’t be here, scary stuff, I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.  Borrowed time that I’m definitely grateful for but it’s taken time to recover psychologically, much more than physically.

The light has always been there, I just haven’t been able to see it!

It’s been 9 months now recovering from the actual heart attack and starting to feel physically back to normal actually took about 6 months, but another bout of very serious illness 6 weeks ago really knocked me back again and it’s taken this long to get over that fully.

The truth is though, that for a good 6 months I felt as though there was no point in living any more, having no energy, motivation and stamina made life a pure chore, not the exciting adventure I’ve always felt I was on!  I couldn’t see it changing and the thought of living half a life just wasn’t something I felt I could tolerate.  Was I suicidal?  Yes and no, I would never have actively taken my own life but there were long periods of time when I went to sleep feeling as though it would be better if I didn’t wake up.  My only motivation to keep trying were my children, I know how much they would struggle if anything were to happen to me and I also know how much devastation I would be leaving behind.

Wanting to be here for them kept me going but didn’t alter those deep feelings of hopelessness, the future had disappeared and I felt as though this time it was gone for good.

So, am I ok now?  Yes, for the first time in a very long time I can say that I’m OK, not skipping and dancing, but, OK.  And, you know what, for the time being ‘OK’ is enough.  I still have days when I feel as though someone has turned the light off again but they’re getting fewer and I hope that theme continues.

I’m writing this to help others who have serious health issues understand that it can turn around and it can feel as though life is worth living again, it can just take time.  Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves and allow the recovery process to happen without beating ourselves up because ‘we should be ok by now’, some recover more quickly, some of us take more time.

Keep going, it’s worth it, and, you’re not alone…..

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’ :-

Book ‘Unravelled’ :-

TED Talk :-


Domestic Abuse: 4 reasons why we stay

I was watching a documentary the other night about a lady who was in an abusive relationship which ended in her being set on fire by her partner and dying.  A horrific story, but it set me thinking…  I lived in an abusive relationship, it was just more subtle and very insidious, some physical abuse but mostly mental and controlling.  The law now recognises this type of abuse as ‘coercive control‘ and can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.  It’s also very much a gender biased form of abuse with most abusers being male.  I felt it would be useful to analyse the reasons why I stayed with Paul for so long, and having done so, I also realise that the reasons are pretty much the same regardless of the type of abuse.  So, for those of you who cannot begin to get your head around ‘why we stay’, maybe this will help you to understand how powerless you can feel in these relationships and how staying can feel like the easier option.


1. Fear

This is probably the biggest and most chilling reason why so many women stay in an abusive relationship and the fear is very real on a number of different levels.  There may be children involved in which case the fear of not being able to look after them adequately is very hard to overcome.  Another, more sinister fear is of your partner coming after you and hurting you, either physically or in any other way, this can be paralysing.  There is also the fear that life will actually become worse if you leave because of your partners inability to let go. Many women from abusive relationships end up being stalked by their partner and the consequences can be deadly.


2.  Love:-

It’s easy for onlookers to forget that we fell in love with these people, that they were wonderful when we first met them and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with them, that is, the person we initially fell in love with.  When you’re head over heels in love you don’t see, or ignore, the negative aspects of your partner, you’re actually so blindly in love that it’s almost impossible to believe what you subconsciously suspect.  And hindsight is a very wonderful thing that we are deprived of at the actual time we need it!  I know, I look back now and realise that the writing was on the wall from very early on in our relationship but I blamed myself for causing his behaviour, vowing to become ‘better’.


3. Isolation:-

Sadly, in a lot of cases, the changes happen slowly and imperceptibly, distancing you from your family,  restricting your access to friends for what always seem to be perfectly good reasons and the anger if your partner suspects you may have confided in someone, always preventing you from doing just that.  The isolation builds until there is no-one left that you are close enough with to be able to ask for help, being totally alone makes the prospect of leaving even harder to contemplate.  Another aspect of this type of abuse is the constant reinforcement of your belief that it actually is all your fault and you’re the one who is lacking.  I was brainwashed over many years to believe that I was the one who was mentally ill due to my childhood experiences and my mother dying when I was a teenager, eventually I believed it wholeheartedly.  It was only a few years before Paul’s death that I ‘woke up’ and saw the reality, by that time I had 7 children, all with special needs, and leaving was going to be painfully slow and also a mammoth task, but do it I must.


4. Hope:-

Maybe the most paralysing of all, the constant hope that the person you fell in love with will suddenly return and the sheer bliss that you experienced in those early days will be here again.  Deluded? Yes, of course, but by the time you realise that you’re deluded the rest of the damage has already been done.

My book ‘Unravelled‘ was published a few years ago and since then I’ve received a number of messages for women telling that they read the book, realised that they were living in a coercively controlling relationship and found the strength to leave.  I feel horribly responsible, but, fortunately, all of these stories had a happy ending with the women involved finding true love with a new partner.  Leaving was incredibly hard for all of them but it ended up being the right thing to do.

Anyone who has seen ‘Kingdom of Us‘  will know that one of Paul’s considered plans was murder/suicide, we found a notepad after his death which outlined in detail how he would kill all of the children in front of me, then me and then himself.  It was terrifying to realise how close we had potentially come to such an appalling end and really highlights just how mentally ill Paul actually was.

We were lucky, Paul didn’t carry out his plan and chose instead to end his own life, a tragedy in itself, but I’m thankful that the children have had the opportunity of living their lives free from fear.  I guess there was never going to be a perfect ending within my relationship with Paul, it was so flawed in so many ways but here we are, still standing and living the best lives we can with hope in our hearts.  It fills me with joy to watch my beautiful children living full lives and working towards their dreams, dreams that could so easily have been snatched away, I have so much to be grateful for…