The uninvited guest that is anxiety

There are four of us living in this house. I used to say three of us as we are the ‘physical’ ones but we seem to have an extra one here a lot of the time. Yes, there is myself, Eliza (9), Noah (4) and anxiety (the uninvited and invisible guest that randomly becomes visible, usually at times when you wish it would just bugger off). This year has been a bit rocky, my own anxiety took control over me earlier in the year for a while but I’m starting to feel like me again and that I’m now back in control. Eliza’s anxiety is usually around social situations, especially in unfamiliar environments but there are random times it just consumes her as if it’s just reminding her it exists. For nine years of age, she handles her emotions pretty well and refuses to crumble when it makes an appearance. It can be tricky in our house, Eliza and I can either bounce off each others anxiety and get by or we can feed off each others anxiety and have a day where we need a little space from each other or more structured days where we both have the same agenda as much as possible.

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The three of us. Me, Eliza & our invisible guest

Eliza wasn’t always anxious, she was quite an independent, feisty and confident child. Until regression dropped by (another uninvited but slightly more visible guest) and took away her speech, some of her fine motor skills and reversed a lot of her skills in general. She had to relearn how to hold a spoon, how to hold a pen and draw but most of all she had to learn to be Eliza again but without her words and that made her extremely angry and frustrated. We relied on Makaton sign language for communication and through this she started to make sounds with certain words that she signed and she’d often sit in the corner of the room with her cuddly toys, whispering the noises or letters she could say as if she was practising what she had gained back speech wise. It took a few years for her speech to return enough for the pediatrician and speech therapist to stop documenting her as a ‘non-verbal’ child. I can remember on a few occasions that if she pronounced a word slightly wrong it really made her anxious. She’d be very cross with herself and get upset. A year ago she watched a video of herself when she was younger. She was signing animal names and making the noises that they make. Back then she had around 10 spoken words. She looked happy to watch it but anxious and then she told me that she is scared her words will go away again. Sadly nobody has a crystal ball to see whether regression will strike again or something else but she’s doing amazingly well for a girl who had to wait a long time for those words and skills to return.

At the time her speech started to return, her anxiety suddenly rocketed. Everyone assumed that as she began talking again, her anxiety would decrease but it did the opposite. We became quite housebound for over the next year or so outside of school hours. Supermarkets were an absolute no go area, she just couldn’t cope with people, noises, busy places, sounds, smells…. complete sensory overload! Suddenly she couldn’t even face the cinema, soft play, parks, restaurants….. anxiety was taking control. I often used to think that it stemmed from the speech returning, the fear that she’d lose the speech again so she was shutting herself away from the world and guarding what she had taken back from regression. Now she is old enough to talk about it (when she wants to) she was able to give me her own thoughts….
“I didn’t like busy noise…….. too many people……. my words get messy…. they might laugh at me because my words don’t always work…”

That fear and anxiety that people would notice how she said things, how she struggled to pronounce some words. How she needed processing time to answer questions and they might think she’s ignoring them. How she sometimes doesn’t know how to answer so you get a scripted reply from a TV show or a plain yes or no. How they look at her and see a child that is of certain age but her language ability is that of a younger child’s. That pressure to be what other people expected was already taking up space in her mind. Eliza is an extremely intelligent child with a wonderful and adventurous personality but in the past she has often been told she can’t do things by teachers, pediatricians etc. It’s not that she can’t actually do things, it’s that they assume she can’t and therefore don’t even bother giving her a chance. But they tell her she can’t do stuff and that impacts her anxiety and her confidence partly as she’s unsure whether they are correct but also because she feels wronged by their decision. She may well not be able to do whatever it is she wants to try but at least let her try, that’s all she wants. Anxiety and her autism diagnosis were used on more than one occasion by certain people as an excuse to why they made decisions for her instead of with her. Eliza was also bullied for a while, both emotional and physical attacks. Her bully was a huge factor to her increase in anxiety to the point she’d have a panic attack in the car and couldn’t breathe if we even drove near where he was. (And sadly her being bullied was not taken very seriously by school at that time and was pretty much ignored).

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At the boating lake

Despite anxiety taking control of Eliza a lot of the time, she was still able to do ballet lessons, street dance, trampoline club, Rainbows (part of guides/brownies but for younger girls), after school cooking class and sports group and, possibly the best thing she ever did, equine therapy. So many people wrote her off, used her anxiety and her autism diagnosis as an excuse or simply went ahead and made decisions for her so we found a bunch of people/activities that welcomed her (and her anxiety) and allowed her to be herself and through them she gained confidence, pushed her own social boundaries and comfort zones, learnt social skills and improved her speech. Eliza was changing and finding her place in the world and she was starting to take control of her anxiety.

We moved house a couple of years ago to a different County which meant new area, new people and places, new school…. Lots of preparation went in to the move and she’s really changed since living here. We are lucky to live in an area that is close to a forest so we see lots of wildlife and have plenty of open spaces but we are less than fifteen minutes away from shops and town by car. Her School is amazing and she is thriving there. Reading at age 10-11 years, working hard in all lessons, learning to play a brass horn and the piano, taking part in sporting events and art shows. They just ‘get’ her completely. They support her greatly but they also allow her the independence she needs and most of all, they allow her to be Eliza. She still has anxiety at school although nowhere near as often as she did but she can get past it quicker with their support and understanding, she’s happy and comfortable enough to show them she is anxious but also able to take back control.

The last twelve to eighteen months has held a lot of changes for Eliza. Anxiety remains but rarely gets to show itself as she’s so used to it now, she’s able to distract herself or go have quiet time somewhere. Even on the rare occasion that anxiety starts to control her and she gets quite loud, tearful and stompy, she battles through it and attends whatever it was she was going to anyway. She won’t let anxiety beat her. She’s enjoying trips to the cinema again as well as the theatre for shows and plays. She’s loving being outdoors and has a huge list of places we can go, the boating lake is one of her favourites (which is crazily one of my least favourite places because, well, I just hate boats and lakes/rivers/seas/oceans….. but we go because she likes it there and she’s yet to ask to go on a boat lol). When anxiety does start to niggle at her, you’ll find her at the top of a hill, top of a climbing frame or the highest floor of a building where possible. This is how she copes. She likes the space and the height so she can look at her surroundings and calm down whilst deciding on her next move. Even shopping is back in play although she absolutely detests a couple of places that have very narrow and highly stocked aisles, she has a few she enjoys visiting.

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As for me, my anxiety is fairly under control. I still have days where it seems to have a date with depression and they come along in tag team style and kick my arse for a while but I keep going. Therapy has helped and I remain on medication for the time being. I talk to a select couple of close friends about it which helps. I won’t go in to the long story of personal details of what caused my anxiety but I’ll share how it felt. Earlier in the year anxiety took complete control. I was having panic attacks, couldn’t walk in my own town without feeling that my legs were on fire and my vision blurring. I felt sick leaving the house and even going to a friend’s house made my legs shake. Even walking my son in to nursery, I felt like I’d pass out. A heavy-set feeling sat constantly on and in my chest and my heart was racing. I denied it for a while but it persists until it thinks it’s winning. Anxiety, oh how I hate you!

Self care is important, it really is and it’s something I have ignored for far too many years. I’m a masker. I hide behind a smile that is believable but fake. But I got away with it for so long it became the ‘norm’ and I forgot to actually look after myself. Instead, I filed everything in my brain to be sorted another day. But I never sorted it, I just added to it…. and added to it…. and added to it until my brain was full of things that I either didn’t want to think about or didn’t give/have time to think about. I couldn’t hold it in anymore and it was making daily life incredibly difficult. After reading some inspiring words that a friend had written about their past with anxiety, I made myself an appointment with the GP and got the help I needed and had avoided getting for so long. I didn’t want to notice my anxiety, I didn’t want to let it in. But there it was, that uninvited guest booking itself a room in my head. Anxiety wants to win. But I’m not going to let it.

Nowadays it’s a tug of war relationship, some days anxiety slightly leads until I pull it back over the line again. The way I get through it – I keep that hot tingly burning feeling in my feet as much as possible. When my legs start to burn I know anxiety has picked up the tug of war rope and fancies a test of strength. This is when I distract myself and find something to do (walking or rock painting are winners here). If the burning feeling gets above my waist level, it’s time to go home because anxiety is pretty much setting fire to the rope at this point and I’m losing my grip. Sometimes I just need to be home and have that safe ‘made it’ feeling and have a cup of tea. Sometimes I need short nap to regain my energy for the next test and have a cup of tea (Hey, I’m British. It’s what we do. Tea is the answer to everything!).

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Could I find a photo of my mug on my laptop, no! So here is one from Google. Hedwig holds a lot of tea…..

Overcoming assumptions, regression and being the girl she wants to be

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Eliza was pretty much ‘written off’ by a pediatrician when she was 2-3 years old. They told us to “not expect much from her” and “She will never read, write, speak, have friends……” and basically decided that she would amount to nothing and shoved her aside. What happened next? We got a new paediatrician that actually saw her for the amazing, intelligent and beautiful child she was (and still is). This is just a little recap blog or a mini timeline if you like. To show that she has proven them wrong. I’ll share 3 photo’s with you and tell you what they are all about.

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Eliza, aged 2.5 years old

I love this photo of Eliza. She was two and a half years old, loving the sunshine in the garden and loving life. By this point she’d had a regression period and her speech had gone, her mobility seemed to reverse and she struggled with walking and her fine motor skills deteriorated fast. Eliza had weekly speech therapy and attended many appointments with speech therapists, pediatricians, doctors etc to try and discover what had caused her to lose her speech (eventually at age 3 she was diagnosed as ‘Autistic with moderate-severe learning difficulties’). It was at this age that the pediatrician told us nothing but negative stuff. She’ll never………. She won’t…….. She’s not going to……  and looked at me with sympathy as he shook his head and wrote his report. (As above we never saw him again, we got a new peadiatrician). At this lovely tiny age Eliza was starting to learn PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and Makaton signing so she could communicate her needs. One of her favourite activities was throwing the PECS folder at the speech therapist (who learnt to duck really fast). She learnt signs fast and at school she remembered things well. She loved books and would look at them for hours with a huge smile on her face. Eliza was a fun loving, feisty little diva and she loved Mickey Mouse, iPad’s and chocolate biscuits.

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This is Eliza in 2014, aged 5 years old.

We jump to this next pic of Eliza, aged 5 and holding a trophy she received at school for speech and communication!! That photo was taken exactly 4 years ago today. Her Makaton skills were fair, her PECS skills pretty good (and yes the PECS folder got thrown many a time, even out of the car window once!). But she also had speech. SHE COULD TALK AGAIN. That pediatrician was so wrong to say she’d never speak although he probably filled both Eliza and myself with extra determination to prove him wrong. And she did, she refused to be brushed aside and ignore all these negative assumptions. Eliza’s speech started to return not long after she turned 4 and it just kept coming.  Her love of books was growing and she’d come home from School with new reading books each week. It was the most pleasant and wonderful surprise finding out how well she could read. Once her speech returned and kept improving it soon became very clear that she had a great memory and was very academic. She knew shape names that even I didn’t know, she knew about the moon and the planets and she’d recite stories back to me that she’d read at school. So there she is at age 5 and raising her communication trophy as high as her little arms could go with a look of pride and determination. Eliza was still a fun loving, feisty little diva and she still loved Mickey Mouse, iPad’s and chocolate biscuits.

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Eliza age 9

This last photo was taken a few weeks ago. A nine year old Eliza who speaks really well despite her speech and processing delay, has a brilliant sense of humour with a slight sarcastic edge to it (no idea where she gets that from……….). Eliza reads at age 10-11 years and loves books, her latest favourites being ‘Captain Underpants’ and also ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’. School informed me that Eliza can even read music! She’s learnt to play a brass instrument as well as piano, she’s taken part in a table cricket competition and is quite an academically able child (despite what they said 6 years ago, they were so wrong!). She never stops trying to write, her fine motor skills need lots of work but she always tries hard. She has friends and loves to play.  She still really likes shapes and patterns and has a real interest in Science and Religion (she loves reading her children’s Bible). It’s apparent that Eliza still has an interest in space as she recently woke me up at 3am in the morning to ask me if it was possible to cry on the moon! (Thank You Google for your help that morning). Eliza appears in a book that was put together by Chris Bonnello who runs Autistic Not Weird where she is one of 150 children that tell the world what she loves most about life. This year she has also become a young ambassador (with a little blogging help from me) for a clothing company that promotes Autism Awareness and Acceptance Just Ausome (She’s now on their website). And yes Eliza still loves Mickey Mouse, iPad’s and chocolate biscuits and is also still a fun loving and feisty not so little diva (she just keeps getting taller!).

Some things, like the loving chocolate biscuits, never change. But that doesn’t mean that nothing else will ever change too. Children grow and develop at different paces, there is no crystal ball to predict their futures and they certainly shouldn’t be written off at such a young age. I’m fairly certain Eliza will keep proving them wrong. I’m even more certain that she’ll have as much fun in life as she can and she’ll be the person she wants to be, not the person they assumed and decided she’d be back when she was younger.

A stranger just called me a rubbish parent

My Monday morning started as it always does. The children were fed, clean, dressed and had gone to School and nursery. I decided to do my food shopping this morning rather than take Noah with me later (otherwise I seem to spend so much more when his little eyes and hands accompany me…..). I gathered everything I wanted, pleased that everything was available and I didn’t need to go anywhere else on the way home. I saw one of the usual cashiers that often chats and is really friendly. She asked how the children were and I said they were great and that the’d be very excited to see the ice creams later. As I packed my car a woman approached me, I’d say a similar age to myself but I’m awful at guessing peoples ages. I had no idea who she was and assumed she was after directions for somewhere or perhaps I’d dropped something and not noticed. No. She was about to make me feel like the world’s worst Mother in the world!

The woman, in a fierce and judgy tone, told me I was buying too much junk food for my children. That I was ‘Killing them with kindness’. That I should be buying healthier snacks, not given them chocolate, crisps, ice creams and that I should be ashamed of myself for the amount of ‘rubbish’ I was packing in my car and perhaps that highlighted that I was a rubbish parent!. Shocked, I took a few minutes to process what was happening. I’d never seen this woman before in my life and here she was ranting at me about my shopping and my children! I’ll add a photo of what she was ranting about and then I’ll explain what happened next.

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This was some of my shopping today. This is what led to a complete stranger ranting at me in a shop car park.

Yes my shopping includes ice creams and ice pops.

Yes my shopping includes crisps, sweets and chocolate.

Yes Eliza eats chocolate cereal some days.

Eliza also loves fruit and eats some every day.

Eliza actually has a fairly good intake of food, even if limited on what she likes.

The majority of stuff in that photo is for Eliza. Which I told the woman. I also told her that…… Eliza had been ill lately and with the added tooth issue of last week, she’d dropped weight. Eliza is a slim girl anyway and she’s also a daily stimmer (flappy arms and legs) meaning she uses up a lot of energy and even on a ‘normal’ day, she needs more calories. Eliza has sensory and dietary issues and her diet is so rigid it is hard to get calories and good fat content in to her. Yes the junk food isn’t ideal but Eliza has a dietitian who agreed that for the time being, calories and building her up is a priority even if it means junk food that she’ll eat (Eliza will not eat or drink the calorie boosting milkshakes, yogurts etc so we are limited with what she will have). Even the dentist is aware of Eliza’s dietary issues but instead of judging, he just offers advice on brushing and certain toothpastes for her. As of today, Eliza is less than 2 pounds away from being classed as ‘underweight’ and looking skinnier than she ever has. I’m not killing her with kindness, I’m doing my best to help her recover and be well again. I’ll stop there because the rest of what I said included the phrase “So please take your judgy attitude and shove it………..”.

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These pictures were taken just over a week apart. Even though her pose is different and her hair is up in one, you can see how much weight she lost in around 8 days. (The pink one was taken yesterday)

Eliza’s diet may be pretty crap. But we’re working with people that understand her and her issues around food. It’s not easy trying to help her maintain or gain weight when she is so limited food wise and stims , not to mention anxiety popping by often dampening her appetite. I posted some photos from the weekend sunshine fun on my private Facebook profile yesterday. I almost didn’t as even I was shocked to see her looking so thin. But I’ll do what I can to help her and I have good support helping her. School are also pretty awesome at letting me know her food and fluid intake and I’ll be in touch with the School nurse this week to as them to just be aware of everything.

Amazing how your day can start off well and soon take a dive because of a stranger. Am I a rubbish Mother? Well, I certainly feel like one this morning.

It’s all about Eliza

I’m a member of a lovely group that blogs weekly to various sentence prompts and ideas and I often neglect them as life gets so busy. This week I have a little time so I can join in the week’s topic. I’m supposed to be writing a list of “10 things most people don’t know about me” but I thought I’d mix it up a little and do 10 things about Eliza instead. Here they are, in no particular order…..

1. I LOVE READING…. Sadly some people assume that because I am autistic, I can’t do certain things and are often surprised when they see me reading. I read anything and I mean anything, I have read Mum’s bank statements, comic books and even a children’s Bible. My favourite books are ‘Captain Underpants’ and ‘Horrid Henry’.  I am 9 years old now and last year School told my Mummy that my reading level is around age 11 years.

2. I HAVE AN AMAZING BOND WITH MY BROTHER…. Noah is 4 and we have a lovely relationship. We are very close and we also fall out all the time like siblings often do. We love playing in the paddling pool and having water fights. I like reading stories to Noah and he likes helping me to put my shoes on which I find hard sometimes as my fine motor skills are poor. Even if we fall out, we always make up and have a hug.

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Eliza & Noah, early 2018 and looking like they are mid way through a song!

3. I LOVE UNICORNS AND MERMAIDS…. Although when I once forgot the word unicorn and I called it a ‘horny horse’ it made Mummy laugh for ages! My sensory needs mean I prefer certain clothing like loose T-Shirts, soft leggings etc. Because of the way I dress people often think I am a quite a tomboy. I am to a certain degree but I’m also quite a girly girl. My room has sequin cushions, pink walls, unicorn pictures and lots of cuddly toys but it also has my Wii U with games like Lego Batman, Minecraft, Super Mario Maker. I’m just me and this is the stuff I like.

4. I AM QUITE GOOD AT SPORTS…. I am rather good at basketball and score many hoops. I can run pretty well and fast and last year took place in the relay race at School.  Mummy laughs when she tells me about my first sports day when I was 3 years old. The gun went off and I ran in the opposite direction to everyone else, followed by a couple of teachers in hot pursuit. Recently I tried football (soccer in USA) but I wasn’t too keen. I found I enjoy cricket and was asked to join the Table Cricket Team at School. This week I took part in a Table Cricket Final on behalf of my School and we came second.

5. I DON’T LET EVERYONE IN TO MY WORLD….. I just can’t, it’s too much. I love people but I find it hard to connect with people sometimes. I’m not being rude, it’s just that I lack confidence or struggle to find stuff to talk about. Anxiety plays a huge part in this but if people are patient and meet me at my level as such, it can be pretty awesome. My School report last year stated how much my classmates looked up to me and some saw me as a role model.  I really like having friends and I have some special people in my life. Most of my friends are autistic children or adults. I seem to find myself more comfortable with others that are like me regardless of where they ‘sit’ on the Spectrum.

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This is Chris from the Facebook page and Website named ‘Autistic Not Weird’. He is autistic also and when we are not having lightsaber fights or eating spicy chips, it seems we swap heads like in this photo…..

6. I WEAR EAR DEFENDERS TO BED…. I find it really hard to switch off at night and I have such amazing hearing that I need them to help me close off my mind and settle for sleep. They are nice padded ones so they don’t hurt my ears. They really help me though. Sometimes I need reminding that they can make me forget how loud I am talking because I can’t hear my own voice properly when they are on my ears…. or so Mummy tells me at 3am when I wake her and I’m ‘talking’ to her about Christmas Songs I love!

7. I LOVE FRUIT… Strawberries, bananas and blueberries are my favourite. Sometimes Mummy has to hide the fruit so I don’t eat too much and get a sore tummy. Strawberries taste even better under a mountain of squirty cream….. just saying.

8. I HAVE A HUGE FAMILY….. I already mentioned Noah. I really love my Mummy and Daddy. I have 2 sets of grandparents and lots of Uncles and Aunties, cousins….  I come from a very large family. Mummy is one of seven children and Daddy is one of four. I’m not sure I could count every family member, there are so many. Sometimes we talk to my Uncle and Aunty in Australia via the laptop. They send me things with my name on like cushion covers or door plaques because my name is quite popular there.

9. I KNOW STUFF ABOUT HARRY POTTER… My mummy talks about it so much that when my speech started to come back when I was 4, I was saying the alphabet one day like ‘A is for Apple, B is for Ball….’ and when I got to Q I announced that Q is for Quidditch! Mummy had to pull the car over and wipe a tear of pride from her eye. Some of her favourite shops sell lots of Harry Potter themed clothing so……..

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#QuidditchMuggleFromAzkaban

10. I LOVE GOING TO THE CINEMA AND THEATRE…. It’s taken me a long time to gain control over my anxiety. It’s taken a lot of love, patience, support and understanding from everyone around me. I am grateful I was never overly forced to do things, I was nudged gently and supported to try things when I was ready. Because of this my confidence grew and I learnt to take control of some feelings that were holding me back. Last year I went to the theatre for the first time in years and loved it. I’ve been a couple of times since. On New Years Day I announced out of the blue that I wanted to go to the cinema to see Lego Ninjago…. I’d not been in a cinema for over 4 years so Mummy took me and I loved it. I learnt that I can do these things and they are not scary. Mummy learnt something too…. never to ask me “Do you want anything” because suddenly she found herself carrying pringles crisps, haribo sweets, a rainbow mixed slushie and a hot dog as my film snacks!!

 

Thank You for reading. I’ve written this as if Eliza was writing it. She has sat here with me and I read it out to her and she’s laughed at some stuff and told me to add certain bits so she’s been involved well.

This was a listicle prompt from ‘Finish the sentence Friday’ group hosted by the fabulous Finding Ninee and Sporadically Yours

For the Love of Horses

When I left School many years ago, the only thing I had an interest in was horses. So I went to college and got some qualifications and even competed in some small show jumping and cross-country events. At the stables I worked at, we ran summer clubs and gymkhana’s. My days there were some of the happiest of my life. Except the falling off horses, being kicked by horses, being trodden on by horses and horse flies…. Other than that, pretty awesome days. As much as I loved all the horses in my care, two stole my heart. Starlight and Sundance, although we had nicknames for them. I still have a drawing of them both that was given to me as a gift for my birthday when I worked at the stables (I think it was for my 18th birthday).

Here, have some pictures of me between the ages of 17-20 ish years old with both of them.

Horses

Sundance, also known as ‘Fatty’ because he never stopped eating, was bay colour and a gentle yet stubborn git! If you wanted to head to the right, it was a given that he wanted to go left…. towards the lovely grass he had his eyes on. Always getting holes in his rugs, I spent many a night at home hand stitching his rugs. He was popular with everyone, his name often requested for hacks out because he was pretty safe with all scenarios regarding traffic etc. He was the cute boy that you just had to love.

Starlight, also known as ‘Scar’ or ‘Scar bag’ because of the scars on her face but she was so beautiful. She was a chestnut mare with a serious temper. Nobody was allowed near her tail, she was a kicker. She once let me plait the top of her tail for a competition but made it clear when she’d had enough by trying to eat my face. At competitions she had to wear a red ribbon in her tail which basically alerted others to the dangers of her flying back feet. She was a bitey, kicky, feisty, moody, stubborn, aggressive mare… and I loved her dearly. Point her at a show jumping fence and she was happy. We won a fair few rosettes for clear rounds between us. I have fond memories of us jumping, hacking out (although freaking at the sight of a tractor and trying to chuck me in a ditch was not as pleasant memory wise) and I loved just watching her grumpy attitude as she strutted across the field. One day I went to work and she’d gone. The vet had been called and she was ‘put to sleep’ because of twisted gut and she was suffering. I cried for days. I miss her every day, even now.

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Eliza will be 9 soon and has struggled with anxiety a fair few years now. We use essential oils which help loads. We have various strategies that we use if we see her anxiety rising. These days she is pretty good at saying how she feels so she can sometimes give a heads up that anxiety has popped by. One of the best things she ever did was attend ‘Horse Therapy’ (or Equine Therapy). At the start she hated it, well hated the thought of it (anxiety) and would scream as soon as she saw the turning to the stables (anxiety) and we’d spend the first 20-30 minutes of the session in the car for safety whilst she screamed, kicked the car seat and yelled (yep, anxiety). Eventually she would get out and tell me she’s only staying for five minutes. I agreed as it was confidence for her and her compromise. Every time those five minutes ended up as at least an hour if not longer. She’d help groom the ponies, feed them and learn about how to look after them. The minute she sat on a pony to ride she was totally relaxed and anxiety gone. Horses are said to be amazing help for those with autism and special needs and it certainly worked for Eliza. We went for weekly sessions for a year unless the weather was too bad. It gave her confidence, pushed her boundaries, improved her speech along with the confidence and lowering anxiety. She also made friends there. After a year, she didn’t want to go anymore and to be fair I think she’d got what she needed from it. The amazing power of horses.

(I’ll just add here that even though Eliza’s anxiety caused some upset as described above, I know her extremely well and I trusted my instinct and her fighting spirit that she could do it and it was worth persevering. Eliza often needs ‘anxiety squashing time’ and she actually really enjoyed the horses company and she still talks fondly of them now. If at any time it seemed damaging to her, I would have stopped the class).

Here she is (2015-2016)

Eliza Horses

This has been a post for ‘Photo Share Friday’ (although mine turned out to be an essay too lol). Hosted this week by Sporadically Yours and Finding Ninee

What am I afraid of?

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Mice? Flying?. Everyone has fears don’t they? (even if they don’t admit them or want to talk about them). I’m not a fan of mice or spiders but I can catch and remove them from the house without having a heart attack or passing out. Flying, I’m fine with although the popping of ears really annoys me and I’m not keen on the take off as the plane surges forward. I am afraid of many things, some deep and emotional things and other stuff that is completely stupid and pointless but I feel that way anyway.

Do you have children? I do. Eliza is 9 soon and Noah is 4. I am a single parent (and main carer to Eliza who is autistic with learning difficulties). I bet all parents have the same fear as I do – dying. For me it’s not so much about how I’ll die or when, it’s what I’ll leave behind and that includes those two beautiful little humans that rely on me every day. I’m terrified of dying when they are young. I want to be old and have seen them settle in life with their own families or a job they love. No parent should ever live longer than their child, a thought I can’t bear to ponder on as it just adds to my anxiety about the whole situation. As awful as it is to think about it, I often do. It’s like living in fear yet living with a need to make sure you do as much as possible now for the future. I worry for both of them but with extra worry for Eliza. Nobody knows what the future holds but she’ll ever live a fully independent life, she’s always going to need supervision and support. I worry about how she’d be without me so I spend a lot of time teaching her life skills and talking her through situations and scenarios and I often push her comfort zones. I once saw a picture on another Facebook page and I’ve never forgotten it. It was from a lovely page I follow called Forehead kisses – Our Awesome Autism page and this was the picture..

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I found it so emotional to read. But that’s what we do for our children, teach them how to live independently because one day, we won’t be here for them. So yeah, I fear dying but not for the actual dying part.

**You should check out that beautiful page, it’s been wonderful watching Brodie growing up (who now has left school and has his own business)**

I’m afraid of driving yet I drive most days although mainly short distances. I’ve thrown up on the driveway before at just the thought of getting in the car! My legs shake, I start to cough (you know that kind of annoying anxiety induced back if throat cough) and I have to sometimes talk myself in to driving (I’m actually fine once in the car). I was in the passenger seat of a car once when the driver was going too fast on a country lane, skidded and we ended up in a ditch. I had an accident where I was the driver years ago when heavily pregnant with Eliza. My car was a total write off and the road I was on was dark with nothing in walking distance. It was raining heavily and thundering. I stood in the dark in the rain with my almost 7 month baby bump, waiting to be rescued and not a single driver stopped to help. I’ve also been a passenger that felt nothing but helpless fear when my husband had a massive panic attack in the car and started shaking and shut his eyes whilst he was driving. I had to calm him fast and help him pull in to a lay by. A very small baby Eliza was fast asleep in the back of the car. I then had to drive us home, my first time ever on a motorway and only 7 months after my own accident. I HATE DRIVING!!! But I need to. The kids have appointments, Eliza’s school in 35 mins away, shopping etc. I also do it because I don’t want to let fear and anxiety win. So I push my own comfort zones.

I’m scared of sharks! Like forgetting I can breathe, sweaty palms, legs buckling under me scared. Doesn’t matter which type, they are all scary! Yes, go ahead and laugh. It’s a totally ridiculous fear to have. I live in the UK, pretty central/midlands area with absolutely NO possibility of meeting a shark unless I visit the sea-life centers. But nonetheless, they terrify me. I’ve been in the sea-life places before and walked through those glass tunnels where sharks lay over the top or swim by. A giggling and happy Eliza or Noah have a blast. They look in amazement at these things. Me…. eyes straight ahead at the exit and do not engage eye contact with the sharks, I repeat do not engage eye contact with the sharks…… FEAR!! The stupidest fear I have but it’s there. I only agreed to go swimming in the ocean in Australia after I asked my brother about 30,000 times if he was pretty sure I’d not meet any sharks (and that if I did, he’d wrestle them until they spat me out if they ate me). I’ve had many nightmares involving sharks attacking me, eating me, swimming around me in circles and even being trapped in a cage with a shark…… STUPID FEAR!!

gh

**Avoids eye contact with shark picture**

Other than totally waffling my way through this blog, I find it interesting that the three things I chose to share are so different and have come about because of life and situations (other than the sharks, NO IDEA where that came from). That emotional deep-rooted fear about dying too soon, the circumstance induced fear because of cars and accidents and the just stupid irrational ‘did God throw that in for a laugh’ fear.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “I’m afraid of/that…” hosted by Finding Ninee by Kristi Rieger Campbell and Sporadically Yours

 

 

Autism & Anxiety

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Dear Anxiety

It has been a while since you and I fell out. Today you made me angry even though I was not your target. You see my daughter is 6 and she is autistic. It makes her day to day life extremely hard at times as she attempts to navigate a crazy world and find her place in it. It’s not helpful when you come along and add to the mounting stress she feels. I know you often tag along with your friend autism, you seem to be closely connected.

We had a lovely play date arranged with some close friends in a park we often visit. The school holidays throw her out of her comfort zone but she copes really well with planning. It should have been a lovely day. Plan we did, prompt we did, talk it through and off we went. Some days there just isn’t enough planning in the world, you just seem to grab her regardless. My beautiful girl was crying, screaming and kicking the seat in the car. She hit her little brother, she threw stuff she could get hold of. Refusing to get out of the car we sat there, her crying and her brother unsure whilst I decided on the next best step for all concerned. You had her, you were winning.

I wanted to yell and scream at you Anxiety. I really did. I wanted to rip you out of my daughter and stamp on you a million times for what you do to her. I wanted to swear at you and boy did I have some select words just for you. I wanted to cry, truth be told, because I am exhausted, overwhelmed and often feel out of my depth trying to do what is best for her. Trying, as a parent, to make her world as easy and understandable as I can whilst at the same time keeping her safe. I have to think with/about/for her 24/7 and when you decide to stop by it is a hundred times worse because she becomes ‘flighty’. Likely to run at any given chance and with her lack of danger awareness, it is bloody scary.

Instead I wish to thank you, Anxiety. You see every time something like this happens it makes me a stronger parent, ready to face you the next time you decide to gatecrash our lives. You know what else? With my help (and maybe a little stubborn attitude) she got out of the car. She had a few moments on the floor waving and kicking her arms in the air and I let her. Why? Because she was releasing you. She was angry at the feelings she was having. Deep down she wanted to see her friends, to go on the swings, to eat the picnic we took with us. After she started to calm I bent down and gave her a choice – go to the play day or get back in the car and go home. I was calm and fair, she knew either would be OK with me and do you know what, she chose the play day and after a few more minutes calming she had a great time. It was a lovely day after all. You are a pain in the backside Anxiety and believe me when I say I HATE you, I really mean it.

Thank you for attempting to take my daughter down today, you have shown me even at the age of 6 she isn’t going to let you win. She made a choice to put you to one side, remind you that you don’t get to rule her life. She was able to release her feelings safely inside my car and make a decision to keep going. I would say better luck next time but that just suggests I offer you seat on our next day out so instead I will just bid you farewell for today but no doubt you will be back at some point. We will of course be ready for you every time.

Yours Sincerely

Eliza’s Mum