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Le divorce

I haven’t written in a while because things have been quite complicated.

My Mum finally decided to leave my Dad, after years of struggling to make their marriage work. She moved into a property nearby, which they were previously renting out. My Dad was understandably upset, so I stayed at the house to try and support him, rather than moving out with my Mum straight away.

About a month later my Dad told me that he was planning a surprise holiday to try and win my mum back and was going to pretend to take her to the lawyer but then actually go to the airport. He’d spent most of their joint account, lied to lots of people (including me), delayed her university course by a year, changed lots of things at work (to the point where the staff were panicking about what was happening), contacted my friend behind my back and asked her to lie to me too, etc. He had good intentions but he’d completely manipulated me and her and interfered in our lives without permission.

I knew my mum would be very upset and that she would be in a potentially dangerous position when she told him no (during the drive to the airport). I told him I wouldn’t lie to her about it. He told me that if I didn’t lie to Mom then I would be betraying him and would be to blame for their marriage failing. He got really angry and annoyed with me. I told him that he had to tell her that night or I would.

I text my mum and told her to come straight away to talk to Dad. By the time she arrived, I decided that I couldn’t stay with my Dad anymore. I couldn’t trust him and I didn’t know what he would do next. Especially when he was so angry, emotional and irrational. I packed up as much as I could carry and left with her after she’d spoken to him. As I was leaving, my Dad told me that what I had done was wrong but he would forgive me with time. He didn’t see any need to apologise.

Moving is always stressful but moving with a 6 month old baby, an hour notice and an angry person in the house is very difficult. The situation upset me so much that my body stopped producing enough milk for my son. He was hungry and crying so I had to top him up with formula, which he didn’t react well to; he woke up in the middle of the night screaming and pulling his legs into his tummy. It was awful.

My Dad started dropping off 3-page-long letters to me and my mum every day and emailing and texting all the time. It was like dealing with a split personality; he switches between accepting responsibility/apologising, being angry/vindictive and acting like a victim. Every letter hurt me more.

The one letter revealed that he’d gone through the recycle bin on my mum’s laptop and read my autobiography (the most personal thing I’ve ever written) without my permission. In another letter he tried to use my most painful experiences to his advantage; to excuse his behaviour and act as though I was simply confused. He stated ‘I want to introduce myself to you. You seem to have confused me with other figures in your life and your past. I know that you were brutally abused by a powerful, masculine figure.  I have been the closest, powerful, masculine figure in your life for most of your years. I would like you to try and separate the two entities’. In the end I asked him to stop the letters/emails and only text when he wants to visit Scott.

The letters to my mum were worse. They work together so they’re having to split the business as well as the houses, etc. My mum decided that she had no option but to leave and my dad seemed eager to take over the business in her absence. However, he’s now taking over without actually letting her leave. He’s blocking everything she needs to do to leave (business valuations, etc). It’s like he’s keeping her hostage. At the same time he is telling everyone that he would do anything for her and that she won’t give him a second chance (he’s had many).

I just hope that he can find a way to accept it and let her go. Maybe in the future, when things are settled, I can start to rebuild a relationship with him but at the moment I don’t trust or respect him at all and I feel a bit ashamed to call him my father.


Recently a friend asked me what I wish I’d known before I had my son. I made her a list and thought I would share it with all of you, in case any of you are soon-to-be-parents (if so, good luck).

You can never have too many muslins.
The nappy frills should be sticking out, not tucked in.
Don’t buy loads and loads of nappies in one size as your baby may get too big for them and they will be wasted.
You can get lots of second hand cheap baby clothes on buy/sell/swap facebook groups.
When your milk comes in, it will feel like your breasts are filled to the brim with cement. Don’t worry, this will pass.
Jumperoos are great when you’re baby is around 5 months old.
If you’re struggling with colic try Infacol, Colief and Gripe Water.
If you’re struggling with acid reflux try gaviscon and ranitidine (from your GP).
If your baby is teething, try alternating calpol/calprofen and also give anbesol liqyid or teething granules.
If your baby will only sleep on their front and you’re worried about SIDS, get an Angelcare movement monitor.
Animal noises are great for entertaining/distracting a crying baby.
Hello Baby Mirror books are perfect stimulation for newborns.
There are loads of good baby books in the library. Just give them a wipe with disinfectant first.
Get an avent breast pump (much better than any of the other manual ones)
Dr Brown bottles are good for windy babies but take the blue funnel part out when warming the bottles otherwise the milk/formula will siphon out.
Stock up on foods that you can eat with one hand.
Lanolin and nipple guards are useful if you’re sore.
Emma Jane nursing bras are slightly padded and very comfortable.
Moby wraps are wonderful if you have time to put them on (and are able to practice wrapping them) but carriers with clips and straps are so much easier when you have an impatient baby.
Keep snacks and a big bottle of water next to your breastfeeding chair. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there and breastfeeding burns a lot of calories.
Get a midwife to check your baby for tongue tie as is generally isn’t routinely checked in hospital. It can cause lots of feeding problems but is easy to treat if identified at a young age.
The blissful baby expert book is great for developing a feeding/sleeping schedule and will help with dropping the night feeds.
If you’re breastfeeding, keep an emergency bottle of breastmilk in the freezer just in case you are ill and have to miss a feed.


A lot of people seem to really struggle with decluttering so I thought I’d give some tips (as I am fairly OCD when it comes to organising things)…

Write a list of everything you need. I mean EVERYTHING. How many socks, forks, hair clips, etc. Make sure you are thorough because you will regret it later if not. Then go through the house and give away/sell anything that’s not on the list. This can be really hard but if you forgot about it when you were writing the list then that might be a sign that it’s not really that important. If you didn’t know you had it, then you probably won’t notice when it’s gone.

You can also try asking yourself ‘have I used this in the past year?’ (Or even put all the coat hangers facing one direction after use and at the end of the year throw away the clothes that are facing the original way). If the answer is no, then get rid of it and avoid the ‘I’ll probably use it in the next year’ lie. We all do it. There are only two exceptions to this rule. 1) You have a valid reason for not using it (eg you were pregnant for most of the last year and it’s a small dress). 2) it’s sentimental.

In terms of sentimental items, its best to put them all to one side and sort through them last. If it’s something brings back memories just by looking at it (like an old card someone write you) consider just taking a photo instead. If it’s a really special object (like a hand decorated ostrich egg that your late gran made you) then keep it. Maybe make a ‘memory box’ and keep everything together. However, if it’s just something you’ve had for a long time but don’t have specific memories attached too, then you’re probably just cheating by using the ‘sentimental’ excuse.

Sell what you can (ebay/local fb groups). The income will act as a reward, to motivate you to keep decluttering. Give the rest to charity (clothes bins at tesco/age concern charity shop). The feeling of helping out can be just as rewarding as money.

Everything that you’re keeping can now be put away. Try to group stuff logically so you can find it. I have a plastic tub for electrical items, cosmetic items/first aid kit, baby toys and books, kitchen stuff, etc. If I have more stuff than can fit in the tub, it means I should try to get rid of more. It also means that everything is put away in the most compact way possible. Like trying to fit 3 weeks worth of clothing in only carry on cases.

Once you’ve got rid of things, make sure they don’t creep back. Be aware of the things you are bringing into your home. Everything tidy? Great. Now its time to clean. Spray all surfaces with disinfectant. Don’t forget door handles and cupboards count as surfaces. Anywhere you’ve touched. Now wash all linen (including curtains), wipe down mirrors/windows and vacuum the floor. You can clean the car as well if you’re feeling particularly energetic.

Finally, have a wash yourself. Cut your nails, shave your legs, moisturise your whole body, etc. Whatever you need to make yourself feel presentable. Let yourself relax and enjoy it if possible. Self care is great for mental health.


I was recently shortlisted for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at my first choice university. It was a huge achievement for me as I’ve been working towards it for years and it’s so competitive to even get an interview. If I got through I would have been starting in October and taking my son to the university nursery (at 10 months old).

In the end I didn’t get a place but I wasn’t too disappointed as it just meant that I could find a part time job instead, spend more time with my son and try again next year.

However, yesterday I received an email from my old manager stating there is an upcoming paid Assistant Psychologist position available at their eating disorders unit (where I used to do voluntary work before I got pregnant).

It’s one of the best places I’ve worked; compassionate staff, lovely unit, interesting client group and the opportunity to run a lot of different therapy groups. I don’t know when a position like this will be available again and I would love to go back, but it feels too soon.

My son is around 6 months old (although already in 9-12 month clothing) and I’m not sure if he is ready to go to a nursery. Or maybe I’m just not ready. Then again, I don’t think I’ll ever really feel ready.

Lots of mothers have said that their children loved being at nursery, it was beneficial for their development and that starting at 6 months made it easier for them to adapt. But there will always be stories about babies not adjusting well or problems with nursery staff.

Also, my ME/CFS has been terrible ever since I got pregnant. I’m getting 4 migraines a week and struggle with muscle pain and weakness. I’m not sure if I will be well enough to even do the job.

My mother seems to think that looking after Scott is making me ill but I’m not sure that working would be much easier.

Also, I would be starting a new job, moving house, starting Scott at nursery and dealing with a couple of other life changes (I’ll explain in a future blog) all at the same time. Any one if those changes are likely to make ME/CFS worse.

The most annoying part is I know I’ll feel guilty no matter what option I pick.


When I was 21 years old I started a 6 month placement on an acute mental health ward. I was inspired and enchanted by many of the people I met.

There was a small elderly woman on the ward who had been admitted because she was having a manic episode. Apparently she had spent thousands of pounds within a few days and had been smoking over 100 cigarettes in a day. She ended up collapsing on the ward after a few days because she was having difficulty breathing.

Whilst on the ward, staff encouraged her to ration her cigarettes and monitored her physical health closely. Staff also kept her credit card in the safe and supervised her when using it, because otherwise other patients would take advantage of her generosity.

After a couple of weeks her manic episode appeared to subside and she became fairly depressed. She was put on to medication to help improve and stabilise her mood and then discharged. Whilst in the community she was monitored by the Home Treatment Team and her family. Thankfully they were very supportive and kept staff informed whenever her behaviour changed.


Worth a read, especially as it’s ME awareness day on Thursday…

Originally posted on Dead Men Don't Snore:

The other night as I switched on the TV I encountered the following exchange on the sitcom Benidorm:

“My mother’s got MS.”

“Sometimes think I’ve got that.”

“You think you have MS?”

“Yeah, sometimes. I read about it in a magazine. A lot of people think they’ve got it don’t they?”

“Do you mean ME?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Which is the one where you can’t be arsed to do owt?”

“I think you mean ME.”

“ME, MS, it’s all lazy buggers cracking on there’s something wrong with them, in’t it?”

Now I would hazard a guess that many MS sufferers found that joke amusing, safe in the knowledge that most people recognise MS as a genuinely debilitating disease, but many people with ME will not have been laughing. This is not because ME sufferers can’t take a joke, but because they know that many people watching that episode will…

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MH 15

When I was 21 years old I started a 6 month placement on an acute mental health ward. I was inspired and enchanted by many of the people I met.

There was an elderly patient on the ward who used to spend most of the day in bed. He rarely spoke during the day apart from a few whispered replies. However, around 8pm every day he would start to come out of his room and approach staff. Each time he would say over and over ‘I am evil, I am evil, I am evil’. Staff would reassure him that he was a good man and then usher him back to bed. Within about 5 minutes he would be back again, saying the same thing. Sometimes it would last until the early hours of the morning. Staff tried on several occasions to determine why he thought he was evil but he never elaborated on his statement.

The Psychiatrists were continually debating his condition and whether he might have a form of dementia. By the time I left the ward they were transferring him to an older adult ward.


A homeless man came to the Substance Misuse Service for assessment. He reported struggling with alcohol use, depression and suicidal thoughts.

I completed the assessment, which took about an hour. We discussed why he’d come in, his substance misuse amounts and frequency, previous convictions, social issues and housing, family (especially details of any children who may be at risk), mental health, physical health, prescribed medication, etc. It also involved completing a risk assessment (eg risk of self neglect, suicide, harm to others, etc) and an initial care plan.

It was important to use Motivational Interviewing skills to during this assessment to encourage change. I’ll explain this in more detail later.

At the end of the assessment, he was asked to complete a urine drug screen and breathalyser.

His assessment indicated that he was physically dependent on alcohol. This means that if he stopped suddenly then he would be at risk of having a seizure (and in some cases people have died from this). I therefore advised him to keep drinking, especially if he was starting to experience shakes, and that he would have to reduce the alcohol gradually (generally by 10% every couple of days).

I discussed his assessment with the rest of the multi-disciplinary team (nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists) at the allocation meeting. The client was assigned to the alcohol drop in service; this meant that he would come in once a week during drop in hours for motivational interviewing. After a couple of weeks I was then assigned as his keyworker and continued to work with him on a one-to-one basis.

The aim of Motivational Interviewing was to develop a discrepancy between the person’s current situation and where they want to be. By heightening their ambivalence you can encourage change.

One technique I used is the decisional matrix. This involved asking the client to identify the advantages of staying the same, the disadvantages of staying the same, the disadvantages of changing and the advantages of changing. It was helpful for the client to see that there were many more positives to changing, compared to staying the same.

Another technique was to ask the client to rate their current physical/mental health on a numerical scale and then ask them what it would take to increase that rating by 1 or 2 points. This encouraged the client to think of ways of changing. By coming up with the suggestions himself, he was more likely to accept them compared to being told by someone else. For example, he is more likely to accept his own suggestion ‘I guess I would feel better if I quit smoking’ compared to me saying ‘you should quit smoking’.

It was also important to use the elicit-provide-elicit technique when providing information in to avoid resistance. This is where you ask the person what they know about a topic, then ask permission to give them a bit more information about it, then afterwards elicit it again by asking them how they understand what you’ve just told them.

Throughout the session I used summaries to emphasised the reasons he had given me for wanting to change and encourage ‘change talk’. I also used reflections to manage any resistance. For example, when he stated ‘my family keep nagging me about my drinking’, I reframed it by reflecting ‘so you’re family care about you a lot and are concerned about you’. Or when he stated ‘I’ve tried treatment before and it hasn’t worked’, I reframed it as ‘you’re persistent because it means a lot to you’. You can also used amplified reflections, for example if a client stated ‘I don’t want to give up methadone’, you could amplify it by reflecting ‘so you want to stay on methadone for the rest of your life’, in order to get them to acknowledge ‘well, no I guess not’.

Through Motivational Interviewing I was able to support the client to gradually reduce his alcohol use, to the point where we were able to put him on the waiting list for a detox. I explained that the Detox was the easy part and the hard part would be remaining abstinent when he comes back out again, back to the same situations, places and people. It was therefore important to have some Relapse Management sessions (based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) before the Detox.

The Relapse Management sessions involved using Socratic dialogue; informational questioning, active listening (using reflections), summaries and analytical questioning. In analytical questioning you ask questions that will help the client come up with the answers themselves eg ‘on the one hand you say that you think alcohol will help but on the other hand you say that you feel depressed afterwards; how do you make sense of that?’ will lead the client to realise ‘I guess it actually doesn’t help’.

We also focused on identifying and adjusting his automatic thoughts, underlying assumptions and core beliefs (see previous blogs on CBT for an explanation of this). I explained to him that his thoughts and evaluative judgements mediate between stimuli and his emotions or behavioural response. It is not the event that makes him feel depressed but his evaluation of the event; for example, thinking that not being able to get him a job makes him a failure.

He was repeatedly asked to rate on continuum scales (see previous blog) and keep a positive data log as homework. We looked at goal setting and problems solving as well as how to manage high risk situation (eg if in situations with alcohol present), crisis plans (for what to do and who to contact if at risk of drinking) and lapse chains (to determine factors contributing to any lapses he has). I also explained to him the difference between lapses (one or two instances of previous behaviour) versus relapses (going completely back to the previous behaviour) and explained that lapses don’t have to lead to relapse.

Along with the one-to-one therapy sessions, I was responsible for completing continual risk assessments, focusing on the suicidal thoughts and any protective factors. I assessed if they were constant or fleeting and whether he had any intent or plans.

I was also responsible for helping him find housing by writing a letter to the council, helping him find employment by referring him to our employment specialist and liaising social services regarding his daughter. We always inform social services if a child is involved. I explained to him that, although many people worry about social services finding out, they will actually see the engagement in treatment as a good sign because you are getting help. They will always work with families to try and help them and only take children away as a last resort.

I also encouraged him to join in with the service’s groups, including the gardening group, so that he could meet other people in recovery and start engaging in pleasurable activities again (people with depression often cut these activities out of their life over time).

After a successful Detox, he went to rehab. When I left the service he had been sober for 3 months, had improved mood, no suicidal thoughts, had found housing and was completing training (to improve the likelihood of employment). I was glad that I was able to see the case through, as often I have to leave the placement half way through working with someone. It was rewarding to see how far he’d come.

I’ve always considered myself to be a kind and compassionate person. At work I demonstrate unconditional positive regard towards all my clients, regardless of how they treat me. I’ve forgiven my rapist and my abusive ex-boyfriend (mainly because I knew that holding on to the anger would hurt me more). I’ve always stayed friends with ex-boyfriends after we’ve separated. I’ve never hated anyone. Until now.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to let go of the hate that I feel for Jay, my most recent ex-boyfriend. I think it’s partly because I forced myself to stay with him for months (because I thought we should try to make things work for the baby) and partly because now I have to share the most important person in my life (my beautiful baby boy) with someone I don’t even respect.

Jay has great general knowledge but lacks common sense or any practical skills. He’s not capable of using his initiative and making decisions for himself. He has no motivation or desire for self improvement. He can’t stand up for himself (can’t even refuse a cup of tea when he doesn’t want it). When he talks he takes ages to say anything and normally wimps out of saying it. He’s addicted to porn and gaming. His room is covered in dirty bowls, wank socks, stuff he’s never going to use again and mould. He’s been sexually inappropriate with a younger family member. He spends his money on stuff he doesn’t need, even though he still has an over-draft to pay off. He drinks and sometimes smokes weed. He’s failed to keep his promises and broken my trust (eg looking through personal files on my computer). I helped him get his last two jobs; before that he’d been unemployed for ages. He knows nothing about babies and struggles just to hold Scott (after 4 months).

Normally once you’ve ended a relationship, you no longer care about the person’s flaws because they don’t affect you. However, when you share a child with that person, their problems continue to influence your life and your child’s life. You still have to see them all the time, talk to them and be civil. You still have to watch them spending time with your child.

I know that I’m probably being unfair and overly critical a lot of the time and I know that the best thing would be to let go of the negative feelings, for Scott’s sake. I just don’t know how.


Worth a read

Originally posted on In & Out, Up & Down: Dysthymia Bree's Musings On Mental Health and Psychiatric Wards:

Today I’ve been reflecting on how surviving a mental health crisis-event is “simply” about making more good decisions than bad ones.

Yesterday, I was struggling. I don’t mean the usual lack of energy, feelings of intense worthlessness, and so forth; yesterday was about feeling completely overwhelmed, puncturing the skin in grief, watching the pain well up, and trying desperately to gather frayed threads of will to live. Yesterday wasn’t about detached contemplating the misery of life; it was snot, mess, shame, and trying to contain tsunamis of emotion.

Things were not good.

How did I make it through the day without committing an irredeemable act? Looking back, I see that I made more positive choices than negative ones. OK, there was a considerable amount of self-harm, and I spoke a little too openly to a relative on the phone – something which might come back to bite me later; those…

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