Thursday, 3 January 2019

My Mental Health Resolutions for 2019

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s Resolutions, but I had a difficult end to 2018 and a very challenging start to this year, so I decided to work on some mind goals for 2019. My physical health has been particularly bad recently, which I have very little control over, but I can set goals for my mental health. 

The most important thing for my mental wellbeing is to remember that I matter. As a physically disabled person with carers and a whole team of people who look after me, it’s easy to feel like I’m just a burden. A waste of everybody’s time and energy. It’s very frustrating for me and I lost myself for a long time. I felt I had no purpose in life. I wasn’t a wife, a mum, a daughter, or even just me, I was just somebody who needed looking after. Writing has given me back a purpose in life and my life does matter. I matter. 

Secondly, I want to be able to put my mental health first and let go of negative influences around me. I have to self-preserve and put up some barriers and boundaries. I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It can be used for so much good, but it has also caused me a lot of pain. This year I will allow myself to let go of anything that is detrimental to my mental wellbeing.

I am in charge of my life. This is a very important one too. As I mentioned earlier, I have little control over many aspects of my day to day life due to my disabilities, so I must take control where I can. I can use my time wisely. I have plenty to say and a platform to put that to good use. I can stand up for people with disabilities. I can use social media for positive reasons and campaign for charities. I can write books for my children which makes them happy. I can be useful. I can make a contribution to this world. 

I must pursue my dreams and not give up. Society views disabled people as a drain on society but I will prove them wrong. There is nothing else I can do but write so I will chase my goals. Success is what you decide you want to be so everyone’s achievements are vastly different. My idea of success is not based on what things I want to have but the person I want to be. 

I will also keep fighting to get the healthcare I need. I won’t let the consultants give up on me. So many times I have wanted to give up but I get back up again. Figuratively speaking, as I can’t stand up without falling! It’s very difficult to find the mental balance between accepting yourself as a disabled person but also fighting for answers and the right treatment. 

Finally, the most important task this year. I must be me. I will be 40 later this year and accepting my faults, quirks and eccentricities’ is the biggest task ahead. My abilities and disabilities all make up who I am and that is the biggest key to good mental health.

Happy new year everyone!

How You Can Help Bereaved Parents Like Me Get Through Christmas

Christmas is a really tough time for bereaved parents. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first Christmas without your child or your tenth, it’s a time for families to be together and there is always somebody missing in ours.
We have an 11-year-old and a seven-year-old, but we always include our late son Charlie in our Christmas traditions. Every year, without fail, we have three stockings hanging up on the fireplace and a decoration with his name on up on our tree. One of our friends very kindly bought this for us and it is just one of the ways you can support bereaved families at Christmas. My Dad always sends a card for Charlie and hangs a ribbon on the Meningitis Now tree in memory of him. It is gestures like this that make us feel he is still recognised as part of our family.
I would strongly suggest including their name when you send Christmas cards or messages. Even if you just write something like “and remembering Charlie” or “Charlie is always in our thoughts” in your card, it will make a huge difference to someone who has lost a child. I know people worry that they will bring up an upsetting memory by mentioning him, but believe me, it’s never something we can forget. Charlie is on my mind daily, so other people acknowledging him doesn’t bring up anything that isn’t already in my thoughts. It actually makes me happy that they’ve remembered him and included him.
Many of our family and friends donate the money they would have spent on a Christmas present for Charlie to his charity. Again, this is a positive move and shows us you are thinking of him, whilst also giving money to a good cause in his name. A lot of people now donate to charity, in lieu of sending Christmas cards. If you don’t have ties to a particular charity, then why not ask a bereaved family if you can donate to one of their choice? It’s another way of recognising their loss and showing your support.
I can’t speak for all bereaved parents, as we all have different views on it, but if in doubt, ask. There’s a big fear about speaking to someone about their child who has passed away, but for me it’s a release and I’m always happy to talk to people about him. I lost many friends after Charlie died because they avoided me, they didn’t know what to say. I don’t care if you say the “wrong” thing, if at least you have made an effort. I do care if you cut me out of your life because you feel awkward, or cross the street so you don’t have to talk to me. That is something I won’t forget.
Even if you don’t have the means to donate to a charity or give a gift, then just be there to listen. I have good days and bad days around Christmas. There are times where I feel lucky to spend time with the children I do have and then occasions when I feel angry that I don’t get to have all my children with me.
Sometimes remembering the child who is not there is the greatest gift you can give to a bereaved parent. If you make an effort to include them at Christmas time, then you might just make a difficult period that bit more bearable. 
This was first published on the Huffington Post UK website.