Friday, March 30, 2012

"A pill for all ills"

Following on from yesterday:

If I fell and cut myself I would stem the bleeding with a plaster.
If my throat burned and hurt and my body was hot and shivery, I would take antibiotics and kill the bugs that made me so unwell.
If my blood pressure was sky high I would take my blood pressure tablets even though I didn’t feel unwell, but in the knowledge that I would be preventing future health problems.
If my mood was low, if my sleep and concentration and appetite were poor, if the tears fell constantly, if I felt hopeless, what would I do? Wouldn’t I perhaps consider medication then?

Even knowing that I have a history of PND and anxiety - knowing that I have recently reduced and stopped my anti-depressants, knowing that my GP has recommended and prescribed new medication, knowing that my friends see me blunted and unwell - I stop myself from starting my new tablets.  I’ve been told that I should be pragmatic, that they will help soothe my soul and provide a degree of support – a crutch – so that I can live my life in the day to day, so that I can juggle all of the components that make me who I am, so that I can enjoy and appreciate all that I have, but still my inner voice says “no, not yet…”.

I feel as if I should be able to manage, that I am no different from everyone else and that I should be able to cope with all that I have, all that I have been given.  “Here it is!  This is your life  and whether you have chosen this particular life or not is irrelevant; you have no choice, and no matter how you struggle, you must survive as well as you can.”

I often think back to a training session I attended when we were given a single piece of white paper:
“depression and anxiety: do they exist or are we medicalising life? consider and discuss”

Am I medicalising my life?  And this is what I worry constantly about – should I not be able to cope? Should I not be able to get on with living my day to day?  Am I depressed now?  Perhaps a little low, yes, but depressed? Or perhaps this is just life as a working mum with two children, one of whom is disabled.  Did I actually even truly have PND? Or was it simply life with 2 young children and chronic sleep deprivation?  Are these feelings I’m feeling now, these symptoms I have, not all just signs of life?  A busy, mad discombobulated life but a life no less.   And if this is life, why take a pill?

I have grown up in a society where “A pill for all ills” exists – and this is hugely supported by the pharmaceutical industry – but have learnt to look first at the person as a whole, to see them holistically and look at alternatives – may they be lifestyle changes, socio-economic solutions, spiritual clarification or psychological support - before embarking on, or in supplement to, pharmaceutical therapy.

Even though we as a society believe that there is “a pill for all ills” and seek reassurance in the availability of medical advice 24/7, there still remains a huge cloud of stigma surrounding mental health and the treatment of problems such as depression and anxiety.  Why is this?  More than likely people – the public - just don’t understand and don’t “get it”; they can’t put themselves in the position of suffering from depression or anxiety, or heaven forbid suicidal thoughts.  They can imagine what a sore throat feels like or what it is like to have diabetes or high blood pressure.  They know of visits to A&E for falls and broken bones and they may have experienced chronic disease management of their high blood pressure or diabetes, for example. People know what they know, having experienced common situations and illnesses and talked about their experiences.  They cannot, however, begin to imagine something so far removed as a mood so low that you are unable to get out of bed for months on end, or the feeling that you cannot take one single step out of their house because of panic, or the feeling that life is so worthless that the only solution is to end it all.  If they haven’t experienced it, or don’t know anyone who has, and if no one ever talks about their experiences, how could they possible know and understand? How can they realise that mental illness is such a common problem that warrants no stigma?

The stigma exists but mental illness is slowly being demystified by people coming out and talking about their experiences.  If the public cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone with mental illness then we have to help them try the shoes on so to speak and share our experiences. We need to speak out and tell people how we are feeling (and it can be so very difficult to put it into words…), we need to share our story – yes, even the darkest of moments!  If people don’t know how we are feeling then they can’t help us - pure and simple.  Our family and friends – let alone the public as a whole - they aren’t mind-readers; we need to let them in.  We need to get the support that we need and ask for help – because we are so very worthy and deserving of it (even though we may not be in a place to think that way).

Now, let me consider this:
“depression and anxiety:
do they exist or are we medicalising life?”
Do they exist?  Yes.  Definitely, most definitely:  I know this to be true.  I know what I have been through.  I know what I am currently feeling.  My low days are running into each other.  My symptoms are real.  I’m struggling with my day to day.  I am depressed. I cannot pull myself together, or lift my chin up high, or even pull my socks up for that matter; it’s such not that simple.  What I am feeling is real and I need some help.  I can do all of the self–help exercises, change my diet and exercise,  get some rest and catch up on sleep, see my family and friends and talk more, and have some “me time” and “us time” and “family time”, but right now I can’t.  You see, I need some help. I’m unwell. I’m depressed. I need to accept that this is real, that this is happening to me and that I need help - a plaster, or a crutch, or a tablet perhaps? – to help me through to the point when I can help myself and get back to the life I love. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My adversary

There are signs everywhere you look - road signs, shop signs, cafĂ© signs - they convey  information and can only be thought of as a sign if we attach meaning to them.  They tell us which way to go, where to have a coffee and, sometimes, that we may be unwell.  Yes, there may be signs if we are unwell…

Signs can be medical and objective, being noticed by others and detected by GPs, but perhaps missed by us.  If you think about it, a sign isn’t a sign when we cannot read it or don’t understand it.  Sometimes we are blind to what is closest to us.  I missed my signs - I thought they were the sign of a busy life – and didn’t stop to read them, missing their meaning.

There may signs – known as symptoms – that hint at the existence of something undesirable, like illness for example. Symptoms can be physical or mental and are subjective evidence of a person's condition.  Again, I ignored mine, too busy - or unwell?  - To know better. I did see them, peeking round the corner, but hid away from them, thinking that I was doing so well, thinking that they were all part of my “normal”, choosing to ignore them.

Over four short weeks, they were there, showing themselves, niggling at me, taunting me.  A few more tears here and there; a temper short and frayed which found me shouting at the girls; the lack of concentration and motivation; a sadness which hovered over me no matter what; feelings of inadequacy and an inability to cope; an exhaustion so deep and dark that I thought I would never get out of it; and the overwhelming sensation that, no matter what, life was hopeless. 

For goodness sake!  How could I be so blind?  There was a history; there were triggers evident; this had not come out of nowhere: I had post-natal depression after Eilidh was born and her diagnosis with SMA was a huge blow and a life changing event.  Why didn’t I see it coming?  I could have stopped the downward spiral…  I could have stopped it from getting worse.

Amazingly I actually thought I was coping with my life rather well: a working mum of 2, living an unfamiliar life with a disabled child and managing somehow to make it wonderful. How naive of me!   I realise now that it was more of an “I’m OK. I’m doing a really good job of pretending that I’m ok, so please don’t interrupt my performance.”

And then one morning last week, I woke up and realised that it wasn't a bad dream, that the symptoms were real and that my life - real, raw and laid open in front of me - was hurting. I couldn't bare it any longer; it was too much and I broke down.  My tears fell and my heart ripped open once more.  I thought that I had beaten you - my adversary, my depression - when in fact you stand beside me, a symbiosis: you are here.

to be continued here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Extreme Close Up - The Gallery

gerbera by me

This week at The Gallery - over at Sticky Fingers - it is all up close and personal.  I love being up close, especially to flowers and have many a photo of a flower, in every colour way you wish to choose.  While browsing through my files, knowing which photo I was going to pick, I came across this one and decided that "this is it!" - the one I want to share - a gerbera in back and white, all up close and personal. 

But then I looked up to above the desk and saw the canvas of the photo I was originally going to post: I couldn't leave it out, now could I?

pop tulips by me

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blues of the Sea - Art I Heart

My Art I Heart this week:

This is the Bass Rock all "ful of admiration and wounder" - and my reflection! - a famous landmark off the coast of North Berwick, known best perhaps for its gannet colony.

This painting by Kate Philp was the first painting I bought.  My grannie was to give me a small cash gift every year "to spend on something" not too fanciful or frivolous.  I had seen this painting in the local picture framer's window and loved the colour of the sea and sky and the golden sands.  It reminded me of swimming lessons at the outdoor pool at North Berwick, of afternoons and flying saucers (the edible ones!) at great-grannie's, of summer picnics at Yellowcraig and, later, of my favourite beach at Ravensheugh. This painting was the perfect way to spend my gift. 

That was a good few years ago now and my collection has grown since then; each painting being added in honour of my grannie.  This particular painting, which hangs above my bed, will always be dear to my heart - it reminds me of the beaches of "home" and all their natural beauty.

"ane wounderful crag, risand within the sea, with so narrow and strait hals that na schip nor boit bot allanerlie at ane part of it. This crag is callet the Bas; unwinnabil by ingine of man. In it are coves, als profitable for defence of men as thay were biggit be crafty industry. Every thing that is in that crag is ful of admiration and wounder."

A is for awkward questions

(aka what to do when your child asks loud and embarrassing questions in public about people with disabilities and you instantly want to drag them away because you don't know what to say)

My babycenter Newsletter arrived in my mailbox this morning– I really thought that I had cancelled my subscription – why, oh why am I still receiving it? It’s “normality” is frustrating… I normally don’t even open it, consigning it to "delete” quickly, not wanting to read about what E should and should not be doing at her stage, not wanting to know what is “normal”  for a normal child (and we all know that there is no such thing as normal, each child is unique in their own ways, not readily conforming to their age or “stage”, constantly making us question our parenting and (or) their development).

But today, for some reason, I open it…

“Your 3 year old, third month
   A is for Amy (or E is for Eilidh perhaps)
Often, the first letter a child learns is the first letter of her name ("Mummy! There's my A!"). When she later recognises her entire name, she's not so much reading it as she is identifying that those symbols mean her name. Symbol recognition, of course, is essential for reading. But before she can learn the sounds of the letters, she has to make the mental leap to understanding that those squiggles and lines stand for ideas. "

Oh, that's interesting to know and I click through to read more:

Mmm... yes, she’s talking using sentences longer than 3 or more words and I actually I can understand all of her speech – she’s a genius!

Ok, no, she’s not potty trained – so I skip over this section – but I am thinking about it, I promise and she can use the potty…

Oh, she loves playing with others and will last well over the usual hour expected at this age; she’s such a social wee butterfly, interactive, cheeky and really quite bossy to boot!

Yes, her imagination is very active – we have blue girlie monsters running amok in our house just now – and yes, she is probably having nightmares or quite possibly even night terrors (please can we get some sleep…) but no, she doesn’t flail around in bed or sit bold upright because, you see, she can’t…

Thanks for the recommended Preschool activity – Balloon Tennis – but no, E won’t be able to do that as she doesn’t have the strength, but hey! it’s a nice idea…

And then, there, between the adverts for babycenter and Early Learning Centre I catch sight of another little heading:  

Answering those awkward questions”
(aka what to do when your child asks loud and embarrassing questions in public about people with disabilities and you instantly want to drag them away because you don't know what to say)

And Wham! 

OK, my child isn’t “normal” and now you want to teach me, a mum to a child in a wheelchair, about talking about disabilities!  How dare you interrupt my Monday with a Wham! but OK, I’ll give you a chance, and I click the link; let’s talk about disability then…

share a smile becky

It’s actually not such a bad article and it’s salient points are shown below:

Look out for opportunities to talk about disability
Answer questions directly and simply
Be mindful of the language you use
  Teach respect and acceptance

The article has made me think about how I feel about tackling those awkward questions when we are the ones they are stopping and staring at; this is what I came up with.

A child might stop and stare and point at a person (disabled or not) and that’s ok; they are being naturally curious and inquisitive.  Quite often they will ask questions too – out of the mouths of babes!  You might be flustered and embarrassed or not know what to say but please don’t drag your children away.  Come and say "hello" and chat to us– everyone will benefit in some way – I know because it happens to us a lot and we find ourselves talking to little ones about E and her whizzy wheels.  Believe it or not, how we as parents respond is an important point to consider as what we do and say affects how our children interact with others.
We often take the time to talk about what makes people different – and people are different and unique in so many different ways! - without really putting much thought into it.  It's just that sometimes it might be a more challenging question about why that little girl (or boy!) wears glasses, or why that boy has two mums, or why the girl wheels a whizzy wheelchair, or why that man is a different colour or why that lady wears different clothes.  These are difficult questions to answer at the best of times; often we don’t know “why” or don’t know what to say, but we should try to answer them truthfully and simply, remembering that it’s ok to say “I don’t know”. 
Even though people are different, people can also be similar and it’s important to share similarities, to promote acceptance and inclusion – “yes, that man is in a wheelchair but he likes playing football and eating chocolate, too”.  That man you are talking about is so much more than just his wheelchair and I think that it’s important to get that across to our children by sharing common ground.
Teaching respect to our children is invaluable; I’m not really sure how to teach this but know that is important so ensure that “different” is accepted and loved and every bit a part of our normal daily lives.  I hope and believe that respect, acceptance and inclusion is learned from our attitudes and actions; we teach our children about this probably without ever realising it, through our body language, through the things we say, our choice of words.  We can break or support our children’s acceptance of "different". 
If we don’t have the answers - and sometimes we don't - we can ask others: mums with disabled children, nurseries where children with special needs are cared for, charities and support groups.  We can ask them for help and I’m sure that they would love to help in any way that they can.  We can also sit down with our children and read books about disability and watch tv programmes that feature children with special needs thereby promoting discussion about disability.  We can learn together.  I should at this point perhaps thank Mr Tumble and cBeebies for all that they do to include children with disabilities and special needs; I know from Eilidh’s point of view she thinks that it’s great that there are children on tv who are wheelchair users! You are making a difference and promoting acceptance and inclusion.  And here’s some random trivia, do you know that the actress who plays Polly Pocket in Ballamory has SMA just like E? 

In the end, when the day is done and we are reflecting about what our child has said and learnt about others with disabilities, we can take the time to reflect on what we have learnt too.  You see, what I often wonder is this; while we teach our children and they learn so quickly, seeing beyond disability and race, we often forget, over time, to accept others for who they are, no matter what.  Do you stop and stare sometimes?  Why do you stop and stare? 

And now an afterthought:
Will I unsubscribe from BabyCenter?
I don’t think so.  Not yet…  I mean how can I? 

Today I realised that E’s speech is great – despite us worrying about her being behind (and she was until she became more mobile!). I have also realised that my wee three year old is really quite confident and sociable. 
I have thought about ways of talking about disability and think that I will now be more confident when children ask me about E, why her legs won’t work and why she uses her whizzy wheels.  I do, however, still worry about the day that E starts to ask the same questions about her disability…
Finally, I have a few more ideas about “talking about disability” which I’ve had up my sleeve for a while now; this post has prompted me to get moving with them…

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Spring Bunch

"nice to talk the other night.
lots of love"

we probably don't talk often enough;
i probably don't let him in as much as I should.
sometimes he needs to push the door though
and push it wide, wide open...

thank you for my beautiful flowers

and thank you to the wiggly florist for creating my bunch!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Yesterday I found out that I have been shortlisted for the Inspire! Category of the BiB Brilliance in Blogging Awards hosted by Britmums.  Over a period of three weeks 12,000 nominations were collected and Touch & Tickle is one of the final twenty to go forward to the public vote before the finalists are announced in May.

I am so pleased to blog amongst some totally awesome bloggers and to be listed with nineteen other inspirational blogs, But what I am most pleased about is that I am hopefully helping to raise awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic condition that effects 100 babies a year, our daughter Eilidh being one of them.

So, if Touch & Tickle is inspirational, then who is my inspiration? 


First and foremost,  my daughters who constantly teach me about the beautiful world we live in and how to live in that world with a pet dragon called Snappie by your side.   Secondly, the amazing mums who I have met while writing for The Special Needs Showcase at Love All Blogs; they demonstrate the greatest love, courage and strength in their day to day lives and this shines through in their writing.  Together these people inspire and encourage me to continue blogging and that's why this blog exists - and if you want to know more about why I blog, you'll find a wee intro here.  

If I inspire you, or if you want to raise awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or if you want to raise awareness of life with a child with special needs, then please take the time to vote for Touch & Tickle.  In voting for Touch & Tickle you are voting for me and for the people who inspire me every day to do better and be better.  So please, vote for Touch & Tickle here and here's a big thank you! to those of you who do.

Finally, here are the final 20 - go on, grab a cup of coffee and be Inspired!  You know you want to; it'll be worthwhile...

 A Boy with Asperger’s
 Crystal Jigsaw
 Doing It All For Aleyna
 Downs Side Up
 HerMelness Speaks…
 Kate On Thin Ice
 Little Green Blog
 LLM Calling
 Mummy Pink Wellies
 Mummy Whisperer
 Not Even a Bag of Sugar
 Red Ted Art
 The Iota Quota
 The Real Supermum Blog
 Touch and Tickle
 Tricky Customer
 Walking with Angels
 Was This in the Plan?

p.s. There is also still time to nominate Touch & Tickle in the Most Inspirational MAD Blog Category over at The MADS 2012, but I don't want to be seen as being greedy...

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Bracelet

I keep catching glimpses of a bracelet of candy colours, catching the light and glinting in the sun.  The flowers radiate colour and joy, reminding me of a beautiful woman I have mentioned before. 

This woman became a friend and I watched her carry her burden of cancer lightly, showing great courage and demonstrating overwhelming love.  She gave my girls a bracelet each on the day they visited her at the hospice - she won them over in an instant because - as everyone knows! - the way to a girl's heart is definitely sparkly, colourful jewels!

These bracelets are dear to me.  My friend died on Christmas Day, surrounded by her family, peacefully and with courage.  I am honoured to have called her a friend and even though I didn't know her for long, I miss her.  She taught me to sparkle and shine and reveal my true beauty even when the darkness sets in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Gallery - Colour

Colour is everywhere today at The Gallery; all the colours of the rainbow from natural to man made. 

My colour comes from something quite simple - the wrapping paper from my mother's day gift  - and I love it! 

Vibrant and spring-like and really quite retro - I think that it's rather beautiful...

"Don't miss all the beautiful colours of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dragons Welcome!

Snappie's first morning at nursery,
out & about,
chasing and twirling.
And Eilidh?
from ear to ear

in the play garden:
Welcome, Snappie!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Super Saturday

Grandad alan in action 1952

It's Super Saturday today -
The best of the 6 Nations -
Where rugby players meet in battle
To decide who wins
The Cup.

Rugby used to be my life: Saturdays at the club with my dad playing and my mum on teas; my brother dancing in the leaves as he started his playing career at mini rugby - and he did progress to playing well and hard with numerous injuries along the way; International matches on the tv with my grannie drinking wine from a box; angst filled teenage years pursuing - and kissing! - players with rather handsome thighs; a research project into spinal movement in rugby players; and finally, my last foray in Oz with The Lions - oh! what a trip that was...

And now? 

Well, for starters, I don't know where my home team sits in the league.  I don't know the players in my national team - apart from a certain forward set to marry into my family - Go on, Mr Whizzy Whiskers! I don't know how the 6 Nations table lies - who is set to win, who is set to hold the wooden spoon - and, quite frankly, I don't give a damn... 

I won't watch the games today, celebrating with the winners or commiserating with the losers.  Why?  Because I realised some time ago that there is so much more to life than rugby, so much more than the sport, the socialising, the banter and the booze: there are Saturdays to explore and Sundays to enjoy, but - more importantly - there is love and there is my family...

So Super Saturday, play your best, tackle hard and monopolise BBC 1, but I won't be there to watch and shout; my family wins this match every time now.

Shhh, keep it quiet - I will perhaps have to take a peek at the papers to see how a certain forward plays...  well, he is family...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Art I Heart - In the beginning

This sampler has looked down upon me for as long as I can remember.

Stitched with love by my mum for her baby it talks to me of a mother's love for her child: each stitch stitched was probably done with love, hope, and excitement for the future. 

The prayer talks of a faith that every mother hopes for; that something exists beyond their love, that their child will never be alone.

It wasn't until I had children of my own, however, that I realised just how powerful this simple prayer is.  I have entrusted my children to a God that I have faith in: should I not always be by their side, I know that He is and that He will carry them when they can walk no more.  This faith was again highlighted and reinforced when E was diagnosed with SMA - I have no choice to believe that He walks by her side.

So, mum, thank you for my sampler, for every stitch stitched; thank you for teaching me about a mother's love for her child;  and thank you for planting that little seed of faith so many years ago (for it is continuing to slowly grow).

Oh, I absolutely  love galleries and Rachel at Midlife Singlemum is showing us around her own wee gallery in #ArtIHeart - go and take a wee sneek peek - it's like "looking through the keyhole" - and link up to this wee gem of a gallery for a moment of reflection.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Love alone"

LittleMamma took me back to the beginning of my story recently – thank you, lovely lady! – when she commented on an old post.

A wise man, Thomas Kempis once said,

“Love alone lightens every burden, and makes rough places smooth. It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders all bitterness sweet and acceptable.” 

There are moments in our lives when we might feel overwhelmed and unsupported, when the “grass is greener on the other side”, when we feel as though we can’t go on. But we do go on, taking each day as it comes, spurred on by the love we have for our children and the love they show us in return. If we are lucky we are supported by family and friends, accepting help in any which way that it is offered – a listening ear over coffee perhaps, an hour of babysitting, a thoughtful comment on a post, or even a bunch of colourful, springtime flowers. Love can come in many guises, from different sources but each can brighten our day and lighten our burden. Sometimes it can come as a surprise, but sometimes we need to ask… 

As a group of people, parents of children with special needs, we sometimes need to ask for a little love, a little help to get us through the day or night, or even over a longer period of time. We need to be brave, be kind to ourselves and ask for help if we need to; feel the love, because we are worthy and deserving, and our days will be a little brighter. 

A little help, a little love, a little can, on rough days, lighten every burden…
So reach out to someone,
Reach out today

This post was written as the introduction to the Special Needs Showcase released every Monday at Love All Blogs - the Showcase is always an excellent read, so please head on over and have a read.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Love is in the air

"i wuv camewon", said eilidh
niamh butted in quickly,
"who am i going to marry? fraser? max? cameron? it's sooooo difficult! i just can't decide!"
"i wanna get mawied"
"you can't stand though..."
"i stand!"
"or maybe get married in your wheelchair?" niamh suggested questioningly.

You've got to smile at their unfaltering hope and optimism... and dedication to finding a man!  I so thought I was raising two little miss independents...

And me, do I have the same hopes for Eilidh?
I can imagine her getting married in her wheelchair;
I can imagine it, I can imagine it, I can...
Children with SMA 2 can survive into adulthood.
It's good to live with hope: but perhaps I'll pray...
and keep my fingers crossed, too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Still Life Light - The Gallery

lights at callakillie, applecross

Nature is full of light, ever changing til dusk creeps in.  The landscape catches and reflects the light; raindrops glisten and rainbows form, clouds have silver linings, too. 

I have so many photographs of landscapes full of light that I could use in today's "The Gallery", but when I saw the subject "Light" the photos that came to mind were these.  Still lifes: light caught in an instant, ever present, illuminating and never changing until, with a final switch, the light goes off.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Look at Me!

See what a difference a few hours can make...
Following on from this morning's post:

i know that you hate the equipment
and frequently
stub your toe/bang your leg/hit your arm
on it,
 but look at me!
Look how tall I am...

When did she grow so tall?
It's amazing to see her standing!
I really should be putting her in her stander daily;
I must try harder,
I must try harder...