Eight months?

I really am a terrible blogger. I go through such peaks and troughs which so closely align with how busy my “real” life is and how my mental health is doing! I probably should be ashamed that it’s been eight months but in the spirit of living in the present, I’m not going to succumb to that kind of thinking.

The last eight months has been pretty amazing truth be told. I’ve finished up at uni and got an amazing job where I legitimately say I am a professional feminist. G has started school, E & N have moved into new classes, F is now in second year and will make his subject choices this year. They constantly amaze me with their capacity to love and to learn.Our Scouting life has progressed too and I now lead a small but perfectly formed local group. Life is good!

Yet amongst that, the old and familiar nagging of poor mental health. I sometimes contemplate a life where I don’t recognise that I am unwell and ponder if it would be a more blissful existence, to simply not know. I think I am at peace now with feeling that – for me – being in a position to experience and feel the real highs of life, the joys of success and happiness balance out with also experiencing the crushing lows in such a profound manner. A few weeks ago I found myself in that hopeless, unable to contemplate leaving the bed fug that a few years ago triggered my worst period of mental ill health, and I contemplated the value of accessing help because my previous experience was negative to say the least. Do I need help? If I recognise I am unwell, is that enough to self-treat with CBT and a step back off the gas? And – if I am able to have such discourse, am I truly unwell or simply having an off period?

A longer conversation for another day perhaps, but as much as I am glad to live in an era where discussing mental health is less taboo it comes with an overwhelming sense of disappointment that attitudes to treatment are still so appalling.

You have a weak bum

So said my new physio yesterday. I like him. He also slagged off my granny pants which to be fair, are a source of mirth for all who have seen them.

I had an MRI done last year and slowly, I’m finding out what the results are. Initially I was told it was “just” mechanical damage, then I was told I have sacroiliitis. No biggy I thought, just change to new anti-inflammatories and see how we go. Yesterday was the first time anyone has suggested to me that the sacroiliitis could be a symptom of something more serious.

I actually feel pretty positive about the whole thing. The physio was really excellent, I feel like I am comfortable with him – enough so that I burst into tears talking about living with chronic pain – and I trust him. He’s probably the first medical professional who has told me the full schtick including confirming my suspicions that I have hypermobility.

The thing is, I now feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have no core strength at all (which I knew) and apparently I have a “weak bum” but we’re starting with the absolute basics to sort that out which will give me a platform to build on. I’m excited and I feel like there’s hope that maybe living in constant pain won’t be my life story.

So, what got you into feminism?

I was joking to a friend the other day about G, laughing that I couldn’t quite understand where her obsession over skirts & dresses and Sylvanian Families came from as I’m a card-carrying feminist. You know those off the cuff comments that get you thinking deeply? Turns out, that was one.

I’ve been a feminist activist for the better part of 12 years now. I got involved with my student association almost by accident. As a young student who was also a single parent, my time was precious but I wanted to get involved in changing the world. I noticed towards the end of my first year that they were looking for students to do a training the trainer programme – it sounded interesting so I got in touch and ended up going. Through that I got involved in the work of the student association and ended up running for Women’s Officer. Was that the start of my feminist journey?

It was certainly the start of my activism but I reflect further back to 1997. I was a pupil at an all girls school and almost feminist by default, such was the belief in our collective abilities. I was in 4th year and having got bored of More magazine I moved onto a Marie Claire subscription. One of the first articles I read was an interview with some supermodel – her name was Waris Dirie.

What I read then has stayed with me the rest of my life. As a baby of just five years old, Waris was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I can’t describe my fear, my upset, my great sadness or my abject horror in imagining such an experience. A procedure carried out on young girls by other women in order to suppress women’s sexuality.

It’s now 2014 and The Guardian are highlighting that 3000 cases of genital mutilation have been seen in British hospitals since 2011. This isn’t a problem “over there”. It’s not something done “to them”. This is here, this is us. This is the women and children in our communities. There has never been a conviction for FGM in the UK, attributed to the perpetrators being the parents of the victim. Do our daughters mean so little?

Can you imagine this being your daughter, or niece? Your little cousin? Your friend’s wee girl? Because I can’t – in fact, watching that video on The Guardian I cried for the 130 million women in the world who have survived FGM.

Scotland’s Education Secretary Mike Russell has said he will be writing to every Scottish headteacher asking them to train staff and educate parents. Michael Gove remains silent despite over 156,000 signatures on a petition.

If reading this has moved you, upset you, frustrated you, angered you then I beg of you to raise the roof. Sign the petition, tweet the link, share the story on Facebook and talk to people you know. Footbinding was ended in a generation. We can end FGM.

Proud to be from Scotland

So today, after a long campaign, after many delays to the bill in order to ensure it was significantly more progressive than the one passed at Westminster – the Scottish Parliament passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill which gives same-sex couples the right to be married.

My heart is just so filled with love and joy for my many friends who are now free to marry should they desire. I am so proud of my country, and proud of my parliament for listening to the concerns around the bill and ensuring they were resolved.

I thought it might be timely to share this video of E, a couple of years ago.

Still one of my all-time favourite kid moments, maybe her prophecy will be true, maybe it won’t. Either way I know that she’ll have the option to marry the person she loves, no matter their gender.

A hearty well done to every activist, every campaigner, every organisation, every MSP and every person who pushed for this to happen.

Brutal truth

I should probably know better than to ask N questions which aren’t specific. For example, today instead of asking him, “Do I look nice?” I asked him, “How do I look?” and then had a five minute assassination of my outfit, make up and hair. Bless him.

Living with a child who has a social communication disorder is like relearning everything you thought you knew about parenting. Routine is key (obviously) but this extends so much further than you might think, for example preparing N for about two weeks before a school holiday and then having to immediately start preparing him for the return to the school routine. The dark in the morning & dark after school winter days are a nightmare. He can’t get his bearings and as a result can be quite distressed.

But tonight, he just reminded me how special a gift he is. I’ve come to bed with a migraine and having slept this afternoon couldn’t get back to sleep. N popped in to see me and we chatted about how I was feeling. I explained that I couldn’t get to sleep because I’d slept already today and the conversation naturally drifted off.

Five minutes later he returned to me. He’d googled to see what I should do to get to sleep and decided to remove all the electronics from my room and put on some quiet music to soothe me.

What a boy.

Dead Dad on top of the wardrobe

January is really and truly a shit month. It’s dark and cold, everyone’s tired and lingering with colds and malaise. It’s my awesome Dad’s birthday tomorrow which is the only silver lining. It also would have been my fabulous Nana’s birthday later in the week, then the next day my Nana and Grampa’s wedding anniversary.

Already past is my biological father’s birthday and the anniversary of his death three years ago. Three years. It doesn’t seem that long.

This has all been playing in my mind and then today I read another blogger talking about the grieving process for a Dad who wasn’t really a Dad. It’s a very similar situation for me. When I was born I was very sick and spent the first weeks of my life in hospital in Glasgow with my Mother by my side while my Father returned to work in the estate by Loch Lomond that they called home. I don’t know – I don’t think I’ll ever know – why my Mother decided not to return when I was released from hospital, why contact between them disintegrated or why my father agreed to surrender his parental rights so that my Dad could adopt me aged 4. I had no idea that my Dad wasn’t my father until I was 10 and didn’t meet him until I was 13.

We kept in touch over the years, mostly by letter. I would go and stay with F, and try to get to know this man who didn’t seem able to express emotion or talk about the past. When he finally retired and moved away from the place he’d called home for most of his adult life, he kept himself to himself in his little house. Did I do enough? Probably not. Was it my responsibility as the (adult) child? Possibly? Probably?

When he died, it was me the police came to. I’d spent the day at my Nana’s house, helping to sort through and organise her belongings as we had laid her to rest just two weeks before. She was the most important woman in my life and my living room was full of her memories. The police came to the door and my first instinct was, “I haven’t done anything wrong” before inviting them into the house. “I’m sorry about the mess, ” I waved my hand around the room, “My Nana just died and I’ve been sorting her house out.” The two police officers exchanged a glance that should have prepared me, should have warned me. Then they told me why they were there.
“We’re here about your father” the young, nervous policeman said. I knew straight away, “He’s dead?” I asked and the policeman nodded his head. I remember my head swirling, not surprised because he was frail and had Alzheimers but yet I asked, “How?”
It was when they said there’d been a fire, that was when the enormity of the situation hit me. There had been a fire, his smoke alarm had been going off for three hours. The only reason it was discovered was because his home help spotted the smoke. Three hours.

It took the better part of a fortnight to organise his funeral. The better part of a year to sort his estate out. It’s a funny thing, because he had waived his parental rights under Scots Law his brother and I had to apply to the court for permission for me to act as his executor. Seems ridiculous that a decision made about a child could have such ramifications once I became an adult.

Here we are three years later and there is – and I suspect always will be – a sadness in me about the whole thing. It’s not like I have a father-shaped hole to fill – my awesome Dad has been in my life since I was 18 months and I’ve never known any different. It’s perhaps a sadness at never getting the chance to ask the questions like, “Why didn’t you want me”.┬áNevertheless, his ashes remain in their urn on top of my wardrobe. I should probably do something about that soon.

Being a decent human being.

Reading the news earlier this week about the death of Glasgow comedian Ford Kiernan’s young son, I felt such pain for the family. I can’t even imagine. Sonny Kiernan was exactly two weeks younger than Findlay and I can not – and would not want to – have any understanding of what they are going through. From afar, I send the Kiernan family all the positivity I can and hope they are surrounded with love in this unimaginably horrendous time.

That said, I was utterly appalled and indeed angered reading this article in yesterday’s Daily Record. On the day their son’s tragic death was reported, a reporter from the Daily Record chapped the Kiernan’s door, noting, “Yesterday, a visibly upset woman who answered the door of the family home was too distressed to talk aboutthe [sic] tragedy.

The question I pose is this: What kind of person interrupts a shocked, grieving family in this unbelievably intrusive manner? Certainly not any kind of professional, since any journalist worth their salt would know to approach Ford Kiernan’s agent or spokesperson if a comment was so desperately required. Have some human decency, for God’s sake. This family have just lost their child.