Man up, brother!

Spent this morning with my nephew at the park. All the while my brother (his Dad) is commenting on ‘the facebooks’ his support for Boris Johnson and the nasty party. To be expected, really, isn’t it? I wrote recently about still not speaking to my brother. Today that decision was somewhat vindicated. I agonised over responding and chose not to. That was probably the right call for the time being. This happy, smiling eight year old struggles with life. He has cerebral palsy, walks with a frame or gets pushed about in a wheelchair. His mum doesn’t have the time to do everything she could to assist him in getting better. Time is finite and she has a younger child also. The boy needs his Dad.

I wrote about this extensively in 2016 when this situation first developed. It took me some time to figure out how I felt about his actions and I decided I didn’t like them:

“…my brother met a girl. They split up, he met another girl who quickly fell pregnant. He then rekindled his relationship with the first girl who knew about the pregnancy. The baby was born and girlfriend, who had become fiancée by then, made her feelings very well known. She hated that child. She hated everything about him. He was such a beautiful happy little boy too, yet she hated the very air that he breathed.”

“Eventually things got so bad that fiancée stopped brother from seeing his child.”

“Last year this beautiful little boy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Has ever a boy needed his daddy more…?

The situation has not changed. He still doesn’t have a relationship with his boy. How could he not? Where is his sense of duty, of responsibility? It still makes me angry when I think about it. Would this child’s life be better with his father involved? ‘Probably’ is the answer. But despite all this; despite the resources my brother has access to and despite the needs of the child he refuses to man up and be a father to his child. What a terrible thing to do.

How does he sleep at night?

The coming storm

I sat looking out over the emerald lawn looking up to a sky which had turned from azure blue to a blanket of grey. The air was electric, the pressure palpable and thunder played a consistent cacophony in the distance. The storm was coming, it was only a matter of time.

The first fat droplets of rain fell, staining the sandstone patio with dark spots of moisture. The stone, hot from an afternoon baking in the sun, fought valiantly against the falling wetness but as the skies darkened inexorably the flags gave themselves up to the developing storm.

I felt the rain’s cold caress prickle the skin on my arms and legs; refreshingly cool after the heat of the afternoon. I knew I would have to retreat from the rain but for that brief moment I relished the sensations of warmth and wet, the breeze, the electrical charge in the air, soundtracked by the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. Like a perfect storm of sensation prologuing the impending summer tempest.

Still not speaking

My brother messaged me last Friday and I have not replied. I can’t bring myself to return his pleasantries and it just feels false. I’m still struggling to reconcile his decision to abandon his child in favour of his woman. Maybe I should give him an opportunity to explain. But I feel as though it doesn’t matter what he has to say. I’m just not interested. I’ve managed years without him in my life. Do I need him in my life now?

iSlave XR

Imagine. You’re sat talking to someone, at home, work or the pub. You’re watching a movie or a TV show. You’re out for a walk or simply laid in bed. Your screen lights up or you feel the familiar vibration in your pocket. There’s a notification. Someone liked your latest Instagram post or retweeted you. Someone invited you to play Candy Crush on Facebook. A email, spam usually. Or a text from a friend or from work – non urgent; they’d have called, right?

Too often one of the above scenarios has occurred and I’ve instinctively checked my phone. 99% of the time that lit screen or vibration is an irrelevance. A ‘joke’ sent in group chat. A new follower from an account I don’t have anything in common with. Another email from Vue, eBay, Ryanair, Travelodge.

Why am I a slave to my mobile telephone? Granted, the mobile has become an essential life companion. It allows us to keep in touch with loved ones, check the news, access an almost infinite amount of information in a few clicks and capture moments in video or photo format. Want to know what the weather is like tomorrow? There’s a app for that. What’s on at the cinema? Check the app. Who won the big game? “I’ll just check.” The mobile/cell phone has many uses it is a tool for humanity to use to make life that little bit easier and pleasurable. But that’s the crux, isn’t it? It’s a tool for us to use; so why do I – and so many others – dance to it’s tune? Who determines what I do on a day to day or minute to minute basis? I do, or rather I should. Yet moments are interrupted and years of use has conditioned me/us to respond to the urgent appeals of a mobile device.

Your phone should be accessed when you need it. Your phone should not be accessing you when it needs you.

So a few days ago I turned off all notifications. Texts, gone. Whatsapp, finished. Email, ended. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, off. I left on telephone calls for emergencies. It’s liberating. I feel more in the moment and I have managed to sit through a show without the temptation of interruption. If I want to see what’s going on in the world I choose to do so rather than an inanimate object telling me it’s time to see what’s going on out there.

The end result is a boost to my mental well-being. I’m no longer drawn in to checking my social media accounts when my phone flashes. I’ve even – and this rarely happened before – forgotten where I put my phone! My screen time is down 21%. I’m using my phone less. And I haven’t missed anything. The emails still arrive. The text messages and ‘jokes’ in Whatsapp too. When someone likes my latest Facebook photo I still get to see who it was and I still get to see the comments. But I do it in my time when I want to and not at the say so of a piece of technology.

Anger management

July ended with Tom being spoken to by the early intervention team in relation to his angry outbursts. Listening to him talk frankly with the worker about anger and frustration got me thinking. I saw so many similarities between us. Did he get it from me? Am I the cause? Is it inherited?

Tom explained that his anger come from frustration and he feels like a stick of dynamite with a very short fuse. His anger results in things being broken. Phones, TVs, laptops, doors, walls. Things get punched; that’s his outlet. It was sad to listen to. Why does my child behave like this? Who is at fault here? Me, his Mam, anyone?

He talked about anger at school and stated that his outbursts do not occur in the classroom but in the schoolyard. Interestingly, his anger doesn’t manifest in my company. Tom said that this is because there is nothing which frustrates him when he is with me but I have a different theory. A theory of consequence and boundaries.

He knows that if he acts up with me he will be told off. There will be consequences for his behaviour. In a classroom of twenty-five children his behaviour is noticed more than in a schoolyard of five hundred children. He can get away with it in the schoolyard and he can, it seems, get away with it at home. He cannot escape notice in the classroom so he may get in trouble. He also gets into trouble if he plays up with me.

Which asks the question. Is this issue with him or with those who allow his behaviour. What boundaries are being set? Is he informed about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. As he works more with professionals to combat his anger issues perhaps these questions shall be answered.

Epiphany

After the difficulty of yesterday, realising there was something wrong, something effecting my mood and behaviour, I did a little bit of soul searching. I’m a fairly rational, logical person and I can normally work out problems. Sometimes it helps to write stuff down. Writing is therapy. Seeing my issues on the ‘page’ rather than keeping them in my head assists in the deconstruction of the problem and allows for me to reach a resolution.

Last night I sat and spoke to Fran about what was going in. She has borne the brunt of my behaviour. I’ve been angry, frustrated, snappy, irritable. What had changed to make me this way? What was the cause of the calamity in my head? On the surface, life couldn’t be sweeter. We have a lovely home, a happy and healthy baby and a good, solid relationship. So why was I hurting her with my words and conduct? She only ever means well and I was pushing her away by the way I was behaving. I didn’t want to do that. Something had to change.

The first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is one. I contacted Talking Changes to ask for help. They called me today and I have arranged an assessment for next month. Services are strapped and I understand there is a wait for help. Between then and now I hope to have dealt with a lot of my issues by myself; or rather with the help of friends and family.

As I was saying; I spoke to Fran last night. I listed what the issues might be and we talked through them.

The issue with my Dad is done. That issue is as dead as him. He died nine years ago this month. I didn’t really know him all that well. He was never there for my formative years. He passed and I was upset but I recovered. Clare is another loss which I have recovered from. That was five years ago. I’ve moved on. I never thought I would love again but I did and I do. I think about her daily but I went through the mill when she passed away and came through. Ellis, Mike, my brothers. There are issues there but when I think about them and what happened to them / between us I’m okay with it. Work? I love my job. When you can skip into work happy to be there you know you have won at life. Money? Yes it’s an issue right now but we are managing and things will recover.

The issue is Tom. My boy. My first born. It’s funny in a non-funny way that the problem was staring me in the face. The timing of events in life and the deterioration in my mental health are obvious to me now. He is the issue. My attitude towards our relationship is the issue. Knowing is good. Now I can work on fixing things. Both our relationship and how I feel about it.

In time I’ll explain…

That’s mental

Recently I have been struggling a little bit. Call it stress, call it anxiety, call it whatever I don’t know but it’s been tough. My mind is not on the ball. I seek the solace of being alone. I’m disengaged, disinterested, distant. It’s taking it’s toll on my relationship and that relationship is the one good thing that keeps me grounded. I cannot allow my issues and insecurities – if that’s what they are – to cause a rift between us. It cannot happen. I need help.

It takes a lot to say that: I need help. I’m a strong person. Relied upon. Depended upon. Maybe that’s the issue.

Last night I had to take myself out of the home as my stress got to the point where I couldn’t cope. I drove just out of town and parked up. The pressure felt physical. Like my skull being compressed. I know she is trying to help but the persistent questioning, querying, asking, just doesn’t help in the slightest. When someone asks ‘what’s wrong’ and you don’t have an answer for them it’s frustrating for both. This morning I opened up a little bit. The problem isn’t her, the problem is me. It’s my issue. It’s things I haven’t dealt with. It could be any of the following or a combination of them or all of them:

Dad – did I deal with his abandonment of me when I was thirteen or his death?
Clare – I didn’t deal with her passing away.
Tom – my relationship with my boy is damaged.
Ellis – my youngest brother is suffering with his mental health and my family is struggling with that!
Mike – my relationship with my closest brother is a struggle.
Work – I enjoy my job but it can be traumatic. Am I dealing with the trauma?
Money – Things are hard at the moment. Debt and the rising cost of living.

Each is an issue – and they’re just the ones I have identified. There could be other things lurking under the surface. I just know that I am struggling to cope with things and I lack healthy coping mechanisms. So I am going to ask for help. I am looking to get help. I am aware that self-help is a huge part of recovery/wellness and this; well, I have always found writing stuff down to be helpful.

This is the start, then, of a series of posts exploring my issues and, hopefully, helping me identify ways to fix them.

Two thousand and nineteen

My last post was way back in April 2018. Seems like such a long time ago. In general terms it probably isn’t, but in terms of what’s happened between then and now it’s an eternity.

I’m a different person and my life has changed substantially. So what’s changed?

  1. In July last year Fran and I bought a house and moved in together.
  2. In November 2018 we welcomed our first child into the world. Lucas George Smith.

Things have not been perfect but then life seldom is. Marriage, moving house and having a baby are widely regarded as three of the most stressful things which can happen to a relationship. Last year, in the space of five months, we did two of those three things – and will probably add the third sooner rather than later (I haven’t asked properly, but I think she might say ‘yes’ if I do).

I’ve always been a little self-indulgent, a little bit self-absorbed – and I haven’t changed but I am changing. It’s safe to say that Fran is the best thing that ever happened to me. She will no doubt read this so I shan’t massage her ego too much. But, let’s put it this way. For the first time in a long time I am actually happy, settled and content. For a long time I felt there was something missing from my life. Maybe she was it.

Signing off for now. I’ve missed writing stuff down. I’ll be back soon.

See ya! Al.