What does it mean to be ‘Inspirational’?

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘inspirational’ for the last couple of days. A close family friend, who sadly passed away on Tuesday, was nothing short of inspirational. Although I doubt that she would have called herself so. Helen was dealt a shitty hand, in that she was diagnosed with stage four (terminal) breast cancer in May of last year; at 37 years old.

Helen swallowed the bitter ‘cancer’ pill with great strength and dignity, and after a short interlude (to reset her sails), she pulled up her big girl knickers and cracked on with life. She embarked on a gruelling regime of chemo followed by platinum therapy in an attempt, not to rid herself of the ‘Big C’ – that wasn’t an option – but to give herself as long as possible with her husband and three young children.

She bravely documented the trials and tribulations of living with secondary cancer on social media, all the while encouraging us – her family and friends – to rethink cancer while getting to know out bodies, because early diagnosis is the key to survival! She also set about raising funds for her local hospice – the Hospice of the Good Shepherd – in Backford, Cheshire. A charity cricket match and family fun day took place at the end of August, followed by other fundraising opportunities that in total raised well over £10,000. I’d say that’s pretty inspirational….

I know that none of us know how we’d react in certain circumstances until we are literally faced with them, but its a thought I’ve pondered since Helen’s diagnosis. Would I have the courage or the energy to share my story? Would I be motivated to engage is selfless acts of fund and awareness raising; using myself as an example of what can happen if symptoms go undetected. And all this while undertaking a punishing treatment regimen.

I guess the very real answer to the question is…. I’m not sure I would!

Helen’s selfless attitude in the face of true adversity has led me to look a bit deeper into the meaning of the word ‘inspirational’ and whether it is becoming somewhat overused in today’s society. I think its fair game to say that seeing pictures of a toned girl or guy on the internet may have inspired most of us to grab our trainers and go for a run – it may even have led to the people in those pictures being described as ‘inspirational’ – but it doesn’t carry quite the same weight that some inspirational folk might have over others.

Someone who puts the well-being of others so highly on her agenda, despite her own ailing health is, for me without a doubt, inspirational (even if she wouldn’t have used that word to describe herself!). I hope that if the ‘Big C’ ever comes knocking at my door that I will be as selfless, determined and strong as Helen.

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

 

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The Importance of Laughter…

Yesterday… the day before today… Tuesday 19 January 2016. It seems like a lifetime ago, except that it was only yesterday.

At around 14.30 my Sister’s name lit up my mobile phone screen. We were due to meet up that evening at Chester Racecourse, at a party to celebrate our wonderful friend Helen, who last year received the devastating news that at 38 years old she had terminal breast cancer. It was to be her ‘final fling’; a chance to bring together family and friends for one final momentous knees up, and in true Helen style, everything was planned meticulously. So I thought nothing of my sister calling (even though she rarely calls me at work)… She was obviously calling to finalise arrangements for that evening.

Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m heartbroken to have to convey the tragic news that she was actually phoning to tell me of Helen’s passing. In a cruel twist, our friend was taken just hours before being able to attend her own party. Beautiful, courageous and inspiring Helen was gone…

But not one to rest on her laurels, Helen had thought of everything, including the possibility that she might not be around… Hence, she’d instructed her husband to make sure that the party still went ahead, even if it was without her! It seemed incredibly surreal to get ready – black tie and cocktail dresses – to go to a celebration so soon after being given such desperately sad news, but it was Helen’s wish, and that simply couldn’t be ignored! She had promised an evening of ‘fun, laughter and entertainment’ and that’s exactly what we determined we were going to have.

Victor Hugo stated that “Laughter is the sun that drives Winter from the human face” and on this occasion, he couldn’t have been more right! Yes, there was an outpouring of grief – tears by the bucket load in fact –  at the loss of a truly wonderful woman, but there also existed a very real feeling of comfort and togetherness. Laughter bounced off the walls of the Long Room as guests exchanged stories and fond memories of Helen, and smiles and bonds were created that made everyone feel just a little bit better about life in that moment.

I left the party feeling calm – serene even – and made myself a promise to let out a good guffaw on a daily basis; even when circumstances dictate that I don’t really feel like it! Yes there will be (and are) times when life seems so cruel and unfair, but Helen’s plight has really highlighted for me how important it is to live life to the fullest, to make sure I fill each day with love, happiness and laughter. I hope we managed to achieve this last night for Helen…

Shine bright beautiful lady… like a diamond!

Big Love,

Mammahannah xx

 

 

MIL Moment!

So this is very much a ‘get it if my chest post’ in response to a weekend that was overshadowed by my overbearing, narcissistic Mother-in-Law (MIL). It started on Thursday evening when I returned home from work, and my MIL who was supposed to be looking after my two year old daughter, was asleep on the sofa. Thankfully, my daughter was watching Peppa Pig on DVD, and seemed otherwise oblivious to her Nana’s unconscious state of being. I’ve never seen anyone move so quickly, when she realised that I was standing in front of her sleeping form. And in true narcissist fashion, when questioned, she completely denied that she was sleeping at all! Infuriating….

Then to add insult to injury, my MIL, got up from her almost horizontal position and poked me hard on my pregnant belly! ‘I want to see your paunch’ she exclaimed! When I asked her what she meant by ‘paunch’ – a term normally applied to an individual’s beer gut – she prodded my coat covered belly again and stated ‘I want to see that thing!’ Talk about rude – in words as well as actions!!! It’s a bump and her grandchild, not someone’s protruding stomach from too much food or alcohol! I actually recoiled in response; fastening up the button, in addition to the already secured zip, on my parka jacket. No way was I going to make myself physically vulnerable to this women! The long-standing emotional turmoil is bad enough…..

So fast forward to Friday morning, when I was getting my toddler washed and dressed ready to start the day. Her little bottom, I discovered, was red-raw and causing her considerable pain. This is a consistent occurrence on Fridays, following Nana and Granddad day care (every Thursday), and is typically a response to being given junk food and/or juice that is too strong. My husband has, on several occasions, spoken to his parents about our wish for our daughter to be fed a healthy, balanced diet whilst in their care. However, our requests have fallen on deaf ears, with my MIL employing her default ‘it’s my way or the highway’ approach, even with her granddaughter.

By Saturday morning my little girl was in excruciating pain, and so I took it upon myself to contact my MIL in a polite request to know what she had been given to eat and drink on Thursday. My text was met with a very vague, cryptic response; and without answering my actual question. Reluctant to become embroiled in a long winded communication, I responded with a further text repeating my request to know what she had given my daughter to eat/drink. After a considerable wait (several hours), I eventually received a response outlining a few (junk) food items, along with a highly defensive statement about all the food coming from my house (talk about shirking responsibility). Yes the food may have come from my home, but my MIL was the one that had looked in the cupboards and had chosen a selection of unhealthy foods to give my daughter (as I duly pointed out). She could have made healthier choices after all – I mentioned this too! I further took time to point out that she’d told me herself on Thursday that she’d brought some food from home, and therefore her claim that all my daughter’s meals came solely from my house was in fact inaccurate! My MIL denied this, preferring instead to try to gaslight me into believing that I’d imagined such a conversation….

Predictably, the more I challenged my MIL on the matter, the more defensive she became, until she eventually began to give me the silent treatment. Punishments of this sort are commonplace with my MIL and are typically induced out of contempt or disapproval of something I have said or done. In this instance I’ve challenged her inability to ensure that my daughter eats a healthy diet whilst in her care, whereas she refuses to see that she has done anything wrong. It’s now Monday Noon (GMT) and I have not heard a peep from her since Saturday evening. She is of course waiting for me to apologise; her passive aggressive form of emotional abuse – the silent treatment – fuelling her inflated view of herself.

If you’re reading this and questioning my point-of-view please bear this in mind: when mostly healthy minded people give others the silent treatment, it usually blows over in a few moments, maybe hours, ideally after saying they need a break from the topic and mutually agreeing when to talk about it again. Non-narcissists know shunning someone is not the way to resolve issues; realising that it is cruel and abusive to perform such an act for an extended amount of time. Narcissists on the other hand do not see things in the same way others do; stopping at nothing until they get their own way. My MIL has been known to drag out her silent treatment for days, sometimes weeks; only choosing to acknowledge the offending individual (usually me) when they have apologised.

Had my values surrounding my daughter’s health and wellbeing not been so blatantly compromised, then I would have definitely thought twice before having any contact with my MIL. Recent events, in particular, have shown me that she isn’t likely to change, and so I recently decided to employ a minimal contact strategy with her. Indeed, research shows that this is a highly effective way to deal with a narcissist, and I’m hoping it’s right!

I’d love to hear about your ‘MIL Moments’ – please feel free to rant, vent or share your experiences in the comments.

Take Care xx

A ‘Festive’ MIL Moment!

It’s been a while since I last posted here…. bloomin’ ages in fact! I don’t really have an excuse for my lack of attention, save to say that I have been exceptionally busy being a full-time working mum to two children (soon to be three!). I’ve also been trying to be a thyroid warrior; helping to raise awareness of thyroid disease via Twitter (@butterflyjourn1) and my other blog abutterflyjournal.wordpress.com As many of you might recall I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism following the birth of my youngest daughter in October 2013. It was supposed to be post-partum and temporary, but unfortunately my body’s antibodies had other ideas and did a fantastic job of killing-off my thyroid gland completely. Being hypothyroid brings with it a whole host of unseen complications, that can make life more difficult. This is particularly so now that I am pregnant again. After a full-day at the office I have just about enough energy to cook a meal for my brood and then it’s off to bed for me! I’m exhausted like I’ve never been exhausted before. It is most definitely an inconvenience, but thankfully I have a wonderful husband who is able to pick up the slack when I’m struggling….

If I’m honest, I’ve struggled through the festive season. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas was lovely; a true family affair at my parent’s home in Scotland, and a few days where I could relax and put my feet up. The Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) I’ve been experiencing almost melted away into oblivion thanks to the support of my parents who took a really active role in helping to look after my youngest daughter, letting me get some much needed rest. New year, however, I could have seen that far enough! That’s when my mother-in-law (MIL) chose to release the narcissistic monster within… I received a solitary voice mail on Hogmanay (a Scottish term for New Years Eve) from my MIL, expressing her dissatisfaction at being unable to contact my husband or I. She indicated that she had tried ‘repeatedly’ to call us for two days, despite there being absolutely no missed calls on our land line or mobile phones. She expressed the assumption that she would see us on New Year’s Day and demanded that I call her back immediately! I didn’t… I’ve learned from experience that when my MIL is enraged it is not worth trying to hold a civil conversation with her. And so I sent her a text. It may not be the best way to communicate, but I figured that absolutely no communication at all would only make matters worse. I explained that we had long standing plans that evening to attend a party being hosted by our friends and reminded her (as it had already been previously discussed) that we planned to see my Sister and Brother-in-Law on New Year’s Day. I indicated that we would see her very soon to catch up, and I heard nothing more… from her anyway.

I’ve also learned that my MIL’s silence is very telling. When she is quiet, she is sulking; very much like a petulant child. It’s her default response to not getting her own way. But while she is sulking with me, she will play a very different game with other members of my husband’s family. Typically, this will involve calling my Husband’s Brother and Sister-in-Law, and spinning an elaborate yarn about how awful I’ve been to her (usually because we’ve said no to one of her demands). This occasion was no exception! Within half an hour of my text to my MIL I’d received a text from my SIL, asking if we’d seen my MIL over the festive period? And if not, why not? This is despite our plans – Christmas with my parents and New Year with friends and my Sister – being made clear to all of my husband’s family early on in December.

This was followed by further texts from my SIL telling me how down-in-the-dumps and depressed my MIL is; how sorry she feels for her, and that we should be looking after family in need! This alleged low-mood and depression was news to us. Not once had my MIL mentioned it to my husband or me, and she sees us most weeks. A coincidental contact from my SIL? Probably not! And the emotional stuff, well, it worked! My husband attempted to call his mother on New Year’s Eve to check that she was ok… But she refused to talk to him (yet another one of her games!) And on New Year’s Day there was yet more silence, which only served to upset my husband further, and in turn caused a great deal of ill-feeling between us.

Whether it is because I am pregnant, in physical pain with my pelvis, and feeling emotional at the mo, I’m not sure, but my MIL’s behaviour really got to me. And I mean really…. I felt STRESSED up to my eye balls! Yes there have been far worse ‘incidents’, but my usual resilience that helps me cope, just wasn’t there! I never want to feel that way again – it’s not good for my health (stress makes the symptoms of thyroid disorders worse) and its certainly not good for the baby I’m carrying!

My MIL is obviously not concerned with my wellbeing, so I have to be! Hence, I’ve decided that for the foreseeable future I am going to keep my husband’s mother at arm’s length! Her behaviour at New Year only served to reinforce that she is chronically jealous of our little functional family unit. Eight years I’ve put up with her chaotic behaviour , but no more!

Do you have a NPDMIL? Please feel free to leave your ‘MIL moments’ in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you!

Take Care x

Mummy-guilt!

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This week I was hit with my first dose of baby number two mummy-guilt. Actually, I think I’ve been experiencing it for thirteen years, since baby number one arrived, I’ve simply been struck down by a renewed version.

Like many mums, I’ve had to make the difficult decision to return to work… although, even as I write that, I find myself asking, ‘Did I ever really stop working?’ I wouldn’t call motherhood a picnic in the park – it’s bloomin’ difficult. So perhaps I should rephrase that and say I have made the hard decision to go back to what I get paid to do. But what to do about Isla, I wondered. I needed to come up with a plan of action. A plan that involves condensing full time working hours into four days, Daddy & Nanny daycare and help from a registered angel (Kelly the Childminder).

Once we’d settled with the idea of co-operative childcare I initially felt relieved. But, once that feeling subsided (and I attended a back-to-work meeting with my boss) reality hit and I was left feeling upset, worried and guilty. Upset that I would no longer be spending 24-7 with my little girl now that she’s almost walking independently, worried that I was doing the right thing about going back to work, and then guilty that Isla wouldn’t be with her ‘mum-mum’. Of course, I had a good cry (rather hysterically in fact) and text a few mummy friends of mine who’d all recently gone back to work. That’s when I realised it’s okay to be apart from your baby and get on with doing things that you enjoy and/or pay the bills. It’s even okay to feel like you NEED time away from your baby, although I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like that.

Life is about making situations work so that everyone involved is happy. It’s so important to see the positives of any given scenario – so, in my case, I have an amazing baby (and an amazing older daughter too) and a cool job which gives me relative flexibility to be around my amazing family. I know Isla is with people who love her immensely and who I trust. I also know that I’ll arrive in work on 31st October and feel as if I’ve never been away, and that when I return home I’ll be greeted by a beaming little smiley face that will fill my heart with love. I can’t wait for that!

Thanks for stopping by…

D x

Hypothyroid Mummy!

I gave birth to my second child in October 2013. She (along with my eldest daughter) has already filled my heart and my World with so much happiness and love that sometimes I think I just might burst! But along with immeasurable joy, bringing new life into the World has also brought with it an auto-immune nightmare. Just over six weeks ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid). Extreme fatigue, hair loss, severely aching muscles and joints, and carpel tunnel syndrome have wreaked havoc on my day-to-day life. Some days I struggle to even get out of bed… but I do, because I am a Mum and by extension that means that I have to! Prior to pregnancy I was a healthy woman, now my condition puts me at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

So what is happening to me?

Postpartum Thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition in which the thyroid, a small butterfly shaped gland at the base of the neck, becomes inflamed and fails to function as it should in the months following childbirth. As pregnancy causes great hormonal upheaval, women are at an increased risk of developing thyroid dysfunction during this time. Indeed, studies have shown that 1 in 12 women Worldwide will experience postpartum thyroiditis. And as with any medical condition, each woman will experience symptoms differently. Some may experience what has been termed the ‘classical form’ of postpartum thyroiditis; where symptoms of short-term hyperthyroidism (an over active thyroid) present initially, and are followed quickly by hypothyroidism symptoms. Others may experience isolated hyperthyroidism or isolated hypothyroidism.

It is early days for me and so I am not yet sure which form of thyroiditis I have. I am scheduled to see an endocrinologist later this month and will hopefully find out more (fingers crossed!). I am aware that some women recover fully within 12 – 18 months postpartum – a fact I am clinging onto – but my research has also found that almost half of the women diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis continue to experience symptoms for the rest of their lives.

So what about you? Do you suffer any of the following symptoms?

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

• Sudden weight loss

• Rapid heartbeat and palpitations

• Nervousness, anxiety and irritability

• Sweating

• More frequent bowel movements

• Fatigue

• Muscle weakness

• Difficulty sleeping

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

• Fatigue

• Unexplained weight gain

• Constipation

• Pale, dry skin

• Elevated blood cholesterol level

• Puffy face

• Increased sensitivity to cold

• Muscle aches and weakness

• Heavier than normal menstrual periods

• Brittle fingernails and hair

• Depression

If this sounds like you, perhaps you should consider seeing your GP (local physician). A simple blood test to check your thyroid levels will give you a conclusive answer, one way or another. After-all knowledge is power! I wonder how many sick, tired women are out there today, not knowing that their thyroid is to blame?

Love-Dawn

Just for Fun: 10 Actions that Always Bring Happiness

 

It’s important to make someone happy, and it’s important to start with yourself.  Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design into the present.

Starting today…

  1. Appreciate what you have. – If we counted our blessings instead of our money, we would all be a lot richer.  Happiness is there if you want it to be.  You just have to see that it’s wrapped in beauty and hidden delicately between the seconds of your life.  If you never stop for a minute to notice, you might miss it. 
  2. Focus on things that truly matter. – The simple fact that you are even here, alive, on this planet is a divine miracle, and you should not spend the time you have being busy, being miserable.  Every moment you get is a gift, so stop focusing on unhappy things, and spend your moments on things that truly matter to your heart.
  3. Define your own meaning of life, and pursue it. – What is the meaning of life?  Whatever you want it to be.  Don’t fear failure; fear a lifetime of mediocrity due to lack of effort and commitment.  There are so many people out there who will tell you that you CAN’T.  What you need to do is turn around and say, “Watch me!”
  4. Embrace life’s challenges. – You may think that taking a detour in life is a waste of time and energy, but you can also see the detour as a means of learning more about who you are and where you are heading in your life.  Being off the beaten path may be disorienting and confusing at times, yet it challenges your creative spirit to discover new ways to build a stronger YOU.  In the end, it’s usually the tough situations that feel like your tomb that actually become your cocoon.  Hang in there.  You’re coming out of this stronger and wiser.
  5. Find the balance that allows you to be who you truly are. – Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel.  One of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and try harder or when to just take your memories and move on.  Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are.
  6. Love your body enough to take care of it. – You’re beautiful; but keep in mind that not everyone is going to see that.  Never be ashamed of yourself because you are born into one skin.  You can scar it, stretch it, burn it, mark it, tan it, and peel it.  But you are always in it, so you might as well take care of it and learn to love it. 
  7. Limit your time with negative people. – You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable.  So protect your spirit and potential from contamination by limiting your time with negative people.
  8. Treat others the way you want to be treated. – Be conscious of your attitude and your actions.  You may be on top of the world right now – feeling untouchable.  You may have all the tools at your disposal to do and say whatever you want.  But remember, life is a circle – what goes around, comes around eventually.
  9. Set a good example. – If you want to empower others in your life, you need to start living the most empowered version ofyourself first.  You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  Believe in what you want so much that it has no choice but to become your reality.  And don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else; stay focused on your own journey and leave footprints behind. 

 

 

Accept what is, and live for the possibilities that lie ahead. – Never waste your time wondering about what might have been.  Get busy thinking about what still might be, and trusting that however it plays out, it will leave you glad that what might have been, never came to be.