“I don’t want to be your wife anymore”

Those were the words I finally had to speak to my husband a few weeks ago.  They were not said in anger, they were not the result of a row.  Since being married I feel he has become more secure, which is great, but I have felt less secure.  We stopped talking, he’d play on his phone of an evening when we were supposed to be watching a film, he’d come in from work and be on his phone, and yet when it came to him wanting to do something, we were all supposed to just be in good moods and grateful he wanted to spend time with us.  As you can imagine, feeling like a piece of furniture is not conducive to a great relationship so we did have a row about his phone and lack of interest and he said he’d try harder, especially with the kids, and he has.

I still didn’t feel right.  Instead of looking forward to him coming home, I dreaded it.  I hoped he’d have to go away for work more than I usually did and I decided that I needed to figure out what was going on in my head.  I don’t like doing that.  I usually bob along, making sure everyone is happy and that’s enough, except it’s not is it? Not really.  I file things away in my brain and don’t deal with them.  I’m not good about talking about my feelings either, it’s hard enough figuring out what I’m feeling, never mind explain it to someone else.  I was really unhappy.   He knew I was unhappy.  I kept talking about how I didn’t understand the world, how I never have understood it.  I don’t “get” people and their games, and why they lie, and why they don’t just say what they mean and I feel like I don’t belong to anything and never have done.  Except for my kids.  I fit with them.  They don’t have expectations of me in the same way.  They expect me to be there and look after them, obviously, but they don’t expect sparkling conversation or little amusing bon mots, I’m just there to be mum which I have done for, like, ever- so it’s something I know I can do.  Kids are easily amused, you just act daft and tell poo jokes.

And that’s when I knew what the problem was.  It’s the expectations that fill me with anxiety and unhappiness and the fact that I know I can’t fulfil those expectations.  I am not like most people, I am a nervy, anxious person and according to my husband very black and white about certain things like lying.  I don’t understand lying.  It drives me insane.  Why bother telling lies- you will get found out then trust will be broken and I will think you were trying to make a fool of me.  Ok you don’t have to be blunt but there’s nothing wrong with being honest.  Anyway, I’m going off the point.  The point is I can’t be the wife he expects, society expects and that I think everyone expects.  I couldn’t be the daughter, the sister, the girlfriend that was expected and I’m tired of failing.  So I told him I didn’t want to be his wife.  I told him if he wanted to go and find someone more “normal” he was welcome to, and I wouldn’t hold it against him and we’d make it work with the kids.  As I said, I am not good at expressing myself and the conversation went on for quite a while, as he was checking if I wanted to leave (no), if I was looking for someone else (no), if I was having another breakdown (no).  I just wanted to have my friend back who used to laugh with me, support me, have fun with me, talk nonsense with me, and all the other things we used to do.  I told him being a mum of 4 with each child having such great needs, and the lack of sleep meant I couldn’t be “a wife” the way he wanted.

Then he asked what I needed from him.  I told him I needed no pressure and I needed to know what he wanted.  He wants to be with me.  He wants us to stay a family.  He wants me to deal with everything that’s happened over the last 40 years, however long that takes, and he wants me to be happy.   He told me he didn’t give a **** what society expected.  He told me he always knew I wasn’t like everyone else, then proceeded to list all the ways in which I was different.  The list was quite extensive!  But, he said, I made life more interesting and challenged his ideas on lots of things and came at things from a different perspective.   Him being distant didn’t help our relationship but me being unhappy and maybe pushing him away definitely didn’t help.  Catch 22 situation.  So we are together, in that we are sharing the house and the children, but also back as friends.  Since our chat I feel relieved that he is willing to stand by me while I sort through my head and that he doesn’t expect me to change with regards my “oddness”.  I have found someone I don’t have to pretend with, pretending is exhausting.  I might get a chance to be myself.

I know this may have been a really selfish action, it’s all about me kind of thing, but I didn’t want him to stay and get nothing from it.  He’s allowed a life too.  I’ve told him he doesn’t have to do everything with me.  I’m not keen on going out so if he wants a night out with mates he can do it guilt free.  It’s a work in progress though as I’m not the only one in this relationship with issues.  Just as he has helped and supported me, I will do the same for him, when he’s ready.  We are happier now.  I don’t know how long it will last, I suspect our relationship will always have problems but I think we both feel a bit more confident broaching things with each other now.  If I was going to be with anyone, it would be him, we just have to define what “wife” means to us.  For the first time in a long time I feel a little bit optimistic about the future.  Just a little bit.

 

xx

He’s not naughty! by Deborah Brownson

hes not naughty

I’ve been trying to find some help on how to explain to a 3 year old the complex world of autism.  She has 2 brothers on the spectrum and asks questions which I do try to deal with “why does Max wear ear things?” because noises hurt his ears so this makes them softer so he can listen without it hurting.  The questions keep coming and the word Autistic has been mentioned which resulted in the conversation taking a weird turn “stick? like stick man?  Is he going to get stolen by a dog and get lost?  I don’t want my brother to go”.

Anyway I came across this book “He’s not naughty” when I was doing some research.  A lot of the books I came across had scathing reviews and many of them were about aspergers where my boys are further up (or down?) the spectrum.  This book also mentions aspergers but is not focussed on it exclusively.  It’s about the issues that people on the spectrum face, the senses are broken down, strangers, behaviour, bullying, feelings etc.  and the trauma it causes them.  It is also beautifully illustrated so although the text may be a bit too much for my 3 year old, the pictures are good for starting discussion.  It’s easy reading and explains things simply, so is useful for anyone starting out on an autism journey, be that a family member, friends or teachers.

It’s written by a mum who lives with autism daily, not by a clinician and it’s very matter of fact.  It doesn’t gloss over anything, it just explains things from Jake’s point of view as told by his friend.  I don’t think my review has done it justice, it’s a beautiful book and I see my sons in the illustrations.  It takes a complex disorder and turns it into manageable chunks.  It’s listed as a children’s guide to autism, but I think it’s an all age guide to autism.  It’s overwhelming, and you get used to speaking in jargon and doctor-ese, this book has put me back on the track to explaining to all ages that He’s not naughty!

 

xx

Playing together

Oliver and Popples are 2 years apart, he’s in year 1 now and she’s in nursery.  I always worry that as she grows she will leave him behind and they will both have an element of loss and loneliness.  Yet as I watch them interact and I look back on videos (I’m old school I always call everything recorded “videos”) I worry less.  They have a bond.  They may not always understand what each other is trying to do but they try to get it.

Oliver got hold of my tablet and was watching the videos of him and her playing.  One game he invented was to shout “aaaahhh” at her and she did it back and they got louder and more giggly.  One of them was of Popples putting a happy meal box on his head and saying “burger head” amidst giggles whilst he chased her about with the box still on his head.  She watches him play and I can see in her eyes she doesn’t quite get his obsession with building towers, but then I see her face change, when she wants to play with him, and as young as she is I can see her figuring out how to insert herself into his world and be accepted.  Usually passing a brick, or counting or naming the colour and she’s in.  They have eye contact and a common goal and he jabbers, she talks back- leaves a space for him to answer- then answers for him if there’s no verbal response with a “yeah?” at the end.

He sometimes wants to play with her, he hangs back a bit more, obviously unsure of her more complex games but she notices and invites him in.  They like doing “shops and cooking” as he can name foods and can play tea parties, drinking pretend drinks and nomming pretend food.  He likes to chase, monsters is a popular game in our house accompanied with lots of screaming and bumping into each other.

In the bath last night they were blowing bubbles in the water, he took his turn then looked at her expectantly- being tired she missed the cue, but when prompted, joined in.  Then a bout of screaming at each other and splashing water all over the floor and it was hair washing time.   Laughing he used an octopus toy to rinse her hair, she laughed and then used a fish toy on his hair.  If I had done that there would have been tears, but it was their game and they played for an age- until there was hardly any water left in the bath!

He has confidence in a lot of situations that she lacks and she looks up to him to see if it’s safe.  She is wary of parties and changes at school, but he had his party Wednesday at school so when it came to hers on Thursday she was ok about it cos “my bruvver had one asterday”.  She helps him with his speech and making sure I know what he wants, she accepts him and loves him and looks up to him.  He’s her hero.  He helps her with her confidence and being brave and climbing.  She wrecked his game the other day and where 6 months ago he would have smacked her he shouted “Peppy.  Go away!”.  The fallout was short lived,  It’s much more fun being pals.

I wonder how much is instinct.  When something scary happened when they were playing upstairs he got her into the bathroom and shut the door- obviously the safest place upstairs.  Is that just what older siblings are “programmed” to do?  (obviously they weren’t alone long, certain footfalls a parent hears and knows that it’s not good).  Although they have rivalry over toys, time on knees etc I think their relationship is really good.  I love watching them play, especially when they don’t know I’m watching.  I think I need to worry less- that bond will only grow stronger, so I will just enjoy watching them and their relationship that is pretty much 50/50.

 

xx

How can people be so mean?

Max had a placement in a park that had a café.  It was, and is, intended for adults with disabilities to provide a safe place for them to learn skills.  Life skills, relationship skills and maintenance, serving in café, cooking etc.  Each programme is tailor made to each clients abilities and what they are wanting to achieve.  They help support more able clients back to work, helping with cv’s and work focussed activities too.

Max has been there just over a year.  It’s expensive as he needs 1-to-1 care but it seemed to be a blessing when we found it so we applied for funding and got 4 days a week at a £100 a day.  It used to be run by a lovely bloke who retired a few months ago.   Max was given a programme of shopping, doing basic gardening like weeding, cleaning café tables, groundskeeping and going to into town to get used to being in the community again.  He loved it, he was happy, so we were happy.

A few weeks ago, things started to change.  It doesn’t sound much but the staff weren’t there to meet the clients on time, often rolling up, up to 15 minutes late.  Last week I had an appointment with Oliver and I went to drop Max off first.  No one to meet him so someone went down to the meeting room to get his stand in 1-to-1 as his usual one was off sick.  He came back with the message “he’s busy his mum’ll have to wait with him- he’ll come when he’s ready”  so I said I couldn’t wait as I had an appointment, and a lady member of staff sat with him when I left.  I didn’t feel very comfortable about the attitude but had to rush off.  It was only later telling the story to the husband that I started thinking about the changes I had noticed.  The clients had started waiting outside, in the rain at times rather than in the café.  Nothing was as clean as it used to be.  The table Max had been allocated after his meltdown so he could eat in peace away from the noise was still reserved and when I asked I was told he still went there for his morning brew and his lunch- it’s winter in the north west of England!

His usual 1-to-1 got in touch with me and said she wasn’t coming back.  And then proceeded to tell me why.  Horror story after horror story came out and I felt sick to my stomach hearing about the way these vulnerable people were being treated and spoken to.  Max had been shouted at by a staff member, they had taken the piss out of him and the noises he makes (he is non verbal), he’d been isolated from the group, everytime he found something he liked doing they took it away from him, his shopping visits and community visits had stopped and he was not allowed to be helped in his work focussed chores.  We had made it clear from the start he wasn’t ever going to be work focussed hence his programme of skills being designed for him.  Other clients were referred to in derogatory ways depending on their disblilites, swear words used and tasks set that they could never complete.  I asked for evidence and she sent me a text she’d received from Max’s new 1-to-1 complaining about his high pitched noises and saying she had to come back cos he couldn’t cope with him.  I felt so sick- he only makes high pitched noises when distressed so what the hell were they doing to him?  He can’t tell me.

I asked why she hadn’t said anything to me and she said she’d tried to deal with it internally but management weren’t bothered.   We decided to withdraw him .  I don’t want him somewhere he is going to be treated like a burden.  We’ve spent the last 2 days on the phone going through the proper channels to have him withdrawn and all payments stopped.  Now he has no support in place but at least he’s safe, at home with me.  What I don’t understand is how sick do you have to be to treat vulnerable people like this?  Why work at a place if you don’t like the people you’re working for?  We, and the other clients, pay these peoples wages.

My son has now lost a placement where he was happy for a year due to sick bullies.  I don’t know what’s going to happen next for us or for the centre.  I don’t know if social services will keep us informed, I know his personal budget that had just been approved is now no good.  But I know he is safe.  I know it will be hard work for me, but I know he is safe.

I have cried so much over this, how can people pick on my boy like this?  And how can they keep getting away with it?  I am sad for Max mostly, he’s lost more independence and he didn’t have much to start with.  Why can no one see that he is funny, loveable and so eager to please? Why do they have to ruin the little he has?

He has his family who love him, I hope somewhere he knows that and that now he feels safe.

 

xx

 

Anniversary- at Bletchley Park

Our first anniversary was spent at Bletchley Park- Home of the codebreakers.  I know it doesn’t sound very exciting but to nerdy history obsessives like me and my husband (I’ve converted him) it was something we really wanted to do.  The office in the picture was Alan Turing’s, it’s where he actually worked.  We saw the enigma machine’s, we saw part of the thinking machine working, we learned so much more about the Polish contribution and the other great people who worked long hours, in secrecy to help stop the war.  There was loads of stuff I didn’t understand, the actual maths behind it, and the works of Alan Turing that were on display were gobblydegook to me.

Then when we watched the Imitation game we used our new knowledge to impress eachother “that’s not the mansion we saw, google where that one actually is- see I told you it wasn’t the real one” etc.  It just brings it all a bit more to life walking in the footsteps of giants.

We got to eat hot food with no one moaning for a wee, or a drink or “can I try some of your food” which was bliss.  We didn’t go anywhere fancy, but it didn’t matter, just as long as we got to eat together and have an uninterrupted chat.  Time together is not something we get much of, which is why I wanted to go away for our anniversary, instead of just going for a meal locally.  We don’t blame the kids for the time they take up, but having three very demanding children at home and one who is just as needy even though she doesn’t live here, means having the odd weekend away is a big treat and something we need to recharge our batteries and reconnect.  We sometimes lose ourselves in the day to day challenges and lose each other.

Its his turn to pick what we are doing next year.  To be honest I don’t really care what he picks as long as he builds in a hot meal, and some cocktails!  I think when you live lives like ours, priorities change.  Fancy hotel, bar, pool- ah you can keep them as long as I can have a sleep and a hot meal……..maybe a pudding too!

xx

Max

Max is my eldest son, second oldest overall.  Him and his sister Emily have a different dad to the younger two.  The dad wasn’t really interested in us until he had a heart scare a couple years ago then he started to take an interest- that’s led to problems between Em and her dad but they are both grown up they can sort it out between them.

Recently Max has been having a really hard time, his sound sensitivity has got worse and although we have him in a lovely placement now I suppose it’s hard for him to forget his college and last couple of years at school.  He now works in a park that has a café and a “learning room” where he can (allegedly) learn to use a washing machine, learn to wash up, sweep and other household skills.  He didn’t really take to that as he is a lazy little sod at times but as he loves being outdoors he does ground work- weeding and such like, cleans in the café, shops for stuff, gets to drink mugs of tea and has done sanding and paint stripping.  He goes 4 days a week, five hours a day and has a 1-to-1 to support him.  It was going well but I didn’t think about the summer holidays where there would be more children using the facilities, he doesn’t like squeaky children.  A couple of week ago I had to go collect him at lunch as he had hit his head so hard during a meltdown he had made himself bleed.  I picked him up and brought him home, made him a cup of tea and got a jigsaw out. He can’t talk except to make the odd request and every method of communication I’ve tried with him has failed as school and college never listened and never used it so there was no consistency.  Starting from scratch now using PECS and Makaton but it will be a slow process.  I called “work” and told him he was having a week off.  The doctor had previously prescribed some anti anxiety meds (I hate giving out meds ) so I started him on a small dose of it, and ordered him some ear defenders.

He seems much calmer now and he has more control having the ear defenders and I have noticed he sits with the family a bit more- even when Popples is around (she is very squeaky).  Anyway I’m writing this because I was talking to my husband about him the other day and I said that Max is one of the bravest people I know.  He has no language and very limited ways of communicating but he will get up each morning and try to make the best of the day, even though the world is busy, which scares him; it’s noisy, which scares him and I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in a world that makes no sense with no way of making yourself understood – I’m supposedly neuro typical and I find it difficult to navigate the world so how hard is it for him?  He never refuses to try something (except food) and even though it’s hard for him to be around youngsters I remember all the times when Oliver or Popples have been babies or asleep on the sofa poorly and he has sat with them and protected them when I left the room.  I would love to be in his for a few hours so I could know how best to help him, so I could see the boy I used to know, who was a joker and a daredevil and had a wicked sense of humour- mainly slapstick but still.

He gave me away at my wedding.  I know mum expected me to ask my dad but who else except my gorgeous 22 year old son could have done it?  It wasn’t a traditional walk down the aisle- we lurched and stopped for a flap half way down but who cares?  He looked so smart in his 3 piece suit, all eyes on him but I had hold of him and he did so well.  He smiled for some pictures, scowled in others, and I asked the photographer for every picture, I didn’t want them choosing what represented my family.  People said to me that day “You must be so proud of him”  and I replied “I’m always proud of him” because it’s true.  Having a child with autism is hard going, but along with all the cack stuff I have been taught patience, acceptance, unconditional love and that sometimes you may have to dig a lot deeper to find a person but when you take the time and effort to do the digging you find such a beautiful soul that it makes it all so worthwhile.

xx