Let’s be honest about mental health shall we?

For those of you who have read more than just the gluten free recipes I have here on this site, you’ll be aware that Glutarama came about when I needed to create something manageable in my life following a period of my life where my mental health was fragile. Something that I could control and pick up and put down when I wished, something that allowed me to escape even for a little while.
I bake, this is fact, I always have since I was permitted to command the kitchen at home without my mums supervision. There are times you bake because you have to, times you bake because you want to and times you bake because you need escape. The latter was, is my therapy with so much nervous energy you have to expend it somehow and what better way than to create something delicious, whether it turns out as planned or not. The creating, the smells, the warmth from the oven, even the washing up and cleaning down the surfaces afterwards to prepare for the ceremonial placing on the cooling rack! I love it…

I also love my son to the end of the earth and back, if you’re not already aware, my daughter Bethany (whom I also love equally for the record) is Type 1 Diabetic with Coeliacs Disease and my son Lewis has traits of ASD with Severe Anxiety. This alone may explain my opening paragraph to this blog entry and help you to understand why I need the release of baking in my life. Hence the name, Glutarama (…remember? Life’s a drama, gluten free doesn’t have to be!) I’ve entitled this entry as when the clouds part, because this is truly how things feel for us at the moment as it’s all down to my little man hanging in there.

A couple of months back Lewis’ psychiatrist at CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) suggested that we tried medication. My husband and I had had this conversation much earlier before and I had already done my research into the types of medication used for children to help them to manage their anxiety and the complications that go hand-in-hand with everyday ‘normal’ life. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a decision we had taken lightly, nobody wants to be able to say that their child is on Prozac/Fluoxetine and despite recent efforts nationally to begin to de-stigmatise mental health, people still have that split second ‘eye’s popping out of socket’ reaction if they find out or you hit them with it in conversation. After all, it’s not everyday you come across a child of 9 (or lets face it 5 when this first started) who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. Then again, think back to the child you saw being dragged into the doctors, or the shops, or the playgroup, or the children’s birthday party. Were they having a tantrum, didn’t they get their way, or were they petrified? of something, everything, nothing?

Lewis was that child on Monday, it was his classes last ever swimming lesson at the local pool. I’d volunteered for every since one as the class not only swam for 30mins but also had to walk there and back in a 3 miles round trip. Lewis knew it was his last ever class before he moves up to Big school because like a plum I told him so at the breakfast table. The second the words left my mouth I regretted it, I paused and looked at him for a reaction, nothing! I breathed a sigh of relief. You see for Lewis, change is not good and in one simple sentence, in Lewis’ mind, I’d basically said this;

Today is your last swimming lesson in this class, with these friends, in this school. Soon you’ll be in a new school, with new friends, new surroundings, no fun swimming lessons. Oh yes and also from today I won’t be volunteering on Mondays so you won’t get to hold my hand and spend extra time with me away from the school setting…

We walked to swimming, we held hands, he swam, he laughed, he played. Then it was time to go back to school. Lewis’ body language can be read explicitly. He becomes rigid, the frown appears, his eyes appear darker, deeper, I even swear he even becomes paler in complexion. Eye contact is lost and a stubborn defiance kicks in. I understood straight away what this was and knew it was going to be a long walk back to school. I wasn’t wrong! I took myself and Lewis’ specially assigned Teaching Assistant nearly an hour to get him back to the school. At one point he was up a tree, then in a tennis court, then lying in the middle of the road saying he wanted to die, he didn’t want to go back to school, he hated his life. It was just too much to bear the utter feeling of sadness he experienced and all because it was his last lesson at school. Once we were within a manageable distance I picked him up and carried him back to school, the second I did so he went limp. I call it The Ragdoll effect, it’s when his little mind and body can simply take no more and he’s shattered and relieved at the same time.

That was Monday, it happens, we’re far from getting there yet, wherever there is, but in complete contrast the rest of the week has been amazing, he’s stayed in the majority of classes, not felt the need to climb up things or under things to escape. He’s been thoroughly enjoying his role as Foundation Monitor where he get to play and support the little ones in the school at lunchtime and today’s follow up appointment with his psychiatrist and psychologist was the best yet. He made eye contact, answered questions and accepted praise. We see so much more of his gorgeous dimple when he smiles. Such a difference to the little boy who back in February this year was hearing voices, seeing shadows, scared of his own shadow and tormenting himself with thoughts of difference ways he could commit suicide.

Wow, those were some heavy thoughts just then and forgive me if my style of writing appears blunt and brutally honest but it’s how I’ve learnt to rock and roll with it. The point was this is good, things are getting better and the photo I’ve used is perfect to illustrate how I feel at the moment…sometimes the suns rays fall upon you, then they pass, but they return and each time they are stronger and last longer.

If you feel you need  to talk to someone about Mental Health here’s a good place to start

Love Rebecca x

Spectrum Sunday