It’s been a long time; almost 10 months since I penned a post that shared our goings on in the Grizzlybear household and I feel I need to try and explain my disappearance. As a long time has passed, I’ll try my best to be succinct; a skill that might help keep me focussed and save you all from my various tangents that occur inside my head!
If you are joining me for the first time or had simply lost track before my disappearance, back in February along with an EHCP we had gotten our PDA’er, Babybear, a long term placement in an amazing specialist school after a very big fight for what we knew was right. We had also decided to embark on a new adventure with Daddybear and take on the offer of renting a house that came with his promotion. Having only moved a year previous with huge disruptions and unsettling periods for Babybear this decision was not made lightly. The move would also mean that Biggerbruv was going to need to change to a different senior school when year 7 started, which went down like a lead balloon.
So why, with so much going on, did I choose to stop writing…
My adrenalin switched off
Once Babybear settled into his new placement our whole world changed so dramatically, we became unrecognisable, even to each other. It was as though something out of a fairytale was occurring around us and nobody could believe how fantastic things were. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d been able to relax, trusting that Babybear’s needs would be tended to appropriately, but sure enough, with each week that passed I gathered more and more evidence that this really had been the miracle we had been looking for. Now as all families living with PDA or another subtype of Autism will know, life is rarely all hunky dory all of the time and I can assure you that interspersed with the fantastic bits, were the more challenging times too, but one major thing had altered. The school that Babybear now attends has a completely different mindset, a breathtaking approach to learning and overcoming challenges and an incredibly supportive ethos. We no longer feared the phone ringing and instead developed fantastic relationships each time we had contact from school. The school addresses each set back with a “what can WE do differently” approach and then (you won’t believe this) they actually go on to DO what they say they are going to. Feeling this supported enabled me to turn off the adrenalin that kept me going for all these years. I stopped flooding my body with the chemicals induced by stress and in many ways became more laid back. Without the buzz from the high alert chemicals my brain failed to operate in the way I had become so familiar with and writing became a task. I’d sit to try and pen an update and freeze. There was plenty to share but my body didn’t know how to respond to the ‘positives’ and so the creative juices stopped flowing. I realised part of the drive for keeping my blog had always been about having a therapeutic outlet for the stresses I experienced. It also helped me to shift from a negative to a positive by coming up with and sharing our successes; sharing the things that worked helped me to feel better; but now here I was with it all working out for us all and I didn’t know what to do! I had a block when it came to writing about the good stuff.
You all know that I write as Mummagrizzlybear to protect the identity of my children. This is something hugely important to me and right now is a non-negotiable. The public domain that social media has offered us scares me; as a child I only needed to fear someone finding my diary but today we publicise our private lives as a norm and as my children are too young to consent (fully aware of the implications) I feel it is my job to preserve their dignity and keep them anonymous. I am of course a ‘normal’ (?) mum and wife and friend outside of the mummagrizzlybear world and engage in some of the social media platforms without a pseudo identity. I do this as consciously as I can and even here try very hard to ensure that I am not writing posts or comments that in later life could offend or embarrass my babybears. As they become older and are inevitably able and capable of accessing all of my past ‘posts’ (these things never truly disappear once online) I do not want them to find things that would make my skin crawl! Friending an elderly relative on facebook usually helps to keep my internal monitor in check!
The compromising came about when Mummagrizzlybear was delighted to find she’d been nominated for an award for her writing. So wrapped up in the positive reinforcement this came with, I nearly broke my own cover. I wanted to tell people my ‘good news’, I hoped to get enough votes to get through to the next round and a small part of me had picked a dress in my head as though I was due a frickin Oscar!! Alongside this I’d become passionate about using Mummagrizzlybear to help other families and had become very engrossed in ‘sharing’ my work. I felt frustrated that in support forums I couldn’t say “I’ve written something that might really help you, go and check out Mummagrizzlybear”. I started watching counts of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ and began engaging in well meaning networks that support each other to publicise their work but all of this steadily shifted the real point of my writing and often got me muddled between my real identity and that of Mummagrizzlybear as I became friends (online) with other bloggers. We’d talk about meeting at conferences and I dreamed about connecting Mummagrizzlybear with a far wider audience, but to do that I had to be ME, and to lose anonymity would compromise my morals too greatly. It affected what I’d chose to write about and I became an internal critic believing that if we’d not had a ‘bad day’ that I had nothing worthy of sharing because if I had no wonders of insight my audience might become bored? Wow, what a slap in the face that was…the therapeutic release and true pleasure I used to gain from writing had slowly begun to fade.
The cracks began to show
When life becomes calm after such lengthy periods of stress and trauma you notice a void. Crazy as it sounds, that chaos and drama filled a big place in my life. I was a multi tasking queen who kept down a really emotionally strenuous job at the same time as meeting all of the demanding needs of her family whilst maintaining a very good self-care regime. I diarised everything and never missed appointments; I could virtually split myself in two for my kids when needed. Then I found myself alone in an idyllic house overlooking the countryside views with not another soul in sight, both my children were at school and I didn’t need to worry. I was still off work having decided that despite getting Babybear settled into the new school, I’d stay off to help smooth out the transition as we moved house again. Then as the holidays approached, we agreed I may as well stay home a little longer to save us on childcare over the summer and before you know it, it’s nearly Christmas! In the emptiness of my calmer world I came face to face with cracks that I’d overlooked for years. The calm allowed them to become visible and the space and time we had meant that now was the right time to address them. Painful as it was, I am glad that those cracks showed themselves. I’d envisaged hours of peace and beautiful views to inspire my writing but instead found myself consumed with new heartache that clouded my writing capacity. Our lives often become so very busy that we can neglect things that really should be a priority. In true Grizzlybear style we are overcoming the issues and finding ways to move forwards but what we are not doing is pasting over the cracks…nope…we ripped everything out around the cracks and decided to rebuild. All of this emotional work has taken time and energy and perseverance and has no doubt been a contributing factor to me not making the time to write as Mummagrizzlybear…but I’ve definitely written plenty as ME!
Bogged down by hashtags
Writing in pencil and just for me reminding me of the freedom I gain from expressing myself this way. I have all my old journals, scrap books full of poems and hand written letters and none of these ever required me to know how to appropriately use a hashtag. Blogging was a new platform for me and although I considered myself relatively IT literate a whole new world of communicating had been birthed and I have to confess I missed the invitation to keep up with the etiquette of social media. Whilst I am all up for learning new skills (and would genuinely like to be more competent) I do not know the purpose nor the protocol of using a frickin # (it just took me long enough to locate it on my keyboard). I do not know how to link to other posts of my own let alone link to other peoples work and I do not know how to ‘tag’ with any true success. In amongst the joy of connecting with fellow bloggers and reading their inspirational work I became very aware that I was lacking in this department. Mummagrizzlybear doesn’t tend to partake in activities that she isn’t good at (she either wins or she quits!)…so this started making writing feel like it was something out of my comfort zone and here we are, 10 months on without the foggiest in how to move this on!
Lastly, I didn’t know how to help you and felt bad about that
Mummagrizzlybear has always worked in ‘helping roles’, more recently in Domestic abuse fields but having also practiced as a counsellor I care a lot about wellbeing and the art of self-care. My working roles have enabled me to empower others and support them to change their situations and lives for the better. As Mummagrizzlybear reached more people, the feedback indicated that others took comfort in reading the things I shared, and this spurred me on to try and write in a helpful way, mindful that the audience may well read a nugget of inspiration that could really start to change their lives. Once life became calmer I longed to write a post that conveyed to others the magic bullet points of how to achieve the impossible. To date I cannot compile this list of steps and I feel saddened to know that so many families are stuck in the place that we were in. I very much wish I could come and walk besides you in your struggles and show you the doors to the changes you search for. If I could fill you with strength to keep going, I would, and the weight I feel in my chest conveys the guilt I feel for having been one of the lucky families who have had a very positive outcome; and we deserved it no more or no less than any of you amazing families battling systems and councils out there.
So, where are we NOW
The house is idyllic in setting in many ways and I appreciate the surroundings so much more than I ever thought possible; I notice the trees change, the glorious framed sunrises and the peacefulness of the lake and have learnt to embrace the exposed position of our new home to the wild elements it encounters. We’re currently decorating for our first Christmas here and for the first year have the space to have the whole family join us for the festivities.
Bigger bruv has survived his transition to senior school, despite having to make all new friends and although testing us as he navigates early puberty, he continues to make me incredibly proud.
Daddybear has spent a year in his new role and has developed hugely as an individual and has in many ways held the Grizzlybear family together through is determination to make things work and for that I love him dearly.
Babybear continues to thrive at school and I promise to write very soon about all of the wonderful things that happen there; Disney hasn’t got a patch on it, his school really is where dreams come true. He’s also recently joined a ‘youth club’ for young people with autism (a social skills programme) and he loves going and again there’s so many amazing stories I can share with you about this.
Mummagrizzlybear is finally sat at the well positioned desk overlooking the blustery havoc the storm is causing outside and she IS WRITING connecting back with my #virtualvillage !!! Yey! I’m just back from some training about delivering a new programme to parent-carers which is all about helping others to learn to take care of themselves better… I can’t wait to share more about this ‘Connecting is paramount’. I am also awaiting my DBS to come back so that I can get a start date on a new role I am taking on as a parent support advisor for a mainstream primary school. I’m going to be working part time and term time and I must say I’m excited but nervous. Life is getting busier so of course, now is a fantastic time to re-engage with blogging, it must be that I write better under pressure; too much time allowed for way too much procrastination! I’ve been re-immersed into the world of promoting well-being and this has resurged my passion to get everybody being accountable for their own self-care; no better way for me to start than to practice what I preach…so I’m BACK doing things that make me feel good.