The end of a chapter

Today the triplets started school. It wasn’t a case of mixed emotions, we are ready for it and so are the girls.

It feels like the end of an era. We have survived the first four years with high order multiples. And it’s been the toughest gig of my life. And if you have read my book you’ll know that’s saying something!

The heatwave summer they were born in brought hot night’s of sleep deprivation. Wondering if there was an end to the insanity and rising depression I experienced as a first time dad. It hit me hard, as prepared as I felt during the pregnancy, nothing could have prepared me for the reality. With a physical full time job and three dependent babies I struggled to maintain my stability as a father.

But I got through it, faith and meditation kept me afloat at the times I was sinking. Once they began sleeping through the night everything changed. And I became the dad I imagined I could be.

Having triplets was a traumatic experience for both of us. But I dedicated my life to fatherhood. I put my priorities as a dad in front of everything. I wanted to give them love and stability. To be a dad they could love and be everything they needed.

Bliss asleep

The older they got I soon realised the vacuum triplets created. There is little time for anything outside of home-life, they have consumed us and the work is relentless. Now toddlers they bring a whole new set of challenges. They fight and whine and have dragged us both to the edge of insanity at times. But above all they are amazing to see grow.

It’s not all bad though. They are loving, kind and caring with each other and us. The little random hugs with the whispered ‘I love you daddy’ still melts my heart. They are beautiful as much as they are little toe-rags. They have a voice now and can communicate well with us. They love dressing up, books, unicorns and cuddles on the sofa. They amaze me constantly with their attention to the things they enjoy. I love to watch them.

So now they have begun their journey of education and learning. They loved their first day and we got a couple hours free to ourselves. I took the time to meditate and read a little. It felt good in the silence of our house. But now it’s back to the squabbles and upsets, the laughter and joy. And I can honestly say they have been the greatest gift of my life and I’ve never been prouder to be called daddy.

Flare up

After 3 years I am still suffering from the pain condition I developed after a car accident (central pain syndrom). It is a punishing condition that I have little control of. I learned early on that stress ramps the pain levels up. As it did which led to my recent hospital admission.

The left side of my face dropped and I lost sensation down the left side of my body and I suffered chest pains. It is why they suspected a stroke. When in fact it was just a flare up caused by the stres of dealing with home life. Which has been full on lately for both Stacey and myself.

I have been questioning my ability to be a good dad. I have also been overwhelmed by parenting triplets and balancing work life. I have had a warning to slow down. Not easy with three 4 year olds bouncing off the walls but it’s the path I have been given.
Soon they will be starting school full time and we will get some time to rest.

Having triplets and a chronic pain condition isn’t the easiest combination. But I am slowly learning deal with both. But there are times it gets the better of me. As it has done lately.

Under pressure

There have been times that we have mentally struggled with the triplets. Like the time they all had ear infections and we lost 3 days sleep. I remember one morning with the girls screaming in pain, Stacey and I just looked at each other and broke down in tears from sheer exhaustion. We were mentally drained.

Thankfully those periods didn’t last long. Illnesses pass and life gets calmer again. Just lately we have found ourselves in the middle of an incredibly stressful situation that shows no signs of slowing down. The triplets are argumentative, hectic and full on.

There are a couple of contributing factors driving this intense time. One is that they are 4. Secondly it’s the summer holidays and we are stuck with them around the clock. It can be overwhelming. Especially for Stacey as I get to work 4 mornings a week.

They bounce off each other with uncontrollable momentum. It’s relentless from the moment they wake up til bedtime. And we are finding parenting to be a real challenge. More-so than ever. We find ourselves longing for their bedtime then experiencing guilt because we feel that way. It’s not the girls fault. They are just being 4.

We are facing the ultimate test of patience and tolerance, and it isn’t easy. Both myself and Stacey practice non contemplative meditation as a way to build from the stres we are experiencing but it’s still no easy task. As much as we practice conscious awareness our situation is still overwhelming at times. Usually by the end of the day.

We are taking solace in that they will be starting school soon. Is it bad that we feel this way? I know, we should be cherishing each day but the reality is that each night I experience anxiety in that in the morning I have to live do it all again. With Central Pain Syndrome on top of it all I’m just knackered.

No said it was going to be easy, and I know these feelings will pass. But boy having triplets is full on. And we just have to batten down the hatches and deal with it.

Hard work

Yesterday whilst at the play centre, Stacey opened up to me about how stressful she is finding parenting at the moment. And she was relieved when I said I too was not finding it easy of late.

The gang are now 4 year olds. Full of energy and are constantly bickering and whinging, fighting and have little attention to play together. There are times they play nice and are affectionate with each other but it’s rare.

It doesn’t help that they are stuck at home on their summer holidays. We entertain them as much as we can but they are relentless in their energy and ability to fall out with each other. The naughty corner has never been in so much use.

We are keeping on top of discipline to the point that it feels like all we’re doing with them at the moment. They are just hard work. I admitted to Stacey that at the end of the evening there is a certain dread rising in that when I wake up we have to do it all again. There is no escaping our responsibility. We’re both stuck on this rollercoaster.

We are finding releif in the thought that they will be starting school full time in September. We will then have free time to ourselves. With me working part time, writing for the Central Pain Syndrome and keeping this blog going, I will be free to make real time to focus on my writing. Work that I enjoy and keeps me sane at times.

Stacey will also be freed up and cannot wait til September comes. We don’t want to wish away the school holidays. After all it’s also a break for the kids to do fun things but nonetheless our home is a stressful place at the moment. And it’s inescapable.

Having triplets has never been an easy ride. From the time of the pregnancy it has been tough going mentally for both of us. New challenges arise constantly. But when one of the trio comes over for a random hug and a kiss, in that moment we are reminded of the love we have for them.

Holiday

There’s no denying it’s been a stressful year. Having the triplets stuck at home has been a real challenge for all of us. Thankfully the girls went back to school which gave Stacey a break. And a recent spell of hot weather meant we could get back outside to the park and to the pool.

It’s been especially difficult for relatives who have missed seeing the girls. My mum has been in our bubble so was still able to visit us during the lockdown but as for Stacey’s parents who live further away it has been more difficult, a visit to them has been on the cards for a while.

Thankfully the restrictions have now been lifted and life is returning to normal which means we can now visit Stacey’s family. And the triplets have been counting down the days to a visit to Grandma’s house.

It’s a 4 hour drive and the girls do well on a long trip. There’s little complaining and only the odd toilet stop. The last time we visited was Christmas which seems a lifetime ago. We always love a trip to Stacey’s parents, it means a break from our 4 walls and extra help with the girls. We also get the chance to have date night which is rare these day’s. Back home it is still hard to find anyone to babysit the trio.

There is also plenty to do whilst away, from trampoline park’s to the zoo which we will be doing next week. We also have a big park near Stacey’s parents house which the kids never get bored of, and so far we have only had the odd rainy day. Even staying in is easier. They have a much bigger house to run about it. Frankie also gets to spend time with her cousin. She has also been looking forward to a break from studies.

We’re halfway in to our visit and are having lot’s of fun. It may only be a visit to family as our holiday but we are already more relaxed with the extra help. It’s still a test of patience with dealing with three 4 year olds but that’s just the situation we live with from day to day. The girls are at a fun age right now. Everything is exciting and new with means they are easily pleased.

We are making the most of a break from the normal routine, and we deserve it after the year we’ve had. So here’s to fun times and family. And we we are blessed to have such loving relatives.

The benefits of mindfulness

I was first introduced to mindfulness whilst in dialectical behavioural therapy, shortly after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. We talked a lot about being in ‘wise mind’ and not being ruled by our emotions. The meditation we practiced was based around Buddhist mindfulness and redirecting thoughts.

Again, whilst recovering from alcoholism in my mid thirties it was a life of ongoing meditation that would be the keystone to sobriety and spiritual growth. It was then that I searched for a practice that would benefit me, and one that was in line with the principles I had adopted whilst in recovery.

It was a long and difficult search to find the right mindfulness practice for me. As I discovered, most are based around Buddhism and eastern religions and philosophies. The problem was that I was not a Buddhist; not that I have anything against Buddhism, but I was raised in Christian values and although not a religious man I wanted to improve in the principles of love, patience and tolerance that I was introduced to in recovery. Spiritual principles grounded in faith – rather than self.

It was whilst searching for a meditation that I met a man who introduced me to non contemplative meditation. It was a non religious mindfulness exercise that didn’t conflict with my beliefs. It was a way to grow in faith and more importantly a way to build resilience against stress and overcome anxiety, depression and other internal conflicts.

Three years ago after developing CPS I eventually got referred to a pain clinic and the main topic of discussion was of finding a mindfulness meditation practice. Once again, meditation was introduced as a way to deal with the mental pressure of living with chronic pain. In short, every avenue of help during my lifetime has led to meditation as a solution to internal conflicts and poor mental health.

And meditation does more than just improve the mind. It reduces stress, which in turn improves the immune system. observing negativity without being affected by it has led to periods of lower pain days. It has also helped me overcome the fears I have experienced since developing CPS and led to a more positive attitude.

There are litteraraly hundreds of meditation practices available. Many are guided distraction techniques which are helpful in the short term and can be useful in a flare up. But using distraction as a long term practice only serves to suppress problems further. Stress needs to be dealt with, in the moment, as we go about our days. Conscious awareness dissolves negative emotions the more we practice being mindful in the moment.

If you are new to meditation and are unsure where to begin I can suggest a free, non religious practice that is a way to seperate from thoughts and be conscious in the moment. This is a powerful awakening exercise. One that expels resentment energy and free’s us from the bondage to negativity. I have been practicing it daily for the last 7 years and it has been life changing.

Mindfulness is at the centre of my life and as a result it has allowed me to let go of a lot of the frustration and fear around my condition. I now find myself at a place of acceptance – which isn’t approval. It just means I no longer struggle emotionally and no longer harbour anger at the injustice of living with chronic pain. I can highly recommend making Mindfulness a daily practice in your tool box. It can change the course of your life. It is a powerful line of defence against the emotional battering of CPS.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

The simplicity of real meditation

Firstly it’s important to understand that you don’t need a guru. You won’t need to buy any books or attend any classes. There is nothing to buy or learn. Non contemplative meditation is unlike anything out there and practicing it is life changing.

If you are new to meditation or are considering embarking on a practice then look no further. If you are unaware of meditation as a daily practice you may be questioning why you should even bother. Like I did once, you may think it’s for new age hippies or monks and it’s just a wishy-washy practice. Boy, was I wrong!

We live in an ever growing stressful world. As parents we are dealing with children who are exposed to more temptation and pressure than my generation ever was. We have to deal with tantrums and unruly toddlers. Stressed out teenager’s and pandemics that saw us in lockdown. And without a way to stay emotionally solid it’s all too easy to get pulled into the drama. When adults are overwhelmed with emotions it is the children that suffer.

The benefits of mindfulness are now well documented. Doctors, therapist’s and health clinics now suggest it as a way to remain mentally balanced. But there is so much more when meditating without contemplation. There is no fantasising about sun drenched beaches, or hypnotic tools such as focusing on breathing or using mantras. This isn’t an eastern practice. It is not derived from buddhism.

This is about returning to the consciousnes we were born with, before the world and resentment got into us. It is a powerful awakening exercise that free’s us from our resentments and fears and brings us back to a place of natural balance. Where stress can no longer overwhelm us.

Excitement, anger and other emotionally charged feelings create stress on the body. Over time they can cause heart conditions and other physical complications. Real meditation is not about feeling nice and floaty or chasing peace and harmony. It is not a self centred endeavour.
Meditation is a way to pull back from the stream of thought and detach from emotions. So that they no longer overwhelm us. And it that place of neutrality we discover real freedom and our God given intuition. We find a new path in life and a way to build resilience to stress.

We start to heal from a lifetime of disconnection to love and truth. It’s why real meditation can be painful at times but is vital to our survival.
It is possible to live without resentment. All it takes is a willingness to be still twice a day, and know that you are not God. Then everything changes and you can never be the same.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

A change in attitude

I was angry, frustrated and exhausted from dealing with undiagnosed CPS (I still am during a flare up). I thought I was going crazy. No one could comprehend the pain I was experiencing. It was bitter sweet getting a diagnosis a year on from the accident.

There was relief with a diagnosis, but I was also knocked down with the reality of of a lifetime of chronic nerve pain. It was a recipe for depression and anxiety. How the hell was I supposed to manage?

For a start I needed to get as much information on treatments and management as I could find. A diagnosis also got me a place on the pain clinic course. A seven week commitment to group sessions. It was good to meet others face to face who were suffering under the lash of chronic pain.

I regularly felt defeated by it. I was overwhelmed with negativity as I battled through the days. Hoping for relief and a break from high pain levels. Stress was the main factor in my flare ups. The more negative I became the more I suffered. I was hard to live with during those first couple of years.

I have overcome a lot during my lifetime. From Borderline Personality Disorder to chronic alcoholism. Surely if I had learned to overcome the serious internal conflicts that caused me so many mental health problems I could overcome the negativity of chronic pain. In short – I had no choice. The pain was a permanent fixture. And my attitude needed to change towards my suffering.

Non contemplative meditation was the first step in a change of attitude. By minimising stress, I would in effect lower the pain levels. I had to let go of the anger and frustration I felt towards myself. I needed to look at my pain from a conscious perspective. Meditation keeps me in the moment, rather than in fear around the future or resentment at the past. My anger had to go. It was destroying me and my marriage.

The more I awoke the more clarity I had. I was able to see the destructive nature that chronic pain has on the mind. It was draining me of any positivity I had and was crushing my spirit. As I slowly became free of my anger my attitude Began to shift. I became more patient and tolerant of my situation. There was more of an interest in solutions rather than being stuck on a roundabout of negativity.

I started to take care of myself even when I didn’t feel like it. Little thing’s like shaving and changing my clothes regularly helped me feel better about myself. I also changed my diet and got back to work, even if only part time. It was a sense of normality that I needed back in my life. I got back to taking care of my family and being more altruistic. I became less involved with my pain and suffering and got gently back into the stream of life.

My life now isn’t perfect. There are still day’s I struggle and take a step backwards. But I know now that I can live beside the monster with a positive attitude directed at life and the thing’s I can do to help myself. With a gentle and kind spirit.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

The perfect dad

I rarely take the time to stop and look at myself, to see how I’m doing as dad. But it’s good to reflect now and again to see how I can improve. I’m not the perfect father, I have my shortcomings as we all do. There are always areas I can improve on.

Because of my past it is imperative that I give my children a good foundation to build on. Honesty, love and truth are principles that I try to live by and moving forward with these pillars in place I am working towards being a better man for my kids.

It’s not always easy. Frankie is going through a difficult age. She is now a teenager and that brings It’s own issue like peer pressure from others and trying to find her place in life. I need to be more trusting and hope the way we’ve brought her up will help her stay on the right path. Losing her biological dad to suicide when she was three still affects her. With Frankie I need to practice patience. She is bright young girl and is doing well at school. I am proud of her in many ways.

As for the triplets I know I am a bit of a soft touch which doesn’t always help when It comes to discipline. There are times I give in to their demands when I have already said no ten times. It doesn’t work. They are learning that they can twist my arm, which can cause small rifts between Stacey and me. They need to see me as a man of authority, they will respect me more as they grow and that’s important as they get older. My wife and I need to stick to the same page when it comes to discipline. Because Stacey spends more time with them she is more on the ball.

A gauge of how I’m doing is reflected in my children’s behaviours and attitudes. They are all polite and well mannered for the most. The triplets can be taken out anywhere without any major outbursts. They know how to behave in public which isn’t bad for three 4 year olds. And it has all come down to loving discipline despite my small failures. They already have a good sense of right from wrong which will be vital to navigate their way through life

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect dad. When you add stress to a situation it can be difficult to remain solid. We are all dealing with pressure as parents and there is always room for improvement.

I have learned not to be hard on myself but also be willing to make the changes in my life that will benefit my whole family. And as long as moving forward more than I am going backwards – I’m doing okay.

Discipline with love

As my daughters get older we find ourselves having to discipline them more. Not because they are bad kids but they are having to learn right from wrong. And this is important, for them and for us.

It would be easy to just let them get on with it when they are playing up, and I am guilty of this at times. When I’m tired or my pains flaring, I just don’t feel like parenting. I think we both get tired of them when they are running riot.

The naughty corner has worked well, and still does. They are spending less time in it as just the threat of it can be enough for them to wind it in.

But I have also learned an important lesson from educating my daughters, and that is to never discipline from a place of anger. In short it doesn’t work. Being angry and telling the kids off because they are fighting is backwards. There is just resentment being experienced, and transfered all sides. It’s like swearing at someone for swearing.

I have learned to discipline from a place of love and tolerance. It doesn’t mean I don’t raise my voice, with three fired up triplets sometimes you need to be vocally assertive. It means I’m not transferring any more anger to an already electrified atmosphere. I stay cool.

No parent has the patience of a Saint. But we can always improve our parenting skills to raise our children in a way that they can learn right from wrong from a place of love. Without adding more stress to a situation.