International father’s mental health day

As men it is our role to provide stability under our roofs. And it’s not an easy job. I suffered badly when my daughters came home from the hospital. Sleep deprivation chipped away at my sanity. I was saved only by meditation.

But I knew I had a job to do. My wife was breastfeeding the triplets and the less stress she experienced the better the milk flow. I was also aware that my stepdaughter was going through her own massive adjustment. It was an all round pressure cooker at home and I felt it my job to keep the lid on.

During the pregnancy and after the birth all the focus was on mother and babies. I was asked once, throughout that whole period, ‘how was I coping?’ As dad’s we get put on the back-burner. There was no support or help for me as a first time dad. I had no idea what I was getting into. I just knew I had to support my family.

There were times I felt like I was on the outside looking in. There were times I got home from work exhausted and just sat in my car in tears because I knew that when I walked through the door there was no rest. I was like the living dead, praying for a decent sleep.

It was when I began to feel resentful at my situation that I knew I was on the brink of a mental health collapse. Resentment had crept in and I was full of frustration and bubbling anger under the surface. I was depressed and beaten down.

Meditation was the key to my saving grace. I had to let go of my anger. I needed to realise that how tough it was at the time, that it would get easier when the girls went through the night. Things would improve. I just had to tough it out. Thankfully I found support in a Facebook group. It was my only support but it became vital in those early days.

I would definitely say that there needs to be more in place for new dad’s. I consider myself somewhat lucky that I pulled through that first year in one piece. Thankfully I overcame my resentments early on. And as a result my depression lifted and my mental health improved. But many are not so lucky and family units break down because of the pressure men feel.

If you are reading this and struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There’s no shame in it. It’s better that you find your feet and in turn your family pulls through. If you are open to meditation il leave the link here to the practice that got me through.

Stay safe and good luck dad. You have the greatest job ahead of you, and the rewards are priceless.

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

On father’s day

It’s only natural that on father’s day I think about my dad and the lack of a relationship I had with him. There was a time I couldn’t mention him without feeling rising anger and fear.

He was an addict. Prescribed morphine twisted his mind along with anger from his sick upbringing. He abused alcohol and gambled, he had an obvious disliking for me that caused me to fear and resent. He grew up around sexual abuse and violence. He never wanted children. My brother and I were both accidents that he resented deeply.

My own abuse as a child was difficult to live with. I developed mental health problems as a result, and the anger I felt towards him just fuelled alcohol abuse from a young age. I blamed him for all my failings in life. My suppressed hatred almost destroyed me from the inside out. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder later in life. A behavioral disorder caused by trauma. His anger had become mine.

Becoming a dad was an opportunity to be a better man for my children

When I got sober I had to address, and face, my resentments. When I did I began to see him from a different angle. He was destroyed as a child. His father was a real bad man. My dad grew up without any loving guidance. He just grew up with deep emotional trauma and an inability to deal with stress. His addictions were his escapes, and he didn’t have the tools to be a stability in our lives.

I had taken the same path down a road of suppressed anger and addiction. Mental illness affected me as it had him. He was sick, and staying angry at a man who couldn’t control his anger was just insane. When I looked at the damaged life I had lived as a chronic alcoholic I had to give up my judgment. I had to let go of my anger.

I feel no more ill will towards him anymore. I was saved from my anger through an act of grace. I was eighteen the last time I saw him and he was in bad shape. My hope is that one day he discovered his own peace. Just as I had. And I give thanks to God that I was freed from anger before I became a dad myself. My children will know only love from me.

Becoming a dad was a big deal for me. It was a chance to be the man I always wanted to be as a father. I take my role very seriously, to be a dad is an honour. To be trusted with the life of another human being is the greatest responsibility I will ever have. And love and tolerance are principles I practice under my roof.

So, happy fathers day to all of you men reading this. Be the pillar of love and stability your children need and enjoy this day of recognition. X

A triplet dad – how do I do it?

I get asked a lot by other men how the heck I do it? They take a look at the three kids and are baffled as to how I function as a dad to triplets. They’ll say “i have enough trouble with one”. And I don’t doubt that. Kids are hard work – full stop.

There are times I wonder this question myself, especially when my CPS is flaring and I’m struggling myself to get through a day. But it all comes down to three thing’s – patience, tolerance and a commitment to fatherhood. I have a job to do, and it is the most important job I will ever have in this lifetime.

It would be easy for me to resent my situation, it is tiring and stressful. Especially at the age the girls are now. They are going through the tantrums, backchat and ignoring us stage, just to see what they can get away with. It’s a normal phase of their development, still we find ourselves constantly disciplining them. It can be exhausting, simply because there are three of them going through the same things.

I felt committed as a father when I married Stacey and became a step dad to Frankie. Then right from the first scan when we discovered my wife was pregnant with triplets, my path was cemented. I was to be a father. A lifetime of parenting (and grand-parenting) was ahead of me, with all the drama and stress that came with that role.

Like butter wouldn’t melt

And it hasn’t disappointed so far. The last five years it feels as though all we’ve had is stress and drama, and that’s without my personal health issues. But chronic pain aside I look back at how I’ve managed to make it and I believe I have done a good job so far. So how do I do it? I only have one answer. I do it consciously.

Since recovering from alcoholism 9 years ago I began practicing a simple, free meditation exersise. Every morning before the kids wake up I sit still for 10 minutes and pull back from the negative chatter in my mind. I wake up, and the meditative state sets me up for the day to stay free from rising anger, fear and frustration. Because I meditate this way I rarely suffer from anxiety because I am less affected by resentment.

It’s that simple. There is nothing more I need to do to stay emotionally stable as a father than to practice conscious awareness each day. It doesn’t mean life becomes a fluffy breeze – hell no! Life is tough and the temptation to bite into anger or frustration in the stream of life is very real. Half an hour with a screaming kid will confirm this.

But we can at least give ourselves a chance.

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

Not broken – not yet anyway

It feels like a while since I last posted. My mental health hasn’t been the best since a pain flare up triggered by a gig with my band, so I haven’t been overly inspired to write. Memory problems have been causing me grief. I have been unmotivated and down.

But over the last 24 hours I have finally got some relief. My pain levels have lowered and I’m feeling more myself – more connected. It’s horrible how dark my thinking becomes in a flare up. There are times I just want to throw the towel in. Not that it would ever happen, not with a family to tend to. I have too many responsibilities to collapse in on myself.

I have lived with Central Pain Syndrome for almost 4 years now. It has reshaped my life. From work to my personal life and as a parent, it has affected everything. I felt the years leading up to the accident that poor mental health and struggle was over and done with. But such is life, everything can change in a heartbeat and for me and my family it did.

I suffer with frustration the most. That my body won’t perform as it once did. I’m my mind I’m strong but the smallest wrong moment can cause burning, stabbing pain that can last hours/days/weeks. It can really get me down. I have definitely become better at managing my pain and I’ve had to train myself to slow down.

Stress inflames the pain and pain causes stress. It’s a crappy roundabout to be stuck on. So it’s a case of making the best of it when I’m not suffering as much. I have no choice but to live with CPS as best I can. An invisible illness can be hard to explain or even comprehend to someone with good health, some disabilities cannot be seen. But to me and my family it is very real. And I have to stay afloat. As the man of the house I have a job to do.

Mental illness – a day in the life

My life now is a thousand miles away from what it was when I was undiagnosed and my mental health was suffering. People who know me can’t imagine that it was ever that bad. After all, my emotions are regulated and I live a good life besides the chronic pain. I still have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder but it no longer defines me. My friends and family only know me as a stable man.

It’s mental health awareness week, and I wanted to give you a day in the life of a younger me. Just to paint a picture of what mental illness was for me.

If you need a trigger warning, this post includes mentions of suicide, alcoholism, hallucinations, mental distress.

     ‘I awoke in my decrepit flat in the afternoon. It was cold as it had no heating or carpets. I needed to get out as I felt fearful after a long night and morning of paranoi and not much sleep, I felt daylight would help me. I sneaked past the squatters, the heroin addicts who lived below me and who’s front door was open. I think they were more frightened of me, because of my erratic and sometimes destructive behaviour.

As I walked through town I could hear my name being whispered, and occasional shouts of abuse. This was normal and had been for a while. I was 19 years old and my mental health had been deteriorating for years. I was diagnosed with anxiety and deppresion. I had already had two suicide attempts by then and was a self harmer. The local mental health team were at a loss with me and my psychiatrist just medicated me. I was abusing alcohol by this point as a way to quieten the noise in my head. It would be 10 years before I got a diagnosis of BPD.

As I walked through the busy town centre I noticed something that got my attention. In a parked car I saw what looked like a face pushing through the fabric of a parked cars head rest. I got closer to get a better looked and also saw to faces moving and pushing through the back seats. I panicked and preceeded to stop passers by to help somehow. Getting more frustrated and manic that no-one would listen to me. People looked frightened of me as I began shouting for help by the parked car.

I ran into the pub opposite (where they already new me and were aware I was unwell) and began shouting for help to the confusion of the lunchtime punters. A man I knew came down from the bar to calm me down. I told him what was happening in the car and he looked confused and concerned. He walked me out of the pub and back across the street to the park car and looked in. “Si, there’s nothing in there”, and when I looked he was right.

I burst into tears and walked off. Made my way to the off licence and bought myself a bottle to help me calm down. I was frustrated, frightened and embarrassed by my behaviour. I headed back to my flat and back to alcoholic oblivion. It was just another experience I had to stuff down and try to ignore, I had to suppress it otherwise it would just play on my mind. Alcohol was, and would be the solution for another 16 years.’

My mental health affected me less the more I drank. So crossing the line into chronic alcoholism was a natural progression of my alcohol abuse. But there were many days and night’s of madness, fear and destruction. Too many to remember. I was ill for decades.

Sobriety and Meditation finally freed me from the madness of my own head. It was the end of a life of self destruction and the beginning of a new life of stability and peaceful well-being.

My life now is one of the joyful drama of parenthood. I live a full life with the principles of love and patience at the centre. I still suffer destructive thinking but with meditation it no longer affects me. My past experience isn’t without it’s use. It has made me useful when it comes to helping others who are still suffering. I am passionate about recovery. Especially mindfulness.

If you are struggling with mental health, never be afraid to reach out, and keep searching for solutions. There is a life beyond the bondage to darkness. Many do recover if they are willing to commit to change. Never give up the journey to wellness.

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

Real meditation

The more stressful the world becomes with politics, war, online overloading. It is ever more important that we not only de-stress, but that we find a way to build resilience to it. Because it’s a force that is going nowhere. It can affect us from the minute we wake up til the minute we hit the hay.

If like, me you are a parent you will be all too familiar with rising irritation and annoyance. No matter how well behaved the kids are they are still stressful. They test my patience daily. They are not necessarily bad; just relentless in their energy. It would be all too easy to snap and bite into anger which, let’s face it, would achieve nothing. Only fuel the fire’s and create more tension.

On my journey I have discovered a path to a life where I rarely emotionally respond to stress. It was out of necessity that I searched for solutions to my mental health conditions. I had uncontrollable emotions with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was also an alcoholic in recovery, and with resentment a poison to me, I had to learn to deal with stress. To give up anger and fear and live life on life’s terms. Meditation was the vehicle to the solution.

Now, I’m not talking about fluffy mindfulness practices. The type on you tube that have you focusing on hypnotic breathing or visualisation, like picturing yourself on sandy beaches. They are great for a temporary distraction but they only serve to suppress negativity further. Which on the long run are a bad deal. The more we suppress the greater the need for obsessive relief from the internal conflict.

Real meditation is not about seeking happiness, it isn’t a feel good exercise, we are not feeding the ego. It can be painful to begin with as you begin to consciously wake up. There may be tears. There may be a release of anger or fear but there is nothing to be frightened of. The expulsion of negative resentment energy is necessary.

And once we awaken we begin to see the world through a new lense, with a clarity we may not have experienced since childhood. Before the pressures of the world got into us and clouded our judgment. Causing us to resent. To be fearful.

Real meditation is about living consciously with a spirit of love and tolerance at the centre. In the present moment there is a power that gives us a protection against stress. It gives us the power to meet the pressures of everyday life with grace. Strengthening from abrasive encounters. Like iron sharpens iron.

I’ll leave the link here. You may or may not be ready for this. But trust me. You need this.

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

Mental health awareness week

Mental health is an issue close to my heart. For decades it drove me to the edge – and into darkness. And I suffered with no real understanding of what was wrong with me.

My doctors notes read depression anxiety and alcohol abuse from the age of 14. I continued on a downward spiral in my teens and had already had two suicide attempts. I self harmed and my emotions ran wild. I was obsessive about certain people because I feared abandonment. At 16 the stress of it all caused my hair to fall out. At 19 I was hospitalised with suspected schizophrenia. There was never an official diagnosis.

My alcohol abuse got progressively worse into my twenties to the point of chronic alcoholism.

I destroyed everything worthwhile in my life and wound up at rock bottom on the other side of the world in New Zealand. In the last detox for alcohol I was diagnosed by a doctor with Borderline Personality Disorder. It explained my unstable emotions and obsessive behaviours. But I didn’t pay much attention or do anything with the information I got. I just carried on drinking. Stuffing down the memories and emotions that played havoc in my head.

I was diagnosed again with BPD when I returned to England. Id just like to note that both times I was diagnosed was were periods where I wasn’t drinking. You can take the brandy out of a fruitcake you still got a fruitcake. And dealing with life sober became a real issue for me over the next 6 years.

My mental health suffered badly in the last few years of my drinking career. I was medicated on anti-psycotics. My life became driven by the obsession that I would one day control my drinking. I had to drink to deal with the destructive thoughts and suicide ideation. My head was a dark space. One that sober, I would have to manage. I was riddled with resentment and fear. Marijuana helped to keep me out of lashing out but alcohol no longer worked to quieten my nerves. I did eventually discover permanent sobriety age 36.

Dialectical behavioural therapy was intense, but I gained a lot from it, and I got a better understanding of my condition. Meditation was the mainstay I took from DBT. And to this day I meditate every day without fail. It has helped regulate my emotions and quietened the negativity. I still have destructive thinking but I am no longer ruled by it  Meditation was my saving grace. Especially in sobriety. I have learned to deal with life with faith and the principles of love and tolerance.

Through meditation I was also freed from lifelong depression and anxiety. Since developing a pain condition from a car accident in 2018 my mental health and wellbeing is even more Important. There is plenty of temptation to fall back down the rabbit hole but the pain is getting more manageable, so it’s just a case of being mindful each day. And keeping out of my thoughts.

So if you are reading this and are struggling. Make it your mission to search for ways to improve your situation. Whether it’s adopting a meditation practice or taking time out for yourself each day. There is always hope for us and in the light we will find that we can manage our emotions and lives. That we don’t have to be bonded to darkness. We can be free to be who we really are – and know that we are enough.

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

Discipline without anger

We all know the scenario. We are tired and the kids are playing up and screaming. They have been all day. They are not as they are told and your getting to the end of your rope. Your stress levels are rising along with frustration and anger. It’s at that point that how we react matters.

As someone with a past anger problem (I have borderline personality disorder). I would not have been able to contain my rising negative emotions. I would have snapped with frustration and anger, making a bad situation worse. Remember, children sense stress from us. It affects them on an unseen level.

Reacting out of anger never helps. Screaming may get results but it is also evidence that you have lost control. And children will learn thats how stressful situations are controlled. By losing their tempers. They watch us closely, we are there biggest influences

I believe there is a healthier way to deal with stressed out, fighting children. I’m not suggesting we do nothing or turn a blind eye to a stressful situation, or unruly kids. But there is a way to meet stress with grace and authority, without acting with the same behaviour you are trying to discipline them for.

Raising children takes patience. Personally I found a solution to stress a good few years ago by way of non contemplative meditation. And since mastering resentment I haven’t lost my temper in a long while. I found a way to deal with the stressful events without emotions dragging me in. I’m not the perfect parent but when it come to anger I no longer bite.

There are times I raise my voice and break up flights but I do it from a place of conscious awareness. Underneath I stay calm and don’t lose my cool. For example, when Frankie was much younger, she was having a hysterical tantrum and screaming at me. I turned to Stacey and said that I’m not angry but I’m about to raise my voice. And I did, and Frankie has never screamed at me again. So it’s possible to raise your voice and maintain authority. The minute we lose our cool we lose all authority, we cannot be respected and children will grow to resent us.

If you are someone who is quick to anger and want to approach discipline from a less stressful position give this meditation a shot. Just 10 minutes – x3 times a day and you will naturally begin dealing with stress in a way that is beneficial to you and your child. You will find a new patience that your children will grow to respect.

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

BPD

There is a crippling mental illness that creates emotional chaos in the life of the sufferer. Borderline Personality Disorder or Unstable Emotion Disorder is characterised by extreme emotions that can swing at any time. It causes obsessive and destructive behaviours and thinking. Self harming is a way to cope for most people with this condition. It is incredibly difficult to live with and it affects the lives of all involved.

I went decades undiagnosed and used alcohol and medications to quiet my mind. Drink became a solution because when sober my mind never shut down. It was a whirlpool of negativity and paranoi. I latched on obsessively to anyone who showed me any attention and easily cut people out of my life just as fast. Because of childhood trauma and abusing alcohol from an early age I never developed any emotional coping skills. I lived in constant fear of being let down and abandoned.

Of course I could never discuss what went on with me under the surface. I hid my scars well and drank down the fear, shame and anger that was always present. I walked out on everything good that happened to me and felt comfortable in dangerous relationships. I was used to the unhinged sense of darkness that came with those relationships. I was once stabbed multiple times by a girlfriend who also suffered poor mental health and alcoholism, but I couldn’t leave her. I continued to be abused, physically and mentally by her. My idea of love was backwards. I didn’t understand it, I would just get obsessed with people, no matter how bad an influence or how they treated me.

Under the surface I became a boiling pot. Always on the edge of explosion. It was like I was living a life I didn’t understand. I suffered badly from depression and anxiety from a young age and was hospitalised on a psychiatric ward in my late teens. I was diagnosed with bpd for another 12 years. But when I did it was like joining the dots. I began to understand myself and why I had such poor coping skills.

Dialectical behavioural therapy was intense. I did 18 months in total and in the process began to take an interest in meditation, which was central to the therapy. I learned a lot about myself and why I ticked like I did. I finally understand why I got into such unhealthy relationships and why I became so obsessive over certain relationships. Usually with abusive people. I had to unlearn patterns of thinking and behaviours that were engrained into me from a young age. I had to learn new ways to cope with the streses of life.

Over time and with meditation central to my life I have overcome much of my destructive nature. I have managed to stay in a long term relationship. And it’s a healthy relationship built on communication and trust. I still experience destructive thoughts, but they no longer control and overwhelm me. My depression has lifted and I approach life with a new courage. Overcoming mental illness has been a huge part of my life. It ground me down and controlled me to the point of insanity for so long I thought recovery was an impossible dream.

If you are struggling with mental health never be afraid to reach out for help. There are avenues of recovery available to those who truly seek a solution. A normal life is possible despite a a serious diagnosis such as BPD. We all have the ability to recover. To live a life of peace and love.

The ups and downs of fatherhood

I was thrown into the fire with the triplets. Although I had become a step-dad I had never done the baby deal. Early parenting was a new experience for me. And wow! Was I in for a shock.

Sleep deprivation is used as torture. The victim is kept under stress and forced to stay awake until their mind snaps. Welcome to New parenthood!

I seemed to breeze through the pregnancy, buzzing around our amazing situation. Fast forward a few months and I was pulling up at home from work, completely drained and filled with dread about walking into my own home. Head on the steering wheel in tears on occasion. Knowing that when I walked through the door I was not going to get any rest. Maybe an hours sleep, two if I was lucky before I would have to go to work again. And as a welder I did a physical job.

It was intense. Exhausting to the point I was in danger of resenting my situation. And I couldn’t let that happen. I had to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. I didn’t want to be the dad forever complaining, my wife needed me calm and out of stress because she needed to stay calm to produce the milk for the girls. Plus babies pick up on stress energy. I didn’t want to be a negative presence in the life of my daughters.

But it wasn’t all bad. I made a point of bonding with them whenever I could. In the more chilled moments we had skin time. I played them musical I liked and talked to them. Just making time for them kept me grounded and focused on the bigger picture. I survived early fatherhood through meditation and a concious attitude towards fatherhood and the man I wanted to be.

Rising above the pressures

It’s seems like only yesterday the girls were born. The last few years have shot by. They will be 5 on the 4th of July. I often wondered if parenting would get easier as they got older. It’s not easier in the sense that we are still dealing with 3 children. But there are a few bonuses to them being 4. It’s little thing’s like they keep each other occupied playing games. They also tidy up after themselves (most of the time). But being 4 there are different pressures that I experience.

The hardest being the relentless routine. Almost every day is exactly the same. And I the girls have boundless energy and I have a chronic pain condition that stops me physically playing with them as I once did. My disability has also caused me financial concerns and fears around the future. But I have to stay out of self pity. My family need me present. So there are new challenges that arise from the stream of life. I just have to adapt. My primary focus is still being a good father and husband. That has been my job since they were first discovered.

Mu tribe

It can be daunting as a parent to look ahead at times. Fatherhood is tough, but we cannot wallow in thoughts about the future. ‘Now’ is the only place we need to be. Parenting can be a case of dealing with one day at a time in the rough spots. But let’s not forget the positives. The random hugs and kisses. The little whispers of ‘I love you’. The new thing’s they learn that fill them with a sense of achievement. Having a front row seat and being involved with a child’s ongoing development is a beautiful experience. My daughters amaze me every day.

So if you are struggling at any stage of parenting reach out to a group on fb and get some support. Also this free meditation exercise will help you stay on your feet in what is the stressful event of fatherhood. Above all stay strong. Focus on the job at hand and be the example of a man for your children. Be the influence they need.

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