The miracle man

Suffering from an invisible illness can cause people to become suspicious. I was once accused by my best friend of making up an illness so I could sit around at home all day and take drug’s. It’s sad the people I have lost in my life due to central pain syndrome.

On Saturday night I was again taken to A&E with intense nerve pain flaring up in my head. And again I felt defeated as i knew there was nothing they could do for me. Neuralgia has taken me to some dark places since the accident but trying to cut out the pain was on a different level of suffering and an extreme action to take. At the time it felt like a rational decision, one that might reward me relief.

Thanks to my wife the hospital had to admit me. I was a danger to myself and the pain team didn’t want me leaving the hospital until the pain was under control. And it was bad. On Monday morning my wife walked into the cubicle I was in and caught me on the floor about to smash my head into the floor to try and knock myself out. It was a dire situation. One that I had lost hope of ever resolving  i had run out of fight and just wanted the pain to stop. The hospital put me on a morphine pump but it didn’t touch the pain.

The pain management team formulated a plan to move me to a bigger hospital so I could get a nerve block in the trigeminal nerve. They didn’t have the equipment in our small hospital to do the procedure. Then on the Tuesday morning a small miracle happened.

My wife came in after sitting at home in tears, frightened of what she was walking into and defeated from dealing with my pain over the years and also from dealing with everything at home since my admission into hospital. Instead she walked into a meeting I was having with the pain management doctor and an anethitist who filled us with hope. He suggested that the type of neuralgia I was suffering from was different from the diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia that I had previously been given. It meant another nerve was being affected. He ssid that he could give me a nerve block for that condition, and that if his diagnosis was right it would mean me becoming instantly pain free in my head.

I consented immediately and was taken into theatre shortly after.

The procedure was successful and immediately after the pain in my head vanished. The doctors diagnosed was right. And for the first time in 4 years I had no pain in my head. I returned to the ward and my wife with a beaming smile. No longer wincing with pain. I was told I would need the procedure every few months to stay on top of the pain but that was s small price to pay. We could not thank the doctor enough, to us he was a miracle man. It meant I could begin to rebuild my life, I couldn’t change the years that were stolen from me but could have a life going forward. With no more self harm or suicide ideation.

I was to be discharged later that day. No longer suffering from neuralgia. I was a feee man at last. It also meant coming off some of the horrible medication I had to take. I would always suffer from the central pain in my spine and lower back but I can deal with that. What I was struggling to live with was the relentless nerve pain in my head – and now that had been eradicated.

I am grateful to the pain management team who understood my condition and didn’t judge me on my extreme actions. They knew what I was going through and knew that I wasn’t mentally ill. I was just a man who got unlucky with a whiplash injury. I could walk out of the hospital with a new hope. For myself and my beautiful family.

Men and spiritual health

Obviously, the more present we are as father’s the greater the impact it has on a family. Everyone under the roof benefits from a spirit of love and patience from dad. But it’s a state of conscious awareness that a lot men fail to reach. Not because they are bad parents, but because they failed to enlarge a vital part of their development as men.

Physical and mental health are important areas of our lives to improve in. Many of us have – or will suffer mental health struggles as a dad. Whether it’s adapting to a new baby at home or dealing with older children such as my 5 year old triplets who are testing my patience constantly. We have to face these challenges head on and meet them with grace.

Life as a parent can be exhausting

No man wants to admit he’s struggling emotionally. Secret resentments breed obsessive behaviours. The internal discomfort of harbouring ill will towards the ones we love sets up a need for relief, usually obsessively. The guilt experienced from suppressing anger can cause all sorts of havoc in a mans life. Resentment is the chief activator of our spiritual decline. So how do we overcome this problem?

Resentment is a spiritual force. An invisible energy that creeps in and clouds our natural discernment. We become infected through traumatic experiences – big and small. I have battled with chronic nerve pain pain and trigeminal neuralgia this last 4 years and as a result of frustration (which is just one flavour of resentment), my daily life became a struggle. And my inability to manage and deal with my situation meant my mental health took a nose-dive. I also physically suffered as a result. I had to master my resentments and build resilience to the stress I was experiencing. That was the solution.

Freedom from anger brings peace

Whatever the life challenges we face, we have a responsibility to our families to bring stability and love to our relationships with our partners and our children. It’s one hell of a job at times but we must be willing to grow in a spirit of tolerance if our families are to thrive, and if we are to strengthen from the problems we face.

One way to grow spiritually is through meditation. The metaphysical practice that I adopted almost a decade ago, freed me from my anger and placed me in a position of emotional neutrality.  Safe and protected in the stream of life. Through taking care of my spiritual health I balanced out mentally and physically. As a result of mastering resentment, I found my strength and life became manageable .

This doesn’t mean I have become the perfect human being, I still have flaws to outgrow but I have the willingness to improve myself. To be a better father, husband and friend. I owe this to the people in my life who rely on me. I want to be an example for my daughters, for them to see how a man should hold himself in this world.

Taking care of our spiritual health is not just important. It is vital for us to develop as men. We cannot successfully go through this life ground down with over emotional responses, resentments and fears. So be willing to grow, to be uncomfortable and make changes that will benefit you and make this journey one of light, free from the shackles of resentment.

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

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/

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/

Dog tired

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. All is well with the girls now that they have all gotten over chicken pox. We had a few night’s of broken sleep, Stacey more than me as I’m least likely to wake up. Which is the subject of this post. I am tired all the time.

I have busy days. I get up early, before the girls so I can meditate and have a quiet cup of coffee. I work in the mornings and nap when I get home. Then I pick the girls up from school, cook dinner and do the bath routine. And just lately I’ve been falling asleep around 8pm. And it’s not just the girls and work tiring me out. It’s mostly exhaustion from pain, which lately has been flaring up quite badly in my back and my face. It seems the minute I sit down I doze off.

I’m exhausted right now. Central pain syndrome is kicking my ass. Pain takes up a lot of my attention, it drags me down and tires me out. I feel every movement which draines me mentally as well as physically. I’m getting on with my days the best I can but lately it’s wiping me out.

The anticonvulsant medication I take can also make me tired but usually I make it to at least half ten before I’m struggling to keep my lids open. It’s also affecting my relationship with Stacey as the evening is our only real time together. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep. Which is pretty much what I am doing right now when I have done my daily jobs.

Writing this post is making me tired

Before I developed central pain syndrome I had no problem running on 7 hours shut eye. I was bursting with energy and rarely sat still. I was always doing something. But with chronic pain all that has changed. I have become slow and sluggish. I still keep myself busy during the day but it takes it out of me, especially during flare ups.

In the pain clinic we talked about the spoon analogy. Say you have 12 spoons in a cup. Each spoon represents an energy level. And as you go through the day you remove spoons. For example i would remove 6 spoons from working. You continue to remove spoons as the day goes on. And here’s the problem. Once you have removed all the spoons, if you continue to burn up energy you are using spoons from the following day. So you may start the next day with only 9 spoons in your cup. And that’s how chronic pain works. Once it draines you – it draines you. You don’t reset after a night’s sleep.

I’m sure when my pain levels lower my energy levels will regulate again. But until then tiredness will continue to beat me down. I’m feeling sleepy writing this post so I’m going for a quick nap before I start work and I begin using up my spoons.

To the new dad

So, you’ve had the positive pregnancy test and the wheel of life is now turning whether you like it or not. It can be a daunting experience for many men who have no idea what’s coming. Mum may be elated and full of joy and you may be in a panic. Or it can be the other way around.

You may have no point of reference like I did. My relationship with my dad was a write off, I went into fatherhood with no one to get advice from, my own experience left me rudderless. I was left with the question ‘what the hell is coming?’

The day of our dating scan when we discovered that we were having triplets I burst into uncontrollable laughter, my wife the polar opposite, she was crying and shaking at the thought of carrying three babies. It was a pregnancy that took its toll on her and looking back now it was my positive attitude and show of interest that got us both through it. At least until the day they arrived.

Triple trouble

Since getting sober, and before meeting my wife, I have tried to live by the principles of love and patience. I had made the commitment to outgrow fear and face life on lifes terms. I treated the pregnancy in the same way. Rather than panic at the prospect of having three newborn’s I was excited. It meant a life changing chapter of my life was ahead of me. The more I could show my wife support and involvement the easier her life was carrying our daughters. Sure I had a few doubts and fears but my wife didn’t need to hear them. To her I had to be emotionally strong.

And my approach towards the pregnancy paid off. In staying out of stress and worry she was able to just focus on the the job at hand. She knew that from me she could rely on me in the most stressful of events. And then they were born, and I was thrown into the flames of new fatherhood. Pretty soon sleep deprivation and stress became challenges of every hour. I had to work a physical job during the day and deal with the triplets at home. It became the most stressful time of my life until the girls started sleeping through the night.

But through all the pressue and insanity of early parenting I still did my best to practice patience. I knew that stress affected the babies and that my wife still needed me to be emotionally stable. I wished I had a dad to ask questions and get support from but I was on my own. Instead I eventually found support from online communities found on Facebook. And to be honest I struggled badly in the first six months. I had financial concerns. Our house was now too small and I felt as though I was failing because of the mental state of lack of sleep and rest.

Stay involved

But I did get some things right through it all. I stayed as involved as possible. Even though my wife was breastfeeding I could still help. I stayed awake at night and pacified the baby’s that weren’t feeding. I helped with baths and dealt with the witching hour after work and allowed my wife to go upstairs and rest from her day. I did my best to support her and had the humility to ask her what I could do when I felt at a loose end. She had already done the baby deal with my step daughter. My wife had a natural motherly intuition, she knew what to do in the times I felt lost. If I didn’t know what to do I would ask her.

Life did get easier when they began sleeping through the nights. Once sleep deprivation was out of the way I could get back to daily meditation and practicing patience and tolerance. There were times in early fatherhood that I didn’t think I was going to survive it. Times I felt like a failure but I stuck at it despite the pressure on me. And my involvement payed off. It was as good for me as it was for my daughters. I bonded with them just by being present with them. Even now I do bath time and the bedtime routine on my own. It’s my chance for quality time at the end of their day. It’s precious time for me and them.

So if you are expecting, or are in the early day’s of fatherhood my advice would be to stay involved. Be a show of strength and stability for your partner. And above all practice the principles of love and tolerance under your roof and you will begin to raise a healthy family. One that will be able to rely on you.

Peace at last

Over the summer holidays home-life began to take it’s toll. Dealing with three relentless four year olds would run anyone down. They had stressed us both out to the max and we were counting down the days until they began school.

For the first time since they were born we found ourselves overwhelmed. We were going to bed with a sense of impending doom that in the morning we had to do it all again. It created a bit of guilt in me. As if I was wishing away the day’s and in truth I was. I couldn’t wait for them to start school and give us a break.

Triple trouble

My mental health took a bit of a nose dive over the last couple of months. Between the triplets and central pain syndrome flare ups I was up against it. Meditation kept me afloat; that and a sense of duty to parent our crazy kids. I had no choice but to face each day and do my best to practice love tolerance and patience.

After four weeks of alternative mornings and afternoons they have now finally started school full time. Yipskipitydoo!!! It has been a game changer for all of us. The girls needed a new routine as much as we did. And thankfully they love going to school. Stacey has got her days back to herself to take care of the home and I get an hour free after work which gives me a chance to write without distraction. It’s heaven.

Frankie and I shared a birthday recently and we all went out for a nice meal to celebrate. She’s needed to get back to school herself. Having three little sisters on her case all day has pushed her patience. But now it’s all changed for the better. We also find it easier to parent them after school instead of dealing with them the whole day through. Our tolerance is much better.

Parenting triplets takes grit and determination. It’s a tough gig at times but it is also a journey of shared love. They are a beautiful bunch and I am proud 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.