No easy ride

Let’s face it, parenting multiples never gets any easier. There are constant challenges as they grow and develop.

My wife found the baby phase relatively easy and enjoyable. She was breastfeeding, and although absolutely exhausted, she was in her element of new motherhood; not phased by the stress we were under. Whereas I, on the other hand, struggled, especially in the first six months. I was overwhelmed at times with sheer exhaustion from home life and a full-time physical job as a welder. I was a first-time Dad and drowning in the deep end.

But it wasn’t without sublime moments of absolute love and bliss. I eventually found my groove, and we became a solid team. I  was hands-on from day one and did everything I could to support my family through a traumatic time of adjustment and stress.

But it soon became apparent that being parents of triplets took every ounce of focus and time. There was no more free time in our marriage. We lived in a bubble of structure and routine. We worked together, and any free time was split by giving each other time out alone – just to get a break. It was tough going, and it took commitment and dedication to the cause.

It took time and work to reconnect as a couple again. To be in a marriage and not just being co-workers for a bunch of demanding, fighting, tyrannical toddlers. But through discipline, patience, and love, they have grown, for the most part, into good girls. They are kind (sometimes), caring (occasionally), and fun to be around.

My wife and I tend to take it in turns to hit walls as life goes on as parents. My wife is finding this stage more challenging, whereas I’m enjoying it more. They’re not always naughty at the moment, but they are relentless in their energy, their questions, and their wanting horsey rides and attention. They take a great amount of patience. I love their conversations, stories, and tales.

My wife and I bring different strengths to the table with each new stage. My patience is helping at the moment, and my wife’s organisational skills are nothing short of miraculous. We are working with a small house. It takes planning to adapt it as the girls get bigger. I would struggle to imagine what she does to make it work.

I often wondered during the tough times when it would get easier. I’ve since given up that fantasising. Because I live in the reality of our situation. And in the stress and pressure I have realised that there are going to be no breaks. No days off. I have been given the path of fatherhood, and in that responsibility, I have been set on a path of sacrifice, personal development, and growth. It’s my job to strengthen from stress. To improve as a man with the greatest job a man could ever have. And my attitude means everything.

No meddles for fatherhood

Most men work hard for their families. At least the majority of men I have known and worked with. They are not living the life they desire or putting their wants and needs first. They are physically giving it their all, day after day without complaint, to provide a comfortable life for those under their roof.

New dads especially feel the weight of the responsibility on them while adapting to a new life. Yet, most are left to struggle without support or advice. My own experience mirrored this as a new dad to three babies. It’s why I began writing this blog. I thought that by sharing my experience, it could at least start the conversation  with others in the same boat. And raise some awareness about the reality of what men go through. Because even if women are not that interested, our sacrifices and pressures are very real. And knowing we are not alone is important. Certainly, when we can feel so  apart from the experience.

All eyes are on Mum from day one. Throughout the pregnancy and from the birth. They are supported firstly by the hospitals and sometimes womens groups, then by health visitors and usually other women, friends, and family. And rightly so. They experience massive trauma, physically and mentally, as they go through the wringer from bringing a child into this world.

Feeling the love

Sadly, a lot of men lack the same support. For the most, we are left to figure it out for ourselves. From the day of the scan when three heartbeats were first discovered. It became apparent quickly that I was on my own to deal with the situation. At the following appointments, all questions were aimed at my wife. I wasn’t spoken to or asked any questions. As much as I wanted to be involved, I felt very much pushed to the sidelines and ignored. It was a lot to deal with mentally, but I did the best I could without complaining to remain calm and stable for my wife.

It wasn’t until the girls were born and I was sitting in the NICU one morning that a nurse came and sat next to me and asked me how I was doing. I immediately bagan to tell her about how Stacey was coping. The nurse cut me off mid sentence and asked again, “No,” she said, “How are you managing?”. It was the first and only time I was asked that question by a professional. And I poured my heart out to her. She listened intently and absolutely understood my concerns and pressures, from dealing with a high-risk pregnancy to becoming a biological father for the first time. And I remember the release I felt. No one needed that conversation more than me at that moment. That little bit of understanding meant a lot to me during such a turbulent time.

It’s tragic that men come to resent the situation of new fatherhood, but understandable in the context of how separated we can feel from our own families. We get little or no time off after the birth to bond with the newborns. We are for the most already mentally on edge after dealing with the pregnancy. Then again, after babies come home and we have to deal with the pressures of sleep deprivation and work.

Under pressure

If you are in this situation right now, I want you to know that you are not alone. And that you will pull through despite the weight you are under. You may not get any credit for the job you are doing, and don’t expect to get any. It’s just the way it is.  But don’t let this discourage you. Keep your head up for your kids and support your partner with what she is going through. Put their needs first and take time for yourself when you can. Even if it’s just to take the dog for a walk to clear your head. Watch for resentment and self-pity. These are traps that will just amplify problems that you are already dealing with.

Online dads groups are a great place to open up and find support whatever your situation. I found strength, laughter, and friendship in some of those groups. As much as women stick together, we men must do the same. We take the brunt of the stresses at home and must stay strong. And keep in mind the bigger picture. We are fathers, and a part of that role is to bring stability during times when there is chaos. Carry your suffering with purpose and with patience and love, which as men, we all must do. Join an online fathers group where you can vent and be understood. There is a higher principle in this universe, and your works are not going unnoticed.

If you are stressed to the point that it is affecting your family and your mental health. I will leave the link to a free meditation exercise that will give you all you need to deal with the pressures you are facing. This simple observation practice got me through the first five years of dealing with life with triplets. Just 10 minutes twice a day is enough.

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

A mans sacrifice

As men, we are living to constant expectations. And it takes a certain attitude to maintain what is expected of us. In fact, we need to work hard to constantly improve ourselves for the sake of our partners and children. We are relied upon in order to fulfil our roles. And there is little gratitude or acknowledgement for the work we put in. We simply have to earn our place in the world or become obsolete. This is a Mans sacrifice.

So what happens if life throws something at us that is too big to handle. Maybe a chronic health condition knocks us off the path we are expected to walk. We may lose our ability to support our families the way we were able to. Situations like this can crush a man. It can leave us feeling less than. And worse of all, we can lose the respect of those who rely on us. Because we are expected to provide. And when we lose our ability to do that. What is left?

I’ve been through this myself over the last five years. And didn’t fully realise the extent of how much it had affected me until recently. Having come out of the other side of depression and frustration at the forced changes I and my family have had to go through.

I am the main provider in my family. From getting sober and meeting Stacey, I went at life with a new attitude and purpose. Because I believe that it was my job to take the weight and responsibility of being a provider. I worked hard as a structural welder. A physical job job that I worked bloody hard at. I knew what was expected of me to give my wife and daughters a good life.

So, after the car accident in 2018, the rug was ripped out from under me. Within months of developing Central Pain Syndrome and Occipital Neuralgia, I lost my position at home. I could no longer provide or even be fully present in the lives of my family. Chronic, around the clock nerve pain consumed me. I couldn’t even walk my dog around the block.

I had to give up my job as a welder, and full-time employment was no longer a possibility for me. My wife no longer had the man she married, and the pressures on me became immense. My condition was incurable.

Accepting charity to feed my children in the beginning absolutely destroyed me. I felt nothing but guilt and shame. I hated myself. Because the one thing I had to do as a man with a family I could no longer achieve. I had let them down. There were times they had to step past me whilst i was curled up on the floor in pain flare ups. How could they still respect me?

The depression I sank into only fuelled the feelings of separation I felt with my wife. She needed me to find a way out. But the more I learned about the condition, the more I had to accept it was permanent. It was tough for both of us. But I had to fight. I couldn’t give up. Because If I did, it would have been the end of my marriage.

So, I began to work to the best of my ability. My boss gave me a new part-time roll that I could manage. I accepted that I needed medications and began working with a pain clinic. Most importantly, I gave up my anger and resentment and dropped the self-pity. I slowly adapted to life with chronic pain and found my purpose again. My focus was aimed once again at fatherhood and being present in the lives of my family. If only a day at a time.

Now, I’m back to living up to what is expected of me as a husband and father. I feel respected once more because I fought to overcome the challenges in front of me and continue to do so. And it feels good to have a life of purpose again. Because as a man, I need to earn my place in the world. And that’s just how it is.

My responsibilities as a father

Lately, I have been thinking about my role as a father going forward. Perhaps it’s because my daughters are growing up so fast. Especially the big one

What I know on a deep personal level is that life is not easy. I knew this from an early age. I was plummeted into the real world at 15 years old and had to learn to survive among sharks and angels in turn.

And it was stressful. It was too much to mentally deal with because I was completely unprepared for the world. It crushed me to the point of psychosis. My brain litteraraly created an alternative reality because I couldn’t deal with the real one.

I had no skills for a start. Other than how to appease an unhinge drug addicted father and the bullies i encountered at the many schools i went to, It wasn’t an ideal skill, but it was a means for survival. And it got me out of some scary jams as a kid thrown into the snake pit of life.

But what I really lacked was the understanding that life was going to be so tough, and I had no way to face and deal with stress. To cope with disappointment and to manage my emotions from the negative events and situations I would encounter.

It’s this total lack of experience, and the hard road I travelled that has brought me to more of an understanding of what I must do with my own children. I have to gently prepare them for a life beyond the comfort of home. I can not keep them wrapped in cotton wool forever. Because they are inevitably going to have to face hardships, trauma, and loss. It’s just a fact of life. But I also now know it is possible to deal with those events with courage and grace.

They are going to have to learn from their own mistakes and take responsibility for themselves when they mess up. It’s through failures that we grow. The more prepared they are, the easier life will be to navigate.

I don’t dwell on the negative side of things, but I do have a responsibility to be honest about the journey that will lie ahead of them. As much as life is filled with joy and love, there is much more to it than that.

The healing path

About six weeks ago, I began councilling for adults who are affected by a certain type of childhood abuse. I’ve avoided discussing it in detail my entire life, but it got to the point that it needed to be processed and dealt with with someone impartial. Although I’m 46 years old and i no longer harbour any resentment, it still affects me.

It can be challenging enough to live with the memories. But in discussing it, I have now bust open a can of worms. It has affected me on pretty much every level. Especially the way I cope in relationships. It’s hard to sink in that in some ways, I haven’t emotionally moved on from it.

It was easy to see and understandable that I suffered poor mental health as a result. The labels of borderline personality disorder to psychosis seemed a natural progression for someone who had no real stability growing up and abused alcohol the way I did. We were dragged from town to town in the wake of my dad’s ever deteriorating mental state before I finally left home age 15. His addiction problems only grew over time, and his threats of suicide became normal to us. He became dangerously unhinged.

I grew up up without any healthy mental coping strategies. I didn’t know how to deal with stress. My ADHD was simply my way of managing the pressures I felt. It seemed normal that I would seek out ways to quieten my mind. Alcohol became my escape, and I latched on to its mind altering effects from my early teens. And abused it into chronic alcoholism. Self harming was just another way to deal with my over emotional state. I was damaged goods, with no solid understanding of how to get by in life.

All this personal experience has been the driving force to becoming a better father, and it has become useful in that sense. Because I understand and know what a child can suffer from the absence of that love, my daughters deserve a loving dad who is stable and present. As much as I have changed and grown in sobriety for the better over the last decade, it seems I still have work to do to iron out some of the creases. And to finally discuss what needs to be talked about. To put it to bed once and for all.

So if you are a man grappling with a past that is affecting your present. Never feel ashamed to reach out and begin the unravelling process. It will be painful but also enlightening. Change and growth can be made from what is uncovered and let go of. The strongest thing a man can do is face his own demons.

Below is a link to the free meditation exercise I practice that led me to become free from the anger and also allowed me to strengthen from stress.

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

Home improvements

It’s a mistake to get too comfortable in life. It’s easy enough to fall in that rutt where doing just enough to keep afloat, without rocking the personal boat becomes a way of life. Rewarding ourselves for a job well done when really we are just dying a slow death. Going through the motions and avoiding anything that may cause us discomfort.

We are all guilty of it. For decades all I wanted was an easy life, instead I suffered mental illness and alcoholism, so to me that comfortable life would be to have had enough alcohol that I didn’t run out and to have enough of a cocktail of meds that I didn’t end up back on a psychiatric ward. I wasn’t exactly aiming high but “horses for courses” and all that. What I really wanted was to have enough of a release of serotonin that I didn’t feel bad. And that, I felt, was the purpose of life.

Not everyone goes to the extreme of addiction but how many reward themselves in the evening with a few beers or a glass of wine? Or a joint? You feel you’ve earned it for facing the stresses of the day when all you are really doing is escaping for a breif moment. And it becomes a habit. You feel bad so you hit the feel good button. You may get that from flicking on netflix and zoning out into the TV or your phone screen. But when that becomes a part of your daily routine it becomes dangerous. It’s too easy to slip into that routine and believe that stress then reward is our sole purpose for being on this earth having a human experience.

For example, how many of you are stuck in a job you don’t particularly like, but you stay simply because it’s convenient? Getting a new job would mean going through the whole interviewing process again, it may mean you’d have to travel a bit further to work each day. It may mean working longer hours and a change in process and a whole different environment, maybe it could take extra training. So is it really worth it? Is the hassle and discomfort really worth the risk of bettering your situation and mental wellbeing? It should be.

It can also be this way with parenting and relationships. There may be problems at hand that need resolving. Minor irritations experienced that we let slide rather than bring them to the surface for discussion for fear of upsetting others.Many of us just brush these things off. I have been guilty of this lately. But these little, seemingly insignificant annoyances over time morph into resentments and explode. So rocking the boat is worth a sometimes heated discussion, especially when problems always have the capacity to get resolved.

So don’t live your life like a scratched record, forever waiting for someone else to pick the needle up and move it so the song can continue. Take uncomfortable action and make the first move- take charge of your life and begin to live in a world of real opportunity.

Don’t just survive – evolve.

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

Another year

This year has been a case of “blink and you’ll miss it.” It seems like older I get the quicker the months dissolve. It certainly doesn’t feel like another year has gone by. Yet so much has happened.

The triplets have developed so much over the year from reading and writing to their speech becoming much clearer. They are full of wonder and interest in the world around them. They love drawing and colouring and are doing well at school, which they all enjoy. They have all made seperate friends which is good for them.

The first five years have been such a vital time for them and their overall development. And Stacey and I have worked hard to makes our home one of love. And it really shows in the girls natures They are growing into polite, kind, funny girls. We really couldn’t ask for more.

They have all taken a keen interest in the meditation I practice. As their father it’s my job to gently prepare them for the real world and to show them how to deal with inevitable stresses they will encounter, especially now they are growing older. So for them to see that I practice concious awareness will only benefit them. It’s a wonderful gift for me to pass on.

Frankie is doing well against the problems she’s had. There has been bullying at school which has been a real worry, but she’s out of the worst of it now. Having just turned 15 I found her a little job and she is enjoying earning her own money. It’s good experience for her, it’s a chance for her to learn a strong work ethic be a little more responsible for herself. I’m incredibly proud of her.

Stacey has continued with her charity work, running a breastfeeding peer support group. She also now facilitates a triplet mums group for the Twins Trust. She is currently planning a Christmas fundraiser. It’s a lot of work and she really enjoys it. She’s loves doing what she can to help others. As do I.

For me it’s been a positive end to the year. The steroid injections in my head have given me quite a lot of relief. Enough for my mental health to improve and for my life to become more manageable as a result. I also began GCSE English this year. I’m loving the challenge and am learning new skills to improve my craft. I have the idea for my first fictional novel and am looking forward beginning the writing process. It’s important that I keep improving my life. I may not be able to challenge myself physically anymore but mentally I can always grow.

So I’m cruising towards Christmas and the new year with a better attitude. Fatherhood hasn’t come easy for me. I still make mistakes but am always open to make changes to better the life of my daughters and strengthen the relationship with my wife. We’ve been given a tough gig but with laghter, love, patience and faith it’s becoming an ever more beautiful ride.

(As always, here’s the link to the free meditation I practice. It’s a way to strengthen from stress and deal with the pressures of everyday life)

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

The spiritual impact on mental health

Age 19 I was hospitalised with psychosis. I had suffered badly with deppresion and anxiety leading up to that psychotic break. It was a frightening time in my life, mainly because of the reality that I may not recover. I believed I would always be affected by poor mental health.

Alcohol abuse didn’t help my situation. I had been abusing alcohol from the age of 14, around 17 I got into drinking whisky and my drinking really took off – as did my troubles.

All the tension and fear I lived with was taking it’s toll. The voices snd hallucinations almost became a personal comfort as I struggled to cope with my emotions and life. There was no escaping them. Medications just made me worse and dragged me down further. I was convinced there was a another dimension to my suffering and I was right. It would be another decade before I made that stark discovery.

A decade later was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. My solution of alcohol was no longer keeping me stable. And without booze in a detox my mental health condition was magnified. I had sensed a darkness within me for a long time. It was a darkness I kept suppressed with alcohol – but alcohol was no longer working.

It was when I searched for a spiritual solution for alcoholism that the truth was revealed to me. There was a spiritual problem at the core of my suffering. I had sensed it from a child. From all the anger I harbored. It was the universal dark energy of resentment that was destroying me. And all the labels of mental health disorders could be traced back to it. There was no such thing as a chemical imbalance, only a spiritual infection. Medication would never work.

The more I struggled to escape it the tighter it’s grip. All my mental health problems were a manifestation of spiritual dis-ease. My real problem was spiritual in nature – not mental. Those diagnosis I had throughout my life were mere symptoms of suppressed resentment. And as long as anger remained in me I would have gone on suffering til the bitter end. Dying an alcoholic death. I had to be freed from what had infected me. I had to be freed from anger.

There is a meditation technique, thousands of years old that can resolve this spiritual conflict. I happened upon it by chance after getting sober. I was still plagued by anger and resentment but without alcohol and drugs to suppress those negative emotions. The man I met told me to meditate daily. That was it, I was told I needn’t do anything else. I couldn’t see at all how this was going to help me,

I was open to meditation, but the idea it was going to resolve my anger and mental health problems seemed ridiculous. I mean, after years of therapy and medications somehow by sitting still twice a day for 10 minutes I was going to get well and know freedom? I called bs on it. But it held my interest and I had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

So I did. And ALL my mental health problems resolved as I was freed from anger and given a way to master resentment and build resilience to stress. And it happened quickly. Within the space of the first week of meditating.

If mental health problems are affecting you, and you are willing to approach them from a whole different angle. Give this a try and have your own experience. Make your own mind up on spiritual matters. But trust me – you won’t regret this.

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

Phone addiction

Life has been a struggle lately. As much as I talk about being present I haven’t been living up to my own ideals.

Sure I’ve been going through the motions. I’ve been meditating daily; getting up with the girls; working; picking the girls up from school; cooking dinner and doing the baths but I have been distracted. Mostly on my phone. I’m not talking about the conversations I’m having with people on it, it’s the braindead flicking through pointless video reels I get lost in while life carries on around me.

It’s too easy when I feel stressed to just dissappear into the screen. The real problem is the stress that’s affecting me, the phone is just a symptom of that stress. The phone has also been a great way to take my mind off the pain. But when it’s causing more problems than it’s solving it naturally becomes an issue.

For years I hid away from technology. I lived without a smartphone before meeting Stacey; I also lived years without a T.V for that matter. But now whist trying to live a conscious life it has become another thing that I’m using to deal with the pressures of everyday life. And I don’t want to be a screen zombie, ignoring my kids and wife while distracting myself from the reality that I am struggling with the trudge of fatherhood.

So I have have come off Facebook. Only using it to share my blog posts. Plus we have a phone ban between certain hours of the day. I have already found myself less stressed and more present with my family. It was a simple change that is already having a positive impact.

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

An English assignment – The island

As you may know I’m studying GCSE English as I want to improve my skills.

At the moment we are looking at creative writing and looking at different textures and styles. My homework this week was to describe a frozen view. That was all the information I was given. So I decided to describe the view from my porch on the week I left Papa Westray on the Orkney islands. I thought I’d share it with you. Any feedback would be appreciated.

‘The melancholy sky hangs sullen over the emense beauty of the silent, white bleakness that surrounds me. The heavy dark clouds whisp with slow, dramatic movement, dropping millions of falling diamonds, filling the sky with flakes of ice that drift down elegantly with soft, gracious dance. Landing to rest on the pillow of white that blankets the ancient, defiant island I call home.

In the distance, amidst the thick snowfall I see the hills of the neighbouring island, rising up to meet the sky like friends in close union. The weather beaten landscape lies naked and exhausted from the violent north Atlantic storms. No trees dot the horizon. The land dejected from the fierce weather. But today there is no gale or wind. Just a peaceful, almost eiree silence as the calm after a storm. The horizon a portrait of brilliant whites and malevolent greys. It engulfs me with it’s resplendent charm. As though for that moment heaven had decended.

The ice cold ocean of azure that encircles me beats waves on the rugged coastline, like white horse’s storming the shore. The rocks stand composed in the face of the aggressive waves like a Spartan army shielding an attack. But with all their strength and might the rocks continue to crumble and corrode. There is a sadness to their slow destruction but everything must change with the trudge of time.

Soon I will leave this place. The harsh, bleak winter will become just a memory like a snapshot, a photo that will eventually fade into the recesses of my mind. But as I stand here on this cold, crisp, captivating morning like the king of my domain. I count my blessings that for a brief moment in time, this frozen enchanted view is all mine.’

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