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/

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/

A journey into music

As a kid of 12, I decided I wanted to play in a band. I wanted to get up on stage and entertain people.
At 14 I started a band, just me and a drummer. We played sex pistols songs and I was shit on the guitar and couldn’t really sing. But I loved it! I had a shitty guitar and amp but didn’t care. Playing was the best feeling. I started writing my own songs and after a while we got other members and played our first gig.
We were pretty shit but the feeling was electric – we gave it our best. And I was hooked.

Naturally I decided then I had to have world domination, Playing Wembley stadium etc. My ego got involved but unfortunately my drink problem and mental illness got in the way of me progressing. I went on to get fired from every band I played in.

I did have some luck in my mid 20s and joined a band as a singer – after years of practice I tuned up my pipes and could hold a note. In that band I co wrote the songs and we got to headline at the cavern in Liverpool. We also supported the Alarm. Unfortunately I went travelling and the band continued without me.

Alcoholism then got in the way of my playing. After getting kicked out of Australia I moved to New Zealand and started a thrash band called the Deported. But Alcoholism got in the way again. So instead I took to writing acoustic songs. I enjoyed doing that in my drunken stupor.

I eventually did get sober and shortly after quiting drinking I auditioned as a vocalist in a project in a local band. That band became Slipstream.
For the last 8 years I have been singing my ass off and enjoying every moment in a band with no ego’s. We are great friends who gel as musicians. Playing cover songs we love to perform.

I get to live my dream of being on stage and at 46 my voice is better than ever. We may not play Wembley but we do get to raise the roof off of local venues.

So live your dreams. Play live music and kick ass.

The stress wheel of parenting

It’s only natural to fall into the temptation to resent my situation. I feel I’m up against the wall daily with the relentless routine that is my life as a parent and a sufferer of chronic pain.

No matter how many kids are involved – parenting is a tough gig. They may still be fully reliant babies, moody cranky teenagers or anywhere in between. Kids demand our attention and support. And it’s under this pressure that we have to guide them, to show them how to navigate life safely. Not an easy task when we are stressed out to the max and are dealing with our own problems and pressures.

My routine is pretty much the same each day. I wake up, work in the mornings and take care of the triplets during the afternoon. I cook dinners, bath the girls and by the time they go to bed I am exhausted. At the weekends we try to do something out of the house with the girls and on a Sunday we tend to chill. I cook a roast dinner and we watch a movie. Then it’s back to Monday and the same routine. And whilst all this is going on I deal with nerve pain flare ups. It’s not easy. I was also prone to bouts of deppresion when my pain is ramped up.

So how to deal with the monotonous routine. It takes a certain mental attitude. After all it is the stress that must be dealt with, the slump in moods and resentment that we all experience as parents from time to time. We have to stay conscious and present in family life. And as dad’s we are relied on to bring mental and emotional stability under our roofs.

Some of us have hobbies and distractions that give us a break from the norm. It’s important to have an outlet outside of home-life. Not so easy when we have babies to deal with but after the initial shock of new parenting we do eventually get a little time to ourselves. I personally write, aswell as this blog I write in other forums dealing with mental health issues and chronic pain. I also sing in a rock band which gets me out of the house once or twice a month.

But we need more than distractions to survive the stres of parenting. In a mental health rock bottom 8 years ago I reached out to a stranger who seemed to have found a solution to resentment. A way to deal with the daily grind without becoming overwhelmed. I was interested in how he did it, because I was going all to shit just trying to deal with family and work life with just one kid, let-alone triplets.

He had a one word answer. Meditation. I laughed him off at first because I had tried many types of meditations and most were just bs. Distraction techniques that put a band aid over the problem and never solved anything. It seemed a flimsy reed to me but I was open to anything. My family life depended on my sanity. And I was slipping down the rope each and every day.

He introduced me to non contemplative meditation, a simple observation exercise. It was also free and non religious which I liked. So I gave it a shot and I instantly discovered a solution. Within days all the stress energy in me was expelled and I stood on a new footing. Through practicing daily meditation, just 10 minutes x3 times a day i found a way to deal with stress and the nagging fears and agitations of parenting. I found a new way to approach life.

Not only was I able to face life with a new courage but I also discovered a way to stay free from anger, a way to master resentment and fear. I was no longer prone to deppresion and anxiety. And I continued it to this day. And even though I still feel the pressure of parenting it no longer overwhelms me. I still have moments of moments of doubt and frustration but they are short lived. For the most I have a handle on life.

I found a way to step off the stress wheel of parenting and live life on life’s terms. Which for a man with a history of mental health issues and anger problems is a big deal.

Il leave the meditation link here if you are interested in giving it a try. I hope if you are struggling you do. It may just be the solution you have been looking for.

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

Bath-times and chicken pops

So, there are a few things been going on with our trio lately. From ‘chicken pops’ as they call it to freaking out every bath-time because of ‘the black’.

Our girl’s used to love bath-time. They couldn’t wait to get in a warm bath full of bubbles and play with their toys. It was usually hard work getting them out. Then one day whilst sat in the bath Ava spotted a little bit of black fluff and freaked out. Not just a small protest but a full on panic. She jumped up screaming which set of the other two and within a split second all three were stood up screaming at the top of their lungs and scrambling to get out. It was absolute chaos. There was water and bubbles everywhere

And that was the start of it. They now hate the bath and refused to get in it. First they didn’t want bubbles in because ‘the black’ might be hidden under the cover of them. Blakely refused so much she had to have showers.

So we stopped using bubbles and now they all go for a pre bath poo for half an hour, prolonging the dreaded bath-time. For a start I now have to rinse the bath out of all foreign body’s. Even the tiniest of spots have a be removed before they even consider stepping foot in the bath and they will only go one at a time, for as short a time as possible. They litteraraly wash and get out. Still panicking and with some tears whilst in the tub. It’s completely irrational but to them it’s a huge deal.

And on top of the dreaded ‘black’ in the bath they have now just been through chicken pops. We had a few late night’s with itchy spots but thankfully it didn’t last long. The spots clear up quite quickly which I didn’t realise. But at least that’s out of the way now.

Then last Saturday night we went to A&E with Blakely who was doubled over in pain. It was horrible to see her suffering. Once we got to the hospital they would only let one of us in so I spent the best part of Saturday night sat in the van waiting on updates. Turned out she had a urinary tract infection. Which thankfully cleared up after a could of days of antibiotics.

Now were back to normal life with three healthy girls. Who are terrified of the bath but you can’t win them all.

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.

Back to life

Lockdown is fully lifted. Schools back to normal and life has taken a step back to normal living.

It’s a huge releif for all parents, I imagine, who’s lives were turned upside-down with Covid-19 and national lockdown. No parent wants to shut in the house for weeks and months on end with bored kids who are wound up and agitated. There was only so much we could do to keep them occupied.

But now it’s back to life. Back to trips out of the house and visits to the play centre. The girls have enjoyed going to parties with school friends and getting back to normal. I’m sure our girl’s missed out on vital social skills being shut in the house for so long. I know it was difficult for Frankie who is at an age where going out with friends is important.

And for us as parents it’s a big sigh of relief that we are back to normality. Aside from other big events that are going on in the world right now, as a family we have some structure back.

Lacey has recently had ‘Chicken pops’ as they call it, but other than that the girls have managed to avoid Covid. Stacey and I both had it and although Stacey got quite ill with it we both made a strong recovery.

So it’s nice to get back to living. As a family we have stuck together to deal with the pressures we have faced over the last few years and have emerged stronger. As insane as it has been.

Becoming a dad

I never imagined myself as a father. I always felt i was too damaged and too irresponsible to take on that role. With all my mental health issues and destructive obsessive behaviours, being a dad was the last thing on my mind. But then I got sober and met Stacey.

I knew she had a 5 year old daughter who had lost her dad to suicide when she was three. I knew that by staying with Stacey I would have two relationships to deal with but I felt ready to take on the responsibility. I knew in my heart that I was done drinking and that I knew I could step up to the table.

Shortly after Stacey and I met she asked, just out of curiosity if I wanted kids of my own. My first answer was no. That Frankie was enough and that my relationship with her was more important to me than adding any new members to our family.

But as time went on, the more Stacey asked me if I wanted a baby the idea grew on me. I thought it would be good for Frankie to have a sibling. And the idea also grew on Frankie. So we began trying after our wedding and were met with failure with each false positive result. We tried for two years before Stacey fell pregnant with triplets. Just before we were planning on going down the fertility treatment road. And the rest is history.

They changed our lives completely

Becoming a dad has been a journey of massive responsibility. I have had to practice patience and above all be present in my daughters lives. It has been the most rewarding experience of my life. And it has also been a journey of shedding fears about whether or not I could be a responsible parent. I have taken it day by day and by putting the principles of love and tolerance at the centre of my life it seems I’m doing fatherhood well and without fear. Something of myself I never thought possible.

I threw myself into parenting and have wonderful relationships with each of my daughters. And with Stacey and I supporting each other to make the load lighter we are managing well.

In becoming a dad I have been given the chance to raise my family the way my father never did. And I enjoy almost every day of the insanity of parenting 4 daughters. I have been given the chance to put my children on the right path of life.

To be confident, with courage and kindness.

Triple trouble and discipline

I am by nature a calm patient man. And my approach to troublesome behaviour is the same. I may raise my voice at times but importantly it is not out of anger. And with 4 year old triplets discipline is a regular thing in our house.

Stacey and I discussed how we would discipline them before they were even born. We decided on a ‘don’t give in to terrorists’ approach. We new that our situation was going to be challenging so it was important that we got on the same page. Consistency was the way forward.

We worked hard together since they were born. And with Stacey a stay at home parent most of the discipline was down to her during the day. This has caused a few problems, down to me in that I’m a much softer touch. And the girls know it. And play me up at times.

Little monkeys

I have had to become conscious of this, and now that I don’t work afternoons I get more practice at it. When they’re naughty they get one warning then it’s the naughty corner for 4 minutes. Discipline this way has helped with their behaviour, we catch it before it gets out of hand. For the most they are good girls. They have their moments but the biggest problem we as parents have is dealing with the relentless structures of our days. Triplets, even well behaved ones are just hard work.

For me I can slip on the discipline when I’m tired from dealing with them. One warning goes to two warnings and within seconds they are calling the shots. I’m usually slipping by bath time. The end of the day they can be at their most trying and I’m most tired. Stacey msnages to stay on the ball with discipline throughout the day. I have some work to do in that area.

Discipline is an important part of raising kids. We cannot allow them to behave however they want. They need to learn respect towards each other and us. But as long as they give me the sad eyes and pouting bottom lip il probably continue to be the soft touch.

The cost of resentment

No man can bring stability under his roof who is infected with resentment/anger. It will spill into all of his relationships and ultimately it is his family that will suffer. The same goes for women who harbour secret resentments and judgment of others. It is the children that are affected most.

We all experience resentment at some level because we are human. But we are also spiritual beings and resentment is a spiritual force, fed by stress and negative thinking. It is inescapable, stress keeps coming day after day. The more we meet stress from an unconscious state the more resentment we experience. If you have ever lost your temper in a rage you have had a spiritual experience. Just not the good kind.

My father’s morphine addiction and suppressed anger towards his own upbringing destroyed our family and its ripples have continued ever since. He resented fatherhood and my brother and myself were unplanned and paid for his intolerance and resentment from the days we were born.

Since getting sober I have worked with many men and women who also suffered with resentment stemming from childhood. Some did not make it. Their anger ran too deep. And I understand how people pay the ultimate price. I grew up to have serious mental health disorders and it was all linked to the anger I harbored to my own father. His anger became mine and it had been passed down through generations of men in his family. I consider myself lucky to have recovered. To have ended the cycle.

Freedom from the darkness is possible

Becoming free from my anger took a spiritual awakening. An experience of light overcoming darkness from within. One way to get free from resentment is simple. All it takes is a commitment to non contemplative meditation. To allow light to enter and expell suppressed resentment. It is a spiritual liberation that changes everything around how we approach and observe emotions within us. It is a tool that can help us build resilience to stress. Therefore becoming unaffected by it.

The cost of resentment is the destruction of everything worthwhile in life. It is a dark spirit that wreaks havoc and destruction within a person and their relationships. Overcome suppressed anger and master resentment and life takes on a new meaning. We must be willing though to forgive and let go of that which is causing us harm.

Only then do we make a beginning

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