2020, World Pandemic, Lockdown & the aftermath blog

Updated: Feb 6

This year was already a bit kaotic for me when I decided to start doing a part-time Social Science degree with The Open University while still studying the Scottish level 6 NC in Psychology and Criminology at my local college full time.

I was hitting 40 and decided that waiting until the college course ended was wasting precious time after spending 4 years in full-time education.

It seemed to make sense at the time!

The previous year had ended with our epic Christmas in Barcelona so I was feeling rather positive, even excited about what 2020 would bring.

We had our first family trip together to see my Nanna, Aunt, and family in Kent which was booked for April 2020, where previous visits had been myself taking one or two of our children at a time.

This was another exciting family milestone!

One we needed with the court case against my daughter's abuser, an ex-family member, looming over us in the unknown distance.


I later compiled a visual emotions journal of 2020


Therapeutic Photography is a powerful untapped tool of therapeutic self-expression in a world where each individual struggles with their individuality, emotions, thoughts and their place in the world. Though I am a qualified photographer, you DO NOT NEED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER or have fancy equipment to benefit from Therapeutic Photography.


NB; [The following visual emotional journal was done entirely on my camera phone, using a simple Photo editing app downloaded from Play store, I simple chose a rustic filter and framing to present each visual emotion consistently through out the weeks so the focus is on the emotion of the image rather than distracting detail. Any one can use photo's in this way to express themselves.]


Week 1

New-year was a nice social event with a friend and my adult kids, some crazy hairstyles and a little alcohol, all in all, my emotions were content and relaxed, even hopeful.





Week 2

The positive emotions continued, the highlight of which was our trip to the theater to see the Circus of Horrors. The theater atmosphere is always an experience that creates a positive bubble of emotions and for an empath, it is quite a buzz of positivity!

Week 3

Adjusting back to the routine of family life entwined with study while contemplating the madness of the Social Science degree workload starting in a week.



Week 4

Trying to balance out the study, family and some self care like reading to ensure I did not burn myself out so quickly, whilst also attempting to get a head start on the university work while the college workload was slow. At this point, I was still feeling relaxed and positive about 2020.


Week 5

The week I turned 40.

As a person, it doesn't feel as if age has impacted who I am, other than time and experiences creating life lessons that adjust how I perceive the world. Though I had begun to struggle with the idea of celebrating the anniversary of my birth when the biological beings involved in it couldn't care less. My daughter wasn't having any of that and threw a surprise party!


Week 6

I spent most of the week musing in my spare time about the perceptions others have of me, how my exploration of self-awareness doesn't fit into these multitudes of little boxes of the perception others had. It had started to feel quite exhausting, and I expressed the concept that who I am does not fit into their boxes. After a birthday lunch and deep chat with one of my close friends, I began to feel more at ease.


Week 7

In the background of the appearance of daily life as a mum and student, there was a lot of stress creating friction at home, these struggles had become a regular undercurrent in life over the past few weeks resulting in me going through one of my reclusive phases where 'peopling' just became extremely exhausting and my empath struggles were in overload.

Week 8

The highlight of this week had to be that same close friends 50th birthday, she is always the life of a party, I had really missed the bliss of load music, dance floor, fabulous atmosphere and the encouragement of friendship to dance your heart out and not give a damn who is watching or judging.



Week 9

When things were normal and talks of the #coronavirus on the news seemed like a distant problem

I was hashtagging #studentmumlife and sorting my study corner in between trips to college and uni work.

Week 10

Outside problems like talks of the #coronavirus on the news seemed like a distant problem, whilst drowning in the emotional crisis's one after the other and hash-tagging things like #itsokaynottobeokay

#strongfortoolong in-between moments of #selfcare #escapereading and painting a smile on my face whilst slowly becoming more #reclusive yet still finding the enthusiasm to study.


The first few weeks in March just flew by as I juggled college work, Uni work, family life, and all the complexities that are involved in a family household where half are abuse survivors.

I started to become aware of the Corona Virus as other classmates started to debate its seriousness and the details surrounding the outbreak in China. At this point I honestly felt worlds away from the problem and based on the W.H.O. figures I concluded that panic was completely unnecessary.

Week 11

Things started getting a little crazy in the world, talks of the #coronavirus on the news were about WHO declaring it a #pandemic and people started #panicbuying so everyone else not panicking had to go hunting if they wanted toilet-roll to wipe their backsides and soap to follow the guidelines and clean their hands more regularly.

In-between ranting about the panic

I was hash-tagging the usual normal life stuff still blissfully hopeful for our family trip to see our family down south.

Week 12

Things started getting real, talks of the #coronavirus on the news of #socialdistancing large groups already banned, college and universities had sent their students home and schools closed at the end of the week, it was the first weekend of #coronaviruslockdown.

"My world just wobbled beneath me...

#firstweekend of #socialdistancing during this #coronacrisis I was doing my #openuni work #socialscience like every weekend this year. I look at the time and like every Sunday I think... "crap better get my arse in gear and cook dinner kids have school tomorrow and I've got college"

😢🤯🥺 And I realized nope #everythinghaschanged #screwyoucoronavirus

#realitywobble #realitycrumbles #surreal - During this first weekend we put on brave faces as we celebrated our daughters birthday then mothers day in lockdown"

Week 13 #firstweekoflockdown

Talks of the #coronaviruson the news were becoming series, numbers and statistics were rapidly increasing.

I was posting...

"The #SUREALNESS out there is like a blanket over everything‼‼ It was not the #emptiness that got me it was the almost #apocalyptic silence, it did not feel like the #concretejungle, it felt like #wilderness.

That in itself leaves weighty anxiety!

Don't get me wrong the people I did encounter were friendly and respectful and all doing their part with the #socialdistancing and the shop staff are just amazing!

#surrealness #coronaviruslockdown #onlythebirdsarehappy

I was in tears after canceling our family trip south to visit family and I started phoning my Nan regularly as a result.

Week 14 #secondweekoflockdown

Talks of the #coronavirus on the news were serious. Infection rates still rapidly increased, deaths were getting high, figures in Scotland were getting substantial.

I was posting ...

"I disappeared for a few days

All I did was #read #minecraft #studyingathome, Plus the other mundane stuff. #survivinglockdown #reclusiveintrovert

But after two weekends and a full week...

The walls felt like they closed in

Hence the #mondaymotivation #forestwalk

My anxiety levels had increased and I had requested a prescription of the doctor for it, the first time since 2008.

My study motivation completely disappeared and it was my #therapeuticphotography that got me through with some little conversations with friends and family.

Week 15 #thirdweekoflockdown

Talks of the #coronaviruson the news were becoming too emotional, not just the horrible statistics and stories of death or that our crazy-ass PM was in intensive care, but the stories of kindness, courageous acts of key workers, it was becoming all too #overwhelming

I was posting ...

#visualtruths #coronajournal

#therealityoflockdown #mentalhealth

#stayinghome I picked my camera up today and pointed at all the #mundane #nittygritty occurrences in our home. No presentation. #rawlife #rawemotions #rawmoment

This week a tiny spark of optimism - #therapeuticexpression through #therapeuticphotography #escapism #fantasynovel and #selfcare #balancingenergies #waterisnotjustwater

Week 16 #forthweekoflockdown

Sunshine sparks a little optimism whilst feeling restricted and evasive! Putting on brave colours to do essential shopping to disguise the complex emotions.

Signs of Spring, blue skies, low noise pollution. Days blend.

#stayinghome #savelives #thankyoukeyworkers




Week 17 #fifthweekoflockdown

Realizing the sunshine helped make the days easier and boost mental well bein for a while, I willed myself to lounge in the sun reading escaping into fantasy novels to ensure a balance of self-care to prevent burning out from the raw emotions, the stress, and the business of life and studying college & uni work.

Week 18 #sixthweekoflokdown

The tears flowed freely whilst the lump in the throat never budged. Didn't matter whether it was good news or bad news, the raw emotions broadcasted on the news was overwhelming. Complete emotional overload. I swapped my study corner for the garden in the hope of improved mental health. Every raw emotion from every person surrounding me or on the news just kept flooding over me in a rush or torrent I struggled not to drown in. Being an empath really sucked right then!

Week 19 #seventhweekoflockdown

Some distractions with Star wars day and photography expression. Photography truly is therapy!

More distraction, bike rides with my Amsterdam style bike that had been sitting in my husband's shed since summer 2019 when I got it after our Amsterdam trip. My husband's complaints about it taking up space and not being used spurred on a week of cycling every day, taking a child out each time. I had forgotten how soothing the air rushing by and the repetition of cycling was, another coping mechanism to remember and utilize as I dealt with the onslaught of emotions and thoughts whilst unable to fully communicate like I normally do to deal with life problems and worries that torment my racing over-thinking mind.

Week 20 #eighthweekoflockdown

#thatmanmoron they call a PM is all over the tv and social media and I had to endure him through a video for my #socialscience study, cringing is an understatement!

I had to stop to visually express the frustrations and posted the following on social media with a series of images...

"What an absolutely #ironic time to be looking back at video interviews of this #moron #BorisTrump #borisisnotmypm

There are two very contrasting emotional reasons why I avoid the news right now the first is as an empath I cry and melt into a puddle every time I hear both good and bad stories about the #coronaviruscrisis and SECONDLY as an empath (I don't care how contradictory it sounds) I want to punch the TV every time #thatmanmoron speaks, I say as an empath because his #politicalbullshit just oozes from him and not even the TV screen protects me from it!

I am now halfway through my first Uni module and enjoying the "sports" section better than I expected. It's about the #embodiedself and the #inequlities emphasized in the sport which is #fascinating. I was even enjoying working through the specific examples of the #2012LondonOlympics, all the promises and effects from it positive and of course negative... that is until I had to watch a documentary that has #interviewclips of #BorisJohnson.

So I took a #selfcare break got a lovely #gingerbreadcoffee and done some #photosketching of #selfexpressionabout #thatmanmoron so I could avoid the urge to punch my computer screen!

These are #myownviews #notaffiliated

#studentproblems

#study #read #cycle #cookdinner #watchbuffy #sleep #repeat

Motivation to cycle continues, the fine weather helps allot!

Week 21 #ninthweekoflockdown

Just words, a list of words to explain this week's raw emotions...

#unimportant

#invisible

#incomplete

#foresaken

Again the days blend, taking each day as it comes

#study #read #cycle #cookdinner #watchbuffy #sleep #repeat the repetitiveness was drowning the hope and optimism. The past four years I used to being active and doing stuff that I believed was productive, the home study was all that kept me from withering into the despair of feeling I was suddenly going backward in life!

Week 22 #tenthweekoflockdown

More words, my communication reduced to just lists of one-word descriptions reflects the lack of communication and how that inability impacted me.

#invisible #foresaken #inconvenient #inessential #insufficient

The same repetitive behavior and thoughts were re-occurring like a crazy mantra...

#study #read #cycle #cookdinner #watchbuffy #sleep #repeat

#stayinghome #saveslives #thankyoukeyworkers

At this point, the worry about certain victimized family members drowning in the toxicity of my ex-family hit a full time high. Though not talked about anywhere but in my private diaries and an occasional text conversation with the very select few who I felt able to say anything about it, it had been one of the many overwhelming raw emotions bubbling over in the background. With each new campaign of awareness about the correlation between the Lockdown and the rise in domestic abuse, the nerve ending of all my raw emotions was becoming numb. All the other million-to-one complication's from the family's mental health, maintaining relationships in this complexity with those in the household never mind loved ones, not in the house, overwhelming was the biggest understatement.

Can someone really think that much, that many different things all at once? Hell yes!

Can you really feel so much emotion, positive and negative that what is left is a contrasting abyss of neverending dark numbness and the overwhelming blinding explosiveness of emotional sensation? How does one even begin to compute that contrasting complexity?

I was switching off, withdrawing from the world, losing hope in the positivity I thought I had and could give. I had distanced myself from a lot of social media for a month already, not that it made a blind bit of difference to myself or anyone else!

Week 23

The outside world prepares to slowly relax lockdown, the political conflicts, and mess of disagreement and judgment makes watching the news repulsive. I try to prepare. It doesn't really feel like it matters at this point.

The world outside is Kaos, gone mad! World leaders playing dangerous games of deception, gas-lighting, misdirection, and pure prejudice that infects the everyday persons.

I come out of my social media hiding to campaign against the latest inequality that makes the world news and regrets it immediately when surrounded by the extremes of humanity. Prejudice, judgment, hatred, and control. Another wave of overwhelming emotions my own and the worlds.

Week 24

My own predicament within the social world becomes another glooming burden, studying sociology both a fascinating distraction and foreboding anxiety. The desperation to no longer be in this financial position, to be working but the despair of the financial instability the shift will create.

"Captive of socio-economic imbalance

#cycleofpoverty

Longing to make a difference in a world that is thunderous with noise, is one tiny voice ever going to change anything?

@FortitudeProjec #photoactivist #therapeuticphotographer"

At that moment the existentialist philosophy of each of us being alone suddenly becomes clear. The burden of empathy, self-reflection, emotional smarts, and sensitivity meaning whilst The past four years have been a path to self-discovery that aided understanding of how and why I think and feel as I do in turn helping to understand the same in those around me, yet rarely able to find that same understanding.

I expressed myself publicly for what felt like a final time before disappearing from the virtual world, or at the very least disappearing the virtual world from my phone, preventing the mindless scrolling and tapping.

"This is my #therapeuticexpression of how #emotionallyexhausted I feel right now about EVERYTHING #worldwideissues #personalissues #theworldhasgonemad

For #selfcare purposes, I am going to drastically reduce my social media usage.

If anyone needs support related to my Abuse Survivor page and @fortitudeprojec please do reach out, alternative contact is on the various social platforms and my website

www.fortitudeproject.co.uk

Take care ❤"

Then it occurred to me that I had lost my avenue of expression and blogging, so I turned to this blog instead.

Week 25

Misunderstood

Pre-conceived perceptions

Anxiety - disquietude

Inequality - withershins

Naive - lassitude - enervated - credulous

Disillusioned - thwarted


The string of words reflects my inability to compose a conscious collection of thoughts about how I feel about this week's occurrences, whilst giving some sense of my emotional state.

"treat those the way you want to be treated" - am I alone in understanding the fundamentals of this philosophy or am I just outdated in this shallow consumerism capitalist society ruled by the untouchable Bourgeoisie I've been studying.


During all this pessimism weaving about my thoughts throughout the week, I took the time to join an online community I had discovered during my research of Therapeutic Photography for the Fortitude Project I developed. It is called "The One Project" a community of people using photography as an expression to help them through their mental health conditions. As a survivor with anxiety and a photographer who uses therapeutic photography, I joined to find connections and to share. The founder regularly engages with the community asking questions and encouraging engagement with this community he created. One such question compelled me to answer, relevant to the sharing I persistently do. The question was "What specific hesitations, worries or anxieties are you feeling right now about sharing your story in the community?"

This was my response: "I share impulsively and expressively, then suffer the intense anxiety afterward of how I have been perceived, did I come across the way I intended, am I judged as an over-sharer, am I even helping, does one tiny voice really make a difference: are among the things whizzing around my head. I've shared my experiences for 20 years now as a way to heal, the idea that sharing is helping others was what got me through the trauma of being a CSA survivor, as a result, I have never stopped, the experiences and struggles have changed over time and the method of sharing has become more visual but it has become second nature. Yet the anxiety, low self-confidence, self-doubt, and fear never subsides with each share, the coping mechanisms however improve making me look like I'm confident at this stuff when inside I still shake!" As natural or confident as the world may perceive my sharing, every time I share, a post on social media, these blogs or as I wrote my memoirs, that anxiety, worry, and the jelly, shaking feeling inside and the knots and twists of the stomach, still exists, each and every time.

Week 26


Personal conflicts in close relationships are difficult to deal with at the best of time, but for an empath, during the gloom of this pandemic, whilst battling through life-altering personal crisis's within the family, these conflicts threaten to rock the very foundations of your core strength at times and it takes tremendous focus and will power to remember that your foundations are much stronger than they look right in that moment.

It is difficult to remember that not everyone loves, lives, and feels as immensely, deeply, and with the complexity as an empath does. That sense of loneliness even around those you love is scary. I resort back to that visual metaphor of boxed ideas others have of me, which in that moment feels insulting to the person I've worked my backside off to be. Words rattling inside my head, whizzing, edging closer to the tip of my tongue, truths desperate to be unleashed, consequences be damned!

I've lived my entire life with being told I am wrong, that what I believe is wrong, how I treat people is wrong, how I behave is wrong, how I think is wrong, how I live is wrong, even how I feel is wrong! So I have spent my entire life proving they are WRONG ABOUT ME, and only in the past four years have I started to embrace that truth and believe in it. Consequently, when things get tough and those old misconceptions creep their ugly heads into this new and empowered life I have to deal with the old wobbles of doubt again.

Week 27


As conflicts are resolved and life settles back to that same rhythm, my mind wanders once again to the future. This week is spent tackling all the thoughts and emotions connected with the anxieties of whether my plans for my career will ever come into fruition.

I long to change my family's financial position, it tortures my mind being stuck in this mess. In that moment I would gladly take any work that would better our financial position, but even without this pandemic, there is not any work that would better our financial position. Society has this misconception that people stay unemployed because they are too comfortable on benefits! All I can feel is, this is not comfortable its mind-numbing hopelessness! Right now as a family where only one parent is able to work, a job would actually create more financial instability, worry, and anxiety. No matter how poor we are right now, I know my children are fed, have a roof over their heads and the bills are paid. If I walk into a job tomorrow, would I earn enough to keep the food on the table, the roof over our head, and to pay all the bills we need? Will I lose time with my younger children and have to rely more on my adult children to help take over carer responsibilities for their Dad, work a phenomenal amount of hours yet potentially be in a worse financial position. It feels like a terrifying gamble, could my family's mental health deal with that change in instability?

I hate This! I have a diploma in photography, an amazing career potential but no life chances to pursue it without putting my family at risk. I realized this soon after I got my diploma, that though Photography is who I am, I needed to find a career with regular hours and steady pay. Discovering Therapeutic photography showed me that I had the capability to help people and work in a sector that helps people. I tried an introduction to counseling course but learned that this style of studying and helping didn't quite fit me. This is why I explored the Psychology and criminology course that lead me to the conclusion that I could do a lot as a support worker, perhaps for woman's aid, children's 1st, or other related areas. Hence I pursued an open university degree in the hopes that I could volunteer as a support worker whilst gaining the qualifications. My dream of therapeutic photography not given up on but running alongside a career as a support worker helping others through traumatic experiences.

These are my plans, I've studied hard to establish this path, but those numbers are daunting, age 40, 20 years without working! Those misconceptions that the working world has that is created by this consumerism capitalist society run by those sitting at the top of the hierarchy.

Will I ever get that career and that mortgage? The stubborn in me refuses to give up despite facing the reality of our situation.

Week 28


My studies this week for my Social Science degree explore societies' perceptions of radical ideology, the 2011 riots, and social issues such as poverty and unemployment. It explores the Conservative views of politicians such as David Cameron who blames the individual behaviors and "fatherless" families for the decline in modern youth morality and increased unemployment! The radical in me screams, virtual steam pours out my ears as I read these attitudes of these bourgeois Conservative politicians sitting in their extravagant second homes, who make judgments on situations they are not experiencing first hand. My scribbles in the columns of this chapter hint towards my exasperation of the conditions of politics in Westminster that the roots of can be seen in Cameron's speech. All the while increasing my own self-consciousness of my lengthy time of unemployment, and whether an employer would ever look past that to employ me. These conservative attitudes that I study don't boost my confidence any!

But my demeanor shifted after a 45-minute telephone career consultation.

Hope again!

I was firmly told not to sell myself short, not to come across as someone who has been unemployed for 20 years. I've been my husband's carer for 20 years he said, a paid job that has involved interactions with multiple agencies and transferable skills in exactly the type of work I want to apply for. I have education and volunteer experiences that contribute to my potential. I was even told I have a really good skill at articulating my skills and experiences and connecting them to the type of work I want to pursue. This shocked me. I thought I was nervously babbling about my experience and education. I felt shaky inside like I always do when talking to a stranger, but this stranger reassured me that he had done plenty of interviews for employment and that I had a gift in articulating my abilities. I never believed I was good at any type of communication, I just felt like I babbled an incoherent stream of honest thoughts that were definitely not articulate or academic in any sense. I ended the phone call with a new sense of focus and determination. I can do this!

In an email I was given these encouraging words;

"Your passion for using photography to help others recover from abuse is innovative and unique."

Week 29


I'm trying to stay motivated. I keep studying, the uni work is fascinating me, I really love engaging with the material. But like I said to my Nanna, it is difficult studying subjects like inequalities when you are experiencing them and part of that social systemic issue. Not difficult to understand or connect with, quite the opposite. However, it is the knowledge that these social issues are still largely ignored by a system that prefers to pass the problem as a natural part of society than realize that it is a systemic problem created by policies that support the rich to remain in power. The problem is the feeling of hopelessness! They know there is a problem, they just don't care. How does one live with that knowledge and raise children to be loving, caring, fair, understanding citizens whilst knowing the cruel selfish world they face. Still trying though! Once again I'm drowning in my mountain of thoughts, the knowledge I have of innocent people lost to the system, the dreams of a better future for loved ones I worry so much about. News of court cases piling up, how social distancing is slowing the process further, the longer this narcissist is free to live his life the longer those innocent family members will take to recover from the psychological damage.

The feeling of disconnection increases. Yet giving up is just not an option, drowning in hopelessness is not an option. The only option is to continue fighting. It would help though to not feel so forgotten or alone in the fight. Does anyone care about what is right anymore? I feel like "caring about what is right" has become something of fiction in this world, like believing in magic, happy ever afters, love, the force, all things found in magical mystical fantasy stories or quest worthy good versus evil science fiction adventures.

Week 30


That lost, lonely, foreboding emptiness and hopelessness from last week feels like its over-shadowing any positive second or moment of thought this week. It's a struggle to maintain any sense of self, drowning in raw emotions without any release. I don't want to rely on tablets for anxiety. Will there be more to life than endless nights staring at the pretty colourful amusing lights forming elaborate stories in a rectangle on my wall? A window to fantasy like the pages of my books because reality feels like hell on earth.

Week 31


Human connections and interactions are barely tangible but when they are, at the moment most are drowning in massive misinterpretations of my mental state and emotions, misunderstanding the causes of my low moments and reactions to be malicious in nature. Does my struggling self really exude a malicious nature that those around are quickly defensive and become a blitz of hostility? Why is it automatically presumed that my silent, reclusive and highly emotive state is evidence of a lack of caring, compassion, understanding, nonjudgmental love, and empathy? When in fact my silent, reclusive, and highly emotive state is caused by the very presence in the abundance of these qualities! The caring, compassion, understanding, nonjudgmental love and empathy is the reason I become silent, reclusive, and highly emotive. Which is even harder. I guess in essence we are back to the idea of perception, and the boxed perception people have for you inside their own mind. Everyone's emotions, good, bad, happy, and painful, it becomes too much, regardless of whether they talk about it or not. Empathy is a b!tch that way, understanding and feeling even the unspoken emotions of any given scenario or situation, especially of those I care about. The overthinking too. Right now there's an imbalance of pain, hurt, worry, fear, anxiety, and sorrow surrounding this corner of my world and worldwide.

As my Nan says, we can not do anything about other people's emotions and reactions. As adults we must take responsibility for our own emotions and actions, there is not a lot we can do about how other people feel or behave, though we may try to help. It is unprecedented times, especially during the madness of this pandemic and lockdown. My Nan said "it's very odd. I have lived along time, I'm 90 years old and I have never seen anything like it, not even during the war, it's very odd!"

Week 32


Distraction. That is the cause of this week's more mellow emotions! Slogging through the uni resource books, videos, and audios preparing for the upcoming assessment. Then a health heart-pumping walk and catch-up chat with a good friend, escaping the drudging grinding routine of the same four walls. By the weekend I felt re-energized just enough to power through my assessment, ready to be handed in several days before the deadline. When I began it, I had seriously pondered asking for an extension because I had felt lost among all the theories, concepts, claims, and questions, but I managed to pull together a coherent essay... I hope. I will find out soon enough! Finding hope in the tiny slithers of connections found with a seemingly unfeasible friend, till we meet again!

Week 33


Good start to the week, one essay handed in as planned. Then spent the next few days preparing the youngest two for school. SCHOOL... eek, afraid to think about it happening, all the unknowns and uncertainty. News of clusters of the virus outbreak being strategically ignored to avoid needing to pop some more beta-blockers! Instead focusing on the need for a routine that drives us out the house like that of the school runs, with the intention of riding our bikes to and from school, something the youngest has been asking to do for some time. So the first two days back at school went smoothly, the youngest was excited to be back and adapted to the new changes and protocols caused by the pandemic. Though a little disappointed that she couldn't socialize outside her classroom especially with the cousins she only gets to see at school. Outside of their classroom 'bubbles', they were only gaining little 'hello's' as one class goes in from their walk in the playground and another goes out. I am relieved that this pandemic has not affected her enthusiasm for school and learning though, one less thing to worry about. Just need to help her through her highly emotive, sensitive, empath moments whilst still trying to figure out ways to cope with my own. 🤦‍♀️

Week 34


The beginning of last week and the start of this week was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Not for any particular reason, just a bubbling over of all pre-existing worries and concerns. What hasn't helped is husbands new tablets to stop the nerve damage in his legs messing with his sleep seems to have affected how he breathes whilst sleeping, causing my already broken sleep to worsen, some night feeling like I'm lying awake most the night, though my Fitbit says otherwise. His solution is to leave me alone in bed to get sleep when I'm up early in the mornings. Which is not doing anything for those highly emotive empath moments I was talking about. When they said sleeping in the same bed as your partner improves your mental health and emotional state, they were not kidding! Everything is causing tears to flood. The husband gets upset with being told two different sets of instructions by Spec savers: the tears just start to fall - his frustrations are not even aimed at me. The teenage boy doesn't walk the dog properly before school and I come home to a smelly mess, one of the first accidents since the dog walking training started: the tears flow like the surface runoff of a torrential thunderstorm jetting down a steep road! WTF!! I can not focus on reading, though I desperately continue to try, thank the powers-to-be that I have a wee break from my uni studies before my final assessment! The enthusiasm of looking forward to the routine that the kids being back at school has dwindled to the dread as I cycle home of seeing those four walls again. Praying that the Local council will contact me soon about volunteering. Whist seriously contemplating a weekend job just to be doing something even though it won't really change our financial struggles. Another preliminary hearing date changed to next month, fourth time. I get a pit in my stomach every time I need to tell my daughter the date has changed again. It's not like it hasn't already drastically affected her, she struggled to deal with college and college life whilst the court was looming, lost interest in continuing her childcare, and decided a year out when this pandemic hit was an absolute must. With renewed plans to study catering at college next year. Meanwhile with every delay in the judicial system increases my seething anger at the perpetrator for doing this to her. This had better be done by the time she plans to study next year, she deserves the fresh start!


Week 34 The new school routine, and cycling too and from school has helped a little. However, racing thoughts are endless. Hope haunts my dreams each night only to relive the reality of this limbo of waiting for a justice system that was far from perfect before COVID to start functioning again in the hopes of a positive outcome counteracting the type coercive grip the toxic ex-family have on innocent lives. Trying to study in-between moments of thoughts going of on a tangent. Trying to placate those thoughts by doing the only tiny things I can to make it right, past a smile here, or eye contact there. All that can be done is to remain true to this wiser person I am and be a friend with honesty and integrity. Writing through diaries, blogs and letters seem to be the only way to quieten the noise in my head for just a little while. Then quickly study in-between those tiny quiet moments, a steady pace working on the final assessment for this year.

Week 36


I almost forgot how hard it was to study these materials on social inequality. Tears are back! Life is brutal. Of course, I will keep fighting, of course, I remember all the positives in my life, those positives are why I still exist. I know I've achieved a lot, come a long way, have amazing children, amazing friends, and a dream of the future. I have a lot of rights to wrong, fellow underdogs to fight for. Attempt to make some kind of impact on my small corner of the world. Continue to be that load annoying voice that questions inequalities, prejudices, and atrocities caused by abuse and why they are so damn persistent in a society who are supposed to be a hell of a lot more clued up now that its the bloody 21st century! Pfft! But do you know what, daily life, the emotions, the stuff quietly simmering in the background of our life waiting to bubble over, it's all bloody hard! I do cry a lot, hurt, dismay, and helplessness do creep in. It has taken a lot of tears, blood, sweat, and heartbreaks to be here today surviving crisis after crisis, and it will continue to take more tears, blood, sweat, and heartache to get through more years. A meme popped up this week that stuck with my mindset at the moment: "Yes, I overthink, but not because I want to be sad. I just feel too much, I value things, emotions and promises" This is the core of who I am. An Empath. An activist. A rebel. A truth & knowledge seeker. I will slog through this essay that is all about living in a society already made and handed down by previous generations, that reminds me of the huge importance this "United Kingdom" put on social class whilst pretending to be a new age just and equal society! 😂 Dear (not my) Prime Minister, live this underdogs life and make it to 40! Maybe then you would do something about poverty, education, life chances, inequality, childhood trauma, child abuse, domestic abuse, and the justice system!

Week 37


My mind has been a cascade of emotions and thoughts this week as I try to keep a steady pace working on my end of module assessment for uni. I can't see past this week and this assessment. Halfway through the week, I stared at the same 45 words for a total of about 3 hours, no amount of coffee breaks, dog walk breaks, or chats with my Nana and cousin helped. My mind seemed to have just crashed with the overload of content between this manic life I exist in and study material. Fortunately the next day I got the last half completed and handed in by Saturday. I was buzzing that I had completed all the work for this year, ignoring the cold trepidation of waiting for a result in case my mind crashed again. There was enough trepidation oozing from me about this court case being delayed a 5th time and the endless effects my ex-toxic-family are still having on their victims and innocents. There were shiftings in the background noise of the situation that left a deep anxious pit in my stomach feeling, leaving a sense of panic. A feeling I tried to mask with incessant ramblings of random insignificant things to those who talked to me.

Week 38


Teary week. The Buzz of achievement from the weekend's EMA hand-in lasted all of an hour or so. After filing together emails sent too and from friends the past ten years in preparation for going through them to start on the fourth draft of my Memoir, I mourned a friendship ripped away and a life that should have been. Survivor; does not imply you are "over" your trauma or that you need to be, it means you have coping mechanisms in place that help you cope with the life-long consequences of your trauma. For some of us, trauma of various types and severity span our whole life! As my favorite Psychologist Author says, it is perfectly normal for someone who has survived abuse and trauma to have these feelings and thoughts, I am not ill! This is Me. I do not need to be fixed! My tears, my mourning, my obsession with truth, my obsession with helping other survivors, my obsession with doing what is right, my reclusiveness, and my newfound boundaries! These are normal for me and my experiences! I do not need to be fixed or changed. I do not need judgment or sympathy. I do not need accusations or presumptions. I do not need anyone's permission, authentification, or validation. You can keep your misinterpretations of my truth or awkwardness about my truth, that is on you, not my responsibility or fault! Life is not a bed of roses, things are bloody hard and I should not have to be quiet about it, fade into the background, or deal with being expected to fix or get others to fix how I am feeling! Take your wincing, recoiling, cringing, blanching reactions into a nice dark corner while you have a long hard look at yourself because that is on you! "This is the core of who I am. An Empath. An activist. A rebel. A truth & knowledge seeker."


Week 39


My mental health is frayed, I am the most reclusive I have ever been, the closest is perhaps back in 2002 when I had only been back in Scotland 4 years, had no friends, didn't go out and my time was engulfed with two children under two and a partner who was struggling with his mental health at the worst I've seen him. A time before I made friends and before I had the courage to do the little socializing I've managed the past decade. If it wasn't for the activist part of me I wouldn't even be online! My thoughts are not at all sociable or people-friendly. They whirl inside my head incessantly and obsessively, stuck in a loop. I’m struggling to read, my studies have ended for this year, music only works periodically, work isn’t going to happen right now, no one wants someone who's been out of work 20 years. I’m so sick of the house we live in I’ve given up on it but no matter how much we’ve been looking we have had no success in moving. Not to mention my hubby’s mental health has gone drastically downhill, his PTSD has worsened, flashbacks from his childhood which he had forgotten have resurfaced, it has been a tough couple years for him. Then Lockdown forced him to shield! Being stuck in has made his mental health so much worse, he is holding on by a thread aided by the medication and the knowledge that if he spirals to where he was when we first met he will lose everything we've worked at. Despite his current dissociation from positive emotions he is connected enough to know loosing our 20 years as a family is not a realistic option! It is difficult to find connection and hold onto Love when he is in such a dissociated state, even tougher when my own mental health makes me process things a allot more internally than my usually introverted intuitive internal processing. That was where we were at before our long weekend getaway to the coast! A last-minute desperate escape!

The therapeutic tranquillity of the coast and of photography was a 4-day escape from reality. The coast, by the sea, is when I am my most at peace as is when I'm doing my therapeutic photography. Combine these two elements together and my mind is the calmest, most at peace, a mind can ever be! No amount of medication, meditation, therapy, achievement, or happiness can do what therapeutic photography at the coast does for me! It is Bliss! I wish I could bottle that mental state and take it with me because before and after that long weekend, my mind is at its "new normal" frantic whirling and obsessive state.

Me - a thalassophile! Is it no wonder I desperately want to move back to the coast, only this time the East coast!

Week 40


The emotions and whirling thoughts before the weekend away were waiting when I returned. Though the beginning of the week started with the buzz of the last part of the long weekend. Once home reality returned. The desperate need to be reclusive is relentless. So I turned my focus on the 4th draft of the memoir I had been procrastinating over. Dreamed of the hopeless possibility to just up and leave right now to a private let on the east coast. Beautiful homes available. For an instant it was exciting to think like that. Until reality crashes down on the moment. The distant numbing returns as I pull enough energy to do the mundane, take each moment as it comes and despite everything continue to stay true to who I am.


Week 41


The beginning of the week started with sparks of enthusiasm that came from a long-overdue kitchen gutting and complete rearrange, with the hope of making our main social area more comfortable again. With the misguided hope that feeling better about the presentation of one room might make the house feel more homely again. The buzz worked while the work was being done until I had done all I could while I do not have the money for the comfortable furniture to finalize the plan. Money struggles our ultimate mood destabilizer right now. Though I cooked my second fast prep recipe and for the first time ever realized that how "Hello Fresh" do these boxes with exact ingredients and recipes were perfect for someone like me whose hate of cooking stems from childhood trauma. Not only was I loving restaurant-quality tastes but stress-free prep and cooking. After further investigation, I realized I could consistently miss weeks out and get the orders as a monthly treat, so I reactivated my account. I felt a little positive for a few moments. It doesn't seem to last these days, to much complex crap in life for our little family atm. Emotions are frayed, tiny insignificant moments spark big scary emotions on a repeat cycle. The second day into the week and my foundations threaten to wobble. My mind opens the door and leaves, nope that can not be coped with right now, that is a safety net, a security blanket that has kept me stable during the hell of the past 4 years, it is not allowed to suddenly be at risk of fraying or holes poked in it. Nope, the risk can not be real. Total denial! Bye-bye mind! 👋

By Mid-week, we've gone through another series of hospital tests with my husband, this time the persistent respiratory issues that have become increasingly troublesome the past couple of years. As expected they were poor, so pending the results being sent to the doctor, he will be given more medication on top of the 20 tablets a day, potentially for C.O.P.D. Which adds to his long term depression, PTSD, Anxiety, Panic attacks, Arthritis, type 2 diabetes with persistent nerve damage, CHD with Angina, high cholesterol & high blood pressure. Not exactly a mood boost for my hubby! Meanwhile, between these moments, I am continuing to steadily work through the fourth draft of my memoir while acknowledging my estranged friend's birthday. One hundred-odd page's into this Memoir and I'm reading the sections on the intense connections and friends made when I was seventeen. Acknowledging that the intensity of how I feel about those friendships I have has not really changed. Yet I long for those times, where the intensity was mutual. Not the intensity in time spent together, but in the connection, in feeling understood and unconditional acceptance. In not feeling abnormal for caring and loving so deeply. I miss that! Terribly. Like an empty hole that refuses to fill no matter how many important positives still exist in my life. I've lost those deep meaningful mutual connections, the hours of talking about life, the nitty-gritty, the deep conversations that flow so naturally, the philosophical depth of thought and exploration. I miss that! The charged creative teeming pauses and silences that you could feel and bask comfortably in, sensing that the moments were anything but empty. I Miss That! The security of knowing there were no misconceptions or pre-conceived prejudice. Understanding, depth, and intensity were mutual. No worries about talking too much, saying too little, talking too deeply, or concerns about loaded or controversial content. No fears of over-sharing or being too open. I miss that intensity!

Week 42 The October week, for a moment there we held abated breaths as there was talk of extending the October week to a three-week holiday because there is a second wave of COVID cases, instead, many areas in Scotland have been given more restrictions again to control the increase. The legal mess of court cases being put of every month since April still hangs over us every month like a damn black cloud refusing to shift! Backlogs and COVID causing endless delays and stress. Phone calls to the victims from the procurator fiscal going over some defense questions that just seem pathetically desperate are the only signs that things are still slowly progressing forward rather than stagnating. I took to the Fortitude Project Social media for an expressive rant; "Abuse survivor;

no one talks about the almost normal moments vs the abusive moments!

Those normal moments that the world hears about and tries to use as evidence that the abuse could not possibly exist!

We are telling you about abuse within a family/relationship environment, not years of daily torture by some unknown enemy in the army!

He took me camping, there are smiling photos of me, he seemed to show care and compassion, took me to my appointments, took me to the hospital (after pushing me into a class cabinet) he tooK me for meals in pubs. He bought me birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, even told me he loved me. He took me and my friend to Alton towers. He interacted with my school, took me to get my eyes tested.

That does not mean the emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse consistently through the 4 years I lived with him did not occur!

Those normal moments that abusers, court cases, defense lawyers try to use to prove you are lying!

I have experienced abuse from my father's hands!

Now I hear so much about others who experienced abuse by a family member, yet the abuser is ENABLED because they appear, "nice", "friendly", "compassionate", "stable" and "is a functioning member of society".

ENOUGH ALREADY!

STOP WILL YOU! "

I spent the week expressing, sharing, and campaigning on social media which helped me process my thoughts at the moment. A quiet, mundane week but a lot was dealt with. Then towards the end of the week, I flew through more of the 4th draft of my Memoir, which helped focus on some of my own introspective revelations the past few years. Not to mention some niggling issues with personality clashes due to my husband's mental health.

Week 43


This week started so well. Despite our struggling finances we managed to scrape together enough cash by skipping a bill of rescheduling another so we could get some Anime Merchandise for our youngest son's 15th birthday. It was a quiet day in the house but he seemed very happy. Then on Friday, I got the phone call from the school and I spent the weekend in the hospital with our youngest son. He is doing ok, he got out on Sunday morning, then I spent two hours locked in a bathroom processing the mess of a life we live, the mess of a life my children have inherited, and how life seems to be made up of one crisis after another. Tired, exhausted. Too Much! Too complicated to talk about or express. I tried to focus through Therapeutic Photographic Expression, Music, and cryptic posts. "#therapeuticexpression

#therapeuticphotography

🎼Came to you with a broken faith

Gave me more than a hand to hold

Caught before I hit the ground

Tell me I'm safe, you've got me now

Would you take the wheel

If I lose control?

If I'm lying here

Will you take me home?

Could you take care of a broken soul?🎵"

Week 44


So much emotions. So much thoughts. So much helplessness. My mind is unfocused. No Memoir Progress, no reading. Staring at four walls, listening to the COVID news drone on in the background. What utter Kaos! Everything is out of our control to change or improve or help. Even the tears are broken now! What an utter mess our children must brave through and attempt to survive. Too many people in too many places have way too much to answer for! Towards the end of the week, people are preparing to celebrate Halloween in their homes and school through more COVID restrictions. I lost enthusiasm in this celebration four years ago when I broke away from copying the toxic family's traditions and feeling pressured to put on a show or act just because it was what everyone expected. It used to be my favorite holiday, now like everything it is weighted with expectation, greed, and commercialization. I do not know how to start my own family traditions for this holiday! I was also reminded why I do not talk a lot anymore, why I am so reclusive right now. I can not talk without the conversation leading to the contents of this harrowing life and world. I try small talk, it does not work! I simple conversation like a buzz-cut purple hairstyle led rather steeply to the crisis after crisis that is my life, too harrowing for an everyday conversation. Yet it is our everyday life! One final thing occurs to me, these words seep into this abyss of helplessness I feel: “you can know all the right information and share it, show the right amount of concern, caring and compassion, ask all the right questions, connect in all the right ways, but if a person is not responsive to that help and support, there is absolutely nothing you can do” The good news of passing my first module in my Social Science degree with an overall mark of 75% and an End-of-module assessment grade of 85% (grade A) is background noise to this current Kaos, despite the added knowledge of achieving it whilst studying a full-time college course as well as through the hell that occurred due to the COVID lockdown. That proud achievement, that sense of doing something right feels like a tiny blip in a giant ocean! Through-out the week this one thought just kept going on loop "I am done with holding onto that crap". On Thursday I watched the Kristen Stewart movie Underwater, and that was me! "Do you think I would get away with that hair cut?" I asked my hubby, "Yeah he replied, about time! But it would be better blonde like that or you could go PURPLE" which he said just as I was thinking it. So I sent an image of a purple home colouring kit and asked my daughter if she could colour my hair, to which she replied "I don't know" I sent another question saying "what if it was shaved" and she replied yeah, followed by a massive stream of questions, what changed thought you wanted your long grey hair. On Saturday I revealed the new style with an explanation post as follows; "new me - reveal

"I am not that me anymore I am El Amethyst"

☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

"I am done with holding onto that crap"

Those rare moments that therapeutic photography is not quite cutting it and I'm too skint for my big tattoo!

250g of hair GONE

Contaminated growth - gone

Last reminisce of a toxic life - GOODBYE

I am not that me anymore!

I am El Amethyst"

My eldest daughter later told me her reaction to this extreme action, she thought either I was having a crisis or was about to divorce her Dad and come out as a lesbian! "Nah I replied, still Pansexual"

Week 45


Sentiment of last week's "broken tears" echoes through to this week as I try to use Photosketching as self-expression on social media. "I need some simplicity to life, deep heart-wrenching conversation, a couple of miracles, a lot more reading time and a switch in my head that says "reading mode" so the rest of the world didn't impact that nessacary introvert escape!" Mid-week I dealt with the inevitable and much needed mental health appointment as a result of events two weeks ago. Que more Photosketching and random scattered wors and thoughts. "Unwanted . Discarded . Overlooked . Neglect vs Resilient . Stubborn . Independent . Persistent"

However, a booked catch-up phone call with a friend was the highlight to the week. It was a difficult week, an estranged friend received some raw honesty at the end of the week, after seeing my daughter's raw emotions. I guess the loss of friendship was really hard for me to handle that week on top of the complexities of the massive snowball effect of hurt and pain we must battle through created by my ex-families toxicity. The anger, hurt, frustration, and exhaustion was too much, the camels back broke again!

One paragraph of raw honesty perhaps sums up my harrowing emotions right now; "Life is so bloody hell right now hun that I have found myself wishing I was back in London in 1997 a 17 year old enduring what Michael put me through, because it was simpler then. Then it was ONLY ME being hurt. Right now I would give anything to be back then! Where it was no one else but me suffering. (At least that was all I experienced then)!

This is my raw honesty. I said exactly that to someone very recently!

I have closed my eyes in a bath remembering that bloody flat praying I would wake up there and THIS was the nightmare!

It's exactly how I feel right now and I wish you could feel my raw honesty! I'm sorry this is harrowing

It's Harrowing knowing what I know...

Its harrowing writing this. It is harrowing caring this much. It is harrowing living this. It is harrowing raising my children in this mess and seeing the damage its doing unravel in front of me! Even the kids that haven't gone through this are experiencing trauma! Does not matter how much I carry on with life and make things happy for them, or hide in my room when I'm struggling so it doesn't affect them. This hell has a snowball affect nothing can protect them from it! It's heartbreaking!"

Week 46


I read and wrote my memoir more. Distractions only partially working, but at least I felt like I was doing a tiny productive thing plowing through the 4th draft of my memoir. I chatted to Nanna about the U.S Election results, relieved Trump is no longer president, disbelieving of the vast numbers that still voted for him after all his manipulating narcissistic public spew caught on camera's repeatedly, as he proudly presented himself in this way knowing that he was enabling every power-hungry narcissistic American and those world-wide, which is why he got so many votes! It is a sign of the times! Him being gone is a small win. The trillions of supporters that think that behavior is okay is the real concern for this planet's future and the future of our children!

Friday the 13th in 2020! Had to have known that would be hell! Should have locked myself up in my room in the damn Hogwarts world! But no, on the few minutes it takes to get my child to school a feud is created by my stressed-out face and my desperate need to be reclusive and not deal with conflict, particularly in public. One of the few family members left decides we have not lost enough and picks a fight out of thin air, using my reclusive introverted exhausted empath self-care as ammunition. As if the unkind world is not killing me enough already. As if the hiding away, the not talking, the non-stop tears and desperate attempt to self-express to keep from drowning in the abyss of depression knowing I must continually remain strong, was not blatantly obvious to the whole freaking world right now. No, it can not possibly be all of that, I must be the monster pretending to struggle that secretly wants to steal her freaking Daddy away! My sobbing flowing torrential tears as a friend walks in the door concerned, the tightening chest spasm, the shattered heart, yeah they are all just a giant great big fucking act and I am the monster every bloody angry ranting person has claimed I am. What was I even thinking fucking pretending to care, right! Blamed for something I did not do, took the brunt of things I am not responsible for, of conflicts a freaking ran a mile from! My feelings thoughts and actions are dictated by someone that is not me and my honesty is branded all freaking lies! I hide more, as a result, cry through a weekend while the culprit pretends like nothing was said and the pain was not caused. I watched my husband's face as my innocent actions were used as an excuse to no longer bring children we love dearly to our home! Whilst the irate screaming and conflicts at the school environment were not even admitted! Not to mention Friday was my niece's birthday, another child torn out of our lives and weaponized as ammunition against us! Nevermind the fear, the worry, the nightmares of the situation with that toxic family. Ironically Friday was also "world kindness day"!

Week 47


This photo of my face hidden by my hat and the scarf used as a face covering was used as self-expression mid-week after spending five days trying to cope with this unwarranted conflict with expressive honesty; "At least when I walk about in public like this

I can not get accused of giving people dirty looks!

No I wasn't giving you dirty freaking looks, that was my normal stressed out of my box look! 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️ Well saying that was said on #friday13th2020 and its taken me this long to calm the f down from the repercussions of something I didn't freaking do.

Woohoo #fantasticfreakinglife 🖕"

I stayed quiet, refused to reply, rant, or text anything all week, knowing my words would just be used to continue the arguments. Yet I watched the pain in my husband's eyes as favors were asked as if nothing had happened, as if the accusations and rants at him that his wife is a lying scheming monster did not happen. When texts were given, hurt silence in reply, unkind, unthinking words were used in spite because no one else could be hurt but her! Then I heard the further unkind words said to my daughter who tried to explain and beg her not to do this, followed by taunting my daughter about her Mum's silence. So I poured my heart out in a completely honest explanation of my actions their intentions, the double standards, and the pain as a result. An in-depth letter that left me shaking with emotions, my voice cracking and croaking with heartache as I read it out to my husband. The reply was to tell me my pure honesty was wrong! "You're so wrong"! My shattered heart tried to reach out, the honest declaration of my feelings and how much we care and love simply thrown right back at us again! This pain, this hurt, this is why I do not people! There is already too much sensory overload without trying to be social!

Week 48

Spent most of this week exhausted, low, and hurt from the previous week's conflicts. I couldn't distract myself from my racing thoughts with reading because my mind refused to focus. Frustrated and angry, I pondered on the fact that there just are not enough books to distract me from this crazy right now!

Towards the end of the week, things picked up as I started feeling happy about my home thanks to lovely staff doing a warehouse clearance, a good friend, and her friend to get our new Sofas. The process of tidying up the decor in my home and making it look smarter began. bit by bit I found some motivation. Stairs were painted, the kitchen re-arranged, the cupboard turned into a cozy corner, and the living room rearranged. Such a simple mundane series of tasks gave me a spark of enthusiasm and positivity about our home feeling like a home again.

Week 49

My oldest daughter insisted that the moment it was December the decorations should go up, so after gutting the house I dug them out and she busied herself with the task! My reading picked up that week, as did my photographic expression, helped by the small snowfall we had that week. My feelings made me more reclusive, reading, baths, and snapping the occasional photo on my phone were my only distraction from the thoughts and hurt. Too many people, I care about saying and doing the same cruel thing!

Week 50

I was struggling with the "festive season" with all the thoughts, all the loss, all the hurt. Finances were the tightest it has been in a long time, asking for help when I try so very hard not to because I always feel others are worse than us. I took to social media exclaiming "Why? Christmas? An illusion!

Built on fake stories, domination, and hope, to keep the world from questioning the reality of everything around them. Let's just all buy into the happy bullshit and consumerism whilst the world falls to pieces, corrupt and cruel! Go on let the haters let rip! I am tired of the pretense!

Take me back to last year, when we had disappearing to Barcelona to keep us going! [Last year, When there was no exchange of presents, no decorations or dinner, no extravagant hotels or dining, just a family adventure in a city full of everlasting memories, with cheap souvenirs as stocking fillers to take home... the happiest Christmas ever, not celebrating it but escaping it for something better! If I could do that every year I would!]" After a chat with our oldest daughter and her friend about how my social media presence seemed to lack Christmas spirit, I posted another expression to the dual complex feelings I have about the season. "This time of year has always had dual conflicting emotions. The contrast of the seasonal spirit and seasonal dread! It is not a new thing, I have felt this way all my adult life! The only change is now I am more honest about it! I am okay as I have always been during this time of year, ever since I turned 18! It is not something that needs fixing or changing, it is just something I refuse to hide anymore! I just don't see the point in pretending life is perfection because its "Christmas". I still will do my own thing, create new traditions each year no matter how silly, I will get excited, I will appreciate what I have, I will love as hard as I always do, I will find hope even in the darkness, but I will not allow the colours of the season pretend the darkness does not exist. We fight every day, with the cards we are dealt, with mental health, with the fragility of the world, life, and love. Pretending we don't, belittles the strength, hard work, determination, fight, and love it has taken to get where we are now! So I embrace the good and the bad! This seasonal feeling, ethos, and spirit should be about reflection, wisdom, understanding, and acceptance of the light and darkness, of colour and shades of grey, of the good and the bad. Of the whole picture! So I can be a walking contradiction hating and loving this time of year! That is ok! I am OK!

Week 51

After two weekends of rearranging rooms, redecorating the downstairs, and even finally wall mounting my exhibition photography work, my positivity was increasing. My home was feeling homely with every bit of work done, I had not realized how much my downer about the house was dragging me downing and weighting me there, especially with this crazy year and the pandemic hitting for another wave creating a fluctuation of new tiered lockdowns and restrictions. I barely paid attention to the news now it was too much, we kept really isolated already, keeping to the house barely socializing even socially distant. Oldest daughtered dyed my fast-growing buzz cut an even brighter purple, being able to express myself in these small ways always creates a spark of confidence and grounding of who I am despite the knowledge of my ex-families lies always in a dark corner of the mind. This week seen a proud parent moment, our Son got his first job, so our eldest two were out working breaking the stigma and statistics! I expressed on social media this pride. "As non- working carer/disabled parents desperate to work The stigma we face is often cruel and unfair, demoralizing and heavily depression-inducing. As children of non-working parents, this same attitude is often felt by our children. They have faced being taught that their life chances are low because of where they live and their parents Don't work, that in fact they have increased chances of drug/alcohol use or being criminals. This is the crap from society our children must face, and the guilt we as parents feel because of how our circumstances impact them! The judgment is rife, I went onto Lanarkshire Council website for info to see this type of judgment about the Covid winter hardship grant. *** However, despite and against apparent statistics and odds, I have two good, honest, sensible, independent, free-thinking, hard-working Adult kids contributing to society despite how society views them! *** My eldest son started working yesterday. Both kids are now key workers, committed to working! I am proud of them, they have gone through a lot of hell these past four years and their parent's family history hasn't made their lives easy. But here they are, not giving up and determined to be productive workers! My youngest asked who inspires me, I told her "my kids inspire me, they do not have the easiest of parents or family histories, but they have proudly defied the odds and stubbornly kept going" #sorrynotsorry #proudparents Whilst I outwardly expressed my pride, I was quietly panicking about how our finances may be affected because of warnings from the tax credit department about the threshold of the house come income that means reductions or not qualifying. However after our son started working, phone calls were made and it was discovered the warnings were inaccurate, as non-dependants they are classed as outside the household. Relieved I threw away the calculation of the finance of extra help I had faced needing to ask from them, a soul-destroying prospect. Recalculating for their living expenses only. Both children had been fully prepared to help in any way they could without a single complaint, compassionate, and understand, I really could not be more proud of them. I am however relieved that it won't be nessacary and they get to focus on their work and preparing financially for their increasingly independent futures!

Week 52

My little message to the world this week on social media was;

"I really do understand how this year has been hell for everyone.

Whatever your struggles or pain this year, I want you all to remember, there is compassion, love, honesty, trust, and true beauty in the world.

Remember even in the darkest of moments there is light,

Always remember we have hope! "Rebellions are built on hope"!

To every nitty-gritty fellow underdog warrior, I am with you, thinking of you and sending love during this most unusual of #FestiveSeason Whatever you choose to call this festive period or however you celebrate it, hold onto hope and have a positively beautiful day!

Christmas was quiet, we did an early lunch Roast on Christmas eve so our adult daughter could enjoy a Roast with us, then party food on Christmas day. Continuing to shake things up and not entirely celebrate the festive season in the traditional way. Making our own traditions, always the rebel activist in everything I think and feel. This Pandemic got too close and personal when my family in Kent were tested positive with COVID during the Christmas period, it messed their support Christmas period up, but they were the luckier ones, recovered well at home. It didn't stop the worry, hundreds of miles away, have not been able to see them for our annual trip, my support network, my mother figures, my only family outside the tiny number here in Scotland. There was the niggling worry, the stories of people on the news that were fine with it until 14 days after infection. The only thing keeping the worry at bay ways daily texts and weekly phone calls. It makes it really hit home just how far away we are to the only family and support network we have. With huge relief they recovered, but I know how bloody awful scary, cruel, scarey this Pandemic has been for people. It is why I try very hard to take all restrictions seriously, sob my heart out every time have to put off my trip to kent even longer but do so because people's lives are important! It is hell balancing the Mental health of our family that has struggling mental health; 4 out of 6 of us. But we struggle with it, barely compromising the restrictions. Yet we watch in dismay as things last too long because others just do not bloody give a shit!

Week 53

The final week, half 2020, half 2021.

What a freaking crazy, things were polar opposites. On the one hand we had a lovely family celebration seeing in the new year. On the other there were tough conflicts and things unsaid that had to be said between myself and my hubby, causing two very long very difficult days. Tears were non-stop, fears of not pulling through were high, this one hung precariously balanced on my husbands will to want to work through things rather than doing his usual PTSD and the socialized reaction of pretending everything was fine, sweeping the problem under the carpet so he didn't need to deal with the guilt of admitting his mistakes. Do you know how difficult that is for someone with the lead-weighted emotional baggage and decades of relentless mental health history? Admitting your mistakes, learning from them positively rather than drowning in the negative emotions is difficult for any human. It takes a level of willpower strength and courage to be honest with yourself about where you are going wrong, what your character flaws are, and own your screw-ups, move on and continually adapt and improve yourself. Being in a relationship with someone that perpetually drowns in self destructive negative emotions, low self-esteem, and no self-worth, who hides behind jokes and misdirection to avoid dealing with these emotions: Is bloody hard. To be able to grow as a couple, through difficulties, have feelings acknowledge, have your partner acknowledge their part in the hurt, want to make it work, and not fall into that terrible trap of burdening it all myself until the point of resentment. It's hard. When these moments happen, they are not the typical couple arguments. They are emotionally intense unless I'm prepared to let it slide again how hurt I feel, it can take days to break through all the mental health related barriers before we can actually hash something out as husband and wife. There are times, I can not just let it slide, it hurts, I'm a human that needs my feelings and thoughts heard and validated, accepted within the relationship. I can not always be the "Carer" there are moments I must be the Wife and he must remember to be the Husband. That is the constant battle between keeping our relationship together and keeping us both on top of his severe mental health disabilities and ensuring my own do not spiral. We pulled through, though. That moment of fear, that we had hit an unmovable obstacle in our relationship, it dissipated. Some much-needed truths were said and heard about our effects on each other and the reactions to those reactions. It was a tough week. we pulled through it together in the end. That counts for something.husband's

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