Friday, 16 July 2010

My Shining Star

** Some people may find aspects of this blog article distressing. It discusses issues surrounding psychosis and mental illness and at times is quite descriptive**

As some of you know, I've been off work over the winter months. I suffer from psychosis and clinical depression and most winters it hits me really hard. This year was just a bit worse than normal.

This time last year I was happily engaged, with a wedding booked for November 27th 2010 at Eaves Hall in West Bradford, near Clitheroe. I rather large wedding was in the pipeline for about 200 evening guests and an intimate 50 guests for the ceremony and wedding breakfast. All in all, including dress, stationary, flowers and all the other bits you don't think of until you're counting your pennies, the November wedding (which was of course meant to be on my birthday!) was coming in at around £15,000. Without a honeymoon. H2B and I were paying for this ourselves, but we felt like we could do it; us two against the world.

In late September/early October last year, after failed bridesmaid attendances, arguments with H2B's parents and cutting costs in places that mattered to us to put money into the material 'guest-type' things, I'd had enough. I'd bought a sale dress at under £500 because I needed to make up the money. It was make-do dress really, and it was nice but for the type of wedding I was having I would have felt like a complete and utter fraud in it. Plus, I resented paying thousands and thousands for the guests food and having diddley-squat left for myself and H2B when, after all, it was meant to be about us.

I just felt sick. I felt sick about the shitty make-it-yourself invitations, I felt sick about the dress, I felt sick that my H2B's parents wouldn't stay over, I felt sick that I WANTED TO EAT BEEF AND HAD TO HAVE CHICKEN BECAUSE IT WAS CHEAPER. It's my wedding day, and I'll eat beef if I want to. I just couldn't cope. Bridesmaids not making the effort to turn up, Grandparent's livid that they weren't told at the same time as my parents... loads of pathetic little, I suppose traditions, that we just did not give one hoot about.

We'd booked and paid a deposit for quite a lot of things; the dress, the bridesmaid dresses, the photographer, the venue, the cake. It just seemed like a massive job to put an end to everything. Plus it could have potentially been a loss over over £2000, which is a lot to pay for a wedding that isn't happening. 

I cried to my Mum and after much deliberation, I phoned my H2B and said that we needed to cancel. I hated the whole thing.

I'd always liked the idea of a big wedding, seeing everyone looking happy for you, showing yourself off in a big dress, your day, declaring your love for each other in a room full of emotionally, heart-fully involved guests. But then I grew up, got cynical, realistic and realised the world is NOT an ending to a Julia Roberts film. If I was gonna have a big do, I wanted to go the whole hog. With my H2B as a pretty good chef, if I may say so myself, we wanted to show off a bit. We wanted 'Alice in Wonderland' themed centrepieces, as per Heston's idea, with test tubes saying 'drink me' and Laduree macaron boxes for favours ribboned with 'eat me'. We wanted huge tea-cup planters, top hats and crazy alcoholic concoctions. Pretty Wild Wedding Stationery was ready to start this whole thing rolling, with her FANTASTIC collection of Alice in Wonderland invitations, postboxes, guest books (and all the other things you HAVE to have). Of course, all this is based on the book and not the film. A complete fantasy. Exactly that, a fantasy.



So we cancelled all but the cake. Yeah, strange. But I god damn loved that cake. It was from Slattery's in Whitefield, near Bury and it was just orgasmic. Their website isn't much to go off, but the building and its contents are out of this world. By far the best cake shop (to us northern lasses, others know it as a patissier and chocolatier) I've ever known. Bar none. I looked over the photographs and read the specification of my three tiered chocolate, sponge and coffee cake and cried. 

I went to Florida a couple of times when I was young. Once when I was a toddler and once as a young child. I've always known that I wanted to take Harry there. We'd talked about going anyway and it just seemed like a fantastic opportunity now we weren't getting married in 2010. I spoke to H2B and my parents and in the first week of October 2009, we had booked a 14 night stay in Orlando and a 7 night stay in Clearwater with Virgin Holidays. We decided to add the wedding package onto that and get married on 28th October 2010. A month earlier than we were expecting, but about £10,000 cheaper. Bingo. (I don't know why I would say bingo, it felt appropriate at the time).

Here we go again. Speaking with wedding co-ordinators, sorting out the formalities. Our wedding package was at Marriott Suites Clearwater and included the ceremony, champagne, flowers, buttonholes, photographs, strawberries (an essential for wedding day bliss), all of the fees and a meal for two. Ok, it sounds like a Blackpool Christmas Tinsel and Turkey Package, but all included was £749.  Everything was easier, Virgin pretty much sort it for you. All you have to do is choose the date, time and the colours of your bridal flowers. Of course, there are other details you can arrange with the wedding co-ordinator which is based at the resort.

Phew, sorted. Extremely excited. Just me, H2B, DS and my parents. Of course relatives weren't happy, H2B's parents didn't know if they could make it. But let's be honest, they weren't even going to pay for one night at our wedding hotel. You win some, you lose some and I'd gotten to the point where giving a shit was not really on my agenda.

I had the extended leave request authorised by senior management at work and I relaxed. I was looking forward to a holiday, getting married, seeing my little man's face when we were at Disney and, I've got to be truthful, I was excited about going to Hogwarts. 

DS's First Day at Nursery School
Earlier that year, January time my H2B (just partner at the time) and I split. We were living together with DS and things were taking their toll. I wasn't happy, generally, but Christmas is always hard because of the amount of hours H2B has to put in at work on top of everything else that goes on. DS wasn't sleeping very well, he was still being breastfed and I was starting work again, full time. I felt worn to the ground. I didn't know if I was coming or going. I told him to leave. He left.

We spent five miserable months apart after being together for four years. I moved back home because I having panic attacks and visual hallucinations living on my own. I'd be sick with fear that someone was going to break in the house and violently murder my DS. I had very graphic images of what they would do to him. I didn't sleep. I routinely, and quite obsessively closed the curtains every night at 5pm, I was certain someone was watching me. If I was alone in the house I didn't open them. When I went to bed at night I would leave the kitchen light and TV on and make it seem as though someone in the house was awake. I was frightened of being out of the house and scared stiff of being in it. I could see very vividly as I walked into the house a man stood behind the door with a knife. I'd lose breath and then realise he wasn't there. I didn't answer the phone unless the number was stored, I didn't answer the door. I was too frightened to get mail from my postbox. After a few weeks of being at work, mid-February time I started seeing a man on my way to work. I contracted chicken pox off my DS and was very ill for about a month. I was covered head to toe in them. Watching Series 1-5 of Desperate Housewives whilst off, in daylight of course, probably didn't help my anxiety issues.

H2B and I saw each other regularly, for our DS more than anything. We made an effort, once a month to do something with him so he could see us together. We took him to the Sea Life Centre for his 1st Birthday, Ceramic Pot Painting at Oswaldwistle Mills, Smithills Farm. I took DS to Dorset to see my best friend in June 2009. It was a much needed break and it was good to have someone to talk to and who could just let my eyes doze for five minutes whilst they watched DS. I was a state. A real state. It was whilst in Dorset that I realised that the man I had been seeing on the way to work was a bit suspect. He was in Dorset too.



I spent the next month dieting. I weighed in at just under 14 stone in October 2008 and I was still a hefty 12 stone. I went to Estee Lauder and told them to just 'sort me out' - my face had been terrible since the chicken pox. I was prescribed DoubleWear Foundation, Concealer, Primer, Magnascopic, a lip gloss and my 'can't live without it product' Idealist. It was like polly filler for chicken pox skin. Pores were gone, spots were gone, chicken pox scars... gone. I bought some new clothes, I was still wearing my maternity get-up and I weighed myself. I'd lost a stone. I felt pretty good.

In July 2009, after my H2B trying consistently for us to get back together, I sent him a text telling him that I wanted to be with him again too. He was over-the-moon and told me he didn't want to lose me ever again. Two days later he'd asked me to marry him.

We were happy as Larry together. No one was happy for us. I don't remember anyone being particularly overjoyed that we were back together, or getting married. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Everyone had something to say and no one wanted us to have a special day. H2B's parents told us to 'just go to the registry office and get it done with'. I don't think my parent's actually even wanted it to happen. My step-dad definitely didn't. All of this was going on in the background whilst we were planning what was meant to be the happiest day of our lives. It was a complete farce. I was also paying for the privilege of  having all of these people at our wedding.

So, with the November wedding cancelled and the Florida one to look forward to, I began to relax. Unfortunately my health didn't want to play along. In late October, the man I had been seeing started to speak to me. I heard what he was thinking and when I looked at him he could speak to me directly. I was having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) at the time for depression and anxiety but hadn't really thought to mention him. Yes, in hindsight, I know. Gradually these audio hallucinations got worse, I could hear him most of the day over everything else that everyone can hear. I couldn't hear people who were sat next to me talking because his voice was so predominant. He told me I was going to die and he was finding out how. He knew that I had to be the one that died. This taunting went on. 

For my birthday, we took DS to Centre Parcs and it was a good break. I felt relaxed, but I wasn't well. It was a special time, DS's first visit to Father Christmas, a nice family break just the three of us.It was when I returned to work I realised that things were getting worse. 

When I was walking I would hear footsteps behind me, I'd get faster and they'd get faster. I'd turn round and there would be no one there. On December 19th 2009, I completely broke down. My mum was dropping me off at work, and as I went to get out of the car Mark "the man" was stood at the car door with his face at the window. Grinning. I screamed and my mum drove as fast as she could away from the area. I was petrified and I certainly wasn't thinking straight. Work sent me home. 

I was referred from CBT to The Early Intervention Team (EIT) who deal with young people who are in their first episode of Psychosis. With this team I was put under the weekly care of a Specialist Community Nurse, a psychiatrist and a consultant psychiatrist. I was referred back to CBT but under a therapist who worked specifically for the EIT. I was put on Sertraline and Sulpride. I was now suffering from insomnia too. I hadn't been out of the house on my own for months. I went out only a couple of times from the period of October to March. I went to Centre Parcs Whinfell in November 09, Centre Parcs Sherwood Forest in January 10 and Birmingham in February 10 for my H2B's chef competition. I couldn't answer the door again, or go out of the house alone. It was difficult to go out of the house to go to the shops. If I was going somewhere it had to be planned. I had to have times and bookings and know the exact where-abouts of the destination.

After a month or so of not sleeping I saw the psychiatrist and was put onto Olanzapine and also a small dose of Atarax (just to give me a bit of an extra kick to get some sleep). The voices were bad in the night and sleeping had just been impossible. The Olanzapine definitely helped this. Just getting some sleep made so much of a difference. 

In March 2010 I decided that I wasn't going to be well enough to get married, move out of my parent's house and be working again by October that year. Another wedding cancelled. H2B was devastated but I just couldn't handle the idea of being married and in a house on my own at all.

Of course though, let's get serious, we had the small matter of the £600 cake to resolve. DS's birthday was in April and we decided to cancel the wedding cake and order him a very special Postman Pat cake for his birthday. This cake was bloody huge and it was great. As well as the cake, we got some chocolate lollies to give out to relatives who came to his party. H2B and I had also managed to make a card for CBeebies which DS thought was absolutely fantastic! Focusing on my son's birthday and seeing what I had managed to organise through it all gave me a bit of strength and hope. I had always managed to be a good mum, no matter what. Sometimes I give myself a hard time about not being able to run around the fields on my own with him or randomly go to the shops but I've always done my best. I was really proud of him that day, every day, he's my little shining star and he's the one who keeps me going day in, day out.


I always perk up around May time, so I was grateful to see the days getting longer and the bright mornings. The good weather helped I think. We took DS away to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Zoo and the Tower Circus and I was feeling a bit brighter again. I'm sure the medication was helping. Mid-May I told work that I would like to try and return. I'd finished one of my Open University (OU) courses, and although I was still doing a Level 2 OU course, I felt I could juggle it. Or at least I wanted to try.

I had a great break with H2B in June, and I just supervised my DS doing the Big Pirate Toddle for Barnardos. It's important to keep going.



I started back at work in June, on one day a week doing a gradual phased return. I'd spoke to my H2B about getting married and we'd played around with the idea of getting married, just the three of us and going away somewhere for the week. We bought me a new dress. A special one. An Ian Stuart one. And for once it all felt just about us. Look what we've done. Look what we've come through. There's no need for favours, centre pieces, save the dates, speeches. What we've come through says it all. We thought about tying the knot in America next year (we moved the holiday to 2011). But none of it seems right. At the moment, we've no wedding booked. Maybe, who knows, one day we'll just do it. No bridesmaids, no colour schemes, no chicken instead of beef. Just us three. And an Ian Stuart Dress.



The following can be found on twitter: Pretty Wild Wedding Stationery Designs @prettywildwed (thoroughly recommended service!)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fairtrade Treasures

For bright, cool and funky, Danish brand 'Rice' do some fantastic pieces of homeware. Their products are  designed in Denmark but made in third world countries under what is known as SA8000, a global social accountability standard. This makes sure that human and child rights are put into practice including regulations on, for example, child labour, pay, working hours and health and safety. For more information, see the Social Accountability International Website.

          
Rice have lines in kitchenware, bags, accessories, tableware and more but it has to be this pretty pumpkin pouf that pressed all of my buttons. Completely fabulous. It has such a homey look and I can just imagine the lil'man climbing all over it. Rice have made items like these in the past, but this particular one is new for AW10 and has hints of the lovely on trend corals toned down with vivid burgundies for a comforting look. I love it, I'd buy it and I'd use it.














But at £135(ish) for a 70x30cm pouf is it worth it? Well it's not an every day purchase, but other Rice items are. If you're renovating a room then you're prepared for a couple of big spends and I think this is definitely a good one to make, especially when the company offer so many other items (at a much lower price) which would really compliment this pumpkin beauty.

Plümo is another company that I found which sells little Fairtrade goodies. I'm not 100% sure if all of their products are Fairtrade or not, I did try ringing but didn't manage to find out this evening. There are items that definitely are listed as Fairtrade on their website and they are stunning. Stunning and reasonable.

Their products are 'a rich assortment of fairly traded products carefully sourced to sell in the UK' (Guardian, 10 of the best Fairtrade products for the home') - so I'm going to let loose, tell you my favourite pieces and feedback tomorrow on whether all of their items are Fairtrade. Those brooms below are from Thailand and cost just £9.50! It just goes to show you don't need to spend a lot to buy Fairtrade.

 

It's taken me longer than I expected, but only because it was just far more fun than I was expecting. It wasn't the searching for a lack of products that took up my time, it was the sheer amount of gorgeous Fairtrade items. Mountains and mountains of them, easily found, beautifully designed and well priced. I'm only stopping because I'm definitely ready for bed tonight after three appointments and a work review.

My conclusion? There is a wide range of fashionable, quirky homeware pieces; earwicga has again succeeded to open my piggy eyes.

And just to round it all up. Just take a look at these! Fairtrade, tea bag cards from The Contemporary Home website. Great idea.

Fairtrade for the Fashion Conscious

I'm on a new mission. Responding to earwicga's feedback regarding my extortionately priced cushion-purchasing-urges, I decided to take the bull by the horns. 

I don't have a political high horse to get on to. I'm not really opinionated about the rights and wrongs of the world. Like many of us, I see things that are wrong and wish something could be done about it but it never seems to happen. My little contributions seem to make no difference and I don't ever feel like anything ever gets better for anyone. Voice of doom, I know. What's more, I'm certain I'm not alone. 

Plus, let's face it, we're living in the 21st Century. We're used to our little creature comforts. I like certain coffees because they taste good. I don't ponder over how it gets into my mug... I just want it to get there. The coffee is the comforter for all the other disastrous ponderings I have to do which affect me personally. If my pondering comforter caused even more ponderings I would most definitely explode. If I want some chocolate, I really want chocolate. That minute. I don't check whether the little 'Fairtrade' logo is on the back of the wrapper. 

I don't actually think I even understand. I'm an educated person, or at least I like to think I am, so why don't I know more about these things; the implications of not buying, or buying Fairtrade? Because I don't need to? Because I don't want to feel immense guilt? 

There's a little prejudice going around too. Let's be frank. You say 'Fairtrade' and 'eco friendly' and you don't exactly feel like you're going to get high end fashion; it doesn't exactly give off 'epitome of style' signals. And I like style, I like fashion. But Fairtrade is becoming fashionable, so surely some people out there have jumped on this bandwagon and are doing good things... with style? Of course! Let's hunt these critters down.

Let's be honest though. I know where to go for my usual purchases so this can't be a big deal. I don't want it to be my life's work. It needs to be pretty accessible.

The brief? Track down some quirky, original, Fairtrade, fashionable homeware pieces to rival my £65 cushions.
Time Scale? One evening, sat at home, browsing casually. And tonight's the night.

Mission? Much?

Now the fun has started. Online window shopping. Mwahahaaaaa... let's make a bru and get cracking.

For more information on The Fairtrade Foundation visit http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
EARWICGA can also be found on Twitter

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Fetish for Fur



I saw this on the Topshop website last Tuesday and drooled. I spent 6 hours justifying the spend and when I went online it had sold out. God damn my sensibility. It has since made my lose sleep; I've been up at the crack of dawn checking the 'Back in Stock' pages on their website, but with no avail. 

Such sad times... fur coat how I long for thee. 

More stock please, Topshop. With thanks guys.

Donna Wilson Delights

I think I've heard of Donna Wilson. And if I haven't, I'm sure I should have.

Returning empty handed from a shopping spree today, I felt the need for some online retail therapy and came across the fabulous Donna Wilson designs whilst prowling the 37 Old London Road Facebook Page. This stuff is way too gorgeous!

Currently pondering over purchasing the 'Make Your Own Monster Kit'. I think it'll make for a great pastime and when I'm done would be lovely to hand to my little monster man. At £15 - what a bargain!


Flabbergasted at the £65 price tag on the cushions. Not the normal price I'd pay but they are definitely very original and I may have to add one to my collection. There are others available at a lower price, but this range is just fantastic. Made with 100% lambswool and duck feather filling pads the amount of pennies, I'd say, are justifiable. Find us here!



Other beauties by Donna Wilson are include blankets, throws, pouffes and other little bits of bobsickles for your home. These Nos Da Throws are to die for!


If you're going to own a piece of Donna Wilson, don't forget to consider where it all started! Donna writes;

At the RCA I started making products and sold them in shops like Couverture and Supra Girls London. They started off as the long leggy dolls- still in my collection, and evolved into the slightly more disturbing knitted creatures with 2 heads or extra long legs, each with their very own character, the more peculiar the better for me. (Q&A @ www.donnawilson.com)

Personally, I love Ralph


Donna Wilson stockists are based around the world. For search here on DonnaWilson.com for your nearest stockist.

Grab a piece of this amazingness. Now... for a bru? Does she do teapots? 

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Start as you mean to go on

Now, I'm not your regular blogger; I don't have issues that I want to address nor do I particularly want to promote anything. I'll tell you what I'm big on...

I'm big on breastfeeding. 'Sooo typical,' I can hear you all say, 'another blogger that wants us all to breastfeed until our kids leave home.' Well, no. Not really. I breastfed my little bambino successfully because of the help I DIDN'T get from the NHS, and I did get from my own found sources. I intend to occasionally rant about this and would like to share my breastfeeding experiences. I know breastfeeding isn't for everyone and by no means is this blog for slandering those who choose bottle over breast for whatever reason.

I'm big on books. Lots of books. Classics and little guilty pleasure books. This 'The Bright Side' bookmark designed by Rachel Bright completely sums up my reading habits. It can be purchased from Campus Gifts.  



My favourite author is Charles Dickens, my favourite book being Great Expectations. I recently read One Day by David Nicholls; he writes my new found girlie reads. 10/10. I also enjoy the new Millennium series by Larsson. All time favourites, alongside Dickens are definitely Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Carroll and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

I like fashion; high street, high end and chazza. I will share my amazing finds with you all. I love retail in general, the consumer side of things and the business side too. I like to find quirky bits and allow it to delight me.

I'm planning a wedding, sort of. It's complicated. More to come.

H2B is a chef, DS is a terror. The best terror, pure amazingness; I plan to share this with you all.

I'm currently studying with The Open University to gain a BA Hons in English Literature and Language. I also work full time in an office for the NHS to earn pennies for Bob the Builder and Postman Pat must-have merchandise for my little terror.

I use incorrect inflections and other grammatical errors for effect. Most of the time. Some of the time it's just because I'm from Lancashire.

I am also a creature of randomness. I have a few mental health issues. It all makes for an interesting life.

I'm blogging because I can. Not because I have to.

To blog or not to blog?

I was off work over the winter and spent a bit of that time randomly falling onto blogs whilst searching the internet. I have since become a regular reader of  a handful of blogs, all different in nature but all equally fantastic to read.

The marvellous mind behind the blog 'EARWICGA' is a fabulous woman who talks straight up politics in an approachable yet determined light. She reports on all that's wrong with the world, holds it up against a wall and gives it a right good seeing to. Don't underestimate this woman, she's nothing short of a genius.

I also need to feed my cravings for 'all things wedding' and I love to head down to 'Bride on Time' to get my fix. She's got one strong head on her shoulders, and forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think she's currently on her third attempt at making her dream wedding happen. Her whole bridal experience has been a complete roller-coaster ride and she has completely blown my socks off with how she keeps on top of it all. I feel completely engrossed by this lady's wedding and there are times when I've sat at home, biting my nails wondering how (or if) she'll pull through. I've learnt of course, she always does. I recently suggested she should write a book based on her bridal journey. I can imagine it as a Sophie Kinsella rival which definitely makes all of Rebecca's troubles in 'Shopaholic Ties the Knot' look like a storm in a tea cup. A must read blog for any newly-wed, newly-engaged or any woman who loves all things female. Complete wedding porn.

My third find is something a little closer to home; kids, kids, kids. 'babyrambles' is an established blogger who tells down to earth tales of the highs and lows of parenting. It's an absolute joy to read about her children and it's nice to read honest thoughts about parenting these days. She's definitely a Supermum.

All these blogs, people with things to write about; children, weddings, politics...

I could write about things?

I have a tearaway toddler, I'm on my god-knows-how-many-times attempt at actually seeing my wedding through, OK I'm no brainiac like my dear political earwicga friend but I am am woman and I can blabber. For England. So I'll make a bru (which you will come to learn is completely necessary) and write. But first of all, I must cut down on my ellipsis usage. If I don't see this through you will all die from unnecessary anticipations.


All the featured bloggers in this post can be found on twitter: @earwicga @BrideonTime @babyrambles @beckicklesie
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