general, lifestyle

Lessons of 2017

I know it’s still only early December, but I’m powering on with Blogmas, and decided to change it round a bit today and write about things I have learnt this year, rather than about my day.

First off

To stop caring what other people think

When my kids want to go swimming, but I refuse to wear a bathing costume, I’m spoiling their fun because of my own silly hang ups. My kids will look back and wonder why I never took them swimming, but will anyone really notice, remember or even care how I looked in a bathing cossie?

Infact, let’s just get this out there now. This is me in a swimming costume. Headless, but me. I took it earlier this year when my main focus on life was to spend 2017 dropping the pounds. The purpose of the pic was for my own personal use only to record progress and defo not share on the internet. Not ever..

I hablogven’t dropped the pounds. I’ve probs chunked up if anything. Happiness and my love for food has stopped me once again this year, no matter how much I work out, which is a lot. Still feel freaking awesome, though

Learn to love yourselves ladies, exactly as you are! 

To never give up

If I want something, no matter how out of reach it may sound, I’m going for it. I’m not talking material. I don’t aspire to live any kind of flash lifestyle. I’m all about character building, confidence building and making dreams a reality.

I’m leaving 2017 proud in what I have achieved and excited for the future. I know exactly where I aim to be this time next year, and I’m gonna get there.

Live in the moment

My children seem to be growing up so fast, too fast and I’m finding it difficult to decided whether my family is complete, or not. I treasure every single night I kiss my girls good night, and every single hug they give. Because one day, sadly they’ll reach an age when they may not want a good night kiss.

Also I like to plan things to look forward to throughout the year. Then spend the days/weeks and sometimes even months in between on a countdown. Then things happen during or after that time that I had no idea would, which I would never look forward to. Not sure this makes sense, but trust me. Don’t wish time away

I am in control of my feelings

I’ve concluded that depression can be ‘cured’, but anxiety cannot. I now understand that to remain in a happy state, I need to fill my life doing things I love with people who bring something to my life. But anxiety lives with me every day. I know this because I wake in the night frequently in a state of panic. It’s when I’m asleep it gets me. So I wake and fill my head with positive thoughts and remind myself of all the reason I have to be happy. I do it in order to regain control. And I win. Every single day

Seeing other people happy

I’m also quite an empath and pick up on others feelings. But one of my favourite things in the world is seeing others happy. If I can do anything to make someone feel special, I will

Surround yourself with positivity

I can’t deal with negativity. Or rather I won’t. Not that I’m often around negativity. You attract the energy you give out, so make it positive

That life is an adventure

An adventure can be jumping out of a plane for some people, or embarking on a journey around the world. For me, it is in creating a life for myself and my family by fulfilling dreams, enjoying family holidays, and making happy memories. Or even just watching fireworks out of the bathroom window

window

Chase your dreams

And turn them into a reality. You’re never to old to do something new, you’ve just got to be brave enough to try. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, show them you can

The importance of fun

It doesn’t matter where I am, or who I’m with, I often just have a strong desire to be silly, and to laugh. Even if life isn’t going how I’d like it to, or I’m having a bad day. Fun is a priority to me. As a person who spent many, many years feeling sad and unhappy, I realise how important it is to not take life, or yourself, too seriously.

I have become stronger.

So much stronger. I was thinking just yesterday about how many times I have cried this year. Think it’s a small handful. I used to take every single thing to heart and let so many situation or comments reduce me to tears. Now I don’t. I’ve even had moments this year where I’ve thought ‘Why aren’t I crying? Why am I not upset’. It’s because I’m stronger. Still emotional, still sensitive, but stronger.

I have a voice

And I know I’m being heard. I’ve received messsges of support and encouragement from friends, from people I went to school with and haven’t even seen since then, and from complete strangers. And they all tell me the same thing. Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re helping people. And that’s why I share personal stories. I am a believer if you have a story which could inspire others, you should share it

share

My mindset is rubbing off on my children

One thing which sticks in my mind this year is my 6-year-old daughter asking me if she was awesome, because she felt awesome. She also often tells me, her older sister, and friends they are beautiful. And by this she means inside and out. I love that. I love her expressiveness and her confidence and I’ll do all I can to ensure she grows to be a confident young lady, too

My son also told me this year that he plans to go to uni next year. He said he has big aspirations and knows with hard work and a positive mindset, he can achieve them. He makes me proud every single day

How much I love writing

I just find having the ability to express yourself and open up about things others perhaps wouldn’t, so liberating. It’s also my therapy,  a journal to look back on, and memories for my children once I’m gone.

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anxiety, autism, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, parenting, post natal depression, special needs, wellbeing

My postnatal depression story

I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have trouble remembering the first two years of my sons life. I can not tell you at what age he got his first tooth, his favourite food as a baby, his first word or when he began to sleep through the night.  I’m not even sure of what age he took his first steps.

My second child, I can tell you all her milestones. I think that’s mainly due to the amount of times I’ve had to go over them with paediatricians, therapists, doctors. She has autism, and was finally diagnosed at age six just last year.

My youngest,  Emily. I know all her firsts. Mainly because I was extra vigilant looking out for any red flags we had with my eldest daughter.

Each pregnancy was different. All had the usual sickness and discomfort.  But my third pregnancy, I just wasn’t feeling those feelings you associate with pregnancy. The excitement,  the happiness, the eagerness. I didn’t really feel anything.

I brought my feelings (or lack of) up with my midwife whilst getting my bloods done. I was assured it was perfectly normal , due to hormones and it would all settle down probably by my next appointment.

Only it didn’t.  I didn’t take joy in shopping for baby clothes, I was in no rush to pack my hospital bag, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was emotionless.

I booked a 3D scan around the 32 week mark, hoping that would make everything feel more real, I don’t think it did. It was a wonderful experience, of course it was, but the sadness continued.

The years which followed my daughters birth in September 2011 were dark, very dark. I was dealing with the likelihood of my oldest daughter having autism, which was causing stress along with that lingering feeling of worthlessness. But before even falling pregnant with my daughter, I was dealing with body image issues. I hated my appearance to the point it was affecting my everyday life. These feelings got worse. I’d stay home all day unable to face the world, or I’d only leave the house when it was dark. I’d avoid mirrors and my reflection in windows. I’d panic if we had a party or wedding to go to. I hide away in the toilets to avoid any social interaction.  And my heart would pound and my  head spin if I saw anyone with a camera.

I’d apologise to my children, as small as they were and unable to understand, for being a useless mother. I’d tell them I loved them as the tears rolled down my face, and that I was doing my best. I’d ask my husband why he was with me and give him the option to leave, which always left him gobsmacked and confused.

I’d go to bed each night and secretly wish I wouldn’t wake up. I’d have dreams of living a life where I am happy and have friends around me, and wake up devastated when I realised they were just that. A dream

My husband found me a video on Youtube about the ‘Black dog’, and asked me to watch it. I did. I broke down and he told me to get help.

I went to my GP, told her my feelings and filled in a questionnaire. From that she gathered I had depression and extreme anxiety. I was referred to the Mental Health Team. Again. I was already in therapy before falling pregnant with Emily dealing with body image issues. Hence my panic when faced with the prospect of having my photo taken. I was a mess. An absolute broken mess

That was September 2013. From then on I had fortnightly visits from my Health Visitor. She didn’t come to pry or check up on me. She came to lend and ear aswell as advice and support, and I thanked her for that.

October 2013 I began attending well-being courses. I picked up techniques to deal with stress, become assertive and gain confidence.

Summer 2014 I had my first appointment with I think it was a life coach. She pretty much assessed me to see if she could help. She couldn’t. My condition was too extreme.  I was then referred to a clinical psychologist. Again

I met with my therapist every two weeks and I think I had around 10 sessions before I decided I felt ready to face the world alone once again.

I learned through these sessions I was suffering with post-natal depression, and that the depression had even grown DURING pregnancy. I found out through a quick glance at my notes at the doctors surgery as they came up on the computer screen during an appointment, that  I had been suffering with PND after the birth of my second child. I found out through a letter sent to my doctors and a copy to sent to me, that I’d even been suffering with PND after the birth of my first child way back in 1999. I had my son at 21 so I’d spent most of my adult life with depression. I genuinely thought I was just useless, unlikable, disgusting. I was non of those. I was depressed.

PND took away my memories of my first child growing from baby to toddler, it kept me indoors, it filled me with fear, took away my self-esteem and stripped me of my confidence

When the therapy ended, I took up blogging. I decided to chase my dreams and enrolled on a distance learning course. This both occupied my mind and my confidence began to grow. I‘ve taken up exercise, and spend most days either in a gym or an exercise class. I’ve made new friends. I even spend two hours on a Sunday night as part of a team for a local radio station. I’m still building up my confidence to become more involved, but I know I will. I know I can do it. I can do anything if I continue to believe in myself.

Over the months I’ve thrown myself into situations I would usually avoid. I’ve done things I could never imagine doing and I am in a place now where I have never been in before. A very good place and although I am an anxious person by nature, I have my anxiety under control and I will never let depression take over my life or steal my memories again.

anxiety, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

10 Stepts to Body Confidence

Low body confidence is an issue which affects all of us from time to time, irrespective of age and gender. It is recognised as a significant social and public health problem in the UK and throughout much of the rest of the world. Statistics show that 60% of adults say that they feel ashamed of the way they look. This feeling of shame often leads to engaging in less social interaction, leading to isolation, and in turn poor mental health.

Sadly we live in a culture where a woman’s thinness and beauty are highly valued, and where wealth and success are often considered to go hand in hand with this image of perfection. We’re fed images via the media of ridiculously thin but extremely glamorous women, and devastatingly, these images are seen by teenagers in a time when they are particularly susceptible to peer pressure.

Low body confidence is not exclusive to women and girls; men and boys suffer negative body image too – but are less likely to admit to being affected, as it is seen as less socially acceptable for men to admit to caring about what they look like enough to experience any hang-ups.

It is the aim of many advocacy groups to change the way the media portrays women, with national and international efforts being made to make marketers take responsibility for displaying unrealistic and achievable images of both men and women. But we cannot simply rely upon a change in the media to change the ways we feel about ourselves, but instead we need to act as individuals and change the way we perceive and feel.

So, what follows is ten tips for achieving body confidence: a mental detox to have you feeling better about yourself in no time.

Surround Yourself With Positive People.

Every day we are surrounded by and spend time with a variety of people, but negative people can affect your own outlook, particularly of your body image. Choose to be around people who will make you thrive, even if this does mean some drastic changes to your social life. The transformation should empower you, lift your mood, self-esteem and body confidence.

pos

Recognise the Use of Image Manipulation, and That Altered Images Are Altering Our Minds

These ‘perfect’ images we see in media aren’t all they seem. Celebrities have spent hours in make up, photographed under strategically placed lighting and air-brushed to perfection. Blemishes are removed, limbs are lengthened and stomachs are flattened, as demonstrated in the below clip. Learn to recognise that these alterations are unrealistic and recognise the harm that they are doing to your own self-image.

Celebrate Your Body and All the Amazing Things It Can Do

Shift your focus away from what you body looks like to what it can do. Our bodies are our means of getting about, seeing, feeling, smelling. It is the means in which we come in contact and get to know the world. We should appreciate and respect it for that.

Make a List of Things You Like About Yourself, Read and Add to It Often

These things don’t have to be physical attributes. What you look like is only part of who you are. Think of all the things you do and do well, such as your ability to make others laugh when they most need it, your quirks, or your ability to smile even when things get hard. These are all qualities that need to be celebrated. And when the critical voices start making themselves known, there’s some evidence to the contrary.

Overpower Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones

pos2

We affirm statements about ourselves and the condition of our life with every thought and word we speak, and we practice this habit subconsciously. As we ponder over specific thoughts again and again, those thoughts become beliefs. Pretty soon these beliefs become our reality, and the condition of our wealth, health and relationships depends upon our habit of perception. Practicing positive affirmations is life changing. Use more positive self-talk. When you find yourself in the midst of a negative thought pattern, stop and replace it with an opposite statement. So stop hating yourself because you ‘look horrible’ and learn tell yourself that you love yourself unconditionally.

Exercise

Research indicates that exercise can help to improve body image. People who exercise and workout regularly are more likely to feel self-confident than those who are largely inactive.

exer

Body image is a strong component of self-esteem – and taking part in an activity that you enjoy, and that you gain a sense of accomplishment from, will help to build your self-esteem. Other benefits gained from exercise include overall better mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression. Exercise also releases endorphins which create feelings of happiness through euphoria.

Practice Self Acceptance.

Self-acceptance is embracing yourself as you are right now.

“You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself.”

– Mariah Carey

To get to a place of self-acceptance you have to be able to know and understand who you are, which is likely to mean making some changes. You may have to face some fears and step outside of your comfort zone. It’s about separating who you are from what you’ve done, and understanding that everyone makes mistakes, and that’s how we learn and grow.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Everyone has something they wish they could change about their body. Wishing you had someone else’s hair, smile, or teeth takes away from what uniquely is you. Learn to accentuate the qualities you like and minimize the things you don’t. Start to look for beauty everywhere, particularly in places you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find it, then you will learn to find it in yourself. You might not be able to squeeze into those size 8 jeans, but you still have that killer hair.

Focus on What You Have the Power to Change

If you want to change something about yourself, do it. If it’s your hair you don’t like, try a new haircut. If you’re unhappy about your weight, look into changing your diet or maybe joining an exercise class. The sooner you start making the changes, the sooner you will start to feel better about yourself.

Invest Your Time and Energy More Wisely

Rather than worrying about food, calories and your weight, use that time and energy to do something to help others, whether it’s an individual, or even getting involved in charity work.

Sometimes reaching out to other people can help us feel better about ourselves and make a positive change to our world.

anxiety, clean 9, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Making a lifestyle change – two years on

On National Fitness Day September 2015, I  blogged about the affects a lifestyle change was having on me. That was 4 months into the decision to try and change my life.

It’s now two years since I decided to make the change and live a healthier lifestyle, and thought I might give a little update.

Going back just over 2 years ago, I was in a very dark place. I had zero confidence – to the extent that some days, I even avoided leaving the house. I had really low self-esteem and a negative body image. I hated my appearance so much I ended up having weekly appointments with a Clinical Psychologist for CBT. That was way back in 2011, and what I believed was my last resort and attempt to break free from this awful feeling which was both ruling and ruining my life. However, 10 weeks in, the treatment was proving unsuccessful as I was making no progress, so the sessions came to an end.

My days were spent at home on my own. Just me and my youngest daughter. I couldn’t face taking her to soft play like other mums. I couldn’t handle the social anxiety I’d feel in toddler groups. I’d spend my days on my own.  The only people I would see week in week out was either family members, or my hubby. They were my only source of adult conversation, not that i had any conversation. I mean what can you talk about when you’re sat in your living room all day with a toddler.

I felt lost. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was, what I liked/disliked, or why I was even here. I felt empty, I felt drained and in pain. Mental pain

Then on Facebook I just happened to see something about a dance fitness class about to start in the area. I’d already heard about the new fitness trend and I was actually on the mailing list for one class, meaning I would get an email once a place in the became available. But every time I got that email, I made an excuse to myself why I couldn’t go. But this time, as nervous as I felt, I decided to go along to this new class and give it a try. I had absolutely no idea that by just making that small move, I was about to change my whole life.

Over the next few months I progressed from one class, to two and by august 2015, I was attending all 4 classes a week. In addition to that, I’d also started training once a week with a PT I’d had recommended to me. I’ve since had to stop the PT sessions for the moment, but go to the local gym two or sometimes three times a week.

I went along to the first class thinking I might drop a few dress sizes, since that’s what working out is all about, right? Obviously my body has changed shape, I’ve lost weight and I am stronger, both mentally and physically, but I don’ want to highlight the physical changes, I want to stress the mental changes.

Over the last two years my confidence has gradually grown. I’ve done things I never thought I could do. If I want to do something, anything, there’s no thinking about what could go wrong, or doubting myself. I just go for it.

I can’t even remember the last time i felt ‘depressed’. I may have had a few bad days, who doesn’t? But the depression, those horrible dark days where I just did not want to get out of bed in the morning, they’ve gone. The anxiety, the inability to even some days go shopping as I just didn’t want anyone to even look at me, that’s gone too. The massive void I had in my life where most people have friends, that’s been filled. I have made so many friends throught Clubbercise, and as new girls come to class, I’m making more all the time. And our friendships don’t just stay within the classes. We see each other quite often. We go out for lunch, we’re in contact via messenger, I spend days during school holidays with Melanie (our instuctor) and we go out with our children, we go to each others houses, we have nights out. I can safely say these girls have been my saviour

By making that small but to me brave decision to go along to a fitness class a year ago, my whole life has completely changed and I now I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

 

 

 

autism, general, health, parenting, special needs

Experiencing how it ‘should be’

Our house has been hit with a lingering bug this past week, Jessica suffering the worst.

School transport pulled up outside as usual on wednesday night. I opened the door and was handed a black bin bag containing Jessicas coat, scarf and book bag. Dennis, the driver began to explain she’d been sick on the bus, as a very pale Jessica ran right past me and upstairs to the bathroom. I wasn’t concerned, Emily had been ill today also as was I. don’t really worry when the kids get ill. They pick up and spread germs all the time, it’s part of life. My initial thought was at least we’ll have a quiet night rather than the usual chaos which starts from the second Jessica comes home and continues till bedtime. But, I was wrong. I went upstairs to change her out of her uniform, pick up a blanket and her bun bun, and lie her on the sofa. And there she was, jumping on her bed, as you do minutes after throwing up.

The next day I kept her off school. She seemed fine, but it’s school policy. Although complaining of a sore tummy, thursday was as tiring a day as usual. Both girls fighting. Jessica running up and down stairs, jumping up and down on and climbing on furniture. At this point I was feeling quite convinced Jessica just does not ‘do’ ill. She’ll have the symptoms, and the temperature, but it’s like she remains unaffected, she still functions as normal.

Friday she was fine, but saturday she was quiet. I could tell she was coming down with a cold. I managed to have a shower without having to grab a towel numerous times and run downstairs to break up a fight between her and Emily. We spent the afternoon at the Tim Lamb Centre which we take her too. She sat for about half an hour in the art room painting a picture. Then went into the games room and she sat next to two other girls playing a board game. Emily tried to join in with the other girls, well the best a 3-year-old can, which was taking the counters off the board, but she wanted to be part of the game. Jessica sat near the girls, but playing with lego. She wanted to be with the other girls, but doing her own thing. That was fine. I then took Jessica to the sensory room where she sat next to a water light for about an hour, and we just talked, and sang.

We went shopping, no drama, came home, no drama, and both girls were in bed by 7 and I had very little mess and destruction to tidy up than usual. Sunday morning, Jessica woke up with a temp again, and complained once again of a sore tummy. We did go out just to get her some fresh air, but she said she wanted to go home, so we did and the three of us watched Peppa Pig together.

Monday, although more colourful and happier, I kept her at home. We spent the day playing shops, singing and drawing. Jessica NEVER sits still for more than a few seconds to watch anything, or can hold her attention long enough to engage in any kind of proper conversation. We get fleeting replies to questions, as that’s what most of our conversation is based on. She has to be asked questions, or she will just pretty much narrate what is going on around her.

Today, I kept her off school again. She’s better again, but slightly pale and nothing like her overly energetic self. We took Emily to her little pre-school. I then took Jessica for her breakfast as we discussed yesterday we would do. I was even ready to leave the house earlier than normal for a week day.

We went to a cafe, and we left when I suggested. Not because Jesscia refused to sit down, or because I was sensing animostity from others, but because we had finished, and I knew she wanted to go to the library, which we did, for an hour, with no outbursts, no running up and down the aisles of books. She even prompted me ‘one more minute then we’re going to get Emily’.

When we got home she told me she’d had a lovely morning and that I’m an ‘amazing mummy’. Words to melt anyones heart. We had another enjoyable quiet afternoon. When Jessica is calm, Emily is too.

I’ve had four days enjoying both girls more than ever. Four peaceful days. Four days of how it should be. Watching them both play together. I’ve loved hearing Emily ask Jessica ‘would you like to buy an ice cream’ as she’s stood holding rolled up paper, then asking Jessica for ‘one thousand pounds’ as Jessica says ‘yes please’. I’m loving Jessica asking me questions and answering mine, Jessica singing, Jessica reading, snuggling up and watching a dvd with me and Emily. Just things I would expect are pretty much the norm of a 6-year-old. I can handle the routines and rituals, the embarrassing things she says in the wrong place or at the wrong time, her waking me every couple of hours in the night to tell me that she knows she has to be quiet because Emily is asleep, her new little obsession of only wanting to wear clothes which she has, from a particular shop as she has a new little fascination with labels. It’s the hyperactivity, anxiety and screaming which makes everything hard. It’s like her body is being taken over with too much energy, which takes a full day to burn and she is refuelled while we should still be sleeping, and those three things which I hate right now as they are stopping me from learning more and more about my beautiful girl.

autism, parenting, special needs

The emotions of being a parent of a child with a disability

When we plan to have children and envisage ourselves as parents, we can only imagine a feeling of happiness as we picture life with our perfectly developing and functioning children. The thought that our child may have a disability, physical or neurological, never enters our mind. Unless of course anything is picked up in utero, we as expectant parents, just sit back and eagerly await the arrival of our little bundle.

And then the big day arrives, the day which we go into labour and give birth to our much-loved and long awaited for baby. Of course, we ALL feel love and happiness for our newborn, but I think we forget there are parents who are then faced with heartache and agony, as their tiny baby is put into the care of a team of doctors and nurses for medical attention, which may just be needed for those first hours, days, weeks, months, or even a lifetime. There are also the parents who have no idea that as their child grows, certain concerning behaviours may emerge, and life then starts to take a completely different path than we anticipated.

As already mentioned, it was two years before we realised that Jessica was developing differently than other children, our main concern being her severe lack of (or non existant) language and communication. As a family, we’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster over the last 4 years. I expect every family living with disbailty of any sort will go on that same journey.

ANXIETY was the first emotion I particularly felt. Andrew had a more laid back approach to Jessicas language delay, which I guess comes down largely to our personalities. I do suffer from anxiety, although I have learned to rationalise and control it. Andrews calm laid back nature, always balances things out a little.

FEAR, WORRY, UPSET – As I spent a LOT of my time on the internet looking for explanations as to why Jessica may not be developing any language skills, I became more and more scared. Especially as I went from typing ‘2 year old can’t talk’ to ‘three year old can’t talk’ into Google, even during the night as my anxiety was keeping me awake. I clicked on page after page and the explanations and advice I found, given to other parents with the same concern,  went from ‘be patient, give him/her time, some children develop at a slower pace than others’, to ‘take him/her to a doctor, they may want to test for autism’.

SHOCK, SADNESS – My immediate feeling after Jessicas very first appointment with a pediatrician who then referred her for a hearing test, concerned Jessica was actually lip-reading. I’d also went to that appointment alone, just me and Jessica naively thinking I would get a straightforward simple explanation and resolution. I left the appointment and rang Andrew to tell him how it went and I remember my head spinning as I spoke.

FRUSTRATION – My main feeling during the time then spent waiting for appointments. Hospital appointments for hearing tests, appointments with speech therapists, the frustration when the speech therapy did not go as I hoped. Not knowing the future. I said a lot in the beginning that I just wanted to know if Jessica would ever talk. I couldn’t handle the thought of not being able to communicate verbally with my daughter. Not knowing how she was feeling, or if anything was bothering her. I didn’t want to think of having only Makaton or sign language as a way of communication, I wanted to hear a voice.

RELIEF, ENCOURAGEMENT – Jessicas first word during speech therapy was ‘bear’, which she would say when prompted as her therapist sang ‘Round and round the garden’. That was the only word she would say for months, and often with weeks inbetween saying it at all. However, this was still no indication or guarantee at all that Jessica would develop language. Relief has been the most consistent emotion I’ve felt over the last year. But i have still experienced strong not so positive emotions amongst that.

ANGER, CONFUSION, DENIAL – I have asked ‘Why us’? ‘Why Jessica’? and I have felt eaten up inside with envy towards other parents. Especiailly when Jessica started nursery. I hated dropping her off and picking her up and seeing the other parents who weren’t faced with the emerging situation our family was. I have blamed myself, was it something which happend during labour? Is it something which could have been prevented? The first time autism was suggested, I catagoraically stated Jessica was not autistic, and was offened at the very suggestion. I would say I felt this mixture of negative emotions for the most part of a year. They have also been the hardest to deal with.

CALMNESS, CONFIDENT, THANKFUL, GREATFUL – The positive emotions I would use to describe my feelings since Jessica started school. Having a statement of special educational needs meant that Jessica could go to whichever school we want her too (as long as the LEA agree it can meet her needs), and by law, the school must provide the exact help and support Jessica requires. We chose the school which the LEA recommended, a specialist school for children with moderate learning difficulties and autism. It is actually part of a mainstream school, which Jessica still experiences being part of. This is without a doubt, the best decision we’ve ever made.

PRIDE, HAPPINESS – Every Star of the Week award Jessica brings home fills me with pride, every assembly, every comment in her home/school diary she brings home each night, and I would not ever go to her schools Christmas Concert they perform each year without a pack of tissues. Jessica is in a class with 7 other children, all boys, making her the only girl. Jessica gets picked up for school every morning in a taxi with two other girls. She brought home a letter one night a couple of weeks ago, from one of the girls mums inviting Jessica for tea. Last Wednesday night, Jessica went straight to her friends house for tea after school, and we went to pick her up at 6.00. I never expected that both me and Andrew would be sat teary eyed in the car as we listened to Jessica tell us how much of a good time she’d had. Jessica has been to a few parties since starting school, but we were worried she would never have a best friend or go to a friends house for tea. Just the usual things we all do growing up. We’re excited that her friend is coming to ours for tea this week.

And to bring everything up to date, thinking about tomorrow, I don’t know how I feel. In the beginning, I would feel anxious the night before an appointment, anticipating what the outcome may be. I’ve become desensitised to that. It is just another appointment. I’ve asked Andrew what he would like the outcome to be from Jessicas assessment. A diagnosis, or no diagnosis. He agrees with me. We would like a diagnosis. We feel it will help us to explain a lot of things to Jessica in the future, such as why we chose the school we did, when she could have gone to the mainstream school which is literally a minutes walk from our house. And help her understand why she has developed in a different way and at a different pace to other children. It’ll help us explain to Jessica who she is. If she doesn’t receive a diagnosis of autism, we’re expecting the alternative explanation to be a ‘learning disability’. Jessica is a visual learner and requires visual aids and prompts to reach her potential, which indicates Jessica does have a learning disability, but it doesn’t explain the behaviours. So if we don’t receive a diagnosis of autism, I’m expecting a level of frustration to emerge again.