Out with the old…

…well, some of it anyway.

I don’t need a new me; I’m pretty happy with the person I was in, say, 2014. And bits of the person I became in 2015 too. But after that, I let someone else’s mental ill health take over my own. Let me explain.

It’s been a while since I wrote; since I even felt like writing. A lot of who I am became tangled up in caring for the Little Viking and all his care needs. And life still remains tied up in him and his growing list of diagnoses. So far we’re at atopic/multiple food protein intolerances and allergies/histamine intolerance, slight gross motor delay, sensory processing difficulties, social communication difficulties and expressive and receptive language delays. Every 4-6 months we see the developmental paediatrician plus or minus Speech and Language or Occupational Therapy. I have email contact with the allergy clinic and my To Do list includes contacting them for more support. My favourite allergic reaction was to the medicine that’s meant to stop allergic reactions…I kid you not! None of his reactions are life-threatening or even particularly debilitating. But they cause eczema, rashes, itching, unpredictable mood swings, upset stomachs or constipation. Long-term it’s not fair for the Little Viking to live like that, so his diet is still very limited. The sensory difficulties mean he still only accepts certain textures and brands. So I’m the woman in Aldi with a trolley full of 4 month puree pouches for a 3 year old child.

SO, not the easiest child in the world but I am becoming a stronger advocate for him and a better Mum as a result, and I certainly wouldn’t be without him. However, we are most definitely without Lovely Boyfriend. Who, over the last few years has turned into Narcissistic, Impulsive, Costly Ex.

I knew from before we met in person that he was a sober alcoholic. He knew before meeting me that I have BPD. We agreed when the relationship started that we would support each other, but it was up to the individual to work on their own issues and not slip up. A slip up was to be expected, but so long as the person worked hard on the problem and did something about it, then the relationship was still good. That was tested severely in November 2017 when I discovered an empty bottle of cider one morning. It turned out to be just one in a year long line of empty bottles of alcohol. But, once confronted, he went back to AA at least once a week (that was the deal) and the drinking stopped. Antidepressants were prescribed and, although it was a rocky few months, with total honesty promised I was happy to forgive and make an effort to keep the relationship going. It wasn’t easy as the year long drinking had coincided with around 18 months of doing very little to help with the Little Viking and all the difficulties he was having.

In March, Ex was suspended from work. I stood by him as he faced Disciplinary Hearing after Disciplinary Hearing. I stood by him as he set up his own company in order to drive taxis once he was fired in July. I learnt how to keep spreadsheets of expenses, how to run PAYE and register with HMRC. All on top of increasing numbers of appointments and issues with Little Viking as his developmental difficulties became more and more obvious.

Even when Ex chose to sleep for 2 hours instead of supervising LV whilst I attended a parenting course (2 hours per week, 15 weeks), I forgave him. I couldn’t leave LV with him after that, and even before that I would need to leave lists of instructions much the same as if leaving LV with a babysitter. I changed every nappy (and there are a lot of those when your child has approximately 50 intolerances), got up every morning, prepared every meal, did every bedtime. Ex worked 6 nights a week driving taxis (getting fired from one company along the way because of his attitude). He slept 10 hours every day, more on his day off. This was nothing new; it was the same difficulty I had from the start of the relationship. When we didn’t have LV and lived in separate houses, it didn’t matter if he stayed in bed until 3pm every day. Once we had LV, it DID matter but I let it go because there was nothing I could do to force Ex out of bed. If I did, I was nagging, or he ended up in such a bad mood I might as well have not bothered. A week before I made the decision to leave, he got up “early” to drive us to an appointment for LV. His driving was as wild as his mood and I really wished I hadn’t bothered waking him. At the end of the appointment (where LV couldn’t identify a window after 10 minutes of prompting), Ex came out declaring “that wasn’t so bad”, followed by a “but I’m not talking like effing Mr Tumble to him. What’s the point of that?”

The final nail in our relationship coffin, was when I discovered the mountain of debt being hidden from me. I don’t know if any family read this blog or even know of it’s existence. I don’t know what stories have been told about me. But I would like to say here and now that I had NO IDEA that Ex was running up debt now and that he had run up debt previously. I never asked for expensive holidays. I never asked for expensive gifts or takeaway once a week. I was never given access to “our” finances. Ex was the one to suggest holidays and book them. When asked, Ex would say we had enough. He told me a few years ago that credit cards were for idiots. He told me that the QuickQuid envelopes coming through the door were from an experiment he did with his step-son to show how easily you could get offered loans. Even before he lost his job I was running the household on a small budget, utterly reliant on him telling me how much money I could get each month. Once he was suspended, I cut back even further. In the past 3 years I have bought myself around £100 worth of clothes in total. I am not a big spender in other words. If I had known the money wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have bought even that much. But when he was fired and I asked how much money we had, he told me we still had £3000 pounds in the account. In the days before I left him, I made up a list of monthly expenses and asked him to fill in the amounts. I asked him outright if there were any more monthly outgoings. His exact words were, “No, I can’t think of anything”. The next morning I found a letter in the recyling bin stating that he still owed the solicitors for his “unfair dismissal” case. Later on that night I went searching and found a stack of letters at least an inch thick. He hadn’t paid the housing estate rates. The reason for my mobile phone not working properly outside the house was made clear given it hadn’t been paid for. There was a credit card I knew nothing about. Threatening letters from two different debt collection agencies as well as his old bank. I also discovered he’d been paying his Mum money each month too; I still have no idea when he borrowed it from her in the first place or how much.

And when confronted with this, his only response was “but I’m dealing with it, so why is it a problem?”.

LV and I are now living in a council flat. I just bought a gorgeous new sofa for Christmas and the place is starting to feel like home. I share a bedroom with the Porglets when they stay over each week, because I only qualify for 2 bedrooms. LV loves his dinosaur themed room and I am finding “me” again.

I gave up huge parts of myself for Ex. I have come to realise that he is how he is because of his own mental health issues. Quite likely he has ADHD. Some people might say he himself is on the spectrum. I don’t think so; I think he has some serious attachment issues due to his own upbringing. He does what he wants, when he wants, for his own gratification. He buys gifts and things because he doesn’t know how to show affection particularly otherwise. Maybe he thinks gifts are how you show affection? I don’t know. But I do know that I lost part of myself over the last few years. I didn’t voice opinions when I knew they were the opposite of his, because his reaction would be hurtful. He would patronise, belittle, degrade. If your standards were less than his, or if you knew less about a subject, you were scorned. He will stand in front of LV and call him a retard, a spacca and a toss pot. “Who’s my little tosspot? What are you? Toss pot. Say it. Good lad”. The whole world could say something he disagreed with and it would be the whole world with a problem, not him. This is most likely part and parcel of his mental health difficulties. I joined a few support groups this year and it’s a common story amongst those with ADHD.

Should I have stuck with him? No. Should I excuse his behaviour because it’s an illness? No. Would I treat my son the same way? Yes, if he didn’t learn the same lesson we all have to learn when we live in a less than Neurotypical way.

Autism, BPD, ADHD, Alcoholism, OCD, Anxiety, Depression are reasons for the way some of us behave. But they’re not excuses to then behave how we like. I don’t know how LV’s diagnoses will go. I don’t know how capable he will be of understanding social behaviours. BUT, so far as he IS capable, I will teach him what he can and cannot do. Ex is 40. He is not the only 40 year old to remain undiagnosed. There is an increasing number of adults being diagnosed now after a lifetime of being dismissed as naughty, inattentive or lazy. Look at Anne Heggerty after her recent experiences with I’m A Celebrity.

Not knowing you have a difficulty is not an excuse. Every human capable of functioning reasonably well within society can tell if they find something difficult. Ex recognised his alcoholism and dealt with it via AA. When he wanted to. Then, when he couldn’t be bothered, he didn’t deal with it, and that’s most likely the fault of ADHD. HOWEVER, he has known all his life that he behaves in this way and that it’s not acceptable. He still does it though.

I still get upset over nothing because I have BPD (although given the number of ASD diagnoses now appearing in the family, I am wondering if this is a misdiagnosis as the two conditions are often confused!). But when I get upset, I recognise it. I recognise I am not necessarily being logical or rational, and I fix the situation somehow. The same way that Chris Packham dealt with undiagnosed ASD for 40 years, by finding ways to deal with the situations that arose. For him, choosing not to live with his long-term partner is the way forward, and I suspect the same situation would have occurred for Ex and I if we hadn’t suddenly developed an unexpected Little Viking.

People may think I’m a bad person for leaving Ex. I did stick by him, and I did love him, right up to the point where it turned out he’d been lying directly to my face for years. Right up to the point where I discovered that he wasn’t interested in a partnership. Right up to the point I recognised that I’d changed myself to fit in with him (which you do in a partnership to a degree) but that still wasn’t enough, would never be enough, and I would still end up raising LV entirely by myself at the same time as doing everything for EX with very little in return (because what could he give me when there was no money for holidays, gifts and takeaways? As I discovered this year, very little. Which probably sounds shallow but wasn’t ever meant that way, or asked for). You can’t have a relationship when one person in it does everything they want and expects the other person to fall in line. I fell in line for over 6 years. They weren’t bad years at all. But Ex is not cut out to be a family man and that’s OK now I’m not expecting it of him. If it turns out that LV isn’t cut out to be a family man either, then that will be OK too, and I’ll help him be the kind of person he truly is.

I don’t know how I wanted this blog post to go. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say and I’ve probably not said the right things at all. But I wanted to say them anyway.


Little blue cup

Some of you may know about a group that was set up to help people source things for kids with special needs. It all started when an autistic child needed a new blue sippy cup but they didn’t manufacture the exact one any more. There was a social media frenzy and he now has enough blue cups to last a lifetime.

Those of you who have never had a special needs kid will be saying “just use another cup then.” I may well have said the same thing a few years ago, pre Little Viking.

Tonight I gave Little Viking his bedtime formula in a new cup. We picked it out together. He pretty much refused to let go of it as we went around the rest of the shop. It had aliens on it so he could quote favourite lines from his current favourite TV show.

And of course he refused to drink his milk from it come bedtime.

We didn’t have tears or shouting; he even drank a little from it with a bit of persuasion. But it’s different and it clearly made him uncomfortable. So in the end I decanted the milk into the old blue bedtime cup and he immediately took it.

Change. Just like me and my BPD brain, my boy doesn’t like change. “Who does. Just get on with it” is the uneducated response.

I’m fairly confident I’ve dealt with this from a BPD point of view in past blogs. Or tried to anyway. It’s not easy to argue against change with a “just ‘cos, it makes me uncomfortable”. But with BPD and with Little Viking, uncomfortable leads to anxiety and unhappiness. For him, his behaviour over other things starts to unravel. ANY amount of extra stress leads to an out of proportion response, mostly negative.

If he is uncomfortable because his milk is in the wrong cup, he doesn’t drink as much (and his formula is vital as he doesn’t get enough calcium or vitamins from other sources of food and is intolerant to all the readily available/affordable supplements). He feels stressed so starts exhibiting sensory seeking behaviours in an attempt to calm down. So he’s bouncing, kicking and fidgeting away during the bedtime routine instead of relaxing. As I write this he’s 40 minutes into “sleepy time” and is chatting away to himself, quoting things, reciting lines etc which is his way of calming down (vocal stimming). All this from ONE WRONG BLUE CUP.

Now think over all the other things challenging him over the day. The noise in the shop as we bought the cup (he spent 5 minutes spinning in circles then sat down on the floor for a bit). The woman on the checkout taking the cup from him, however briefly. He’s also having a histamine reaction to the small amount of jam I put on his toast today, presumably because his system is overloaded from pollen plus that single plum I gave him on Thursday as a trial, and possibly the lamb jar he had for tea tonight (which I had to spoon feed into him as he refused to feed himself).

I can’t explain clearly WHY change affects us the way it does, but the results should speak for themselves. Of course, some change is necessary and I push myself and him through a level of discomfort because we need it. This week has, for example, been the battle of the pull up nappy. The first step towards maybe thinking about thinking about toilet training in the next year. The first one stayed on for about a minute. I took it off because his wobbly bottom lip and “I not think this mummy” alongside the anxiously fluttering fingers was too much for me to handle, let alone him. But we’ve persevered and, so long as I slip the pull up on him as he’s lying down (therefore pretty much defeating the purpose), he is OK with them. And definitely so long as I put his trousers on over the top, no matter how hot and sunny it is, because we wear trousers Mummy, obviously. Even if I was determined to tackle potty training this summer, the old adage of “just let them go bare bottomed” is clearly never going to be an option!

I’m sure some people have reached this point and are still thinking “just get him to do what’s expected of him. Use the new cup. Pull up the damned nappy and leave off the trousers”. And accompanying those thoughts is the “I’d never let my kid get away with that. It’s all down to poor parenting” thoughts. These are comments heard every day by special need/ASD/SPD mums all over the country. Sometimes even from medical “professionals” in the form of health visitors or GP’s.

We’re now an hour past bedtime and Little Viking is singing the alphabet song on an endless loop. Letter perfect I might add (he even knows which letters are vowels and breaks off singing every now and then to shout out “AEIOU are vowels. Gold star. Well done. You are awesome” as per the annoying YouTube video he likes watching). All because of the WRONG BLUE CUP.