Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Just to let you know...

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139: 9-10)

My faith has not got me through my difficult time with domestic abuse. My faith has not been my source of strength, my inspiration or the thing I have clung to.

My faith is weak. My faith doubts. My faith makes demands and is pretty unfaithful when they aren’t met. My faith is fickle. My faith is lazy too. My faith couldn’t get me through anything really, because it’s mine, it’s human.

My GOD on the other hand did get me through the tough times, and still does. My God is faithful. HE is my source of strength, as the psalmist puts it, even if I run from him in anger, try to pretend I don’t believe in him anymore he’s still there, holding me and guiding me. Loving me.

It’s hard to describe sometimes the many ways God has held me up, partly because it’s so deeply personal. It’s easier from behind a keyboard to tell you that God is amazing, really amazing. That he’s been there for every need, for every tear I’ve cried, for every problem I’ve faced. That when times have been tough I have never once felt abandoned, unloved or unimportant, even when I was being told by my husband I was unlovable. It’s easy for me to type that the reason I still have self esteem despite the abuse isn’t because I am tough or thick skinned but because I know I am a child of the King, I deserve respect and I am loved, unconditionally even when I completely mess up- which I do, a lot. Knowing that it’s okay to mistakes and that someone bigger than anything is looking out for you is pretty helpful when it comes to worry and confidence.

It’s not always easy to tell you that over coffee and cake though. I’m aware that when Christians talk about their relationship with God it can make others feel uncomfortable. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. I also know some Christians are like pushy salespeople who desperately want you to follow their brand of religion and won’t shut up about how great it is until you agree to. I don’t want to be that person either.

But I do you want you to know I have this God, and he’s brilliant. And without him I wouldn’t have got through it. I just want you to know really that God’s awesome, and faithful and whoever you are, wherever you are on whatever journey you’re on; He loves you.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Full Hands

“You’ve got your hands full” calls the old guy peering over the hedge he’s clipping. He doesn’t realise that the lady over the road carrying her shopping in said the same thing two minutes earlier and the postman as I left the house. My twins have started school, they look adorable in their little uniforms. We get a lot of attention as we walk to school. I smile at the old man, just as I did at the lady with the shopping, and the postman, I dutifully say “yes, yes I have” after all, he’s only being friendly, he thinks he’s being original. Some days I have to grit my teeth but usually I am thankful that I get to share in these little guys lives. It’s so much easier to be thankful these days.

Two years ago when strangers would say “you’ve got your hands full” I hated it. I used to think “you don’t know the half of it” I wanted to say “Full? Full? These two are nothing. Besides having another child at home I have a husband who regularly wakes me up by yelling at me, who keeps me awake all night- yes the husband, not the babies. Who screams and swears at these guys and makes them cry most days, who pushes me around, hurts me and complains about me, who leaves me to look after all three kids on my own while he sleeps in front of the TV or watches porn in his office, who can’t even aim straight when he has a pee.” I’m not sure how that would have gone down with strangers who were making a friendly comment about my cute kids.

I remember a couple of months before I left him sitting in the GP’s surgery asking for some anti-depressants because I just couldn’t cope anymore. The GP made a comment about how having preschool twins plus a child with autism and a husband with mental health problems must be stressful. I found myself saying “if it were just the children I’d be okay, it’s not the children making me feel like this at all, I just can’t cope with him, it’s all him” At this stage I was completely overwhelmed with what I felt were my responsibilities, caring for three children and trying to manage the emotions and behaviour of an unstable adult. Since learning that one of those people was not my responsibility life has become so much easier, my hands don’t feel full at all.

So now, when I smile at those lovely people commenting from their manicured suburban gardens about how full and busy my life must be, with no idea of what goes on in their own neighbourhood behind closed doors, I say “yes” but really I’m thinking “no my hands aren’t full, not really, not anymore”

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The #whyIstayed and #whyIleft hashtags have been really informative. I know they have made a lot of survivors of domestic abuse feel they have a voice and I really hope they’ve helped to educate people a little about the dynamics of abusive relationships. Raising awareness about domestic violence is why I write.

But that’s not the only reason I write. I write to encourage. When I first left my husband it was the stories told online by other brave women that kept me strong. They told me I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t over reacting. They told me my husband wasn’t special, our relationship wasn’t “unique” or “meant to be” he was just an abuser, like every other abuser, nothing more, nothing less and no more likely to change. Without those stories I don’t know if I’d have stayed away. Those stories kept me safe and empowered me.

More than that those stories gave me hope. I read stories of women who’d learned to love themselves again, who found new homes, new careers. Who built afresh their relationships with their friends and their children. Women who described finding a joy, peace and freedom they never knew existed. These women told me, from their own experience that there is life after abuse. Abundant, joyful life. Life full of freedom, peace and laughter. At a time when I despaired, when I couldn’t bear to think about the future, when I felt like I could never be happy again I needed this. I really needed this.

One of the countless reasons I stayed with my husband is that he made me happy, or I thought he did. He didn’t hit me every day, sometimes he was lovely and I genuinely passionately loved him, I’d built my entire life around him and I couldn’t imagine ever being happy without him. And so I hope, I really hope that my blog lets other women, still in abusive relationships, or who have just left them know you can be happy, you can be so much happier without him.

I’ve written a few posts on how much better life is since I left my husband, such as:
Me and My Mystery Machine 

I think it would be awesome if the thousands of women who shared why they stayed could also encourage those about to walk that same painful path that the path widens, gets brighter and life becomes something wonderful. It really does.

So let’s all tweet not only #whyIstayed to raise awareness but also why #lifeisbetter now we’ve left to encourage one another. I’ll go first

#lifeisbetter because I can dig in the butter.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Me and My Mystery Machine

I love that feeling in the pit of my stomach as we sneak swiftly over the crest of a hill, I love the sound of my little boys squealing “faster mummy” and I love to glance over at the grin on my oldest boys face as he proudly looks down at the country side whizzing past from his new vantage point. Most of all I love the feeling of freedom knowing I can go anywhere, that I’m in control behind that wheel and the world is my playground.

I bought a camper van in the summer, we have had a few nights away in it and we’ve been for countless days out. Sometimes we just get in it and drive. Today after school we went out into the countryside just for a spin for an hour. 

I missed the turning I had meant to take. Two years ago this would have been a disaster, had I been with him it would have resulted in panic and shouting, had I been on my own I’d have been scared of being lost, scared that the roads would be too difficult for me to drive on, scared of getting home late….

Today missing the turning meant I discovered an amazing road where a tiny pretty stream cut through imposing hills covered in masses of deep purple heather and lush ferns. It was spectacular to drive along but more so as I realised that two years ago I’d never have dreamed I could have done.

My husband liked his cars, I had a tiny old hatchback, which he proudly told everyone that he had graciously bought me (with money from our joint account!) he changed his cars on a regular basis, but it was invariably large, shiny and fast. I’d get shouted at for closing the doors too hard, for making the car messy, for not watching where I put my feet. He regularly told me that I was burning out my clutch, that I was driving too close to the kerb, that I was a terrible driver. And this made me so because I was constantly nervous behind the wheel. I certainly would never have dared to drive his car for fear of scratching it. I hated country roads, I hated not knowing exactly where I was going and I was terrified to drive anything big.

Slowly I have got my confidence back, I have chosen to drive a van, and I love it, I feel like a total boss sitting up there, cruising along to the sounds of Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum ambling along country lanes in awe of the breath-taking scenery on my doorstep that I never even noticed when I lived in my box with my ex.

In many ways overcoming abuse has been about overcoming fear, and that fear permeated so many aspects of my life. Driving a van might not seem like much of a challenge to some, to me it was, challenging myself, stepping out of my comfort zones and forcing myself to experience those things I previously thought were unavailable for me has been one of the greatest tools in my healing. I’m working this next year on being able to do all the things I previously thought I couldn’t.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Top Ten Tips for Lazy Mums

September is almost upon us, gone are the lazy lie in's, the mornings spent watching Disney Movies, the lackadasical attitude to bedtime and routine. We're approaching the time of year where mornings are spent rummaging through the ironing pile frantically hunting for the elsuive school jumper while simultaneosuly hollering "just eat your breakfast, you're going to be late."

If like me you've enjoyed the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and are thinking this back to school malarky sounds a bit too much like work, here's my top ten tips for lazy mums to try to make life just that little bit.....well....lazier!

1.  Convince your children that odd socks are cool….you’ll never have to pair their socks again.

odd socks are cool!

2.   Play lego on an old tablecloth. When it comes time to put it away you just pick up the four corners and pop the whole lot back in the box.

3.   When you do cook: cook twice as much as you need then freeze half. By keeping a stock in the freezer like this you can just defrost on busy days and have a meal without having to cook or resort to takeaway.

cook 'too much' and freeze some

4.   If you have boys who regularly “miss” the toilet; get yourself one of those mops that you can wring out without needing a bucket, and keep it in your bathroom with some watered down detergent. Rather than filling a bucket of soapy water you can just spray the pee, wipe up with the mop and rinse the mop in the sink, takes about two  minutes.

5.   Getting the paddling pool out at weekend? Put bubble bath in it the kids will think it’s great fun having bubbles in the pool and you’ll get them clean without having to give them a bath that night

Bubble Bath in the paddling pool.

6.   Put bedding straight on the bed from the dryer or washing line to avoid having to iron it.

7.   Another one you can eek out before the weather turns: if you can, dine al fresco- the birds (or local cats) will clear up the mess off the floor for you and there’s no walls to get splattered!

Dining Al Fresco needn't be fancy

8.   Going on a picnic? Don’t put your sandwiches in boxes, instead wrap them in tin foil. Don’t take flasks, take cartons of juice, make sure everything you take is in a disposable wrapper/container. That way when you’ve finished your picnic the whole lot goes in the bin and you have nothing to carry for the rest of the day. Do this with school packed lunches too and you won't have to find yourself cleaning the mouldy sandwich box they forgot to bring home for a week. 

9.   Serve everyone’s meal on one plate when you can…..sandwiches, nachos, pizza are all good things to stick in the middle of the table on a big board and let everyone dig in. It helps your children learn to share, it’s a lovely communal activity and more importantly it saves on washing up. (learning lots of one pan recipes also saves on washing up)

Encourage sharing and save on washing up

10. And one for Back to School:  Sewing in name labels? Seriously, who has time for this? Get a sharpie!

The humble Sharpie: Lazy Mum's Best Friend. 
Have you got any Lazy Mum tips you can share? I'd love to read them. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You don't need eyes to see, you need vision."

(Maxi Jazz)

As the pads were removed from my eyes I felt as though a whole new world were opening up to me. The world was suddenly brighter, clearer and stunning as I saw for the first time the beautiful intricacy of the natural world.

I was born with cataracts and in my late twenties I opted to have them removed. Had I realised the difference it would make to my life I’d have done it sooner, but having only ever lived a life with partial sight I had no conception of what real vision was. 

At first many things about the world shocked me; the first time I properly saw my hands I had to be told that everybody’s palms have lines on them and they didn’t look ‘wrinkly’ as I thought. I remember being fascinated by simple things like tiles on roofs and leaves on trees. I saw the world in a detail I never imagined.

Trees were no longer a blur of brown and green; I could see the texture of the bark, the beauty and depth of colour in the leaves, the sheer number of delicate tiny little twigs on every tree. The world literally came alive to me, both in it’s grandeur and it’s delicacy. As we drove along for the first few weeks after the surgery I’d stare out of the car window in wonder of the intricate pictures whizzing past me. I was aghast and suddenly appreciative of this new found gift of vision I imagine I’d have just taken for granted if I’d always had it. I suddenly enjoyed reading and devoured books and I spent all my spare time and spare money learning to drive, something I never believed I’d be able to do. 

When you suddenly find yourself removed from a dark place into the brightness and wonder of our beautiful world it is nothing short of life changing. Just like I didn’t realise how blurry and dim my vision was before I had my surgery I didn’t realise how sad and empty my life felt before I left my husband. I always thought I couldn’t imagine living a full life without him but what I didn’t realise was that in reality I was only living half a life with him. I had no idea how numb I had become, how little joy and excitement I felt in my life, how repressed my other relationships were. I had no idea the difference freeing myself from abuse would make to my life. I actually thought I was happy, in truth I had forgotten what happiness felt like.

Now from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed I feel alive, the sun is brighter, the air is fresher, the flowers are prettier my children are cuter- everything, the whole world is just more beautiful. I had no idea how fun life could be and how many amazing and fulfilling friendships I could have. I get up now and smile, I do something fun with my family not on special occasions but every single day and every single day something makes me laugh, makes me smile and makes me feel grateful, even on bad days. I have a ton more energy than I ever had and I feel able to do anything: I feel I could take on the world. I really am amazed daily at how much richer, fuller and more joyful my life is compared to how it was only 18 months ago. 

When the pads were first removed from my eyes the world seemed a daunting place, it took a lot of getting used to and was even painful for a little while. But it was most certainly worth it. If you’re in a dark place, don’t delay, seek the light, crawl your way out, even if it’s slow and painful I promise you won’t regret it.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Dream a little dream...

When I am old, well not old; that age where your children have flown the nest but you’re not yet an old lady. That age, whatever it is, I have plans for it. I’m going to get a houseboat.

I always dreamed of retiring and living on a houseboat, but my husband was not only HUGE he was also a bit of a kleptomaniac. Enormous hoarders who feel cooped up easily and tiny houseboats don’t really mix. So I’d shelved that idea, after all I planned to grow old with this guy. I figured when we were older we’d live in a ‘nice’ suburban semi somewhere where he’d tinker with many cars, it didn’t float my boat but I liked the idea of him at peace happily under a bonnet without all the worries and stresses he seemed to carry.

I gave up a lot of dreams for my husband, this was probably the least of them. Some of them I either can’t get back because I’m just not nineteen anymore or I just don’t want to get back that badly because I’ve changed. But my houseboat; I like that one. I’m going to work on it and enjoy it. One day you might find yourself meandering along a canal and you’ll see a delightful little boat called “Sally Hope” you’ll wonder “Is that the woman whose blog I used to read?”- do pop in for a brew, the kettle will always be on and the door will always be open

The kettle will always be on, there’ll always be tea in the pot. When my time is more leisurely I will brew pots of tea and sit on the deck of my boat watching the world go by sipping from kitsch china teacups. (yep you read that right, I will have china on a boat!) I’ll read more, I always intend to now but never seem to find the time. I’ll write too. In the evenings I’ll curl up in a corner of my boat, comfortable among my many brightly coloured squishy cushions, watching old eighties and nineties action movies, passers by will be bemused by cries of “Yippee Ki Ay Motherfucker!” coming from the pretty yellow houseboat with delicate sweet scented flowers adorning it’s roof.

There may or may not be a Mr Sally Hope sharing this houseboat with me, but whether there is or not it will not be the home of a lonely old lady. It will be filled everyday with friends popping in to say ‘hi’ to check out what latest crazy incongruent thing I’ve done to decorate or just because….. Some of the other canal residents won’t like my boat, because it looks silly, or because it’s loud, there’ll be regular howls of laughter to be heard from it and I hope grandchildren, great nieces and nephews and local neighbourhood rapscallion kids getting into all kinds of mischief, never egged on by me of course.

Occasionally people will come to visit and I’ll not be there, the boat won’t be there, we’ll have sailed off, china teacups rattling around, pretty flowers falling overboard because I’ve forgotten to bring them in. And the neighbours will enjoy the peace and quiet until I return from whatever crazy adventure I’ve taken myself off on.  

Friday, 1 August 2014

Alton Towers, Autism and no meltdowns.

I took my children to Alton Towers last week. My eldest son has autism and I had been putting the trip off for a long time because I really worried about how he’d cope, not just with queues but with the crowds and the high visual and auditory stimulation.

I needn’t have worried. Alton Towers seem to cater very well for disabled people. When we arrived we were able to get ride access passes on proof of disability which allows the disabled child to jump the queues for the rides. Unlike many other theme parks who only offer the pass to the disabled person and their carer, Alton Towers allow the disabled child to ride with three other people, the only stipulation being that one of these must be an adult. This made a huge difference because we went with friends, if my son had had to wait while his friends queued then the pass would have been a waste of time.

We also took my son’s friend who has diabetes, I was really impressed at the attentiveness of the staff who gave us the wristbands to notice he uses a pump system and proactively tell us he would need to disconnect it for some of the rides; they gave us a map where they marked those rides out.

The park also give out wristbands for all children that you can write your mobile number on, if they get lost a member of staff will be able to then remove their wristband and contact you. This gives peace of mind if you have a child prone to wander off, or if like me, you have several children to keep an eye on. There were lots of staff around and they were all friendly and helpful.

Alton Towers is huge with lots of quiet green spaces between the rides. In some ways this is a disadvantage because it takes ages to walk between the rides. But with a child with autism it’s a massive bonus, because the park doesn’t feel busy and there are lots of peaceful spots to rest in. The park was not too crowded and my son was happy and relaxed

Be warned though that Alton Towers will fleece you for every penny you have so save up and take a picnic if you go. I bought the children a hotdog at the end of the day. They were £4.95 each. A refillable drink is £7. I expected this though so didn’t mind too much, theme parks are after all notorious for their expensive food. What I found really annoying is that after charging upwards of £40 for a ticket they additionally charged £6 to park the car. Surely for that ticket price they could afford to include parking. They also do the usual thing of making you walk through a gift shop (and an arcade too after Oblivion) as you get off the rides, I found this particularly difficult with my son who is easily distracted by bright shiny things, in fact the only time we momentarily lost him was in the arcade after Oblivion.

We took several children with us, all different ages and sizes. Because Alton Towers is so huge it was difficult to make sure everyone got a good amount of rides because getting from the big rides to the small rides was time consuming. But if you do have to do this there really is something there for everyone and all the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. The driving school was a hit with the little ones and the bigger ones loved Oblivion and 13. There were also plenty of things we could all go on together such as the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride which was a lot of fun, and Hex which frankly I didn’t like and the little ones found a bit boring as the build up to the ride (you watch videos telling a ghost story) was too long. We all had fun on those boats where you shoot each other with water and got very wet in the process. 

The ride attendants are very strict about the height restrictions. We had two children who were about half a cm too short for some rides and this did lead to some disappointment, irritatingly enough they measure you AFTER you have queued for the ride as well so if you don’t have ride access passes or choose not to use them for some rides this could lead to major disappointment if you have thought you’re tall enough and they say you’re not. Next time I go will be when the children have grown WAY past the height limits so there is no question.

The only other disappointing thing was that the rides close at 6pm. Because the park is so big it’s hard to fit in everything you want to do, and in the summer when the days are long it seems they could stay open another hour or two. But really this is a testament to how much fun we were having that we didn’t want the day to end.

Although for the cost Alton Towers has to be one of those big rare treats overall it’s a really fantastic fun filled day out that caters for everyone in the family with pretty much any need you can imagine. My son loved it and the only things he found difficult was dealing with not being able to get on rides due to height restrictions and the fact the day had ended. We found Alton Towers to be a really peaceful environment (well as peaceful as you can expect a theme park to be) with the ability to meet all our needs. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Age of innocence

It was my son’s last day of primary school yesterday. Every day I hear phrases like “can’t believe he’s grown up so fast” or “where has the time gone?” I don’t identify.

It feels like a lifetime ago that my baby boy started school. A different world, another life. So much has happened and so much has changed since then. I think about my happy innocent boy, who trotted off for his first day in school with no idea of what he was going to go through over the next seven years or how much of a different place he would be in by the time he started high school.

I think of how naïve I was, the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' rings true. When my boy started school I was 9 years into an abusive marriage, yet blissfully ignorant to what my husband was doing or how the abuse was escalating. In my mind my husband had a few mental health problems and I was hopeful and excited about him overcoming them, I looked forward to the life he promised us. 

I was a full time manager, a career woman, my husband had gone back to University whilst I supported him on my earnings. Life was hard; he was away and I was on my own with our child. When he did come home he was bad tempered and angry; complaining bitterly about the course tutors who didn’t understand him and weren’t as clever as he was. But I was filled with hope. In my mind by the time my son left primary school he’d be top of his class, with a bunch of awesome lifelong friends and his parents would be happily married both with successful careers, his dad would be a role model who worked hard during the week and hung with him at weekends.

And now here I am 120 miles away from that school. My son has been to three different primary schools, been diagnosed with autism and found school tough. He has hidden in his bedroom while his dad beat me up, he’s run and hidden from his dad chasing him, he’s sat in fearful silence not knowing what to say to his dad’s endless criticisms. He’s endured humiliation, fear and physical pain from the man who was supposed to love and protect him. He’s watched his mum turn from a confident career woman to a broken mess who cries in the kitchen whilst cooking his tea. Far from having a role model my son has had to sit and explain to social workers why he’s scared to be alone with his dad.

My beautiful innocent little boy who happily raced his friends across the playground has seen and endured things no child should. I think back to how innocent and naïve we both were and a part of me wishes we still were. We’re both jaded now. He’s not yet eleven; he shouldn’t be jaded. I am so proud of how he has come through the things he has battled, how emotionally intelligent and strong he is, what a mature thoughtful approach he takes to his experiences, and how hard he tries to provide his brothers with the good male influence he never had. But I am sad, so deeply sad that he has had to.

When he starts high school in September his baby brothers start primary school. And I consider how different it is for them (and me this time). When my older boy started school I was naïve and filled with excitement and hope. Now I am cynical and tired but I still hope. In fact I have more reason to be hopeful now and my hope is grounded in reality, not in fantasy. Somehow though that makes me feel sad. I’m not sure why.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

It's not about me

My decree absolute arrived this week. I knew it was in the post and was expecting it and was already experiencing some mixed feelings around receiving it. When it finally arrived I felt an enormous sense of failure and loss and I spent that day reminding myself that it is not me who is a failure or a loser

I had a post penned to this effect, a pretty angry post about all the things my husband had lost and how in real terms all I had lost was a bunch of fruitless hopes and dreams. I ended it by pointing out that I’ve gained more than I have lost; and my husband is a loser.

But later, as I prayed, read my bible and listened to a beautiful song my friend posted on facebook I realised that it’s not about that. Life isn’t about winners and losers. My life, well it’s not about me, and it’s not about my ex-husband. It’s about Jesus. 

I listened to the lyrics “Your tears will dry, your heart will mend. Your scars will heal and you will dance again” and I thought about how, for me, healing has been a conscious effort. All my energies this last year have been focused on healing from the pain my husband caused me and I’ve put God at the centre of that because I know I can’t do it without him.

I’ve known my tears will dry, I’ve known my heart will mend and I’ve known my scars will heal and I’ll dance again. Why? Because I’ve known my God is faithful, that he loves me and as I’m his child he wants me to be whole and happy. For me life has been about feeling better and I’ve comforted myself in the embrace of a loving father who I know wants to fix me and wants me to feel better.

But that’s not all. You see it’s not just about me feeling better; in fact it’s not about me at all. It’s about Jesus. The song ends, not with “and you will dance again” but with “and of his kingdom there will be no end, for Christ our King is coming back again” Me feeling better, that’s not the end of the story, that’s not the end of the story because I’m not the protagonist. Christ is. This story it’s not actually mine. It’s his

So this week I’m not writing about my triumph over feeling like a loser by reminding myself that someone else lost more. Instead I am reminding myself that without Christ we’re all lost anyway, and that my part in this story isn’t that of the triumphant heroine who beats life’s adversities but is actually that of a lost child rescued by a wonderful faithful God. It is he who deserves the glory and adulation in this story, the triumph is his, not mine. And this is why I praise him whether I feel better or not, because however I am feeling that day he is God and that is enough.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Top Ten Tips for surviving the summer holidays (especially if your child has autism)

My eldest son has autism. He likes routine. School is brilliant for offering structure and routine and so when school suddenly stops in the summer my son struggles. He’s about to leave primary school now and so we’ve had quite a few summer holidays, some completely disastrous and others totally awesome. Between us I think my son and I have pretty much sussed how to get through the summer holidays without anyone being murdered. Although these top tips are things I have learned for supporting a child with autism I think they can be useful for any child, I have also found that in supporting my other children in their recovery from domestic violence a lot of the strategies that help my eldest child to feel secure have been really useful.

1.       Plan. You need to do this at whatever level of detail works for you and your child. One year I made a timetable that planned out morning and afternoons for every day of the summer holiday, of course that didn’t mean I was entertaining him constantly, but I planned out when he would read, play on his x box, watch movies. Although that sounds really dictatorial my son really liked having the timetable to look at and follow; he likes things like that. Now he is older he’s learning to use his own coping strategies and he also likes more autonomy so I can now just decide what activities we’re doing in a week and as long as I tell him roughly what’s happening and when he’s fine. Some level of planning in advance always relieves stress and helps stop boredom.

2.       Have a plan B and communicate it in advance. If you have an outdoor activity planned you will want an alternative for if you wake up that morning and the heavens have opened. There may be other scenarios you need a plan B for: For example if you’re doing something with a friend you might want a plan B for if that friend doesn’t turn up. My son hates unexpected changes, if I have told him we’re going to the beach he expects me to take him to the beach even if he wakes up and it’s snowing! So I have found that telling him “we’re going to the beach but if it’s bad weather we’re baking” then meltdowns are avoided if I cannot carry out my original plan.

3.       Don’t be afraid to use holiday clubs. I know some people with children with autism or adhd or similar worry about leaving them in clubs. My experience has been that most people who run kids clubs are incredibly understanding and happy to care for children with special needs. I always let them know in advance that my son has autism and I make sure I tell them how it affects him and how they can best care for him. I also make sure they have a reliable contact number. I think summer holiday clubs are brilliant; they don’t just give children a more varied experience and opportunity to work on social skills but they give them some of that much needed routine and structure and you some respite. Check out what your local council has to offer, ours is mostly sporty but they are starting to add in more arty activities and nature walks. Also local libraries and museums often put clubs on in the summer. These types of activities usually are fairly cheap. My son also goes on Mad Science camp every summer. It costs an arm and a leg but he loves it, and I feel it’s worth every penny for what he gets out of it.

4.       Go for days out. Have fun. You don’t get this precious time with your kids for that long. Before you know it you’ll be shopping for school uniform and setting the alarm clock for the school run again, and it won’t be too long before they don’t want to spend their holidays with their mum. Days out don’t have to be expensive zoos and theme parks (though if you can run to them they are a lot of fun, I save up BOGOF coupons through the year for the summer holidays) You can go for walks in the woods, for picnics in the park, building sandcastles on the beach, skimming stones in a river. Add in some beach combing or leaf collecting and then you’ve got an art activity for a day at home.

5.       Think about dinner in advance. If you have taken them out for a day chances are you won’t feel much up to cooking when you get home. If you can, cook some meals in advance and freeze them so you don’t have to worry about them eating rubbish all summer. You can get home from a day out and have a yummy meal that just needs warming through.

6.       Get the balance right. If you’ve got a big day out planned then plan a day at home watching movies or something quiet and relaxing for the following day. I found that too many exciting days out in a row only leads to tiredness, over stimulation and meltdowns- from both of us.

7.       Spend time with friends, but not every day. We had a summer where we planned loads and loads of days out with the same friend from school. By the end of the summer that friend was exhausted. I have found that my sons friends are really brilliant and understanding about his autism but at the end of the day they are children themselves and if you spend all your time with one friend their tolerance for your child’s ‘quirks’- especially in the summer when meltdowns may be more frequent might wear thin. I find it best to arrange days out with several different friends on different days. It’s fun to go out with other people, it’s nice for your child to have a friend with them and it’s also nice to have some adult company of another parent. But I do advise to spread yourself widely and thinly.

8.       You don’t have to constantly entertain them There will be times in the summer holiday when I throw open the back door, give my eldest his bike and send him off out, or when I leave my youngest in a room with a pile of toys. In fact there will be a lot of times like this.  It’s good for children to entertain themselves, they learn valuable skills from free play. The key with an autistic child may be that “playing on your own” is in a specific time slot.

9.       DVD’s and TV are NOT going to damage them. The laundry doesn’t just do itself because the kids aren’t in school. If you need to plonk your kids in front of the TV or in front of a movie to get stuff done this is okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re normal.

10.   Don’t sweat the small stuff  If you have a child who for one reason or another craves routine you know they’re going to find the summer holidays difficult and stressful. Children often deal with stress by misbehaving. Whilst it’s important to maintain boundaries you may also think about where you can cut them some slack, so their bedroom isn’t so tidy or they’re not being as helpful as they could be….it’s not THAT big a deal is it. Choose your battles wisely, focus on the behaviours that really matter to you and maybe be a bit more relaxed on the less important stuff. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Let It Go

Like most mothers with young children recently I’ve had three words going round and round in my head for the last few weeks

"Let it Go"

But it’s not because my kids are into Frozen, in fact weirdly enough they must be the only kids on the planet who aren’t and for that I am eternally grateful.

Of course I do hear that song everywhere I go, there’s simply no avoiding it, but it hasn’t just been that. I’ve seen these kind of memes on my facebook and twitter feeds, and from people you wouldn’t expect them from:

I have a lot of wise Godly people in my life and they’ve been saying to me recently “you’ve got to let things go Sally, you have to stop dwelling on it before you become bitter.” God really has used every means at his disposal to get this message across to me, when I’ve stubbornly refused to engage it’s been everywhere.

I also read that telling an abuse victim to move on and let it go is trite and ridiculous not only because they have formed a traumatic bond to their abuser but also because it’s a hurt you just can’t imagine unless you’ve been there. And I have found myself agreeing with this and asking God “I know I need to move on but how when it hurts so much?”

Last night I was off to bed, it was late and I thought to myself “I wish I’d found time to read my bible today but it’s late now and I’m tired” but then I just got this feeling that I should read it. I argued with myself a bit (please tell me I’m not the only one who has conversations with herself in her head? I feel a bit crazy admitting this) but in the end I couldn’t ignore the feeling not only that I needed to read my bible, but that I should read the passage I read yesterday (Isaiah 53) because I had missed something.

BBC Cross from Flickr via Wylio
© 2005 Ihar, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
And this is what I read:
 “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53: 3&7)
I pondered how Jesus experienced pain, sorrow, grief, rejection, abuse. I thought for a while on how he has walked the road I walk. It’s because he’s suffered he’s able to walk this road of suffering with me, he’s the friend who really “gets it.” Yet I’ve known he’s with me on this road, I’ve known he understands my suffering, but I haven’t understood how that can take the pain away. I haven’t seen how having a loving saviour who understands perfectly what I am going through, really in any practical sense helps me to let go and move on.

And then I read this
“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.” (Isaiah 53:4)
In the morning at 09:05 am from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 KarstenH68, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
And suddenly, like a lightbulb moment, that horribly religious phrase “leave it at the foot of the cross” made sense to me. I had always understood the concept of atonement; I’ve always grasped that on the cross Jesus took the burden of all my sins, all my wrongdoing. But it never dawned on me that in taking the burden of all sin he didn't just deal with my sin, he dealt with the sin done to me.  I understood that Jesus felt the shame of my sin, I had never thought about how he also takes the pain of sin. On the cross Jesus felt this pain I am feeling now, the pain caused by my husband’s sin; he felt this exact hurt and anguish. He didn’t just die so I wouldn’t have to; he hurt so I wouldn’t have to.

So can Jesus take this pain from me? Well he already has, I just need to surrender it. All the times I’ve prayed “God please please stop me hurting” I’d known God was able to because he is all powerful, but I imagined it being like some kind of cosmic magic; where he would just make the pain vanish, and that kind of didn’t work for me. It’s only now I realise how God heals us, he does it by putting that pain onto his precious son and letting him carry that burden for us.

What a friend we have in Jesus!
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
(Joseph M. Scriven)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

When I get it wrong

I want to write a post to say to other victims that it’s okay to get things wrong and it’s okay to not always feel positive.

I want to tell you you are not alone.

This blog is about my progress, it’s about healing, it’s about moving on.

But that journey isn’t a straight road. In fact it’s not even a long winding wiggly road.

It’s a road with big pitfalls you might trip over or even fall in. It’s a road with sticky patches of mud you get trapped in, feel you’ll never get out of and think you’re going to drown in. It’s a road with tangley brambles that snare you, scratch you and cause you pain. It’s a road that often goes dark and you get lost on, that loops back on itself making you feel you’re not moving towards your destination but are in fact going backwards. It’s a road you often have to sit still on for a while and catch your breath and look back how far you have come even though you can see how far you still have left to go.

I get a lot wrong. I fluctuate from listening to good advice to acting on instincts and screwing up. Some days I don’t want any contact, others I find myself firing off angry emails to him demanding answers for why he abused me (seriously just don’t do this) I have periods of calm, of happiness and joy but then suddenly I’ll wake up one morning and think “how did my marriage end up like this?” Sometimes I think about the good times, I think about the times we laughed together, I think of curling up on the sofa watching NCIS Los Angeles and laughing at how rubbish it is, I think about how I’d cook him his favourite meals, or how on a Saturday night he’d cook steak and we’d watch a movie. I think about how, when he was being tender he’d touch me or hug me. Sometimes I miss him. I really miss him. And sometimes I think about that and I regret my choices and I cry and cry and cry. Yes I sometimes miss, regret leaving and cry over a man who abused me and my children. It makes no sense, my friends and family find it really difficult, they just cannot understand it, and this makes me feel alone.

Other times I think about him screaming at my children, I think about him terrifying my son. I think about how my son would scream and run and hide in his bedroom and how sometimes he’d chase him up there and pin him to his bed. Then I get angry, I get really really angry and I lose all sense of rational thought. I send him angry emails, I lay into his friends for supporting someone like this, I tell his girlfriend what she’s getting into, I scour his facebook page and find myself turning into an angry, bitter vindictive ex: the kind of person I don’t want to be.

I feel bad sometimes that I write a blog about healing because I feel like I am not healing. I feel I am a hypocrite if I talk about focusing on the future, or placing all my hope in Jesus now, because oftentimes I am not doing those things.

But they are my goal. And sometimes I achieve them. And when I don’t; when I’ve had a rough time or have done something stupid, when I’ve wallowed in self-pity or I’ve allowed anger to control my actions I know, I always know, I have a God I can return to, who says “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you” NEVER. Even when I say “screw you God this man hurt me and I’m gonna hurt him back” or when I feel like he’s not there and I’m all alone with my grief, even in these dark dark times he doesn’t leave me. He nudges me, he finds ways to let me know he’s still there, even though I sometimes ignore that nudging, and when I stop my wallowing he’ll still be there. Like the father who puts his best robe on his prodigal son, he’ll welcome me back with open arms and re- clothe me in robes of dignity. He’ll forgive my impetuousness and my stupidity, he’ll dry my tears, and he’ll love me and remind me I’m his daughter. No matter how long I travel on this road, no matter how many detours I take, how many pitfalls I not only encounter but cause for myself, I won’t walk it alone, ever. And neither will you.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Playing the victim game.

It’s been a while since I left my abuser but last week suddenly a wave of anger swept over me. It seems odd that I have become so angry and bitter at this stage, I can only think that it’s now I have started to heal that I finally have the strength and energy for anger. Thinking about what he did to my children has made my blood boil. I’ve seen red and I’ve acted on my anger. Once again I didn’t give it to God as I posted about all those weeks ago.

It was probably very unwise but I acted on my anger by publically “outing” my abuser. I don’t know what came over me, but I knew the lies he’d been telling people and I went all over the forums he posts on, all over facebook and twitter and set the record straight. It didn’t really achieve anything other than making me look like a crazy bunny boiler and playing into his story of the vindictive ex out to get him.

During all this though something stood out to me. One of his friends commented that this was not the behaviour of an abuse victim. 

Which makes me wonder: What is the behaviour of an abuse victim?

This notion that abuse victims behave in a certain way has been a part of every decision making process, every conscious behaviour since I left him. There’s always the question of “if I do this will people believe me?” and “am I behaving appropriately as a victim.” Being believed is important. It’s not just important for our self respect and our healing, it’s important for our safety. Scarily judges and magistrates in family courts make decisions about our children’s futures not only on the evidence in front of them (which in abuse cases is often very scant) but also on how we present in court. Being able to “present” as a victim is important.

And this is wrong. My abuser loves to “play the victim” I don’t want to. In fact I don’t want to be a victim anymore. I’m not saying going on the attack is the right thing to do, but so what if I do? if someone who has escaped abuse makes a choice not to be “a victim” anymore why does that make their experience any less believable? My husband’s friend is right, I’m not the ‘victim type’ I’m a loud mouthed, argumentative, bolshy, sometimes abrasive, intelligent, capable woman; but none of that stopped me from being abused. What those personality traits do mean is that I react differently to my experience to how someone quieter and more reserved might, they also mean that once I am free of the abuse I am likely to begin to fight back, and am certainly likely to say “I will never be a victim again” This should not make my experience less believable.

We all respond differently to trauma. It is not for anyone to judge the truth of a situation based on the reaction of the victim to that situation. I have met victims who are scared to leave the home and victims who go out clubbing every weekend. I have met victims who say they never want to have a relationship ever again and victims who jump straight into another one. I have met victims who never want to see their abuser again and victims who still love him and can’t keep away. I have met victims who are saddened at their relationship ending and victims who are overjoyed. I have met victims who are wise and take good advice to stay away, and victims more like myself who trip up, make mistakes and often get it wrong.

It’s a terrible indictment of society that some people make judgements on whether abuse took place, or worse; whether it was justifiable based on the persona of the victim. Personally I can’t actually fathom out how I am supposed to behave in these peoples eyes, but frankly it doesn’t matter because I refuse to remain a victim and I refuse to play the games my husband is playing.  

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Throwing stones in the sea 
I’ve been doing the 100happydays challenge. If you don’t know about it this is it. Basically every day for 100 days you take a photo of something that’s made you happy that day and make a note of it, it’s a good way to focus on the positives in our lives.

Looking back over my photographs I notice that most of them are of my children. I read my happy things and think how boring my life must appear. Nearly everyday I post that my family has made me happy. For a while I wondered if this was because I don’t have anything else in my life.

Flowers picked for me by my son
But when I thought about it I realised no, actually I do have lots of things, just little things, in my life I am grateful for and happy about. But each day I have picked the top of that list, the thing that has made me happiest, and it just so happens that this is my family.
What have I learned from doing #100happydays? I have learned that I am blessed with the most gorgeous, wonderful family anyone
 could ever hope to have. I have learned that if I have a good day or a bad day I sit down over dinner with my boys every night and I look at them and feel happy, that I have extended family who make me smile when I’m down and are utterly dependable. I’ve learned that I am content with what I have, that there is nothing, nothing missing from my life and that above all else because I can come home every day to a family who loves me and who I love I have every reason to smile. Daily.

Happy Heart from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 fauxto_digit, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Monday, 23 June 2014

The abusive man in arguments by Lundy Bancroft.

Picture taken from
I’ve mentioned the book "Why does he do that" in my blog before. It’s the book I would recommend everyone read whether you’ve been abused or not, it really is so informative and helpful. On the Womens Aid survivors forum many of the ladies refer to it’s author as Saint Lundy because he pinpoints exactly the dynamics of an abusive relationship that are so hard to explain.

When the abuse has been emotional it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to explain, when your abuser tells everyone that you abused him and twists reality to paint himself as the victim it can be tough to describe what actually happened and how just because you argued with him it doesn’t mean it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. How many abuse victims have heard “you two argue all the time” or “you two wind each other up something chronic” or “you two are as bad as each other” over the years. I know I have. It often leaves you wondering if you really were abused, or even if he was right and you were the abusive one.

So today I want to share with you a snippet of the book from pages 138- 141.  In this section, Lundy Bancroft hits the nail on the head about how an argument with an abusive man works and how it leaves the victim feeling. For me this was a near daily occurrence, it’s no wonder I ended up feeling a little crazy.

I will begin by examining in detail an argument between an abusive man and his partner, the kind I hear about routinely from my clients and their partners. Jesse and Bea are walking along in their town. Jesse is sullen and clearly annoyed. 
BEA: What’s going on with you? I don’t understand what you’re upset about.
JESSE: I’m not upset; I just don’t feel like talking right now. Why do you always have to read something into it? Can’t I just be a little quiet sometimes? Not everybody likes to talk, talk, talk all the time just because you do
BEA: I don’t talk, talk, talk all the time. What do you mean by that? I just want to know what’s bothering you.
JESSE: I just finished telling you, nothings bothering me… and give me a break that you don’t talk all the time. When we were having dinner with my brother and his wife, I couldn’t believe how you went on and on about your stupid journalism class. You’re forty years old, for Christ sake; the world isn’t excited about your fantasies of being famous. Grow up a little.
BEA: Fantasies of being famous? I’m trying to get a job, Jesse, because the travel agency jobs have all moved downtown. And I wasn’t going on about it. They were interested; they were asking me a lot of questions about it- that’s why we were on that subject for a while.
JESSE: Oh yeah they were real interested. They were being polite to you because you’re so full of yourself. You’re so naïve you can’t even tell when you’re being patronised.
BEA: I don’t believe this. That dinner was almost two weeks ago. Have you been brewing about it all this time?
JESSE: I don’t brew, Bea, you’re the one that brews. You love to get us confused. I’ll see you later. I’m really not in the mood for this shit.
BEA: In the mood for what shit?? I haven’t done anything! You’ve had it in for me since I arrived to meet you!
JESSE: You’re yelling at me, Bea. You know I hate being yelled at. You need to get help; your emotions just fly off the handle. I’ll see you later.
BEA: Where are you going?
JESSE: I’ll walk home thank you.You can take the car. I’d rather be alone.
BEA: It’s going to take you more than half an hour to walk home and it’s freezing today.
JESSE: Oh, Now suddenly you care about me so much. Up yours. Bye (walks off) 
The lives of abused women are full of these kinds of exchanges. Jesse didn’t call Bea any degrading names; he didn’t yell; he didn’t hit her or threaten her. Bea will be in a tough spot when the time comes to explain to a friend how upset she is, because Jesse’s behaviour is hard to describe. What can she say? That he’s sarcastic? That he holds onto things? That he’s overly critical? A friend would respond “Well that sounds hard, but I wouldn’t call it abuse” Yet, as Jesse walks away, Bea feels as if she has been slapped in the face.
We will first look at what Jesse is doing and then examine how his thinking works. The first point to illuminate is:
Therapists often try to work with an abuser by analysing his responses to disagreements and trying to get him to handle conflicts differently. But such an approach misses the point: His abusiveness was what caused the tension to begin with.
Jesse uses an array of conversational tactics as most abusers do:

  • He denies being angry, although he obviously is, and instead of dealing with what is bothering him, he channels his energy into criticising Bea about something else.
  • He insults, belittles, and patronises Bea in multiple ways, including saying that she likes to talk all the time and has fantasies of becoming famous, stating that she should “grow up” and telling her that she accuses him of stewing over things when it’s actually her.
  • He tells her that she is unaware that other people look down on her and don’t take her seriously and calls her “naïve”
  • He criticizes her for raising her voice in response to his stream of insults
  • He tells her that she is mistreating him  
  • He stomps off and plays the victim by putting himself in the position of having to take a long, cold walk home.

Bea is now left miserable- feeling like a scratching post that a cat has just sharpened its claws on. Part of why she is so shaken up by this experience is that she never knows when one of these verbal assaults is going to happen or what sets it off. On a different day she might have met Jesse to take him home and had a pleasant conversation with him about his work day." 

You can get more information about Lundy Bancrofts books here If you can read only one book on this subject do read "Why does he do that" it's incredibly eye opening.