Something to talk about…

A couple of weeks ago I got in a taxi (not an unusual occurrence) & engaged in the usual polite conversation with the driver. The weather, had I had a nice day & so on. Then he went quiet for a minute & said ‘can I ask your advice on something?’

This is the kind of question that usually rings alarms bells, but for some reason I decided to give this guy a chance. He had talked about his children in our short conversation & came across as a decent person. I’m glad I trusted my gut. He wanted advice on how to help his son, who had been self harming.

The taxi driver never alluded to my scars, but I presume that’s why he thought I might have advice to offer. He explained a bit about his son. How he had changed schools after a move, found it hard to make new friends, become more insular. Then how his wife had discovered their son had been injuring himself & how they were both lost. They’re son didn’t want to speak to anyone about it, they didn’t know if they should force the issue. He was increasingly unhappy, so far their attempts to help had been unsuccessful. It broke my heart. This man clearly loved his child. It was just as clear that he was utterly out of his depth.

So, I told him I had experience with self harm. Explained that it could serve a few functions. That is was habit forming & yes, it was a sign that his son was really struggling. I stressed that I wasn’t a professional mental health worker & that everyone was different, but in my experience it was best to get help as soon as possible. It was also important not to make his son feel forced into anything. Research some options & present them to his son, try to let him make choices. I suggested he make it clear that he & his wife were always available to talk about anything & offered some organisations he could contact for more advice. That was about as much as I felt able to say to a stranger during a taxi ride. I didn’t know any details of what was going on for his son, so I didn’t know what would be best for him. It felt insufficient, but when we arrived at my destination he refused to take payment. He said my words had lifted a load because now he felt like there was help for his son & he had an idea of how to find it. I got emotional, wished him the very best & thanked him for my free lift home. We parted & are unlikely to meet again.

So, why am I telling you this? I’m sharing because the more I think about it the surer I am that this kind of thing should happen more often. I think the reason it doesn’t is stigma. That taxi driver took a chance; he shared sensitive information & asked me to do the same. He dared to break a taboo & admit that he needed help. The result, hopefully is that his family will find that help. How many people struggle with mental health problems and never find the courage to ask for help? How many people just never know who they can turn to?

I’d love to live in a world where it didn’t even take courage to tell someone you’re hurting. It shouldn’t be so hard or so hidden.

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties it is imperative that you seek help right away. Mental Illness almost always get worse & harder to treat when left to fester. There is no shame in not being ok. You deserve any & all hell to feel as good as you can.

Your GP is always a good first step. Take someone you trust to advocate for you if you can.

MIND offer a variety of local services. You can find the in your area here.

SANE offer specialised mental health support. You can contact them on 0300 304 7000.

You can also call The Samaritans 24/7, 365 days a year on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

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Go gentle…

This year World Mental Health Day has intersected with Baby Loss Awareness week resulting in lots of media/online talk about both subjects. Obviously, this presses pretty much all of my buttons as my mental health has historically (& currently) been so interconnected with my losses.

I believe society’s discomfort of miscarriage increases the distress experienced by those who live it. Feeling that I could not talk about my loss certainly compounded the trauma of my first miscarriage. There is a massive crossover between mental illness & baby loss, I believe part of that is how we treat people who have to deal with either issue. I also believe that making really simple changes in attitudes would allieviate so much pain. Miscarriage & infant loss will always be horrific, but if we allow people to openly explore & process those losses long term mental illness can be avoided. Or at the very least recognised & treated. 


Miscarriage  & other types of baby loss affect many people. We can all help make their lives easier by following these straight forward suggestions.

1. Acknowledge the loss.

Many people feel so uncomfortable about this kind of loss that they simply don’t acknowledge it. I know that this often comes from a good place, one might fear upsetting a grieving parent or intruding on their privacy.  I get that, but trust me, the silence is worse. If you know that someone has miscarried a simple ‘I am sorry for your loss’ goes a long way. Having people recognise that you have suffered a loss is massive. Too often those of us who have experienced miscarriage are  left feeling that our child only existed for us. Having people in your life affirm that the life you carried was real & had worth is extremely valuable. 

2. Really listen. 

Asking someone how they are, sending love etc is a good gesture, but if you really want help, listen to their response. When I lost my first baby what I really needed was to talk about it. I desperately needed to express how I felt & what I was struggling with, but never felt it was ok to do so. Burying those emotions compounded my trauma & led to a complete breakdown. If someone needs to talk about their experiences, please let them. 

3. Respect the grief.

When you have a miscarriage you grieve. Your grief is not only for the baby you have lost, but also for the life you have been planning. Grief is a very personal thing, everyone does it in their own way & on their own timetable. Wether that involves a memorial service, commemorating an anniversary, a tattoo or even never speaking of it again, please respect that. Don’t judge or rush.  Be supportive of whatever your grieving friend needs . There are no right or wrong ways to heal, even if you feel uncomfortable with someone’s chosen expression of grief. Just be kind & remember it is not your journey.


4. Don’t hide baby news.

I understand the urge to shield loved ones from pain. Certainly be sensitive, but share & celebrate your baby news. I can guarantee that although it may sometimes be painful I never want to dampen anyone’s joy. Losing a baby is hard, but it does not prevent me from being thrilled for other people. Any tears I have to shed will be done in private & are only my concern. I want all good things for everyone that I love. I absolutely adore the beautiful little people my siblings & have friends have been blessed with. I have never met a person who had suffered a loss who felt any differently. 

There you have it. Four straightforward pieces of advice that may lighten the load of someone who is suffering. All you have to do is swallow your discomfort, listen & be respectful. Surely, that’s not too much to ask? 

A dignified period…

Simon Community Scotland are a wonderful organisation who provide support & services for people experiencing homelessness. Every year they help over 500 women dealing with being homeless, offering gendering specfic services through their street teams. 

The traumatic histories of homeless women create a need for multiple branches of support. Often issues beginning in childhood can lead a woman to the streets. Childhood abuse or neglect can be replayed through domestic violence & exploitation, which can result in substance abuse, mental & physical health problems. All of which add up to a shocking low life expectancy of 43. The Simon Community aim to help women rebuild their lives by providing emergency accommodation & a variety of tailored services. This month they add to their excellent support portfolio with a Period Friendly programme. 

The programme will be comprised of education, communication & making sanitary itemsessily available. Simon Community have found that homeless women often lack basic knowledge about their menstrual cycle. Growing up in care or a troubled home can mean that they never had a chance to learn about periods. homeless women can feel particularly embarrassed or ashamed about their periods. As a result they may struggle to talk about their periods and lack opportunities to seek advice. On top of this the hardships of living on the street can lead to irregular cycles, infections & other problems. 

The Simon Community hope to tackle these issues with the launch of Period Friendly Points (PFP). Intially the points will be located at places specifically catering to homeless people, with they hope they may spread to include other sites. PFPs will provide free access to products required for a period; wipes, tampons, towels, pants, disposable bags along with information on how to use the sanitary products. Pregnancy & infection tests will also be available. These offer reassurance for women who experience irregular periods. They are also essential for women who have been victims of sexual violence. The Simon Community street teams will also be giving out Period Paxs comprising Period essentials, which can be refilled st PFPs


The PFPs will also give homeless women the chance the speak to staff about any queries or problems they are having. A study of homeless women undertaken by Simon Community discovered that,

78% didn’t know how long a tampon should be kept in.

61% had to go without sanitary products on multiple occasions – instead using rags or newspapers. 

70% had never spoken to anyone about their period & didn’t even know what a period is. 

These fact underline how important Period Friendly Points are. There is a desperate need for not only access to necessary products, but also a someone to listen & offer reliable advice. 

No women should ever have to make her own tampons or wear the same pants for a week. This goes beyond personal hygien, it is about dignity & respect. 

As a charitable organisation The Simon Community is always on need of donations & support. You can help grow this new intiative in a number of ways. If you have some time to volunteer you can become a Period Friendly Pal. 

P.F.Pals will :

Restock PFPs.

Collect & sort donations into Pax at SC warehouse in Glasgow.

Help raise funds & products to maintain PFPs.

Support, promote & raise awareness of issues that homeless women experience. 

Be a listening ear to the women SC reach out to. 

You can also donate by texting PFPR28 to 70070 staying your donation amount – £5 or £10.

Listen…

I want to talk to you about something that isn’t often discussed. In a world where almost nothing is taboo miscarriage remains an uncomfortable topic. I know from personal experience that friends and family are often unsure how to approach such a loss. A misplaced belief that a mother’s (&her partner’s) privacy must be maintained or worry that bringing up the subject will cause distress can leave a grieving parent feeling isolated. I’d like to open up the subject, share my experience & hopefully change your thoughts on how best to support a friend who has suffered a miscarriage.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to acknowledge a person’s loss. Miscarriage feels like a death, you have lost a life that you created & have already given your heart to. Let your loved one feel that pain out in the open. Treat this grief as you would any other. Send flowers, a sympathy card, be available to listen. Acknowledge that the child who hasn’t made it into our world is real. To feel that those around you care for not only you, but your unborn child is a crucial part of the healing process.

There is no rule book for recovering from miscarriage. Some people need to throw themselves into work or a busy social schedule. Others may require time alone to process what has happened. There is no right way, listen to what your friend tells you they want & support them. Whether that is getting raucously drunk or cuddling them whilst they cry. There are so many complicated emotions attached to losing a child. I felt a crippling guilt. I know others who have felt rage & some people who accepted the loss as part of their path or an act of god. There is no correct way to feel. As irrational as these responses may seem to you, let your friend feel what they feel. Listen, reassure, but never judge. Each person knows what is appropriate for them, respect that.

Miscarriage is a life changing event. Conceiving again does not wipe out the loss. Your unborn baby can’t be replaced. For me a permanent memorial was necessary. Many people need to commemorate their baby. Be it tattoos, planting a tree or a gathering do not shy away from involvment in these acts of love. Allow you friend to carry their child with them.

Don’t assume that miscarriage is best kept secret. In the immediate aftermath & in the years that have followed, I have wanted to talk about my experiences with miscarriage. Sadly, I haven’t always felt that I was allowed to do so. My loss was treated as something that must remain private. Whilst I am sure this attitude was well meaning, it left me unable to express emotions that I felt suffocated by. If your friend, family member, colleague or even a stranger on a bus wants to talk about their miscarriage, please let them. You cannot imagine how freeing it is to let out the tumult of thoughts in your head. 

Miscarriage is not a rare occurrence. Many women will have to find their route through its consequences. This post is based on my personal experience & the consensus of the many women I have known who have had the misfortune to share that experience. Of course there will be parents who have differing views. I can’t speak for everyone. Ultimately you must trust that each indivdual knows what they need & follow their lead. However, I do hope that some what I have written has given you pause for thought. Moreover it’s my wish that my suggestions will ease this painful journey for others.