It seems we all get reflective at the end of the year. I’ve been re-reading old blogs and seeing how much life has changed.
When I started this page in March I didn’t tell anyone it was me. I felt like Batman, with a secret identity!
Until then I was pretending I had my shit together. No-one needed to know that my house was a bomb site, or that I didn’t play constant board games with my family.
No one needed to know that I was having counselling because I wasn’t coping with my vestibular illness. I could say on here things that I wouldn’t admit to anyone outside my family. It was like extra therapy.
But then lovely people started to Like some of the posts and send me messages saying that there are lots of us feeling unbalanced, but pretending we’re not.
Some people shared that they have the same vestibular illness as me. But most just recognise that constant juggle of a too-busy life, keeping all our plates spinning. It’s been great to share a laugh or a rude word when we let one of our plates spectacularly smash on the floor (and quickly try to sweep it up while no-one’s looking).
So I got the confidence to take my Bat-mask off.
Ironically it’s made me feel much LESS Unbalanced. It’s made me *genuinely* celebrate my unbalanced life and count my lucky stars that I have so much going on, that I just can’t fit it all in. It’s helped me accept that some things just won’t get done.
So now I’m standing tall, if a little wobbly sometimes. I’m proud to say out loud…
My name is Julie, and I’m Unbalanced.
Sometimes literally, sometimes mentally, but nearly always with a smile.
And a foul mouth. Let’s not fucking forget that.
Thank you to everyone who has liked this page, or sent me a message, or shared a story of your unbalanced lives. It’s amazing to know that you lot are Unbalanced too (please take that as a compliment!).
I love Christmas songs, I really do. The carols, the pop songs, the kids songs. Pretty much all of them. So I thought I’d have some fun updating the lyrics of some classics from my Christmas playlist, so they feel more relevant to life as I know it now – as a knackered mother…
1. To the tune of ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’
You better watch out, she might start to cry Can’t believe all the shit still to buy We’re all on the Christmas count down
She’s making a list and checking it twice Goose fat and cranberry, carrots with spice We’re all on the Christmas count down
She panics when she’s sleeping She’ll soon jump wide awake That present’s not arrived yet Now she’s screaming “for fuck’s sake!”
Oh, you better watch out, get out of her way Wrapping and cleaning and swearing all day We’re all on the Christmas count down.
2. To the tune of ‘Last Christmas’
Last Christmas I sent loads of cards
But the postage I paid, just seemed such a waste This year to save me some time I’ll just post a pic on Facebook (Facebook) oh oh.
(Merry Christmas) I wrote them all and sent them With a note saying “Love from…” and I meant it But now you know, that you won’t get a card You haven’t pissed me off, I haven’t lost your address.
Last Christmas I sent loads of cards Now the postage I saved, will not go to waste This year, to charity sent So they can do something special (spe-e-cial).
3. Sing this one like Bing
(Remembering Christmases when I lived with my parents and had no real responsibilities)
I’m dreaming of a boozy Christmas Just like when I still lived at home Where my mum did the shopping, so there’d be no stopping, My after-work drinks and late night discos
I’m dreaming of a drunk Christmas Before I had kids of my own May your children sleep right through the niiiight And may all your hangovers be light.
This is a real modern day Christmas song by my favourite comedian, Tim Minchin. I listen to this every year and it gets me every time.
It’s a beautiful song about his love of Christmas because it’s when his family comes together in Australia. Please give it a play, listen to the words (and maybe grab a tissue if you’re as sentimental as me!)…
Whether you celebrate Christmas in the snow or the sun Whether you are a dad, a sister, a brother, a mum Whether you believe in Jesus or just the family traditions… I hope your Christmas is magical, fun, sentimental and filled with love.
And perhaps Unbalanced for all the good reasons!
Merry Christmas xxx
Link to White Wine in the Sun on YouTube: https://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q
Looking at these photos I found myself singing that Flash Gordon song – not the noisy ‘Flash, Ah Ah. Saviour of the universe” part, but the slower bit of ‘Just a man, with a man’s courage”.
I think these photos show why Obama has been so popular (whatever your own politics). Because whatever tough job he’s had to do, he’s shown us that he’s also ‘just a man’ – a human that we can relate to.
He’s not an unreachable, perfect, presidential superhero. He’s shown all sides of himself: a person who can be joyful, fearful, compromised and totally fucked off – even this week, shaking hands with a man he clearly thinks is a total cockwomble!!
Just a man: a husband, a father, a team member, a friend.
All of those things are just as important as ‘a President’.
To me that’s inspirational.
I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a colleague and an Unbalanced Woman who spouts out a load of crap in my blog. I’m far from perfect at any of them.
I’m not a superhero with one super power. I’m an Unbalanced Woman who does a million things as best she can. Like everyone does.
That’s what these photos show me.
“Just a man, with a man’s courage
He knows nothing but a man But he can never fail.
No one but the pure of heart may find the golden grail Oh oh oh oh”
Question: What do you do when your Head-voice and your Heart-voice are at war in your head? When one is saying… ‘Do it, do it!’ and the other is saying “You stupid fuckwit of a woman – don’t even think about it!”
Answer: Get yourself a therapist
This one is hard to write. I’ve been putting it off for a while. But as I started this blog as a sort of therapy, I always promised myself that I’d write honestly about the ACTUAL therapy I’ve had this year. So here goes….
When I became unwell last year, the hardest part of the initial journey was that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Lying in an MRI scanner and listening to the mechanical beeps for an hour, I was mentally writing my will and thinking about leaving my 5 year old boy without a mum. But once diagnosed (with a Vestibular Dysfuction*) I was able to concentrate on getting physically better. Knowledge is power as they say. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I could fight it.
*Vestibular Dysfuction – when the brain can’t properly orientate and you feel constantly dizzy, sea-sick and can only move about slowly, acting as if you are seriously drunk – without actually drinking. It’s shit!
For the next six months I had a goal, a plan and a belief that I could return to ‘normal’. I made steady progress through Neuro Physio (re-training the brain to balance) and I could cope. I was absolutely determined to become me again, and be able to do everything I previously could.
Having that vision and that belief was, I’m sure, a contributor to me making such great progress.
So when I had a relapse in February and started getting worse again, I hit a new low – possibly worse than my first MRI, because I was back to having no knowledge. Now I was wondering if this was going to be an on-going cycle – did I have to accept that I may never get better? It hit me really hard. My Neuro Physio told me that I needed to come to terms with the fact that this could be it. Even with all the brain training, I may only ever be able to do 80% of what I could before. The idea of living with this illness forever was just heart breaking. The idea of not being able to do everything that I could normally do, and everything I had planned for my life, was overwhelming.
One thought kept coming back to me – Disney Land. It’s been my dream for most of my life, and I’ve promised myself that I will go as soon as my boy is tall enough to go on all the big rides.
I couldn’t accept it. Mentally, I just couldn’t cope. Micky Mouse became a symbol of everything I was losing. The me I was losing. The me my family was losing and the limits that would put on them too. I lost my will to fight, and just became sad and angry. I didn’t know whether I needed to keep fighting to get better, or to accept defeat and make new plans – ones that wouldn’t ever involve Micky fucking Mouse. (I also started swearing a lot more, and taking my anger out on fictional mice!)
I realised that I needed help. My Neuro Physiotherapist was a wonderful woman helping me retrain my brain and make physical brain progress, but I needed help with the emotional side of my brain too. I needed to sort out how to THINK – how to DECIDE – how to KEEP GOING mentally.
So a made an appointment with a Counselling therapist, and it’s possibly the best thing I ever did. To be honest, for the first 3 sessions, I really wasn’t sure! I felt that she didn’t understand the problem. But to be fair to her, it was ME that didn’t understand my own emotions. I wasn’t giving her the right details. I was still too angry at my situation. I was linking my physical condition and my mental state too closely together, I couldn’t separate them – when I felt physically poorly I was sad, and when I felt physically OK I felt… well, OK, but overwhelmingly frustrated by my limitations.
The regular fight in my head was:
Physical Brain: I’m so tired. The more your push me, the more I need to rest. You can’t do everything you used to – accept it; do less; enjoy the quieter life. Let’s sit on the sofa and have a brew.
Emotional Brain: But that’s not who I AM! I’m missing out on LIFE. I don’t enjoy quiet, I NEED the variety, I need the party, I need to be who I WAS.
My Emotional Brain thinks in shouty capitals a lot!
The break-through happened in my therapy session after I did the worse thing I could have possibly done as a person with balance issues – I went on a roller coaster. It was definitely an act of rebellion. I knew it was an absolutely stupid risk that could totally fuck up all the neuro-physio progress that I’d made. But I also felt that I was leading a restricted life, and it was breaking my heart. It was head versus heart, or my Physical Brain versus my Emotional Brain, and Emotional Brain was now calling the shots. It wanted to know what would happen, like a child pushing boundaries… I needed to know if the Disney dream was ever going to be achievable.
I picked a day when all the circumstances were right – I was feeling reasonably good, I had people with me who could look after me if I crashed into a spinning nausea, I had the next 3 days off work if I needed to recuperate. I was still scared shitless though! Physical and Emotional brains were battling in my head as I queued up:
EB: It’s the Dora the Explorer roller coaster, it’s fine for a 6 year old – how bad can it be?
PB: You absolutely crazy fuckwit of a woman – there’s a sign that says ‘Not suitable for people with motion sickness’ – that’s an understatement for what you have!
But because I’m either feistily determined or stupidly stubborn (you can decide which), I did it. And it wasn’t at all as bad as I expected. So… I went on three more, each progressively bigger and faster.
I’d love to say that was the moment when I realised I was better, but oh no, I just got the consequences later. Somehow the adrenaline must have kept me going, but later that day I was crying, and the next day I paid the price properly. I felt awful. I could hardly move off the sofa. I thought I’d broken myself and I had a new reason to be angry – at myself – for being a crazy fuckwit of a woman (PB: Well, I told you, didn’t I?!) However, by the next day I felt a lot better, and the day after that, better again (EB: Ha. I knew it -it was worth the risk)
And this is where my therapist, Jeanette, comes in. She helped me realise that instead of being a straight battle between Physical and Emotional thoughts, I’d rather cleverly brought in a third voice in my head – ‘Intellectual Brain’. IB was the one who made sure I took the risk at the right time, considered the consequences, and made sure I was ready. It sounds so simple, but she was right. She helped me to think about other times I’d used this third voice to make decisions, and that this was the voice I had learned to trust. I needed to listen to them all, but IB was like the mediator.
This was my turning point. I started to feel more positive about making decisions, taking risks, testing my physical limits in a sensible way, and keep my emotional side happy that I was making progress.
When Jeanette and I booked our last session I said that I wanted to do some drawings as a way of remembering what I’d learned, and to help me easily recall the concepts of balancing my physical, emotional and intellectual voices.
This is what I drew…
… and what it means:
1. I need to stop looking back at who I was, and understand who I am now, and what I’m capable off. Being able to do 80% of what I could before may be true, but are there new things I can do too? If I’d lost a leg, I wouldn’t try to grow it back! I’d work out how to live the best life I could with one leg.
2. My roller coaster rebellion taught me how to push my physical limits to allow me to have fun, but in a safe way.
3. I had felt restricted by my illness, like I had tethers holding me back. Jeanette helped me to see those more as a harness, which helped to keep me safe. And when I was seeking to push the boundaries I was using intellect to ‘measure’ how far I could go.
4. I finally accepted that resting is not lazy – it’s essential. I can still do almost anything I want to as long as I accept that my body will pay the consequences, and I make time before and after to give it chance to do that.
Will I get to Disney Land one day? Yes, I absolutely will. Maybe not for a while yet, but I am still a determined / stubborn bitch, and I will not give up that dream. I know that it’s possible, as long as I plan ahead, take sensible risks and make time for the consequences.
“Eyes are the window of the soul”
My soul must be frigging knackered.
So why doesn’t this soul get some more sleep?
Because it owns an Unbalanced brain that won’t shut the fuck up about all the things it really needs to do today.
Brain: You’ve not read all those papers for that meeting tomorrow…
You really need to sort out selling your car before the MOT runs out…
Those pictures you bought 3 weeks ago are still leaning against the window…
Actually this whole house is a shit hole…
And you’ve not done any washing…
Do you realise you’ve not hit your 10,000 steps or 5 a day once this week. You’d better get outside at some point…
And buy fruit…
And you’d better do something nice with your child today because you’re going to London for 2 days and won’t see him….
And the cats need fleaing…
Soul: Fuck off brain. Give me a break. Can’t you see how busy I am carrying these bags under my eyes?
Brain: Oh yes I most certainly can. You’d better go shopping and buy some Touche Eclat. You can’t go to London looking like THAT.
I have been complimented on two parts of my body that I’ve never thought of as compliment-able. I’m feeling quite smug. They are my eyebrows and my cervix.
Yep, I’m surprised too.
1. I have excellent eyebrows, just like Cara Delevigne apparently. I’m “so lucky” because others pay a fortune for high definition brow work.
Until recently I never knew that brows where something people even noticed, unless left to form a Gallagher-esque mono-brow.
Mine have only ever been a disappointment to me that I can’t move them independently and give people that one raised eyebrow what-the-fuck?-face. How I covet that skill.
2. My second unexpected body brilliance is my ‘obedient cervix’. I have been told this twice so I know it’s a fact.
At a smear test I was told that most cervixes hide away and make it difficult to perform the test. But mine is ‘well behaved’ and pops straight into view. As if saying, “Hey there visitor. Welcome. Swab me? Of course. You’re welcome.”
So while they both might seem weird to me, if someone is handing out a body compliment I will take it. With relish.
And next time I admire another woman’s pert bum or her ability to move gracefully into downward dog, I will not chastise myself.
I will think, “Her body is great. I’ve got *naturally* high definition eyebrows and an extrovert cervix, so yay both of us.”