13. 11th September 2016 – Parenting theories

Over the break I have carried out some extensive research into parenting theories and have come up with my top three which I would like to share with you.  The aim of this process is to discover which theory would be most useful for me to use at the moment, whilst I am going through this difficult time (NB If you decide to plagiarise this blog for an academic essay in psychology or sociology you will almost certainly fail).

Theory one – children are resilient.  Many people are telling me this one at the moment, whilst secretly being grateful that their children have a relatively ‘normal’ life. However having observed the resiliency theory in real life with my own children – there does seem to be a lot of truth to this. Children have no previous experience to fall back on so they just get up and get on with it because it all seems normal.  My children have accepted that when mum sees a bruise on their leg, she might ask them where they got it from – even though she saw them fall over and attended to the incident last week.  It is normal for them.  They cope and they just get on with the various odd things that happen around them.  Still resilience theory doesn’t really resonate with me. It seems to suggest that it’s ok to make things bad for your children because they are resilient so it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Theory two – a classical psychological interpretation – This theory states that parents screw up their children and then the children spend the rest of their lives trying to undo the damage.  This theory was propagated by Freud, Jung, Piaget, Vygotsky and the like who believed that in these formative years a child’s cognitive and emotional development is established for the rest of their life. Oh dear, I think.  This is not good.  I thought children were supposed to be resilient and what I did didn’t really matter.  It looks like my children will spend years in therapy.

As a sub-theory to this theory is the one that says – if a mother is happy then a child is happy.  For my second pregnancy I was depressed almost throughout.  And if being depressed wasn’t bad enough the whole time I was thinking ‘My unborn child is picking up all my vibes and is going to be depressed their whole life.  How can I un-depress myself?   I am a crap mum before I have even started – what chance is there for my child?’ (I later miscarried, but that’s beside the point). And what about the one in ten mums who suffer from post-natal depression – surely all of their kids aren’t screwed up?  But there must be some truth in Freud et al’s theory – my children are not oblivious to my strange behaviour and my eldest can remember when I was chronically depressed.  There must be an impact – it must shape how they make sense of the world – but does it all have to be negative and does that impact have to last a lifetime.  What happens if some miracle happens and I get better – will my kids still be screwed up because there were some difficult years?

And then there is theory three – All a parent can do is try their best.  This is the theory I am going with for now.  I always thought it was a pretty odd theory – how do I know if I am trying my best? (Does an athlete only try their hardest when they score a personal best?).  However, I have come to understand that I am trying my best.  For me making a dinner for three kids is hard work (lots of decision making, planning, use of memory etc) – sometimes the kids have had the same meal more than once a week, often they don’t get veg and the kids only generally get a drink if they ask for one.  But I know 100% I am trying my best.  And if the kids end up in therapy in years to come, I will know that I tried my hardest for them and that life if complex and even though I tried my best it doesn’t always mean that my kids will have the future that I want for them – ie good mental health, a strong sense of self, to be a mensch (a good person who helps others) after all what else is important?


Exciting News:  My poor suffering husband (and Boris Johnson) were right – if desperate write to your MP.  My MP Oliver Dowden wrote, on his House of Commons embossed-letter-headed paper to the specialist doctor that I want to see and told him I was feeling a bit desperate and the very busy doctor has now mysteriously found space is his diary for me in two weeks time (I would like a pad of Mr Dowden’s paper.).  The natrupathic medicine is not making a difference but this week I am going to add Lithium to see if that has an impact.

9. 31st July – Benefits assessment

A middle class woman goes to have an assessment for benefits because she has an invisible illness condition. I guess this happens every day – but it is rarely talked about it.

For those of you that don’t know, if you are ill and can’t work you are entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA),  if you are not receiving statutory sick pay the state won’t just take your GP’s word for it and ask you to attend a ‘full medical assessment’[1].

So after an hour and a half wait (they call it ‘overbooking’ – I call it ‘over-overbooking’) I entered the assessment room and was greeted by a doctor – the assessor. The most important thing in the room was the computer. I felt sorry for the doctor and he felt sorry for me. He felt sorry for me because he could tell I was genuine and that I would rather be working than claiming benefits. I felt sorry for him because his job seemed extraordinarily demeaning. Previously, I learnt, my assessor had been an orthopaedic surgeon, but his eyes started to fail him and so he lost his confidence and changed jobs.  As far as I could see, his job involved reading medical notes, asking a list of questions from a computer and doing some very basic health tests (eg ‘Please can you read the letters on the board’, ‘I want to assess your cognitive function – what is 90 takeaway 7?’).  He also wrote a report. However, I felt the most demeaning part of his job was the fact that, at the end of the interview the surgeon, who presumably had a make a few decisions in his previous career, was not deemed suitably qualified to make a decision on whether I was fit to work and therefore could claim ESA.  That decision would go to a bureaucrat called a Decision Maker. As you know I can’t think straight, so the following day I asked myself silly questions like ‘Why can’t a doctor-assessor ask his own originally crafted questions and then make a Decision on whether the ‘customer’ is able to work? ‘Why eas an ex-orthopaedic surgeon asked to asses somone with epilepsy/ mental health problems? Surely there should be ‘mental health assessors’ and ‘specialist orthopaedic symptoms assessors’ and so forth who can specialise in assessing particular health conditions?’. Was a this very nice doctor the best person to assess me? I am obviously too stupid to answer these questions and so I must accept the rather peculiar reality of the cognitively adept world.


Yesterday I saw a man, dressed in a pink skirt, so short and childlike that it was probably meant for an eight year old and a top that, me being me, I cannot remember the colour of – walking down the high street.  And I felt a huge connection to him – I thought to myself – ‘Isn’t it great, that in this modern age we can so freely express ourselves.’  Even ten years ago that man would probably not have felt comfortable enough to walk down the road such as he was – transsexuals were simply hidden from view and rarely spoken about.  But in our open society it is possible, and in some areas – even acceptable, to dress openly in this way without being lynched.  And today I can express myself through a blog, telling family and friends how if feel because they could not see it if they just looked at me.  Ten years ago only newbies to the tec world would have written a blog and it was certainly not acceptable to write so freely and openly about mental health issues.  So I am grateful that the modern age allows me, and this man that I do not know, to be able to express ourselves in the way that we want to.


In other news – I am still waiting upon my neuropsychiatrist getting a second opinion.  He is going to be away for much of August, so it is a waiting game.  I have found research that says that epileptiform activity (which is what I have) can have a large impact on cognitive function even if the patient does not have seizures.

The result of my hair test has come in!!!! I had a phone call with the naturopath who explained to me what my hair test said. I can’t remember the details –there was something about a lack of cobalt and lithium (and yes I did try to write down what she said  – but I have lost the notepad and, in any case, the notes don’t make much sense).  She has got to check that there are no interactions with my antiepileptic medication and will get back to me with a detailed email explaining what minerals and supplements I need to take.

Next week I attend a Personal Independence Payment Assessment (the old Disability Living Allowance) interview – lucky me!!!!

[1] See https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility for more information

6. 11th July 2016 – The conclusion is not what I wanted

And so the plot has a slight twist.  The neurologist came round on Friday morning and said to me (more or less), ‘I looked at the computer to see what was in your head and the computer said ‘no’.  It said ‘No we don’t know what causes your problems – it’s not epilepsy.  So you are going to have to sort it out yourself.’ .’I said, ‘What?’ and she said, ‘Well it’s like this I’m a neurologist. I deal with epilepsy and I the data that we have taken from you this week says that although you are having some epileptic activity it’s not enough to make you feel the way you say you are feeling.  So really it’s not my business anymore.  Go back to your GP and see if she can refer to you to someone else.’  As in all cases like this it wasn’t the computer that I was angry with, it was the person operating it.

And so people have told me –  the result is good – ‘At least you have ruled something out – your epilepsy isn’t the cause of your problems’.  ‘Ok’, I think to myself.  ‘But I have a lot of problems.  I really wanted to rule something in’.  ‘Well then at least you don’t have to have brain surgery,’ they say. But the person with epilepsy knows that medication only helps 70% of people with the condition.  The other 30% are a bit desperate and would try anything, including brain surgery, if they thought it would help them.

Others say – there is Hope.  And honestly, I really do believe in G-d.  I don’t believe there is another way to explain everything.  But really when the going gets tough it is hard to believe.  I want to believe, but it’s hard.

The third thing that people say is ‘Look for the positives’.  This I usually think is a pile of crap because how can you look for something positive if you don’t know what you are looking for.   But in this instance I have found two positives.  Firstly, I met some really good people in Chalfonts.  I have found, over the years, that people who are going through a really tough time are some of the most real and beautiful people I have ever met. And when you are going through a tough time it helps to be near like-minded souls.  It doesn’t need to be a structured therapy session – just having a chat with someone that knows is just really good. And it was good to speak to these people (when I wasn’t stuck in a room) and understand their journeys and to share their pain.

Secondly I have found writing.  I like writing.  I have also had good feedback.  And according to the stats 300 people have read my blogs. I don’t know quite how, or if this is even accurate, but that’s what the stats say. Anyway, writing is therapeutic for me. That’s why there is a new type of mental health recovery programme which implies that if you start up a new hobby you’ll feel better.  If you were raped as a child, you are not going to find art and all of a sudden feel great again.  But I guess what they mean is the art helps ease the pain and improves self-esteem whilst time (or medication or therapy) heals the mind.

So tomorrow, like some weird detective story, I am going to cut a piece of my hair and put it in a white envelope and then a Fedex guy will come and take it to Germany.  This piece of hair is going to get analysed by a German or an Israeli doctor and hopefully they will give me a plan going forward.  It’s an ‘alternative way’ recommended by a friend. But it makes sense because apparently there is more information in your hair about the way you are operating than there is in your blood.

But I am also going to get a second opinion – One of the more helpful doctors from Chalfonts is also going to speak to my doctor in London to see if they can come up with anything new. The last option I have been offered is Cognitive Remediation therapy.  I don’t like the last option. This is a therapy that they give to people with brain damage to see if they can find strategies to work around their problems.

I will let you know what happens.