How to Save Money on Your Child’s Birthday Party Without Making Sacrifices

As parents, we want to give our kids the best of everything – the latest clothes, the coolest toys, memorable vacations, and totally over-the-top amazing birthday parties. The problem is that our budgets don’t always match up with our plans and intentions.
If you’ve got an upcoming birthday party for your child that you’ve already started thinking about, it’s time to stop the madness and find ways to throw that super fun party without spending an absolute fortune. Thanks to these tips, saving money doesn’t have to mean making huge sacrifices.

Invitations on the Cheap

The first place that you’re probably used to shelling out money is on the birthday invitations themselves. However, you can put an end to expensive invitations thanks to the Adobe Spark birthday invitation maker. This tool makes it possible to style and craft your own unique birthday invitations from your computer. You can add images, choose the theme, and pick the font. It’s all up to you. When you’re finished, you can download the results to be emailed (save on stamps and envelopes), or you can print them out.

Don’t Serve a Meal

It seems like serving a meal has become more and more common at kids’ birthday parties, but the fact is that a meal is no cheap thing to put together. Instead, plan to serve snacks only, which means a mid-afternoon birthday party is probably best. You can stick to inexpensive snacks, and there is no reason to go all out. Chances are you will also be serving birthday cake or cupcakes, so that will give them something to enjoy too. As an added side note, making the cake/cupcakes yourself will also prove to be a huge money saver.
Because you won’t be serving a meal, it’s a good idea to make mention of it in the invitation. For example, you can say “come join Madison for cake and ice cream as we celebrate her 8th birthday).

Scale Back on Décor

Sure, the party stores are fun to browse through, and they have really neat décor items, but all those items add up pretty fast and aren’t truly necessary. Instead, stick to basic and simple decorations. The kids will be so busy having fun that the décor will be the last thing they notice. Balloons and streamers are still festive and can be purchased from your local dollar-type store.

Host the Party at Home

If you’re used to hosting birthday parties outside the home at elaborate locations, it’s time to re-think that decision. Consider hosting the party at your home, or even in a park that has an inexpensive, or better yet free, reservation fee.

Don’t Go Crazy on the Loot Bags

Loot bags can prove to be another huge expense if you’re not careful. Whenever possible, include items you can make or you’ve found at budget-type stores. Depending on the age of the kids, you can include things such as a coloring book and a few crayons, some sidewalk chalk, a handful of candy (purchased at a bulk store), stickers, tattoos, etc.

Discover What It’s Like to Save Money

By following these tips, you’ll get to discover what it’s like to save money on your birthday party plans, and who doesn’t enjoy saving!

*this is a collaborative post*

Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Money & Finances Tagged with: , ,

Sing along with SING, the movie…

We love a good movie, in our house, and we try to have family movie nights, with popcorn and treats, as often as we can sneak them in, to our busy schedule. We happen to be rather fond of movies with good music or ones with a musical theme, so of course the new movie SING is right up our street. 

Dapper Koala Buster Moon presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. An eternal optimist, and a bit of a scoundrel, he loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Facing the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he takes one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition. Five contestants emerge: a mouse, a timid elephant, a pig, a gorilla and a punk-rock porcupine.

I have to say we have LOVED watching this movie and we may now know ALL the words to the songs, and it’s really become a firm favourite. It’s the perfect movie for a family night in, or for the kids to enjoy, and combining a heartwarming story line with some fabulous songs, both cover versions, the originals and some new ones, is a real winner. The various story lines within the movie, and how things work out for each character, both the good and bad, makes it a lovely movie, and we sing along happily, and we each all have our own song we like best. 

A little taster clip of some of the vocals for the movie. Tori Kelly was amazing. She’s Matthew’s favourite. 

We don’t want to share any more, to spoil the movie for you if you haven’t seen it, but the good news is that Sing is being released on DVD, Blue Ray and Digital Download THIS WEEK and we really think you need to get your hands on a copy and watch it. We promise you will be singing along with it, like us, too…

Sing is available on Digital Download, Blu-ray™ and DVD from 22nd May, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).

*This is a collaborative post*
Posted in Family Life and Parenting Tagged with: , , ,

Setting up a fish tank made easy with Tetra…

If you read our  blog you know we love our pets. Fish are creatures that we particularly like and my small boy is a big fan of all things aquatic. We recently had a fun visit to the National Pet Show in London and we came home with a fish tank, to set up, and hopefully fill with some pretty fish. Fish are pretty and fun to watch and relatively easy to look after if you have chosen the right fish and tank, and a fish tank can be a really attractive feature in your home, and a good way for kids to learn to look after a pet. 

Fish tanks come in all shapes and sizes and there is a vast range of possibilities in terms of the fish and type of set up you can look at from cold water, to tropical, big, small, lots of pretty little fish, or one or two bigger fish. 

You do need to think carefully about what you are doing when you are setting up a tank. It’s not just a case of filling a big container with water, adding a few pretty decorations and plopping a few fish in. There is more to it than that. Thankfully, Tetra made it easier for us. They even have an app you can use before you have even chosen your tank, so you can see what will work size wise in your home or the space you plan to set up your tank which is handy.

You need to think about all sorts of things before setting up a tank. 

We took it very seriously. I also read the instructions, when he finally let me! 

What kind of fish you would like and if you are able to make sure they will have a safe environment. It’s worth checking what fish are suitable to be in a tank, certain fish go well with others, whereas some fish do not like other breeds of fish. Also, don’t forget to make sure that you are prepared for baby fish if you have male and female fish of the same breed in a tank. When you get your fish, it is worth checking what sexes they are. 

You need to decide what type of tank you want? Tropical/warm water, salt water, or cold water. What kind of fish you want will depend on this. You need to make sure you have the correct set up for each kind of fish you add to the tank. 

What size of tank do you want? You also need to think about the fish you will add to the tank because it’s a myth that fish don’t need much space. You need to make sure your fish have enough space to swim and feel safe and thrive and not overload a tank with too many fish or not have enough water for them.

You also need to make sure your water is treated and suitable for the fish you will be putting in your tank. Tap water contains all sorts of chemicals that are not suitable for fish, so when you set up your tank you need to make sure the water is safe for the fish you will add.  

What do you need to treat the water in your tank before it is safe and ready to have the fish move in? You also need to bear in mind that you need to check the water quality regularly to make sure it is being maintained and safe for the fish, poor water quality can make fish unwell or even die. Use the correct solutions for your fish and tank and always ask an expert if you are not sure. 

All ready and waiting to settle so we can safely add fish. We love our pretty new tank and it’s really lovely to look at. The children were not very patient about waiting to add the fish…

Once you have got and assembled your tank correctly and filled it with water, and treated the water, you need to let it settle and adjust before you add your fish. Again, depending on what fish you are getting, this can vary. Some fish are fine with being in a newly established tank, it’s worth checking with your local aquatic center or fish specialist shop as to what will work. You want to make sure your tank is really ready and your fish will settle and be happy and healthy in their new home. We waited a week, as per advice we were given.  You also need to make sure the tank is the correct temperature for your fish, and the breed you are going to add to the tank. Again, you can check this, and you can get special heaters and temperature monitors to make sure your fish are happy and not too cold or too hot. 

And finally, you can add your fish to your lovely new tank and enjoy watching them. Now the really hard part comes. We still haven’t given them names. We may need some suggestions to help with that…;)

So, setting up a fish tank can be a fun thing to do, and if you have everything you need, have checked you have the right tank, water correctly adjusted for your fish, you are good to go, and you can enjoy your tank and your fish can have a long, healthy and happy life in their new home…

*this post was written in collaboration with Tetra, who have helped us to set up our new tank at home*

Posted in All things pet related, Family Life and Parenting Tagged with: , , , ,

Getting everyone out and about, because everyone should enjoy days out…

As a family we have been very fortunate to not struggle when we go out, or plan a family day out, with accessibility issues. None of us currently need help with mobility or to get out and about and on with our daily lives. However that is not always the case for everyone, and sometimes planning a day out or a family trip can be filled with limitations. 

For us, days out and being able to go visit places the whole family will enjoy is a very important part of who we are and how we spend time as a family. We love going to places were we can walk, where the children can run about and explore, and also where we can learn and experience new things. We want to be able to go where all can fully take part. When we plan a day out, it’s not just a case of getting out and going, we think about how we are getting there, what sort of access we will be navigating (lots of steep steps and small children in pushchairs don’t really go together, for example, or bumpy and twisty paths may not work for someone who needs to use walking aids) and what activities we will be taking part in when we get there (lots of walking, running, exploring) and what the abilities are of everyone we are going with (toddlers can’t walk as far a grown adults, our aunt who likes to spend time with us on family days out has arthritis and finds too much walking very tiring so we plan days out where she can join us but doesn’t have to walk miles and get exhausted) 

Days out and enjoying them should be something that everyone should experience, regardless of age, or health issues. When someone is struggling with their mobility and being able to walk or get about, this can seriously restrict where they can go and how much enjoyment they get from a visit or experience. We have family members who struggle with health issues that make getting out and about more challenging, so when we spend time with them, we want to make sure they are able to be fully part of what we are doing. 

Thankfully there ways of helping those we love enjoy days out with us, and mobility scooters are an option if you have a friend or family member who wants to be able to live their life to the full, and get out and about. 

Days out should be for all members of the family, including those with mobility issues as well as the elderly. There are a wide range of options available to help with this, that anyone who wants to live their life to the full and enjoy days out should consider them. 

Days out are for everyone, we should all be able to get out and about and have fun and be able to explore new places or visit much loved old haunts comfortably! 

We are delighted to be able to offer a voucher so you and your family can get out and enjoy a day out. One winner will get a £29 voucher from here to treat their family. 

All you need to do is comment and share how you plan your days out and make sure they are safe and accessible for the people you are going with? Do you have a family member or loved one with mobility issues, that you plan for so they can maximize enjoyment and get out and about? 

Share with us, then click on the Rafflecopter linky to complete your entrance. 

A Winner will be chosen by Raffelcopter on 06/06/2017. 

Terms & Conditions

No cash prize alternative
One voucher will be given to the chosen winner, picked by Rafflecopter
UK residents only
No Spam or multiple ISP entries.
All entry requirements must be fulfilled to qualify for entrance
Over 18’s only
Winner will be contact by e mail to notify them and must respond within 21 days or their entry will be discarded and another winner chosen

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This is a collaborative post with Fenetic Wellbeing, helping to make #DaysOutForAll*

Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Health Tagged with: , , , ,

Yes I am that mother…

The alternative title to this is “I can clearly see your kid is sick, please take them home/I will rant about people who bring their sick kids to where other people are…”

I get that it’s annoying when your kid is sick. It’s inconvenient and means you have to re arrange your day, around a sick child.

I get that it means your plans change, and you can’t maybe get what you wanted done.

I also get that you may be tired and need a break from your child.

I get that you may be hoping that it’s not actually that serious and that you can get away with dragging them out and about and doing normal.

I’m a mum, this parenting life can throw curve balls at us, at any given moment. It sucks and sick kids are not fun.

However, I’m also pretty wise in my 20 years of childcare and parenting and I know that if your sick kid is around other kids, they will get sick too. It’s kind of nature’s way. Kids share germs in a rather mind blowing and rapid fashion. One is sick? They all get sick… 

If your kid is sick, with the stomach bug or a fever that is making them unwell, then for the love of your fellow parents…

Please keep them at home.

I am the mum/playgroup leader who will challenge you and ask you to take them home. I will explain firmly and gently why your kid should not be around other kids and needs to be at home so they don’t share their illness. I will not fall for excuses or random reasons why your kid has just thrown up and looks like they might repeat that any second. I can see when your kid looks miserable and unwell and if you try to get past me, you will have a fight on your hands. I’m kind of a gatekeeper, and militant about it, and proud of that.

I know, it’s miserable being stuck at home with sick kids. Been there, done it, it still happens to us too, but your kid needs to be away from other people until they are well.

Please don’t bring your sick kids to places where other kids are. Not nursery, not school, not the toddler group, not the park, not the soft play cafe, not the swimming pool.

Stay home til they are well again! The parents of the kids you have saved from getting the tummy bug or other nasty lurgy will thank you!

The end…

Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Health

Beautiful prints from Shepherd Illustration.

I often wander into card shops and stationery stores and feel a bit meh, at the selections available. Sometimes it feels like everything on offer is pretty samey and unoriginal. I like cards and prints that are fun, but also that bit different and not just run of the mill. 

So these beautiful prints and cards from Shepherd Illustration are perfect and right up my street. 

Created by Lauren Shepherd, a motion graphics designer, illustrator and dachshund mom based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. 

Her illustrations depict wildlife, wildflowers and bones. They are delicately macabre but filled with romance.  Lauren draws predominately in black fineliner, allowing herself only a slight dusting of gold due to her over exuberance with colour in her wardrobe.

I am not artistic, but I can appreciate the work of others, and these designs are simply stunning. You can choose from a range of beautiful cards, prints you can have framed, or even t shirts. The attention to detail and the colors are fantastic and they are definitely something different, when you are looking for just that. 

I have a thing for sloth’s, strange I know, and this fabulous print is just perfect. Just right to be framed and hung in a room, to be admired. 

The cards are also lovely, with so much detail and also intricate work,  and the attention given to the details of the animals and objects is delightful. 

I think anyone would be delighted to receive one of these beautiful cards…

Each illustration has so much attention to detail within it

These are perfect for a gift for someone else, or for yourself if you simply want something special to have framed. They are unique and clever, and their creator has used her skills to bring the animals and illustrations to life, but in a way that’s more interesting than your average greeting card or print. The quality of the cards and prints is excellent, as well, so it’s not just a lovely picture you are getting but a really good quality over all product too.

So, if you are looking for something different and original, then these might be just what you had in mind. I would highly recommend them. 

*we were kindly sent some items to review, all opinions are our own, images and information used with permission from the owner’s site*





Posted in Things we love


My Dear darling daughter, aged not quite 11, yet. 

I love you, I do. You are very precious to me. You remind me a lot of myself, which is fun, but also a bit scary, but we are learning to figure that one out. 

There is one thing that is really bothering me and it needs to be said. I need to get it off my chest. I know we don’t agree on it, and I know you think I am being a total dragon about it. 


This is not your room. I know you would be pretty cross if I shared a photo without asking!

I feel that because this is my house (and Dad’s too) that we should be able to ask for your room to be at least walk able into. That I can see carpet and not just heaps of clothes (are they dirty or clean?) and that when you disappear upstairs with a drink or a snack, that I have to nag you to bring cups and plates down. 

I also get grumpy when you claim to have put ALL your dirty clothes in the wash but halfway through the week you can’t find any socks and I don’t remember washing them, and I refuse to go and ferret under your bed, to find them, even though I know they are there, but I feel it’s your job to make sure they make it to the wash basket. 

I am not a clutter or things person and you are, so I know I sound like a moaning old whingebag when I complain that EVERY surface in your room is covered in stuff and it’s impossible to find anything or to clean it. 

I get annoyed when you say you can’t find things, but your room is so messy I am not surprised. 

It makes me twitchy when I find clean clothes on the floor or in heaps in your cupboard, and when you don’t put things away, for ages. 

I get grumpy when I find rubbish, bits of paper and craft stuff all over the place, and not put away where it should be, but scattered all over your room instead. 

I know, you think I am being mean. It’s your room and your space, and you should feel comfortable in it. The mess bothers your old mum though and she does wish you would tidy it up and take a bit more care. I also know you are going to tell me that my room is often messy too, which would be correct. I do feel though that your room should be at least tidy enough to leave the door open and for me not to want to worry about what might be lurking in there. (apart from the cats who don’t seem to mind the mess!) 

So, my dear tweenager, how are we going to fix this and come to a compromise that’s tidy enough to keep your mum happy, but also that you feel happy with? 

I am sure you will have plenty to say about this… I wait for your reply!



Your moaning, grumpy, Mum! x

After the Playground
Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Parenting into tweenagehood and beyond... Tagged with: , , ,

Quitting smoking can be easier with Niquitin…

Something a lot of people didn’t know about me, is that I am an ex smoker. In 2001 I quit, and haven’t smoked since. This is my story of why, and how…

I grew up with my mother smoking, and my grandmothers and also other family members on both sides. I hated it, and swore I would never take up the habit myself. However, after my mother died, I somehow became a smoker. I think it possibly happened by chance, being offered a puff of someone’s cigarette, and then realizing I quite liked it, and then, without really realizing it, I was a smoker. I knew it was bad for me, but at that point I didn’t really care much. 

At my worst, I was probably smokng between 5-10 cigarettes a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It became part of my life. It was partly a stress reliever, partly an appetite supressant (when I smoked I felt less hungry) partly to be sociable because all my freinds and family seemed to smoke and also partly a bit of rebellion, recovering from the death of my mother, and a whole raft of emotional issues I was dealing with. I kept the habit up for nearly 6 years. Sneaking out for smoke breaks at work, or during breaks in lectures at university, and smoking more at weekends when I was out with friends. 

In 2001, I was working and studying to be a children’s nurse, at a big London hospital, and the not yet husband and I were in the midst of planning our wedding, and life was crazy. Somehow, in all of that, I managed to contract a rather nasty chest infection, which turned into pneumonia. I was pretty unwell and I vividly remember being lectured by the doctor who wanted to admit me to hospital, which I refused, because I had an exam that week, and also wedding prep piling up, about my smoking habit and that I needed to think about stopping. As I coughed and wheezed and felt, frankly like death warmed up, I realized he was probably right. Also he who was to become The Husband, didn’t like my smoking habit and was also keen for me to quit, for my own health too. 

So, I decided I was done, and I needed a bit of help to get me over my addiction to nicotine and the habit I had formed. I wasn’t smoking a lot, probably less than average but 5-10 cigarettes a day is still enough to form an addiction. 

I wasn’t willing to rely on willpower alone, so I went to my local pharmacy and they suggested some chewing gum and patches to help me deal with cravings and withdrawal and they recommended NiQuitin brand. So armed with patches and gum, off I went, determined to stop smoking. 

The patches helped with the longer term cravings and were easy to pop on and forget about, and the chewing gum was really useful, because it helped me to have something in my mouth and also to cover those moments when I felt “I REALLY NEED A CIGARETTE NOW” and they really did help me to quit and distract me from cravings and withdrawal and were easy to carry in my pocket or bag. Budget wise, the cost of the gum and the patches for me was the same as buying cigarettes so it worked out well. I think they definitely played a huge part in helping me to stop and not smoke again. I found the gum pleasant, although I know someone people didn’t like it. 

Obviously, that was a while ago, and now there are more advanced products to help you quit or cut back on your smoking habit, with not just gum or patches. There are lozenges in different strengths too, which are handy for you to use and you can work out what you need based on how much you smoke and if you are quitting or cutting back. 


The convenient lozenges are available in two strengths, 2mg and 4mg, which deliver different levels of therapeutic nicotine without the thousands of harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. This allows smokers to slowly step down their nicotine levels and dependency on cigarettes as cravings are reduced.

NiQuitin 2mg Lozenges[i] are suitable for smokers who have their first cigarette of the day more than 30 minutes after waking up and NiQuitinMint 4mg Lozenges[ii] are suitable for smokers who have their first cigarette less than 30 minutes after waking up.

One lozenge should be placed in the mouth and allowed to dissolve. The lozenge should be moved from one side of the mouth to the other periodically and repeated until the lozenge is completely dissolved1,2.

  • Step 1 (weeks 1 to 6 of quitting) 1 lozenge every 1 to 2 hours
  • Step 2 (weeks 7 to 9 of quitting) 1 lozenge every 2 to 4 hours
  • Step 3 (weeks 10 to 12 of quitting) 1 lozenge every 4 to 8 hours

During weeks 1 – 6 it is recommended that users take a minimum of 9 lozenges per day and do not exceed 15 lozenges per day1,2.

NiQuitin Mint 2mg Lozenges (RRP £13.00 for 72 Lozenges) and NiQuitin Mint 4mg Lozenges (RRP £7.99 for 36 Lozenges and RRP £13.00 for 72 Lozenges) are available from Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lloyds and Morrisons.

 NiQuitin Mint 2mg & 4mg Lozenges contain Nicotine. Stop smoking aid. Requires willpower. Always read the label. For further information visit

So, if you are looking to cut back, or quit, it can be a challenge but there are things out there to help you, so that you can overcome cravings, switch into better habits, and ease into a non smoking life. I definitely felt better and healthier for it, and have no regrets about quitting, and am glad I had the tools to help me. You can too.

*this is a collaborative post. All information is sourced but all opinions are my own. Please seek medical advice before taking any medications*



Posted in Health Tagged with: , , ,

Time To Get All Green Fingered: Top Tips To Make Use Out Of Your Garden

Spring is officially here and with that comes the excitement of getting outdoors. It’s especially important when you have young children to enjoy some fresh air, and the garden is the ideal space to enjoy it. No matter the age of your children, the garden can open up many possibilities to spend quality time as a family. Whether that is simply enjoying a picnic lunch, a family BBQ and get together, or just sitting outside enjoying a cup of tea in the early morning breeze before the hectic day begins. However you choose to spend your time outside, here are some of the top tips to help you get more use out of your outdoor area.


Give the garden a tidy up

During the winter you may find that leaves have fallen off the tree’s, branches are discarded everywhere, and perhaps you have some toys or garden bits left outside that have been subject to the colder weather. It’s now time to clear it all away and give your outdoor area a good tidy up. This enables you to know what you have to work with, and perhaps what may need your attention. Such as the flower beds or the lawned area.

Spend some time on the lawn and flower beds

Now that you know what you have to handle, it’s time to put those green fingers to the test and get on with the general chores of garden maintenance. Your lawn may not have been touched for several months, so it’s time to pull out the lawn mower and get it cut down. At this time, it might be worth applying some lawn seed to help it grow and look it’s best. The flower beds may also need some attention as pesky weeds could have made it into your soil. The can be lethal if you don’t handle them quickly as they can kill off the more delicate plants and flowers that you may have.

What do you want to get out of your garden

Sometimes you may be limited with space, or just have your own particular ideas on how you want to use your garden. When it comes to making improvements or getting it ready for the warmer months ahead, it’s a good idea to think about how you want to use your outdoor space. Will you be dining outside? Then maybe you may have to think about investing in some new garden furniture for your patio or decking areas. Perhaps you want a decent space for your children to play? Then making sure the lawned area is cut is ideal or even considering installing artificial grass, so it’s easier to manage and maintain. There are plenty of ways you can adapt your outdoor space to suit your needs.

Consider storage space in your garden

It can be so easy for a garden to appear cluttered once more, even if you have spent time tidying things away or getting your outdoor space organised. So it might be worth considering some outdoor storage to help you keep on top of things. A place for any garden toys or tools to be stored neatly. Garden sheds or even outdoor storage boxes can come in handy.

I hope these tips help you make more use out of your garden.  

*this is a collaborative post*
Posted in Family Life and Parenting, Home & Garden

I am glad I had a mental health breakdown…

So you are reading the title of this post and thinking and possibly even saying “what the…?”.

You need to read on to understand what I mean and you will get what I am trying to say. 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and many of us, who have struggled with mental health issues, from depression, to anxiety, post partum depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and other mental health issues are sharing what life is like for them, and what they live with, in the daily battle to fight the demons that mental illness can bring. 

In 2013, I had a mental health breakdown. A proper one. I had struggled with anxiety most of my life as far back as I can remember, I have always been an anxious person. I was very ill with Post Partum Anxiety& Depression, after my daughter was born, and had counselling and treatment for that, and we all thought I was doing “OK” and after my son was born, I was very well, and didn’t struggle with the same issues, that I had had previously. I was “cured”. I still had moments of anxiety but as that seems to be part of my personality and I have always defined myself as “naturally anxious” I have learned to kind of just live with that, and try to cope.

However, in the Autumn of 2013, I realized that something was very, very wrong, and that whilst the rest of the world thought I was doing OK, and coping with what had been a hellish three years of no sleep, a child with higher needs than average, then the start of him needing input and intervention to help with his sensory issues, plus some serious family and relationship stress, and the death of a good friend, I was actually about to fall over a cliff in my mind, in fact I was already in free fall, and whilst I seemed like I was ok, inside my head I was screaming and every day it felt like even getting out of bed was going to kill me, inside my head. 

I am very fortunate to have been one of the lucky ones who has a supportive GP, who didn’t just shunt me off with a bunch of pills but who listened to me as I sobbed “I feel like my chest is going to explode, I can’t do this, I need inside my head to stop feeling this way” and whilst I did start medication, I also was referred for intensive Cognitive Behavior Therapy (after being assessed by the local mental health team) and I was allocated a mental health caseworker who became someone who I could reach out to, and who monitored me and met with me pretty regularly. I became a user of the mental health system again, a patient, not a nurse. It was hard, horribly hard but I firmly believe finally seeking help saved my life, my marriage and helped me to see that I didn’t have to try and carry on fighting by myself, in the dark tunnel I found myself in. CBT and psychotherapy was painful, sometimes feeling like torture, as I dredged up memories and long hidden feelings and thoughts and talked about why I feel the way I do, and the triggers that send me into a spiral of anxiety, and the things I have done or said that have hurt family and those around me I love, when anxiety has got the better of me. Digging deep into your mind to try and figure how why it behaves the way it does is not easy, or a short process. 

It hurt to tell my colleagues and employer that I was unwell, admitting that I was having treatment, but they were supportive and kind and continue to be, It was painful to tell family and friends who had thought I was doing OK. I felt like was disappointing them, and letting them down. It took me a while to admit that I was not as strong and capable as I had faked being for so long. I have always been the “coper” and the “deals with anything” person, who has a lot thrown at her, but I had to admit that I was not able to cope any more…

It also helped me to see who really was on my side and who wasn’t. Those who refuse to accept that mental illness is a real thing, and not just something we can “get over”, I now hold at arms length, and those who would judge or feel they know better what is inside my head than I do or don’t like it when I share and am open about my mental health struggles, I have chosen to walk away from. That hurt too, but in a way it was also healing and cathartic. 

But, now, I am glad. 

I am glad because I don’t have to hide. I don’t pretend any more. I am not ashamed. My mind has had some broken bits, and I have and still am taking steps to help those heal. My mental health breakdown and “coming out” means that I can be me, with all my flaws and not fake it, when I am struggling. My admission that I was unwell has brought healing and revelation to family and friends. It’s opened up opportunities to people in my life to talk about and be more honest about mental health, and it has also given people a far better understanding of where I, and other people are at in our mental health struggle. We have protected our children, from a lot of what has happened, but they know that “inside Mummy’s head wasn’t well for a while, and just like you would get help for a broken leg, Mummy got help to make inside her head better”. As they get older and more able to understand what mental health is, I plan to be open and honest with them, but also to be ready to help them if they need it, with their own mental health, and for them to learn compassion and be aware of those around them who may be struggling and give them an understanding of why. 

It’s been hard, there have been moments where I have truly thought I would never get out of the black and deep tunnel of anxiety, and where it takes me, there have been times when I have wanted to just throw in the towel, and give up, not try to work on myself, deal with what’s in my head, and what triggers the overwhelming feelings that if I let them, would break me. I have had real almost broken moments but fighting through them, and winning, has made me stronger. 

I fight on though. I fight for my family, because they need me to be whole and the wife and mum I am meant to be. I can see now, far more clearly than I could back then. I fight for those around me who rely on me as a person. But mostly I fight for myself, because now I can see it’s worth fighting for. For the first time in my life, I don’t hide and I fight for ME!

My name is Karen, I have a diagnosis of anxiety, I am the one in four who has a label of “mental illness”, I deal with life in a different way to others, and I have battled to live my life and see that I am worthy of feeling better. I am glad I had a mental health breakdown, because it has helped me to walk a different road. I am #notbroken 

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