As I posted before, I have struggled with my mental health recently. It could be just from pure exhaustion and dealing with change – I mean, did I mention we moved house? Yeah, we moved house. That comes with endless to do lists on top of the usual neverending list of things to do.
I had felt vulnerable and shattered.
I felt tired physically and mentally, trying to get the house sorted enough that it would be livable and not a constant trip hazard. It didn’t matter how much I managed to do during the day, I still felt like an utterly lazy and awful human being who hasn’t done nearly enough when I went to bed. I tried to be kinder to myself and change those critical voices in my head to something more compassionate, but didn’t seem to succeed.
Panic! at the shop
Then, couple days after the reported panic attack, I had another. I was shopping in Aldi and without any prompt or apparent reason, it hit me. A huge wave of pure mental anguish. I wanted to scream, cry and run out. I was at the fruit and vegetable aisles, clasping to my trolley for support. My chest felt tight, and the mental pain felt physical. It was painful pressure building up inside in me, filling me up, scrounging me hollow. It needed to release, and in its most painful state it used to be my previous impulse to harm myself somehow to give all that mental torment a way to discharge. This time, I snapped my fingers against the shopping trolleys handle and concentrated on breathing like an yogi. In while counting to three, out and counting to three. In…Out. In…Out. Pick up potatoes. In… Out… Pineapples. We need pineapples, pick two. In… and milk. Out..
I didn’t notice if people were staring at me, I paid no attention to any other customer or staff member there. It was just me, shopping, my psychological torture and breathing. I didn’t fight it, it never helps, I only counted to three and breathed in rhythm to it and picked up items into my shopping trolley.
By the time I had circled around all the aisles and was at the tills, the panic attack had eased. It had left me feeling weak, used up and unsteady.
A night out with the girls?
I got home okay. While unpacking the groceries I thought what to do next. I was supposed to go out that night with some other DCF mums, but the whole thought of going somewhere public, loud and full of other people with all that stimuli it brings about was too much. I felt another attack building inside me.
I didn’t give up straight away, as that would have made me disappointed in myself. I decided to have a shower, just to see if it helped.
Freshly out of shower, I felt better – but wobbly and weak. I could not face going out – it already felt too much having to drive to nursery to pick Melody up, but I had no other choice.
I sent an apologetic message to the other mums telling them honestly about my panic attack and that I could not come out with them that night, but urged them to go without me. They sent me sympathetic messages and I went to pick up Melody.
I never expected what happened next.
“Maiju, it is all arranged. We are coming to you. With food, wine and chocolates.”
The girls didn’t go out for dinner without me. As I couldn’t go out, they came to me. We sat around our tiny dinner table surrounded by the mess that is our daily life with surplus moving disarray, and they didn’t bat an eyelid. They brought everything with them that we needed, and we sat in our comfortable clothes, ate and drank and giggled. Even I cracked smiles and laughed, feeling more certain about myself around them. They made me feel better. They made me feel cared for, loved.
They made me realise I was no longer alone – I had mum friends that cared for me and were ready to change their plans to help me.
[I am aware I have never really been alone, I have friends abroad and here too, people I have met through different connections. It has been my own fault that I had not seen them that often or become that close to them. ]
How precious is that, how amazingly lucky am I?
Since that night, after those hugs and bottles of wine, I have felt steadier on my feet. I haven’t had another panic attack. I have made more of an effort to be kinder to myself, and celebrate the things I have managed to do. So far, so good. Additionally, just thinking about that night around our dinner table makes me smile. It fills me up with hope.
Hope for our future, hope for myself, hope in general.
As this blog is very fresh, I thought it would be quite appropriate to introduce myself a bit better. I dug out some odd 30 #gettoknowme questions and answered them.
In short, I am a mother of two and a step-mother for one teenager. My eldest child has complex medical needs. But what else is there about me?
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small village in Finland called Juankoski. The village and its surroundings had only about 5000 residents back then, so I grew up in a tiny community where everyone knew everyone.
2. Where do you currently live?
I am so fortunate to live in beautiful Bournemouth, United Kingdom. Not only because of the award-winning beach, but the whole package – the countryside girl in me is happy with the parks, woods and forests that Bournemouth has to offer me and my family, but also Bournemouth is buzzing town of 183,491 residents with so much to do!
3. How tall are you?
In common terms, I’m 165 centimetres tall, which is 5 foot 4 inches for the British.
4. Do you have any siblings?
I am so lucky to have two (2) amazing little sisters, who both live in Finland.
5. Funniest moment throughout high school?
One day me and my friends decided to give out free hugs for all that wanted them. We all wore signs on our chests proclaiming “free hugs!” and I remember how jittery I felt throughout the whole day. How excited, nervous and happy. Who would stop for a hug? I can’t remember any specific embrace, all I remember is the nerves of the day and the joy it brought myself!
6. What year were you born?
I was born on a Year of the Dragon – 1988.
7. Are you in/have you gone to college?
I did study Tourism and Hospitality Management in Jyväskylä’s University of Applied Sciences.
Interesting fact: Finnish education system differs from United Kingdom.
I started school when I was 7, as is usual for Finland. First 1-6 years are classed as primary school, then the next 7-9 years are “junior high school”. That makes me 15 to 16 year-old when I was done with the compulsory school. We don’t have any national exams during our compulsory schooling.
I chose to go to high school – or “upper secondary school” – which carried on for 3 years for me, making me 19 years old when I graduated. During the last year of high school we are given the option to partake in A-levels. It is not compulsory and you can graduate from high school without them, but usually people do take A-levels. So did I.
8. What is your favourite drink?
Coffee. White, no sugar, thanks!
9. You’re wearing perfume, what scent is it?
Sweet and floral.
10. Have you got children?
Yes, I am very proud mum of two beautiful children and even prouder step-mum for one amazing teenager.
To live happy and fulfilling, meaningful life. Along the way with the resources I have, I aim to change lives around me and the world for better too.
12. What is your biggest strength?
My determination. If I’ve decided on something, there is almost nothing you can do to change my mind. Just ask my partner Dan.
13. Have any books you read changed your life?
I wouldn’t say that they’ve changed my life per se, but influenced it with an encouraging hand. Such books would be “Big Magic” and “Eat Pray Love” from Elizabeth Gilbert, my favourite author. I love her in all podcasts I’ve heard her in too!
14. What is your favourite film?
Oh deary me. I’ve never liked this questions as there’s not ever been one film over all others. But I do love these films:
Avenger – films from Marvel.
Dance films like Dirty Dancing, Step up and Save the Last Dance.
Matrix – films
The first 6 Star Wars – films
15. What relative was important to you growing up & why?
My cousin and godmother. She was my penpal, even though she didn’t live far, and I had sleepovers at her place regularly from quite young age and even spend one summer at hers when I was already a grown-up. I had always felt that she was my confidant, my adult friend.
Now I’m so proud to be her youngest godmother.
16. Who are your favourite YouTubers?
I guess I show my age here… Even though I am aware of YouTubers and talk about them with Ruby, I do not follow any of them. The only YouTube channel I visit religiously is “Yoga with Adriene“. I love her videos and her easy way to giggle to herself, it has helped me to be less serious about doing yoga and making me to do it just for myself. Just like it should be, I guess.
17. Do you speak any languages and how well?
I’m native Finnish speaker and believe it or not, but at school English was the one subject I struggled the most.
In addition I studied Swedish. I understand it and I can form simple sentences, but I’m so rusty with it as I have not used it at all since school.
I have studied Russian, French and Italian on top of those, but I only remember some odd phrases. While I was in Greece I learned to read Greek and I do still remember some phrases. I’m sure it all would come back to me if I just practised.
18. Are you single or taken?
Sorry to be a smart ass but no-one has taken me. I fell in love with an English man and he loves me, so we choose to be together.
19. What is your favourite Netflix show?
The OA, which I’m so sad about that it has got cancelled! I also like the Black Mirror, Stranger Things and Friday Night Dinner.
20. Show us your songs tab on Spotify.
Sure, I guess the easiest way to show it would be sharing the link to the profile where you can see the stuff what I’ve been listening to. The Jellies on Plates and Baby Sharks are on heavy rotation during our nursery runs with Melody…
21. What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Must be when I left to Australia on my own just after graduating from high school. I had not lived on my own yet, so I flew straight out from my parents nest to the other side of the world… And survived there for 2 years loving every minute of it.
23. Have you ever failed at anything and what did you learn?
A bigger scale fail would be failing to complete my education and graduating with a degree. I had it all planned out and I was supposed to continue my studies during the pregnancy and right after, I had my practical training places sorted out and I even had ideas for my thesis. Then Elisa was born prematurely and just like that studying was the last thing in my mind.
Years have flown by and I haven’t got back to it. I feel like I’ve failed – but I have learned to let it go. The world didn’t collapse even though I didn’t become a professional in hospitality management – and to be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure if I would like to work at that sector anymore, unless I can tie it up with accessibility and disability somehow.
24. How many countries have you travelled to?
I used Traveltip.org’s website for making this map, but didn’t give the website any personal information, just saved the map once it had been generated.
Needless to say, I did most of my travelling before the kids, before my life was turned upside down.
25. Do you have any bad habits?
I don’t drink alcohol unless I go out, which happens rarely, and I don’t smoke anymore.
According to my waist line, I overindulge in food. My favourite treat is ice cream, especially Ben and Jerry’s, and I love chocolate. Those are though treats, not daily bad habits.
One daily bad habit would be not going to bed in time..
26. Do you have any pets? Show them!
My lovely labrador pup Freya, who is about 8 months old now.
That would be either the 101 days that Elisa spent in hospital continuously or when Elisa was fed through nasogastric tube and was attached to a feed pump 20 hours a day and struggled with reflux, which meant constant supervision. We had no support yet in place, and Melody was still a baby. I honestly don’t know how me and Dan survived those times…
28. What is one thing you wished people knew about you?
I suffer from depression and anxiety, which I am on medication for. It is entirely possible I might also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) looking at my past 7 years and all that has happened.
Sometimes I struggle when I’m out in a social situation, even with “safe” people who know me and my family. The anxiety hits and usually knocks me right out, making me quiet and “turned off”. I might smile, I might look at you, but wouldn’t say a thing. If I try to speak it might sound muffled and the sentences would be bad english – that’s me trying very hard to be polite and make my foggy panicky brain work.
It is not me being proud, funny or rude, it’s just me battling my inner-demons.
29. Tell us one thing about you that we wouldn’t know?
I am obsessed with notebooks : I love drawing and journaling. I even had to start an Instagram account just for my journaling stuff..
A fantastic movie in making, with a start (birth) to preparation (childhood), the catastrophic problem (teenage years – young adulthood), climax (adulthood – middle age) and the end (death).
I definitely have, and I had a great plot plan for it.
I was to have an encouraging upbringing and during teenage years, I was to find my true love, the One. As a clever young adult with the True Love on my side I would work hard to get my degree in something that would give me the tools needed to save the world. It might have been politics, a career in teaching that is highly respected profession in Finland or a degree in journalism, on my way to uncover the hidden truths in society. Then, as a qualified professional who already had a respectable work experience under her belt, I would safely ease myself to motherhood and have an even number of children – either two or four, take a pick. While nursing my offspring, I would not stop working; family coming first, but still putting my invaluable effort in to saving our universe.
Life disregarded my plot plan.
I didn’t find love within my teenage years, and I was certain I would never find it. Frustrated with my Life’s lack of following my will, I decided to trash it all. Instead of getting a degree, I flew off to Australia, where I spent 2 years backpacking and getting work experience in customer services and on a banana farm.
Back at home, I started studying Tourism, forgetting my ambitions for saving the planet – my plan then was to save myself by living in exotic hidey-hole, as away as possible from a normal every day life. While learning about aspects of Tourism and Business, I escaped yet to another country to do an Erasmus Exchange year.
As I had no idea, I fell in love with an English man. As shocked as I was, I did try to finish off my degree, but ended up getting up the duff. Well, as flexible and amazing as Finnish Higher Education is, I planned to finish my degree while nursing my baby.
Well, our baby was born disabled.
No, we did not expect it. It all happened so fast. While my waters were whooshing to the floor, midwives heard from the baby’s heartbeat that she was not doing well. As she was delivered promptly and resuscitated on the pregnancy week 33, she was then taken to NICU. Three hours after her birth, I saw her for the first time.
Two months later,
she came home to us. We still clung on to the hope that she was just a premature baby, healthy and normal otherwise.
We were proved wrong.
First, she was diagnosed with profound hearing loss – she could not hear a thing, unless her ears were pressed on a loudspeaker in a heavy metal rock concert.
Then we learned she has got cerebral palsy. She might not ever walk, or even sit independently.
Before long, we were yet to find out that she had a cerebral vision impairment, which meant her brains was not great translating the visual messages her eyes were sending it. She was then registered blind.
Finally, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and reflux. Now, she is tubefed and she has a strict daily schedule of around the clock medication. She doesn’t go anywhere without a portable oxygen cylinder, unless we have an oxygen compressor in the room as she is rubbish at breathing without aid.
I couldn’t finish my studies.
I have not been even able to think about going back to work, I am very much needed to care for my firstborn. As our family has grown with yet another lovely human being, my True Love – the English man – was needed to step off the career ladder to care for his family. Even that was not enough – for all of our wellbeing it is vital to have a third adult – a night carer – to look after our daughter.
Looking back to my life as a 30 year old
without a degree and living off benefits, I feel ashamed. I was not supposed to be that woman. I was not supposed to be the stay-at-home parent who relied only on her husbands wages, or worse, the state benefits. I was supposed to support myself and my family financially and save the world for Pete’s sake!
But I am in love, and I have a wonderful family. I love my step-daughter-to-be, my fiancés firstborn, and my firstborn “Elisa” and my youngest, “Melody”.
Even though the life has not yet turned out to be how I anticipated,
I’m trying to tell myself it is not bad. And maybe I can find a new meaning, another way to make a difference in this ever-changing world.
With this blog, I’m hoping I can change the way you see other people and especially people with disabilities.
I’m hoping you will see my firstborn as a child, not as a disabled thing. Even if I’ve only described her here with her diagnoses, she is so much more than that. But that is another post.