cropped-img_2188.jpg– So… I finally met my CPN in person for the first time on Monday.

– Oh aye, how did that go then?

– Well, she laughed at my jokes…

– Well she would wouldn’t she, she’s getting paid.

– She also laughed sometimes when I wasn’t making jokes

– Ah. That happens.

– Right. Well I’m glad she had a good time. She gave me a test to do too. An autism test.

– For you? What do you want one of them for?

– Well, you know we thought it might explain some stuff. So I did it and, well, see 64 is like the neurotypical vs neurodivergent threshold. And I got 128.

– So, what? You’re autistic now, aye? What’s your thing then?

– I dunno. I’d fucking love to know though. I keep asking Jack – “What’s ma thing?” And he’s like – “You don’t have a thing. Stop asking.” It’s shit. The last few days have just been a mix of identity crisis and farting blood.

– That still going on, sis?

– Aye, one thing at a time though eh. So, right how would you answer these questions… If you’re eating something and the texture’s weird, would you eat it even if the taste was nice?

– No way!

– Exactly. Correct. Three points.

– That can’t be one of the questions, surely? Why would anyone want to eat something minging? It’s not I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

– Well, I’m paraphrasing, to be fair. But anyway here’s another one… Do you like to hang out in groups of people?

– Pfft. But no-one likes hanging out in groups if they’re completely honest.

– Totally. Ok… When you don’t see family or close friends for ages, do you miss them?

– Em, no way.

– Cheers, man. Do you like talking about stuff that doesn’t interest you?

– That’s a stupid question.

– Ken. Do you ever offend someone without even realising it? Do you find certain sounds annoying? Do you have no control over the volume of your voice?

– Hahahaha! Me. Totally me. That’s messed up. But surely anyone would score highly on that test if they’re being completely honest?

– Dunno, but there’s 80 questions and it’s a pretty well regarded test for autism in adults. I’ll send it to you if you like.

– Nah, you’re alright, I got no problems.

– Fair enough like. I wasn’t too bothered before either but then I had a breakdown and ended up in the mental hospital so, I’m kinda hoping I find a way for that not to happen again.

The Fertility Divide


My baby started school this week. Admittedly she’s rather large for a baby, being 5 years old. She walks, talks, talks back, talks some more, wipes her own bum, etc. But she will always be my baby to me. It’s a cliche I know. So much of parenting is. The same feelings and emotions and phases and stages repeated again and again and again, over all time.

There seems to be no stopping it. This endless desire of human kind to care and love and raise another. But I know not everyone has a child of their own. A number of my friends are past the 40 mark now and I don’t think they’ll have babies. They don’t talk to me about it though and I don’t ask, because while I remember what infertility was like, everything changes once you have children. Undeniably much of my perspective on life has altered through becoming a mother and I respect that I’m probably not the first person they think to speak to about the journey they are negotiating.

So I step back and keep a distance but I want so badly to break the silence.  But I know it is a delicate situation and I’m too scared to make the first move,  so instead here is a letter to my friends without kids. Childless, childfree and childlost. May they never read it.


“I never talked to you about my difficulty to get pregnant all those years ago. I was worried you would pity me or avoid me. I don’t know why. It was all in my head. I thought you’d view this road I was going down as so precarious and dangerous and unwise, that you couldn’t possibly want to join me. And it was all too personal. Too raw and heartbreaking. But also, let’s be honest, I was worried it was a bit too icky and gross. Which is ironic because after you have kids, nothing is too icky. It’s like the dam has been obliterated in that regard. And it the same goes for the emotional side. Giving birth pushes you through some kind of shame sound barrier, the other side of which every sad and broken disaster story is fair game.

“So when I look back I wish I had shared with you what I went through those years before I had babies, so that now you might see me as more than just one of your mum friends. I don’t know that I’ll be able to understand what you are dealing with right now. I’m not you and our stories, our lives and our choices are all different. But I hope I’d be able to listen, to hear you without judgement. I’ve known you for about 15 years yet I know less about your situation than the random nameless breastfeeding woman I met for the first time today at the school gates.

“The thing is, that while giving birth and parenthood are monumentally life changing experiences that bring people together in some ways, I like you more than I like anyone I’ve met at playgroups and nurseries since becoming a mum. I love your face and your voice, your wicked smile and your sick sense of humour. You are bleak and dark and an idealist and a dreamer all at the same time. You’re an outsider and so am I. We don’t quite fit into this world but we get each other. We poke fun at ourselves until our sides ache with laughter and truth and knowing. We are complicated people, you and me. We see and hear things others overlook. We get excited about the smallest occurrences. We feel emotions deeply.

“I don’t know many people like you and I don’t want to lose you in my life. You don’t have to share your struggles or explain your decisions. I respect your privacy. But I just want you to know that I love you positively and unconditionally and you are by far one of the best people I have ever met. So please, stay with me.”

All my love xxx

The Liberating Art of Writing


Hey, so Hi There 5 followers. That was nice of you. I’m not sure how these things work these days. Last time I had a blog was about ten years ago and it was about infertility. I think I had a fair few followers, all from other infertility blogs, all supporting each other through a very difficult, confusing and isolating time. My story had a happy ending but many did not and my blog ended there.

This time I’m not looking for a support network. I have one of those real life ones, but it only really came about after I learned to write better and communicate my feelings, as both then and now I am hopeless at talking about, well, anything in person. My voice goes weird, I stutter and blush and sweat. In Scotland we call it a Beamer. It’s pretty traumatic for the Beamee…? Beamette?…Beamo?.. I’ll go with Beamo. Anyway, everyone shouts “BEAMER” and then you never want to talk again. Ever. Being a Beamo sucks.

But writing is different and once you learn to write in your own voice, how it speaks in your own head – well that is just about the most liberating thing that has ever happened to me. However I am well out of practice. So this blog is me practicing my writing, and hopefully getting good. Thanks for reading.

A Love Letter from A Mother to A Son


I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to have a little kid as quiet and as sensitive as you, cuddle up to me in your cotton soft, star jammies and tell me every single detail of what is in your head right here and now.

To have spent your whole day being interrupted and talked over and told in a minute and go to the toilet and remember to wash your hands and don’t poke it with a stick and look both ways and have you brushed your teeth and can I have a shot of your bike and where’s your sister and gonnae gie me a foot up….

Then finally after dinner and bath and all the dishes are put away, I have time to give you space to curl up with me, your mama, the one who loves you best of all.  Just the two of us.

You tell me about this idea you have to get to get the two family cats together. One timid Glaswegian indoor cat who lives high up in a top floor flat.  The other from Dundee, a hunter, a killer, a lone ranger.  Our cat.  You want them to be friends. You see them like cousins, and they are in a way.  You know they might fight, would probably hiss or bat at each other, so you have this idea to video each of them and then send each the other’s video with a few comments from yourself about each cat’s likes and dislikes. It sounds exactly like a dating video to me and I smile. But I don’t say anything. I know not to interrupt your flow. You so seldom have this time to talk an entire thought right the way through from start to finish.

You turn over the idea in your head, examining all the problems the plan might pose.  Like how would we get the cats to watch the telly?  Would they think it was a mirror or a window? Would they think the cat was in the room with them? If we can get the cats to miaow on film, he says, then would the other cat understand? Like we understand others speaking  our own language?

And then your mind starts to gallop on.  Does Tootsie understand foxes and other animals?  Does she speak to the creatures she chases and kills?  What does she tell them?  I don’t know I say, but I smile encouragingly. Even though your chat has taken a slightly sinister turn – the way kid conversations often do, I don’t want you to ever stop talking.

I’m gazing at the side of your face. Your dark wavy hair curls at the nape of your sunkissed neck, still marked by last year’s chicken pox scars.  Your glasses are held together by a small piece of wire, expertly twisted through the screw hole, after you broke them by tumbling down the stairs two days ago.

I can still see the warm butter soft cheeks you had as a newborn, your plump kissable rose bud mouth shaping the ideas in your head into words so I can see them too. Your eyes are as pure and as wondering and as honest as the day you were born more than 7 years ago. As full of awe as the day I first looked into them.  And even though they were a grey blue that snowy morning and now in the low sun of late summer I can see they have turned into a swirling green hazel, they are undoubtedly the same searching, intelligent eyes I fell into that first moment I saw you. The moment you made me a mother.

I become aware I’ve drifted into my own thoughts now and you are still talking away in your soothingly peculiar lilt. A mix of curious interviewer and passionate nature programme presenter. You’ve moved on from the cats. You explain to me in detail the structure of the room around us. These walls, you says are thick and supporting walls – but those ones are dividing walls. You can tell, you say, because of the way the floorboards cross with the beams – if you were to look under the carpet.

You know this because it’s something the builder explained to us both when we were renovating our last place. I smile but I don’t remind you I know this already.  I just enjoy the way you like telling me things as though for the first time. You like teaching me and I love to learn from you.  You have have told me facts like this many times in the past, and will do so again many times I am sure.  And because I am your mum and I love you, I will savour every moment you choose to spend with me.

How to Prepare for a Mental Breakdown


I’m not really one for doling out advice. Firstly because, even though I’m maybe/maybe not an autist, I am also self aware enough to know that I know feck all about anybody else’s situation. And secondly because often when other folk are giving me advice, they sound like a smug git, and I don’t want to be a smug git. I am already annoying enough as it is without indulging in smug gittery too. So really the title for this post should be “How I Prepare For My Next Mental Breakdown Because I Might Forget Unless I Write It Down.” And the reason I’m writing it today is because I’m aware that lockdown easing is moving another step forward in Scotland this week, with the schools going back – and for me that is a major trigger.

So, with that preamble aside, here’s my list of pro top tips…

1.Wash yourself. I’m talking basic hygiene here, not pampering or anything fancy, unless of course you feel like it. Just a good thorough wash. Take care around the ears and toes and all those other nooks and crannies. I’m telling you this because it might be a while before you get round to doing it again

2. Stock up your freezer. A few good soups, bread, one pot dishes like curry and kedgeree.  Nutrition is very important for mental recovery.

3. Know the signs that you are becoming vulnerable so you can spot them early. For me, it’s skipping meals; an overwhelming urge to hide and sleep during the day; and either picking fights with people or presuming other people are picking fights with me. There is no denying it – mental illness can be ugly.

4. Give yourself space.  Give everything you do, space. Every thought, every conversation, every action, every look, every embrace.  Breathe.

5. Remember that it’s OK to not be OK. I think I got that off a mental health charity ad. Not sure. But it’s true and worth keeping in mind when things inevitably start to slide downhill. Remember that NOBODY has their shit together for every moment of every day of their lives. Not Oprah, not Michelle Obama, not Mhairi Black. Hell, not even Monty Don.  Not feeling OK is normal. It’s human. It’s living. It’s a symptom and a process.

Also, remember that it’s OK to not know why you’re not OK. You don’t need a specific reason to find things hard. You don’t have to explain yourself.

6. Tell someone. This can be as simple as a text to a trusted friend to say, I’m feeling crappy today. Know who has your back and reach out.

I’m lucky right now. I have a few truly excellent friends who I can be open with. I find it easiest to talk to them by message rather that face to face. But it’s not always been this way. I’ve not always had a way to communicate with the people who care about me most and I know how difficult it is to deal with this stuff on your own. And for those times there are helplines.

Now I’d be bullshitting you if I didn’t tell you straight up that every time I have contacted a helpline it has taken a monumental amount of effort and courage to do so. If my husband asks me to phone a professional service when I’m feeling blue, I don’t want to. And I mean, I really don’t want to. I feel hurt that my feelings are too much for him and I feel guilty that I am burdening him so much that we need outside help. I don’t like talking to people I don’t know and I DO NOT WANT TO DO IT.

But the truth is both you and I have nothing to lose. Occasionally you’ll get through to someone who is not a good listener and is too opinionated to be remotely helpful. I don’t know why those times happen but those times suck. If that happens just politely end the call and phone another line. But in my experience, most helpline workers are brilliant. It’s like having a chat with a very gentle, thoughtful and calming guardian spirit person.

Over the past 25 years I’ve rung Childline, Parentline, Samaritans and the Scottish drug helpline, Know The Score. I’ve also called other more specific health helplines such as the Endometriosis UK Helpline, the Dememtia UK Helpline and Crysis which is a helpline for parents of sleepless babies. Funnily enough I’ve not tried out an Autism helpline yet, but I’m sure that will come in time. But anyway, as you can see I’m a bit of a pro at this calling helpline business. I even email them sometimes too because you can do that now you know. So don’t be shy. They are there for you.

Details of some useful numbers to call can be found on the Mind website. Be strong. I’ll do it if you do it.

The Hardest Bit Isn’t What You Think


– Well you’ve done the hardest bit.

– Eh? What’s that then?

– You know, realising you’ve got a problem.

– How’d you mean?

– You know…

– You joking? I’ve had a problem my whole life of one kind or another. I am a problem. You’re a problem. We’re all fecking problems. If you think you’ve not got a problem, then that is a problem.

– Alright, alright…

– Problems are life. Life is problems. C’est la vie, init.

– Ok. Right. What I mean is… It was very brave of you to ask for help the way you did.

– Are you trying to give me a compliment?

– Em, I’m… not sure…

– The thing is I’ve been asking you lot for help for as long as I can remember. I’ve been telling you, I’m tired, I’m stressed, I need space away from the kids.

– Aye but we all feel like that, that’s normal.

– Pfft.

– You never said, you know, you wanted to, you know…kill yourself or that.

– And what would you have said if I had? No-one wants to hear that shit.

– Aw c’mon. Give me more credit than that. I would’ve listened, you know that.

– …Fair enough. I know. Sorry man.

– You don’t need to say sorry.

– Do you know what the hardest bit really is?

– Well, clearly not.

– The hardest bit is this bit. The bit after you’ve decided your problem is enough of a problem to properly cry out for help. The hardest bit is after you’ve lost all your shame. The police, the nurses at the hospital, the doctors, they strip you right back. They make it clear you’re not getting any pills or help unless you start telling the truth about how you feel. And you need the pills. The drugs DO work.

– Aye I can see they’ve made a difference. But you are getting therapy or something too, aren’t you?

– Yeh. But you have to wait for it first. You have weeks and weeks of trying out pills and owning up to folk that you’re mental first. “Hiya mum, I went mental at the weekend.” “Hi Dad, How’s you? Did you know I’m a nutter, by the way?” Ectetera. You know, like properly coming out as a bone fide headcase.

And then at the same time you also have Mary, Paul, Trevor, Billy, Bob…I don’t know…a whole team of faceless folk from the Crisis Home Treatment Team calling you up every evening to make sure you’re still alive. “Hello, how’s it going? Any dark thoughts the day?” And they’re all good guys. And all they want to do is help. But I don’t know what help I need yet, I don’t know when or where or how it all went wrong. I don’t know why I can’t cope with life and you all can. I don’t know what else to say.

– I don’t know what else to say either. I’m sorry.

– It’s ok. It’s just um, my pride is dented, see. Asking for help wasn’t hard. I literally had no where else to turn. If I was going to make it through the night, if I was going to stay safe, if I was going to see my children grow up… Then I had to make that call. Sometimes you just reach an impasse and there is no choice, no decision to be made. Only one way out.

– Life or death?

– Life or death.

– But you say this is the hardest bit? What you’re going through now?

– Yes. I just want to go back to the way things were. I want to have my walking-through-sludge-days, and my hiding-in-bed-all-mornings, and my suicidal-nighttime-thoughts in private again, like I used to. But everyone knows now. All my family, all Jack’s family, all my close pals, the police, the GP, the mental hospital. And I can’t even fob them off with an “Ach well maybe it was just a wee blip”. Because I went so far as to tell them all that this wasn’t the first time I’ve had a dark episode either. It happens every couple of years.

– Listen, I think you’re amazing for finally opening up like that. It takes guts.

– Nah do you know what, it takes valium and whatever else they gave me in the hospital. Fecking truth serum.

Let’s Start in the Middle

– And how did you afford that lifestyle, if you don’t mind me asking?

– Ha! You mean taking pills and smoking weed? You’re making it sound all glamorous now.

– Were you signing on?… Did you have a job?…

– Alright, alright, I know what you’re saying. Well the pills were dirt cheap at the time, less than the price of a drink. Weed was dearer but we got by. By going without other things, like paying for food. And electricity.

– Mmmmm hmm

– It was a different time. Ooft, it was 20 years ago now. We didn’t have mobile phone contracts to worry about. We didn’t even know what the internet was. I mean Joe had a pager – remember them! – but that was pennies, you know.

– Do you mind talking about this?

– Nah. No of course not. It’s fine. Aye. We got our house off the council. It was a bedsit opposite Meadowbank stadium. I worked in a cafe and Joe had a job in MacDonald’s, so we mostly ate left over big macs and pain au chocolat’s. No’ bad like. We did a bit of dealing, just enough to be a stress but not enough to bring in any decent cash. And sometimes Joe would get up early to rob the bread van when it was out doing deliveries. And there was a baked tattie shop just below us. Mr Potato or something… We went there when we were feeling flush. I liked the tuna salad filling with the wee crunchy pepper bits.

We didn’t have a fridge or cooker so there was limit to what we could eat. We had a kettle though, and cups. We stole those wee UHT milk portions from Joe’s dad’s work at the railway so we could have milk in our tea. Home comforts. And someone gave us a tape deck with a radio, so we had music. We found a sofa bed in the street, sprayed it down Frebreze, sewed some cushions with fabric from the car boot…Changing Rooms eat your heart out. Joe had a guitar. When he played Little Wing the whole world would stop. Buses stopped rumbling, neighbours stopped yelling, dogs stopped barking. I stopped fretting. Peace.

– That sounds lovely. He was a good musician?

– Nah, not really. I just have a soft spot for Little Wing. If he’d whistled it or played it on the spoons, it wouldn’t have mattered, I’d have melted just the same.

– It’s a beautiful song.

– It is that. Life was good in those wee precious moments.

– Do you miss it?

– Well it was simpler time, ken.  I miss that much.  Fewer responsibilities.   Joe knew a guy who knew a guy who rigged our meter for a few joints, so that was fine. We had just the landline bills to think about…And the police…

Ach the good old days…Nah, it was crap really if I’m honest.

– Can you explain more?

– Well, being stoned all the time makes thinking hard. It only makes things funny for a tiny percentage of the time. The rest of the time it just makes you wonder why those people are looking at you funny. Ken, what’s their fucking problem like? That’s a classic. And when can you smoke another joint? And can anyone smell it off you? And how much money do you have left until the end of the week? And then doing the sums in your head over and over because times are tight. And it’s important. Survival. Did you lock the door? All three locks? And empty the ashtray? Does that wee scroat still owe you money? Can you find out his shifts and get him after work? Did anyone see you leaving Big Keith’s house? Did you hear Robbie got battered up and down those stairs for mouthing off in the pub so everyone could hear? We’ll no’ be seeing him again for a while. He was just drunk but he needed telt. Ears are everywhere. You gotta be discrete.

– So you were feeling paranoid?

– Aye. Too right. Off the charts paranoia. Ooft the anxiety. It’s no wonder I just kept sparking up another…