A Different Kind of Challenge

A Different Kind of Challenge

John William Waterhouse

It has been a while since my last blog, and it has become necessary in that interval to change certain plans, for now.

Spring is in full swing – and yet I feel as if I have spent the last month being buffeted about in a late autumn storm.  My leaves are flying away fast and I’m unable to catch them, I could not breathe life back into their brittle skeletons even if I wanted to.  I am letting them go, and looking out of the window at the true spring.  It reminds me that the world continues to turn, day always comes.

The grand plan to try and complete an endurance ride with my beautiful Arabian mare has been postponed.  My health has been suffering a little too much recently and I was referred to an ME specialist, where I received an official diagnosis (the confusing acronym has been floating around my doctor’s notes for over twenty years now) and the advice that I need to dramatically reel in my activity levels before I have a relapse.

I shall be honest, despite the knowledge that this barely understood neurological disorder has always been a feature in my life, this latest diagnosis frightened me.  It brought back the memories of when I was a young teenager and was bed bound for months.  Was that possible again?  Could I prevent it?  And more starkly, if that ever does happens again: who will look after me, how will I look after my children?

I spent a few days feeling terribly depressed and unable to get my brain to function fast enough to come up with any ideas.  And I was, frankly, irritated by the presence of the children I was terrified to lose.  I felt lonely.  Until I remembered: I wasn’t the only parent feeling lonely and lost.

Now we begin to get into 70/30 territory, because as I have written before, childhood neglect doesn’t necessarily come from nasty, mean-spirited parents.  Sometimes it happens completely by accident because of a mental or physical disability which makes it barely possible for the parent to give the love and attention they want to.  Or because of a family or life crisis that makes the parent absent or uncontrolled in their interactions with their children.

And so I begin to understand more, bit by bit (from an wholly subjective perspective and with a deeply personal interpretation), how absolutely, fundamentally, vitally important 70/30’s Primary Prevention strategy is.

It is my feeling that, for situations like this, waiting for the government to pass Primary Prevention legislation isn’t the only road open to us in our campaign to a better world.  I’m not an expert in politics, so I leave that to those who know more and look for a more appropriate use of my own strengths.

Educating and raising awareness through 70/30’s Pioneer Communities, and day by day in all of our communities and for all of our causes, is the strongest force we have to shape our world!

In that spirit, I’m going to shamelessly use this blog to offer some personal support to people with this particular ME/CFS obstacle in their lives:

  • ME/CFS (and Fibromyalgia) is a thing. It’s not new, it’s just complex and it took a while for science to get around to it.  It is not caused by mental illness or depression, it can be a life changing disability, and it is not your fault.
  • Anyone who doubting or denying the existence of this (including some GP’s) is doing so through ignorance. Forgive them their lack of experience and move on to someone who can listen.  Sometimes that goes for friends and family too, and should encourage us to reconsider our own prejudices and assumptions about others. “Until you’ve walked a moon in another man’s moccasins…”
  • If you need help as a parent with ME – I’m not totally up to speed on this all yet – look up the online resources such as Invest in ME, ME Association and Action for ME.
  • This is an important one, and it applies to every parent with different limitations, physical, mental, social or otherwise:

“Remember that you are still you.”  

You have amazing gifts to give your children, even if you can’t take them out some days.  Or any days.  Work out what it is your children really need to learn from you in their short time under your influence, and find creative ways to teach them the things that really matter.  Their friends and family can teach them to climb a tree, but it is you that will teach them to love.

We need to work out what help we need from schools, families and communities, and be brave enough to ask for it, for ourselves and each other.

This is the bottom line with Primary Prevention.  We all need to work out what we need, what our neighbours need, what strangers need, and find ways to support those needs BEFORE they become crises. 

Don’t ever believe that a random act of kindness will be forgotten.  For some people, a few seconds of your time and a smile stays with them all day, and gives them the breath of relief that truly makes a difference to their soul.  It’s ok to get angry about important issues, anger gives us energy.  But it is absolutely vital that we get loving about them too, because behind every political issue is a group of people that need love.

Meanwhile, we talk.  We write.  We campaign.  We come together.  And we remember that we all have obstacles, we all have pain in one form or another, we all have strengths and weaknesses.  But crucially, we all have UNLIMITED POTENTIAL.  We can achieve absolutely anything when we work together.

And do not fear for my 70/30 Challenge – there is always next year!

This blog can also be found at:
Campaign of Words

70/30 Challenge

70/30 Challenge

I recently had a brainwave.  It was a fantastic idea, it was ludicrous; definitely one of my best…

Not long ago I was introduced by a friend, Rob, to a cause that he was campaigning for.  Rob had mentioned the thing several times and I thought it sounded great, promised him I’d look it up, but honestly never quite hung onto the thought long enough to – you know – actually do so.  Then one day I had a bit more energy than usual (insert tedious medical history and single-mum-of-two moan) and assured Rob that I really was interested and would go on “that there clever interweb screen”, as one of the charming regulars of an old market town pub sometimes referred to Google.

So I read about the twenty years of research conducted by WAVE Trust into the causes of child maltreatment and neglect.  I read about how there are common and measurable indicators very early in a family’s life.  I read the stories of desperation and hope that led to the forming of this campaign.

I learned, with both relief and sorrow, that whilst “child maltreatment” can mean “sexual abuse”, it does not always.  Sometimes it means a father who fails to notice his daughter’s shoes are too tight because he’s not been fully sober for weeks.  Sometimes it means a mother who is so stressed and lonely that she shouts at her baby instead of soothing it.  Sometimes it means a slap when a cuddle would have solved the problem.

This cause, the 70/30 Campaign, struck my heart like angel touching a dusty harp and making it sing again.  I cried the first time I read that there are ways to recognise and guard against the steep drop that tumbles parents into hurting their children.  I cried because I can still remember feeling afraid and alone, remember how wide my eyes opened when I was young and confused and trying not to be “naughty” without understanding why.  More than that I cried because in the months after leaving my babies’ father I had seen the same look in my daughter’s eyes.  And yes, I’ve shouted when I should have soothed.  I’ve smacked when she needed a cuddle.  I’ve sat in the toilet while my darlings ate their tea because I was afraid I would get cross when the small one threw food at me again.

I’m not a perfect mum, I know I’ll never be that. I was naïve to think such a thing was even possible.  But I love my children, and what I love –LOVE – about the 70/30 Campaign is that it is based on Primary Prevention.  It recognises, supported by empirical evidence, that the key to helping children is in supporting their parents.

None of us are perfect.  None of us are at our best all the time.  None of us want to cause our children to suffer on any level or in any way.  I truly believe that the majority of parents who maltreat their children didn’t get there quickly and didn’t get there by choice.  70/30 is based not on persecuting or punishing parents, but on giving them the help they need to be the parent they want to be.

I  decided that this was the cause I wanted to fight for.  It made sense to me, I believed in it.  I wanted to do something to raise awareness and push 70/30 (70% reduction in child maltreatment and neglect by 2030) forward using the skills, experiences and resources I could call upon.

…I knew it was my best idea yet.

An exhausted ex-work rider with a complicated (but entirely manageable, thank the heavens) list of ailments, and a middle aged, previously injured horse who had had nearly eight years in a field having babies instead of racing, were going to compete in an official Endurance Ride.

So two crippled but feisty broodmares are now in training at a pace they haven’t even thought of for ten years, and when we go out in a few weeks time, whether we complete the challenge or not, we will be wearing the 70/30 colours.

This blog can also be found at:
Campaign of Words