The Zeitgeist of My 2013

As we approach the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday, I’m already feeling melancholy so I decided to look back as a first step to looking forward and I discovered that if 2012 was the year I learned the fragility of the body and life, 2013 was the year I learned the vulnerability of the psyche.

I’ve had highs and lows, tears and laughter, one-offs and one to manys, but I hope that my zeitgeist might help me learn a lot about myself and help me create 2014’s adventures:

1. Lost 3 stone and fixed most that ailed me:

After being diagnosed insulin resistant in 2012 I changed my diet and lifestyle at the end of January ‘13.  In a year I’ve lost 3 stone, brought my underactive thyroid up to normal level and lowered my cholesterol.

I feel healthier than I have done in years.

2. Got famous among teens on Tumblr as the mum who got chatted up (kinda) by Jack Barakat at the All Time Low gig in London on Valentines Day:

From the stage he looked up, saw teengirl standing next to a girl who was at least a foot taller than her and obviously thought she was much younger than she is and shouted up: “Are your parents with you?”  She shouted back: “Yes, she’s there,” pointing behind her to me.

And I waved at both Jack and Alex like a loony as Jack put his hand to his ear in a phone shape and mouthed: “Call me” at me.

Teengirl has been dining out on that ever since!

3. I went to Downing Street:

Because of this very blog I was invited as a guest of Mumsnet, The Railway Children and Aviva to a reception at Downing Street hosted by Samantha Cameron.  And I was one of the few people selected to meet and chat with Sam Cam.

It was the most surreal, incredible, amazing day of my life.  An experience I’m highly unlikely to replicate and one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

4. Teenboy and I didn’t talk for 3 months:

For some secret reason teenboy opted not to go to Camp America for the summer and returned home instead.  Just 3 weeks later he was going off the rails, a week later he’d totally lost the plot and stormed out.  We didn’t speak for 3 months.

I descended into depression and apathy and anger.  My hair began to fall out and continued to do so for many months. I stopped sleeping and I obsessed about my ability as a mother.  I stopped writing on here, anywhere.  I questioned myself over and over again desperately trying to work out where I’d gone wrong as a parent.  I went back and forth in my mind over what to do for the best: do I seek him out and talk to him or leave him be to come back on his own.  In the end I never made a decision I just let it linger on all the while feeling sadder and madder.

In the end he came back just before he went back to Uni and apologised.

But if I’m honest, I’ve still not properly recovered from it.  It has caused ripples that have surfed through many parts of my life and my psyche still feels very vulnerable and my self-belief has been seriously dented.  And our relationship remains fragile.

5. Teengirl got counselling:

In 2012 teengirl’s friend committed suicide and then she was bullied by an ex-friend who spread rumours about her sexuality.  I took her to see a counsellor who I’d seen several years ago who practices new and innovative approaches.  Teengirl had one session with him with his Metaphors of Movement.  This was during summer half term holidays and when we left neither of us were quite sure if it had made a difference.

The summer holidays came and went and by the time teengirl went back to school in September my happy, outgoing, confident, strong and feisty girl had come back to me.

6. I became an award winning poet

I wrote a poem entitled Around the World in 80 words, entered it into the South of England Show competition and won with almost full marks.

7. Went on a streetwalk with homeless outreach workers:

Thanks to Mumsnet and The Railway Children I got to go out with outreach workers from New Horizons Youth Centre onto the streets of London to see how homeless young people live and how these workers try really hard to help them get off the streets and into safety.

Eye-opening, heartbreaking and humbling.

8. I saw Roger Waters perform The Wall live and cried:

I’ve loved Roger Waters since I first heard Radio Kaos when I was 18.  The Wall was my go to album when teengirl was in the hospital as a baby with Comfortably Numb being my soundtrack to that horrendous time.

And with the opening bars to the wall crashing down I cried on and off for two hours as I sat in awe at one of my heroes.

9. Took teengirl to a Dove Self Esteem Workshop:

Another day I can never replicate that more mothers should be able to share with their daughters.  I spent time with hundreds of teenage girls, listening to their worries and hearing their hopes and strengths.  I felt like I was in the presence of some of our future female leaders.

This event gave me the greatest gift a mother can get: I learned that my daughter looks up to me that she thinks I’m fearless and amazing.  And I’m an inspiration to her.

10. Supported teenboy through yet another argument with his estranged dad:

Teenboy has issues with his dad who lives abroad and who has never supported him financially or emotionally since he was 3 years old.  This time his dad had tried to tell him how to live his life, told him if he’d raised him he’d be different and better, etc, etc, etc.  Things a child should never hear from a parent.  Teenboy’s a man of 20 now though and he shouted back this time.  He said all the things that he’s kept inside for 10 years.

I got the call at midnight from my little devastated boy who doesn’t understand why his dad doesn’t seem to love him.

I went to Southampton the next day and we talked about his dad, their relationship, or lack thereof.  I was worried he’d spiral down into depression again but he assured me he was doing ok.  He clarified this when he told me he felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders by telling his dad what he’d wanted to say for many years.  He hadn’t said it before because he was afraid he wouldn’t be loved if he voiced his feelings.

That night teenboy texted me to tell me he loved me, to thank me for always being there for him and for always loving him no matter what.

Our relationship has begun to be repaired thanks to an argument with his dad and we’re working on it, it’s not normal yet and still quite fragile, but it’s better.  And he knows I will always be here for him.

 * * * * * * * *

Yes 2013 was quite hard in some ways but in others it was out of this world amazing.  I’ve learnt so much about myself and occasionally the kids have let me have a little insight into their inner workings.

So this year I’m going to continue to be fearless and strong by running headfirst into some new adventures including:

  1. Teengirl and I are launching a t-shirt line featuring some of her artwork and some of my photographs.  Guess what everybody got for their Christmas?
  2. I’ve begun an NLP for Life Coaching diploma.
  3. I’m in the midst of creating a healthy weight loss system based around the principles I used to lose weight and keep it off.  It’s due to launch in around April/May.

Have you looked back and liked what you saw?  Have you been spurned on to take action to make 2014 better than last year?

About mumtoteens

mum to two teens and a toddler - not a easy mix tbh. The oldest is 18, the middlest is 13 and the baby is 2 and we live a life full of love and chaos. View all posts by mumtoteens

8 responses to “The Zeitgeist of My 2013

  • Tansy Austin

    wow I am so glad you posted this. Beautiful honest writing about being a mother being alive. Being a mum to teens and older children. Dealing with families that are not perfect and a little bit broken. Inspirational I have tried to look back but have not managed your honesty and clarity

    • mumtoteens

      Thanks Tansy, it is hard sometimes to be really honest. I think that’s one of the reasons I stopped writing when teenboy lost the plot last year. I couldn’t look inside me and put how I honestly felt down on paper, it scared me. Even though I know that when I’m honest with myself that’s when I begin to heal and move forward. It was difficult for me today to write some of this blog but I know that, for me, it truly is the first step in moving forward into 2014.

  • alexpolistigers

    Thankyou, this was an interesting read. I think I would find it difficult to write about my family like that. Not easy to have to examine your children’s emotions, especially Teenboy, who must be badly affected by his father’s behaviour. I wish you all the best for 2014!

    • mumtoteens

      You’re right Alexpolistigers it’s not easy writing so honestly about my family. But it helps me when I examine their emotions to understand them and our relationship. And for me to know how better I can help them or just support them or do what they need. Teenagers are difficult cos all too often they don’t talk, they don’t share their emotions and so much of being a parent to teens is guesswork and you don’t know until they’re in their 30s whether you got it right or not.

  • Tansy

    Mum to teens, a friend of my daughters killed herself on Monday there is so much sadness. The house is full every day of teenagers crying and hurt. I know this is part of their healing but i am so sad for them . How did you get through it.

    • mumtoteens

      I am so very sorry to hear this Tansy for your daughter, her friends and your family. Right now there is very little anyone can do for them their pain is just far too raw and there are few words that will penetrate their wall of pain. I know you’re a great mum because you want be able to help your child, just keep presenting yourself to her as someone who’s there to listen and provide hugs and tissues, food and drinks. Let her sleep with you if this is something that’ll make her feel better.
      The best thing you can do for your daughter right now is hug her when she wants it (teengirl curled herself on my knee one night and I just held her while she cried), listen to her when she’s able to talk, give her space when she needs it too and let her be with her friends so they can grieve together and remember their lost friend together.
      It is so tragic when someone takes their own life, it’s unexpected, the friends and family wonder why and question if they could’ve stopped it, helped the person.
      When she’s ready your daughter will need to know for sure that it’s not her fault that her friend was depressed and she could not have stopped her. She might need to be led to this realisation rather than outright told, but at some point she will need to know this so she doesn’t blame herself forever.
      Teengirl expressed herself through art and writing. If your daughter has a creative outlet encourage her to use it. If not, help her find an outlet for the emotions.
      These are dark days for your daughter right now but with good support from you and her friends she will get out the other side but it will take a long time.
      You, as her mum, will feel some fear that your daughter might not be able to bear the pain of loss and that she might take her own life too. I felt this for about a year after and every time teengirl failed to appear by lunchtime I felt the hand of fear grip my throat. We had talked about this, she’d assured me she wouldn’t but still it terrified me. If this fear grips you too, talk to her, judge how she’s dealing with her pain and if needbe get her some specialised counselling (if you can afford it). She’s very unlikely to do the same thing, but the fear she will is normal for a parent. If there’s counselling provided at school make sure your daughter takes it, it’s not always amazing but it’s something, somewhere, somebody that’s not family or friends for her talk to.
      The best piece of advice in give you is to listen to your child but just her words – hear her little subtleties, the changes in the next few months that might suggest she’s not coping, or the changes that tell you she is coping. And address these as the arise. You will. All get through this slowly and surely with love, understanding and an open ear.
      Please keep in touch with me. I wish you and your daughter future peace and happiness.

  • Tansy

    Thanks so much for getting back to me and taking the trouble to write this.. I only just found it. My daughter has a very strong support group in her friends and they mainly are spending all their time together , grieving
    sharing and comforting each other. It is early days and the funeral is Thursday. .

    Yes the loss and the fear that my daughter may do the same. I know that feeling. and even if you rationalize that they wont it still feels like a very vulnerable time. . She had some good counseling with C.A.H.M.S last year and we talk about things and i think i keep a really close eye on her. But ,there is still the absolute terror that for this young girl’s parents a week ago things were normal and a week later their world was shattered.

    My daughter has cried with me a couple of times and so much at the moment is overwhelming for her , her own sadness and the sadness of the young girls parents and the young girls boyfriend, and of course the guilt the what if,s . and as she put it last night i am just frightened of everything at the moment .

    • mumtoteens

      Oh my god yes, the fear is all consuming – for both of you.
      When you’re a teenager you feel immortal, almost believe yourself to be immortal. And then someone your age dies and it shatters that illusion that lets you throw yourself through life with abandon and that is terrifying. It can also change a young person forever unless they have a parent, like you, who is there for them, to guide and to listen and to give them back their fearlessness.
      You are doing an incredible job. Your fears will diminish as time goes on.
      I asked teengirl last night if she’d ever thought of taking her own life after she lost her friend and she looked at me as if I was mad and said: “No, never. It never even crossed my mind.”
      I hope today’s funeral is ok and that your daughter gets what she needs from it. Funeral’s aren’t for the dead, are they? They’re for us, the living. We look to them to help us say goodbye, accept it, get closure, move forward, see the finality…
      As you no doubt know, your daughter’s going to need your steadiness in the following weeks and months and she’ll need it desperately tonight.
      Both of you will get through this, teengirl and I did. It took a lot of time, some shouting, lots of tears and many cuddles. There was even a slammed door or two. But we have made it out the other side and teengirl knows I’m there for her no matter what. Just like your daughter knows too.
      Please keep in touch. Xxx

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Lou Treleaven, writer

Writing for children, submitting manuscripts, reviewing great books and other wordcentric activities

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