My Not So Secret Diary


Homeschooling isn't that important to life right now, freedom on the moor with my two year old son in Cornwall My Not So Secret Diary
Looking forward to more freedom again soon!

I’m seeing a lot about homeschooling right now. I know that times are difficult and that children are mostly all at home for the foreseeable future, but am I the only one who thinks that homeschooling them right now is not vital? I’ve been invited to loads of Facebook groups trying to provide ideas of resources I can use to educate the kids during their time in confinement, but to be honest, I’m not really sure that I agree.

For me, it seems more important to talk to the kids, to spend time with them, and to let them know what is going on, even if my little Stanley has got a bit confused and thinks that the ‘nasty bug’ outside is actually a ladybird. He even showed it to me in a book the other day! But seriously, I think that time spent together is perhaps more valuable. Our kids are going to remember how we dealt with this crisis when they look back in on it in the future. I’m not sure that they are going to remember English and Maths lessons in the same way. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing things with our kids, that isn’t what I mean at all. I just think that actually, sharing books, playing outside in the garden, doing board games or puzzles and cooking together are more valuable at the moment.

Education is so important, but all the children out there are in a similar boat, so it’s not like it’s just a few who are getting behind at the moment. Schools are setting homework or tasks, and that in some ways gives the children a focus, and something to give some structure to the day. However, as parents, we are generally not our children’s teachers, even those qualified as teachers, and sometimes by trying to create that sort of relationship we can instead create stress and confusion. For me, I don’t think we need to put much more on our young people right now. Even the brightest of children aren’t going to understand the full potential of this sort of crisis and I feel we need to give them stability in whatever way we can.

Our two year old has experienced so much change recently, on the outside he looks fine, but he isn’t quite himself. How can he be though? He has gone from regularly attending nursery, seeing his friends and staff, coming to work with me in the afternoons and seeing his grandparents most days to being stuck in the house day after day, without even taking his brother to running practice. Not only that but his brothers and sister aren’t going to school, college or work and neither is his Dad. All our routines have gone out the window so it must be weird for him, and hard to make sense of. He’s okay, don’t get me wrong, but he knows something is different and it has been unsettling for him. He isn’t even allowed to go shopping if his Dad or I go. I wanted to make the most of us all being at home and give him the final push he needed with potty training, but in reflection, it isn’t so important. It stresses him out, and I don’t want our time together to be like that. There is always another day for all those things, so it can wait.

Joe popped out to work on his car for a few minutes today. He wasn’t anywhere public, but on our drive, before anyone thinks we might be breaking the rules. What is nice was Barn stopping on the way back from his daily run to talk to him, and getting roped into helping. As brothers they are four years apart. Four years isn’t a lot, except when you are 14 and 18. They’ve grown in different ways as they have got older and don’t share so many interests, or so much time as they did when they were younger. Looking out the window, their Dad caught them laughing together, for me, that is more valuable than any academic lesson if you know what I mean.

Life can be too short. The news is showing us that every day, wherever you live. Things are hard enough right now - our kids need love and to know they are safe. As safe as they can be at least when we are facing something like this. Lessons will occupy them, but so will spending time with them and fun and games, even if we can’t go out as much as we’d like.

Take care and stay safe everyone.
Claire x



Outward appearances aren’t everything! πŸ’–

Beautiful words from Charlie Mackesy πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

outward appearances My Not So Secret Diary


Thinking alcohol free sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
It was cold and frosty on Sunday morning, but so great to be out!

Sometimes it surprises me just how much time wine spends in my head. The thought of it at least, you all know I don’t drink the stuff anymore. It used to be so much worse of course. For a long time, it was the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing before bed. I would plan how not to drink, put reasons in the way, and then as the day worse on it used to change to how I could fit a few drinks in. It drove me mad.

I thought after I stopped drinking it would go away. It didn’t. I thought it would go once I replaced it with other things. It didn’t go then either. I was sure it would go when I broke the habit and finally stopped wanting to drink. It certainly got easier then, but it was still there.

After about three years things changed. Not everything revolves around alcohol now. It’s not the be all and end all of everything, and yet, it is still there.

I can avoid the alcohol aisle at the supermarket, it doesn’t bother me at all, but a display in the wrong place can catch my eye. It makes me remember. It wouldn’t take much to push me. I wouldn’t need much persuasion, and to know that is so frustrating when I look at how far I’ve come. I know, and it’s quite scary to know, that one glass would not be enough. It would lead to another as it always did. It was like an unquenchable thirst. Moderation does not work for me, whether I wanted it to or not. I can’t risk it, because however much I still for some reason romanticise the idea of drinking, in the end that wasn’t how it was for me.

However tempting it is at times, I won’t go back to that.

Thanks for reading!



PAWS sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running has really helped me.

You may or may not have heard of P.A.W.S. and if you haven’t, you might not have been able to identify your feelings or know that this is a condition that affects between 70% and 90% of us in recovery to some degree or other, both emotionally and psychologically.

So what is it?
P.A.W.S stands for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It's symptoms affect those of us who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it doesn't happen so quickly as you might think, actually occurring after the initial withdrawal is over. In fact, P.A.W.S can occur two months or more after the substance has been removed from the system, and the affects can be felt for weeks, months or years, depending on the individual.

There has been much research into P.A.W.S in association with alcohol addiction, with medical reports being published since the 1990's so it isn't a new thing, but it isn't hugely common knowledge either. In fact, I think it is one of the most important factors of recovery, one that you should be prepared for, and I for one certainly didn't know anything about it beforehand.

The symptoms.
As a sedative, alcohol decreases brain activity, and of course, the brain comes to see that as normal. Once you remove that inhibitor your nervous system can go into overdrive. There are a lot of symptoms associated with P.A.W.S, and each of them individually are quite normal and common. The accumulation and severity of them is down to physical differences in people, the type of substance that is causing the addiction and the amount that is taken. The effects come and go, lasting for a few days before easing up again, which can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but if you are prepared from them, it can make your recovery more successful.

Here’s a list of the main symptoms:
• Stress - The effects of P.A.W.S. can leave you with a low tolerance to cope with stress. Even the smallest thing to other people can seem like a really big deal, and considering you've probably given up your biggest coping tool, it is easy to understand why things are more difficult. New coping strategies are the way forward here, but believe me when I say, it takes time.
• Concentration difficulties - yep, I had problems stringing coherent sentences together at times, it seemed like I was losing my mind. I also used to forget what I was saying, mid-sentence. (I still do that sometimes!) It seems some of the neurotransmitters in the brain have to fight back and repair themselves in order for us to regain our ability to think clearly. The good news is, it is usually only temporary.
• Mood swings - I don't know about you, but I had them when I drank too. When I stopped they just got much more tearful.
• Cravings - Although the physical addiction might have worn off, there might (for some time) be psychological cravings which might try to tempt you back. Don’t give in to them, they get weaker with time.
• Anxiety - so not only is our brain learning to be without something that helped to keep it calm, but it is also having to adapt to function without it going forward. This can make you feel terribly anxious.
• Depression - these addictive substances have a lot to answer for! Your brain needs to readjust to learn to be without whatever it is you used to take. When you stop it is a shock to the system, however prepared you are. Again, it is normally just a temporary set-back.
• Insomnia and sleep disturbances - I was told I would sleep better when I stopped drinking. I do now, but it took a long time to get there. Not only do many addictive substances affect our sleep patterns, but our subconscious thoughts, like wanting a drink, can affect our dreams when we finally do drift off. It can be a bit of a nightmare. Sorry!
• Anhedonia - (the ability to find pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). Most addictive drugs affect neural pathways. When we stop taking them, it takes a while for the brain to balance out again and start to make normal levels of chemicals that make us feel good again. Until then things can be tough.

What can you do to help?
• Knowing that these symptoms are possible, and that they may be long term can help, if you aren’t expecting them, it can be easier to relapse.
• By gradually reducing the amount of alcohol consumed before stopping altogether, the intensity of the withdrawal may be lessened, although long term symptoms still seem to be quite strong. Try to remember that these symptoms may come and go, and although not pleasant, it is a normal part of recovery.
• Exercise can help, not only as it helps your body and brain recover, but as a bare minimum, it can work as a distraction to the way you are feeling.

It might seem a bit doom and gloom, but after I got to about two years of sobriety, I really began to wonder if my anxiety would ever get better. It got me down. I was meant to be healing and I still felt like a nervous wreck, in many ways, I actually felt at times worse than I did when I was drinking, which made me sad, because I was doing all the right things. Learning about P.A.W.S. helped. Having a reason, a cause, meant that I wasn't going mad and it wasn't my fault. It meant that my brain was healing. Other people might not understand, but I do and that helps. I would say after three years, I began to feel different and a lot better than I had in a long time. But everyone is different and not everyone will experience this for the same time I did. I think I am a minority in that!

If you are in recovery or experiencing any of this, then good luck, my thoughts are with you.

Once again, thank you for reading.


Bitten by the Running Bug! (again!)

Bitten By the Running Bug (Again)
After run yoga!

It’s funny, recently I have really struggled to be motivated to run, even though I know how much I enjoy it once I am out. First I think the weather got hotter and that made it harder. Then we were on holiday, and that was an excuse (I did run 2 miles while we were away but it was ridiculously hot!) Then I just found other reasons to make it hard work and less fun. It became a chore to go out, something I had to do, and I almost ruined it for myself.

When I first started running I noticed improvements straight away, I could run further, faster, I toned up, even if the scales didn’t change. After a while it was less noticeable and that made it harder to get the same buzz from it. When I get out of the habit of doing something I find it really difficult to motivate myself to get going again. Those little doubts starting to creep in again, making me think I couldn’t do it and that I was silly for even thinking I could.

Next Sunday I am running a half marathon, so between doubts I have been trying to train for it. In preparation, I signed up for Plymouth 10k as I enjoyed last years event and ended up booking the 5k just after as support for my daughter. Right up until the moment before I was full of doubt, luckily I ended up chatting to another Lonely Goat from my running club on the start line, which helped keep me calm. Once the starting gun went off I just started running and before I knew it I was on my way.

When I finished I was so happy with myself, the year before I had run/walked the 5k in the same place. This year I ran every step of the 10k and that was a massive improvement for me. It really reinforced that I actually could do it, no matter what my mind told me.

Ten minutes later we went off on the 5k. I ran with my daughter, totally at her pace, and it was so much fun! We chatted all the way round. I knew what to expect so could forewarn her of hills and encourage her. It was brilliant. Especially when another runner ran into the bus lane (closed roads) and shouted very loudly, “I’m a bus!”

The thing is, it inspired me again. It showed me what I can do when I stop worrying, or overthinking. I actually feel excited to go out and run again! It gave me back that running bug, although I am sure when it is time for me to go out later, that little nagging doubt will also crawl back in. Hopefully I’ll be able to quieten it down this time!

As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me!


The Ballot

The Ballot
Me and Katie half way through her first road race.

Like many others when I first started running I thought getting to 5k would be a huge achievement and it was. Like many people, I thought it would be enough to go from a non-runner to one that could do 5k without walking. It was for a time, and then I decided to tackle a 10k. Then a half. I never wanted to run a half marathon, or so I thought. They were for serious runners, but the idea took hold and I just wanted to see if I could. It gave me something to focus my training on, an end goal to work towards. Once I’d done it I was amazed that I could do something like that. Me, a runner for only a year could run 13.1 miles. That was pretty cool and it was enough. But then a few weeks later I watched the London Marathon on TV. It was inspiring, the runners at the front moving like machines, covering double the distance in less time than I had run my half. I was watching as Hayley Carruthers fell at the end, and willed her to make it over the line. A professional runner, but one who still worked and had a life outside of training, she made me wonder if I could do it.

That feeling didn’t go away and as soon as it opened I entered the ballot. I didn’t even wait to get home, I was out in a carpark waiting to pick my son up from the end of a Duke of Edinburgh expedition on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. I just knew I had to get my name down. I didn’t realise I’d have to wait over five months to know if I was successful.

I’ve been waiting patiently to find out the ballot results as I know so many other people have, but it has made me question why exactly the ballot is done in this way. I know it is a successful event and so many people want to run it, but why not make it a little more available to the average runners out there too? If I don’t get a place, I can run for a charity, but because they have to pay so much for their places they want thousands of pounds raised in return. I understand that they need to maximise their return, but when these charities are chosen from a list and not one close to my heart, it doesn’t seem genuine, it seems like a means to an end. Putting so much effort into fundraising would take time too, and like many, I find it hard to fit training around life, work and family, so to put more demands on my time would be difficult, as would the stress of having to reach a target or lose my place. I don’t think that would help my anxiety at all.

It seems that a fairer option would be to have so many places open on a first come first served basis, and after that maybe open the ballot? At least then the early birds would get a chance. Even if the tickets cost more, I’ve heard of other marathons that actually give people a place when they have been unsuccessful on so many previous occasions. This seems like a fairer option. I know many people would like to run on several occasions, but for many, once would be enough.

So it brings me to the question, do I actually want to support this ballot, which I think is actually quite unfair, or do I want to find a marathon that I can just buy a place for and run, and enjoy the experience. What do you think?

Today the results begin to go out. Some already know if they are in or not. I don’t. As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. Happy running!

Thanks for reading! Xxx