vendredi 18 janvier 2013

And to a New Year and a New Me :)

The past few months have just been mad and awesome in so many ways. I have come a huge way since I last posted here, that last chapter of the book that is my life is definitely finished and with the end of 2012 came the end of any traces of old sorrows.

October was a mix of bad news and good times. One of my dearest friend lost her Mum who was taken away way too early and way too cruelly. Not my place to tell the story but I have been very sad for her and I hope that with the new year, she, gets more happiness and joy. I also went to see the Retinal Circus of Mr Devin Townsend in London and caught up with my old good friend Dave Magee and 2 French guys roaming the same gig circuit as i do.

November was definitely the month of all things good happening. I ran my first Half Marathon on the 18th of the month and managed to finish in 1h57m, which i was totally happy with as I had very optimistically signed up for an under-2hr challenge. I had been quite sick the 2 weeks before with a mini flu and had not been able to train much but I still did it, I did it for Pearl, who was waiting for me with her Dad and brother Dylan at the finish line. It was raining that day and I highly dislike running in the rain, but I had my friend Nichola Allan running almost all the way through by my side and she was a huge support and a great company to help me through with it. We will be running the Half Marathon of Richmond in the UK on 5th May but I will be sponsoring the National Autistic Society hopefully. Watch out for some fundraising action coming your way.

The Devin Townsend Project
Dave (Guitar)
I then went on a small adventure on my own. I had got myself a VIP ticket to go watch Devin Townsend in Montpellier, combining my fave band and a chance to meet them together with a trip down memory lane as I used to live in Montpellier back in the 90s... See, the thing about being a part-time Mum and single is that you have quite a lot of free time and it would be easy to just cocoon and do nothing or wallow and miss the kids... But I chose to keep on doing the things i love, and if it means doing some on my own, then be it, at least it means I don't have to contend with someone else not being happy because I talk to other guys... if you see what i mean...

Ryan (Drums)
and the amazing Devin T
It was just great to meet Devin, Ryan, Brian and Dave and I ended up chatting to each of them for a bit. Devin even signed for Running for Pearl, a great honour. We chat about kids & life, not much about music but it was really sweet and the ensuing concert was just pure genius and perfection. I got to see the same gig in Paris on 10th December (I know that's 3 times Devin in 2 months, some will say I am slightly obsessed) and again, no disappointment there, great crowd, good setlist, probably better atmosphere than Montpellier but i will not forget Montpellier for obvious reasons.

We celebrated Dylan's 8th Birthday in December and had a great party at my flat. This boy has just grown so much in the past few months that it's quite scary actually. He is this little man now, with all his desires and comments, his social life and hobbies, i feel like he doesn't need me that much any more but boy do I love this dude; i see myself in him in so many ways, it's like having a mirror into my own childhood (not on all fronts though, thank God). In his way of working at school, his attitude to life, his humour, he is all I ever expected my little boy to become and I am thankful everyday that he has such a beautiful soul.

I had a great Christmas break with the kids, and frankly we didn't do much but rest and play, and it was what we all needed. They both went back to school on the 7th, full of renewed energy and ready to face a now very cold & snowy winter. Lots in the pipeline for me this year, another half marathon, another few really interesting gigs coming up and hanging out with all my lovely friends (older & newer ones).

A little word on Pearl of course, as this blog wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for her. She lost her first tooth on the week she was with her Dad and did not even say anything about it. Malcolm found the tooth on the carpet... Return to school was a little tough for her, get back into the swing of things and having to work again but after each break, she makes huge progresses and everybody was astounded at how she is talking now, even her speech therapist. She is the best in her class at maths (no surprise there) and probably also for singing! Her boyfriend Abdoulaye left the school in December unfortunately, but she has found a replacement in Blanchard so we are ok.  (picture with Abdoulaye whom she is holding tight! and Blanchard is the little dude bottom left)


For those of your curious to know, I am still chatting to a shrink (another one actually) and I find it useful and helpful. No more medication though, I haven't needed any for a while now, life is the best medicine of all.

with love,


jeudi 13 septembre 2012

Back to school

Ok, so it's been a weird summer - to say the least. It started off really bad for me and frankly I did think it was going to be the worst time of my life. And in some instances it was but in others, it has been a fabulous time of self-awareness, discovery, learning and of growing up - finally...

I had a wonderful time with my children on holidays. I had rented this beautiful house in the Tarn & Garonne (30 min from Montauban and about 1h from Toulouse) and we loved it. The house was in a small village called Cazes-Mondenard, had a big swimming pool and about 3 acres of land, with peach-trees, apple-trees and even walnut-trees!

We spent 2 weeks of just swimming, eating and playing outside - walking the countryside and visiting the surrounding villages and towns. Not the most exotic holidays but definitely the nicest in ages. We all came back reinvigorated and tanned, the kids ate loads and slept lots and they have just grown and blossomed like the flowers in the fields.

And then they were back at school.

We didn't have anybody to look after Pearl after school but we found someone at the last minute (Monday to start Tuesday!) and we are so happy and blessed to have found her. She is a lovely girl who will be fabulous at helping Pearl work & get more self-sufficient. She will be supervised and trained by Pearl's A.B.A. psychologist and will do wonders, we have no doubt. Her name is Bérengère and we hope to have her around for a while.

Dylan is in 3rd grade and in the Headmaster's class. He was not massively happy to have a male teacher for the 3rd year in a row but he also has a woman teaching them 2 days a week - it's like a "share-teach", 2 days one and 2 days the other. So it's a good compromise and Dylan's off to a brilliant start with a 10 out of 10 on his first Poem. This year I will be working really closely with him to ensure he is happy in all the topics he is learning. He is brilliant at maths and at grammar & spelling but much less at graphics & telling stories... a logical but not very creative mind - that's ok, he probably gets it from me ;) Dylan is our ray of sanity, bless him, he is so endearing and loveable, and I am not biased!

Pearl is thriving despite all the changes. New school (but next to her brother's!), new teacher (but she knew her from previous school), new T.A. (teaching assistant - AVS in French), new Leisure Centre on Wednesdays, new Speech Therapist and she is starting sports with an association for disabled kids called "D'un Corps à l'Autre" on 3rd October. People are more aware of autism and many friends have met Pearl and all have said she is amazing and fun. I can only agree with that!

Both Dylan and Pearl have really coped fantastically with the week on/off schedule since the divorce but even more so since coming back from holidays. I guess this Summer has been a turning point for them too. They got to spend 3 fabulous weeks in Ireland with their Dad and his family and then 3 weeks with me. They now feel perfectly comfortable going from one place to another, and are also easy when I go over to their Dad's or he comes over to mine. They are great kids, I am so proud of them!

As for me, well, I have met some new people this summer and I really enjoy spending time with them. In particular my two girlfriends, Patricia & Nichola and plenty others I would spend hours mentioning... I am also in great physical shape and I love being so fit. I am training hard for the Half-Marathon of Boulogne Billancourt on 18th November but I am also planning some good gigs and travels on my free time.

Work is great, I am back in my old job which I absolutely love and I have not felt that healthy & comfortable in a long time. I think it shows and I hope i can share this renewed energy with the people I love.

I have been visiting the St Eustache church in Les Halles on a regular basis these past few months. I have prayed to Mary, asked her to give me strength, help me forget and forgive - and I think she has heard me. I sleep at night, I feel the peace. May you all find it too x

lundi 6 août 2012

Depression? never thought it would happen to me

I have started a new journey. I am 42 and i am being reborn. I had to touch the bottom, only to be able to come back up again. The real bottom, a place I hope I am not going to visit again anytime soon, and God forbid, ever again.
I have always thought of myself as being a really strong and courageous person, and in many ways I certainly am. I have battled adversity many times over and negotiated obstacles so often in the last 5 or 6 years, that I really did not expect what happened to me a few weeks back.
If anything, I thought autism would have brought depression upon me 3 years ago, but it didn't and will probably never do. I have grown to understand my daughter's peculiarities and we all have found a way to communicate and bond together. She has come on heaps and is the most adorable, albeit odd, little girl in my world. So, what happened? How come I lost myself? Why did I wake up one day in tears and rushed to my GP to get referred for help? Was it just because I got my heart broken and crushed? Or was that just the final straw which destroyed the last bit of strength I had left in me?

There are some things I can't talk about, even on this blog unfortunately, and that will remain with my psychiatrist, but let's just say that a separation, a house move, an autistic daughter, a divorce, a complicated health-related issue, having your kids part time, being dumped by the man you consider being the one, quitting smoking, being totally cut off by half your family because they are not in agreement with your choices, massive uncertainty and stress at work, in no particular order, might just about be enough to send anybody over the edge. It did me.

And over the edge I went, and fell. Low, very low, and hard, very hard.... for days, i just could not function. My job was much too stressful too and I was on the path to having a complete burn-out. In hindsight, I think I did. That's more like what happened I think. I had a complete burn-out. All of a sudden life just did not make any sense at all. I am usually really positive by nature and in my mind. But then, I just couldn't find any more reasons, strength, incentives to get up nor function. I rapidly lost my appetite, not just for food, but for pretty much everything. I plummeted to 52 kg for1m78 (8 st for a height of 5'11'') and felt sick all the time. I knew i had to keep on functioning if only for my children, but even looking at them and holding them, I could only feel sorrow and pain. I knew I had to stop crying because I couldn't explain to my son why I was crying so much and so often. I had lost it all in my mind, and I was constantly battling with contradictory thoughts. "It's not the end of the world, you have only been dumped" was echoed by "all this time loving and hoping and building a relationship and it's all crumbled, I'll never love again". "I am worthless" got the "you are a good person" reply... and the tears kept streaming down my face. I even got an infection in my eyes because they were so dehydrated. This was bad. The alarm went off on the day one of my best friends told me I scared her, she did not recognise me and she had never ever seen/heard me like this. I think that shook me because I could feel I was losing myself and I just did not know what to do next to find me. I was terrorised. I was angry at being so depressed, i wanted to pain to stop, both my patience and strength disappeared, it was so scary and lonesome.

I gave in to the psychiatrist's order to take anti-depressants. For years I had totally refused to go near them, from the autism diagnosis time to the most recent divorce period. I always was reticent to the idea of being on a long-term medication and I really thought they were just for other people, not for me. After all, I had managed through the years without them, why would I now have to take them? Admittedly it had been years since I had had a good night's sleep and I had occasionally taken anti-anxiety pills or plants to help with my insomnia issues. This time though, I knew that I needed help, proper help, monitored help, both physically and mentally. I needed to become stronger than before so that nothing like this would ever happen to me again. So i started the course of medication and today, I don't regret it. I will not condone their use but I will not say a bad word either because they have probably saved my life. Of course, I do believe my own inner strength has also played a big part in the therapy and I won't need to be on them for long (2 months max) but they have really helped stabilise my emotions and get out of the manic-depressive state I was in.

I had to be put on sick leave for 2 weeks, I needed time to recover and switch off from all types of stress. So i turned off my blackberry, I just took one day at a time and tried to spend some quality time with my kids in the country. I also needed time on my own so I went back home after the week-end and started trying to understand what was happening to me. I asked for help from friends too, because I know that my real friends would be there for me and would not judge me. And I got the help. Not necessarily from the people I was expecting it actually - it's all a learning curve...

I went back to work after 2 weeks and I felt calmer and the demons were starting to fade away... There were still a few obstacles but I was in a better frame of mind and could front them and acknowledge the pain. I was ready to live with it. I was accepting.

My psychiatrist had said that I needed to really look after myself and do things that were making me feel good. But there was nothing that made me feel good, that was the problem. All the hobbies I used to enjoy, well, they really were of no appeal to me anymore... and then...

Solace came in two-fold. First with running.
I decided that if running had worked for my ex-husband, then, maybe, just maybe, it could work for me. From all my readings on depression, one recurring advice was the one on exercise and the real physical and mental benefits of releasing endorphins. It was Summer, my kids were gone for 3 weeks with their Dad to Ireland, I was home alone, not much work to do, so I took up running. Malcolm, my ex-husband and father of my two wonderful children, had even bought me my very first pair of running shoes and written a training plan before leaving.
From that very first run two weeks ago, i knew sports would be my one of my saviours. My whole body felt good. The physical pain was actually a relief, a "good" pain, the one I can endure. I know it's probably a substitute for the losses I have had to grieve, but it's a tremendous one and now I do understand a lot more about the concept of sports equal pleasure and serenity.

Secondly I decided that one thing that had contributed to my "depression" was probably the fact that I had always felt like I didn't belong anywhere, except when I was living in England. I was born in Spain but barely lived there, I was brought up in France but there was always something about the people I could not really understand nor relate to. I had always had an unconditional love for England, even before setting foot on the other side of the  Channel. I loved the language, the culture, the people and it was my choice, my heart's choice, to go live there.... I always thought I'd stay there forever but after having the kids, well, it became a bit more tricky, both from a financial perspective and from a family/personal one. And don't get me wrong, I don't regret moving back to France, but I do miss England massively, and it's people's ways... So I decided to try and hang out with anglophiles and also maybe expats, find like-minded people who'd have the sense of humour I like, who would know about marmite, bbc shows, music (!) and who would speak the same language ;) I am happy to have found a group of such people - they will know who they are!

Now I am waiting for my children to come back from Ireland and I am ready for my holidays with them. I am looking forward to this new start in my life, I am happy and at peace with myself and the rest of the world. I feel good, I feel beautiful from the inside out and I embark for my new adventures with a huge smile on my face.

Alicia x

vendredi 3 août 2012

Today my little fairy is 5...

My special daughter is 5 today - and she is not even here with me because she is on holidays with her Dad and her brother in Ireland. 5 years to the day - funny too because she was actually born on a Friday... in England, West Middlesex Hospital.

She was a perfect baby, born by elective caeserian (her brother had been an emergency one, I didn't want to renew that experience!)
Pearl... we had originally named her Lola when I was pregnant and at my 7th month we changed our minds because we knew we'd be moving to France and Lola was much too common and popular there... Pearl, what a beautiful name for a beautiful girl...

Pearl was adored from day one and i was so happy to have had my boy and my girl, both healthy and gorgeous... 2 years later, on the 21st July 2009, Pearl was diagnosed with autism, and it was the start of a long and hard road, paved also with lots of really funky moments...

Stay tuned, I'll be back with the story.

Happy Birthday my little Fairy, I love you to bits!!!