Have you ever shone a light through a prism and seen all the different colours fly out at different angles? For those who have read my previous blog “Never Give Up” you will know that August has been an emotional month. Life has literally been pulling me in all angles possible.
All is not lost, all is not bad. I am writing today because for the people who follow Butterflies With Rainbows on Facebook and Instagram will have seen the post on what has been your greatest achievement this month.
I shared this because despite the emotional rollercoaster that there has been a front seat ticket for, there have been many many positives within the month. It is a case of looking at the days from different angles that’s all.
Working through events and looking at the positives, the solutions, and the steps in how to overcome challenges is one of the things that I’ve been working so hard on. It’s one of the biggest challenges that I have faced.
This stems back to having experienced a lengthy time of not being able to make decisions independently and always having them questioned. Spending time doubting my own ability to make the right choices and ultimately not believing enough in myself even if I know I’m making the right choices.
What is it about looking at a light shining through a prism though that makes me think of all these decisions, choices and conversations that have been had this month? Let me explain.
Every decision we make pulls us in a direction. Sometimes it can feel like these directions are so far away from where we want to be heading but they just have to be tried, or they have to at least be explored. The thing is, there is one main thing when it come to looking at all these angles that gives us some reassurance, some comfort.
All the different angles come from one focal point. One single pivot which never moves, wherever you are that is the center point. So no matter how far away I feel like I’ve been pulled away from life this month I know that I can bring myself back to this one point, my own grounding point at any time. Refocus and recharge. All the different paths are connected to that one point and that will never change.
Focusing on the positives that shine through during the stressful times show just how amazing the world is, the bright colours of the rainbow from that light act as a reminder of the kindness that is shown. From hearing out of the mouth of a little butterfly the questions, “Do you love me? Do you love your own?” Only to realise that even the youngest are fully aware of self love and gratitude. To have the kindness of others reaching out and reminding me to just take some time out, making a sandwich and encouraging me to just do something to recharge for a few hours.
When a day seems so overwhelming and long, (summer holidays guys, you hear me right?) it’s been easy to just collapse in a heap at the end of the day wish for school to hurry up and restart, but thinking about it, was the day actually all that bad, or was it just that the overflow stresses from other days impacted this day, and impacted my emotions? The day isn’t any longer, it’s not been any worse, it isn’t going to be any different and to be honest we had fun.
Having the extra stresses that we have had has shown the amazing resilience my little butterflies have developed, their sense of humour they have inherited (sorry?) and their sense of determination to never let anything beat them. They never give up, so even though it’s a been a challenging month, the angle we’ve chosen to focus on is what has it shown us together.
It is definitely easier to focus on the stresses, but it’s exhausting, looking at things from the colourful angles that are shining through is much more fun, more rewarding and definitely more beneficial.
Looking back at your August, what different angles have you looked at each day from?
Domestic abuse can affect anyone, it is hard to talk about if you’ve experienced it yourself, but hearing first hand how it can make you feel can also give someone strength, hope, courage and the power to take a step needed. However, reading about someone’s experiences can also be quite upsetting or traumatic for others, so please remember to take care of yourself when reading about personal experiences. If you feel uncomfortable, there is no shame in reaching out to a friend, colleague, loved one, for that support. Thank you for reading my blogs, and for being a supportive bunch of readers.
I think you know who you are. I never need to say your name anymore yet the sheer thought of it sends shivers down my spine. Not the good sort either.
You took so much from me, you don’t even realise it. Maybe you do. To the outside world it seems like you don’t, but now that isn’t important. Why? Let me explain.
I was once this person who had a love for life, a little bounce in my step and a spark for all things I did. Then you came along and turned my world upside down, inside out, and left it spinning. You gave me everything I ever wanted, and never wanted at the same time. The things you expected in return were, to me at the time, normal. With every ‘normal’ day came another hole in my life, another dark shadow in my head, and another scar or bruise to tell the tale of a day I forced myself to survive.
This ‘normal’ paid its price on my identity. The bright, colourful, confident person I once was, became an empty shell. Something that just purely existed in this world that didn’t experience any joy, any happiness or any peace. This was because you became one thing to me, my abuser.
All those times you you whisked me off my feet, you showed me that you loved me with those magical days out; amazing gifts and the beautiful flowers you would present to me. Only to insist on the gratitude, the level of thanks which could exceed any length of time that suited you. Only to get jealous when someone else gave me flowers, or a gift. Leaving me to hide them and enjoy them in secret, for fear of upsetting you. The guilt of receiving any form of thanks or kindness from anyone else had become a huge fear over time. This was my ‘normal’ now.
When you successfully taught me over time how to behave in front of all the people you approved of. Made sure you taught me who you didn’t like, convinced me that my friends made me a bad person. That they were a bad influence, they were ‘toxic’ because they made me laugh, made me smile, gave me the confidence to give life a chance without you. You didn’t want me near them because they allowed me to be the person I was, the person I wanted to be, the person inside. To have a voice, and be honest. To have fun and to take part without you by my side. I soon learnt who those people were and I soon found a way to avoid them, to let them down, to tell them I was not that person they knew anymore without blaming you. Without telling them it was you who didn’t like them, I didn’t let on to them that it was because of you I stopped enjoying all those things. I did that for you, you didn’t even realise that when you were shouting at me though did you? When you were screaming at me for not putting you first? Was it apparent when you called me selfish that I had given up all my friends for you?
Remember when you kept poking at me every single time I wore clothes that you didn’t like? You would comment on everything I ate, the way I looked, when I gained weight, and even when I lost weight. At what point was my reflection ever going to be good enough for you? The times when an effort was made and then the insults came, the accusations flew thick and fast because it was assumed the effort I made was for someone else. Did you ever begin to notice that I stopped eating? I always ate elsewhere, or ate earlier in the day so it wasn’t an issue at meal time. What about when I stopped wearing nice clothes? That didn’t register either. You did that, you made me hate the body I have so much, every little piece of it, to the extent I still cant look in a mirror without saying how much I hate myself. Was this your goal?
You made me feel like I was losing my mind on a daily basis. Constantly telling me how tired I was, reminding me that I was forgetting everything. Telling me I was not remembering things correctly, and incapable of carrying out basic tasks. Even when I was sure I remembered, that I hadn’t forgotten, that I knew I could manage. You made me doubt myself so much I lost my confidence in the things I loved. In myself.
You used to lay there at night listening to me crying myself to sleep, only to wake me up again to make more tears fall. So long as you got your apology that was all that mattered. You always got your apology didn’t you? You also always got your sleep, I made sure of that, it didn’t mean you were grateful. You had your requests which needed to be met, tears or no tears. You never noticed them did you?
You hurt me in more ways that I ever knew was possible. To have the ability to put me in that constant state of fear without it seems, even trying. To be a person who says they are caring and protective, yet so scary and frightening at the same time. To be able to silence me from across the room with a single look, to be able to respond to a room of people on my behalf without so much as raising an eyebrow amongst the crowd. You think no one saw, you think think no one noticed. I thought the same too, because I didn’t realise how much I’d lost my voice, how much I’d lost my name.
You shrunk me to nothing, but it didn’t go unnoticed. By shrinking me down so small you gave me the ability to hide away. This was such a change for me that this actually meant I was seen more. I now realise this wasn’t what you had hoped at all, but it is what happened.
What do you think of this person, who has managed to pull someone down so far, they’ve at times considered if even living is worth it. That they have so much pain in their heart and mind that they would at times seek solace in physical pain just to manage it. That they need to work hard everyday to repair and rebuild the damage that you caused them?
Do I miss the person I used to be? No, I don’t actually miss anything about her. Do I mourn her? Maybe a little sometimes if I am honest. The person I am today is growing stronger than ever, and will achieve more than that person ever could have managed to in that situation.
The reason I am growing stronger is down to all you did to her. The lessons you taught her, the life you gave her, and most of all the family you gave her. So by shrinking that past me down so small, you’ve made me better than ever.
I will never forget what I have experienced, or felt, and will have to live with it for the rest of my life. There will always be times when I will wish I didn’t have to remember. There are also going to be many opportunities to make amazing new memories moving forward. Along with memories, come dreams, and hopes. I now have hopes, something which I never really had before. My biggest hope for moving forward is that the two versions of my life will merge into one amazing butterfly.
The wounded version who’s healing and always present, who has the occasional wobbles, and the version of me that creeps out sometimes stronger than ever.
So you see, You don’t need a name, you never will. The lessons learnt from the memories are what I need, the strength they’ve given me is what deserves the name. That name is mine.
Why do I reference to a butterfly? Butterflies can never see the beauty of their wings, or how well they healing after they’ve been wounded. The only time they know when they are fully healed is when they fly high. Their strength is hidden until they soar.
So, if you’re reading this wondering how long it’ll be before you fly, remember to be that butterfly, and fly when you’re ready.
If you’re reading this and still wondering why you don’t need a name anymore, it is because I now have one.
I see you fighting. When you wake up in the morning wash those dried tears from the night before.
I see you fighting. As you prepare yourself for the day ahead, gathering every ounce of energy you have just to get yourself ready to face the world.
I see you fighting. When you smile through the heartache, push through that headache, and force that meal down just to get you through the hours.
I see you fighting. As you courageously walk away from the conversations that are bringing back memories that continue to haunt you both through the night and day, so not to draw attention to yourself.
I see you fighting. As you bravely stand there and bare your soul in the bid to become that little bit stronger, that little bit tougher, that little bit happier within yourself.
I see you fighting. With every letter, email, or phone call you receive telling you that despite everything, this nightmare just isn’t over yet. That there is yet another hurdle to jump over, there is yet another end date in sight.
I see you fighting. Day after day to cling on, to whatever you can to be sure that whatever the day throws at you, you always have hope. Hope that it can and will get better. Hope that there will be a day in the future when clinging on won’t be so exhausting. Hope that your smile will return soon and this time it will be for good.
I see you fighting. When you finally sit down on your bed and take off your mask. When you can relax your shoulders and allow the muscles to relax a little bit more. The fight to remain strong enough to get through the day has finally been won.
I hear you fighting. Speaking the truth, though your voice is shaking, the fear is there yet you fight on. The strength you show to get yourself heard despite having a world against you is immense. You are winning.
I see you fighting. At the end of the day when you close your door and the tears a finally free to fall. I am with you when you when they just won’t stop. There to hold you, to stop you falling, to keep you feeling safe. To hear your thoughts and let you know that you are doing so good. The fight your are putting up is a hard one but you really are the best person for it, you are winning, and when you don’t think you are, that is when you’re furthest ahead.
So, to my fighting butterfly, I send you this. Your wings are getting stronger with every battle, when they feel heavy it’s ok to rest them. The time will come when all the fighting will mean you’re ready to fly high, to show the world the beauty in those wings. Never give up fighting because you always have someone right beside you, seeing your strength, hearing your worries, holding on to hope with you.
Sometimes we question ourselves as a parent, that’s ok. Why we do this could be for a number of reasons, each just as important as the other. Every one of us has a story, has an experience, has a tale to tell. Here is one part of one story. One snippet in a big world. The moral of the story? Have a read and see if you can find it. It may well be different for everyone.
You are an amazing little human being. Lifting the mood in any room you bound into, with that smile, big brown eyes and long eyelashes that every female is instantly jealous of from the moment they meet you.
However, I’m your mummy and I’m finding it the hardest job of all. I shouldn’t do, it should be easy, it should all come so naturally, so where is it? Where is this mother’s instinct?
Was it ever there? From the moment you were born and whisked away to the intensive care unit the dread set it. Was I ever going to actually be your mummy? That whole week of doubt followed, the guilt of visiting you, of holding you, of leaving you, that when the day came that I was able to bring you home the joy was overtaken by every other emotion possible.
Fear that I couldn’t love you, worry that you’d get sick, guilt that you’d feel left out, and panic that I just wasn’t going to be good enough. All of them stacking themselves on top of each other like a huge game of Jenga, as soon as one hurdle was beaten it just jumped to the top making the stack even higher.
You were and still are my rainbow, I was never going to let that stack of negativity win though. You started to grow, you became so infectious with love and laughter that despite that stack of blocks your smile and giggles were breaking through it. Against all the odds, a season ticket in a hospital bed, and teaching me what worry really felt like you continued to not only grow, but you thrived. You loved, you shared love and you cared.
Then just like you were whisked away at the very beginning, you were gone again. Only this time I didn’t know where you were. Not to begin with. I knew you were sad, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I had to learn to trust the people who were looking after you to do it ‘right’ because after all you were still mine. It hurt, so much more than the first time.
I had spent the first two years of your life fighting to be your mum, begging to look after you, to read to you, to play games with you, and every fight I had lost. You were this small baby who never spoke, but always smiled for me. Who wouldn’t walk but always hugged. Who loved a bottle and dummy, despite my best efforts to get you off them. In the space on one day, you were gone.
The silence was deafening, the endless echoes and emptiness around me resonated through every night. It never got easier, over time the tears stopped, but the pain remained. Can you imagine hurting every night and not being able to stop it? This did come to an end, sort of. After 444 nights the time came when I was allowed to be that mum again, and read that story, tuck the blankets in and give that kiss goodnight.
Happily ever after right?
The baby that was whisked away all those days ago was no more. I now had a child, who looked completely different. Who spoke all of a sudden. Who walked around, who asked questions, who had an opinion, who had likes and dislikes. This child didn’t have the bottles and dummies that they left with, there was no more rocking them to sleep. There weren’t even anymore nappies! How was it possible for someone to change so much in 444 days?
How can I be a mum to a stranger? How do I do this? Can I do this? Should I be doing this? What if I can’t do this?
These were only a few of the questions that swamped my head and still do. You see I got this little human being back after so long it was like being handed a rather large new baby. Only without the sleepless nights and 2 hourly feeds. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know how to start a conversation with you, to spark laughter, to brighten that smile with you. I knew I had to learn, and I had to learn fast.
Learning all about you from strangers is one the weirdest things ever. To admit I didn’t know what time you go to bed, or wake up is enough to torment me emotionally, when the truth is I hadn’t been there to learn them so of course I wouldn’t know these things. To admit I needed to be taught all the ‘mum’ information just so I could meet your basics needs is embarrassing. To admit defeat when I just can’t calm you down, when I can’t stop your tears from falling, when the only thing I can do is cry with you, hold you and hope someone tells me what to do.
Yet there are times when I see you for the amazing child you now are. Seeing all the new things you’ve learnt, and I now get to enjoy for the first time. Watching you ride your trike, seeing your confidence grow as you learn to jump and climb. Enjoying your smiles and laughter as we make a mess trying to bake cookies and cupcakes. For the first time I’ve been able to read you stories, play games with you, and enjoy your company. There have been so many happy moments with you, proud moments, not to mention surprising moments. These moments will stay with me, these moments are what will make me your mummy.
One day I won’t have to try quite so hard, plan for so long, or ask for quite so much help. I’m not sure when that day will be. In the meantime, we continue to take each little thing together. Sometimes it ends in hugs and tears, sometimes it ends in laughter and smiles. There may be more times I need to ask for help, but that mother’s love is there, it always has been. In amongst the chaos every mum has that mother’s instinct, with some hope and some belief it shows through. The more you feed it the more it’ll grow, the key is to feed it with the right things. What do you feed your Hope with?
Getting your child back from foster care is just as traumatic (in my opinion) as losing them into the system. Listening to them asking to go ‘home’ when they are already home is heart-breaking, only you can’t show that. You need to keep that strong face, that calm exterior which accepts that is ok. You cover it all up by giving another big hug and kiss and simply saying ‘I love you so much’ in the hope that one day it’ll be believed. The day will come, the days do get better and brighter. The day will come when you can hear the word ‘mummy’ and you can respond without second guessing yourself, without stopping before you respond because you forget that it is you who mummy is. Hold on to every little piece of hope and watch it grow along with your little ones.
Sometimes we all need a little reminder that we are doing a good thing. That all the hard work and effort that we are putting in is actually worth it. There are times though that little annoying voice creeps in and ruins it, by making us think that no matter what, we will never be good enough. I have so much hate for that little voice, it really bugs me. I have had many fights with it, and still do. There are many of us who have these battles on a daily basis, and to all of you I want to say well done. You are doing fantastic. This is for everyone who hears that niggling doubt, whether is daily, monthly, or every now and then. Why? Because you are all doing brilliantly.
To the butterfly who is wondering if she is good enough,
I want you to know that those thoughts you’re having right now you aren’t imagining. I believe they are there. I am not going to tell you they are silly, or you’re overreacting because sometimes these thoughts really do seem to take over don’t they?
If you’re sitting there wondering, if you really are good enough, can I ask you to think about what is it that ‘good enough’ looks like to you? What would it take for you to stand in front of that mirror and be able to say to yourself “I am good enough.”
Who is it you are trying to prove yourself to? Are you trying to make yourself ‘good enough’ based on other people’s expectations that you think they have? Or is it on presumptions that have been made of your own view of them? Or do you have something to actually go by, an agreed description of what it is you need to be doing?
If you’re thinking at the moment ‘I don’t know’ (which if you are anything like me is highly possible) can you think about a time when you did something that you felt was good enough? How did you know it was good? Remember what that feeling felt like, the facial expressions it gave you, the hope it left in your heart. What have you done where this has been present recently? So, what does that tell you?
The thing about feeling like you’re ‘good enough’ is it is different for every one of us. What makes me good enough is different for you. It can change every single day. It can build over time, and the only expectations that truly matter are the ones that which you know of, for definite. The most important one is your own. What made you feel good enough yesterday may need a different approach today, tomorrow, or even next week.
It is easy to assume that people expect you to be able to this brilliant mum, or colleague, or auntie, or friend. Who is always smiling, never crying, always holding it together, but have those things been said to you? Are these your expectations? Would you have these expectations of others around you? Being enough for yourself may simply be to get through your day, remembering to eat, to drink, brush that hair, check in with a friend or two. It may mean you get up, do the school run, cook a meal, do the laundry, help with homework, and attend a fitness class. Either way, both are good enough for each person’s situation and scenario.
Now no one can instantly turn off all these thoughts, I’m not going to try too either. Redirecting their energy into something else though is always an option. So next time (or this time) you are thinking you just are not good enough, add on ‘at that’ then decide what you need to do to reach that image you pictured earlier of what that person looks like to you. That person that is good enough at what you are doing.
I do want to ask you though, to think back to all the things you’ve done today. Every little one of them and ask yourself that same question.
With everything that you are managing right now, all that you are working through, and all those things that you have achieved.