My daughter was born with a cleft palate – before having her I had never heard of that before.

I remember trying to breast feed and feeling like a failure because she couldn’t feed. I remember seeing the back of her throat and thinking that it looked like the back was wider than normal, but because of not being aware of what a cleft was, I didn’t mention it. The midwives had checked her over, so she was ok, in my head I told myself they’d have said if she wasn’t. I tried feeding her, she was hungry and she was in tears by midnight the following day. I was also in tears as I felt like I had failed as a mum so quickly. I had so many midwives come to help me try to get her to latch on, they even sent me to a clinic upstairs on another level. Finally at midnight (38 hours after being born) one of them put their finger in her mouth and found what the problem was. She couldn’t suck! Being told at midnight that your newborn baby has something that will need to be operated on is one of the worst feelings ever. I cried and cried as she fed from a bottle, pleased that she was finally feeding, feeling awful that I hadn’t known, hadn’t done anything to help her before then, and so scared about her having an operation. Finding out all the information the next day from the cleft team, there was so much to take in. I had to learn how to feed her using special bottles, knowing how hard to squeeze them to get the right amount of milk out.

When she was sick, it would come down her nose, make it hard for her to breathe. One night I went to check on her – don’t know why, just felt I needed to – she’d been sick and couldn’t breathe.

When she was 6 months old she had her first operation, nothing prepares you for that! Seeing your baby laying there, to have to walk away and leave them asleep in the hands of strangers.

My daughter had the initial repair on her palate and I thought that would be it. It wasn’t! She also had to go on to have a re-repair (because the initial one opened to let a hole form), pharyngoplasty operation – the surgeon explained it would be like making a speed hump on the back of her throat. They hoped that by doing that, it would create the seal that was needed to form the sounds she was struggling with. It didn’t work as her palate is so small. Then she had a buccinator flap operation – her soft and hard palate separated, the soft palate pushed towards the back of her mouth and a flap of skin bought over from her cheek to fill in the gap. This one finally worked and although the speech therapist said some air still escapes with certain sounds, there is nothing more they can do for her, she is happy with how she sounds and no one ever asks her to repeat anything so it must be good 👍

As well as these, she’s had grommets twice, a hearing aid, speech therapy (sometimes weekly) and this was for a few years, a camera up her nose twice and do you know what, she smiled and just got on with it every single time.

This week is an awareness week to help more people understand what a cleft lip and palate is, I still get ‘oh you’d never know she had a cleft palate’ so people still get confused with the cleft lip and palate and assume that all clefts are the same. You’d never know with hers as the cleft is inside her mouth, she has no scarring on the outside of her mouth.

When I had my son one of the first things the midwife done was check inside his mouth (and also one of the first things I checked too). I’m hoping this is normal now and not because they knew about his sisters cleft.

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There’s a big family party happening this year, one that I won’t be going to. I can’t afford to go as there’s travel involved as well as somewhere to stay but that aside, my anxiety stops me too. A party with family members I’ve not seen for a long time, who I’d love to see but I can’t. I also know that seeing photos from the party is going to make me feel like shit because I’m never in family photos. I have one photo of me with my mum and siblings, if you were to look on any of their social media accounts you’d never know I existed, there’s loads of photos of them together. I hate having anxiety, I wish it was something I could decide wasn’t for me but it has a way of clinging on, uses your own mind against you and has more control than I’d like to admit.

Sometimes the timehop option on facebook just isn’t a good thing is it!? I see stuff and I want to hide my head in shame that I ever posted it then other times they make me feel quite sad.
Today something came up about me leaving a job 9 years ago and I was sad to be leaving. The only reason I would have been sad is the riends I had made there. Well the reason this has got to me today is because I am still at the same job that I left that one for, but I don’t have any of those friendships where I work now. I am very much on the outside at work, yeah they talk to me at work, we get on, have a laugh etc but never more than that. I feel quite sad that I don’t have work friends like I used to. The other 3 places I’ve worked, I have always had people as friends away from work. I even keep in touch with a lot of them, yes it may just be a like, comment or a quick message on facebook but I feel with the ones I work with now, once we don’t work together anymore, that will be it. Everyone else at work meet each other out of work, they’re all friends out of work and me, well I don’t fit into their friendship groups. Adult life can suck at times!!

So I’ve always been a bit of an outsider where my family are concerned, I know I’m different to them. They are all confident and outgoing, chatty and social and then there’s me. Over the years, I’ve just dealt with it and got on with things. I know I’m not like them, wish I was or could be as they all have a great laugh when there are family parties etc. I tend to arrive early, sit in a corner somewhere with my partner and children and then the party happens around me, they all sit together and chat and I just fade into the shadows of the room. I can focus on my children, that’s why I’m sat down so they have somewhere to sit etc but that’s bullshit really. I sit there because if I don’t sit down, what am I going to do, where am I going to stand, who am I going to talk to, what am I going to talk about, what if they walk away, what if they don’t listen when I talk – all that goes through my head so for me, it’s easier to sit at that table with my little family and let the party happen around me. I have a few members come over and say hi, sit for a bit but they always end up back at the bar, back to where it’s all happening. One party I went to, there was only me, my partner and children sat in the party side, everyone else was in the bar side having a great time. I hated it. Well this weekend a member of my family had a birthday party, I saw on social media that my extended family were invited, they all had a great time by the looks of it. Was I invited, nope! No mention of it to me! Does it bother me, I like to pretend it doesn’t but it hurts! I cried this morning because I don’t exactly like being like this. They probably didn’t invite me because I always turn down invites to the place they go all the time, the place sets my anxiety off, somewhere with lots of people I don’t know, no thanks! But I think the fact that I can see that they all went, even extended family that don’t go there on a regular basis (like me) got invited and I didn’t even get told about it, didn’t get the choice of going or not. It hurts a lot! It makes me want to keep myself to myself even more now, I don’t want to open myself up for this, I don’t want to feel like shit (the way I have been feeling about it today).

I suffer with anxiety and have done for, well for as long as I can remember. As I get older, the worse it seems to get and it feels like there is no way of stopping it or slowing it down. I know a lot of it is due to my ex and PTSD and I often wonder if the social side of things is due to moving around a lot as a child (living somewhere for no longer than a year and half). I struggle so much to make friends, in the school playground when I collect my children I see others chatting and laughing and wish I could be like that, wish I could just walk over to someone and say hi. Sometimes I even manage to fool myself into thinking I can, I think today is the day, I can do this. Then do you know what happens, anxiety pops up and says don’t be silly, of course you can’t. It’s like it enjoys fooling me into thinking I’m ok, that I can overcome it but then realisation kicks in. Explaining to someone who doesn’t suffer with anxiety is so hard, because when you explain things out loud, it really does sound silly. It doesn’t feel silly that’s for sure!! Then I’m faced with do I tell them as soon as I start talking, to explain why I’m socially awkward or is that going to scare them away as much as me being the way I am does. Have you ever heard people say, you’re ok, you can do this, don’t be silly, etc, ha fuck you!! If I could just wake up and stop myself feeling and being like this, don’t you think I would!!? Who wants to feel like this on a daily basis, I know I certainly don’t!!

So I went back to work after 2 weeks off on Thursday and it was a day I was dreading anyway as we had a training day where we would come together but not just the company I work for but 5 others as well. I was dreading it for a number of reasons, I had been off for a couple of weeks and this is something I struggle with anyway (the going back), it was with 5 other groups of people I don’t know, somewhere I didn’t know, I was going on my own and I’m sure there are many more reasons too. So when I got there, I parked up and waited for some work colleagues to turn up. thankfully was able to walk in with one of them which helped. Everything was going well up to this point, surprisingly. We were sat in a cafe area just chatting and when it got busy with other work groups turning up, I felt fine as I was with my work colleagues and felt quite relaxed. Que the first thing that set my anxiety off….someone who was my maid of honour when I married my twunt of an ex so many years ago (who is one of the main causes of my anxiety being so bad may I add) was also there. We haven’t spoken or seen each other for a good 5 plus years, she hasn’t changed at all. She saw me looking at her, smiled then went back to her conversation as if she a) hadn’t recognised me (I have changed in that time) or b) she felt awkward as I know her from years ago and she was going through a bad patch at that time and this was her new work colleagues she was with. So that filled me with dread, what if I had to be in a group with her, would she talk to me, would I have to speak to her as if we didn’t know her but at the same time I really wanted to speak to her, to say hi how are you etc. Of course my anxiety had other ideas, so I just found myself staring at her every now and then wondering if she’d recognised me. So again, sitting there chatting with work colleagues whilst also looking across at my old friend from many years ago. We then hear what we are going to do next, go upstairs and pick a stick out of a bag and then sit in a circle with others of that same coloured stick – here we go, the start of it all beginning. Getting removed from those I feel comfortable with to people I don’t know. The thing is, I don’t know if this is weird or not, but I am fine in this sort of situation for work purposes if I am with a group of people I don’t know at all, put a few people I do know into the mix and my anxiety goes up. So I get my stick and off I go. Oh I didn’t mention that a lot of the people I work with, we work across a couple of sites, they are all friends out of work and see each other on a regular basis away from work. This is something else that sets my anxiety off on training days. Anyway, back to the day in question. Sitting there in the group, I feel ok, I have one member of staff I know with me but it’s one I don’t talk to a great deal but I can do this. Then we have a task given to us where we write some things down on a big piece of paper and then one of us stands up and tells everyone else what we have. Normally at training events like this, with people I don’t know I can do this. On this day, I have work colleagues and now the person that was once a good friend there. No way can I stand up and talk to the groups of people. So now to try and avoid this when everyone in my little groups says who’s going to do it, um not me. Coffee break comes and thankfully I manage to tag along with people I work with, sit with them and am fine again. When we go back up, its listening to different people talk so now to sit back and listen (whilst checking over at the lady I was once friends with wondering if she’d recognised me, was ignoring me on purpose etc). Lunch time comes, lunch is provided, part of the day so I join the queue assuming that I would have people to sit with as there were a lot of us there from my work place, everyone was obviously going to sit in their work groups and I was ok. Got my food then went to sit down, when someone I work with comes over and says she’s heading back to our work place as the others are going out for lunch so she’s getting a lift. I stand there thinking shit what am I going to do, she tries to reassure me that there are a couple staying and I act all cool, oh it’s ok, see you later when inside I’m dying. I sit down and look around, the member of staff I was sat with is in the queue, yeah I don’t talk to her much but at least it’s someone I know. I look around and see that everyone is forming their big groups of work colleagues to sit with and there is me, on my own. Anxiety has well and truly kicked in by now. I want to cry, am shaking, feel sick but I force myself to eat the little bit of food I took and try to pretend to be busy by checking my phone. The lady I work with comes over and I then have a new thing to make me worse, trying to make conversation with someone I don’t talk to very much in a situation where I am already feeling so anxious. It didn’t work well. I was able to make it another 5 minutes and said well I had better get off, got so much to do this afternoon. Oh I forgot to add, the lady who I was once friends with came over to where I was sat to speak to a lady sat opposite me and she didn’t look at me at all, again don’t know if she’s ignoring or just doesn’t recognise me but either way I want to say something but at the same time I can’t. I leave and in the car I just want to cry all the way back to work, I’m shaking and talking out loud to myself. It dawned on me that day that I really don’t have any friends at work, the first place I haven’t had friends at work and I hate that. I’ve been there 9 years, working on different sites but still, 9 years!! By this time I’m feeling pretty shit. I have been trying to lose weight and think fuck it, I need a boost so treated myself to a costa and slice of cake – way to make yourself feel worse!! Go me!! When I got home that day, I felt so shit about everything and ended up not doing a lot, couldn’t speak to my partner as I know I would have cried which would have turned into a panic attack and I was already exhausted. So instead what I done was sit quietly feeling worse and then went to sleep crying a little.
Anxiety sucks massively and I hate that it has such a hold over me. On a normal day I wouldn’t have been so bothered by it all, but think where I was already nervous about the day that didn’t help. I know they are all friends out of work and that doesn’t normally bother me either, think it was just the fact that none of them even thought to say oh we’re going out for lunch, you know, just to let me know. It was only a last minute thing and by someone that is in a position that she probably thought it was her job to tell me.  I really do feel like I’m on the outside with people I work with, and that is fine with me, we’re not alike so why would we meet up out of work etc. I get on with the people I work with and can have a laugh at work etc so I’m happy with that. It can just get to you sometimes that actually it’s the first time you’ve not had those friendships away from work, that you’re left out of things like the lunch time thing etc. But hey, you have to get on with it don’t you.

So my social anxiety holds me back ALOT and the other day someone suggested writing down what the main things are that make my anxiety worse. So thought it was worth a go.

So here goes……..I’ll do a few different social events that cause my social anxiety to get worse.

I have some online friends who I have never met in real life, I can be myself online and chat the way I would if I was with my partner – one of the only people in real life that I can talk properly and be me with. So the thought of meeting in person, the things that make me really anxious are the thought of saying/doing something that could embarrass me, not knowing what to say, long awkward pauses. I play conversations out in my head first, so worry that in doing this, the pauses will become longer and more awkward, this is mainly because of my ex and having to think of what I was going to say before saying it so I could figure out what reaction I would get or where that could then go (an abusive relationship). Another thing is that the person just wont like me, will question as to why they got on with me in the first place, will want to leave not long after meeting. Also the thought of having to keep a conversation going, it not being natural. In messages, I can have a few minutes, hours or days between replying/receiving a message so no pressure and if it is instant messaging, I am behind a screen so feel safe.

The school playground…….it’s the knowing no-one, people judging from first looks – I either have tattoos on show or look smart due to work and having to keep them covered up. I have noticed people treat me differently there when I am in my own clothes, they smile more and maybe even say hi sometimes. If I’m in my work clothes I get nothing, it’s like I’m not even seen. I don’t have the confidence to say hello first in case I am ignored, then my anxiety would go even higher in case someone else saw me being ignored, in case others also done the same. It’s the thought of starting a conversation off, what to say, how to get it to carry on past hi, how are you. Again I over think and have to go over conversations in my head to see where they could go etc.

A meet-up/party…….lots of people in one small place that I don’t know and if I do know some, the worry of them speaking to everyone but me. Again it’s the over thinking and having to go over conversations in my head before speaking or during conversations, the ‘what to talk about’ situation again, not knowing what a common ground could be to keep a conversation going. Making myself sound or look silly.

In all of these, the one main thing about any of them is attention, having that attention on me. I hate having attention on myself, if I’m talking and can feel people looking at me, feel my face go red which then makes me worse. I would rather be in a corner nice and quiet where no one pays any attention to me. But on the other hand, I feel lonely even though I love my little family that I have. I don’t have that special friend to phone up, meet for a coffee etc and I want that. I want that friendship where you can be yourself, chat, even be quiet in each others company but can also talk about anything, share problems, happy times, a true friendship.

After writing down the above, I just can’t see how I can go about not letting my social anxiety effect me, how do you force yourself to do something that is so hard and the thought of forcing yourself to do something makes it worse.