My favourite places in Cardiff & The Vale.

In a previous post I talked about getting out and about to help ease depression, with this in mind I’ve put together a list of my favourite places to go and get some fresh air. The best thing being that all these places are free to enjoy!

Insole Court

Growing up attending Llandaff City Primary school meant Insole Court Gardens were always a precious part of my life. A botanical wonder rich in history this beautiful Manor House and it’s grounds are the perfect place to regain some clarity.

Charlie enjoying a tasty hot chocolate at The Potting Shed. Oh and there chocolate brownie is the best I’ve ever tasted.

Friends of Insole Court have worked tirelessly to breathe life back into the building and thanks to funding it now boasts a completely revamped main building and The Potting Shed cafe. There is also beautiful light spaces to hold meetings with the most wonderful timetable of community classes, courses and events. There’s something for everyone from art classes to baby massage, yoga and drama classes. Insole Court is now blooming like the beautiful flowers it grows.

Penarth Pier

Penarth, A special place that holds deep sentimental value for me. Walking along the pier always brings me peace. The fresh sea air, the incredible views across Cardiff, the delicious ice cream and the vintage sweet shop that sells fresh sugared doughnuts . Me and the boys have a sort of tradition that whenever it’s a rainy day we come here, park up and eat ice cream in the car (brave, I know) but I’m just glad that my children are making memories like the ones I hold so dearly!

Cosmeston Lakes

Whenever I’m feeling a bit down, I love to come and walk around cosmeston lakes. It’s so peaceful and serene, especially at this time of year. A great place to go walking especially if you want to go off the beaten track. You’ll see plenty of wildlife too, but not before you’ve been greeted by the geese! It’s a great place for history too with its very own medieval village, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Llandaff fields/Bute Park

I come here often to meet my sister. We walk the dogs around from Llandaff fields to bute park and come back to Cafe Castan for a coffee and a bite to eat. It’s a dog friendly cafe so we can relax knowing the dogs are welcome. My dad lived in a street adjacent to Llandaff fields and I have fond memories of scorching hot summers at black weir bridge splashing in out of the shallow water. The fields would be full of people with their picnic blankets, the smell of a throwaway BBQ never far away. Me and the boys like to walk through the woods and skim stones on the river. It’s a beautiful place full of wonderful wildlife, and it’s right on the doorstep of our city.

Cefn Onn

Another favourite of mine is Cefn Onn. It’s especially beautiful in the autumn. The colours are just so pretty. It’s a little hidden gem in Lisvane you probably wouldn’t spot it if you didn’t know where it was. Always quiet with the exception of dog walkers but it really is a lovely place to do a quick walk, with a lovely little stream running through and plenty of picnic benches to park your bum and enjoy the lovely views.

Thompson’s Park

Another place with a lot of childhood memories for me. When I was younger my mum decided to have the house renovated so we moved in with my uncle for a while on Radnor road. I loved being there with my uncle and all my cousins but what I loved the most was the park at the end of the street, Thompson’s park. A lot like Cefn Onn, but smaller. The park boasts of beautiful flowerbeds and a lovely little lake to feed the ducks. As a kid I loved all the different paths and hiding places, it reminded me of a big secret garden. I still love coming here with the kids, they seem to do exactly what I used to, straight for the trees!

Barry Island

I’ve been coming to this beautiful place since there was a butlins, my dad used to get us in free because he was a fireman. It’s been a firm favourite ever since. The Butlins is now long gone but there’s still remnants of the tacky seaside holiday vibe it left behind, and I love it! The fresh doughnuts, the 2p machines. The feeling of excitement getting my bag of coppers and watching those tickets come out of the machine so I could buy something way under the value of what I spent. Still, it was the best and it still is. I prefer it in the winter when it’s less packed, a hot cup of coffee to warm the hands and a brisk walk in the fresh sea air does me the world of good.

Healthy lifestyle, healthy mind: the link between mental & physical health.

It’s no secret that an unhealthy lifestyle can undermine our mental and physical health, and whilst my lifestyle isn’t the primary cause of my chronic illness, I think it’s important to consider a more holistic approach to recovery alongside medical care and medication.

As part of a series of blog posts exploring coping mechanisms, I caught up with good friend Dave Howlett to find out how he maintains good physical and mental health through exercise and diet. Dave is a motivational key note speaker and founder of the Real Human Being philosophy.

I was introduced to Dave Howlett through a debate on a thread on Facebook. He liked the way I could disagree with someone but still keep a sensible debate going. We became Facebook friends and I instantly loved his ethos and the way his posts brightened up my feed.

Dave lives in Ontario, Canada, but has connections from all over the world. Through the delivery of his keynote speeches and networking, Dave has built up a community of likeminded people all with a wealth of different skills and experiences.

So what is RHB?

Dave is the founder of a movement called Real Human Being, or RHB for short. RHB is an ethos consisting of different intentions or ‘gears.’

For example;

The gears applied to a doorway

1st gear (narrow self interest) – you walk through the door and let it slam in the face of the person behind you

2nd gear (extrinsic reward) – you open the door and let the person behind you walk through it, but they have to show appreciation, otherwise you get upset and go back to 1st gear.

3rd gear (intrinsic reward) – you open the door and let the person behind you walk through it. If they say thank-you, you’re pleased. If they say nothing, it doesn’t upset you. This is because you opened the door because that’s your character. Any appreciation from others is a after-effect, not an expectation.

Recently Dave along with his beautiful wife Barbara, launched a new Lifestyle page to promote RHB, and I’m already a huge fan. For me, people like Dave and Barbara help a lot to break those negative patterns in my thinking. Having a mental illness means I’m often irrational, and sometimes very negative when I’m depressed. Having RHB lifestyle on my feed helps me retune when I’m out of key, and perk up my feed with a bit of positivity and encouragement.

In one my previous posts I mentioned Dave and Barbara were taking part in the IronMan 2018 competition in Austria. IronMan is a gruelling triathlon and not for the faint hearted. With the big day looming, the pair have thrown themselves into training. I caught up with Dave to see how that was going and to get his advice on keeping positive when your struggling with your mental health.

So Dave, this isn’t your first Iron Man is it?

No, Barbara and I started doing them a number of years ago, This will be our 20th Ironman (combined) race.

Wow. How do you find the motivation to commit to something like that? Do you have to be strict on yourself?

Barbara and I make a good team. I’m the “reach for the stars – we can do it!” big picture kind of thinker and she’s the “we need to put together a schedule” kind of thinker.  It’s been our experience that most people can do much more than they think they are capable of. They just need to have a combination of passion, strategy and a support team.

What made you think ‘I can do this’?

When Barbara and I first met, I was 35 and she was 29. I suggested we started doing things together, I was thinking of movies and restaurants. Barbara declared, “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon!” So it was a series of baby steps that led us to where we are today.

They say healthy body, healthy mind. Has exercise had a positive impact on your mental health?

Absolutely. I’m 59 years old and many folks my age are starting to suffer from complications due to poor health. Many of these problems are from bad lifestyle choices (nutrition, exercise, stress etc)  Both Barbara and I find that  we always feel mentally better when we move our bodies. I do know that there have been many scientific studies that demonstrate regular exercise helps moderate the mind. For example, my grandmother, who emigrated from England to Canada after the war, suffered from PTSD as well as depression. She used to receive electro-shock therapy to help her with her depression. I’m fortunate that I don’t seem to have depression but I do know that I definitely feel mentally stronger when I eat right and when my body is moving.

It hasn’t just exercise that has helped you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you’ve also been trying a new plant based diet – how is that going? Have you seen results?

About 6 months ago, we decided to eliminate all animal-based products from our nutrition. Frankly, we were almost there as we hadn’t eaten red meat for years and Barbara was lactose intolerant so we had very little dairy products in our diet. The switch to veganism has been pretty rewarding. Barbara used to have frequent bloating and cramps as well as pain in her fingers and wrists. Since we went plant-powered, all those symptoms have disappeared.

We also find that our meals are much more varied and because we try to stick to a whole plant diet (not processed), we don’t really have to measure food or count calories. Some folks tell us they could never go plant-powered as they’d miss things like cheese or ice-cream or steak.  I understand that, I was a big fan of those products as well.

But it’s interesting how your tastes adapt. Besides, dad developed diabetes when he was my age and I don’t want to go down the same path. I’m likely in the best shape of my life now. So, the goal of our new real Human Being lifestyle page will be to help people become the best version of themselves for life.

What are your top tips for self care? Or for anyone embarking on a lifestyle change?

I’ve found that if you want to make a change, go for the baby steps. Think about trying one day without animal products. There are lots of websites out there for people who want to try plant nutrition. Regarding self-care, I think it’s important to enlist what I call an accountability buddy. Find someone who has similar goals: exercise a little more, eat a little better, perhaps be a little kinder. The journey is a lot easier if you have a mate or two on the path with you.

Tell me more about RHB lifestyle! What can we expect from RHB in the future?

The RHB Lifestyle page will have four pillars: Wellness, Life/Work, Travel and Growth. We will be posting content about all these subjects, all underlined by RHB values (try to be in 3rd gear, an amazing person.) We will also be looking for content from people who like the idea of the RHB gears and who have some perspective or knowledge in some of these 4 pillars.  Any of your readers who want to know more can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or be part of our mailing list.

Thanks Dave!

So there you have it, proof that anything is possible with the right attitude and a healthy lifestyle. Not content with competing in one of the toughest competitions there is, Dave has set himself yet another challenge! For his 59th birthday he has pledged to swim, run and cycle for 59 minutes each. All he’s asking for in return is that you donate $59 or pledge 59 minutes of your time to your favourite cause. You can find out more here about how to sponsor Dave.

And if like me you want a bit of positivity and motivation on your newsfeed, then you can follow Dave and Barbara on their new venture by following them on their social media sites:



Twitter @RHBDaveHowlett

Men and Mental health: Music and recovery

In a recent blog post I talked about coping mechanisms for depression, and one of these was music. Music can be a great coping mechanism for many and whatever your mood, whether you’re happy or sad, there’s nothing like putting your headphones in, turning up the volume and blocking the world out for a while.

Depression affects 1 in 4 of us, and with a lot of people still afraid to come forward and open up about depression that number is probably higher. Among the people that suffer with depression, men in particular find it hard to come forward with 34% of men reporting that they would be embarrassed and ashamed to disclose a mental illness or stress than admit to a physical injury.

Awareness for depression has come on leaps and bounds in recent years with more people opening up about how they feel than ever before. It’s fantastic and I commend it but there’s still some work to do. One of the subjects I’m passionate about is the mental health awareness of boys and men.

Three out of four suicides in the UK are by men, with Suicide being the biggest killer of men under 35. In my hometown of Wales Suicide rates for men have rocketed above the UK average, the highest rate they have been since 1981. I only have to look at my newsfeed to see the severity of the situation in Cardiff, with several friends losing loved ones to Suicide within the space of a few years. These statistics are shocking and yet not surprising, as the stigma still exists when it comes to men and mental health.

As a mum of young boys it’s something I’m incredibly passionate about, and I’ve always encouraged my boys never to be ashamed about how they feel, and to never be afraid to open up.We need to lay the foundations early on with more focus on education and awareness. It’s so important to show our children, but especially young boys, that it’s okay to talk. The bottom line is, we need to do better for our boys.

One young man who’s willing to try is local artist Mikey Holden who’s track ‘Isolated’ explores his own battle with the black dog whilst raising awareness for others. Mikey uses his passions of music and mental health to create this touching track, sending out a message in his music that no one should suffer alone.

Photography: Neil Pesticcio, Cardiff.

I asked Mikey what the inspiration was for this song:

‘Since a young age I’ve battled with my mental health and I’ve watch family members also deal with the crippling affects of depression, so it’s always been something that I have been around and witnessed and felt the pressures of. I’ve always touched on depression in previous releases with my music because it’s something I feel people need to be open with. Music is what I use as a coping mechanism and as a sort of antidepressant so to speak. Whilst being able to release my emotions through my music, I’m also trying to help others realise that they’re not going through this alone, and that was my overall aim with Isolated. I felt that I needed to be 100% honest with myself and delve deep into my own mind without sugarcoating anything to help people speak out about their own battles and raise awareness to what day to day life is like for people that battle with their mental health and also shed some light on the subject for people that have difficulty understand what it’s like for people that suffer’.

I also asked him what advice he would give to any men suffering with depression…

‘Everyone has their own different way of coping and there isn’t a magic bullet or one thing that will cure all, but what I do know is a huge help for me was writing all my thoughts and feelings down. It was only by pure chance that something whilst writing down all my thought and feelings rhymed and then decided to start writing music and I haven’t stopped since! I can’t explain how important it is for you to speak out, whether that be to a trusted family member, friend, work colleague or GP. The worst thing that you could do is leave it all build and bottle it all up, because sooner or later you will have to confront it head on. There’s so many people that would be willing to help, which at my lowest point I didn’t realise, but there are 24 hours helplines, and charity based organisation you can get in contact with. There is always someone to help, even when you think there isn’t. You just have to speak out. A local nonprofit based organisation called HATW (Head Above The Waves), are constantly doing things to raise awareness and help people that battling with their mental health and have helped me a lot in the past, so they’re good people to get in touch with if you want to help also. You can’t find them on Facebook and also they have a website.’

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health then please know you don’t need to fight it alone. Here are the details for the organisation Mikey mentioned along with a list of dedicated helplines for those in need.

But for now I will let the music do the talking, here it is Mikey Holden’s heartfelt track.

Isolated by Mikey Holden

Mental health & relationships: the key to making it work.

Ah Valentine’s Day, a day for spreading love and affection. You either love it or hate it. Unless you’re anything like me. You see, I have a love/hate relationship with Valentines Day. I’m a romantic at heart. Gushy over the top displays of affection don’t bother me at all. I love it. What I don’t love, is when that’s attached to consumerism. Overpriced hotel rooms, and set menus are not for me. The most romantic things I’ve done for my boyfriend haven’t involved money, and whilst I don’t begrudge anyone for showering their significant other in fancy gifts, I think it’s important to remember what this day is meant to be about. Good old fashioned love!

Me and my boyfriend have been together for five years now, but over the years our relationship has been far from smooth sailing. We have had to really fight to stay together and be where we are now. It’s hard maintaining relationships when you have a mental illness. Ross didn’t understand at first. Well, why would he? I didn’t tell him the severity of my illness when we were dating. I mean it’s not a great opening liner is it ‘Hey my names Laura, I like long walks, writing, photography, and the occasional nervous breakdown.’

I tried to hide so much of myself from Ross at the beginning that I ended up pushing him away. There’s a lot of emphasis on being a supportive partner when you’re significant other has a chronic illness, but there’s little emphasis on how hard it is for the people that go along the journey with you.

I’m not saying that I don’t deserve care and love, of course I do. But I recognise that I can be difficult. I accept it’s not my fault, but that doesn’t change the fact that my behaviour has a negative impact on my relationships.Whether that’s with my boyfriend, my friends or my family members. It’s not discrimination to acknowledge that some behaviours found in people with a mental illness can be challenging and problematic.

You can’t pour from an empty cup right? Partners need self care too. It’s exhausting caring for someone, especially when it comes to complex mental health conditions. Ross gets frustrated with me but it comes from a good place. He’s a fixer, he likes to make things right and when he can’t he gets frustrated. He’s had a hard time getting used to the fact there’s no reason for my sadness. We’ve had full blown arguments before now just because he’s asked me what’s wrong and I’ve said I don’t know. He hates that. He needs to know what’s wrong so he can make it better.

But despite our differences he’s always been there to look after me. When I’ve pushed, he has pulled. He’s supported me at appointments, made sure I take my meds, he rings me when he’s at work to check I’m okay. He does a lot of little things and they never go unnoticed.

Thankfully, things are better now though, supporting me through this has been a huge learning curve for him but I’m so proud of all the positive changes he’s made. His new found perspective has shaped him into a better man. He has empathy, tolerance and an overall better understanding of mental health.

Depression can sometimes lead you to believe that you aren’t deserving of love, and you try to build a wall around your heart. Maybe people have hurt you before, I know that a lot of people have taken advantage of my vulnerability, but you mustn’t let that stop you from finding love. We all deserve love. So, if you’re struggling at the moment, whether you have a mental illness or you’re supporting a partner, here are some tips for making it work!


This is so important in any relationship but especially when it comes to mental health. You may not even understand how you feel and that’s fine, but don’t keep it in. I’ll tell Ross when I’m feeling crap, but I’ll say I don’t know why. He used to hate this but now he just accepts that my sadness doesn’t have to have a reason. If you’re dating and you haven’t told them you have a mental illness yet then don’t worry, there’s no time limit. I know it’s scary because I’ve been through it but honestly, if someone leaves you or changes their attitude towards you because you’ve disclosed an illness then I don’t think that they are worth pursuing in the first place. You will find someone who accepts all of you and you don’t have to settle for anything less.

Don’t take it to heart.

I have said things in the past I’m not proud of. When I’m depressed and suicidal I will say things that may come across as selfish, or hurtful. That creates a cycle, because you then feel guilty for saying those things and that only feeds depression. Depression is an irrational and selfish illness but that doesn’t mean those who suffer are selfish. I’ve said hurtful things, I’ve made stupid decisions, and I’ve lashed out at the people I love.

If you’re supporting someone through depression keep this in mind, but don’t allow yourself to be treated badly. On the flip side, if you are suffering, although it can’t be helped sometimes, make sure that you address it when you’re in a better place. Apologising for your behaviour doesn’t overlook what you were going through, and can really help smooth out the creases that cause conflict in your relationship.

Look after yourself

This is super important. Never underestimated the benefits of self care. You can’t help others if you’re struggling too, and caring for someone with a chronic mental illness can be tough! It’s tough emotionally, and can be physically exhausting. On my very bad days my boyfriend has had to work a full shift, and then come home, sort the kids out, clean and tidy, look after me and whilst he does it without question, I know it has to be tough juggling everything when I’m so hopeless. If you’re really struggling you can request a Carer’s assessment from your local authority, and you may be eligible for further help. Check out the mental health services in your area as many have support groups for Carer’s. Connect with other people in online forums, I’ve seen partners reaching out in forums for advice and they have found it useful to have that insight into how we feel. There’s many things you can do but remember to look after yourself! There’s only so much you can take before you start putting your own mental health at risk.

Just be there

So I’ve mentioned previously how Ross wants to fix things all the time and the frustration this leads to when he can’t. Remember this isn’t your fault, it doesn’t mean you’re unable to make them happy, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. My partner is the only person that can make me laugh and smile, but sometimes I just can’t be happy and he’s accepted that now. He no longer try’s to cheer me up. Instead he is just there for me. Sometimes he won’t say anything, he will just give me a big hug. That is invaluable to me. Never underestimate the power of just being there for someone, even if you sit in silence.

What tips do you have for surviving a relationship with a mental illness? I’d love to hear about more coping mechanisms! And remember nothing worth fighting for comes easy, love isn’t a one size fits all thing, but if you’re willing to work at it then it is possible. The most important thing to remember is self love. Love yourself first, because you are so worthy of love.

Happy Valentines Day lovelies!

Valentine’s Day on a Budget

Valentine’s Day is lovely isn’t it? I don’t know about you but I love seeing all the displays of affection, I’m a true romantic at heart! I love Valentine’s Day for this reason however, I’m not a fan of the consumerism that comes along with it. There’s nothing wrong with buying things to show your love but I think it’s important to stress that you don’t have to!

With this in mind I’ve compiled a list of romantic things you can do without breaking the bank!

A picnic in the park

Weather permitting this is a great idea to show you care and spend some quality time with your loved one. Fill a picnic basket with their favourite treats, and find a perfect place to pitch up. Aldi have an amazing award winning champagne in store for just £10.99

and you can pick up a pack of 8 plastic champagne flutes for only £1.50 in Asda!

You can also pick up a pretty picnic basket for a decent price. Wayfair has a classic English picnic basket on offer at the moment reduced to £16.99 from £31.00!

Isn’t it cute? All you need is a blanket and you’re ready to go! It doesn’t have to be in the park either! Listening to the waves of the ocean makes a perfect backdrop for a romantic picnic, or why don’t you head up a mountain for some incredible views? Wherever you choose, a picnic is a perfect option for those who don’t want to spend dollars on a fancy dinner.

Love coupons

This is a great idea and a cute way to show your appreciation and get creative at the same time! You can choose whatever you want to write on the vouchers but some ideas are:

A kid free day

A chore of choice

A massage

You choose the restaurant

Breakfast in bed

There are plenty of printable’s online if you’re short on time but I think handmade ones are a lot better if you can manage it. Or instead of coupons how about a jar? Fill the jar with lolly sticks! My friend did this and it’s such a cute idea – check it out.

Cook a meal at home

You can either cook a surprise romantic meal for your partner or why not cook together? Lidls are winning this Valentine’s Day with their special offer which includes food, champagne, and roses for just £23. There will be plenty of yummy food deals in other food stores too, so make the most of the bargains!

All you need is some tea lights which are cheap as chips in places like home bargains. Light some candles, set the mood and enjoy some home cooked food away from the overly affectionate couples snogging their faces off!

A CD of their favourite songs

All you need is a blank CD and to be able to download music. I use YouTube converter to get my favourite tracks and it downloads them on to my PC. But if you prefer you can use a trusted music download site. Make them a playlist on Spotify if you prefer. Just make sure it has all their favourite tracks, old and new, and maybe some songs that are sentimental to your relationship. You can even vamp up an old case with your favourite photo of you both.


Now I know it’s not for everyone but if you’re creatively inclined like me then what better way to show you care than some heartfelt poetry? It’s as personalised as you can get and it comes from the heart! Here’s a poem I wrote for my boyfriend on his 30th birthday!

I try and make things personal on special occasions. I bought us tickets to one of his favourite bands, and left clues in his presents using their song lyrics. I left a box of roses on the stairs for example with a note saying ‘She left me roses by the stairs, surprises let me know she cares’ (It was Blink 182). Things like this you can do for Valentine’s Day but it has to come from the heart.

Support local businesses

If you do want to buy valentine’s gifts for each other why not buy locally. Handmade crafts add a more personal touch than something store bought, and you’ll be supporting your local businesses at the same time! The Word Fair on Etsy is brilliant and has some great stuff like this Valentine’s Day card for your single girlfriends

Or how about some mouth watering sweets from the newly established Piick Our Mix based in Rhonda Cynon Taf, South Wales? Piick Our Mix create bespoke sweet jars and much more. Let’s face it nothing says I love you like some lovehearts and loved shaped sweets but these guys have everything. If you don’t know already try and find out what your partners favourite sweet was as a child to add some nostalgia or leave a little note inside to add some sentiment.

These are just a few ideas but whatever you do just don’t think you have to spend the world, after all Valentine’s Day is about love and in the wise words of Jlo, love don’t cost a thing! Whatever you do make sure you enjoy spending time with the one you love, and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get anything or if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, instead use it as an excuse to treat yourself. Whatever you choose to do this Valentine’s Day, I hope your day is filled with love!


Laura xo

Sick, not weak.

I thought about not posting this. I worried about what people would think of me. I wondered what would they say? Will people look at me differently? Anti-depressants seem to be more widely accepted these days but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to anti-psychotics. Yes, this here is my anti-psychotic medication.

The first time I picked these up from the pharmacy I sheepishly scoped the room to make sure there was no one I knew nearby. I didn’t want a label, I didn’t want anyone seeing me pick these up. It’s only a very small dose given by my GP alongside my anti depressants. My GP is lovely but she was reluctant to prescribe me more than 2.5mg as I have a medical review next week with a consultant psychiatrist.

I’ve waited for this for months. Whilst waiting for this appointment my health, my life, was in jeopardy. I had been taking anti-depressants since I fell pregnant with Max over a year ago, and they worked sometimes, or so I thought. Yet throughout my pregnancy and post partum I’ve experienced more mixed manic and depressive episodes than ever before. I’ve experienced hallucinations, paranoia and I’ve made several attempts to take my own life. The last year has been one of the hardest I’ve had to face with trauma and tragedy rife at a time when I should have been happy.

When you’re pregnant you want to take vitamins and be healthy, not take medication with possible side effects. My apprehension of medication did me no favours though . It hindered me, it halted me and I let myself suffer, and why? Because the stigma attached to mental health medication still exists. Yes, I take anti psychotic medication. Yes I take anti depressants. I have a chronic illness and I rely on these tablets to function, just like a diabetic needs insulin or an asthma sufferer needs a pump, I need these to get by. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not a psycho, a weirdo, or a nutter. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I am a woman with a chronic mental illness, and I’m not ashamed anymore.

I’m learning. Learning that it’s okay not to be okay, accepting that, yes I have an illness but not allowing it to define me. Bipolar has robbed me of many things but it has also brought me great experiences, instilling me with empathy and enabling me to see the beauty in everything. Because once you’ve hit rock bottom, you look at the world a little differently. Having access to this medication and being able to recover is a privilege that many don’t have and I no longer take it for granted.

I’m ready to live now, I’m sick of just existing. I’m sick of the inconsistency that bipolar brings, and if taking mood stabilisers improves that then I’ll take them with pride. Don’t let fear or stigma stop you from protecting your health and happiness. I deserve happiness, I deserve a better standard of care, I deserve a chance at life for me and my family. I deserve to live, and if you’re reading feeling the same as me, then so do you. I was worried about being labelled but there is no shame in needing a bit of help, I wish I had done it sooner.

I’m still recovering and every day is a struggle to get back all the things my depression has robbed from me, to prize my life from its brutal grip. But it’s getting better. It does get better. I promise. Alternatives methods of recovery are great and I commend them, but don’t ever tell anyone they shouldn’t take a tablet. Don’t look down on them either.

Remember we all have mental health, and like psychical health it can deteriorate at any time. I used to think succumbing to medication made me weak but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am strong. It takes great strength to accept a destiny you never planned for, to commit to lifelong recovery. We are warriors fighting an invisible battle, fighting for recovery, fighting for acceptances and fighting for our lives. Our medication being our only shields.

Just remember, you don’t need to fight this battle alone.

Co-parenting after a break up.

Last week something amazing happened. Something I had been waiting to happen for five long years. My boyfriend and my ex boyfriend spoke for the first time. Not only did they speak, they shook hands. I thought I would never see the day those two could stand to be in each other’s company and I had started to believe it would never happen. That’s why this feels like a miracle.

I’ve been waiting to write this because a pessimistic part of me thought things would go back to square one but so far, so good. I don’t speak to my ex much anymore, Ross does that for me. They even shared a little joke about football (Ones a Man U fan and ones a Liverpool supporter – you couldn’t make it up).

Before they had cleared the air things were bad. When I left my ex, I still loved him but I was no longer in love with him. I cared about him dearly and didn’t want harm to come to him but as far as our relationship, we were very much over. But he stuck around for the kids, and for about a year after we split up I was still used to having him around. I worked full time, at the time he didn’t, but we were still very much in each others company a lot.

Then Ross came along, I had dated two other guys before Ross but those relationships didn’t really go anywhere. Most other guys seemed put off I had two children from a previous relationship. It didn’t seem to matter much to Ross. Before long he was my boyfriend, and after about 6 months I introduced him to the boys.

They hit it off straight away. Ross is a big kid and will do anything for a laugh. Leo was very loyal to his father so it took him a while to come round but Charlie had found a new friend in Ross who he absolutely adored. Their bond was beautiful to watch. A year or so later Ross became part of the family.

This couldn’t have been easy for my ex to come to terms with, but instead of trying to be a better father for the boys, he retreated and started to do less and less of his dad duties. He would say things like ‘Why don’t you get their new dad to sort it’. It was very clear from the onset that there was so much resentment there from him, but before the stress he caused me would put other guys off, it didn’t seem to phase Ross one bit.

My ex would make things awkward for us, and Ross would find a way around it – he always stood by my side and helped me pick up the pieces hebwould leave every time he changed his mind, or cancelled plans, or said something nasty to me.

Ross would secretly get frustrated though. He never quite understood how I could let him speak to me the way he did and still want him to be a part of the boys lives. ‘I’ve known people to stop there kids from seeing the dad over less than you’ve put up with’ and what he was saying was definitely true, and still – I maintained I wanted him to have a relationship with them.

Why? Because I think it’s important a child knows who their father is. I never had the chance to spend time with my father growing up. My mum says to me I wouldn’t have liked to, but still to this day I would have liked to have had a choice.

Their father is many things I don’t agree with but he would never harm a hair on their heads, he would never put them in deliberate danger and for that reason, how can I play god in my child’s life? How can I take their father away from them? I can’t. I never could.

So I endured years of snide remarks, years of cancelled plans and let downs. Years of animosity between him and Ross, tension you could cut with a knife. Endless stress. I endured all of that because I knew that one day there would be a breakthrough. One day things would change, I was sure of it.

Ross kept telling me it never would. We had given him chance after chance to prove he could be a good role model in the boys lives, but he seemed to brush off every opportunity. There was a point that I thought Ross must be right. We’re never going to be amicable. It filled me with dread every time I had to make any form of communication with him.

I envied other families that could get on with ex partners and new children and different family dynamics. Families who if nothing else, could be civil for the kids sake. Who could turn up at parties and be in the same room as each other without fighting. I wanted that so badly, not for me, but for my children.

It started to affect my mental health so much that I stopped speaking to him. Ross began speaking to him on my behalf, so that if he did say anything sarcastic or nasty I wouldn’t know about it. Within a day or so of this happening, Ross had gone to pick up the boys from a weekend at their dads. When he arrived back he told me they had made amends. Not only that, they shook hands!!

I didn’t believe him at first. My eyes were filled with happy tears. Finally the two men my children love more than anything in the world are getting on. Five years of pettiness and bitterness finally over with. Before long the boys had started to pick up on it, and they were delighted too. We were so close to having to go to mediation but slowly things were starting to improve.

I was happy about this new development but I was also a bit pissed off. Pissed off it had taken so long for two people to grow up. Pissed off, because everything I said initially they were only just starting to realise and see why I was keeping on so much.

Above all else, it’s important that whoever forms part of our child’s lives are amicable for their sake. Arguing between parents and other guardians can have a severe detrimental effect on children’s mental health. I know, because I went through it myself. I was determined things would be different for my boys.

And fingers crossed, now they are. A part of me always understood why my ex took a step back, but I never respected him for it. Now we have a mutual respect for each other and the children are thankful, I can tell.

Children don’t care for who left who, they don’t care who is right or wrong, who hurt who the most, none of that even matters. What matters is that on the most important days of their lives, they can look around a room and see their Mum, their dad and everyone else that loves them side by side in unison. Your child won’t care about anything else, they will still love you. So make sure the part you play in their lives is a positive one, even if you have to pretend for a while.

Don’t allow your ego to become bigger than your child’s needs, I almost did but we got there in the end. If you’re struggling with co-parenting there is support out there, but the best advice I can give is listen to your child and do the best for them – even if it pains you to do so. Now we have all grown up we owe it to the boys to give them the best time growing up possible.


Laura xo