Sink or Swim

You will know by now that I love an extended metaphor.  And I love water imagery.  So when a friend helped me to come up with this idea a few weeks ago it really resonated.  I have been using it every day, and it is helping.  So I thought I would share.

The phrase “sink or swim” suggests that those are the only two options we have in life, and we all know what they both feel like.  Sinking, or drowning as I think of it, is the times when it has all gone to shit.  The black dog of depression is upon me.  Or my anxiety is out of control.  Or I’m having a panic attack.  I feel like I’m drowning.  And you will know what drowning feels like for you.

Swimming is the other end of that scale.  These are the times when we are making progress.  So for me that is winning a new client, having a parenting breakthrough, doing billable hours, figuring out a new issue in therapy, clearing crap out of my house….. Again, it will look different for all of us.  But we know when we’re swimming. When we’re moving forward, making progress, feeling good.

The majority of life, though, doesn’t involve sinking or swimming.  The drowning times are hopefully few and far between.  And so are the swimming times, because we can’t be making progress all the time.  That would be crazy, and it isn’t possible, or at least it’s not sustainable.


So what do we do for the rest of the time?  The rest of the moments in our day when we’re just “being”?  The school run, the grocery shop, the precious free time before bed, the moments with our friends, all the “other stuff”?  What are we doing then?

For me I have worked out that I have two choices in all of those moments.  I can tread water…..or I can float.

Treading water used to be my default.  And again, if we stop and think then we all know when we’re doing it.  Expending lots of energy just to stay still.  Keeping moving even though we’re not going anywhere. Sometimes keeping moving in a desperate attempt to avoid drowning. Sometimes because we wish we were swimming, or we think we “should” be swimming so we keep moving, not really knowing how to stop.

It is exhausting. It depletes our energy, making it harder to then swim when we have the opportunity. And because it is exhausting it actually makes it more likely we will start to drown. It gets us nowhere. It is so very tiring.

So instead of expending all this energy treading water why don’t we just…..float?

Beach ball floating on water at beach

Floating takes no energy. Floating is calm and slow and it allows us to breathe and to think.  It builds up our reserves for the next time that we need to swim, whilst at the same time keeping us safe from drowning, almost indefinitely. It is a far more logical, a far healthier, a far more productive choice. And it feels so lovely.

A lot of people, particularly women, will struggle to float. Because in order to float we need to stop. And cessation of movement is difficult because we feel like we should be swimming ALL THE TIME, and if we stop moving we are admitting that we’re not swimming. And that that’s okay. If we are not swimming, and thankfully we are not drowning, the best course of action is to float. Give yourself permission to stop treading water. It is depleting your energy reserves, and it is getting you nowhere.

What floating actually looks like will differ from person to person. For some people it will be specific activities – they will be floating when they are doing yoga, or knitting, or walking outside, or meditating. Or spending time in an actual flotation tank. There are lots of activities which make it easier to float. For me, I am trying to make it a moment by moment thing, I am trying to float no matter what I am doing. It is a deep breathe, an acknowledgement of my surroundings, a grounding in the moment. Some people would call it mindfulness. Whatever works for you. It is an understanding that I don’t actually need to check Facebook, message my friend with my latest stream of consciousness, load the dishwasher straight away, check my emails for another task, wander from room to room looking for activity…. I am not swimming, I am not drowning. So. Just float.


I did think the other day that this would have been particularly relevant when I had newborn babies. Because parenting a baby is the ultimate in treading water. You can achieve nothing, or nothing that you recognise as an achievement at the time. You are constantly trying not to drown. So you create pointless, mindless activity because you miss swimming and you don’t know how to just stop. People told me at the time to “go with the flow” but that meant nothing to me. What I needed was to be shown how to float.

Although of course no new mother can actually take on board sensible advice at all! It’s all just too hard. But when I thought I was drowning, and I was actually just desperately missing swimming, learning to float would have helped me a lot.

So the next time you don’t message me back straight away, or “like” my Instagram post, or get my birthday card to me on time, or remember that thing I told you about a while back…..don’t worry. I am not offended. I am not worried. I will know that you have put aside pointless activity. You are floating. I am floating. And when we are ready, and rested, and re-energised, maybe we can swim together.


April 2019

I need to rebel

I need to rebel.

That is my conclusion from my short self-therapy session this evening.  I’m getting back into CBT practice, and I have realised: I need to rebel.

The thought I was working on this evening was “I am naughty”.  This is at the bedrock of my beliefs about myself, such a core belief that most of the time I don’t even see it.  I am naughty.  Not in a fun, sexy way (I hate the word being used about sex) but in the way you would tell it to a child.  I am a naughty girl.

What is naughty?  I had to nail that down to make any progress.  Naughty is not sticking to a plan.  Not keeping to the rules.  Their rules, your rules: if the rules have been stated you stick to them.  Naughty is being messy.  Naughty is being emotional.  Naughty is being illogical and flighty and…..human.

So what is good?  Good is sticking to the rules.  Being fit for the consumption of strangers and acquaintances.  Being someone who can be held up as an example, with no messy bits on show.  Being good is being fit to be shown in the school magazine.

Ah.  Now we were getting somewhere.  School.  Yes.  Oh dear I was naughty at school.  I was good for the entirety of my school career, baring a few pranks.  But even those were along the lines of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers.  Then right at the end, right when I was nearly home and dry and could be confidently hailed as a model student, I got myself a girlfriend.

Mallory Towers

I was on the Head Girls’ Team at school.  For those of you who didn’t go to a fee paying school with a hockey stick wedged up its arse, this is the group of girls (all girls school.  Naturally) who support the Head Girl.  I got onto the team, and I remember standing in the head of year’s office as she scanned us all for uniform transgressions.  As she looked at me, before she could even say anything I said “I know my skirt’s too short, I’ll get a new one”.  I knew that showing off my legs (which have always been good) was no longer acceptable now I would be Representing The School.  Women are not allowed to be attractive.  Well, girls aren’t.  We weren’t actually allowed to be women at all. That was the point.  Women were messy and emotional and sexual.  None of that thank you.

And then I got a girlfriend.  And that was a crime at my school.  It wasn’t a great idea to love yourself, but to love a fellow woman was out of the question.  Absolutely not.  That was not fit for public consumption.  And the stupid thing is, we didn’t make it a public spectacle.  We never ever kissed or held hands in school uniform. We knew that would land us in the snake pit.  But in the summer term us sixth formers (yes it basically was Mallory Towers) were allowed to wear our own clothes to school.  And go into town at lunch time.  So we kissed and held hands in town in our own clothes, where no one would know we were Representing The School.

Someone reported us.  We got called in to see the Deputy Head.  And she didn’t mess around.  She went straight for the jugular.  If we didn’t stop misbehaving (showing human affection to each other) in public she would call our parents.

Now my girlfriend’s parents wouldn’t have given a shit.  But my mother would have been crucified in shame.  So that was that.  No more public displays of affection.  Because the streets had eyes.

To this day, knowing everything I know now, I regret not telling that sanctimonious bitch of a deputy head where to shove it.

But I couldn’t.  Because I have always been a follower of the rules.  And this makes one of my friends laugh, because outwardly I do things that are against what she sees as the rules.  The conventions.  I had an affair.  I got divorced.  I talk about my sex life to all and sundry.  I do all kinds of things that, for instance, a shy person wouldn’t do.

But that’s because I have been given a wide variety of rules.  And I am trying to follow them all.

  • To be a worthwhile female you have to be bold and fearless
  • To be a good person you have to care about every political and environmental issue under the sun
  • To be worthy you have to achieve things, all the time
  • To be acceptable you have to be neat and tidy, outside and in
  • To be loveable you have to cause no trouble
  • To be interesting you have to have lots of exciting experiences
  • To have something to say you have to be different
  • To fit in you have to conform

The list goes on and on.  I could fill pages with the rules I am trying to follow.  Trying to follow all of them, all at the same time.  Every day.  And obviously, inevitably, naturally “failing”.  And therefore feeling naughty.

I thought about all of these rules, and my experiences at school, and I thought about a friend who I know rebelled at school and how his response to so much of this would be “fuck that!”  He would just see it as bullshit to be rejected.  So I realised that I need to rebel.  The rebellion I never had, it needs to happen now.  A friend of mine recently told me I’m a hormonal teenager trapped in a 38 year old’s body.  She is absolutely right, and I am happy to live that truth.  And a part of that needs to be my teenage rebellion.

Breakfast Club

So if somebody could send me the rulebook on how to rebel successfully, properly and exactly to the letter I’d be really grateful.  After all, I want to be good at it.  I don’t want to be naughty.

I’m not sure

I haven’t written for a while.  I haven’t felt clear on what to write about for a while.  I have written about my little journey over the last twelve months, bits about myself and my state of mind.  That has felt very vulnerable, because I know that many of you can see right through me.  I have to remind myself that being able to see me clearly doesn’t mean you don’t love me.  Doesn’t mean you don’t accept me.  Doesn’t mean you don’t understand.  Everyone has been there.  Is there.  But being seen during times of stress and upheaval is much like being seen half dressed.  This last year, blogging for me has felt like coming down in the morning to greet house guests whilst still in my PJs.  I have not been presenting “Helen: the finished article”.

Hilarious I know.  As if any of us is ever the finished article.  But back when I was blogging about maternity and breastfeeding I felt like I was presenting fully formed thoughts to the world, I was fully dressed, I was neat and tidy and I knew what I was doing.  I had a cause, I had something to say, I had a message!  And the world was going to hear it whether it wanted to or not.

And then things changed.  I didn’t lose my belief in those causes, but I did move further away from them.  And I met people and had experiences that made me question a number of my beliefs.  And in questioning I found freedom.  We do not have to always know.  We do not have to be certain.  We can question. And consider.  And wonder.  And learn.  And question some more.

But this doesn’t lead me to write blog posts.  Because where are the big truths that I want to present to the world?  Where is the thing that I know that I want to wrap up neatly in words and present as the finished article?


Niagara Falls yesterday. Too many metaphors for one caption.  And “thought-provoking” doesn’t cover it.

I have the freedom to think this week.  I am in America, up in wintry Buffalo, indulging in a week of having nothing to do.  I imagined blissful happiness at all of the relaxation and lack of responsibilities.  And those things are wonderful.  But I had forgotten that I would also have time to think.  Beautiful and terrible.  Without the distractions of the day to day I can actually get to the end of thoughts.  It took me a couple of days to embrace that challenge.  Because not all thinking is pleasurable.  That’s why we all avoid it on a daily basis.

As is often wise in times of contemplation, I watched a couple of Brene Brown talks on YouTube.  She was talking about showing up and being in the arena, and I felt inspired but then I thought “I don’t have an arena right now”.  What is my arena these days?  And until I figure that out how can I contribute?

I am not yet ready to present a truth so I am not showing up.

What a ridiculous thought.  Show up.  Jump in.  Let’s go!  Because I will never get anywhere if I don’t connect.  And writing has always been my route to connection.

So instead of giving you my fully formed thoughts, I am going to give you my “not sures”.  Because I don’t really know anymore.  And that is probably a good thing.

Race.  I am so confused.

Feminism.  I am less confused but still confused.

There is so much anger and vitriol surrounding these topics.  Bile being spat out on Twitter every day.  It is off putting so I back away from trying to learn.

Yet not where politics is concerned.  There I feel more confident joining the anger and vitriol over Brexit and austerity and our current government.  And I thereby no doubt become off putting to others who would perhaps like to learn but find the spewing bile difficult to navigate.

And of course the topic of infant feeding is still as difficult to navigate as ever.  Even though with that one I am more confident in my certainties.

I carry around a huge cloud of shame with me the same as everyone else.  So many topics appear to require more shame of me, or to require me to shame somebody else.  This does not feel like the way.  I don’t have an answer.  I am simply not sure.

I don’t have a cause right now.  But I still have beliefs.  Ill-defined, not written down, but I have them.

I have been reading Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”.  He says “Let your principles be few and fundamental – sufficient to clear your mind and send you back into the world refreshed.”  That sounds really good.  What on earth are my principles?


These days it feels as though I have myself so much more figured out than ever before.  It is not a process that has an end point, but I have got a lot further down the road this last year.  I have got far enough that I feel ready to get stuck in again, with things that are not self preservation and the management of grief.  A friend of mine is finding the Ten Keys to Happier Living very useful right now.  They do not resonate with me so much, but one of them has stayed with me, nagging at me: Meaning.  Be part of something bigger.  Be connected to something bigger than ourselves.  I am not sure yet what that is going to be for me at this point in my life.

I have just finished reading Glennon Doyle’s “Love Warrior”.  Boy does that resonate.  I see Glennon, I see Brene, I see the people they point me towards and the other amazing people with whom they are connected.  But I do not want to dive back in to the liberal bubble.  I know too many good people who are outside of it.  It feels right for me to be out here a little bit, in no man’s land.  I would love to have a tribe.  But I don’t want to be tribal.  So I’m just not sure.


Taken from Glennon Doyle’s Instagram – originally from @melodyehsani NYC store.

As I wrote the notes for this blog, as they came pouring out of me and I realised they would be a blog, I found myself writing this:

  • Speak truthfully
  • Be vulnerable
  • Face uncertainty
  • Keep showing up
  • Ask questions
  • Think clearly
  • Love imperfection
  • Own your self worth
  • Own your mistakes
  • Keep going, keep trying
  • Don’t give up

Well what do you know?  In writing my uncertainty I think I have found my principles.  Alright then.  Let’s start there.

A Very Merry Christmas – and a Happy New Year!

This year has been huge for me. The earthquake that shakes the foundations. The volcanic eruption that renews the soil. The forest fire that sweeps the ground clean. There has been unbearable pain, heartbreak, grief. I lost my beautiful lover, and I ended my marriage to a good and kind man. There has been despair.

But then there has been growth. Learning and changing and finding new strength. Seeing my son through his third open heart surgery, finding I enjoy parenting alone and living alone, finding I can manage my emotions without a life partner, finding I can cope.

And after the growth, the adventures. Travel, new experiences, new sports, new friends, new lovers. A new job, new clients, learning new skills. And making my home my own, a place that I love, my sanctuary.

My parents have been amazing. My therapist and GP have been so helpful. My children have humbled me with their maturity and understanding. And they have driven me crazy as only a 7 and 5 year old can and should.


But the bedrock of this year has been my friends. I knew they were incredible people. But with all of my writing skill I genuinely cannot articulate just how fortunate I am to have these men and women in my life. They have never once made me feel they are tired of my bullshit, or unwilling to listen to yet more of my heartbreak. Not once, not one single time, have I felt alone. Those of you reading this who know who you are, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. They say you find your tribe. Well my god my tribe could take over the world.

So I find myself at the end of this year in a much better place from where I started it.  A fledgling business, a new man in my life, lots of exciting plans for the future and a feeling of contentment.  I hope that the end of this year finds you all in a good place as well.  Please take excellent care of yourselves.

To 2019! May we continue to rise.


Dark Nights, Shining Lights

When the fifth person told me today that they are feeling really down at the moment and are finding everything more difficult than usual I knew it was time to write this blog.  The nights drawing in – it’s a pisser isn’t it?  Suddenly things are harder, motivation is lacking and moods are dropping.  We had such an amazing summer and now it is well and truly over.  A few warm days have remained but it’s getting dark early and it will soon be Halloween.

I wrote this piece a while ago about what the seasonal festivities mean to me, and so much of this time of year is about chasing away with winter gremlins and brain weasels.  We will be fine again this year, we always are, but we need to remember what works.  Because the sun on our face, the wind in our hair, the music on loud as we lay in the park…..those are for summer joy.  Now we need to remember what makes us feel safe in the darkness, and all cuddle up together, cosy and warm.


The first thing we need is: LIGHT!  Be it candles, lamps, stronger light-bulbs or a SAD light, this is the main thing that chases away the winter blues and brightens up our mood.  It is no coincidence that lights play such a huge part in our winter celebrations.  Put the fairy lights up early if you want to – we need that twinkling warmth to see us through.


WARMTH!  That’s another one.  Cosy hoodies, fluffy slippers, warm blankets – all the extras that make us feel safe are a must in the winter.  Thick socks, duvet days, an extra layer against the chill – don’t let the wind get through, stay warm and your mood will be so much better.  Plus tensing up against the cold is awful for our muscles.  If you can run to it, a hot stones massage would be just the trick for the coming weeks.


COMPANY!  Don’t be alone this winter.  Face to face or online, we all need people, even the most introverted of us need company sometimes.  Loneliness can be particularly brutal in the run up to Christmas so reach out to each other, and put some fun plans in the diary.  Time spent with friends doesn’t always have to be drinking / socialising / a special activity – although I loved my session at the climbing centre with my pal the other day.  Just doing things in each other’s company can lift your mood so much.  A friend and I today brought out all of our household paperwork and each of our shredders and tackled our filing and shredding together on her living room floor over coffee and a bagel.  A far better way to do a necessary but boring task!

Last Kingdom

ESCAPISM!  As always, I am not a huge fan of this “reality” business.  It’s overrated.  A good book, a good film, a good TV show – close the curtains and take yourself to another place.  I have just finished two seasons of The Last Kingdom which I really enjoyed.  There is something about the cold autumn nights that makes huge overenthusiastic Vikings even more appealing!  Last night I started Twin Peaks, which I have never watched before but which so far, three episodes in, is enthralling television and the characters so well realised.

mulled wine.jpg

I was delighted to find that the mulled wine has already hit the shops.  It is such a seasonal favourite of mine.  I don’t do anything fancy, just put the readymade stuff in a mug and microwave it.  An instant warm treat.  Hot chocolate, warm soup, herbal tea….anything you can hug in a mug whilst indoors out of the rain.  And make sure you eat enough too.  A good hearty breakfast and sensible snacks will keep out the cold, we all need a bit of stodge.  And cake.  Obviously.

There is so much to look forward to about autumn, winter, Christmas and the seasonal fun and games.  We will enjoy ourselves immensely once again.  We just need to remember how to do it, now that the blazing summer sun has left us for another year.  I think the best way to tackle the winter is together.


October 2018.

A Time for Adventure

Hello!  How are you doing?  Welcome to autumn and the time of the year when I always feel the most motivated.  September is the real New Year to me, when the academic year starts and it feels like the time to buckle down and get shit done.

I haven’t read back over my last few blog posts, but if you do you will see that I went through a period of emotional spiralling after the momentous events of springtime.  Inevitably I crashed, and needed some medical assistance to get through a few weeks of the summer.  Heartbreak and change and dealing with the aftermath of having a child in hospital are all a process, and you can’t cheat the process.  Like they say in Going on a Bear Hunt, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it….

And I’m not saying I’m through it.  Not after only 5 months.  But I’m a lot further along the path than I was.  The dark forest of despair and denial, the twisting roads of bargaining and the bubbling pools of anger are behind me.  And the view ahead is glorious.  So much freedom.  So much sunshine.  So much choice.


This year’s turning point for me was my trip to The Azores with a very good friend who has been through some comparable experiences.  We spent 5 nights on the island of Sao Miguel and it was so beautiful.  Relaxing, interesting, good weather, good food, good wine, good company.  I returned feeling thoroughly refreshed and ready to embark on the next chapter.


When I was in the depths of misery I couldn’t tell what the next chapter would be, even though I could feel it simmering on the horizon.  It turns out that the theme of the next few months will be adventures!  Of all different kinds.


I am trying new activities and saying yes to things I would have previously refused.  I tried Stand Up Paddle Boarding the other week with three friends.  Fell in twice, but absolutely loved it.  Very tempted to get myself a wetsuit, as I will certainly be going down to the water park to do that again.  I also have a climbing session booked in so I can start using the climbing walls.  And I have a list of other activities to try – new ideas plus things I have always wanted to do but haven’t got around to.

Then there is the minor detail of me needing to get myself a job, and I have made some inroads on that now that my youngest has started school full time.  I am brushing up on my social media jargon via an online course.  Mainly just checking that I know how to explain and describe things I have already done via my various voluntary roles over the last 7 years.  In addition to Facebook and Twitter, I’m now on Instagram and LinkedIn.  All for social media practice of course, and not at all just to add further screen-time distractions to my day…..

The final piece of the jigsaw is adventures with friends, old and new.  I have trips and days out planned for the next five months or so and I am so excited to see new places, catch up with friends, and show old places to new people.  New friends mean new music, new conversations, new points of view and new journeys.  So many of my favourite things.


I haven’t completely turned my back on the old, although I can feel myself travelling further away from the breastfeeding and maternity campaigns as my children get older and my experiences broaden.  But it was wonderful to see that Dr Victoria Thomas mentioned my hospital breastfeeding campaign at the La Leche League GB conference today.  Even though I haven’t done anything on that campaign for a couple of months I know that so many fantastic paediatricians and paediatric nurses are picking up the baton, and change will come eventually.

Speaking of my children, my two boys are still utterly amazing and I am proud of them every single day.  David has fully recovered from his surgery, and has even more energy than before (which I didn’t think possible).  He rides his bike to school and actually runs around now, instead of just the fast walk he had perfected.  He is starting to be able to spell, learning his letters and numbers… always such a time of wonderment, watching them absorb knowledge like the little sponges they are at that age.


And Edward can now operate a kettle.  He has made both of my coffees today.  So I feel as though I have reached the pinnacle of parenting.  Quite frankly my work here is done!

So it really is time for new adventures.


September 2018

Much of Life Still Gleaming

What a difference a week makes.

This week I have actually felt happy. Sure, I’ve been down in the hole again too. Being unable to stop crying while at soft play for breakfast with the kids was a high point….. But on more than one occasion this week I have actually felt joy. It was amazing.

So how have I done for indulging my passions this week?


Three Lions.jpg

I have the football World Cup to thank for part of my joy. Something I never thought I’d say, as I’m not a football follower – Wimbledon is more my thing. But I do like a good tune, and Baddiel & Skinner’s “Three Lions” is fantastic. Such an uplifting and happy song. I played it on my way home from the school run mid week, and actually danced down the road, for the first time in months. It feels like Helen is nearly back!


The 4th of July raised emotions as it inevitably reminded me of my American adventures and had a certain “this time last year….” sadness. But the date is all about freedom, and my goodness I’ve been enjoying that this week. IKEA furniture may not be everyone’s first choice of a symbol of freedom, but this week I bought a new bed. And gorgeous new bedding. My bestie and I put it up on Saturday and it is glorious. A symbol of luxurious freedom, and also a place of safety. I love it!


After reading my last blog post, a friend shared her Kitchen Dancing playlist with me, and the first song was “Start Wearing Purple” by Gogol Bordello. Reminded me of my belly dancing days – shook and shimmied to that one a few times with Michelle Pender and co!

Plenty of my favourite songs are still out of bounds, but I have been able to listen to a fair few this week without trouble. And of course now and again a good cry is essential. At those times I have one or two songs which provide instant tears – sometimes a useful and healthy thing.


This is all excellent timing, as I have a 3 hour drive down to Bedford for the River Festival this weekend, and I will need some good tunes to keep me company. As Shell Hadley tweeted:



I think by now I’m one of the few British people not thoroughly fed up with the heatwave. I know that I have friends and family members for whom this weather is actually detrimental to their health, and for their sake I hope it rains soon. But I can’t deny it, this weather is just such a bonus for my health and mood. Still grateful for the sunshine!


It has been entertaining to see all the attention that Gareth Southgate has received, with his waistcoat and emotional maturity. We women are simple creatures really! Having watched all the “Suits” there is until 18 July, I have been really enjoying “White Collar”. The elegant and handsome Matt Bomer in beautiful clothes, flanked by Tim DeKay and Sharif Atkins? Funny lines and fast paced stories? Another easy to watch sexy show that is keeping me happy. And helping me to escape when I’m not feeling all that safe.

Matt Bomer

It’s hard to feel safe on a hot day – the cuddly hoodie, fluffy slippers and hiding under the duvet aren’t really an option! But Netflix keeping me company is, and like I say my new bed is a haven. I am learning new tricks all the time for maintaining my emotional safety, and as ever the support and guidance of my friends is a constant in that. Having them all there in my phone whenever I need them is so comforting.

From this weekend though I will be able to see more of them in person, as I embark on the first of my summer weekend trips around the UK to see people I haven’t seen in some time. Sometimes passionate, sometimes terrified, sometimes even stable, whatever my emotional state look out Britain, Helen is going to be on tour!


July 2018.

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

Remember I said I love the sunshine?  I am a happy cat in this weather – even though it means the boys don’t go to sleep until around 9pm.  This heatwave is doing me the power of good.  And this week has been better than the last, for sure.


If you read my last blog post you will know that I am measuring my weeks by how much I get to indulge my passions, as I climb my way out of a change / upheaval / heartbreak hole. Sunshine is being well covered – thank you Mother Nature!  And I am pleased to tell you that Music and Dancing are making a gradual reappearance.  Which makes me feel a lot more like myself.

A lovely and sensible friend of mine helped me to get my appetite back on track at the beginning of the week, and that of course made a big difference to how I was feeling.  The next morning I found myself singing the title of this blog and decided to find Buster Poindexter and his Banshees of Blue on Spotify and let it rip.  Next thing I was dancing around my kitchen.  And kitchen dancing has been absent for me for too long a time!

The boys are still insisting on the cartoon themes playlist as often as possible, but I do now have some more adult music I can stand to listen to as well.  I say adult, but it’s a playlist of 90s classics put together with the help of my old school friends from the days when we would party at the end of our exams.  I don’t think I can really call The Macarena and Love Shack grown up music, but it is a step up from the theme tune to Darkwing Duck at least!

Love Shack

I had to drive over to Alder Hey to pick up some medicines for David on Thursday and that 90 minute round trip was soothing, even though I must admit to crying most of the way.  Having spoken to friends I know I’m not the only one who uses alone time in the car to let out the emotions.  I might love Driving but it’s not always because I’m cruising along with my tunes on.  Sometimes it’s just a private space to process things.

Freedom is easy to come by these days – I am free to make my own choices about most things in my life, and I’m enjoying creating the home that I want and dividing up my downtime.  A huge win for this week was that on Friday night I actually slept well for the first time in a long time.  A decent night’s sleep makes such a massive difference.  I have felt able to tick off lots of jobs this weekend and make progress on projects that I wouldn’t have been able to face a week ago.  So things are coming together.

As for Sex well firstly I have promised a dear friend of mine that if ever I decide to blog about my sex life it will be under a pseudonym!  Fear not, I’m not going to be providing updates!  But I have been thinking about two relatively distinct sides of my personality, that I’m sure we all have, and their viewpoints are most marked when it comes to thinking about future relationships.  First there is Adult Helen who is going to sensibly wait until she has recovered from her last relationships before she thinks about re-entering the fray.  She is going to learn how to be on her own, as she has never really done that before, and she needs to process everything, reflect and build a life that she wants.  She now has a clear idea of what she wants out of a relationship and is willing to be patient and give life time to unfold.  And she is keeping her alcohol intake to a minimum, because right now alcohol just exacerbates emotional vulnerability and makes sensible choices more difficult.

Verucca Salt

Meanwhile however on the other side is Princess Helen.  Princess Helen has no patience.  She bears a striking resemblance to Verucca Salt, in both mental age and attitude.  Princess Helen doesn’t understand why she can’t drink to excess, dance on the tables, grab whoever is passing and let someone else pick up the pieces afterwards.  She is pretty terrified of being alone forever and doesn’t want to listen to reason.  She wants to scweam and scweam until she’s sick a la Violet Elizabeth and thinks that is the way to bend the universe to her requirements.

Princess Helen and I frequently have words.  Adult me is just about retaining the upper hand.

Oh, and as a final note on sex, I came across this project via its Facebook page the other day: The OMGYes website says “Women’s sexual pleasure has hidden in the shadows for too long. It’s time to get it all out in the open.  There’s so much that’s been left unsaid, unasked, and unknown. All because of a taboo that, we believe, will look absurd in a few decades – the same way taboos from the 1950’s about oral sex and homosexuality are absurd to us now. We want to accelerate that transition.  OMGYes is an entirely new way to explore fascinating, useful and fun information that’s been uncovered in new research. Let’s lift the veil and take an honest look at the specific ways women actually find pleasure.”  Sounds good to me.  The women involved in the research were aged 18 to 95.  Just that age range makes me happy.

So in summary I am feeling a lot safer at the beginning of July.  Calmer, physically healthier, more in control.  Still sad and sometimes fearful, but I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore.  Hopefully that will remain the case – even when the rain finally arrives.


July 2018.


Passion and Safety

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Since I posted a blog? And this is not me coming back in a blaze of campaigning fervour. This is me slipping back in, PJs on, and climbing under a blanket. Pass me a cuppa please? I want to have a chat.

In February 2017 a wonderful person came into my life. Our glorious story is not mine to tell in public, although many who know me know it well. He is no longer with me, and at the age of 38 I am finding out, later than most, what heartbreak is like.

His entry into my life, although none of us knew or wanted this then, marked the end of a chapter. My marriage to a kind and compassionate man is over and my beautiful boys are learning to live between two houses and without their family living together in one place.

In amongst these changes, my youngest has finally had his third, much anticipated, open heart surgery. That’s a story that I may well tell at some point, but suffice to say Alder Hey Children’s Hospital was fab, David was incredibly brave and he is recovering brilliantly. He is back at school Nursery and is full of more energy and fun than ever.

I could write about heartbreak. I could write about the practicalities of divorce and money and the things I’ve learned. I could write about my incredible children and what they are teaching me. And I am sure I will post about all of those things given time.

But for now I would like to use this space to focus on some simple things, things that are important to me, and things I will use to guide me as I create a new, and eventually exciting, life for myself. I was asked last year what my passions are, and I found it a really interesting question. I gave it some thought and I realised that there are 6 things that make my heart sing, that give life that extra sparkle and that I need at least two of each day if I am to feel good, and to feel like myself.


* Dancing
* Driving
* Freedom
* Music
* Sex

* Sunshine

There is a flip side, or perhaps a complimentary side, to these things. Some days are not passionate days. Some days are about self care and shutting out the world and wrapping yourself up in love. These days are about:

* Fluffy blankets
* Hot drinks
* Escapism
* Candlelit baths
* Comfy clothes

* Rest

Whilst I navigate the coming weeks and months and find out what life now has in store, I’d like to share with you my passions, and how I am keeping myself safe. This will be an unashamed therapeutic exercise, and whoever wants to join me is welcome. Or you are welcome to wait until I’m back thumping the tables about breastfeeding support, maternity experience and the like. I am still working on Growing Families and the Hearing Your Feedback project, I am still pushing for better breastfeeding support on paediatrics, and I will build these things back up as I clear the mists of grief and change.

For now though let me share with you what is keeping me safe, and what is adding some much needed sparkle.


I cannot dance right now. My heart is not ready to dance. And music is very difficult, as my recent relationship was wrapped in music and there is very little that doesn’t currently bring out the tears. In desperation for something to listen to on sunny days, I put together a playlist of children’s cartoon theme tunes – who doesn’t love a bit of Fraggle Rock?? So in the sunshine, behind the wheel of my car, I have been rocking out to Chip n Dale and the Gummi Bears. Because you have to have something to sing in the car on a beautiful morning – it makes life worth living!

Thank goodness for the glorious weather we are having. The sun has barely stopped shining since the day in April when both my relationships came to an end. And that has been something for which I am so grateful.


I am slowly making the house my own and building an environment that gives me joy and makes me feel secure. I never liked this house before, but gradually it is becoming a haven and a place of both passion and safety. On the days when things are tough, my fluffy slippers, cozy blanket, giant hoodie and Netflix are keeping me safe and shutting out the world. And on the better days the colours I am bringing to my house are inspiring me to a brighter and a better life. I have the freedom to create that now.

Oh and speaking of Netflix, I have watched the entirety of Suits for some fantastic escapism. I now have a close relationship with the delicious Harvey Spectre, which I guess covers sex for now!


So we will see what this week brings and I look forward to sharing that with you. One final note is that I always knew I had good friends, but my word: when my friends come through they really come through. I have not felt alone at any time over the last two months, I have never felt a burden despite needing such an enormous amount of support. The women who surround me are some of the kindest, wisest, smartest and most generous women in the world. I want to thank them all, and I hope that soon they can share in more of my passions. But for now they are all keeping me very safe.

June 2018


Who loves you baby?

Somebody on my Facebook group recently asked the question “How has your love for your partner changed over the years?”  As you can imagine, this started a really interesting and thought-provoking discussion.  I thought about the question a lot and I realised that a very relevant question for me when thinking about this is “How has my love for myself changed over the years?”

Immediately the idea of self-love and arrogance and selfishness came up.  Because sometimes when we think about loving ourselves we go straight to the feeling of love – that feeling that this person is the most important person in the world, the best person, the most attractive person, the sexiest person – and it can feel very strange to imagine thinking of ourselves that way.

But what about the act of love?  Because when we love someone, and we are fortunate enough to be in a position to show them that we do, it’s not the just the feelings that are relevant.  It’s what we do for that person and how we show them that we care.  And this is for me what self-love is all about.  I might never see myself as the sexiest, most brilliant person in the world (only on some days 😉 ) but I don’t think that I need to.  What is important is how I show myself that I love myself, and that I am deserving of love.

self love 1

When we think about whether or not we deserve love (hint: we ALL do) complicated emotions can surface about how we see ourselves in relation to other people.  We might imagine that other women are a lot more attractive.  We might imagine that some people we fancy are “out of our league”.  We might think that we have personality traits that make us hard to love.  We are our own worst critics, and this can really skew our perceptions of how other people may feel about us.  But the thing about loving ourselves is, none of that matters.  One thing is for sure: I am in my own league!  I am not out of my own reach.  I am good enough for me!  And that’s a damn good thing too, because I am the only person, the only person, that I spend literally every second of my life with.

Think about that for a moment: you have and you will spend every. single. second of your life with yourself.  Imagine spending all of that time with someone you don’t love and who doesn’t love you.  Wouldn’t that be a tragic waste of a life, and a miserable way to exist?  We often encourage friends to leave bad relationships, to walk away from abuse, to understand that they deserve better from the people around them.  Isn’t that ever more vital when it comes to our relationship with ourselves?

So how do we act like we love ourselves?  How do we treat ourselves with love?  Well, let’s start by thinking about the things we would want from a partner.  Not the realistic, safe expectations that we learn to put up with as we get older, but the fantasy stuff.  The things we imagined as teenagers.  The things we’ve seen in the movies.  Because when it is just us, nothing needs to hold us back.  We can give ourselves exactly what we want.

Self love 3

Make yourself a hot drink at the end of a long day.  Sit yourself down for five minutes and tell yourself that the chores can wait.  In fact, sod the housework for tonight, you deserve a night off.  Run yourself a bath.  With bubbles.  And candles.  And nice music.  And a glass of wine.  Soak in the tub.

Rub lotion into your body.  Massage your aching muscles (hard to reach your own neck I know.  How about you make a note to book yourself in for a back massage?  Wouldn’t that be a lovely gift to yourself?).  Have an early night.  Are you feeling good?  Make yourself cum.  Not quickly in a half-ashamed dark fumble.  But slowly and properly – you know how to, you know what you like, it’s your body.

Then put on your soft, fluffy PJs, tell yourself that you love yourself and to sleep well, snuggle up and go to sleep.

Or – and here’s the important bit – do whatever YOU want to do.  Because it’s you loving yourself.  Not me doing it, not someone else doing it, but you.  And you know what you want, need and enjoy.

Self love 2.jpg

Now, there are a few barriers to this aren’t there?  First of all, if you have children then all of that can feel like an impossibility. Just like our relationships suffer when we have kids, so does our relationship with ourselves.  And it is just as important, in fact I would argue more important, to take time to rebuild that relationship when you have children and life is frazzled and chaotic.  Some people will tell you it’s important to take care of your own needs because then you’ll be a calmer, better mother.  Which is true.  But it is also true to say that you should take care of your own needs because they are YOUR needs.  They are valid, important, worth looking after and guess what?  It feels really good when you do!

So in the same way that you might get a babysitter for date night, or hide from the children for 15 minutes for a quickie with hubby, or ask your partner to look after the kids so you can take your Mum out to lunch for Mother’s Day: do those things for yourself.  You can ask someone to have the kids so that you can look after you.  You can hide in the bathroom for 15 minutes so that you can paint your toenails.  You can blow off the housework or that PTA meeting so that you can do something that YOU want to do.  Just for you.  Because you need some love and you are damn well going to show yourself some.

Sadly another barrier to this can be the people around us.  If there are people in your life who would laugh at you for this, who would question whether you deserve it, who would resent you for taking time for yourself then please think about that.  Really think about it.  Do those people love you?  Do they respect you?  Do they have any interest in your happiness?  Should they, in fact, be a part of your life?  Because think about the people that you love: you want them to be happy don’t you?  You want their needs to be fulfilled do you not?  Of course you do.  And that’s how people who actually love you will feel about you too.

It can be difficult, because some people in your life will not have learned how to love themselves.  And they will therefore be as jealous of your relationship with yourself as people can be about a good relationship you have with another person.  And we know of course that it is really hard for two people’s needs to be met all the time, by themselves or by each other, when kids are in the mix.  So in that situation there does of course need to be give and take.  You can’t have a bath and an early night every night whilst he puts the kids to bed (sorry!).  But you can work to ensure that he has his time out and his treats and his opportunities to do what he wants to do and…… YOU HAVE YOURS.

This is important for everybody.  You might be single.  You might be happily married.  You might be in a happy, loving relationships or an unhappy relationship or in a complicated relationship.  It doesn’t matter.  You are still, always and all the time, in a relationship with yourself.  It is the single most important relationship you will ever have.  It is the one that will last the longest.  It is the one that will have the biggest impact on your life.  And it is the one that, if you get it right, is most likely to give you contentment and peace.

self love 4.jpg

It’s not just about treats.  If you’re ill, take yourself to the doctor.  If you need counselling or medication or physiotherapy or a special diet respect yourself enough to do it and continue with it.  Because that is an act of love.  Don’t tidy your house because of the judgement of other people, bugger them, but keep your house in whatever state makes you happy because you love yourself and you deserve to live in a pleasant environment.  Dress for yourself.  Surround yourself with people who make you happy.  Choose to do the things you like to do.  You won’t stop thinking about others, you won’t stop nurturing your children or caring for your partner or making a contribution to society or all the other things you want to do.  You won’t become selfish.  Do you know what you might become though?