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Also yesterday, it was World Mental Health day. I posted some statistics on my page which were pretty alarming really. For me, the one that stood out the most was that suicide is the most common cause of death in men aged 20 to 49 in England and Wales and that got me thinking. So far, I haven’t had one male submit me a piece yet for this ‘getting to know you feature’ – it would be great to see a male’s story, so maybe you women could gently give your male friends or partner’s a nudge and ask them to get in touch perhaps?
Finally, I am looking to do another live session, probably next week – so keep your eyes peeled for more on this!
In episode 4’s Getting to know you, we meet the incredibly brave Risa who is separated, soon to be divorced. She is a 43-year-old Mum to Oli 16, Sophie 13 and Gemma 9. Oli is dyslexic and has autistic traits, Sophie is always top of the class and Gemma has severe behaviour difficulties.
Risa works in a pre-school and has always worked with children , originally as a nanny for 14 years, but more recently, she has been in her current position for 8 years. Her children lead very busy lives – Oli and Sophie are both in Army Cadets and British Legion Youth Group and take part in all the numerous activities and camps that are involved with being in cadets. Gemma goes to Brownies and various school clubs.
In Risa’s own words:
I separated from my husband February last year. After many years of DV (domestic violence), my Husband asked me if I wanted him to leave. I said ‘yes’. He later admitted to me, he thought I wouldn’t even manage 2 weeks before begging him to come back. Last Christmas however, we did decide to ‘try again’ and have limped on for the last 8 months.
This last week (written in September) I’ve finally realised that actually nothing has changed. He is still controlling, emotionally abusive, threatening and the police are involved again. I’ve managed to find my inner strength to be on my own and know that I can and will cope. I am learning to live and rebuild my life.
I have a very small handful of friends (can count them on one hand), due to not being allowed any. I also have trust issues and try to keep everything that’s happened to myself. I hardly ever went out anywhere and am trying to change this too. Four years ago I had a spinal fusion and still suffer with ongoing back pain which will never get better and does sometimes affect my day-to-day life and mobility. “One thing I would like is to have more friends and more confidence in myself.”
Into the Questions:
As a parent, what’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced?
Having a child with special needs and one with behavioural issues is challenging enough at times. The hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent, is call the police on my 9 year daughter – last Easter. She had got in such a rage she had attacked me for 2 hours before they arrived. I struggled with that for weeks after, the guilt was unbearable.
We have a fantastic family worker, who is so supportive and helpful. Gemma’s behaviour stems from witnessing the abuse both physical and mental that I have received from her Dad. Its been suggested that she thinks she has to take his place!
What do you enjoy most about being a parent?
I am incredibly proud of all 3 three of my children. My son amazes me everyday with all he is involved in, he’s just started college, completed NCS this summer, takes part in community projects, volunteers at the local beaver group and does archery. Sophie is an A* student, dispute struggling daily at the moment with continuous joint pains which are being investigated! And Gemma, well, although she struggles with behaviour issues at times, can be the most caring and thoughtful person going.
If you could, what one piece of advice would you give to a younger you?
So many things I could say regarding advice. I have very low self-esteem and have been over-weight for numerous years. I have thousands of photos of my kids. I was always the one behind the camera. Never ever had my photo taken. My children will not be able to look back at their childhood photos and see pictures of their Mum. Slowly gaining new-found confidence in my looks, having lost 4 stone over the last year, I am now getting in those photos! Mobile phones and selfies make it very easy nowadays (although my eldest two constantly tell me how I can’t take a selfie properly. Is there a right way?) So get in the photos, give your kids memories to look back on!
Anything else you want to add? (Free speech about anything you want… topics you want to raise awareness to, ideas for parents, difficulties, issues – literally anything)
For years I suffered in silence, to an extent I still do. Very few people know what’s happened in my life, my parents only found out how bad things had been last year. I am slowly opening up.
It’s not that I’m telling anyone and everyone I meet. Not everyone needs to know my circumstances but unfortunately DV is much more common than people realise. Unless you’ve been there or are currently there, you will have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to leave or seek help. I want you to know that it’s not your fault, you are so totally and utterly worth it.
However hard it seems, there will be someone on your side, who’s there to help and support you. I’m more than happy if anyone wants to talk to me directly. Not saying I can help but I can listen and understand.
Wow! What a story that is, and how brave is Risa?! This is a topic which I know will impact some of you here. Physical and mental abuse is something that goes on probably much more than we realise and affects both men and women. I have to say, reading this made me realise how courageous writing something like this actually is. Please please please, will you take the time to acknowledge how inspirational this lady is and give her the recognition she deserves.
Across the UK, there are charities that can help or assist with issues that have been raised today. Refuge are a UK national charity who aim to help women and children who suffer with domestic violence. Mind publish a whole list of relevant websites on their page concerning Domestic Violence and of course they also tackle the whole mental health piece too.
You can read the previous ‘Getting to Know You’ Parenting features here: