No, that’s not ok.

It’s taken me two months to be able to write about this. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally or mentally strong enough to come back to this or to deal with it properly.

My youngest son Arthur has been unwell on and off since the summer with one thing and another. In August he was hospitalised with bronchialitis which is fairly common in kids his age.

In September he was unwell again. I recognised the symptoms straight away as another bout of bronchialitis. I telephoned the Doctor’s surgery at 8am.

I got through to the receptionist on my 66th time of calling.

All the appointments had gone and I was told to ring back at 12.30. I told them it was for a 15 month old baby who had recently hospitalised, it didn’t matter they said, ring back at half 12.

I rang back at half twelve and was given an appointment for half four. I rang the surgery again at 1pm because I felt Arthur was getting worse and needed to see the Doctor.

I was put through to speak to the GP who told me I had an appointment in two hours time and if I couldn’t wait to ring an Ambulance.

Arthur wasn’t unwell enough to warrant ringing an ambulance in my opinion. I’ve been a mother for 18 years, I’m fairly responsible, I’d say I was qualified to make that judgement call. I felt at that point that it wasn’t a medical instruction but a challenge. I felt like that the Doctor thought I was being pushy and impatient.

My husband and I got to the GP for our appointment at half four and Arthur was walking around the waiting room chatting and jabbering. The doctor came out and called his name then disappeared. He hadn’t told us what room to go to so I had to ask a member of staff if they’d seen where he’d gone.

When I walked into the examination room I said to the Doctor “it might have been useful if you had told us what room to come to”. It went downhill from there. I had the audacity to challenge the Doctor and he didn’t like it. The Doctor replied “well what if I told you to call an ambulance because I was concerned about this child, what do you say to that”. I said “you had no idea what condition my son was in because you didn’t ask me any questions about his health and you refused to examine him when I asked you to and in my opinion he didn’t need an ambulance he needed to see you so why don’t you examine now instead of point scoring and that’s why we’ve brought him here”

The Doctor then refused to examine Arthur without a chaperone and called the Practice Manager into the consulting room.

My husband told the Doctor he also did not feel Arthur’s condition warranted calling am ambulance and the Doctor then asked him “are you a doctor?”. The GP then decided Arthur did need an ambulance and told my husband that if I had left or any longer Arthur’s condition would have been much more serious.

Lets examine that. I’m there with my husband who has equal parental responsibility but the Doctor tells my husband that I have jeaopardised my son’s health by delaying seeking medical treatment. Despite the fact that I was on the telephone three times that same day practically begging to get him seen.

The Doctor then requested to speak to me alone I refused and asked the Practice Manager to accompany me. The Doctor then informed me he was reporting me to Social Services for neglect, without my husband being present he then further breached confidentiality by telling the two paramedics that arrived that there was “a social services issue with the mother” an unproven allegation which he did not explain to them how or why could impact Arthur’s care.

In my opinion I was punished by a male doctor for daring to challenge him, his position and his judgment. The Doctor maliciously reported me to Social Services for endangering my son.

The impact this has had on my mental health and my family has been immeasurable. The Practice Manager at the time apologised for the Doctors behaviour and promised me he would “be dealt with”.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Practice Manager and Health Trust and the response I received was that he did nothing wrong and followed protocol.

It’s been seven weeks since he made his referral to Social Services, in the meantime my Health Visitor has reassured me I have nothing to worry about and the hospital said they had no concerns. That hasn’t been enough. I’ve been a parent for 18 years, on my own for 15 of them taking responsibility for all the care and all the decisions. After trying my hardest to seek medical attention for my son I was then accused of child endangerment and neglect.

Seven weeks this has been hanging over me. Seven weeks I haven’t wanted to be left alone with Arthur in case he becomes unwell and I have to make another judgement call and maybe get it wrong. 7 weeks I’ve scrutinised my parenting and wondered if I’m doing a good enough job. This all because, I believe, a male Doctor took exception to being challenged by a woman. At no point did he address or berate my husband for his lack of care and nor was he named in the referral to Social Services despite having equal parental responsibility.

Seven weeks it took Child Services to write me a letter asking me to respond to the allegations. Imagine if Arthur had been in a dangerous home environment, what could have happened in the two months it took them to write to me from receiving the referral.

I finally spoke to Child Services on Friday and the lady I spoke to said that they would support me in taking my complaint further and that as far as they we’re concerned there was no further action needed.

I’m not going to leave it. It’s not okay that this man was able to abuse his professional position and power to put me in my place and try to silence me because I challenged him.

I have been made to feel like a bad mother and a bad person. Immediately, after this event suicidal and felt like my children would be better off without me. I’m lucky that I had the support of my husband and my friends and my health visitor.

I will be writing back to the health trust demanding answers to the questions they ignored and if needs be I will be also be writing to the ombudsman.

The health care in the deprived area in which I live is poor at best. As patients we should be empowered and encouraged to speak out against poor practice and make suggestions for improvements where we see the need, not punished and silenced and be in fear of having our names and families dragged through the mud because we dared to speak out.

We should expect the highest levels of care and professionalism from our Health Care professionals and not fear repurcussions for pointing out failings in the system.

I know I’m a good mum and a good person and I’m not pushing this just for me. I’m pushing it for the next person who maybe isn’t strong enough to stand up and say “No, that’s not ok”.

Here we go again,

Anxiety is proper shit. Right now it’s a tight ball sitting in my stomach and a fast heart rate. Anything can trigger it, sometimes I don’t even know what the trigger is. Tiredness, not feeling well, an argument, worrying that someone is pissed off with me.

I’ve talked about anxiety before because if there’s one thing it does it makes you repetitive. You revisit the same worries time and time again. You go over old ground. Issues that have been discussed to death rear their ugly heads again.

You need reassurance like an addict needs a hit. You hate the hold it has over your emotions and your behaviour because anxiety doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you too.

When I’m having a bout of anxiety I examine everything, all my relationships, all my friendships and start scrutinising them. I tell myself that people feel badly about me and I find the evidence to back up my theory which spirals my anxiety even further. I feel like a terrible person and a terrible friend and start worrying I’ll end up alone and with no-one because I’m an awful person who treats people badly and I don’t even realise.

I don’t know how or why they come on but I do know is that anxiety is like any other condition. I’m not always in control of it but I do need to find ways to manage it. This is one of the ways, getting it out of my head and into words. Going to bed early, reading novels and not eating shit also help.

For all my fellow anxiety sufferers, it doesn’t last forever. I go to bed knowing, hoping that I won’t feel like this when I get up tomorrow.

Most importantly though I try to remember that the view from the bottom isn’t the same as the view from the top.

I’m not the problem

I was listening to a discussion about bullying on Friday afternoon. The radio host was asking whether bullying has lasting affects on people from childhood. Different people rang in and discussed their experiences and how it had impacted their lives into adulthood.

It was heartbreaking listening to people talk about how their lives had been affected by the cruelty and violence of others and it was especially difficult to listen to one lady who had been bullied first by her parents, then her schoolmates and most recently her co-workers.

It was hard to listen to Jeremy Vine, the host explain why he had been bullied. Vine explained how he was tall, skinny and bit of a nerd, that he was clever and different. That was his explanation of why he was bullied.

I was bullied. I wasn’t bullied because I had moved here from England or because I had an English accent and the bullies decided I was a stuck up bitch. I wasn’t bullied because I was different. I was bullied because the girls and boys who bullied me thought it was okay. They came from families where aggression and violence were normal and accepted. The bullies had not been taught right from wrong. They had not been shown how to treat others with respect and kindness.

It was nothing about me and everything about them.

I remember quite recently my daughter being bullied because she has moles on her face and neck. Someone suggested that she could have them removed.

I had to explain to my daughter that the flaws were not her moles but they were flaws that can’t be seen, inside the people who were making the cruel comments. I explained that she could have painful cosmetic procedures but it wouldn’t change a thing. If people want to bully or be cruel they will just pick something else. The colour of your hair, the size of your body or the sound of your voice. The thing is not the problem. The problem is something inside them.

I’ve been bullied as an adult by other adults but the benefit of being older means that I now realise that there is nothing wrong with me. The person bullying me has a need to bring me down, a desire to make me feel unworthy and less than I am. Imagine being so unhappy that you need to make others feel as unhappy as you.

If you are being bullied please don’t change yourself to appease the bully. You are worthy.

And we’re off!

Writing is my therapy

I love writing I love it so much. I find it cathartic and useful. Writing stuff down that usually lives in my head helps me make sense of it.

Sometimes life is overwhelming, sometimes my brain is overwhelming. I’m a classic over thinker and I analyse every word spoken to me searching for subtle meaning or motive. It’s exhausting. All the scratchy spaghetti mixed up feelings come out in nice neat words that sit in organised sentences that can be arranged so they make sense.

Oversharing, me?

I’m also addicted to sharing. Some people might say I over share. There is a satisfaction and sense of well being I can only get from writing.

I’ve spent so much of my life not knowing what career I wanted and not sure what I was actually any good at but I always knew I had a way with words and I was always the one asked to write the reports, the applications, the newsletters or the social media posts in any job I had.

I finally know what I’m meant to be doing

Combining my love of sharing and writing has led me to copywriting. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t know) copywriting is writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. Copy, is written content to increase brand awareness and like all marketing, persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Clair the Copywriter

I’ve listened to Chris Evans on Radio 2 most mornings for the last 6 years and he always says “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” and I always wanted that for myself. With this in mind I have decided to start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

I don’t give up

I don’t believe most new start ups are destined to fail, you only fail when you give up. I know who I want to write for, it’s people like me. People who are passionate about living the life they want, being brave and who are determined to give it everything they’ve got to make it work. That’s my ethos and with that in mind I’ve decided to call it Up Write. I want to raise people up with my writing, I want to help them increase their business using my words and their feelings.

It’s personal to me

I also don’t believe business isn’t personal. People buy from people. When it’s your own business it’s extremely personal. I don’t do impersonal or formal. I do engaging, emotive and personable.

Welcome to Up Write

You’re not the Boss of me

Being real is what I’m best at. I’m down to earth, genuine and sincere. Sometimes I over promise. Sometimes I get it wrong and a lot of times I try to please everyone and almost everytime end up upsetting someone.

I’m not a mean person or a malicious person. I try to be considerate and kind but sometimes I’m self absorbed and selfish.

I’m on a journey at the moment that is both terrifying and exciting all at the same time. I want to be self employed. Be my own boss. I want to do a job that absolutely thrills me and that job is writing. It means I’m having to take a really hard look at myself and see what I’m good at and what needs working on. It’s not an easy process but it’s a valuable one.

I’ve been in love with words since I was a child. At the age of 8 I read Roald Dahl’s Matilda in one sitting in a library in Bristol. I consumed books like Matilda did. Then I started writing stories and I loved that too. I like writing about real things and real people and feelings.

I’m currently working out my offer. What can I do and who can I do it for. I usually dive in to things feet first. I’m an action girl – do now, think later but this time I’m taking my time. I’m planning, I’m thinking. I want to make sure this works, so that when I sail away from the safety of the shore I’ve crewed my boat well enough to weather the storms.

I’m going to be an awesome boss. I’ve already decided I’m employee of the month.

It’s the small things, and the 3 piece

I get attached to things. Like really attached. Here’s an example. The sofa is going today. I’ve had this sofa over ten years.

This is the same sofa I’ve sat on day in and day out for a decade. I shared this sofa with my son when he was still small enough to want to sit right by me and have my arms around him. We watched films together, we talked about how he was feeling when he was being bullied in Primary school and agreed how to deal with it.

As a baby, my daughter slept next to me on the sofa while I watched TV. The kids fought on that sofa.

I was a single parent of a baby and an 8 year old. My relationship had just broken down and I was starting all over again. Thankfully I’d found somewhere for us to rent and it was part furnished. We didn’t have a lot but we had something to sit on.

That sofa wasn’t just a peice of furniture it was our new start. It was somewhere I shared precious time with my children, problems were shared and solved, secrets were revealed and I had one of my last cuddles with big dog on that couch. It’s a small thing and a big thing at the same time. I attach importance and feelings to inanimate objects. I believe that everything has an energy and a memory. That might sound airy fairy but I like to think that sofa knows what an important role it played in our family. When you have nothing, two small kids and no money things like having a sofa hold huge importance.

Today we’ve been gifted a new sofa. Not new from the shop but new for us. Our old sofa with its broken arms and cushions that have given way, will go to the tip. It’s at least twenty years old. Hopefully the new sofa will no longer mean drawing the short straw to see who has to put their hand down the hole to retrieve the remote control or fight over who has to sit on the collapsed end.

Yes. This is a blog post about a sofa but it’s also a blog post about being grateful for the small things and realising how much joy and love you have in your life. Saying goodbye (literally, I will cry too) to the sofa today has made me think about how far my family has come, together, how happy we are and how much love we have for each other.

Thank you sofa.

Whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right

Snowdon Marathon. That’s a fucking hard one.

The biggest battle for me wasn’t the training, it wasn’t the actual race in the end, it was being brave enough to turn up at the start line.

I’d entered Marathon Eryri twice previously and chickened out both times.

The first time I shit out because the fear got me. The size and the reputation of the race overwhelmed me. I struggle regularly with self esteem and feelings of worthlessness and not being good enough and it got in the way of my training. I sold my place and instead went up for the weekend with friends to support the runners. Inspired by their heroic efforts and bravery I told myself I would enter again and actually do it this time.

Again, I believed I would fail before I even got half way through my training plan. I told myself I wasn’t running far enough or fast enough. I contacted the race organisers and enquired about setting off early and the response though kind was vague. I reached out to my running club but no-one was prepared to blow smoke up my arse and rightly so. I hadn’t put the miles in and I’d already decided I couldn’t do it and it was obvious. I sold the spot on again but this time stayed home with my tail between my legs.

I put my name down for a third time for 2018.

When I entered my details I knew there and then that there was no backing out. No not turning up and no not putting in the hard work. The last twelve months I’ve trained hard to prepare my legs but most of the hard work was on done on my mind set. Failure was not an option. I was doing it. I told myself this over and over again for the 9 months beforehand until I properly believed it.

Two weeks before the race I woke up with a stiff back. I thought I’d just slept awkwardly but standing to do the washing up was painful and my sleeping was disturbed by it. Two days before the race I pranged the car and my back was further jarred. That’s fine. That’s what they make painkillers for I told myself.

Race Day

I was calm on race day. Considering this day was 3 years in the making I was not nervous. I wasn’t worried. It helped having a running partner who is the actual queen of chill and runs marathons weekly. I felt safe. I knew I’d done the training. I knew I could do the distance and I knew that my running buddy would make the tough bits easier.

People often burst into tears when they cross the finish line on a marathon. They experience elation and relief. Completing a marathon, well any distance, gives you a huge sense of achievement. But for me that’s what it was like standing on the start line of Marathon Eryri. I was here. I’d made it. After two years of feeling utterly useless and worthless and not good enough to be at an event like this, I was here. Me, Clair Stevenson, standing on the start line of the Snowdonia Marathon, wearing a number, being in a the race. Being a part of it.

The elation and the sense of achievement was immense. The sun was shining on my face and I felt lifted into the air. I had done it. Now all I had to do was go for a lovely run with my lovely friend.

Three ups and three downs

The first 14 miles passed in a blur of aggressive scenery, prescription painkillers and chatting away. At mile 14 I was on for 6:30 and feeling positive. By mile 15 the pain in my lower back felt like I was running wearing the worlds tightest belt which was getting tighter and tighter with every step.

At 17 we chatted to a safety marshall who explained that if we wanted to continue and complete the race we would do so unsupported. That was fine. Running buddy knew the way and we were still moving forwards.

Mile 19 brought us a visit from another safety marshall who explained that he had been sent to speak to the back of the pack. The day was getting on and the organisers were concerned about us completing the last part of the marathon in the dark as it was off road and over the top of a mountain. I politely explained to the marshall that withdrawing at this stage of the race was not an option and that to try and force me to pull out would be to endanger his physical being. In response he articulated that he was going to speak to the runners behind us and that if we hadn’t made sufficient progress by the time he’d returned we would be having a different conversation. I reassured him they would find his cold dead body by the side of the road before anyone stopped me finishing this fucking marathon.

At mile 21, the bottom of the final ascent, my heels, with perfect timing both split sending a burning pain up the back of my feet and legs. I stopped still and thought about laying down and dying on the spot. I remembered my friend telling me “your feet will do what you tell them to do”.

I told my feet to shut the fuck up and started moving forwards again.

At mile 22 I told my running buddy I couldn’t finish and she threatened me with physical punishment if I didn’t shift my arse.

The last 5 miles were easily the hardest of the whole race as they always are for me. Physically I was completely broken. My back was screaming with every step, my heels were stinging like a bitch and I was freezing cold. Then a miracle happened. A DOWNHILL.

Suddenly I was transformed. I was like a new born gazelle gracefully bouncing down the steep mountain. As I ran towards the marshall at mile 25 I shouted “look up determination in the dictionary, there’s a picture of meeeeee!” He hugged me. I’d passed him at mile 15 “See, I told you you’d finish” he was genuinely thrilled for me. a bit further on I passed a runner and asked her “is it still Saturday?”

I ran down towards town and the finish line. My part -human part- cyborg running machine friend had run on, finished and come back for me.

I felt like a warrior when I crossed that finish line. I slayed all my demons. Every single fucking one. My marathon time was 7:50. I fancy I could do it a bit quicker than that and registration opens on the 1st of December…………..

I have a cunning plan

I have worked since I was eleven years old.  I had a paper-round delivering the local free newspaper and got paid 2p per paper.  Then I worked in my local Spar, five nights a week from 5pm until 11pm.  At seventeen I got a job behind the bar in my local pub and at University I worked for my Dad in the off licence during the holidays or behind the bar in the Student Union during term time.  In the thirty years since my first job I have only been out of employment for eighteen months and this was when I had my first son.

In all those years I have juggled and struggled.  I’ve had to juggle working to pay the bills to keep a roof over mine and the kids heads, childcare and studying.  At one point I was studying, working and training for a marathon.  I’m forty years old now and I don’t want to juggle anymore.  I’ve had my third (and final) baby and I want to do less.  I don’t want to work less, and I certainly don’t want to earn less, but I want to do less for more.  I want to commute less, and I want more time.  I want to enjoy my work more and dread going to work less.  I want to achieve more but I want to feel less tired.  I’m trapped in a commute-work-domestic duties-sleep cycle and in the words of Freddie Mercury “I want to break free!”.

Last week I wrote a blog.  Not for me but for someone else and about a subject I actually knew very little about.  I researched and wrote it and they liked it! Then they asked me to write another one and they even paid me for it!  I enjoyed it!  I loved it!  I was creative, and I produced something in my own home, wearing my pyjamas, that generated an income for me and my family. It’s made me want more.  What if I didn’t have to juggle?  What if I could wear my pyjamas and be creative all day? What if I could work from home crafting words and ideas into something that I could sell to people who needed it, people who couldn’t create those words for themselves.  People who have a message or a service or product but don’t have the time, the words of the confidence to put that message out there.

Pyjamas aren’t an essential part of this plan that’s forming in my head but they are definitely in the vision board. Watch this space…..

An Ode To My Childhood

Shocked, confused
You ripped out my heart
Once tied together
Now torn apart

Shocked, confused
Angry and rejected
I tried to tell them
They just objected

Shocked, confused
Now out in the cold
I told the truth
They wouldn’t be told

Shocked, confused
Learning to cope
Living without love
Learning to hope

Shocked, confused
Now much wiser
Scars are healing
Eyes are wider

Accepting but angry
Life must go on
Learning to love
Teaching the son

Accepting, forgiving
Life can be tough
We must be tougher
Grab life by the scruff

Forgiving, forgetting
Not living in pain
Surrounded by love
Not repeating the cycle again

Is there an app for that?

Hello, my name is Clair and I am an addict. I’m addicted to my phone. I have an app for everything and I am connected to everyone I know through one or more of these apps. Recently I’ve started to notice its negative effect on my life. My kids have to wait for me to finish typing out a message before I look up or answer them. I miss things. I’m not listening when people speak to me. I don’t have as much time for the things I love doing. It sometimes feels like I’m as addicted to my phone as I used to be to cigarettes and its having as negative affect on my mental health as cigarettes did on my physical health. I want to quit or reduce, at the very least, the amount of time my phone spends in my hands and my eyeballs on its screen.

I’m on my phone constantly. I know where it is at all times. I take it with me everywhere, it sits on my desk at work, and I take it to the toilet and even in the bath. I never watch TV without my phone in my hand. When I realise, occasionally, that I haven’t looked at it for twenty minutes because I’ve been doing something that required both hands I get excited about what’s happened that I’ve missed in that short space of time. I eagerly look for the phone to relieve my FOMO (fear of missing out).

Speaking of FOMO, I’ve heard people say they’ve come off Facebook or uninstalled it because it was taking over their lives. The thought of doing that fills me with dread. Much of my social life is organised through Facebook. With most social events arranged through Facebook how would I know what was happening and where if I didn’t have my notifications? No. That’s not an option for me.

The biggest drain on my time though has to be app hopping. I can spend hours going from Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram and back and this makes no sense to me because I’m friends with all the same people in all of these places. I’m not getting any new information but I can waste hours doing this.

Group chats. I’m in a million. Not literally a million but it sometimes feels that way. Group chats are a huge time sucker. Instead of communicating with each person directly you are forced to read every person’s message whether relevant to you or not. Instead of having one conversation with someone you are having a conversation in two different places. It’s double the effort.

I love social media and I love communicating with people but like any addict there comes a time when you have to admit to yourself you have a problem. I knew I had a problem. I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I wasn’t being productive and I wasn’t achieving any of the things I wanted to achieve. Ironically I installed an app that told me how many times I opened my phone and how much time I was spending on it. The app gave me targets for reducing my time and congratulated me when I successfully did this (this only ever happened once). I eventually uninstalled the app as it was pissing me off with its judgemental message every time I opened up my phone “you were just here. Do you really need to be here again?” I had to get past this to get into my phone. No thanks.

I realised I didn’t need an app to tell me to put my phone down. I’m an adult. If I can quit cigarettes I can quit my phone. I often moaned that I didn’t have time to read a book. If I’ve got hours to spend reading all the mindless junk on Facebook and the Mail Online (I know, I know, guilty pleasure. I delete this app once a month because it annoys me) then I’ve got time to read a book. Now I go to bed at 9.30pm. I make a conscious effort to put my phone down and I use that time to read a book. I’ve read more books in the last month than I have in the last two years. When something interferes with your day to day life it’s a problem. I’m not clean yet, but admitting you have a problem is the first step right?