amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

Inspired by a session with my coach on how we can shift out of (negative) emotional fields. We all have these thoughts of self doubt, that we are doing it wrong. But we don’t need to stay there. We can invite the feeling in, get to know it and then send it on its way.

Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

You’ve been knocking on my door for so long. Whispering, and in turn shouting, through the letter box.

No matter how tightly I hold my hands against my ears or how loud I set the telly, I can still hear you.

So come on in. Have a seat. Get warm. Have some tea. Take two biscuits, not just one. Yes we are in the Netherlands but we are flouting the rules anyway by being together like this. Take the whole tin.

So what is that you want to tell me? What must I know?

Yes, I am a terrible mother.

Yes, I am emotionally scarring my children and they will never recover.

Yes, I am not doing all the things I set out to do.

Self Doubt, you keep telling me this as if I don’t know. What is your urgency? Are you trying to keep me away from joy? Are you trying to keep me small, afraid and guilt-ridden?

Well, it’s been working my friend.

But now that I have invited you in I can see you clearly.

You are small and frail. Brittle. Be careful with that tea, it may melt you, turn you into a puddle of ash.

Yes, now that I have invited you in I can see that you are small, not me. You are guilt-ridden, afraid, urgent. Not me.

You look tired. All this banging on doors and shouting through the letter box has tired you out. The anxiety is wasting you away. So let me send you to a wonderful place. A place in the sun, where you can relax. You do not need to speak for there is no one to hear you there.

Go. With my blessing and good wishes, go my old friend Self Doubt. It is time for us to part ways. We do not belong together.

I belong with Self Believe for I am interesting. I am quirky. I am dance.

I am a good mother.

shared.-5


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Dutched up: Rocking the clogs expat style

Earlier this year I started hanging out with other bloggers on Facebook. It was great to be among other writers, hear their stories and be on this writing journey with them.

Then one day Olga asked if anyone else wanted to contribute a story about living in The Netherlands to their anthology. Never thinking that my story would be accepted, let alone published, I said yes.

So, after a great amount of work by Lynn and Olga in collecting our stories and editing, our book is finished. 27 bloggers contributed and I am one of them. I am so proud of us all for saying yes and making this happen. Thank you NL women bloggers.

I write about chronic illness so my story is related to the Dutch healthcare system. We have stories covering all parts of life as a foreigner here in Dutchland. It’s funny, it’s sweet. It’s all so true. If you have every lived here, know Dutch people or visited, there is something here for you. Please check it out.

Check it out on amazon.com here

for amazon.co.uk use this link

for itunes click here

book cover


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Worthiness

This is the thought that I am working on this week. If you are anything like me, you totally believe it of others but somehow when it comes to you… it’s no longer a conviction but something you would like to believe.

So believe with me. I am worthy.

Worthiness

 

 

 

 


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How I realised that “Because I said so” is a life skill

Back in May I wrote a story and shared it with about a dozen people at a Storytelling Night. It’s longer than my normal posts so I kept telling myself that this isn’t the place to share it. Well, I want to share it anyway. If you’ve got a few minutes, read on.

How I realized that “Because I said so” is a life skill

When I saw the post on Facebook about this event I loved it and my first thought was “I’m going to go! As a spectator”. A few seconds later this thought followed “go and read” and before I knew it, I was signing up on eventbrite. There was no reason or explanation. I have never done this before. Just a voice in my head saying: “do it”.

Then I saw the theme. Because I said so. I write about living with chronic illness. I write about self development and how you can get yourself unstuck. What’s that got to do with Because I said so?

I spent the next 2 weeks being completely blank. What story can I tell? And yes, the rules aren’t rigid or strict and I could write about whatever I wanted but….. there is something inside of me that always tries to do what I have been asked.

My default association with this phrase is that is negative. How many times have I yelled this at my kids?

Yes, I patiently explain the logic behind my instructions or involve my kids in the thinking process in how to come up with a conclusive course of action. I want them to be independent, self-sufficient. Leaders, at least of themselves.

Not sheep. Not blind followers of others. Because I want them to choose their lives. And a tiny, terrified part of me that has watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds and that doesn’t watch the news anymore because of all the terrible things that happen, wants them to fight like mad if anyone tries to grab them or do things to them.

I want fighters.

Ok, here’s a confession. I don’t always do that patiently. The explanation. Sometimes I’m having a bad day or they are behaving little brats and pushing all my buttons and the conversation is more like this:

“Put your nickers on.

Come on, move it! How many times do we have to have this conversation?

Stop prancing about and put your bloody nickers on! Now!”

I kind of understand the running around completely naked thing but putting your vest and t-shirt on, even your socks and yet your butt is still bare? What the hell is that?

I have often thought of this tactic, because I said so, as being the last resort of a tired parent. Probably because I only use it when I am tired.

So while I was thinking about what on earth I was doing, signing up for this, I realized something. I had no reason, no explanation. I just listened to a voice in my head that said just do it.

That started me thinking: where else in my life do I do things, just because someone else has said so?

When I was a teenager my mum used to tell me to just get up and dressed by 8am on a Saturday, even if I was going to read in bed all day. Just get up and get dressed first. I never understood it (and fought it a lot) but I get it now. Sorry mum.

It happened at work too. Stopping that project half way through because someone at the top didn’t like it. There was always a lot of blah blah blah around it: “new direction”, “maximize synergies” etc but it always came down to someone new at the top saying no.

And at home. My husband telling me to eat. In my pregnancy with S, I was really sick. At 4 weeks, the vomiting started and didn’t really stop until about a week before she was born.

Within the first trimester I was admitted into hospital 4 times due to dehydration and lack of nutrition. And a kidney stone. I was extremely nauseous and on bed rest. I didn’t feel hunger and didn’t want to eat so I didn’t. So my husband made me snacks and I ate them when he told me to. If he left the food with me, then more often than not, I would stop eating after a couple of bites. So he started staying and I ate. Because he said so.

Then one day he looked at me and told me he was taking me to the hospital. Okay I said. We didn’t have an appointment but he said he was worried so we went.

You see I was vomiting so much that I was on antiemetics. There is one that is safe to use during pregnancy. However a possible side effect is depression and I had sunk so deeply, so quickly. I knew that if I didn’t eat more I could die and I didn’t care. My apathy was complete and I had no desire to change anything. I wasn’t eating, it was dangerous and it was ok.

When he looked at me he saw that in my eyes and he didn’t like it. He told me to put my shoes on and I followed.

They admitted me. I talked to a shrink. I chose to stop taking the medicine and within a couple of days the fog had lifted. The world, which had become hazy, had sharp edges again.

I was still extremely nauseous, but I was ok.

For me there is a power in these words “because I said so”. In that moment, it was the power of protection: you are hurting yourself and I am telling you to stop. No debate. No time wasting. Just stop.

There is also the power of liberation. Take the birth of S. The doctor told me when to push and not push. I was induced and it took quickly. Within an hour I was having contractions less than a minute apart and I was puffing like Thomas the tank engine on speed, trying so hard not to push. I didn’t have time to think and I didn’t know what to do. My first, F, was born via cesarean so I hadn’t done this before.

So I did as I was told: “don’t push, don’t push, don’t push. Ok push”.

I didn’t need to figure it out or make decisions. I could let go of all responsibility and just focus on doing puffing and pushing. What a relief.

I have changed my view on “because I said so” and I have found these 3 things to be true:

ONE

There are times in your life when you just have to listen to someone else. We do not always get to choose: like all those projects that got cancelled. We need to accept and with acceptance, frustration disappears. This is important for the happiness of our children. It’s a skill that they need to learn.

TWO

It is liberation and an act of kindness. How many of you been stumped by this deeply philosophical question: what should we have for dinner today? Some nights, it kills me.

“What? I need to decide everything? Just tell me what you want and I will make it.”

Sometimes we need to be free of the responsibility of making decisions and just have someone else do it.

So it is an act of kindness to my children when I tell them:

“We’re eating spaghetti for dinner today. No discussion”. Or “Time for bed”.

THREE

It is the last resort of a tired parent. Maybe there are times that I need to start the conversation that way.

Because I said so is a life skill.


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How to stop shouting at your kids: 1 simple rule

I have read many articles on this topic but have found one thing that you need to have in place for those tips to work. I discovered it after getting advise from a child psychologist.

About a year ago we asked a child psychologist for help. F had started to have tantrums. Major episodes of anger and sadness and we just couldn’t get through to her at all while it was going on.

Given the traumas in her past and the strict medicine routine that she is on, it was not surprising.

The psychologist talked to us and to her and gave us some things to try (we had already been doing some and had some new ideas).

Then she said this:

“next time she has a tantrum, record it so that I can see what she is doing.  And I can hear what you say and maybe give you some tips on how to respond”.

This was it. The moment of inspiration.

Yes, I hate my voice being recorded and really did not want to see what I looked like on film but it was something else. The thought of being observed, especially by a psychologist, that made me pause.

You see, it’s hard to keep calm, be patient, be neutral even, when you have a kid suddenly dive full on into a tantrum. They can have been annoying the hell out of you all day long and then launch into a fit and yet I’m supposed to stay calm, rational. I’m supposed to but I don’t always succeed.

So that pause told me something: that I was pretty sure that I was not helping the situation. I probably added fuel to the fire.

So I went home and thought about it. What if, in my interactions with my kids, I behaved as if someone was watching me?

Ever noticed, when you are at your mum’s or in-laws house and your kids start acting up, how much patience you have? Or when you are at the park? Oh, definitely now: when other mums are around?

I started noticing.

My tone of voice, my level of calm, my ability to bite my tongue and not join in the snarky-ness. These were all different when other people were around and when in the back of my mind I thought “if she kicks off, I’m going to be filmed as well as her”.

She never had such a big tantrum again. Yes she played up. Yes she got really angry. Yes she got really sad and cried and shouted.

But I did not.

So this is my conclusion:

There is no one more patient than a parent who is being watched. And a watched parent never shouts.

A Watched Parent Never Shouts

 


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The lessons we learn from our children

I saw this on Facebook and wanted to spread the message as it means a lot to me. It’s a cause I have taken up, to create a world where we SEE and are SEEN.

It has also helped me get through something that happened today and I have learned again the value of being seen.

(warning: yes I really did use the word poo 3 times in this blog. well, 4 if we count this warning).

I see you

There is a light sense of irony that while this is my mission with my children and in my work, I have spent the last week feeling unheard, not listened to. Inaudible in place of invisible.

The main culprit is my cheeky minx, little S, but to be honest the whole household has contributed. A huge amount of frustration has been building and was released this afternoon when little S felt unable to wait two minutes for me to get to her and decided to explore her own poo.

Yes, it was as disgusting as you think it would be.

After dumping her in the shower and impressing upon her the wrongness of what she had done I forced myself to stop talking. My tongue was running away with me and I had visions of her in therapy in years to come working through the traumatic “poo incident” where she realised she was naughty.

Man, oh man, yes what she did was naughty but she is not naughty. She is curious, smart and tough (come on, “you make me wait so I’m going to play with poo” talk about playing hardball!). I just don’t think she expected me to flip the way I did.

All cleaned up, I put her back to bed for her nap and gave myself a time out with the Colbert Report (always makes me laugh).

At the end of my time out, nap time was over. Little S told me she loved me and gave me a huge hug. We debriefed the incident and agreed some rules.

She has seen me today, in the many shades that I come in:

in the terrible beauty that is my anger, a sight to behold; forceful, scary, loud

my compassion kicking in to make me stop talking and avoid saying anything more that could harm

my sense of protection, for her and myself, to put myself in timeout.

She has seen me and she loves me anyway.

Though I may not feel heard right now, I am seen and it is transformational: until now I did not see the compassion or the protection, only the anger.

I also see that I am a bit tense, lacking in patience.

No wonder she has been tuning me out. Time to pick a new voice.

 


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Make the ordinary come alive

I know, comparing yourself or your life to others is the first step on the road to dissatisfaction and frustration yet sometimes I do compare. Or notice the differences.

Perhaps I am just fooling myself, but “noticing the differences” feels better, more innocent, even a touch scientific. There’s a clinical detachment with “noticing”.

Ok, I’m getting distracted. What have I been noticing?

It’s the school holidays and as usual we don’t have a lot planned. While there is an underlying spirit of freedom, going with the flow, living spontaneously, there is a seed of doubt: are we just too tired to put some effort into it? It’s hard enough figuring out what we are going to have for dinner let alone plan exciting adventures that all the kids will love.

Try to find something that a 13 year old boy, a 6 year old girl and a 2 year old toddler will all like and can do at the same place. And that doesn’t cost a fortune. (Leave tips in the comments)

But when you have swings, climbing frame and a football… Everyone is happy. So although there are so many amazing things we could be doing while on holiday, most of the time we are playing in the garden.

While I was noticing how our activities are always super simple and wondering if I was shortchanging my kids, a dear friend of mine sent me this (and saved me):

image

I don’t know who wrote this but I like it. I love it. It is at the heart of me and everything I believe about life. Sometimes I forget but when you appreciate and value what you already have, life is extraordinary.