A Trip To Wit’s End

That’s where I am right now. I am at my wit’s end. I don’t get here very often to be honest. I am not a patient person, but I am born problem solver. However, I am all out of ideas.

Last night, for the third night in a row, baby F woke several times. She’s now waking up to 5 or 6 times overnight. Last night it was 10:30 (I was probably asleep by 9:30 I was so tired), 11:45, 12:40, 3:30 and 5:30. She screams each time, and settles when I pick her up and put her back down. At 5:30 this morning that didn’t work. She just cried and cried and cried. But it was toddler crying – more like constant wailing. There were no tears, it was noise in order to protest something (what?? If only I knew what??).

Yesterday was the second of two day’s I’ve spent clearing out my uncle’s flat.


I don’t think I con convey in a photo the extent of this job. I haven’t shown the worst of the dirt and clutter in the kitchen and bathroom, and the blood on the floor where he fell.

Eric was a hoarder and a collector of things. The amount of stuff he had was incredible. There were things in his flat that I remember seeing in my grandparents house when I was a child. A box of lots of old tobacco tins containing nails and screws that used to live under their stairs. Paintings that hung on the wall in my house when I was a child. It was so sad.

My mum is on full benefits and has been having problems with falling over so there is no way she could manage it. I am the only other person Eric has that cares enough to do the right thing.

My uncle died in social housing with no will, no estate and no assets. His rent, at £200 per fortnight, is due from Sunday if the flat isn’t vacated. House clearance companies (I tried three), all said the same – it would cost from £200-£600 to clear the flat and they couldn’t come until the week after the bank holiday.

At about 11:30am yesterday I sat on the floor in Eric’s lounge and felt utter despair. I had already shifted around 20 black bags of clothing down nine floors and into my car, on my own, but the flat didn’t really look any emptier. There were hundreds of china and wooden ornaments that together weighed a lot more than the clothing. I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to get the furniture out.

I called housing, the benefit office and citizens advice. They all took the same hard line – rent is due from Sunday. Citizen’s advice weren’t even offering advice any more because they are restructuring.

Then I googled my situation and of course, the answer was there. With no estate and no means for me to clear the flat, I have to hand the keys back and walk away. The council will then clear and clean the flat, using taxpayers money.

And of course – this is what happens to every elderly person who dies alone with nothing but a house or flat full or possessions gathered over the decades. I felt horribly guilty. So much so that I phoned the housing office and explained I was going to hand in the keys and I apologised and cried.

Yesterday afternoon we closed the door on Eric’s life and walked away. It feels wrong in every part of me not to tidy it away properly, but it would have taken me months, in all honesty, to get everything out of the flat.

The warden for the block said that there are many other tenants with flats full to bursting with stuff. One of the house clearance men I spoke to on the phone said,

That’s just what people do when they get old. They hoard.

It is so sad, and so worrying, that we place such value on things. When I went to the tip to get rid of all the black bags in the car, it was heaving with people dumping stuff.

How can our planet hope to survive when we live in a throwaway society? Where is all this rubbish going to go when the space runs out?

Back to last night. Baby F has been sleeping in with me, her cot next to the bed, since her illness. I thought she would sleep peacefully there because she seems to need me so much in the night.

However, if anything, things are worse! She is waking more than she ever has. I feel like I am dying inside. She’s 21 months old and she has never, that I can remember, fallen asleep and not cried at some point overnight. 

She hates sleep in the day too. She’s tried to push through two days this week without a nap at all. I honestly don’t know how she’s doing it. My 6 year old is pretty much always asleep before her each evening, and baby F is always the first to wake.

Well, as I was saying, I am at my wit’s end. I cannot deal with being screamed at, multiple times a night, for what is turning into years on end. I’ve had enough.

Baby F is going back in her room today. I am going to put her to bed tonight when I am sure she is tired and I am not going back til 6:30am. And that’s what we’re going to do until she sleeps through.

It may sound harsh, but I just don’t think anyone can understand how desperately difficult it is to be woken multiple times every night for almost two years.

Life and Loss

A young Eric. Sideburns were all the rage.

On Tuesday we had a lovely family day out at the zoo. We bumped into a friend from school so all of us toured the zoo together and all the children had a brilliant time.

We arrived home and within a few minutes the phone rang. It was my Mum, and she’d been trying to contact me all day.

My uncle – her brother – died somewhere between Monday night and Tuesday morning. He was found dead in his bed, although the police said there was some blood on the floor and they think he’d had some kind of a fall. The body will undergo an autopsy to determine cause of death.

He celebrated his 70th in May. That makes him sound old, but he was physically well and active, running car boot sales most weekends. Also, in my mind, he was always Uncle Eric, aged about 40. Pitch black hair and a big crazy laugh.

Mum saw him on Monday and he was fine. On Tuesday he was gone. She is devastated. They lived in the same town and did everything together.

Last night baby F woke and screamed like mad at 10:30, 12:30, 3:30 and 4:30. She’s been back in with me since the peak of her croup/fever/infection last week, the cot taking up all the floor space in our small room. Each time I was jolted out of sleep and then (of course), remembered that Eric had died, all over again.

Usually you only get that effect in the morning. Like a broken heart or other tragic news or circumstance you re-live all the grief and pain in a tough moment of remembering each day, until it becomes integrated into who you are and you no longer go through that moment of “everything is ok” followed by “oh my god everything is not okay”.

I feel totally shattered this morning, both physically and emotionally. We also managed to leave C’s bedtime bear at the zoo yesterday, so we need to ring them and hope someone has handed him in. C cried for ages last night before he finally fell asleep exhausted.

I am so fed up of trying to deal with life through a constant treacle-fog of exhaustion. Life is too fucking hard to feel like you are dragging a boulder around behind you all the time, but that’s how life has been for so long. Everything I do, my running, looking after the home, the children, my business, it’s all twice the effort because really, all I want to do most days, is go to bed and do nothing.

How long can a person keep fighting the current before they give up? You need to be fit and strong to thrive in this world. Bad news and obstacles will forever be out there, waiting to show themselves at the craziest of moments.

None of us can afford to neglect our mental or physical health, because if we’re running around with a badly maintained engine, any bump in the road could veer us off course and into a ditch of depression, self-pity, despair or worse. And then we have all the effort of getting back out and moving forward again. And often we have to do that ourselves – there isn’t always a recovery truck on hand, someone who cares enough to stop and help.

I’m kind of rambling with this post, but I’m sat here in bed this morning and I feel so very tired. I’m helping Mum collect up Eric’s things today. We need to rescue bedtime bear from the zoo (if he has even been found). Tomorrow is C’s 6th birthday. I have lots to do to get the boys ready for their return to school in 12 days. The house needs cleaning from top to bottom. I have piles of paperwork to deal with. There will be a funeral to organise. I have to break the news to my little brother today and he will be so upset. There are lost relatives to track down (Eric was estranged from his own son and his brother).

I need to get out of bed and get on with it.

Keep pushing through that treacle.

This Week’s Goal + Training Log #9

family photo book page layout

Goal

Photo books 2010-2017

I did nothing this week. The husband was on holiday from work so it was a family-focused week with trips out and treats. Plus, I had a total hard drive failure, so it took me three days to reinstall everything and then download my 640GB back-up to get things back to normal (I really need to do a digital declutter). At least it didn’t happen in the middle of a work project.

My 2010 and 2011 books arrived in the post and I love them!

Photo of them so far, below. I’ll do some better ones once I’ve got them all together.

Time spent on goal: 0 hours 0 minutes

Progress

2010-11: Arrived
2012: Done. Awaiting ordering.
2013: To be started

Training

The week started well with baby F finally over her vomit bug and starting to sleep a little better. We even had a single night of no waking, which was pretty cool. I did a great run+HIIT session on Monday.

But it all went downhill from there. Baby F came down with a viral infection that got steadily worse as the week progressed. Two nights of lots of crying with a really blocked nose were followed by five nights of fever, crying and general misery (for both of us). It’s now Monday and she’s still feverish and now croup-y on top of everything else. Two docs have checked her – she just needs to fight off the virus.

I’d planned to run five times, but managed three. And I am so worn out. I have been stuck at 30min 5kms for six weeks and I don’t think I’m going to level up until the sleep thing is under control as I’m just running on empty (literally).

Nevermind – as long as I keep doing something I’m doing good.

Mon – 30 min easy run, 8 min HIIT
Tues – Rest
Wed – 3.9km, 25:05
Thu – Rest
Fri – 5km, 30:55
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest

This Week’s Goal + Training Log #8

Yearly family photo book

Goal

Photo books 2010-2017

I’ve had a bit of extra time this week as the boys have been at a tennis camp in the mornings. Totally random I know. There is a tennis club about two minutes from the house and they do games and other stuff as well as tennis. The boys have loved it – especially as they get to take money for the tuck shop (I’m trying not to think about how much chocolate they ate). Baby F did her normal 2.5 days at nursery, so I got a few hours here and there to myself.

Time spent on goal: 12 hours 10 minutes

Progress

2010: Ordered!
2011: Ordered!
2012: Done. Awaiting ordering.
2013: To be started

Reflection

This week I thought up every excuse under the sun to stop this project and start something else. I thought a break would be good, it was too much to complete in one go, it was taking too long, and a million other things.

I’ve resisted signing up to a free trial at Lynda.com, and the temptation to buy several books on Amazon, on varying topics.

I’m not even halfway through and it seems like I’ll be doing this forever. 

Going to keep on plodding. Little by little I’ll get there.

Training

The week started really badly. I was sleep deprived and I felt I was recovering really slowly from the 12km I did last Sunday. I didn’t exercise for the first three days of the week, and felt no better for it. 

On Thursday I dragged myself out for a short run, just to keep the momentum going, and it all got so much better from there. On Friday I went again and clocked my fastest kilometer yet at 5:48. Then on Saturday I tackled a hilly parkrun instead of the usual flat one and loved it.

It really helped that baby F has started to sleep a little better now she’s fully recovered from the sick bug, and that the insomnia monster has abated.

Hoping to level up next week and start adding more sessions to the week. I’ll be aiming for five.

Mon – Rest
Tues – Rest
Wed – Rest
Thu – 3.8km
Fri – 3.88km
Sat – 5km parkrun (a hilly one), 33:38
Sun – Rest

Toddler Sleep Update 20 Months

The fact that I am even writing a sleep update tells you everything, right?

But first, a quick tantrum update

I blogged a while back about the screaming from baby F that was driving us crazy. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point that has all settled down. She still has her moments, but the complete hysteria seems to have abated. We did actively ignore several massive tantrums, returning only to see if she was going to quiet down, so I think that might have been the key (ignoring also worked a treat when L was a toddler and he became obsessed with throwing things – it’s really hard to do, but it seems to be just about the best parenting strategy for horrible behaviour!).

So that’s good.

The sleep thing

Almost two weeks ago baby F picked up a vomiting bug, and as is so often the way with illness, her sleep routine has now fallen apart.

For the last few months she has been going down at around 8pm (late, I know. She hates sleep). Then, she might have a bit of a cry at around 12am/1am. Then she would sleep through til around 6 to 6:30am.

This wasn’t too bad – I tend to be in lighter sleep in the first half of the night and sometimes I didn’t need to go in, she’d just settle back down.

Now she is waking at least twice a night. She does the 12am/1am cry and then at 4am/4:30am she does a much bigger cry. I always have to go in, pick her up, soothe her, and try to resettle her.

On top of that she is getting ever more demanding at bedtime. She goes into her cot for 6:45pm. We follow a bath-teeth-pyjamas-story routine that we have done since forever. Once she’s down I start bedtime for C. He’s 5 and he needs to be down asap after 7pm because  he needs more sleep than average. He’s a great sleeper and is normally asleep within 10 minutes of being in bed.

However, Baby F meanwhile is crying on and off and calling for mama. This means every few minutes I pop in to reassure her, while also trying to get C into bed. She will be fine for a few minutes and then the crying starts again.

The husband has been coming home earlier since F was unwell, so we’ve gotten into the habit of one of us sitting with her to keep her from crying. However, it will take an hour, or sometimes longer, for her to actually fall asleep. We can see she is exhausted, as she’s rubbing her eyes and looks completely worn out. But she fights sleep for as long as she physically can. I swear, most nights, she passes out from sheer exhaustion.

Too tired to keep on doing this

The whole bedtime crying, followed by 1am crying, followed by 4am crying is taking its toll. My joint pain is getting worse as the days go by and I’m still struggling to recover from the run I did on Sunday (it’s now Wednesday). Not to mention that my patience and tolerance for everything is really low.

Last night I left her to cry at 4am, which she did for around half an hour before I finally got up, told her everyone was sleeping and came back to bed. And she went to sleep straight after I’d been in there.

It seems to me that she just has extreme anxiety about being left alone – either because she is unhappy being on her own, or because she feels she is missing out on what the rest of us are all up to in the house.

I don’t know how to solve this, and I feel awful today. All I can think about is how much I want to spend the next 48 hours in bed. Preferably sleeping and maybe watching a movie when I’m awake enough to actually have my eyes open. The lure of the soft blankets and the dark room…

Sigh.

Solutions, no solutions

So what shall I try? The rational part of my brain says I need to steel myself for a few nights of wailing and just ignore it. The fearful, guilt-ridden part of my brain wonders if I’m going to give her some awful sleep complex if I do this.

One alternative is that we move F into our room and see if her being in there helps. At least that might allow me to get some sleep. But then I have the problem of the cot being back in our room, which I don’t really want. And maybe going through all this again at some future point.

I know that she’s not hungry, and some days she will barely nap for 40 minutes, so she’s not sleeping too much in the day. I am certain it’s an emotional, not a physical issue. How best to calm it?

I have even thought of changing the room sharing around and putting her in with C or L to make her feel less alone (perhaps she wonders why everyone else shares a room??).

Maybe I should put all three beds in one room, and use the other room as a playroom?

I just don’t know. I am just so worn out and tired today, I can barely do the minimum required to parent three kids, let alone anything else.