Posts Tagged With: parenting

Ding Dong the Neighbour’s Gone!



Never underestimate the impact bad neighbours have on the mood and psyche of a person living next door.

I live in what’s known in England as a “mid-terrace house.” It was built in the Victorian era, around the turn of the 20th century (1912 to be exact) and I bought it – as opposed to renting someone else’s house – twelve years ago, thinking it would give my son and me some stability. The thing with terraced houses is that they are literally joined to each other, sharing a single wall between each property.

I love my home. It has four floors, three bedrooms, a massive attic room where I store all my crafty bits, and nine foot ceilings in most of the rooms. OK, the bathroom is in the cellar, and makes nighttime needs a bit of a pain, requiring the descent of two flights of stairs from the bedrooms. But that’s what buckets/chamber pots were invented for, isn’t it?

The “garden” is tiny, but I managed even to make that a pleasant place to be. Some of you may remember my efforts to build a raised bed (here) and other bits and bobs (here) and add a few mosaics (here and here).  And all in all, it has been a peaceful domicile, my safe haven.

Then my next-door neighbours of eight years decided to move out and rent their home. The most recent couple that moved in happened to be related to my neighbours on the other side of me, so I hoped they would be as friendly and respectful as their family members. But I was to be proved wrong very quickly. Within a week, the male of the family (man, woman and toddler) decided to move several “pit bikes” (small motorbikes) that he was fixing up into his cellar only minutes after riding them, and my house was consumed by the smell of diesel – a migrainous odour that seeped in to every crevice of my house (and, I assume, theirs) for several days, even after the bikes were removed.

The couple’s communication seemed to be a long-range affair (shouting at each other from one room to another) and became quickly and progressively hostile. The language grew nastier, and despite my best efforts to keep myself calm in the whirlwind that has become my own life by listening to classical music, crocheting, reading, or writing this blog, my attempts to meditate became futile: drowned out by heavy basslines, screaming arguments, foul language, and the smashing of furniture. Add to this the continued barking of two pitbulls (brought in, no doubt, to ward off anyone tempted to thwart my neighbours’ new business venture of cultivating Cannabis plants in their loft) and you may imagine there was little chance of respite. On one particularly bad morning, hearing her screaming, the child screaming, and what sounded like him beating one or the other or both, I banged on their front door and attempted to intervene – only to be met with a tirade of verbal abuse, threats and warnings to “mind your own f—ing business, you dirty troll” … from her!

God knows I felt for the child. I know I should have called Children’s Services and reported what I heard – but the father was, at best, a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal and, quite possibly (from what I heard from my side of the wall) a misogynist arsehole who had no qualms about physically and verbally assaulting a woman. And I admit I was too scared to pick up the phone.  Yet it all seemed so unfair to listen to the cries of that baby, knowing that parents like that were able to keep their children, and I had lost mine for so much less.

The noise and hostility were relentless. No particular time of the day seemed to be off limits. Neither one of the couple worked nor seemed to have any reason to leave the house, so the tempers could fray in the morning, afternoon, evening, and, more often than not, after midnight. I have taken to spending most of my waking hours away from what used to be my home and refuge. I haven’t watched Jeremy Kyle on daytime television in weeks! Instead, I catch a bus into town and sit in the library, or join an activity at MIND, or sit and drink coffee at a local community centre. I have become something of a “bag lady” wandering the streets with my tote full of unfinished crochet projects, books, and a variety of hooks and yarns.

The day-in, day-out anger, aggression, and negativity that has been permeating my once-peaceful house would, I imagine, drain the lifeblood from even the most right-minded person. But topping that with my current state of mind: with my own depressive episodes, my own life trials, my own pinings for my son, and my own hollow emptiness, the daily drip, drip, dripping of hateful emotions from next door succeeded in destroying my soul.

Until yesterday.

I walked out of my front door yesterday morning to be greeted by next door’s landlord and original owner standing over several pieces of broken furniture dumped on the front doorstep. Apparently, the couple had not been paying their rent for the last few months, and they have been evicted. The landlord was not a happy man, in fact he was fuming, and I felt a little embarrassed for the smile that crossed my face when he told me they had gone. He asked me if I had seen the state of his house, and he showed me inside. I only saw the living room, but that was enough. The carpets had been pulled up, and the laminate flooring was so soaked through and stained it had to be destroyed. The house wreaked of urine and mould where the dogs (I assume?) had used the rooms as a toilet, and the internal wooden doors were shredded, glass frames broken, and shelves pulled from the walls.

I feel for the owners of the property. They are a young, quiet couple who chose to hold onto the property as a nest egg for their daughter when she grows up. They have only had two tenancies since they began to rent their house out, and both have been disastrous. The first couple flooded the upstairs bathroom twice, causing the kitchen ceiling to fall through, and the property had to be fumigated five times to completely destroy a massive flea infestation. Both sets of tenants have been violent, loud, reckless, inconsiderate, and just downright dirty, necessitating major repairs and full redecorations after they left.

I will be selling my own house in the next few months. I can’t afford the mortgage now that I’ve lost my job. More than that, it’s an awfully empty place without my son and too full of memories and unfulfilled dreams of a happy family life. I did consider renting it out myself, but having seen how next door’s tenants have brutalised the property, it would break my heart to think that anyone might treat my home that way – so I’m selling up and moving on.

Meanwhile, the landlord next door already has his next tenant lined up – ETA is two weeks time.

Can’t wait :-/

(Have a listen to this song. If only it had been about loud music and stupid laughter! But it put a smile on my face when I listened. Thanks, David)


© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

Categories: Alice's world | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

After The Storm

It’s so good to see how much the Broken Light Collective has grown since its inception in 2012. I posted a couple of times on it waaay at the beginning, and this photograph of mine has been featured today. As you will read, my life has changed drastically in that time too, and any channels that highlight the seriousness and pervasiveness of mental illness should be applauded.


I called this post “After the Storm”

Broken Light Collective

Photo taken by contributor “Alice,” a 49-year-old woman living in the north of England. She has suffered with severe depressive episodes since her late teens, but only two years ago was diagnosed with Cyclothymia, a milder form of Bipolar Disorder, followed recently by an additional diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Along with her own struggles with mental health, her son, then aged 12, began physically assaulting her and has now been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder. Alice began her blog Alice Through the Macro Lens in 2012 in an effort to try to understand her journey through the mental health process and has used this forum to display some of her photography, in which she finds solace. Recently, she began a sister blog, Like a Circle in a Spiral to document the struggles of raising a child with his own difficulties.

About this photo: It was with no small irony that I just looked back to a couple of contributions I…

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Staring into the abyss …

Staring into the abyssI’m a mess.

For the last few weeks I have been so much more down than up. It’s strange, because there are occasional days/part days when I feel OK. I can carry on easy conversations with people, perhaps jokey, and even able to laugh. During those moments, I feel like a fraud – I feel I should go back to work, I want to ignore appointments, and that I should discharge myself from mental health services.
But then, within minutes, without warning or obvious trigger, I plummet. I become some puddle in the corner. I lose comprehension, I gain white noise. I lose spirit, I gain self-loathing. Confusion sets in, along with head-noise, stammering, memory lapses, agitation, irritability, anxiety and complete inability to function.
I become that crazy hunched over old woman who wanders the streets aimlessly, muttering to herself and pulling her world in a shopping trolley.
For fear of sounding “insightful” (“insight” seems to be synonymous with “there’s nothing wrong with you” in the mental health world) I think I know the reason I’ve deteriorated so drastically. Earlier this year, the Court ordered both a Psych report and a Social Services Parental Assessment in my son’s case. I have been grilled within an inch of my life by both parties in separate, yet very similar, multiple, marathon sessions (two x 3-hour sessions with the Psych, and four 2-hour sessions with Social Workers) asking me to dig through my own childhood memories, experiences of my own parents, education, school-life, travels, sex life, relationships issues, self-image, work history, travels, life choices, dubious decision-making, medical history, mistakes, guilt, addictions, mental dissolution, life in England, life in Germany, life in America, life back in England, and an inch-by-inch account of motherhood.
Like a complete twat, I convinced myself that refusal to cooperate would be viewed far more negatively than complete transparency. After all, everyone makes mistakes … it’s recognising them and moving forward that makes us bigger people, isn’t it? And like a complete twat, I still thought there was the slimmest chance that they would offer to help me get my son back.
It was only after the sessions were over I realised that they have no vested interest in my welfare whatsoever. They never intended for my boy to be returned to my care – they just wanted a reason for him being as misguided as he is. And I gave them all the ammunition they needed.
So here sit, having revisited memories from my past that I had long put behind me, often for good reason. Old wounds have been opened by “professionals” who had no other motive than to use the information against me, and no inclination to help me patch them back up. Instead, they fester and throb and infect me until my brain hurts.
Anyone got a spare plaster?
 © Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]
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Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends?




Occasionally, I read the WordPress Daily Prompt and hum and hrrr about the possibility of writing something – but my lack of motivation, or Judge Judy re-runs on the TV often dissuades me right back. Today’s prompt, however – well – prompted me to write something.

The prompt itself asks the questions: Do you find it easy to make new friends? Tell us how you’ve mastered the art of befriending a new person. “

The two sentences don’t necessarily connect. I mean, if, like me, your answer to the first question is NO, the the ensuing statement is a moot point … isn’t it?

Perhaps WordPress didn’t anticipate that anyone might answer the opening question with a negative – but surely … really? Tell me I’m not the only one … am I?

Well anyway, here I am – Nelly No-mates in all her glory.

Frankly, I’m just crap at making and/or keeping friends. I don’t really get the whole need to be friend-full thing. Facebook hasn’t helped. there are people out there who claim 5,000 “friends” and another 1,000+ “followers” who are apparently on some kind of waiting list to be a “friend” as soon as a space opens up through death, blocking, or un-friending.

So I’ve heard, anyway.

Admittedly, I do have a Facebook page. I have a grand total of 45 “friends,” all of whom I know personally, and 27 of which are schoolbuddies of my son, who had to use my Facebook page because he wasn’t allowed to have one of his own.  I suppose I should un-friend them now that he is no longer with me – if I only had a clue where to find the un-friend button.

Of the other 18 friends I have on Facebook, four are ex-professors of mine from university days of yore who I had to befriend to keep up with assignments, three are girls (well, women now, obviously) with whom I went to grammar school, one girl/woman from college, one from primary school, one person from the States when I lived there 15 years ago, and one – you’ll like this – is an ex-NFL player from a previous life as a sports videographer/back-door groupie (me, not him). Three are vendors on local recycling sites, one was my Weightwatchers leader and two are family.

I’d like to say that I’ve been a worthy Facebook friend at least to the old school friends, but I can’t. No matter that at least two of them were people I longed to reunite with over the years; I have been incapable of maintaining any level of communication beyond sending them extra lives on Candy Crush.

And lord help me in the real world!

I don’t know what it is exactly … it’s hard to describe, but apparently my inability to form and maintain consistent relationships  is one of the reasons I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I wish I did have the ability to claim a friend. Instead I find that I go one of two ways: either I seek out a person who is unavailable to or disinterested in me; or I become uncomfortable and anxious when someone expresses interest in becoming friends with me, leading to a hasty retreat.

For the last thirteen years I have been able to conceal this “deficit” in my social vocabulary by devoting my time to other, more pressing matters. I mean, who needs friends when you have a full-time job and a full-time child?

But now, jobless and childless, the friendless part is glaring and harsh.

It’s an empty house here now. Too much space and time to think.

Makes me want to post my status on Facebook … almost.


© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]



Categories: Alice's world | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another need, another poppy …

See why here


© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]


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Poppy for peace

It has been a tough week so far. My mind is not still.

Poppies help me feel peaceful.


Through the dancing poppies stole A breeze most softly lulling to my soul.... John Keats - Endymion

Through the dancing poppies stole A breeze most softly lulling to my soul….
John Keats – Endymion


© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]



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Introducing my Sister Blog: Like a circle in a spiral ….

Circles in a spiral

Click on the picture for a better view

I just wanted to draw your attention to the sister blog I mentioned previously. It’s a place for me to discuss the unfortunate situation between my son and me, trying to unravel it a little, and telling our story and how we got to this point.

It won’t be the easiest of reads, but hopefully it will give a little insight about living with Conduct Disorder and open some people’s eyes to the struggles of dealing with domestic violence at the hands of your own child.

I think the title of the blog, “Like a Circle in a Spiral,” is perfect, because, as the song from which the line was plucked states, the life I’ve had with my son has been like living “on an ever-spinning reel.”



For those of you who are in the mood for a little nostalgia, here’s the original version of “Windmills of Your Mind.”

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]





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You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may tread me in the very dirt, But still, like dust, I'll rise. Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Maya Angelou

(Click on photo above for greater size and clarity)

I write today to commemorate (for want of a much more appropriate word…) a minor milestone.
Today begins my fiftieth year in existence, in this life anyway.

I won’t be celebrating. Conversely, I have much to mourn.
I have not been writing of late, and, therefore, those of you who remember me from postings before will have no more than an inkling of the car crash my life has become in the past couple of years.

Once upon a time, I was a hugely energetic, life-loving, nonchalant freebird who wandered the world, lived off my wits and relied on academic scholarships and bold-faced cheek to get me through. I purposely strayed from the main track, preferring the roads less travelled and by doing so, I met, in my opinion, far more interesting people along the way. So interesting, in fact, that I chose to study many of them at a PhD level before being politely booted off the course in my second year because, in the words of an eloquent professor at Syracuse University, I didn’t “fit the idiom.” To this day, I have no clue what that means, but it sounds like a jolly good phrase to hold onto.

Yet, here I sit, fifteen years on from those glorious, carefree, golden days, and my world has fallen to pieces.
I have lost many things in the last few months – job, income, house, dignity, mind. But far and away the most painful loss of all has been, sadly, my son, who is now in the “care” of the authorities and is not allowed to live with me anymore.

There is not a day, an hour, a moment that I don’t pine for my only child, wishing things could be different or that the clock could be turned back, and every day has become a challenge of extraordinary proportions just to be able to function on a most basic level.

But it’s my 49th birthday today, and I think it is important, for me at least, to now start to return to a state of conscious understanding and peel through the layers of madness to figure out just what went wrong. I want to tell our story, because there appears to be little helpful literature about domestic violence as perpetrated by a young child against a parent. But I don’t want to do it here. I would rather tell the story on a sister blog (yet to be constructed) because I want to keep “Alice through the Macro Lens” as a form of respite, for lighter postings.

My experiences in the last two years have led to an abysmal loss of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence, and I gave up those parts of me that gave me pleasure – including my photography and my writing. So I have been occasionally surprised when, even during my long absence from posting, I received messages from fellow bloggers, asking after me, and reminding me that the work I once presented on this blog was appreciated. And I thank you for that.

And, even under the current circumstances, I recognise that my son needs me to be a parent (however distant at the moment) who is strong, fulfilled, and confident in her abilities. So I will attempt to rise again, like the sycamore seedling that I photographed this morning rising from the rotting leaves and lichen on the forest floor. I will endeavour to regain my creative spirit, and I hope some of you will remain with me as I begin this second, difficult journey to some semblance of recovery.


© Alice through the Macro Lens [2014]

Categories: Alice's world | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

All good intentions …

Just wanted to post a brief note to say that I had the best of intentions to start posting and picturing regularly again this new year. I know I let it go towards the end of last year – and I was truly touched by those fellow bloggers who asked after me when I went missing.

Trouble is, I’ve also had to make some stiff rules for the monster-child’s behaviour, and one of the consequences of bad behaviour is to remove the internet from the house. True to form, he hasn’t been behaving well, and the house has been internet-less for a while now.

I just popped into the library today to grab a few minutes on the computer, but, as aforementioned son has now lost the internet until he completes a full week of school without incident, I don’t foresee being able to post my own photos or snippets of literary mastery for the next millenium… or at least until I present him with a set of luggage for his 16th birthday!

But, for the record, it’s snowing here, so you’ll just have to imagine the magical macros of ice and the ethereal images of the silent wintery woods.

Best wishes to you all.
See you next time I hit the library 🙂

Categories: Alice's world | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What do you do … ?

What do you do when the person you love tells you they can’t stand the sight of you anymore?

What do you do when they respond to you with screaming rage and foul language? When they order you to make their dinner, to wash their clothes, and to cater to their every need?

What do you do when they tell you you’re useless, you’re fat, and you’re ugly?

What do you do when they engage in risky behaviour, prefer their friends’ company, and tell you to mind your own business when you ask where they are going?

What do you do when they tell you they’re sick of you, that they don’t want to live in the same house as you anymore, and they want to move out?

What do you do when they prevent you from sleeping, demand that you get out of bed, and order you to go sleep in the living room because they own the beds and the house?

What do you do when they physically prevent you from leaving, dare you to put your hands on them, and mock you when you break down into tears?

What do you do when this continues day after day after day, until the very thought of going home and being in their company fills you with dread and sadness?


What do you do when the person you love is your twelve-year-old son?

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Categories: Alice's world | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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