Shannon-Jo | a letter to my first-born

Dear Shannon-Jo

My amazing, blue-eyed, blonde beauty. From the moment I found out I was expecting you. I fell in love with you. When I went shopping for baby-grows and a pushchair, I loved you and eagerly awaited your arrival. Your Dad and I, bought our first house because of you. I planned your nursery and your Dad decorated it. You, made us parents. You, made us a family.

All of the milestones in your life, have been a monumental part of our lives, too. From learning to walk and talk, to starting nursery and school. You, have always made us proud and we have always loved you.

I remember a shopping trip to the Disney Store, the Newcastle branch, I think. You wouldn’t be much more than a year old. You were amazed by the colours and lights, sitting bolt upright in your pushchair. You were a big fan of Bear in the Big Blue House, on Playhouse Disney and there he was, Bear. He caught your beautiful, big blue eyes and your arms stretched out towards him. Dad, passed him down from the shelf, for you to see him more clearly and to sneak a cuddle. The ginger coloured, stuffed bear was almost the size of you. Bear, came home with us that day, you held on to him in your buggy, for the rest of the shopping trip. The days that I went to work and you went to Grans house, Bear went, too.


You were a shepherd, in your Nursery nativity play. An angel, the following year and a star, the next. A star. Yes, that’s what you are. My bright shining, beautiful star who brings light into my darkness.

I have watched you in school sports days and performances. In your last year of Primary School, you and your friend, Laura took part in the school talent show and you both danced and entertained and won, 1st Prize.

Your resilience outstands me. I often look at you and wonder where your strength is found. You are kind, caring, thoughtful and have a heart of gold. I know circumstances in our lives, have had a detrimental affect on you. But you have carried on. You have remained strong. You have brought light, into my darkness.

Wow. Today, you leave school. My amazing, beautiful, first-born is leaving school. I’m not quite sure how that happened, mind. I mean, really? It doesn’t seem five minutes, since I bought you first school uniform. You looked incredibly cute, in your red cardigan, white polo-shirt and grey skirt. You had Barbie, patent leather school shoes and a Bratz lunch bag. Today, you officially leave.


I will always be proud of you. I will always love you. No matter where the road may lead you, whatever your future may hold.




“Though she be but little, she is fierce”

I’ve toyed with the idea, of making this post. It’s so personal and raw. But if I can help just one person, then that will suffice. I’ve read, watched and listened to a lot in the last week from beautiful, strong women, in relation to the Channel Mum YANA (You Are Not Alone) challenge. I do get mixed voices in my head, when I hear “You Are Not Alone”, I either want to break out in a Michael Jackson song, or I hear the 118 moustache men off the telly reciting it.

If you read my An Introduction post, you will know I have a beautiful 16-year-old daughter, Shannon-Jo (I’ve hyphened your name, if you’re reading this xoxo). On the 22nd September, 2000 at 12:05am, she entered the world weighing 7lb2oz. She made me who I am today, because today, I am her Mam.

She is a kind and caring soul, with a huge heart. She always puts others needs, before her own. She has always been quiet, very much like myself. She assesses the situation before taking part. She has taken on a lot, in her young life. At times, too much for an adult to cope with, let alone a child. Perhaps, at times adult life took over so much, that I neglected her thoughts and feelings.

A baby brother, Nursery, School. Moving house, moving schools and trying to fit in and make new friends. Her Dad, with countless health problems and hospital stays. My health issues. Her cousin, being involved in a bus crash, on her way to school. Family conflict and the health of her much-loved Grandparents. Losing her beloved Auntie, to cancer. Condensing it, into a few lines doesn’t appear all that much. But to a child, who shouldn’t really have a care in the world other than what game to play on the school yard and whether to wear her hair in a ponytail or plait. It is a lot. For that, my precious girl, I apologise.

A little over 2 years ago, I noticed a change in my girl. A withdrawal from life, little interest in our usual TV show routine. There was no smile in her eyes, the sparkle had gone. A dark cloud loomed over my baby girl and I wanted more than anything to blast it away, with my Super-Mam powers. My baby was diagnosed with adolescent depression and anxiety.

What did I do wrong? Why did I not see it sooner? She started to see a councillor, in-school, at first. She would talk to Nancy, on a weekly basis (I don’t know why, but I always thought Nancy, was this young, trendy mid-20’s girl. Turns out, she could easily be my Grandparent). But if talking to her, helped my baby, then Nancy could be any age.

Now, around a year ago things changed, dramatically. I was leaving work one day, walking out of the school building and across the yard with my co-workers (friends, more so). It was a Spring day, unusually mild, for March in North-East England. My phone started to vibrate, as I have to keep the tune off, while I am at work. SCHOOL, lit up my screen. As a parent, in seconds, every ridiculous possibility flashes through your mind, at the sight of one word. It was Nancy, calling.

Her words cut through me and I still hear them now. “I’ve had a chat with Shannon, today” I can barely remember responding, but obviously did. “She’s been telling me, that she is having dark thoughts”. Dark thoughts? “She no longer wants to be here, on this earth”. As they are now, tears pricked the corners of my eyes, they turned swiftly, into huge puddles that my eyes could no longer hold in. My bottom lip began to quiver. At this point, I am still stood on the school yard, with my co-workers. They all seemed to simultaneously turn to me, not knowing how to help me and not knowing what the voice in my phone was saying. I remember ending the call with Nancy and muttering the words “give me a minute”, should I tell them? They were all so worried that something had happened. Perhaps, a freak accident in school. I think I may have blurted out “Shannon wants to die”. They hugged me, they reassured me and calmed me down and gave me a lift home.

I was greeted, as usual, by a howl from Miya and Skye, two wet noses and eagerly wagging tails. They knew something was wrong. The tears were cascading down my face. With my back against the kitchen units, I slid down to my hunkers. Skye nestled under my arm and licked the salty tears from my cheeks. Sitting there, like a mad woman saying “I’m okay, girls” to my dogs. After several long, deep breaths. I rang my Mam. How I got the words out I don’t know. All I heard was “We’re on our way!”. Shaking I managed to make myself a cup of coffee and sat on the sofa, my girls by my side. My Mam and Dad arrived and I went over the conversation I’d had with Nancy. Time was slowly slipping by, Shannon would be due in from school. My parents, remarkably calmed me down and we agreed that we would say they had just popped in and not to draw attention to the matter, until me and Shannon were alone.

It wasn’t a conversation any parent would be prepared for. Nancy and the School Pastoral-Care teacher, had told me previously, not to bombard her with questions. Simply because, she didn’t know the answers. Shannon and I talked, we cried and we hugged. Then cried some more. The days darkened and become somewhat stormy, the kind of storm that a meteorologist would name. Telling my husband was heart-breaking. He felt useless, he didn’t know what to do, to help me or to help Shannon. But he did and he was there.

I remember a crisis call to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) just days after my call from Nancy. They informed me to have a clear out, not a Spring clear out or a minimalist clear out. A danger clear out, a suicide attempt clear out. “Remove any potentially dangerous object, from her reach”, (she was 15, her reach was almost the same as mine). Medication should be in a locked cupboard, with only adult access to the key. Move knives, scissors and razors. Going through potential dangers, in my head. I had an excuse, I suppose for everything. Shannon, wouldn’t try to overdose, as she physically cannot swallow tablets and cannot get the lid off the Calpol bottle, herself. Shannon, would not try to cut herself, as she can’t stand the sight of blood. CAMHS told me, that very few people, young or old, actually think long and hard about suicide. It is very rarely pre-meditated. More of a spontaneous thing, so if that dark thought popped into her head, to do something. Don’t make anything readily available. “By the time she finds something, the thought should have passed”. Really? That’s your theory, my daughter is contemplating ending her life and you think, she’ll get bored and stop looking for something to do it with.

The weeks that followed were dark and quiet. She learned how to put on an act some days (obviously, for my benefit) mustering a smile and the occasional laugh. Explaining to her younger brother was difficult. But Shannon had told me that his certain ways, triggered her anxiety. His playful, joyful ways and silly little noises bugged the life out of her. For a while, we just said “Shannon is poorly, she needs space and quiet time”.

A month after the heart-breaking phone call from Nancy. I received another phone call, this time, after school hours but from them. I was flitting around making tea (it’s a northern thing, we have dinner and tea. Not lunch and dinner). Shannon and Reece were sat in the living room. This time it was the Pastoral-Care teacher, she’s a lovely lady. Some girls had approached her, after a conversation they’d had with Shannon. “Mrs Dixon, Shannon tried to drown herself, at home last week”. I didn’t cry, at first. A whole new wave emotions washed over me. I was angry, more so at myself because I didn’t know.

Why I did what I did, I’ll never know. I went out to the shed and got my husbands cordless drill, you know the ones that’s also a screwdriver. I took it upstairs and removed the bolt from the bathroom door. Why did I not think of that a month ago? But I had an excuse, Shannon wouldn’t never try to drown herself. She had always been one of those children who hated water on her face. Hair washing night, could be a nightmare. Turns out, she had tried to drown herself. While I sat watching soaps, downstairs and Reece, no doubt sat watching mindless Minecraft videos on his iPad. Dad was at work.

Doctors appointments led to CAMHS appointments and regular sessions with a councillor. Slowly and very slowly, we began to get a glimpse of getting Shannon back. It’s easy to slip in to mundane routines (and actually, I feel us doing it again. So we need a kick up the bum). Work/school during the week. Grocery shopping on a weekend or visiting family. Not a lot of ‘US’ time and it’s that Shannon was finding difficult. We made a family pact, that we would do more of what made us happy. Drives out, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost anything to just spend time together. I was determined to take more photographs, capture family moments, to cherish forever. We would talk to each other more. Listen to each other more.

On a trip to the coast, one day; there was laughs and smiles and silly times. In an instant that changed. The storm clouds lingered and we sat like a family of three, with a stranger a few feet away from us.


Shannon hadn’t realised I had taken this photo. She wasn’t a stranger sat a few feet away from us. She was and always will be our baby girl. But she needed space, she needed quiet. But she knew we were there.

Fast forward a year; we’ve had ups and downs. Good days and bad. As a parent, it is heart-breaking and soul-destroying to know your child is hurting and you can’t help. Shannon is 16 now. She has her GCSE exams starting in May, something that is bringing a bunch of emotions and anxious thoughts, for her. My daughters mental health, is more important than her grades. We are proud of her, no matter what. She has her Prom in June, she looks absolutely stunning in her dress. Yes, we have it already. We bought it in February. We still need shoes and a clutch bag. Pinterest boards for hair ideas, have been made.


Shannon, you are my rainbow. You are my stars. You are my baby girl. You always will be. You, made me a Mam. Without you coming into my life, I would just be Lisa. From the days of walking the floors, rocking you in my arms and singing along to Boyzone or Westlife. To the days of girly chats and laughing at the state of some girls brows, on TV and every day in between. ILYNMW xoxo

If you’ve made it to the end of this post. Thank you, for clicking on it. Thank you for reading it. If you are going through a similar situation; You Are Not Alone. Reassurance, is the key. Love your young person, unconditionally. Be a shoulder to cry on. Be an ear to listen. But find someone for you to talk to, also. Find a shoulder, for you to cry on. Find an ear, to listen to you. L.x




Always, I want to be with you


“The couples that are meant to be, are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart, and come out even stronger.”

2017, marks twenty, yes twenty years of me being with this one. I often get overwhelmed and somewhat emotional over how much I love this man. Perhaps, how much I take him for granted. We all do that right? When the mundane takes over, we get stuck in routine and make very little time, for us.

How do I word this, without sounding old? When we were dating. When we were courting. When we were going out. When we were boyfriend and girlfriend. When there was just us and we didn’t live together. We both worked fulltime, but we always made time for each other. I didn’t (and still don’t) drive. He did and had an ice blue Vauxhall Nova (it was the 90’s). He would finish work, nip home for a shower and food (unless we were going out for a meal) and he would come down to see me. (No mobiles to text and make arrangements, he just turned up at my door). Most nights, we would just go for a drive, park up somewhere and go for a walk. We would talk, endlessly. It took no time at all, for me to start singing along to the music he had playing in the car. Just because I can’t sing, doesn’t mean I won’t sing.

Our life and our relationship, progressed. We got engaged. We got pregnant with our baby girl. We bought a house and moved in together. We became a family. We got pregnant again, this time with our baby boy. We got married (at 6 months pregnant). We became a family of 4.

Now, life has a funny way of throwing things at you. Things that will test you beyond belief. We’ve had our ups and downs, there was a point when there were more downs than ups. Without going in to too much detail (some things are best left private). Our lives were turned upside down.

The vows we made, the day that we became husband and wife. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Let’s just say we made good use of ‘for poorer’ and ‘in sickness’. We found ourselves homeless, after becoming bankrupt. But we found our feet and now live in a rented property, through a Housing Association. A routine operation to fix my husbands varicose veins, led to me almost losing him. Led to a lifetime of complications. But that led to us getting our first puppy, an incentive to get my husband walking, again. My chronic illness diagnoses, my husbands chronic illness diagnoses. But that only made us stronger, made us accept each other for who we are. We understand each other.

It’s easy for the man of the house to sometimes get overlooked. Is that a bit cliché? I am by no means a kept woman and do not believe in womens work and mens work. My husband works fulltime and I work part-time. It works for us.

We always say “I Love You” to each other and ask “How are you?”, of course he’s not as open as honest as me. If someone asks me how I am, I’m likely to have you there for the duration, listening to me drone on. His response, is usually “am areet” when in fact I know he’s not. I know his signs, I know when he is struggling. He is often overlooked, as I think the man often is.

When he’s putting in a 12-hour shift and has an hour drive to work and back, that’s bound to take its toll on anyone, right? But my husband, has a chronic illness that some may not know about, that some may forget about. He doesn’t talk about it, he doesn’t share how he is feeling. But I know. I understand.

“A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other.”

So to my husband, my best friend, my rock, my giver and my receiver. I Love You and always, I want to be with you. L.x


Sometimes you get discouraged

“Sometimes you get discouraged, because I am so small. And always leave my fingerprints on furniture and walls. But every day I’m growing – I’ll be grown up some day. And all those tiny handprints, will surely fade away. So here’s a little hand print. Just so you can recall. Exactly how my fingerprints looked, when I was very small.” – I was given this as a print when my eldest was in nursery, aged-3.

These tiny humans made me who I am, they taught me that my heart could hold an abundance of love and that I could survive on very little sleep. That drinking a cold coffee or eating a cold meal, was okay (well it wasn’t, but I went with it). I miss those days.

I remember what it feels like to crave a moment’s peace, when I’ve paced the floor with a colicky baby, usually singing along to Boyzone or Westlife. For hours. But these tiny humans needed me, they wanted me, they loved me. I knew that, because it was my awful singing that could settle them. It was my silly faces with a funny voice that would make them laugh.

Having a baby, you prepare for so many ‘firsts’ – the first time they sleep through, their first smile, their first giggle, first words, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, teeth. Moments that melt your heart, that stay with you forever. These tiny humans grow up.

They start nursery, and your heart breaks a little. They start school, and your heart breaks a little more. Infant School. Junior School. Secondary School. Please, can we just stop growing up? The comfort of your terrible singing voice, no longer soothes them. It annoys them, embarrasses them. They grow up. You no longer hear so much about their day, unless it’s on their Snapchat story.  Thankfully, I am allowed to ‘friend’ them.

I wish I could go back, create some kind of time machine. I want to hold their tiny bodies against my chest. I want to smell, that baby smell and have their fuzzy hair tickle my nose. To feel their little hand wrapped around my finger. To know they need me.

If I knew then, what I know now. I would have hugged them tighter and held them longer. To cherish those moments, when they melted my heart instead of breaking it.

“words cut like a knife through Vaseline. You can’t really mean, what you mean. When you say, what you say” – Robbie Williams | Blasphemy

Perhaps, I can blame hormones. Mine, as well as theirs. Raising threenagers is hard, but raising teens is harder. When the comfort they seek, no longer comes from the arms of their mother. But the screen, they hold so close. Texting from upstairs, when they have a demand to make. It’s just too difficult to actually leave their room, you know.

I do recall my teenage years, it wasn’t all that long ago (was it?). But it was the 90’s, there was no internet in my house (god forbid) I didn’t have a phone (well a landline, we did eventually upgrade from a rotary to a push button – posh eh?). We would sit around the dining table, my parents, my brothers and I. We’d eat our meal, prepared by my mam, mostly we all ate the same meal, too. Strange that. I remember how we would discuss our days. When talking, was face to face and not in a group chat. When something, someone said made you laugh, you actually laughed. Not send an emoji or a ‘LOL’.

Did I ever make my mam feel, the way my children make me feel? I hope not and I intend to ask her. If I did I apologise and I’m deeply shocked. I would help my mam tidy up, clear the table and do the dishes. Without expecting payment.

Of course I love my scowling, back-answering, disrespectful teenagers. They made me, who I am. I am their Mam.

L. x


Look for the blessing, instead of the curse | My Chronic Illness

“Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing, instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do you best.” – author unknown.

My previous post, touched on how my Fibromyalgia diagnoses came about. Through trauma, from a simple fall.

Now I’ve lived with this diagnoses since 2012. Since becoming educated about living with this chronic illness, it makes me wonder if I have, in fact, had it longer. My rheumatologist sent me to a Fibromyalgia Group, it took place one afternoon a week over six weeks. It was very daunting and I have always been quite socially awkward. The whole idea of going somewhere alien, makes me anxious.

Week 1: Hello, my name is Lisa and I have Fibromyalgia. It felt like what I would imagine an AA meeting to be like. There I am, 32-year-old me, sitting in a semi-circle layout in a room with about 10 other ladies, plus the two specialised Physiotherapists, leading the group.

Within no time, I felt calm and relaxed. Why? Because we all understood each other, we all got why we were there. Each week we would openly discuss the illness that we all shared. It helped, we would laugh and joke about situations we had found ourselves in. Once we all started sharing the symptoms that we have, there would be several nods and mutters around the room. Something new to add to the list.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibro – fibrous tissue   My – muscles   Algia – pain

Fibromyalgia, is a chronic pain disorder affecting connective tissues. Allodynia – heightened and painful response to pressure. Yes. Some days, a hug can hurt. Fatigue. Poor sleep. Joint stiffness.


To be faced with this, at the age of 32 was somewhat overwhelming. That’s the age my mam was, when she gave birth to me. I was a mother to a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old. I was a wife. How would this change me. How would my family deal with this. The most annoying thing any doctor, or any person for that matter could say to me was “you must learn how to cope and pace”. Cope and pace. I was 32, I didn’t want to learn how to cope and pace.

I went through some dark days. Days where I felt useless. Days when I said to my husband, much to his disapproval – you can leave if you want, I’d understand. But it was the love of my family that got me through. Educating them about this chronic illness of mine and how they could help me.

What hurt the most, were the days when my beautiful children would ask to go somewhere or do something and I’d reply, I can’t I’m not very well today. The muscle spasms were so bad in my chest, it felt like my lung had partially collapsed, again. Waking up one day, feeling relatively okay and the next, having to use the walls of my house to aid me from one room to another. The one thing I have never done, no matter how bad I have felt, is stay in bed. I’ve never wanted to be isolated and away from my family. I might be in pain, but I can wrap up cosy on the sofa and watch a movie with them.

I remember sobbing, one Sunday afternoon. Because I’d exercised. No. Because I’d done too much housework in one go. No. Because I had brushed my 2 Siberian Huskies. It broke my heart, I was in agony. I hurt from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes and everywhere in between. My girls know more than anyone, when I am having bad day. With a gentle paw and resting their head on my lap. They are there to help me and put a smile on my face.

As the months went on, I got my strength back gradually. I learnt to take each day as it comes. One thing I’ve come to realise is no two days are the same. I paid to have a sensitivity test done, as I had read somewhere that diet can have an impact on symptoms. I also suffer from IBS, so learning which foods could trigger a flare up was definitely something I needed.

Almost five years on and yes I’m still in pain, yes, I still have bad days. But now, the good days far outweigh the bad. I’ve learnt to be more mindful, to be thankful and to be more positive. Since the day of my Food Sensitivity test, I’ve not let any of the 26 flagged sensitivities past my lips. I continue to have IBS issues and Fibromyalgia issues. I always will. But I know what triggers them and how to ease them. I will not let this consume me.


I am Lisa. I am a wife. I am a mother of 2. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an Auntie and a Great-Auntie and yes, I am a Lunchtime Supervisory Assistant. I am not my chronic illness.

Lisa. x

I wasn’t expecting that | My Chronic Illness

In June of 2012, through an act of complete silliness on my part. I fell walking Reece home from school. Upon initial assessment, it seemed my pride that was hurt most. Albeit a few grazes.

Now jump forward two weeks to 5th July. I’m at work and have just bent down to fasten a childs shoe (I’m a Lunchtime Supervisory Assistant). I really don’t understand those parents who send the kids to school, in shoes they can’t fasten themselves. I knew something was wrong. Stabbing pains in my left shoulder-blade, under my armpit and into my ribs. Trying to talk or even stand up straight was agony. I got in to see my GP straight away, who sent me to my local minor injuries unit for a chest x-ray. Now according to them, my x-ray showed a pneumothorax (a punctured lung between you and me) and they sent me directly to the University Hospital of North Durham. On route, I got a message to Gavin, who was still at work and oblivious to everything that had gone on. Of course I told him not to worry, but that’s usually the worst thing you can say.

So we rock up at the hospital. Me, my parents, Shannon and Reece. Their presence was a welcomed distraction. Just as Gavin turned up, the words ‘needle aspiration’ were mentioned. This is a photo he took as we sat waiting.


Look at me, with my short pixie hair do. The aspiration was as pleasant, as it sounds. I was sent home with an early appointment, the following day.

Now this moment of complete and utter silliness, lead to a punctured lung and upon investigation, a torn diaphragm. They reckoned the tear in my diaphragm, could have been there from birth and gone unnoticed.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and still I felt no better. Sick note after sick note. I was in constant pain all-over, breathless and fatigued. I had tests carried out at a Pulmonary Clinic, who confirmed my lung had healed. So I was then referred to a Rheumatologist.

He was the most lovely man, he genuinely listened. He cared. I rhymed off how I was feeling. Widespread pain, muscle spasms, fatigue and even my digestive issues. He laid me on a physio table and examined me and found me to have almost all of the 18 tender points of a chronic illness, that he was suspecting.

December 2012 – diagnoses; Fibromyalgia

Do you know, I think from that day, I started to feel a slight improvement. Don’t get me wrong, this guy wasn’t some kind of magical witch doctor. It was more relief. A sense of knowing that this pain wasn’t in my head, that it was real.

I managed to return to work in January 2013. They were and continue to be brilliant with me. I went back on a phased return, before getting back to fulltime. My Rheumatologist put me forward for a Fibromyalgia course that was being run, it was very informative and did help.

As I have lived with this chronic illness for 4 years and the diagnoses alone, has taken a lengthy post. I think I will do a separate one on how it has affected me and my family.

Lisa. x