Friday, 28 December 2012

'There but for the grace of God' ...

As the saying goes, ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ and, after appearing in The Daily Mail yesterday, I couldn’t agree more.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I began my writing journey after my son developed school phobia and I found that I had time on my hands to read and ultimately fulfil my dream of completing a novel.  My son was crippled by his condition and, at the time, there was very little help or information - even online.  So when the opportunity to feature in a national newspaper came up, both my son and I agreed that if it could help just ONE child it would be worth it.

I’ve now had many people contact me through Facebook, Twitter and via comments on the article saying how relieved they were to read the story - that they no longer feel alone.  And, always a bonus, my book sales have rocketed and my first book Diary of a Mummy Misfit is back to #49 in humour on Kindle.  And for those who aren't familiar with my writing, none of my books are related to my experiences with school phobia - I write humorous chicklit, which I don't think came across in the article.

On the downside … people can be so nasty!  Some of the comments made by ill-informed readers astonished me.  I don’t mind for myself, but when they’re spiteful and directed at my son, that’s when I start to see red!  Thankfully, he’s a level headed boy and has had a good laugh at them - no, he’s no the weak little weasel who likes trainspotting and hides behind his mother’s apron, as some readers seemed to think. He’s a tall and feisty 17 year old with a wicked sense of humour and a definite mind of his own.  I agree that the photos are very staged and imply that we are joined at the hip - but that’s the papers for you!

But the truly laughable comments were:

‘So sad when you see an old mum’ !!!
OK so I’m almost 50!

‘Where was the father in all this?’ / ‘Another single mother ruins a child’s life’
Did you not read the article?  It clearly states that I’m married and my husband was supportive.  Why show yourself up by commenting on something you haven’t read?

‘Why didn’t she get him counselling or attempt half days?’
Go back and have another read, love!

‘How convenient that he developed this problem in time for some publicity for a new book’
Er, excuse me, the book mentioned in the article has been published for 18 months.

‘How wordy is this article?  Did she have to hit a word target?’
This was an annoying one as, although the article had my name at the top, I didn’t write it.  This had worried me from the start but it was the only way the Mail were prepared to do it. I'd also like to add that I never agreed to the headline, 'Now she wonders if she was devoted or deluded' - this implies that I regret my decision, which I don't.

Then, of course, you have the bullies - the type who would have made other kid’s lives a misery.  The ‘clip round the ear’ / ‘give ‘em a good whacking’ type who have been fortunate enough to never suffer from feelings of fear or panic.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone but, you my friends, can have a bloody good dose of it and rot.  And, as one reader suggested, God forbid you should ever have to be there for one of your own loved ones - you wouldn’t have the tools to cope.

Just to set the record straight, I did not mollycoddle my son when this condition started - I was a hard-hearted, mean mum who screamed, shouted and lost the plot on several occasions.  I’m not proud of that but we had no idea what we were dealing with at the time.  I helped in the library for a year (unpaid) and was on the brink of being offered a job there when the owner of the school decided against employing a mum - so, to all those who implied I was a lazy middle class cow who was happy to sit in my car and file my nails, remember newspaper articles never print all the facts.

It’s so easy to judge, isn’t it?  We all do it - I’ve been guilty of it in the past.  I can fully accept that there will be many people who will totally disagree with the way that this problem was dealt with, but they haven’t lived through it or walked in my shoes.  I have no problem with reading people’s opinions but is there ever any excuse for such vitriol?  I wonder if it makes these trolls feel good?

So … would I do it again?  Hell yeah!  As long as my son is OK with nutters’ views, then I’m happy and all we’ll do is focus on the positive comments and hope that we can continue to help other kids and parents.

And if you are one of those people who go round, willy-nilly, leaving vile words - stop and think before you type.  Or maybe just try getting a life!


  1. Good to vent your feelings to get them out, especially seeing you will probably get more 'bad publicity' in the future.

    Some people have not heart - I was shocked to read, for example, some of the comments they were leaving on Susan Boyle's site - couldn't believe my eyes!

    The usual outcome for this sort of judging is - they would experience some similar experience, and then understand the HARD way. But, the power lies with you, because you are a caring person and would not want anyone to go through this :)

    I pray they will not reap what they sow - that they will learn instead, by some other means, to become sensitive and understanding :)

  2. Good for you lovely. Hideous trolls beware of karma x

  3. Kudos to you and mostly to Ben for going ahead with this article. And my heart goes out to him for having to deal with something like that at such a young age. It's shown real strength of character to get over something like that and although the root of the problem was fear, to go ahead with the article and overcome the problem in the first place shows real bravery in my eyes. I feel sorry for those who don't understand it because if I remember the statistics right, 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. That means, a large number of those people who criticised you and/or Ben will either suffer from it themselves or have a family member who suffers from it. It's just a matter of time before they come into contact with such a situtation. Let's see how they feel then and how they deal with it.

  4. Good for you Amanda. There is a mother at my eldest son's school with this same problem with her child and I am the most understanding other mum there, simply because of what you have written before. Keep up the good work. Didn't see the article, but congratulations X

  5. Well done for going in! People are so quick to comment, it shows what sad lives the lead. Well done you for telling your story to help others :)

  6. Recently started reading your first book and love it, I didn't know what to expect having read your blog for a while, but it's great. And as a public school graduate I can remember many of the experiences well, love it! Well done you and your son for participating in an informative article, it makes interesting reading to someone who new very little about this kind of problem. It never ceases to amaze me to sort of ridiculous, ill-informed comments people will make and you should both be proud of yourselves for having the courage to be so open and honest.