Miracles of Love

I need a miracle.

In the last year, or maybe in my recent life, I’ve fallen into my bed many a night and asked for a miracle. Asked for Charlie and Skye to have better health, that their lives wouldn’t be filled with so many trials and tribulations. I’ve begged God, whoever he may be, to cure my mother who is deeply tortured by mental health issues. I’ve closed my eyes and asked him to let me live when I was seconds from dying. Now, I’m not sure if it was God who saved me, or if it was my ridiculously stubborn will power but here I am; just being here isn’t the miracle though I think it was the details that saved me.

When I was taken into casualty I was assigned a specialist stroke nurse who was strong willed, feisty and spoke when I couldn’t. I will never forget her whispering in my ear ‘if you take this drug you will die’; I didn’t take it and I lived. Her love, care and compassion was my lifeline in my darkest hour. There were so many micro-miracles that its hard to place them all in my foggy memories; the joiner who installed a tone of rails in my house free of charge, the food which just appeared to feed my children and the constant love which would fall on me when I would least expect it.

Earlier in the year I took a trip to Italy, I went alone and spent so much time in reflection, my wee mum is sick; she is so poorly I often wonder how she opens her eyes every day. It was in Italy during some of the quietest moments of my life that I begged for a miracle. I wanted my mum to be able to annoy me again, to tell me my fake tan was too dark, to instruct me on the art of laundry or to simply sit in my home watching me live my life. Instead of feeling miraculous the allegations of sexual harassment started to tumble out across Scotland, and while far away from everyone I loved, my own memories were swirling around my brain like a storm of dark nightmares. I started to get sick. My face started to freeze and I was miles away from home. There was a night which was so dark that I wondered how much more of life a person could take when the mountains seemed so inexplicably high. I told the young hotel owner that I would be taking to my bed for a day or so and not to worry if he didn’t see me, I explained that I had been sick and I needed a rest. At eleven that night there was a loud bang on the door and his mother instructed me to drink some holy water for my pain, it wasn’t the water that brought me back to life it was her love and kindness. The next morning when I opened the shutters I kept thinking that I had been missing the answers all along. Nothing was exactly as I had planned in my life, but being so deep in my own worry had led me to miss the amazing things that happen around me every single day. I was having my own personal pity party.

I’ve recently got to know a young mum of three, a care experienced girl who beat the system and got her degree; was married and pregnant when her world came tumbling down around her. Husband left, rent was too high, benefit cuts too deep to let her survive. My sister took this family into her heart and she told me that they would fly. Homeless, alone and with nothing. We asked for a miracle. It wasn’t a blinding light, it wasn’t a lottery win; it was Councillor Cannon making sure she got the right caseworker, it was the people of Wallacewell who wouldn’t let her sink, it was in my friends who are painting and decorating her new wee home, it was in my sister who believed in her. It was in the hope that life could be more. Those were her miracles. On Friday this girl didn’t even have food in her cupboards but on Saturday night she was thanking the world for her wonderful new life. You see, she has her eyes open to what love is.

Charlie started her hormone journey today. I sat in the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids listening to her medical history as it was read out to me, heart defects, epilepsy, diabetes, depression; and now her body is going to have to battle so hard to be what it should be anyway. Just to be who she is on the inside. As I sat I kept thinking about all the current right wing press condemning these young trans people. I thought my heart would shatter. Who would pick this? I wanted to pick her up and run, run as far as I could; but she didn’t want to run, she wanted to stand up to this and to carry on. As we walked out the hospital we passed kids, some of whom were so sick they couldn’t walk and my heart felt like it was going to explode. Wandering through the corridors with Christmas trees and cheery festive music I was sure my emotions were going to betray me, seconds from tears and my stomach in knots we walked out to see a rainbow so big and bright we both stood for ages, eventually burst out laughing. You see we cant change our problems but we can change how we react to them. We can choose to let them topple us or we can decide to make our broken moments make us stronger. Dolly Parton once famously said ‘Storms make trees take deeper roots’.

To that end I’m going to be doing something to make micro-miracles for others. James (the boss) is collecting toys for local charities but I will be collecting (and begging) for small gifts for young women just like the girl in my blog. Women who have been given so little in life but who deserve a little hope. If you could donate a small, wrapped gift for a young lady then let me know. Ill be giving them to WAVES on the Southside and to the women of Wallacewell. It’s time for me to open my eyes. If you are struggling with life, and if miracles seem like a fantasy, let someone know. People in this country are getting poorer, austerity isn’t killing the debt, its killing people; but I believe in good. I believe in hope. I believe that Jo Cox was right when she said “there is more which unites us than divides us”. If you cant donate to my precious ladies that’s ok, we all have budgets but try and give something. A hello to a grumpy neighbour, five minutes babysitting to the single mum in your street, dinner to an elderly relative; change will come of that I have no fears but until then we must look out for each other. If your give a little, even if it’s just your time, then eventually you’ll be your own miracle.

Gifts can be handed in to our Glasgow Cathcart office on Clarkston Road, or alternatively shoot me an email at rosa.zambonini@parliament.scot


Just TIE me up in love

Recently there have been figures being banded about on the wait times for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). I don’t have the answers but I do have a thought. My daughter Charlie was self harming, slashing her arms till they looked like they had been clawed at by a wild animal and contemplating taking her own life. It took love, support and many weeks at Camhs before we got to the root of the problem…. She was trans.

Camhs were an exceptional tool and I know the Scottish government are committed to reducing wait times, however like every other illness, I think we should be looking at prevention where possible. A cure is good but prevention is always better, and nine times out of ten more cost effective. That’s where TIE (time for inclusive education) comes in. Many of the young LGBTI young people I’ve met during Charlie’s journey were in the same boat, the  story is so often repetitive. Fear of being who they are, fear of being bullied, fear of telling parents. Hatred of themselves, hatred of who they are, hatred of their own flesh. Then comes a Camhs referral, an opening up and finally acceptance…. not always but most of the time.

TIE aims for a better understanding of LGBTI issues, a reduction of bullying and a removal of stigma. If you think “hey I’m gay/trans/lesbian but that’s ok it’s as normal as being left handed;” then wouldn’t you be less likely to hate yourself? I think so! It’s about seeking to engage everyone from the straight community, the LGBTI community and the educational departments to ensure young people don’t resort to horrific acts of violence on their own precious skin.

This won’t just change the lives of young people but it will create generations of more tolerant adults. Workplace bullying, especially for trans women in very male dominated environments, is a huge issue. This results in many adults seeking the same support as our young people, but many often think they should be stronger, the shame overcomes them and they decide the only way out, is the unthinkable.

I’m not saying for a minute that this will resolve every issue faced in the treatment of young people and their battles with mental health, however I believe it would be a start. I speak out all the time on trans issues because I face it along side Charlie every day. This week my mum (gran sheena) realised she is wearing a  jacket in summer because she is ashamed of her own wee shape and my 70 year old mum has been researching special bras! Awesome right? But what if your family isn’t like that? What if charlie spent the whole summer roasting because of shame? That would damage her mental health beyond words. So we have to do more and in my heart I believe the schools are where we can achieve this.

I spoke at the SNP conference earlier this year where the members supported the TIE pledge (I will link the speech below). However words are not enough, if you want to reduce wait times, encourage children and most importantly save lives, then we must act. This is not a liberal versus conservative argument; or indeed church versus state; no – this is LIFE or DEATH. I urge everyone, especially the straight community who might think this will never effect you, to keep acting! The only way we can change the world is to get up and do it. Not just for wait lists, or Charlie; but for every young person in our country! Love wins. 

Growing Up Trans and Without Practice 

For most young women some of our best memories are sitting watching our mothers and sisters making them selves glam. I loved stealing my sisters lippy and using the lovely neon eyeshadows of my mothers 80s collection. Makeup and beauty doesn’t define a woman but as a glam lover, I understand the confidence that comes with a freshly painted face or nice new blow dry. 

When Charlie came out she stared to wear makeup and wasn’t quite as adept as my younger daughter Skye. That’s when it hit me, Skye’s had her whole life free to copy me and to experiment. While wee charlie had only ever been able to sit and wish from sidelines. Thankfully she is only 14 so we have plenty of time to get her glowing like Elizabeth Arden herself; but what about the ladies who only come out later in life?

It got me to thinking. No one teaches them how to blow-dry, use GHDs or do a winged liner. It would be quite difficult to go into a shop during the early stages of transition and ask for this kind of help. Trans women face many outer beauty problems, thinner hair, facial hair, different skin types; but all of this could be tackled with a little help from a glam squad. 

There is a fabulous hairdresser in Motherwell who had invented a technique to help thicken thin hair. I’ve had a lil chat with her and we are keen to have a trans night of Glam! A safe space to see hair, makeup and skin care techniques. Trans women from all over Scotland will be welcome and it will be a completely welcoming envrionment for every woman of EVERY age.

Like I say, outer beauty doesn’t define us but I think all women deserve support and encouragement. So if you would like to come to this event or know someone who would please let me know. Please share this amongst any LGBTI groups and beyond….

Beauty is only skin deep but a little rouge never hurt anyone 😘

Why is my mummy sad?

In a week where the spotlight shines on mental health, I wanted to share the story of my beautiful and brave mammy Sheena. My mum is a fierce, proud and an incredibly smart woman. She has fought poverty, social stigmas and cancer in her life time. She raised two girls and took on her nephew as her own. Ever selfless. Ever loving. Ever fighting. 

My mum would tell me to this day that there is no battle fiercer than that of depression. After her mother died a few years before I was born, my mum started to struggle with perpetual sadness. After my birth, she got worse and was prescribed an array of drugs designed to numb the pain. Tamazepam, lorazepam and anything else which would shut out the darkness. Sadly, these drugs also shut out the light. She was a great wee mammy and I was loved deeply, but the outside world was a hard place for her. She would feed the birds outside the glass doors of our home and I would watch them, it was all she could do to make me smile when she was in her darkest hours. To this day, seeing a robin is one of my faveourite things. She wasn’t able to go to some parents nights or school sports days, she was ill. Unwell. Poorly. She was a wonderful mother.

Then came along a CPN called Veronica, ever so patiently she helped my mum ween off the crippling drugs. My poor wee mum would cry and scream with the withdrawals and I would wonder “why is my mummy sad?” You see, children of depressed people are often the forgotten carers. Yes their mummy can wash herself and make dinner, but these kids often spend hours reassuring and loving someone who often cannot even register their own self worth. I remember my mum cared for her friend who had cancer ever so diligently and a relative asked her “why are you depressed? You have it all. Nice house. Nice life.” She was ill.  Give yourself a shake, we heard this all the time. Us kids would think but our mammy isn’t well; Would we ask someone who has a broken leg to run? I think not.

Through her whole life my mum has been open about her mental health. When she had cancer she noted all the flowers and cards that surrounded her; a few years later during her period of electro convulsive therapy, a very different story. Yet my wee mum would tell you that there is no fight worse than that of mental illness. And fight she does.

She has tried everything, therapy, counselling, medicine, shocking her body to oblivion. She fights every day to face a world which is extraordinarily bleak in her eyes but she continues to try anything to help a little sunshine penetrate her dark walls. She is heroic. 

I’ve had depression so I now know what it was like. I know why my mummy cried. I know why the battle is hard and I know I could be more understanding. I often wonder how many people around me have been touched by this evil illness but are too afraid to ask for help incase they are told to give themselves a shake. I love my mum and I love my girls, I love that in my family if you struggle someone will catch you. Someone will drag you to a doctor. However, not every family is like mine but there will always be someone who can help you. Sadly the stigma is huge but don’t be afraid. If the mammy Sheena can fight then so can you. 

I lost one of my most beautiful friends in he world to suicide and I will learn from him and from my mammy. You can too. My mum has always got time for others and she never ever ever ever gives up. Find time and don’t forget the little children who ask why is my mummy sad. 


For the Mamas 

This was written by my sister who works in the third sector…. she was born to be a mama! 

For many years I’ve been involved in running groups for mums and babies . I started when my own little ones were tiny and here I am today , definitely not young and my little ones now have 4 legs and wagging tails . Still I find myself surrounded by mums and babies , frankly it’s more wonderful than ive words to describe . At times it’s been a battle . Always , ALWAYS, my mums come first . Why ? Because happy mums , loved mums , cared for mums can more readily do the same for their little ones . Babies and toddlers will play happily with their own feet. They pay no heed to the fancy organic nature of their environment or the like . They just want to be surrounded by love and happiness . So many new mums are consumed by the pressures of life and motherhood that this aura of love and happiness seems like a impossible , unreachable dream . I don’t believe in ” waiting lists” , I cannot buy into structured, time pressured sessions . I don’t care if you eat half the cake table! If your toddler is a terrible two then I believe you need sympathy, support and a good sense of humour . Judgement has no place whatsoever . If they’re dressed to the nines or come in looking like a typhoon has brought them

 to me .. so what ? They’re there that’s all that matters . Relationships suffer when babies are born why should mums hide it, why not share and feel not only a burden lighter but a lot less alone. Life can be brutal regardless of where a person’s house is , what car they drive or how beautiful their baby is .. grief , loss , financial strains , health problems tend to be completely without prejudice or bias . All of this AND a tiny vulnerable human depending on them for love , nourishment , sustainment and attachments that will influence their whole lives . No pressure eh ? There’s many things that I love about my precious wee Nurture Group. The adorable tiny people , the lovely mums ..but mostly what I love is the absolute and unrelenting solidarity that exists between every person at nurture . I have NEVER heard anyone once be cruel , gossip or judge another. I’m serious not once . They constantly love and support each other, they sacrifice for each other and they care in ways that continue to astound me . It’s never just a Wednesday it’s much much much more than that . So to all my mums past present and those still to come , you have enriched my life in ways I cannot describe . I have been allowed to love and care for so many people over the years but on reality all of you have given me so much more than I can ever describe . In a world where women and girls are so often portrayed as a cruel , selfish , decisive and self seeking you girls are shining lights of love and joy . It matters not what you have financially , if your children become even a little of who I’ve seen you all to be then they will have wealth that money and ambition cannot ever attain . Our little Nurture Group is a family . It is everything this world endlessly seeks and often fails to be . It’s love , it is belonging .. it is home . Girls tonight I’m reflecting over a few little events that have reminded me just how amazing you all are and just how proud I am to be your mamma caZza xx

Am I Loved?

The world we live in can be so utterly cruel and isolating. Relationships are complicated, through social media we often have a distorted sense of how everyone else lives their lives. No one ever posts the bad days. The days where for the first time in months you wake up with a stomach like a washing machine. No one posts their loneliness and often if they do they are mocked for being “attention seeking”. So we go through life reading Facebook/instagram/twitter wondering how everyone is so happy, so on top of life and so loved.

I used to think the one thing that made everyone happy was money. Deep down it seemed that all most people wanted was enough money for food, clothes, labels, cars, houses, jet skis….. delete as appropriate when you get further up the food chain. Then you realise no money is ever enough, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone rich or poor who’s said “I have enough”. However, more than that, I’ve never gone through life meeting someone who’s said “I am loved enough, I don’t need any more”. Tell people you love them. 

We can feel happy with what we have, we can love our friends and family; but what the majority of us crave is the security of being loved regardless of our deepest flaws and our own sense of self worth. It’s so easy to put on a front and say “yeah I’m good, amazing, totally fab”. When inside our world can feel frightening and turbulent. I wonder if when someone asked “how’s you?” And we answered “you know something, not great”. Then maybe the honesty of it all would help with the atrocious numbers of people suffering with poor mental health. Honesty would prevail and the urge to compare our selves with the social media tinged rosie lives of others wouldn’t make us feel even worse.

I’m not saying for one minute we should constantly moan or we shouldn’t share our most joyous moment with our friends and family or John that was in your primary five class for four weeks, on Facebook. What I am saying is that it’s ok NOT to be ok. Mental health will only be de-stigmatised when we start talking about it and sharing about it like we would anything else. I’m never done seeing “I’ve got the worst cold” on status, but I rarely see “my heart is heavy and I want someone to reach out to me”. Why? Because we fear being mocked. So we put up selfies (Im the Queen of it) or photos of our kids, cars etc and hope after a few likes the answer to “am I loved?” Will be yes. It won’t. But you are loved.

So what’s the answer? I spend a lot of time wondering if I will get a boyfriend, husband and have the picture perfect family. Guess what I already do. Not the man part but I have a bloody amazing family. I fail to see it sometimes. I make the family amazing because I am the man and the woman and I do a damn fine job. My kids are funny and loved and cool and bad behaved and feisty and smart and amazing and I DID THAT. When people ask me why I don’t have a man I make jokes, laugh and make excuses but the reality is, I haven’t found my perfect fit and that’s ok. I just need to find my love in other things.

So what if you don’t feel loved.

1) Reach out to someone else. Even if you think you have no one there will be someone who feels just like you. Do you ever notice someone quiet or down on FB? Reach out to them and you’ll be amazed.

2) Look at what you already have. Good friends? Good family? A good boss? A nice neighbour? You’ll have something, or someone. You just have to look.

3) Dont be scared to ask someone who you know for sure loves you. Do you love me? If you need reassured then so what?? Get that reassurance and feel warmer.

4) Love you. Genuinely you are brilliant. Tell your washing machine tummy tonne still. Look in the mirror and just say I am loved. 

Last Day of De Depression

One of my favorite sights in the wide world is Airbles Road (bear with me) in spring. There is nothing more beautiful than when all the daffodils come out. They make everything which is so mundane and ordinary, look beautiful.

At the start of this diary I felt like a black fog had surrounded me, engulfed me and I couldn’t see a way out. All I could see was failing at council, kids who were suffering, pain, worry and chronic loneliness.

It was all consuming and I didn’t want to, nor feel able to leave my house. It took texts, calls, doctor, visits and a lot of encouragement to gradually come back to life. For my family and friends I will never ever take your love or patience for granted. I’ve gone from not being able to leave, to leaving with hair like candy floss and a lightness in my wee soul. I guess I realised I couldn’t fix everything, especially my kids, but I could love them and help them grow.

I remember one day after the snow was quite heavy I looked out my front window and saw a small daffodil had bloomed, I’ve picked it and put it in a book. I want to keep it forever. That day, for some reason, I remembered we all have dark periods but no one is ever gone forever in depression. My mum has suffered from this horrible illness most of her life and without her I would never got through this. Yesterday she said she wished she was better but if she had to pick one of us to get their health back she would always pick me first. I know that to be a hundred percent true, it’s such all consuming love which makes me me. She is everything that reminds me to come back.

I did this diary because social media is often very fake. Sometimes if we share, and I mean really share then we can help. There is a beautiful poem called Daffodils by William Wordsworth. I’ll leave the last verse below. If you are suffering from depression, remember the Daffodils, take a rest but remember spring always comes and you’ll be back too.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.