I Solemnly Swear Never To Be Suicidal Again? – An Entry About Fears, Promises & Honesty

When I uploaded the previous post twenty days ago, I was fully intent on posting the next one the following day. As you can see, this didn’t happen. Instead I have been telling myself every day since then that ‘You really must get around to writing That Post today’, each day finding conscious and unconscious reasons not to do so.

I’m not always good with feelings, with dealing with them, I mean. Especially pain. I have a tendency to shut down, to frantically try and get away from anything that may make me experience emotional pain. And I do this even more so if I perceive that the pain is being inflicted by someone I respect and care about. In some ways I suppose this behaviour makes perfect sense. Who wants to feel pain? Who wants to feel hurt by someone they hold important in their lives? And, yet, looking at it from another angle, it is sort of strange, particularly from someone who has spent so much time doing therapy, where much of the work centres around exploring and examining pain, past and present, often inflicted by those we find hardest to blame.

So.. this will be a hard one to write. But, I felt that I owed it to myself to be brave, to not hold back, to be honest and let it all out. After all, that is why I have this blog..

The week I had been discharged from Drayton Park I arrived for my usual Friday session with A. I had a very specific question on my mind, one which had been eating at me for a while, and I felt I really needed to pluck up the courage to ask A. about it, in light of what had been going on both with me separately and in our mutual relationship lately. I never got a chance to ask the question, because once I had sat down, A. turned to me and said ‘There is something I need to say to you.’ Alarm bells went off all around my body. Last time she started a session that way was when she told me she was pregnant, and I could tell that this time it would be something possibly even harder to deal with.

‘I can’t work with you under the threat of suicide.’

Ten words. Like bullets to my heart.

I must have sat quiet for ten minutes, my world stopping in its tracks. I felt cold, nauseous, struggling to breathe. Thoughts were spinning in my head so fast it was impossible for me to grasp any of them for what seemed like forever. For a second I contemplated just getting up and leaving, something I have never done in my life, to anyone. But, the pain was excruciating, and I felt that I couldn’t take it.

When I finally spoke, the words that came out, as I was trying to blink away tears that weren’t even there, were a mere whisper; ‘I guess that makes one more person who can’t cope with me, one more person who I’ve become too much for, who I have pushed too far’. I couldn’t look at A. as I said it, because I was too scared of the force of my own emotions.

This fear of becoming too much for people, it’s been central to my therapy from day one. It’s been a ridiculously regularly recurring theme, something many hours have been spent turning inside out. I know where it stems from: that pivotal moment when I was seven and told my mother about what my brother was making me do, when I broke her, when I discovered that there was no one who could help, no one I could tell without running the risk of breaking. And ever since then, that fear has remained, has evolved into this enormous ball of anxiety that now encompasses a million different things that I believe I do, which ultimately drive people away.

Having said that first thing, suddenly there were lots of other things I wanted to say, thoughts I wanted to share, because apart from fear and pain a plethora of other emotions were descending on me at breakneck speed. I took a minute or two to try to pick them out, to separate them. The most urgent one was the feeling that this was incredibly unfair, because in the past several months I had more than once felt unsure of whether or not A. could truly cope with what I was bringing to session, and more than once had I openly asked her if she could. And each time she had opted not to answer. So I said exactly that, adding that it felt like she was going from zero to a hundred with no steps in between. Silence, silence, silence and then ‘I can’t work with you’.

After a few more moments of silence, from both of us, I asked her how she had imagined I might respond to what she had just told me. A. said that she didn’t know how I would respond. In frustration I said that that wasn’t what I asked, I asked how she had imagined I might respond, because in my mind, she is an intelligent person, and it didn’t seem that far-fetched that she might have pictured me hearing what she said as a form of rejection and as further proof that there is no-one who can cope with me, and that it would take me down the path of ‘If even my therapist can’t cope with me, then what hope is there..?’

Later she said, in her very gentlest voice ‘I’m giving you a choice’ and because I wanted to be fair to her and to the reality of the situation, I said that I could see that, and that I can absolutely understand that it must be incredibly difficult – frightening, even – to work with me when I am suicidal. Especially in light of what had happened only a few short weeks ago. And, yet, at the same time I couldn’t help thinking How is this a choice?’ She was saying that she couldn’t work with me under the threat of suicide, but how could I possibly promise to not be suicidal? It’s not something which can be switched on and off with the push of a button. It felt more like an ultimatum; ‘Either you stop being suicidal, or therapy stops’. I was going through the options in my head, thinking that I would be willing to say almost anything – even if it was a lie – if only she would carry on working with me. But, I also knew that I really didn’t want to have to go down that road, because it’s perilous in nature; one which would inevitable and seriously impact whatever work we might do in the future.

I said to A. that if I did make a promise like that, wouldn’t that by default make the whole subject of suicide and suicidal feelings taboo? Because, how could I ever trust that I wouldn’t accidentally step over the line of what A. felt was too much, now that she had shown me that such a line did exist, not only in the realm of my fears, but tangibly right there in that room? Wasn’t it exceedingly likely to have the effect that if things got to the stage where suicide felt like an option, I might not be honest with her, might not share these feelings, for fear of what the consequences might be for my therapy? To this A. said that of course I would also need to think about whether or not I could work with her. This may have been meant to make me feel that this was a two-way street, but it only left me with the feeling that perhaps she was hoping that I would come to the conclusion that I couldn’t, thereby giving her an ‘out’. So, I said exactly what I was thinking: ‘I feel like I am being pushed towards terminating this therapy. And that is not what I want.’ To which A. said that I may need to take some time to think about all of this.

I was silent for a while, trying to come up with something – anything – that may be used to bridge the gap between what I felt A. was asking of me and where I felt I was truly at, and suddenly I remembered something D. – the counsellor I worked with before I started seeing A. – and I used to do when things were very difficult. We would make an agreement that I wouldn’t act out in any way between sessions, that I would always come to the next session to talk things through with her. And, because I had a huge amount of respect for her, I knew that if I did make that promise, there was no way I would break it. It’s just how I am. And, if I felt that I couldn’t make an honest promise, it wasn’t a case of ‘Well, then I can’t work with you’ but we would instead find some sort of middle ground, acceptable to both, and which, crucially, didn’t entail making false promises. I might admit that I felt unable to promise that I wouldn’t act out, but that I could promise that before acting out I would do X, Y and Z (ie call the Samaritans, speak to three different friends, do my nails, make a painting, write a chapter on my book, contact the crisis team etc).

Having explained this set-up to A. she initially wanted to know how that had made me feel and I told her that it made me feel contained, that it was a positive thing, this process of coming to a reasonable agreement, because it made me feel that I had some control. And also, that not only did I know that I wouldn’t break a promise I had made to D., I also felt confident that she knew I wouldn’t.

After a short pause A. said that she felt she had made her position very clear and that any promise would have to be for as long as we worked together, however long that may be.

It felt like she was pulling the rug from under my feet, like she was responding to my tentative suggestion of a possible solution, by immediately raising the bar, to make it impossible for me to make the promise she was after.

So, I left that session in a daze, feeling unsure if that was it, if that was the end of the road for our work together, not at all knowing whether her earlier ‘You may need to take some time to think about this’ extended only to this particular session, if she was expecting me to show up for session the following Wednesday, or if she wanted me to do my thinking at home, so she wouldn’t have to deal with my suicidality, which clearly could not be dissolved from one session to the next.

*

I am not meaning to make this storyline of my life into any sort of cliff-hanger, but I am exhausted and I need a break. There is a lot more to say about what has been going on in my relationship with A. and what has happened since this session, and I hope that in the next few days, I will be able to post an update of some sort.

Until then,

Be kind to your Selves,

xx

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Absence – An Entry About Abandonment (..and smiting..)

My therapist has been away. It ended up just being one missed session, since we re-scheduled one. But it still had me really anxious. I didn’t tell A. this prior to her going away, because I just felt I was making too much of a big deal out of what really is kind of nothing.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

In her absence I had something of a penny-dropper. It wasn’t really so much that she’d be away for that one session, as the fact that I was gripped with this intense fear that she maynever come back.

I know, this makes no logic sense at all. Which is exactly why I found it so hard to share it with A; I simply felt stupid about the whole thing. But then, as I mentioned, the penny hit the bottom of the piggy bank, and it goes as follows: last summer, back when I was still seeing D., she went away on a holiday. Three whole weeks, no less. When she went away I was at a pretty good place, really – so I wasn’t all that worried, to be honest. I think D. had her worries, because she said something to the effect of “I don’t want to come back here and find that you’ve killed yourself” before we parted at the end of session, but I shrugged and thought to myself that, really, her going away isn’t that big a deal. Of course I knew I’d miss my sessions with her, but I really didn’t think it’d be that bad.

How wrong I was.
It was three hellish weeks, trying not to fall back to a pattern of self-harm and ideas of killing myself.

But I made it. Or so I thought.

The evening before I was finally going to get to see D. again someone called to say that something had happened and that she wouldn’t be back. And even worse, they didn’t know when or even if she’d be back.

Needless to say I spiralled downwards. It was really bad. I had been trying so hard to hold it together for those three weeks, not wanting to let D. down, and suddenly I hit a wall and just kind of cracked. So badly so that in the end I was admitted back into the women’s crisis centre where I had been staying earlier in the year.

I think I would have been ok about the extended absence, had it been a case of knowing how long it would be for. But that feeling of not even knowing if she’d be back, it really knocked me for ten, I’m telling you. Especially since, at that point, I had no idea what the reason for her not coming back was. For all I knew she could have had a terrible accident or be missing or any number of other horrible things that I really don’t want to think about even now.

So, back to the present. Remembering all of this stuff going on last year, suddenly it made sense to me why I felt so incredibly anxious about A. being away, even if it was just for that one session. In my mind, there was just no way of knowing that the same wouldn’t happen again, and so somewhere at the back of my mind, my brain was going into overdrive, thinking about the possibility of a repetition of the nightmare I went through last summer.

Now A. is back. I saw her today. She seemed ok, as far as I could tell. Only problem was that as we entered the room we have the sessions in I could see that she had her diary out. Needless to say alarm bells were going off like crazy in my head. And, yes, sure enough, it was time to look at annual leave. (Seriously, this should be renamed “annual leave-S-behind-in-a-potential-pit-of-darkness”).

A. is going away. First one session at the beginning of July. I can deal with that. But then, later, she’ll be away for four consecutive weeks. That’s eight sessions. In short: a bloody lifetime!

(And this is me at a place where I actually feel reasonably stable and optimistic).

My initial, if unexpressed, reaction was that “I can’t cope with that. I’m going to die. There is just no way a person can carry on breathing in and out for four whole weeks without being reminded of the importance of this by their therapist!”

Then, about three seconds later, having – again – experienced that gut-wrenchingly white-hot fear, I just switched off. From feeling like I was going to break down right then and there in the chair, to “Pffft! I don’t care. Whatever.”

Those two extremes. Again and again, on repeat. That’s what I’ve been doing since I came out of session.

A. did mention that she’d give me a number to someone I can contact if I feel I need to, but part of me feels just like a very needy child: “I don’t want some-bloody-else. I want you.” (Do we sense a tiny bit of transference…?)

I do realise that the reality of A. being away will probably lie somewhere in between my worst and my best case scenario, and I also know that a break in therapy can be incredibly fruitful as it often brings to surface feelings which may not naturally emerge within the safety of the therapeutic dyad. You can talkabout abandonment issues as much as you like, but it simply doesn’t compare to the power of re-experiencing it, and (hopefully) having a different outcome.

By the way, I’m not really blaiming D. for all of my separation anxiety. I’m well aware that this probably stems from long before D. even entered my world, going back to my mother, and before that my birth-mother. But, it feels damn good to be able to blame just the one person, so I’m sticking to that! Ha!
(Especially since I know that the person in question will be able to see it for what it is.) :)

Finally, before I let you go.. please allow me to repeat a joke that about 99% of you will have heard me pull before:

“I subscribe to Psychotherapy Today. I’ve got lots of issues.”


Sorry, couldn’t resist. I love that joke. Makes me chuckle every time.

Raspberries and sunshine,

xx

BTC's Patented Smiting Stick Of Doom

BTC’s Patented Smiting Stick Of Doom

PS. R, S and BTC – whichever of you is currently in possession of The Great Therapist Smiting Stick of Doom – swap it for my Mighty Magic Cloak of Denial? It’s been infused with extra-strength resistance potion. :þ

Kidding. You guys are the best! I love it that you have the same issues with all this as I do…… You’re no saner than me. Ha! Double-ha!

This Little Voice In My Head – An Entry About Mixed Emotions

Few minutes to spare before I’m off. To Sweden.
I’m flying over for a few days to celebrate my sisters’ mum’s 60th birthday. I wasn’t going to go initially, seeing as I was over there in March. (My youngest sister and I travelled there as a surprise for the middle one). So, I had decided not to go. But a special, and very sweet, request came through from the birthday girl, and I decided on the spot that I was going to join them for this special day.

I am really really looking forward to seeing them all. Even though I saw my sisters in March I haven’t seen their mum or brother since Christmas, and I know it’ll be good for me to be around people who have a knack for making me feel better about myself.

Still, I do have somewhat mixed feelings about this trip. My mother called the other day. Our second conversation since April of last year, and I ended up telling her I’m flying over for G.’s birthday celebrations. I didn’t say it in order to hurt her, but because it seemed wrong to somehow conceal my going there. I know my mother finds it difficult to deal with my relationship to G., that it brings out all sorts of feelings in her, but it just seemed a really bad thing to do to not tell her. Especially since I had already told my dad, and even though they are long since separated, chances are that she hears it from him. And I didn’t want that. Letting her hear it through someone else would have been both cowardly and cruel.

Unfortunately, the side effect of having told her is that I now feel really bad about going. I mean, I’m still looking forward to seeing everyone, but the sheer joy I was feeling has, undoubtedly, been tainted by something else. Something not so pleasant. I could hear it in my mother’s voice when I told her; how hurt she was by it. How she feels like I’m favouring G. over her. That’s not actually the case, we just have a very different relationship, but I know that’s what my mother will be thinking.

Fast forward to my therapy sessions: I can see a very clear echo of this same thing happening there. As you know I had to stop seeing D., my previous counsellor, back in December last year, and I’ve only very recently been able to find a person who seems to suit me in a similar (but different) way. Only I’m really struggling to allow myself to engage properly. As much as I want to I can’t help but to feel that in talking to A., in allowing her to take over that really important part of my life, I am somehow being unfaithful to D. This is, of course, not the case, nor an idea D. would want me to entertain. I know that. But I can’t help it. Big time transference. I can see that. But, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I think what I really need from D. (and consequently also from my mother, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to get either) is to hear, and to really feel, that it’s ok for me to move on. That she isn’t at all jealous of A. taking over, that, in fact, she is happy to hear of the progress I’m making. I think it’s necessary for me to be able to really take things further with A. Because as long as I keep hearing this voice, false as it is, telling me that I am being disloyal, I just can’t.

A. (or G., for that matter) telling me that it’s ok, that I have every right to move on, to do what I need to feel ok about myself, – well, it just doesn’t cut it. I’m way too pre-conditioned to tune in to that little voice at the back of my head telling me the opposite. It doesn’t matter that I can see exactly where that voice comes from, or how little sense it makes to listen to it, I just can’t drown it out.

So, there you go. Textbook example of transference in action.

Anyway, must rush. That plane won’t wait for me!

xx

Shoes, Skulls & Honesty – An Entry About Therapeutic Experience

I had an extremely delayed bing-bing experience yesterday. I was in the lounge with my housemate, talking about what it’s like to be in therapy/counselling and comparing what we each found most and least helpful.

Pretty soon we reached the conclusion that we both have the same general idea about what does and doesn’t help. One thing we agreed on was the fact that although interpretations can sometimes be helpful, more often than not they don’t really add much value to the experience. Also we both said that there is nothing more frustrating than to have a question answered with a question. Especially if it’s concerning something that has taken some courage to ask about in the first place.

To use a more concrete example: Let’s say that you’re in a session and you get the feeling that your therapist is in a bad mood and seems annoyed with you. This is clearly something that will bother you, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world to confront your therapist about, especially since you may not be entirely sure that your reading is correct. So, you let fifteen of your precious fifty-minute hour pass, because you’re unsure how to ask about this without making your therapist even more upset with you. You may even consider not asking at all. But, in the end you do ask the question: “Are you upset with me?” You ask because you really want to know.

There are now two main routes for the therapist to take: The first one – which has been used for years by therapist as a means of turning the focus back on the client – would be to reply with “What makes you ask that?” and although I understand the idea behind responding in this way, I don’t really see in which way this would be therapeutic for the client.

The other route – the one that would seem more obvious, and also more closely related to how things work in the world outside of the therapy setting, would be for the therapist to simply answer the question. Just a simple “Yes, actually, I am a bit upset with you because you’re doing something I have repeatedly asked you not to do. How do you feel about me being upset with you?” (Or, “No, I’m not upset with you, but I do have a cold coming on, and maybe that’s why I seem a bit off?”).

My housemate and I also talked about the fact that quite often it isn’t necessarily what is actually being said in a session that brings about a change in you, but what happens. (Not really a huge newsflash, but still.) Although it is helpful to be able to talk about things that are on your mind, the talking itself doesn’t really change anything. It’s more like a symptom relief. (Like taking a painkiller – it takes away your headache, but it isn’t likely to take away the cause for it).

On to my little bing-bing moment, which followed this part of our discussion: Last year I came to one of my sessions with D. wearing a pair of new trainers. At the beginning of the session D. commented on them, saying that she quite liked them. I have no idea what we talked about in that session, to be honest, but as I was getting ready to leave and I started putting my trainers back on again she realised that they weren’t all black as she had initially thought, but that they actually have skulls and bones printed on the side. She then made a comment about that and asked why – out of all the trainers in the world – did I have to choose the ones with skulls on them? I said something back about liking them and that that particular brand of shoes nearly always came with skulls printed on them. We went back and forth for a bit in a very parent/child sort of way, and in the end I blurted out an incredibly teenagey “Well, it’s lucky you don’t have to wear them then!” (At which I think D. may actually have smiled).

Now, I’ve re-told this little store to quite a few of my friends, but I don’t think I had realised until just yesterday why I have been doing it. I think I probably just put it down to me thinking it was a bit amusing that someone could react so strongly to a pair of trainers and that it was more about D.’s reaction than mine. But, having this discussion with my housemate and again repeating this story to her it suddenly dawned on me that the reason why I’ve held on to that tiny little detail is that it really changed something for me.

As I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a house where disagreements weren’t really accepted at all, and so as a result I was probably the most well behaved kid around throughout my teenage years. I never called my parents names or even shouted at them, in fact I hardly displayed any of the behaviour typical of a teenager. Because I was afraid what would happen if I did.
And now, years later, having had the above exchange with my counsellor, well, it was incredibly liberating. It showed me that it’s ok to get annoyed with someone, or to disagree, and even to express it in a less than thought-through way. The world didn’t stop, nothing bad happened – and it certainly didn’t ruin my relationship with D.

So there you go! A perfect example of how the smallest things can sometimes bring about the biggest changes.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I now have red Skullcandy earphones to go with my skull adorned trainers. :þ

BLATANT PLUG: Check out my brand new online store Earthprint Organic Clothing where I sell organic clothes with my own designs printed on them!

Stress, Random Thoughts & Specific Theories

Tomorrow is Friday. The first one back in the country since counselling finished at the end of December. And it does make a difference..

In the midst of dealing with the hang-over from spending Christmas in Sweden, packing up my stuff at the flat, trying to take it in that I won’t be living with Dev come next week, well, I reckon a session with D. would have been pretty perfect.
Someone who knows and understands the context of the thoughts flying around in my head, and who genuinely cares about what I do with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am doing reasonably well. It’s just that I’m not entirely sure if that is because I’m holding back on more than I should, or because I simply haven’t begun processing all these things yet. Or maybe, just maybe, because I have actually become better at coping with things. Either way, a session with D. would quite possibly help me to at least understand which of the above guesses is more likely to be accurate. I’m not saying that it would necessarily change anything, but I do think that the clearer I am on what I’m actually dealing with, the better I can find the right balance, emotionally.

Apart from the above worries, I am also quite nervous about this new place I’m moving to. I mean, although I have lived in shared accommodation before this will be a completely new experience. Not only will I be living with people who I actually don’t know at all, but the whole set up is very different from what I have experienced before. I think it’s reasonable to assume that it will be quite a big change to deal with; house meetings with my house mates and two therapists three times a week – well, it’s not exactly the norm, is it? I expect I will struggle quite a lot to find my place in this new situation. Still, having said that, I do believe that it is the right place for me to be. I think that staying in a place where the focus is personal change/insight, and all the challenges that will present me with, I’m certain that I will gain a lot from it.

On to something different..
A book arrived in the post while a was away – Karen J. Maroda’s The Power of Countertransference – and now that I’ve finally been able to start reading it I’m finding it difficult to put it down for long enough to get any packing done.

Maroda’s take on analytic technique is one that I personally find very appealing. To a lay-person such as myself her ideas seem to make perfect sense.

I am, of course, well aware of the traditional stance in psychoanalytic thinking; that the therapist will hold back on his or her immediate thoughts and feelings, in order to allow the patient to use the therapist as a blank canvass and to not burden the patient with the feelings the he or she may have evoked in the therapist etc. This is, in essence, to avoid allowing the patient to repeat past habits and thereby reinforcing his or her set pathology. Maroda’s theory, on the other hand, is – and this is a very general and broad summary – that for real change to take place in a therapy situation the therapist must join the patient in the experience of regression, rather than merely observing it from a safe distance. In other words, the therapist needs to both be able and willing to give more of herself to the patient, so that not only the transference factor is being looked at in the sessions, but also the countertransference factor. This, naturally, means breaking off from the often authoritarian therapist-patient relationship that psychoanalytic thinking typically entails. Maroda highlights the fact that even Freud was not unknown to alter his theories when he found that his experiments didn’t pan out the way he had expected, and that as society has undergone such tremendous change in the past several decades since Freud first introduced his theories to the world, so too psychoanalytic technique needs to change. Needless to say, when Maroda’s book was first published back in 1990 it caused something of a stir amongst the practitioners in this particular field. She was not at all the first to point to what to me seem like obvious flaws in the ‘blank canvas’-approach, however, up until then any attempt to bring about change had been fairly limited and there was no structured concept, such as the one Maroda presents in her book.

Anyway, if you happen to have a bit of spare time, I’d recommend this book. It’s probably one of the most accessible and readable texts around on practical implementation of counter-transference as an active part in the therapist-patient relationship, and a very interesting one at that!

xx

Strength And Determination – An Entry About Finding Your Own Way

“..I’ve got the greatest admiration for the way that you got through it. Couldn’t ask nobody else to do it better than you do it. Stay you -. That’s the toughest thing to do..”

I just got home from my last session of counselling with D. and I put some music on. The above lines are from the first song that started playing, and they seem fitting, somehow. So much of my counselling has been about exactly that; finding a way to stay me.

A friend of mine back home has quoted me those lines on numerous occasions throughout this year. In a way it’s become our song. The soundtrack of our friendship. And I think it is very slowly beginning to sink in that people do see something in me to which I myself have been blind to for a very long time; my ability to keep fighting. That inner strength and determination to carry on, despite everything I’ve been through. That I actually have all the tools needed to look after myself well enough to take charge of my own life.

My last session went well. It was a very good ending to what has been a very good round of counselling. I do think that it’s a real shame that I’m not able to carry on seeing D. because I think that the working relationship we have formed would have allowed me to go even further than I have, and I am very sad that it has had to come to an end. Also I will miss D. A lot. Not just the fact that she has offered a safe and stable place for me to talk and to grow, but her as a person. I will miss her way of responding to me. Especially those sentences starting with “Come on, S!” (as in “Don’t bullshit me – you can give me a better answer to me than that!”), and priceless comments like “You have no idea of the piss-offedness I’d feel if you went and killed yourself!”

But, more than anything, I will miss the calm encouragement she has given me week on week, often not even expressed in words, but in the silence between them, somehow. The pause and the look following whatever she has just said. That feeling of her genuinely believing in me. I will miss that something terrible. I feel almost tearful about it now, actually. But that’s ok. Actually, it’s more an ok. It’s both positive and natural to feel this way at the end of something good. And sadness isn’t the only thing I’m feeling. I also I feel really proud of myself for the work I have done in these eight months of counselling. I know that I still have a long way left to go – I have a whole life ahead of me, in fact! But I have made a pretty impressive start, I reckon. Comparing the way I look at myself and my life now to how I saw it at the beginning of this year.. It’s so different it seems almost unreal. And I feel so much better for it.

I went for hot chocolate with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, a friend who has very much been along for the ride this year, and we were talking about how much I’ve achieved. And in the middle of it all it suddenly dawned on me: I could have died. I could have not been sitting there, sharing a lovely, intelligent conversation with someone for whom I have tremendous respect. And that really hit hard.

Although my view on life changed drastically already back in April, I don’t think I had really allowed myself to fully understand how very close I came to dying. How very near I got to cheating myself of my own future. How many precious moments I could have missed out on.

This year I have really found out who my true friends are. The ones who will be there not just when times are good, but who will see you through the storm as well. And I am enormously thankful for them. Some friends I have known for a long long time, others are people I’ve only got to know this year. But they are all incredibly important to me. I would name names, but in the interest of relative anonymity I won’t. I just trust it that I have been a good enough friend back for them to know who they are.

So, even though life can, and doubtlessly will, be hard – it goes on. And so do I. With a little help from my friends.

xx

Ps. The lyrics at the top are from the song Stay You by Wood.

Lyrics from Stay You © Wood

Changes – An Entry About Moving On

I really shouldn’t be writing this entry right now. I have a million and five other things that I should prioritise. But, me being me, I put my writing before pretty much anything else. That’s just how I am.

I’m a bit stressed out at the moment. To say the least. Dev is off to spend Christmas with his brother early tomorrow morning, so today is technically the last day we live together. And although I know that the decision to split is the right one, well, it’s hard to not become a bit sentimental looking back at the five years we’ve shared. We’ve been through so much together. And I will really miss seeing him on a daily basis. I know, I can always pop in and visit him at the flat every once in a while, but it won’t be the same, will it?

Had a Christmas card from my father the other day. It was really sweet what he had written, so it really means a lot to me. I texted him back to let him know that. At the same time, there are a lot of things that remain unsaid, and I think that in order for us to be able to move on it’s important that we find a way to communicate with one another. So I wrote an email to him, trying to be as honest as I could about my thoughts on our relationship and our family as a whole. It was quite similar to a letter I wrote my mother some time ago, and equally difficult to write. I can’t help but to worry that they won’t understand that I’m not writing in order to hurt them, but because I’ve come to a point where it’s important that I get to say things I may never have said before. As I said earlier; I think it’s our best bet to be able to find a way back to one another. Even if it’s painful while we’re still getting used to it..

Dreaded last session with D. tomorrow. No thoughts of not going, though. Again, it’s one of those things I simply have to do to be able to move on. Saying a proper goodbye. So that’s my mission for tomorrow. That, and not crashing completely once I get home after.

Had a letter in the post today, from the mother of the twins I used to nanny. Haven’t opened it yet, but I’m pretty sure what it is. See, ever since I stopped working for them (although in many ways, it feels wrong to use the term ‘working’, since I really was welcomed as a part of their family) I’ve had a calendar from them at Christmas. And not just any calendar, but one with photographs of the kids taken throughout the year. My kind of gift! It’s always lovely to see how they’ve changed each year; how they are becoming more and more grown up with every passing year. They were always two seriously funky kids – despite having had a nanny who’s absolutely bonkers – and it’s just wonderful to see how they are growing into these amazing, intelligent and independent people. Nothing could make me more proud! I am in touch with most of the kids I’ve nannied throughout the years, and it’s the best feeling in the world to see and hear from them years later, realising that they’ve turned into young adults. It’s very very special.

Flying out to Sweden early Saturday morning. I’m really looking forward to it. Nervous as anything. But I’m sure it’ll be ok. I still don’t know whether or not I will see mother. A big part of me really wants to. It’s her birthday when I’m over there, and I’d just like to be able to wish her a happy birthday. So, I was thinking I might ring her then. Communication has to start somewhere.. And change doesn’t have to happen in one go. It’s ok for it to happen slowly. As slowly as it needs to.

xx

PS. For those of you who care; it’s Kylie Sunshine’s birthday today. :)

Nail Art & Goodbyes

I’m not a girly-girl. Not really. I don’t think I ever was. I think altogether my make-up kit consists of one mascara and one lip gloss. Neither of which is in regular use. Having said that I do like doing my nail. It’s also something I do when I am feeling a bit too stressed out about something. I think it’s that balance between having to concentrate enough to be able to not think about anything else, and not being too demanding. The stress level goes up, and out comes my big bag of nail polishes.

At the moment my stress level is pretty manageable. Yes, there are a lot of things going on, but, I think I’m handling it fairly well. Still, I did go slightly nuts the other week and ordered myself this nail art set, and now I can’t help but to wonder if perhaps that is a sign that I am under more stress than I care to admit.

As you know Dev and I split up some time ago, but for a lot of complex reasons we have still been living together. But that’s coming to an end reasonably soon. I applied to go into supported accommodation, and last week I was told that they had decided to offer me a place. So, I’ll be moving at the beginning of January. It’s not very far from where I live now – in fact it’s ridiculously close – but it will be a huge change. Going from sharing a brand spanking new flat in a lovely complex with all mod cons, including a 24-hour concierge service, to a shared Victorian house filled with people who also struggle from emotional difficulties – well, it’s bound to take some getting used to. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly happy that I’ve been offered a place – but it will be a real challenge adjusting to living there.

Dev is going abroad next week, the day before I head back home for the holidays – and so these next few days are basically the last we will be living together, since although Dev is coming back for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s, he leaves again before I return. So that’s one thing that’s happening.

Tomorrow is my second to last session of counselling with D. I know I go on about it, but really, this is my blog, and it is a big deal for me. As I’ve said before, I’m not very good with endings, so this makes me quite nervous. Having said that, I am working on it – getting better at saying goodbye to people. I remember talking to P. at The Maytree just before leaving there, and she asked me if I’d be able to look her in the eye and say goodbye. And I couldn’t.

There was just something inside me that made it impossible to do. It’s like letting someone get inside the walls I’ve put up to protect myself. And that’s a hard thing to do.

I don’t think I’m the only one to be like that, though. I think it’s fairly common to find it difficult to say a proper goodbye. But, as I said, I’m working on it. Both with D. and with Dev.

Only a little over a week before going home now. And I am really really looking forward to it. I have no idea what it will be like, but I’m definitely excited about going. I was texting back and forth with my youngest sister today, and one thing we talked about doing is reading aloud from a book called Goodnight, Mister Tom (by Michelle Magorian). It’s a book I’ve probably read fifty times – in fact it was one of the very first books I ever read in English, back when I was nine or ten – and I still love it. So I reckon that will be a really nice thing to do. Snuggle up with lots of blankets and read to each other.

Anyway, little sis just came Elaine (online, Elaine – what’s the difference?) so I’m going to sign off now and talk to her for a bit.

Be good – I have a hotline to Father Christmas and I’m not afraid to use it!

xx

Uncertainty – An Entry About Dealing With The Unknown

I often don’t know what I’ll be writing about when I sit down to blog. Today is one of those times. It’s more a case of finding myself overwhelmed by a need to write; that there are a lot of feelings swimming around inside of me, and somehow they need to be expressed or at least explored. It helps me figure out what’s really going on in my mind.

This morning I spent about forty-five minutes trying to find a suitable psychotherapist to help me do this in a more controlled environment, since sometimes when I write I take things a step further than I was actually ready for. So, deciding on a therapist is a pretty important thing. Especially since the person needs to be someone who can read you well enough – gauge where you’re at – to be able to help you decide what you are and aren’t ready for.

The thing is though, that although there are absolutely tons of psychotherapists about, well – until you actually meet them you can’t possibly know that they are the right one, can you? Sure, I have a wish list of sorts at the back of my head (has to be female, have a certain amount of life experience, preferably be interested in a psychodynamic approach, and so on), but, as I said, until you’ve met a person, how can you know?

So, that’s something that’s definitely weighing on my mind. The fact that I haven’t yet sorted out a therapist, even though I know that the last session of counselling with D. is drawing rapidly nearer.

And of course, that in itself, the ending of counselling, well, it’s a pretty big thing. I really don’t like endings. I accept that they have to happen sometimes, but I really don’t like them. (On the other hand, I can’t say that I know of anyone who does like them). For me an ending is like, I don’t know – it’s just enormously frightening. Particularly when it is the ending of something which I have experienced as being very positive. It gives me a feeling of being abandoned. Or maybe abandoned isn’t the right word. But something similar to it. And it makes me feel incredibly alone and vulnerable. Especially when I don’t know what’s round the next bend.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. That one of the things I’ve really been struggling a lot with in life is the fact that there are so many loose ends. So much uncertainty. Both in my present situation and in my past. And I think what I want to get out of therapy is some sort of closure. Not in a done and dustedsort of way – I don’t believe that’s possible, since life is a journey and as a person I am constantly changing, constantly evolving. A better way to put it is perhaps that I would like to have a bit more order in amongst the loose ends. And I think psychotherapy could help me with that.

I think I’ve made a pretty good start in this round of counselling. I feel a lot more aware of how things hang together, how they all interrelate. At least on a surface level. I guess, with psychotherapy, I hope to get a deeper understanding of it. How the finer (or often not so fine) details have lead me down a certain path, has steered me into a certain way of behaving, of dealing with things.

Apart from that, what else is going on? Well, Christmas is getting closer by the second. And Christmas means going home.. My mother now knows that I will be in my hometown over this period; she was told earlier in the week. What I don’t know is what her reaction to that was, but, me being me, well – I do worry. I worry that it was really hard for her, I worry that I’ve really made her upset this time. And also – yes – I worry that my decision hasn’t had much of an impact at all. Because that would probably be the response that would mean the most..

Still, I am going home. It was my own decision. And I think that, as challenging as it will be, it is the right one. I think I need to reclaim my turf a bit. I also think that I am a lot better equipped to do so now, compared to earlier in the year.

I just hope I won’t forget it once I’m there.

xx

Reflections – An Entry About Buying More Time When It’s Needed

I am aware that it’s been a while since I last updated my blog, but there is good reason for it. I’m not merely neglecting my blog writing duties for the fun of it; the last few weeks have been somewhat overwhelming, and thus I’ve needed some time to myself to think things through.

Normally I write my blog and it helps me understand things. This time I really needed to understand things before writing about them in my blog. Hence, the delay in serving you the portion of S-related news I know you have all been so eagerly awaiting.

I don’t quite know where to start, so I’ll start where my mind is at in this very moment; Christmas. I’ve decided to go home for Christmas. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a decision to make, but for me it is. It’s been a huge decision. As you may be aware I haven’t been in touch with my family since April, so, a trip to the small town that is home is pretty big for me. I haven’t told anyone in my family about this yet; I’ll be staying with my bonus family – my More-Than-Family, and haven’t even decided whether or not I will tell my own family that I’ll be around. I think, going home and all that that may entail will be my focus for the remainder of my counselling sessions with D.

That’s something else I’m dealing with; my beloved fifty-minute hours with D. coming to an end. I obviously always knew that the counselling sessions would have to end at some point – in fact – they’ve already expanded far further than anyone could have anticipated when I first began counselling. (I think I’ve been seeing D. for something like five times longer than what the original deal was.)

December 19th is to be the last session. And I’m dreading it already. It doesn’t matter that I am well aware that the cessation of counselling is as much part of the process as actually undergoing it – it still freaks me out. Not only the uncertainty surrounding what help and support I will have in place when that day comes, but the actual saying goodbye to D. (Even as I am writing this I can feel my brain and my emotions completely separating; the brain calmly stating “It is normal to feel this way, everyone does” and my heart going “I don’t care if everyone goes through it, no one has everstruggled more with this issue than I am right now, no one has ever felt such pain.”) So, that’s another big thing going on in the little person that is me.

What else? Well, Dev and I have decided that although we’ve had five incredibly good years together, the time has come for us to move on. Separately. It’s been in the pipeline for some time, especially since we – even before my depression reared its ugly head – had the Baby Issue laying between us (the Baby Issue being that I want nothing more than to have a child; it’s all I’ve ever wanted, what has always kept me going, what gives meaning to my life – and he not having the remotest desire to ever become a parent.). But, I guess the reason why we’ve decided to split now, rather than earlier, is that we’re no longer getting what we want from one another. And we’re not able to offer what the other needs. We’re not arguing, we’re not at each other’s throats (save last night when I – having not slept for God knows how long – threw a fit after dropping a plate of grilled cheese sandwiches face down on the table, and in sheer frustration blasted a “No, it’s not bloody ok!” at Dev, who foolishly had tried to be understanding and calming..). It’s just one of those things that happen.

To say that we’ve had a rough year would be a serious breach of the generally accepted definition of the term ‘rough’. Between my two suicide attempts, Dev’s mother passing away and my not being in touch with my family things just got too much, and it’s not healthy for us to stay together. There is absolutely no blame placed between the two of us. It just got too much. It’s sad, and it will be painful as hell to get used to, but it is nonetheless inevitable. The “I want from you / I wish I could but I can’t”-cycle can so easily turn into a severely destructive “I demand / You refuse”-pattern. And, if possible, we’d rather like to avoid that.

Unfortunately it puts us in a very tricky situation from a practical point of view. As I haven’t been working for more than about seven weeks since the beginning of December last year I have no savings to fall back on. At all. Also, I have, since my last blog entry had to leave my job. And even putting that aside, it would be completely and utterly void of any form of realism to assume that I will be able to go back to full time employment any time soon. It’s not for lack of trying – because I did, and it’s certainly not from lack of want – but the reality is that where I’m at now I can already barely get myself through the day – and any added pressure is likely to be detrimental to me.

So, the ideal scenario that Dev and I had naïvely thought out was that he’d be staying in the flat, (since he’s the one with an income), changing the contract from a joint tenancy when it comes up for renewal at the end of the month, and me being given help with re-locating, based on the fact that we are no longer together, and so I should qualify for income support, housing and council tax benefits etc.

But, as always seems to be the case, things just don’t run that smoothly in S-land.. Not even when it comes to something like declaring yourself as at risk of becoming homeless.

Enter the phenomena of legal Catch-22. Since it’s a bit of a jungle of rules (none of which seems to help anyone, I might add) I’ll break it down for you:

– The council doesn’t feel that I fit the criteria as a being at risk of becoming homeless, as I – from a legal point of view – have an interest in the property where I am currently staying. They are therefore unable to help me.

– I can’t simply move out or allow Dev to take over the contract without fight, since that would mean that I have relinquished my right to the property, and I have thus made myself intentionally homeless. Again meaning that the council has no legal obligation to help me.

– Finally, I can’t sign the tenancy agreement on my own, since doing so knowing that I can’t afford the rent will lead the landlord to evict me – and again – I will have made myself intentionally homeless, and the council gets away with not offering me any kind of help.

So what are my options? Well, according to the council; to remain in the 1 bedroom flat that is also occupied by my former partner until such a time as I am able to secure alternative accommodation on my own.

Seems crazy? I’d say so. But who am I to argue? I am, after all, suffering from a mental illness and my view carries little or no weight. And the fact that I have been paying taxes all my life in order to help people in my situation, well – forget it.. Apparently the fact that you have done your bit doesn’t mean that you have a right to help when you need it.

I have been in touch with Shelter, a charity helping people who either are or are at risk of becoming homeless. They have decided that they will try to help me, but unfortunately, no matter how you turn things around, I do have a legal right to remain in my current accommodation. So, we’ve had to come up with a different argument in order for me to get the help I so desperately need. The argument is that it is not reasonable for me to occupy the property on the grounds that doing so would have a detrimental effect on my mental health condition. In other words; staying in an environment which has previously been highly supportive but no longer is, is very likely to make me more depressed, and is therefore equal to putting me at risk. As such I would be considered an adult at risk, and the council would have to house me.

As I’m sure you can understand, this is, no matter how true, a horrendous thing to have to do, knowing that there is no way I would still be alive, had it not been for Dev sticking by me up until now.. Although reality is that it isn’t healthy for me to stay where I am, it just seems such a harsh thing having to argue this point against someone who genuinely has given his all to help for as long as he has been able to.

There are a few other really big things going on in my life right now, but, again, I need to allow myself some more Thinking-It-Through-time before sharing this with you.

Although the basis for this blog is to be as honest as I can about what is happening in my life – I think that it is of equal importance to sometimes reflect before sharing. I’d rather wait and be able to write nakedly and honestly about it later on, than to tell half the story now, leaving too much to the imagination, too much to chance..

SO, once again, thank you for your patience

All the very best and more,

xx