The End Of The Beginning

It’s been a little while since my last post. Guess I just needed a bit of down time to myself to feel things through without writing things down. I’ve also been quite light on the journal writing, so it’s nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s me.

Had my final regular J-Prep session on Wednesday, including a lovely Havdalah [separation] ceremony to mark the transition between being on the J-Prep course and continuing our Jewish journeys on our own. There were hugs, tears, well-wishes, all the things you’d expect at a graduation of sorts.

I have mixed feelings about the course coming to an end. There were no tears on my behalf, but – as I said to my classmates – I think I was emotionally shielding myself from the idea of J-Prep being over by focusing on the fact that next Wednesday we’re all going on a walking tour through Jewish history in the East End, so goodbye wasn’t really goodbye.

This course has been different to any course I’ve ever taken. I’ve learnt a lot, but even more than that, I’ve grown as a person. I’ve had a place to explore my own beliefs and an opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with other people being on a similar journey, and that’s been one of the best things with this course.

I came to the course having – naturally – read quite a lot about the religion, but it was a bookish kind of knowledge. What the course has given me is a more real way of relating to things. Also, throughout the course, I’ve more and more discovered how Judaism is about so much more than just religious beliefs and studying the Bible; how the emphasis on tzedakah [charity,  fairness, justice] and tikkun olam [healing or repairing the world] really fits very well with my own way of thinking, and the values I was brought up with.

Spent a good part of Friday’s therapy session talking about J-Prep and what it’s been like to be on the course, and one of the things I realised, sitting there talking about it, is that while I have really enjoyed being part of my particular J-Prep group, I’ve also got to know a lot of the people in the other J-Prep groups, as well as being fortunate enough to have been welcomed into the community by some long-standing members of the congregation, who have been very generous in answering my questions and sharing their knowledge and experience with me.

That I’ve been able to form relationships with people in all the different parts of synagogue life, and so, even tough the course is now ending, I will still be as active in my new community as ever.

Though I feel sad that J-Prep has come to an end, I also feel ready to take the next step; going to the Beit Din to formally complete my conversion and to move on to truly being a part of the synagogue community.

All the way through the J-Prep course I have said that my Jewish journey didn’t begin with joining the course, nor will it end with the completion of it, and that feeling has not change. This really is just the end of the beginning.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. To read a lovely little blog post by one of my rabbis about her experience of J-Prep please click here.

To learn more about Reform Judaism in general, click here.
Or here to learn about how Reform Judaism views conversion.

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Home & Feeling Homeless

Was meant to move yesterday.
Spent all day Saturday packing and preparing, didn’t even make it to shul for service because I was a too stressed out about the whole thing. Had several moments of panic throughout the day, thinking I don’t really want to move, it’s the wrong decision, I’m not ready for this, it’s too scary, etc etc. You get the picture. But, eventually everything had been packed up and carried downstairs, ready for The Big Move and I tried to get some sleep.

Got up early the following morning as the van was due to arrive around 8.30.

Sat downstairs, surrounded by all my boxed and bagged up things, nervously waiting for the van.

Which didn’t come.

At 9.05 my phone rang, so I picked it up expecting it to be the removal guys. It wasn’t. It was their boss calling to tell me that the van had broken down en route to picking my things up and unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to do the move that day.

Felt absolutely crushed by this. I was already stressed out about the emotional impact of moving, and not feeling too great about the place I was moving to, and then this happened on top of that.

The next several hours, in fact the whole day after that was pretty horrible. I was just crying, feeling absolutely awful. And, yes, I know – of course it wasn’t just about the van; it was the whole thing – having built up towards this move and mentally preparing for how I was going to deal with it. And it just all came crashing down on me.

Called both of my sisters, texted Dev, did lots of things to try to manage the disappointment of it all, sitting in my now empty, echo-ey room with no books, no computer, not even a desk.

I had had the whole day mapped out; how I would move things into the new place in the early morning, then spend time beginning to sort the room out, then meet with a friend, before going back and forth between The House and the new place with little things that needed to be brought over. And in the evening I was to go back to The House for my goodbye dinner which my housemates were holding for me.

Of course that plan went out the window when the move didn’t happen. I was just so sad and disappointed and stressed out I couldn’t really get around to doing much at all. Managed to properly clean out my old room, but that’s about it, and that was done with tears running down my face the entire time. I think, as A. pointed out in session today having heard me talk about all of this; what happened was that I suddenly found myself feeling that I didn’t have a home. I’ve moved around a fair amount, and what’s been constant for me have been the things I take with me everywhere; my books, my journals, my writing, and I’ll create my home around them wherever I am. So, with all those things boxed up and with nowhere to put them, it left me feeling homeless and lost.

Needless to say, by the time I was due to meet my friend S. for lunch, I was pretty emotionally wrecked.

Enter the power of a good friend.

Yes, I cried and I still felt awful, but it was also nice to be able to see that I was able to allow the tears to come, even with my friend around. Or maybe because she was there to support me. We talked about all the worries and fears I have about moving out, what I’m leaving behind. Lots of things, and it helped me see that the tears were actually an absolutely appropriate response to what I was experiencing, and that it was OK. Talking to my friend also helped me to recognise that while all these feelings were valid, they were only what I was feeling that day, not what I would always be feeling.

Went back to The House after seeing my friend and unpacked my bedding to make my bed up again, and that helped a little with making the room feel less bare and naked, and slightly more like the room that had been my safe haven.

A little later M. knocked on my door and asked how I was doing, having heard from another housemate what had happened. So I had another tearful conversation, being allowed to tell someone yet again how horrible I felt. And that was really helpful, too; to both say and show how much I was struggling.

Later I had my farewell dinner with my house mates, which was nice. I was very touched that they wanted to do this for me, especially considering how I’ve often not been very involved with things in The House. Also I felt incredibly thankful that they were allowing me to stay another night at the house, making things a lot easier for me. C. said to me that I’ve been a member of the household for over two years, of course I could stay another night – and that felt really good, because I never feel I can take it for granted that I’ll be welcome in any place.

Stayed up quite late talking with M. after dinner, and again, that was really helpful and made it a lot easier to settle down for the night.

So, I have to say that although living at The House has often been difficult, with many many ups and downs, and there are lots of things to reflect on in the months to come, I was left with the feeling that my housemates have seen me as part of the house; that for a time The House really was my home. And that felt really really good.

xx

On My Own – An Entry About Finding New Ways To Cope

I’m at The New Place now. I moved my stuff here on Saturday and myself today. And so far it feels ok. Had a house meeting today and that went well. We had a visitor who’s also looking to come here and after the meeting me, T and C sat in the lounge talking about him, realising that we had all made almost exactly the same observations. I’m not going to go into any details about that, because that’s not really the point – I just mentioned it because it was really nice to sit there together talking. Both T and C have really made me feel very welcome. They had even put up curtains in my room and flowers on my chest of drawers. Very sweet. The other person who lives here hasn’t been around since sometime last week. In fact I’ve only met him at two meetings. T said that he has been finding it difficult being in the house and so he has been away quite a lot lately.

As I mentioned earlier I split the physical moving of things and actually moving in myself over a couple of days. It wasn’t what I had originally planned to do, but the closer I got to the big Moving Day the more stressed out I got about the physical move. So much so that I began to notice that I completely shut off all emotions I had regarding moving away from Dev and into this completely new place. So, that’s why I, in the end, decided to do it this way. Once I had moved my stuff over (and that went ridiculously smoothly) I was able to go back to the flat and spend the weekend with Dev, firstly letting go of the accumulated stress regarding the packing and unpacking etc, and then slowly allowing myself to think about what my feelings are in terms of the mental change this move will mean.

I was saying to my friend (who came over to help me with the move on Saturday) that had I still been in counselling I could probably have managed to deal with both aspects of the move in one go, but since that’s not the case I think it’s a very positive thing that I was able to work out another way to cope with it, without going back to my old habit of simply shutting down.

Having said that, I must admit that I don’t think the move has really sunk in yet. In fact I think it will be quite some time before it does. But, as I said at the house meeting today; I’ll let it take as long as it needs to. There is no need to rush anything. I have all the time in the world to wait for whatever reaction is to come and to deal with it as and when it does.

Had to go back to the flat today to get my duvet and a few bits and pieces I wasn’t able to carry when I came here this morning. Going back to the flat, seeing it looking so empty, now that all my clutter is gone – it was pretty emotional. Just before I left I switched on my iPod, and what comes on if not the piece of music Dev has composed for me. Needless to say I then had to take a moment, to just listen to the music and remember all the things we’ve been through in our five years together. Not just the difficult stuff we were so desperately dealing with for the better part of last year, but also the fun bits. And I realised that more than anything I will miss the laughter we’ve shared. For better or for worse, Dev is the only person in the world who can make me laugh so hard it sets my asthma off.

Anyway, it’s getting rather late now. I really should be going to bed. I’m just finding it a little bit difficult to settle down. There are two main reasons for that. One that it’s a different bed the one I’m used to (don’t ask!), and secondly that there are no locks on the doors. That doesn’t bother me in the day time – and I certainly don’t distrust my house mates in terms of going into my room or anything like that, it’s just that, well, with my background I just find it difficult to relax in a new place at the best of time, and I think I would have found it easier had I been able to lock the door. Again, as I said before, this has absolutely nothing to do with my house mates, it is basically old ghosts that haunt me.

Still I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with it. I remember having similar feelings both when I moved into my first flat in Sweden and the first few nights I stayed at Drayton Park. Sooner or later I’ll get used to it and it won’t bother me anymore.

It’s just a matter of finding a way to tolerate feeling a bit unsettled for a while until normality sets in.

xx

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

Reflections

Christmas has come and gone for this year. And I survived it. (As did everyone else, as far as I can tell). Still, being Family Occasion of the Year, it does rather hightlight the fact that I didn’t spend it with my family. At least not the family I grew up with. I spent Christmas with my More Than Family, and it has been a good one. That said, there is no denying it that celebrating Christmas away from your own mum, dad, siblings and so on – well, it is undeniably attached to some sadness. That sense of I wish things were different. That they were more stable and straight forward. Naturally, that’s not to say that things are bad the way they are; only that they could be a different kind of good.

Also, being away from home (home being London, for all intents and purposes) and more importantly, away from Dev, it makes it that much more clear how difficult it will be to get used to that change, too. Yes, we very much agreed that our separating is more or less a necessity, but it is still a huge change, and something that will take some getting used to. In short; I miss him. He is my best friend, and the thought of not seeing him every day – well, it’s hard to accept, not only intellectually but emotionally as well. We have been on a huge roller coaster this year, and now that the ride is coming to an end – well, it’s filled with complex emotions. There is a very positive sense that this will allow us both to move on, and at the same time there is an almost tangible wish to hold on to all the good things we have created together. The silly inside jokes, those special moments when everything felt absoltutely right. I really hope that, looking back, those memories will be at the forefront. Because I have learnt an awful lot from him. And I will always be grateful for the part he has played in my life.

Today is my mother’s 65th. I gave her a ring earlier today. Just to wish her a happy birthday. And although it was a rather stiff and awkward few minutes I’m glad I did it. Because, no matter how complicated things are between us, well, I do hope she has a lovely day. And I hope that, maybe another year, we will be able to celebrate together. I don’t think things will ever be simple, but I do hold a firm belief that we will – eventually – find a way to communicate better, and that that will lead to us being able to find some common ground to build on.

Being here, in my home town, it is quite emotional. Even though I may not have expressed or verbalised it, I think that it’s been pretty clear to those close to me. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of support, both from those who are here, and from my friends back home. In fact, I’ve had tons of sweet and encouraging text messages from my friends, and they do help. They remind me that even when I return to England I won’t be alone. That there are people waiting for me there, too. People who are looking forward to my coming back.

xx

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

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