Here Comes Trouble – An Entry About Accepting The Inevitable

I’m going home for Christmas. Not home home – as in staying in the house I grew up – because, well, I really don’t think that would be a particularly good idea. I’ve been virtually out of touch with my whole family since April, and the reason I’m going home is not to cause a stir or to confront anyone.

I just want to have a nice Christmas break. That’s all I want. Snuggling up on the sofa watching the Disney special. Going for walks in the snow. Mulled wine. That’s it. I don’t want any drama, don’t want conflict, don’t want to avoid conflict. I just want to be me. At home. At Christmas.

Only, I’m from a very small town and it’s not quite as simple as that.. Going home inevitably means running the risk of bumping into people in town who know people who know people. You know how it goes..

My solution to this was to ask G., my sisters’ mother, to tell my mother (and thereby, I assume, also the rest of the family) that I’ll be home, and that I’ll be staying at her house.

I figure it’s only fair that they, my mother and close family, know that I’ll be around, and that they have been told about it before I’m actually there. I really don’t want a scenario where my mother gets to hear it from one of her ex-workmates or anything like that, because, as far as I’m concerned that would probably be the cruellest option, and – as I said – my aim is not to cause upset. I would hate it if she spoke to one of her acquaintances and they said “Oh, by the way, I met S in town – I didn’t know she was back home?”

I am fairly confident that my family hasn’t really told anyone that I’m not in touch with them. And that is their choice, their prerogative. If they’ve decided to keep the situation under wraps, as it were, then that’s not my responsibility – and by rights I shouldn’t really need to worry about it.

But I do. Of course I do.
Because, as complicated as everything is I still do love them, and I don’t want to intentionally hurt them. I mean, I know that I am, by cutting them off, and thereby causing all manner of problems for them in terms of being able to act as if everything is ok. As long as I was being compliant, playing along with their version of what they like to call normality, it was pretty simple; family dinners, laughter and joy for the outside world to see and everything else could easily be choked to silence. And then, the second I decided not to play along anymore, all that was turned upside down, and I’m not naïve enough to believe that that hasn’t made everything a whole lot more difficult. It’s not as easy to act as if everything is fine when a key player is completely missing from the board.

So, yes, I do accept that I am making things difficult. But, the way I see it, I always have. Since that morning in December almost fifteen years ago I have been the stumbling block of my family. I know that the general opinion is that I should have got over It by now (God forbid using actual words and call abuse abuse..!) and that I am creating a major fuss over nothing. I’m not sure exactly where that stems from, but were I to venture a guess I’d say it is because my family have always only heard my oldest brother’s version of what happened, and that that version is more than just a little diluted, and fairly well removed from the truth.

I don’t think that my family are bad people; in fact I know that they aren’t – but they do have a very obvious inability to accept and cope with the reality of things. Particularly when it comes to the abuse that my brother subjected me to. And so, rather than asking me (or themselves, for that matter) Why are you reacting so strongly to what we have been told was pretty minimal? they find it easier to just put my behaviour down to ‘wanting to be difficult’ or possibly even ‘being a bit of an attention seeker’.

Sometimes I feel that my family have completely lost sight of the fact that this situation is incredibly hard and painful for me, too, and in their minds I end up being the trouble-maker. For all the If she just let go of the past it would make things so much easier for everyone‘s they seem to forget that I am the person who actually has to live away from my family, who has to spend hours caught in vivid flash-backs, has had to struggle with depression because of the scars inflicted by my brother.

And that’s not fair. It really isn’t. Because – and as far as I am concerned there are no two ways about it – it isn’t my fault that we’re in the situation we’re in. We ended up here SOLELY because of what my brother did to me, and no matter which way you look at it the facts are pretty simple: I was 4. I did not choose for him to do the things he did, I didn’t ask for it to happen. The abuse carried on for a full twelve years not because I was born unable to say no, but because he took that ability away from me. Regardless of which way you chose to turn it, it will always come back to that; had he not done what he did, we would not be in this situation now.

So, I’m going home for Christmas. And I won’t be hiding.
I won’t be seeking anyone out, either. But I refuse to be made invisible because of something that simply was not my fault.

It won’t be easy, of course it won’t. But I’ll still do it.

Because it needs to be done.

xx

Moving At My Own Speed – An Entry About Accepting My Limitations

I’m struggling.
As I was saying to someone recently – I’m better than I was a couple of months ago, but worse than I have been in the last few weeks. I’m sure I’ll pull through, but it’s still difficult at the moment.

D. has been away for two weeks now and will be away for one more, meaning that I will have had no counselling for nearly a month. And it’s taking its toll. I miss having that fifty minute hour every week that’s there just for me. The safe place where I can talk about whatever is playing on my mind, where I can open up and think out loud. And, yes, damnit, I miss D. herself, too! I miss her a lot. Classic transference syndrome, I suppose; the mother I always wanted, the one who would listen and understand and more than anything react to what I say. React in a way that is appropriate to what I am telling her.

In order to manage the weeks of no counselling I have put in place a very simple coping strategy. We talked about it in my last session before she went away, since I in the past have been known to suffer in silence and then turn against myself in a radically destructive way. Basically, whenever I start feeling something, rather than pushing it away I will call one of the many helplines available to talk about it. It’s a pro-active way of avoiding going back to square one in D.’s absence. Still, as helpful as the helpline people are, they’re not quite an adequate substitute for talking to someone who actually knows my story and understands my way of thinking.

So, yes – it is tough.

Also, I started a new job a month ago. A job that is really perfect for me. Hand and glove. Or, it would be, really, had I been a hundred percent well. Ideally I had been wanting a part time job, but since it seemed such a well-suited role for me accepted it, knowing that it might be a bit too much too soon.

I made it very clear already at the interview that I would need to have Friday mornings off, since I have a regular appointment then. I didn’t tell them what the appointment was for at the interview; people have such unpredictable ideas about counselling and those in need of it – but I put it quite plainly that I would not be able to take on the job if they were unable to accommodate this. Luckily they agreed to my demand, even though I was something of an unknown quantity to them.

I started working and have really been enjoying it for the most part. I’m heading a quite big project, something I generally thrive on, and my work mates are great.

Still, I have been off work for a very long time, and reality is that it is hard to readjust. Not just mentally, but also physically. I’m not used to being out and about, I’m not tuned for a long day of thinking and coming up with creative solutions. So, while I had decided to give it a real go, I in the end had to accept that I’m not quite ready to be working full time.

One of the main issues was the fact that I felt it had an effect on my mental health progress. Although I have been able to carry on seeing D. on Fridays going back to work has presented a dilemma of sorts. One of the things that I am working very hard on, as I have mentioned before, is allowing myself to stay with my feelings. Trying to not close the door and run when I become a bit too emotional for comfort. The time immediately after my counselling sessions has been a great time for me to practise this, since it is a time where I am naturally somewhat more fragile than normal, and therefore more likely to experience strong emotions. The only problem is that now I have to go to work straight from counselling, and so I am forced to do the opposite of what I am meant to do; I have to distance myself from what I am feeling in order to be able to manage my job.

Another issue with already having a half-day off (which I, by the way, make up for by working half an hour later than everybody else every day) is that it makes it hard to be allowed time off for other things. Like seeing my care co-ordinator. I would fit it in on the Friday mornings if I could, but unfortunately she only works Monday through Wednesday.

So, last Friday I had a chat with my boss, Den. I was very open about what has been going on, and told him that unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to stay, since I’m just not up for working full time yet. I expected him to say that he was disappointed and that it would leave them in a very difficult situation since the project I’m running is such a central part of everything that goes on in the company.

Not so. Instead Den sat quietly for a few nerve-racking moments, before finally stating that he really didn’t want me to go now that he had finally found someone who not only was capable of doing the job, but who also fit in so very well with the team and that he’d simply have to persuade the powers that be to allow me to stay on as a part-timer.

After a near week of living in limbo, not knowing whether or not I should start looking for a new job, Den came back to me and told me that I’d be able to stay. I’ll be working Monday to Thursday, 9-17. Also, I will be given the flexibility to take extra time off to see my care co-ordinator. He said that he had talked to our MD and explained that basically they’d have to find a way or I would walk, and that he since I had told him my reasons for needing this he was absolutely certain that I wasn’t bluffing. Our MD had then basically said that in that case there really was no option – that I’d be doing part-time, because they couldn’t afford losing me.

Needless to say I’m more than just a little relieved at this.
I had mentally prepared myself, even before starting my new job, that I might not be able to handle it. To tell myself that it’s just a job, and there are more important things for me to focus on at the moment.

And I suppose that although I stumble every once in a while and I am struggling a bit right now, things are doubtlessly moving in the right direction and that, actually, I am coping. I just need to keep reminding myself of that. It’s so easy to forget the things you have been able to do and see only the things you have failed at, and it takes time to learn the skill of pointing out the good rather than the bad. But, I’m getting there. Slowly. At my own speed.

xx