Three Key Rules For Surviving The Present

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“..when all I really want, I said to myself, is to survive the present..”

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Sitting here, alone. Trying to somehow keep it together. And failing miserably. I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own life, and while there may well be a key to the lock, it seems impossible to find. Or maybe I’m just looking in all the wrong places?

I haven’t been able to attend service for weeks, owing to flashbacks. Haven’t even had enough head space to follow them online. Still, as my therapy is on now on hold, I know that it will be important to find other, non-destructive, ways to cope, so this morning I decided to brave it and just push myself that little bit extra to get there. Which I did.

I now regret that bitterly. As lovely as the service was, I was struggling throughout it, trying to stave off the flashbacks that insisted on popping up, and it took all I had to somehow stay in my seat and not just rush out. I tried to focus on the music, on the words, the prayers, and to a degree I suppose you could say that I succeeded, but what is normally something that feels naturally easy and enjoyable, today took a lot of hard work. By the time service was over and it was time to exchange the customary Shabbat shaloms [“have a peaceful day of rest”] I was exhausted, and I only barely scraped by during kiddush. Feel very bad about it, because I know I probably came across as a bit off to others, but it was the best I could do. Having greeted the people I know, I made my excuses and left as quickly as possible. The second I got on the bus home I just broke down in tears.

Of course, tears are not the enemy, if anything they are an entirely appropriate response to the difficulties I’m facing, and they’ve been waiting to fall since I left my final session with A. But it’s not nice when it happens in public. It just isn’t.

It was hard saying goodbye to A. The session in itself was reasonably OK. I managed to talk about the extreme separation anxiety I was [and still am] experiencing, and I think that was important. To be able to say how hard and frightening this long break feels, to be honest about how uncertain I feel about whether or not I have what it takes to make it through to the other side of it. To talk openly about why it’s so hard, this effective re-experiencing of every other time I have felt abandoned, neglected, second-best and left behind, with no one to care for me. To feel that there is no one I can truly trust to see me through.

Of course – and I said that, too – in my final session, I know that I’m not really all alone. I know that there are lots of people in my life who care about me and who want to see me make it through, people who are more than willing to offer me support. But, at the same time, as I’ve described many times in the past, a therapist is in many ways a pseudo-parent, and so, having a break – especially a big one like this – is bound to cut pretty deep. And when you cut deep, you bleed, and it inevitably leaves a scar. It’s impossible to just pick up where we left off, as if nothing’s happened. So there is a fear of that, too. Of what it will be like once A. is back. Will I ever feel able to trust her in the way I was? Because, unlike other breaks, at the end of this one her whole world will have changed. That moment when she goes from being a pseudo-parent to her clients, to being an actual parent will be unlike anything else. And even if we manage to reach that Winnicottian good enough place together again, the fear of another abandonment will linger, as it’s likely that in due time she will want to have another child. In fact, whether or not she does, the fear will be there, regardless.

So things are distinctly uphill right now. I keep thinking Oh, I’ll talk about this in my next session, and then I crash with the realisation that that next session is so desperately far away.

I told A. that I would do my very best to stick to my usual 3-rule therapy break survival plan:

1: No matter what; keep breathing in and out
2: Try to find ways of coping other that resorting to self-harm
3: Even if I fail on number two, stick to number one!

That made A. smile, and I will try to keep that in my mind and in my heart, because I do want to make it through.
I just don’t entirely trust it that I will.

xx

The quote at the top is from the book Are You Somebody? © Nuala O'Faolain
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Another Day, Another Blessing – Writing Myself Out Of A Phunk

Another day, another smile. Another blessing. Met up with a friend at a café yesterday, and it was great, as always. I have this café which has become The Café, the one where I usually meet with my friends. And it’s kind of nice. I know the place, the staff, the menu. Very reassuring.

Woke up on Sunday, a day which was ridiculously sunny, and I though, let’s do something nice today. So I decided to try to organise a little get-together for the women from my poetry group. We last met as a group at the reading back in December. We’re overdue a meet. Said and done. Got my phone out and sent a mass-text out, suggesting we meet up. But as soon as I had done that, that little negative voice in my head started making itself heard, and I almost immediately decided that it had been a silly thing to do. People won’t want to meet up, they’ll think I’m being pushy, they’ll have forgotten who I am altogether.

Thankfully the anxiety levels didn’t have time to rise too high before I had the first text back, in the affirmative. Then I had another. And another. Great! People want to meet up, they don’t think I’m pushy – and most importantly – they do remember me.

Next step was figuring out a time and place. Well, a time, at least. The place was basically a given, since most of these women will have shared a hot chocolate with me at The Café at least once before, so it made sense to keep it simple. Time was a bit trickier. As it always is when it comes to finding a time that will suit as many as possible, but after some fiddling and a few phone calls to a few people a time was agreed; next Sunday, early afternoon. Works perfectly for me since I’m basically incommunicado over FriSat, closing down for shabbat and also taking some proper me-time. So meeting up with friends the day after, once I re-connect my various devices, is always nice.

Finished the Maroda book this morning. And as always, it was with a slight feeling of loss. I absolutely love reading books that make me think, both on a more general level, but also to reflect on my own personal situation, and this book certainly did that for me.

As I’m writing this, I realise that this doesn’t feel like a real blog entry. It’s a bit too positive. And, in all honesty, up until I sat down to write this, I really wasn’t feeling all that up-beat; feeling a bit caught up in some sort of greyness, clouding my thoughts in quite a bad way.

But hey, if it works, it works.

Be good and well.

xx

Unconscious Communication

Anxiety levels soaring, I’m trying to control it the best way I know how; by reading. Thankfully a book arrived in the post on Friday, one which I have been waiting for for over a year. (Yes – over a year.. It was meant to be released in Jan 2009, but wasn’t until just recently).

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my love of books of all sorts, but in particular books on therapy and/or psychology related topics. The book I’m currently reading is Dr Karen Maroda‘s most recent offering; Psychodynamic Techniques. I’m about a third of the way through this book, and I have to say, I’m liking it. It should probably be noted that this volume is primarily aimed at neophyte therapists starting out, and touches on issues like the use of self-disclosure in the therapeutic relationship, therapeutic and non-therapeutic regression and how erotic feelings can either help or hinder the process.

Having previously read Dr Maroda’s books “The Power of Countertransference” and “Seduction, Surrender & Transformation” (see links to the right and previous blog entries) I notice that this book is written in the same ultra-accessible style, with many case studies to illustrate the theory in a real in treatment situation.

In my most recent session with A. she made the comment that (in contrast to other situations in my life) I seem to feel that in therapy I perceive her as being the one holding all the power. I responded that I don’t entirely agree with that statement, but that, although I choose what to talk about and what to withhold, I am not the only person in that room, and that just as she plays off me, so I play off her; that she brings something to each session through being who she is. I don’t think I managed to quite verbalise what I meant, but reading Maroda’s chapter on mutuality and collaboration in the therapeutic dyad, I found something that much better expresses what it was that I was trying to say: both therapist and client will inevitably repeat past patterns (within the therapeutic relationship), and so, even though the focus of treatment is (as it should be) on me and my progress, A. does have a certain directional power in the way she responds to me and how she either encourages or discourages me to delve deeper into certain areas. Naturally, this is not necessarily a conscious choice and often not expressed verbally, but it nonetheless plays a part in how the therapy develops. I suppose what I am trying to get at is that far beyond our conscious and surface choices our respective unconscious are also in some way connecting, communicating; in short are aware of what the other is experiencing in the situation. Naturally not in a psychic I-know-what-you’re-thinkings ort of way, but on a more subtle level of knowing when we’re hitting the mark and when we’re not.

Anyway, must end this here. Time to (hopefully) watch Canada trash USA in the men’s ice-hockey final.

All the very best and more,

xx

Additional comment: YEEEEEAAAAAAHHH! Go Canada, go!

Upon Exiting – Early Morning Panic

Friday morning and I’m up early, early, ridiculously early. Apparently our water supply is due to be switched off at 9 am, so anyone wanting to be reasonably clean today needs to perform their (hopefully) daily cleansing ritual before then.

But that’s not the only reason I’m up. No. Of course not. That would be far too simple. No, I’m up since my brain has decided to go into overdrive and repeat thoughts of Therapy Crash at break-neck speed.

Saw A. at the old place for the last time yesterday. It was re-scheduled from today, to – I assume – accommodate The Move. Session went reasonably well, but all through it I kept glancing over at the half-empty bookshelf next to me. For some reason it really got to me, really unsettled me. You see, to me there is nothing that spells The End like the boxing up of books.

I wasn’t born with that nesting gene that so many women seem to be blessed with. I’m not great at creating a cosy atmosphere or a tranquil ambience (or whatever they call it these days). I use books to decorate. Pile ’em up ceiling high, allowing them to cover the walls, fill the window sills and stand to attention on the mantle piece.

Thus, seeing three empty shelves at the bottom of the case in A.’s room, well, it freaked me out. Something like “If the books are going, then the move is happening for sure”. (In all honesty those bottom shelves are usually occupied by randomly stacked camera boxes and folders – but the gaping emptiness of the shelves still created that sense of lacking in books).

I did try to talk to A. about it, but, as often happens – I just couldn’t really get to the feelings in the moment. I knew they were there. Only the words needed to express them weren’t. So all I really said was “The half-empty book case unsettles me”. A. then asked Can you say more? This classic phrase has recently become her favourite way of prompting me, and ‘though I don’t like to admit it, I have to say that I like it. Something about the way she says it manages to acknowledge that talking about feelings isn’t easy for me, and a gentle nudge feels like welcome support.

Only, in this case I couldn’t say more. I said a few things, but, really – they were lacklustre and bland and didn’t at all get to the depth of fear that this move stirs in me.

So, instead I am now sitting in my room, much too early for any sane person to be up, panicking over the doom that this move must certainly spell.

Leaving A.’s flat for what was inevitably and frighteningly the last time, walking out of the door, kissing the mezuzah as I went, that’s when all those feelings suddenly washed over me.

I’m not coming back here. Anything could happen.

And that’s the mode I’m stuck in.

Frightening stuff. Many deep breaths needed.
Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Heeeeeeelp!

xx

PS. Didn’t wish A. a happy move before I left, and I feel really bad about the subconscious implications that could be read into that. Contemplating sending her a text now to make up for it. How neurotic am I? Double panic!

Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? – An Entry About Search For Truth

By virtue of being a self-proclaimed writer I also spend an awful lot of time reading, getting a feel for other people’s ways of expressing themselves. Also, reading has always been an obvious form of escapism for me, especially when suffering from the inevitable writer’s blocks that every writer encounters at one time or another.

Ever since I was very young I devoured books as were they the very essence of life. Food for thought, but also, nourishment for a starving soul. I had, and to a degree still have, the idea that within those pages of black on white there was truth to be found. Hints to the mystery of life.

I am a slow reader; painfully slow, if you ask some – but for good reason. I need to take my time because reading is for me not only reading, but it’s a combined experience of taking in what someone else is trying to say and figuring things out for myself, sometimes even applying new ideas to my own sense of reality and identity.

I have a tendency to read more than one book at any one time, partly because not every book fits every mood, but also so as to ensure that I don’t get too locked into one set view.

I finished reading a book a couple of weeks ago, Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes. And there was something about it that really touched me in a most profound way. I don’t think I could ever exactly specify what about it it was that so moved me, but I think it was something about the utter honesty and human vulnerability with which it had been written that somehow connected with something inside of me. It’s an enormously beautifully and elegantly written book, but there was something much deeper than just the choice of word, the turn of phrase, that did something for me. I don’t think I’ve even quite fully comprehended what myself. At least not on a conscious level. It is more an instinctive understanding that this was an important book for me to read, than actually knowing what about it it was that made it so important.

So, that, dear friends, is what I intend to ponder on my next lap around the library. I’ll let you know if I come up with something which can be coherently shared.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I love the King Learian title of Haynes’s book. How anyone could not love Shakespeare is beyond me.

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

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

I Stumble, I Tumble, I Spin, I Fall – An Entry About Losing Control

Remember that little voice I was talking about in my last entry? The one that tells me that I’m just gonna have to get through this? That there’s no other option? It’s gone AWOL. Completely muted. It’s been nowhere to be heard this week. Not good. At all.

I am really struggling at the moment. Not just a little, but to the point of wondering if it’s really worth it. All that darn talk about light at the end of the tunnel. Yeah yeah. Sure. Whatever. What I want to know is when?? How long am I supposed to hang on to the ridiculously vague hope of things getting better? Seriously?

I feel like I have really given it my best shot. No two ways about it. I couldn’t do it any better than I am. I really couldn’t. I haven’t self-harmed for a very long time, I stopped researching suicide methods entirely, I got myself back to work and I even managed to be good to myself by deciding that working full-time is not the best thing for me right now.

I’ve ticked every single box on the “Rid yourself of depression” step-by-step list. I genuinely feel I have. And yet this depression keeps rearing its ugly head, reminding me of all the things that I am up against. No, I’m not after a free ride. Not at all. I know that there is no such thing as a free ride when it comes to depression and over-coming emotional trauma. But couldn’t I at least be allowed to have a good streak that lasted long enough for me to actually catch my breath before being pushed head first below the surface again?

I am so incredibly sick of this illness. And this whole thing with diagnosis. Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Big words, but what the bleeding heck is that supposed to mean? That I have been experiencing more than one depressive episode? Well, duh? Really? I’m glad you told me, ’cause I sure hadn’t noticed.. Or even worse, does it mean that I am doomed to have recurring depressive episodes forever? Honestly? Because if that’s the case, why even try to get out of the one I’m in. For the sheer joy of getting knocked down again?

I had an appointment with S., my care co-ordinator on Wednesday, and being the happy little helper that I am I agreed to allow a third year student nurse to sit in on our meeting. Big mistake I’m sorry to say. Not only did S. spend half the time explaining to him why she had wanted to meet with both me and Dev two weeks earlier etc etc etc (could she really not have gone over the background with him before actually meeting with me?) but also, – and I’m trying to put this in an as gentle way as I can – the poor fella just didn’t seem quite mentally capable of grasping the basic concept of depression and kept coming up with these annoyingly naïve positive comments to whatever I said. This, naturally, made me feel like I wasn’t being taken serious (when talking about having suffered some pretty horrendous flash-backs at work) and also I had to – yet again – practise my skill of holding my frustration back. In other words, the exact opposite of what I have been trying to do. Great! Enormously helpful.

Later in the session we ended up talking about my family and I said that I really really miss them at the moment, especially my nephews – and this guy goes “So, does that make you feel like getting back in touch with your family? Maybe they are exactly the reason you need to get back with them? Does that make you feel hopeful?” Again, surely S. could have had the foresight to have given him at least a the bare essentials on my history before inviting him to join in? Or am I being unfair?

What else? (As I’m going on a monster moan I may as well do it properly. This is meant to be honesty-focused after all). Oh yeah – as great as my boss has been in helping me out with sorting out my working hours and such, it seems my working part-time is breeding contempt in my two closest colleagues. On the one hand I can understand it – they can’t see that my day off is actually my toughest day of the entire week, but on the other hand it’s really none of their damn business what the reason for my absence is. I’ve told them that both Den and the MD of our company are aware of them, and that should be enough.

Finally.. I was meant to see D. tomorrow. But I won’t be. Unfortunately a family matter has arisen and she’s had to cancel the next two weeks of counselling. To start with. Obviously I feel for her, it’s never easy when those things happen, whatever they are, and ultimately we are all only human and sometimes we have to prioritise. But as much as I accept this, it doesn’t stop her prolonged ansence from having a pretty bad effect on me. I mean, of course that’s a mere side effect – but it’s still there. So I had a bit of a breakdown today.

I had already been struggling a good deal with thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation in the last few days, and in order to motivate myself to resist my urges I kept repeating to myself that I’ve made it through nearly four weeks without counselling and I just need to hang on for another few days and I’d be back on the road to normality again. That, if I think about it, it’s only hours, really, until I’d have my time back again. And that although there is no miracle cure, at least that should ease the pressure a little. The space and place that is there just for me to vent whatever is brewing in my head.

And then I was told that that’s not happening.

I was sort of ok with it for a few hours, while I was still at work. But then on the way home I just started crying. All that pent up sadness and loss and confusion just bubbled out of me. Surprisingly I actually had the mental awareness to realise that this might be rather a good thing; that allowing myself to express these feelings is precisely what I need to be doing. But, of course, me being me I quickly reverted to the safer path of checking myself out of this emotional turmoil, turning it back on myself in the way I’m most comfortable with; the self-punishing thought pattern of Blithering heck, woman, get a grip! What’s there to cry about? You have no reason to cry. Only weak people cry, and you can’t afford to be weak because people will take advantage of you. So, literally within minutes, I had switched from indulging in self-pity to absolutely bursting to find a razor and start carving up my arm.

I didn’t. God knows how, – I guess my tattoo and the lack of razors in my flat helped somewhat – and I didn’t. Instead I picked the phone up. First I called the Samaritans and found myself having another good cry over the pathetic mess that is my life, how stupid I am to even think that good things would ever happen to me and how I’m never going to get away from feeling this way. Then I called Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre. I’m not even really sure why. It was just something I did. One of the workers picked up – the one who’s always so cheerful I can’t help but to think of her as being chemically imbalanced no matter how sweet she is – and even though I’ve never actually had a one to one session with her I just started to cough up how badly I was wrestling with the idea of harming myself. She assumed that this was a direct result of having been told that I won’t be seeing D. earlier in the day. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that this urge has been intensifying over the last few days, but maybe that doesn’t really matter – because I’m pretty sure that although this explosion of emotion isn’t purely down to my disappointment with this setback, it was more than likely the final trigger.

Hm.. Odd.. As I’ve been writing this seizmically proportioned rant I think that little voice has returned. Fair enough, it’s still very faint, and my demons definitely still outshout it. But at least it feels like it’s there.

And I guess that’s something.

I just hope I can hold on to it.

xx

“..when all I really want, I said to myself, is to survive the present..” [Nuala O’Faolain]