Maternity Leave, Eternity Leave & Lessons From A Goldfish

Some of you will know that I recently moved. I did a straight room swap with someone, and when this someone else moved, she – let’s call her K. – left behind a great big goldfish bowl with accompanying goldfish. Now, I told her straight off that I didn’t want it; I could never keep fish like that, in an un-oxygenated bowl with no black-out sides and nothing inside the bowl for the poor fish to hide behind. She told me she was going to get a smaller tank to fit in her room and come back for her fish. Being the friendly [if somewhat horrified] person that I am, I told her fine, just put it in the hallway for now, but make sure to come get it as soon as possible. No worries, K. replied and went on her way.

A week passed. Nothing. I started googling to find out what the heck to feed my un-invited flat mate [finely chopped spinach and orange, apparently] as I couldn’t just let it starve. I texted K. Nothing. I put a tea mug in the tank so the fish would have somewhere to hide from the world. Another week went by. Another text. Met by even more silence. And then, yesterday morning, a text from K. saying “Sorry about the late reply, I was busy with exams until Friday and now I’ve gone abroad. Won’t be back until January”. What the flying BEEEP..!?

Needless to say, I wasn’t much pleased with this development, so I texted her back saying that I understand she’s been busy, but really, sending a text takes seconds – anyone can fit that in no matter how busy – and wouldn’t it have been a good idea to check that someone was actually going to be in the flat over Chrismukah & New Year to look after her fish? Apologised in case I sounded harsh, but honestly I wasn’t very impressed.

Now, I’m not someone who habitually sends out even remotely angry sounding texts, so having sent off the text I sat down to reflect, realising that this was probably about something bigger than just the poor goldfish. I mean, I’m not actually going away, and feeding a fish isn’t exactly hard labour. So what was it about all of this that was really upsetting me?

Seems pretty obvious from a distance, right? What was really bugging me was – of course – the fact that she could so easily leave this living being behind without a thought, without making sure someone was going to be there to make sure that it was OK.

Fast forward to later in the day, still thinking about the fish, feeling genuinely upset by it being abandoned like that, I realised that I was very much identifying with this poor fish, and that my anger with K. was probably more accurately a misplaced expression of anger with A. leaving me behind, with no one to look after me.

So that’s what yesterday’s session – the final one before a two week Chrismukah break – was spent on. Trying to explore the feelings I have, not only around this break, but also about A.’s maternity leave – which I feel, ought really be re-named eternity leave. How I feel, much like this little fish, left to my own device in this not-great-but-won’t-kill-me place, where all I can do is to swim round and round in circles.

I feel that being in therapy gives me a sense of direction, like – although progress is often excruciatingly slow – I’m going somewhere, I’m moving. But with this massive break coming up, well, I’m not sure what to do with it, what to do in that huge expanse of time. Do I retreat into the tea cup of my mind? Do I try to move forward on my own, risking getting myself into territory I’m not at all ready to cope with outside of the safety of the therapeutic setting? Or do I just stand still? I genuinely don’t know, and that makes me feel lost and frightened.

A. gave me the breakdown of her plan for her maternity leave on Tuesday. She’s planning to keep working until the fourth week of February [but, naturally, there is no guarantee that that will happen] and then she’ll be off until some time in July when she will go back on a part time basis, meaning I will have only one session a week, in contrast to the three I’m currently having. And, of course that makes perfect sense, from her point of view, to start over slowly. But for me, I’m not really so sure. Going from thrice weekly therapy to weekly sessions, it’s one heck of a drop, even if it is temporary.

I’ve been in weekly therapy before [albeit not with A.], and it is incredibly different to having more sessions in a week. My experience of weekly therapy is that, although it is helpful – and certainly better than nothing – it’s very.. hm.. choppy. Because so much can happen in the week between sessions, there is both a sense of wanting to cram as much as possible into that one session, and also there is very little flow between sessions. What you started talking about last week can easily be pushed to the side, in favour of new exciting events and thoughts, and deeper exploration often suffer as a consequence. And if you are, as I am, prone towards avoiding digging too deep, this can be used as a way to get away with not looking below the surface of things. So, that worries me.

Towards the end of last session I was really finding it difficult to speak, feeling very emotional and tearful. I just felt utterly overwhelmed by this feeling of being left completely on my own, and feeling that I really haven’t got the tools to stay above water. Like I said to A.: Forget about that nice sturdy IKEA bag I was hoping to find, right now I’d settle for the flimsiest of Morrisons carrier bags to help somehow contain my emotions. I feel really worried that, lacking a time and place to express what’s going on inside of me, those horrendous flashbacks will start coming back again, in the way they did earlier this year. I just don’t feel I’d be able to cope with that. Not without resorting to self-harm again.

A. pointed out that despite things being difficult, I was still managing to look after that goldfish and taking steps to make things as comfortable as I can for it, given the situation, to which I had to admit that I had, in all honesty, thought that I really ought to put that poor fish out of its misery, as I can’t bear watching it live out its life in this depressing little tank. I realised then that this could easily be interpreted as my expressing thoughts of wanting to end my own life, because it just feels too miserable and closed in, and so I felt I had to reassure A. that this wasn’t my plan, that I simply wouldn’t have been able to kill the fish, or myself. I’m not entirely sure if this is true, but metaphoric suicide didn’t feel like a very good note to end the session on, and after all, the woman is pregnant, so I felt I needed to smooth things over.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying I’m suicidal, only that it’s kind of hard to know with me. Even for me.

At points in this final session I felt very strongly that I needed A. to reassure me, to play the good, nurturing therapy mother, and tell me that things would be OK, but, for whatever reason A. didn’t seem to pick up on that, and said very little when I felt I needed it most. [Yes, I do recognise that this is the child in me being angry at not getting instant gratification]. But then, at the very end of session, as we said our goodbyes, she gave me this very warm smile [which, for all I know she may have been giving me all through session, but since I rarely look at A. during session I wouldn’t know] which made me feel so much better, and I wished her a good break. And I meant it.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. Once again, thanks to all of you who have voted for my blog in the TWIM Awards. The polling station is still open, so if you haven’t but would like to register your vote there’s still a little bit of time left.  Just click here. :) Voting closes at mid-day on December 31st.

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Thinking And Logic vs Feeling

It’s been a while, I know. Just stuff going on, which have stopped me from feeling able to sit down to write.

But, I’m still around.
Please don’t worry.

I’ve done a lot of thinking lately. Only I’m not sure if thinking really is the right word. Maybe it’s more that I’ve done a lot of feeling. And it’s made me realise a few things. Big things. Important things. And in time I will be sharing it with you all, I’m sure – or else it will eventually become self-evident.

But really, what I wanted to get to is that whole thing about thinking and logic, versus feeling. I think that, although I often apply active thinking and logic to work things out, when it comes to those really big and important things, I’ve always operated on gut instinct. If something feels right, I generally trust that it is. People may ask me for a more specific definition of what exactly it is that makes it feel right, and more often than not, I’m unable to give a real answer – because all I know is that it feels right.

So there you go.
Even though there are big things on the horizon for me, for now, I think I’ll keep them to myself.

Because, it feels right.

Still – before I forget..
For those of you who – and let’s face it, this would be the vast majority – were planning on buying me great big expensive luxury Christmas prezzies, I just want to say that you’re off the hook. I’ve made a conscious decision not to celebrate Christmas. This is on the basis that I’m not a Christian, and it feels wrong to celebrate something I don’t believe in. Especially since I actually believe in something different.

If you still feel a burning wish to spend your hard-earned money, maybe you could donate a quid or two to one of the charities listed in the “Tikkun Olam – Healing The World”-section to the right? That’s what I’ll be doing. Those of you who know me know that this is what I usually do, anyway, instead of sending out seasonal greetings cards, left, right and centre.

I’m not dissing Christmas or cards – if that’s what feels right to you, then you should be doing all that. It’s just that, for me, I feel better not going down that route.

All the very best and more,

be good to your Selves,

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

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

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