Uncertainty – An Entry About Dealing With The Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO, once again, thank you for your patience

All the very best and more,

xx

Under The Influence Of Music – An Entry About Setting Boundaries

Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy“.

That’s a line from the track “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” by R.E.M. which has been playing very nearly non-stop on my computer today. It’s one of my “listen and forget the world”-songs along with The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Walk This World” by Heather Nova. My I haven’t a clue what I’m feeling but whatever it is it’s too much for me to deal with right now-songs. The kind of music that allows you to just melt away from the world, if even for a moment. The sort that offers you a safe haven in the midst of all its noisiness. No need to think, no need to feel – just sink into oblivion and let it wash over you, sound wave after sound wave crashing over your head.

I’m not consciously trying to numb myself, I’m really not, I’m just so frustrated with things that I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel stuck and tied down and at the same time so spun out of control I don’t know how to rein myself in, how to find my feet again. That feeling you get when you start out spinning round and round because you want to, but then when you stop the world carries on spinning around you whether you want it to or not and there is nothing you can do about it other than to wait for the world to slow down to a manageable pace.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love and life and death and everything in between lately, trying to figure myself out, trying to make sense of it all and coming up with very few, if any, answers.

I haven’t succumbed to self-harm, not really. Not since that time when I tested the scalpels. But I’ve been doing other things I shouldn’t be doing. Like researching suicide methods, for example. Not because I necessarily feel any more, or indeed less, suicidal than I have in the last week, but because it works something like a drug for me.

I could probably give you a detailed run-down of up to ten fail-proof ways of ending my life without even having to leave the flat. So it’s not a case of actually needing to find new and exciting ways of offing myself (if there is such a thing as needing suicide methods). D. suggested that it is similar to the way some people get addicted to pornography, and I guess there is some grotesque truth to that.

But even more than that I think it’s about control. Akin to how a person with an eating disorder may gain a sense of control from being able to decide when to eat and when to throw up, knowing all these methods allows me to feel that I have at least some sort of control over my life. Or my death, at least.

I am fully aware that this is not a good way to deal with things, but much like you start craving that drug high after the first few innocently experimental hits I get a craving for new information. I can’t just know a little bit about this method or that, I need to know everything about it, and so, what was meant to be a quick checking up on a fact turns into hours of research.

Thankfully D. is now back and at the end of my session today we made a deal; to try not to do any research at all for the coming week. And I intend to stick to that. Hence listening to my safe-music.

I know, I know – it’s hardly a unique or hard-to-come-up-with idea this Just-knock-it-on-the-head-technique (to use one of D.’s favourite expressions), but this is exactly what I mean when I say that I need direction and guidance in order to cope. Without someone to check up on me, someone to help me re-focus week on week – I just seem incapable of sticking to the healthier option, even when I know what it is.

Having lived the better part of my life without many rules to follow owing to the, at least partially, self-imposed big sister/good girl/self-sufficient reliable daughter-syndrome I find it incredibly soothing to be given some set rules to stick by. Adult supervision. It makes me feel cared for. Looked after. Safe.

I suppose that is the reason why I find my sessions with D. and Drayton Park as a whole so comforting. A sense of home, of something steady and clear and – yes – containing, where I can let go of the responsibility for a moment. Because, as much as I like having all of the above qualities attributed to me, if there is no let-up ever, it can easily become incredibly over-powering and I lose track of what is reasonable and what is over-doing it, and I end up thinking that those things are all that I am. I lose sight of what is me and what are merely aspects of the person that I am.

I forget that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

xx

 

I Try My Hardest Not To Lose It All – An Entry About Help And Support

For those of you who haven’t heard from me – and owing to an immense wish not to communicate with my fellow humans lately that will be the vast majority of you – as of Friday last week I am out of the Drayton ParkWomen’s Crisis Centre.

And what can I say? Well, for better or for worse this stay was very very different to my stay there earlier in the year. As this was meant only as a short term intensive intervention style stay the main focus was put on helping me use and acquire distraction techniques to enable me to better cope with my urges to self-harm once returned into the wilderness that is my home life.

Did it work? Yes and no is the honest answer. Yes, because I’m still here now, and apart from very lightly scratching myself with a scalpel purchased on my way home from Drayton Park on the day of my discharge, I haven’t actually physically harmed myself. No, because my mind has now moved on to a much darker place. A place where self-harm for the sake of release is no longer my primary urge.

I suppose that in order to understand what’s going on in my head one would need to understand the reasons behind the change in my urges, and the best way to do that is something like this (forgive me for detaching myself somewhat emotionally in composing this explanation, but it’s the best way I can think of to be able to write it and at the same time keep myself safe and away from harm); Some people self-harm for the sake of scarring themselves. I guess you could say that it is a way to show the outside world how much they are hurting on the inside. Others do it to allow themselves to feel a different kind of pain to the one they are experiencing emotionally. Finally there are people who use it as a means for breaking the pent up tension inside of them to avoid having a panic attack, physical outburst or other extreme reaction.

As for me, well, I suppose I’ve gone through stages of all of these variations, and at the moment I am stuck on the last; I am overwhelmed by powerful urges to cut myself in order to relieve the pressure.

Naturally, this is a pretty perilous place to be, in all senses of the word – and I have been working very hard at not giving in to this need for self-harm by distracting myself through various mind-numbing activities such as boxing, painting and re-painting my nails, writing lines etc. (In fact I went a bit crazy one evening at Drayton Park – spending half an hour covering the entire slated patio of the garden in pastel chalk drawings and random bits of lyrics, until one of the workers came out and helped me settle down with a hug and a good talk – an act of enormous kindness, and one I will never forget.)

However, using distraction techniques to refrain from self-harming has its downside as well as the obvious positive effect of not injuring yourself; whilst they do keep you safe for the time being they don’t actually do anything to manage or reduce the intensity of the emotional turmoil inside of you. That, I believe, can only be achieved with additional guidance where the underlying feelings and, peeling back yet another layer, the reasons for those feelings are explored and dealt with.

In the absence of my counsellor this has become increasingly more clear to me; that distraction alone is not enough to keep safe in the long run. Yes, employing distraction techniques will keep you safe for the moment – but unfortunately, without the extra direction that counselling and therapy offer, the emotional strain still keeps building and thus you may, as is the case for me, find yourself moving from the stage of wanting to self-harm to actually wanting to end your life altogether, simply for the sake of escaping the pain you are experiencing.

For me – and I have said this repeatedly – it is not a case of actually wanting to die – I just don’t want to live. In this way. And without the help I need to make sense of all those underlying emotions I mentioned earlier, I can’t see myself breaking away from it. I am more than willing to admit that I simply don’t have the tools yet to be able to do this on my own.

I have spoken to my care co-ordinator about this on a number of occasions, but she seems not only unwilling but unable to understand the severity, the depth, of this problem.

Two weeks ago, when I, for some inexplicable reason called her, naïvely hoping that she’d be able to help me make the referral to Drayton Park since I didn’t feel able to do it on my own, she actually gave me the oh-so-insightful advice “Just think happy thoughts!” – as if that would somehow magically make things ok for me, would enable me to pick myself up and put myself back together. I mean, I’ve had my fair share of You’ve just got to stay positives aimed at me – and in all honesty sometimes it’s even been helpful, but, that – “Just think happy thoughts!” – really drove me over the edge.

This same woman, by the way, made the unbelievably bright statement that “we don’t want to overcrowd you with support” when she met up with me and one of my named workers at Drayton Park for a review last week. Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s been a good ol’ while since I heard about anyone stating “overcrowded with support” as a reason for giving up on themselves and on life, so I’m not entirely sure how she reached that conclusion. Then again, she is apparently also the kind of person who thinks that a pat on the head is an acceptable form of encouragement, rather than a decidedly condescending gesture. (Yes – you guessed it – she actually, physically, patted me on the head as she was leaving the room..)

Ok, so I’ve lost the track a bit here, but on the other hand it does rather perfectly illustrate the fact that not only do people suffering from depression and other emotional difficulties have to deal with the actual difficulty in itself, but often – and I’ve heard this said time and time again by people who are in a similar situation to me – find themselves having to also struggle to convince the people who are meant to be there to support them that lending an occasional helping hand will not necessarily render them completely dependent on others from here on out.

There is a lot more I could write on this subject, but I think that for now I’ll leave it be and just concentrate on the things that are going my way, rather than the things that aren’t. Things like having people around me who picks up the thread and helps me where the system seems to have failed. And friends I can call and just cry and not say a word to and they will still understand me.

How’s that for positive thinking?

xx

PS. No need to freak out over the scalpels, they are no longer in my possession; I called Drayton Park and the workers helped me calm down and have a breather before supporting me to dispose of the offending objects.

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]

This Little Voice In My Head – An Entry About Human Courage

I really genuinely think I’m going crazy. Losing it.
And at the same time I don’t think I’ve ever been more in touch with myself and how I’m doing. It’s hard to explain. Sometimes I think it’s really just the fact that I’m so unused to feeling things that it knocks me for ten, and other times I think Oh my God, how the flippin’ BEEEEP am I gonna get through this? And still, somewhere at the back of my head, even when I’m feeling really low, there’s this little voice that tells me that Ok, so maybe you don’t know how to deal with this, but that doesn’t matter, because you’re just gonna have to. That’s just how it is, girl.

And I think that’s a clear indication that I am getting better; that I am in fact dealing with things, even if I have no idea how. Because that voice is new. It hasn’t been there before. Or maybe it has, but if that’s the case I must have been utterly deaf to it, because I can honestly say I haven’t heard it before.

I think it’s to do with spending those weeks at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre earlier this year, working so desperately hard at putting in motion a change in myself. Not just on the surface, but through and through. Also, seeing D. every week, well, I guess it reinforces that idea. That, actually, the only real option here is to get myself through this, by any means necessary. And, I suppose that the reason why I’m struggling so much right now is that for the past few weeks I haven’t had that weekly dose of encouragement.

The last thing D. said to me before we parted after my last session in the second week of August was “S, I don’t want to come back and find that you are dead.” And I remember very clearly thinking that Why in the world would I be dead?, that it was a remarkably ridiculous thing to suggest, and so I went on to make a jokey comment.

I get it now. I do. Although I always knew that I liked my counselling sessions with D. I didn’t at all realise how incredibly important they really are. How being told something and then going home to think about it actually gets me through the week, and strengthens that survival instinct within me, ups the volume of that voice, if you wish.

Yesterday after work I was feeling a bit fragile. So, I went to see my friend P. and her little girl. That worked a treat at lifting my mood. I also spoke to two of my friends on the phone and spent some time just reflecting over all the difficulties in my life I have had, and marvel at the fact that I’m still around. I don’t mean to brag, but when I think about all the things in my life I’ve been through – how unconventional my life has been in many ways – well, I do feel proud to still be alive. And I think I have a right to be.

Now, on to something else that inspired me the other day. I was having one of those days where I really couldn’t think of any good reason to smile. One of those Yes, I’m alive, but so what?-days. You know what I mean. So I spent most of my day in bed, trying to, but not managing to sleep. In the end I gave up and reached for my iPod and started surfing the web and I came across this story about a little girl called Danielle. I read it, and what struck me the most was not how cruel a place the world can be, but an enormous sense of gratitude for the fact that there are people around – like Dani’s new family – who are willing to not just talk about it, but act to change that. So, please, visit the Lierow’s website. I suggest you also read the wonderful article by Lane DeGregory, sharing Dani’s story with the world. It is in parts pretty grim reading, but, I do like the way it’s been written and how it actually also offers Dani’s natural mother to give her side, indefensible as it is.

Having read Dani’s story I felt compelled to contact the Lierows to tell them how their courage has touched me, and to ask if it would be ok for me to link to their site in my blog, and yesterday I got an email back from Bernie, Dani’s new dad, to say that it was.

So, again, take a deep breath and read the story about this family. I am sure, that you, like me – will feel a bit better about the human race after. And feel that, after all – there are things worth smiling about.

Real love,

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

Fortune Favours The Brave – An Entry About Daring To Change

*

“I’m so sorry, Geri. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
“Don’t be.” She shook her head. “Like I said – it’s in the past. It’s OK.”

She shrugged and her sudden calm frightened me. She seemed so distanced, so disconnected from it all. As if what she had gone through was the norm, nothing special – not worth thinking about.

“No,” I said quietly. “It’s not OK.” I steadied my voice. “It’s not OK at all, Geri.”


*

The above is an extract from DGB, from a chapter called “Honesty”, and it rings truer than I realised when writing it. The book is not an autobiography, but I guess it’s fair to say that there is a lot of me in it and to a certain extent I suppose it can be justifiably argued that the character of Geri is largely biographic, or at the very least semi-biographic. The way she acts and reacts is sometimes much more close to the bone than I was aware when writing it.

A prime example of this is the passage above. Geri’s behaviour, her way of acting, is what is really at the very heart of what I’m currently trying to work on; the sense of complete detachment from the traumas in my life.

I guess it’s a defence mechanism that’s kicked in to shield me from the raw reality of my own story. “If I don’t feel it, maybe it didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, then I’d be happy.” Something like that. That’s basically how I’ve got by all my life.

Only now I’m trying to break this habit of switching off, and it’s proving much more difficult that I’d imagined. I’m so skilled at keeping my guard up that I don’t really know how to lower it anymore, and more often than not I need someone to steer me in the right direction.

I’ve spent many nights throughout this past year on the phone with a friend of mine, and I’ve talked to her about things I haven’t really been able to talk about with anyone else before. There is just something about her that makes it possible for me to do it. Not only the fact that I feel she’ll be able to handle whatever I throw at her, but also that she has this way of listening with an intensity that is almost palpable. It’s so vibrant I feel I could reach out and touch it. She’ll hold back, listen and think, sometimes letting the silence hang heavily on the line between us for minutes before she’ll relay her opinion to me. And, during these nocturnal conversations I’ve come to see that more often than not she’s right. Not in the sense of her being right and me being wrong, but in the sense that her ideas and suggestions seem to link in very closely with what I need to be doing; they tend to be both valid and valuable.

I’ve found myself dropping off the cuff remarks, and rather than just letting them slide, like most people would, this very special friend of mine will hold on to them, examine them and return them to me in a more manageable form.

Counselling works a lot like this for me also. I make a statement, not really thinking it holds much meaning, and D. will grab hold of it, turn it around a little bit and help me explore it. Sometimes I’ll argue myself silly to prove her wrong only to leave our session and slowly, over the coming days, realise that things are exactly as she had suggested.

It’s not that I’m unintelligent or particularly blind to my own situation. It’s just that emotionally I’m something of a slow learner. Or rather, I learned some lessons much to soon, at a much too early age, and I now find myself struggling to unlearn them. And, I guess, like any scholar I need a mentor to point me in the right direction.

There are many, to other people, basic skills that I find myself lacking. Take trust, for example. I learned very early in my life that if you trust someone it can leave you enormously vulnerable. The consequence of this is, of course, that I avoid doing this. I keep people at arm’s length. They can come knocking at my door, and I’ll help them as much as I possibly can, standing on the threshold, but I won’t let them into my home. And I certainly won’t let them help me.

Or at least that’s how I used to be. I am trying, as I said earlier, to unlearn some of my habits. And I feel I have made some progress, especially in the trust department. Although I am still a far cry from being trusting, I do try to let people take at least a few steps into my life. And it makes a huge difference, I’ve found.

In a counselling session some weeks ago I said that I have always had very high expectations of myself, always strived to be able to manage everything I set out to do. Following this statement D. pointed out that it is almost the polar opposite to how I treat everyone else around me. That, in fact, I seem to never expect anything from anyone. She used herself as an example, asking me what I expected from her. At first I drew a complete and utter blank, and I had to really think before I finally came up with the answer “That you’re here when you’re meant to be here.” I didn’t express any hopes or wishes that she’d be able to help me or that she should care about what I tell her, care about me – nothing like that sprung to mind at all. And I think that says a lot about me. About the way I have been relating to people all my life. And I know that it is something that I need to make a conscious effort to change.

Luckily I am blessed to have a lot of people in my life who are more than willing to let me practise on them, who will hold on tightly to my hand as I test the waters for the first time in a long long while.

xx

A Blog About Counselling, Therapy & Me

It’s Friday.
In my world Friday means counselling. I’ve been having counselling sessions for almost exactly two months now, and I think it’s helping. I’m not entirely sure how or why, but it feels like it is. And I suppose that’s the main thing.

This is not the first time I’ve had counselling and therapy. I’ve been through it before – with various degrees of success, I might add. So, what’s different this time? Well, one thing is that I was referred to this counsellor after having stayed for four weeks at a women’s crisis centre in April. This is different because it was a person who is used to dealing with people in crisis who thought it might be helpful for me to use this service. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I myself was more than ‘up for it’. I really wanted to do it. I had learned a lot about myself during my stay at the crisis centre, things that I may have been partly aware of, but perhaps hadn’t been ready to accept or deal with until then. One of the main things was understanding the importance of pausing and thinking “Is this good for me? Is this helpful?”. Not in a sugar – bad / fruit – good sort of way, but in terms of my emotional health. In other words “Is it helpful for me to be the emotional support for people in my life right now?”, “Is it good for me to constantly put other peoples’ needs before my own?” “Would it be better if I took a break from people in my life whose opinions and ideas I worry too much about?” No. No. Yes. Tick, tick, tack.

I was already on the infamous NHS Waiting List to undergo psychotherapy when I was offered to have a number of counselling sessions through the crisis centre. In actual fact I had been on the bleeding list since December the previous year, and was growing increasingly more frustrated by the feeling that I felt ready – well, as ready as one can feel – to really deal with my issues and at the same I was simply not able to access the services I needed. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to go through counselling while waiting for my name to slowly make its way up the blessed NHS list.

So, what exactly IS the difference between counselling and psychotherapy? You know what? That’s a damned good question. Ask ten counsellors and ten psychotherapists and you’re likely to get about thirty-two different answers. That is, of course, unless the therapist happens to be of the ortho-Freudian persuasion, in which case you would probably not get an answer but rather be asked “What do you think the difference between the two is? What do they represent to you?”

Looking online you’ll soon find that the various sites covering this subject also tend to have their own separate definitions. So, going back to my imagined Freudian friend, here is what I reckon the basic differences between the two are: My idea of counselling is that it tends to be a short term treatment, while psychotherapy generally takes a much longer time to undergo. This often (but, of course, not always) leads to the counselling being of a more advisory nature (ie You’re going through a divorce, how do you feel, how can you manage those feelings etc), helping you reach your own conclusions as how to manage your situation by allowing you to talk about it. As a general psychotherapy will probe a bit deeper into your way of being (You’re going through a divorce, how is it that you feel the way you do about it, is there an underlying issue here, is there a specific reason for this issue, and so on). Psychotherapy often focuses a great deal on pinpointing significant events in your early childhood and the effect that has had on your life as an adult. Although, having said that, since many counsellors also have experience in psychotherapy and vice versa the two do tend to cross paths rather frequently.

Either way, let’s get back to my counselling session. It takes place fairly early in the morning at the women’s crisis centre I was previously staying at. This is important. The place because it’s a place which in my mind I have already classified as ‘safe’, and the time because it’s at the time of day when I generally haven’t had to deal with too many extreme emotions yet. As I told D. (my counsellor) this morning when she asked how I was doing: “I don’t actually know yet.”

I think this is good. For counselling. It helps me focus on the reason why I’m there. Had the session been at the end of the day, after a long stressful day at work, for example, I think I would find it much more difficult to switch that part of me off; to talk about myself, as opposed to my job, my colleagues, my clients etc. I have an almost uncanny ability to distract and way-lead myself, and seeing D. in the morning helps, because there aren’t as many irrelevant stories to relate before moving on to more important issues. Although, I have to admit that as I am incredibly adept at side-stepping potentially explosive territories, I still manage to put a blind flyer in every once in a while before either D. or I realise what’s going on.

Today’s session went well. It felt good. We talked about a few things that I hadn’t even really thought that much about before. This is good food for thought, and usually I’ll spend the rest of the week thinking about it on and off, turning it inside out and looking at it from different angles, so that by the time the next session comes round I’ll be ready to make a comment on it and we can then decide either to explore this further or move on to other things.

At the moment my big thing is talking about my family, trying to understand how I relate to each member individually and think about what that does both to and for me. We also talk a lot about the defining moments in each of the separate relationships. What have I gained from it? What have I learned? What has been – yes – helpful and also, what has been directly harmful?

As you can imagine this is pretty hard work, and so I tend to be thoroughly wrung out at the end of the session. It’s a bit like going to an emotional gym – it takes a lot out of you, but it also leaves you with a kind of good feeling, a sense of achievement.

So, there you are. An introduction to my experience of counselling. As I said in my initial post – I’ll start out easy and possibly take a more daring plunge later on.

Stay tuned to find out!

Be good to your Selfs,

xx