Being Safe vs. Feeling Safe – The Power Of The Past

Ever since my run-in with M. last week, I have been on extremely high alert. Like many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder I am hyper vigilant at the best of times, but in the last week I have been a million times more nervous than usual, any sound I’m not expecting making me jump. From Monday when it happened until Wednesday night I didn’t sleep. Not as in I’ve barely slept a wink, but I literally didn’t sleep, at all. In fact, getting to A.’s place on the Wednesday afternoon was a real challenge as I was battling the symptoms of sleep deprivation, being confused, nauseas and very unsteady on my feet.

I used both my Wednesday and Friday session with A. to talk about what happened when I saw M. and how it’s really affected me quite badly. In the Wednesday session I was close to tears, just thinking about it, because I felt like any sense of security I had been able to create for myself had been totally and utterly shattered. My jitteriness was so bad that even the sound of A.’s voice made me jump more than once in session. [My relief upon realising it was A. and not someone else each time, on the other hand, was immense].

I have been trying really hard to calm myself, to tell myself that although I don’t feel safe, I am safe. Only it seems to make no difference whatsoever. My feelings out-power my intellect with frightening ease, in complete contrast to how I normally deal with any extreme emotions by rationalising them away. Also, one could argue that the reality of being safe holds very little, if any, value if you don’t feel safe.

Needless to say, my anxiety level has been on a steep upward curve every day since last Monday, doubling again and again the closer I got to my next session with Z.

Z. telephoned me on the morning of my session, just to reassure me that she would definitely be there to meet me at the reception, to let me know that I didn’t have to worry about having to walk through the building on my own. So, I picked up whatever fragments of courage I could find and set out. I had to stop several times on the way, because I was so anxious my legs didn’t seem to want to carry me. I kept looking nervously around, to see if he might be there.

And then it happened. Only fifty metres from the relative safety of the reception I spotted him. He was on the other side of the street, slightly behind me, accompanied by a woman, talking and laughing as if the world was a beautiful place to be. I stopped being the grown woman that I am in that instant and turned into 8-year-old me, hiding behind a tree as he walked past on the other side of the street. I went from Adult Me to Little S in seconds flat.

I hung back, watching him enter the building, not really knowing what to do. It was time to meet Z., but I just couldn’t go into the reception, in case he stopped to talk to someone there. So, I waited a while – I’m not sure how long – and then, on unsteady feet, made my way across the parking lot. As I cautiously approached the door, hoping to take a peek through the glass panes to make sure that M. had left the reception, a man came out through it, holding the door politely open for me. Ready or not, I had no choice but to enter.

I collapsed on one of the chairs immediately inside the door, bending forward, hiding my head in my hands, forcing myself to keep breathing. Z. came up to me right away; I guess she may have been sitting behind the receptionist desk, looking out for me – I wouldn’t know, because I never looked around when I entered.

I somehow managed to get it out that I knew M. was there, because I had seen him go in, and there was no way I could walk through the dining hall, even with Z. by my side. Z. thought for a moment and then told me to wait while she went back into the reception to ask another member of staff to open the fire exit for us, so we could enter the building that way; the only way you can get to the stairs leading to Z.’s room, without having to go through the dining hall.

I made it up to Z.’s room on shaky legs, and as soon as I was in there, I sat down on the chair. I didn’t do any of the things I usually do: put my backpack down, set my Rubik’s cube aside, take my shoes off. I just resumed the position I had had in the reception, head buried in my arms, bending over, sobbing violently without tears. It took me a good while before I was able to get back to myself enough to do those things, to bring myself back to where I was, and even then I left my shoes in such a position that I would be able to just step into them, should I need to flee.

I explained all of this to Z. That, even though she was there and I had made it to the room safely, I was ready to run, to jump through the window if need be. I just wasn’t at all able to catch hold of the fear or rein myself in. Throughout the session that feeling never left. At one point I could hear male voices in the hallway outside the room, and in panic realised that I might not be able to recognise his voice, as he would be speaking in English, and that might not at all sound like the very distinct way he spoke Swedish, with a strong Arabic accent.

That is something that has been playing in my mind almost on repeat during the last few days: the way he spoke. In particular, the way he used to say my name. He never used the short form of my name like everyone else, but would always call me by my full name, only his accent caused him to mispronounce it slightly.

It turned out to be a good session, all things considered. We spent time trying to explore the fear, and also talking about the circumstances surrounding M. coming to live with us. How we had a family meeting, talking about taking this badly psychologically damaged teenager in, and how, at first it had all been very exciting. He had three different foster families to choose from, but – much to our delight – decided on our family. He later said that the reason he chose our family over the other two was ‘because there were children’, and I couldn’t even begin to express the chills that sends down my spine thinking of it now, knowing what he went on to do.

We talked about changes that was made in my home prior to M. moving in: all toy guns, including water pistols, were banned – as M. was a refugee from the Lebanon and had seen war up close. The lock in the family bathroom was fixed, having never been in working order for as long as I could remember. I have a particularly vividly memory of my mother telling me that I was not to walk around in a towel after a bath or shower, as that wouldn’t be something he was used to, since it was something women from his culture didn’t do. It has stuck with me, that conversation with my mother, because even though I had never been someone who did that [always being very careful to cover up, never leaving my room without either being fully dressed or wearing pyjamas buttoned to the very top], I felt that there was some sort of indirect implication that were I to walk around in a state of semi-undress M. could not be held responsible for his actions. That it was somehow down to me to make sure nothing untoward happened.

We also talked a little about something else that I even now find difficult to deal with: the fact that while my parents have never outright said that I am lying about what happened with M., they have both categorically and repeatedly said that “it couldn’t have happened”. The reason they have given for this is that they were acutely aware, taking him in, that he was volatile and somewhat mentally unstable, and couldn’t necessarily be trusted as there was a violent and unpredictable side to him, and – according to them – they consequently made an agreement to ‘make sure that us children were never alone with him’. This – the idea that we were never left on our own with him – is of course highly implausible and falls to pieces at first look: my father was working full time and my mother, while being a stay-at-home mother at the time, certainly wasn’t ever someone who would be keeping her children in her sight at all times. We had always been allowed to roam free, and her own bipolar ups and downs would have had her sufficiently preoccupied to often not know where we were, or who we were with. And I know for a fact that I was regularly sent over to the guest house [where M. was staying] to fetch him. I know this because M. would often pretend that the intercom system wasn’t working when I rang to let him know dinner was ready, and my mother would tell me to not be so lazy and to just go over there and tell him myself..

Z. made a comment about this, about my parents deciding to take someone in who they apparently knew not to be safe, in spite of having three fairly young children at home. She wanted me to talk about how I felt about this, but, while I do have a lot of feelings about it, I simply didn’t feel quite able to, or – perhaps more accurately – didn’t feel quite ready – to express them.

I am not sure why my parents – who have no problem believing that their own son sexually abused me for more than twelve years – are so adamant that the abuse M. subjected me to could not have happened. Maybe the thought of having twice missed something like that is simply too much? Maybe the knowledge that he wasn’t safe, and the subsequent sense of guilt at not having protected me, stops them from being able to acknowledge – even to themselves – that it did happen? People often defend the hardest against the things that cause them the most pain, and I don’t think my parents are all that different in that respect. I have a few additional theories about their reasons for flatly denying what happened, all of them excruciatingly painful for all involved.. but, for now, I think I will keep the more probable ones to myself, as I don’t feel ready to deal with them just yet. I have on occasion talked to A. about it, but I feel that this blog is perhaps not the most appropriate place for me to explore it further. At least not for the time being.

After session, Z. walked me all the way through the building and across the parking lot outside, only saying goodbye when we got to the street, having first asked me how I was going to get home. It gave me the sense that it really mattered to her, all the things that have happened to me, all the fear I am carrying with me.

And that felt very special to me; very different to anything I have experienced before.

xx

Sharp eyed readers will have noticed that I have made no commented in this post as to whether or not the person I met really is M., or just someone who looks like him. The reason for this is that in so many ways it doesn’t matter whether it is really him or not. In my head it is him, and that’s what I am reacting to, so that’s what I have chosen to write about: my experience of what is going on. Whether the threat is real or not, the fear certainly is..

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Being Unwell And Feeling Cared For

Cure For The Ill

Cure For The Ill

I’ve been unwell. Still am, actually. Pneumonia. It’s a bit of a long-winded story, but in short it involves leaving a psychotherapy session early for the first time ever, thinking I was better when I wasn’t, and ultimately on Friday having to go see the doc urgently.

I had just left a session, and on the train home I suddenly had this terrible pain in my chest. And it was a pain I had felt before; two years ago I had a pneumonia, and this was what it felt like.

Anyway, once I got to the doctor’s, she had a good listen to my chest, took my medical history and told me she felt confident that what I had the previous week was more than likely a flu virus, but that I had milder symptoms than most, since I’d had the flu jab, and that despite this my immune system was compromised enough for me to develop a pneumonia. [Ironically, the reason I have the jab every year in the first place is so as to make sure I don’t come down with secondary complications, such as this..] Since I have a history of pneumonia, starting in exactly the same way [top right lobe a week after having had another illness] and because my asthma was kicking off like crazy, she decided that she’d rather start me on antibiotics straight away, than wait for test results to come through.

So, home I went, antibiotics in hand. Crashed into bed, and this is where I’ve been stuck up until just now. I have to say, antibiotics are a wonderful thing once they kick in. You really do feel so much better, very quickly. Of course there was always a chance that the pneumonia I had was viral rather than bacterial, in which case the antibiotics would have done nothing for me, but ‘thankfully’ it turns out that it must have been bacterial.

While in bed I have been thinking about being unwell. It’s something I have a fair amount of experience with. You see, I have a really poor immune system, and so whenever something’s going ‘round, I tend to catch it. I mean, I had swine flu long before it became fashionable. But, also – as I have mentioned in previous posts – I am prone to what I call psychosomatic fevers. Other people get upset tummies when they are stressed out; I get a temperature. And this is what’s been on my mind, these last few days; the relationship between having a genuinely poor immune system and getting psychosomatic illnesses.

You see, I don’t think it is entirely chance that I get ill very easily, weak immune system aside. When I was little I was always seen as someone who could look after myself, someone who was responsible and dependable and able, far beyond my years. My parents tended to assume I’d be OK on my own, and mostly I was. I’m sure it was sometimes hard for my parents, this fierce independence I had; not so easy parenting a child like that. But, at the same time, they were very busy people; three other kids, one of whom really rinsed them clean of any energy they may have had. So, as confusing as it may have been for them, I’m guessing it was also something of a relief that I didn’t seem to need much looking after, that in fact, I was perfectly able to look after myself as well as anyone else.

But, when I was unwell, it was almost as if my parents’ parenting instincts suddenly kicked in, as if this was the kind of parenting they could understand, could relate to. After all, they are both trained in healthcare professions. This was something they knew what to do with. And so, as a consequence, when I was unwell, those were times when I truly felt like a child, like they were my parents and I was in their care.

At all other times I always felt equal to my parents. I always felt like I was an adult, just like them. And to a large degree, I think that’s how they and other adults around me saw me, too. But when I was sick, well, I could allow myself to be the child I really was.

So, is it so strange that I am prone to getting ill? Even now, as an adult, when I am ill, both of my parents will call me, will want to know how I am, will maybe even worry a little. This in contrast to other times, when I am nearly always the one to call them, nearly always the one to ask what’s going on for them.

Of course, something like pneumonia is a very real illness, it’s not psychosomatic, not imagined, not exaggerated, but in the midst of feeling so terribly poorly, I also do feel cared for, in that very special way.
Just like I did back then.

Psychology..
It’s interesting stuff.

xx

How I’ve kept myself busy. The Square-1 cube puzzle. It’s a fair challenge, getting it back into a cube shape, and then getting all the colours right.

Square-1

Square-1

Bulletpointing My Life

I had to go see a clinical psychologist for an assessment not very long ago; I needed a statement to say something about my mental health. It’s a long and rather convoluted story why I couldn’t simply get A. to write this statement, but in short: it was An NHS Thing and for whatever reason psychotherapists simply don’t rank very highly within the NHS. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been seeing them or how well they know you, it doesn’t even matter if they are both UKCP and BACP accredited, the only letters that matter within the NHS are N, H – and you guessed it – S.

So, in the end I was given a number to call in order to book an appointment with an NHS affiliated clinical psychologist, who would clearly possess almost magical levels of insight, as she would apparently be able to conduct a full assess of my mental health in thirty minutes flat, having never met me before and knowing absolutely nothing about me, my background or my mental health history.

I had resolved to stay calm, but the second I was given the address to the place where the assessment was to happen, I realised it was where I had gone for an assessment five years earlier, where they ultimately deemed me too high risk and unsuitable to be in therapy.. [Being rejected by the NHS is the reason why I had to go private; while I agree that I was very high risk, there was no way I was going to accept that I wasn’t suited to be in therapy..]

Either way, I rolled up at the place with plenty of time to spare, giving my anxiety abundant opportunity to hit the roof and then proceed through it. This wasn’t helped by the fact that Dr NHS Clinical Psychologist was an hour [yes, an hour!] late.

But – eventually – I did get to go in for my assessment and as it turned out Dr NHS Clinical Psychologist really wasn’t too bad. It’s just that, when you meet someone for the first time and you have thirty minutes to talk about yourself, your background and your mental health history, well, what do you say? where do you start?

We covered the usual ground: I was adopted, I was sexually abused by my oldest brother for twelve years and for a year by a second person, I have a complicated relationship with my whole family, my parents are separated, my father lives with his male partner, my mother is bi-polar, etc etc etc. We then moved on to more recent times, talking about previous suicide attempts, self-harm as a coping strategy, the flashbacks, the recurrent depressions and so on. I have to give Dr NHS Clinical Psychologist some credit here, because she also allowed some space to talk about the more positive aspects of my life; my relationship with my sisters, my amazing friends, my studies, my volunteering, but, coming out of the meeting, while I felt that she had listened to all I had said, I really wasn’t sure what she would actually write in her statement.

It’s a strange thing when you are asked to summarize your whole life and your entire being in a very short space of time; it really highlights something, forces you to really think. And it’s exhausting.

So, the next session I had with A, was spent debriefing. It’s quite hard to look at the different parts of your life in this very concise way. It’s almost a bit of a shock to the system to go through it all like that. I mean, none of these aspects of my life are things I haven’t spent hours in therapy thinking and talking about, but there is something quite extraordinary when you have all these life stories mentally bullet pointed before you.

There is one part of me that thinks that considering all the things I’ve been through, all the unorthodox aspects of my life, I’ve actually done quite well to not be completely broken by it. And at the same time, there is another part that chokes and goes “It’s going to take a looooong time to make some sort of peace with all of this..”

But, thankfully, in spite of that assessment five years ago, I am in therapy and I will continue to give it my best shot to somehow make sense of it all.

xx

Post Trip September Babyland Depression Begins

I’m back!
Not just here on my blog, but in the country.
Got back on Monday. Feels like I’ve never been away; you know how it goes.

Except, of course, this trip does appear to have had an effect on me..

The main reason for going on this trip was so that I could meet my two newest nephews. Nope, not twins. My youngest brother and his wife had a little boy in mid-July, and my sister gave birth to another little fella on the same day I flew out there.

It’s been a good but challenging trip, once again coming face to face with the fear of never getting to have children of my own and wanting them so very desperately. The first week and a half I spent at my sister’s, with the rest of her family. As I mentioned, her little boy was born on the same day I got there, so he was only a few hours old when I met him. [My sister gave birth at 4 am, and checked herself out of hospital at noon(!)]

There is something very special about newborn babies. I mean, all babies are special, but with someone who is completely new in this world, well, it’s just different. They are so tiny – even the big ones – and so terribly fragile. So completely dependent on those around them. And holding my nephew that first day brought out all sorts of feelings, most of which I am still processing.

I spent many hours holding my nephew during my stay there. I’d just sit with him and look at him. Feel the weight and warmth of his little body, his special baby smell.. I also played with his older brother a lot – don’t worry, he was in no way neglected – and while I was still there it was pretty darn fantastic. [The older one has only just got into role/script-playing, so there was a lot of pretend play, which I absolutely love!]

But, as great as it was, when the time came for me to leave [I was flying across to stay at my father’s, to meet my other new nephew].. well.. it was hard. Really really hard. I don’t think I can quite put it into words just how hard it was. All I know is that when I arrived at my father’s, all I was feeling was that I was missing my sister’s little boys. Wanted to be back with them.

Prior to going, I had been worried about what it might be like to meet my new nephews, and had predicted that it would be, in many ways, harder to be with my brother’s little boy than to spend time with my sister’s kids, because, with my sister – even if it had felt really difficult to be around the boys – well, our relationship is such that I could have talked about it. With my brother, and – by extension – my family – that’s not really the case, and I knew even before going that there was a definite risk that, should it feel very hard to be there, I would fall back on old patterns of pretending to be OK, no matter what.

As it turns out, while I was there, it was actually fairly OK. Being with the baby, I mean. I always feel like something of an outsider around my family, like I don’t quite belong, but at least with the baby it was OK. I guess it’s that sort of thing where, with the kids in the family, well.. it’s not their fault that they were born into what is an exceptionally complex situation, is it?

But now that I’m back here, back at my place.. well, those feelings that were surely already bubbling under the surface are beginning to come out in a big way. And it’s hard. Really really hard. I’ve talked a little about it in therapy [only had one session since being back], but in these last few days, it feels like it’s starting to push through more and more. It’s nothing to do with the actual kids; I still love them to bits. But that doesn’t meant that the feelings they bring out can’t still be incredibly difficult and painful to deal with.

As much as I love being an auntie.. I just really want to be a mother. It’s the only thing I want.

So, post-trip, the truth is that I’m not doing too good right now.
Spent most of this week in bed, most of last night on the phone with the Samaritans, feeling frighteningly low and increasingly desperate.

It’s not a nice place to be.
Nor is it a safe place.

xx

Fears And Desires – An Entry About Conflicting Emotions

Things ain’t going so great. You might have guessed. Just feels like no matter how hard I try I can’t find a way to keep my head above water long enough to find that final something to pull myself out of the water entirely and onto dry land.

I’m trying to be brave. [That is, by the way, very different to putting a brave face on it.] I’m trying to be brave in therapy. To do things that scares me, do things that make me feel. But it’s hard.

The other day, in therapy, I finally shared a drawing I made back in August, back when I was staying at Drayton Park. It’s a crayon cartoon picture drawn in a childlike style illustrating my relationship to my father growing up and the frustration I experienced [although at the time I was far too busy doing that thing of putting a brave face on it to recognise it as that], about feeling second priority to most anything, but particularly his work. With a slight twist of the caleidoscope it is easy to see how this is also an illustration of my own fears about how my relationship to A. might change once the baby is born, once she is back after her maternity leave. [The drawing was also, not incidentally, drawn in the days after A. told me she was pregnant].

Of course I’ve talked about this, about how worried I am about the long break in therapy and the changes that [I both feel and fear] will follow, but for all the carefully weighed words and cautiously constructed sentences and feeling statements I’ve put out there, in the therapeutic space we share, a picture can say more than a thousand words.. so, sharing my drawing – although I’ve desperately wanted to do it for months – felt very risky indeed, felt frightening beyond words, in fact.

Naturally, there are those bog standard feelings I have blogged about before; the jealousy because I’m not pregnant, the wish to be A.’s number one favourite client – no person – in the world etc etc etc, but beyond that is that extra layer, brought on by – at least in part – my own experience of feeling second to my father’s work. Of having his clients come up to me, saying [and this happened with surprising frequency] “You are so lucky to have HIM as your father!”, because they were his client and assumed his work self corresponded exactly with his family life self, finding myself smiling back at them all the while thinking You don’t know him, you think you do, but you don’t. And, of course, simultaneously wondering if maybe it is really I who don’t know him, because, after all, they probably spent more one on one time with him than I have throughout my entire life.

So, A. becoming a mother – as opposed to being a transferential/counter-transferential parent through her working relationship with me – brings out all manner of conflicting emotions.

In every single therapy I’ve ever been it’s always been a major issue, this acute awareness of the balancing act between work life and home life for the therapist, but with A. it’s been more intense than ever before, especially as she works from home and I feel über-aware of every single time I hear her husband walk through the door during my Tuesday evening session. Of being the one stopping him from being able to call out Honey, I’m home!

On the one hand I – like, I imagine, every person who has ever been deeply engaged in therapy – want to be special, want to be the only really important client, the centre of my therapist’s universe, yet, at the same time I absolutely and genuinely hate being the one to push A.’s family life to the side, to potentially make them feel second priority.. Yes, I realise that not everyone manages this balancing act as poorly as I sometimes felt my father did, and of course I know that not everyone will feel pushed out the way I did, and sure I know that it is actually A. [and hopefully her husband] who has made the choice to run her practice from her front room – but, as we all know, there can be a huge discrepancy between intellectual knowledge and emotional understanding, and A.’s pregnancy has definitely brought this to the forefront.

I genuinely have no idea how I will be able to cope with this internal struggle once A. is back to work, once the baby is really here. Considering how hard it’s been all along to deal with these feelings, I really don’t know if I can do it..

And that’s where my last session ended..

xx

Powerlessness, Asthma & Echoes From The Past

Feel like I ought to be given some sort of medal or badge today. It’s been one week since my last therapy session, and so far it’s been manageable. Moments of feeling somewhat lower than usual, but absolutely within the range of what I can cope with without freaking out.

That aside, today I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

The last few Fridays I’ve not been attending our Friday meetings, because B. – a former therapist of mine, whom I chose to terminate therapy with – is doing a student placement as part of her training at those meetings. I have been trying to explain both to others and to myself why I feel so strongly about her coming here, but it’s really hard to put it into words, aside from stating the obvious, that I chose to end therapy with her for a reason, and to not want to have to see her again, even in a group setting, seems – at least to me – a not unreasonable request. I would have thought that most people would not be particularly keen on having to see an ex-therapist once they have terminated therapy with that person. No?

But, of course, it goes deeper than that. It’s not just having to see her; at a stretch I could possibly, maaaayyyybeee, cope with that. No, I think this is tied in to the fact that I’d not just be seeing her anywhere, but actually in my home. And I have a feeling that this is a large part of what is getting to me; that living in this therapeutic community I ultimately have no choice in who to let in or not into my own home.

Now, let’s put this into context of my own background.
I grew up in a house where I was put through some pretty severe abuse by people living in my home; my oldest brother and also, for a time, by a foster child placed in my family. At the time I didn’t feel able to stop it, didn’t know how to speak up [lots of complex issues, as anyone having experienced abuse will know]. In the end, the only way out I could find – and not before having already suffered through twelve long years of abuse – was to kill myself. It was the only control I felt I had over the situation; the option to live or to not live. So, at the age of 17, I opted to take a cocktail of painkillers and my mother’s various medications.

Needless to say, I didn’t succeed, and – in fairness – looking back, I can see that this was probably a cry for help, for someone to see that something wasn’t right.

To an extent it worked; the abuse came to light and it stopped. Would I call this a happy ending? No. Absolutely not. While the abuse stopped and things came to light; even went to court, I couldn’t call it a happy ending.

You see, even after all of this came to light, after by brother was convicted for what he had done, and despite the fact that everyone believed what I said had happened, I was still expected to carry on seeing him at family dinners and holidays, essentially giving the message that what happened to me didn’t really matter, and his place in the family was still more important than mine.

Me being me, having spent my whole life acting as if everything was fine, of course reverted back to that old habit of acting as if I was OK, as if these messages did me no harm. Not good.

Going back to the present situation, with B. coming into my home [even though this time I have expressly stated that I don’t want her here] it evokes in me the same feelings of being helpless, of having no power over who is let into my life; that what I want doesn’t matter.

Realising that the situation wasn’t going to change, that whether I felt OK with it or not, D. would be doing her placement with us, I was faced with a choice. A) To go to the meetings, reverting to the old pattern of pretending that things are fine, putting a brave face on it. Or, B) Not go to the meetings, feeling somewhat driven out of my home, as I don’t want to be around when she’s there, even if I don’t actually attend the meeting.

So far I’ve chosen option B. I say so far, because, of course, there is an option C) Going to the meeting, and not pretend that things are OK, but to speak up with her in the room.

Now, I can certainly see that there would be some value in option C), but – and this is a big but – I honestly don’t feel I am at a place yet where I would be able to do that. And as long as I feel that way, as long as I feel that going to the meeting would make me go back to acting OK, I simply don’t see how that would be a healthy choice. And so, for now, I do the second best; I preserve the boundaries I have set up by choosing not to attend the meeting. I accept that I can’t change B. coming to my house, but I don’t need to be around when that happens.

Except today.

Today is a beautiful, hot, sunny day here in London. Gorgeous, really. It is also the perfect weather for death-by-asthma. The government has even gone so far as to issue a smog alert for this bank holiday weekend.

Despite this, not wanting to be in the house when B. is here, I still tried to brave it this morning and went out. Unfortunately, I had to turn around and head back to the house, because I just couldn’t get enough air in my lunges; the weather and the pollution was simply too much.

So at the moment, I’m in my room, using my inhaler, feeling more than ever as a prisoner in my own home.

Oh well, at least I have the internet here, and I can spend my time exploring where my feelings stem from, and then plague the world with my findings in the form of a blog entry!

Happy Easter, Passover or Spring – whatever floats your boat!

All the very best and much much more,

xx

PS. The trick is to keep breathing.

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

Closer To Free

Yesterday I was feeling a bit down.
Save the day I was told I can’t do psychotherapy it’s been a while since that happened. It just kind of came over me when I got in from work. Some sort of heavy, foggy sadness that I couldn’t quite make sense of.

Initially I felt ever so slightly panicked by it. Not only because it came on so suddenly, but because my first thought was naturally Am I getting worse again? But then I sat down on the bed.

With my tiny green backpack still slung over my shoulder and my Doc Marten clad feet dangling over the edge, I probably sat like that for about ten or fifteen minutes, trying to stay in the moment, doing the exact opposite of what I would normally do; I allowed the feeling to just wash over me, engulf me, and although I didn’t actually cry I felt like I could have.

That probably doesn’t sound like much to you. But to me that’s absolutely huge. The last time I cried was in November last year. Around my birthday. With my sisters and some very close friends around. Before that was August 5th. A year ago today.

This time last year was my last evening in Sweden before returning back to London. I had had a really lovely time. I’d collected a lot of happy memories. I’d done things I’d been looking forward to all year.

And then it all fell to pieces.
I had a long conversation with my mum that night. About a lot of things. About the reason why I had chosen to spend so much more time at my sisters’ than at my mum’s house. About the fact that I feel my family don’t understand how incredibly difficult it is for me to know that whenever I go home it means I’ll have to put up with seeing my oldest brother. How near impossible it is to go back to playing the role I’ve played for so many years of my life. The Everything Is Fine role. The Of Course I Understand How Hard It Must Be For Everyone Elsegame. To pretend that the non-verbalised Can’t You Just Get Over It? attitude doesn’t get to me.

That night, a year ago, I tried my very best to explain it all to my mum. I tried as hard to explain to her as she tried to understand. But, unfortunately, the two didn’t meet.

It’s very hard to write this. I keep wondering if I’m being unfair, if I’m being too hard on my family. But, I guess, in short what happened during that conversation – even though I didn’t come to realise it until several months later – was that I understod that I simply can’t move on as long as I’m tied to my family the way I have been. That the chains can’t be replaced by loving ribbons until I find a way to heal. And that I can’t heal unless I allow myself to feel how I really feel, both about what actually happened – the abuse – and the way my family has (or rather hasn’t) dealt with it. And, probably most importantly, how I feel about them. Each one of them. Individually.

Because, the truth is that right now I can’t honestly say how I feel about them. I love them and I hate them and I care and I don’t care, and it keeps changing all the time. And I need time to figure it out. Figure out what they mean to me, and what I mean to them.

All of these things I was thinking about yesterday, sitting on the bed.
And it dawned on me that maybe this is it. Maybe this – me sitting on the bed, just feeling – means that I am coming closer to healing? That feeling sad, or angry, or scared, or confused – maybe that’s a sign that my journey back to myself has finally begun.

I have no illusions. I don’t for a second think that dealing with my complicated feelings will be easy. I know that it will be damned hard work.

But – and I’ve said this more than once – I don’t think it’s meant to be easy. It’s meant to be worth it.

So, I leave you with a few lines from a song by Melissa Etheridge:

“..I will crawl through my past
Over stones, blood and glass
In the ruins

Reaching under the fence
As I try to make sense
In the ruins

But if I am to heal
I must first learn to feel
In the ruins..”

xx