The January Post, or, ‘Hello I’m Still Alive’

Why oh why is it so darn hard to sit down and write updates for this blog? I have a million and three ideas flying around in my head at any given moment for things I’d like to write about, posts I’d like to upload – in fact one of them has been mentally written in my head since October last year [Harry Potter and The Mental Health Issue], but I’ve just not been able to make myself sit down and focus for long enough to actually write and arrange things into a cyber publishable format.

I suppose that part of the issue lies in the very nature of this blog – it’s not just about psychotherapy and mental health in general, it’s about my mental health, my journey. It’s about the PTSD, the depression, the suicidal ideation I struggle with, all of which severely impact my ability to focus, to knuckle down and just do things. Even when I really really want to write a post, when I am sitting there with an absolutely brilliant idea for a post, I often simply can’t write it.

In the last few years, because I’ve struggled so much with my mental health and the aforementioned difficulty in being able to concentrate I’ve had to make a switch from writing – something I have been doing my whole entire life in order to make sense of myself and my world – to drawing and painting. For years and years writing was What I Did to express myself, to explore what was going on, to give my imagination and creativity a chance to run wild. And then, somewhat suddenly, with the entrance of PTSD in my life, that was no longer an outlet I could count on. It’s hellahard working on a book, or even just part of a dialogue when you are constantly interrupted by traumatic memories in the form of PTSD flashbacks. So, I had to find another medium, one that wasn’t quite so badly affected by interruptions as writing is, and the medium that came to me most naturally, was art. So, that’s what I’ve been doing: I’ve been art-ing. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, I’ve been art-ing and art-ing and art-ing. Some of the drawings or paintings I’ve incorporated into random posts on this very blog, but for the most part I have been posting privately to friends and family on closed[-ish] social media. It was only in October last year that I finally got around to starting a public Instagram account. Shameless plug: If anyone is interested you can find me here. I’d love to have another follower or two. [SPOILER ALERT: the drawings that were supposed to go with that blessed Harry Potter post are on there].

One final reason [read: Exceedingly Lame Excuse] for my severely dwindling number of posts in the last few years is the very fact that I’m in therapy. I see the Greatest Therapist In The Known Universe [sorry you missed out, folks!] three times a week. On top of that I see my care coordinator every three weeks and my social worker about as often. Plus, I am blessed with the most amazing, insightful and supportive friends in the world. So, between the professionals [Team Scout, as I like to call them] and my friends I do a lot of talking and reflecting on what is going on for me. In fact, one of my sisters recently raised a concern that I wasn’t talking to her and my other sister about how I am doing. She was worried that maybe I was either trying to protect them, or that I somehow didn’t feel ‘allowed’ to tell them about the more difficult aspects of my life, when in reality it’s just that I’ve already got plenty of space to let the difficult feelings out. It’s not about wanting to – or feeling that I have to – shut anyone out, it’s just that sometimes – even when I’m really really struggling – I get a bit talked out. I’ve filled my need for expressing myself, I have felt heard and seen and cared for – so by the time I get to talk to my sisters I’m ready to just have a laugh. And, I think something similar has been going on with this blog.

You know how I said “one final reason” in the paragraph above, as if it was going to be the last reason given..? Well, if I’m honest with myself, there is one more very obvious reason for why you, my lovely lovely readers, have been left so badly neglected; I am an Expert Procrastinator. With everything. If I can put off doing something, I will. In my world, things get done as close to the deadline as humanly possible. And when there is no deadline..? Well, quite often things don’t get done at all.

Towards the end of last year, just around the time when I had to finally accept that that ruddy Harry Potter post wasn’t going to happen that side of the new year, I made a promise to myself [I hesitate to call it a new year’s resolution, because those are clearly made to be broken, right?]; that I would manage to upload one post a month in 2018. So, here I am, at just gone 6 a.m. on a Wednesday in the second to last week of January, writing something to kick the year off.

I know this hasn’t been the most inspired or thought provoking post, but, it’s a start.
And, hey – February is just around the corner!

Although, knowing me, you can probably expect the next update on or around the 28th….. And that’s only because this isn’t a leap year. ;)

Anyway, until then – loyal followers and new arrivals alike;

Be Kind to Your Selfs

xx

Advertisements

New Year, New Hopes – A Tiny Update

20131001-080851.jpg

Don’t worry, I’ve not gone crazy.. At least not in the traditional sense..
Tonight at sun down is the Jewish new year, Rosh HaShanah, and I have to admit that I am kind of excited about it. I know that a date is just a date, really, and it’s what we do with each day that matters, but, there is still something about starting anew that always makes me feel positive and hopeful. It’s that delicious feeling of opening up a brand new journal, 300 buttery white pages, there for me to fill. I kind of know that as much as I’ll try to use only my very neatest handwriting, sooner or later I will fall back into old habits, switching to my sloppiest, most illegible, journal writing style, almost without noticing. But, until I do – man, does it feel good!

So, what am I hoping for in the new year?

Motherhood. Always at the very top of my wish list. Comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. But other than that? Well, a little bit of relief from the drama of the last few months would be nice. I remember my youngest sister concluding a number of years ago that I always have a serious dip in September, but knowing what the last few months have been like, I’d like to think that this time the dip came early, and hopefully I am on my way back up now.

I hope that creativity will flow. Both in terms of writing, and in terms of artistic endeavours, whether it be painting, drawing, carving or whatever other quirky ideas I may come up with. My latest project, as you can see above, is hand painting canvas shoes. Hopefully this will continue to offer me an alternative way to express myself and provide a safe haven to go to, a place where I can disconnect, if only for a moment, from mundane day-to-day stresses.

I hope that my therapy and my relationship with A. will continue to both challenge me and bring deeper understanding, and that I will find the courage to carry on expressing my feelings. I hope that the work I am doing with Z. will help prove to myself that I can do it [talk about the abuse without breaking either myself or the person who is listening to me], and that it will ultimately lead to a decrease in the amount of flashbacks I experience on a daily basis.

Stepping away from purely therapeutic/professional relationships, I also feel a lot more ready to be in a romantic relationship with someone. I have been single ever since Dev and I separated after five years together. That is now almost five years ago, and I have to admit that in those years, I have always felt ridiculously comfortable with my single status. A. has more than once hinted at the possibility of me being somewhat fearful of entering into a new intimate relationship, but I genuinely don’t feel that’s the case. I mean, yes, there are absolutely things that frighten me about letting another person in, but not on a level where it would stop me from forming a relationship with someone; I’ve just felt very strongly that I needed this time to deal with my own issues, to have emotional time and space to explore who I am, to get to know myself better. I still don’t feel particularly desperate to find someone, nor do I feel burdened by loneliness; it simply just feels like it would be nice to have someone to share my life with, to settle down. To Set This Circus Down, to use a McGraw-ism. I don’t think I’m about to [re-]join a dating site or start going on the prowl or anything like that, it’s not really my style. I would love it if Prince or Princess Charming found their way into my life, but I feel no need to go on a hunt to find my perfect match today [or even tomorrow]. Rather than an intense hunger for breaking free of singlehood, I suppose you could say that I have more of a relaxed ‘if it happens, it happens’ attitude towards it. But, as I said earlier, it would be nice if it did happen.

Anyway, I think I’ll end my ‘update lite’ here, and – whether you are Jewish or not – I would like to wish you all a very good and sweet year to come.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

~ Shanah Tova Umetukah ~

Have a marvellous 5774!

Much love,

xx

(For Lillsessan..)

Set This Circus Down © 2000 Bill Luther and Josh Kear

At The End Of A Difficult Year

The new year is almost here. Time to reflect, I suppose. [As if not all posts are reflections, really..]

This has not been an easy year. In fact, it may actually have been one of the hardest thus far, so I hope the new year will bring a bit of happy change. One of the things that I have been really struggling with this year, and which very nearly pushed me over the edge, is something I haven’t really shared on here. I am hoping that as time goes on, this too, will become something I feel comfortable sharing here. I mean, considering the things I do share, there really shouldn’t be much of a problem, but for whatever reason, I’ve just not quite found it in me to write openly about it so far. Too painful, somehow, seeing it in black on white..

I remember myself at this time last year, on the verge of a minor break in therapy, which I knew would soon be followed by a seriously major break; my therapist’s maternity leave, and I can still feel that horribly cold, hard lump at the bottom of my stomach, which would turn every time I thought about it. The horrendous abandonment issues I was battling with and the separation anxiety I was trying to keep under control. I remember desperately trying to come up with ways to convince myself that I would indeed be able to survive this break, and although I can’t say I truly found any one method that worked wholeheartedly for me, I did make it through. Was brought to my knees a number of times, for sure, but somehow I managed to get back up again.

I think the thing that helped me the most was doing what I have always done when things get tough: writing. Writing this blog, or even just thinking about what I might want to write on it, should I find the words and the energy, helped a lot. And more than that, your lovely emails and comments.. well, I couldn’t even begin to explain how much they have meant to me. To have someone who has never even met me, reach out and show that they care. That’s really something.

Then there’s that other kind of writing. The writing I do when I need to completely escape; working on my book. That’s been useful, too. To allow myself to go to another place, to think about someone else’s problems, to focus on someone else’s daily comings and goings, trying to paint it in words. Still, as I said to A. in my most recent therapy session, although in the moment it feels very much like escapism, when I read back later on – even years later – I can often see that I was working something of myself out through the characters I create, only it happens in a way that is somehow more free, less constrained by the emotional red tape I may put on myself.

And, in the midst of really struggling with near constant flashbacks, I finally found something that helps me with them; my beloved Rubik’s cube. Yes, I’ve turned into even more of a geek than I was at the beginning of the year, but, hey – if it works, it works. I’d much rather look like an absolute 80s retro nerd on the tube, than not being able to go out at all. Now, of course, solving a puzzle like this, no matter how many times you do it, it doesn’t solve the puzzle of your Self, but – honestly – it really has made a difference to my life this year. It may not get to the root of the flashbacks, but it does help me get through them, and sometimes that’s all you can ask of yourself; to get through.

And, of course, faith has got me through, too. Even when it’s felt impossible to look ahead, there is this space inside where I can go to, where I can be still, and just breathe, and know that whatever happens, there is someone who is looking out for me.. And it helps. I can’t explain it, it just does.

Sitting here, thinking back, I am – as always – struck by how lucky I am to have the friends that I have. Not to mention my absolutely amazing sisters, who I could not manage without even for a single day. To be surrounded by people who are there for me, to whatever extent I feel able to let them be. People who won’t give up on me, even when I myself have. That is a true blessing.

So, as hard as this year has been, there are also many, many things for which I am grateful.

Thanks for staying with me this year.
Hope to see you in 2013.

xx

Once again, a favourite quote at the end of the year..

“..and it’s been a long December
And there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass..”

A Long December lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

PS. If the world does indeed come to an end tomorrow, could someone please let me know, as we’re an hour behind most of Europe here..

Pregnancies, Therapy Breaks & A Possible Bin Liner

First post of the new year. Can’t believe it’s taken me this long!

So what has the new year been like this far? Well, ups and downs. And lots of them. On the one hand there are some really good things happening in my life, although as per usual I am finding it hard to entirely trust it that it will last. On the other hand there is a lot of unrest, especially surrounding A.’s impending maternity leave, which is really stressing me out in a big way.

Over our two week Chrismukah break I did struggle, although I struggled more in week one than in week two. I think had there not been an impending longer break round the corner, this break would not have been quite so bad; most of my freak-outs over this period were connected with the knowledge that I have this massive break ahead of me.

A. is now back, and therapy has resumed for the time being. Of course there is no knowing exactly how much longer I will be seeing her before she goes on leave, adding another prickly little layer to an already exceptionally difficult situation. As much as I appreciate being able to go to therapy, I do feel ultra-aware that each session I have is another step closer to the time when I won’t be having them, and I really don’t know how I am going to cope for such a long time. Also, A. looking like she is about to pop at any given moment makes it entirely impossible to do what I usually do prior to an upcoming break; going into solid denial in true ostrich style and pretend it’s not going to happen..

For better or for worse, A. and her ever growing bump completely takes that option away. It also makes me have to think about how badly I want children and leaves me unable to shield myself from the fear that that may never happen.. At least as long as A. is still working, I can talk about all of this [to whatever extent I feel able to].. Once she goes off, I’ll still have all those feelings, but I’ll have lost my safe place to talk about it. On top of the stuff I always deal with during a break, I’ll be left with all the feelings A.’s (and other women’s) pregnancies have brought out. I genuinely hate this non-pregnant state I’m in with a passion, and having all these emotional triggers around can be really really painful. Sometimes I feel convinced that there must be a correlation between how badly you want a child and the number of people around you becoming pregnant. Like a cruel joke on the less fertile ones among us.. I know that’s not really the case, but it sure feels like it sometimes. So, I’m under no illusions that this break is going to be anything other than excruciatingly challenging.

On to something a little more positive..
I wrote in a previous post about the need to find something to help contain my emotions during this break, and the worry at not knowing what that might be. And then one morning it just hit me – and please don’t ask how it could possibly have taken so long to come up with something so utterly obvious.. Of course, the thing that could best help me get through the break is – ta-dah! –WRITING! Partly here on the blog, which I have come to realise is the closest thing I get to therapy outside of actual therapy; it’s a space where I can express whatever I want without having to censor myself for the sake of other people. Blogging also has that key therapeutic quality of allowing me to feel heard, through the comments you post and the emails you send. So, please, do keep ’em coming; they really mean a lot to me. Your comments and emails are what makes blogging different to journaling. I suppose you could say that journaling is communicating your emotions for inward reflection, in a completely private way, whereas blogging is communicating outwardly, to tell the outside world what’s going on. And your comments help me feel heard and also give me a variety of perspectives on whatever I happen to be going through.

So, journaling and blogging are two ways to keep me going. But, of course, they are both things that I am already doing, and – as regular readers will be aware – this is not necessarily enough for me to not dip in that rather extreme way I sometimes do. The other way I’ve come up with is to push myself to get back into doing some proper writing. In the past few years I’ve been suffering from a writer’s block of gargantuan proportion, having not really done any real writing at all. Yes, the odd poetry reading, a few bits and pieces here and there, but nothing I would call real writing, only faffing. Fair enough, it’s at times been very useful faffing, but it’s simply not been as emotionally and spiritually consuming as the kind of thing I experience when I’m really writing.

Thus, my brief for myself in the coming several months, is to push myself to take my writing more seriously and to really work hard at it. Not just to do a bit here and there as the wind happens to blow, but to really dedicate some serious time to doing it.

I’ve already started on something, which – naturally – could turn out to be nothing, but at the moment it feels pretty good. I’m not going to go into detail in terms of what exactly I’m writing about, but it feels like it could potentially turn out to be something reasonably readworthy.

I’m sticking to the age-old rule of Write About What You Know, but without making it autobiographic. Of course, there is bound to be a lot of me in what I write, that’s the nature of writing,; the author’s voice will always be there somewhere in the background, spread out in between the written words, but it’s not my story I’m writing, it’s fiction. Or, as I like to call it; semi-fictive storytelling.

And that is what makes writing so exciting for me. That, while what I’m writing is based on what I know, I also have the complete freedom of inventing this whole parallel universe, where anything could happen. And even though the things I write about tend to be fairly ordinary; about how everyday people form relationships and how they relate to one another and so on, it is still all coming out of my own imagination. I always think of writing as the introvert’s opportunity to be a great actor, because, in order to write about people and relationships, you need to put yourself in their place, you need to get into their head and look at the world through their eyes, so that when you’re writing, what ends up on the page isn’t fifteen versions of yourself, but something that feels authentic and congruent for each one of the characters.

Now, of course I am aware that writing also is a form of escapism, a way to get away from my own reality.
I know this. You know this. But, surely, a bit of escapism is a far healthier option to getting those scalpels out, in a bid to get away from what I really can’t get away from?

So, there you are; a possible bin liner.

Do wish me luck.

I may need it.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I’m receiving a ridiculous amount of spam comments on some of my posts, and so I’ve password protected them. If you would like to have the password, feel free to drop me an email. I have no idea if the password thing will help with the spam, if it doesn’t I’ll take the protection off, but for the time being it will stay there.

Remember September & Stepping Into The New Year

It’s been a while since I posted a proper update, I know. Things have been very difficult and it’s all felt too raw to put it down in black and white. To pick up where I left off: I went to the assessment at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre and was offered a place the same day. It was very hard going back there, having not needed that kind of help in quite a few years. So much of my time at the therapeutic community I was staying in was designed to keep you away from the NHS mental health system, to find other ways of getting the support you need, preferably away from medication and hospital. So it was a big decision going back to Drayton Park. But needs must sometimes, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and just accept any kind of help you can get.

The whole first week and a half at Drayton I spent virtually all of my time in my room, feeling unable to be around people other than my named support workers. I simply felt to embarrassed to be around people while I was fighting the near constant stream of flashbacks, as the things I do to ground myself can look quite odd if you don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I did have quite a few people come visit me, which felt more OK, because they were all people who know what I’m usually like, and who I knew could handle seeing me in that very very difficult emotional place. I know it’s hard to see someone you love struggle in the way I was – constantly having to fight this torrent of intrusive flashbacks.

Flashbacks aren’t a new phenomenon to me; regular readers will know that I suffer from single flashbacks frequently, and experience periods of sequential flashbacks every so often, but this was on a scale I’ve never known before. I’ve always understood the single flashbacks as an indicator of sorts that I am ready to perhaps deal with that specific incident in my therapy, and the periods of flashbacks tend to begin either when A. is away or when I am very stressed out about other things. But this, it was just something entirely different. A whole different ball game. As I said earlier, initially I was experiencing an incessant flow of flashbacks, most of them reasonably short and all of things I already knew had happened. Though never a pleasant experience, I was able to come out of them fairly quickly. What was really wearing me down – apart from the re-experience of the abuse situations – was the fact that they were so frequent. It felt very much as if as soon as I had worked my way out of one flashback another started, like one flashback triggered the next, and it took essentially all of my energy to remain fully in the present.

Then, one day – and I still don’t quite know why – the flashbacks changed. They became less frequent and were about things I had no conscious memory of. Although the reclining frequency was a welcome break, making it possible to at least go out of my room and spend time in the art room, it was absolutely terrifying. I always knew that there were gaps in my memory, pertaining to one specific person, but some of the things that came out were things I had absolutely no recollection of at all. I know that what emerged in those flashbacks did happen, that they weren’t figments of my imagination [although at times I tried very hard to convince myself that maybe they were].. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I was remembering things I had forgotten I knew. These flashbacks tended to be more like long sequences, and were a lot harder to come out of, I think, in part because they caught me so unawares, memorywise, but also because the content of them were cruelty on a whole new level, and I felt paralysed by fear, unable to do the things I usually do to come out of the flashbacks. And I have to say, I’m still dealing with those memories now, feeling utterly traumatised by what those flashbacks unveiled.

I ended up spending a full three weeks at Drayton Park, and throughout those weeks, being stripped of the release and relief my various means of self-harm offered, they were probably the worst three weeks in my entire life. Every day I would ask the staff – pleading with them – to please, please let me have my scalpels, just for a little while, just to get a small break from the flashbacks. And each day my support workers told me no, because although their policy is that they recognise self-harm as a genuine coping-strategy for some people, they felt that my cutting would not be safe and could end in me, accidentally or intentionally, cutting to kill myself rather than to just relieve pain. Also, owing to my previous track record at Drayton Park, downing a pint of anti-freeze in a bid to end my life, my trust/credit rating with the staff isn’t the greatest, so their decision to not allow me to use any form of self-harm to cope, is entirely understandable.

I am now back home. Things are still difficult. The flashbacks aren’t as frequent, but I still have them fairly regularly, and it seems that an underlying depression is rearing its ugly head, and I am often struggling to get out of bed at all, unless I have to. I push myself to get to therapy and to not completely disappear in my own misery, but it’s hard work.

One thing that is good is that we’re now in the middle of a period called Yamim Noraim, [lit. Days Of Awe, commonly referred to as the High Holy Days, is the period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur] – so there are a lot of things going on at shul, and so I have more things than usual that I need to get to. Also, on the days I simply haven’t been able to go to service I’ve been able to follow it online, and I’ve made a point of always making sure I am up and appropriately dressed, even if I’m only attending service via the internet.

All in all, it’s still a bit of a roller coaster; one good day, one bad and so on, but I suppose that it’s better to have some better days than none at all.

So, for a better and sweeter new year,

שנה טובה ומתוקה

~ Shanah Tova Umetukah ~

xx

OK – so this isn’t for this new year, but this Rosh HaShanah video from Michelle Citrin still makes me smile. I mean, c’mon – I named my blog after one of her songs, after all.