Progress And Pain – Parenting My Inner Child

It’s been a long time. It’s been too long, really. I suppose that I just needed a proper break from things. Or, rather, I needed to use what little energy I could muster to deal with the bare essentials, hence largely withdrawing from the world, both online and in my day-to-day interactions with family and friends.

It has been, and still is, a very rough ride. Since the beginning of the year I have had three rounds of crisis team intervention and one admission to Drayton Park, all with that burning hopeless feeling that ‘It’s pointless, it won’t make a difference’. Except, from an external point of view it has; I am still here now. I might not have been.

Therapy is the one thing that I feel is actually going well. But, as is so often the case when it comes to therapy, ‘going well’ involves a decent sized chunk of dizzying pain. The therapeutic process has never been heralded as a ‘free from unwanted side effects’ type of medication..

I continue to build my relationship with P., doing this quirky little two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance, putting my most deep seated fears and trust issues through their paces. Progress is slow, but at least we are moving. Those of you who have been in therapy will know exactly what I am talking about; one session and – almost out of nowhere – you find the courage of a lioness and take a giant leap forward, right across the abyss – the next two sessions; withdrawing and giving in to age-old fears of being let down, needing to test and re-test your therapist, to check that they really are for real, that those encouraging words won’t turn out to just be empty promises.

My need for emotional hand-holding and reassurance has known no limits in these last months and weeks, and consequently P. has had to work darn hard for the pennies.. She tells me that she knew what she was signing up for when she decided to take me on, I argue that she can’t possibly have known – because she didn’t know me – she then agrees that this is true, but reassures me that she has a very strong sense of what she can cope with, and that I really really really am not too much for her. And we take another tiny step forward.

As I have said many times before, I don’t think therapy is meant to be easy, I think it’s meant to be worth it.

Right now we are standing at the door of a two week therapy break, so – predictably – all of Little S.’s abandonment fears are awakened and hyper aroused. Adult Me works hard to try to explain that it will be OK, that we have been through – and have survived – many, many breaks before, and that we will get through this one, too, but Little S. clamps her hands firmly over her little ears, certain that this is the end of the safety and pseudo-mothering we have enjoyed from P.

What it boils down to is that my inner child, just like any other child, has no real understanding of time, and so a separation from P. is not a temporary state, but is permanent and absolute. And, again like most children, when the caregiver goes away, she assumes that this must be because of something she has done. This, in turn, makes Little S., go back and forth between putting unrealistic pressure on herself to be ‘all good’ [because, if she is very very good, maybe P. won’t leave her] and needing to self-punish [because she must have been bad, to make P. go away]. Adult Me works very hard to try to help regulate the extremes, but parenting your own inner child is not an easy task, especially when so many of Little S.’s thought patterns and beliefs still live on in Adult Me.

I still have three sessions left before the commencement of this two-week-bordering-on-eternity break, so there is time to talk this through with P., time to get another shot of reassurance injected, and hopefully that will alleviate at least some of Little S.’s [and Adult Me’s] anxiety.

We’ll see..

Anyway, take good care of your Selves, and thank you all so much for sticking with me through this hiatus, of sorts.

xx

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Pain, Fear & Courage – Daring To Say How You Feel

A couple of very raw nerves were touched in my last session with A. Early in the session I made a statement to the effect that I feel un-anchored, adrift, floating with no direction. Later on A. commented on this, saying – and I’m paraphrasing here, I don’t remember the exact words – that even though I say that I feel un-anchored, it seems to her that I am perhaps a little too anchored. To the past, to old thoughts, old feelings, old memories. She then went on to saying that she can understand why that is.

I felt instantly hurt by this, because, what I heard was perhaps less of what she was actually saying and more an echo of what others around me have either said or through actions have made me feel: that I’m holding on too hard to the past, to the abuse I experienced. That I am overreacting and should just let it go. In my immediate feeling-reaction I discarded without thought the part about A. understanding why this is, and allowed the first part of the comment to hit me at full force; that I’m stubbornly refusing to let go of what happened to me as a child.

I was able to articulate this to A., to explain that what she had said left me hurting, but that I also recognised, even in the moment, that my reaction was not necessarily to what she had said, but to what other people have said, and that while I did in a physical sense hear her say that she has some understanding of why this holding on happens, the first part, the direct echo of other peoples’ views, was the part that was ringing in my ears.

Objectively I can see that she wasn’t actually repeating what others have said or made me feel, but emotionally, that is what I heard and what I responded to. In the moment, the “can understand why” didn’t feel very convincing, felt like it might have been something she just added to soften the blow while letting me know how she really feels about me and the way I live my life-.

I fell silent after my initial explanation, feeling unable to say more. Hurting too much, and trying to self-soothe, to reassure myself that A. doesn’t really think I’m overreacting or refusing to let go, that that wasn’t at all what she was saying. But it didn’t work particularly well.

During my silence A. took the opportunity to remind me that it’s OK for me to feel things about her, that she already knows I do. It was probably needed, her saying that; I am notoriously bad at expressing my feelings about A. openly and directly to her, and it was all said in the gentlest of ways; an offer for me to express freely how I felt about both what she had said and how I feel about her, but I just wasn’t ready for it right then, had too much fear inside. She went on to very honestly say that of course she couldn’t promise she wouldn’t be affected by what I might say, but that she can deal with it.

Only this shifted my focus to another sore, another deep-rooted fear; that I actually don’t feel at all certain that she can deal with it, that she can cope with me. I said as much to her, but, I feel I failed to really convey that in an odd way this isn’t something personal to her, that it’s not a case of me thinking she’s not a strong enough person, but that it stems from the simple fact that, as much as I intellectually know that this – coping with me, with what I bring to session – is her job, that it’s what all that training was there for, that she is (that dreaded word) a professional, to me, she is first and foremost a human being and no amount of training can change that fact. And my experience of human beings is that they can’t cope with me, can’t deal with me. That sooner or later I become too much, sooner or later I break people.

And that’s a hard one. Because, if this is how I feel deep down, then has my therapy got any chance of bringing about change? If I am so terrified of breaking A., then will I ever be able to truly open up? Will I ever find the courage to risk it, or will that fear forever stand in my way of letting my emotions out?

There is a part of me that wants to close the door and run as far as I can, and another that wants to be brave and carry on, beginning with exploring this immense fear. Together with A.

I still don’t know what I will do, but I know this:

My three and a half year honeymoon with A. is over.
And maybe, just maybe, this is where real therapy begins.

xx

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.

Pain – An Entry About Truth

So this blog is honesty-based. That’s what it says on the tin. That’s the whole point of it. To tell it like it is, or at least what it feels like. For me. It’s the only story I can tell. My story. My version of the truth. And today.. well.. it feels like shit being me. Nails done and re-done five times still counting, new hairdo, new hopes, but still the same messed up me. Some things never change..

My little brother is getting married on Saturday. My little brother who I always thought I was really close to. Or at least closer to than anyone else in my family. The one I loved better than anyone else. But on his big day I’m not invited. Persona non grata. I’m sure there are a million ways to justify not wanting me there. In fact I’ve been given quite a few reasons. And maybe we’ll never agree on whether or not those are real, valid, reasons. It doesn’t matter. It still breaks my fucking heart to know that the rest of my family will be there. Celebrating. Having a good time. Together.
And I’ll be here. Alone.
Uninvited.

I made a choice last year. To do something for myself. To change a pattern that up until then had been repeated over and over again, always with the same result: me trying to kill myself. I made a decision that it was time for a real change, because it was the only way I could think to break the vicious circle I found myself in. That break included taking a step away from my family. Not forever. But until I felt strong enough to face them as honestly as I can muster. I needed time to learn to do things that are helpful to me rather than destructive.

I got back in touch with my little brother on his birthday in October. I texted him beforehand to ask if it’d be ok to give him a ring. I didn’t want to take it for granted that he wanted me to. Things could have changed at his end, too. But he said he did. So I rang. We talked. I asked him if he wanted to stay in touch. He said yes. I warned him that I have changed a lot in the time we’d been out of touch, that I won’t be playing games anymore, I won’t pretend that things are ok when they’re not. I won’t pretend that what my oldest brother did to me didn’t affect me. And I asked him again if he wanted to stay in touch. He said that he did, that there was no need for pretence, not with him. He could handle it.

And I believed him.

But I was wrong.
And it hurts like hell to realise that.

A part of me wants to go on and on and repeat all the reasons my brother gave me as to why I’m not welcome at his wedding. I want to poke holes in his reasons, because none of them make any sense to me. They are so wafer-thin they’d come apart at the lightest hint of a breeze. I want to rage and scream and kick and bite until someone, anyone, will listen. Will hear the truth. My truth.

But I won’t.
I think deep down my brother knows all of this. He must.
Or he is not the person I thought he was.

I have no idea how I’m going to get through the next few days. I have moments when I think I’ll be ok. And then something happens, something reminds me.
That I’m not wanted.

And my heart breaks all over again.

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