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

To Blog or Not To Blog, That Is The Question

Quick art made using absolutely nothing but a piece of paper, a few seriously old ink cartridges, and my now very ink stained fingers. No pens or brushes used.

Quick art made using absolutely nothing but a piece of paper, a few seriously old ink cartridges, and my now very ink stained fingers. No pens or brushes used.

I had an email from one of my readers recently, someone who had only just found their way to my blog and who felt that they could really connect with what I was writing. It was a really nice email to get – as are all emails I receive – because they remind me of the fact that even though we are all unique and different and separate, our human emotions can connect people from all over the world, people who have never met –  and probably never will meet – in a deep and profound way. Also, it really reminded me of the reasons for keeping this blog going. And I really needed that, because, I’ll be completely honest, in the last few months I have been very seriously considering whether or not to retire from blogging – hence the ridiculously sporadic updates. Apart from finding life such a struggle a lot of the time, I also felt that I was beginning to repeat myself in my posts, that I had nothing more to offer people coming to this site.. And what is the point in posting, if that is the case..? But, this email – along with many other emails I’ve received – told me otherwise. In fact, it made me think that perhaps, rather than retiring from the blogosphere I ought to actually invest more time in my blog. Maybe this blog is the way that I can – in some very small way – help make people feel less alone in what they are going through? Maybe this is my opportunity to contribute to making people feel a connection to the rest of the human race? I don’t know how many emails I have received over the years of blogging where people express genuine surprise at having discovered that somewhere in the world there is another person – whose name they don’t even know – who shares similar experiences, feelings and thoughts as them. And who find that comforting. So.. for now, I shall keep my blog going. Maybe repeating myself isn’t the end of the world, because even if I am expressing a similar idea to what I have shared before, I will have changed since the last time I wrote about it, and maybe my readers will get something new from it, because they, too, have changed?

I wish I could promise that that from now on I will post more frequently and regularly, but, knowing me – that may turn out to not be true. But, at least I shall do my very best to carry on with it.

Be kind to your Selfs and look out for another update very soon, because for once I already have The Next One and even The Next One After That written and ready to post. How crazy is that!?* Just spacing them out a little to not shock and/or overwhelm any of my long time readers. ;)

xx

PS. I feel I should add that – not being a great believer in altruism – I, too, get a lot from this blog, because every time someone contacts me, whether it be in a comment or an email, I am reminded that I’m not alone, either. So, a big thank you to all who have written me over the years.

* How crazy is that!?*  Not quite so crazy. Turns out being in bed with a sprained ankle, a cracked rib or two, and a banged up knee [special clumsiness birthday gift to self] is exceptionally good for your blogging

Life’s A Dance You Learn As You Go

To me, writing is like breathing; a necessity for life. So, the fact that it has taken me this long to feel able to update my blog may be an indication of the degree of difficulty I have had in holding on to life itself. For the past several months the wish to just let go, to allow myself the luxury of that Final Rest, has been a minute-to-minute struggle. It hasn’t been a crisis as such – at least not in my eyes – and there has been a very definitive lack of urgency about it all. No mad dash towards the Ultimate Finish Line, just a steady step by step journey towards a glittering End ahead of me. It stems from walking around with a soul that is simply so tired, so emotionally exhausted that it naturally gravitates away from life. The strings I have used so many times in the past to pull myself away from the edge are either broken or have disappeared altogether.

I wrote in my last post about having a flat battery and a faulty charger, and that, to a large degree, is still how I feel. Like I am running on empty.

But I am still here, and not only that, I am here through my own very conscious decision to be so. It isn’t a case of Death all of a sudden having lost its vice like grip on me; I can still feel those cold skeletal fingers around my ankle.. but, I can also feel my other foot – the one Death has yet to reach, planted firmly, barefoot, on the soft grass. It is a defiant “I decide when I step across that line, not you.”

I have always felt that ending one’s life ought to be a decision, not impulsive acting out because things are so unbearably difficult in that one particular moment. I wouldn’t ever want my loved ones to be left wondering What if she had only just got through this crisis? Would she still have made the same choice?

I am not so naïve as to think that a ‘painless suicide’ exists – suicide always comes with pain in its wake – and I accept that whatever the intention, there will always, inevitably, be question marks forming for those left behind, but I would like to have done my best to minimise the suffering. I would like them to know that this was what I really wanted. And this is one of the reasons why I am still here today. Because I will not let go while I am in the middle of what is a very difficult period. You simply cannot make a rational, reasoned decision in the midst of chaos.

In the last week I have yet again entered one of those nightmarish periods where one flashback follows the next – ceaselessly, relentlessly. It is an incredibly painful place to exist within, a place where it feels as if nothing is my own, where I keep being pulled under the surface again and again and again, with hardly any time above water to catch my breath. And even though I know that this won’t last forever, it certainly feels endless.

In session today, P. revived the metaphor I used before of jumping into the pool, not knowing whether or not I would be able to swim, and she reiterated how it is her job to be the life guard. She said that we need to work together to create metaphorical armbands, to help me stay above water. My immediate response to that was that I taught myself to swim, without water wings, thank-you-very-much, that, in fact, I actually learned to swim under water, before I figured out how to do it with my head held above the surface.

I have often said that even though I generally learn new things quickly, I am an emotionally slow learner – but now I am sitting here, thinking that maybe it is really that I am a slow unlearner. In the months since I started seeing P. I have struggled with echoes of past relationships, with trusting P. to know her own limitations and have automatically and without thinking taken on sole responsibility for managing our relationship. I can see where this need to be in charge comes from, and I know what the original sources of those echoes are.. What I find difficult to do, however, is to make a different choice this time around. While I have needed to be solitarily strong and in control in the past, this may not still be necessary. It makes me think of a ’90s country song that goes “life’s a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow”..

You need to have that balance in a relationship; to sometimes lead and sometimes follow. I am pretty good at the first, but markedly less so when it comes to the latter. And maybe, just maybe, it isn’t such a bad thing to allow someone else to lead every once in a while..?

 

xx

 

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead

Sometimes you follow

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Life’s a dance you learn as you go

 

Life’s A Dance © 1992 Shamblin & Seskin

Scaffolding

I was supposed to be dead by now.

It feels kind of strange to write it, but it is true, nonetheless. A little over four weeks ago was when it was supposed to happen. I had booked the hotel room where I was going to go to, to end my life. I had everything I needed to do it. I was completely at peace with the idea of going through with it, felt satisfied that I had tried my very hardest to get onto a different path. There was only One Last Thing I needed to do before setting my plan in motion. Except chance intervened and stopped me from being able to do that One Last Thing, and there was no way I could go ahead with ending my life without that.

So, instead I ended up going another round at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre. I was offered a place, having initially been turned down for it, as I was deemed too high risk to be safely contained there. Nothing had really changed between the time I was initially assessed and when I eventually took up a place, but, I banked on my good personal credit that if I made an absolute promise that I would not act to end my life as long as I was staying in the house, staff would trust me enough to let me have a place. As long-term followers of this blog will be aware, I made a very serious attempt at ending my life the very first time I stayed at Drayton many years ago, and ever since then I have developed a rather special relationship both with the staff and with the place itself. It has been a go-to place for me in times of real crisis, a place to sort out my feelings, to create space for myself without having to worry about anyone else, somewhere I feel safe enough to really stay with myself, if that makes sense.

This time was very different. Not because the above things were no longer true – they still were – but because in complete contrast to all other times I have gone there, this time I went into Drayton Park with absolutely no belief whatsoever that anything was going to change while I was staying there. The reasons for wanting to end my life were – and still are – things that could not change through short term crisis intervention. But, I decided to take up a place at Drayton Park, in spite of this. I went there in part because I wanted my loved ones to know that I hadn’t just given up without one last fight, and partly to buy myself time, because as much as I didn’t believe that anything would really change, I also accepted that I haven’t got a telescope to the future, and consequently couldn’t know for sure that I wouldn’t be proven wrong. And I desperately wanted to be proven wrong. I desperately wanted something to change.

A number of big things happened during my time at Drayton Park.
Firstly, counselling with Z. came to an end on the day I took up residence. Secondly, I made a decision that long term therapy with A. will have to come to an end after more than four and a half years of working together. A. made it very clear to me earlier in the year that she is not able to work with me under the threat of suicide, and as I am someone who simply will not make a promise I don’t know I can keep, the only fair thing to do was to set an end date to therapy. Finally, in the last few weeks I have been under assessment of the personality disorder services to see whether or not I should be offered a place with them. I have had very mixed feelings about this from day one, have very little hope that there really is anything in it for me, but again, I try to keep an open mind rather than closing doors.

With all of these things going on, and feeling completely stripped of any hope that there truly is anything out there that could change how I feel about ending my life, I decided to use my time at Drayton Park to go against what my heart was telling me – a very foreign concept to me. To hold on, rather than to let go.

I spent my three weeks at Drayton Park actively putting up scaffolding around my life, in spite of the very real and painful belief that it was utterly futile to do so.

I put scaffolding up by carrying on with the assessment process with the personality disorder services, even though I was reasonably certain that neither DBT nor MBT were really for me, that I don’t quite fit the bill. More scaffolding went up by re-arranging the end date with A.; it has now been planned so that rather than going from twice weekly therapy to nothing from one day to the next – which was the original idea, and which on reflection felt unnecessarily harsh – we will instead carry on with twice weekly sessions until A. goes on her Chrismukkah break later this week, and then go on to do one month of weekly sessions at the beginning of next year to allow for a tapered, more emotionally gentle, ending. Further scaffolding was created by contacting Z. and asking her and her supervisor to have a think about who they might be able to refer me to, for longer term trauma focused work. Someone who might be willing to work with me, knowing what the full situation is, in terms of suicidal ideation.

I also threw myself into expressing myself through writing, taking part in two creative writing workshops facilitated by the most fabulous Leah Thorn, and was able to share some of my feelings about life and death at a poetry reading during the annual Open Day, which happened to be held during my stay at Drayton Park. [Click here to read one of the poems I read that day].

I was discharged from Drayton Park a week ago today.
I don’t feel any different in terms of wanting to allow my very tired soul to rest. I wish I did, but I just don’t.

However, I am carrying on with the building work I started while at Drayton Park: I am working with the crisis resolution team to have some extra support for the first few weeks of being back home. The extended assessment with the personality disorder people has come to an end. In the only way the NHS knows how an Expert was brought in [in the shape of a clinical psychiatrist I had never met before in my life] to try figure out what the heck to do with me. It was ultimately decided that I was probably right: I don’t quite fit the bill and neither DBT nor MBT is going to be particularly suitable for me. However, although I won’t be enrolled on the personality disorder programme with all that that would have entailed, I have been given a care co-ordinator [henceforth called E.], who I will be meeting with somewhat regularly, to have someone within the blessed NHS who knows me and who I can turn to in a crisis.

Z.’s supervisor also got back to me with a name for a specific psychotherapist who she felt might be a very good match for me for long term work, and I will be having an initial consultation with her tomorrow to see if her gut feeling proves right. Although I don’t necessarily feel that even this type of work will really have the power to change anything, I am trying my best once again to at least be open to the possibility that it could have something to offer – and – for a naturally analytically minded person such as myself, at least this type of therapy [trauma work with an experienced attachment based psychoanalytic psychotherapist] makes far better sense than either DBT or MBT.

In my therapy with A. I have tried to be brave and really explore what this big change, this ending of our work together, means to me, and how it makes me feel, the deep sadness it brings out in me. It’s not easy, but I am hoping that through being as open and honest about my feelings as I can, it will make for a more manageable ending.

So, that – dear readers – is where I am at:
In the process of building something that may or may not stand the test of time.

I do hope that it will, but right now, it is simply too soon to tell.

 

Much love,

 

xx

Cinderella Wolf – A Poem

A drawing Little S drew on a night she feltvery sad and lonely and wanted to let her sorrow out

A drawing Little S drew on a night she felt
very sad and lonely and wanted to let her sorrow out

I am the Cinderella wolf
cast out by my pack.
A loner, I run wild
in a forest
of blackest black.

The northern lights above me,
a curtain of greens and purples and blues.
I run fast
I run free
a she wolf with nothing to lose.

The Huntress has lit a fire
its flames flickering between the trees.
An age-old sign of her desire:
to capture,
to kill,
to bring me to my knees.

Ice cold and sharp underfoot
the snow plays an important role;
Reflecting the shimmering moonlight,
a mirror to my tired soul.

Beautifully sharp and deliciously painful
it breaks
with each step
of my stride.
The sound of its breaking
is scary
and echoes
as far as heaven is wide.

The Huntress listens intently
as I move through the still of the night
Her rifle resting beside her,
still unable to catch me by sight.

I know I should just keep quiet,
but my voice needs to sing,
needs to fly
So against my better judgement
I stop
and I stretch
and I cry

My howl instantly gives me away
and the Huntress gets to her feet
Her rifle now at the ready
– our destinies finally meet.

But something stirs inside her;
the pain my voice has laid bare.
is a feeling she too has known of,
And something we both now must share.

So laying down her weapon,
The Huntress falls to her knees
And joins in my desperate prayer
for stillness
and for peace.

                               xx

 

A poem I read at this year’s Open Day at Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre. The rhythm of this poem, and the rhyming, is purposely off-set and slightly haltering, because when read out loud I wanted it to be a little like a wounded animal, limping. Apologies for the poor sound quality and background noise in the video, may post a proper sound file at a later time.

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..

Chapter A – In Which No Introductions Are Made

*

“So tell me a little about what brought you here.” Followed by a smile. It was a warm smile, but not quite warm enough to make Lia feel entirely comfortable, not quite warm enough to reach the eyes in fact, she noted, shooting a quick glance across at the woman opposite her before immediately looking away, fixing her eyes on some undetermined spot on the white wall, slightly to the left of the woman’s shoulder. It was as if it was a rehearsed warmth, and it had got stuck somewhere along the way – the throat, maybe, Lia thought – certainly the tone was warm enough mixed in with that slightly sing-songy Europeanly accented voice. But it just didn’t go quite all the way. It was a good effort as far as warm smiles go, but it didn’t feel.. what? Real? Genuine? That’s it. It didn’t feel genuine. It felt like the kind of warmth you may afford someone you don’t really know and haven’t decided if you like yet. Not an anti-smile as such, not the kind of transparently false smile you would aim at someone you really didn’t like but felt you ought to be smiling at. You know, the kind of smile you might have found plastered across your face when you were fourteen, greeting one of the popular girls who you couldn’t for the life of you understand why they’d been deemed so bloody popular in the first place, with their glossy blonde hair, carefully applied and re-applied make-up and overly aerated brains.

Popular girls. Popular girls? Did people even call them that any more? It had been a long time since Lia was fourteen. And yet it didn’t seem that long ago. Didn’t seem like the life-time ago it really was. Oh, get a grip, Lia! she scolded herself. You’re not here to reminisce about your school days. Or popular girls. Or whether or not people still called them that. What was the question again? Something about what had brought her here.

“Well, I guess..” she began but then her words dried up before she got to the end of the sentence, overcome by a sudden feeling that she didn’t want to tell Miss Opposite Her any of the real reasons for why she was there.

Miss Opposite Her in every way, Lia thought to herself. With her abundance of dark curls and trendy red – no – bordeaux glasses, sitting almost at the tip of her nose, giving that casually deliberate I’m rather clever impression. Miss Opposite Her – she had a name, of course she did – but for the time being Lia decided that she didn’t want to use it – Miss Opposite Her had surely been one of those popular girls. And if that was the case, and Lia now felt certain that it must be, how could she ever understand where she – Lia – had come from? Lia who had been so utterly grey she hadn’t been either popular or unpopular. And the very fact that that invisibility wasn’t even a remote part of the reason why she was there, well, she’d never believe that. Lia was convinced Miss Opposite Her would insist that it was, that it must be, because how could anyone go through school, barely existing in the eyes of the popular girls and not be permanently scarred for life by the experience? Lia decided to stay silent for a little longer in sheer defiance of Miss Opposite Her.

Miss Opposite Her shifted ever so slightly on her seat, an über-stylish probably-but-not-definitely fake leather armchair which very nearly matched her glasses in colour. Was she getting impatient? Lia toyed with the idea of saying absolutely nothing for the entire fifty-minute hour just to see if Miss Opposite Her would eventually, openly, allow her impatience to shine through.

She discarded the idea as easily as it had come to her. She wanted to be here, she reminded herself. She had been waiting for a long time to get here. There were things eating her up from the inside out and this was the way forward. Time to face those little monsters and demons in her belly head on.

Just because Miss Opposite Her didn’t feel like a perfect hand-in-glove fit didn’t mean that she wasn’t. That she couldn’t become a good enough match. A good enough pseudo parent.

Oh how Lia hated that concept. Good enough. Why should anyone ever have to settle for something less than ideal? This good enough psycho babble malarkey, surely that was something someone had come up with only to cover for their own inadequacies? Who was it that had come up with it anyway? Freud? No, Lia was pretty sure this was one Freud couldn’t be blamed for. No, it must have been a woman. Klein? Could be. She had certainly had enough reasons to wish to cover up her own less than shining parenting skills. Or maybe it was a man who thought he had women and motherhood nailed? Oh yes, that’s it. Winnicott. That’s who she should address her letter of complaint to.

Lia made herself snap out of her intellectual endeavour even though she would rather have liked to linger for just a little bit longer. But there were other matters at hand. Like coming to grips with Miss Opposite Her. This was only the first time they’d met. Her first ever therapy session, in fact, or at least the first one she herself had wanted to go to. Surely Lia wasn’t so judgemental a person that she would discount another person just because the warmth of her smile didn’t quite reach all the way to the eyes and across the room to where she was sitting? That would be unfair, and say what you like, unfair was not a quality Lia would allow attach itself to her person. So she mimicked Miss Opposite Her and also slightly repositioned herself on her chair and tried again. This time the words slid out of her as easily as if she had greased her tongue; “I suppose I’m here because I couldn’t get any further on my journey just sitting on my own in my room”.

“Could you tell me more about this journey?” Miss Opposite Her looked pleased Lia thought even though she wasn’t even looking at her, but just as she had known before looking over that the warmth of the smile didn’t reach the eyes, she just knew that this time the pleased look would be there on Miss Opposite Her’s face, and Lia had to repress an urge to say “l take it you’re one of those shrinks who repeat everything in the form of a question”. Except, of course, she wouldn’t say shrink. Shrink wasn’t her word, wasn’t the way she spoke. Shrink sounded tacky and American, neither of which fit Lia, even though she had in her past life been mistaken for an American before she had arrived at her now reasonably perfected British accent. No, not shrink. Therapist. That was the word she would use. It was a word she liked, one she felt fond of, even. Therapist. It was a word that tasted good in her mouth, precious somehow. Precious with a hint of some exotic spice, because it had that lovely th-sound at the beginning which her own native tongue lacked. Therapist. Psychotherapist. Psycho-therapist. Psycho, The Rapist. Psycho, psycho, psycho, the emotional rapist. Lia smiled to herself, and then realised that she was also smiling at Miss Opposite Her, and felt she ought to somehow explain this inappropriate smiling – one of her least favourite traits, and one which her mother loved to pounce upon whenever it reared its ugly little head.

She didn’t.

She didn’t explain what the inappropriate smiling was about, nor what had really brought her there. Instead she made her face all neutral and disconnected and served Miss Opposite Her a sort of half-open half-shut version of why she had ended up there, opposite Miss Opposite Her. She gave a bullet point run-down of all the major defining moments of her pathetic little life thus far. Only she left out The Big One. She left out the real reason for why she had come here. She just couldn’t go there. Not yet, not until she had thoroughly tested Miss Opposite Her to make sure she’d be able to handle it. It. The Truth. The bare naked truth in all its hideous ugliness. Most people couldn’t. So far in her life the exact number of people who had been able to tolerate The Truth had reached a grand total of exactly zero. And that included herself.

At least she was honest enough to tell Miss Opposite Her that there was that one Really Major Thing that she was leaving out, to which Miss Opposite Her responded by firing off what Lia could only assume was meant to be her reassuring smile, only, Lia noted immediately [because this time she happened to be actually looking in Miss Opposite Her’s general direction] that smile, too, didn’t quite get to where it needed to be, to do what it was supposed to do.

Lia wondered if perhaps Miss Opposite Her had a collection of photographic index cards at home, pictures of people smiling, neatly labelled warm or reassuring or accepting. Snapshots marked encouraging or concerned. Maybe she used to stand in front of her mirror perfecting this tool of her trade? Maybe she had voice recordings, too, so she could work on getting her tone of voice to match the chosen facial expression? Maybe there were even special therapist workshops or seminars where Miss Opposite Her and her colleagues went to learn how to fine tune the way they came across to their clients at any given moment?

And there it was again. Her very own smile. The inappropriate one. No index card needed for that one. She had it down to a T.

Lia left that initial session determined not to allow first impressions keep her from giving this a real shot. She would give Miss Opposite Her an honest chance. And, most importantly, she promised herself, she was going to give herself a chance.

Exactly eight weeks later Lia closed the book on Miss Opposite her, having got no closer to telling her of that one momentous moment when everything changed.

She was back to square one. And it wasn’t even a nice smooth square, it was a raw and rough one. One which she was desperate to get away from. And fast.

Only things didn’t ever really happen fast. Not in her life. And so it wasn’t until a full two and a half years later Lia finally found herself in the right place at the right time – with the right person – that she managed to get her voice to speak of that hideously ugly truth:

When she was nine she killed her younger brother and sister.

*

COMMENT:

I’ve been toying with this idea for a little while now; posting a little something of what I write [other than just my usual blog rants]. And a few people have asked me to, too. So, what you’ve just read, is a small sample. A teaser. It’s from the project I’m currently working on – possibly the prologue in its rawest form. I’m probably somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way through this project, pre-edit. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll end up being something readworthy.

Thank you for taking the time to read!

xx

Sisters, Study-Avoidance & Melting Crayons

So I’m back from my trip to Sweden, and at the moment it feels like it has done me a world of good. It was simply great to spend a whole week with my sisters and their little families and just enjoy being alive. The weather was great and although we all took turns taking ill, all in all it was just really nice to hang out. We basically ate, watched my youngest nephew run around and ate some more. That is, that’s what my sisters and I did. The boys were busy digging in the garden, planting a hedge around it. And in between that we managed to watch a film, teach my sister’s dog to go on the slippery-dip and get my youngest sister and her man to understand how to solve the first two layers of the Rubik’s cube intuitively.

Oh, and my sisters and brothers-in-law gave me the super-awesomest prezzie ever; the new iPad [which I am, incidentally, using as we speak, in conjunction with my bluetooth keyboard].

I feel that this trip has really helped to reset my brain. I feel so much happier than I have in the past several months, and although I am still having flashbacks it’s nowhere near as bad as it was, pre-trip.

Since I’ve been back I’ve started a new course, and – true to form – I’ve excelled at the art of study-avoidance. I am feeling a bit unhappy about having chosen the course I have; a very basic psychology course about stuff I pretty much already know, but just want to get on paper that I do in fact know it. It’s very hard to motivate oneself to read material about stuff you already know, when the main focus ends up being trying to remember sources for future reference, rather than actually learning. That said, of course anything psychology related will always push your little grey cells into action, and you’ll realise you have thoughts and ideas you might not have had when you originally read about a specific study. In short; once I actually open the book, I do get quite into what I’m reading.. it’s just getting to that point of opening the book, which holds me back. There are always a million other things I feel I need to read; blogs, news, tweets, facebook updates.. You know how it goes.. And that’s before I’ve even got to the various iPlayer programs I simply must catch up on, not to mention the millions of YouTube clips I feel will enrich my life to no end..

I do slightly regret that I didn’t decide to do the course on the autistic spectrum which was also on offer. I would really have liked to have been reading that right now. But, I’m trying to use it as a carrot of sorts. If I manage to get through this course [ie find a way to utilise good days of fewer flashbacks, days when I have a reasonable level of concentration] then I’ll be allowed to do the autistic spectrum one after.

So, I suppose that’s all good. Especially the part where I am actually, actively, looking ahead, into the future. The last few months have been so rough, it’s been very hard to think like that, to imagine a time when things feel different, but right now things seems to have swung around for me a bit.

Also, since I’ve been back, I’ve been feeling a lot more creative. I have been working on my book, which is ever so slowly taking shape, and I find myself curious to find out where the characters will take me. And that’s always a good sign.

On top of that very specific writing, my sister and I also hatched an idea about setting up a collaborative writing site online, the idea being that you could go to the site, read something someone has posted and then take over the writing, or join in. I for one have several writing projects which I have started, but which are now mainly collecting dust on my harddrive. What you could do on this new site is to upload what you have written and invite others to complete it, or to co-write it with you. Or you might want to be someone else for a day [come on, we all have those days].. Well, you could go onto the site as a character and join in some playwriting, adding lines on behalf of your character. This is all still in its infancy, but, I only posted the idea late last night on another blog, and I’ve already had people contact me to say they would be interested in joining or starting writing projects.

Observant readers will have noticed that while I have written about how great it was to be with my sisters and how that’s really helped resetting the serotonin levels I’ve omitted to talk about seeing my father the first time in over two years. This is, of course, not by chance. In short, it was actually really lovely seeing him and his boyfriend, and spending time with them. But, knowing me, I tend to only begin processing these kind of encounters a while after getting back to the UK. So, keep an eye out and there will more than likely be an update on this particular part of my trip to Sweden.

In terms of not having therapy, well, there is no getting around it – that is still really hard. I miss my space to voice my thoughts. Of course I talk to my friends and I do my writing and all of that, but there just isn’t a substitute for therapy. Therapists definitely should not be allowed to have children! [..says the Therapist’s Daughter..] July – or whenever A. in reality decides to go back to work – feels very very far away indeed..

Anyway, me and my new iPad and bluetooth keyboard need to get to the library now, so I’ll leave you here for now.

Do be kind to yourself, and enjoy the utterly ESSENTIAL YouTube video below..

All the very best and more,

xx

I really need to try this, but maybe on a black or gray canvas, 
and just letting the crayons melt organically in the sun..

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.