Am I OK?

Proprioception is one of the senses you probably didn’t learn about at school. The ability, without looking or touching, to know the whereabouts in space of different parts of your body. My ‘proprioception is a wee bit skewed but generally speaking, I know my body exists in space. 

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I know (at some level) that my mind exists, too. When I talk to someone, they chat with me. When I teach, students (sometimes) respond. I play a role- they play a role.  When I post to social media, the posts are viewed and people react to them. When I get on a bus, the driver acknowledges my bus ticket. 

Each to each a looking glass. 

These days, I am OK when I am in the company of others, sometimes even euphoric. I nearly wet myself laughing with my girlfriend this weekend. Thanks largely to the TC, where once being in company was simply draining, now, I might find it tricky, but there is real joy in being with others.

The hard thing is being with myself, and only myself. I find that very hard to bear. Sitting with myself, even in the distraction of work email or crochet, renders me vulnerable to the voices of self-loathing and fear and doubt. And to endless rehearsals of long-past conversations that could have gone differently, if I’d been kinder or more generous or less selfish. The person in my head is not a nice person to be around. Nothing seems to quell her negativity. 

When I am with others, I know I exist. People’s presence reassured me that I am OK. When I am alone, I struggle to believe it. Alone, I  am not OK. Everyone else is OK. I am not. 

The challenge is to remember that I am not nasty to others as I am to myself, in my head. That I am OK, alone and in company. The challenge is to be kinder to myself. The challenge is real. 

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Loving constant

Object constancy is one principle of psychodynamic developmental psychology. The basic idea is that as infants grow older, they come to realise, and can remember, that their caregiver loves them (is a constant in their lives) even when that caregiver isn’t physically present. So, infants who are securely attached to a caregiver will show distress when they leave – but can be comforted – and show joy at reunion. If the attachment process goes wrong because of neglect or abuse of an infant, that infant won’t necessarily develop object constancy. They will be inconsolable when their caregiver isn’t physically present, or else perhaps, equally nonchalant to their presence or absence.

Lecture over. The reason I explain this is because it went wrong for me the first time around. I wasn’t securely attached. And the Therapeutic Community, in one frame of thinking, is a process of re-parenting. I became securely attached to the therapists as I learnt to trust them, and came to rely upon them, and the rest of the TC, to meet my emotional needs.

One thing that can help infants develop object constancy is a transitional object. This could take the form of a teddy bear or comfort blanket, that they can cling to, to help them remember their caregiver’s love for them when that caregiver is absent. 

3bb52230-5ce4-400d-a6ec-4fe3fb9911be.jpegWhen I left the TC, I was given a necklace, with a message on it, to help me remember the people there. Old patterns die hard. Now that the TC aren’t physically present, I am struggling to believe that they will remember I exist; that they will hold me in mind. I miss them terribly, five weeks later. The necklace reminds me they are there. 

My challenge is to believe that I will be remembered over the next few months, and recontacted, in time. That people want to know me, that I am worth knowing.

There is progress. I don’t need to be constantly with my girlfriend, although that would be nice, to believe that I am loved by her, as I did with previous partners. I can send messages to friends and not crumble if (when) they don’t reply immediately. It isn’t that they hate me, it is that they are busy. 

In the TC, I worked on healthy ways of relating to others, asking for things, and getting them. But I still don’t have a healthy relationship with myself. That’s the ultimate challenge. To not hate myself when others don’t meet my needs. To believe that, whilst I have flown my previous town, I am held in mind there. To soothe myself without the physical presence of those whom I love. 

God loves me. God holds me in mind. God, help me to remember that others do, too. 

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Silver Linings

E08935EA-B920-4278-8C72-E0B487A23E88When I was in the Therapeutic Community, I had a pair of lace-up silver shoes to wear round the building; far better for me than keeping my orthosis on all day. I can wear those shoes out and about now. And they match most of my outfits and look smart and (vaguely) sensible and – I love them. 

But wearing them reminds me of the Therapeutic Community: that I am not in in anymore. I miss it terribly. I miss it because I could be real and I was real and I made firm attachments – and this missing it is healthy and normal, unlike when I have left places before and tried to pretend that it didn’t matter when really it did.

Things are going well at work in Scotland. I have forged collaborations, am getting on with things, getting on with students. I am getting things together in the house, too; and I am growing in and nurturing a relationship with a woman that feels Godly and good and wonderful. She is wonderful. 

At the same time, I am scared about losing momentum; about someone hearing me ticking, “No!” or “I want to die” ( I don’t – it’s just a verbal tick, they shock by design) and reporting their concern to line management. Or, if not that, then the anxiety of trying to stay on top of everything will overwhelm me and I’ll meltdown. I’ve already found myself fighting tears at my desk over a frustrating non-email exchange with someone from pre-TC days who I am trying to work alongside. Using the skills I have learnt in order to cope is not easy. 

Things are hard, emotionally. I am trying to give space to the emotion, to allow tears when it is safe to cry, to look forwards rather than back. To be glad that it happened, for all that I got out of it. To see the pain  positively, because it is the result of months of healing and hard work and hope. This piece helped some: 

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It is okay I feel. I am human.  I want to be able to crochet again, go swimming, go shopping, watch films, without the weight of remembering. I am told that things will get easier with time. I need to allow myself time, be gentle and kind. I need to see the silver linings. 

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Ridiskulus

Over the time I have spent in the TC, my temper has calmed some. It is not the case that my emotional responses have lessened in intensity: intensity of emotional experience is part of who I am. Not being able to cope with that level of intensity, and being rejected (sometimes viciously) by people whom I tried to lean upon for support with it, leading to more distress on my part, made life unbearable, pre-therapeutic community.

Now, instead of chiding, and despising, and deriding myself, my emotional experience (because it is pathetic and silly to feel so strongly about such trivial stuff) I have learnt to acknowledge the emotion for what it is, and accept that (for whatever, even unknown reason) that is the way that I feel right now. Trying to force the door shut on the way I feel, is just going to make the gale-force of feeling more likely to blow the door down with intent.

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Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

My move to Scotland is not going smoothly. Objectively, this is the farthest distance I have ever permanently moved house in my life. Objectively, more has gone wrong with arrangements for this move than with any other. Objectively, I have more stressful things going on at the same time as moving, than at any other moving house time in the past.

When a bank that will remain nameless refused to print a bank statement for me, when I needed proof of address (I have paperless banking) because printing a statement is not a service they provide, I had had enough. Maybe I am being unreasonable. But I think that not meeting that simple request is ridiculous. I turned and left without saying a word.

I am trying to be kind to myself when I feel frustrated and overwhelmed, and tired and low and tearful. To see the emotional response as understandable. I came off my medication entirely, earlier this week. These are the effects. It is understandable to feel this way, even without the pharmaceutical underpinning, given all that is going on right now.

As I spent time trying to source proof of address, the tasks I am meant to be doing, for work, were mounting. I am struggling to see how I am supposed to meet all the deadlines I should be meeting; what possessed me to think I was capable of taking a lectureship, even a part-time one. What on Earth let me think that I am up to living alone, miles from most of my friends. I’m not good at making new friends. I am ridiculous.

These thoughts are borne of tiredness and low mood and overwhelm. But it is f***** hard to hold that in mind and to be kind and sensible. These past few weeks, I feel I can’t cope. And that feels ridiculous.

 

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Silver and sunlight

Maybe I am still in a state of post-Taizé calm. Taizé was everything I love about Taizé this year. Maybe the theme, “eat your bread with joy” seeped in more deeply than I imagined it had. For the first time, I enjoyed the week, without a rumbling sense that all would be black and doom when I returned home. Rather, I was mindful of being at Taize, whilst looking forward to the things that were to come when I did get back.

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Hanging out at the Source in Taize

Since then, too, a lot has happened. I have started a new job, on an open-ended contract, in my discipline. I have travelled 400 miles to do so, and to find somewhere I can live nearby, and am arranging the biggest move I have ever undertaken.

I am dealing effectively and rationally with a truly rubbish GP surgery that has *twice* lost my paperwork – paperwork that determines my fitness for work. I have kept my cool. As a result, things are getting done on my behalf. I could not have done this before therapy.

I am preparing to leave the place I live now, and to end my time in the therapeutic community. I want to have a good “ending” from all of these things, as much as I am enjoying the beginning of new things in a new country.

I am smiling more and more these days. It is not always like this. There have been moments of panic and overwhelm and stress, and of how the f*** am I going to cope without therapy?, and of out-and-out impostor syndrome, “I cannot possibly do this job; who am I kidding?”  But mostly,  I am calm and happy. And excited about the future.

It is the same as starting any job in the past; I have no idea what is to come; how nice my superiors actually are; whether the workload will remain manageable. I don’t know if I will enjoy the place to which I have chosen to move. But I feel more confident and assured that I can, with God’s grace, face what is to come. And I am looking forward to the adventure.

 

 

 

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Only just begun

It is that time of year again. My bags are packed; my out-of-office reply is on; I’m waiting for the coach to Taizé. 

And I could write a post thinking back to last year; thinking on how much I was carrying then, how much lighter I feel now. But I feel I have had enough of reviews.

I want instead to look forward. To think that, in two months’ time, I will be living in Edinburgh, working in Edinburgh in a job that I feel suited to; am wanted in. That I won’t need to be over-working to distract from emotional rubbish because I can deal effectively with my emotional sensitivity.

That I am wholly acceptable. That, in Edinburgh, I will be living authentically – as me. And that is OK. That I am at the start of what feels like the most wonderful relationship with a girlfriend who wants to know me, as much as I have so much to discover about her. That I am falling in love again, and I want it to happen. 

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Looking forwards can feel scary and unsafe and uncertain. The next few weeks will be filled with things that would induce stress in anyone. There will be pain in leaving the place I am now – leaving therapy and church and #geekhaus. I have real connections there. 

I am glad for having made these connections. And alongside them all is God. As I come to reflect at a Taizé, I feel compelled to look forward to the things that are to come; the richness of experiences, both joyful and sad. I feel like I’ve only just begun to live. 

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