F is for Fail

I can’t do this. Clearly. I’ve failed again this week to secure employment. The reason given for why – because I haven’t done enough publishing. But that’s because I have sent my writing to the interviewer and badgered and badgered him for it back – but it’s still not returned, for me to publish. He’ll get to it, he says. I can’t play these games. I’m not cut out for academia.

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I’m not cut out for life, either. I spent over ten years with someone who emotionally abused me, had a dark, secret life and is now awaiting a sentence that could be custodial. I became a bubbling cauldron of worry because my father visited for the weekend. I am panicking about my mother’s suggestion I see her next weekend. I should be grateful to see them, as they are, not concerned with the forgetfulness, the smothering, the extremes of being. My father: so when will you start the medical 18-month thing? How will it improve your walking? I have explained to him, many times. I promise.

I am failing therapy. The next time I self-harm, I’m suspended. I want to tear myself apart for being so selfish and anxious and rubbish. I am waiting with bated breath for the next time I cross the line, break down. Maybe this time, it’ll make me irrevocably unemployable. I am still going into schools; hearing from children – bullying, friends. Social milieu. I am unsteady; unsure how to respond to them; pass the conch to their teacher. Never touch a child in love or anger. I never have. I want to tear myself apart. I can only say that so many times. I think the therapy group are tired of hearing it. I should just suck it up. Carry on. People do feel that way. They get on with life anyway.

The suicidal thoughts chant through the academic writing – chant over the Taizé music. I rebutt them like recalcitrant children. The more stressed I am, the louder the thoughts sound. Three months I’ve been there now; they haven’t subsided. How much longer?

If I’m no longer an academic, if I’m no good at speaking up, and no good in work with schools, I’m not sure who I am keeping alive anymore. I feel dead and empty inside.  I have failed.

 

 

 

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Desolate

Since leaving T.C. last  week, I have been enveloped by a shroud of unrelenting, uninvited loneliness. Sadness. Alone-ness.

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It’s not because I’ve not had company. There has been tea and games, and sunshine and picnic and barbecue. There was fun in them, too. And there was university work and church. More than my usual level of engagement with others, if I’m measuring it.

This isn’t a physical loneliness, it feels deeper than that. Like loss. I know that the university group I go to Taizé with are there now – and that if it weren’t for TC I would most likely be with them. I wish I were with them. But it’s more than that.

I feel it when I’m with others. When they seem to be so connected and in tune with each other. And I am a twisted knot of anxiety and frustration. Or, I sense it in the distance of silence, when I can’t find the words to speak to someone. Anyone. I feel lost, and like I never will belong.

And then I can’t bring myself to talk. I deserve to be isolated. I am bad inside and out. Why should anyone be interested in me? To think they might be is pure arrogance. I become quiet and withdrawn.

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One of the Elders, ‘understood’ from reading up on my mental health diagnoses that I would never be able to form meaningful relationships. Some clinicians may agree with him, although not at T.C. For my part, I fear that he is right. That this well of loneliness will never dry up – that I will never truly trust or relax with anyone. Never have real friendships or non-abusive relationships. Never be able to be myself. I am desperate to feel like I belong. I want to belong.

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Slipping through my fingers

I am slowly slipping beyond my own understanding. Irony is lost on me. I’ve broken my self-harm contract again. All week the voices were chanting that I should destroy myself completely. That I deserve to die. I resisted, and resisted, and resisted. Until strength was gone and I didn’t. And it felt good, and it still feels good to know that my arms are not whole. I don’t deserve to be whole.

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I think it was the care that did it this time. The care shown me by physios and consultants as I attended the next Botox appointment for my right knee. The care in their faces as I removed the AFO (leg splint) to bleeding heel from walking in; as I described the tripping and falling, the problems since the last round of treatment wore off. Care, as they examined my foot, listed the areas that were tender, and worse. And the care it took four people to hold my limb in position, to warn, to inject, to make sure I was okay to leave. And to make sure that I got the AFO repaired. I didn’t deserve that.

Physio this time, wasn’t like that when I was a child. Then, it was about whether I could hand write (are you sure? Yes – see. Oh). It was about praise for improvement made as a result of doing exercises, that I hadn’t actually done since the last visit. It was about guilt and putting up with pain. Not making a fuss. And laughter and teasing when a selection of my classmates joined in the physio visits at school. I was discharged when I was ten.

Physically, these physio trips have caused, and left me in more pain than when I was a child. Yet, they have shown me more care than any other.

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Still my mind chants that the care is underserved. That I should have worked harder at physio when I was a child, even though my parents gave up on it early. That if I hadn’t worn the AFO, or had gotten it repaired ( in spite of not knowing that was possible) my foot would be in a better state.

My mind turns to the TC. More underserved care from a staff member after I left a group in abject distress. Don’t pull your hair, sweetie. Real care, I think. Not professional care. Real concern, like the physios were showing.

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And I write this as much to reflect as to remember. Because feeling genuinely, intimately, cared for feels weird. And it is rare. And that glimmer of feeling cared for, that I know I have experienced and lost to mind before, is already slipping through my memory in a sea of undeservingness.

Whether I deserve it or not, it was given. It is a gift – a God-given gift. I want to cling to that, in spite of my desire to rip myself to shreds. Cling to the feeling, alongside the knowledge, that God wants me to be cared for. God cares for me. That is a weird feeling.

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Taste the Rainbow 🌈

As I cack-handedly gave the children’s address this morning, offering M and Ms (other sugar-coated chocolates are available) in an attempt to demonstrate that colour is inconsequential to taste, this is the slogan that was running amok in my mind. I didn’t use Skittles (they supposedly taste different) but the rainbow was there.

I put it there, in flag format. Asked why the rainbow flag might be used as a symbol of the Pride movement. To symbolise the love and diversity – which come from nature – and which can combine in beautiful ways to form Light.

God’s spirit will be poured out upon all people.

The M and Ms demonstration didn’t (strictly speaking) work. But, it wasn’t so easy to detect colour, as it was taste. And, no matter what we look like from the outside, we have the same need to meet with God (chocolate) on the inside.  God, who can cope with all our differences (speak to us in multiple languages) and love us completely, no matter where we are spiritually, or on the LGBT+ rainbow.

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Easy to say. So hard to believe. I went to Pride yesterday. And I marched beneath my church’s banner. And I looked up and smiled at people as we went past. And I have never done any of that before. I have chosen instead to abstain, or to hide on the field. Never to be out there.

But it felt good, and the sun was shining, and I felt like I was acceptable, and that I belonged. Now, that was yesterday. And old feelings of judgement from my University days, from Christian friends, who claimed that they would never judge, yet proved to be the most judgemental of all. Of feeling bad and twisted, and unacceptable.

Those feelings are so hard to push a way. I find it so hard to believe that I am loved in God’s eyes, as I am. I feel judgement. I feel undeserving; that I want to hide away. I am frightened of being part of the rainbow.

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Human doing

We are human beings not human doings.

I remember Steve Chalke preaching that at Baptist Congress, 2005, although I’m not sure the original phrase is attributable to him. I’ve called it to mind,  this week, as our church meeting voted to proceed with processes to allow the registration of same-sex marriages in the Sanctuary. I remember, 12 years ago, reciting at Congress, the Baptist Creed that, at that time, denounced same-sex relationships. Recall how lonely and hopeless I felt, in spite of the crowds and enthusiasm surrounding me. In some parts of the church, being true to yourself is not allowed. Then, I was disallowed.

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I have two months left in which I may describe myself as a researcher. Or university teacher. As someone who does things at a university. Many failed job applications later, it feels less and less likely that I will be able to find suitable employment in academia to cover my time in the therapeutic community. Without that part of my human doing-ness, I am lost. I am without worth and without utility.

I can’t simply be, because I am not allowed to be. I had to crowd my life with doing as a child, because my emotions weren’t allowed to be, so it wasn’t okay to give them space. Work ensured the space was filled. And the only thing about me that was approved of was my work. Not me. Being me was not ok.

Now, I don’t know how to be. Even though I can stop and breathe, and maybe even pray, I am nothing, I am empty, if I am not doing.

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I don’t know who to be, if I cannot define myself by my occupation. I need to be doing.  I have no motivation to work, any longer. I can’t be bothered with work that has gotten me nowhere. Even when I write, my writing is rejected. And my being academic is seen as narcissistic in TC. I am seen as having narcissistic traits. Threatening. Arrogant. They have psychopathologised my research: working with children is what I like most, because it is where I feel most safe. I research friendships because I cannot understand them, other than intellectually. Hiding behind a mask of academia isn’t okay.

But I’m not hiding anything. Work is my be-all and end-all. Without work, I am broken. My mind tells me to die. Die rather than face a life without work. Die, die, die. The suicidal ideation is rampant and ramped up. I am nothing, if I am not a human doing.

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Integral to existence

I should not exist. I think I may have said this before. Forgive me. I think about it often. I should not exist because had my older brother been born full-term, my conception would have been impossible.

Or – I should not exist because, fifty years later, it has been revealed that my mother’s partner misunderstood my mother’s wishes when she moved to London, aged 19 years. Neither of them wanted to leave each other. They should simply have stayed together. Then I would not exist.

I am struggling to exist. Another job rejection last week. Beyond July, I have no reason for existing. I am supposed to work, work, work. If I cannot work, I am nothing. Whatever else happens I must not stop working. But I have no desire to work at anything anymore. None of it matters. None of it counts for anything. Being ranked fifth of twelve means nothing if there are only two jobs available. I don’t want to exist if I can’t work. What’s the point?

I fight the suicidality. Persuade a tired mind and a restless body to go to Scotland as planned. To go to Lyonnesse And it is the same, but it has changed, changed with the seasons, and grown and become more Godly. And I am welcomed and loved. And there is simple joy in pink campion and wild garlic and the amiable, quiet company of a friend. I am not expected to talk mindlessly: I am simply invited to be.

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I sleep. Full, glorious, restful sleep. And I consider the sparrows. There are so many colours in the wings of a sparrow, so much detail. I breathe. I go to church, where the challenges are affirmed as challenges that help us to do like Christ. Only through doing like Christ can we hope to be like Him.

And Christ was, to my understanding, honest to Himself. Honest with His emotion, weeping and anger, and with His needs, for water, solitude, company, and prayer. Honest with His parents and friends. So my challenge is to be honest to myself. To be real, and face rejection, whilst hoping for acceptance, as I express more of who I am. I fear being rejected. Rejection feels like I should not exist anymore. I need to find the courage to stand up for who I am, in Christ.

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Erasure

I am nine years old. S — is standing in front of me, with J— and B— beside her. J—‘s family don’t want to buy a copy of the school class photo’. That’s my fault, because it’s not a class photo’ because I’m in it, and I’m not supposed to be in that class. I’m in the wrong class.

In the days before PhotoShop, S— and J— wish that they could scratch me out of it. So do I. I wish I could erase myself completely from everybody’s lives. Everyone hates me. Even my teacher standing less than a foot away doesn’t respond as the slap S–strikes across my face echoes over the playground. The whole world hates me.

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I fight tears, fight for control, as this scene is laid before me in psychodrama last week. I must stay in control. I must not cry. I  am not nine years old. S— is not about to hit me for calling her a name, in despair because nothing else has made her stop. I’m OK. Really. I’m OK.

I do cry, safely alone, later in the week. And then I can go to work, and get on with work. Or try to. I’m dissociating at my desk. But that’s because of the anger over our workload that is  fire-balling around me; anger that I don’t want to be drawn into. I can’t concentrate. But that’s because I’m worried about next week. Isn’t it? I’m shattered.

Surely, I’ve processed stuff that happened over 20 years ago.

It wasn’t not your fault, S —. You were nine. The adults let you down.

I am trying to believe that what happened when I was a child was not my fault. But I genuinely can’t. I am bad, bad, bad. Bad now, and I was a horrid child then. The chant persists, through my attempts at marking, I want to die. My head pounds with the impossibility that it was not my fault.. I am bad. I curl up, wait for sleep. Wish I could erase the pain. Or myself. Or both.

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