therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: anger

Fear and loving.

“The seat of fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Life continues on its mad meander, always. Finding myself returning to a community I always thought of as indifferent, I’ve made efforts to reach out and feel a sense of oneness on a par with true nature. I launched a group which aims to help other people to explore themselves, exchange ideas, embrace spirituality, engage with our fellow adventurers, and let go of fear, negativity and anything else that holds us back. I would like this group to unlock participants’ childlike inner states such as joy, creativity and being outside of time. It is my fond hope that as we build momentum through deeper connection and diverse activities, we find some measure of peace, happiness and unity.

We met for our first session a few days ago and had a great connective experience, meditating and reading. One participant read from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Freedom, according to the speaker in the story, is in rising above physical concerns. Freedom is painted as a strong, glittering chain, as a ‘yoke and a handcuff’. There was a line that refers to casting off ‘fragments of yourself’ in order to become free, which highlights the absurdity of that which, through sentimentality, materialism or notions of ownership, we think of as part of ourselves. All that we need for freedom is already an intrinsic part of the self, though expressing freedom requires self-discipline, integrity and sacrifice. Casting off the shackles of the slave’s imprisonment becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

Peace and freedom are very noble, but days like yesterday remind me that I still have a long way to go on my little journey. I felt the resurgence of anger, and I took it out on someone. A stranger, who happened to get my goat and validated every stinking rotten suspicion I had about the people in this village. Of course, that makes me a hypocrite: what happened to engaging with community? The feeling of love for all is not automatic; it’s beyond hard, and for me right now, impossible. Not being able overcome the instinct to lash out makes me worry. I worry that all the time I’m being nice I was merely pretending. I wonder whether loving and respecting everyone ever can become automatic.

It comes from consciously choosing what we want in our lives. It comes from choosing what thoughts to have. So, I made a decision to become angry. While I regretted it almost immediately, I have to accept that it’s OK to feel less than OK. With everything I’m doing, I am learning. I haven’t yet had an experience that has changed me fundamentally. The last thing I would want is to miss out on my own humanity in single-minded pursuit of high-end spiritual programs.

When I am utterly frustrated, which seems to be happening a lot lately, I don’t feel very myself. For someone who runs a group about being authentic, this could be troubling. But what I want to say to myself is, “it’s OK”. Sometimes I sit and feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I silently sulk and stew. Sometimes I act like a giant baby. Sometimes I cry with epic frustration and total sadness. I both love and hate the fact that my life is so comfortable at the moment. I hate what that makes me.

To step out of my cushy comfort zone, I’ve developed this game in which every day I try to do something that scares me. I’m going to try and push through this every day I am in England. Years ago I attempted to commit to a guiding mantra of “let nothing and nobody scare me”. It was conceived at a time when alcohol provided me with a handy Invincibility Cloak. I’ve carried it around all this time. Now, rather than that motto be full of spurious braggadocio, I’m coming at things from a humble and loving standpoint. I’m seeking out fear, challenging its very existence and staring it down. It’s shown to be nothing more than a figment of my imagination.

And then I realised I was the earthchild.

The title of this post comes from a creativity meditation I attended a couple of nights ago. I felt it strongly and powerfully and it made my aching soul sing just a little bit. I’ve been feeling strangely misaligned recently – that really is the best word for it. My intentions are out of kilter with my reality, my perception isn’t in accord with true nature, and I’m failing to see abundance and joy some of the time. I’m experiencing anger rising sometimes. I’m rubbing up against people’s bad sides. And I’m experiencing that most ungodly of all emotions: fear.

However this is just one small part of who I am today. Yes there’s fear, neuroticism, panic, worry, anger, paranoia and doubt. But there are also measures of true authenticity, joy, laughter, the ability to see absurdity, as well as magnetism, happiness and the pure sublime. Above all the feeling is freedom, which propels me forward in a world without limits.

My wishes for this most sacred of times, the winter solstice of the year 2014, are to trust myself, to live with authenticity and to see the abundance that is all around. I also wish to be kind to myself, although I find this concept the hardest to understand let alone put into practice. I wish to acknowledge some of my struggles of the past as I work hard to put them behind me. There is literally no time for the past.

A friend sent me the link today to an article which puts everything I wanted to say better than I ever could on this auspicious day. We learn that by facing up to our deepest, darkest emotions we can move forward.  I believe that no-one is broken and ‘healing’ is a redundant concept but I agree with the sentiment that self-forgiveness leads to the release of toxic and self-sabotaging patterns. However challenging this may prove to be, writing about it here is one of the steps to making it reality.

As part of the ‘releasing the darkness’ stage, we are urged to write an intention, and then burn the paper on which it is written, followed by smudging sage. I am not doing this myself because I can’t get my head around rituals yet, coming as I do from a tradition full of them, and finding pain and inauthenticity there. Rituals still freak me out. Nevertheless the words Syma Kharal uses are beautiful and I wanted to share them here:

“Dear Higher Self/God/Spirit/Universe: No matter what has happened in the past, I am now willing to release everything about it that brought me fear and pain. I surrender to you all that no longer serves me for healing, cleansing and purification. Help me to forgive and be forgiven by all involved. Align my vision that I may see everything from your enlightened perspective and move forward with wisdom, grace, strength and love. So be it.”

Speaking of rituals, it is my fond hope that in the future I overcome my fear of ritual and prayer, and participate in spiritual rituals in order to experience what’s called “liminality”, derived from the Latin limen meaning boundary or threshold. These boundaries might separate the sacred from the profane. A ritual is a dynamic and engaged creative prayer that allows us to set aside the time to recognise, honour and celebrate seminal aspects of life. I’m currently reading about this in ‘The Red Book’ by Sera Beak. The book is all about igniting one’s divine spark and is intended as a no-nonsense guide for young women.

It’s a very inspirational book that I wish I could have read fifteen years ago. But – no regretting the past in any way, shape or form, as the present time is all we have. That’s why the present is a gift. Beak writes that when we open ourselves up to the divine,

“[…] life becomes much  more flavorful. Profound meaning illuminates even the most mundane of events. My relationships deepen. My voice becomes clearer. My work excels. My personal issues become less draining and dramatic. I am less affected I require less outside approval. My self-confidence beams. I laugh more. I judge less. My sexuality roars. Random acts of kindness become a necessity, not just a whim. […] My perspectives are amplified. I see the world around me at much more than face value, and as a result, I make clearer choices across the board […] I realize I’m not just some well-dressed biped trudging through life but actually an incredibly powerful and integral piece of the divine pie.”

She’s a spunky chick and I aim to go deep with my learnings into my divine spark and how to enhance it and be true to myself. Remembering always that authentic divine truth never separates people from each other, countries from each other, religions from each other. I’m receiving the tiniest spark of divinity but it’s possible to smother it with too much kindling, or to let the fire go out without the right nurturing. I want to see this through. Intention is everything. There will be times when I am rude to people. There will be times I am frustrated and utterly disappointed. I will continue to be angry some of the time, because this is a divine part of me, but these will be fewer and further between, I hope, as intentions and reality align. I am the earthchild, I am divine, I am myself, I am everything and nothing.

“It’s all about paradox, mystery, meditation, sexuality, long walks, and momentous haircuts.” – Sera Beak, ‘The Red Book’.

abundance

Living with borderlines: anger.

I first started writing this blog in January of this year. The very first thing I ever wrote was in regards to my anger problem:

“I am a very angry and aggressive person. I guess it would be true to say that over time, I have developed strategies for dealing with and managing this in front of other people. But often I find myself seething inside, with terrible bad feelings often mixed with neurosis and circular thought patterns.”

Back then, I didn’t know how bad things would get. I couldn’t have predicted my ever more violent rages, bouts of drunken grappling and harsh words spoken with the intention of wounding. Nor did I know how much hope I would eventually muster up from within, which would help me to face my demons. Being understood (albeit by a textbook) is a great relief.

I am thinking about anger in relation to borderlines – what makes their anger different, at whom it is aimed, how and whether it can be understood and what can be done to help them, at least as a damage-control measure. Of course, what I’m about to discuss will be a generalisation and for every rule there are a great many exceptions, but the following certainly rings true for me and was originally written about in greater detail by Kreisman & Straus in their book Sometimes I Act Crazy, about living with Borderline Personality Disorder, or surviving a loved one who has it.

What sometimes distinguishes borderline rage is its concealment and its unpredictability. Some borderlines supress anger, believing its expression will lead to what is most feared: abandonment by a significant other. It has also been said that depression is anger turned inward, and in fact BPD has a high rate of comorbidity with depression. However, interestingly there is a trend for anger to be less intense in those borderlines who are depressed, in contrast with other psychiatric patients, studies have shown, in whom high levels of depression are correlated with increased anger and violence. How can this be? Perhaps depression somehow diminishes the experience of anger, or maybe anger is a defence against depression. After all, both are associated with serotonin irregularities and are two sides of the same coin.

Aside from supressing rage, other individuals deflect their rage back on themselves and become self-destructive. For others still, anger is unplanned and startling. There appears to be no observable progression from minor incident to violent eruption. What is clear though is that borderlines feel angry much of the time, even when the anger is not expressed. Frustration and self-reproach can unleash rage which is often directed towards the borderline’s nearest and dearest. A study of male domestic violence perpetrators demonstrated that they had a greater likelihood of exhibiting borderline characteristics than control subjects.

Anger is one of the most enduring characteristics of BPD and intertwines with other criteria that define the condition such as mood instability, destructive and self-harming behaviours, unstable relationships, fear of abandonment and persistent sensations of emptiness. One study found that over a two-year period, intense anger remitted in only 7% of subjects in contrast with suicidal behaviour resolving in 54% of cases over the same timescale.

Anger for borderlines stems from frustration and as a preemptive measure to guard against perceived expectation of disappointment at a later date. This was how it was for me, if you can imagine a person who feels she is utterly empty, that everything is pointless and worthless, so get it over with already. In other cases the anger may be camouflaged by opposite behaviour such as attempting to please everyone, though ironically this fruitless quest only leads to more frustration as the need for reciprocal nurturing isn’t met.

According to the authors of Sometimes I Act Crazy, it is essential to understand that in some situations the borderline needs to be angry. This is quite a difficult subject to write about, much less to do, as it seems counterintuitive to encourage a person experiencing irrational anger to let it out. Rational argument, apparently, doesn’t work – logic goes out the window during a borderline’s debate. He may even switch sides halfway through. So what is the proper response to a temporarily insane person’s uncontrollable rages?

The advice given sounds very simple on paper but must, I fear, by almost impossible for anyone not noted for their Mother Theresa-esque appearance.

1. Understand
Anger usually is the outward expression of fear and pain. It is easier to be angry than scared. Anger can be a way of gaining control over an unmanageable situation. Anger might be used pre-emptively or in a variety of different ways.

2. Prepare
Borderline rage is like no other in its intensity, irrationality and apparent whimsy. But you can prepare for it, and learn to read the signs and the cycles, as you both begin to unpack the triggers of rage.

3. Communicate
Communicating with a furious borderline is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, empathy and self-control are needed. On the other, he must be made aware that his outbursts are unacceptable.

4. Don’t fight fire with fire.
Borderline rage feeds upon itself and off that of others.

5. Don’t tolerate anger.
If you show that rage is acceptable, this will only reinforce this idea in the mind of the borderline

6. Leave
If the borderline refuses to settle, take a brief respite until he calms down. Accept that change takes time.

It sounds a bit like training a dog, and it is just as absurd probably.

Right now I can honestly say that I have never been less angry in my entire life. I was an angry child that grew into an angry adult. I believe I have truly changed for myself as I continue learning how to appreciate what is around me, how not to feel everything is pointless and worthless and ugly. I am in love with nature, I love animals – even insects! I can control my moods far better now, in large part thanks to previous relationship issues being over. I know the beauty of the universe and the beauty that is me.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder / Borderline Personality Disorder.

Monday 25th August 2014

In my research on the internet I have unearthed information about a couple of conditions that I might have. I know, I know, I recently thought I might have psychopathic leanings but that was probably brought on by moments of excessive self-doubt and the unhealthy relationship I am (was?) in taking its toll and bringing out my worst sides. The reality of my being a psychopath is far from possible. I don’t lie very much or very convincingly and have a very developed sense of responsibility toward myself and others. Moreover I am too self-aware of own propensities which psychopaths are not.

More likely, it’s possible I have Intermittent Explosive Disorder. It sounds made up but it’s real. At the risk of pinning the tail on a scapegoat, I have been thinking more broadly about my behaviour in relations with friends, partners and my parents over the course of my whole life. I identify with all the risk factors for the condition.

  • Recurrent outbursts that demonstrate an inability to control impulses, including either of the following:
    • Verbal aggression (tantrums, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression that occurs twice in a weeklong period for at least three months and does not lead to destruction of property or physical injury (Criterion A1)
    • Three outbursts that involve injury or destruction within a year-long period (Criterion A2)
  • Aggressive behavior is grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the psychosocial stressors (Criterion B)
  • The outbursts are not premeditated and serve no premeditated purpose (Criterion C)
  • The outbursts cause distress or impairment of functioning, or lead to financial or legal consequences (Criterion D)
  • The individual must be at least six years old (Criterion E)
  • The recurrent outbursts cannot be explained by another mental disorder and are not the result of another medical disorder or substance use (Criterion F)

I have to get used to talking about my violence. It sounds so strange that phrase, ‘my violence’.  Looking at me, quiet as a mouse most of the time, it would seem inconceivable to a stranger that I have done the things I’ve done. Hit an ex in the eye. Rip an ex’s phone in two and destroy it with a hammer. Pull down friends in the street and sit on their backs, squashing their faces into the pavement. Yank J’s fingers back so far that they still hurt when he makes a fist ten months later. Leave red fingernail marks on J’s face. Punched him while he was totally off-guard. That’s not to mention the verbal aggression; I’ve called people, some of them strangers, awful things that express so much hatred. I’ve had the police called on me, been chucked out of a hostel, a student union, pubs and nightclubs.

A commenter on my blog voiced an idea that I might have Borderline Personality Disorder. I have done a little research on this too, including some online personality quizzes. Guess what, I score high on the symptoms on every test. This from Psych Central

Psych Central BPD assessment

Wikipedia says: ‘The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to rejection, and thoughts and fears of possible abandonment. Overall, the features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values, having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed and severe dissociation.’

Yup, yup and yup! I’m going to dwell on too much as them as diagnosis requires a psychiatric evaluation. Certainly something to think about. I think I would feel like less of a freak if I could have a label which would go some way to explaining my errant behaviour. All my life I have felt like there’s something wrong, but we’re told to ignore it, be happy and get on with things. I’ve been sweeping this under the rug for too long.

Blame, love & my violence.

Monday 18th August 2014

Exactly one year ago I wrote an entry in my diary, and put a reminder in my calendar for 18th August 2014. Today, I saw ‘J day’ in the calendar and after puzzling about it for a moment, opened up my diary and with a heavy heart had a look what I’d promised to myself twelve long months ago.

Sunday 18th August 2013

The meaninglessness here continues. I can’t find my stride here […] Spain leaves me cold (ironically). […]This isn’t for me somewhere I can thrive and make those important changes in life, because I am so dependent on someone else for the first time in my life. And that’s not a good starting point for a highly personal journey if that relationship isn’t full of support and encouragement and lightness, love and laughter. Which it isn’t. […]

The journey can’t start yet because this isn’t the place where I am to grow and change into the mature, calm and stable person I catch glimpses of from time to time. I remain absolutely sure that J can be my partner on this journey however. He was the one that convinced me I could be a better person.

I think I need to have a date in my mind where if things don’t get better, I get out. Why not a year from today. 18th August 2014, and if things aren’t already on an even keel, then I get out of it. If he hasn’t already dumped me by then, that is. He’s got very very close to dumping me more than once. Of course every relationship has ups and downs but this is ridiculous! We can’t even be ourselves around each other because we just f***ing argue all the f***ing time. […]

I just want J and me to be gentle with each other’s feelings and to be kind and considerate all the time. Not in an intense way, just to have quiet – silent – respect for each other rather than searing rage and contempt. Any small matter will set it off. It’s like a pressure cooker that’s ready to blow and just a little nudge on that valve will release a violent torrent of offensive build-up that rings in your ears and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for days and days and days. And like this, the wound never really gets the chance to heal. If it ever does, who knows, we might find that, after all, we aren’t compatible, or one of us doesn’t want the other one, but until a year’s time, I am going to keep trying, no matter what the emotional cost.

When I wrote that, I could not have comprehended how much worse things would get. I thought that what was happening in August 2013 was as low as we could go. How wrong I was. Back then I was blaming J as much as myself, convinced that if only he’d stop drinking so much or start listening to me more or stop being so oversensitive or if only we were in England, none of it would be happening.

How I’ve changed since then is that I realise the error is with me – it is always with me. I regret what I’ve done to us, making a kind, happy-go-lucky man who had already been through so much, into a monster. I regret having given in to my anger one too many times. Unfortunately it’s become clear over time that I’ve been unable to cope with life with my partner, without the readymade structure and meaning such as through being in employment. Living in a foreign and pretty unwelcoming land was also tough, or perhaps that’s just an excuse. I lashed out in every way I could and brought him down to my level every time. I nitpicked, criticised, provoked and twisted the knife. I carried on doing this until last week when our unexpected separation forced an end to my sick and disgusting behaviour.

Too many times I had been the initiator of violence. At the end of April this year we were in Belgium for a working holiday. I blogged about the aftermath but I never went into the details of what happened because I was just too ashamed. I punched him repeatedly in the face simply for having fallen asleep in the hotel room after a night of drinking when I returned with a kebab for us. I should have walked out there and then. Instead, I apologised profusely and beat myself up for weeks and still do. We moved on somehow, a testament to his caring nature, but I have no right to expect him to forgive me as I overstepped a boundary from which there’s no returning.

I am devastated and confused, I can’t function. I stare at the wall and can’t focus on any task, not that I have anything to do here. I can’t eat, I can’t think. I can’t sleep or concentrate enough even to watch TV. My only task, really, is staying as mentally healthy as I can, trying not to spiral any further into misery.

Putting things right.

Sunday 17th August 2014

 In seeking absolute truth we aim at the unattainable, and must be content with finding broken portions. – William Osler, Canadian physician

There are some things I would like to put right, before resuming normal transmission. It seems that writing this blog has got me into questionable moral territory with J, my partner. I have hurt him with the things I wrote in the last post which in his opinion were not an accurate reflection of the truth, and for that I apologise unreservedly. My intention through writing via the very public medium of blogging is not to injure someone else’s reputation, nor to strike out when I am hurt, nor to cause suffering and pain to anyone. But, I am aware that inadvertently I may have done all of those things.

I certainly don’t want to live through my blog and I am aware of some of the more unhealthy aspects of blogging such as caring more about your online life than the real world, the need to enlarge one’s readership, being wrapped up in your own story, appealing for validation and craving your truth to be as salacious and dramatic as possible.

I have a voice on this platform because I am looking to connect with others, yes, but first and foremost this blog is a journal of my hopefully improving mental health and spiritual awakening, anonymous and not connected to other online aliases or my real name.

For that reason, I stand by what I have written, for my last post was my interpretation of traumatic events in their immediate aftermath. Truth, as much as we would like to believe otherwise, is subjective, experienced through each of us differently due to our histories, filters, perceptions and all the other baggage we bring to the table. Our individual and highly personal versions of reality serve to confirm or challenge what we already believe.

So, without dwelling too much on what’s passed, here is my truth for what it’s worth. I have been a violent person. On more than one occasion, I have been the perpetrator of domestic abuse. As such, it was my duty to leave the relationship the very first time I struck out at my partner because violence in this context is always unforgiveable. 

But I didn’t leave after the first incident. Nor did I leave the second or third time. I begged for forgiveness – and J to his eternal credit gave me some semblance of forgiveness but, alas, the memory of unprovoked violence never really fades away. A lot of commenters on this blog have offered me support as I painted a picture of being the victim of physical domestic violence, even though I pointed out I was not the victim. I wish to point out unequivocally that I am not the victim of abuse. I never have been, in my current relationship or any other.

J sent me the following email, 3 days ago.

tj I just read your blog. Please stop spreading slanderous rumours. The truth is you were violent to me, yet again and I struggled to get away from you, you continued to rip my clothing and we wrestled to the ground, you tried to wrestle me to the ground and then I broke free actually, then i pushed you away from the door so i could get out. You repeatedly punched me with all your might in the face in Belgium when i was asleep and then repeatedly tried to punch me the first few mad contact in the face and neck, then you tried and succedded to claw me when I managed to grab your arms, i tried to calm you down, but you were in your very violent mood, even your father says you have a terrible anger and its well known that you hit people, thats why they avoid you, right?

I ask you to correct your blog to reflect the truth, and if you cant then to remove any implication that i was violent to you please. Its just not right.

I believe in some un healthy way you are enjoying this, its like a movie to you, well it isnt to me. I loved you very much and have been far to patient, tolerant and forgiving, thats why you think its ok to walk all over me.

I appeal to you kind nature, which i know you have in abundance wrapped up somewhere under all that anger from your childhood. Please remove the slanderous comments, it is not acceptable and you know that.

I really hope you are safe wherever you are and comfortable and continue with your therapy, it very admirable that you want to do so, but please stop punishing me.

You know I only ever want the best for you, but i cant put up with this.

J

J had been patient with me for too long, he’s right. Eventually he snapped because all his efforts were met with yet more rage and violence. My violence. All those promises I made that I would sort myself out, make resolutions to change, go to therapy to break my negative patterns, go teetotal, gain dominion over my emotions more effectively – they were all essentially hollow and did not individually or collectively do any good in repairing what I had already broken. How could they?

J’s mistake in his opinion was being too patient, tolerant and forgiving. I can’t refute that. His mistake was to carry on a relationship with an abuser that he could not trust and will never trust again.

I am sorry for all the damage I have caused. I am the one that has to live with myself knowing that I’ve broken somebody that I love. I have to live with the knowledge that I have continually struggled to control my temper and one day that might lead me to serious trouble. I have to live with myself.

Contemplation, medication & frustration.

I can scarcely believe that only a few short weeks ago I had the frightening complacency to write, as a concluding remark to a comment on the subject of therapy on a practitioner’s blog, “It’s traumatic to say the least but I have the sneaking feeling that ‘it’s working’ – whatever that may mean.” I really had the suspicion that the good relationship I had with my last therapist was enough to have changed me permanently. “I talk, she steers. She interprets, I listen. I confess, she challenges. She provokes, I contemplate,” I mused, smugly.

“I cannot overstate how different I feel now”, I enthused, daring to believe that all my problems had been magicked away by a few sessions of psychotherapy that in reality barely skimmed the surface. And in all truth, even a more sustained course of therapy is no panacea.

I realise now that with much sadness that my problems aren’t going away and I am looking at the possibility that no amount of positive thinking, therapy, being in love, moving to a different country, giving up alcohol, giving up having a job, and having ongoing physical health issues are going to change that. Yes all these things have happened in the recent past. Recent enough for them to take root but still to be novel, uplifting or humbling.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up trying to be positive, but so often I am defeated by my simple inability to change. However, despite stubbornness, stupidity, immaturity and self-sabotage, whatever the reason, I am trying and I need to reassure myself of that. In my mind I am truly trying as hard as I can to be better, cleverer and happier but it doesn’t come across to the person that I am trying to improve myself for. My partner. I seem sarcastic when I try to be sincere. I seem absent-minded when I try my darndest to be smart. I smother when I try to be pleasant. I get angry too often and it grates. I am quagmired by frustration, self-loathing and anger and it is so horrible.

So in a last bid attempt to regain some kind of control over my temper and inner feelings of anger I wonder whether prescription medication would be the way to go?

I haven’t researched the specifics yet but I am aware that it’s certainly not to be taken lightly. I aim to use the Rethink website as a starting point. The sorts of issues that are swirling semi-formed around my head are of side effects, possible dependency down the line, and the risk of greater upsets before I find the right drug for me. I also foresee issues with my GP not being willing to prescribe a psychotropic to me – I speak from experience having gone to my doctor as a depressed 19-year old, begging for antidepressants and a “little bottle of confidence” as I wrote in my diary at the time. That was years ago. He didn’t give them to me but listened with kindness and referred me for counselling.

It’s funny, I’ve been on medication almost continually for three years now. In that time I’ve been treated for pulmonary tuberculosis twice followed by an invasive lung infection which I will have until it is cut out of me along with the cavity in my lung where it hangs out. All the time I wished for a time I could stop being on meds. In fact, I elected to stop taking my triazole antifungal for my invasive aspergillosis only a few weeks ago because I thought it might be affecting my mood. Just one of life’s little ironies I suppose.

make it work

Therapy is no magic wand.

The therapy is continuing in lots of different ways. I’m growing and learning in ways I never thought possible and reading lots though mostly from other blogs nowadays rather than books. What I’ve learned in relation to the traditional model of therapy is that it’s only useful when I’ve believed it to be useful. That is, I, the patient, determine the usefulness of the therapy. It works if I say so.

I adopt a multi-pronged approach, and have become something of a therapy junkie throughout my journey. I have been asked by various friends and other therapists recently whether therapy is “working”. I really don’t know what to say. It clearly isn’t, because all the hours I’ve spent talking to therapists haven’t changed my behaviour in certain situations.

It took me months to find the therapist, G, that has helped me the most – by that I mean the one who I feel most comfortable with, I respect as an individual, and whose advice, analysis and agenda I most value. What I am basically saying is that I like her as a person. We get on well. We can hold a conversation.

In this way I find solace in a relationship that society says can cure me of my psychological ailments; my mental and behavioural stumbling blocks. We have preordained roles and sometimes resort to stock phrases. Like doomed lovers conducting an illicit affair, there is no preamble and no outro to our encounters, it’s straight to business. The validity of the therapeutic transaction is confirmed by the exchange of money – an amount that isn’t to be sniffed at. Afterwards I am left confused, traumatised, enraged sometimes, comforted that someone understands other times… but there is never any question that this therapy is an  unequivocally Good Thing.

I wouldn’t say I have any doubts about the therapeutic process, even if the intervention is nothing more than offloading to a nice person who understands and challenges me. I worry that surely therapy is the end of the road. If it doesn’t “work” then what else is there to try? Happy pills? Joining a cult? Self-flagellation? Going back to my bad old ways?

Where my doubts lie are in myself. I embrace therapy and I know I’m doing it right because it’s painful afterwards, the psychological equivalent of being punched in the stomach. It’s a similar feeling actually, like the wind’s been taken right out of me. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far I have not turned into a very tasty dish. I’m still bitter in just about every way imaginable. I’m still angry, it’s right there, bubbling beneath the surface like lava in a volcano.

Yes, deep psychotherapy has helped me understand the causes of my upsets, and makes me very sad in fact as I come to terms with a wasted childhood. But as far as its ability to make me a better person – the person I was always meant to be, before being consumed by negativity – the progress is patchy. I continually mess up, and have recently reverted to appalling behaviours that I thought were behind me.

More recently though, there has been a glimmer of hope. I have been the shining beacon that is going to help myself out of the darkness. I am in the process of making myself more resilient, empathetic, grateful, humble, forgiving and loving. It is in my power alone.

I’ve been told by someone in the blogosphere to relax and observe whether I’m resisting or allowing each moment. Go general. Find soothing, relaxing thoughts. Be easy on myself. Have fun. Take deep breaths. find things to appreciate. Don’t resist the present moment & don’t resist life.

I would like to do all of these things and keep doing them until they become second nature, regardless of the setbacks and endless barrage of feelings I contend with. I would like to experience enough constant faith in myself that even a rough patch with my partner doesn’t derail it. At the moment my entire happiness seems to be dependent on our relationship. J’s also very sensitive (though sometimes seems incredibly insensitive as a coping mechanism), so everything rubs off on him and is exacerbated ten times. That is how we got ourselves worked up into such a lather before.

Learning self-belief and acceptance are so important to individual happiness. I’m doing very well with my previous resolutions – calmness, sobriety, my own interests, not using the language of blame, and sitting above the situation in hand – and over the weekend notched up gold stars on each. I stood up for myself in a very calm and inclusive way, and realised as I spoke what is important for me as regards my life goals.

I’ve got more therapy tonight with G – my last session before I leave the country for up to 8 months. I am looking forward to discussing my issues but I hope this is the end to some of my more unproductive introspection which I acknowledge can lead to unhappiness and resentment of the status quo.

There is no magic wand, there is only belief.

May Resolutions. Being more boring.

Enough time has passed for me to accept and try to move on from the weekend’s poisonous events. Knowing that I can’t unf**k the goat, I can at least do everything I can to prevent my pattern of idiocy to perpetuate any longer.

I have done this coming to terms largely away from J, on my own and with other people, as it’s the only way I can right now. I don’t want to talk to him about any of our issues for fear of causing an upset. I believe that if I can get things sorted in my own mind, my behaviour will be nice which in turn will lead him to be nice. Then maybe we can talk but only when we’re really strong again.

I have come to realise a few things in general. Call them resolutions. Firstly, I must be calm. There is a long, painful recovery period from my abusive behaviour for both of us. I am so shell-shocked I could have behaved like I did that I get into beating-myself-up mode, which means my already battered self-worth goes through the floor. I go into a sort of denial where I expect sympathy because I see myself as the victim. It’s strangely f***ed up.

Secondly, I must stay off booze. It doesn’t agree with me. It makes me aggressive. And seeing as I don’t start feeling that I have had too many after two or four or five, it’s safer to avoid it altogether. I have recently been made aware of alarming incidents that happened years ago that I genuinely could not recall. And it wasn’t just once or twice, it was every time. My friends dreaded being out with me. I did not know that…

Next, I must retain my own interests in order to boost my sense of self. In an intense relationship, it’s all too tempting to dissolve yourself into the other, seeking validation from just one source. It seems absurd even, to devote time to friends, new experiences and hobbies that take you away from the relationship you’re trying so hard to fix. The relationship becomes a full time occupation and everything else is just a distraction. This isn’t healthy.

Number four, when a situation progresses into a conflict, I should explain how the matter in hand affects me. I can explain how this is against my values or I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that, instead of nitpicking, criticising or attacking. Sentences should start with “Right now I feel” rather than “You always… You’re such a….”

The fifth point is to do with my boyfriend in particular. He has been known to twist the knife and to wait for a reaction. He’s a great one for picking fights and winding people up, particularly girlfriends. He likes the drama of conflict (I am exactly the same!). I guess we both like it for the same reason: it reminds you that you’re not dead. I actually want to be more boring! Maybe that means staying in more, watching TV, cleaning, reading, sewing. Maybe that means agreeing with him instead of rising to the bait. Maybe that means taking a step back and observing a situation rather than being tangled up in it and powerless to see what’s actually going on. So that’s a tricky one to summarise so I’ll just say I hope to be boring, agreeable and somewhat detached.

I cannot ask my boyfriend, or anyone else for that matter, to change. I can only work on changing my perceptions and behaviour. I can change how I let the outside world affect my inner state.

To this end I attended by first CBT session on the NHS last night. I had been waiting for three months, but I realise my problems have not changed a jot. I only have time for one session before I leave the country and will therefore have to wait six months or so until I am back to arrange a course of sessions. However it was still useful. The therapist drew three bubbles, the emotion I felt during the incident, the thoughts that were going through my head as a result of that emotion, and the behaviour that is manifested by the thoughts. The chain that we seek to break in the CBT process is between (irrational) thoughts and behaviour. I was challenged, which is very important to my recovery.

I was given two online resources I can use while away. They are Moodgym and the Centre for Clinical Interventions.

When I return here in a few months, I hope to continue with the CBT which deals very much with the here and now, and concurrently to take the NLP/ Biodynamic/ Integrative Arts psychotherapy approach in which I can address childhood issues. I’d like to think of recent events as minor speedbumps, not proof that I am beyond help.

Throwing the first punch.

I’m drowning in a sea of confusion and hurt feelings. I’m angry with myself, mired by frustration and denied longings. I have deep despair for myself. I am completely unhappy and frankly don’t know how I am coping. There is no way I can even express this. It’s me and my own bad behaviour that’s getting me down.

It’s also that my boyfriend J treats me with utter contempt in the aftermath of my dick-like behaviour – every sick thing he does being totally justified because ‘I started it’. It was me that started it and I take responsibility for that 100%. I have apologised with words and actions but my apologies are not accepted. It wears me down to the point of exhaustion to be vilified like this. To be told as I have been many times ‘I hate you’ by my partner leaves a mark that takes a lot of love, time and possibly an apology to heal. But I am not going to get an apology, not going to get a chance to talk about what happened. I have been called an abuser, so I think maybe that’s all I am somewhere deep down.

I’m sick of being told everything is my fault. I already know everything is my fault, everything I do is wrong and everything he does is perfectly sane and justified. I’m sick of being made to feel worthless because I f***ed up. I’m sick of not having a voice and being told constantly by him that I can’t talk. I’m constantly dragged down to his own extreme anger, contagious negativity and all-consuming depression. I caused all of those things, so I can suffer too.

Can I rise above the insults and the battles? Yes, if I were feeling strong and had time and space to heal my literal wounds in private. But instead, we carry on as if nothing happened, I put a brave face on and spin the alternative version of the weekend’s violence to other people, the resentments meanwhile growing ever stronger between us until someone blows up and it’s a full on fight again.

Why can’t we talk about the incidents that have happened in order to reduce the likelihood of similar things happening in the future, and to gain closure? Because there’s never a good time. And besides, why dredge up the painfully raw past when you can just pretend it never happened? After all, I should be glad that he still wants to know me, and doesn’t just dump me without a second thought.

I called the Samaritans for the first time ever today. It wasn’t hard picking up the phone or talking to the woman on the other end. She asked me some very probing questions, which I wasn’t expecting. The upshot of which is, of course everything is my fault, I really do have to believe that. I don’t know what I was expecting. Sympathy? I deserved everything I got. All I can do is to work on changing my own behaviour. Getting off booze again, which I was off incidentally for around three months until two weekends ago. Some other advice I got was to find an external focus or some inner peace – something that gets me away from constant thinking about and possible conflict with J. The problem with that is that I feel trapped in this relationship, as every spare evening I have after my full-time job that isn’t given over to exercise, therapy or my part-time job it is demanded I go straight home to help him with pressing household tasks.

Forgive? Forget? I wish I was a bigger person. Right now I don’t see it.

Deepening the pool. Childhood memories.

How can I rise above the sadness of a wasted childhood? How can I right the wrongs of the past? Am I damaged? Can I change? Does identifying negative influences and conflicts that were already a part of me aged five help me grow today? The therapy session yesterday was pretty hard going and felt like quite a trauma but I’m happy to have done it.

The main exercise was to imagine the five year old me is sitting on a cushion in the room. She was sitting there, trying not to notice me: the current me. She makes like she isn’t interested, but when I look away, she takes a sideways glance at me. She has a lot of curiosity but not in a typically childlike way as she feels nervous in the company of others. So, she sits there, withdrawn. What do I say to her? If I could say anything what would I say?

The things I wanted to say, she wouldn’t understand. I want to tell her she must have the strength to be true to herself. I want to tell her she must find her own happiness. I want to tell her it’s OK to be who she is. Trust yourself. I want to tell her that it’s good to be open to love and laughter. Get out of your head more. If I could tell her just one thing, I’d say “enjoy now”.

But she wouldn’t understand these things. Instead I notice what she’s looking at. She’s spotted a boy playing outside. He’s riding a bicycle. I ask her if she wants to go and play outside as well, but she isn’t allowed. It’s not safe. Maybe we can play together? She doesn’t want that either, and she’s squirming and getting uncomfortable. How do you feel about that? I know what she’s thinking; she wants to be on her own again now and doesn’t like this adult asking questions. No-one asks her how she’s feeling and she doesn’t have any language to convey what she perpetually feels, which is jealousy of others, self-loathing, feeling different, confusion about the messages she’s getting, anger, resentment. There are good sides to: things she looks forward to like playing football and messing about outdoors, but they are temporary distractions from the turmoil she – I – have always felt.

When I speak to myself as an adult I use what my therapist G calls the ‘critical voice’. I’m constantly aware of G picking me up on this trait I have when I talk about some aspect of myself. I have heard it said that the way we treat ourselves mirrors the way our parents treated us as kids. My parents were highly critical and I grew up in a household ruled by a noxious lifestyle choice – organised religion. There were a lot of commands beginning with “you must always” “you should never” “you’ll go to hell if” “this way is the only way”. I was forced to get my head around serious, adult concepts. I was told that life on earth doesn’t matter as long as you follow religion, because what we’re living for is the afterlife. I was told that anyone that doesn’t follow the same religion as us is a sinner and is going to hell. I suspected from an early age that my parents’ religion was not for me but I had no other person to give my feelings validation or to offer an alternative value system.

This little five year old girl, she is told that some of her friends are sinners. But she sees their households are filled with laughter, hobbies, siblings, activity and affection. For the first time she sees two adults – her friend’s parents – embracing each other and even she notices there is love there. She doesn’t have siblings herself and her parents aren’t in love with each other. And yet adults constantly comment how lucky she is to be an only child. She must be so spoilt! She is so sick of hearing that and it frustrates her that they could be so wrong. She pulls away whenever they try to grab her big cheeks or stroke her curly hair.

I didn’t feel like a child when I was a child. I was party to adult things, not just religion but extramarital affairs that it was just expected I would keep to myself. I was used as a pawn in my parents’ constant battles. I spent my childhood wishing it away, feeling different to others, crippled by shyness, waiting to reach a certain age when I presumed everything would just fall into place. And as an adult I have behaved very childishly. Until I embarked on this journey I wasn’t a fan of taking responsibility for myself. I used people. I took stupid risks. I rebelled. I pissed people off with my erratic or petulant behaviour. I hurt people needlessly. I refused to change or to have an open mind. I was selfish.

That five year old on the cushion seemed like flesh and blood. I can see how she had her hair and what she was wearing. She’s only a memory, distorted by hindsight. But I know how to talk her language and teach her sensitively. It’s not easy going back there but I owe it to myself to look after her.

Overthinking and freedom from prison.

G, my psychotherapist, pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.

Perhaps I seek validation for my overthinking in the books that I read. In the same way I gain comfort from writing neat little accounts of my progress, reading books loosely about self-improvement helps to rationalise, provides solace, and in a sense, to shuts me off from experience with the excuse of ‘yet more research’. But nevertheless, I feel it’s beneficial and interesting to read in order to get the ideas under my belt with which to really live my life.

It is through books and the internet, alongside talking to therapists and reaching out to others that I am slowly developing a sense of the other side that’s out there. This other side isn’t even out there, it’s already here, within me. The opposite to materialism, the opposite to depression, the opposite to enslavement, the opposite to overthinking. So G can say that I use my head a lot more than my feelings, but for me this is a huge step up. It was not that long ago that my feelings were overpoweringly, cripplingly depressive and I was too fragile to contemplate anything like self-improvement with the ultimate and ongoing intention to set myself free from the constraints that are mere figments of my imagination.

There’s a passage in F**k It Therapy that really made me laugh and wake up to what freedom isn’t.

“But most of us have a fantasy about freedom. And that’s why those movies and music work on us, but not because we’re free and on the open road of life. Do you think the true rebels and pioneers are watching Thelma and Louise and listening to The Clash? No, they work on us because we’re still in our chains. Do you know how many white-collar workers there are out there with big motorbikes? Do you know how many Audi drivers listen to Eminem? How many grandfathers are listening to punk? How many media people say ‘cool’? How many of the dudes at school became financial advisers? Don’t knock them. It’s probably me. It’s probably you.” – F**k It Therapy by John C. Parkin.

The book tells you how to identify the prisons that you are unwittingly incarcerated in and then to change them if you want. We are imprisoned by the constant and ultimately fruitless search for meaning when it isn’t there in those places where we seek. A sense of perspective on life is important. The stories we surround ourselves with imprison us. We have an idea about who we were, who we are now and who we’d like to become. The human state is to move from naivete to experience, from playfulness to seriousness, getting older, weaker and wearier all the while. These stories don’t reflect reality; life resists the stories we tell in order to try and fix everything.

So we have the prison of our search for meaning in the wrong places. We have a prison of our stories. We also construct a prison if our aims take over our lives. We construct prisons of thought. A thought-less life is not what’s being advocated, merely the suggestion that eschewing an entirely thought-based approach to life can open you up to amazing things. This speaks to me and is very timely in the light of being ‘diagnosed’ a chronic overthinker. The other prisons we might find ourselves in including fixing ideas to ourselves. These might be religious, materialistic or spiritual beliefs. Hold all ideas lightly, is the f**k it approach. Sure, dip your toe here, dabble there, get a new perspective there. The one possible spiritual truth, Parkin dares to venture, is that we are all connected, maybe even all one. Our perception of separation is an illusion that creates suffering.

My own personal prisons are:

1) my unwillingness to change and push my boundaries. However I have done a lot to confront this issue over the past 12 months. 2) my reliance on thinking… – now that I know about my habit to over think – and have awareness there is an alternative – I will try not to give much attention to those persistent and nagging thoughts. 3) …and the anger and negativity that this leads to. This is the biggest and scariest problem that I have. I am acutely disappointed every time I let myself, my partner and my friends down.

 

Getting to know and tame my rebellious inner child.

So, I came back from what I call my hardcore therapy session yesterday evening fragile and quite sad. I think this the real and emotional response that I’ve tried so hard to deny and suppress, even on this difficult personal journey. The therapy in question was provided by the proper NLP-based, Integrative Arts psychotherapist that I refer to as G. I hadn’t seen her for over three weeks. I realise for sure now that I have found the right person to help me. The fact that it isn’t easy – that it’s quite uncomfortable at times and very close to the bone – helps me to appreciate that this is the right route for me.

I was taken back to childhood again, which I always find quite upsetting because I realise how lonely I felt, how I never got the memo that it’s imperative to express yourself and find out who you are, how I felt unworthy and not valid compared to others. I spent a lot of my time wishing I was someone or something else. Frustration, jealousy, selfishness and self-hatred were amongst my earliest feelings. I somehow got the wrong messages growing up. My parents never did anything wrong, like scald me harshly, or beat me, or make me feel I was worthless. On the contrary, they provided enough materially, sent me to an expensive school, encouraged me to perform well academically, provided religious guidance, and generally made my life as risk-free as possible. In short they gave me all the assurances and comforts that their parents couldn’t give to them.

What it lacked I think was being truly heard and listened to, which is something that today I desperately feel I need. I get very angry when I feel I’m not being understood, perhaps that might be because I can’t express myself clearly. I also missed having the support of a parent, someone that tells you that your dreams are valid and you should go and do the things that make your heart sing. Again today, I make totally unreasonable demands on my partner to support me unconditionally, which of course no human being alive is entitled to expect. And finally, I lacked the coping mechanism when things don’t go as I planned them. My parents made everything cushy, there were no real challenges to deal with. The voice that says ‘I want it my way’ ends up being my saboteur.

Behaviour roleplay

There are four types of behaviour that orbit the satellite of the Adult. The Adult is centred, rational, mature and grounded. There are other sides to this Adult however. There is the Nurturing Parent who shows kindness to the child and supports all of his needs. There is the Critical Parent who judges, attacks, criticises and might as a result make the child feel worthless. There is the Rebellious Child who simply wants things his own way and doesn’t listen to reason. There is lastly the Adapted Part that wants to please the parent, and whose behaviour shifts according to what is expected of him.

Using a painfully recent disagreement as an example to illustrate where I fit into all this, it is quite clear that my behaviour is that of the rebellious child (with a smattering of critical parent). In the example, I didn’t get things my way, so rather than deal with it calmly and adhere to an alternative plan, I became irate, irrational, throwing blame around like it was going out of fashion, calling the other person stupid, and finally refusing to go through with any sort of plan when the other person begged me to. It took me hours to regain anything resembling composure and even then my seeming amicability didn’t last, and there have been more upsets since then.

What the rebellious child wants is to get his way, to be listened to, and for unconditional love. What the child wants is for the other to be untrue to himself. The rebellious child demands total submission. It’s disgusting and terrifying and I don’t really know how I got to be like this. It’s terrifying. I still have this awful concern that I am not going to change and all these little love affairs with spirituality or therapy or whatever’s flavour of the month will be over as quickly as they began, cast aside like a used whore.

The subject of my reliance on thinking/writing also came up. G came to the conclusion I use my strongly developed mind instead of my feelings. I justify and rationalise all kinds of things, that then have an effect on my behaviour. And once poisoned thought becomes feeling then action, all hell breaks loose. G asked me to consider how I feel once I’ve written 900 words that perfectly sum up my mood. I said I felt satisfied, like after eating a big dinner. I’ve put something into a tidy little box, with a title and tags and correct diction and punctuation. It’s all so neat and snug. I can draw a line under it once I hit Save or Publish. But does all this thinking actually perpetuate the problems of an overactive mind?