therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: help

Inflammation, mutation, sex in the religious biosphere. A token mother rant.

Tuesday 28th October 2014

I’m going to continue my musings on how believe I religion is a virus after reading Darrel W. Ray’s excellent book. I had talked about the parallels between religion and a biological virus, both of them infect people, propagate the virus, create antibodies to make itself stronger, spread to viable targets using certain covert methods and ultimately take over the host to the point where they are no longer a useful, intelligent member of their wider society, and unknown even to themselves. So, the God virus infects the individual and inoculates that person against other viruses.

On a pathogenic level a strain of virus mutates over several generations. Mutations can either be eliminated by the original virus or as in biology they survive even the strongest defences and the mutated strains infect totally new populations such as Martin Luther’s god virus of the sixteenth century which swept through uneducated populations of northern Germany faster than the original Catholic virus had done a thousand years previously. Buddhism similarly swept through India from 480BCE – 180BCE which was a mutation of Hinduism; Islam in the Middle East from 600CE – 800CE.

Sometimes it pays to exist in a crowded religious biota or in the highly pluralistic Western world, as an ecosystem develops in which viruses actually depend on one another to strengthen each other, as well as giving the illusion of choice to the infected, but only where there is little threat to each competing pathogen. In Islam for example the polytheistic viruses that live side by side are weak in comparison. Judaism is not parasitic and Christian sects are fragmented. Islam is in fact the only virus to combine religious and political controls – it is institutionally incapable of separating the two.

Fundamentalism is an inflammation of the virus. Just like in human immune systems, inflammation is a tool for fighting infection but should only occur for a short time, until the threat has subsided. Otherwise, uncontrolled fundamentalism can feed on society itself, upending it, left unchecked. But unfortunately inflammation can continue even after the immediate threat has passed as in the case of hay fever and rheumatoid arthritis. Fundamentalism, and with it terrorism, serves the parent religion well for the short term but causes collateral damage to institutions and the very fabric of society after it has served its purpose and the usefulness of the inflammation has passed.

So what is the antidote to the virus?  Like a hangover there is no cure, only prevention. Time can also have a healing effect, but unlike a hangover, to many infected the effect of time only makes the virus stronger. A preventative measure as far as one exists is a solid education in the sciences.

“Rational parents want to raise well-educated and well-balanced children with full logical and critical faculties. But once infected, no parent is rational. As a result, parents are unable to teach their children critical thinking skills with respect to religion, especially their particular religion.” – Darrel W. Ray, ‘The God Virus’.

Infected parents use guilt and fear, more related to the emotion of shame which feeds off anxiety. They ensure that every available resource is utilised to infect the child. Thoughts are sure to evoke primal fear of letting god down and failing in the eyes of others. Anxieties in sex-negative religions such as the one I grew up with centre around sexual shame and guilt. This prevents rational discussion about sex and relationships.

I have always been privy to adult matters, even as a child. When I was undergoing therapy recently in the village where I was raised, my mother grew suspicious of me. I came home once and told her that I had been out at an appointment, and she demanded to know where. I told her only the name of the road, and later heard from my father that my mother believed I was sneakily visiting a childhood friend of mine (who in fact lives 130 miles away, incidentally) – and by simple virtue of his being a boy, of course mum had cooked up in her head a scenario in which he was living in her village, corrupting her angelic daughter.

I thought this was so disgusting and pathetic of her, on a few levels. It demonstrates total lack of trust, it represents invasion of privacy, it betrays her paranoia, and I think more than any of that it’s really f***ed up. She has raised me to be pretty much asexual – I’m not supposed to have a sexual side to my being until I get married. Yet when I exercise the teensiest bit of freedom while under her roof, the conclusion she jumps to is that I must be with a boy? And surely as she knows so much about my life over the twelve years I’ve been away, it must be that I’m seeing the one and only male that she knows I am close friends with?

Is there any wonder that having been raised by a woman who expects me (even now) to be a nun, I have always sought illicit thrills wherever I could? I actually avoided meaningful relationships until I was 23 years old, and I only then renounced sluttiness because a boy that loved me very much pursued me relentlessly for two years. Before him, I was so deliciously wrapped up in creeping around, getting drunk and laid wherever and whenever I could. It was a taboo in my household growing up, despite it being talked about a lot and having to keep my dad’s affairs secret – the idea that I might have boyfriends growing up was an unequivocal no-no. For my entire sexual youth I had no idea about respecting myself, being safe, and falling in love. For me, it was all about screwing. Love didn’t exist.

This is the f***ed up result of bad parenting from my mother. If there are any parents reading this who are infected by the god virus or just prefer to bury their heads in the sand as regards the subject of their young daughters having sex, don’t. Be real, be honest and wise up! It’s going to happen anyway, and if it doesn’t then you’ve raised a freak. Your daughter can either respect herself and not be embarrassed, or she can sneak around and get it from wrong ’uns who fuel her self-contempt because they don’t love her.

beautiful burnout

The God Virus.

Monday 27th October 2014

Once in a while you get a revelation that, like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, makes everything to fall into place. You finally see the big picture that was staring you in the face all along. This is how I felt when I read a book that flipped my mind upside down a few days ago. The book was The God Virus by Darrel W. Ray. The truth is that religion affects our society in different ways that we might not realise. It is prevalent and it is a disease. But what makes it so powerful? What makes people blind to the irrationalities of their own religions yet clearly see the problems of others? I wrote about my mother’s painful hyperreligiosity and how it might be some OCD-type condition, but reading this book has got me thinking that the compulsion towards religious devotion works far more insidiously and on a biological, rather than purely mental, level. That makes certain people genetically susceptible, whereas I have never been able to follow a religion or believe in God even when I have very much wanted to in the past.

The book outlines the ways in which is a virus that infects the minds of its devotees in the same way as biological viruses do. Both religion and viruses have the following five abilities that are present in varying degrees:

  • To infect people
  • To create antibodies or defences against other viruses
  • To take over certain mental and physical function and hide themselves
  • To use specific methods for spreading the virus
  • To program the host to replicate the virus

The God virus infects the brain and alters critical faculties. Neurological science has shown that religious visions can be recreated with brain stimulation. William James, in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience wrote about this as long ago as 1902. Dr. Olaf Banks, neurologist at Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, explains that the true explanation as to why the supernatural is invoked, is a very natural one, the brain’s attempt to make sense of conflicting information.

To go into the five properties above in a little more detail, infection takes place usually early on in childhood. This is a symbiotic method of infection, a vertical strategy in which one is born into a system and the virus remains strong as it binds the community together. Certain religions such as the Druze, Yazadi and Amish communities even have a further stipulation which prohibits outsiders from joining the group. It pays in these viral communities to preserve the unit of propagation, namely the family. Islam for example limits female freedoms and has always sought to expand male power. Sex is mandated as a procreative activity with extramarital relationships banned.

The other type of infection is the parasitic kind. Cults are the number one form of the virus which go down this route. The Unification Church maintains that for example marriages must be approved, if not arranged, by the Church ostensibly to propagate its virus across cultural boundaries.

The second on the list, the antibodies of the virus offer religious immunity which protects the beliefs and that of the children once they have been affected. Antibodies take the form of the creed of the religion. Ideas such as heresy were developed to protect the faith. Individuals rarely switch allegiances once indoctrinated. Eighteenth century physician Edward Jenner demonstrated that infecting a person with the cow pox virus immunised them against the small pox virus.

The overpowering of faculties occurs as followers fall back on doctrines that they learned as children. It is so strong that it hides even from internal detection. The individual sees their belief systems as self-evident. It might be activated by stress and traumatic experiences, as it was in the case of my mother who lost her high-power management job around eight years ago due to her misconduct, abuse, victimisation and negligence. A lengthy court case ensued, which she lost and in the process many tens of thousands of pounds. It was around this time that she began to turn to religion in an unhealthy turbo-charged way, as if it was going to save her or something when everyone else had let her down – she had no friends, family or partner in whom she could confide, she couldn’t tell me (her only daughter) and her ex-husband had no sympathy.

A virus needs an effective vector – a organism that transmits a disease or parasite from one animal to another, such as a mosquito in the case of malaria. In the case of the God virus it is spread usually by religious leaders who are reengineered to become effective carriers. Vectors are expensive for the ecosystem to produce so they are protected and supported to an extreme degree, as in the case of recent paedophilic sex abuse cover-ups. In the symbiotic strain, where the virus goes down a family line, the vector (priest in Catholicism) effectively commits genetic suicide by remaining celibate in order that his church may propagate. Just as the rabies virus takes over the brain of the host animal and infects specific neurons which induces the host animal to act aggressively without regard for its own life. The animal dies but the virus propagates itself by infecting those that are bitten.

Indeed, groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses take the view that each and every baptised member has a divine mandate to spread the word to the best of their ability. Members are required to submit regular reports on their evangelical efforts, and failure to do so will result in disfellowshipping. A recent article from Priceonomics projects a simplified formula for viral growth to account for and predict its advancement in the U.S, albeit modest.

The fifth on the list of parallels is programming. The host’s children are not usually immune. They are plied with guilt-inducing ideas that create a sense of security in incur the wrath of God, condemnation from respected leaders, hellfire damnation etc. I remember all of these threats from my own childhood, when I was very little they seemed real. But it only took me until I was ten years old to figure out that there was no God and I was free to do as I please in this life.

I’m no longer a dyspeptic critic of religion, or of anything else for that matter. I find a lot of atheist discourse self-indulgent claptrap in fact. But with such a convincing argument, I have no choice but to agree with Ray’s elegant and compelling elaboration on Richard Dawkins’ meme concept. Religion is dangerous and doesn’t show any sign of abating as it isn’t seen as a threat to public health, merely a harmless lifestyle choice. The God virus is real, it hurts people and tears families to shreds, it kills people while they are still breathing.

What is truly mine to do in this moment?

 Sunday 26th October 2014

As part of my journey I am attending events and talks that have a spiritual bent, as well as continuing to indulge in a bit of lino printing at an amazing workshop I am privileged to feel a part of. It makes me very happy. I attended a ‘guided meditation’ run by Carsten Spencer called Awakened Living, ‘A truly unique spiritual experience. This is not your normal Sunday morning service. It is a morning filled with interactive processes, inspirational messages, connected community and spiritual exploration!’ The theme for October was ‘BEING in Community’ which seemed appropriate to my learnings at the minute.

Asking the right questions is something we need to open our eyes to, and with it we will find our time to bloom. A question that matters is ‘what is truly mine to do in this moment?’ Who we surround ourselves with in a spiritual sense doesn’t just mean our spiritual leaders, it is everybody in our lives, even those seemingly unenlightened, who strangely enough can teach us very much on this journey. Two favourite sayings Carsten cited were ‘Don’t just do something, sit there’ and ‘Relax, nothing’s under control’.

Coming back to the metaphor of blooming, which I really like, the group mentioned spirals, launching pads, trees and renewals quite a bit. It’s a simple idea but releasing the stuff we no longer need like a tree does, is the only way to allow the new to grow when the season is right. The significance of a spiral is that we often think we are trapped in a cycle or a rut, endlessly the same, whereas a spiral moves in a particular direction and thus is more synonymous with the journey of our lives. We truly grow when we shed the old deadwood. The tree also makes us think of the ancestral tree and that we embody each of our ancestors – they live within us.

There was more beautiful imagery when two of the group’s participants cried, both of them ‘happy tears’ and Carsten pointed out that tears are chemically the same as the ocean. Crying is an ultimate expression of now. I hadn’t thought about that before but I do agree, crying isn’t always bad, it’s just a release though it can bring awkwardness to others. The two women that cried were either side of me in the circle of ten, and I gave them both tissues. Before we left, Carsten put on a song, Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic. The song is about a spiritual quest and being part of the universe. It had personal meaning to the leader of the group who moved to San Francisco after emotional events in his personal life, and now the fog seems like home to him; the melding of the air and the ocean into that unknown place.

When we trust in the unknown of the fog, we make a commitment to human experience and thus we trust in ourselves. In this way we make the best use of the fact that we are expressions of the divine. The best message from the session was: just be present – break the attachment to the outcome. Someone in the group explained in her share how she was going for a job that she wasn’t really that interested in, i.e she wasn’t focussed on the outcome. She was honest in explaining to her potential new employers what she couldn’t do as well as where her skills lay, and she was successful and had a productive strategising meeting which was exactly what the boss was looking for. She was in the now, with all the honesty, trust and submission that that entails. I’d like to apply this learning to my life.

Desires of wanting take us away from ourselves. Wants are what we create to avoid confronting deeper feelings within. Our needs are simple – shelter, food, water, warmth, sleep, love – but we confuse needs with wants. Signals I think get confused in our materialistic world and it is hard to keep your head and rise above the messages of advertising, keeping up with the Joneses and the desire to have our own style and define ourselves by what we own. The group leader read a poetic prose piece he penned in Central Park, New York with lines like ‘Instinct and intuition like digestive juices dissolve the things I thought I knew’.

During my share I explained about my journey, my creativity and my last relationship ending and said that this was only the beginning. Carsten said I was probably further along on the journey than I realise. The choice consciously to reject spirituality that I made in the past (and have since gone back on) was itself of course a spiritual choice. I am glad I realised the errors of my ways and am getting my life back on a more authentic and fun track. On my way back, I walked slowly and unplugged myself from my loud music. I felt lighter and rejuvenated.

light

Community living & disposable cultures.

Saturday 18th October 2014

I am thinking about my role as a consumer while reading The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard – an essential read that should be on every school curriculum. It is an exposé on the West’s dire overconsumption from a sustainable and human rights point of view, critiquing many of the industrialised processes that we as consumers are not informed about, and lead to our waste being dumped on the doorstep of third world countries, toxic PVC ‘offgassing’ in our homes, and babies being born with over 250 toxins already in their blood. It’s the most disturbing read I’ve experienced in a long time, made all the more scary by the exponential march of what we are forced to term ‘progress’ with its inbuilt planned technology obsolescence, exploitative and cynical practices, human rights violations and moral vacuity.

Reading this book has got me angry – but this time in a good way. There are so many depths to the filthy system we are all trapped in and bound by to whatever extent. What is missing is the social self – the citizen of the local community. The idea of feeling a part of where I live has been on my mind a lot at the moment as I flit from one place to another. I don’t have a fixed abode as such as I am moving around California and have nowhere specific to return to in England. This is a fine situation that I have designed for myself as it allows total freedom but I accept that others may find it disconcerting or unconventional. They may not understand that this is exactly where I need to be at the current time.

I am enjoying slumming it in Oakland, a bosom of enterprise, creativity and the dispossessed. I have never seen so many homeless or hopeless people. Every wall I have seen in my fleabag hotel is pockmarked with dents and craters: scars from murders, scuffles and madness. You would not stay in a place like this unless you had no other choice. Which makes me wonder what the assorted vagrants that pass through are running away from or hurtling towards, that is so terrible that staying at this hotel is their best or only option? One cheerful long term resident gave me some advice to be careful after dark, as one block over is where “murders and injuries happen”. I took heed and wasn’t horrified. I am fascinated by this decrepit run down place, by far the most squalid I have ever visited – and this is coming from someone who has spent her entire adult life thus far in London ghettos in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lambeth.

Strangely though, perhaps as a result of being ‘homeless’ myself, I am engaging with this community and this city far more than my previous homes. I am, in true Annie Leonard style, reactivating my inner citizen and I am enjoying the feeling. This place is proud of what it is and there is no pretence there. In amongst the derelict department stores there are reclaimed wood-panelled boutiques and coffee shops that proudly display messages and sell wares declaring civic pride.

This isn’t my city but the idea of my own conscious societal displacement segues nicely with what I am learning about the importance of social relationships. There is evidence to suggest that people with strong social ties live longer and of course feel safer. A small example from Leonard’s book: the filmmaker Judith Helfand made a documentary about a massive heatwave in Chicago which killed six hundred people. She explains that most of the victims were socially isolated and didn’t have trusted neighbours so nobody to check up on them or their facilities at home.

On a planet where we are rapidly running out of resources (since 1986 every year we have been consuming more than the earth is able to regenerate in a year), think how many fewer resources we could consume if only we shared? From cars and vegetables to tools and homes, not only would the planet be saved from having to produce ever more stuff to sustain our insatiable desires, we would enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from interaction with other humans! Not only a good in itself but it would lead to numerous other benefits like being able to call on each other for favours, having the good company of others, and saving money and time in myriad ways. Participation gives us a warm glow but unfortunately it’s so easy to shun this on the basis that you can’t trust people these days, you haven’t got time (too busy working like donkeys so we can pay for all the meaningless crap we just can’t live without). Or maybe, just maybe, quality of life overall could be improved if we made time for each other and got over our own reserve.

From my vantage point as an elected outsider, I can consider how it might feel to be part of a community. I have never really engaged with my local area before and certainly not considered ways to make local people come together and help each other out. The way I had previously conducted my social affairs was to keep my head down, avoid looking at anyone and set my heart on the next place I’d live, where surely everything would be perfect and I’d have no trouble wanting to play a part socially. The truth is it’s going to be difficult putting myself out there, risking ridicule or worse, being ignored. I might not feel like it. I might be too busy or tired. I might have other problems. But I can try and remember that the community aspect of being human is important to individual and collective wellbeing in conjunction with other socially-aware initiatives.

more stuff

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.

On the edge of the world.

Something seismically awful has happened. I appear to have walked out on J and my entire world is spinning. To my abject disbelief I am writing this from a roadside café somewhere between Las Cabezas and Seville. I am heading to an Air Bnb room that I’ve booked in Seville. My satnav won’t charge in the car so I’m having to take regular pit stops to charge it, so I thought I might as well use the time to write.

We woke up today after having spent a bit of time sleepily talking and joking in bed together. J suffers from insomnia and I try to help him and to be patient. I made him a cup of coffee and he said I had ‘ruined it’ with too much sugar. We went from that small domestic non-incident to me on the floor of our bedroom within literally 5 minutes. He had thrown me to the floor and pulled my hair and then kicked me. He called me a ‘nutter’ because of my mental health problems presumably. He then came back in a few seconds later and dragged me onto the bed. He went to another bedroom.

After a few minutes of feeling total shock, I pulled my suitcase out from under the bed and packed. I wasn’t even crying by then, and I took over half an hour to leave. I was forcing myself to remain calm and not do anything erratic. He would have heard that I was moving things around and zipping up my suitcase etc.

He didn’t come for me. I filled up the car with petrol and went to the library to figure out what I was going to do, where I was going to go. I knew I couldn’t go back home, not yet. He had sent me a couple of texts – he wanted to talk and was worried about me, but no apology.

I am not going to enter into a conversation with him while I’m away but told him I need to know things will be different before I go home. I was distraught. I am not ready to face the blame that I know will be poured onto me. The blame I am subjected to is a backbreaking load, it is the force bearing down on me that reinforces every negative thought I have about myself: I’m not good enough, I’ll never change, I am right to hate myself, I can’t stop messing up, I am an evil and worthless thing.

Having said that, I am not going to play the victim. I probably did provoke him, I remember grabbing at his dressing gown when he was asking me to let him go, and it ripped. That was when he threw me down. I wasn’t physically hurt or anything. It just took the wind out of me in other ways. I can’t believe it happened to me.

What is so astounding and scary is how this situation escalated in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t as if we were in the middle of a heated disagreement about something fundamental. It was a little mistake. I know he likes sugar in his coffee so I thought a little extra would be even nicer. But he took objection to it after not sleeping well, and this is the crucial bit – my reaction, my attitude wasn’t positive enough and he despaired. I didn’t respond to the constructive criticism properly. I said something like ‘Well I won’t make your coffee anymore because it seems I can’t even do that right’. OK, immature I know, but what he did to me was an act of physical violence. I was scared. He’s a man and I’m a woman. What does that make me? What does it make him?

That last four weeks while we’ve been on Seroxat have been bliss. Up until a week ago we’d had hardly any disagreements and were happy almost all of the time. Then one day he lost it, got grumpy and started blaming me and I broke down in tears. Properly went bonkers. That was when I started to realise I was bottling up too much, being on the happy pills without an escape in the form of booze, weed, or even a good cry or a raging argument.

Since then, things have not been the same. We’re broken again. We tried to put a plaster over the crack but it got bigger. My mental health has also deteriorated. All I keep coming back to is, ‘I hate myself’. I thought I was so far away from all this bullshit. When I am on my own I regain a tiny bit of self-belief again. But I feel like I’m the size of a pea around him, ready to get trampled on and my spirit crushed. I let him allow me to feel like a stupid child as he’s always telling me what to do and how to do it.

I would rather be on my own lost in the outside world than stuck in his. His contains no healing.

love is all

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.