Past hurts

Therapy is hard. Reconnecting with past hurts is painful. Some days I find it overwhelming: 3 years (and counting) of picking through the debris of past hurts. In overview, I find it consoling or I’d not still be doing it, but in individual moments it sometimes bloody hurts. Sometimes the hurt feels bigger and stronger than me.

I choose acknowledging how I feel as often as I can bear it. The alternative is ignoring it and so ignoring part of what it is to be alive. Ignoring a chance to be vulnerable with others and share something of what it is to be me. But some days it is harder than others, so I try not to be unkind when my feelings about things seem bigger than I am and I want to cry.


the glass on the table

The liquid in the glass laps gently against its sides as I move. I mustn’t spill it, it must remain intact. It’s my job to look after it. I’ve only just realised I’m cradling it to me. I’m so used to holding it I don’t even see it any more. That’s why I’m always so careful. Funny that I stopped realising why.

As the session goes on I describe this mental image. It arrived unannounced and as clear as day. I routinely dismiss my internal imagery: it never occurred to me it was any more than a frivolity.

your hand in mine

Tears growing around my eyes, I reach my hand out to seek comfort in contact. Funerals are difficult. Unexpectedly, she takes my hand and I feel warm fingers in mine.

To physically know that someone is present, alive and breathing, is a gift. Gratitude swells within me spilling my tears over the brink of my eyelids. I bring my left hand to rest on the back of my sister’s hand so it is between mine.

Skin catches against my palm: her skin is drier than mine. I want to soothe, make the skin supple and soft for her. Anxiety prickles in my gut: evidence of fragility is difficult to bear. “She probably does too much washing up,” I think.

Guilt washes over me for this interfering over-protective thought and I remain still. Focus on breathing, focus on touch.

Rinsed by emotion after emotion after emotion I am left the impression of a dry hand clasped between mine, the texture a pattern I can see. The warmth and pressure of our folded fingers an indent upon me.

the middle of the forest

In an instant, like the flick of a switch, I am in the gloom surrounded only by thick trunks and still, damp air. No path, neither more nor less traveled, and I am rooted. Black tree filled terror inhabits me and I’m surprised to blink and see the pale walls of the therapy room.

It was real. The forest in my head sprang up in an instant and it was as real as the prose in your mind right now. It gripped me with fear, fear of being lost. Irretrievably. Forever.

That was one of the strongest and earliest experiences of consciously tuning into my internal landscape. It was terrifying and held a deep foreboding. It was also a way to navigate my internal processes: these are the things that stop me dead in my tracks in my normal train of thought.

I’ve become so good at switching out of the fear and anxiety that I didn’t even realise it’s a substantial part of my experience and it stops me in my tracks regularly. Without realising it I switch tack and find something else to focus on. It limits me: limits my creativity, limits my ability to connect with my own feelings and stops me from exploring the extent of what it means to be human, to be me.

If anyone ever thought therapy was easy I can now report, categorically, it is the polar opposite.

A touch of honesty

Hello 🙂

I’ve not written for a while, but I’ve been planning a new twist to the blog. I have settled on another, very specific purpose for it, that I’ll pursue for as long as seems apt.

Most people that know me know me for being open and honest about my life and the things I find difficult. Yet I’ve been on a journey through counselling over the last 18 months and what I’m learning is just how much I edit myself. Just how much I contain and hide (especially from myself) in order to fit in and save face.

Right now I am facing, more painfully than I ever have done, just how much anxiety I suffer. Just how much I can hate the way I feel. Just how much I sometimes wish, wish, wish I were somebody else. I’ve been hiding it for years from everyone I love and, especially, from myself. The only sure way to stop me from sharing it.

It is okay. I am learning and, once again, it feels like a steep learning curve. It is terrifying to be confronted with the strength of feeling I have. I am learning that I get angry about simple things not going as I need them to. I am scared witless about the things I want from others and life being plain to all. After suppressing it for years, the reality of me feels chaotic and overwhelming. I am just learning to stop clinging to plans and spreadsheets (anyone remember the holiday in Cornwall I planned on a spreadsheet and tweeted about?) in order to save myself from my feelings. I have barely allowed myself to feel angry about interactions with another person since I was first married. That was about 15 years ago now.

Having feelings about stuff is currently terrifying. I am desperately afraid that no one I care about will accept me if I share how I feel. How I really feel about things. I can only bear to test it slowly and only with a very few people. However, I know that studying an MA (the origination of this blog back in 2008) was utterly terrifying. And I completed that fucker, with flair and panache 😉

I’m bricking it, but I’m determined to explore who I really am and do it in my own, inimitable style. I want to use this blog to share some of my findings from my counselling and self exploration journey, hence from now on this blog will be titled …

The Glass on the Table.



Raise a glass with me?

Dear lovely people who know me in person, who know me online and anyone else who, for whatever reason, finds themselves reading my blog:

I would like to invite you to celebrate something quietly with me 🙂 After a couple of years of largely self imposed hell and a frustratingly slow journey back, I finally feel more confident about life and my ability to live it again. It has been a long time coming and my relief at finding myself a calm, reasonably sane person again is measurable.

Anyone who reads my blog or knows me well will know that I, like many people, suffer my bouts of anxiety and depression. They are usually caused by trying to be someone I am not and live up to expectations that I perceive the world to have of me. As I’ve been busy playing this game over the last 2 years my physical health has also suffered, and I’ve found myself consistently lacking in energy and always (I mean ALWAYS) ill with a snuffle.

Today, I have decided, is the day that I celebrate clawing my way back to a position of equilibrium and confidently looking ahead to the future. My future is less plotted and certain than it ever has been. And don’t get me wrong, this scares the shit out of me. It is, however, how I want it to be and I know I’ll be ok.

I’ve stopped waking up with a dread of how the day will be every day. I’ve started running again. I actually can’t remember the last day I woke up and I had to take myself back to bed with a cold and overwhelming tiredness. Some time in early Feb maybe? I know I am good at my job, at the work I do and I KNOW I am valuable to the people in my life (colleagues and friends). I can generate this internally and am not completely reliant on feedback from other people to evaluate my strengths.

As I sit, quietly, in the home I bought through my hard won professional success, I really don’t know what the future holds. And I can’t promise I won’t try and break myself again 😉

But for all the people who listen when I am despondent or stuck in self criticism – thank you. For all of you who are pleased to see me when I turn up at the pub, or on your doorstep, or in your Twitter feed – thank you. Life is unpredictable, it’s scary and sometimes painful. I also wouldn’t stop living it for the world. I renew my promise to throw myself at life with everything I have and share whatever of it I can, with the new caveat that this may include time for reflection and quiet enjoyment of the things around me.

For anyone who feels that life is all a bit much sometimes and can’t the rest of the world just f-off for a bit: I know how you feel. I’ve been there and I’ll admit it openly. I’ll go there again, but all in all I judge it to be worth sticking out the difficult bits.

Here’s to the beautiful stuff. The moments of connection with others, the joy of discovering new things about yourself, the calm of staring out over the sky and being right here, right now.

Onwards …

At my fingertips

About this time last year I was writing about the importance of corporeality. I’ve never had difficulty with accepting intellectual pleasures, but physical ones present immediate self judgement. Eating, drinking, drifting into sleep, accidental contact with another live being … you can imagine where this list might go, yet even the simplest of these can be a source of guilt and shame.

Approaching the bar of my local pub on NYE, I was pondering how best to get served. Wearing my favourite little red dress with a thick, long teal cardi thrown over and a blousey scarf round my neck to soften the overall effect. I was dressed up for my own amusement much more than anyone else’s.

I smiled at an older man who was by the bar, a friendly and habitual gesture that I’d not have remembered later if it hadn’t set a subtle chain of events in motion. He moved to open up a path directly to the bar for me, a welcome gesture, and I moved into the space enjoying the tiny dance of our interaction. As I did so, his fingers brushed into my space, fingertips gently against the curve of my hip for an instant. I felt the fleeting contact through the thin material of my dress, respectful with an undercurrent of patriarchy. A minuscule dance of communication that, if I’d wished to ward off, I could easily have done so.

Contrast that with the younger man, now next to me at the bar. Without realising it I managed to get served a moment ahead of him and petulance seethed from him as I turned to ask him if the drink in front of me was his (it was not). He perceived me as an equal unlike the older man, but also as a rival. He was taller than me, but I had the edge on him intellectually and in my ability to navigate the other personalities within the environment. I had a suspicion the situational nuances were lost on him.

I am not sure which I prefer. Both had their moments of intrigue and pleasure in the interaction spawned. I am not entirely easy with the brief interaction couched within traditional gender roles. As if I betrayed the struggles of feminism by not only allowing it, but worse, by the brief surge of pleasure at the subtle physical dance of it. At being human, with other human beings.

As a closing thought, I came across this while reading a book on window box gardening yesterday. The tone of the book suggests the author as a brusque, English, matronly character. I can hear her voice ringing with an air of no nonsense as she delivers the last few words. Maybe being in the thick of life isn’t so bad after all.

“[in support of the practice of avoiding gloves while gardening] … this at least lets the hands feel what they are touching, whereas gloves do not, a large proportion of the pleasure being on the other side of the glove – one might as well wear gloves while making love.”
– Window Box Allotment, Penelope Bennett