Finding My ‘NO’

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Well. it’s safe to say that I have totally overloaded myself again this academic year and have been, frankly, exhausted and drowning in shit I hate! I don’t think I actually hate my job (do I?!) I just think I have taken on a little bit more than I can chew and so am suffering with an uncomfortable reflux right now…although it’s not just work that’s the problem.

I am both physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to embody Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’. I may be a piscean but I’m so over being an upbeat (and rather confused) fish! My mantra has always been, ‘just keep swimming!’ but the reality is, right now, I just want to get out the water, dry off, and lie on a sun lounger for the next decade or so! (I get that that mightn’t work out so well for Dory!- but luckily I am a human and not a fish!)

It’s been so instilled in me from a young age that I should just keep going ‘no matter what’ that I have felt that the only viable option has been to keep swimming against the tide, at all costs, even if I am not getting anywhere, even if I am near to drowning (because I am overwhelmed and exhausted), even though I know, deep down, that it isn’t good for me and is completely at odds with what I really want and need…

AND, NOW, I AM DONE WITH THAT!

I CAN SEE HOW DANGEROUS AND DAMAGING THAT IS TO ME!

Hoo-bloody-ray!

Finally eh?!

I guess until now I have always worried what would happen if I don’t ‘do what I think I am supposed to?’ What happens if I ‘don’t follow the script?’ And I don’t have an answer for that BUT what I do know is that continuing as I am isn’t an option because whilst it’s ‘known’, my current modus operandi it isn’t working for me AT ALL.

And so a change is gonna come – and it’s coming now.

These last three weeks I have been AWOL here on the blog. I have wanted to write but I simply have not had a minute to do it. Actually, really, for the last six months or so I haven’t had much time to write or reflect here in the way I’d like and that’s sad for me because I do find writing really helpful. I enjoy it. The thing is, I don’t have a clone of myself and there are only so many hours in the day; blogging or anything that isn’t completely essential has been wiped from my weeks.

This neglecting of myself and not ‘finding time’ (because there is none!!) for ‘self care’, of course, has huge consequences in the end but this time the consequence is something entirely unexpected and new. Instead of the negative sinking further and further into a kind of acceptance that this is ‘just how my life is’ and feeling hopeless and helpless to do anything about it, I’ve found my ‘NO’. The ‘no’ is positive and this ‘NO’ is extremely LOUD!

I don’t know how, or why the time is now, but this is what’s happened:

Because I have been back in filo pastry mode (spread so thinly you can almost see through me!) I have edged closer and closer to burnout and that drop off where everything looks really horrible – like potentially having a breakdown terrible. Everything has felt overwhelming and too much. The attachment stuff with Em has been really activated and I have felt really precarious in myself.

I have kept going, because that’s what I do, but knowing that it couldn’t last forever. Something was going to give way, eventually. I was just kind of hoping I’d get to half-term and then be able to regroup again. I am always hanging on for the holidays and that’s really no way to live.

Lately, I have been waking up in the night feeling sick with anxiety – even before I have any conscious thoughts and not because of bad dreams just because my body has been overwrought and tense. I’ve felt as though I’ve had an electric current coursing through my veins all the time. I have been perpetually wound up and because of this I have felt so so tired. I’ve basically been mega stressed out…but sort of ignoring it…because it’s kind of just ‘the norm’, it’s ‘what it’s like at this time of year when work starts up again and the nights draw in’, and because, ‘I’ll get used to it in a few weeks’.

That’s pretty standard for me. I have gone through this in cycles for almost as long as I can remember so I don’t know what’s happened in the last couple of weeks, but basically the biproduct of me overdoing it, having no time for myself, and descending into a pit of misery is that somewhere deep inside the little voice that usually gets ignored, the one that is desperately pleading for things to be different, the one who is desperate for me to listen to her because whilst she is little and vulnerable and carries so much shame (that isn’t hers to carry by the way!) she is the one who knows exactly what I need… well, she has evolved her little voice into an almighty fierce roar that is so powerful that you can hear it miles off! I can’t ignore her anymore.

So what’s she saying now she’s truly found her voice? Well, she’s yelling, ‘FUCK THIS SHIT! I AM DONE!!! NO MORE!! I am not living like this anymore. I AM THIRTY SIX YEARS OLD – IT’S TIME TO LIVE AUTHENTICALLY! I need to be who I truly am, and if people don’t like it then they can fuck right off because I am tired, so fucking sick and tired of draining myself dry living in this cycle and feeling like I’m at odds with myself, hiding myself, making myself smaller than I am because I feel that how it should be. I am important and my needs matter too! I deserve to be loved. I am worthy of care. And I will not put myself at the bottom of the pile any more! I cannot and will not keep abandoning the youngest parts of myself because that’s what I have learnt to do. I believe in myself.’

And wow, there’s a lot of oomph in there!

I have known for a long while now that a lot of the work I need to do to move things on with therapy is body based. I have talked and talked and talked in my sessions and that has certainly helped me get to this place- especially as Em has really got me to notice my body, what’s going on with it, the changes that can happen in session – especially around the dissociation stuff.

I can track my body really well now. I know my patterns. I know what gets triggered emotionally and where it manifests in my body. I am not closed off from my feelings in the way that I used to be. But now I am more in touch with it all I have a problem. It’s that thing, you know once you see something horrendous you can’t unsee it? Well, that’s what it’s like inside. Now I see and feel all that’s ‘wrong’ in my body I can’t unfeel it.  I know my nervous system is wound up like a spring and yet I haven’t been able to discharge that energy.

No amount of visualisation or breathing or whatever has helped. No amount of thinking about the pain that the young parts of me carry, or knowing more about that feeling of abandonment and deep grief really helps. And it is so hard to trust Em when my body is screaming that she’s not safe, and doesn’t really care. Adult me knows she is safe and cares but underneath there is so much fear and they just can’t seem to reach a place of safety when those feelings get activated.

There is a part of me that knows that some of the healing that needs to take place requires physical touch and connection with another person because the ‘injury’ is so early. There are no words to help this. And because that can’t happen with Em, because that’s her boundary, it feels like it just perpetually retraumatises those young, vulnerable parts because they are essentially sitting six feet away from someone who chooses to keep their physical distance and they can’t understand why.

I haven’t, yet, worked out how to hold those parts myself and I often feel like a toddler screaming out for a cuddle and being met with intellectual speak. I know that’s partly my fault. I hide behind my intellect to save myself from being vulnerable or exposed and I really need to work on that but whilst my body keeps freaking out I don’t really feel like I can get the next level of work done.

So, anyway, to the point. The anxiety felt so fucking awful a few weeks ago and the attachment stuff had flared up so badly with Em’s second break of the summer that I got in contact with a craniosacral therapist that I had seen before I got pregnant with my daughter about nine years ago to organise a session. I mean, what was there to lose?

Every interaction I have ever had with this particular therapist has felt so full of warmth and care. She’s the sort of person that just exudes calm and care and love -a typical matriarch if you like. She always makes me feel like I matter and as though she genuinely cares about me and she gives amazing hugs. And I really need that right now. I also need a full body reset!

So, on Thursday I went for my session and I can’t even explain how amazing it was. Soooooo different to before. I definitely benefited from this kind of therapy in my twenties but this time around it was transformational in just one session. I think that, in part, has to be because of all the work I have done with Em.

Last time I saw K I inherently knew something was wrong, and I knew I was grieving the loss of my dad, but I had no real understanding of all the childhood stuff or the impact it had had on me. I don’t think I was ready to do the work I needed. I know that now. I feel all that pain and loss from the most vulnerable parts of me and I am more open to it. We all know I have my defences and who they are (!!) but I really want to work on helping get them lowered or feeling safe enough so I can once and for all truly help what’s underneath. That’s actually really terrifying and it means coming home to my body…but I know it’s possible and I believe that somewhere inside my body has the resources to hold all this for itself it just needs some help to learn how.

The session on Thursday was so good. I could feel myself coming back into my body almost immediately. At times it felt like being in an elevator and steadily descending down through the floors in stages, like waves of coming back into myself until I reached the bottom and grounded. At other times it felt as though there were concentric circles expanding and contracting in my head. It was almost like a pebble had been dropped in the water in my head and the ripples were moving outwards and then back inwards over and over again. I could really feel the baby part of me in that session too but she wasn’t screaming and uncontained – she was held. Once the session had finished I felt immediately calmer and more in my body and as though  I suddenly had a protective space/forcefield around me sort of like a bubble.

Usually, I am affected by every little stressful thing because I have no defence against it but with this protective field around me…well lots of the usual stuff can’t penetrate it. It’s like a huge weight has lifted! I simply don’t care about lots of the things that have always bothered me before. It’s almost like overnight I have found an important part of myself again and see my value (where work is concerned at least. There’s still a VERY VERY long way to go with the attachment stuff, the trauma stuff, and the mother wound!!). Still, at least with work I don’t feel the need to people please anymore. I have stopped saying ‘yes’ and I have already exercised my ‘no’.

It was kind of fortuitous timing today, really. Mentally I have been practising my ‘No’ (I know exactly how I want things to look in the new year with my job) but sometimes when I’m face-to-face and someone asks me to do something my ‘No’ becomes a ‘Yes’ and I can hear that little voice inside crying, ‘Why???’

Today has been a bit of trial, day one of a period from hell (I was certainly in my body!), my mood was not good, and I unexpectedly ran into the guy I do some tutoring for in the supermarket.

I couldn’t even muster my usual ‘upbeat’ smiley face or any deflective humour. He said I looked tired and then asked me how things were with one of the jobs I do for his company because apparently one of the challenging groups I teach had been particularly difficult for the Maths guy yesterday. I said that whilst it had been largely ok on Wednesday and the sessions so far, once my current students and commitment on that course finishes in November that I won’t be running my side of the course again and that he’d need to find someone else to do it.

He looked surprised and said, ‘I don’t think there would be anyone else who could do it’. At one time I might have felt an internal pressure to continue, go against my gut which says, ‘no more’ but instead I said, ‘I just can’t do it anymore. I am so over filling other people’s leaky buckets when they aren’t at least trying to stop the leak themselves. This kind of work takes a huge toll on me and I have more than enough work that I enjoy and that is rewarding, where I don’t have to absorb that level of shit. I’ve reached a point in my career where just because I can do something doesn’t mean I am going to. I am going to be far more selective about what I take on from now on’.

I could see the surprise on his face but he could see I wasn’t going to be moved and told me that he would pass the message on to the organisation that has been running the course and accepted that whilst he knows they intend to run another cohort straight after Christmas that they’ll need to do it without me and find another English teacher.

Do you know what? I thought I might feel a bit guilty or whatever – but I don’t at all. I feel relief. Because I have listened to my inner voice and heeded her calls. I have hated Wednesdays the last few weeks doing that particular session with that particular group. It’s only three hours long, and I already have my course plan because I delivered it earlier in the year to another group so it’s not exactly a huge challenge BUT my heart just hasn’t been in it. Emotionally ‘armouring up’ just to get through has been requiring more and more energy. All the young people (18-25 year olds) have a lot going on – mental health issues, care leavers, drugs etc – and I just can’t absorb them anymore.

I don’t know if it’s that I care too much about people but I am massively affected by their stories and I feel so drained after each session then of course there is always the challenging behaviour that can come from some of these people too. And I just can’t do it anymore. Part of me feels sad because so often these groups get overlooked and with the right support things can change but I can’t do it anymore because everything else in my life suffers when I keep putting work above everything else. I am not as good a parent as usual because I am so worn out. When I am worn out my mental health suffers…and we all know where that leads… wobbly child parts and attachment hell.

My therapy session with Em on Friday was mixed. The first part was fine as I recounted the positive impact I felt from having the craniosacral session, Em said it sounded brilliant and asked what I felt that was left for us in the room in therapy. Suddenly I got hit with a wave of full body sadness as the more vulnerable parts came to the front – something had shifted again and I just really struggled to talk because there is a part of me that doesn’t know what is left for my talk therapy.

I wanted to connect and yet that overwhelming fear of being rejected and abandoned was massive again and I just couldn’t go there. I managed, in the end, to say ‘you feel really far away’ but that was about it. Ugh!

I really want for the craniosacral therapy to sit alongside the talk therapy and want for it to be able to give me the grounding and containment that I need to do more of the work. I feel ready to go down into another deeper layer with my healing journey and that why things are going to change in other areas of my life. I need to make adequate space and time for myself so that I have some resource to actually go do what needs to be done!

I know it’s going to be a slow process but I’m in it for the long haul! I think this may be my life’s work!

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8 thoughts on “Finding My ‘NO’

  1. Lucy King October 6, 2019 / 12:17 pm

    I can sooooo relate to this. I’ve also reached my limit and felt like I hated my job and life in general. Anna’s been trying to get me to put down some plates coz I can’t spin them all but it’s so hard! Sending you lots of strength and courage for all those ‘no’s’ you’re gonna be saying 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 6, 2019 / 1:07 pm

      Thanks L. It’s feeling really liberating actually – and I really feel like I’ve drawn a line in the sand. About time!! Spinning plates is exhausting. Definitely get rid of a few or let a few smash to the ground. I bet you the consequences will be minimal! Hugs x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lucy King October 6, 2019 / 10:48 pm

        I’m so glad you feel like that! You’ve inspired me… I’ve been feeling pretty guilty about letting some plates slide and also sad that I’ve not been able to keep up with it all. But I like the idea of it feeling liberating a lot! 💕

        Liked by 1 person

  2. rubberbandsandchewinggum October 8, 2019 / 6:37 am

    You can’t do it all. I’ve always been a perfectionist and taken on too much … recipe for exhaustion and burn out. I’m basically over people pleasing – especially when it’s to my detriment. I’m peeling back some layers and am ready to start doing things that serve me better even if it means disappointing a few people. Good luck with finding a new circus trick – spinning plates is overrated – be your own ringmaster x

    Like

  3. Q October 9, 2019 / 12:40 am

    Sometimes I feel like you are writing my story. The details might look a little different, but so many of the physical and emotional experiences feel familiar: the “keep going no matter what,” the burnout, the attachment and longing for a therapist who won’t use touch, the release from cranio-sacral therapy. I am full of feeling from reading this post, and I think it’s because I can relate to so much of it.

    You are doing great. You know yourself so well. You want to care for yourself. You are setting boundaries. You are looking for modalities that will reach those young inner parts who need more than words. It’s inspiring to see you do this work, and it helps reinforce my commitment to my own growth and healing. Thank you. xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 9, 2019 / 9:56 pm

      Ah thanks Q! I’m certainly trying hard – I think it’s an A for effort and an E for execution, though 😆. I loved the craniosacral session and have booked in weekly sessions for the whole of November (I’ll need to shake the magic money tree to pay for K alongside my two therapy sessions with Em!). Some interesting stuff cropped up straight after that I’ve had to work through around Em and kind of splitting into good therapist/bad therapist rather than ‘different’ therapists. Sending you heaps of love xx

      Like

  4. easetheride October 15, 2019 / 3:34 am

    I feel you so much on not having enough time to write, which sucks when writing brings us so much relief! We were learning all about compassion fatigue at my in-service today and all I could think was – let’s stop learning about self-care so I can get my shit done! Ironic, eh? It’s such a hard thing to get a handle on the many tasks in your life. I wish I had more advice for you, but unfortunately I do not. All I can say is I’m glad you’re recognizing this and taking steps to combat it. Sounds like you’ve already done a lot of great work utilizing the full list of supports to help you across your life right now. Sending hugs!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum October 15, 2019 / 10:13 pm

      Hello lovely! So great to hear from you 😊. Hugs greatly appreciated and sending some back across the pond to you. Life is so bloody busy I’m just hanging on for dear life right now. Friday signals half term break and I’m very ready for a week of no teaching! I hope you are being gentle with yourself (as much as you can be). Self care is hard so just do what you can. Coffee and a cake or half an hour earlier to bed… all counts. I’m currently staring at laptop trying to recover lost files ….. ffs!! Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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