Letter to my seventeen year old self.

Dear Seventeen,

I’ve just read your diary. Please don’t be mad. Wait and hear me out a minute. I know how angry you were when you woke up to find dad reading your diary on holiday in Mexico and how violated you felt back then; but please know that I am not deliberately prying into your private life or being nosy. I’m just trying to understand you better. And honestly, I am good at keeping secrets, in fact I’ve been holding onto yours for the last seventeen years of my life. I’m not here to judge you and I promise that you can trust me.

We haven’t met before. Well, I know all about you (more than you realise) but I don’t think you are aware that I even exist. I’ve been watching you stuck in your own private hell for a long, long time now. It’s like Groundhog Day for you in the year 2000 isn’t it?

Too often I have turned away from you when I should have reached out to you. I have ignored your pain and your suffering because I haven’t known how to help you. Sometimes I have wondered if you even want to be helped.

I don’t know if you know it, but sometimes you take over my body in the present (which, by the way, is 2018 and means you’re often roaming around a stretch-marked 34 year old bod’ – yeah I know, it’s not great – and to think you hate your body now is incredible!) and react to my current day issues as though you are being hurt again in the way that Mum and H hurt you. It’s like my life triggers flashbacks from your life and you (and I) are reliving the pain over and over again.

I can feel your anxiety and fear coursing through my veins. I can’t speak and I go numb. I shake. I feel your frustration. I haven’t know what to do and neither have you. I’ll admit that I have felt overwhelmed by your feelings. I know you have things to say but I also know that you are very very frightened. I understand how desperately alone you feel. It broke my heart reading your account of the pain you feel inside. I know how hard it is. I remember it well.

You feel like you have no one to listen to you and that no one cares. It feels so difficult to trust anyone. You fear getting close to people and letting them in because you think you’re going to be rejected or abandoned or ridiculed – and you don’t think you can survive it again. This year has been the hardest one yet, for you, and I am not at all surprised that you just want to run away from everything and anyone that might hurt you.

So you isolate yourself in order to avoid being hurt but you can’t be alone forever. In your heart, deep in your soul you know you need love and connection. We all do. I know it feels risky seeking that out. I know you fear annihilation. I get how scary it feels to consider opening up again after what’s happened. You are still heartbroken but the only way your heart is going to mend is through letting someone heal it with you; currently you have a handful of shattered pieces and no glue.

There is no shame in wanting to be loved. You needn’t be embarrassed for feeling love either.

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You probably won’t believe me (who can blame you after all you’ve been through); but if you can find a way to trust me, I think that I am the person that you have been waiting for. I can help you, listen to you, and love you…if you’ll let me. I really want to make things better for you – for both of us- because right now your pain is my pain and it’s crippling the pair of us.

I’m so sorry, so very sorry that circumstances have made you feel like you are not worthy of love and care. How things have been with mum are not a reflection on you. None of how she has been with you is your fault. You are not unlovable or untouchable even if that’s how you’ve been made to feel over the years.

How things have been for you growing up isn’t normal. I think you know that but really acknowledging that is devastating. You have suffered emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of the person that should have loved you and protected you the most. I assure you that there is absolutely nothing you could have done that would have changed how things have been for you.

I know that’s hard to hear, but I think you need to hear it and try and take this in. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You feel responsible for everything. And darling, some things are simply beyond your control. No matter how good you are or how much you achieve, there are some things you cannot change or control. You can only be responsible for you and not for the actions of anyone else.

What I will say, though, is this: it won’t be long until you are able to start getting away from some of the horrid stuff. Next year you will leave home and go to university, you’ll fall in love (really!), and things will start to get better. I promise you it won’t always feel this bleak. Until then, though, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to hold on tight and keep putting one foot in front of the other like you always have. I know it feels impossible sometimes.

Despite everything that has happened you are still here. You are a fighter. I know there have times when you have been very close to the edge. I know there are days you have thought about driving your car into a wall or overdosing or paddling your surfboard out to sea and never coming back. I felt the pain of each cut you made, and every burn on your skin. I know how you starve yourself. I see how regularly you purge everything from your system. You are punishing yourself over and over again for something that is simply not your fault. I don’t hate you. Why do you hate yourself?

You’ve lost sense of your value – or maybe, more accurately, you have never felt valued or loved. You feel worthless. Don’t get me wrong, I know why you feel this way. Steady and systematic emotional abuse does this to people. Now you feel like you are acting your way through life. You have little idea of who you are because you’ve spent so long trying to be what everyone else wants you to be that you really don’t know how to be yourself. You’ve struggled so hard against yourself for the last couple of years not wanting to disappoint anyone but inside you were dying.

I am so unbelievably proud of you. Coming out was massive. I know right now it feels like the worst thing you’ve ever done and you feel more lonely than ever; but those people that walked away from you, called you names, and bullied you were not your friends. I am telling you that even though it was scary and is still having a huge impact on your day-to-day you have made a huge leap forward into living authentically as who you really are. I know it takes a huge amount of courage to stand up and speak your truth but six months from now, you’ll be surrounded by people who love and accept you for exactly who you are and those people will become lifelong friends – chosen family.

I also want to say thank you. What for? For looking after the little ones. You are a force to be reckoned with, for sure! They are very lucky to have you as a protector. I know it’s difficult living your life when you continually have distraught children demanding your attention. It is not your job to hold them. It was never your job to look after them, but in the absence of an adult to care for them, you’ve done a brilliant job.

I have children (a boy and a girl). I see a lot of you in them because I remember you as a child, too. You were innocent and vibrant and full of life. You had so much love to give and then something happened and you started holding everything inside and that light you exuded steadily faded until it is now barely a flickering flame inside you. I know right now you feel bereft because, to you, coming out equates to you never having children and you so desperately want to be a mum. I’m not a time traveller but I am telling you this – children are going to be part of your future and that flame will burn brightly again in the love you have for your babies.

You are incredibly strong and I recognise just how much effort you put in to surviving. Sometimes the best you can hope for is just to keep on keeping on. You’ve done amazingly. Don’t roll your eyes! I mean it. The fact that in the face of so much pain you have still somehow held it together, passed your exams, can drive, and are alive is testament to your spirit. You are so driven and this is a good thing. It’ll take you a long way in life. But do you know what? You need to learn to relax too.

You need to let your hair down every now and again and have fun. You are so serious – so grown up- because you’ve had to be. As I said earlier, I am here now, for you and for the little ones – if you want me to be. So I am giving you permission – please relax and start to heal. The adult you all need/ed is here now. I’m not super woman but I promise you that if I can be there for you when it starts to feel scary then I am going to be there – and I am not going anywhere.

Things aren’t going to feel better overnight, I think we both know that. If things are to improve then we are going to need to work together on this. And so there’s something I need to ask you to do for me. I know you know about the therapist that I see each week because sometimes you hijack my session and stamp your feet a bit; or sometimes sit there silently raging and planning how you’re going to hurt yourself when you get the chance. Between you and the little ones there’s not a great deal of space for me in the sessions. I am, in no way, complaining about this, but I was wondering something.

I know you really like therapist but it feels risky to have feelings for her. You are attached to her just like the young ones are, ok perhaps in a slightly different way, but you do love her. And that’s ok. You want to be known by her. The idea of her really seeing you is both appealing and terrifying. Sometimes you let her see you, the real you, and other times you shut her out. When you feel close to her the alarm bells ring and you instantly back away.

Look, I’ve known this woman for six years now and I’ve been in therapy with her for three. I trust her but it’s not me that needs to talk. I’m ok. Do you think that maybe you might tell her how things are for you? Or if you can’t, do you think maybe I could tell her for you?

You’ve been holding onto this pain for such a long time, and I have been sitting on your secrets for as long as you’ve been alive and I think it’s time for us to move on.

What do you think?

Sending you so much love,

X

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Solace.

What’s 2017 year been like for me? On balance, there’s been some good, some bad, and a lot of stuff in between. It hasn’t been all cupcakes and rainbows by any means, indeed, it’s been a lot of horseshit and heartache… but that’s life, I guess!

The death of a very close friend/mother figure has shaken me to the core; then there’s been reflecting on (and being overwhelmed by) the last few years since my cancer diagnosis and treatment; finally facing the reality of my childhood and the deficit in love and care from my mother in particular; oh and of course I’ve been steadily edging towards Christmas which basically means freaking out about the therapy break and attachment pain ramping up a notch or five!

It’s not been easy, but then I don’t think life is. The older I get the more I realise that for me, at least, life is about winging it. I might be a grown up now, and a parent, but actually the childhood concept of what an adult is (or should be) is completely unrealistic. I don’t know anyone with all their ducks perfectly lined up.

Perhaps it is just me and my immediate circle of friends but, honestly, it seems to be about making the rules up as I go and holding it together with rubber bands and chewing gum…which is why I chose this blog name!

I don’t really know where this post is going to go, I’m afraid. I have been so busy this last week that I really hadn’t had any time to think about myself until yesterday’s therapy session. So, whilst I know I have stuff to say, this is likely to be more of a stream of consciousness than some well-crafted post…yeah, right, same shit different day then! Business as usual.

Why have I had no time to breathe? Well I am a mum, of course. The run into Christmas with small children is like some kind of hideous military exercise testing endurance and memory set by sadistic teachers who want payback for having to cope with your kids for the last term. The two weeks leading into the holiday is basically designed to send any sane woman (and it is mainly women) over the edge.

In the last week I have been to two nativity plays and a Christingle service (wtf is that about anyway?!). I have sent my kids dressed in non-uniform, muddy winter walk gear, Christmas jumpers, and uniform (all on the right days- win!). I really felt for the poor mum who brought her son to school in uniform on wear what you like day…it was six minutes before the bell and she almost did a handbrake turn in the road to go rectify the wardrobe error: ‘was it in the newsletter?’

I have provided ‘bring and share’ party food for two separate class parties and sat through an hour and a half of mind-numbing (but not mind-numbing enough) children’s entertainment with a room of twenty kids under four before trying to feed them all party food. I was hanging on by a thread on Tuesday and all that got me through the preschool party was some choice WhatsApp messages to a friend!: ‘Shoot me now!’

I have bought and wrapped gifts for ALL the teachers and support staff at both my daughter’s school and son’s preschool. I have basically been some kind of mum robot/Stepford Wife and it is so not me! I really am not cut out for this. I am not PTA material…which is hilarious seeing as I have taken on the frigging Vice-Chair of the preschool committee. Ok, there’s a part of me that can do this stuff well but there is another part of me that wants to hang myself when in that ‘role’.

I’d go so far as to say that I have felt a little Grinch-like lately! And it’s not just because of what I’ve written above. I’ve almost hated the idea of Christmas this year for what it inevitably means for me: a lengthy disruption to my therapy and, therefore, the sense of connection with my therapist disintegrating again (oh the drama!).

I find Christmas stressful because not only is it a time where I am left without that much-needed support from my therapist, but the break in support coincides neatly with being faced with much of what has taken me into therapy in the first place! What a bloody irony!

I feel an immense pressure to play ‘happy families’ with my mother at this time of year. For the last decade she has come to us on Christmas day. These days my relationship with my mum is as good as it could possibly hope to be. Yeah sure, we don’t touch, and there is an awkwardness between us, but I don’t feel like she despises me these days which is how I felt for a really long time.

In fact I (adult) know that she loves me… The problem with this is that there are so many parts of me that are locked in pain from the past that I can’t seem to fully operate in 2017 and take in what’s in front of me now. There are so many desperately sad young parts that feel utterly abandoned that it just stresses me out being around my mum, especially at Christmas.

I know I shouldn’t, but I often find myself longing to be with my ‘therapy mother’ over Christmas and feeling disappointed with the biological version that is in front of me because I become someone else in her presence and it is not me…or the version of me that is emerging. I want to be with the person that makes me feel safe and the person that makes it feel ok to be me. I know that my idealised version of my therapist is not who she really is, but when things feel overwhelming my head and heart run and seek solace in the therapy mother.

I know my mum would be utterly devastated if she read my blog because I think in her eyes things are fine now. She tries really hard. I can’t really criticise the here and now. The thing is, I am not fine about the past yet. I haven’t worked out how to soothe all the hurting parts and until I do I don’t think Christmas will ever be easy.

The other thing that is really hard about Christmas is spending meaningful time with my children. That sounds totally bonkers doesn’t it? What I mean is I find it really difficult knowing how easy it is for me to love my children, to hold them, to tell them how special they are, and to be there for them that it is totally devastating knowing that there are child parts inside me that are still crying out to be loved and held because they never had this nurturing growing up.

It is not a chore for me to love my kids (sure the running around like a nutcase for school is). It is not a bind for me to snuggle them up in bed and read them a bedtime story. It is not a drain on me to listen to them tell me about their day. It is not an inconvenience to be their mummy so why was it so hard for my mum to love me?

Ouch. I can’t even go there right now. #motherwound

Anyway, maybe I have been a bit Grinchy lately but what I will say, is that perhaps my heart grew three sizes yesterday in therapy, or rather the tight tight squeeze on it released a little in session and I feel a bit happier, a bit more secure….or at least I feel that way in the therapeutic relationship which is really all I seem to write about here anyway!

So, yeah, I’ve now finished therapy for the year and am officially on break until the 8th January (Eeek!). Thankfully, yesterday’s session was a good one. I gave my therapist a popup card Christmas card with a snowflake on it that symbolised how our relationship is to me. I had been really torn about whether or not I should actually give it to her and struggled to find the words to put inside it.

The therapeutic relationship is so complex. Although it is a professional relationship it feels so much more than that. I know that for many of us there have been times when our therapists are probably our most trusted relationship and the person whom we feel closest to.

I didn’t sleep much on Wednesday night. I was anxious about handing over the card but I think I was also dreading the fact that it was the last session of the year. The previous session had seen me shut down and block my therapist out which is so often what happens when we approach breaks.

I know that I am not alone in the mental to-ing and fro-ing about gift giving or card giving at Christmas (as well as at other times). I had chosen the card specifically because it was meant to be a keepsake and yet was not obviously a ‘present’. I think my therapist would accept small gifts but from what I can gather she genuinely likes the more meaningful small gestures, i.e a carefully chosen card with thoughtful words.

It took some time to work out what I wanted to say but I ended up writing:

I saw this card and thought of you/therapy/the therapeutic relationship.

Sometimes I feel like being in therapy is a bit like the adventure in Michael Rosen’s ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’:

‘We’re going on a bear hunt,

We’re going to catch a big one.

What a beautiful day!

We’re not scared!

Uh-Uh! A snowstorm!

A swirling whirling snowstorm.

We can’t go over it.

We can’t go under it.

Oh no!

We’ve got to go through it!’

It’s not always easy and I sometimes freeze when faced with  a ‘snowstorm’ or ‘thick oozy mud’. I am beginning to realise that these obstacles are all part of the journey and am hopeful that there will be plenty of beautiful days along the way. I am very grateful that you keep walking alongside me even when the terrain is pretty treacherous.

Keeping on with the snow theme, the snowflake serves as a great metaphor for how I feel in our relationship. The Inner Critic is always so ready to devalue and undermine what there is in the therapeutic relationship (especially when I can’t see you) because it knows that to you I am just one of many clients. I am forgettable just like a snowflake in a blizzard.

However, some people say that each individual snowflake is unique and special in its own way and so it is hard to compare one with another. So this Christmas I am trying hard to remember that actually no matter how many snowflakes there are, to me this one/relationship is special, it is valuable and really that’s all that really matters. 

I hope you have a lovely Christmas holiday and rest well- you surely deserve it just for listening to me.

With love,

There was so much I wanted to say when I was trying to find words for the card and somehow at the same time I was acutely aware of not ‘saying too much’ or ‘being too much’ or ‘overstepping a boundary’ or making her feel ‘awkward’. It’s so difficult knowing where that line is. Although, interestingly, my therapist said something that really stuck with me yesterday and that is:

‘boundaries are not barriers’

I am really going to try and keep that in mind because I have always felt that boundaries are designed to keep me out and stop me really getting close to her but perhaps that’s not the case?

She said something about working on the space between us and the relationship and so I’ll see if I can reframe my thinking about all this stuff over the holiday. I think it is something I want to come back to with her and ask her exactly what she meant.

It felt like we covered a lot of ground yesterday. I won’t go into it all here. I don’t have time and I need to sleep…but we talked about love A LOT. We haven’t done that before and it was really connecting.

Those of you that read this blog regularly know that I really love my therapist, and that’s not meant in some wishy washy ‘fond of’ or ‘warm feelings’ kind of way. I genuinely love her, and as much as it has filled me with intense feelings of shame and embarrassment (not sure that should be ‘has’ – we are certainly not in past tense with this yet!) there is also a bit of me that is beginning to see that it would be a bit bloody weird if I didn’t have feelings for my therapist after all these years!

I met her six years ago now, and although the was a break in the middle we have worked together for three years – nineteen months this time round! Don’t get me wrong. I have all kinds of feelings (positive and negative) about my therapist but yesterday I just really wanted to focus on the positives and the love rather than feelings of loss and abandonment about the break.

I wanted to talk about what there is rather than what I feel is lacking (hugs!). I really wanted to connect and get a sense of the relationship being real and not just something that is one sided and all in my head (which is how it sometimes feels)…and fortunately that’s exactly what happened.

When she read the card she started really talking to me about our relationship, about love, loving feelings, finding a way to make the space feel soothing, her choice to work with me, the fact that she isn’t going away, that the therapy will go on for as long as I need it….basically it was lots of the stuff I really needed to hear. Yay.

Of course, there’s a part of me that always wants more but under the circumstances, yesterday’s session left me feeling about as good as I could heading into a break. I’ve already had a wobble or two since yesterday. Can’t win! If I get the connection and sense of care I so desperately want in session, then moment I am away from her it feels like it disappears and suddenly I have all these little parts totally awake and screaming out for ‘mummy’. It’s really quite sad.

There are other times when feel like my therapist is so walled off from me and the blank screen thing is massively frustrating because I feel like she is holding me at arm’s length. How I perceive her has much more to do with me than how she actually is, though. She is incredibly consistent and warm. I just can’t always see, feel, or take in the care that she gives me. I don’t know what’s worse feeling the ache of the distance or managing the rage of being abandoned!

My own walls can be so thick and my heart so heavily guarded that there are times when there is nothing at all she could say to get through to me. My Inner Critic is massively powerful and persuasive and always ready to tell me that the relationship is worthless and that I am loser for even having feelings about a therapist. Thankfully, yesterday it didn’t come to therapy with me. I left it at home grumbling and bah humbugging!

I’m not sure where the Critic is at the moment, but I would really love for it to stay away over the break. I would like to think that I can just be here with the child parts and find a way to soothe them with gentle reminders that my therapist does care and that she will be back.

I’m not stupid, though. I know how this all works. I’ve been here enough times to know that there is always a calm before my inner storm. I know that the moment the little ones get really activated, really miss her and it is sustained for a few days that the nasty protector will step up. I know it will scare them into silence and make suggestions on how to get away from these feelings: cutting, burning, not eating, terminating therapy. It’s just shit.

Anyway, I’m going offline for a few days as of Christmas Eve. We always try and do a tech black out over Christmas: phones, laptops, and I-pads get put in a box for 48 hours. It’s both refreshing and terrifying disconnecting from the outside world. I think it’s important that we engage with what’s in the room in front of us rather than scrolling through and liking pictures of other people’s Christmases. I don’t want my kids to think that 6 inch screen is more interesting than they are.

This year, in particular, I think it’ll be me that will find this no phone zone thing a challenge whereas usually it’s my wife. The reason for this is because since I have started this blog I have made some really supportive friends. The idea of not being able to check in to ‘scream on screen’ or simply lament how tough it is at Christmas is going to be tricky.

Other than here, there is nowhere else that I let the attachment pain stuff out apart from in therapy (and let’s face it, I struggle to really say how it is there!). I know that this ache intensifies during breaks and so being unable to write about it or get some support from others who ‘get it’ is going to be a trial. I’ll probably binge read blogs on the 27th December! haha!

So as this will be my last blog before Christmas, I am going to sign off for now with this piece, ‘Solace’ by writer and poet David Whyte. It popped up on my Facebook feed the other day and I thought I’d share it because it really spoke to me, perhaps it will speak to you too.

I know I’m not the only one who finds the Christmas holiday difficult. I know there are a lot of you struggling with all kinds of issues right now: rifts with family members, feeling unsettled with therapists or simply just missing them, generally struggling to feel connected and safe with people whom you love and care for, missing lost loved ones. None of it is easy.

I really hope that whatever comes up for you over the next few weeks you can find some solace whether it be in nature, in a pet, in a loved one, art, music, anywhere. I hope that you might find it somewhere deep within yourself. Be safe in the knowledge that you are important and special and loved. You are as unique as a snowflake but like a snowflake, you do not fall down from the sky alone, you are surrounded by others, not the same as you, but not amazingly different to you either.

Merry Christmas x

From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of EverydayWords.
2015 © David Whyte: and Many Rivers Press

Solace is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, often in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavor; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.

Solace is the spacious, imaginative home we make where disappointment goes to be welcomed and rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation.

Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate foundational wisdom to come to the fore, a part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave like everything else, and leads us, when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, to the birdsong in the tree above our heads, even as we are being told of a death, each note an essence of morning and of mourning; of the current of a life moving on, but somehow, also, and most beautifully, carrying, bearing, and even celebrating the life we have just lost. – A life we could not see or appreciate until it was taken from us –

To be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands, to a voice that does not soothe falsely, but touches the epicenter of our pain or articulates the essence of our loss, and then emancipates us into the privilege of both life and death as an equal birthright.

Solace is not an evasion, nor a cure for our suffering, nor a made up state of mind. Solace is a direct seeing and participation; a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part. Solace is not meant to be an answer, but an invitation, through the door of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.

To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even more amusing companions for others. But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable loss that will accompany you? And how will you endure it through the years? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you were beginning to understand it, take you away?

 

Spread a bit thin.

I’d be lying if I said that I resembled anything other than a sheet of uncooked, filo pastry at the moment (metaphorically, of course, although I do feel a bit transparent, pale, and pasty at the moment – gotta love the British climate!). What I mean is that I feel like I am spread a bit thin.

I know this is a bit of a weird analogy to use, but I am a GBBO fan/loser (decide for yourself). For those of you not in the UK, ‘The Great British Bake Off’ is a baking competition and week by week the contestants take on various baking challenges set around a theme: bread week, cake week, biscuit week, pudding week…

I often get the sense of being like an unskilled/unfortunate baker on pastry week. I try to get lovely thin sheets of filo (read as high functioning, optimum performance in life) and invariably just try that bit too hard, stretch the sheet a bit much and then a whacking great hole appears and the whole thing is totally fucked.

My filo pastry (life/self/who knows?- the metaphor has run its distance) has torn and split more times that I can count now. I try and patch it back up with a bit of egg wash (I need to get that bake in the oven!) but ultimately I am not going to be crowned ‘Star Baker’ any time soon.

So that’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m sure no one is any the wiser after that convoluted explanation.

Let’s start again.

Things in my life are ok, or as ok as they ever are. There hasn’t been any more significant trauma or upheaval in the last week or so, nothing has really changed, but I think the cumulative effect of the last few weeks and years (cancer, bereavement, and mental health struggles) combined with having zero time to myself is finally catching up with me.

I feel like I am spread a bit thin and the cracks are starting to show now. Those of you that follow this blog may well be thinking, “hang on a minute, love, the ‘cracks’ are more like ‘chasms’ and have been around for ages” and of course you’d be totally right. What I mean is the face I present outwardly in my day-to-day life is beginning to crack. The painted smile and the ‘can do’ attitude is faltering. I literally don’t think I can take on much more without things falling apart and so it is daft that I have been taking more and more things on…

It’s not totally desperate yet. I think I can pull this back from the brink by saying ‘no’ a bit more frequently and take some time out over Christmas. Right now I am just about functioning in my day-to-day and not spending hours lying in bed whenever the opportunity presents….which is probably because there have been no opportunities presenting for me to do that!! I am shattered and could do with a rest. I’m fighting my second chest infection in as many months and need to recharge my batteries.

I have been unusually busy this last week which is why I haven’t sat down to write anything, not because I don’t have things to say (I have two good – but tough- therapy sessions to talk about! – yay!), I just literally have not had the time or the space to really sit down and think or process much. I am always at the bottom of my ‘to do’ list and things keep cropping up that require my time and attention.

I wish I could say that the reason I haven’t been able to sit and write is because I have been undertaking highly stimulating activities (oh, god, I haven’t even had time for that in the last couple of weeks – no wonder I feel like a woman on the edge!…brb….!) but it’s not the case.

Actually this whole blog post is just me moaning. I’m really just complaining about niggly things that on top of the ‘big stuff’ that I am shackled to and drag along behind me are making me feel a bit shaky. There are too many plates spinning and it’s only a matter of time until one smashes on the floor. Or I breakdown.

The daily current ‘ugh’ is the school run stuff and ‘being a mum’ duties. I just want to make it absolutely clear here that although I excel at small talk and ‘mum’ things and being the organiser … I literally want to hang myself sometimes in the playground, or sitting at martial arts lessons, swimming lessons or blah blah blah. I sit there wondering where ‘I’ have gone. Who am I now?

I love that my kids do these things and are growing in competence and confidence but continually running about getting everyone to the right place, at the right time, with the right gear is a bit draining, frankly…. and that’s before you add in being an acceptable mother in conversation with people you have nothing in common with, whilst watching the kids do these things. I identify more with the women in ‘Bad Moms’…which means I don’t feel like I fit the mould!

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids and would die for them but I could not give even the tiniest nugget of shit about either of their nativity plays (so shoot me already – it’s just a fucking hassle – where do I get a sodding horse outfit from anyway?!); how to organise the ‘bring and share’ Christmas lunch (title is self-evident is it not?); or ensuring that exactly 50% of the ‘mum’s Christmas night out’ meal (heaven help me!) is paid for by a certain date with pre-selected menu choice…… I mean really, I just want to die. I used to have a career and I was not completely intellectually dead.

I am aware that, to date, I have participated in the bare minimum of mum things, i.e PTA, fundraisers or whatever. I am more of a drop and run type mum at the gates: kiss, cuddle, ‘have a nice day’, and then get my head down and get the hell out of there. So of course, lately not wanting to be the mum that doesn’t do enough, (I tell you mums are a judging cliquey bunch) to show willing I recently attended a pre-school committee meeting…..FUCK ME!

If you don’t have kids then you can have no idea what level of torture something like this is to anyone with half a brain cell. Think bad, inefficient staff meeting and then add on an extra hour for good measure. I recommend one of two things to you, 1) don’t have kids, 2) take a leaf out of my book, learn from my error, and NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GO TO ONE OF THESE MEETINGS.

A few weeks back it was that time of year where some members were standing down and others were required to fill the roles…you can see where this is going can’t you? They needed a chair and vice-chair among other roles. The vice-chair line manages the staff and is responsible for observing learning in the setting, ensuring quality, keeping the development plan up-to-date and accurate, and the person deals with Ofsted… basically it’s the bit that makes sure everything is good for inspection.

So there I was, there to make up the numbers when suddenly all eyes were on me.

I knew what they were thinking.

Had it not been the same day as my friend’s funeral I probably would have said ‘not a chance! Don’t you all look at me like that! It isn’t going to happen.’ but instead I said ‘Look, I’ve got to leave in a minute but I can see that my skill set does lend itself to this role, I’ve supervised and trained teachers and am used to dealing with Ofsted, so I’ll do it if you want’. I swear I had an out of body experience and watched myself from above as those words came out of my mouth. WTF?!

So of course, because I am actually pretty astute and capable I have gone into this stuff all guns blazing. There is a lot to do to and there was a meeting this week in which I proposed a strategy for meeting some of the Early Years criteria and how to staff it, then somehow offered to shortlist interviewees for a post in the setting and lead the interview in a couple of weeks. Again WTF? WTF am I doing?

I don’t know.

Ok, maybe if I am honest I do know what’s going here. I am aware that fairly imminently the emotional shit is going to hit the fan (cue Christmas therapy break) and so I am taking on commitments and distractions to keep busy in order to avoid the inevitable.

I am piling things into my calendar to keep busy and also in some weird way to make it so that I have to keep both emotionally and physically intact. Like today, for example, I invited my kids’ half-brother and mum (the kids have the same sperm donor) to visit for three days at the start of my therapy break…which will be lovely, but right now the last thing I need is to be running about after other people.

We all know that this strategy is going to be about as effective as a chocolate fireguard, don’t we?

I know all that will happen is that this feeling of being spread too thin is going to be exacerbated the moment the therapy break kicks in. I know this because since finding out the exact length of the therapy break in Monday’s session my appetite has gone right off, I’ve had to will myself to eat and feel very dissatisfied with my body….ah that wonderful coping mechanism. Suddenly all these niggly activities and drains on my energy feel unmanageable because as I am already starting to sink into the pits of attachment pain.

Basically what I’ve done in the last few weeks is go into denial. I am desperately  pretending to myself that my last therapy session is not actually on the 11th of December and that I do not have an almost four week break until the next session on the 8th of January.

The thing is….all the denial in the world isn’t going to change things at 11:20am on the 11th as I walk out of therapy for the last time this year is it?

Did I mention that I hate therapy breaks?

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Let’s do a Skype session!

I’m just going to put this out there:

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There’s no two ways about it, having to be a responsible adult is really fucking difficult sometimes. Like, err, today for example. Ugh!

I knew it was going to happen. It always does. One of my kids gets sick then the other follows along shortly after. Today was my son’s turn to get the dreaded lurgy.

I posted on Friday how nice it had been spending time with my poorly daughter watching movies on the sofa when she was off sick from school. Today should have been the same, right, only this time with my son? Yeah. It didn’t feel like that this morning at all. Why? Monday is my therapy day.

I’m sure you’ve joined the dots by now but the mother of an ill child does not a therapy-goer make! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I was operating on two levels simultaneously this morning:

  1. Mother: giver of calpol, cuddles, and care
  2. Inner Child: tantruming, terrified, and tetchy

It was clear as day that my son would not be going to pre-school. Calpol wasn’t going to cut it. He was running a temperature, had a croaky voice, and was complaining of sore throat. He was too ill to go to school but well enough to fight with his sister and generally kick up a storm before it was even 7am! My wife was in meetings all day and couldn’t be at home so I could go to session.

Bummer.

I know I complain a lot about not talking in therapy, or not saying what I need to, or miscommunicating, or whatever- but I at least wanted to be in the chair to have a go at getting it all out rather than having to hold it for another week!

After the last few sessions that have been quite emotional and exposing I really needed to see my therapist today. I’m crap at holding this stuff for myself and the idea of having to wait another week to begin to tackle any of what I have let out was just unbearable. I’m crap with any kind of disruption to the therapy and couldn’t bear the idea that next week would be a write off due to my non-attendance this week.

I was about to send a text to tell her I wasn’t going to make it to session but then decided to ask for a phone/skype/FaceTime session instead. I’m actually not a massive fan of Skype but frankly anything was better than nothing. She agreed and so we were lined up and ready to go at 10:30am.

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It was a weird session in some ways. I know I communicate better in person….actually, that’s a lie, that should say writing, but given the options available to me today I was willing to give it a go. It was lovely to see her face and connect even if it was through a screen.

I remained firmly in my adult which is just typical when it’s the little ones that have been causing me a lot of upset. It’s hardly surprising, though, as I did have my son wandering around the house, periodically climbing all over me, and randomly coming to show Em his dinosaurs!

It’s funny, she’s never even seen a picture of my son until today, and yet she’s met my daughter many many times. When I was in therapy with Em last time my daughter was a newborn. I literally had my C-section and the moment I was able to drive again started the therapy. My daughter would come to sessions with me so I could feed her etc.

I sometimes I forget when I get nervous or anxious that this woman has sat with me talking whilst I’ve breast-fed and that really there is absolutely nothing to worry about when I am with her.

It was nice to see her interacting with my son in the way that she used to with my daughter. It reminded me of how warm and how safe she is. I had kind of forgotten that side of her somehow.

So even though I didn’t really talk much today about this big issues….in fact it’d be fair to say all I did was moan at her, the session was good. I feel I can survive the week now. I know that she is still there and actually, I think she does actually care. I think there is real strength in this therapeutic relationship.

Let’s please hang onto that til next Monday!

 

 

‘True Colors’

I have to say it, being a Brit, it really pains me to type ‘colors’ like that, but never mind! All will become clear later!

Lately, I’ve felt pretty low, well severely down in the dumps, actually! My posts have reflected this, I think. It’s all been quite doom and gloom – but I’m not going to apologise because everything  I have posted has been an honest reflection of how things have felt. The purpose of this blog was for me to have a space to let some stuff out without having to dress it up or play it down. It is what it is. I just wish things were better.

I’ve been struggling with being in therapy, the therapeutic relationship, and particularly therapy breaks – basically it’s all been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and I don’t like rollercoasters now that I am in my thirties – they make me sick and my brain feels like it’s rattling in my head! A lot of the time I have felt overwhelmed and hopeless and I feel like I am existing, or even just simply surviving between sessions rather than living. It’s rubbish.

I have been increasingly frustrated by my inability to talk in my sessions or tell my therapist how it is. It seems that any time I do manage to pluck up the courage to tell my therapist how I feel about her and the relationship that I pay a ridiculously heavy price after the event. I struggle enormously in the week between sessions and desperately feel the need for reassurance and connection with her. It’s almost as though when I expose myself and am vulnerable a part of me moves in that essentially tells me I’ve made a mistake, that I will have frightened her off, and that she will terminate me for being too much. It’s a nightmare.

There are certainly days when I just can’t see the wood for the trees, so to speak. I can’t see what I do have that is positive as am overcome with feelings about what I don’t, or rather, if we are thinking about it properly, what I didn’t have as a child. I find Wednesdays and Thursdays pretty dire. I feel lost, alone, and so small that it’s just too much for me and I shut down. I know that I’m right in the thick of dealing with attachment trauma and all the associated feelings that go with it but even though I know what’s going on and why it’s happening, it’s not easy.

I am really not sure unless you’ve experienced this kind of thing if you can have any idea just how scary and hellish it feels to be caught up in it. It’s like being a tiny child again and reliving all the emotions of fear and anxiety that were repressed at the time. You may be in an adult body, but believe me the terror is that of a child. It really can feel like it’s a life and death situation being caught up in the abandonment stuff. You know you need rescuing, and essentially the only person to do it is going to be your adult self, but they don’t have the strength to do it yet.

I sometimes sit and wonder why has this happened to me? What did I do wrong to end up in this mess? Maybe if I had just been a better kid my mum have loved me more? Could I have done something to make me more lovable, more worthy of her care, affection, and attention? If I had have been better would she have stayed when I was small rather than going away Sunday to Friday to study at Uni?

I wonder what would it have been like to not be perpetually at child-minders or later letting myself in with a key? What would it have been like to not always be missing an absent mother? What would a bedtime story snuggled into my mum have been like? How would it have felt to have someone drop me at school, make me a packed lunch,  and iron my uniform?

What would it have been like to have my mum look after me when I was sick rather than being packed off to school or to a relative? What would it have felt like to be held and told I was loved? How different would I be if I hadn’t have felt like I was in the way, that my interests were boring and childish? How would it have been to be accepted for who I was not always trying to be someone I wasn’t? How might it have been to not be yelled at for existing? What is it like to not be scared of a parent? What would it feel like to be securely attached?

I don’t know.

But the truth of it is, I was a really good kid, I was abnormally well-behaved and helpful and quiet. I was friendly and popular and hardworking. I was not trouble at all. I tried to be as little of an inconvenience as possible and yet being a self-sufficient little adult was not enough. I just wasn’t really wanted. I know I was an ‘accident’ which I don’t think helped.

The thing is, despite all the pain and hurt I know my mum did the best she could, it just wasn’t good enough. I know she has her own issues with her parents. I know that she struggles with feeling inadequate. She is not a monster. We just, for whatever reason, can’t connect to one another. She doesn’t get me and I will never allow her in to my inner world now after all the hurt and damage that was caused growing up.

Looking back I find it so sad to see that I longed for someone to make it all better. I idolised my teachers and longed for a Mary Poppins figure to swoop in and make it all better, bridge a gap until my mum got it together and realised she had a daughter that needed her and loved her more than anything. The tragic thing is, that despite all this hurt and pain I still adore my mum. I just want to matter to her. I want to be good enough.

I’ve found that my issues with childhood attachment trauma – or maybe we’ll just simply call it a shit load of emotional neglect and abuse from a young mother who didn’t know what the hell she was doing- have become more evident to me since having my own children.

Being gay I never imagined I would have babies. I always wanted to be a mum, though. I always wanted to have a pregnancy. In my mid-twenties I resigned myself to the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen and instead got several fur babies! There was always a big gaping hole in me. It’s hard to explain but I think it’s a similar feeling to that hole you feel from attachment trauma. There’s a gaping hole that you can’t fill…only in this case you can, and in comes in the form of a small person.

As more and more of my friends started families I grew steadily more depressed. In 2011 a friend from work had a baby. I went to visit her and came home in tears. That’s when my wife and I began seriously investigating sperm donors. The law around same sex marriage had recently changed and we had got married in 2010.  Having our relationship recognised in law made things much simpler with regard to children as my wife automatically would be listed on any resulting child’s birth certificate. There was no need for her to adopt our babies and importantly any sperm donor would have no legal comeback as he would not be recognised as a parent.

We found our donor, who is just the best, such a fabulous guy, and amazingly got pregnant on our first attempt. Our daughter arrived in 2012 and our son in 2014. These children are the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. Here’s where I start gushing!! I would die for those kids and love them more than anything. The love I have for my kids surpasses anything I thought possible. I am so happy to have them. The thing is, and of course there is always something, being so totally in love with my babies has made me even more aware of what I missed out on as a child. I cannot understand how it is possible to emotionally and physically abandon your kids. It is just beyond my comprehension.

I shower my kids in kisses and cuddles. I make a point of telling them everyday just how much I love them. I am here for them when they are sick. I am here for them when they are well. I do the school run. I go to parent/teacher meeting. I engage in activities that they enjoy. I try and make them feel safe and secure.

Ok, I serve up beige food more than I should and I certainly have my moments where I could do things better. We all fuck it up sometimes. But on balance I think I am a ‘good enough’ parent. I am not perfect. No one is. But I have a good go at trying to meet their needs and accept them in all their states. I’m certainly not a fan of tantrums and back chatting but part of me is delighted that they do it because I wouldn’t have dared. I am so happy that they feel secure enough to have a meltdown!

Importantly, when I get it wrong, I talk to them about it. I can admit my faults and I apologise. I don’t have a mummy meltdown and then just leave them thinking everything is their fault. I never had that and so now always doubt my experience and role in how things were.

Anyway, to the title ‘True Colors’. My daughter was off sick from school yesterday and so we spent the day snuggled in our pjs watching movies. She loves Trolls. I do too. It’s so uplifting and colourful. I can’t help but smile when I watch it. The little girl in me likes it just as much as my five year old daughter. I think what I need to do more and more is include my little girl part in the activities I do with my kids. She enjoys trips to the ice-cream parlour, play-doh, and picnics on the carpet as much as the kids do. Whilst I am parenting my babies maybe I need to parent Little Me, Four, Seven, Eleven … I am not sure the Teenager would be up for it, but perhaps I’ll ask!

I feel so much of the time like Branch, the troll who has experienced a terrible loss and feels guilt ridden about how it happened. He has lost his colour. He isolates himself from the rest of the trolls. he is miserable and lonely but pretends that he doesn’t need anyone. As the story goes on the other, still colourful, trolls are captured and face death, they all lose their colour like Branch. But in this moment of joint misery and fear, Branch starts singing, something he has refused to do since his grandmother died. Steadily, despite the situation they are in and how scared they are, their colour and happiness comes back.

Somedays I am black and colourless like Branch and occasionally I can forget myself a bit, let go, and appreciate what I do have and the colour starts to seep in, the thing is, it doesn’t last.  It’s learning how to hang onto it that is the task. When Branch starts the song everyone is dark, they are sad, they are scared. But his empathy for the situation and sitting with everyone slowly brings back everyone’s colour and happiness. I hope this is what therapy will gradually do for me.

Lyrically, this song is genius, and yes, I know it’s originally by Cyndi Lauper!!

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged, oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I will always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
I see your true colors
Shining through (true colors)
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh ooh like a rainbow

Ooh

Ooh can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
Ooh oh oh
This world makes you crazy
Taking all you can bear
Just, call me up
‘Cause I’ll be always be there

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid (don’t be afraid)
To let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Ooh ooh oh like a rainbow

Watch this clip and get a little bit of rainbow in your day. It’s such a feel good song, and let’s face it on a gloomy day we could all use a bit of child’s animation with a serious message. And to be honest, the trolls have it completely right. They set time aside every hour or so for ‘hug time’. We could learn a lot! 🙂

Honestly, believe it, your true colours are beautiful like a rainbow. x