Dear S,

Image from https://depositphotos.com

It is in my nature to blame myself.

By extension, it is also in my nature to engage in unhealthy levels of self-flagellatory introspection as a means to identify a route out of an unhappy interpersonal situation. Unsuccessfully, of course. Because no amount of intellectual consideration can truly influence the behaviour of other people.

Sometimes, you just have to accept that there are things that you cannot change.

And there it is: I can’t change you.

I can’t change…

  • your negative opinion of me
  • your decision to distance yourself from me on a personal level
  • how sensitive I am to rejection (only how I react to it behaviourally)
  • how I perceived your comments and actions towards me as a personal attack
  • how your behaviour towards me ground away at the limited amount of resilience and self-esteem that I had
  • how you routinely humiliated me in front of others that I respect
  • how you left me powerless to defend myself against you, or to action changes to counteract the damage that you caused
  • how you are so protected by others in power
  • the as yet unspecified incident(s) in which I apparently caused you such offence that you felt the need to belittle and/or dismiss me in every exchange thereafter
  • the lack of recognition of my efforts to make it up to you
  • the consequences of the months and years of holding my tongue, keeping my head down and simply absorbing your shit because there was no safe place to voice my concerns
  • the post-natal depression that suppressed my resources at the time I needed them the most
  • the lost hours that I should have been with my children instead of you
  • the effect that your behaviour has had on my personal life, especially my relationships with my family
  • the guilt I feel that I allowed this to happen
  • the past.

In reading this, I can see that if the names were reversed, you could be writing this letter too.

But the difference is, you are the person in power in this relationship.

You should be better.

You will not win.

A Little Optimism, For A Change

It turns out that self-improvement is a time-consuming business. I am making good progress towards achieving some lifestyle changes that I have been wanting to implement for quite a while, but in doing so I find myself with very little time to write! Hopefully as the changes become part of my everyday routine they will require less planning and I will get the time back again.

I am trying not to feel bad about my lack of new content as I don’t feel I would write very well at the moment, but it still weighs on my mind.

I am in the midst of another heavily-scheduled week, but watch this space for future updates on the following:

  • Dairy free diet
  • Sustainable living
  • Therapy

It would be great to get some of my writing out of the draft phase.

How do you find time to write when you are particularly busy?

Vegan Superfoods – Suggestions Anyone?

So the dairy-free diet is going fairly well, in that I haven’t lapsed at all, which is quite a surprise to me!

I wouldn’t say that the results have been miraculous to be honest. I would be tempted to give up and move onto eliminating another food, except that my reading has led me to understand that lactose can take quite a while to clear the body (either mine or my baby’s).

So, I will stick with it a bit longer…

In the meantime though, I am getting pretty bored of eating so much bread, oats, nuts and dried fruit. I’m pretty sure that my body is going to go on an all-out rebellion if I don’t get some more variety in my diet soon.

Has anyone got a suggestion for awesome vegan foods that I might be missing? Bear in mind that with two little ones I don’t get a lot of time for cooking or preparation, but I am open to recommendations.

Therapy (Version 2.0): Part 1

My thoughts and observations following my assessment session for on 15/10/2019.

Covered in this session

  • Introductions
  • Identified what was to be covered in session
  • Identified main issue to be addressed
  • Established level of immediate risk
  • Next appointment time agreed.

Reflections

Wow, what a difference a change of therapist can make.

Those of you that have read my previous blog posts about therapy will be aware of how negatively I tend to approach it, but despite not having a session for almost a month I have managed to maintain my determination to get better. I’m not saying I haven’t considered giving up on therapy and going it alone – I have, whenever I feel less bad – but my mild panic attack the other day opened my eyes to how much I am struggling. I can only assume that if I didn’t have the benefit of 20 years of experience with mental health issues and various therapies that I would be in a much less functional state right now.

Back to the assessment though. It was a pre-planned phone call with a trainee therapist called Rose. She introduced herself and talked through the format of the assessment, which was undertaken much more comprehensively than for the online therapy.

Most of the session was similar to before, ie. the therapist asking for personal about the areas in which I have been struggling.

I briefly explained to Rose my history of mental health issues. I also explained that I now believe that my current struggles are related to the postnatal depression (PND) that I developed over 2 years ago and never received treatment for. My PND was compounded by interpersonal issues at work (some would say bullying). The bad experiences at work resulted in me feeling such severe guilt, anxiety, stress, self-doubt, depression and low confidence that I believe I am essentially traumatised by these events and that is why CBT isn’t right for me just yet. Rose suggested that a better path for me would be some counselling, followed by CBT once I am in a position to focus more on the here and now.

Finally, I thought, someone is actually listening to me!

In addition to immediately having more of a rappor with Rose, I also had the benefit of a few weeks of soul-searching and reflection on the last therapy to build a more articulate depiction of my current mental state. I felt I had a better grasp of what I did and didn’t want from therapy and therefore felt more in control of the assessment process. I felt that recommendations were reached with mutual input, rather than me being forced along a standard path of treatment, as if that was the only option.

Overall I felt much more was covered in a shorter time than in the online sessions. We overran the allotted time by 15 minutes but at no point did I feel rushed.

Conclusion

I found it much easier to built a rappor with Rose due to the assessment being done over the phone rather than the clunky chatting format. Her approach was friendly and quite passive (in a good way), rather than insisting on validating everything I said in a patronising manner, which is how I felt my last therapist approached things.

I feel so relieved to talk to someone that actually seemed to listen to what I was saying and understood it.

However, I am fairly sure that my positive experience has a lot to do with the therapist undertaking the assessment (Rose), so if I am referred to another therapist for the counselling then I may find myself in a similar position to the last therapy, where we just didn’t ‘click’. This may cause me some anxiety initially, but hopefully it will prove to be unfounded.

Mood at start of session: Anxious

Mood at end of session: Positive

Has anyone else had a similar experience with therapy? I would love to hear from you.

When Anxiety Bites

Warning: Post contains gratuitous introspection and bad jokes.

Today I had a full-on anxiety attack; the first in years. I experience perpetual low-level generalised anxiety related to “life”, but this was so close to becoming a panic attack – tremors, shortness of breath, literally running away from the situation… OK, so maybe it was a mild panic attack – it took me by surprise, is my point.

Reflecting on it now, it isn’t at all surprising. All the warning signs were there; trouble sleeping, irritability, disturbing thoughts. I have had a stressful week in parenting terms and I actually mentioned to my partner the other day that I needed a break. It’s quite hard to have a proper break with a newborn though, so I’m not sure what greater self-awareness would have achieved in this scenario.

On the plus side, I have something specific to discuss with my new therapist during my appointment this week, yay?

I was only half joking in my last post when I claimed that watching the documentary about “super morbidly obese” people was research. I mean, I do have a complicated relationship with food and impulse control, so I was actually curious to see whether the programme helped me to get into the mindset where I could focus more on my unconscious motivations for binging. It appears that I may have accidentally triggered myself in the process. Duh, well done me.

After six months of being off work (maternity leave, taken early just to GTFO) I am still only just starting to tap into what the underlying causes of my anxiety are. It’s going to take a lot more work to really drill down to the core issues.

My problems with anxiety have cropped up several times since my late teens, but the last time I had therapy was early 2015. So there is FIVE YEARS worth of baggage that I’m trying to sift through.

I feel that I’m an onion (not the smelly kind) and I’m having to peel back the layers of armour that I’ve built around myself just to get through life and present as a functioning human being.

So, I’m an armoured anxiety onion.

Ha, maybe my rings just need battering?

Maybe I should go to sleep.

***

Have you any tips for ways to tap into deeper motivations behind emotions and behaviours? If so, please leave a comment. I’m open to new ideas!

On Being A Rubbish Vegan

A confession: I’m a rubbish vegan. Despite years of discomfort as a result of various food intolerances, I just can’t seem to crack the dairy-free bit.

I’m really good at being a vegetarian, as meat and fish holds no interest for me whatsoever. But dairy is an issue, which is ironic because it is quite evidently the food I react to the most.

Why do I struggle? Two words – junk food. I eat too much of it and psychologically don’t particularly want to give it up (because it’s tasty, duh) so I have a huge blind spot when it suits me.

It’s quite ridiculous really. This morning I ate a bowl of cereal with dairy-free milk, then later had a dairy-free latte with a croissant – y’know the all-butter pastry(?!). I was halfway through the damn thing before I realised my mistake.

Sad really, isn’t it?

Anyway, now that my motivations for the move towards a vegan diet have changed – though technically it’s a dairy-free (not choice) / vegetarian (choice) diet – as my son appears to be reacting to my milk, I am finally going to give it a proper go.

Tomorrow, I am going to attempt to go fully dairy-free. No all-butter pastries or milk chocolate in sight!

Updates to follow… Fingers crossed.

Time to Get Back On Track

Having just returned from a second short family break in two weeks, I am actually feeling relatively rejuvenated. [Mentally at least – physically I feel my usual level of parental exhaustion.]

As a result, I have felt quite motivated today to make a start on my short-term life goals, such as taking steps to live more sustainably and reducing the amount of dairy I consume (for health reasons).

By no means a perfect attempt – using a shampoo bar then accidentally using bottled shampoo instead of conditioner isn’t exactly less wasteful – but I’m satisfied with my efforts.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum in the coming days. Next week is going to be challenging, so I would like to get back into a positive routine as soon as possible.

Another outcome of my trips is that I’ve been too busy to write though. Fingers crossed I can get into the right mindset for that too.