Coming out of my paper bag

So sorry I haven’t blogged for a while. I guess my last therapy session was a lil triggering or something, coz I’ve been pretty much spinning since then. A friend described it as suddenly having the paper bag close around you. Yes, that’s exactly what the last week has been like.

Talking about my teenage years brought back all these feelings of being 15 again and sent my inner critic into over drive.

Thankfully the paper bag has opened again and I’ve been able to stuff all that nastiness back in and stomp on it good and proper. For now, at least. I have therapy again tomorrow so I’m sure my therapist will do her best to open up those old wounds again.



Wonder Therapist: “So, do you want to talk about your teenage years?”

Me: “Yea, I guess. You’ve said a few times that I don’t talk much about that period in my life.”

Wonder Therapist: “No. You don’t. It’s like a whole decade of your life is missing… which is like a quarter of your life. I think you’re avoiding it.”

As David might say, “You got me.”

I am too trashed to even post.

Sugar and spice and all things nice

My therapist has remarked a few times that I don’t talk much about my teenage years. No, I don’t. I’m too embarrassed and ashamed; too afraid to go there. All this time I’ve thought I was the problem: that there was some inherent defect in me; some inherent badness that I’ve not wanted to reveal.

I’m starting to wonder, though, if I wasn’t the problem after all. Well… I was, but only because of circumstances and the things that were done to me – not because I was inherently bad in any way.

Even after all these months of therapy I’m still not sure about this.

I was very unhappy for most of my teenage years. Aside from the regular awkwardness of growing up, there was the fact that I lived two lives: one pretending I was “normal” when at school… and another life at home.

I was a social outcast, particularly with boys. I avoided being around the boys, except in groups. I’d go to parties, but I’d act the fool and get drunk. It got laughs and also blocked out the hard stuff.

I didn’t get asked on a date until I was about 17. I never got asked to the “prom”. I never had that gooey, gushy awkwardness of teenage boys and girls. I was even too embarrassed to hang around too long at the tram stop after school. I was fat and ugly and I thought that’s why the boys didn’t like me. Perhaps it was, I don’t know? Or perhaps it was just that I didn’t understand life and boys and stuff like that? Perhaps it was that my father had scarred me so I was too scared, I don’t know?

When I was about 15 my father started accusing me of being a lesbian. It sounds so silly now, but when you’re 15 and growing up and life is awkward and fumbly and hard anyway… well, it just adds another scar. It shouldn’t, but given that everything my father said to me was negative, he only meant one thing with these comments. (As I sit here now, I wonder what the hell sort of father makes those kinds of comments to his daughter anyway, but I haven’t digested that.)

So I felt alone and unloved and that I didn’t belong, either at home or at school/with friends. I hated going home after school. My father and I would fight. When I grew up a bit I started arguing and fighting back… and that always spelled trouble. Eventually I learned that and I’d hide away in my room and do my homework… and cut myself or burn myself, just to take myself away for a little while.

Back then I’d tell myself that I didn’t want to go out anyway, but I did. I didn’t understand why the boys didn’t like me. I thought I was broken in some way. I just wanted to be pretty like the other girls and dress up in pretty dresses. Even now I’d like a pretty dress, but I’m still too embarrassed and ashamed to wear it.

Feeling flat

Sorry, a brief interlude in my treatise on healing. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus today. I’m feeling flat. Crushed and squished at the bottom of the pit. No one said the healing road was easy, did they?

  1. I went back to work today, after several days off sick. I feel so stressed being there. Completely out of my depth and serving no purpose. It’s exhausting. I don’t know where my motivation has gone, or how to get it back. It’s driving me nuts.
  2. My best friend has abandoned me, or at least that’s how it feels. We haven’t spoken for three weeks now, which is really unusual for us. Plus she’s ignored all the messages I’ve left for her. I know she’s got a lot on at the moment, but … well, and here’s the hideous selfish bit… she’s been such a rock for me. I can’t do this without her. I don’t know what to do without her. And I’m worried that I’ve done something wrong, though I’ve no idea what it is. I miss her. I want her back. I need her back. I even just need to know that things are ok between us. I don’t know what I’ll do if they’re not.
  3. I’m having a housewarming party next week, which I originally thought was a great idea. It’s the first time in… well, EVER that I’ve had a party and not been paralysed by fears about who will come (and who won’t), what my friends will think of each other, whether I will be a good host, whether the food will be any good… blah blah blah. Well, that was until my mother said she might not make it. For all her faults, I really would like her to come, but she can’t get a carer for my father. And he might need to go back into hospital for another blood transfusion. Is this the beginning of the end, as my doctor said it might be? Dare I think it? The blood transfusions are getting more frequent and not lasting as long … could he be mortal after all?

So that’s why I feel flat. Not much healing going on here today. Sorry folks.

In which I complete the checklist … or Yet more rambles on healing, nurturing and the like – Part Three

Having set myself some homework in my last post, I duly completed the task. Going public with this was clearly the kick in the a$$ that I needed: I am nothing if not reliable and conscientious – to the point of being nauseating.

You’ll recall that the book I was reading has five domains in which to assess your satisfaction with life, and your balance in the different domains. It gives you multiple questions and then a score out of 50 for each domain. It says a score above 40 means that area of life is probably working pretty well for you. Anything less than 30 warrants some attention pretty fast. Here are my scores:

                Work:                    26/50

                Health:                 19/50

                Mind:                    29/50

                Leisure:               14/50

                Social Support: 13/50

So much for anything above 40, eh? So much for the balance that those of us born under a certain sign crave, eh?

Sure, I know little quizzes like this are limited in their utility. The point for me is not the score itself, but what this represents in terms of my satisfaction with these parts of my life. For me this was a nice way to crystallise things I already knew but hadn’t necessarily been able to articulate.

I think what this says is that I’m doing a pretty good job of stimulating my mind. Between work and play, and therapy of course, my mind is reasonably stimulated. It also says there are elements of my work that are satisfying me. That’s true, though after a recent series of posts, we all know which things need to change there!

The areas I obviously need to focus on are:

  • health
  • leisure, and
  • social support.

I knew this, though I couldn’t necessarily have named it this way.

As I said last time, getting more balance is another matter. I’m not really sure where to start. Perhaps health is an obvious one given I’m now afflicted with a chest infection and popping antibiotics and cortisone like Tic Tacs. Perhaps when the doctor says “rest” she means I shouldn’t sit up half the night writing blog posts or playing stoopid farm games on social networking sites? LOL

My therapist thinks getting more balance is merely a matter of identifying things I’d like to do, and then booking a slot in a course, or whatever, but there’s more to it than that for me.

I know there are some things I’d like to do – exercise more, for one thing. That’s ok – I can do that, when I’m not sick (though at the moment I feel like every time I start to exercise again, I get sick again… which takes me back to the health aspect again … *Sigh*).

Another thing I’d like to do is something creative. For a while I’ve wanted to get back into drawing, or take a class in photography or even painting. But doing any of these things means I have to face a whole bunch of other fears and insecurities and anxieties.

Odd as this sounds, I’m reminded of a scene from The West Wing. It’s the final season, penultimate episode, in which CJ is contemplating life after the White House. She has job offers coming out of her ears and is questioning her newly consummated relationship with Danny. At the end of the ep she tells him she isn’t sure she can do a relationship:

CJ: “This is who I am. I’m good at my job. I’m good at working….”

Danny: “We’ll figure it out. All of it…. I want you to do what you want…. I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it’ll mean and how we’ll make it work…. I want us to talk….”

CJ: “Franklin Hollis wants me to take $10 billion and go and fix the world.”

Danny: “That sounds like fun. Does that sound like fun to you?” She nods. “Do you want to work at the White House?” She shakes her head.

Obviously I’m no CJ, but there are some parallels here for me. Maybe she should join me in my therapist’s office? Or may be she too needs a little book Kate recommended – on which I shall pontificate next time… 😉

A ramble on healing, nurturing and the like – Part One

I sat down tonight to write a quick post on healing and self-care – following in the footsteps of some esteemed bloggers, here, here and here. I ended up writing a thesis. I’ve been mulling over this question of “what is healing?” for quite some time, but without any magical answers.

Here are my thoughts… I’ve broken this into a few parts so that I don’t put you all in a coma in the first go! 😉

Some days I think I’ll never be healed (however we conceive it). Every week I go to my therapist’s office and it seems I’m reminded of that. That’s my fault, not hers: she is always pointing out to me how far I’ve come, how good things are now, etc etc. But my head just says, “yes, but…”

It’s like I’m sitting there and the Universe is dangling everything I want in front of me, but whenever I reach out to grab it that same Universe says, “uh huh huh. No no,” and laughs at me for wanting those things.

Perhaps I’m doing a couple of things in these moments which, cognitively speaking, are a direct route to unhappiness: (1) I’m comparing myself to others and to some unattainable “perfect” life and (2) I’m focussing on the negative – the things I don’t have, rather than the things I do have.

This part of my brain wants to quit now. Quit. That’s Q.U.I.T. If I quit now perhaps I can avoid any more disappointment? This part of my brain also wants to go back to the days B.T. (Before Therapy). Sure, I was an emotional cripple then, a wreck, and spiralling out of control in workaholic crazy land. But I knew how to do that. I don’t know what “this” is now, and I don’t know how to do it.

Another part of my brain has an inkling of things I want in life. That part of my brain knows that I can’t deal with this stuff alone, that I’ll need my therapist’s help for a while yet. It’s this part of my brain, combined with my in-built Super Reliable streak, that keeps me going back to therapy every week.

Back in confession

So, another therapy session this week, and another hour in the confessional. I ‘fessed up to my therapist about the “connection” between my boss and me. You know, the “special” one I fessed up to here a few days ago?

She said she made a note about six months ago that she thought there was something more to my relationship with him, though she wasn’t sure what it was. Damnit if she isn’t spot on with this stuff… again.

I think it was partly just her intuition, but also, she said, the fact that I defend him. I’ll go and criticise him for being a pr!ck, but as soon as she weighs in, I defend him. I never knew I did that.

Like many of you, she agreed that his behaviour is crossing all sorts of boundaries. I guess I didn’t really realise it – not trooly rooly – until she asked me if I think it would be appropriate for me to ring or text a younger, married male colleague at all hours of the day and night. No. No, no no.

But how do I stop this? X is on a business trip this week and he’s still ringing me and texting me. I can leave the calls unanswered, but the text messages (from anyone) are like heroin to me. I can’t help myself. I’m addicted. I need help. I need an emergency intervention from CTA (Compulsive Texters Anonymous). LOL

But I digress.

Anyway, she said similar things to many of you (and I’m putting this up in lights in a bid to etch it into my brain):

I give him too much power over me. That too much of my emotional state and my sense of self rests on him. That my confidence gets lost each time he says something negative. She said, and I quote, that I need to say, “F*** him for a while.”

She didn’t mean this literally, obviously. Just that I need to be less concerned about what he thinks. She asked me why his opinion is so important? And whether it’s more important than anyone else’s? And why I seem to assume that just because he’s got an opinion, why does that mean he’s right?

She said that his inconsistency is appalling. That in any situation it’s running hot and cold like this that drives people crazy. Yes, it does.

She also said that I should challenge him sometimes, particularly when he sends me mixed messages or behaves badly. Her favourite phrase for men behaving badly is, “Go back into your cave.” I love that, though I’m not sure I’d have the courage to ever say it.

She said the he keeps hurting me and upsetting me, and I keep letting him. Yes, I do. I’m starting to see that this is continual pattern for me – not just with men, but also with some of my female friends. (Long term affects of childhood abuse, anyone???)

I hadn’t realised that I ascribed him so much power and so much importance. I guess I do. She’s certainly right about him shaking my confidence (the little bits I’ve managed to scrape together anyway.)

She reiterated that in this period of my emotional recovery I need someone who’s solid; who’ll be a rock for me at work. Someone who will instil confidence in me and help me to rebuild. At the very least someone who doesn’t run hot and cold all the time and send me so many mixed messages. She’s right there.

To bring this long ramble to a close, I’ll share a funny interlude from my session:

T: “I thought you were going to tell me you’d had wild sex with him or something.”

Me: “No. I’ve never had sex with him.”

T: “Oh.” With note of disappointment.

Me: “Well, you don’t have to sound so disappointed!” Laughing.

T: “Did I? Oh. No. I’m sorry.” Both of us laughing now.