Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can also hurt me.
Sticks and stones break only skin,
While words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the words-swords fall
To pierce and stick inside me,
bats and bricks may ache through bones,
But words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its scarCoping With Bullying in Schools, Brendan Byrne (1994)
On mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises now have healed,
It’s words that I remember.
Youngest is back at school. 2son is on the train back to college having a difficult journey. 3son is out somewhere and 1son is back at his dad’s. So situation is back to normal and I really feel a ball of anxiety.
I’ve got a water leak in the kitchen that has been slowly getting worse for three months now. Down to the council to fix but for various reasons they are still arguing about it. Not important but I have to mop up every time I walk into the room and I’m sick of both that and the daily phone calls.
Finance is worrying me. I am going to be OK for the next six months having tightened my financial belt but that means doing less stuff which is fun. Plus a bit more saying no to my children and asking them to pay me back when I buy tickets. I know counselling takes time to build up as a private practice let alone trying to find work within an agency so it’s not as if I’ll be going straight into financial safety once I’m done with the course (at least I’m not saying if).
I’ve got my first essay due in three weeks. Haven’t looked at it since before Christmas and am loath to pick it up and keep putting it off. 3son is about to go away for 10 days so will have extra peace at home.
We will start working on second essay when we go back to college next week and I don’t like juggling both simultaneous. That one is then due in March with two more by end of next term.
Then there is the question of whether I can find my way through my client work and actually learn to not fuck up the first few sessions. Which, given that this has been sitting on my mind all Christmas means that is is growing to epic proportions. I had an extra session with my therapist before Christmas and we talked through it which helped enormously. I shall discuss it in solo supervision this week and then see a new client next week and hopefully they won’t run away. I wanted to spend some time after Christmas really thinking about this but I haven’t had the time or space.
I’m also not looking forward to being back at college as I don’t feel willing, ready or open to sharing this difficulty with them which is going to make some aspects of working together difficult and feel false.
My sleep has gone completely to pot. I’m back using sleep stories every night and although I am sleeping fairly deeply I am also waking up 3-4 times a night so am not feeling refreshed at all. I am wondering whether the stress of the course is too much for me to cope with but then I wonder about the lack of alternatives.
I’m onto stable medication for my blood pressure that is so minimal I’m not sure it’s doing anything but am sometimes “hearing” my heart pounding wakes me up in the morning. My GP thinks having slightly higher pressure is OK for the moment. I’m not sure.
So in summary I feel that I’m skating on thin ice and am feeling really incapable of dealing with it. Life seems quite overwhelming at the moment with little to look forward to and no way through that doesn’t involve fighting in a way that I am totally bored with now. Meditation is currently a big struggle too, although I’m not dropping it. I feel as is I’ve gone back three years.
I am however overwhelmingly grateful for my children who are not causing me anguish, and my body which is very slowly changing shape in a good way. Those are the two good things I am hanging onto at the moment.
I never do new year resolutions and am not quite clear about the difference between resolutions and intentions but would consider intentions to be kinder and more forgiving.
Today’s daily calm meditation invited me to look down on myself from very high up and choose something I could let go of. I shed a few gentle tears as I realised the one thing I really need to let go of is my father’s voice telling me that I am not good enough, that anything other than pushing myself to the absolute maximum and beyond is inadequate. That is the only thing that matters for now.
So my intentions for the year are:-
- let go of inadequacy
- become competent at starting off with new clients
- finish the sodding course
- carry on my Pilates
- focus more on meditation
That is more than sufficient.
I was going to get up and continue with my first essay. I have put an hour into it so far and have been unable to face it again. I have done many other things this morning, none of them vital or urgent but I cannot face starting on the essay.
My mind freezes up and I can hear panic settling in. We are making the recording soon, after which I only have a few weeks to do the essay. The idea was to do the half of the essay which can be done before the skills recording. I haven’t managed that.
I have the possibility of a placement but it requires an assessment weekend and training days after that. I could be pleased but instead I’m considering how much time that is going to take away from me not doing my essay time.
Money is preying on me too. I ought to get back in touch with Benefits and pick up the argument where I left it but I cannot face it. Money worries me at the moment but I cannot do anything about extra work until the placement is sorted.
What I can do is worry. Worry about my ability to write essays which will come thick and fast between now and the end of the academic year. I am worrying about my placement, whether I apply for me or rely on this. I am worried about time, about sleep, about mid-afternoon slumping.
And then I worry about worrying too much. I can only let go of worrying when I busy my mind doing something nice and relaxing that isn’t really relevant. That in itself can encourage me to get out of the house for a walk which is nice and beneficial but I don’t come home and start on my essay.
What I need to do is have a bash at my essay, do some more meditation, especially with a focus on anxiety, and go for a walk when the sun shines (which it is now) and just stop doing everything but. My stomach might then settle.
It is amazing how, despite recognising that I provide the only validation that should matter to me, I still need external validation.
It is not amazing really as lack of self confidence means that I do not trust my own views on how well or ill I am doing. I do of course immediately believe my inner critic and struggle to get past it.
I have in the past few years gained confidence in my parenting ability and I am aware of how strong that makes me feel. That confidence has yet to transmit itself to the rest of me.
I mentioned to 3son that I was struggling with confidence with respect to course and his response was typical, basically telling me to stop whining and get on with it.
My therapist was much more empathic and said some lovely things about my writing here But still it comes down to I’m intelligent, I’m capable, get on with it.
So I went home and spent an hour vomiting words into my first essay, no look up, no referencing, no research, just thoughts, and sent it to her so that she could give me some nice external validation to keep me going, aka a pat on the back.
I still struggled but felt so much better for having started.
Talking to 3son made me realise how alone I can still feel in all this. I went out with one of my course peers and talked about it. She was supportive but didn’t know me well enough to be magic. My friends are supportive but don’t really understand the transformation that I am going through. I don’t feel that I am about to emerge from my chrysalis as a butterfly but that is the image that comes up.
It came to me yesterday after writing that post, that what I was suffering from was a crisis of confidence.
I am not sure that I can complete this diploma. I am not sure I can become a professional counsellor, that I will be good enough. I am not even convinced I can finish this first year.
I am certainly not sure that I can run a household, look after my children, work, look after myself and all those other things that are part of life as well as study.
This qualification, this path to having a fulfilling job, a career even, may be the biggest thing I have ever done (children excepted, children always excepted) and I’ve suddenly got scared.
I think that during term time I was too busy getting on with it to really pause and notice how I felt. I knew it was more intense; I knew I felt the course had levelled up more than I expected; I knew I felt a greater pressure. I think the placement interview revealed some of this to myself as well as the interviewers; this is partly why I have been so slow at chasing other placements.
I felt a sudden overwhelming relief as this all dawned on me last night. I wasn’t getting depressed again. I wasn’t having what could be an annual struggle with darkness or the winter or cold. I had enjoyed Christmas and wasn’t feeling under pressure so the relief at realising that there was a cause behind how I was feeling and it all made sense was intense.
I am not sure what I am going to do about it. I will of course take it to therapy and to my tutor but I am well aware that my lack of self confidence is huge and that it is something I need to work on. It niggles away at all aspects of life but this is the most destructive.
Every morning I have to fight with my routine and myself.
If I had to be out of the house first thing to commute to work I would have a minimal routine that I’d just plough my way through on automatic pilot, but I don’t. I work from home and I work part time, so I do not have to make sure that I get eight hours (or more) of work a day.
And yet I feel guilty if I’m not at my desk by 9am getting on with work like convention dictates. No matter how many conversations I have had with myself about the lack of need to be chained to a computer, I still feel that I am not doing my part, that I am not being productive enough.
Telling myself I am still de-stressing from years of wound up tensions, from childhood to marriage to parenthood to being single, all of these cumulative stresses and strains which have taken a physical and mental toll on me, none of these really enable me to forgive myself, which is what I really need.
So learning to take ten minutes in the morning for meditation last year has been a struggle. It has been a struggle because it forces me to put my self-care first, and this in itself is a first. Now I am adding my Pilates to it. I am also trying to add my journalling to the morning as I find it difficult to find the energy in the evening. All this takes time and despite waking up at 8am in the holidays it’s often getting on for midday by the time I have done all this and had breakfast, washed up and tidied up, ready for the day.
Wow, midday and I haven’t even started work. What I have done though is taken care of myself first which is more important, and something I need more practice at doing. I’ve always worked, whether it’s been going out for interesting or soul-destroying employment, or whether it’s getting four small people dressed and out of the house in the morning. But taking care of myself is something that I am only now beginning to seriously learn how to do and to incorporate it into my daily life. 2019 is my fiftieth year and it’s about time I learned to look after myself.
Yet I am still judging myself by external standards that say I should be doing 8 hours paid work a day. I struggle to do 3 and that includes domestic paperwork and the other odds and ends that aren’t paid employment. I still feel that I haven’t earned the right to spend time on myself. I hear how wrong that sentence is and yet it is the truth.
I am trying to be kinder to myself. Before the house filled up for Christmas I turned the heating up by two degrees because I was tired of putting on extra layers and having cold hands. All those years of my father telling all of us to simply put another jumper on if we’re cold. At 16 degrees it’s still colder than most people enjoy but it feels luxurious to me.
I have also broken my self-imposed rule to not read the same book twice that I haven’t broken since 2008 and am really enjoying reading The Dark Tower, one of my all time favourites. It’s helping me get lost in a book again, which is something I was losing.
This week sees the transition between holiday and routine, with 3son back at work today, 2son and 4son on holiday still until next week. It will be interesting to see how the morning’s tensions work out when the earlier mornings impose themselves, whether anything that I have learned over the holidays about looking after myself stays with me.
I feel somewhat discombobulated and ill at ease.
This time of year is always difficult. Christmas is over. We have had a lovely time.
My eldest returned to his father this evening and we’ve had him home for over a week. I love him dearly and I will miss his company dreadfully but I’m also glad that we will all return to our more normal routines, with the others all glued to their computers a bit more.
I need the peace and quiet for myself but also resent the fact that having fun feels so tiring. I cannot stay up much past midnight without feeling shattered the next day, and that’s regardless of my alcohol consumption. It’s almost as if I’m actually getting old and I don’t like that. I haven’t lived enough to feel old.
It’s almost a new year and that always prompts reflection on where I am and have been, followed by where I am going. I know the big picture of doing course and gaining financial independence but the rest of it is somewhat fuzzy at the moment. I’m feeling adrift in restless seas. I haven’t had time to contemplate where I am, before I’ve had to start thinking about things to get done this week before I go back to college and we all resume our normal routines. I haven’t had time to breathe.
I also haven’t had time to think about coursework. Naturally there is guilt.
That suggests that the plan has to be to take a day out this week, to get out of the house and go somewhere. I will have to have a think.
If I am struggling with internal lists of things to do, whether domestic, practical, self care, work or course the one thing I have learned this year is that I need to slow down and stop trying to do everything. So the more lists clamour to be written and action to be taken, the more I need to slow down and reflect what actually matters.
It’s the holidays, with all four boys at home so I have little time for myself. Except that I do really as I’m getting up, having a cup of tea in peace, doing my Pilates and meditation with just 1son waking up slowly alongside. By midday I may be ready to settle down to something else but the others are getting up and we may spend the afternoon playing board games or doing something social. I have informed them to count me out of anything intelligent in the evening unless I’ve said that I’m capable and 3son in particular has taken that on board. Otherwise they played individually and called on me just when I was giving up for the day.
Doing activities together means that I don’t have any time for myself beyond that which I take in the morning which is why I do try and keep the essentials in and not worry about the rest.
It’s not often that we all get together so for me it is really important to dump everything else for this week or two and spend it being silly with my sons. This in many ways is pay back for all the effort I’ve put in over the years.
But it does mean that I have to just let everything else slide, hoping that everyone else will be doing the same and that nothing will get missed too much.
I had my first interview for a counselling placement last week and I didn’t get it.
I walked out of the interview thinking I had blown and I had. I just needed to wait for the email which said that while they were sure I would make a fine counsellor one day and had made some insightful comments, I wasn’t sufficiently advanced in training to be let loose on their clients. I was free to come back to them later. It was, quite frankly, the nicest rejection letter I’ve had.
I felt it was all going wrong when they asked me if I could list stages of grief process, which given that this placement was for bereavement was a reasonable question that I could have anticipated and revised for. I got as far as five or seven stages of grief, depending on which model, that Kubler-Ross was the main model and then totally blanked. No I hadn’t read her, just summaries and discussions. She wasn’t the only person I hadn’t read.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance (or DABDA for short) are the main five, just so we know.
There was waffling on my part.
I got stuck on another question of are deaths due to ill health, murder or whatever the same (or some such wording). Every death provokes a different response so they are all different but in that sense they are all the same. Some deaths requires autopsies and police investigations and that complicates and distracts from the grieving process. Sometimes there is time to tie up loose ends and say goodbye first. So every death is the same but they are all different. Does the counsellor handle them all the same? Yes and no. Is that a yes or a no? I said it was both and struggled to choose one.
There were questions about organisational process. If the bereavement is done but there are other issues to deal with would I want to continue. Yes, but the organisation is for bereavement so you signpost on. Funding is for bereavement. Fair enough I said. Was I supposed to anticipate that or not? There were other such questions where I gave my personal view and added that it would depend on the organisation’s policy
How would I deal with someone who cried? Let them, pass the tissues, and if it brought tears to my eyes then let them cry too, but to show empathy, not to lose control.
Many many questions, for an hour. Bowlby, diversity, taking money, … Some I was fine with, others baffled me. I wasn’t really prepared. Why not?
I am not comfortable with interviews and it took me halfway through to settle in and say the right thing. On the one hand it was an interview, on the other hand it was like discussing counselling skills.
How was I with silence? Fine. I need to be aware whether it’s a good silence to let be or an empty one to interrupt. What do I interrupt with? I had to be prompted with “it’s not that complicated” before answering “What are you feeling, how are you” and other such check ins.
Could I challenge? Yes. What did I need before challenging? Trust and sufficient depth. Yes.
I wasn’t in course mode; I was in interview mode and I struggled to bring the two together. Once I got that I was better but felt that I just started the whole thing off in neutral. I gave the right answers eventually but went round the houses to get there.
So I need to do better next time. I have one application in and another I need to write and probably now other organisations to look for.