Yesterday and Today

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Yesterday,

I couldn’t face filling in the further information so I didn’t. I did other stuff instead so was still productive.

I’ve been using alcohol for pain medication several nights, just a couple of pints. Paracetamol doesn’t cut it and I wake up at 5am to take more. I don’t like it but I’m struggling to get anyway near enough sleep. Pillows are arranged at all sorts of angles to try and support my arm in some direction.

Today,

I got up and gathered the next lot of information for housing benefit before breakfast, before my second cup of tea. They wanted proof of my Premium Bond, which is under £50 so I had to register for that online. They queried 2son as I don’t claim child benefit for him so he must be earning a living. I did my best and sent it off, noting they didn’t reply to my query about retaining the data and mentioning the lack of reference to data protection.

I noted at the last moment that this second letter said they were suspending my housing benefit while they assessed the claim so that’s splendid. I suppose that means I’ll be getting a bill demand to pay full rent.

I did all this two hours ago and I’m still shaking with anxiety.

I’m currently sitting in the waiting room to have blood test at my local hospital. Two months after my stress ECG the results are inconclusive but we’re going with an angiogram to find out exactly what’s going on. It’s a month wait rather  than a 3 month wait for a new CT angiogram that is less invasive and less informative so figured we might as well go for this as the result of a longer wait might be that I need an angiogram to be conclusive. She’s ordered lots of blood tests at a cost of £26.99.

I have my therapist thus afternoon and at some point I have to squeeze in some work. I actually want to run away and hide. Plus I’m acutely aware that I haven’t been for a walk since last Thursday’s visit to my HRT hospital for more bloods. I am so aware at this moment that my body is getting older and needs looking after. I feel ancient and my list of meds is just getting longer.

Last weekend and today

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This weekend,

That one last piece of work I had to finish took up half of Sunday. I didn’t get it done on Friday like I wanted.

1son came down on Friday to show 4son how to shave who had in fact already had a go and didn’t need it.

1son 3son and I went out to dinner in the evening and watched a very dysfunctional family who had come out for a nice family evening when no one wanted to be nice to each other. The teenager sulked; the father tried to insist on mobiles going away and the mother told him that if he couldn’t say anything that wasn’t vaguely critical then maybe he should keep quiet. In contrast the three of us were having a jolly time and I was thinking how weird it was considering how dysfunctional I consider our family to be and yet we were talking and laughing.

We were supposed to go on a university day trip on Saturday but 3son decided it was too much to get up early. I wasn’t complaining either and said I wasn’t going to drive to the one on Sunday either. I’m really not sure how much driving I can do with my arm hurting and didn’t want to get half way there and give up. We have another one booked for this Saturday which is closer and I’m still debating whether to book train or not.

So although I finished that piece of work at the weekend I didn’t do what we should have done. I’m worried about 3son who said he didn’t mind visiting universities in London on his own (he managed 1/2 last week of possible visits) he didn’t want to do them further afield without me. I can see doing all these visits in autumn causing just as much problems and they need a lot more planning than I was really aware of. I feel that I have let him down by not getting him onto all the visits that he had booked but I wasn’t capable of taking him and he wasn’t exactly enthused.

I do worry that he’s reducing his options to the easiest and not putting enough energy into finding out about courses etc. He’s talking to his head of year next week about exactly what he does next year and whether he looks at A levels over 3 years instead of 2 or lesser qualifications over 2 years. He’s also looking at apprenticeships which might be more suited for him. I have no real idea.

He’s also got a week’s worth of work experience next week and I’m wondering whether he’s going to turn up.

I woke up on Sunday from a weird nightmare involving my ex who was back in our home again. This is my bog-standard nightmare that I get whenever I’m feeling anxious about something major. My neighbour decided to enter my dream world. Keen gardener that she is she built a swimming pool in my back garden overnight and I woke up to sunbeds and strangers whilst freaking out over getting rid of ex2. Brains are just freaky.

Today,

I was about to start writing this when I got a phone call asking why I wasn’t at a meeting so I ran down there (well I drove actually) and have just failed to get this written before boys get home from school.

I got a follow up letter from housing benefit which is freaking me out and not as some of the questions are just stupid but they are trying to double check everything. They even want proof of my Premium Bond which I said I didn’t have but it was only for £10. They haven’t asked for my inside leg measurement but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. I think I can answer it all but I opened the letter and my heart just started racing. Anxiety just kicks in as I immediately just feel incredibly vulnerable as if they can kick me out of my home if I don’t supply the necessary information. I hate it. I hate not feeling safe enough to query the letter I got last Friday telling me my rent has gone up even though it shouldn’t have.

I’ve just had another stupid query from school that I need to deal with.

I’ve really had enough of stupid questions and ridiculous scenarios and really wish life could seem straightforward for longer than five minutes at a time.

Yesterday and Today

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Yesterday,

I wanted to write but didn’t get around to it. I did however phone one of my closest friends and we moaned together for over an hour. We both vented which was a release but ultimately not satisfying. My life which seems to be inching in a forward direction rather than rolling is absolutely zooming compared to hers. She has no end in sight and it’s ultimately depressing.

I spent fifty minutes waiting for my GP appointment which I’d miraculously managed to book the night before only to be told I should have asked to speak to her on the phone to save me the wait. Another prescription for my trapped nerve which I’m about to go and fill. I thought I was going to go and see the other GP but I clearly have got their names confused. My two favourites have left, leaving a practice of five. One is nice and very part time, one I don’t like at all, one I haven’t met and I can’t remember which is which from the last two. Continue reading

Yesterday and Today

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Yesterday,

I went to therapy. We discussed whether it was working and my ability to talk about anything bar what I needed to. My therapist isn’t pushy enough so we’re both going to have to work on this. Otherwise it’s not worth it.

I spent 3 hours, 3 hours of my life I will never get back, gathering the information and documentation that Housing Benefit require to check my claim. I kid you not, 3 fucking hours. I sent it in to find out that my council has outsourced benefits so it’s all being checked by some faceless, nameless (Liberata) company who is aiming to make a profit on my housing benefit and no doubt gets a bonus for every few people it chucks off housing benefit or any other benefit. Continue reading

Downward Spirals

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Bob Geldof, Pink Floyd, The Wall

Bob Geldof, Pink Floyd, The Wall

I haven’t written for months, and most of what I have been writing has been about my counselling courses. The fact that I have been writing about it is good but I struggle to find the energy and motivation to write about me in other contexts which is really not what this is all about.

I was in a good mood this morning, woken up by the sounds of my children getting up and going out for the day without me leaving me in peace. I could catch up, potter about, do whatever, without calls of what’s for dinner, can I buy something, or the ongoing ramblings of teenagers playing videos.

Yesterday I went for my interview for Level 3 Counselling. We were together as a group for two hours which included a group exercise and a short writing piece. Then we came in for individual interviews. I really loathe job interviews as it involves me selling myself which is something I’m poor at but I did fine until the last couple of minutes when I started waffling and talking utter bollocks. I acknowledged the waffling and left, but it felt like walking out on a bad note. However I walked out feeling that the day had gone well and was positive. Continue reading

Who Am I?

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I am the youngest of three girls.

Due to the age gap I grew up as an only child.

I grew up with contrasts.

I grew up with a north/south divide in my parents’ personality.

My father buries his emotions. My mother cannot deal with big problems but was warm and cuddly.

We moved around a lot so permanence was a rarity.

I never knew my grandfathers but my grandmothers were anchors.

When I was very young I was scared to be upstairs on my own.

I am pleased with the cultural enrichment and awareness that comes from living in lots of places. I wish it could have been an easier lesson.

I hated being dragged on family walks. I learned to walk quickly.

I was scared to disobey my parents.

I lived inside my head a lot.

I read to escape the real world.

I don’t belong anywhere.

I belong everywhere.

Astrology is rubbish but I am a typical Gemini.

My parents split the family in half (Gemini and Yorkshire, or Kent and whenever).

Perfection was the minimum standard. All else was failure.

I was never good enough.

I wondered if I was wanted.

I’m a suppressed extrovert who is trying to act less introverted. I think.

I was bullied at school for several years.

I was not an easy child. I’m not an easy adult.

I believe in people.

I watched my sister have fits on the kitchen floor.

I watched my other sister throw plates in temper tantrums.

I watched my parents’ responses to both.

I get sick in cars. My father didn’t believe me.

I cried a lot. I held back my tears a lot.

I’ve met some fantastic people along the way.

I don’t fit in.

I’m an oddball, bloody minded and have learned to be proud to be different.

I wish life were easier.

 

Written in response to “How would you describe yourself in terms of your origins an background?” for application for next level counselling. 50 words.

Counselling, second and third

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Yes, I was on my way to my third session when I realised I hadn’t written up my second and wasn’t going to. So oops. Last week is a bit of a blur other than my speaking session when I talked about the impending sense of doom which I did then write up. I’m still petrified about going away but have accepted that it just is how it is and I won’t relax until I get back.

Anyway, so last week we talked about empathy, and the need to be able to tease out a client’s emotions without taking too much of them on board yourself. It’s a continuing process of understanding their perspective and interpretation, or

a desire to understand

as Carl Rogers put it succinctly. A caring curiosity was a phrase I came up with.

My understanding by the end of the session was improved. There’s a balance giving empathy and holding back your own stories in that a client telling you of their experience immediately, and understandably makes you think of parallel experiences and how you felt about them. In a “normal” conversation you would share of your own experience and what that understanding brings to your understanding of the other person’s experience. Empathy has to be about using your own experiences to better understand what the client is going through and how s/he is feeling, but without assuming that the experiences are actually similar. In the next session we then discussed very briefly whether having shared experiences helps understanding or prejudices it. Do you want to talk to someone who has been there before you or do you want someone to listen with open heart to your new experience? It all basically comes down to understanding how someone else feels about their interpretation of their experience. Your own experiences can help or hinder depending on how much you lean on them.

I had a lovely practice session with someone who has been a carer for her brother for several years so we had quite a discussion about funding and the stresses thereof. I had a rant about worrying about this blasted holiday which did help. We had a good connection afterwards and talked about her need to feel more positive about her achievements as a carer.

I feel that we haven’t really gelled as a group. We sit there feeling as if at school, wanting someone else to speak first and it’s often the end of the group where good things are said. Our teacher doesn’t make us check out as such but instead invites us all to share something we have learned from the day and a word or two on how we feel.

Congruence then is how your external demeanour (behaviour and words) matches your internal thoughts and feelings. In other words, if a client says something you don’t like, you don’t try and pretend that you do but acknowledge your feelings.

I became more aware of how important it is to hear the feelings being expressed by the client, both spoken and heard, rather than the content of what is being said. It’s the feelings that need to be picked up on rather than the story. We’ve all been a bit hung up on understanding the story. The story isn’t important. It’s how it makes someone feel that is.

In order to be congruent you have to understand how the client feels. Then you have to understand or identify how you feel about that. How much of what you feel is about your stuff rather than theirs. Identifying how you feel in the moment, any moment, can be difficult. We are in an era where people get on with things rather than pause to smell the roses. Those moments when we take stock are rare which is one of the reasons that meditation has become so trendy, with the five minute meditation phone app that allows you to schedule in a pause to your busy day. We don’t stop between one thing and the next and ask ourselves how we feel. Or at least I don’t, or not very often. If I don’t do it at home while waiting for the kettle to boil, rather than thinking about what I’m doing next, then I find it even harder to do while I’m focusing on listening to someone else’s story and trying to hear their emotions.

So after all this focusing on the client, and listening to what they’re saying and how they’re saying we’re now talking about focusing on ourselves at the same time. Doing that in practice session was very difficult and will continue to be. We sort of broke rules and pauses to say, as the listener, how we felt about what we were listening to.

I struggle with the start of the group as we do all sit there and stare at the floor rather than participate but we do get thought-provoking by the end.

 

An Impending Sense of Doom

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And just how long have you had this impending feeling of doom?

I do feel this physically, as a massive knot in my stomach, a tension that will not go away or even loosen. I’m even getting tension headaches. What is going on?

I went into Christmas feeling in a relatively good place, looking forward to starting my course again, feeling happy about exercise and continuing that. I was aware that I would be fighting for 2son with the council in January but I was ready. Christmas and the New Year came and went without major incidents so all is well.

Except that it isn’t.

I’m going away for a long weekend towards the end of the month, with two good friends. It’s going to be the maddest, more extravagant thing I’ve ever done and while I know I would never have chosen to do it on my own I am expecting to not stop laughing or having fun for a few days. Sounds awful, does it not? However I am leaving 3son and 4son on their own for the time. I’m leaving on Wednesday and coming back Tuesday morning so they will have to get themselves to school Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. They are quite capable of doing this and when I am at home if they chose not to go to school I’ve never been able to make them go anyway so it won’t make any difference. I don’t want to be caught out by school as an absent parent but I’m not leaving a six year old while I holiday for a fortnight. They are not going to have a massive party or drink all the alcohol (although I will be careful not to stock up) and quite frankly the worst I can imagine them doing is leaving the gas (oven) on overnight. I’ve warned 3son about the perils of blowing up the house and he does appreciate that this is a sensible concern of mine. They’ll make a mess, not wash up and eat junk but nothing major. I’ve promised them a weekend away of their choice if they behave. I’d like to make sure that no one from social services (for 4son) tries to contact me or notices my absence but what are the chances of that happening? So what is there to be worried about, other than I have never done it before and I feel like I’m being naughty?

I have a work thing that I’ve never had to worry about before. I host a number of websites on a shared server and it got hacked before Christmas. I’ve never had a problem before but now they’ve got in once they keep trying again on a daily basis, sometimes killing off a site in the meantime so I need to ring up (£2 for 15 minutes) and get a backup reloaded. It takes time and patience and the most important site won’t come back and is beyond my ability to repair. I haven’t yet worked out whether I should move them all to a different server (itself a time-consuming process), stop hosting them myself (consequences and a sense of responsibility), or what. I feel helpless because I don’t know enough to sort it out definitively myself. I followed clear instructions for wiping a WordPress site and re-installing a clean version and it didn’t work causing me to ring up once again to get a re-install as they couldn’t see why it didn’t work either. Anyway I’m boring myself with this but I am spending an hour (at least) every day scanning websites and monitoring situation just to make sure nothing is starting up again. This is something that was never a problem before and now is a problem and another anxiety I don’t need. I don’t feel there is anyone else who is reliable that I can pass it onto. So it’s a pressure that has come out of the blue and I don’t know what to do with it or how to resolve it, with no clear cut solution. It’s not a life and death situation but it taps into my sense of responsibility and duty. It’s also incredibly boring.

I am beginning to win the conversation about my parents’ location on their return to the UK, something that only appeared on the horizon last month. It does worry me the idea of having them close to me. Having suggested the south coast with its fast trains (when running) to London and having the proposal dismissed my sisters have now got on board with this idea and are encouraging my parents to reconsider. I do actually think it would be better for them as well as just not wanting them round the corner from me. It’s a subtler pressure but one that is very quietly freaking me out even though I’m being (trying to be) sensible about it.

I was supposed to be looking at schools this month for 2son but haven’t got started on that although it’s really important. I haven’t actually finished the little things I meant to finish before Christmas. I’ve got a leak in the bathroom, mice in the house, car insurance to renew and my bedroom light blew up last night. Niggly things that I have to deal with and really can’t be bothered. I have a job I want to give up because nobody has any enthusiasm for running it but I can’t afford to resign but have to wait and see. 1son went back successfully a week ago; 2son returned to school yesterday and 3 son returned last week to school. 4son is currently off sick which is worrying me more than it should as he was ill at the end of last term as well. I’ve phoned the doctor for a consultation but I expect she’ll tell me I’m over worrying. I do want a day to myself soon!

I have a list of things to do which I am perfectly capable of doing. I absolutely don’t see a reason for feeling as wound up as I do. I do feel better for writing all this out and for discussing it in my ten minute practice session today.

There is also the reality of a new year as opposed to the expectations of better days. Same shit, different year.

 

Counselling, first (advanced intro)

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I’ve had a week to write about this and haven’t got there, or done my homework.

The intention was to do this mini course as a way of keeping my hand in and getting skills practice. Funnily enough that’s not happening. I have done virtually no reading on the subject since I finished the introduction course almost two months ago although I have bought some books. This is a mini course of six sessions and I shall miss one altogether and have to leave early from another which almost makes it not worth doing.

I entered the room for the first session to find a hubbub of conversation rather than the estranged silence when people don’t know each other. It turned out that most people had done the course with others last term and there were only a few like me who knew nobody. So I felt that I started with a disadvantage.

Having a different teacher brought a different approach. No mindfulness and the check out at the end was two words max. She also refers to practice client and practice counsellor, a mouthful compared to speaker and listener. She did once or twice talk about “fixing” people, which I don’t like. People seek therapy for help to become a better person. This doesn’t mean they’re broken and actually that is rather insulting.

It serves as a reminder that there is a looseness to this all. We talked briefly about the debate between directed and non-directed therapy, the extent to which a therapist should guide the client.

We also discussed how counselling has to work on the boundaries day of what is deemed safe that a client has to feel comfortable and safe but then try to go to the edge and step out.

Confidentiality was discussed. Do clients understand that keeping sessions confidential doesn’t mean they won’t be discussed with a supervisor or that they won’t be anonymity and discussed with a partner, or with friends? Or even online? I don’t think it does.

So I’m not convinced that I’m going to get a huge amount out of this but am going to give it a try. I felt more argumentative this session.

Celebrations

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I find Christmas a lot easier than New Year’s, but both present their own difficulties.

This year (well, last year) I did not feel in the mood for Christmas at all in the run up. I didn’t have 4son asking for a tree at the beginning of December and by the time it was the end of term I just decided it wasn’t worth it. If no one else is bothered by the lack of Christmas decorations then why should I go to all that effort of getting it all down from the attic and packing it all away afterwards.

That wasn’t the only reason though. We normally put the tree and other decorations up on the front room, which the boys often don’t use during the day at all so what’s the point?

It’s also more fundamental than that. I’ve done Christmas for so many years and put all the effort in mostly by myself and I’m bored of it. 1son used to be master of ceremonies and turn present opening into a long happy and fun occasion but that’s no more. I’ve come to an agreement with my children on presents as they either want cash or online games that don’t need wrapping. This year I didn’t even wrap the selection boxes. 1son normally goes to a book shop to buy a round of presents but he only managed his bus fare home this time. He does succeed in getting most of us playing various board games over the holiday period which is the one thing that brings most of us together. Doctor Who is the only television we watch together and 2son didn’t bother attending.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the day. It might have been low key but we all did what we wanted to do and spent time in each other’s company which is what Christmas is really about, once children grow beyond wanting lots and lots of massive presents to open. In the years since my parents stopped joining us for Christmas the day has evolved and is still evolving. Having a relaxed attitude to food and spending a few hours in the pub are two of the key differences. Drinking champagne out of pewter tankards is a minor one. It’s becoming our Christmas and won’t ever fully stop evolving. Hopefully one day the others will grow up enough to want to put a little bit more effort into making it special.

New Year I find a lot more challenging emotionally. I see it as a time of personal hope and optimism. People are excited to face new challenges and book new holidays, making resolutions that often fall by the wayside by the end of January. My attitude tends to be more “same shit, different year” and it’s only very rarely that I can be in the mood to feel positive about what’s coming. I’ve learned this over the years and if I am staying at home I don’t watch live television and feel miserable because I’m not out there in a crowd. I don’t watch or read anything that can get me close to tears. Last year I went, on my own, to a local pub with a band playing that I liked and, while it was certainly weird being on my own, I was fine and happy. This year the opportunity to go out with friends was there but I just didn’t feel optimistic or enthusiastic. I turned down several offers (which in itself was nice) and chose to go home early and ignore it all. I was fine, although resented the staying up to 2am waiting for 2son to come home from his revels as he does not yet understand the concept of taking a key with him.

This holiday period (the French say “Bonne continuation” as the holiday continues from Christmas to the New Year, and so, I just discovered, do Swedes) is tough on expectations. Whether it’s the expectation of presents, or turkey on the table at 1pm sharp, or unwanted relatives, in the run up to Christmas we are all filled with messages on how we ought to perform at Christmas, with lavishly decorated rooms, tables filled with food and drink, presents galore and every family member. And everybody is happy, smiling, laughing, having fun all the way through. If this truly is how you spend Christmas then you are very very lucky. For most of us it just isn’t, for different reasons for all of us. I have done what I can to take control of how I spend the day and how my children spend the day so that we all have a little of what we want and we all end up reasonably content at the end of the day with the only murders taking place on screen or in a board game. Sometimes it’s brilliant, sometimes it’s just fine, but never are we going through the day again with gritted teeth biting our tongue. And even if my parents end up living round the corner, they are not joining us for Christmas again. Ever*.

* I have a feeling we may have a debate about this.