I had a week off, taking my son to college and enjoying the north east coast. This offered both a literal breath of fresh air and a metaphorical one. I felt the cobwebs blow away and my head become clearer. I returned determined to get on with life.
As soon as I came home I felt lethargy and withdrawal settle in. I spent a day energetically hoovering and cleaning some literal cobwebs to try and shake that off and thought about what was going on for me.
I have always pondered about whether I am an introvert or a repressed extrovert and what my natural tendency would be without any repression. Clearly I am a mixture of both but what lockdown has taught me is that I am quite happy and relaxed in my own company as long as I have a certain amount of social interaction. After the first few months I ceased to search for social contact with friends and withdrew further to a point that I was locked in my own head and circling the edge of the rabbit hole that can lead to depression. Luckily I went away and that broke the pattern. I cannot afford to sink back into that.
My priorities are threefold: sign on to Universal Credit, finish my last coursework assignment so I can qualify and get a part time job so I don’t have to stay on UC. That is it and that sounds really quite simple.
Except that my motivation, my self-esteem, my self-confidence and all matters related to self have taken a hammering over the last six months.
I said good-bye to my previous counsellor of three years as she is moving. It was lovely to be able to say good-bye but there was also a sense of a door closing. As I booked my holiday break with my EMDR therapist I talked about the intensity of the session and how long it takes to process (as well as the cost) and she kindly gave me her concessionary rate and suggested we dropped to fortnightly, saying that unlike other counselling, once we’ve established a therapeutic relationship EMDR can often be beneficial fortnightly due to the intensity.
EMDR is incredibly unsettling emotionally and I haven’t got a handle on it. This is because it is dealing with the emotions of early childhood which are embedded deep within me, under all the more recent emotions which are piled on top. It feels like earth tremors that are tiny in force, but because they’re so deep have an impact on a much bigger area than if they were surface tremors. I’m not even sure that captures how it feels but I know that I feel my fundamental core is being rocked. In the long term this will hopefully be a good thing but right now it feels like my foundations are shaky.
I am lucky that I have two continuing clients at my placement who inspire me and remind me this is why I want to be a counsellor. I started a third client who didn’t come back after the initial session and I went straight into self-doubt, wondering whether it was all my fault and that I needed to inject myself with confidence for that opening session. I need to do some work on this and I know I do but piling this on top of shaky foundations is not helping.
And then we come to the course, the cluster fuck that was last term, due to a double-combo of Covid-19 and a badly run college that also was very destructive of my self-confidence. We now have a term’s extension to finish the coursework but the lack of support as well as the poor response has been very destructive. I found the assignments soul-destroying and I felt like I sweated blood to squeeze every single sentence out. Now comes the hardest assignment with no tutorial support (not that it amounted to anything much this last year) and without much peer support as those who have completed have moved on and I hesitate to ask for help of those I could anyway. So I haven’t quite got started since I put my pen down back in July and the thought of picking it up again fills me with dread. It is not easy to simply get started.
There is of course the financial uncertainty at the moment. I’m not actually at risk of losing my home so the threat is not as big as it seems but rather than finishing a qualification and moving serenely into employment (which was never going to be quite that straightforward) I haven’t finished and will need to look for part time work that allows me to continue my placement and give me time to finish the course. That is really why I am looking to sign on UC so that I can focus on coursework rather than job hunting, especially at this time when so many are looking.
On top of all that there is of course the impact of COVID, of lockdown, of sort of emerging from lockdown and wondering whether it’s a good idea. There’s been a mix of valuable quiet to the time but also an opportunity to slide into unhealthy reclusive behaviour. So I’m trying to develop better social habits, both by phone and face to face with friends, as well as trying to simply leave the house more often. I have a couple of peers from college with whom I am trying to maintain a friendship and also for mutual essay writing support. My vocabulary tells me I am spending more time talking to my children than proper adults.
I say proper adults because my children are all now adults. I have really enjoyed the time we have been a household of five over the summer and am now really enjoying the peace of a household of three. I find them sustaining and, at times, exhausting, but never boring or alienating. There’s fair amount of piss-taking going on currently as the youngest are employed and I’m not, but that’s as bad as it gets. I feel valued by them and appreciated, especially as they get older, in contrast to the neediness of younger ages. I wouldn’t be here without them.
All in all then, it’s not as bad as I feel. I need to sign on, get on with my final course-work, and get a job. That’s it. I need to do it with emotional churn and turmoil which is not making it easier but is for my long term benefit. I am capable of being a good counsellor but it will simply take me longer to gain the confidence required to become competent. I need to make sure I see people outside my home. Lastly I need to try and stop worrying about all the rest of it. I am scared of sinking.
Easier said than done, but I feel lifted simply for having written it.