It’s not as if I haven’t done any writing. far from it. But all my writing has been for my final assignment, which runs to some forty pages that was finally submitted just before Christmas. It’s been a weight and I’m trying to take this as a short break while waiting for the result to come back. No doubt changes will have to be made as I have no expectation of passing this first time.
Now that Christmas is over and we’re back to just the two of us at home (3son moved northwards before Christmas) I have space to do nothing. Last year when people entered the first lockdown and talked about painting their house, writing their masterpiece or just focusing on fitness, let alone those who just put their feet up and binge-watched every series going, I was trying to finish off my course, like my classmates, and feeling quite resentful that I felt no lifting of pressure.
Having realised that along with half of my peers I wasn’t going to be able to submit my last assignment in July I then took a month or two to relax and really struggled to get back to it and found myself unable to focus on it or anything else much. So the past few months have been a real slog while I’ve forced myself to get on with it. At times I have stared at this screen for hours, writing only a few words here and there. Anyway, it’s done now, and my course is finished, subject to revision and resubmission.
At the beginning of October, when I wrote my last post I was about to speak to a GP. I got a very nice locum who has since disappeared who gave me a sick note for six months and promised to repeat as necessary and anti-anxiety medication. She gave me six months so I had time to finish my coursework and not worry about getting it renewed. That was all lovely. I informed Universal Credit who on request promptly removed the pressure and expectations of 30 hour weekly job search and was sent the Capacity for Work Questionnaire that I had previously filled in for 2son. This is a twenty-odd page document in which you have to detail every incapacity, physical and mental. It is a mind-fuck, as so much of mental wellbeing is considering all the things that I can do and turning that round into considering what do I fail or struggle with under what circumstances is extremely painful and feels like stripping myself naked and parading myself in front of an interview panel. I started off thinking about exaggerating my reality and as I wrote I realised that I wasn’t exaggerating, that I do find anxiety paralysing under some circumstances. It also forced me to consider my physical health, which is something that I pay less attention to as it’s mostly stress based – COPD, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation.
Having sent that in I got an hour’s phone call with someone of dubious qualification who repeated some of the questions on this questionnaire and asked my some others. The only one that flustered me was asking me what my morning routine was. He focused on the physical health as that is easier to quantify, but when I raised this as a query at the end he asked me what I hadn’t mentioned that I felt ought to be included and of course I didn’t know. He then apologised for the length of time it might take for a decision to be made. As UC continue to pay me and not hassle me until a decision is made, the longer the better. I’m still waiting.
The anti-anxiety meds (sertraline) are weird. I had many unpleasant side effects the first week, although they were balanced by solid sleep. My anxiety has reduced but I get disturbed sleep, occasional bad headaches, palpitations that worry me and an internal rise in body temperature that causes the odd hot flush. So when I reviewed it with the GP who was proposing an increase in dose I refused. She said the typical response was to not sleep the first week and then sleep solidly and was not bothered about palpitations. I will have another chat with another GP in a few weeks and get another perspective.
I took a month off therapy over Christmas and am struggling with the idea of returning to it this week.
Lockdowns and my weird way of life in 2020 have meant that I haven’t had to come out of my comfort bubble and therefore anxiety hasn’t hit me (other than when the reality of UC overwhelms me). I even managed to start a third client over the phone without feeling a bundle of nerves. In other words, I am mostly coping with life.
But that kernel of self-doubt is still there. That central core part of me, that feels I don’t belong, that fears judgment, that I am not good enough is there and is undiminished and feels totally untouched. I am just better at pretending that it isn’t there but that isn’t enough. I put in my final assignment that my anxiety over written academic work will prevent me from further academic development unless I resolve it and it is true. It was part of the reason I did a Maths degree and even then I struggled with the small essay based module. Numbers are right or wrong; there is no judgment on quality (not strictly true but close enough). I can set this self-doubt aside most of the time. But when it comes up, or when I think about it, then that pit in my stomach opens up, my body starts to tremble and I feel tears well up (although behind my eyes, not actual tears but pre-tears). I also start to take a step back from my body, to start to disconnect so I don’t feel those emotions quite as intensely as I otherwise would.
I have enjoyed working with my new therapist. We have done some really interesting EMDR, including considering inter-generational trauma. Looking at resources, of supportive people from my past led me to get the old photo albums out of the attic and scan some photos to remind me of the good people in my childhood. I’m just not sure if it’s doing any good.
My previous therapist wondered if she pushed me hard enough. We did at times discuss this. One of my trainee therapists pushed me hard and I’m still not sure whether that was good or not. Is my desire to be pushed about feeling that I “should” be working harder at my therapy, rather than what I need.
Reading through posts from ten years ago shows me how far I’ve come. In terms of understanding connections between now and childhood, how my parents’ stuff affected me and how their parents affected them, I get all that. I understand that it’s mostly about them and not about me. I even forgive. But emotionally that kernel of total doubt is still pristine.
I had hopes of EMDR being a miracle cure which it isn’t. I shall of course discuss this with my therapist and try and plan a way forward. But part of me still feels very lost.