The Last Post

Well, we’ve finally reached the end of Tales, and this will be the last post. I haven’t reached the end of my journey – at times the end feels further away than ever – but I do need to stop writing. Or at least stop writing about my journey publicly.

Part of the reasoning is linked to my previous post – that in realising I can talk to my friends about how I feel directly, the need to write the blog has diminished. It has become a mask I suppose I don’t really need. Another part is that the things that are likely to occupy my mental space (and therefore the things I’ll want to write about) are things that I shouldn’t. Stuff around the divorce, for instance, which really needs to stay offline and out of the public demesne.

Another reason for doing this is that I’ve started to understand the impact that what I write has had on people reading the blog. I write in a stream of consciousness and try to express how I’m feeling at any given moment as honestly and as openly as I can. But I tend to leave it at that – I don’t put any context in around the feelings that are accompanying the words, and therefore the words (left starkly on the computer screen) can be left open to interpretation. Recently, I’ve understood that there are feelings being associated with the words I’ve been using that haven’t been there when I’ve written them because I haven’t expressed myself clearly enough to get someone who isn’t inside my head to understand what and why I’ve written something.

And there are, of course, things that I’ve written that probably shouldn’t be in the public demesne. The way that I have forensically examined a past relationship to better understand my feelings or emotional responses to particular situations has probably been unfair on the individual concerned (and indeed other people), and has not been particularly thoughtful or considerate. But I haven’t been either of those things intentionally. I’ve never intentionally used this blog to express anger at anyone, or snipe at anyone or hurt anyone. But it appears that, at times, this is how it has been interpreted – and it makes me sad to think that my words have had that impact.

And so it must stop. I can’t – won’t – write a blog that can be interpreted in that way. The closer people are to me the more of the darker side to me they see – the frustration (mainly at myself and my ineptitude), the childish need for attention, the need to get my own way and if I don’t then the sarcasm and harshness. They get to see more of this because they are as much part of me as all the lovely positive things people have written about me. But it does add more depth to the way that my words, especially here, can be interpreted. Even now, I believe that some people will read this and come to the conclusion that I’m just throwing my toys out of my pram to get more attention. I’m not – I’ve just recognised that blogging is perhaps not the best medium through which to continue my journey.

And there we have it. Thank you very much for reading – knowing that you’ve been reading my blog has been a huge help and I have felt comforted and quite humbled by the number of people who have read it. And I’m sorry to those that I have unintentionally offended or hurt through this blog.

Advertisements

Moving on Up

I can’t believe it is a week since I lasted posted – but then it has been a particularly busy week and you have all been very generous with your encouragement and comments, so I suppose I haven’t really felt the need to post.

That in itself should be celebrated, I suppose. I started blogging because I wanted to tell people how I was feeling but to do it in a safe and fairly anonymised way. It was safe because I could still act as normally as I always had done, but have an outlet for my fears, vulnerabilities and thoughts. No-one need know it was me, and there was an almost perfect deniability about the contents because nothing linked it directly to me. More importantly, there was little or no danger that my friends’ or colleagues’ view of me would change adversely – that they would either stop being my friend or use the contents of my blog against me if they found out really how I was feeling or how different the outward appearance from the internal reality could be at times. So, a lack of trust was central, really.

But then in the Summer things changed a bit. I needed my friends’ support, and whilst I kept the charade of anonymity for a bit longer (in case others happened to come across it) I was suddenly out in the open. But I still wouldn’t talk to people face-to-face about how I was feeling – and, indeed, tried to gloss over things when I knew damn well that the other person had read my blog and had seen how things were. I didn’t want to burden anyone, I suppose, and if they chose to read my blog in their own time then fine, but if we were meeting then I assumed they wouldn’t want to listen to me telling them how I was. And, if I’m honest, I felt pretty embarrassed at feeling the way I did because other people have much much worse things happen to them and they seem to just get on with life and don’t make a fuss.

So this continued for a bit, and slowly I started to trust that my friends were my friends because they had chosen to be and not because they felt sorry for me or only liked me for my outward persona. The watershed moment, I think, was asking a group of friends to send me what they saw as my positive qualities, the response to which I was pretty overwhelmed by. It showed me that I had a larger group of true friends than I had thought as well as showing me that many knew me better than I knew myself. And from that, I suppose I’ve felt I can be more open on the various social media channels I use, trusting (knowing, possibly) that my friends’ view of me won’t change if I have a bad day or a prolonged down spell.

I haven’t been proved wrong on doing that either. The support and encouragement I’ve had since being more open has been stunning. I know that if I tweet or FB an indication that things aren’t right, someone will respond and I can share what’s going on there and then. The nice thing is that it doesn’t have to be the same person, and indeed usually isn’t. In doing so, I suppose I’m keeping in better contact with more of my friends and seeing them as a group not a hierarchy. But it also means that my need to blog is diminishing because there’s always someone who’s listened and helped me rationalise whatever’s going on. So, I’m writing micro-blogs as tweets, DMs, emails or FB posts and it’s helping me in the same way as when I used to store things up for a proper blog post.

I’m not saying that I’ll stop blogging. I won’t, because it still helps me and is quite a nice record of the progress I’m making and the journey I’ve been on. But, I think the posts will become less frequent than before. That, as well as everything I wrote in the last post and the fact that I appear to have had little problem stopping smoking, is a very good sign of progress on all sorts of levels. A KPI rather than a KPT, if you like.

And on that note, I’m going to say thank you for reading; and until next time…

Long Haul

I love flying and I love flying to distant places, but there are aspects of long haul flying that I really don’t like. I find the first couple of hours really difficult as all I can see ahead of me is 9 or 10 hours stuck in a plane, and I’m asking myself how on earth I’m going to cope being cooped up for longer than I’m usually at work with a tiny monitor and a couple of books to occupy me. Those first couple of hours go by unbelievably slowly until I get into something and a kind of acceptance falls over me. I relax and know that the time will pass and it’ll be worth it at the end – and, in fact, if I keep myself busy then I won’t even notice the time going by. Eventually we’re almost there and with an hour or so to go I start to get fidgety and tense and just want to be on the ground – after all we’ve had nine or more hours in the air and the end is within touching distance. Why won’t it come sooner?

In a way, and you know I’m fond of my metaphors, this is how things feel at the moment.

The divorce is now in progress, but we’ve only just taken off and so I’m at the start of the first couple of hours of the flight. So I’m being impatient and filled everso slightly with a feeling of dread at the likely timescale for things to be completed. But I know I’ll become occupied with various things and the time will pass, and before I know it we’ll be almost ready to land. I just need to get myself through this first bit and settle down with it being in the background of my life rather than at the forefront. Which I’ll do.

My therapy, on the other hand, feels much more like I’m almost in that final hour and am getting both impatient and excited about landing. I saw my therapist today and he is genuinely amazed at the progress I’ve made since Christmas, all of which seemed to be catalysed by understanding my side of the relationship with my friend and linking it to my Dad. I was telling him about how I was starting to recognise small glimmers of the qualities that my friends had identified, and how with support from my friends (notice the plural) I was able to rationalise three events last week that had occurred in quick succession and not go into a downward spiral. We talked about how I’m starting to be comfortable with not achieving the expectations I set for myself – especially when achieving them is entirely outside my control. We talked about me trusting others more – particularly that I was still valued and appreciated by my friends even if they were quiet for a while. Just because I didn’t hear from them didn’t mean that they didn’t care or think about me. We talked about my job hunting exploits and how I haven’t yet had an interview even though I’m used to getting an interview for every job I apply for – but how it wasn’t getting me down. Yet. We talked about how my therapist enjoyed our sessions because I made him think about things in a different way and challenged him. We talked about progress and how good it was – and how I didn’t think it was superficial and based on just the fact that I am very busy at the moment. And we ended with a further appointment in two months’ time – I’m not out of the woods yet, but it is a ridiculous amount of progress in such a short time…

And that’s pretty much where we are. There’s lots I want to write, but for obvious reasons can’t (or perhaps shouldn’t). And that’s fine – whilst most of it is fairly crap and had an impact when it happened, the important thing is that I know my emotional response was reasonable and justified given the circumstances and I’m not feeling guilty about feeling that way. And I even took someone else’s advice on how to proceed and it was the right advice. Now that is a first… (the taking advice, not the advice being right!).

And that’s a good note to finish on. So, thanks for reading – and until next time…

Regaining Control

I am hungover. Not massively so, just noticeably so. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to smoke an entire packet of Hamlets and drink a whole bottle of red wine last night – and am now both regretting it and trying hard not to beat myself up about doing so. But that’s not the reason I’m writing, although it might help to explain things if I descend into gibberish later in the post… 🙂

So, regaining control. This past week has been an up and down sort of week. The weather last week didn’t help much as it limited my ability to get out and do my garden volunteering, thereby largely confining me to my house for two days. I’m not much good on my own for a significant period of time and by Friday I was feeling demotivated, trapped, down, preoccupied and tense. However, a couple of friends rallied round and by late afternoon I was feeling better and then managed to get a sense of achievement by doing a design exercise that I had been putting off. So all good.

There have also been various ‘ups’. I took the step of texting a friend instead of just responding to texts he sends me, which I think he appreciated even if it was a smaller deal for him than it was for me! I had dinner out twice last week as late birthday meals and on both occasions it was lovely to talk openly and freely about stuff. I sent small presents to two friends who were (and still are, I think) feeling the strain one way or another. I’ve never really done that before – never really found the space to look for things or even felt I’ve had the money to do it – but both seemed to go down well and were appreciated. Even the fact that I didn’t get thanked directly for one of the presents didn’t really worry me – I did send it anonymously by mistake, after all, and the general thank you that went out to the broader world to the mystery sender (which I replied to identifying myself) was sufficient. My friends are busy people and have a myriad of things to worry about, as I have been, and there are times when it is just better to sit back and not try to be at the forefront of their minds, but allow yourself to be happy knowing that you exist in their subconscious. And I suppose that’s part of regaining control because I’m trying to rely less on the affirmation and approval of people close to me to make me have a sense of self-worth.

The other aspect of regaining control relates to my intended divorce. It appears that the knotty issues I referred to in an earlier post are knottier than I had first thought and so have taken the step of giving a deadline for the filing of our divorce petition of next Monday. I would prefer my wife to file it – after all, in some ways I have exhibited the unreasonable behaviour that has caused the marriage to break down – but I fear that she won’t and so I have prepared a set of forms that I sent to my solicitor yesterday with a view to filing on Monday, should I not hear back from my wife. It was an interesting exercise to do for the simple reason that as I outlined why her unreasonable behaviour had taken me to the point I’ve got to it became clear that, actually, perhaps I was bearing a bit too much of the responsibility for the breakdown. Perhaps her consistent lack of engagement when I said we had some issues we needed to resolve (they were ‘my’ issues not ‘ours’), combined with a number of cruel comments relating to my depression and very occasional physical abuse actually amount to something quite significant in the scheme of things. We shall see. Irrespective of what happens on Monday there are still a number of unresolved issues around the financial side of things that need sorting out – but that is for another post and will take time to unravel.

So, in short, I feel like I’m starting to regain some kind of control over my life and am keen to stop being submissive in the face of life’s challenges. There’s plenty more to do, but it is a start and, if I think about it objectively, probably quite a big start. Next step will be to stop smoking, I think, and to occupy the time and energy I used doing it to pick up my bike and start cycling again, even if it is just on the turbotrainer in the garage. But it all seems possible – and once this hangover goes, I think I’ll actually feel pretty good about the progress I’m making and how I’m feeling.

Thanks for reading. And until next time…

Growing Roses

It has been an eventful few days – the snow and the subsequent disruption to my routine, a car crash and a non-birthday have all helped to dampen my mood, and in some ways have made me ask questions about how much progress I have really made in the last few weeks.

After my car crash on Sunday night, I woke on Monday (my birthday) to tears, anxiety and considerable self-criticism. As things go, the crash was relatively minor. I skidded on the ice and hit a earth embankment and hedge, ruining the front end of my car but, thankfully, no physical damage to me. Emotionally, though, it hit me the following morning and added to a range of other thoughts and worries that had been building up over the previous few days leaving me feeling pretty down.

However, a number of friends rallied round me and by just after lunch I felt a bit stronger, less down, and like I’d been wrapped up in a warm blanket of kindness and friendship. Many of the negative thoughts had subsided and I started to work on a mental plan to delay my birthday until the weekend – which made me feel better. I was also using some of the techniques I’ve been reading about in the two books I’m reading on overcoming my illness – and whilst I am still learning how to use them and still need practise at them, they did take the edge off my low mood.

One of these techniques is to help to see yourself more positively, and involves writing down what you think your positive characteristics are – both how you see yourself and how your friends see you. If you then keep that on you or available to view, it can help support a more positive way of viewing yourself. I struggled with both when I started the exercise late last week, mainly because I am convinced that pretty much everyone is nice to me because they feel they should be and therefore struggled to write down anything that didn’t feel insincere. So, I took a leap into the dark and wrote to a selection of my closest friends and asked them to write down what my positive qualities were. Seemed to make more sense and might, over a period of time, start to encourage me to be more trusting of their view and why they want me to be their friend.

I was shocked by the responses I got, and really struggled to believe them. However, reading them over and over again and answering my disbelieving questions with evidenced and objective answers is starting to convince me that, actually, my friends aren’t just being nice. The results are below:

wordcloud_me

Many responses were deeper and lengthier than this picture implies, but I think it brings out the essence of what they said. I was incredibly touched by the time that people took to do this for me – and humbled that they saw me in this way. Whilst I still have a way to go to really trust that they weren’t just being nice, this is a huge start and emphasises that my friends have actually chosen me to be their friend for who I am and not because I’ve been needed by them or because I need them. And in a way, that means that I must have chosen my friends for the same reason – and that I’ve been using a feeling of needing to be needed to cover up my lack of trust in others.

So, a big step forward. Today I am making further in-roads into some key issues – but the detail of that can wait until a future post. So, thank you to those who contributed to the above picture and thank you to my friends for being stubborn in not allowing me to push you away. I can’t guarantee I will stop overnight, but as I continue to get better it should become less and less. And what a great person once said appears (slightly annoyingly) to be true: “if you spread the shit, roses will grow – it’s all about the gardening…”.

Thanks for letting me spread, and thanks for reading. Until next time…

Mental health and suicide – let’s get talking

I’m not usually one for reblogging other people’s posts, but this one said so much and so well that I couldn’t not reblog it… Please read it if you get a minute – whilst I’m extremely lucky to have friends who do listen and who are particularly stubborn in not getting pushed away, others are not in the same boat.

Mental health and suicide – let’s get talking.

Snow is falling

So, this morning I’m having a relatively lazy start to the day and am sat in bed watching the snow swirl around outside. The lazy start is as much to do with another two hour thinking session at 1am this morning, as it is to do with me not really wanting to get up and tackle my technical drawings for my course…

I’m not sure what wakes me up at 1am when I’m on my own – when the children are with me then it is usually them – but awake I become and then start to think about and process stuff. And it is definitely thinking rather than dwelling or ruminating or criticising myself – which is a big change over the last month or so, and a welcome and positive one. So this morning I started to explore some of the stuff I’d written in my last post and in a further email to my therapist (albeit when I was a little tipsy).

Soon after writing the last post, it became clearer what the historical underpinning of my need to be needed, the trust issues, and lack of self-worth was. I started to examine the clearest alternative example of the feelings I have about the relationship with my friend in terms of the situation with my English teacher at secondary school. I believe that it came about because of uncertainty and unhappiness at home – my mum and dad were going through a very rough patch with my Mum sleeping in the spare room and an almost constant argument going on around me. My dad was particularly forceful and it was very unpleasant – very scary actually. So I suppose I looked to a surrogate for the support and generation of my self-worth that perhaps my parents would have given me.

So then I start to look at this in a bit more detail. My Mum was very submissive in the face of my Dad’s verbal bullying and self-righteousness, and I’ve already written about how I tried to live up to the expectations my Dad set for me. This got me thinking about whether my issues are driven from a childhood situation where my perception of my Dad’s view of me drove in entirety my self-belief and self-worth, but that his unpredictability (and volatility) in terms of mood and reaction drove feelings of defeat (because he’d always win intellectually and wouldn’t be afraid to use his intellect to win) and inferiority (because I felt I could never live up to his expectations). If true, then what my Dad’s illness and death presented me with was a vacuum in terms of generating self-worth that I filled with my friend’s view of me. But then I start to think that actually I remember my wife’s view of me being overwhelmingly important for my self-worth, so does this hold as true and as simply as it is written? One answer is yes it does because after I left home it could be argued that my wife and previous girlfriend were proxies to whom I looked to generate my feeling of self-worth until I could gain the approval and affirmation I sought from my Dad via phone or face-to-face. This would be supported by the fact that their views were always tested with him to make sure it was ‘right’ – something that they both found intensely frustrating. Once he died, I then sought a new custodian for my self-worth and found it in my friend – and probably because I knew that things weren’t right between me and my wife and had started to detach myself.

So we have a historical underpinning, even if it is only partially complete. The next stage was to look at how I build and maintain relationships with other people. One of the things that clicked last night was that my starting point for all relationships I build (not just ours) is to be needed – and usually for a specific reason (someone going through a hard time, support at work, love interest etc.). The specific reason usually means that when I perceive I’m not needed any more I allow the relationship to dwindle because I don’t believe that the other person values anything more about the relationship than the support I’ve given them to overcome the specific thing. Moreover, I don’t really know how to build or act in relationships where me being needed is not the underpinning reason for the relationship. And this means that relationships and friendships become transient – I flit in and out of people’s lives offering support and friendship and when my job is done I perceive that others don’t value me as much and so I move on before I get hurt.

So taking this last point and looking at the relationship I have/had with my friend, I perceive that she doesn’t need me any more and therefore am struggling because my natural instinct is to drift away because she can’t value anything else I have to offer in a future relationship and it is easier to take control and consciously drift out of her life than be told that she doesn’t need me any more. Whilst I want to be her friend, I’m not sure she wants me to be hers because I feel she doesn’t need me (however much she protests to the different). Coupled with me looking to her to generate my self-worth in difficult times, and my issues around anxious attachment and it gets to be a bit of an emotional mess! But one that I think I understand and am ready to start work on resolving.

Where do we go from here? Well, I need to be careful in how I rebuild my friendship with my friend because I could reinforce some of the issues rather than remove them, and I need to work on perceiving myself as being liked and of value to others without the need for an underpinning specific reason to be needed. There’s work in train on the latter front, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to share it with you in the near future. On the former front, I need to make sure I don’t run before I can walk emotionally.

And that’s where I am. I feel happier and more confident that I’m understanding things better and am excited about the progress I’m making. My new ability to (generally) sit back and observe my feelings with compassion and objectivity is a huge step forward and is really helping me make more and more progress. Lots more work to do, though, but at least I feel I can now work on getting better rather than getting stuck understanding things…