Two weeks of lock-down

I sat in my car and cried outside the supermarket this afternoon. Again I feel I need to do an apologetic disclaimer of my privilege in these times – I’ve still got a job, I can work from home, I haven’t got any major health concerns and nor has anyone around me. I know how lucky I am and how I shouldn’t be complaining, but I am feeling quite strongly the emotional impact of the changes in the world out there, the emerging police state and how it emerges in me too (they’re a big group to all be out together, I bet they’re not from the same family; keep your social distance, etc, etc). It surprises me every time I catch myself because I don’t consider myself to be like that, but it seems I am indeed as judgmental as the next person, despite good intentions. Lots of things mixing up together in a slurpy soup that left me crying in the car. On the way in, we had to queue up and wait to be told we could go in. They had basically built a sort of barricade round the usual entrance so you were forced into a one way system to wait in line to get in. That in itself got my hackles up, again something about feeling controlled. Don’t get me wrong, the precautions seem sensible and I’m prepared to follow medical advice etc, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an impulse in me to kick it all down and destroy. I think we get so acclimatised to a certain level of government control, so that we don’t notice it – how we hardly notice CCTV cameras anymore, how we mostly choose to remain in blissful ignorance of other levels of surveillance online, but now it’s visibly upped a gear, I’m feeling really hemmed in and left with lots of enraged feelings. Again, I’m very lucky to not live in a totalitarian regime and maybe instead of feeling enraged at being told what to do more than usual, I should remember the privilege of relative freedom I have been born into. I am grateful for that.

So there we were stood in line 2 meters apart and then it was the turn of the guy in front of me to stand next to the security guard and wait to be let in. He asked if he’d been in before which the guy hadn’t, so he started to explain the system, “Follow the arrows, go up the odd aisles and down the even. Do not go the wrong way down an aisle or take short cuts.” “I only want some beer,” he said. “Well you can’t go straight to the beer, you’ll have to go up and down all the aisles of the shop and pick up your beer as you pass.” “Is this for real? For fuck’s sake..” The security guard scoffed incredulously, looking to make eye contact with us further behind in the queue, as if to say “Where’s he been, hiding under a rock?” “You swear at me again and you won’t be going in at all” and they get into an argument but I recognise the outrage in the guy’s voice at being told what to do and threatened if he didn’t conform. The argument culminates in the security guard calling him a muppet and shouting at him to get into the shop. The guy confronts the security guard about being called a muppet and an older guy behind me shouts out “Bloody get in the shop NOW”, like mob rule is suddenly a thing, and the guy is off and it’s my turn to take my place next to the security guard. I don’t laugh with him or make eye contact, but nor do I confront him, and again the self loathing that comes with spinelessness lurks uneasily in the pit of my stomach as I enter the shop.

I was surprised to find myself tearful as I came out and spent a few moments unpicking what had just happened as I ate crisps with contaminated hands, head resting on the steering wheel, tears swelling. I think it reminded me of hospital stuff, how the security guard with all the power ridiculed the other guy and tried with some success to get others to join in. That used to happen when I was being restrained, they would ridicule me and make jokes over me imagining somehow that humiliation was a tactic for easing distress. It made me curious about the other guy and his experience of people abusing power around him. Made me realise there must be a whole load of us who are struggling to contain the rage that this new police state is evoking rooted in our previous experiences of people holding power over us in abusive ways.

That stuff must be quite near the surface for me at the moment in ways that make sense. I spoke to the police on Friday and they are not taking the video statement they asked me to give about some of the things I experienced in hospital any further. I guessed that as I said to them at the start “Justice isn’t really something I believe in. It’s not something I’ve seen happen in my life”. It made me glad I’d stuck by my wish to not give a statement about the sexual abuse perpetrated by my brother despite them recommending I do so and trying to persuade me. They haven’t even managed to find him, which doesn’t inspire any confidence in their ability. But the fact that they wanted me to give a video statement about the psych hospital stuff gave me some hope that it might go somewhere, and their reasoning for it not going anywhere would have been apparent at the beginning. They said that the incidents I described were classed as assault and the rules with assault are that complaints have to be made within six months of it taking place. The whole process has left me feeling angry and exploited and like I didn’t trust my gut and protect myself as I had done up until then. They also said that most of the staff from that time would be very elderly or dead by now. He said they did a big investigation into the unit 5 – 10 years ago, but they struggled to gather evidence as most of it had been destroyed with the unit. I think I got my hopes up a bit that I would feel heard at last, but not really. On the phone he asked “Was that standard practice back in the 80’s then, to force feed people using – what are they called – jaw clamps?” No it fucking wasn’t and I wanted to smash him in the face. I’m sure he didn’t mean to, but it just made me feel like he really didn’t get it. I tried to say to him that my complaint wasn’t so much against the individuals anyway, it was more with the health authority for allowing such a messed up culture open to so many abuses of power develop right under their nose. It was them I wanted stood to account to remind them they have a responsibility to monitor such places so they cannot become a law unto themselves independent of any scrutiny. He said assault charges could only be an individual against an individual so didn’t know how that would be possible.

I’ve generally been in a good space, still enjoying things feeling less demanding and getting loads done. Re-felted the shed roof, done lots of washing down of walls and skirting boards and today started glossing. Went out for a run for the first time in probably over a year this morning and wanna keep up with that, so felt good to cross that first hurdle of getting back out there. For ages I’ve been feeling really weak in my body, like I’ve lost lots of muscle mass and gained too much chub. I wonder if the feeling weaker is linked to menopause. Have been peri-menopausal for a couple of years or so with irregular bleeding and now haven’t bled for over 6 months. Don’t know if feeling weaker in my body is connected, but remember what strength and stamina I used to have and how that was something I felt good about, so it will be great to reconnect with that if I can find my willpower which I lost somewhere along the way. Realising my manic energy is a defense, flight, survival energy, my way of coping and feeling in control and now a bit of the grief and the horror of the wider situation and how amongst other things, people are dying alone and the ripples of that, is starting to seep in.

It’s giving me a lot of time for introspection and processing, all this manual work I am doing, and being out in the world less.

Sending out love and compassion and good wishes…

Posted in corona virus, lock-down, mental health, psychiatric hospital, recovery, trauma, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adding my voice to the trans debate

I thought I’d go off piste and write about some of the things which have been coming up for me around the transgender debate. I’m not an avid follower of everything written on the subject but I have been around my children’s responses to some of the things that were reported about JK Rowling speaking about it and it highlighted how much history, how much nuance has been lost in the polarisation of this debate. I have never commented online about this issue as I’m too much of a wimp, I’m intimidated by the idea that I will be labelled a TERF and oppressive. The last thing I want to do is oppress other people but it makes me realise that those 2 things in tandem – not wanting to be oppressive and not wanting to be attacked for my opinions – are not unique to me and there must be a whole load of other voices we are not hearing. The transgender debate is a good example of those who shout the loudest get heard and the ability to do that is built on courage or privilege or both so in the spectrum of opinions, we only hear about those at each polarised end and other contributions are separated accordingly and squeezed into one of the two boxes by the courageous or the shouters.

My children are both teenage boys and they are growing up in interesting times, so different from when I was their age. It is cool to be non-binary, queer or trans and young people identifying as “other” seem to be generally accepted by their peer group. Any expression of “other” identity out on the street though, is likely to be met with a level of hostility and hatred by people who feel just as entitled to express their intolerance. It’s an interesting co-existence of opposing forces – in law things have become more liberal and as a lesbian, for example, I have more rights and protections than I did when I came out almost 30 years ago and although far from perfect there are more things enshrined in law to protect different groups from discrimination so there is at least a tip of the hat in that direction. But on the other hand there is also this inhibition effect enabled by online communication where people are more anonymous and less accountable and feel entitled to say whatever comes into their mind completely unfiltered. And through unaccountable expressions of hate and intolerance online people find support and know that they are not alone which gives bigots the courage to take these expressions out into the wider world. I have experienced my fair share of sexism and lesbophobia but I would hate to be a young person negotiating the “world out there” today where a significant minority think it’s ok to meet difference (from the white male ruling class) with intimidation and violence. I know that people who identify as trans are more likely than anyone to encounter such bigotry and violence which I think is completely unacceptable.

As a child growing up in a family headed by a sexist racist bigot, I felt loads of shame whilst also deep down believing that if only I had been born a boy, my dad might love me. I remember the glow I felt as a young child when a stranger would call me son or mistake me for a boy, like I could puff my chest out and stand that bit taller. The devastation of starting to menstruate in junior school was like a kick in the gut as I realised I’d been assuming myself a boy and here was the humiliating truth that I was a girl. I hated bleeding and what it meant and felt so much rage towards my body for letting me down. I was excluded from my gang of boys as my breasts got wobblier and my femaleness could no longer be denied. In a different time and different family, I have absolutely no doubt that I would have chosen to transition to male in search of a sense of self acceptance and belonging. Now though, I can see that those feelings were driven by internalised misogyny instilled throughout my childhood. These days when I meet female to male trans people I feel an affiliation, a recognition, like I get it, I understand why people do that, although of course everyone’s drivers are different. I’m glad I didn’t transition though as later I discovered feminism and butch lesbians and saw myself reflected there and started to grow some pride in my womanhood and my sisters who had walked the path before me. Reading Stone Butch Blues (as harrowing as it is) was one of many great sources of comfort and normalisation around that time.

I remember the shame and humiliation as a young adult of being told I was in the wrong toilets, “These are the ladies toilets son”. The deep breath I took on entering and leaving – the shame of being mistaken for male, the shame of people realising I was female. I would’ve loved a gender neutral toilet option to reduce the stress of that. And in these times when there are options to not have to face the uncomfortableness of mistaken gender by “becoming” male it’s totally understandable why people make that choice, to save themselves the stress, shame and harassment – to fit in. But I also see the cost of that and that’s what I was talking to my kids about – how gender has become more polarised than ever. Where are the butch dyklings now? And where are the older butch dykes for the younger ones to look up to? They seem few and far between, which is a shame as for me they were a source of power and making peace with myself and my womanhood. I am guilty of this too… Having spent most of my late teens and early 20s with either a shaved head or a mohican, I am now a pony tailed lesbian and life is much easier because of it with people assuming me straight on the street and at work.

In these queer times, reflections of male and female seem more narrow and stereotyped, and trans is seen as the route for those who don’t fit in. We have lesbians in the public eye, which is totally fantastic, but most are gender conforming and of the hundreds of images young women are bombarded with daily on social media, I’m guessing only a very small percentage fall outside of that. That’s the irony of these times – whilst the internet and social media has the potential to positively reflect so many forms of difference, it’s general effect seems to have been to homogenise the culture. As my friend pointed out the other day – where are the goths and the emos? Where are the routes to rebellion or self expression that were open to us as young people? It seems like gender identity is one of the few routes for young people who feel like they don’t fit in to express their difference. And I think there are many possible explanations for the homogenisation of culture – one is the mass consumption of porn starting in (or before) early puberty with it’s many different fall out effects, the main one being the cultural condoning of the objectification of women and girls and how that gives men and boy’s feelings of entitlement to comment, judge, humiliate and demand of girls and women with narrow views of how we “should” look and act which many apply without question, and 11 year old girls shave because it “feels nice”, etc, and loads of other stuff which I’m not going to go into here. I think there’s also something about the lack of cultural references that young people share in a way that is new and influencing their identity in a different way. Young people now are spending way more time in front of screens than previous generations and it’s like they are growing up in parallel where everyone follows their own interests and there is little cross over terms of shared references. With less shared reference points, maybe there’s less things to collectively kick against.

I have some but less personal experience with male to female trans. From the early 90s in my activist days, I saw how the issue divided feminists. I remember taking it in turns to read out loud Gender Outlaw with a lover in my bender at a women’s peace camp and the exploratory discussions which followed, whilst around us there were women who felt really passionately that male to female trans posed a great threat to women and feminists everywhere. I remember hearing of all sorts of women’s organisations that women had fought for years to establish and get funding for being threatened with loss of funding if they did not include trans women. For me, as a survivor of a myriad of childhood abuses perpetuated by men, I know that women only spaces have at times been a haven for my recovery, rare places where I have been able to let my guard down and be more fully myself. It may sound discriminatory to some, but I would have felt less at ease alongside people at the beginning of their transition journey who were clearly male, my sense of unselfconscious ease would’ve been lost. I’m not saying women only spaces are these havens of utopia, they are far from it at times in my experience and there have always been divisions and passionate differences of opinion. But I think the idea that all spaces need to be all things to all people misses the unique gifts these spaces have to offer to those who have been especially injured by white male supremacy. We need more spaces offering unique havens, not a few spaces trying to cater to everyone. As an angry young feminist waking up to the root cause of my decimated childhood being the patriarchy, I identified as a seperatist feminist for a few years but the deeper I got into it’s values, and also in the process of understanding myself more, the less it aligned with my own sense of fairness and justice and it was so weighed down by judgement that some women felt entitled to cast, like a reworking of the hierarchy in a different form. It was the first time in my life that I encountered politics being more important than relationships which was shocking to experience. I remember someone I had previously considered a friend’s disdain at my decision to get pregnant and my jaw dropping as she confidently asked, “How do you feel about bringing a potential rapist into the world?” and any shared ground seemed to drop away beneath our feet.

I talked to my kids, as I have done before, about the history of feminism and how hard women before us fought for women only spaces, for equality and how far we still have to go. How most feminist’s opposition to the Gender Recognition Act has got nothing to do with trans women but about the opportunity it will give paedophiles a right to enter women and girl’s spaces and not be questioned, and what nonsense it seems to me that everyone should have the right to decide their own gender, what a mockery that makes of the battles hard fought up until now. I do however think that people who are committed to transitioning should be recognised and protected in law as the gender they feel most describes them at some point in their journey. I agree that trans women should feel as welcome as anyone at our local women’s disco and other social spaces and know that the overt abuse and micro aggressions such people encounter as part of daily life can be life threatening and that women’s social spaces may offer a haven from that for some. I also see that it’s women having to do the accommodating in the provision of those havens when it is men (mostly) who are doing the violence and intimidation. I’ve been part of discussions and ruptures of Red Tent circles where women meet monthly to discuss and share experiences of womanhood, to be heard and witnessed and for me it doesn’t feel appropriate for trans women to be included in that. We are not a spectator sport in the exploration of our own identity and the issues and challenges brought by trans women would be different in nature and the drive to be inclusive would change the focus. And that’s what I mean about one space not needing to be everything – lets have a whole load of spaces and create our own if what we’re looking for doesn’t already exist so that we can feel seen and heard and have more energy and resources when we come back together.

It feels to me like misogyny is rife in the loudest voices in this debate, with any woman who dares to question the Gender Recognition Act being shouted down as a TERF and threatened and intimidated with potentially massive repercussions in their personal and work lives. It’s difficult to not see male privilege underlying that, that those trans women who shout the loudest wield a massive sense of entitlement in demanding they should be admitted into all women’s spaces with no regard for what the consequences for women and girls might be and I don’t think that’s fair or reasoned. I know there are loads of other trans women’s voices which don’t get heard because of how polarised the debate has become and loads of women like me who don’t speak out because of fear and not wanting to be put in one box or the other. And a lot of young people, my sons included, just hear the headlines and feel the disappointment that “JK Rowling is transphobic”, for example, or that anyone who doesn’t support the Gender Recognition Act must also be transphobic and they understandably and rightly don’t want to be part of oppressing their peers. Their gut reaction to anyone described publicly as oppressive is to defend their peers and dismiss the oppressor and it’s difficult for them to see past those headlines and be curious and open to the issues being discussed. I really feel for parents of children and young people who want to transition, how angsty that must be to negotiate, but I think it’s important we talk with them about patriarchy, society and feminism to set their feelings and search for belonging and identity in context.

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Living with uncertainty

It has been an interesting and surreal couple of weeks and still so much uncertainty from day to day. I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections about what’s been coming up for me during this time if you’re interested.

yellow daffodils in selective focus photography
Photo by Julian Majer on

Another beautiful day, spring really feels like it’s on the way with some warmth in the sun and daffodil cheer everywhere, I’m really loving my daily walk at the moment. Even noticed some of the sheep had been moved since yesterday, I guess bringing them closer to the farm house for lambing. Didn’t see as many people out and about as yesterday although when I came back down into the outskirts of town, the train station car park was almost as deserted as yesterday despite it being  a “working day”. I’m still due into work tomorrow, although I’m going to stop taking the train as at the end of last week there were so many delays and cancellations, it just doesn’t feel dependable unless I’m ok about waiting around for ages, which I’m not as it’s tedious and my kids are off school and I’ll want to get back for them. It took me about double the time to get into work on Thursday (2 hours) and there was a dramatic change in how things felt between Wednesday and Thursday, with loads less people out and about and travelling by train, things felt quieter and stiller, but nothing compared to the pre-apocalyptic feel of now. (Tomorrow I’ll be taking the car.) The calm before the storm, the anticipation of the unknown, seeing the wave looming in the distance and waiting for the tsunami to hit. Surreal feels like the most fitting description to me, which I guess will start to change as it gets closer to me.

Photo by cottonbro on

On walks, I’ve been giving people an ever widening gap on passing, with the assumption that I am carrying the virus from commuting on public transport. It has reminded me that feeling like a contaminating force is not new to me, that from very young I’ve felt there is something wrong with me that I might infect other people with. At times it’s felt visceral and huge and is something that has kept me away from others for not wanting to contaminate them. At least during this time, I don’t feel like there is a flashing light over my head telling the world, but realise this is something a lot of people might feel. The worry about being the infecting agent rather than being infected. 

I’ve been curious about my response to things unfolding. A couple of weeks ago – when we were getting news of the first cases of the virus here in the uk and were hearing about the deaths and lock-down in China and we knew for sure it was coming, it was just a matter of time – I felt some sense of excited anticipation. It made me feel quite ashamed – why/how could I be feeling excited about something which was causing people to die, I knew I wasn’t choosing to feel that but it confused me. I’ve unpicked it as time has gone on and I think it taps into lots of things – something basic about my own mortality, how I’m not afraid of death and that would be ok, which there’s a sense of liberation in, that I think at some level it’s put me in touch with. Again, it’s not very conscious, but I sense that’s an aspect. I think it taps into my experience of trauma too and that sense from back then of not knowing what was going to happen – will I survive, will I get Sectioned, will I die, will I get taken into care – the anticipation of dramatic change but not knowing what form it would take. The adrenaline filled anticipation of the unknown, how there’s something very familiar and comforting about that. How the much waited end is imminent, which is massive. Like a big exhale out. It’s how I live my life and one of the fall-outs of trauma that I resent, how I aspire and work hard to be more in the moment, fighting the drive in me to just get through to the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the holidays. It’ll be better when….it’ll be ok when…(fill in with any of the above), always wanting it to be over. And now there’s a sense that it is, in this limbo in between time something is over. The routine that I feel so boxed in and oppressed by has mutated into something with change being the only certainty. There is a comforting familiarity in it that. “This too shall pass”. When it felt like it would never end and all I wanted was for it to be over. Some parallels with surrender too, in the unknown, in the in between time, like I love roller coasters and psychedelic drugs (not that I take them these days) and that tangible feeling of letting go. There’s a quality of that in this time of unknowns and that too is comforting.

Photo by Life Of Pix on

I totally acknowledge what a privileged position I am in to be in touch with these feelings. I am not in the crisis mode of many whose lives are already being impacted through job loss, underlying health conditions, concerns about elderly relatives, etc, etc. I am not living in fear or dread or anxiety, I am feeling very grateful for all that I do have and I acknowledge my good fortune to be in this position. It was really interesting seeing a friend the other day and her offering a different perspective despite material security – of feeling quite overwhelmed by feelings of dread and anxiety – all those carefully planned spring and summer trips away which she’d been looking forward to cancelled, the dread of the possibility of having to spend time alone in her house when she plans her life around being with other people. The super powers of the introvert coming to the fore at last!!! Socially isolated is how I live my life, it is my normal, and to be given explicit permission to do that, to be told that is a good thing, is affirming too I suppose. I have infinite capacity to be with myself and not get bored though loneliness sometimes rumbles, but I don’t think it will in this time of socially sanctioned self isolation, there will be a sense of solidarity in everyone doing it. Welcome to the world of the introverts or the traumatised, or both!! It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

I have been eating loads – way more than I need. Carbs and sugar I’ve been craving and finding hard to resist, especially in the evenings, I could eat constantly. The chub getting chubbier by the day, which it’s hard to reflect on cos it fills me with disdain and self hate at my lack of self discipline. It’s interesting to think about it in the wider context of the situation we are living in. My cupboards are usually constantly stocked for Armageddon, as are my sister’s apparently, which she puts down to us not having enough food when we were kids, but I don’t remember that. But for whatever reason, in the run up to this Corona virus crisis, my stocks had run low and I was without pasta or tinned tomatoes. I hate supermarkets and I hate crowds so being amongst people panic buying made me want to run in the opposite direction rather than elbow people out the way, especially because the shelves of what I wanted always seemed to be empty. I hunted pasta for about 2 weeks to no avail, but luckily a friend bailed me out last night and scored me some! So maybe that empty shelves thing is getting into my psyche and making me want to stuff my face anticipating hard times ahead. Uncertainty probably makes us eat more too I would guess.

The kids have finished school, the eldest in his GCSE year is literally over joyed and was dancing round the kitchen for about half an hour when it was announced the exams had been cancelled. He is so relieved to have unexpectedly finished school – it was clearly further out of his comfort zone than I appreciated. I’m not looking forward to him festering in front of a screen for months though and have already said no screen time during school hours, but that’s going to be very difficult to enforce especially whilst I’m at work. I think he’ll soon get very bored if we go into lock down. I just want him to read a book or do something creative. He dances a lot and listens to music but gets sucked into Instagram and YouTube for hours on end. I’m sure most parents of teenagers are familiar with the frustration of this and the weight of the responsibility of feeling like you are complicit in the rotting of your child’s brain. At least my youngest is with his other mum for now so I am freed of the guilt of not being a good enough all singing and dancing home educating mum for him for the time being. I’m still expected into work as usual this week, although I don’t know for how much longer. We’re not doing face to face work, but are working on the phones and online which will surely move to home working soon. I am going to drive to save myself the frustrations of public transport and to feel like I’m being socially responsible at this time.

I know people are being impacted in different ways. Hope people in self isolation are feeling supported and able to reach out online or by phone or snail mail. I really hope good old fashioned post can have a resurgence. That’s something I’m planning to do this week actually – write letters to friends. Look after yerselves and those around you in anticipation of hard times ahead xxx

Posted in corona virus, mental health, parenting, recovery, trauma, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spending time with parts

I’m starting a new job tomorrow which is bringing up big anxiety which I know is really normal. Has been interesting to have a closer look at it, to get to know it a bit more. I try and start each morning with 20 mins or so of yoga before I get the kids up and the rush of the morning starts. It’s really worked for helping me feel more in my body and less dissociated and I notice now when I go a few days without doing it. It helps me land in my body or stay grounded there. I also aspire to do a 10 minute mediation, but depending on my levels of organisation, that sometimes gets dropped. It’s based in self compassion where I imagine a green light of self compassion coming up from the ground and down from the sky and out of my heart at all angles and tell myself various things about being good enough just as I am. It came about after a brilliant Deirdre Fay workshop I went to last year where I had a self compassion break-through. Up until then, I knew self-compassion was a shift I needed to make, but there were so many blocks I couldn’t work out a way round. At that workshop it came to me in the form of a green light which was as accessible as it gets and something I’ve been able to work with and build on ever since. I’m always seeking tools to add to my healing kit as I so aspire to find life easier than I do and will keep looking til I get there.

A few months ago, I eagerly awaited the arrival of a book by Janina Fisher called Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors – Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation. The title itself spoke loudly to me, as it feels like it sums up my core issue – self alienation. I’d also come across some of Janina’s work before and felt like it resonated. The book was expensive, but a brilliant investment and I devoured it. It’s really practical and I’ve used the techniques she describes since. It’s a mix of Internal Family Systems and Somatic Experiencing/Practice theories (in simplistic terms). I don’t feel like a particularly integrated person and I appreciate the super powers that splitting offers me – my work persona is super functional, for example, no matter how falling apart my more vulnerable parts may be. So, it’s great working with an approach that acknowledges and validates those splits and parts and encourages the growth and development of the overseer as the core identity, as my core identity. She basically frames any distress or big feelings as a “part” communicating and desperate to feel heard. I like it as a re-framing, helps me separate myself more from the feelings which is really helpful when I can do it. It takes practice, which is what I’ve been doing this morning.

assorted puzzle game

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

I woke up feeling really anxious but also noticing my sleep over the past few days has not been too bad and feeling grateful for that as a good space to start a new job from. I’ve had a tough couple of weeks so have had to be more pro active with the self care, including journaling which I’ve been committed to for the past few days so that must be helping too I guess. One of the things I also wanted to do was give myself more time for meditation, to spend time with “the parts” in me. I was curious about the parts driving the anxiety so sat in meditation and invited them to step forwards. They didn’t really speak to me but showed me lots of useful stuff. The first part was manically running between two places – running towards something with her arms upstretched and then in the opposite direction towards her hiding place behind the arm chair, desperate to get there, to be safe and I felt that butterfly in my stomach of panic in the unresolvable pull in opposite directions – to be seen and to hide, to take a risk or keep safe – just not knowing what to do. I’m seeing this dynamic play out in myself a lot recently and I think it’s showing me something about disorganised attachment where there is no resting place in the push pull of it and wanting one thing but doing the opposite. It’s confusing and hard to describe.  I described out loud what I was being shown and tried to be empathic about the strong feelings going on. I asked what she was afraid of and she said “being seen” and then “Not being seen” and then I asked the part further, “What might happen if you were seen/not seen”. Fears of making a mistake and being punished and humiliated for it and ultimately rejected and alone and for the not seen part about being starving and cold and rejected. She was only really little and I told her that she was part of me and that I was a grown up now, that I was there for her and had her back and would never abandon her. That was the bit I got to in a way I haven’t managed before that felt quite profound – telling her that I could be there for her in what ever she wanted however much she wanted, that there weren’t any limits or boundaries to that, that keeping her safe was my total priority. It’s something I find really difficult in my “real” life as a single woman who finds it hard to trust and make connections with people, I feel alone in the world. And with the people I am connected to, part of me feels the pain of not being in their “inner circle” whilst another part berates me for being too needy and nothing ever being enough. It’s been a theme in therapy too, that feeling of being too much but also like no one else could possibly meet my insatiable needs. So to realise I can offer that to myself and owe that to myself which feels quite profound, although it obviously needs to be something I practice, not just easy words.

Then we were both stood in front of a mirror, her stood in front of me with her arms up, holding onto my hands. Me saying “there you are” “Do you see?” and squatting down an putting my head on her shoulder, trying to look at her reflection though her eyes. “What a beautiful soul”. Her finding hard to look up and look at herself, just fleeting glances. Me saying “Just look” and encouraging her to be curious and leaving her there whilst she built her courage to look at herself.

And another part (whom I’m quite familiar with) free falling through the abyss, the stomach churning terror of the intense perpetual motion feeling trapped and it’s unbearable. Everything’s too big, too much, totally overwhelming. I’ve met her before so didn’t need to ask her much. Terror is the main thing she communicates. So I got this purple lycra parachute type thing and caught her up in it and pulled and pulled until I hoiked her out despite her being pulled and sucked away from me. She needed containment so I swaddled her up tight in the lycra and held her and rocked her and stroked her hair off of her face telling her “I’m here, I see you, I’ve got your back, I will protect you. I wont let anything bad happen”. She was a fair bit bigger than the other part and was long on my knee, maybe 5 or 6. Telling her too that keeping her safe was my total priority which I felt more connected to than I ever have and it felt profound and liberating and exciting. The idea that maybe I am not too much, maybe I can meet myself in a way that I have not been able to be met by others. Maybe little by little I can start to fill the unfillable hole. I know it takes practise and commitment, but keep taking little steps in the right direction and I will get there.

Hopefully I will be able to sleep tonight on the eve of my new job now that I understand where the anxiety is rooted and what will help soothe it.


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I’m taking a break from therapy and want to share my reflections and hold myself to account by using the time to do that here. I haven’t written for ages, partly due to the belief that no one wants to read my depressing words, but I guess I’ll just share my processing and if you’re interested read on and if you’re not, no pressure.

Christmas always seems to bring up some very tricky themes for me and I feel like I’ve taken a step backwards, but I’m trying to keep in mind the concept of a healing spiral where I’m revisiting well known themes but from a different perspective and each time I spiral into and out of stuff I do so with new information and ideas. blog spiralIt feels more compassionate and less catastrophic than the linear idea of taking a step backwards. I did my usual thing of holding it together until Boxing Day and then when there’s nothing to constantly busy myself with, the feelings seep in and grief overwhelms me in quite a physical way and I can’t stop crying, not like sobbing, but tears streaming unstopably, triggered by everything and nothing. No particular thoughts like poor me or I wish this or that was different, it’s just like the bottom drops out and there I am hurtling through the eternal abyss of shock and grief again. It’s exhausting and adds to the feelings of being dysfunctional and freakish. I have learned to be more compassionate with myself though and just sit back and observe from afar instead of allowing my internal sergeant major to run riot on his judgmental rampage stamping on everything and leaving me feeling furious with myself and my “weakness” like he used to. Now I just notice “here I am crying again”, it feels like it will go on forever but I know it wont. And when the crying stops after a few days, I regain the capacity to think and do my detective work.

The theme this Christmas was pretty much the same as it is every year – belonging, or lack of, like I’m sure it is for many people around this time. There were various different triggers and also the reality of spending Christmas Day with just me and my two teenage boys and how that confronts me with guilt and regret for how I haven’t managed to create a wider pseudo family for them like I hoped I would. How I still totally lack the skills to do that and wish I were better at it. I also feel a bit embarrassed about having a difficult time at Christmas, when I know it’s all stuff in my own head. How glad and grateful I am to be materially secure with all that me and my family need, and how I don’t have to deal with any wider dysfunctional family stuff like others have to endure. I’m free of all that and I’m very grateful. And because of that I imagine people think I create a hard time for myself for the drama of it or something, like I have a choice and why can’t I just get on and have a nice Christmas and be grateful. But it isn’t a choice. I don’t sit there and think myself into a hard time. In fact I do the opposite and keep myself busy so I can avoid the thoughts and feelings but it all comes crashing down when the pace slows.

I feel like I’ve got a bit more to the roots of it this holiday and it’s been another reminder of what a deep impact my childhood experiences still have and how wide the fall out. I feel less resentful and more acknowledging, less judgmental and more compassionate I guess. For sure, I judgmentally wonder what am I doing here in my late 40s still struggling with themes I surely should have resolved by now, especially given that I’ve been actively trying to heal for more than half of those years. Why do I still feel like such a freak and an alien, such an outsider who doesn’t belong anywhere, so bereft of community and lacking in connection with significant others?


Image from Karen Treisman’s Therapeutic Treasure Deck

So wanting to be part of someone’s inner circle instead of being a constant satellite around the edges of everything and everyone. And I totally acknowledge my ambivalence too – I want it, but don’t want it; the thought of it makes me want to run in the opposite direction – people are a source of stress and fear, not comfort and safety.  It’s easier to be lonely than make myself vulnerable with needs of others which aren’t met. Only it isn’t. And it’s not my adult experience, people haven’t been a source of stress or fear generally – my radar is set to lie low and avoid those people – so why does this sense of alienation persist? It runs so deep, this childhood brainwashing of being other, that I have wholeheartedly adopted and owned it as my version of myself without even realising. It was the job of my parents to show me how to belong, to give me a sense of fitting in to the family and a sense of how that fitted into the wider culture and they didn’t do that. They did the opposite and instilled the belief in me that the world would be a better place without me in it and that continues to manifest in such insidious ways which are just coming into focus.

I drew some of it out the other day:

belonging tree

I have had a bit of a revelation that this lack of belonging in my family is the source of my lifelong self alienation and that healing into a sense of belonging means noticing the brainwashing and separating myself from it. And that is the task ahead which feels tedious and massive, but at l have some ideas of where to start. The first one being to embrace the parts of myself I have abandoned and banished. Just like I continued the childhood abuse in the form of self harm for decades, I am realising I have done the same in terms of belonging and I need to find ways to welcome myself home before I can feel like I belong anywhere else. And only I can do that.

I’ve got a good grasp of many of my parts – the 3 year old hiding behind the arm chair, the furious painter, the infinite crevasse, the sergeant major, the lava lamp type blobs, the ashamed, self hating one who believes she is the source of all badness, the dirty toddler with her arms reaching pleading to be picked up, etc, etc. I’m gonna try holding compassionate welcoming space for them all and hopefully when we are all gathered and I have welcomed them in and I fully belong to myself, I will find ways to belong elsewhere.

It ain’t gonna be easy…

I’ve been listening to this great audiobook: Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner.


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Sometimes I loose myself
And cannot get myself back
It happens so quickly
A short sharp jab
Or an imperceptible scratch
To the tin foil surface of my delicate soul
Is all it takes and I am gone
Like a dandelion puff
Lifted by the wind
And no matter how hard I try
What sweet things I whisper
Or how much I persist with my lasso
I cannot quite catch my spirit ankle
Its like the end of the rainbow
On the pavement that time
The smell of the rain on the road
Running towards it with my hand outstretched
Chasing it’s magic
Wanting to touch its gold
But it moved as I did
Unreachable ethereal
Now I just have to sit here and wait
And know that
One morning when I wake up
I’ll wiggle my toes
And know its my body
I’ll feel my breath fill my chest
And find myself back
(The lame, foggy frustration
Of putting key in lock lifted)
No longer floating around and above
But here
Able to see the day
And taste the air
Senses align
The chime of twelve
This is me

Posted in Dissociation, mental health, trauma, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Body Remembers

I’ve been struggling again over the past few weeks, not to the point of hopelessness and despair, but properly out of sorts. I’ve been wondering if I’ve contracted some mystery virus which has left me feeling like the life-force has bled out of me – exhausted, brain fuddled and grouchy. Wondered if I’ve been deficient in this or that, looking for a physical explanation for why I’ve felt so tearful and pulled to my bed. There’s no reason, no sense in the dreaded weighted jacket of dissociated overwhelm pulling me to my knees once again. And then yesterday listening to the radio, an interviewee was reminiscing about the late 80s and I started to feel some cogs turning in my brain and later on in the day having an a-ha moment (not of the 80s type!)


I had the sudden realisation that my eldest son is the same age, and we are at the same time of year, as I was when I was headed towards my first psychiatric admission. I’d been self harming for a year or so, had stopped speaking, tried to kill myself for the first time, whilst my family ignored, judged, denied and blamed and shamed me for being mad. I remember feeling so horrible, how I just wanted everything to stop; the fantasies of lying in a deep dark hole in the ground; how my head pounded and skin crawled with the self hate and shame and feelings of contamination, what an immense effort it was to do the most basic things, the impossibility of holding my head up. In a few weeks from now, at his age, I would’ve been pulled from the classroom by the year head after getting lost in the rhythm of banging my head on the desk, and been told I wasn’t allowed back to school. It has been a relief to make that connection, it is such a visceral thing, so resonant. I feel now a homeopathic dose of what it felt like back then, the wise words of Babette Rothschild “The Body Remembers” echoing in my head. Climbing the stairs exhausts me at the moment, although I’ve got myself out for a run today in the hope of speeding my system up a bit.

I think I’ve made the connection of my son being at this (significant for me) age a couple of times before, but at a mental level and I’ve pushed it out of my mind, turned the other way. Now it’s showing up on a physical level and it will not be ignored. I’ve been resistant to seeing myself in my son, as he’s obviously who he is and completely separate to me and I don’t want to think about how I was back then but my body reminds me it wont be silenced.

At 14, my son’s not particularly ambitious but I think he’s going to be ok. All I want is for him to be happy and kind. He’s been out with his friends on this sunny afternoon and it makes me happy that he’s enjoying his freedom without it entering his mind that he’s one of the lucky ones. It’s not all been easy for him living with a mum in various states of PTSD, but I’m doing better than I did. We’re quite normal in some ways – he hates me at times and I get frustrated with him and his seeming inability to tidy up after himself (after my run earlier I came home to an upended bottle of milk between the sofa cushions which leaked on the sofa and has rendered the TV remote useless [for example!]). We get locked into conflict less than we used to as I have learned and practised to not meet rage with rage and instead hunker down and wait it out until the storm has passed. And he talks to me about stuff, and he knows I love him and his brother right up to the moon and back googleplex to infinity and beyond.

I want to heal. I have worked hard to sort my shit out, to be more the parent I wanted to be, to be more free from the enduring fall-out of trauma. But grief it seems, is always just round the corner, a dark looming brick wall which I run from at top speed in the opposite direction. Terrified of it’s shadow, I don’t want to even look. I’m ramming it down all the time, the edge of tears, it makes me want to collapse but I can’t let myself go there despite it snapping at my heels. Keep running, keep looking away. I know I do need to look, that there’s some healing to be had there, but how do you grieve something you’ve always been better off without – your family (some of whom are now dead), psychiatric abuse (the physical remnants of it flattened years ago into a housing estate). Where do you start? Is there an end? Always having to hold it all together in case anyone should see through the gaps to my messy insane insides. Sometimes I yearn to surrender, to be held, to not have to be the one who holds it all together, but I know that’s a dangerous place to go and as a single parent, so much would be lost in a landslide and I don’t want that. So I just need to find a way to sit this out with as much compassion as I can muster until it passes again and do all I can to gather supplies along the way. I know it will pass. And hopefully at some point, I’ll find the courage and some support to start dismantling that wall brick by brick and it’s shadow will no longer loom so large over my life.

Posted in healing, mental health, parenting, psychiatric hospital, ptsd, trauma, Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Resistance is huge for me. I have so many intentions to heal. Sign up to the latest programme that gives me hope, the latest therapist and engage positively up to a point and then something happens and I’m wading deep in old patterns of self hate and self sabotage. It manifests in watching too much crap reality TV so that I don’t have time to think, reflect and just be, so that my leisure time after the kids are in bed in focused around the TV – there’s no space for anything else. And socialising – so much resistance to that! And I have good reasons to back up my resistance – social anxiety is so uncomfortable, my alone time so precious, so why would I trade the relaxing and comfortable for the paranoid, heart racing unsettling. And yet I struggle with feeling lonely, with my life feeling barren of meaning, of sustaining life affirming connection. I get frustrated with myself but with some work I have moved from a position of habitually berating myself and giving myself a hard time for not being more open to new experiences because that’s an intense swirly downward spiral of self hate. And kicking my self up the arse never achieved much anyway – you can’t get much out of social connection when you’re in survival mode, it is just a matter of surviving it, and waiting for the relief of being back safe at home. But there is something about kicking myself up the arse I need otherwise I’d just be a formless blob on the floor.

Listening to Irene Lyon earlier about befriending resistance, which is not new, but I haven’t really looked much into the source. What am I resistant to?

  • Intimate relationships
  • Structured healing time
  • Healing
  • Finding life easier
  • Forgiving myself
  • Socialising
  • Going to bed
  • Dropping this private identity of someone who doesn’t cope well with life
  • Flow and fun
  • Living

Its hard to believe in the idea that resistance is there for a good reason, that it has developed in order to protect myself from something. It is easier to believe it is more a fundamental flaw in my character epitomised by laziness, fear and deep feelings of futility – the fear of failure, the acceptance that failure will be part of the outcome so why bother trying in the first place. So I stay stuck. How to befriend resistance, to walk alongside it? When I think about the feelings of futility, my ambivalence about my life despite having two great kids (how fucking ungrateful am I? roars that hateful voice in my head, and I agree) it does feel like a very young part of me. The part that kept myself as small as possible in all ways in an attempt to avoid the wrath of my dad. The part that learned I was too much, too needy and that my needs could never be met and there was only me to rely on despite the knowledge that I was fundamentally bad wrong and unlikeable. And when I think that, it’s no wonder I am constantly trying to flee from myself via TV, drugs, etc. My granddad was the only one to show me any softness and offer the comfort of his knee, but with that came his hands down my pants, so no wonder it’s hard to let my guard down, no wonder I have resistance to intimacy, to finding any safety there. So the resistance shouts NOOO!!! Don’t let go! Keep yourself locked in tight. Another part of me says, yes but all that stuff was so long ago – you haven’t had any contact with any of them for over 20 years, why are you still so stuck? And I guess that’s the thing, with a deep resistance to trusting life and the people within it, I keep myself very small and that in turn limits my ability to rewire those experiences, so it’s like a self perpetuating force shield – resistance means I keep myself safe, but also means I limit my capacity to grow and form new core beliefs. Oh to feel some sense of victory in survival instead of feeling so done in by it. I want to be better at surviving, I want to feel more flow, have easier access to happiness – especially when it’s right there for the sharing with my kids – instead of turning away, keeping myself perpetually mundanely occupied with petty “useful” tasks so I can justify being, trying to fulfil a role and keep going.

I understand my resistance to forgiving myself, I’ve done a lot of thinking about that and get glimpses of the grief under all the self hate, the shame and the blame. I have moved slightly, and I do actively remind myself that self compassion makes life easier and I have notes stuck up all over the place to remind me. So I guess understanding what drives that resistance has been helpful in trying to make space for something else. It’s not about tackling it full on, but about making space round the edges for something softer. Slowly slowly, and it’s hard not to get frustrated with the pace of it, of my ability to change. That aggressive voice of GO GO GO and the feeling that it will never be good enough, that I’m a waste of space piece of shit who will never amount to anything is always shouting at various volumes in the background. Another insight into why it’s so hard to believe in my capacity to change so that I can live life with more ease.

So what can I do about that? My foundations are built of all that stuff, no wonder it’s hard to be a solid adult. In terms of befriending the resistance, maybe it’s about using my imagination to sit with that young part and say I know that you are scared, and to stay frozen seems like the safest thing to do. If that was me with an actual child, I wouldn’t say “Get yer coat on, we’re going on a train to the city.” I would do things little by little to gradually build up a sense of internal safety, and of course there would be freak outs along the way – I’d try and go at the child’s pace, not push my own. It feels like what underlies all the things I feel massive resistance to is fear. For me, resistance is fear and I need to sit alongside that to understand what would help, to respect that being frozen makes me safer (not in reality, but in this concept of resistance), to listen to the pace that young part can tolerate instead of pushing through with the force of the sergeant major that’s so familiar.

Resistance is fear. It is the child in me knowing that the best thing I can do to survive is stay out of everyone’s way, be invisible, say small and frozen – it is definitely not standing up and saying I want more, I deserve better than this, which is what I’m trying to do now. That would’ve been very dangerous. Hence the resistance.


…..And so more pieces come together…..


Posted in healing, mental health, trauma, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Glimpses of new possibilities


Change is a happening in me. In a good way. An unfolding, an opening, and uncurling unfurling. A new place. A new way of being with myself, a new way of dealing with things. Just starting. Glimpses of new possibilities.

I went to the dentist on Friday and did my usual thing lying in the dentist chair with my mouth open, telling myself over and over in my head that nothing bad is happening, it’s all ok. I’m lucky I get to see the same dentist every time and even luckier that he is a decent man who doesn’t seem to judge me. I told him when he first became my dentist that dentists were difficult for me and I had some related trauma and although we don’t talk about it, he heard me. On Friday he was looking at my x-ray a bit mystified and I started saying “I’m not making it up, but..” and I was going to say maybe I was overplaying it as I have a tendancy to trivialise and felt embarrassed and like I was wasting his time. He reacted incredulously with “I’m not in any way suggesting you are making it up”… Then I became aware of the tears, the feeling of utter devastation, the bottom dropping out as is fairly familiar. The glasses steaming, the tears silently torrenting. I couldn’t get them to stop for the rest of the consultation and he didn’t comment, and I appreciated that.

I felt the frustration of my own weakness and inability to do a seemingly normal thing without feeling traumatised. I knew I’d been triggered and instead of angrily batting it away, I gave myself little moments to be curious and by the next day I understood more about what had happened. It was something about the dentist and his tall male assistant walking round me lying down reminding me and making me feel very unsafe, and the echoes of being force fed with a metal jaw clamp in psych hospital as a teenager, and my dad pulling my tooth out with the red handled pliers when I was a kid; along of course with saying “I’m not making it up” and how that fits in with it all, cos still now I think I made it all up or exaggerate the truth. And the feeling of being in the way, of attention seeking, of asking for something I did not deserve. Zapped me right back to an overwhelming blend of those times. I’ve been here before, but there’s something new in being more open to it, to letting myself join the dots. Usually I am so desperate to regain self control and the most efficient way to do that has been via self contempt and self hate – a great and all consuming distraction. It feels much healthier and actually healing to let myself join the dots, but has been a surprise in how much pain there is, how much it hurts, how deeply. The loss, so much grief and loss, the physical intolerable pain of that – I remember living with that as a kid, how exhausting and soul destroying it was.

 It is so fantastic having a break from work and routine, it is so what I need. More space. Enough space to feel like I can operate from a place that isn’t perpetual overwhelm. I am realising how much I depend on that routine to keep myself scrubbed up clean. Yesterday, I washed my hair and body for the first time in two weeks. I have always hated washing and not enjoyed baths, but after a weekend in a field, I eventually managed to get myself in there and it was a good experience. I had lots of bubbles, lit a candle and rolled myself a joint. I have been doing fortnightly sessions with a trauma therapist via skype since Easter, working on the level of the nervous system and my startle reflex has really calmed, which is profound for me as that has been one of the most horrible daily symptoms I have lived with. It has been amazing at times to realise I didn’t do the electric shock jump jolt to an unexpected noise, and others have noticed and commented on my lack of reaction too. A big focus of this work is about trying to be in my body more, which I have a lot of resistance to and it’s frustrating how difficult I find it to feel bits of my body and what’s going on in it. In the hot bubbly bath, I became aware of how uptight I’d been holding myself physically and emotionally for ages and willed and talked myself through letting it go, “It’s ok, everything is ok. There’s nothing to be stressed or worried about. Everything’s ok. I’m ok. I’m safe” etc. Then I moved on to feeling my body in the water, and for a while I was able to inhabit it and it felt ok and even nice in parts and I talked to myself some more “This is what it’s all about. Feeling ok in this body right here right now. This is what it’s all about. This is what it means to be ok, to feel ok” and some tears and surrendering. How awesome to be able to feel that. I feel very grateful.

 There’s a big hunger in me for being witnessed at the moment, I guess it’s always been there, but it feels like it’s shouting in a different way now. Like I have all these intrusive images and I want to be able to hand them over to someone with all the physical details and the emotional devastation, just hand it to someone for them to put in a box and bury it deep in the ground. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore, I want it gone. I have a fantasy that this is possible via a morning with an understanding therapist and some MDMA. The fantasy of handing it over, of being in control and not feeling retraumatised, being done with it, having it gone. Having more moments like I had in the bath.

Posted in dentist, healing, mental health, ptsd, trauma, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

A day out with the kids

I wanted to write this to share some of the ways past trauma leaks into my life today. Not in a poor me type way, just to share how it manifests in subtle ways, as it does in many of our lives creating additional challenges others might not imagine.



A close friend had taken suddenly very ill a few weeks ago, (thankfully she is slowly getting better). She is a generous and supportive friend and fairy goddess mother to my youngest, who turned 11 this week. They both share a birthday and as a way to celebrate, she had booked a day for her and my two kids to go to Bricktastic, a Lego convention in Manchester. Because of her poor health she could no longer take them, so it was down to me.


I was looking forward to it, as her and the kids were so enthused about it when they got back last time – the amazing models built by hobbyists, the freebies, the big builds they could get involved in, etc. I was anxious about one thing and that was getting there. I played this down, but looked it up on map and planned our route, thinking that the most straightforward way would be on a bus from the train station. It looked like an easy route, and my friend assured me it was indeed very simple.


We got off the train in Manchester in good spirits and headed for the bus stop. I tried to make sense of what the route map was trying to tell me, which was difficult, but I was reassured by the fact that it was a circular route. When I am stressed, even just a bit of ordinary stress, my brain finds it very hard to make sense of things, to take in information. This gets compounded in an unfamiliar place around lots of people. In order to cope with the stress and stimulation, I seem to shrink in my awareness, so it’s like I’m in a globe ball and everything outside it gets shut out, but it’s very isolating and hard to make contact with anyone, which I find pretty scary anyway. So, we got on the bus, and after about 10 minutes, I plucked up the courage (this sounds pathetic I know – I am an adult woman, a mother) to ask the driver which stop we needed to get off at. He said we’d got on the bus going the wrong way and that what we needed to do was to get off at the next stop and catch the bus going in the opposite direction.


That sounded simple enough, so we all got off. For a reason I can’t explain, I could no longer trust we would get there on the bus, so our best option seemed to be to walk. I was calm at first as we walked in a random direction whilst I tried to get a map up on my phone. The boys were calm and fine with not knowing where we were or how we were going to get there. My incompetence with technology frustrates me at the best of times, but to be in this situation where it could be really helpful if only I had the basic skills to use it fed into my rage at myself and added to my stress. Eventually I gave up trying and took another deep breath to go and ask for directions. I’m not sure why, but I always find it really difficult to ask for directions, scary and unfamiliar – something about asking for help and how visible that makes me. And then of course, I can’t retain the information.


I repeated to the kids immediately what the man in the shop had said, and we headed off in a promising direction. After a while we got to a really busy shopping area with roads going off in all directions and again the disorientation of sensory overload meant I couldn’t think straight. I had no idea. I asked a couple of people for directions who couldn’t help and that was my courage spent. We scrutinised sign posts, and stood about in a sea of people whilst I tried to work out what to do next. I spotted a map board in the distance so we headed there and I managed to look up the place we were heading, but couldn’t make any sense of the map. My youngest suggested we should head off back in the direction we had come, which we did for a while, but then it became clear that was not the way, so went back again to the map. I knew I had to do this, that this was our best option and stood there willing my brain to unfuddle. Eventually I managed to do what I needed, which was flip the map in my head so we could work out which way to go, and this time we headed off with hope of getting there.


By this time the stress and overwhelm was such that tears flooded my eyes and then wouldn’t stop. As we walked away from the crowds, my youngest looked up to me and said “Mummy, are you crying?” The shame. The shame of feeling so easily overwhelmed, of having the ground disappear from under my feet, of the physical fact of being lost and how that triggers my own internal disorientation. “I can’t even do this. I’m forty fucking four and I can’t even take my kids on a nice day out without going into melt down.” Etc, etc. The map of two straight lines I’d studied the preceding day taunted me, “Not even that. What’s so difficult?” The shame of people seeing me in the middle of Manchester crying with two kids in tow. We stopped at a shop to buy drinks in a bid to normalise and try to pull myself back together and stop the tears falling. My eldest said, “It’s ok mummy, we’ll be there soon.” I usually manage to keep my meltdowns hidden from them and felt bad that they were the ones reassuring me. Walking again, I thanked them for being so lovely, because they really were heart warmingly lovely to me, and apologised for being in such a state and the tears slowed down.


We got there and we had a good day – the kids had a lovely time, and I was really glad and grateful we did something nice together, something different. But it reminded of me of why my life is so small, why I don’t arrange to do such things off my own back with the kids. It makes me feel so pathetic, but it’s the reality of my limits, which I pushed at a cost and won’t have the resources or the courage to do again for some time. It reminds me of how getting a GPS for my car a few years ago felt extravagant but has totally transformed my experience of driving, taken the stress away, a visual contradiction to my raging self doubt at the smallest decision. We did it though, we got there! We got lost again on the way back, but it was tedious and tiring more than stressful. A messy disorganised brain makes it challenging to step outside my comfort zone. I need a life GPS, telling which way to turn, what decision to make – that would take the stress away. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to do – rewire my brain – it just takes a long time and a lot of commitment.


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