I fucking hate positive thinking and all that happy pop-psychology become-a-smiling-consumer adjust-yourself-to-a-profoundly-sick-society bullshit.
That brigade seem to have co-opted the concept of gratitude, which kind of sucks, because counting your blessings can be helpful. Especially for people like me, with a very emotion-dependent memory. When I feel bad, my brain only goes to bad things, a never-ending referential wormhole of backwards-looking negativity. So finding something to be grateful for can arrest that spiral.
Today I’ve been feeling like shit, exhausted and coughing, like I’m an automaton made of lead and my movement mechanisms haven’t been oiled in the last 100 years.
So, here is a gratitude list. Right now, I am grateful for:
My room, my own room.
My house and my parents and not having to fend for myself in the scary world
My brother, who just sent me this and cheered me right up.
My cool as fuck tarot cards which I’m just getting to know. It’s a journey into a whole new world, and the art there is amazing.
I have friends
I have a cool Bullet Journal to try organising my life with, and the motivation/capacity to try. I didn’t have that a year ago.
Never get bored. So much to do, so much to dream…
Ooh, today is my one year anniversary of DBT group! Thank you Facebook memories for reminding me. I can’t believe so much has happened over a year. I’ve met and shared support with amazing people who have become real friends. I think I’ve made progress. If you’d asked me a year ago to make a gratitude list while I was in a mood like this, I’d probably have tried to glass you. You know what, just writing that, I realise that I don’t feel bad anymore. This stupid shit actually works. Anyone reading this who’s kind of on the fence about therapy and trying, because it’s uncool as fuck and also really hard to care when your mental illness is distracting you with how much you hate yourself, you should totally try. As a bitter and cynical person, sometimes you’ve just gotta make an idiot of yourself, do things you think will never work, but do them wholeheartedly, or as heartedly as you can muster, and eventually, something will change. Something you try will have some kind of effect.
I’m not promising miracles, but well…
This was my Card of the Day. Everything changes. The wheel always turns.
I made goals a year ago. And then reviewed them on my birthday. There may be a sense of deja vu starting to set in. Spoiler alert: I did not yet become a cyclist, or a journalist. I still can’t knit or play the violin. I have started playing the the penny whistle though. I’m sure the neighbours love it.
So, let’s start with some positives. 2016 was a good year in a lot of ways. I started, and stuck at therapy. DBT seems to be helping. I love the people I share a group with, and the camaraderie we have in learning to live in our lives, and make lives we want to live in. It can be all kinds of hard work and sometimes you find out things about yourself you’d rather not face, but better that than the previous mess. Still a bit of a mess, but… maybe, slowly, I’m getting there. It’s an upward spiral, maybe. A labyrinth, possibly. But despite the wrong turns and confusion (and the odd Minotaur hiding in a dark corner), there does seem to be some kind of change. And a change is as good as a rest, right? I don’t feel so constantly crazy. Though I’m definitely not “cured”, whatever that would mean.
I still help out with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, in the warehouse. Just last night, 40+ people were there, making a heroic and successful effort to load a shipping container full of clothing and other needed supplies for Syria. I don’t feel like this is something to boast about though, more something that I’m honoured to be a part of, even in a small way.
Oh, and I did run that half marathon, and do that abseil for sponsorship money. I also ran a stall at the Padley Festive Fair? which collectively raised over £400 for the Padley Group charity, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in Derby.
I am still living in Derbyshire, and have somewhat made peace with that. So much beautiful countryside, and some really good people doing brilliant social activism and creative works. I’ve been travelling more lately though, mostly within England seeing friends, but to Italy as well for Christmas.
I got a poetry book published, and done something that I never really thought would happen: I’ve developed a certain amount of confidence performing live. I’ve actually got on stage and enjoyed it, rather than just feeling overwhelming dread the whole time. (Although the dread is still there.) This spoken word/reading out loud/actually speaking my words to real live people thing is beautiful. Sharing energy, communicating, that’s powerful. Thank you to City-Zen and Word Wise especially, for hosting such powerful and amazing nights.
I’ve loved and lost and suffered and learned. I’m grateful for the good times. And there were so many good times. Hopefully I’ll learn the right lessons, from the bad times. Twice this year I’ve left a man. Now I’m single and need to be. Not for rancour and isolation. I just need to turn into a real person, before I can be good for someone else. I need to learn my own edges before I blur them into someone else’s reflection.
Friends are love. I’m sorry for neglecting you and missing you and the trials of living scattered across counties, countries, continents.
Thank you all for the good times. We’ve had some adventures.
I’m grateful for my family. I’m back living with my parents. I’m amazed they’ll still have me. I lose count of how many times I’ve come crashing back down to here, to rebuild in this nest. There have been many gatherings and events and meetings, not least the wonderful wedding festival of my cousin. Just, love to the whole enormous crew who I am not going to list and name because we are a sizeable tribe and you don’t want to be here al day.
This year has left me feeling depleted. I’ve known for a while I was running out of energy, burning the candle at both ends, failing to nourish and replenish and all that. There have been some truly horrible times where I didn’t know how I could possibly survive. But, I did. There have been people lost. Real people we knew, not celebrities. Although their families must be suffering the same grief as any, and damn I did love Leonard Cohen. But it’s not at all the same. I’m not going to do a list of loss and trauma and fear. But it’s always there in this life, ocean always wearing away at the sand, chaos always waiting to spin us off into the void. It’s dark out there.
In a wider context, this has been a frightening year. We watched with grief and rage as Syrian children drowned, as Donald Trump was elected, as racist attacks and hate crimes rose as fear and rage seemed to convulse a world spinning wildly between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. What the fuck is going to happen? Who knows? 2016 has been a year where running away to live in the woods has seemed like a more attreactive option than before.
Running on mania, running on fumes, then running out of fumes, running on gritted teeth and coffee and alcohol. Eventually everything crashes. So I go into 2017 with less energy than before, feeling old and foolish, but with optimism that I’ll be able to come back from this.
Nature has nourished me deeply, has been a refuge and saviour and source of deep joy. This is what I plan to delve into more deeply, to return to and explore this year and all the years.
Much love. May 2017 open for you like a flower, and may you learn what you need to, before you are forced to.
As for 2016, I rate it 3/7. 4/7 if it hadn’t killed Carrie Fisher just at the end, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse.
I had The Illness That Makes Your Head Feel Really Heavy. This is a real illness that has apparently been going round at my mum’s work, making people sign off sick because the intense weight of their head became insupportable. It also gives you all the usual annoying cold/virus symptoms. I spent the past couple of days lying around being weak and pathetic. Now I just feel like I got hit in the head a bunch, keep feeling like I might faint, and have a scritchy scratchy throat. I’m also really tired because I helpfully had a load of nightmares about being bashed in the head and screamed at.
Being ill makes me feel crazy and sad and frustrated. To swith to therapy-speak, illness (along with tiredness, hunger, and being wasted) is definitely a factor in increasing psychological vulnerability. This we learned in DBT in the form of a snappy acronym. DBT loves acronyms. This one is PLEASE, for:
ILlness (treat it)
Avoid mood altering substances
OK I lied about it being snappy. It’s pretty clunky as acronyms go, but it does describe the basics of taking care of your body. This is definitely something I’m getting better at, but it’s still more Bukowski than Buddhist. (And leave Burroughs and HS Thompson out of it!) But I do accept the importance of taking care of yourself – of not completely trashing the body that supports and carries you for your whole life.
The trouble is, I can’t really treat this illness, because it’s basically a really annoying headcold, which is not amenable to anything other than Cold & Flu pills and Tiger Balm (better than Viks vapour rub). Obviously these things don’t really help that much, so now it’s time to mindfully accept the situation.
HAH! Just kidding. It’s time to bitch and moan constantly and do nothing useful. It’s time to wrap myself in a fluffy blanket of free-floating anxiety and curl up on the couch, because outside is cold and the gaze of others makes me feel like I’m burning.
You can tell therapy is working somehow though, because I’m not getting drunk right now.
From bitter experience, I know that New Year’s Resolutions are destined to fail. A year is an unfathomably long time, and there is no possible way I can plan that far. However, this year is different in that a lot of it is already planned for me. I will be living in Derbyshire, and doing Dialectical Behavioural Therapy twice a week. Which is probably going to be exhausting and take up a lot of my power. It also means that I want to look after myself a bit better. I can’t very well fix my brain if I’m tired, sick, or hungover.
I last made a set of goals in September. Of those goals, all I’ve managed to do is the dentist one. I got 4 fillings but think I need to go back because the most recent filling hurts. The pain has actually kept me awake a couple of nights. Oh, I also got a bike, because Daddy bought it for me. I rode some, but I admit that my lack of fitness and lack of road confidence have led to me not doing as much as I ought to. Also it has rained for the last 6 weeks so I refuse to go outside.
Journal writing has been up and down. I was doing well until December, I think. I did submit something, and got published! Now to submit something else… I also managed to take a massive backwards step by starting smoking again. Maybe that’s why I now have a hacking chest cough.
So, here are some new goals for the first bit of 2016:
Bike more places. Maybe do a cycling course so I don’t die in traffic.
Train up for half marathon in July, 3-5 days/week.
5k & 10k runs. Like the Parkrun.
Find a yoga class or similar.
Eat in a sustainable way with actual nutrients and not just cheese.
Quit smoking, again.
Drink once or twice a week, at most.
Complete editing and design cover for poetry pamphlet, by April.
Polish and submit poems and short stories I already have.
Write more stuff.
Get some work experience/do some journalism/something something professional writer.
Do NaPoWriMo in April.
Get in touch with local groups and see what I can do.
Do the therapy and homework (without constant sarcasm).
Fill in mood diary sheet every day.
Go to hypnotherapy that the amazing Si is giving me for free!
Tidy my room. It’s getting serious in here.
Paint some stuff.
Learn to crochet.
Plan some actual holidays and adventures to do during the breaks.
OK. That’s a ridiculous amount of goals. I’ll check back in 3 months and see what’s happening. Positive thinking says I will have made great progress in that time. Experience says “HAHAHAHAHAA!!! Get to fuck will you?!”
DBT would be twice a week for the whole of next year. Imagine being stuck in Derby for a whole year. It’s a horrible thought. But it’s real therapy, at last. I’ve been badgering mental health services for 3 or 4 years, this time round. Finally, I’ve got somewhere.
As for CFT, what is it? The guy who invented it is from Derby, so that’s why it’s popular here, but it doesn’t seem hugely common. How long it’s for, how often, all of the basic practicalities of it, I don’t know. I only know that it would take place the next town over from where my parents live.
This study found the following themes in their study of patients’ experience of Compassion Focused Therapy: (1) the battle to give up the inner critic: who am I if I am not self-critical?; (2) an aversive and alien experience: how it feels to develop self-compassion; (3) the emotional experience of therapy; (4) self-compassion as a positive emotional experience; and (5) a more positive outlook in the present and for the future.
Aside from the ‘aversive and alien experience’, that doesn’t sound too bad. But I don’t think just being nice to myself will fix everything. I’m angry at so much more than just me. I’m confused by life. I know myself not. I’ve made great progress in getting over my previous self hatred and teenage deathwishes, but somehow that’s not enough. I’m still trapped somewhere invisible.
Is compassion the missing piece? Or do I need the DBT skills more? The four key skills are apparently Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, and Emotion Regulation. All of which sound like great things to have.
I have serious problems making decisions, and even more problems with imagining, let alone planning, the future. So I have no idea how I’m going to decide this one.