Yesterday I wrote a happy shiny summary on 2010. It was accurate, and covered many of the positive things that had happened last year, but it wasn’t an accurate reflection. The purpose of a reflective exercise is to put the past into a learning framework, and that’s what I failed to do. By looking only at the positives, I sidelined and ignored the struggles I faced, and how those struggles influenced the positives.
When looking at the overall themes of last year, it’s easy to see that I was concentrating on safety and consistency. To me, these issues are intertwined. I’m at a stage in my healing where I need a consistent structure in order to find safety. If this structure is absent, as it was when my therapeutic relationship with Liz disintegrated, and my friendship with Matthew fell apart; there were serious consequences for my safety. I lost an anchor that I had relied on – no matter how dysfunctional it was, and I allowed it to push me into a downward spiral. This was even more evident, when my cynical work friend started having an affair with a married man. The triggers associated with the relationship were too close to my parents relationship, that I was unable to relax around her like I used to. Unlike the rupture with Liz and Matthew, I was able to maintain an altered friendship with my work friend. The key difference, was that with Liz and Matthew there was hurt in the present, whereas I had the awareness to realise that my work friend wasn’t hurting me directly in the past or present. I may not agree with her moral choices, but the friendship was maintained, if somewhat modified.
Throughout the year, I’ve had ACC decisions hanging over my head. This was one of the drivers which lead to my suicide attempt, and to my withdrawal from life. The thought of a faceless case manager deciding my therapeutic fate, without having ever met me, basically did my head in. This is a fairly consistent story across many sensitive claims clients. The power imbalance in favour of ACC, is such a trigger to the old abusive situations, that it’s difficult to work your way through to a rational interaction with them. Despite my fears, the assessing psychiatrist was incredibly supportive and gentle. He gave me a significant impairment which should hopefully allow me to access therapeutic care for awhile yet.
This leads onto the therapeutic relationship with Allison. I’ve avoided talking about her and what happens in therapy, mainly because I want to protect the relationship. As with any human relationship, there are ups and downs, but the strength of Allison, is her ability to encourage me to slow down. My default coping mechanism is to dissociate and rush through anything that feels scary; but Allison is helping me to realise that this doesn’t have to happen. I can tolerate the emotions that are a part of living. They may scare me, and I may not understand what I hear within sessions; but what is said and felt, is me. It’s that simple, and that complicated.
I still struggle with denial, minimisation, comparisons and other circular thinking. But, Allison helps me to work through this through validation and acceptance. She doesn’t encourage blind faith, and is open to questioning about the validity of what is being said, and her experience with dealing with what I present. Not that I challenge her on a regular basis or anything… well, actually I don’t as much as I did. There is a sense of respect towards Allison, even if there isn’t consistent trust.
Last year, I also briefly saw WPT and an occupational therapist. They were at opposite ends of the helpful spectrum… WPT helped me realise that by saying how strong the young ones within the system were, I was re-enforcing the idea that they were meant to stay strong and protect me. This was so obvious, but yet, I thought I was showing respect by mentioning their strength. But the young ones need care, not more pressure. In contrast, the occupational therapist was not a good therapeutic match. She reminded me of a cross between a cheerleader and an unskilled kindergarten teacher – lots of loud enthusiastic talk, with very little substance or experience. Thankfully she discharged me after meeting one of the three goals we’d established.
One of the things that worried me about seeing these other therapists, was that I wondered if my life would revolve around therapy and healing. Considering my work commitments; this would be unlikely, and it would probably have been helpful if they had worked out. But, there was that nagging fear that I would start to define myself and my life through my mental health. Which when I consider that I spent so much time this year caught up in self injury, the change of focus to healing, might have been a good thing!
Yes, my old nemesis… self injury. It also bumped into my suicidal ideation and intent this year, which wasn’t a pretty sight or feeling. But a shock can sometimes be good for the system, and near the end of last year, I got one. It wasn’t the suicide attempt, but instead the health of a friend bringing up all sorts of memories. Consequences, accountability, fears and reality all collided. Repercussions were felt throughout the system, and as a result, one dangerous form of self injury has been largely controlled. There is yet to be any sense of accomplishment about this, and there is a fear that the triggering presence of the mother is going to release a tidal wave of self injury this weekend. All I can do is plan for it not to happen…
So much of my life now, is about trying to live from moment to moment. I had hoped to be further along in my healing than this by now, but I’m not. This isn’t to take away from the accomplishments that I have achieved, but rather a sense of “not again”. This Christmas, I did cope better than the previous year; but then I had hayfever, so could barely speak or raise my head. The hayfever has eased, and with that, the triggering memories and intolerance of the mother has returned. The mother has been here two weeks, and that’s about three weeks too long. Wish me luck for the rest of the week…
As so much of my year has been on exploring the creative arts, I thought I’d do the following summaries of the positive, and difficult work that I’ve been doing. As a warning, the second (Polyvore) video may trigger.
Now playing: Yo-Yo Ma – Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011: IV. Sarabande