seeing my myself on screen

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It’s like an awful mirror,

Reflecting back the dreaded truth,

Exactly what I looked like

On that day when earth cracked open

And flames of hell were lapping at

My feet, burning soles

And warning me to change.

I just watched a scene on TV that made my toes curl. It depicted a woman being spoken to in a room, and she is alone with a HR person. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that she is an alcoholic and she is in the room because she has done something wrong.

While I was drinking I kept finding myself in that room and wondering why I was there again. I genuinely thought that the world was conspiring against me and it had nothing to do with my behaviour.

And the funny thing is, since I stopped drinking five years ago, I’ve not found myself in one of those situations. Sure, things have gone wrong at work, but they have not spiraled in the way that they used to.

The thing that pushed me to write this wasn’t to talk about how horrible that time was, but to bring up how uncomfortable it is to watch it played back on screen. It was horrible to see it in all its cringey detail.

I think that sometimes we need to be reminded of our errors and feel all that discomfort as a way to remind us not to go back. However, that was a scarily accurate representation of what happened in that final meeting that nearly killed me… and reliving your most shameful moment is never a pleasant experience.

Much Love

Rachel xx

on not knowing when the end will come

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We all need a finish line to aim for,

A chalky line across the grass, and tape

To break our way through with our arms held high.

Without that line we’ll keep on running,

Swimming to exhaustion in a pointless circle.

We need to know how long we have, and yet we don’t;

We drift through life without a clue,

It could be twenty years from now, it could be

Crossing over one wrong road at one wrong time,

Never to have time to say goodbye.

I’m reading a book about a woman who has cancer and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she is going to die young. She is dealing with something that many of us won’t have to worry ourselves with; although there are many of us who will have time to think about death as we get older.

My grandmothers died in two very different ways and I have spent a lot of that last decade thinking which I would rather. One died of cancer and although it’s horrid, we all got the chance to make peace with the fact that she was going to go.

On the other hand, my other grandmother just went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. It seemed like quite a lovely way to go, but it was a terrible shock for all of us. However, is that a terrible way to go when you are so much younger? To not know that the end is near? To not live your last day in a way that is fitting?

We all fight with the idea of death at some time and I guess that I’m worrying that I might be halfway now. Or perhaps I’m even further forward. I went to school with a girl who died in her sleep when she was seventeen so it doesn’t just happen to eighty year olds.

And then there are the goodbyes. Don’t we all need to say goodbye, no matter what the relationship? Even if it’s the man on the checkout at your local supermarket; it would feel wrong not to say goodbye and thank you for your company.

So, just in case it’s ever too late, thank you for your company.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

how do therapists do it?

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The heaviest weight

That squashes and squeezes

Til the air can’t be held

In these lungs any more,

That is the weight

Of their problems just dropped

Onto her lap, not wrapped with a bow,

Tell me, where does that pain go?

I have just started listening to the audiobook version of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb and it just made me think about how hard it must be to shoulder the weight of all those problems coming into your office each day.

I struggle to deal with the teenage problems that come into my room and I’m not even meant to be dealing with their issues. I have sometimes gone home feeling drained and sad for the kids in my class, taking on some of the pain they float my way.

I take my hat off to those people who listen to horrible stories of pain each and every day. It must be a real skill to keep yourself walled off so that you don’t make yourself sick.

I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the book on my long runs this holiday. I’m sure I’ll laugh and I’ll cry throughout. I guess that’s how they do deal with the job; cling onto the successes and the funny stories that they are let in on.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the little scientist in my head

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She stands in the dusty corners of my brain,

White coat clad and clutching at her clipboard

Hoping to unpick the reasons why I do

Those things that cause the earthquakes in my life,

The moments when the ground can slip beneath

My feet in clumps of mud that should be firm.

She scribbles as she watches the undoing,

Never really passing judgement or

Deciding what could fix foundations needed for

A life just slightly smoother than

The one that houses my existence now.

I have been for CBT sessions before now and I had a terrible experience. I’ve been reminded of that experience this week because some of those trigger-y buttons have been pushed. There is a big difference nowadays in that I understand why I feel the way I do and so I can use my newfound coping skills to help me use yet more CBT skills. Wow, I sound like I am very broken when I put it that way.

Now, I feel like I’m a bit more able to calm myself down and approach my reactions in a more scientific light. And I actually find it really helpful to look at it scientifically, these days.

I do enjoy pretending that there is a little scientist in a white coat and holding a clipboard in my brain. She scribbles something down every time my feelings cause me to loose control and it has started to make me laugh.

It’s really interesting to see what kicks me off and what it looks like to someone who is completely impartial. She is sometimes a little bit annoying though; she has a tendency to make me feel really embarrassed about twelve hours after the event has already happened.

Much love,

Rachel xx

writing monologues

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hi mum,

i wanted to tell you that i missed you,

that i wish you were here to see me grow.

i wish that i knew where you are.

are you here in this town

or have you moved far away?

do you think that we’ll talk

ever again?

can our lives twist together

like the vines round a tree

or are we destined to split,

creaking apart with the weight of our pain?

i wanted to tell you

that i miss you so much,

i wish you were here,

just what do we do?

I’m teaching my Year 7s to write dramatic monologues and it’s such an interesting form of writing that I never really utilise.

I’ve been scouring the internet for examples and there are some that actually have the power to move me to tears. I’m finding that writing my own monologues is almost like going to therapy.

I think that sometimes we need to be a little bit more indulgent and let it all out. It helps us all to breathe a little easier, and I think we all need that every now and then.

Surprise, surprise, most of my outpourings are about my mum and our broken relationship. But writing those words feels a little bit like applying a soothing ointment to a really painful wound.

Much Love

Rachel xx

child psychology

So when exactly was it that

My brain did crystallise

Into what it is today?

That moment when it set into

It’s asymmetric form,

Both ugly and misshapen,

While also strangely beautiful.

A pretty little snowflake of sorts,

But maybe not as delicate,

So perhaps a bit more like a sculpture

Chiselled from the ice.

Did it freeze when I was just a baby

When my mum ignored my strangled cries?

Or was it at the age of eight

When the bullies clawed their way within?

Or was it when I turned sixteen

And thought that smoking weed was cool,

In some park on warm and humid summer nights?

It could have been at any time,

But now I fear that there’s no room for any change.

I could take a blow torch to that complicated structure,

And still it wouldn’t melt.

I am me,

A long and varied, twisting, turning story,

And quite the epic journey.

Since I started going to therapy I have been fascinated by how the brain works and why we behave in the way that we do. I haven’t studied psychology but I’ve had several in depth conversations with a friend who is doing her masters and what I have learnt is mind blowing.

Of course, it is all a bit of an uncertain science, but it is thought that a lot of our personality traits could be set within the first eighteen months of our lives. So, if you have had something traumatic happen in that early stage of your life, it could affect the rest of your life, even though you have no recollection of it.

I always thought that I had a really great childhood but as I worked with my therapist, I found that there was quite a lot of early trauma. Although, it was later on in my childhood, it probably still had a huge impact on how I behave now.

This is great because it means that I know where my ‘bad’ behaviours come from and so I can work on stopping them before they happen. I’ll still act on impulse, but this knowledge gives me a bit of a buffer zone.

If you have had a hard childhood then I think you are amazing if you have managed to come through it and live a happy and productive life. We all get a little bit screwed up by our parents because nobody is perfect, so remember that you are not alone. We are all battling with that little child inside our head who just wants to feel loved and safe.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

5 reasons that listening should be your new superpower

I’ve just started watching Wanderlust on Netflix and I’m ever so slightly in love with the main character played by Toni Collette. I couldn’t quite work out what it was but I think it’s just the way that she interacts with the people around her. And then I recognised that look she gives when somebody tries to divulge a secret that they’re too afraid to fully admit. It’s the therapist look.

It’s not such a funny thing, because she does play a couples’ therapist in the show, so one would expect her to have a ‘look’. But I see that look and I want to just open up. And the characters around her do open up. She gets to hear EVERYTHING in the lives of her friends whether she wants to or not.

Now I do think that I’m a relatively good listener but I want to try this ‘look’ out on some of my friends, just to see what reaction I’ll get. I may get a scowl or a slap in the face, but I’m going to give it a try and see if I get people to start opening up to me a little bit more.

Most people who read my blogs, I can imagine, are the introverted type who like books and poetry and good story lines that can help you to escape from the world that we live in. So with this in mind, here are five reasons why listening should be your new superpower. These can apply to extroverts too, but I feel the introvert feels more deeply (sorry):

  1. Story lines. Most of us are writers and artists and it’s hard to come up with idea after idea. Listening to a friend for half an hour can normally provide you with about five year’s worth of writing material.
  2. Deeper relationships. I’m an INFP and I’m sure that any other feeling personalities out there will get me when I say that that is pretty much all I want in life. I want to connect with people on a spiritual level even if I can’t quite articulate what that means.
  3. You’re always at the centre of everything but never the aggressor. It’s so nice for me to know why people are feeling the way that they do, but on the other hand I hate being dragged into the gossip. If people know you as the listener they will go to you for a shoulder to cry on and some advice at the very most. If you are the gossip, you still hear everything but they go to you for a bitch ‘n moan session which is incredibly draining.
  4. People actually remember you more. I sometimes worry that because I don’t shout and make a noise like some of the stronger characters in my world, that I must just fade into the background and be totally unmemorable. But being the listener is a valuable cog in the machine and people remember the one who put them first. They remember the person who didn’t ram all their troubles right back down their throats.
  5. You learn so much about life. I wish that I had spent my twenties listening more. I would be so much more wise right now. My friend is twenty three and has a masters in all things therapy so she is well versed in the values of listening. Because she has learnt all this as part of her studies she is more aware of how humans work than I am and I have about twelve years on her. Now I’m playing catch up, but then there are people in their fifties who are still mouthing off like they know everything so it could always be worse.

Just try and think of a time you needed somebody to sit and nod. They could be thinking about what they wanted for dinner but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were there and that they made all the right sounds. I’m definitely going to try this a little more and I will report back with my findings.

Much Love

Rachel xx

Why ending therapy is f**king terrifying

I’m frightened. I’m terrified. And the reason? I’m ending my therapy sessions in just three weeks.

I started therapy when I was newly sober and still really mentally unwell. I was paranoid that my employer was trying to kill me and I even took an overdose and ended up in hospital just a few weeks after commencing my sessions. In short, my life was a bit of a shit show at the time.

Fast forward to almost three years on and I’m still not perfect. Far from it. But I have sat in that room, week after week, and I’ve talked and I’ve been open to learning. I’ve learnt so much about myself and where I was going wrong and where I can improve. And I say ‘improve’ rather than ‘fix’ because I don’t believe that we can ever truly be fixed. Perfection is unattainable and even when I’m ninety I will still be learning so much about myself and my fellow humans.

It has been an interesting journey, to say the least. And I’m nervous about where my life will take me after I leave the ‘care’ of my therapist. It’s the weirdest relationship that I’ve ever had with anyone, both close and distant all at once. I sometimes find myself wondering how I’m ever going to cope with nobody to hold me accountable in the same way.

I thought it might be helpful for myself and for others to just put into writing how therapy has helped me and just what it is that I’m frightened of in a life post therapy.

  • Therapy has taught me that we are all just winging it. In a way this is really terrifying because it means that I can never really find all of the answers. There is no instruction booklet for life and sometimes it’s all about a bit of guess work. Sometimes my decisions will be wrong and I just have to bear the consequences.
  • I’ve opened up to my therapist about some of my deepest and darkest secrets. I wouldn’t even tell my closest friends some of these things so I feel like I’ve let my barriers down in the extreme. Losing that relationship is like breaking up with a romantic partner. That makes me squirm to write, but it’s true, and it’s also a heartbreaking feeling.
  • I’ve discovered that some of my difficulties stem from past traumas and from my relationship with my mother. This has made for some uncomfortable realisations and I don’t know if things can ever go back to the way they were. I can cope with this, but it hurts.
  • I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable anymore. I knew that I had to check in with my therapist every week, and now I have nobody. I have to hold on so tightly to the fact that I have people around me who love me. I may not be able to burden them with all of my worries but they would be devastated if I was gone.
  • I’ve learned that when someone is mean to me, that’s their shit, not mine. People behave badly because they are uncomfortable and not because they hate me or want me arrested or dead. Holding onto this is so hard for me, but it’s essential if I am to stop myself from going down that rabbit hole I found myself in three years ago.
  • I’ve had to change my goals and my values. All I wanted was to be rich and successful because I thought that this would make people love me and respect me. Actually, it just made me bloody miserable. I need to do the things that make me happy, like writing and art and crochet. I don’t have expensive tastes so why the fuck do I need a job that pays me well but stresses me out to the point that I end up in hospital? I rest my case.
  • Just chill out. Life is to be enjoyed. If I die, then I die. But why not enjoy it while I have it?

I’d love to hear if you have had therapy and what you have learned from the experience. I think that it’s so helpful to learn what it is that causes you to behave the way that you do. I truly believe that we are all like little computers and the things that happen to us early on in life program us for the future. It’s fascinating and scary in equal measures!

Much Love,

Rachel xx

Self worth: How you should be talking to yourself (plus poem)

Before I started really working on myself and understanding that there was work to be done my self worth was incredibly low. I used to talk to myself like crap. I think that a lot of us do it and, worse still, we sometimes don’t even realise how badly we are doing it.

I remember when I was slowly reaching my ‘rock bottom’ (I really hope it was my rock bottom because nobody wants to go there again!) I would say the most dreadful things to myself. I recall saying over and over in my head that I was useless and I even went as far as to call myself evil. I would find myself crying and wishing that I was dead as this voice just rang out over and over again. “You’re evil, you’re evil, you’re evil. The world would be a better place without you in it.” It brings chills to my body to even write that because it really does bring back that awful time with such intensity.

However, through a lot of hard work and therapy and going to meetings for my alcoholism, I have managed to (almost) swing it around. There are still days when I am stressed or tired and I find myself slipping back into my old patterns but, on the whole, I am so much better.

If you are struggling with the crippling effects of talking to yourself like you don’t matter, here are a couple of ways to try and put a stop to it:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep and try to avoid stress. As I mentioned, these are two things that are bound to set me off.
  • Read some self help books or watch something uplifting on Youtube. You may think it’s a load of old woowoo but hopefully the uplifting message will give you a bit of a kick.
  • Meditation, because this is bound to quieten the voices in your head. It takes some practice but the benefits once you’ve gotten the hang of it are not to be sniffed at.
  • Be creative because this is taking your mind off the words that are tumbling through your mind. And if you make something nice, you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Useless people wouldn’t be able to do that!
  • Talk to a friend. Again distraction and connection with other humans are so useful. It’ll help to remind you that there are people out there who love you and value you.
  • Talk to yourself as though you were talking to your four year old self. You wouldn’t tell that little girl or boy that they were pathetic and vile. So don’t tell your grown up self that!