Trust in me..and in you.

Three short years ago, I made a decision to try and change some of the behaviours and coping strategies that I had developed over many years.

I was once again faced with that dreaded time of the year when we are expected to set New Year’s resolutions, make big promises and set out our vision for a “New Year, New You.”

But I realised that trying to change Me was not actually what was needed; instead, I needed to try and unpick some of the habits that were getting in the way of me being me. 

Just like we need to look at the behaviour of a child as something separate from the child (“I love you but I don’t love your behaviour right now”) and a form of communication or coping method, so too I needed to look at my behaviours and motivations with a new honesty.

Why did I need to do this? Because the life I was leading was a struggle. Because it was lacking in joy and characterised too often by fear, anxiety and sadness. Because I realised that it didn’t have to be like that.

Back then I started the process with a short piece of reflection which I buried deep in my phone notes and felt deeply ashamed for even committing to electronic paper:

“I feel:

I can’t do it any more because I’m too broken and can’t ever be fixed.

I know:

I can and I’m not and things can be broken and still go on working.

I feel:

I have no friends.

I know:

I do have good friends.

I feel:

Worthless.

I know:

I have worth and can offer a lot.

I feel:

Everything is wrong.

I know:

Lots of things are right.

I feel:

Disgust.

I know:

I am not disgusting.

I feel:

No-one understands me.

I know:

No-one ever can fully understand me but I can understand myself.

I feel:

Like the worst spouse and parent in the world.

I know:

I am a good spouse and parent.

I feel:

Like I don’t want to be here.

I know:

That I do want to be here.

I feel:

Exhausted.

I know:

That I am exhausted but can get through it.

I feel:

Like I have to keep going.

I know:

That I have to rest.

I feel:

Sad

I know:

I have been and can be happy.

And I also know I can feel joyous, excited, loving, spontaneous and proud.

What I know will get me through and help me to fight the feelings when they visit.

Let this serve to remind me….

#hopefor2016 .”

As I look at this, three years on, I have to admit that on some days, the feelings are still stronger than the knowings and there are times when the sadness, anxiety and fear overwhelm me. But I can also say categorically that they are fewer and further between than back then. And I intend for them to get even more so (or is that less so?!)

I can’t pretend that the last three years have been easy. Unpicking over 40 years of learnt and well-practiced behaviours takes effort and time.

I ended up writing a book to help me with the process. At first, I did so under a pen name and shared it cautiously and in trepidation but after some positive feedback, I became braver and shared the book as me. Looking back, this was quite a risk to take; as someone in a senior role in education, it was perhaps foolhardy to share some of my innermost fears, vulnerabilities and struggles with a world that includes both the young people with whom I work, and their families, as potential readers.

I am aware that there are jobs I won’t get in the future because of what I have done. I am aware that there are people who find what I have written distasteful and self- indulgent.

And of course, in many ways, it is completely self-indulgent. The reality is that I needed to indulge myself, to write therapeutically and to find some answers to some questions.

My answers won’t be yours. I still haven’t found all the answers yet and I am still writing, reading, connecting and exploring to try and find them. But more things make sense to me now than they did three years ago.

If you are reading this and you are struggling, wondering whether you can ever feel better, asking whether there is any point to keeping going, please know that there is.

Please know that there are better times ahead if you are willing to take a few risks, take some time and accept that you are the one person you need to make peace with, above all others.

You are all you need but you don’t have to do it alone.

#TrustIn2019

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Happy Christmas

 

I love Christmas. I love the idea of Christmas because it is about family and love and generosity and forgiveness and celebration.

The real me is immeasurably excited about Christmas and always has been.

But the voice of the real me and my true self have sometimes been drowned out by voices that are not welcome in my head. Voices that try to sabotage my spirit, my passion for connection and my life force.

Every single one of us is born with an excitement for life and a need to love, trust and connect. 

Sometimes things happen to us that mean we can’t connect with that excitement. Sometimes people act in ways that shatter our trust and make us question our ability to love and connect.

Sometimes this can leave us in the paralysing position where we can’t make decisions based on our own needs and values but instead find our thoughts, emotions and actions driven by the voices of others.

Decisions bring panic. There seems to be no right answer. 

And so we adopt coping strategies that help us to survive. We allow the “shoulds” and “oughts” of society to drive our decisions, even though they may not align with our true values and beliefs. 

Or we find that the voice of Mr Anxiety, though a bully and not really our friend, gives us motivation that stems from fear and our most primal and instinctive survival system: “if you don’t do that, the world will end”;  if you don’t try harder, it will be a disaster”; “if you even think of doing that, you’re dead.”

And if not Mr Anxiety, then his close friend and ally Ms Depression will bring equally harmful but at the time helpful ways of making decisions and getting through the day: “Don’t bother getting up because you are such a useless piece of rubbish that it isn’t worth it”; “Don’t even try to say that because nothing you say is think is valuable”; “Don’t go today because those people don’t even like you. What’s actually to like?”

If we are really unlucky then these voices draw on the help of the third evil superpower, Lord Addiction, who will help them ensure that we develop some sort of physical dependence that drives us and our behaviour and creates another barrier to us connecting back with our true needs and wants. He has a long list to chose from when he casts his addiction spell: alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating, dieting, work…. and on and on.

Some years back I decided to write a book to help me make sense of my battles with decision making over the years and to try and find a way of better achieving what the World Health Organisation defines as a state of mental health:

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

I also wrote the book to try and help others who may be experiencing similar things. Quite a few people have read it now and the feedback has been very positive. There are some review on Amazon, if you are interested.

https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/embed?asin=B01KP8XT86&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_yNodyb2G7M8DZ&reshareId=KSE69JP9TTB2863Q82V1&reshareChannel=system

If you are dreading Christmas, maybe you could take some time to read it.

But if not, please know, from someone who has been there, that Christmas does not have to be a time of dread.

It is a time of love.

You are worthy of love and you deserve a Happy Christmas.

Those negative voices in your head are not welcome at your table and you can tell them to leave.

Not every voice or every person is worthy of your love.

There are words, songs and people out there who can help you know and feel this. Don’t be alone.

Take back the excitement and joy of Christmas…and of life…for you. 

As I say to the children I work with: You are the only person guaranteed to be there for you til the end of your days…make sure that you get the relationship with your true self right and you will have everything you need.

Happy Christmas.