And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…or have I?

Hello. It’s me again. It’s that slightly blurry time between Christmas and New Year and I am sitting in the back of a car…. So true to form, I have decided to write.

I love writing. The shaping of words into patterns that help me and perhaps others to make some sort of sense of experience is soothing and comforting.

But writing doesn’t always come easily to me, particularly at times when I am most in need of comfort.

Today, though, the words are flowing. And so I write with an update, as a way of processing for me and a way of sharing for those of you who have followed my journey since I first starting writing.

In 2016, I decided to write the story of my lifelong struggles with disordered eating, trauma, shame and depression. I put it out first as a self-published book on Amazon and then, in 2020 and at the start of the pandemic, as a podcast audio book: https://open.spotify.com/show/6fYtR94Xjo2HdrK0f2wDIu?si=m5erOoM8Ryingis2xzhgrQ

At the time, I genuinely thought that writing, thinking and analysing would help me to process the difficult experiences from my past and enable me to move on from some of the unhelpful behaviours that were preventing me from showing up as my true self.

But writing it didn’t quite do it. The book went down well and many people said that they found it helpful, inspiring and informative…. But I was left feeling frustrated, sad, hypocritical and perhaps more of a failure than ever before because having written all the words, I still didn’t know exactly who the Self, whose story I had allegedly written, was.

In many ways, the last 7 years seem to have been more challenging, eventful and intense than the 46 previous ones, as I have lived through a pandemic, faced unprecedented professional challenges, navigated the ravages of the peri-menopause and/or menopause (who can tell?) and received a diagnosis of ADHD.

The diagnosis has helped me a lot, although two years on from it and I am still more likely to forget about it and put down my time-blindness/impulsivity/mental and physical restlessness/hypersensitivity to a personality flaw or fundamental lack of willpower……than to a recognised neurodevelopmental disorder.

But as I initially learned more about adult, female ADHD, about masking and about the exhausting compensations required by many of us to survive in a world that often doesn’t work for us or make sense, a disquieting and uncomfortable question began to repeat itself in my head. WAS there actually a self to be found underneath the many masks and personas that I had borrowed over the years to help me function in the world? Or what if, after all, there was just a void at the centre?

I mean….. what do you actually do with THAT question? Because let me tell you that no amount of ADHD meds or even HRT quite take the edge off that one.

Fortunately, the need to worry about this spiritual and existential quandary was kicked into the long grass back in August this year when I took on a new role as Head Teacher and found every single part of my mind, body and soul consumed by trying to get to grips with new people, systems and routines. No time for navel pondering but instead a need to draw on every possible resource within and around me to make sure that I didn’t mess it up.

But then the dust began to settle…. And I realised that I needed to do some more work. So, in recent months, I have been doing a lot more learning about ADHD and I have found a therapist who is using an IFS (internal family systems) approach to help me see beyond the ADHD and the numerous other parts who have shown up to help me survive my life this far.

And tentatively, I have started to see that perhaps there IS a self at my centre, full of calm, curiosity, courage and creativity.. and a whole lot of other words beginning with C and P which OF COURSE add up to 13 and have surfaced so many times previously in my personal and professional life as words that really matter…..(If I have ever taught you for Drama, you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean..)

Old habits die hard. Knowing something cognitively does not automatically lead to changed habits (and for more on this and ADHD, check out THIS 20 minute gem: https://youtu.be/_tpB-B8BXk0.) The coping mechanisms that have helped me to survive for the greater part of my life (and which, in many situations have led me to achieve the things I have) are hard-wired and not so keen on being unwired, even though my rational brain knows that they aren’t entirely helpful any more.

But unwired they must be. Because they are the Betamax tapes that didn’t even realise that VHS came and went and that data nowadays needs to float on a cloud and be willing to evolve if it is going to be truly free to feel the sun and harness its energy.

If you are interested, you can find out more about IFS with the fabulous Dr Tori Olds here: https://youtu.be/tNA5qTTxFFA

or here, with the wonderful Dr Chatterjee and Dr Richard Schwartz, the inventor of IFS: https://youtu.be/pan_aCXjJqs

Of course, given the importance assigned to creativity and playfulness in this therapeutic modality, my therapist and I are also free-styling it a bit and have thrown in the holy FFF trinity of Footloose, Fame and Flashdance……as well as a large dose of daily singing and regular cold water swimming.

And in amongst it all, I’m slowly giving grateful and much needed leave to some of the parts who have helped me to stay alive and fought so hard for me in recent times… but who now need a bit of a rest.

So please listen, you tiny and frantic road builders, when I tell you that the bus can take a different route for a bit and that you can climb onboard and switch it to luxury spa mode while I drive for a bit. I will be forever grateful to you for getting me this far. But there’s a road we can travel without you needing to build it. I promise.

And dearest safety curtain, it’s ok now. That show that’s been going on behind there with all it’s feathers, jazz hands, harmonies and feelings?…..it can play again tonight. Maybe for one night only, if it gets too much for you. But maybe we could pencil in a longer run later in the season, darling?

Don’t get it? Don’t worry. You don’t need to. But I do. And getting it means getting me, at last.

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