What is God?

I am an atheist materialist Quaker. I find meeting for worship, the Quaker business method, and the Quaker community work, and if I am right that the God as an independent entity George Fox, or convinced Quakers now, might have believed in does not exist, they would work in an accidental universe. Before, I have said “I am emotionally theist: I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”; and now that does not work so well for me, as so many spiritual practices, such as attuning to the Now, seem utterly bound up in being a physical animal.

I don’t object to others’ conceptions of God. The idea of Panentheism, God in everything, is attractive as there is a life force. Life never gives up the struggle to survive, it takes in energy and produces action. The life force started on Earth when life started here and before then there was energy, movement and possibility. This life force produces healing, so that as a wounded body heals so does a wounded psyche. My proper attitude to things outside my skin is wonder and love, because this is the Kingdom of God or the Republic of Heaven, and that is what receiving it like a little child means to me. Spiritual writings which speak to people speak truth in metaphor if they are not literally true.

Working with my psychotherapist I identify a Real Me, where my motivation, desire, delight and creativity reside, and a guard which slams the door on it, as in childhood I learned that spontaneous self-expression was dangerous. That might fit the “ego” in this Richard Rohr meditation. I am unsure about the word “ego” as I associate it with Freud, and the id, that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, and the super-ego, a moral conscience, with Freud’s “ego” mediating between the two. My “Real me” appears strongly pro-social, and that fits my idea of humanity as a social animal. I need my society to survive, let alone thrive. The guard wants to be sensible and safe, to fit in to external requirements, not to be individual.

Then there was the “Reptile brain” where the four Fs reside, feeding, fleeing, fighting and the sexual drive, but I think I read somewhere that reptiles, too, have hindbrain midbrain and forebrain. Neuroanatomy and neuropsychology are moving, and I don’t want to cling to half-remembered, imperfectly understood scientific ideas mediated by journalists, even if I am right to be materialist and all experience depends on neurons and dendrites. Reading that linked article shows Freud’s id and ego to be more complex than my conception of them.

I want to be sensible and safe, but more as well. I want to integrate myself better. It felt as if the guard or ego were a mask, that I moved through the world with the mask welded on, but that speaking without the mask could be scary, so I wanted to have it to hand if required. I can wear a face like the one Eleanor Rigby keeps in a jar by the door, if I know I can take it off, that I can use its attributes, or be playful as I desire, spontaneously.

Is that “Real me” my inner light? It seems to me Good, as Walt Whitman says “every part hearty and clean”, made by God to be “Very good”. I don’t want an inadequate understanding of what is good to hobble me, to deny parts of that self and hide them in Shadow or project them on others. Quakers might do that. New England Yearly Meeting query 6 makes a distinction that is not as rigid as Freud’s superego/id, but appears rigorous: “Do you recognize divinely inspired insight? Can you distinguish between divine leadings and your own needs or desires?”

The distinction, to me, seems to be between a desire which has life and fire in it, which might mean for me flirting with this particular woman now, or organising a Meeting for Worship where people who have not found Friends might be particularly open to trying it, and an idea which appears righteous, but is more going through the motions, and when it does not work we are discouraged. It’s between what is worth trying and what isn’t, not between what is divine and what is selfish.

That could be a fault in Quakerism, so that I should leave. So much of our language- “Inner light”, “That of God”, “Spirit”- could be used to mean what is righteous and pro-social rather than selfish. Or I could define “selfish” out of existence, caging the concept in: pair-bonding is good, so I absolutely should flirt with that woman Now.

That “Real me” contains the four Fs as well as my most pro-social instincts. Then again, if Richard Rohr’s Catholicism is big enough to contain “the unified field of life itself”, or “nondual consciousness”, surely Quakerism is. Perhaps Quakers are peculiarly communal. I know  psychopaths exist, but Quakers’ “own needs or desires” may seek the good of the community. Perhaps that query means the desires of my Guard or the non-Freudian Ego, to be Normal and to fit in, to Seem rather than to Be.

There is another Good that is split from Bad: my friend with a wonderful gift of expression wrote of her friend, who “moves through the world like light bouncing off water” yet can be “still, grounded, centred, warming others like a Summer day.” Beside that, anyone might feel “stuck to the ground, heavy, hopeless, forgotten”. To we who are depressive, our lack of energy can appear morally bad, and that harmful idea gets enough affirmation from society to keep it simmering.

What is God? I am is God.
I make mistakes, and I am is God.
I get hurt and have painful feelings, and I am is God.
I need the world, and society, to support me, and I am is God.
I will die and be a memory, and We are is God.
The words are merely words, and I am, We are.

All this comes from my experience. What comes from yours?

Depression

Depression manifests in me because I find my situation unbearable. Arguably it is. (That’s a bleak beginning! There is some hope towards the end.)

Judging a desire as “good” is meaningless. It can be used as a crutch: this desire is “good” therefore it is right for me; but the crutch is illusory, and it may only be “good” in my own mind. I thought, my friend should stop relying on that crutch, and then realised the lesson applied to me.

One does things out of habit, or because of rules, and there are times when I can’t find the motivation to clean my teeth- even though my mouth feels bad and would feel better if I cleaned them, even though I have worked out I clean my teeth for my own good, not because of rules or habit. Perhaps I can’t see anything will make my situation better, or my mouth hardly matters in the bigger picture. But there it is my own judgment of good, not something introjected or worked out rationally.

I have shut down my desire by judging it.

So I need to find what I desire. I thought of cycling, Sunday morning, and then I did not go. I thought, “I can do it later”. My desire is deceiving me: “later” never comes. It has to deceive me, to get round me, because I cannot accept it.

I cannot merely endure life.

Some goal or meaning might make me do things for survival, as a means to that end, but my only goal at the moment is freeing myself from internal conflicts, in the hope other goals will manifest later. We might adopt a goal which is worthwhile, but cannot demand God make us enjoy it, or take away our revulsion.

I consider my desire. It is there, and I do not know what it is. All I can say is my word of power:

Welcome.

I judge you from habit. I need your voice.

Carefully, I test possible words against the mute desire. Other ways of being? Loneliness??

Rajit was othered in a Quaker meeting. Someone said to him, “Your English is very good”. That’s patronising, only really a compliment to a teenager, and as I have no evidence that he was not born here, I assume he was, though I don’t know. The “compliment” makes him an outsider, rather than one of us. It is because of his skin colour. The person did not know they were doing anything wrong. That is not good enough.

I did not go cycling on Monday either. I sat outside, meditating, with a pen and paper to note ideas occurring to me.

Why would I want to go cycling? Conventional fun, the way I have introjected I am supposed to enjoy myself? Rational calculation of a need? I should exercise, after all, get my pulse up.

My introjected self hatred stops me coming into the light. My desire is possibly the most individual part of me, and I have denied it.

I must allow.
Permit.
Notice.

Oh God.

Sadness.

Immediately, out come the critical voices. They say, I have leapt to a conclusion too early. That is not really it.

I am barely conscious of huge inner conflict. I want: quick rational answers and a course of action. I want: not to judge myself so reflexively harshly. I want energy and motivation. I want need, desire and action to be one.

I went over to pick the creeper off the pine.

It was allowed to damage the tree badly, then someone stripped away most of the creeper, and it’s doing better but the creeper is coming up again.

My situation provokes long term fear. There is the slow, steady pressure and the repeated threat of disaster which so far each time I have avoided. I “do not acknowledge my feelings”? Fear is hard to bear. The situation is bad. I do what I can to better it.

Tuesday morning again I think of going cycling. The day is overcast so not too hot, there is little wind, no forecast rain, these are the best conditions I will have. I still want to continue reading. It is that I do not want to be in contemplative mode, to face the ongoing fear and other feelings. I think of a question: “What is the problem with the thing you don’t want to do?” Actually it’s the new problem, the older problems are still there to an extent.

I went cycling. My cadence is improving.

Added: Just as anxiety is fear experienced for too long, so this is not sadness but

sorrow.

It is a heavy weight. Sorrow can come from a single event that traumatises a person, or from a burden of many sadnesses unacknowledged. It is a burden. I told my friend I would “excavate” my depression, and she said I sounded so hard-working. I deserve better than this, and I will create better than this. Both anxiety and sorrow increase my propensity for withdrawal. I will welcome my inner light, so that I no longer need to withdraw.

The last of my William Frith paintings for now:

Getting up and being productive

What would laying down the burden look like? Possibilities. Authentic forgiveness, authentic detachment, authentic separation, just accepting what is and cannot be changed.

I noticed that I did not want to get up, and I did not admit it to myself. So I would think, I need to get up and go to the supermarket, and then I would stay lying where I was, possibly clicking through different articles on the Guardian. Sometimes, by midday, I would think, oh, it seems I am not getting up today. I was not just reading, I was avoiding getting up. So I noticed what was happening, and noticed when it was happening, and might proclaim, joyfully- “I don’t want to get up!” And then get up, because I needed to. Realising I did not want to get up, I saw the blockage, so could surmount it.

-Would you allow yourself not to get up?

Well, no. That’s why my broken motivation has to hide and fool my conscious mind to get what it wants. I could forgive myself for not wanting to get up if I got up. And it’s balancing wants, the immediate discomfort against the need. The beauty of the weather made getting up easier, but it was still difficult. And lying in bed, the day has not started, the responsibilities can be put off.

I was pleased, after, and then I wrote a blog post I like. It said what I wanted it to say, clearly, as lightly as it could, and the argument held water.

-So a productive day.

I could not accept that word “productive”. Nothing I do is productive. I am hard on myself. “I do things which I want to do,” I said. I think people are so self-effacing, so quiet, so careful of the rules outside because we are all angry and fear blowups are possible.

At least I know what I want. I want to not go out, I want to just not face the day. I want to blog, and read. And, as well, I want to get groceries, and when I am out I can notice the beauty of the day, and of the valley, and the trees, and the vegetation. I watched all of The Nest on TV, and the mother, played by Shirley Henderson, particularly grabbed my attention. Spoilers whited out. She is a monster who does not realise it, who thinks she is a victim, so she ruins others’ lives. Seeing herself as hard done by frees her to do monstrous things which to her are just reasonable. She is not evil, just unperceptive and self-righteous.

There is another character who only trusts one man, and when he is arrested her world implodes.

I hesitate to compare my mother to this woman. I assess it intellectually, there are these similarities, these differences. I feel nervous. I feel I should not. I feel the need to state all my mother’s good qualities, in preparation. Then I change the subject: I glance up, and there is a red kite. It is beautiful! Then I compare them. The similarity is both do damage they do not see. However having made the comparison out loud, I now feel able to make it more easily.

If I cannot always get up even though I need to buy food, I don’t see how I could do a job which was just working to survive. It feels impossible.

These followers of Bosch- they are not doing anything he did not do, and from Wikimedia I see they spent a lot of time on the Hell bits. Well, the wars in Europe were hellish at that time. Here is another, but it will be my last:

Leaving your house

No person in England may leave the place that they are living without reasonable excuse, during the emergency period. What might a reasonable excuse be? Some are listed in the regulations, but if you have to go out and a police officer challenges you, you can explain why and they must decide whether that is “reasonable”.

The regulations are reviewed every three weeks, so on 16 April Dominic Raab announced they would last a further three weeks, and may last months. He must also withdraw parts of the regulations, if those parts are found to be unnecessary. They will next be reviewed on 7 May.

The regulations are here. Paragraph 6 lists some reasonable excuses. Going to work is a reasonable excuse, including voluntary work, when it is not “reasonably possible” to work from home: even if the work is not classified as “essential work”. Shops are closed except those listed in schedule 2 part 3:  bike shops, laundrettes, dentists, and car repair shops but not car showrooms, are allowed to open. Businesses listed in part 2, such as hair salons, gyms and playgrounds, have to close. Theatres, concert halls and bingo halls, but not nightclubs, can open to broadcast a performance.

A friend can only attend a funeral if no family member or member of the household of the deceased will be there.

Giving care to vulnerable people is an excuse. Some vulnerable people are listed in paragraph 1- people over 70, “any person who is pregnant” (including trans men and non-binary people! Yay!) and any person with an underlying health condition, some of which are listed in schedule 1. So if someone is not included in that list, you might still argue they are vulnerable, and I think mental health conditions make someone vulnerable. Therefore I argue that visiting to talk to a depressed person is a reasonable excuse to leave your house. Isolation can make mental health conditions worse. Communicating electronically is not the same.

That is my argument for sitting on a park bench, or sunbathing in a park. Being outside is good for depression. There is class privilege here. I am articulate, and sound like a middle class person even if I do not always look like one. So I might try to persuade a police officer that I had a reasonable excuse for sitting on a park bench. Other people might not.

I argue if you go out with a reasonable excuse, doing other things incidentally is lawful. So the Northamptonshire chief constable saying that police could go through a shopping trolley to see all the goods in it were “basic necessities” (including pet food) was simply wrong. You can buy chocolate along with your tinned tomatoes and spaghetti.

The Crown Prosecution Service issued a practical guide on reasonable excuses. It says, There is no need for all a person’s shopping to be basic food supplies; the purchase of snacks and luxuries is still permitted. In general terms, a person has a reasonable excuse to visit the shops which remain open to customers under the Regulations. So even if you went to a permitted shop and only bought chocolate and alcohol, that might be OK, but I would stick in a pint of milk as well to be safe from police questioning.

The regulation says you can go out to “obtain basic necessities,” not “to go shopping”, so the guide says you could pick up surplus basic food from a friend’s house.

The guide says you can buy tools to repair a damaged fence, but not brushes and paint to redecorate a kitchen. That means they could actually look in your trolley, at the hardware store. Again, you could buy essential items, and also get non-essential items incidentally.

You can drive somewhere to go for a walk, they say, if you don’t drive longer than you are walking. This makes sense. If people from separate large towns go to a particular beauty spot, there is a chance for Covid from one town to pass to the other. It is a question of balancing risk. Other people will lawfully be going between the two towns. In France the distance you can go from your home to exercise is one kilometre. The guide says you can stop for lunch while on a long walk- or cycle ride, I would have thought- so they are imagining people being quite far from home.

The guide seems keener on interpreting the given reasons in the regulations, than considering other possible reasons, and possibly it takes a suspicious view. If someone has a row with their partner, and goes away to cool down, Moving to a friend’s address for several days to allow a ‘cooling-off’ following arguments at home is OK. This is explicitly under the “moving house” exemption. Moving out for a few hours, says the guide, is not OK. Possibly, they think people might use “cooling off” as an excuse for visiting friends whenever they wanted. Not every visit to a friend will be spotted by a police officer. But then people are going to allotments, which I think is reasonable, and they are not specifically mentioned.

I note the regulations specify to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm as a reasonable excuse- so if the house is on fire, or to escape a violent partner. Now it’s reasonable to state every excuse they can think of, perhaps, when drafting the regulations, but that this needs stated might indicate the police will question reasons not explicitly stated in the regs.

Don’t make mordant jokes to police officers. Irritated by delay, my friend once told a US border guard that the purpose of her visit was “subverting the government and constitution of the US”, and the official, with a weary sigh, said, “Shall we start again, Sir?” Don’t assume that the police officer is as forebearing. They may be angry and scared.

Before deciding you have committed an offence, police officer has to assess the evidence, which includes what you tell them. Therefore, they should believe you unless they have good reason not to. Cycling for exercise, I noticed a police van prominently marked ANPR. Then they consider whether your excuse is “reasonable”. If not they can tell you to go home, or take you home using reasonable force if necessary. If you are out without reasonable excuse you have committed an offence, and they can issue a fixed penalty notice. The penalty is £60, £30 if you pay within 14 days. The second fixed penalty notice is £120, the third £240, the fourth £480, the fifth £960.

This means that if an officer simply tells you what you should not do- don’t sit on that bench- they are giving advice, as they are allowed, rather than investigating an offence. Listening politely and saying as little as possible is a good tactic, in order to avoid such an investigation.

If a child is going out the police can order their parents to keep them in and the person responsible for the child is responsible for enforcement.

I don’t want to spread this disease. I have vulnerable friends and relatives. So we should all behave responsibly and not go out unless necessary, because going out might spread the disease. However there may be reasonable excuses for going out which the police don’t recognise.

Here’s a second world war poster to make us feel all British:

My song is love unknown

These are interesting times.

If I get breathless so that I need oxygen, I have no friend with a car who could take me to hospital, so would need an ambulance. It is harder to believe I have a chance of getting one if I need it, after seeing the fresh meat shelves of Aldi almost empty. I am not that far over fifty, and my normal lifestyle is pretty much social isolation anyway, and I wonder whether the death rate percentages I read apply to a fully functioning hospital system when there is O2 and intensive care for everyone who needs it.

And others have more to worry about. If you are going for chemotherapy, you are immunocompromised, and you get it in a hospital where there are lots of sick people, including some with covid 19.

I was thinking of writing a post on if I disappear for a bit. I am extremely unlikely to disappear because I have died, though it is possible. Most people have mild symptoms from 19. I could of course have an accident. The longest time I have been off the air was a gap of ten days in March 2013, when I simply stopped having anything to write about. When I came back, four regular commenters commented, one saying Good to have you back Clare I was worried. Please, please don’t worry. With less social contact I have less to write about, and if I am even slightly more depressed I can’t see the point always: I could do yet another post summarising an article with my own take on it, but I feel more and more repetitive.

I get a lot of my self-regard from blogging. When people read me and comment positively that makes me feel good. And I keep checking the stats for a tiny dopamine hit, which is addictive. So I try to get more views for such hits, and that seems unhealthy to me: it seems more unhealthy when I feel more depressed.

My writing was going to appear in print- yes, print, not on line, how old fashioned. Now I wonder if it will be printed, if the printer will do the job or be shut down. (I am pessimistic when I am depressed.) My words being printed would not prove to the world, or even to me, that I had value; and it was one of those acknowledgments that I like. Something to look forward to that makes me feel good. In the uncertainty, when I am stripped of those, and other things to look forward to- I will meet her for lunch, I will meet him for coffee- I feel more pointless, even worthless. How can I do anything of value?

I do not know myself. Paul wrote I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Many people buy veg they will throw away uneaten, books that sit on their shelves unread. I thought of cycling about seven miles this morning, in the sunshine, and wondered what in me might not want to- some negative, depressive, heavy grey toad squatting on my life, preventing almost all activity, perhaps. Or worry: to cycle I have to make some small decisions. I need more motivation than the joy of the thing itself to get me out of bed: I need to talk myself into it and consider what might be the objections from that part of me which objects, which I refuse to see as merely a toad.

A hymn came to mind.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

I do not believe in God. The loving eternal creator, numbering each of my hairs and seeing me as a daughter, who created the World, makes no sense to me. Yet emotionally the words make sense, and I cling to them.

Well, I did go cycling. The sunshine is beautiful, and as I passed the church its Church Open sign was in the slot, so I went in and looked up that hymn. It is beautiful, written in 1664. It has little to trouble an atheist. There is a frank assertion of the doctrine- He came from His blest throne/ Salvation to bestow– but that is only two lines. There is also an elegant expression of the unfairness and randomness of life, and the lack of relation between suffering, luck and deservingness- A murderer they save/ the Prince of life they slay.

The Christianity I have rejected is not as poisonous as that of my blogging buddy Sirius Bizinus. I can be in that church and experience it as having the energy of Love. On that quiet country road, Love kept it open. I read the hymn aloud to the empty church, weeping. Christianity has some truth in it, for this atheist materialist: there is something in me which some call God, which has value and which I may unite with and express, something of inestimable value, which values me when I allow myself to hear it, that I might be lovely.

So I went to my Quaker meeting by Zoom, sitting by the south-facing window, with a Bible and QFP to my left. I also took my Scottish Book of Common Prayer, as I thought that hymn would be in it. It isn’t- the book has “Hymns Ancient and Modern Standard Edition” from 1916. I still held it in my hands as I sat in Meeting, one of my few objects associated with my parents. I could see it negatively- without the hymn I wanted- or positively, as a symbol of their imperfect love.

Sitting alone in my house, I can suffer deep miseries and find strange consolations.

Covid 19

How my life is affected by the coronavirus, so far.

It has moved quickly. On Sunday 15th I made a plan to go into London on Sunday 22nd. I would go to the Quaker meeting, have lunch with a friend, then go round the National Gallery, to the 16th century section. That Veronese was so beautiful! On Monday I thought of asking if the friend still wanted the risk of lunch out, and on Thursday we agreed to cancel it, as the pubs and restaurants closed, the Quaker meetings closed, the National Gallery closed. A lot of people have been trying online meetings for worship with Zoom.

There are 22 cases in my county though how they know, what testing is being done, I don’t know. On Tuesday evening I saw an ambulance go down my street, the sole entrance for the small estate, its lights flashing but its siren off. I have not felt fear seeing an ambulance before. After an age, it returned to the main road, again lights flashing but siren off, progressing slowly, more slowly even than a car would, there, as if it was trying not to frighten anybody. This had the opposite effect on me. Blue lights mean Emergency Now. I don’t know if they found a Covid sufferer on my estate or not.

A friend is self-isolating because his son has the symptoms. On Monday a friend came round to pick up some stuff. He is seventy, and will be self-isolating for the foreseeable future, as a heightened risk. I am worried for him.

On Wednesday 11 March, with jokes about panic-buying loo roll, I noticed there was no spaghetti in the main supermarket. Next day I bought almost the last spaghetti in Aldi. I got more than I would normally. By Tuesday 17th Aldi were restricting customers to four of any item, and there were no oatcakes. I have enough loo roll. I am frugal with loo roll, and had bought it as I would normally.

Yesterday I thought I could probably do with UHT milk and there was none of that; and I did not see any onions, the first fresh food I have noticed not available. In the supermarket people were making Blitz Spirit jokes- one said “You’ll have had a good childhood if you can remember rice”. A man chatting outside spoke of how long the queues were. I got a fresh pizza and read just after they were shutting their pizza counter.

I would feel a lot safer with a Labour government. We would not be careening towards an Anarcho-Capitalist Brexit. In Priti Patel, we have an incompetent but enthusiastically authoritarian Home Secretary. She was sacked for her personally arranged meetings in Israel, and here she is back. The Coronavirus special powers Bill authorises compulsory detention, and is being nodded through. With Labour the financial stimulus for the economy might prop up the income of the poorest. This is sensible- they would spend the money immediately, locally. With Tories I worry the stimulus will go to preserving capital values. I got an email from the letting agent- if you can’t pay the rent, please contact us, we will sort something out.

I did not mind the BBC suspending filming EastEnders, but was sad In Our Time was not recorded. They are now broadcasting repeats.

Being depressed, self-isolation is not much different from my normal lifestyle, but I look forward to the social contact I have. So I have not been blogging, and a friend emailed to ask if I was alright. Yes; just a little more depressed. I did not see anything to blog about. Not coughing and with a fever. Over fifty, the risk level is slightly raised, and I considered getting a thermometer a couple of weeks ago but still have not- and this is how the depression works, I imagine something I could do, that would be good to do, I do not do it. That friend said social isolation is how a lot of trans people live, and several I know do live like that. I am not the only one.

Another Veronese, which I saw last month. The Allegory of Love is in an octagonal room, hung at eye level though clearly designed to be viewed from below. I had liked galleries to hang paintings in one row, but these are paintings which would benefit from a higher row. I sat on a stool to look up at them, then on the floor, which improved them. I hope to see them again soon.

Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety Disorder

Transition is hard. Not transitioning can be harder.

These people are sad, depressed and deeply resentful… the more the individual struggles to rid themselves of gender dysphoria by increasing social and physical investments in their assigned sex, the greater the generalized anxiety and the harder it becomes to restart life sexually reassigned. I found Anne Vitale PhD on A Life Merely Glimpsed, whose writer identifies as a man who dreams of being a woman. There I also find Third Way Trans has stopped blogging, and made his blog private. Dr Vitale has reached her conclusions after decades of providing psychotherapy to gender variant patients. Now 71, she still maintains a website as a psychologist offering appointments by video call.

Dr Vitale says gynephile gender dysphoric AMAB people have an awful life, when they don’t transition. The androphiles have little difficulty expressing their femininity, dress androgynously and then transition successfully young. The gynephiles try to make men of ourselves. She was writing in 2003, and reporting childhood experiences in some cases from many years earlier. I hope no six year old boy would now be shamed for playing hopscotch with the girls- Arlene was brought to the front of the class, who were encouraged to laugh at her. The teacher had tied a broad pink ribbon to her. Now, some children transition.

Dr Vitale at first appears to blame intra-uterine hormones for gender identity- insufficient or inappropriate androgenization of the brain– but later says in some cases a “gender identity misunderstanding” can be “corrected” in some children. The explanation someone has for phenomena can affect their observations, as can any preconception. But I recognise the stories told. The children generally seek to fit in and follow the rules. They may be solitary, spending a lot of time reading or in solo sporting activity. They pray to God for transformation. In adolescence they cross-dress and masturbate.

In early adulthood many AMAB people present desperate to be told they are not transsexual, they fear transition so much. They can be particularly sexist- thinking negatively about women helps them fight the desire to be one. They think marrying, and then having children, will make their desires lessen.

Between 28 and 33 people generally reappraise their dreams and aspirations, and then gender dysphoric people may change sex or fight harder to stick to their assigned sex. In middle age those who have not transitioned may find the gender dysphoria gets worse as transition seems impossible, leading to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, despair and thoughts of suicide. One would close his office door, curl into the foetal position and weep- I only did that at home.

While Dr Vitale was aware of someone having GRS aged 71, other older people had low self-esteem and loathed their deteriorating bodies, though when aging reduced their testosterone levels that was a relief. Had they known their dysphoria was going to last, and be so dreadful, they say they would have transitioned when younger. They are depressed and resentful.

Written in 2003, this article anticipates the DSM V principle that the desire is not the mental health problem, rather the distress it causes is. Treatment should mitigate the distress. Dr Vitale observes hormones and surgery in most cases eliminate the anxiety. She says gender identity disorder is a continuum: some people will be satisfied with cross-dressing and do not need to transition.

This is an old article reporting twentieth century experience. Yet there are still older people who have not transitioned, who live closeted, who experience the distress and depression described. Younger people fighting against acknowledging their gender dysphoria, and terrified of transition, should consider how they would feel with similar desires in old age. Those who advocate against transition should be made to demonstrate some other treatment or course of action will produce better results.

Aware of mirrors in art in the Arnolfini portrait and Las Meninas by Velasquez, I magnified this mirror- but Simeon Solomon does not appear.

Self-respect VII

The dentist advised against filling my wisdom tooth: normally they would just whip it out. It was too far back for root canal work and they would not bother with an implant. I don’t want mutilated, so two days later I was lying back, relaxing so as to be as comfortable as possible, while a man drilled away inside my mouth producing the smell of burning. “Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible,” he said, and I mentally kicked myself. Breathing through my nose made me more comfortable. “You’re doing very well, Miss Flourish,” he said. The relaxation technique I learned for electrolysis was working.

When I was learning to drive I noticed that nothing made me make mistakes so much as praise. If the instructor said I had done something well, I would almost immediately make a stupid mistake. That made no sense to me. I suppose it could reinforce my arrogance so that I was careless, or it could have increased my nervousness. Later I decided I was either restoring my view that I was useless, or self-punishing. I thought of that in the dentist’s chair, and saw that I did not immediately tense up or start to gag. I am not doing it any more.

In order to keep your hand in an ice bucket for longer (psychological researchers get people to do the oddest things) it helps to swear continually. Swearing stiffens the sinews. I found I was doing it to get out of bed, but not at myself any more, not cursing myself as useless, but trying to toughen up and gather the energy.

If I lie in bed and do not get up, I am not always the best person to ask why. It could be because I am lazy and useless, and the old self-punishing self would use that to prove it. But that’s also a reassuring belief: I could get up if I really wanted to. I am not depressed, which means sick, which means the neuro-transmitters are not there to get up. It’s just I don’t want to.

It is very tempting to think I am capable of more than I do. I would be OK, somehow, if I were capable, it’s just that I haven’t seen it yet. So when asked what I can’t do for the purpose of benefit assessment that creates a difficulty. If I cling to the false belief that I can do more than I do, I lose benefits. If I state what I actually do, feeling a loss of energy and motivation in the afternoon, not getting up in the morning, I might get the benefit. Telling the truth about my capacity is painful because I don’t want to admit that truth, it’s too frightening.

But then, what do I do? There were things I might have done today (Friday) and what I actually did was a blog post on JK Rowling‘s comments on Maya Forstater. My post on the latter got a lot more views than my posts usually get, I had for once touched the zeitgeist. If my response to seeing how many views I get resembles addictive behaviour, should I just give it up? This is the thing I actually like!

Esteem and self-esteem

Had I killed myself in 2003, it would have been because I saw myself as bad, deserving punishment, in part; if I were to kill myself now it would be because I saw no other way out of a desperate situation.

Some may be shocked by this opening. I have been suicidal, and am now passionate about suicide and its victims. No one deserves it, and people have suicidal thoughts and impulses, and sometimes act on them. It needs spoken about to be understood. Taboos make the suicidal person more isolated.

It means my friend’s answer to suicidal thoughts- “it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”- suddenly makes sense. Before, I saw the problem as me, and so not temporary or changeable.

I am not suicidal. But, having seen that I have value having been convinced of my worthlessness, that thought about suicide illustrates best how great a change this is.

When I was 19 at a time of stress I realised I had two views of myself- as the centre of the Universe, of supreme importance and capability, and at the same time as completely worthless and of no account. Neither view was in touch with reality, and I realised that immediately, yet I was convinced of both and could not shake them.

In June 2008 I wrote over and over again in my diary, I am a human being. I am a human being. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and one of seven billion. Could I come to a position between those extremes?

I grew increasingly conscious that what I saw as worthless was more authentically me, and the route to health went through seeing that worthless creature and finding something to value in her.

And now I think I have.

I have managed to find myself acceptable.

I can value myself as a human being. I have gifts, and they have value. I have creativity and energy, and what they produce is worthwhile. As I walk through the world I do more good than harm.

This change affects how I see motivation. Shall I get up to go to the office? At 8am, I have no doubt that I will indeed get up at 8.30. But then 8.30 comes and I do not get up, and I curse myself as a worthless piece of sxxt, and wonder if something on my phone will give me a big enough dopamine hit to get me moving. It never does.

Then at 9.30, or so, I admit to myself I am not going to get up and go to the office, and think about how else I might spend my day.

Then I went into the office and realised how scared I was of it. I am there and something in me judges me and finds me worthless, the monster from which I can only fail to flee.

Part of my bind was the unconscious conviction that I should not be scared of anything so if I was I was a worthless, etc, because no one with any backbone could possibly be scared of that.

But no. I have value, and because of my experiences I have motivation problems, a conative disorder, or depression.

I had just about stopped beating myself up for not getting up. Cursing myself had been less and less effective. I am still kind of stuck seeking motivation from my phone, but perhaps taking time to centre down would be more effective.

Do I want to get up and go there, now?
Do I need to stay away?

I don’t know. I am reeling. And still. I value myself. It’s an improvement.

In praise of self-loathing

Put a tiger in your tank! You run really fast from a tiger.

First day canvassing for the election had good and bad moments. The best was persuading someone to think more about voting for us, possibly even to change her vote.

More disturbing was another woman’s shouting. She had an unbreakable syllogism:

We knew what we voted for
You have not given it
You are undemocratic.

Ian tried arguing. He too voted to Leave. The Tories were in government, and they messed up their own Brexit- they could have been out by March had they tried to exit in the National interest, rather than their own- but her talking point, or shouting point, was impregnable. All her anger in Life, it seemed, was channelled through this one issue against us.

In the cafe for lunch, we were just leaving when a man started shouting at us. “I fought for my country! How can you wear that thing” (a red rosette) “that anti-British traitor!” I looked at him. He looked late fifties, so he might have been in Northern Ireland, or possibly the Falklands. I tried saying my father also fought for this country, but he was not interested in listening.

There was I at my most beautiful- not cowed or triggered, but wanting to understand and engage, to find some common ground. When Beth came over, he just started shouting “Get out! Get out!” She told him, reasonably, she was leaving and he could not tell her not to use a cafe.

I came to this position, by the next morning. If you disagree with a more articulate debater, it is a reasonable tactic to keep repeating your point until they shut up, which is more self respecting than putting your hands over your ears and shouting NONONONO until they go away. We don’t have the right to change another’s mind.

And that evening, tired after canvassing, I sat up until midnight maundering in my chair, fiddling with my phone.

I took two hours with two separate Samaritan men working it out. They gave me the time but irritated me. What use is self-loathing, one asked, as if recognising it would be enough for me to slough it off. People saw it in me and pointed it out last century. One reason for it was my “disgusting” (a word I used) cross-dressing.

It is my main motivation, or at least was. It may motivate many perfectionists, and if you can be close to perfect being perfectionist is painful but effective. Gosh you get things done. It was wound up too tight in me, I think, or worked with other characteristics to hurt me too much so I broke, but until I broke it got me working.

The other reason I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope is that I am not consciously aware of my discomfort. Now all my feelings came to the surface- confusion, hurt, the desperate need to kick out a climate-denying MP and a nationalist government, one of whose aims is to whip up hatred, including of trans women. I am confused, and can’t bear confusion.

My previous way of responding, not knowing my feelings, was to shut down. I would lose all motivation and stop, “depressed”. No, really, Depressed. The self-deprecation, refusal to believe that any problem should give any difficulty to someone who is not worthless, weak, useless, or even that it is a real problem is strong in me. I suppose it is reassuring. If I am not really depressed, I can get up any moment and surmount all difficulties.

Excavating feelings however painful is my way to health and freedom.

So I slept badly, and wondered about not canvassing on Monday. I was in chaos, perceiving different feelings, trying to put together a rational understanding and not grasping it, frightened.

Highly intelligent, I am dependant on my rational understanding. It keeps me safe, and without it I am terrified, which is a problem when the world cannot be understood.

And I talked it through. I have a tiger in my tank. I went canvassing, which in a more Labour area was more encouraging.