Confidence II

Confidence is knowing how to get what you want, says Helen. No; confidence is thinking of things going right, with reasonable belief, rather than of things going wrong, and the things that you fear happening are never the things going wrong that actually happen. Confidence is imagining What people will think as approving admiring accepting rather than criticising or opposing. Confidence and motivation intertwine: when I cannot see any point, or chance of success, I cannot bring myself to start. At a worse stage, I don’t know what I want because it seems so impossible that I can’t admit to myself I want it. I suppress it.

Each of us here is reeling or prostrate from some blow or other.

What do you do when you feel fear? Take alcohol, says a man. Touch my face or hair, bow my head, says a woman. I may withdraw, or go into anger and confrontation. Ideally I can be conscious of the fear, feel it and allow it, not make an outward sign of it because I can admit and accept it, perhaps imagine a homunculus within, pacing and freaking while I stay still.

“Homunculus. I like that word,” says Helen. I repeat it. Next day she says it again.
-You learned that word quickly.
-I am a languages teacher.

“The only time I am confident is with a horse,” says a woman. She is in a situation she knows well, knows what to do and what might happen. You need to show confidence with horses or they may take advantage. And with people.

Helen is frightened of motorbikes. Twice on the pillion with different riders she did not lean the correct way, and got shouted at.

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with a feeling of helplessness, she quotes. However this does not tell us how.

Communication. You need to say what you want. I am elliptical, then peeved when I am misunderstood.

We are at the jobcentre, and getting us into work is the thing. Have you ever said to yourself it would be nice to swim with dolphins, but not done anything about that. I have another rare word for this, “velleity”. Mine is hang-gliding. Dev has done several parachute jumps. But then, getting a job is important and you have to do that, whether or not you take the steps to swim with dolphins. Goals must be SMART, Specific, Memorable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. At all this sensible stuff, I am switched off. Write your goals down, she says. Stick to your plan. My priority is my own mental health, not quite the same as equanimity.

How would I feel if I had achieved all my goals? She has pictures showing delight and satisfaction. I imagine feeling relief, disbelief, and misery as I contemplate the next thing I have to do. I would feel no better. I realise mine is a depressive reaction, minimising the good, accentuating the bad.

Find your happy. I find her suggestions, of countryside beauty, unimaginative, as if only rest can make me happy. Fifteen things to give up- no, to replace. I cannot give something up until I realise what it does for me, and what else might do that better.

I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it, said Maya Angelou. I have been reduced by what happened to me, whether the most resilient person in the world would have been ground down by it or the least resilient would have brushed it off. Can I bounce back?

Everybody has difficulties. Stop putting yourself down.

Unfortunately my propensity to put myself down is one of the things I criticise myself about. It does not make me feel better. How can I imagine what I may realistically achieve?

I have not been put down as drastically as one woman, whose partner said she was fat and ugly and no-one else would look at her. “Prostitutes wear knee-high boots,” he said. I like boots too. I have heard of men choosing a woman because they don’t think she would ever leave them. I felt anger at that moment. How dare he.

Harlan, who went to school after physical punishment was banned, said “I would have taken the cane off him and shoved it up his arse”. An older person said There’s no discipline nowadays.

“Nobody is thick or stupid, it’s about the opportunities you were given.”

Just coping can leach your confidence. You are always stressed, and the stress gets too much. Helen says we should give ourselves a pat on the back for coping- ie, look on the positive. We are here. We are survivors. Mark said he wants not to cope, but own the situation. He had to leave home and move to a new town aged 18, and feels he has never grown up. He is completely irresponsible.

“I did everything on my own but then something happened which knocked my confidence.”

At the end of all this, we have not been told how, just that we should get back up and keep going, somehow. However. It has been quite fun, meeting people, talking.

Mental Health in our Meetings

When I told a friend of that road-rage incident, she commented that I had done well to hold myself together through the Meeting for worship I went to immediately afterwards. After a strongly emotional experience, I find a measure of calm, then find the feeling welling up in me again, as with my fantasy of that man attacking me, and me thumping him. I anticipated that so was not shocked by it. The fact that he was actually unable to harm me makes me feel safe, and that feeling came to me in Meeting too. It felt like the Ministry which was for me alone. In Meeting I had sat mostly still, though not unmoving, and almost entirely quiet.

I may lose my income on Monday, and if so I am not sure what I will do. I imagined myself standing in Meeting and saying “They want to take away my fucking money. I need my fucking money.” The fantasised meeting is not the real meeting, but I wondered if that would be seen as disruptive, assuming I did not resist an impulse to share my terror. Abigail has to be managed. The meeting must not be disrupted.

I am aware that it behoves us to be silent in Meeting, and test the spirit of a prompting to speak- be accepting of other’s ministry, and questioning our own. But it seems to me that I can endanger the Meeting- I would go into my head, into that small child who knows the rules and seeks safety in obeying them, and I would merely be silent for an hour, as in a waiting room. That could enervate a Meeting. Instead, I seek to be my whole self. Rather than suppressing feeling, I seek to permit it, to allow it to flow through me. This carries the risk that it may overwhelm me. My goal is to trust it completely, so that I do not block it, because I feel the blocks cause the problems; I learn to let go of the blocks, but a block might make me- quake, is the best word I can think of for it. I would show a physical sign of the emotion within. If Friends are distracted, I may distract them further.

I don’t want the Meeting to become the Abigail Maxwell Support Group, a sort of Circle of Support and more support, rather than accountability. I would be the cuckoo in the nest, diverting the energies of the Meeting from its service to God in the world. Most of the responsibility of managing my distress is my own. And I want to take the risk of being overcome, even of appearing disruptive, because otherwise I cannot take the risk of meeting God. If we need the meeting to be comfortable, then it cannot be alive.

Privilege is not an absolute. If it were, the epitome of white, male, straight cis privilege would be Donald J Trump, and he would not be the tiny, blustering man that he is without having been repeatedly traumatised. Yet it has some meaning. My friend showed courage in admitting one of his favourite psalms is 137, Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! I love it because when I became conscious of my feelings, in my thirties, I found they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear. I have never wanted to take a baby by the ankle and smash its head open, but I am glad of that level of anger being in the Bible, because it has helped me realise I might be acceptable to God. Then again I understand that most women and the vast majority of men, like me, have fantasised about murder at some time in their lives. He and I may both like it because we are both LGBT. Not everyone understands our love for it. My lack of privilege includes an intimate acquaintance with impotent anger, and a default fear of people, even of Quakers.

I am glad that Wanstead Quakers want it to be known that our Local Meeting is a place where all are welcomed and nurtured, including people who are transgender and non-binary. It will not be true unless my high level of anger and emotional lability, arising from my trans nature and past circumstances, is welcomed. I bear most of the responsibility of looking after myself, but if I get no help from my meeting there is no point in going. Jesus take me as I am- I can come no other way. I give help, too, when I can. I dare to hope that the value of what I give exceeds that of what I take.

On the first full day of Yearly Meeting Gathering George Lakey spoke at length of his experience of the death of his son- hearing of it, travelling home, meeting family, the wake, the funeral, his feelings (though very little of his son, and only one positive fact about him). I am glad he did, as it cracked me open, but a friend commented that anywhere else there would be trigger warnings, and organised support offered “If you have been affected by the issues raised”. I blundered off, and proceeded to disrupt a discussion group by suppressed but still audible sarcastic laughter when the man leading the group shared deep, spiritual things. A woman left the group with me and spent two hours hearing my anguish.

“I am here to take,” I told her. “Sometimes I need to take.” And then when she fell on the stairs I stood and looked at her rather than going to help her up. I am not proud of this, but it is where I was at the time. I saw her later and expressed gratitude for her support and regret that I had disrupted the group. She could pass that on to the group leader, who was from her Meeting. I also feel her listening, when she held me while I plunged into my own darkness, freed to take a full, positive part in the Yearly Meeting. Many people thanked me for my ministry to the main session, which seemed to move them, from which I judge that it was worthwhile.

In fifteen years as a Quaker, I have found many shoulders offered to me to cry on, and have often taken full advantage. In a discussion group on Listening, a woman shared that sometimes she does this, and takes on pain from the other, but the other’s distress seems accentuated rather than relieved by the process. (I have also listened to others and sensed this in them, a bottomless pit of hurt which can never be dredged.) She compared such people to vampires, sucking her energy. I like to think I am not merely a vampire. Yet, from my side of the exchange, it can seem that people are very keen to provide shoulders to cry on. It makes them feel valued and valuable. It is an exchange, not a gift- we both know we will enjoy it, and sometimes we go at it for the good feeling rather than for any lasting good it will do. Don’t offer support in order to feel valued, because the outcome may make you feel insulted and wronged.

I put that too strongly when I first published this post. Being heard is unburdening for me, a huge relief. My inner critic bullies me as I unburden- I am being self-indulgent, this is not real, I should be tougher. The next day from publishing, I am not sure. Sometimes it can go wrong. I have listened, and felt I am earthing pain, like an electric charge passing through and out of me, but I have to let it go. I could do this, consciously, and move on. Once, after hearing a schizophrenic woman, the process of letting go took me two hours and involved seeking the help of a friend: that woman’s distress had evoked my own.

As this angry, labile, vulnerable, benefit-claiming, moderately depressed Quaker I want to be welcome all the time, not just when I pass as a quirky, middle-class, spiritual, highly educated and intelligent Normal-person. Please do not be self-sacrificial. Maintain your boundaries, and care for yourselves. So, tell me when you think I am pushing it, taking more support than I really need or that the meeting can offer, before Something Bad happens, and you exclude me in anger and blame me. People so often leave things unspoken, or assumed, but it might help to discuss the boundaries, to bring them into the open.

I have so much to offer you!

Scissors and glue

I spent a pleasant hour or so this afternoon with scissors and glue- craft activities based on positive psychology. I am tempted to be dismissive, but I enjoyed it, and will share with you what I made. I went to the local Mind for a taster session on their Building Self Confidence course, and may take it. I forgot to take my lunch: possibly I was nervous about going. There was Christmas cake to fill me up, and another service user gave me a satsuma. She seemed a kind, gentle soul. I thought her eyes were lovely. She talks herself down, and was gently challenged.

Everyone’s normal, until you get to know them.

They quoted Oscar Wilde- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Well, yes; and you cannot be anyone else anyway. Anthony Burgess told of a boy at his school who affected a French accent to appear sophisticated, but spoke French with an English accent. I have huge privilege, being educated and having a fund of stories like that; it came to mind at just the right time.

We discussed the inner critic. “You would never be as cruel to others as you are to yourself,” I said. I am trying to show you I know this stuff. Nothing they said seemed new and useful to me. Yet I want to get out of the house, into a non-threatening environment with other people, and this might do. I have thought of voluntary work, but not enough actually to volunteer. And something did seem worthwhile, a thought I had, prompted by being there:

I have been thinking of a facebook interaction. I commented on a Remainer group, and a troll responded “Lolwut”, and another the eu was trying to take our freedoms away. Thankfully within a few years the corrupt dictatorship will collapse. Not people who were seeking to understand my point of view, people who were trolling, possibly to spread gloom and despondency on my side, so I responded, [names] not very bright, are you? Find out about the issues before showing your ignorance here. Now I am second-guessing. Was mine a constructive pacifist response?

It is very controlling, wanting your every response to be right.

I don’t like their ending visualisation. Imagine yourself happy and successful, as you would want to be. I hear that if you imagine having something you are less hungry for it, less likely to go out to get it; or, I do not want to imagine something I do not trust I can create. But- why not enjoy fantasy? Am I too puritan? Second-guessing again.

There are some good paintings here, but our exercise is less technically stretching: cut words out of magazines, which apply to me, and glue them to a silhouette. So, here it is. Some of the words were offered by others. “Does anyone want Bohemian?” Yes, I wanted Bohemian.

I enjoyed it. This is a place I might go. I need to go somewhere.


An anchor of stability

If I were to write to her, to express desire or resentment
the best I could expect would be indifference
the worst, mockery and disdain.
I still think of it-

I fear for S., starting work again. I fear she will find the idiocies and vilenesses of the situation- no respect for her professionalism, no care for the good of the pupils, as far as she can see- too much to bear. She may do it for the money, which makes a certain amount of sense. I beg her, look after yourself. Healthy children test boundaries, so you should be expert by now- push them as hard as you can, without overstepping. After months off work, she is only just now relaxed. She fears being stressed within five minutes, and counts the weeks until Summer.

She gave me a copy of an article on Quaker membership from the Friends Quarterly. For some, membership is a life-line, a connection that provides an anchor of stability in times and situations of personal challenge or isolation. So it was for me. It gave me the sense of support, and so the courage, I needed to transition. I needed somewhere to belong. We have our usual conversation about membership. She finds it divisive, I a necessity.

It comes to me that because I needed the life-line, I was prevented from seeing the Society as it actually is. I needed rose-tinted spectacles, because I needed a sense of safety. I was like that with HAI, come to think of it.

I still think of it, but I would be better to phone J. I could write to her, but my main need is more reassurance, someone else for my Support Network, and J offered.

S’s Sufi group, by contrast, refuses entry to people who need a life-line. They are there for spiritual- something, and the Spiritual cannot be emotional. Here I disagree. I am intensely emotional, so my spiritual experience is emotional. I get the point, I see the value, it is not for me.

I am only just relaxing into my quiet lifestyle, two years on.

Am I projecting when I say Quakers locally do too much work for too little value added, too little joy in service? Is it just me? S reassures me, I am intuiting not projecting. She also finds me extremely feminine. I fought and denied that for so long, and it created my every action though I did not see it.

S says we have to be able to trust. I think, but do not say,

I need to KNOW.

Then S mentions the parable of the talents, which I use to beat myself up, I weep.

I feel drained after that. I could just cycle home, but I decide to face the supermarket.

It is not she I should write to, but he.

van Gogh, corridor in the asylum


Jugglers 1Sally’s car was in the garage, so she sat outside- she worried if Tracy came round she would just drive past, not seeing Sally’s car. Sally had gone to bed early, but having breakfast at 9 worried that she had not had time to do her housework that morning. She shoved a mop round the wood floor and got a stool to sit on just before Tracy arrived. Tracy insisted she would have knocked on the window even though the car wasn’t there.

Tracy talked about herself, mostly. She’s not on the sick much, but when she goes sick she takes a long time off. She was off 5½ months once, she came back just before half pay started. She had a meeting with Helen and her daughters on Friday night.
-No use? asked Sally.
-And then some. They just shouted at each other. Helen has such a short fuse. She shouts at Tracy, too. Mind, the daughters would wind anyone up, all the time it’s not what she wants, it’s what they want. Helen was complaining Tracy talks about her.

Jugglers 3Tracy asked about Sally’s Welsh course, in Harlech, and her painful hip. It’s bad in Sally’s knee and all. But after Elaine came, Tracy and Elaine just talked between themselves. Elaine had been out for a walk on Sunday, and had a seat outside a pub. The man came out of the pub shouting at them not to sit there. Then he had a bucket of water which he threw out, nearly splashing her. If he’d thrown that water at her, she told him, she’d have emptied that bin on his head. He was really stressed, she said, “I felt sorry for him”.

Jugglers 2-Didnae show it, though. That earned me a sharp look but not a sharp reply.
-He said, those stones are free over there.
-Did you get a cup of tea or anything off him?
-No, and I wouldn’t now, he’d probably spit in it or piss in it. He was really angry, he was really stressed. There were no people there, it’s gone dead quiet since he took it on, he should give it up.

Elaine went to see Tom Jones in Colwyn Bay. Tracy’s friend had been, but it took her 2½ hours to get away after. It took Elaine 1½ hours. Elaine goes into great detail about the transport. She could have gone to the train station (Railway station, Sally corrects her, fruitlessly). They had to walk all that way. Then a bottle ‘a wine was £20, just ordinary wine, £2.75 in Aldi. I’m not buying that. Still, everybody was buying it. They do, don’t they. Tom Jones was really good, and on for two hours, she didn’t think he’d be on that long. She hadn’t heard of anyone with him, they were on The Voice and she doesn’t watch The Voice.

It’s her 35th wedding anniversary coming up. She’s not going to celebrate it, nothing to celebrate.
-You could get drunk to forget, I suggested, helpfully.
-No, I still have to go to bed with him at the end of it.
-Now the children have left you could use another bedroom?
-I have six bedrooms, I could use another bedroom if I wanted.

Elaine went into a hospital which was the dirtiest hospital she’d ever seen. She told Pauline to wipe her feet on the grass when she left. There was sick on the seats. Sally and Tracy make yuck faces.

Elaine and Tracy took Sally to the Post Office. So that is what support work is like. Tea and conversation. Sally doesn’t think much of Mental Health services round here, they’re useless.

Klee, arrival of the Jugglers

Counselling V

van Gogh, thatched cottages at CordevilleI had thought I would sit on the floor, symbolising being a teenager. If I sat in the chair, I would be the sulky teenager, dragged along with the adults to silently suffer their polite conversation. Actually I sit in the chair, but feel different- playful and child-like rather than -ish.

Here am I in the “world in a grain of sand” moment. My sensations feel heightened. I notice the grain on that table or that speck of dust by the skirting-board. It still feels vulnerable but bearable. I meditate so can get like this easily, such as when washing my hands.

-When is your benefit reassessed? Early next year?
Oh, these irritating questions. Must you just be brute Reality? I don’t say that.

I am irritated about that coffee invitation. My friend does not have time. So I ask once, then a few days later ask again, then see her and yes having coffee together is a lovely idea. Well, suggest a time, I say, and she doesn’t. So it goes from a desire to a velleity. One would not say (though there are exceptions) “I do not on any account want to spend time with you” but lets down gently with that “Let’s do it- sometime-” I was glad later to find this was my own silly misunderstanding, and failure to listen to phone messages, but it was useful for the session this morning to think this way.

I fantasise that you are bored, just enduring the tedious hour as we only have one more appointment- but alternatively you might be giving me my head.

I despair. Yes, I could look for work, or do voluntary work, but I don’t want to open up to yet more of the endless, painful rejection. That woman and that Quaker meeting. Not having the funding decision for April in March, with a sincere belief it might be withdrawn.

I feel too intense, as if I scare people- HERE I AM ready to take on the world and other people want conventional, trite, unreal interactions. So I hold myself in check and am trivial. Though such Power would be useful for cross-examination, and I never managed it there.

I had wondered if I would play the Empty Chair with my mother, or visit her deathbed again- but I have nothing to say, and no purpose in saying it. Whether I express rage, or love and care, so what? The bed spins away, receding to a point on the right, and vanishing. I can’t put my head in the sand, now, so I spend most of the rest of the time with my eyes closed. It is defensive.

Yet I feel more open, like the grass which bends in the wind, not the tree which falls. The paradox is that the more defended I am, the more vulnerable. Yes, let’s meet again, it has not been entirely useless. Oh, Thank you, she says- it was a litotes!

If I were on £72.40 JSA, £1 for a cup of tea in the caff would be an extravagance to consider carefully, but on ESA, which is more, I can manage it. I sit outside in the cool breeze and watch the passers-by. I find the loo surprisingly decorated with quotes: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart, said Helen Keller.

It is never too late to be what you might have been

said George Eliot. Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate brownie in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!” They may have amended that last one.


Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 1Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 2My ministry this morning was as close to the Ranters as I have come. They imagined that anything they did was led by the inward spirit of God.

It began for me with thinking of a paedophile who came to my Quaker meeting. He had served his time, and professed that he did not want to offend again. My sensible, Quakerly position was clear. He had committed a crime, but human beings have to be capable of repentance and correction; we took sufficient precautions to protect our children from him; subject to those precautions we should welcome him into our community. Yet when I spoke to him I did so in a stiff and formal manner. I was conflicted, knowing the reasonable response and fighting it. My real sympathy for him- he has to be able to make some sort of life, I can imagine his suffering- was not enough.

Call it what you will- my id, or inner child is where the energy comes from.

I said that one is supposed to consider whether ministry is for the whole meeting, or for me alone, but this is for me. I described the man, and how I could not talk to him authentically. Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 3And now I can be sensible, or I can be that inner child, but all that inner child is able to say is



There has to be more than my NO. (By this time, I am crying.)

After, G was delighted at my energy- he needs that energy, he has been in three mental hospitals and had ECT which he hates. I need that energy, but it frightens me, and so I have screwed the lid right down on it. I am still frightened, but pleased with my clear rule-breaking here. Generally, Quaker inspired ministry appears to come from a superego sort of place. I have taken a risk with my ministry, if not in others’ eyes in my own. I imagine those Ranters letting their Ids play and calling it Spirit. Some balance might be possible.

Previously I have had the experience of weeping, and thereafter being more in touch with feeling, more able to sense and express it, and perhaps this is similar- expressing anger, then being more able to use that energy. This is something to practice. I judge my revolt, or exploration, or whatever it is, harshly- I grope blindly and move poorly- but it really is the best I can do. Something to celebrate then.

J ministered on how she had permitted an artist to make a cast of her body, so lay on the woman’s kitchen table having wet plaster bandages applied. The artist was lovely, but as this proceeded, especially over J’s face, she retreated into herself. We have these public and private selves. I have support here, to grow as I may.

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus 4

Van Gogh, the Raising of Lazarus

Foetal position

File:Chair Louis XIII style 04.jpgI feared this counselling session. I did not want to come. I decided to start in the foetal position I had ended up in. I had various thoughts about how this would turn out, but did not anticipate how good it would be.

-Is that OK with you? She assents. So I lie down and curl up, facing the door.

I feel angry, so I state this. Then it matters less. I admire the door: it is wooden, and I can only see the joins between the planks because of the shape of the grain, not for any visible crack. I uncurl a bit, and notice the texture of the paint on the walls. I feel- playful. I feel curious.
-Relaxed. I throw my arm out.
-Relaxed. I look at the chair, which is the challenge. Yes, I ought to sit up. I discuss this internally, lessen my demand, and (having shown my ability to refuse) go to sit on the chair.

People are extraordinarily closed-minded. There’s Tim, asserting the Bible has no contradictions, and he knows exactly what to say to shut down anyone who asserts otherwise, to his own satisfaction. I say, God’s not like that, inspiration is not like that, I am happy that Gen 1 contradicts Gen 2, and the day Jesus was crucified is different.

Seeing how much effort people put into defending their errors, I am terrified of my own blind spots.


having that terror,

I am defended from blind spots.

File:Charles Rennie Mackintosh - Chair - 1903.jpgWow. I am glad to be here. Saying that aloud, and assenting to it, feels so good, though I do not see any assent from Yvonne.

At N. CAB, the management were wrong, demonstrated because funding was withdrawn before I was there five months. However I created the bullying situation because all I knew how to do was confront. My boss did not like me telling her what to do. Then I did Employment law, where the pressures I put on myself combined with the actual pressures from others overwhelmed me. Then there was the job in Swanston, with a wildly optimistic overestimate of demand for the service. I did my best to get it going, with little support (not communicating, not aware of support) but failed.

I find your screensaver distracting. May I turn it off? Or would you turn it off? She agrees to turn it away from me, but not to turn it off. OK.

I did my best. Failure does not mean I am useless, worthless etc. Though at the time I had all my gifts, and most of my current maturity. Years after it ceases to be an issue, I could perhaps see how to advise on an IB appeal averaging two hours, even perhaps passing peer review, but not how to communicate it.

God, people are so stupid. Could I just exploit that, channel Becky Sharp? I imagine whipping up a patsy’s excitement, and being gone before truth dawns. Not sure I fancy that…

I became aware of my rage and terror around 1999. I have been working on it since.

Now, sitting on the floor again, back against the wall, the screensaver distracts again, but she refuses to turn the monitor further on the spurious grounds that this may affect the cable. We agree another appointment in three weeks.

-It’s better than There. [the foetal position.]
-Sort of adolescent? I assent. I am doing teenage.
-You can think about getting into the chair before we next meet. (I do not express my revolt against that. I am happy enough on the floor for the moment.)

I had been out with friends, and when they dropped me home Steph came rushing out to ask if I could get her Blackberry to work. My phone is more primitive, and I had no idea. I offered my landline, but her Mum will be round and Steph could use her phone.

-Have you taken the battery out? asked J as if this is as obvious as rebooting a PC. So they stared and poked at it, trying to assist. I don’t want to draw a moral from this story, but it pleases me.


Sigismund Righini, Portrait of an elegant lady in the gardenThe woman at the butcher’s brought through a large vacuum-packed batch of bacon. “Here was I thinking you had a bacon-slicer through the back,” I said. She grinned and shook her head. The butcher in Aberdeen had one of those, but that was in the 1980s. My grandfather was a butcher, and he did everything from slaughtering the beasts to serving customers- ninety years ago.

Yvonne had double-booked, so gave me half an hour. I have come away with more ways of thinking about The Issue, but that may be a bad thing.

-What did you get, last time, from curling up on the floor and screaming?

It really has been that bad. I am here because of the pain I have suffered. I am not here because of being useless or worthless or weak. Absolution has to come from me.

(It occurs to me that I have got something from curling up in the past- someone takes pity, and lessens the demands on me- but that is less likely in adulthood. A psychiatrist wrote my friend’s issue was “adjusting to adult life”.)

Crisis is coming. Early next year my benefit is not certain, but very likely to get cut by £50 a week, and possibly stop entirely. So I could get evicted. I accept that it is better to deal with that now than the day before: now, I have more options.

-You get out a bit. You do things with the- Mormons?
-No, Quakers. We like to think they’re the weirdos, we are perfectly normal. Or weird in a good way.

I want to survive- but just surviving has very little appeal to me. Any way I can envisage of earning money just seems a grind. I want instant gratification.

Counselling is not her telling me stuff. She said something, I forgot it, I asked her to repeat it, I forget it again. Something about my values.

-How do you see yourself?
-Ah. Long counselling journey there. I realised aged 20 that I see myself as the Centre of the Universe, and at the same time utterly worthless. Total arrogance and terror. In my forties I come to “I am a human being”- fearfully and wonderfully made, but one in seven billion; this seems a more rational way of seeing it; but the extremes are still there.

-What would you get out of volunteering at the charity shop?
-Getting out of the house, doing something worthwhile, being with people. I had a summer job in a hotel when I was at university, and a woman took me to task for being “The Lawyer, looking down on all of us” though my aloofness was partly from nervousness. I did not despise them. I think. I would get more practice with that.

-How do other people see you?

This is the new way of (over)thinking the problem. I notice, and am affected by, rejection far more than acceptance or admiration. Admiration is never enough. Just as winning every claim and appeal, at work, was never enough.

-What options do I really have?

Stating the Problem II

Gertrude SteinThis is the problem: emotional lability and lack of motivation, though I feel I am making progress with the self-acceptance. Seeing the psychiatrist was good. I fear my anger- rather than being energised, I become locked up. I fear my fear.
-Can we discuss an incident?
-Well, staying at home alone I manage to avoid situations which would induce anger. I wanted to print out All things bright and beautiful as a score. I found a website, but when I printed it was gobbledegook. So I tried another, and it printed only half, in landscape. So I set it to print portrait, and it printed gobbledegook. So I photocopied it.

Then I found myself thinking over things years ago which had made me angry. Then I was exhausted. I had solved my problem, and my solution was good enough- just not what I originally wanted. Thinking of those old things was a way of making my anger conscious.

-Are you overanalysing?
-No, don’t think so.

Everything needs to be perfectly as I want it. I notice that when I realise something or make a connection, I berate my stupid self for not making it before. I am doing that less.
-Why do you do that?
-Because it has really mattered. And then the tears come.

I settled an employment tribunal claim the day before the The Actorhearing for a humiliating £250, and just after, realised the killer argument which would have given me a good chance of winning.

Have you a pillow or something? Oh, there. It has a paper case on it- OK-

I scream into it, four times. That is good. It relieves my feelings, yet even in deciding to do that, I had some care for the people in the waiting room. Screaming is not what you want to hear in a doctors’ surgery. They would think you have an 18th century barber-surgeon in here.

I throw the pillow, stained with lipstick and mascara, on the floor.

I thought I was completely worthless. I only had value for what I could achieve. So I needed to get everything perfect, in order to deserve existence. This is an impossible way of being, in employment law- there are clever people trying hard to thwart you. So I just gave up.

I could spend ages trying to convince you I had the killer argument, too late for the tribunal, but can more or less trust my own judgment.

With C, I know the magic telepathy could not work. I could have told her how irritated she made me, but that was a more difficult Assertiveness task, given how much she irritated me. I planned my devastating put-down, knowing she would crack that stupid joke yet again.

La Coiffure-Could you have saved the friendship?
-Well, there will be other friendships.
-At least you knew what you were doing.

I came in early, but because the automated entry system was not working I had to queue at reception. I wasted time with it because it had a postit note saying “This is working, just very slow”. “The trouble with efficiency”, I said loudly to the person ahead of me, “is that if you have no slack you can’t cope with any problems”. Rather than having another person on reception, people started to footre with the touch screen.

-Is there a switch on it?
-It’s switched off at the mains, said the receptionist.

I went over, took the postit note, screwed it up and threw it on the floor. The woman came over, unscrewed it and said it should be there. I looked her in the eye and explained to her that it was misleading, and she removed it again.

I am moderately pleased with that. Mostly assertive, not really aggressive- I did not smash the thing. I prefer to maintain relationships, and here I made her day slightly more unpleasant. I prefer to maintain relationships, perhaps because I do not expect to win confrontations like that. Better, I think, than sticking the anger in a pressure-cooker.

I could “relocate” the memory of that tribunal case. She explains the jargon. It was one of the bad experiences which broke me. And- I don’t need always for things to go my way exactly. It won’t kill me- even if that is exactly what I feared. I shall ask her to explain that one again.