The meandering route to recovery

I spend a lot of time with those who come under that “shirkers and scroungers” banner, and I often help them claim benefits. They nearly all have reasonable physical health – but quite severe mental health problems. What I see in them is not laziness and a desire to have others run around and support them – but rather that they are so damaged by life’s circumstances that they have endured that they have no capacity to help themselves. If they get sanctioned (i.e. benefits completely stopped) then they just lie down and take it – like a dog that’s been beaten one too many times…

People who are loved – and they may need that love for many years – can slowly start to believe in themselves again. With patient encouragement to take one step at a time, and constant support – lives can be rebuilt. And personal responsibility will then develop too.

-From a facebook thread.

Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that … allows us to bear witness to … suffering, whether in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion … is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

– Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness:
The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

I need to know my limitations, and they are hard to accept. I used to work with people after heart attacks claiming benefits, who would often say that sitting down, they felt completely normal, like before, so they went to get up and felt shocking breathlessness and pain. One imagines the default, the normal, often even after repeated proof of the lesser ability. Denial is just one of my blind spots.

I find my energy levels varying, and here am I even now thinking, “I can do that this afternoon!” When it comes to this afternoon, I won’t feel the energy.

Of course I want to see how to improve and build abilities. I am doing my best, all the time, because people just do. And, rather than writing this blog post about limitations or going out leafleting for Labour I am whiling away my time on heated facebook threads, about whether a Quaker can be a Conservative. Some who are both resented the challenge. I was going to write, “I went into my why can’t we all just get along? mode,” but really I sought to bridge the gap. I put my energy, care and expressiveness into explaining each to the other and finding common ground. Not all I wrote was perfect.

Whiling, or practising, or even engaging in a medium where feelings are strong, though transitory?

Menis said to me, Have mercy on yourself.

One Conservative voter messaged me, Thank you for coming to my aid on fb. You are a kind Friend indeed! When we got to 😇😇😇 I said It is extremely important to me to see myself as a good person! which provoked her XD XD .

So, there. Self-nurturing, as well as thinking things through with words, and practicing writing. Not a waste of time at all!

I recognise myself in those first two paragraphs above. I knew I have to write about what my difficulties are, because without that, plans can never work. Plans which do not take account of difficulties will founder on those difficulties.

Everything I do is for my good; and not everything I do forwards those conscious plans. Some ways forward proceed unconsciously. Of course I know I must write of my difficulties. I must get to know them from patient observation of what I do, rather than imagining I know myself, or that I really am that normal default- because I am sitting in the chair, and not exerting myself to rise from it. And I get to know them, consciously and unconsciously. After hours on that facebook thread, thinking, writing, reading and re-reading, I showered at 1pm, and in the shower my Assertion surfaced, and I said, emphatically, insistently,

I am
I am writing it

I am writing my account of my difficulties. I was working on it then. Just, not consciously.

 ♥♥♥

The road to recovery lies through a full and complete understanding of limitations. I know that I am loveable. I love myself. I like myself. This is great progress. And, I have no trust in myself or others. I have experiences of my failure and others’ angry or hostile reactions to me, which matter to me, which affect my conduct, thought, anticipation and planning, and however much I think of my success and others’ favourable or supportive reactions to me, however many examples I retrieve from memory, they are insignificant beside the weight of bad experiences. I think,

It was ghastly!
It will be ghastly again!

If I can win my own trust, I need to develop trust of others. I might delve into why the bad experiences have so much weight- perhaps they are from early childhood, where it really was as black and white as it seems now.

So I retreat, and I fiddle, and I don’t do what I obviously must do to improve my lot

even while I work to improve it, in unimaginable or ridiculous ways

I follow my heart, however much my head knows it is right.

Winging it

Presenter on Radio 4 said how he looked at Melvyn Bragg, say, or Stephen Fry, and they seemed effortless; and he always felt he was “winging it”. So this programme is about “winging it”, how he wants to be in control but is not, never is quite sure what he is doing, works at the pitch of his ability wondering when he will be “found out”. Many people feel like that, perhaps even Melvyn Bragg!

I hated him. I did not want to listen. I want to be in control too, which I have achieved, in a sense, in my living room, and I so envy him, an entertainer on the radio, doing that shtick. I would go back to ithe programme, not as a challenge, to correct my error, but to reassure myself. It is alright, really. (Most of) my fears are phantoms. The actual threats, I might not fear or perceive at all.

The phantoms are great in my mind, terrifying, making me cry-
I epilated this morning, and thought of the psychiatrist: “How did you feel when you started to grow body hair?”
I felt relieved: I might appear normal-

Sense and effort may work on the piano. I have not played it this year, and found that I had to play the C major scale hands separately to get the fingering right. But I saw the film Byzantium on the telly- the protagonists two ethical female vampires hunted through a seaside town- and the younger plays the Adagio from Beethoven’s sonata op.2 no.3, which fits the film perfectly. It is a bit twisted, and the harmony ramps up the emotional tension while the slow, measured regular demisemiquavers refuse to release it. I had never played it. I thought it a Bach prelude at first, perhaps “smeared when wet”, and when the credits rolled I got it out. I am in love with it. It is so beautiful.

Anyway. There is only one right note, and it must be hit squarely. You play a single bar over and over again, hands separately then together, and when you string the bars together if you hit a wrong note you go back over that bar and get it right. You practise, I read, until you cannot hit a wrong note. Then, you can play the piece, speak feeling with and through it. That fits the pedantic testing of each foothold before placing weight on it.

So much has gone wrong! Blithe trust in the ability of the air to support my wings when it has not-

Cezanne, rocks

Doubt

I did not see the psychotherapist last week, and still have not heard why not. One question I thought of was, why is my flat so untidy? Because I like it that way? No, not really: it is either self-punishing, or because I do not see that I can make it any better. Because I do not trust myself even to decide what to do with the paper strewn round my living room, even the obvious rubbish such as the wrapper and advertising inserts of Prospect magazine from three weeks ago.

Or low energy. But I don’t think it is that- my energy is not that low.

Lack of self-respect? I am worth being looked after. I had that feeling of being beautiful and Loved

What I decided this morning (Friday) was that it was lack of trust in the world, and in my own decisions, even though the work is objectively not difficult. I do not trust myself to act or to plan. I fear the absolute worst. And something about: I have rules for acting, rules for understanding, and those seem illusory to me: it is not my judgment, but ideas I have taken into myself, which do not fit reality or me. I want to decide for myself rather than follow rules.

Stop making sense!

I have been in the state where I could not trust my own perceptions before: that something appears to me to be true is not evidence for its truth or falsehood. Then the bottom falls out of my world and I panic. It felt like that. I did not want to clerk on Sunday. Do I want to go to the story-telling? Yes, actually.

And the mood passed, the radical lack of trust in myself. I don’t know how I can realise it when I feel that way, but it does end. I cycled off to that confrontation, where I feel I played it fairly cool. I still have not tidied away the papers, even the £500 loan at 104% apr leaflet.

 ♥♥♥

I saw this video on facebook, with a note explaining that the babies did not realise they were born and this technique was to ease them gently into the world. The article does not quite say that, and I note the cord is cut- but I understand they don’t pick you up by the ankles and spank you to start you breathing, any more. A friend who worked in child care and spoke with experts tells me that tantrums are no necessary part of the toddler experience. Toddlers parented with patience and acceptance may not be driven to such rages.

The actress Johanna Sacco just looks petulant as Medea, in Joseph Hickel’s portrayal. Her knife is bloody, and the thing on her mind is “That’ll show him!” as if she does not realise she has lost anything for herself.

Joseph Hickel, Johanna Sacco as Medea

Trust V

This is a strange mood.

I might think it despair, exhaustion, inanition.
It might be Acceptance:
seeing the real, and accepting it
though if I thought that would be a pleasant feeling I was mistaken.
Where ignorant armies clash by night,
I am like a weanèd child.

 ♥♥♥

By the river I saw two women from the Outdoor centre, lifting kayaks, wearing T shirts marked “Who do you trust?”
-That’s a good question.
-Who do you trust? she asked.
-I trust in the general benevolence of the Universe, I said. Who do you trust?
-I trust in God, she said definitely: I thought she would, as the business is overtly Christian.

Did we disagree- or rather, since we were announcing what we trust in, do we trust in substantially different things?

If so, does it matter?

 ♥♥♥

I was delighted to receive your email. My immediate response might be considered servile-

but it was the response my heart wished to make.

 ♥♥♥

I communicated with a snake once. It had its coil round the back of my neck, so it had a firm grip but avoided things like my carotid artery which I do not want squeezed. I felt it could hold on to slightly more of my neck, and somehow it understood, shifted slightly, and held on to slightly more of my neck. I was still safe, with this tame snake.

With R, I have such a sweet negotiation. I am concerned to communicate what I want, but more concerned that he will be comfortable with the outcome. I feel that he has a complementary feeling.

Grace Anarchy

It has been a long journey for me, away from my self-hatred and contempt. In the war within myself, religion has been on both sides. I love this:

It’s like we Christians love the idea of grace, but we don’t want it distributed indiscriminately- we want make rules about it and dole it out carefully and strategically. It’s like we’re worried that if everybody knows that she’s loved and accepted by God – it will be Grace Anarchy! I want that. I want Grace Anarchy. I want people to be free to be who they are. It makes sense to me that the free-er people are, the BETTER people are. I believe in people because I believe in God. I think God knew what God was doing when God made each of us.

Peter, who is over ninety, does not understand me. He asked me once whether F, who is lesbian and butch, was a man or a woman. I confuse him by arriving at the Quaker meeting in a cycle helmet then appearing later in my wig. Once, when I was overheated and he saw me without my helmet he thought I was a man. I was irritated. I thought, I do not want to explain to Peter. I could ask someone else to explain to him. So he came up to me, again, this morning, and said “I thought you were two people”. I told him I wear a wig, and took it off to show him. I did not start on being trans. Maybe later. Ernest, who is over ninety and nearly blind, mistakes my voice for a man’s.

It was much easier than I had feared. Just because he does not understand, does not mean he condemns. It has seemed to me he lives among so much that he does not understand, and I took that as an important lesson to keep as flexible in thought as I can, hearing the world view of the next generations: because I will still be around when the world is theirs.

My trust levels are low. I need to practise trust. It is alright. As I accept and trust others, I am freed. I could almost be glad that Peter asks: he is my example.

My friend confessed a compulsive obsession to me. I am so glad to hear it: it shows she trusts me. I am glad to be trustworthy.

Just for bloggers: I always use the useful editor, rather than the beep-boop, because the beep-boop does not always record posts, and is generally horrible. With The Penguin’s script, you can too. All links will go to the useable editor, rather than the beep-boop. WordPress is generally user-friendly, so its pointless, arrogant attack on its users irked me.

Eugénie Salanson-Marquise de Croix

Trust issues

The idea of a film about my transition experience, with me as “creative director”, might seem ridiculous had it not been suggested by a TV producer. We discussed a programme he had made, which I remembered from some years ago. We met for a preliminary discussion and I produced one scene and some possible outlines.

It is not completely ridiculous. The personal growth stuff, in four born-again experiences, a story of self-acceptance, could interest more than just trans folk. It is a universal story: human beings suppress parts of ourselves for the sake of others and society.

To get two weeks later an answer phone message from a mutual acquaintance saying the idea was off was a blow. I have thought of checking out what other contacts I had- a friend knows an independent producer in Swanston, for example- but I have been unable to summon up the enthusiasm to do anything further on the project.

Why did I not want to write this post?

Oh, it is understandable. I too was on a wild emotional rollercoaster after the Essence process. He has other things to think about.

And- that woman. Is she just messing with me? At best, my old co-dependent ways will not work, and I will have to get new ones find saner ways of being. Though I dwell on this too much, because I have little else to do. Today I cycled into Swanston for tea with Richard. It was lovely. Tomorrow, I shall have coffee with Liz.

No, I really did not want to write this post. I consider other blows, such as my father giving away all his capital, a six figure sum, to con-men, or my work history, and still find this hard to bear. The point of this blog is hope- self-acceptance, greater understanding, greater ability to face the world, and I despair. I feel a fool. I wonder if I was merely foolish to believe in that film project when we were actually discussing it- of course it could go nowhere. I feel my foolishness is exposed and mocked, though I see that is a wrong way of perceiving it: other priorities, a change of mind. My trust in the world is low. My confidence, or trust in myself, is low. It paralyses me.

I think, I should accept that mobile phone contract. It will give a better service for less money. And I do not, because something will go wrong.

????????

Acceptance XLVI

I cannot accept the world unless I accept myself.

Having retreated from the world, little affects me. That was why I did it. I was befuddled and frustrated by work, so I gave up. Liz volunteers in a place with paid workers. She hears them complain about changes to their working patterns, and wishes they could just accept those changes. They might even embrace and enjoy those particular changes as Liz would- they involve working with children.

A change to my experience of WordPress angered and frightened me. Does that seem an extreme reaction? Well, I feel my anger was proportionate, of short duration. I started fearful thought of how it could presage further, even worse changes, and then started thinking of how I could cope with those changes.

As I felt my anger and fear, in the moment after the first stimulus of them, I judged myself. Anger and fear is a totally disproportionate reaction, I told myself sternly. (No wonder you can’t go out sometimes.) Whereas I can cope with changes to routine, if I gently explain them to myself. Part of my (over) reaction is bad experiences of change in the past.

First, I must accept my own reaction. It too will pass.

 ♥♥♥

My childhood way of Acceptance gets in the way. It was to suppress anger and fear and Get On With It. Mother Unhappy! Danger! Work out what she wants immediately and do it. However I felt about that in the moment would get in the way, then. My anger and fear made her unhappy and stopped me thinking through the right response. So I feared my anger and fear, which made my experience of them more painful.

In childhood that did the job. Now I have suppressed feeling too long and cannot suppress any more; and my feelings are a useful tool for perception. I know the current state is not eternal: these feelings and state of unknowing will pass. (I just have to realise that, in the moment.)

Chronic stress happens when stressors come along too quickly to deal with one before feeling the next. That was my experience most of the time I was working.

I feel there is a lesson here, and I want to be able to articulate it. Part of it is in my first sentence. If I accept how I react emotionally and trust the process, remembering such lessons as “This too shall pass”, I will be happier and better able to deal with the stressor.

Evelyn de Morgan, Cassandra

Trust IV

Cesar Boetius van Everdingen Trompe l'oeil with a bust of VenusCreationism debates led me to biostratigraphy, the science of dating strata according to the life-forms fossilised therein, and particularly biostratigraphy from trilobites. Consider all that wonderful detail! There are ten separate Orders of trilobite- an Order is divided into family, genus, species- and 20,000 identified species over 291m years. Not everything is clear: 54m years after trilobites first appeared, the order Phacopeda appeared, and in 2009 when that page was last updated it was unknown from where. Perhaps it still is. From the wee drawings, my Ordovician trilobite looks like a Proetida, of the order which survived into the Permian.

Tim’s answer was that the strata were laid down by the Flood, and dating strata by species and species by strata is a circular argument. Well, the same species in strata a thousand miles apart indicates a similar age, and radiometric dating from one might be repeated for confirmation, but need not be. A series of strata may be upside-down because of metamorphic folding or whatever, but this does not refute the basic idea. If the strata were laid down in the Flood, I would expect the Orders to be far more higgledy-piggledy, and theories why one species was better adapted than another to be more difficult to sustain.

Everdingen, LucretiaNo, I had no belief in Creationism before, but now I have a Refutation I am entirely happy with. I imagine a conversation:

-Creationism!
TRILOBITE BIOSTRATIGRAPHY!!!!
And I do a Happy-dance, because I have won, beyond all possible doubt. At least in my own mind. Or I say, Look at this! Isn’t it fascinating! Isn’t it beautiful! And am surprised when others don’t see it the same way.

Yet there are still scientists who are creationists, and intelligent non-scientists. Those scientists produce arguments to convince lay-people that Creationism works, such as the spurious distinction between observational science and historical science- all those trilobite fossils have been observed, measured, Everdingen, four muses and Pegasus on Parnassuscategorized- and possibly they do this with the conscious intention to deceive, for the greater good of preserving a view of the Bible as literally true, inspired and inerrant; and possibly they do this because the Bible is inerrant, and therefore the evidence cannot indicate anything else. I don’t like to think of them deliberately lying, but it is possible.

With my high intelligence, I still hope to work things all out so that I can understand. Yet I see everything through a glass darkly, and Creationists assert their views, and conservative Christians and trans-excluding “radical” “feminists” alike say transsexualism is wicked and perverted and sick and dangerous and wrong and completely stupid and a sign that the person is damaged and SHOULD BE CAST OUT

-sorry about the shouting. I have retreated to my living room because in my experience the world outside is scary and bad things happen and I get really hurt. This shows I must be wrong about something. If you assess people’s assertions by the success they have made in the world, you weigh me lightly.

To go back to an old, clichéd phrase, I might have light enough for one step. I might trust my intelligence and instincts enough for that.

Trust III

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3c/August_Macke_045.jpg/454px-August_Macke_045.jpgWe learn to walk by falling over, and we continue to walk by falling: I fall forward and catch myself with my other leg. I trust myself, and I trust the world. Walking on ice, you might fall. You put your foot forward, your heel skites away from under you, and your backside hits the ground. So, to be safe walking on ice, or wet mud, you can walk like a penguin: the leg going forward is placed down vertically.

The other leg has to push your weight forward, abnormally, so this will develop your calf muscles unless you are a habitual cyclist. You will look funny, shuffling forward, though it is more humiliating to cowp over.

In the park, I met some pensioners with Nordic walking sticks: two sticks like ski-poles, with changeable rubber or pointy tips for grass or asphalt. You push yourself forward, left arm with right foot. Since taking them up, one has not had knee or ankle problems, and it is a workout for the upper body as well as the legs. They walk a little faster than normal, in what their tutor calls “first gear”- there are different techniques which can go faster. The sticks have straps for the wrist, and a woman offers me her sticks and straps them on my wrists. In one technique she has not yet mastered, you throw away the stick then grab the handle again. Quickly I get the basics of first gear, after a moment thinking which arm goes with which leg. I would improve with practice and as much tuition as I could open myself to.

Mmm. That is, I stopped them and asked, and they were happy to talk about their sticks. And- I cower like a beaten dog, expecting a cuff or a kick not a stroke, from anyone.

That fall, which stops me from walking on ice though I walked so far on ice unscathed, looms so large in my mind, because every failure is a disaster, showing I am worthless. So. Cognitive Behavioural techniques. That was unrequited love, and that was a battle, and then I was right and they were wrong but they still had all the power, and- on the news I read of government (and opposition) by fools, and bribery and corruption, and-

I actually experience pleasant decency from people. Dwell on that. And, there are other times when I have made a mistake, and my world has not come crashing down. I am still alive. There is good to see. Think on these things.

I find I wrote a year ago on trust, in much the same way, slightly more optimistically. Mmm. If you spend enough time here, it all comes round again, and for a “Spiritual growth” blog you might crave a wheen more growth. Um. I want it to be easy. I know how difficult it is.

August_Macke_045

I need to trust

bee 2The exercise was to draw, with a stick in ink, and to “follow a line”; then to write about ones spiritual journey. One possible method was to make an acrostic from the word “Pilgrimage”. Not happy with my place, now, I wrote about it disjointedly, then made my Pilgrimage picture. Microsoft Paint followed its program, and I did not fully understand the commands I was giving it.

Then we were to worship-share about the experience. Oh god do we have to? I had shrunk my picture, having thought I was simply shrinking the view of it, and I grew it again, making it pixellated. I noticed the colours down the sides of the letters, when I expanded it again.

So I spoke. I need to trust- myself and the world. I showed off my picture. I need to hate: I have imagined myself growing, spiritually, for fourteen years, and what I wanted from that was not to feel uncomfortable emotions. And- there are no bad emotions. I need to hate, I need to feel and express my anger. I need to Hate.

I spoke, and Mark caught my eye. His- is it expressionlessness?- I took as a slight smile. After, we talked.

Robin 1-Could you explain that again?
-I- found love and respect for- I would have said “forgave” but that implies something to forgive- my mother, after descending into my anger with her, my sense of betrayal and cruelty, my hatred. She did her best under difficult circumstances. She did not understand. I want to move from that lesson, to hate the World- so that I might Accept, rather than merely tolerate it.

-I’m not sure I understand.
-Then I don’t think I can explain it.

That’s new. I have wanted to explain, because if I can make sense to someone else, then what I think might have some value- but at that moment it made sense to me, and that was enough.

robin 2-I thought you had understood. You caught my eye.
-Oh, I did that to everyone after they spoke.

-I know so little about you! I could project anything onto you, and imagine it was you I was seeing, rather than myself. Oh, we make pictures. But, rather than having three disjointed pieces of the jigsaw and imagining the whole picture from them, I want to see those pieces, and not be too attached to how they fit into the larger picture. Yet we give so much value to first impressions.

-Who do you mean by we?
-The human race.

-We are clinging less to our preconceptions. We are getting lighter, said F. She meant the human race, too. I agree, but S does not. He does not like people speaking for him. F left, perhaps discomfited.

Over dinner, L passed me the cheese board, then when I put my hand out withdrew. As I told her, yes, it did hurt- but that is part of the ordinary frictions of human coexistence.