Bracelets

I’ve recently started wearing some bracelets made of wood, leather, and fabrics following our trip to Alton Towers. They’re similar to a similar set boy s is wearing addition should be no surprise therefore that there’s the link. In addition there’s a bracelet that was a gift during lockdown from Mre B that has a small reserve mental spoon attached to it.

We’ve talked about doing something like this for a while as a casual marker of our relationship – and the styles are eclectic enough to appeal on an aesthetic level but I’ve found it difficult to wear things on my wrist for years.

In large part it’s a holdover from when I was attacked – memories of wrists being held making it very uncomfortable – but the work I’ve been doing in therapy has contributed to putting some distance in recently.

I’m choosing instead to use the sensations at my wrist as a focus. On the one hand it’s a reminder of the boy. On another it helps to imagine all the skin crawling anxieties gathering there in one place rather than uncontrollable and everywhere. In effect it can be imagined as a shield

It’s a whimsy, it’s a way of focusing. It’s a distraction, and it’s a statement. I take them off at night before bed so I can settle, metaphorically removing the cares of the day. It’s a small and positive ritual that brings a measure of calm.

And I think they look good, and I enjoy seeing the counterparts on the boy

Approaching Pride

Even with having a part in preparations for work’s presence at Pride In Surrey this year I’m still feeling unready – but mostly because I’m not sure how I’m actually going to get there. There are train and bus disruptions so I suspect I may have to get a taxi, and this just considering me. Somehow we’ll get the whole Entourage there

In the meantime I have a stack of flags in my bag to use as table cloths on the day. So that’s useful. I need now to start thinking of what I’m going to wear on the day and use as props. To be fair if these are the biggest worried I need to deal with I’ll be fine.

Then next week starts my Leadership training, which I’ve gained access to with my Network Chair role as well as my managing and mentoring a group of managers in the day job. While I’m not expecting anything life changing, I am looking forward to it, and it is already opening doors.

Now, if the anxiety and depression could all nip off down the shops and not come back, that would be helpful.

Out And About

The grand outing to Alton Towers has had, if you’ll pardon the pun, its share of ups and down with amazing rides, humour, silliness, and some mealtime stresses

The weather has been kind, with only minor showers once or twice, and comfortable temperatures and breezes. The banter and cheer has been great for recharging batteries and passing time in queues.

My anxiety however has been through the roof on occasion, mostly around mealtimes and things connected to that not going to plan. We’re also crammed a little sardine-like into two hotel rooms: four adults and three children. With no aircon it’s all a bit close-quarters.

Still, I’m choosing to be positive and reminding myself of all the positives despite by brain doing its best to sabotage me.

Brain Lies

In todays list of things my brain decided to turn into a storm in a teacup was a quick spin on the existential mortality trap of comparing where I am now with what my father was doing at my age. This was duly mixed with an unhealthy dash of “how am I 50?” and a selection of general inflated perceived inadequacy.

Then I shook my head, got a sense of perspective, realised I was feeling gritty from the heat of the day and therefore uncomfortable in my own skin, and had a good hot shower which helped immensely.

Nice try brain. Not today.

I Tried To Have A Day Off

Last week was heavy going, for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with at the moment; and the tail end of the weekend was spent being anxious and tired and generally overwhelmed with life. It wasn’t until the early hours of this morning though that I decided I needed to have a time out. I had enough accrued time, no meetings booked in, and as far as I could tell nothing looming that couldn’t survive waiting another twenty four hours or so for my direct attention.

Eleven year old children, however, are no respecters of mental health time. I already knew the cub was coming over today, but I reckoned without the bright cheeriness and inquisitive soul popping his head round the door every half hour or so with some bon mot or repetition of a school in-joke that had him chortling and myself considering whether he actually needed both legs.

So I’m partially rested, and have done small household odds and ends and some grocery shopping without being tempted to look at my phone or log in to work email – so in the grand scheme of things it’ll do.

I’ve just had a text from Lady M to say she’s on her way home too. With the cub ensconced back with his favourite YouTuber streams and some chocolate milk I think the odds are good she’ll arrive back to a fairly intact flat. If I can just get this anxiety to give it a rest, that will be a great bonus.

One Foot, Then Another

I had to make a small confession today to boy s, and that was to let him know that I hurt myself during my anxiety meltdown the other day. In my distress I dug my nails into my left arm and back of the hand and raked at myself.

It’s a very dysfunctional grounding technique that I spent years getting rid of after I became very ill about twenty years ago. I’m deeply annoyed at myself for doing it again after all these years. At least it has only left me with scratches, and in this heat and humidity the itch of healing is irritating enough.

Being a Monday, I’ve also had work to distract me, so I’ve started back as I mean to go on, and done my best to balance myself while also supporting my staff. So far, so good. The irony of recommending EAP support for other people is not lost on me.

One foot, then another, then another, repeating as long as needed.

Recovery

I’m doing better today. This morning I was still a bit hazy and jittery – and various muscles felt like they’d been locked in struggle most of the night so that’s been fun in this heat.

In general then I’ve not felt able to socialise and my weasel brain has of course grasped on to that as another failure on my part. Objectively I know that it isn’t. Battling guilt over the strange turns my brain takes is difficult but it is part of being, well human.

Part of growing up with my background included a stoic mindset and reaction to what life brings. Not complaining but just getting on with it played a large part in the models around me, and while that is largely helpful in keeping my wits about me, it does bring its own stresses.

Being stoic in uncertain times lets me be a beacon of calm for those around me. It also fuels a leaning towards life as a service to those around me that I sometimes struggle to keep in a healthy balance. It’s something I’m actively prodding in my current counselling sessions. Anxiety over not meeting my own impossible standards is nothing new; kicking associated guilts into the long grass is a newer fight.

Well hey, isn’t self awareness a fun rollercoaster?

Brainstorm

I’m having a bit of an uncomfortable afternoon inside this skull of mine. As you probably already guessed that means its very chaotic in here right now. I’m not entirely sure why and part of why I’m writing this is to try and get it down out of the lump of rarefied gelatine in my head and down on paper where I can see it and try to nail it down a bit. The anxiety and random flashback images started while we were driving home this afternoon from a quick trip to Kingston. The Hampton Court Garden Show (or whatever the official name is) was kicking out so the traffic was horrendously backed up and stationery as we queued, music played, and blessed air conditioning kept the heat at bay.

And then the anxiety came out of nowhere – with snippet scenes from childhood, school, work, previous relationships all vying for attention and overlapping. Random thoughts about empathy, remoteness, connections, the masks worn to deal with situations all started crowding and even now I’m home now and sat on the sofa with coffee and laptop I’m finding pinning thoughts down like stabbing inside a cloud – or there being an open hole at the top of my head where emotions and concepts, and focus keep bubbling out and swirling like a fountain.

I don’t know if its my mental health having a moment, or that I’m just more aware of how oddly my brain processes things and the disruption to my planned journey has tipped me sideways – yay possible autism brain, thank you. All I know is I’ve needed a big hug from Lady M, I’ve ripped and clawed at the skin on my arm and the back of my hand, my eyes feel like they’re burning, and there’s a remoteness behind those eyes disconnecting me from what feels like a screaming storm in the next room.

I was due to have counselling tonight as well, but that’s had to reschedule – maybe that’s another element but its not a reaction I normally have to changes of plans on that front. I’m up to date with my medications, and even picked up renewed prescriptions this morning. We spent a fair bit of money in Kingston, but well within my anticipated budget – and there’s also the satisfaction of having both got some great reading material but also sorted out some presents for people’s birthdays and Christmas. I did get a copy of a letter back to my GP saying he hadn’t given the ASD team enough information for them to make a decision, so I feel I’m going to have to do some chasing on that avenue.

In the meantime I’m clenching my feet and fists repeatedly, resisting doing any more scratching (and the stinging now filtering through is also uncomfortable but at least I haven’t broken my skin enough to cause bleeding.

Maybe that’s all that is – a confluence of multiple stresses that has hit some sort of switch and now I want to retreat/withdraw from everything and am panicking because I can’t define it or explain it because my spoken words can’t keep up with the torrent of thoughts, tangents, imagery, and emotional cross-links that are cascading through and ricocheting like bullets inside my brainpan. Its like my whole body wants to scream but using my voice won’t be enough.

This is very uncomfortable – but I do feel better for being able to put this into some way that someone can read – there’s at least this way of communicating even if anything else just freezes. I’m telling myself it will pass. I will find a distraction – I will write more, I will draw, I will put on a game, something.

It will pass.

How Bungie is Breaking My Partners

A regular part of the week is where boy s, Lady B and myself team up to play Destiny, usually streaming it on Lady B’s Twitch channel. It’s usually a bouncy fun experience of teasing, mindless shooting, and putting the world to rights.

Then Bungie released its latest Season of Content and started telling a harrowing story that confronts major characters with loss and regrets in the form of embodied nightmares of people who were important in some way to them. As players, we assist in their attempts to bream free of the grip of these taunting entities.

So far, so normal, but the dialogue and pace and beats of the story have been making my partners cry, and occasionally making me wince, as attempts to sever links fail and instead the characters have to come to terms with accepting these dark shadow sides of their regrets and fears. The nightmares are unrelenting in their taunting and harsh observations, in a way that anyone who has wrestled with their own demons and regrets in the small of the night will find arresting familiar.

Through a mix of cut scenes and in-game dialogue we’re being taken on a harrowing story of the need to forgive ourselves and come to terms with the people and events of our past that still hold on with fierce grips. It’s like being beside people doing deep therapy work, and it’s an unexpected rollercoaster that has been deeply affecting us.

Who would have thought that the new weekly chapters of a shoot and loot game all about space magic would turn out to have some of the deepest and sympathetic treatments of loss and regret across a whole slew of popular media currently available, and would be doing so in an engaging way that keeps us coming back for more and caring ever more intensely for these imaginary figures as they reflect our own fears and doubts back at us.

As the saying goes: “I came here to have a good time, and honestly I’m just feeling so attacked” – and as entertainment that pulls us out of our comfort zone, I can’t think of a better summation

Keeping Positive

One of the things I keep reminding people at work about is that there will inevitably be things that go wrong, or events that don’t quite go to plan. The important thing is to work out the why and how of what happened and moving on with that knowledge to the next thing.

For the most part what we do is not a matter of life and death. That’s not an excuse to therefore be cavalier about things, but I find it helpful to keep a sense of perspective when things go wrong. There was a post doing the rounds a few years ago about dealing with change that I do my best to incorporate into both personal and professional life: to overcome disappointment with events and change, shout “plot twist!” and move along accordingly.

There’s a stoic aspect to that which chimes for me, as well as the writer’s analogy that appeals. It serves me well when dealing with changes, external interference, or disappointments and I can highly recommend it as a tool in your mental wellbeing kit