In A Different World

Life feels strange these days. The world, a different place. It seems we’re all just trying to survive and not really living.

I’ve been trying to keep a semblance of normality in my own life, but it’s not that easy when most things have changed.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m now staying on my own in a bachelor style self-catering flat. My family has officially moved overseas. I’ll be joining them as soon as our borders open up and I can get there. We don’t know how long that is going to take though. They got an expatriation flight which is why they were able to leave. And because I’m not seen as a “dependent” in the eyes of that country, they couldn’t get me to go with them initially. Even though I technically am dependent at this stage of my life, I’m not viewed that way due to my age. In the meantime my dad is supporting me financially from afar. I’m getting some money in here and there from my business, but not enough to be able to support myself. Things are tough all over. We’re living in uncertain and weird times.

Living by myself has been… different. While I enjoy having my own space and not having to answer to anyone, it’s also been challenging. Turns out I’m not that great at adulting the “normal” way. It’s a long story.

South Africa is now in lockdown level 3, and I’m frustrated with the way things are going in this country. The so-called government is a joke. Not only do we have to deal with the virus that’s sweeping around the world, but with incompetent and corrupt fools. Farm murders getting out of hand, and our “president” and everyone else in charge keeps pretending it’s not happening. Government members stealing money that’s supposed to go to those who need it. Making and enforcing nonsensical regulations. Stupid bans that don’t do anything other than causing more problems and anger.

The one I’m having the most difficulty with is the tobacco ban, which has been in place since the lockdown was first announced (March). I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore. My e-cigarette helped me give those up more than two years ago. But I still need my nicotine. And stupidly (and incomprehensibly), even the sale of vaping products and nicotine is banned. That hasn’t stopped many people though, and the sale of tobacco products and the like has now become a big underground business. Which means the prices have skyrocketed, and those of us who have been unable to give up on our nicotine fix are struggling, and are criminals in the eyes of the government. They will enforce that ban in any way they can, but completely ignore the real crimes going on in the country. There are no words.

One of my aunts recently passed away (not from the virus), and I had to watch her memorial service over live-stream. A strange experience. Since then I’ve been in my own world for the most part. It’s as if I’m not connecting with the real world. Like I’m walking around in a dream. Moments of “what’s the point of life?” and tons of existential questions. My aunt looked a lot like my grandmother did in her final weeks, and so it’s opened up that old wound as well.

Seeing the people who were at the memorial service, family members I hadn’t seen in years… It was hard. People that I was once close with in some ways. Seeing how much the children have grown (and some are even adults now), how old the rest have gotten. It was just very sad. The sadness is lingering. Time just feels so cruel right now.

I had a dream about my previous therapist and the entire next day was one big “I miss her”. We have a different type of connection now of course. One that that day just didn’t (and if I have to be completely honest, some other times too) feel like enough. I miss seeing her. But that’s life. I guess I’m just having a hard time connecting and with wanting to connect. I want to be alone, but at the same time I’m struggling alone and missing so many people.

This is one of the songs they played at my aunts funeral. I had this version of the song for a while, but now it’s taken on a new meaning for me. I’ll always think of her when I hear it.

Getting Through Challenging Times

This past week has been a difficult one for me. There was another episode with the dad, one that left me feeling terrified and paranoid for days. My body and senses on high alert.

The current state and chaos going on in the country and the world didn’t help with the paranoia. As the lockdown continues and so much uncertainty remains, each week that goes by seems to get more and more challenging. It seems harder to find and hold onto hope and positivity. To keep going strong.

I can’t control what’s happening in the world. In my country. But I can control my actions. And once again I’ve allowed myself to become absorbed in, and consumed by the negativity taking place on social media. I know the effect it has on me, and I also know that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. When I’m already feeling angry and anxious, reading certain posts, the comments, and commenting myself, increases that ten-fold. I should know better, yet I allowed myself to ignore the warnings. That’s on me. And so, yet again, I’m making the decision to step back.

The breakthrough came in, and after, my therapy session. Leaving the house and driving to my appointment filled me with anxiety. The thoughts that I was being watched, followed, and would be pulled over and hurt, felt overwhelming. The thoughts and feelings followed me into my therapists office.

After a while I started feeling more contained. I’m so fortunate and extremely grateful that I get to see my therapist in person and have that safe space to go to each week. It’s been my saving grace so many times. So has she. Therapist has a calming effect on me, and I really needed that this week. She basically reiterated that I need to do what makes me feel contained, safe, and regulated, no matter how “weird” it may seem to myself and others.

So I’ve doubled down on my self-care and using my coping and emotion regulation tools. I’ve let go of all the expectations and pressure I’ve been putting on myself. There’s a time and place for that, and now is not that time. Thankfully the paranoia I’ve been experiencing has slowly faded.

What really helps through all of this is the connection I have (and feel) with my therapist. Physical distancing is hard on all of us, but knowing that there are people who care, even if it’s just one person, goes a long way. I had a lovely dream about my previous therapist, and sent her a message to tell her about it. And as usual, she replied. It’s so nice, and healing, to know that our connection is still there. That she’s still around, still cares, and hasn’t forgotten me.

This is such a challenging time. But we are resilient and can weather the storm. We’ve got this. ❤

She’s Back…

On Monday after work I met up with my ex, Elizabeth. During one of my “episodes” a little while ago, I impulsively sent her a message. I wasn’t expecting a reply, and wasn’t even sure whether I wanted one. But a couple of days later she sent a reply and I was genuinely shocked when she told me that my message was a wonderful surprise. We sent some messages back and forth for a few weeks. We were supposed to meet up the weekend, but I took a rain check and we met on Monday instead.

I didn’t know what to expect going in. I kept an emotional distance and was prepared to leave as soon as I felt things weren’t going well. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I found that I was having a nice time catching up with her. Even more unexpected were the genuine apologies for her behaviour in our relationship, and acknowledgement that a lot of the issues came from her side. She had started therapy some time after we had broken up and been diagnosed with ADHD which made so much sense and put a lot into perspective when looking back.

We ended up spending that whole afternoon together and I only got home just after 11 that evening. We were having such a good time, and the alcohol kept coming (with both of us being on meds, we discussed that this can’t happen again). It felt so comfortable and familiar being with her. We sat intimately close, closer than I’ll allow anyone else to sit next to me when talking. And when we walked to another place for another drink, I was freezing (alcohol has that effect on me, while it makes her hot) and she put her arm around me to help keep me warm. That felt amazing. She told me that she has been wanting to get back into contact with me for so long, but thought I was angry with her and never wanted to see her again. That she had missed me so often, and how glad she was that we can be friends now.

I discovered that my feelings for her haven’t changed all that much, but I also have my guard up. My therapist told me to keep my boundaries in mind whenever I’m with her. Only thing is, I’m not so sure what my boundaries for her are, or should be. She invited me to two events this weekend, but I’ve got a nasty cold and need to rest and recuperate. But, if I’m completely honest, I’m also using that as an excuse to keep some distance from her so I don’t get swept up, and giving myself time to figure out exactly how I feel about all of this. All I know right now is that I was happier during the time I spent with her on Monday than I have been in months. I realized this after she told me the same thing. Right now I’m a little confused, but I guess that’s normal.

Maybe we can be friends after all. Do I want more? I don’t have to know the answer or make any decisions right now.

The best thing I feel I can do in this situation is take things slow and at my own pace, and see what happens.

The Strength To Keep Going

I had my usual therapy session yesterday. I didn’t want to go. I left later than I usually do, battling within myself until then. One of the reasons is because I didn’t want to set foot in that clinic again. I didn’t want to run into the person I mentioned in my previous post, or anyone else there. It doesn’t feel like a safe, healing place anymore. It had its season in my life. It helped me once. But that’s over now. It’s time to move on.

The other reason was that I wanted to disconnect at least a little from my therapist. Not because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because of wanting to let go of my attachments. But I realized again yesterday how important healthy attachment can be. Connection sustains us. It’s part of being human. The minute I sat down in that office with her, I could feel my defenses starting to crumble. I felt drawn towards her again. The one thing I didn’t want to have happen. But I’m really glad it did.

I haven’t been kind to myself for a while now. I’ve been treating myself like my own worst enemy. But I was inspired by my therapist, just by the way she interacted with me yesterday, the kindness and gentleness she showed toward me, to start treating myself like a friend again. I’ve come to realize that treating myself harshly only feeds the cycle of depression. I’m not perfect. I’m never going to be. There are a lot of things I don’t like about myself, but I also have a lot of good qualities. Which is something I tend to forget. My therapist often asks me whether I allow myself to feel my emotions without judgement, and most of the time, I don’t. I can’t stand it when other people judge one another, yet I so easily judge myself. Most of us struggle with this, and simply being aware of it is part of making the change.

Near the end of the session, I asked my therapist about the other office she practices from. It’s further away, but completely do-able. So we’re going to be moving our sessions there. Well, she wants me to first just try it out next week and then decide. The office I currently see her in is shared with another psychologist at the clinic, so it will be nice to see her in her own. The day and time will also change. I don’t like changes to my routine, but this is one I’m happy to take on. She’ll be there after all, one constant.

I’m still a little more wary with regards to connection and attachment than I was before this thing happened on Tuesday. But I choose to trust my therapist as much as I am able to at this point. The connection I felt with her yesterday is holding me. Giving me strength to keep going. It doesn’t solve everything. I’m still feeling depressed. But knowing that at least one person has my best interests at heart, and feeling supported makes a difference.

I want to mention something regarding my previous post. I thought about taking it down because I don’t want to scare people who need it, to not seek help. But that post is the reality of life with mental illness. Even of life in general. It’s part of my story, and that’s what this blog is about. I was in a lot of pain and in a very dark place when I wrote it, and reflects only one part of my experience with mental health professionals. I’ve had some good experiences as well. So I want to encourage anyone reading this, that if you need help, absolutely (and please) ask for it. It’s hard to do, and sometimes you won’t get what you need from certain people, but there will always be someone who will give you their hand and be glad to help.

Touch (And Hugs) In Therapy

I find it fascinating that when I’m contemplating or experiencing something, that topic keeps showing up in various ways and settings. It’s like that popular example of wanting to buy a new car, and the model and colour you’re especially interested in, seems to show up everywhere.

This time the topic is that of touch and hugs in therapy. I’m subscribed to a few different YouTube channels, two of those of therapists, and found one of the videos particularly intriguing.

There are so many people, therapists included, that believe that touch either shouldn’t have a place in sessions, or that it might even be harmful to clients. I’ve also read a lot of research and opinion pieces on the role of touch in the mental health field. It’s a very grey area. Through this, and through my own feelings and experiences of the matter, I’ve firmly believed (and still do) that touch can be important in a therapeutic setting. And that’s why I found this particular video really great. I’ll link to it at the end of this post.

I can remember a very good example of the power of touch during one of my therapy sessions. I was in a very chaotic state, disoriented and dissociated at the same time. It was a culmination of certain things that happened that day, and something that happened while waiting for my session to start. When we got to my therapists office (she had to take my hand to lead me there, that’s how disorientated I was), she sat down right next to me on the couch and held both my hands in hers as I slowly started feeling better. By her doing what she did, I didn’t feel like I was free-falling and alone in a place I didn’t quite understand anymore. I can’t remember a lot of what was said, but I can clearly remember the warmth of her actions, and how powerful it was for me at the time. I believe it’s what helped stabilize and regulate me much quicker than if she had just sat across from me as usual.

Have you had any similar experiences in your own therapy? What are your thoughts on the role of touch in the mental health field?

You can watch the video here: