Maybe it is appropriate that 2020 is a leap year, because something in my mind is pushing me to take a leap, to leave my husband and my job. To pack up my things and move to a new area. Having dreamt about this for years, the “right time” appears to have arrived. The fear hasn’t changed, I don’t really know what has, but I know that something within me has decided the time is now.
Since my last post (Tis the season to be jolly) in December it feels like so much has happened, whilst in reality I am not sure much has. I will apologise in advance as this post may appear a bit jumbled, this is due to my trying to make sense of everything by writing it down. Let’s hope by the end it offers some clarity.
You may think (as do I) that all the little things in isolation are insubstantial or trivial, you may even think that all the little things as a collective are unimportant. What feels significant, is yet again a more positive me has surfaced after weeks of pain and sadness. It really feels as if I have to hit the bottom in order for the more positive inner me to stand up and fight.
It’s weird but it really feels like a positive version of me is really fighting to be heard! She wants to become the dominant or more prominent me…
Managing my anger!
I saw my counsellor on the 18th December, I was upset and angry. Christmas was going to be hard enough, in addition I would not see her again for two weeks! This added to the feeling of isolation and loneliness. She set me homework, to email her over the Christmas period. She explained that she wouldn’t get into conversation with me, but she would respond with a thank you message. This made me feel angry, so what I am going to email someone, knowing that they will not read or respond?! So basically, email me so I can ignore you! I sent several emails to her in the days leading up to Christmas day and in hindsight I behaved liked an angry teenager. I vented all my frustration towards her.
During this week I realised that when I feel intense sadness and pain, the feelings build up and then the anger makes an appearance. The anger sits over the pain and sadness, it feels more powerful and so becomes the emotion that I acknowledge and take notice of. It seems to make me forget about my pain and ignore my sadness; I only focus on the anger. It would appear that anger is my mechanism for coping (or rather not coping).
I said some rude things to my poor counsellor, I am sure she is used to it, but that doesn’t make it right.
After many years of hating and dreading Christmas, this year the weeks before were worse than the actual day. The days leading up to Christmas made me feel so isolated, I had the usual yearning to either become invisible or disappear. I did consider ending my life, but only briefly the week before Christmas. Whilst I shed a few tears on Christmas morning, the usual sense of loneliness was far less intense that I had anticipated.
It was the second Christmas without my brother, who absolutely loved Christmas and new year. How I wish that he were still alive and well.
Boxing day made me believe that there is potential for me to enjoy Christmas, if I spend it with the right people. This year I spent it with my aunt, uncle and cousin. There were no fights, nastiness or anger, just smiles, fun and laughter. I was given some of the most thoughtful and sentimental gifts. I felt loved. Those few words “I felt loved” are probably the most important and relevant to why my Christmas has drastically improved on the previous twenty Christmases.
I’ve gained a new family, I finally got to know people who if my parent weren’t so unsociable, I would have spent more time with over the years. My cousin is like a clone of me, which sounds weird to say, because much of the time I dislike myself, other times I distinctly hate myself and yet her love her. I love her for the person she is, her strong will and her strength of conviction and morals. I admire her passion and the way she protects those that she loves.
Why do I not love myself for the same reasons?
Further to my post counsellors can let you down, I submitted a formal complaint to BACP and finally had a response. The primary reason for the complaint was to prevent anyone else from being treated in the same way, nobody should be let down when they need the help and support the most.
It was both physically and emotionally difficult reading the report, my heart was pounding so hard that I had to put the letter down and catch my breath several times before I could read it in its entirety. I was concerned that it may be too much for my heart.
When I had finished reading the letter I was astounded by the lack of empathy, how she had responded without any acknowledgment of any wrongdoing. How can a counsellor not understand the implications of her actions? I would have thought it a fundamental concept in her career. I was also incredibly angry, that one allegation had been removed because it couldn’t be proven, when in my mind it was incredibly easy to prove. I felt like her and the mental health charity she works for, have no care or compassion for their clients and they showed no remorse for the distress they caused, this was even more apparent when in their defence they argued this was not the first time they had reduced the counsellors case load.
Sometimes it is hard to identify any progress in the counselling journey, however the fact I decided that I had wasted enough time, energy and tears over my previous counsellor and how she abandoned me for her own career progression. In the scheme of things, she has become insignificant and I decided I must just let it go! It appears a little thing, to be able to let it go, but for me this is a massive step forwards. The thing is, if it wasn’t for her actions I wouldn’t be working with my current counsellor, she has actually done me the biggest favour and so maybe I should be grateful that she was such an appalling counsellor.
St Bartholomew’s second opinion
A few days into the new year I went to St Bart’s for a second opinion on my heart condition. My original diagnosis was questioned due to the results of genetic testing. I had to wait six months for the appointment and had tried to put it to the back of my mind, because I hadn’t quite got my head around everything (my brother dying and my being fitted with an ICD) and couldn’t comprehend having to then get my head around not having the condition.
I spent the day there having various heart tests and when I saw the consultant for the results, I was relieved when he said I do have the condition. It is hard to explain but, in my heart, and mind I knew I had it. I’ve known since I discovered our ECG’s showed the same electrical abnormalities. During all of my initial heart tests all I could think about was my brother lying in ICU, and the fact he never survived. I believed he was with me through the surgery, that he had inadvertently saved my life and that if his sons and I could be saved then his death wouldn’t have been for nothing. Every time I have palpitations, chest pains or pain around the ICD I think of him. When I shower and feel the ICD below my skin, I think of him and feel close to him, like I have two guardian angels watching over my heart.
I was also concerned that my heart is dilated, I worry about the disease progressing. I think about how much time I have left. It makes me more determined to move on with my life, find peace within myself and live for me and what makes me happy – even though a lot of the time I don’t actually know what would make me happy.
After the letter from BACP I had decided that I didn’t trust the counselling profession and was not going to attend counselling anymore. I felt like I couldn’t trust my counsellor, I was judging her for the actions of my previous counsellor, which was totally unfounded and unfair because actually she is amazing!
I realised that I have an inability to cope when things go wrong, when I feel unheard. It appears I have issues with not having a voice which isn’t technically correct, I have a voice, it has just frequently been ignored. I can say whatever I like, but I have no power over if people chose to listen, digest or believe what I say. I get a great sense of injustice and when this happens, I feel like a 10-year-old. It makes me want to scream, stamp my feet and demand that someone listens. Like a child I want to throw a tantrum and scream that it’s not fair! My brain dredged up memories that had brought about the same feeling of being unfairly judged and I realised giving up counselling now would be detrimental to my well-being.
How could I be so angry with the one person who has been there, supporting me every week for months? People who know me well have commented on how far I have come since seeing her and I know they are right, I just wished I had seen it for myself not retrospectively after it was highlighted to me.
Apologising for my actions
I was very anxious about returning to counselling in the new year, worried (and embarrassed) about the numerous rants I had sent to my counsellor via email. But I also hoped she would understand and forgive my sometimes-brutal words. So, despite the fear I went to my session and I told her I was sorry, that I had reflected and acknowledged I had treated her in a way that I would not wish to be treated. Being the lovely and caring person that she is, I am grateful to say that she is still my counsellor. Not many counsellors would read and respond to an email from their client on Christmas day, I feel stupid for not realising how supportive she is much sooner.
Another medical issue
After speaking with my counsellor (and apologising) I felt so much better. I felt positive that this year working together I would make significant steps to achieving my goals. When she said she was committed I believed her! This marks a significant change in both myself and in our counselling relationship.
However just two days later I was thrown a curve ball when my GP advised there is an issue with my blood, I was totally not expecting a referral to yet another hospital department. My mind went into negative mode. I felt scared and concerned for my health. I fretted about seeing the haematologist and feared what she would say.
Fear dissolves my minds usual logic; it disables the ability to look at things objectively. Although I hate to admit it, I had a pity party for myself. Why me? How is it fair that I have yet another health condition? I am going to die young blah blah blah.
I don’t know exactly when or how it happened, but something in my head said “Don’t wait for the next thing to come along. You have wasted so much of your life, stop waiting and do something about it!” And I had to agree. In an instant I started to plan how to leave my husband, selling our house, my moving to another art of the Country, leaving my job. All the things I have thought about for such a long time. This time it felt within reach, that the possibility had real potential to become reality and I felt so excited. But slowly and gradually over 24 hours the doubts set in, I lost some of the belief and doubted whether I really have the ability or strength to do this.
What am I waiting for?
The big question is what am I waiting for? When will I stop thinking, planning and actually do something?!
So yesterday I saw my counsellor and I spoke briefly about all of the above – the hour flies past when your head is overflowing with things you want/need to say. She asked me a question “do you love your husband? I answered with something along the lines of I love him, but I am not in love with him. I care about what happens to him, him having enough money to live after our split. But after I left the counselling room, I had a few questions that swan around and around in my head, these questions are really challenging and very complicated to answer:
- Do I really love him? What is it I feel?
- What am I afraid of that stops me leaving?
- It feels like I can’t let go, but what is it that I can’t let go of?
I feel like despite the hate, anger, regret and sadness that my marriage brings, I cannot let go. It’s like he is my comfort blanket and I need him, yet how can he be a comfort blanket when he offers me no warmth or comfort. He used to make me feel loved and he has always been my comfort blanket. I loved him more than any words can express, and it feels like I cannot let go of what we once had, how I once felt about him, not who we have become and how I feel about him now. I cannot let go of the regret, the pain, anger and most importantly the rejection. It is like I just cannot accept it has come to this and I need to say goodbye, to set myself free.
I have struggled to find the words to explain it and this is the closest I have got:
Imagine standing in a wingsuit on a cliff edge, waiting to jump. If it goes well, I will soar through the air, free like a bird. Feeling the wind, elated with the sense of freedom, admiring the beautiful views below me. But if it goes wrong, I will feel myself plummeting towards the ground and my life will be over!
What am I afraid of?
- My biggest fear is dying before I find the happiness that has eluded me for much of my life. If I have ever been happy, then something is hiding it from my memory.
- I don’t like the expression fear of the unknown, but I suppose that is what I have. What happens if I am as unhappy on my own as I am with him? At least at the moment I have some company – regardless of the fact when we are in the same room all we do is argue.
- Can I make and retain friendships? For me relationships are so complicated and confusing. If I can’t make new friends then I will be so lonely, more than I already am with people I care about around me.
- I know that I would never have another sexual relationship and so I will always have something missing, I will never feel the love that I so desperately crave.
- All I ever wanted was to be loved, he was my only hope and now I have finally given up, stopped longing and hoping for his love I am left in the position I was in before we met – a fear of dying a sad, lonely old woman.
- I have this since of guilt whenever I really think about leaving him. What confuses me is I don’t know what I feel guilty about!
- I think the biggest fear is that actually the problem, all of the past, everything in my past was my fault.
- That in reality my mother was a loving mum and I just didn’t have the ability to see it.
- That my husband was the perfect man and I was not good enough for him, that all of the sadness and rejection I feel was because of me and that I don’t have the ability to feel anything but sadness and pain.
- That actually I can never be free, because the problem is me!