Some thoughts on resilience

My brain is feeling like a load of goop at the moment, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having a flare up of my misophonia and feeling rather stressed in general.

I feel claustrophobic at home and wish I could move somewhere with my own four walls (away from neighbours), which unfortunately isn’t an option at the moment. So instead, I’ve been keeping busy, but it’s a restless busy-ness. I still place quite a lot of value on what other people think and worry about being seen as lazy.

Feeling so low has caused me to question whether going to university is the right thing for me after all. I spoke to my therapist about it, and she questioned if it’s something I really want to do or something I feel I should do. Which is a difficult question for someone like me, who frequently changes their mind. I think it’s a bit of both.

At the core of everything, I’d like to be able to help other people, and be able to earn a living while doing it. And if I’m honest with myself, it will need to be on a part time basis to fit around my health. I think I’m going to aim to train as a counsellor instead, there’s an evening class ‘introduction to counselling’ that’s starting in September that I’d like to try.

Resilience

It’s good to have something to aim for. I’m trying to believe in myself instead of expecting anxiety to sabotage anything I ever try. It always comes back to resilience (which I don’t have a lot of!)

I’ve been reading a book called The Choice by Dr Edith Eger. Dr Eger is a holocaust survivor and was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 16 with her parents and sister. Her parents were immediately sent to the gas chamber, while she was told they were ‘going for a shower.’ Later, a guard callously points to a chimney and tells her that they’re burning there and she should get used to referring to them in the past tense. As you can imagine, she goes through hell and only narrowly survives her ordeal. I can’t get my head around such barbarity and my heart aches for the people who had to live through it.

Dr Eger is an incredible woman, and says she made it through those awful times by realising that no-one could take away the freedom she had in her mind. While she was imprisoned all of her energy was spent on surviving, and it was after she was liberated that the trauma and emotion kicked in. It sounds ridiculous, but I hadn’t considered what happened people after they were freed, and how they ever processed what had happened to them.

Feeling your emotions


A theme I’m finding crop up again and again in various books is the importance of recognising trauma in your body. Dr Eger found that she could only begin to process her experiences when she allowed herself to feel her emotions. She said by keeping her ordeal a secret it became another imprisonment. This is something I relate to, because I tend to supress my emotions a lot, sometimes without even realising it.

She immigrated to the US, where life wasn’t exactly plain sailing for her there either, but she went on to become a psychologist specialising in post-traumatic stress. She’s becoming a real hero of mine, and I highly recommend you check out The Choice, as well as some of her interviews which can be found on YouTube.

In no way am I comparing myself or my issues to hers (in her interviews she says neither does she with her patients, as all emotional suffering is still suffering), but she gives me hope that I have a bit of resilience in me to get through my own mental health struggles. I really would like to do some good in the world.

That was quite heavy, but I think there are a lot of important lessons in what she says, particularly to those of us who are going through tough times.

“We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt. But we can choose to be free, to escape the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible.” Dr Edith Eger.


Small moments of happiness

I’m still plodding on with life but thought I’d share a nice experience I had. I went for a walk yesterday (everyone’s top lockdown activity) and had a moment when I stopped to appreciate my surroundings. It was a cold crisp day, and the sun was shining. As I walked along a tree-lined street, a dark cloud passed over and it started to snow gently. The sunlight ahead made the snowflakes sparkle, it was quite beautiful.

Even though it was a route I’d walked many times before, I still managed to see something new. I love it when quiet little moments like that pop up on my walks, whether that’s the beauty of nature or the times I see a cute little dog trotting along in its winter jacket. It makes up for the times I felt fed up with walking.

It reminded me of the self-help book Resilient, by Dr. Rick Hanson. In it, he suggests that when you’re feeling good or are enjoying yourself, that you should try and amplify it to embed it in your brain (or words to that effect!) – “Mental states become neural traits.” So that’s what I did on my walk, I tuned in and tried to ‘turn up the dial’ on my feelings of happiness and contentment.

It’s a lovely thing to do, as it’s all too easy to focus on feelings of boredom or frustration at the moment. We need all the happy moments we can get!

“Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them—open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it—dig in!” Dr. Rick Hanson

I’d love to hear from you, have you had any small moments of happiness that you’d like to share?

Umbrella Heart


The rain often caught me,

Ice water etched rivulets into my bones,

The cold soaked so deep,

I couldn’t catch my breath to breathe.

I only knew I couldn’t fight,

Fear wrapped me up and held me.

And cosy comforts became puppets strings,

Wrenching me from my door.

I wanted to scream at it to disappear,

But the water still fell a crystalline grey,

Always in my way, always in my way,

I had to search for something today.

A red umbrella covered in dust,

Trembled in time with my beating heart,

And with it in hand, I stepped outside,

The rain ran off and fell away.

Why you should never neglect yourself in a relationship

Relationships aren’t always easy. Deep down I knew that you should make time for yourself and nurture other relationships, but quite simply, I didn’t. I was with my ex for ten years and managed to sleepwalk through my life. I never thought I was neglecting myself, in fact it rarely occurred to me.

I spent so much time talking to him about his hobbies and achievements, that I didn’t cultivate my own. My anxiety consumed everything, so I thought maybe having jobs and achievements wasn’t an option for me, as that was something other people did. Having a stable relationship was one of my few ‘successes’ – a thought that now gives me the rage. We are conditioned to want to tick things off from the ‘life list’ by the time we reach a certain age, but it’s all meaningless as you have to walk your own path, not compare yourself to others.

This behaviour suited him down to the ground. He’d spend hours talking to me incessantly about his work, bouncing ideas off me, which at the time made me feel valued. Now I just want to shake my past self and scream: “What are you doing? What about what you want, what you’re interested in?!”

Now I can see in full technicolour how unhealthy our relationship was. I was as wrapped up in him as he was in himself. I spent ten years living with him in a new town, and only made one sort-of friend. But as an introvert I thought that was fine, and I used to sit and muse about how I never felt lonely. I didn’t consider what would happen if one day we were no longer together.

But then one day came and he cheated on me.

So I left him and it felt like a weight had been lifted. Sure, the anxiety was still there but I felt free. The oppressiveness of our relationship had left an empty space. And yes, I felt bereft as ten years is a very long time, but I channelled my energy into doing the things I enjoy. I’m studying and filling my head with the knowledge I crave. I’m writing – something that I used to find so difficult that I’d criticise every word I typed. The social connections are coming more slowly, as frankly social anxiety is a bitch. But I’ll get there.

I’m writing this post to gently remind you that it’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to think about what matters to you most and how you can make it happen. And to know what your personal boundaries are so people don’t walk all over you – it’s so, so important. It’s okay to shout from the rooftops, “hang on, what about me!” That doesn’t make you selfish – as you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Now I feel empowered. I’m happily single and focusing on me, and I will never sleepwalk through my life ever again.

What to do when you doubt yourself.

I don’t know why I find it so hard to believe in myself, or why I’m not very confident. I questioned if I should write this post at all, as I try to be a positive voice, but I suppose life isn’t always sunshine and daisies. Then I was feeling guilty about not being able to help much during this awful pandemic, as health staff are working so hard to save lives and other keyworkers are keeping the shelves stacked and the lights on.

 My counsellor pulled me up on this and said:

When giving a safety briefing, airline crew often tell parents that in the event of an emergency, they should put the mask on themselves before their child. It feels counterintuitive but if you want to help others then you need to be well and able to help yourself first.

So, the first thing I need to do is stay on the road to recovery and tackle this self-doubt that keeps me feeling stuck.

I think a large part of it stems from my avoidant behaviour. In the past, time and time again, when things start getting tough, I quit. As much as I hate to admit it, as the little voice in my head tells me that quitting is weak. But at least I have the strength to get up and keep trying. The thought that I’ll fail if I try is absolute rubbish! Sometimes success is just the ability to keep going when others give up. I don’t need to be perfect or brilliant at something straight away.

Then there’s my solitary nature. A bit of time alone can be restorative and fun, but in my case, I think the scales tip too far and I isolate myself. I’m crap at asking for help so instead I’ll plough on – bottling up my emotions in the process. And we all know that’s a bad idea.

I’ll try and keep this short, but another point I think I need to acknowledge is that I’ve made anxiety a big part of my identity. If I think about doing something new and out of my comfort zone, I think well I can’t do that because I’ll be too anxious. I’ll never achieve x,y or z because of my anxiety. Truth is there’s so much more to me than anxiety, why should it dominate the rest of my life?

So summing things up here are some things I’ve learned about self-doubt and how to gain confidence. I hope it’s useful if you feel the same.

  1. Work on resilience. If there’s something that’s important to you, do your best to keep going with it. You don’t have to aim for perfection, just do your best. Then when you achieve a goal, however small, you can build on it and hopefully this will give you confidence.
  2. Ask for help! If you’re struggling and feel like giving up, having another perspective on things can take you out of that negative mindset. If someone else believes in you, it will help you believe in yourself.
  3. Focus on everything you have to offer. What are you good at? How would you describe your personality? I’m sure you’ll find there’s so much more to you than anxiety and if you’re struggling to see that, go back to point 2 and ask someone you trust.

I hope I’m able to follow my own advice!