It isn’t enough

Dear mother,

On Friday I bought tickets to visit Malaysia.  I bought the tickets to see father not to see you.  I felt dread and anxiety overwhelming me within 2 hours of buying those tickets.  It got bad enough that I almost cancelled a first date I had planned.  I didn’t in the end, and I am glad because if the head gremlins had won, they would have taken the whole weekend.

I beat them yesterday, but I can’t deny that they are there, and they will be building momentum up to 26th of August.  Doubtless I should contact my therapist before that, and make sure to have appointments booked for afterwards as well.  But that is to look me and my mental health.  And I know how to do that.

What I don’t know how to do is how to handle our relationship.  The message you sent to me after the last blog?  I quote, “Wow! Microscopes so expensive? No, you are not a wicked person.  In fact on the contrary you are a kind and compassionate person.  You care for the less fortunate.  You cook food and take it to those who had no food.  That impressed me ver much.  Talking about food I am hungry already.  Love you.  Mum here.”

I have been working on £350,000 microscopes since 2010.  Since my very first job as a microscopist in fact.  8 years… and still a microscopist… did you expect me to be working on less expensive ones?  The only way I can rationalise your comment is that you never absorbed or remembered ANY details of my job at all.  Which I can only extrapolate to mean, you don’t know or remember ANY details of my LIFE at all.

I just watch one of my favourite ever TV series.  It’s called Queer Eye.  In this current episode, they filmed the Fab Five giving a church community centre a makeover, and how this church, in rural southern united states, welcomed the gays into their lives with an open heart, and how their open arms healed some of the wounds which were in some of the fab 5 from being ostracised from his church.

People cry when they watched this.  I too have cried from other episodes.  But I simply couldn’t connect with this episode, because the church I know, the church you go to, takes genesis and leveticus so literally you exorcised me after forcing me to answer whether I liked women.

I simply cannot connect to you at the moment.  Your two line message told me you didn’t know me and are just regurgitating nice things at me because you are afraid of me.  I don’t want nice words at me.  I want the truth.  I want your commentary on trump.  I want to know your church’s view on gay people.  I want a level of adult communication that actually mean something and isn’t said to placate.

Can your church do what this church in the show did?  IS your church a safe place for gay people?  Can you reach out to the gay community in the Klang Valley and provide them with a place to meet and love?  Because I know people in the community, and I know so many people who have been thrown out by their families for being lgbt.  Can you help them?  Or are they too damned for your help?  If they are too damned for your help, then being one of them, I too am damned.

Empty words aren’t enough.  Empty words don’t erase everything you have said in the past.  A friend once told me – forgiveness is letting go of hurt, anger, sadness and pain to live a a better, happier life.  Forgiveness isn’t letting the abuser back into their life to continue the abuse.

That is what I have done, and if I could make a clean cut I would.  But you live with my father, and I am going to visit him, so I will inevitably have contact with you.

I have layers upon layers of scars caused by your words and actions.  I can’t even remember what it was you said to me in Wigan the last time we saw each other in person.  I only remember storming out of the house and crying on the green for close to two hours.

I don’t know how to stop your words from hurting me.  It doesn’t matter how many protective layers I build, it still happens.

I can’t talk to you.  It hurts.

There are possibilities for communication though.  Perhaps if you really have changed and your church is inclusive, and you invite me to it, and introduce me to the lgbt community within your church.  Perhaps if you seek out counselling, and family therapy, I can imagine having moderated communication (NOT a church counsellor).  Perhaps if you really take into account all the hurt you have caused over the years, and write me a heartfelt letter.

Or perhaps this is all a dream and none of this can or will ever happen.  The dream of Sunshine, remember her?  Young, innocent, happy.  Before she turned into the non-verbal child who never speaks, only cries and clings to whatever provides safety and security.

I know you’ve done your best as a mother.  I appreciate that circumstances back then weren’t great.  I know you are still doing your best as a mother.  I appreciate that. but I cannot connect with a mother at the moment.  I can maybe connect as a friend, but I am choosy about my friends and I certainly have no other american-style-fundamentalist-evangelical-christian-homophobic friends.

It isn’t enough.

As long as you are homophobic, or even if you claim not to be, but you still attend a church which is homophobic… I’m afraid I can only take the words you say about me being a good person as a peace offering, and not a true representation of your views at all.

It isn’t enough.

Remaining homophobic isn’t enough.

 

 

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2 years & 7 months

It has been 2 years and 7 months since I wrote this.

I forgive her. But :-

I haven’t spoken to my mother, not one word, for 2 years and 7 months.  To borrow snippets of conversations I’ve had, in this time I have learnt this… Forgiveness is “I will not hold on to this hate, anger and sadness because holding on is harmful to me.  I let it go, I release it, so I may live in peace with myself.”  Forgiveness isn’t “let the abuser into my life to hurt and harm me further”.

I never got a respond or a reply to the poem.  That was the last communique I sent, and as far as I’m concerned, since I sent the last message, the ball is in her court.  If she wants to talk to me, the channels of communication are open.  And she knows it is open because today she sent me a forwarded pseudoscience filled alternative therapies forwarded message.

I do not consider that a communique.  Can anything be more impersonal than a pseudoscience filled alternative therapies forwarded email? At least it wasn’t one offering me cheap viagra or russian brides I suppose.

Do I want to communicate with her?  Yes of course I do.  She is my mother and I am sure she is suffering from this lack of contact.  I know I do.  Not hugely, but there is a hole in my life the size and shape of her.  I’ve forgiven her, and I love her and I would like to show her that love.  But there is no way to show her that love without opening the way for her to hurt me again.

Am I a wicked person?  I think I am for this one reason.  I am wicked because I refuse to let my mother forget that she thinks I am wicked, that I am possessed by the devil, that I occupy a space in her esteem lower than Trump.

Trump is trash, and if she thinks her daughter is lower than trash, I don’t care for anything she has to say because she obviously doesn’t care for me.

As I said in my poem :

“Even if you think I am Satan’s possession
Condemning my deeds won’t bring me to you
My love my good my unending compassion
Is reserved for those who do love me too”

 

Yes this hurts, but no-contact hurts less, and is less harmful to both me and her, than further communication, than further false assurances that she loves me, that she appreciates me, only for the happiness that comes from knowing my mother is proud of me, only for that happiness to be again mashed to smithereens the next time I say “that person is the next Hitler and I wish they were dead”.  Because I am who I am.  I am an out, loud, proud, bisexual, polyamorous, sex worker & trans inclusive intersectional feminist, advocate, activist & volunteer.  Imaging scientist & ebola medal recipient.  I drink, I fuck, I love and enjoy life to the fullest – and these are all traits and influences of satan.  I am defiantly left wing, loudly sex-positive, and unapologetically compassionate & empathic to all marginalised groups.  And being me, being ME, being totally unapologetically me, makes me a person who in my mother’s world view deserves death before the likes of Trump.

I cannot have contact with my mother for as long as she has that view.  I cannot have contact with a person who will proclaim me the spawn of satan at the same time as proclaiming Trump the next messiah.

i, who?

I am me.
I am many people.
I am many names. 
I am many issues.
I am many lives. 
I am many ages.
I am one body, but I am not one me.
I exist in many times, in many forms.
I am different friends to different people.
I am maleable.
I, therapist.
I, microscopist.
I, scientist.
I, helpline volunteer.
I, friends.
I, child to my father.
I, sibling to my sisters.
I, a dark hole in my mother.

The Danger Sense..

.. and the disadvantages of it.

I had school this weekend again, and I was forced to learn about myself… again.

You know how humans have developed to sense danger?  How things moving in our peripheral vision – when we don’t expect anything to be there – makes our heart race and our muscles prep to run?  That fight/flight/fright/freeze response which so many of us, in the modern world, in the absence of natural predators, manifest as one form or other of anxiety disorder?

I experienced the mirror of this today.  I am familiar with the anxiety – the physical sensations of a panic attack  – but today it was the Danger! Protect! Defend! response when there was not threat at all.  I was made aware today of an unconscious defence system I have of – when I perceive someone to be in any way, even slightly, even uncontextually, even appropriately, to be sex-negative – I shut my portcullis, man the towers, and light the fires for the fire-archers.

The ‘normal’ manifestation of my anxiety – panic attacks when I have to deal with builders or bad bosses etc… I’ve learnt to deal with and can handle.  I may have to move away from the situation for a bit to get the anxiety under control.. but I recognise and can deal with the anxiety.

Today though.. I was aware of fury, and walls blinking into existence.  I did not feel any panic of anxiety.  Just walls.  Many many many many walls.  Gates closed, defences up.

And why?  Because of perceived sex-negativity which wasn’t even there.

This appears to have evolved from years and years of being around people who are closed minded about sex.  I love sex.  I am bisexual and kinky.  I am poly.  I am a slut.  I own and love the label.  Being someone of this nature – the environment I grew up in throttled it for so long, that when I finally learnt what I was, learnt to love and to accept myself – I also developed, or shall I say overdeveloped, a very sensitive radar for any sex negativity.  And today (or rather one month ago….), for the first time, it triggered inappropriately.  It triggered amongst people who was safe to be around, people who aren’t sex negative.

*deep breath*

Unravelling that took all day.  Took a lot of tears and a lot of talk.  I knew my unconscious ‘worked’ whenever I met someone new.  One of my previous therapists went through that with me already.  I knew some of this measurements my unconscious did of new people was to do with how likely they are to accept my sexualities… but I was never this aware, and it’s taken some pretty bad misjudgements and misfirings for it to happen.

I’m kinda glad it did happen.  I like learning about myself.  But god is it overwhelming and exhausting when it does.

And I’ve just noticed a blown lightbulb… hah… good time to end the post eh?  How many therapists in training does it take to change a light bulb?  In this case… 1… because there isn’t anyone here to look after me so…. sigh…. loneliness eh?  That’s a topic for another day….

 

A step in therapy

When I was little, my mother often used a Malay idiom to describe me.  “Hangat hangat tahi ayam”, which directly translates to “Hot hot chicken shit” or.. the chicken’s shit is hot when it first comes out, but cools down within seconds of hitting the ground.  It describes a person who likes to try new things, has enthusiasm for beginnings, but doesn’t last long, or doesn’t stay til the end of the new endeavour.  When I described this to the therapist I was seeing for PTSD 2 years ago, she was very struck by it.

Her larger than I expected reaction to it has stayed with me.

Recently I talked about this again with my current therapist, in a different context from when I brought it up last time – from a place of better self worth- and I realised there is another way to look at this.

I will try anything once – even twice… often three times.. before I give up.  So for all intents and purposes it may look as if I have actually started something new and then not stuck around.  But taking a recent example – I signed up for a course of 6 zumba classes – because I need more exercise, have never done anything like it, and thought oh why not.  I went once and hated it.  I went a second time – still hated it.  I went a third time – and decided it wasn’t for me.  I tried three times to like it, and didn’t.  From one point of view, that describes a person who gives new things a proper chance before giving up.  3 times doesn’t count as a start to me… that’s just me giving a go.. If I stop after 10 times.. then yea.. I’ve started and stopped… but 3 times? Nope!

I don’t give up easily and I don’t dismiss things easily either.  That is how I finished the MSc I hated, that’s how I manage to stay employed in jobs I was absolutely miserable in.  That is how I found new jobs – by applying non stop.  That is how I approach life.  I will never say no to a new food.  I’ve eaten raw oysters numerous times – and I have no enjoyment of it.  But if someone says to me ‘try it this way it’s a lot nicer’.. I will.  There isn’t any food in the world I will not try once (or twice, often 3 times) (with the exception of eating anything while it’s still alive, or anything endangered).

So I guess this is a step in therapy eh?  I am throwing off a negative label my mother stuck on, and turning it into something positive.  Yes, I am a hot hot chicken shit and I’m proud of it.  It means I approach new things with enthusiasm and excitement, and do not shirk from strangeness – at least not until I have given it a good go and firmly decided it isn’t for me.  This isn’t a negative, it is a positive, and I am proud to be the person I am.

To text or not to text…

Text who?  The wife of a close friend who accused me of sleeping with him – who now won’t let him see me without her chaperoning.

I live an esoteric lifestyle.  I live on my own and have a very busy life working full time, studying full time, and occasionally meeting up with random friends – often for dinner, sometimes for coffee, walks in the park, charity-shop-treasure-diving, restaurant-exploring, and other things like that.  My physical and emotional needs are met outside of this setting.  I have two lovers, who are themselves a couple, whom I meet about once a week.  This post isn’t about them.

I have dinner buddies, cuddle buddies, and a never ending list of people I need to have coffee with, meet up with, have a beer with, and otherwise catch up with.  And I do most of these things as if I was single.  After all I don’t have anyone to ‘go home to’ at the end of the day, so when I stay out, there isn’t a time I have to get home by either than time to get enough sleep to go to work the next day.

Recently this led to an accusation by the wife of a dinner buddy.  And she now wants to be present and to chaperone any future meetings.  Now…. I’m not entirely sure whether this is to stop any flirting – of which there has never been any… or to stop said dinner buddy from spending upwards of a hundred pounds on delicate Japanese plum wine – which she takes umbrage at.

I do not feel guilty about any of this.  Said dinner buddy and I pay for equal numbers of meals – so he buys one, I buy the next.  The choice of restaurants are a little unequal – so I tend to pay for the cheaper meals, but that is a choice we both make equally, with both fully informed.  He earns more than twice what I do, so I let him choose what he wants to treats me to and I don’t consider this ‘taking advantage’.

I do feel bad about his current situation though.  After all I did encourage him to cheat on his wife.  Not with me mind, but I do have implicit knowledge of his 1 extra-marital affair.  And the discovery of this affair is what brought his wife running back to him after denying him conjugal intimacy for 16 years – and he has gone back to her.  So they are now a very happy lovey dovey totally infatuated couple again.  From where I sit, this is partially thanks to me – something to be happy about, and proud of.

But he is now being denied access to his friends.  His wife calls me a “teenage harpy”.  And his elderly female poker buddy is his ‘skeleton in the closet’.  Rather hilarious titles if I may say so.  So what exactly do I need to get off my chest here?  I feel he is being treated unfairly, but if it is his choice, who am I to point that out?  After all, it was his choice to choose restaurants unequally and I let him.  Perhaps he enjoys being treated unfairly by the opposite sex?  If that is the case, who am I to call him out on it or to deny him that enjoyment?

I find it amusing and sad in equal parts that his wife feels so insecure that she won’t let him out with me.  I don’t expect the dinner buddy to choose me over his wife.  I’m just a dinner buddy after all, and on the one occasion he did preposition me, I flat out refused to have any sort of relationship with him either than as a dinner buddy.

It wasn’t and isn’t my place to analyse their relationship.  No matter what I see, unless she wants to talk to me (and she has an open invitation to do that… she has my number and did call me to shout at me once when I was having my morning shit (and yes, getting shouted at for sleeping with someone while I was having a morning shit is as funny as it sounds)).   She has an open invitation to have coffee with me and talk to me.. but unless she wants to do that, it isn’t my place to offer again, or to try to arrange it.  He is good conversation and he bought me expensive dinners.  There is no relationship beyond that.  I wish him well, and I hope he has opportunity to drink more delicate plum wine.  But as far as him and his wife are concerned… I don’t think we will talk, meet, or have dinner again.  It is sad to lose a friend, but this is not the first time, nor will it be the last.

 

 

 

It isn’t my job to teach..

..except when it is explicitly my job.

I teach microscopy in my day job as a microscopy officer.  I teach when I walk into the charity I (used to) volunteer for on the days I’ve agreed to be a trainer.  Outside of these two times, where it is explicitly my job to teach – it isn’t my job to teach.

I realise I have a problem with inevitably teaching where it isn’t my job – when I start burning out from it.  What do I teach?  I teach diversity and inclusion.  I teach empathy and acceptance.  I teach people that the world isn’t as simple as they think it is, that life isn’t as straightforward as they wish it is.

The LGBT+ charity I volunteered for had a diversity problem.  Not enough visibility of the ‘B’s, not enough representation of the ‘T’s, and generally dismal performance when it came to recruiting minority ethnic people.  They even had dismal numbers of women, but that improved in the few years I was there.  So what do I find myself doing?  Teaching people about why recruitment of the underrepresented populations is such a problem – and that ends up being a long lesson on what the privilege ladder is, and why it affects recruitment for the charity.  Oh, and why it is important to collect information on why people leave.

I can’t help it, I am from a diverse, underrepresented population, and I try to be a well read, informed, educated intersectional feminist.  I don’t expect other people to be as informed, but at the same time, if they are willing to learn, I like to think I’m willing to teach.  Except… sometimes that burns me out.  When it happens again and again and again and again, it wears me out.. and in the end, I have to take a break.

I left that charity a month ago.  I burnt out.  I need to spend my time and my energies on getting my BA in Counselling… and yet… it is happening again.

My counselling course had a very cohesive group last year, and we learnt a lot together.  This year’s group is partly old, partly new, and we haven’t learn about each other yet.  Last weekend’s module was on ethics, which inevitably brings up sensitive topics such as sexual deviance and suicide – topics I feel strongly about.  Unfortunately… people without any background knowledge of me, who does not know why I have a in-depth knowledge of sexual health, sexual deviance, and the legal issues surrounding such – are prone to questioning WHY I have the knowledge.

The question makes me feel cornered.

Even though I don’t hide it.  I wear rainbows in my hair and blue-purple-pink badges on my bag.  I talk about bisexuality and polyamory as if it is everyday for me.  Well, it IS everyday for me.  My group last year heard me speak about the helpline I volunteered for, about how people, sometimes teenagers, who have no other safe source of sexual health information, phone the helpline, about how it makes me feel, about the good it does.  But not everyone from year 2 knows my background… and so they question.

I don’t hide it – but the question makes me feel cornered.  The way it was asked made me feel defensive, like it was something I was expected to be ashamed about – and I am not.  Maybe I do have issues around shame, and maybe this is all me.  But.. despite feeling these defensiveness, I still offer a friendly hand, I say – if you want to know anything else, ask me after class, I am happy to share.

Again I offered to teach.

What is sexual deviance?  What is sexual normalcy?  Shouldn’t we, as counsellors in training, be completely open about sex?  Shouldn’t we be prepared to deal with sexual shame in our clients?  Yet… if we ourselves are not ready to talk about sex frankly, how do we expect to be able to help clients with sexual shame or sexual repression?

I want to say all this to them, but again, this is teaching.  Instead I write in my learning journal that I should look at the good side of this.  If my fellow counsellors can’t deal with sexual repression… they can refer those clients to me.  More business for me right?

But no – I cannot feel good about this.  I cannot feel good knowing that even counsellors training in 2017 are not dealing with sexual shame & repression.  I have talked to far too many people for whom this is a problem, who might go for counselling, who might then be faced with a counsellor who isn’t equipped to deal with the problem, who might then never get the help they need.  I do not and cannot feel good about this.  But I can only say to myself – it isn’t my job to teach.  I am a student in the class, like everyone else, and it isn’t my job to teach.

The other ethical topic we talked about last week was suicide, when to report, when not to.  I had a very idealistic young coursemate whose view was very much along the lines of ‘99.999% of all suicides are circumstantial and can be stopped if the circumstances change’.  Erm.. my dear little friend – you may be right, but all you are is a therapist, not a magician.  If clients are in so much despair, whether from illness, poverty, addiction, or anything else which is circumstantial – there is NOTHING the therapist can do to change the circumstance… so saying that doesn’t really help.  This coursemate also said to me “give me one example where nothing can be done, there is always something which can be done”.  My heroine, my idol, my sibbling-in-another-life Leelah Alcorn, I thank you for being my example, and I am sorry I had to talk about you.

Why does this coursemate repeatedly corner me, why do they keep asking me questions?  It isn’t my job to teach.  I can’t help but teach, but it burns me out, it frustrates me.  I am there as a student, I am there to learn, I am there to improve on my skills as a counsellor, and to build my own self awareness.  I am not there to teach.  I blame them for being frustrating, but it is my problem too. If I don’t offer to teach, people will stop expecting me to. 

This post is about my self awareness.  It is me, repeating to myself, for the gazillionth time in two months….. it isn’t my job to teach.

 

Family huh?

That last poetry post….. I started of with an entirely different intention.  I had said to my dad this morning ‘All I want is to help people’.  Followed with ‘I cannot help my sister or my mother’.  And I intended the poem to be about that.. But my subconscious had other things in mind… and *shrugs* oh well.

No I cannot help family or friends the way a counsellor helps a client.  They are not my client!  They are family/friend!!  The relationship is formed a different way, and it simply isn’t possible.  The stranger element, the unknown entity which is the counsellor, the lack of any knowledge of any details of the counsellor, is part and parcel of how it all works.  The fact that a client goes to the counsellor seeking help to cope with their life.  THAT is a HUGE part of it.  Without it….. the desire for change, the desire for development…. and the desperation of seeking help from a professional, from a stranger, to dwelve into their deepest, most intimate problems and memories…. all of that is part of a counsellor-client relationship.

My mother and sister do not seek change within themselves.  What they want from me is for ME to change.  My sister wants me to stop being a tory-hating bleeding heart intersectional socialist-activist.  My mother wants me to stop being bisexual.  Neither of those are possible, neither of those will bring anyone happiness – no not even them.

I am me.  I am happy with me.  They are not happy with me being me.  There is nothing I can do about that.  I cannot change who I am.  I am me.  I am happy being me.

A Counsellor’s Lament

In the larger picture, the longsighted lens, the distant future
All I want is to help people
To give, to love, to encourage and reassure
All I want is to help people

In the you, is your self, your being, your life, your spirit
To you I am but a mirror
I reflect your love, your beauty, your worth and your music
On my glass plate painted with silver

But if you show hurt, anger, frustration and strive
With love I try to help you,
Your self worth, your confidence, your strength and your drive,
With empathy I will try to boost you.

In your worth, your esteem, your confidence, your breath
Is where lay your foundations to joy
They belong inside you, within you, deep in your depths
Not outside as another’s toy

In the larger picture, the longsighted lens, the distant future
All I want is to help people
To give, to love, to encourage and reassure
All I want is to help people