Terrified

I am scared and terrified for my 11 year old niece.  Her father is a shallow, hypocritical entitled middle class helicopter parent, and her mother, my sister, is a sweet, diplomatic, obliging, loving, well rounded mother.  I see both of them in the girl, and I am worried that the entitled little madam will win out over the sweet little girl.

I want to grab her and hold her to me and teach her all the good and nice things about this world.  Teach her about substance above form, altruism above wealth, empathy above self-centredness, content above aesthetics.  I want to teach her about listening to her own heart above the pull of social pressure.  I want to point out all the things in her mindset which are introjects from her father’s view of the world, and how it can be different.  I want to love her and care for her and cherish her the way I would, and her mother would, our own child.  To show her a better way to be an adult than the example her father is setting.

I want to keep her here in London, with me, away from her jerk of a father.

But it isn’t my place.

It isn’t my place.

My place.

My place?

My place in who’s world?

Whose rules are these?

Have I ever been one to follow rules I don’t like?

I am her aunt.

I can be her example in the world, can I not?

It will be hard, and I won’t even know where to start, long distance.  I can do it when we are in the same physical space… this IS my flat after all and they are in MY space… but… once they go back to their home… how do I do this?

“You don’t care who you hurt”

I have family arriving today.  They will be staying with me for a couple of weeks.  For the last week I have been struggling to get my head into a good place to receive them.  Most of the contact I’ve had with family in the last 6 months have been hurtful and distancing, so even though the ones visiting haven’t done anything, I have been feeling spiky and I’ve had to get my mental & emotional overreacting defences to calm down.

It wasn’t easy with the falling out with my other sibling being so recent.  One phrase which has stuck with me was “you don’t care who you hurt”.  What if it’s true?  What if I do hurt people without realising it.  What if in learning what my triggers are and telling people about them, so I don’t get triggered, is hurting them?  Is that bad?  Does this make me a bad person?

Rationally and logically, I know I am not a bad person, or a bad friend.  My partners and friends who know me far better than my sister does have told me such, repeatedly, and with more repeats in the last week to try to help me out of this funk.  My own rational, logical brain says such too.  But there is a grain of self-doubt.  A grain of “what if it was true’.

The fact is, I do have mental health issues.  I do have triggers.  I do have days where I can’t handle certain topics.  And I do have days when I avoid certain people.  Does any of this make me a bad friend or a bad person or a hurtful person?  Does any of this hurt anyone?  If I don’t accept my own issues and deal with them in a way that will enable me to live in society *most* of the time… I will end up coping less well and end up being able to spend even less time as a productive member of society in general.

I stand by what I said in the last post on friendship.  Acceptance & friendships are both more an in-the-moment process than a know-everything process.  Friendships are conditional upon a mutual exchange of benefits, of energy, or positive regard towards each other which result in a positive feeling in each other.  When I have a drink, be it coffee or rum, with a friend, we are sharing the moment.  We are not sharing our politics or our views.  If we moan about something, it is something we feel mutually negative for, for example – our jobs, or bad parenting.  If I have to spend 3 hours listening about explanations of why they are right wing, they would not stay friends for very long.  But I can spend 3 hours with a right wing person who talks about something else like maybe a love of music, or for lord of the rings.  Friendship is about acceptance in the moment, and not about changing one another.

Does dropping friends when they become too energetically expensive make me a hurtful or mean person?  If I am not getting anything from them, if I face the meeting with dread and leave the meeting in tears, and if this happens more often than not…. Is it hurtful if I ‘break up’ with them?  Maybe by not making my conditions of friendship clear from the start, and being very nice and accepting – and then suddenly turning around and saying ‘no, this is not acceptable’ is perceived as being intentionally hurtful.  But is this me being hurtful?  Or me being taken for granted previously and only when they have crossed a line and I point it out to them?

Friendship is a energy (or spoons) exchange.  A mutually beneficial energy exchange is the hoped-for outcome of most friendships.  If a friendship moves from mutually beneficial to draining on one… and the one who has been drained turns around and say ‘hang on, this friendship has stopped being beneficial, and I will need to reduce my contact with you for my own good’.. perhaps yes in that moment, it is hurtful.  But it is a defence against being drained further, and it is a short hurt to stop a long draining hurt.

So, “you don’t care who you hurt”.  I guess no… when the context is that I need to reduce contact with someone in order to reduce the energy drain to myself – no I do not care who the other person is.  By that point it is about self preservation and survival.  It is about maintaining my mental health at the level where I can function in society.

Why? #1 – May 2017

According to some people, family mainly – I am a very complicated person and it is very difficult to understand me.  So I keep trying to explain myself to them, but often that is very very difficult, especially when it isn’t ME they are asking me to explain, but a view I have of something else.  If it is of something else, often that something (or someone) else would be better at explaining it than I do.  I do put some effort into sharing what I read with them, often through facebook shares.  Unfortunately this gets lost in the scrolling labyrinthe which facebook is and they get information fatigue.  The problem of ‘please explain why you think X of Y’ still stands though, so here I will keep a curated list of things I read which I feel explains concepts of my world well.

I first named this “things worth reading”, but decided that implied I was assuming that anyone reading this would find the same things worth reading than I did.  So I played with a few more ideas and I came up with Why?  This can be short for several questions.  Among them are – Why I think the way I do.  Why I have the views I do, and ultimately why I said what I said about topic x, issue y or problem z.

As the #1 post of this series, this is less about what I read this month than what I managed to pull up of my existing views in a short timespan.  A sort of short introduction to my views.

What privilege really means

21 Reasons Why It Is Not My Responsibility As a Marginalized Individual to Educate You About My Experience

You should have asked – a comic about women’s work

What fidget spinners reveal about disability discrimination

Hunger Hurts – Jack Monroe

Rape Culture Pyramid

The Laws that Sex Workers really want – Juno Mac

Brene Brown on Empathy (vs Sympathy)

The Good Friend Guide

On Abortion

The Backfire Effect

On gender stereotyping

ps: I have filled in the about page of the blog, so if you were curious before and all you got was the ‘this is your about page’ text… you can read it now.

That list

TW/CN : talk of suicide

ON 30th August 2014, I started a ‘note’ on Facebook.  On it were links, prove that this world was horrible.  The list started at #543 and counted downwards.  I don’t know why I chose 543, and I never had a plan for what would happen after it counted down to 1.  I no longer update the list, but the intention of that list was a rolling suicide note.  If I ever did do the deed and killed myself, that list was the reasons why.  It was more complicated than that of course, and my mental health was shit at the time due to childhood psychological trauma.. but because ‘notes’ on facebook don’t keep very well and are hard to search and archive, I am now moving this here.

__________________

Reasons I think this world is a lost cause.  A horrible place full of suffering.  Reasons I do not ever want to have my own children.  To bring innocent new lives into this world will be to increase the amount of suffering already here.

I volunteer.  I give time up to try to make this world a slightly better place.  I aim to foster older children someday, or at least spend a significant amount of my time supporting them.  The ones who have been raped, abused, exploited.  The ones from broken homes, with nowhere to go.  I want to show young people who have never been loved, who grew up believing no one will ever love them, that I do.  I love them. That they are worthy.

Edit: And in the Guardian on 31/8/2014… Maybe THIS is the reason I feel I need a list of reasons : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/31/jennifer-aniston-childess-women-judged-unfairly

Reasons I hate this world and most of the humans in it.  Reasons I might some day use to justify my suicide.

 

Conditions of Friendship

The recent blow up with my sister has highlighted a massive difference between me and her.  In her eyes, friendships are conditional upon acceptance, and acceptance is conditional upon understanding.  I want to try to break it down a little as the whole of the last sentence has left me a little bewildered.

I tend to make friends in the moment.  When I first came to London I used meetup groups and munches and made many friends that way.  These days my network is large enough that it shrinks and grows organically via existing friends, work colleagues, fellow students or fellow charity volunteers.

I have conditions for acquaintances to turn into friends.  They have to be pleasant people to be around.  Not mean in any way, to any demographic – and by that I mean not racist or homophobic or biphobic or transphobic, not ageist, – in a nutshell – not prone to stereotyping entire groups of people.  I have to feel safe around them – they have to have demonstrated enough open mindedness in the limited pre-friend-stage interaction, for me to have felt safe enough to divulge my unusual romantic and/or sexual relaionship(s).  They have to be quite non-judgemental.  They have to be non-proselytizing – by which I mean, if they are religious they must not be prone to trying to convert people.  And if they are vegetarian / vegan, they have to NOT be a hard-core animal rights activists ala PETA/BUAV etc.  (This last one is a requisite because I work in medical research which includes animal research – I will not feel safe with someone who is aggressively anti animal research).  They must not be interested in me romantically – and if they are I have be able to trust that they will respect my boundaries.

Put together, what this last paragraph summarises into is that that I have to feel confident that they will accept me for who I am before I offer to convert an acquaintance into a friend.  These conversions happens in many forms, most commonly with a mutual agreement to add each other on facebook.  What facebook is is really just an easier way to stay in touch without very much effort.  I get a glimpse into their everyday lives and them into mine, and we both gain an easy way to contact each other directly should we want/need to.  With many people this may kinda just stay that way until the next time we meet in a larger group eg a scouts camp etc.  Even for facebook, there requires a good amount of trust that they will not harm me.  From facebook or mobile members it moves on to messages and to coffee and other meetings.

So far this has all been about acceptance.  I need to trust that I will be accepted before I let people far into my live.  I do not need very much in common…. unless this shared mindset of non-directionality and non-judgement is a big requirement – I don’t know.  I have friends who are demographically very different from me who are very close.  I have friends very similar to me who are very close.

I do not know what the process is for other people.  My requirements are my trust of their acceptance.  That they will not try to change me or convert me in any way.  Perhaps that is why I do not have many religious friends.

My sister’s process seems to be markedly different to mine.  She appears to have to feel understood in order to feel accepted.  In her view, the fact I haven’t allowed her to explain her choice of political party or charities to donate to (both of which I do not agree with), and repeatedly telling her “we are different and that is okay” and “we are different and that is what makes the world interesting” was not understanding therefore non-acceptance when what I was trying to say was “you don’t need to defend yourself, I understand that we are different and I accept that difference.”

When I tell her I don’t want to talk about subject X, she will ask why and how and what the history is, and why and how it is a trigger, in an effort to avoid future triggers – which is very noble, but as anyone with ptsd can tell you – triggers can be totally unpredictable and knowledge of one doesn’t necessarily mean predictability of the next.

When we talk about personality disorders and she says they are manipulative and I say well it might not be their fault, she then wants to know everything I have ever read about the subject and why I have the views I have.  Ditto if I talk about working class are really generally majoritily NOT benefit scroungers.. i end up having to provide examples.

I am a bisexual, female, trans-supporting, sex-worker-supporting, intersectional feminist.  I am also a BSc Microbiology, MSc BioPhotonics holding microscopist.  I have worked in medical & biology research and I volunteered as a diagnostic laboratory technician in Sierra Leone for Public Health England during the Ebola outbreak in 2015 (and have the military medal to show for it).  I was assaulted in sierra leone and had post-traumatic anxiety.  I have massive emotional and psychological damage from when I was a child.  I am a trainee rogerian person-centred counsellor.  I support many causes, some of which I know very well because I have been reading and following the subjects for many years, and some I don’t know so well because I have only been reading and following them for a short while.  I wear many hats.  If every time I express a view I had to explain my reasoning behind that view, it is exhausting.  And it HAS been exhausting in the past.  And annoying because it is WORK.

When I make a new friend, yes I have conditions, but none of these conditions are based upon their understanding of me, or my understanding of them.  I don’t expect a friend to explain their entire lives to me.  I don’t expect to have to explain my entire lives to them.  A friend is someone to spend time with, to enjoy life with, in the moment.  And my condition is that they accept me and will not try to change or hurt me.  In return I accept them for who they are and will not try to change or them.  I’m not an argumentative person. We enjoy the things we have in common, maybe moan a little about work or other people.  We spend time together.  Life isn’t a political debate.  Life isn’t understanding everything.  Life is love and empathy.  Life is happiness and joy.  Life isn’t just words, it is emotion and feeling.

Friends are just people I feel safe to spend time with.

So the question is.. is understanding required of acceptance?  To me it isn’t.  What is your view?

Yes I Judge

I judge you on how conditional your love and acceptance is for me
I judge you on how well you empathise with me
I judge you on how you make me feel

I judge you on how likely you are to question me
I judge you on how likely you are to criticise me
I judge you on how likely you are to listen when I speak

I judge you on how you misunderstand me
I judge you on how quickly you are to conclude something about me
I judge you on how quickly you compare me to others.

I judge you on how distressed I am likely to get when I speak to you
I judge you on the emotional labour you expect me to do
I judge you on the number of google searches I do for you

At the end of the day I judge you for one thing – the same thing I judge EVERYONE on.

Do I feel safe in your presence?

Do I feel understood when I am with you? Do I feel loved, accepted and reassured? Do I feel listened to, empathised with, and comforted? Do I feel safe?

Do I walk away in tears, thinking of pain? Do I wish for long fingernails, the better to dig into my upper arms? Do I think of cuts and blood and violence? Do I feel closer to the ledge?

On Counselling

If you are reading this, it is because you are a friend.

A friend whom I cherish, whose company I enjoy and want to continue enjoying.  If you are reading this it is because we have enjoyed many discussions about various things in the past.  We have things in common and we are happy in each other’s company.

If you are reading this, it means I sent you this link.  I probably sent you this link because of some comments you have made about counselling.  It could have been an outright ‘I don’t believe in counselling’ comment.  Or possibly a link to some blog or magazine, and you sent it to me with the idea of asking me to read it and to later have a discussion about it with you.  Or I may have referred you for counselling, and you may have wanted to go into it deeper with me.  Or I could have recently told you about being a counselling student, and you then wanted me to teach you all about what it is, how it works, all the ins and outs of the modality I’m studying and how it applies to life.

None of the above is my job.

I am a busy woman.  I work a full time job.  I am a full time student.  That means that I am theoretically spending 72 hours a week working or studying.  I also have hobbies and a family.  When I make the time to go out with you, whether it is for a coffee or a meal or to the cinema, I am making an effort to stay in touch with you because I cherish and like your friendship.  For the evening, I am putting you above my precious books and microscopes.  I am putting you above my partners and my hobbies and my essays and assignments.  I am human.  When I go for coffee or dinner with you, I am giving you companionship and friendship and support, and I expect the same in return.

Explaining, or discussing, or debating counselling with you is not fun, it is not relaxing.  If you are asking me to summarise everything I have learnt about counselling and to convince you of its efficacy in 500 words – that is an essay, that is work, that is not coffeetime with a friend.  If you are asking me to spend my limited time reading something you found on the internet, and then to discuss it with you, you are asking for more of my time to do something for you.  If I have referred you for counselling as a friend, it is your right to say no… and I will accept that of course.  But if you want to come back to me and ask for the pros and cons and discuss how it works, that again is not a relaxing coffee break.

I believe in counselling.  This may be more hippy-dippy-fairy-unicorn shit than you are used to from me.  I understand that.  I am/was a scientist.  For me to do a BA in Counselling is quite a radical change in direction for me.  But if you have been close friends with me, you know how objective and how rational I normally am.  You have probably also felt my empathy and compassion.  These things are not enemies – they can work together.  If you were my friend and believed I was a good person, how does my faith in counselling change your views of me?  Am I not still the kind, empathic, rational & objective friend you once knew?  Is it necessary to bring it up every time we meet from hereon out?

I did not go into this to convince anyone of its efficacy.  I have been suicidal.  I have anxiety.  I have PTSD.  I went for counselling and discovered for myself that it does help with all of those problems.  I was unhappy in science because of the competitiveness and ruthlessness of the field.  This is my way out.  I did not go into this to convince anyone that this is right.  I went into this because this was right for me.

I didn’t go into this to ‘convert’ anyone, much less you.  It isn’t my job to convince you, or anyone else, that it is right for you.  I went into this to help people, but you have to want to be helped.  And I cannot help you as a counsellor if you are a friend.  It doesn’t work very well that way, you need to find your own counsellor.  If you want to know whether counselling works – try it.  And go into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a long term commitment.  It doesn’t work instantly, I’d recommend at least 12 sessions with a person-centred counsellor.

What I am trying to say is – please do not ask me to do any unpaid work for you.  If you want to learn about counselling, go and do the work yourself.  Asking me for my opinion on these things is demanding resources from me I don’t have.   Not when I am already exhausted and drained with all the other things in my life.

Let me put this in another way.  A biologist rarely becomes close friends with an animal-rights activist – because it would be very difficult to get companionship, friendship, understanding & support from each other.  It would be a friendship full of arguments, and it will be draining and unfulfilling.  Of course a biologist can go out and become friends with an animal rights activist with the goal of convincing them that animal research is A-OK…. But that is a premeditated goal.

It isn’t my goal to convince you.  I just want you to continue being the good friend you have always been.  You are reading this because I am trying to preserve the friendship.  You are reading this because I cherish you.  But I don’t have the time to defend my choice when that was never what the friendship was about before I went down this path.  I don’t have the resources, the energy, the emotional resilience and the time to discuss counselling with you, so please do not force me to.

Goodbye Mother

You cannot love me
If you think I am possessed
You cannot love me
If you think I’m devil blessed
 
You cannot love me
If you don’t know my life
You cannot love me
If you don’t know my daily strife
 
If you cannot love me
For as long as I am bisexual
Then I cannot love you

As long as you’re that judgemental

You cannot love me
If you can’t accept my good
You cannot love me
If you think I am no good
 
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
 
Did Jesus not say, ‘judge not lest ye be judged’
The Christians I know, to that they adhere
Your hate, your fear, your words do begrudge
Your judgment echoes so loud and so clear
 
You cannot love me
If you place faith above blood
Jesus would have loved me
But your heart judgment floods
 
Goodbye mother
We part now for good
I’m no more your daughter
I cut now our blood.

A Poem

I cannot speak to my mother right now as she has, in the past week, caused me to re-enter dark places I thought I had overcome, twice. I do not want to risk a third time within a week when I have a life to live which I have to remain mentally well for. When I’m emotional or angsty, I find trying to make rhymes a slight release. I have not done so for a long time, as my life has moved on from the teenage angst-filled introverted days of having a lot to say but not the courage to say it. These days I say what I think/feel and structure my relationships so I do not need to hide myself. But as I am self-limiting my contact with my mother for my own sanity… I find these whispers of emotions which I cannot address to her directly.. so here is a poem.. in the style of the ones I used to write out of teenage angst.

Who do you love mother,
your child and your progeny,
How much do you know of her
This person in your family tree.

What do you love mother,
The carrier of your genes,
How much do you know of her,
Does she love greens or jeans?

Do you see the good in her
Her kindness and her love
The intelligence of this microscope whisperer
The skill within her glove.

Do you just see the devil
When she speaks of her love for girls
Do you think she’s just a rebel
Out in town for some twirls.

Do you think she is wicked
For detesting the president-elect
The rights she had gain he would undid
Her life his believes can wreck

Do you see how much she cares for the world
The time she gives to those in need
Do you believe she’s destined for the underworld
Despite the blood she bleeds

How much do you know of her, mother
Her causes, advocacy and activism
The good is there and clear to all
She’s shown unbridled altruism

Who do you love mother,
Just your child and your progeny,
Will you love her person whole,
Or just your Gs, Cs, As, and Ts?

Safe Spaces

Content Note: Contains talk of self harm and suicide
To the family member who asked for the essay – whom I have emailed this response to but will probably not read it because she never really reads anything I send her.

Do you know what a safe space is?  A safe space is somewhere where people feel safe to express their feelings, where they can share without being criticized.  It is often explicitly defined in spaces who welcome people who have been discriminated against, been marginalized, bullied and oppressed.  It is saying to people who have had to spend most of their lives hiding something of themselves from the world – that they don’t have to hide here, it is safe here, it is safe to be yourself, here in this space, with us.  Google it.

You asked to read my essay for college.  An essay for a BA in Counseling, my first essay, that I’ve taken more than a week off work to write.  An essay which is explicitly exploring deeper parts of myself, opening up and psychoanalyzing my history, for the benefit of my tutor and one other marker.  The markers whom, by definition, are ‘safe’ people to talk to.. They have to be, they are counselors, professionals in creating spaces which are safe to encourage people to talk and to open themselves up.

You do not have a right to read that essay.  You do not have the right to even ask for that essay.

Things I have said in college, in the safe space which is my classroom…. or in my counselor’s office, or whispered into my partners’ ear, include,-

  • People I’d like dead
  • Politics
  • Sex work
  • Self Harm
  • My desire to be dead

None of these things are things I can safely say in your presence are they?  You only know condemnation.  Do you know introspection, examination, understanding, empathy and awareness?  I’d like trump dead.  Your response was ‘why are you so wicked’  Am I?  From everything you know of me, do you really think that I am a wicked person?  Rather than examine my reasons, you accuse me, you criticize me, you condemn me.  This is your pattern, over and over again, year after year after year.  Your presence makes me unsafe.  Being in your presence makes me want to take my nearest knife out and cut my arms and legs open.  Being in your presence, having all my good invalidated every time I say something you do not accept… that hurt, that stab of pain every time.. is not safe.  Because when that deep hurt makes itself known, I want to cut myself open, I want to prove that the pain is there I want to show the world that I bleed, that I hurt.

And you want to read my essay.

The answer is no.  It isn’t safe for me to let you read my essay.