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.



My bane – Facebook

I am intermittently deactivating and reactivating my facebook account.  I have just completely weaned off the anti depressants I was on for PTSD, and while I am mostly doing okay, I am finding the interactions on facebook fraught with aggression, defensiveness and just plain unfriendliness.  All things which I don’t need while I settle into a new equilibrium of neurological biochemistry.

I do bring it on myself I suppose.  I will call people out for being misogynistic, queerphobic or sex-worker phobic.  That is, on some level ‘asking for’ the backlash I get for doing that.  That last statement was victim blaming.  Which is wrong on so many levels.  Hhhmm.. let me rephrase that.  NO, by calling out misogyny, queer phobia and sex-worker phobia, I am not asking for anything.  I am putting information out there.  I am merely saying that that person’s statement, or share, or whatever, is perceived by me to be misogynist / queer phobic / sex worker phobic.  That is it.  They can chose whether to react to it or not.  Some people do react by saying thank you… but most of the time.. what do I get?  A ‘oh why can’t you just take a joke’.  Or a ‘but this and this and this not this this this’.

These sorts of reactions then require extra spoons to deal with.  Spoons I am currently expending by just…. living.  Yes, living require spoons.  Anxiety and depression require spoons to deal with.  Even at the level they are currently – which is very very very low.  EVERY interaction with the world which requires a response interaction requires spoons.  Work requires spoons and is where most of it goes to.  School, thankfully on break (which is why I’m weaning off now and not in autumn), requires spoons.

Maybe I should put a disclaimer on every comment I live in public.. something along the lines of

[Disclaimer: By leaving this comment, I am merely providing information about what I think of your last statement, you DO NOT have to react or to reply to it, it is merely INFORMATION which you are entirely welcome to read and discard]

There… what do you think?

Why are people not more accepting?  Why is the respond “thank you for informing me my last statement was misogynist.  I will think about why you might think that and maybe rethink my position” so rare it might as well be extinct?

To use an common analogy : When you give someone a gift, is the response ‘thank you, that is very kind’.. or ‘what is this, why did you get me this, what is it made of, what is the carbon footprint of this, where did you get it from, how much did it cost, did you buy me this because you think i need it’

When I comment online, I comment to inform or educate.  Sometimes to share congratulations or commiserations.  I do not ever comment to intentionally attack.  That just isn’t me.  To be attacked in response is… disheartening…. but I can deal with it.  But to be attacked when my mental health is bad and I end up spending 2 days curled up in bed crying… I think that warrants a break from the medium which gives me that grieve.

So… instagram.. my balcony garden.. my blog, my cooking.  And twitter.  Twitter keeps me better informed about world news than facebook ever could – and from people whose opinions I actually care for.  And because I am not an active poster, twitter for me is passive reading… keeping up with the news.  I know how toxic it can be.. but because i don’t have an audience and I keep in the shadows… for now..

So long then… see you twitter….

Twitter : @incoherent_qing

Instagram : @kirhymeswithpie

Food blog :

“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.


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?