kaberett: a watercolour painting of an oak leaf floating on calm water (leaf-on-water)
For me there's at least two main categories, roughly analogous to two types of pain: the warning, that you're overdoing something and hurting yourself; and the sense of stretching, of building yourself stronger and surer -- which is how the apparent dichotomy between my determination to do one thing every day that scares me (and to love fiercely though not fearlessly) and my determination to listen to my hindbrain's warning systems can be resolved.

Of course it's more complicated than that and of course something can be both at once; but I've grown very familiar with variations on a theme of pain (does it impart new information or can it be safely ignored as background? is it background that I shouldn't be ignoring? can I tell why and where it originates? is it a challenge and therefore a gift, or a warning of worse to come? is it time to turn back?) and I begin to believe I might be able to become sufficiently familiar with variations on a theme of fear.

This appears to be the best I can articulate it; I've tried to think of other distinguishing features, tried to talk about fear that makes me smaller versus fear that challenges me to expand, but none of those quite feel as accurate or as true as fear as a warning versus fear as strength-in-the-making; and perhaps even that isn't right: because there is strength, too, in daring to listen to yourself that closely, and in daring to trust yourself enough to act on what you hear; but nonetheless it's what I've got for now.
kaberett: Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson sit side by side, facing forward, heads slightly tilted towards each other. (elementary-faces)
I occasionally mention the concept of making. the job. smaller. Overwhelmed by a task? Okay, alter your concept of "success" to something manageable. You're not going to write a novel today, but you can write the prologue. Or half a chapter. Or whatever. And then you can do another half chapter tomorrow. And then you get to the end, and you look up, and there's a novel.

Counselling and mindfulness and a whole host of other things have, over the years, trained me to at least consider the possibility of don't make the job larger. That's not a framing it's been given explicitly, but it's not exactly an unrecognised phenomenon: to some extent, think sneaky hate spiral (ALL OF THE THINGS ARE PROBLEMS), but also catastrophising (THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD).

For me, it tends to go a bit like this: the Thing is terrible. If I am already overwhelmed, it is even worse than that. I cannot possibly control or have any effect on the Thing [note that this is a distortion: instead of making the job smaller, to make it less overwhelming, I abnegate agency and power in order to do away with choice and responsibility, both of which are Hard]. Anxiety about the Thing then gets displaced onto anything that looks even slightly similar within a large radius: "there is no point in even trying to Deal with the Thing, because it's not like I can handle the Badger either." And thus I spiral further and further into telling myself I'm shit and incapable and incompetent and can't manage anything, and get distressed about wider irrelevant putative problems that may not even be problems, and all the while the Thing looms larger and larger above the foothills of self-hatred.

Mindfulness techniques, as it turns out, have really helped me with this. The meditative practice of sitting with thoughts but gently redirecting one's focus to one's breath, or heartbeat, or whatever, has an awful lot in common with looking at the thought that goes you are too incompetent/ill/crippy/lazy to be on this PhD programme, you can't even adequately read and synthesise literature, there's no point even trying to fix the transfer report, you might as well fail out now and be done with it and - not ignore it, but nod at it, show it to the waiting area, and return to the pargraph at hand.

I sometimes summarise this - possibly via Pratchett - as you do the job in front of you. There's no "just" about it - like I said, it's taken me years to get to the point where I can semi-reliably do this under pressure - but over the course of this evening I've realised just how far I've come in this respect, and I am enormously grateful.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
So this is actually a pretty short one: all you should need to do is say one of "that's not the problem" or "I don't want to talk about it" and the counsellor should back the fuck off.

I have had counsellors back off and never raise the topic again when I asserted that something wasn't the problem even when it blatantly was, because the way it goes if you say one of those things is this: either you are right, in which case you are right, or you are wrong, but clearly not ready to talk about it yet, and the best thing for everyone would be to leave you to your own devices while you come to terms with that, and focus on the other shit you're actually in a place to work on.

It is my view that if your counsellor is any good, they will recognise this.

Which is all very well if you are me, and have got lucky with (1) counsellors you've been assigned and (2) the ability to actually make choices or swap as seems appropriate.

Unfortunately, the above is fundamentally a "no", and if you've got a counsellor who ignores your "no" then you've got a counsellor who ignores your boundaries and that is Not Great, especially given the extent to which therapeutic relationships (can) require you to be vulnerable.

If you're stuck with a counsellor who insists on pathologising something that you'd rather they left well alone, some possible scripts are:
  • Actually, this week I really feel the need to talk through [Thing On Your List].
  • [if it's something like poly] I'm aware that this is a little unusual and you may not have come across it before. If you'd like me to suggest some background reading for you, I'm happy to do so, but I don't want the focus to be on [thing], and I'm finding treating it as inherently bad really offputting - it's making it more difficult for me to address my main concerns.
  • I understand your concern, but I don't feel like this is something I'll benefit from working through in this space at the moment - I feel like I've got more work to do by myself before I'm ready to talk about it out loud. [Thanks for making it clear you're willing to engage;] I'll let you know when I'm ready to tackle this.


And so on - the sort of not-quite-lie that firmly redirects.

But, as I say, these scripts are what I like to think I'd use; I've never been in a situation I couldn't solve by Stopping Seeing That Counsellor And Finding Someone Else Instead (and, again, I'm aware of how lucky I am that that was an option for me). So for those of you who've had to deal with this, I would super-appreciate your experiences in comments. <3
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
In the approximate chronology of this series of posts, we have now had our first session with a new counsellor, and we are thinking about how to plan for the next one.

A habit I'm attempting to get into is writing up notes from counselling immediately after the session happens (which I then post to DW, because that's the easiest way for me to manage and think through these things): this helps me keep track of the patterns and metaphors I've been discovering, and means I can't forget useful things. Write-ups are based on very brief notes I make during the counselling session.

Over the days before my next session, I start Making A List. Usually longhand in one of the notebooks I carry around, because that's what works for me, but occasionally in a text file I sync between computers. I start out by reviewing the previous session's notes, and from there build it up a bit like this:
  • have I taken any actions planned last session?
  • have there been any developments with respect to situations/interactions discussed last session?
  • has anything major happened since last session?
    • Shit I Found Difficult
    • Shit That Is Complicated
    • Shit I Don't Know How To Feel About
    • Shit I Am Proud Of

  • have I been keying particularly hard off any music/poetry this week? How's it been making me feel?
  • have I read anything (particularly relating to How Brains Work) that I'm trying to fit into my working model of myself?


Back at the beginning of March, this was my list:
- Still Catch The Tide
- making a really bad yardstick in general - does this apply to counselling too?
- culture of mental illness among PhD students vs my lived experience
- negotiating care needs
- cleansing ritual!
-- seeds continue to germinate :-)
- craving interaction

... and obviously that's a lot of shorthand: but it's enough, in each case, to be a prompt for the tangle of attached thoughts, cf the way that "negotiating care needs" did indeed turn into an essay.

I've yet to start working on the next list - I seem to be antsy about doing it when I don't have a definite date in mind, though we're coalescing on the 4th of April - but for me the absolutely key thing is to give myself time to work on it, so things can pop up and get written down and not just vanish again.

I think I haven't made this explicit before, but I'd love to know how your strategies, if you have them, differ :-)

(Next: setting boundaries with counsellors.)
kaberett: a watercolour painting of an oak leaf floating on calm water (leaf-on-water)
I semi-regularly end up trying to infodump my (theoretical) approach to a first session with a new counsellor; I've been asked about this often enough that I'm going to try to make a summary here. (I say "theoretical" because in practice what actually happens is I forget everything I advise other people to do and mostly panic: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of twenty to follow mine own teaching.)

From my perspective, the point of a first session is to establish whether I think I can work with the counsellor in question.

Read more... )

And so in summary, my checklist going into a first session is:
  • what's the edited-highlights-of-my-life I want to give this person?
  • am I comfortable with the ways they respond to them?
  • do they have minimum required knowledge such that I won't be spending so much time educating them that they should be paying me?
  • are they pathologising or fixating on things I don't want the focus to be on?
  • do I think I can be I comfortable in their space?
  • are we communicating adequately well, bearing in mind that we'll build on it?
  • is there enough flexibility in communication methods for me to cope?
  • am I responding well to the ways they choose to guide our discussion? Do they feel useful?


... all of which I expect to need to sit with and work out over the days following the session, but are roughly what I try to bear in mind going in, and are what I focus reflection on after the fact.

Next up: a slightly more formalised version of how I plan for sessions than the demonstration (under access lock, tag "counselling log") a few weeks back.
kaberett: a watercolour painting of an oak leaf floating on calm water (leaf-on-water)
Previous interludes are under access-lock. As stated elsewhere, in general I grant access very readily, am happy to receive requests regarding same, and use lock so I know to first order who is reading. That's why the numbering looks out-of-order. Additional disclaimer: I have drugged myself to hell and back again and it's all kicking in over the course of writing this post, so like, if it stops making sense halfway through then (1) I apologise and (2) I'll be back in the morning to fix things.

<edit>now more sober, I realise that it would be helpful to state explicitly that I am here talking about finding a private counsellor, which obviously involves a significant amount of financial privilege, even with low-income places. I discuss my reasons for using private counselling in comments.</edit>

There's a number of places I look when I'm trying to find a counsellor. They include:
This shortlist arises at least in part because I know what I am looking for. I know that I do my best brain-work when I'm teasing out why I think/feel/believe/do A Thing: the way I approach the world, I find it much easier to address a problem when I know why it is happening. That's why ACAT's on the list above: Cognitive Analytic Therapy is the framework most of my counselling's been in; it combines aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (e.g. techniques to challenge intrusive thoughts) with a narrative approach (i.e. working out why). (The ways in which CAT works really well for me are... abundantly clear, I think, from my habit of exploring my emotional state and wellbeing and relationship to the world via contextualisation/resonance of song lyrics and poetry.)

BACP is on the list because they've accredited every counsellor I've ever worked with and, for that matter, every counsellor I've ever considered working with. They're more-or-less a gold standard.

And PinkTherapy is included because I'm poly, trans and queer, and I really don't want to have to explain that from scratch to someone I'm paying private rates.


So my process for finding a counsellor goes a bit like this:
  1. Work out what style of counselling I probably want (in addition to CAT, I'm currently doing a lot of self-led Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and I'm getting on really well with it).
  2. Find directories of counsellors relevant to my broad geographic region (country-level).
  3. Filter to local (or willing-to-Skype).
  4. Filter to types of counselling I'm interested in.
  5. Run through the list and see if the individual profiles suggest that the person in question has sufficient relevant experience that I won't want to scream before we're ten minutes in to a first session (for me, that means "has heard of queers" and "has worked with trauma"; "knows what an autism is" is a bonus; "will do Skype counselling and is flexible about session regularity" is SUPER-AWESOME but I don't expect to find it).
  6. No luck? Remove one of the constraints (starting with style-of-counselling - though I note that I have some pretty hard limits about the level of fluff I am willing to tolerate; I fundamentally want counsellors I can trust to tell me I'm talking bullshit, if necessary, in those words).
  7. Sit with the shortlist for a few days and see who sticks (much like my approach to purchasing Lioness jewelry, entertainingly enough).
  8. Start sending out e-mails (ideally one at a time) to enquire as to (i) space on their list? (ii) willingness to set up a first session?

And then, of course, there's the issue of the actual first session. How I tend to approach those - and the suggestions I'd make to someone going into a first session, especially if they've not had counselling before - comes in the next Interlude.
kaberett: Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson sit side by side, facing forward, heads slightly tilted towards each other. (elementary-faces)
That's the snappy one-line summary right there in the title.

I think this is actually something I worked out for myself when I was about 13, during my first staggeringly obvious round with mental illness, long before I spent any time in counselling, but it's no less valuable for that (and is still something I use frequently).

Think grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference, with a bit of a twist: what I actually want is the wisdom to know which beliefs I can - or should - trust.

Because: I get convictions that sink their claws into me gut-deep, that I believe (for at least a time, but it's always an unpredictable time) with unshakeable faith - like, I am the worst person in the world, or I have made so-and-so hate me, or it is not safe for me to be around [behaviour X].

The first two - oh, that is where knowledge comes in. That is where I cling tight to the knowledge that I am not the worst person in the world (and where I sometimes make lists of people who are unambiguously worse than me); where I turn to mindfulness techniques, and try to come up with more plausible reasons that someone hasn't got back to me than that I've broken everything forever (which tend to range from "I know they're having a rough week at work" to "giant fish rained from the sky and ate them"). That is where I sit with my belief and stare right through it; where I orient myself by the flotsam and driftwood on the surface of my ocean-deep despair, by the bubbles that float inexorably up, and hope that if I hold on tight enough I'll wash up on a shore I can't see and don't trust to exist. Knowledge feels weak and flimsy and fragile, here, a paper screen I could poke holes in without trying, but I school myself to it anyway.

But the last one - oh, that's harder. That is so much harder. To eye a belief, to want desperately to quash it and ignore it and try to grit my teeth through the screaming sirens in my brain; and to trust it anyway, to use knowledge not as shield or escape route but to examine and pick apart and shore up the yawning horror, to say "I refuse to train myself out of lesson I won with blood and fire and agony."

It is learning how to get free: what to keep, and what to discard.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
How to do science.

Oh, sure, I learned a lot of facts in the various departments associated with my degree - but questioning and reasoning and reexamining the evidence and testing hypotheses and weighing up potential origins and competing explanations, in order to build a holistic model of a complex system?

That I learned from the University Counselling Service.
kaberett: A green origami stegosaurus (origami stegosaurus)
(Still from [personal profile] finch's list of 21 prompts.)

I'm... not sure there is, really. I'm generally very open about most things, I think; even the one that springs to mind - that I'm not as cool as I pretend to be, that I'm more insecure than I present as, that I care more than I let on - is, I think, a mixture of, well, rampant impostor syndrome and self-delusion.

Because, well, I do talk about insecurity, though amusingly I wish I could do it better; I'm not pretending to be cool, I am authentically myself and that someone is Actually Pretty Kickass a lot of the time; and I think you know that I care -- about poetry, about music, about fannishness, about my people, about sharing the things I've learned the hard way so some of you can get there along a slightly easier path.

Perhaps what I actually mean is "I don't trust easily". I've talked recently about not really trusting myself, and that being the major block to meditation as a thing itself for me; and it's not that I don't think you're wonderful, don't think you're safe, don't want to trust you. I think it's this: that I am scared to ask for help, still, in ways that aren't structured; that I'm scared to show myself vulnerable and give people the responsibility of taking care of me. I have an absolute horror of making people feel obliged to look after me, and a lot of the time that keeps me from asking at all - but I can't find it very difficult to trust unreservedly without knowing that I'll be safe if I fall to pieces in front of you.

The realisation that I think my counsellor has been pushing me towards for the entire time she's known me? That I like helping people, and making sense of the world for them, because maybe if I do it enough I'll learn to/someone will do it for me. Which - is not the whole story, and is kind of twisted in its way (oh, but tiny child, let me hug you and love you and make you safe--), but is interesting to bring to bear on the matter of why and how I get so much out of this, and how I can get better at it, for others and myself.

-- so I've once again circled back around to trust, of myself and of others; this is something I'm going to have to spend some time working through this year. And it will be hard, and it will take time, but that's okay. I don't have to decipher myself all in one go.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
How to grieve.

(In a break from the usual, this post is brought to you by the counselling session I've just got home from - rather than one that happened months ago, and has had time to settle.)

There is this thing I do.

Something bad happens, and I make jokes about it.

After a while, that stops working, and I find that what I actually am is angry. Really, really angry.

... and some time after that, I am overcome by floods of tears, and it is around then that I realise what's really been going on.

And after that? After that comes compassion and acceptance.

But it turns out I'm still scared of being visibly upset - scared of what will happen if I say "This is hurting, and I am scared and vulnerable, and will someone please help me?" Hence the laughter and anger at the pain clinic; hence the laughter and anger at Simon Baron-Cohen. Hence being so, so upset by my baby brother and his current life circumstances: I look at him, the world having suddenly settled onto his shoulders with a thump, and I think about how fast he's having to do a lot of really painful growing up -- and I think about how fast I had to do a lot of really painful growing up, and I want to tell him all the things me-at-18 would have loved to hear, and all the things I think me-at-18 would have benefitted from knowing, and I want to protect himme from the things I had to deal with.

And so instead I asked my mum to tell him that I was incredibly proud of him, and that I wanted to give him a hug.

And now it's time to give me a hug. Because, yes, actually - contrary to what I was saying in comments about it "not being that big a deal"; about how it wasn't any worse than I expected -- no, actually, it hurts.

It hurts to have people tell me that my life and my achievements and my value to others are "nothing". It hurts to be told that the tool which enables me to leave the house, to visit gardens and museums, to enjoy life - is evidence that I'm not trying hard enough; is a problem that needs solving at all costs. It hurts.

It's okay for it to hurt. I'm allowed to be upset. I'm allowed to feel attacked and undermined and discredited, and as though my competence has been brought into question.

And perhaps most importantly? I don't have to legitimise them - to myself, at least - by fighting them.

This process normally takes me months; managing it within 24 hours (at least of the most proximate event) is... progress. Good. Well done, me: have some chocolate and a warm drink. Because, do you know what, sometimes things are tough, and those make the world a better place.
kaberett: "(not evil)" above an ostrich. (evil ostrich)
I have a parrot named Virginia.

She's invisible and she sits on my left shoulder, and she nips my ear when I start heading down unhealthy paths.

If I were less rubbish at...: nip. If I weren't so useless...: peck. I'll never be good enough...: full-on biting.

Virginia was also the name of the first counsellor I went to voluntarily, and for all her faults (and oh boy, did she have them): she gave me a parrot.

Virginia-the-parrot isn't just negative reinforcement, of course, but she reminds me that I don't have to frame things negatively.

In 2010, I didn't know how to frame desires and wants positively. It was all "if I were less crap at ... then ..."; the fantasy of being thin, applied to all my perfectionist-child self-hatred. When Virginia-the-counsellor suggested that I try framing things positively instead, and stopped me halfway through every sentence to rephrase, I mostly ended up staring blankly at her for thirty seconds at a time, trying to work out how on earth I was supposed to say something self-hating in a self-compassionate way.

And that's roughly when I learned that, actually, my life tends to go rather better - and I tend to be rather better - if I don't frame my goals in terms of current negative self-perception. It works rather better if I can say "Okay, I'd like [X good thing] to happen, and to do that I need to take [concrete actions Y and Z]" - even if [y] and [z] are tiny - than if I set up the goal as impossible from the get-go because of my perceived negative qualities.

Virginia-the-parrot's been quiet, lately, but every now and then I get an approving tug on my hair.
kaberett: A green origami stegosaurus (origami stegosaurus)
Well enough is, well, enough.

I struggle with perfectionism. The Gifted Child, artificially high standards, abuse, Making [People Love Me/Myself Lovable], etc. (I'm trying very hard not to be more dismissive about this than I am being; there's the temptation to practise self-deprecation rather than self-compassion, and there's also the back-of-brain voice about bragging & self-aggrandising & talk-it-down-or-people-will-hate-you.)

It's better to write a document well enough than to get myself trapped in the spiral of "I don't have the brain for it just yet; I'll put it off until I do; oh gods it's been three months it has to be REALLY GOOD NOW else SO LOSE FACE."

Hypothetical future perfection isn't helpful. First drafts and starting points are - and that's okay.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
No excuses, no explanations, no apologies.

Nobody has to be wrong, but that doesn't mean that nobody is wrong.

The tagline of this post doesn't apply all the time either, of course - but no is a complete sentence. If asking someone to leave my room, or telling someone to stop touching me, or any one of a large number of other things - "get out; stop that" is all I need to say. I don't have to engage in conversations aimed at undermining my boundaries.

I don't owe excuses. I don't owe explanations. I don't owe apologies.

"This is my space and that is not okay" is enough.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[content note: abuse]

Nobody has to be wrong.

A major feature of my childhood was being told that my father didn't care who'd done what, he just wanted us brats to be quiet and stop squabbling, how many times does he have to tell us before we'll get it through our thick heads, and being shouted at or threatened with violence until I parroted "Yes daddy, sorry daddy, I won't do it again daddy."

Surprisingly enough, I ended up with pretty shoddy skills in the general area of conflict resolution.


My first reaction to any conflict - for a long, long time - was self-loathing: I am bad, I am wrong, I have broken everything, if I am abject enough maybe things will be okay eventually.

My first step out of that response was to externalise: if it's not me who was obviously, 100%, vilely wrong - then clearly it's the other party. And off I stalk in my towering righteous rage...

... but of course It's A Bit More Complicated than that. One of my many hats is active listening; my work with [community profile] vaginapagina (on the LJ side, rather than the DW!) requires me to gracefully mediate in conflict resolution on a pretty regular basis. One way or another, I come into contact - very frequently - with the idea that in disputes, a lot of the time an awful lot can be fixed by getting participants back to a point where they can assume good faith of each other. Because both parties have history getting them to the point of conflict...

... and the difficult bit? Turned out to be applying the same principle to myself: the idea that just because I'm having a disagreement with someone doesn't mean I'm awful and inhuman, and also doesn't mean they're awful and inhuman, and that there is in fact a middle path.

Like so many other things, this one is a work in progress for me - but I'm getting better at it, and that's okay.
kaberett: A green origami stegosaurus (origami stegosaurus)
[CONTENT NOTE: abuse - and that will probably be a constant for this series, sadly.]

Assertiveness is not the enemy.

This revelation was so profound for me that the first few times I tried telling anyone about it, it came out as "I've figured it all out! Assertiveness makes me feel bad!" instead.

Like I said, I've been very, very well trained. And in this instance? Well, it hurts that I'm a quick learner.

As it turns out, though, assertiveness isn't the scary bit; it's not what makes me feel bad; it's not the problem.

The problem is the situations that make it necessary for me to be assertive: the ones where I'm not being listened to, or my boundaries are being violated, or I've realised that I haven't previously communicated my needs clearly enough and everything is going to go to hell in a handbasket if I don't speak up right now--

-- and, who'd have thought it, those all turn out to be pretty stressful situations, and contexts in which I'm likely to end up feeling violated. Problem is, having been socialised as female, I've also been taught that I should (how I loathe that word) be meek and quiet and prioritise others' needs above my own no matter the cost - and that if I don't I am selfish and thoughtless and unkind.

It's not terribly surprising, really, that between one thing and another the whole horrible tangle ended up with me dead certain that assertiveness made me feel bad and I should avoid it like the plague.

That's a lie. It's a convincing lie, to be sure, and it's one that abusers have a vested interest in perpetuating, but it's no less false for that.


- as a palate cleanser, I'd like to offer you a phrase I first came across in the context of Courage Wolf, and which is now in my little black book of encouraging or otherwise happy thoughts:

you are never taller than when you stand up for yourself.
kaberett: Lin Beifong, looking hopeful (lin-hope)
This is part one of an irregular series I've been meaning to write for a while: I keep promising people I'll talk about what my counselling is like, and then I don't. So now I am; while knowing this stuff doesn't always lead to gut-deep belief, one of the things that's really helped me is rearticulating ideas I've come across before - because sometimes they click and fit and lock in place, rather than sliding off into the corner with a small sad sproing. And so:

The ice cream is not a lie.

[Content note: discusses abuse.]

Like an awful lot of people, I'm very, very good at working myself up into a twisting, screaming state of panic over something apparently trivial - something where starting is well over 80% of the work.

Like an awful lot of people, for a very long time my reaction to this was to yell at myself: ramp up the self-criticism for being so [insert negative descriptor here] as to not even be able to do [SIMPLE THING IS SIMPLE AMIRITE].

I am pretty sure I know exactly when and where and how this reaction was trained into me. The details aren't important (many unhappy families are, after all, unhappy in very similar ways), but this bit is:

The way out of behaving like a panicked toddler is, for me, dissociating enough to split myself into "toddler" and "adult".

Sometimes this is easier than others; some days I can do an internal monologue, and sometimes I need to vocalise in order to make the words happen. (I have been known to make my way across the big local open spaces, well after dark, well into winter, giving myself an out-loud pep talk. This gets you odd looks, but whatever - it's worked. Think I'm gonna cry - don't know why/Think I'm gonna sing myself a lullaby/Feel free to listen/Feel free to stare...)

I'm good with kids and I'm good with animals. I'm a babysitter. Modelling myself and my reactions as a terrified five-year-old or a skittish foal shows me what tools I need to use to calm myself down: I need to make myself calm and open, I need to move slow, I need to speak softly, and I need to give myself space and love. Those skills are so routine to me that part-dissociated, my "adult" self can do them even when the vast majority of me is curled up under the metaphorical sofa screaming.

So that's what I do: because oddly enough, promises of love and acceptance and support work better to calm me down than screaming and threats of violence. They work much, much better when it comes to making the same stimulus less scary next time.

And the best bit about not actually being five? If what it takes to get my metaphorical toddler across the metaphorical rope bridge is the promise of ice cream, there is nothing that can stop me getting some.

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kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
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