Posted in blog, empowerment, girl blogger, health, Lifestyle, mental health awareness, mental health blogger, positivity, therapy, Uncategorised, Wellness

The Promise

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These are my 6am thoughts.

This is the promise to myself as I traverse yet another pitfall into the dark matter of mental illness as my brain begins releasing more trauma material.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately and haven’t had the energy I would like to have, to write and blog here. I’ve done what I can when I can and that has been in the form of art and instagram shenanigans which provide light relief.

This week I have felt very vulnerable and sad about the level of fragmentation I have ended up with due to childhood trauma. I feel confused about why I am the way I am, I feel ashamed of the memories and flashbacks and doubt they’re real, whilst simultaneously being in no doubt something awful has happened to me. The amnesia surrounding everything just makes me feel like a basket case.

But this morning, at 6AM – I am FURIOUS.

I am apoplectic with righteous rage about the damage done to me. And with that rage comes energy and strength and a renewed vow to never allow trauma to beat me. It broke me as a child and I scattered into a million tiny pieces, so many pieces that I certainly lost parts of myself along the way. But I am an adult now and I will help that child carry all the pieces. We will collect them all and put them back together.

Trauma will not define us. Trauma will not be the end of our story. It will be the fire that lit us. It will be the thing that propels us to the greatest height of success.

Fuck those who hurt us. Fuck those who seek to keep us quiet and who seek to keep us broken and confused and pliable.

Trauma is not the end for me, but the beginning of my ascent. The ascent to happiness, to peace, to joy, to love and belonging and worth and success.

Recovery will be my finest revenge.

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Posted in blog, girl blogger, health, Lifestyle, mental health awareness, mental health blogger, therapy, Uncategorised, Wellness

Self-care matters.

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Self-Care.

Yup, I hear you all groaning. Me too.

But I’m going to talk about it because it is important.

Like everything else, I’ve been on a bit of a journey with self-care. In my 20’s and early 30’s probably, I didn’t take very good care of myself.

As part of my old narrative, I didn’t feel worth it, I didn’t see how it could help me feel better and LOOK better. And to be honest, I was too full to the brim with self-loathing and internalised rage to even consider doing nice things for myself.

I was rapidly gaining a lot of weight, due to an auto-immune disease that saw me have to give up my full-time job and pretty much my life as it was.

I HATED my appearance. I saw how the change in my appearance shocked and concerned others – even though most of them wouldn’t ever dare comment. And those who did dare, had some body shaming comment to make. (Pricks!)

I felt SO out of control. I’d try to diet and end up putting weight ON! I was bereft. My whole life was falling apart. My body was out of control… ravaged by an immune disease that could kill me if I didn’t get it under control and my life was out of my control now too. I couldn’t work, I was bed bound or at least housebound. I became more insular, I didn’t want to be seen.

I was ashamed of myself, my body, and my life – or lack of.

It has taken me over 10 years of being ill and 7 years plus of therapy to untangle it all and really find out who I am. Who I WANT to be!

And really it’s just in the past year or so that something has really clicked inside of me. I have trained myself to have a more nurturing internal voice.

I have finally got some control over that evil inner critic! The one that says, “ you’re fat, your ugly, you can’t do that, you’ll fail, no one likes you, you are unlovable….”

Well he’s piped down a bit. I say he because it seems like a male voice rather than my own.

He still likes to pop up often to let me know he’s still there, but now I have a more motherly protective voice that gives him into trouble for saying nasty things. He seems to bow down to her!

I LOVE my new Motherly internal voice, she really nurtures me and encourages me and makes being me an okay place to be usually. She is a healthy adult, she is the voice of reason and of stability and gentleness and truth.

I’ve had the bad inner critic since I was a tiny child, and so it’s nice to finally have a new voice inside that encourages me to grow instead of one who tries to destroy me and berate me at every turn.

The new motherly voice enables me and stabilises my mood. I no longer feel like things are pointless. I know I have the capacity to mould my life into what I want it to be. I know I am worthy of belonging and of love. I feel energized a lot of the time.

When I first started therapy…. In those dark days I was under a heavy spell of depression and feeling very close to suicide. And when my counsellor at the time used to talk about self-care to make me feel better, I used to get so angry.

I thought to myself “ It doesn’t help. Taking a bubble bath or hugging myself is the most empty and pointless suggestion ever to be made, how DARE she suggest this a serious way to help me not want to die.”

I felt like I was bleeding out right in front of her. I felt like I was showing her all my stab wounds and all of the blood pouring out of me and she was suggesting I hug myself better!

What I desperately needed was to be loved better. Hugged in someone else’s arms for a while. I need taken care of. I felt like I’d survived my whole life by containing myself, by ensuring my own survival amongst a life of turbulence and pretty severe emotional and sometimes physical neglect.

I did my best.

But now I was exhausted. Now someone had to take over or else I’d die – by my own hands.

How could I ever be nice to myself when it had never been modelled for me? I had so many negative internalised messages from family that I couldn’t even find myself anymore. Not that I wanted to. I had cut that girl out my consciousness a long time ago. Rejected the little girl everyone seemed to be repulsed by.

We learn by experience. But I had no experience of being worthy. I didn’t even feel like I deserved to take space in the world.

I so badly needed it modelled to me. How to take care of myself.

I mean, I knew all about self-care, from what I’d read. But I couldn’t make it an experience that was meant for me. I couldn’t imagine how any of it could help my brain which was a terrible place to be.

And here’s what I learned;

IT DOESN’T.

Self-care alone is not going to resolve your mental illness. It won’t even make a bad day better in all likelihood. And on realllllly bad days, you probably won’t manage to get out of bed let alone go for a walk or a bubble bath.

When you are in the middle of a mental health flare up, you most likely need good people around you. Meaningful connection is the antedote to soul-crushing trauma.

However…. What I want to say is this; Self-care is important, even if it isn’t going to make you magically feel better.

Your healing journey has lots of elements to it. If you have mental illness or PTSD then you need a full-body approach. The key to healing is tackling all elements of your being, so activities that help your BODY MIND AND SOUL need to be incorporated into your new routine.

It takes the brain a looooooong time to rewire, so you may not feel the benefits of any of it for months or years to come. And that’s why it’s so easy to just skip on the self-care stuff. Because it doesn’t seem to be helping, right?

But it is helping. They’ll come a day eventually where those things do help. There will come a day when the psychological stuff dials down a bit and it’s then that you’re able to feel the full benefits of self-care activities.

I suppose it’s about drip-feeding your brain positive messages of self-worth. You might not feel worthy of self-care right now and that’s okay – you are where you are, but with enough good therapy and enough commitment from you, there will be a day you feel worthy and deserving of self-care.

And that’s why it’s important to start now, today.

Self-care isn’t always about bubble baths and candles or painting your nails. It’s not that insipid. Self-care is sticking to therapy, not missing sessions. It’s about eating healthier, it’s about getting a routine that works for you, it’s about learning how to establish healthy boundaries, it’s about creating space in the day, to just be you, to rest or to exercise or meditate – whatever you love doing – do more of that! It’s about remembering to take your meds, brushing your teeth, reading about your illness – knowledge is power.

Self-care is about challenging that bloody inner critic that insidiously whispers in your ear day every minute of the day. You can’t allow yourself to passively listen to that voice if you want to heal. You have to start being more aware of what your inner voice is saying. That’s the first step.

Try it. Listen to the voice and what is it saying?

In the beginning of therapy, I was asked to start paying attention to my inner voice and to start challenging the negative stuff.

I was amazed once I actually started paying attention to my internal dialogue how cruel and abusing it was. Some of the stuff I wouldn’t have said to my worst enemy!

I started challenging the voice. I would shout STOP (inside my head not out loud LOL) to stop the negative tape playing over and over.

It was hard to remember to do it, but gradually it became habit. And that negative voice wasn’t so loud. Still there, but not so loud and maybe not quite as mean.

Your therapy journey isn’t a passive one. You need to take control. You need to decide you want it enough. You need to attack the mental illness that you are suffering from, from all sides. Just talking about your issues isn’t going to be enough.

I wish someone had told me that at the beginning. I wish I’d understood what a huge undertaking it would be. And that’s why I’m telling you now.

We all need to start somewhere. No matter where that is, if you take one tiny step most days, it’s still progress and it all adds up pretty quickly.

If you only managed to get out of bed for 15 minutes or shower or open a window… that’s progress. That is a step forward. Congratulations!

Do something today that future you will thank you for.

My self-care focus this week is to really hone in on what I’m eating. I have lost around 35lbs so far but I probably have the same again to lose. I’ve slipped a bit with the nutritional eating so I want to get back on it because when I eat better I feel better. And when I lose weight I feel happier, healthier, and more in control. My mental health improves too and my autoimmune stuff dials down a bit as well.

I also want to cut down on the amount of chemicals in my house. That has also slipped a bit over the summer. So, I am looking at what chemical products I can change for eco-friendly and vegan ones.

I also want to create some self-care printables for you guys this week, so watch this space!

What are your self-care aims this week?

sofia sig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in blog, girl blogger, health, Lifestyle, mental health awareness, mental health blogger, therapy, Uncategorised, Wellness

Choose Your Worth.

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Raise your vibe, teach people how you expect to be treated and accept nothing less!

You deserve to be on this planet. Whether you believe it or not… you belong on earth.You belong to humanity. You belong.

If you feel worthless, then find ways to understand where that comes from, and start healing that wound. Because you being ” worthless” is a lie someone else taught you, but it doesn’t mean you have to accept it as fact!!!

Listen closely to that inner voice that say ” I’m worthless” ” I don’t deserve…..” is it your voice and words you hear or is it someone else’s? A parent’s or an old teacher perhaps?

We aren’t born into this world feeling or believing we are worthless, we are taught it by damaged individuals. And that’s really sad isn’t it?

If you been treated all your life like you aren’t worthy of attention, love and respect, then it’s a long journey to get to a place where you can shrug off the old messages – the shackles of “Worthlessness”. But it isn’t impossible. Not at all. It just takes huge commitment and patience.

I am not throwing out empty quotes and expecting that you can read them and suddenly just change decades of ingrained negative beliefs. But what I am saying is you can begin today. You can take the first step in choosing to reclaim your WORTHINESS. I use the word reclaim, because it’s your birthright, to feel worthy.

It’s not going to be easy and you won’t even believe it to be true. How can you be worthy, when the people around you don’t value you?

Well, two things;

  1. If people in your current life treat you like you are worthless, then it’s time to teach them differently. If they refuse to learn, then you might have to walk away.
  2.  You may have introjects (messages from others that you’ve internalised) from childhood that have now become your own inner voice, behaviour and belief system that says you’re worthless. You will have to work hard, daily, to challenge that voice.

You didn’t have a choice in the past about feeling worthless, but you do have a choice now. Every day from now onwards is a choice – stay in the lie of your unworthiness OR move out of that and choose to believe in your worth and take steps towards a healthier more truthful self.

Start now, start today! Time to rise.

sofia sig

So you think you need therapy?

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*I am providing a link to a helpful and FREE printable comprehensive interview questions worksheet at the end of this article.*

 

So, you think you need therapy?

You probably do.

Everyone could do with a little bit of therapy in my humble opinion! And there’s no more shame in going to a therapist than going to the dentist or Doctor. It’s good mental and spiritual hygiene to take care of your inner world.

If you’re thinking about going for therapy then there’s most likely elements of your life no longer working for you. The fact that you’re aware of that and know that you need help is great and you’re already ahead of the game. Your self-awareness will stand you in good stead.

When I started looking for a therapist, all I knew was that I was clinically depressed at times yet high functioning. I suffered a lot of anxiety. I was totally miserable inside yet covering it up from everyone in my life and that the next bout of depression would probably finish me off.

I couldn’t understand why sometimes I was determined to end my own life (and had tried several times over the years) and yet there was nothing wrong with my present life and ultimately, I didn’t really want to die. I did AND I didn’t at the same time.

I was full of shame, I felt like a fake. How could I want to die and yet past a smile on my face, and go to work and look and sound so damn normal? How could I be feeling find one minute and then an hour later feel in the depths of despair but not know why? Why did I feel so empty?

I now know why. And looking back, I had NO idea what I was going to uncover about myself through the process of therapy. I was sure I was just a malingerer or an attention seeker or just desperate for undeserved sympathy. I hated myself with a passion for all of it.

But yeah, I was literally stunned to learn that I was suffering from trauma – complex trauma to be precise which is basically sustained traumatic events in childhood caused by attachment disruption with a parent, divorce, neglect, emotional and physical abuse, bullying, domestic abuse in the household, addiction problems in the family and mental illness in parent/s. You get the picture.

Before I started therapy, I was sure any therapist would think I wasn’t in need of a therapist, that there wasn’t really anything wrong with me and that my childhood was pretty normal (which I thought it was) and they’d think I was just on a big “ poor me” trip.

I soon learned that it was quite the opposite. They took me seriously and they went as far as to identify some pretty toxic dynamics in my childhood. I was diagnosed with complex trauma. And there started the journey of a lifetime, which isn’t over yet.

But back to you…. All of that is to say, don’t assume you know everything there is to know about yourself and your family and that if you feel like you need therapy it’s because you’re weak or attention-seeking or just born miserable and broken. It’s not true, you’re none of those things.

In fact in my 7 years of therapy experience, it’s only the strong and the brave who turn up and who stick it out.

If you’re feeling bad then you deserve support. Go get it.

It’s hard to know where to start, if you’ve never been in therapy, how do you know what you really need? How do you pick the right therapist for you? How do you pick the right kind of therapy?

It’s a minefield!

There’s a ton of information out there about how to find a therapist, so I’m not going to go over it here.

But I do have some tips in order to help you find the therapist who is the best fit for you.

Before we start though, I want to say, obviously am not a mental health professional, I am a client, a service-user, a patient – whatever you want to call it. I can’t know what you need and I can only give you the benefit of my experience, so feel free to take what’s helpful and leave what isn’t. Do your own thinking and your own research into what you think you might need.

Also, I am in the United Kingdom, so our processes here are different from other countries so be aware of that.

If you’re an absolute newbie to the world of therapy and don’t have a therapist yet, then my tips are

  • Research, Research, Research! Ensure any therapist you find is fully registered with an ethics board to practice in the U.K that’s the BACP, UKCP for counsellors and psychotherapists. Be aware that at present, anyone in the U.K can legally call themselves a therapist even if they aren’t trained as one. So, make sure any potential therapist is listed with a governing body.
  • You should know that even therapist’s who are fully registered can be shit at their job. Like every profession, there’s the good, the bad and the damn right ugly! So be aware of what a “Good Therapist” is and know what the red flags are and when to get the hell out of there! ( I will cover good practice and red flags in another post soon.)
  • More expensive or more qualified doesn’t necessarily translate to better therapy. I’ve heard some real horror stories of terrible practice from Psychologists who charge the earth, and conversely heard some heart-warming, beautiful stories of excellent practice from counsellors and psychotherapists who charge half the price. What’s important is that you and your potential therapist are a good match personality wise. Training of course is very important but I know of psychologists who are not up to scratch on the most up-to date research on neuroscience and complex trauma yet still practice claiming they know how to deal with trauma, using training they had as a student 20 years ago! And equally I know of other therapists who are really enthusiastic about learning and training and have an area of specialised interest – those are the type you want!!
  • If you have adverse childhood experiences- things that affected you as a child, as outlined above, then you might have complex-trauma and you will want a therapist who is well versed and experienced in working with complex trauma. – Just a heads up- I learned to my detriment, that trauma is a bit of a fashionable buzzword in the therapy industry and many therapists claim to work with trauma and have taken courses, only to find out their “trauma course” was a two day seminar on PTSD or single event trauma like car crashes or house fire. That isn’t going to help you if you’re suffering sustained childhood trauma. So, look into their training,what kind of CPD (Continued Professional Development) they do and how often and to what depth, check their area of expertise. Therapist’s understanding what complex trauma is and knowing how to treat it are two vastly different things, you really want a therapist who has a deep understanding of what it is and empathy for it as well as a great interest in it and of learning more as needed.
  • Before looking for a therapist, take some time to think about your needs. Make a wish list of what your perfect therapist would look like, not necessarily physically, but what you would want from your perfect therapist in an ideal world? Male/female? Warm or clinical? Formal or informal? Young or old? How many sessions per week would you like versus how much in reality you can afford. Do you think you’ll need outside session support such as email, text or phonecall? Are 50 minute session okay or would you prefer 60 mins, or 75 mins etc? Write it all down, not matter how unlikely your wish-list is. And that’s your start point. Then look at which parts of that list are negotiable, which are deal-breakers and which don’t matter but would be an added bonus. Once you have all that, start looking for your new therapist to be!
  • Lots of therapists offer a free first consultation or at least 15 minutes of their time to answer any questions you have. But some don’t, some will charge a full fee. It’s up to you whether that sits well with you. It doesn’t for me. At the first point of contact, as far as I’m concerned it’s an interview. US interviewing THEM! No one else gets paid to go to an interview or to pitch for a job so why the hell are we paying therapists for their interview? That’s just my personal opinion though, it’s up to you how you feel about that.
  • It’s okay, preferable even, to interview several therapists that might be a good fit. Even if you think you’ve found “ the one” at the first ever interview stage, it might still be worth while just seeing the others you like too. However, if the therapists you like all charge you for their first point of contact chat, then that could be costly.
  • At the interview stage, take questions, ask them LOTS of questions! You want to get the best fit possible. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than building a therapy relationship with someone for months and becoming fond of them or attached even and then discovering they aren’t suited to you or not well enough trained. When a therapy relationship doesn’t work out, it can sometimes feel like a break-up! I shit you not, you’ll feel like you’ve just broken up with your first love… it’s traumatic. You’ll cry, and mope, and pine for months. So it’s best avoided as much as humanly possible. Obviously not everyone will react in that way, but if you have attachment issues there’s a good chance that’s how you’ll feel!
  • Don’t expect to feel an instant connection. It can happen, but with all relationships it takes time. It’s normal to not be sure of them or not even sure if you like them that much. If you have an instant dislike, then they’re probably not for you. But if there’s things you like and they “fit” on paper, but you’re just not feeling much about them, give it time. You both need to warm to one another, get to know one another and get a bit comfortable with one another. First impressions aren’t always the most accurate. I’d suggest giving it at least 8-12 sessions before deciding, if you can.
  • Good Luck!

Lastly, I want to address the people who know or suspect they have complex trauma caused by adverse experiences in childhood. You may not fully understand yet exactly how those experiences have affected you but you probably are feeling pretty shitty inside or numbed out or angry or hyper-vigilant.

If you already know/suspect that you’ve been affected by trauma or simply parents who didn’t meet your needs as a child, for whatever reason (even well meaning parents can totally misread their child needs and is traumatic for a child) then I want you to be really careful when picking a therapist.

Complex trauma is…. Well…. It’s complex!! Trauma doesn’t just reside in your feelings, your thoughts, your brain. Research shows that trauma very much lies in your body. Whether you’re aware of it or not. There are signs of trauma stored in the body if you know the symptoms. There’s huge amounts of info out there if you’re interested.

As such, I think as a lay person who also has trauma stored in my body, that it is essential you get a therapist who is trained in body psychotherapy such as somatic experiencing therapy, or at least a therapist that is at least aware of how the body is impacted by trauma and work with a “bottom up” approach, which basically means, working with the body signals (your fight or flight, your felt sense of your body or lack of feeling in your body) first before delving into the trauma material. And that therapist should be willing to work in a more body based way.

Other good therapies for complex trauma are *Schema Therapy, *Family Systems, Art therapy, Drama/music therapy, play therapy (yes even for adults!) *Transactional Analysis –

*not a body orientated therapy but very much delves into the fragmented parts of self and the psyche and child states.

There’s probably lots more therapy out there that I haven’t mentioned, the list isn’t exhaustive. And some of it might not feel right for you. This is all just a guide remember.

I have a FREE list of printable interview questions you may want to ask a prospective therapist. I compiled it when I was looking for a new therapist and was very anxious to get the right therapist for me. I am sharing them here for you to print off if you wish.

This list is personal to my needs at the time, and the questions are especially relevant if you’ve already been through therapy and know the ropes and the pitfalls and really know what you need and want. It will be good for those with complex trauma and attachment disorders (yes adults have disordered attachment patterns!)

But it you are a therapy newbie, you can print off the questions as a guide and I have made space there for any questions of your own you might want to add.

sofia sig