Personal, Promotional

A Romance with My Recovery

This is the longest I’ve been single since I was a teenager. 

I never knew just how much I needed and would value this time alone. My last attempt at a serious relationship only ended a year ago and I can still remember how crushed I felt that things hadn’t worked out again.

For a little while, my main concerns were whether or not I’d ever meet anybody again and whether I’d ever feel truly in love. I worried that maybe I just wasn’t relationship material. I wondered if I ever really was. I told myself, with a sinking heart,  that perhaps nobody will ever love me again.

Talking to my friend, Donna, about my relationship woes over the last Christmas period, she strongly advised me to take time for myself. She reminded me that I hadn’t had that – not really – for a long time and that I need to learn to love myself again.

I didn’t know what else to do, but to take her advice seriously, so I began to try.

Fast-forward several months, and not only had I been diving into every self love self-help workshop I could find, but I was slowly starting to live my life exactly how I always wanted to.

I started focusing on all of the dreams and goals I’d been mulling over for years. I started to achieve things I kept putting off because it was never the right time or because I kept finding bad excuses.

I was learning that loving myself meant understanding myself and managing negative thought patterns that had me getting in my own way. I realised loving myself is about being true to my real self. But first, I’d have to get to know myself again.

It’s amazing how much of yourself you can lose in relationships if you’re not careful.

Alone, silently
the bamboo shoot
becomes a bamboo

– Santoka

I had a feeling when I turned 29 in 2017, that 2018 and turning 30 would herald some sort of major transformation for me and that’s exactly what this year has been about.

I had been through my fair share of trauma and had never taken any time to recover, thinking I could just stuff things down and keep on moving. Yet, I wasn’t really moving at all because I placed no importance whatsoever on healing past hurts.

I never considered that I shouldn’t date anybody until I’d dealt with myself properly. It didn’t seem logical to let someone pass me by if we liked each other. But my relationships, good or bad, were partly what was distracting me from doing the important stuff.

I wasn’t even living the life I want and parts of my twenties had dissolved into some sort of sad blur.

The truth is, I probably will meet someone again, I probably will love again and of course I’m relationship material; I got married once already, didn’t I? But there’s no rush. I stopped being concerned about romance months ago and I’m so happy with the way things are right now. I can focus entirely on my son and recovering whatever I’d lost.

This last year has seen me gaining qualifications that help me towards my career goals. I’ve gone back to my spiritual roots and stopped pretending to be someone else to avoid ridicule. I started setting goals, writing bucket-lists, facing fears, forcing myself out of my comfort zone and even decided to follow one of my dreams, literally.

Some time earlier this year, I discovered a London-based rock band on Instagram. I can’t ever get enough of music, so I always tend to check out the bands that fall into my lap and I enjoyed this band enough that I immediately bought every song I could get my hands on.

That band was Romances – an appropriate moniker for the five musicians who unknowingly became part of my journey of self love and healing!

39535859_1925632690808876_5271046575915794432_n.jpg
Romances at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – photo by James Canavan

I was casually enjoying their music from time to time to begin with and thought to myself that maybe I’d see them live some day. Then all of a sudden, I started having dreams of going to watch them play.

After the first dream, I remember waking up thinking it must have been because I’d watched one of their videos on social media. But then the dreams kept happening, once or twice a week, and at first I was a bit confused. I hadn’t listened to them that much, but I seemed to be their biggest fan in my sleep.

As strange as it may sound, my dreams of Romances putting on an awesome show are what got me more invested and listening more to the band. I certainly wanted to see them play, but deep down I was sure that no matter how much I told myself I would go, I’d probably never get around to it.

I’m always seeing shows and events I want to go to, but I’ve never gone because a lot of my friends are usually busy or simply uninterested in the music I enjoy. Music is the most important form of art in my life, yet I’d rarely been to see bands play live.

Though I spent a lot of time in London when I was dating my ex and was more than accustomed to travelling there alone, I’d never gone on a ‘night out’ alone. I’ve travelled as far as America alone, but I’d never been to a pub or club on my own and the thought of it just seemed terrifying!

Wouldn’t I look like a total loser, lingering around with no friends to accompany me? Wouldn’t it be dangerous?

I would have pushed it all to the back of mind, but then, Romances released their first single, Parallels. Soon after, the famous American singer Billy Ray Cyrus was telling his fans to “check out” the song. By this point, I was familiar with the band members names, extremely impressed with their talent and had watched every video they uploaded to social media.

I was turning into what my ex described as a “Romances super-fan” just like I was in my dreams. And of course, the dreams continued.

It is a positive sign to dream of a band or musical group playing live music. It usually refers to a good level of spirituality in your life, which brings you a lot of inner peace and contentment.

AuntyFlo.com

I wondered if the dreams meant something and it occurred to me that maybe I just needed to go! I had so many fears surrounding going out alone, being seen alone and getting into some sort of trouble, that I realised that perhaps a trip to London was exactly what my soul had ordered.

If you want a better life, it’s no good staying constraints of your comfort zone, hanging onto pointless fears! Life is about growing, changing and doing new things. If I could get on a plane to fly to America all by myself, I could probably take a trip to the pub alone, even if it did require several hours travelling.

I’ve spent much of my adult life not going to see bands I really wanted to see because my mind was always coming up with a hundred bad reasons not to.

I finally went for the first time in August, despite the nerves. I had quite a lot of fun alone in London. I did meet with my ex briefly, seeing him for the first time since we split. He joined me for two drinks and then left, with me free to do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about anybody else all night.

I made a friend at the bar, Yarek, and though I was mostly trying to sneak around unnoticed, he informed Ashby (guitarist) of Romances I’d travelled to see them play and before I knew it, I’d met the whole band and was spilling my guts to them about how much I loved their music. They were all so friendly and I’d managed to get through the night without much trouble at all!

The only issue I encountered was one that I think is quite typical for women, whether they’re alone or accompanied; I attracted the unwanted attention of a couple of men that evening and one was following me around for a while. I wont play it down as an issue. This is quite a serious issue that is, in part, one of the reasons I’ve been too terrified to go out alone.

I hadn’t really known how to deal with unwanted attention and that’s probably one thing I’ve yet to learn, but Soufian (bassist) spotted what was going on. He somehow managed to get rid of the man, quickly, with little more than a glare and declaring we’d ignore him.

Regardless of the behaviour of some intimidating men, I ended up having a wonderfully memorable night, for all the right reasons. I couldn’t stop smiling for days.

I enjoyed the support bands, Big Peyote and Rival Karma. Yarek insisted that I would love Rival Karma and he was absolutely right! They quickly became another favourite of mine.

38810957_2103069013248982_3307585032255700992_n
Rival Karma at The Monarch, Camden, 7th August 2018 – Photo by James Canavan

Rival Karma knew Yarek, so thanks to them, I was able to track him down on social media and stay in touch. And since first seeing them live, I’ve also been able to enjoy them treating their fans to a little live music on Instagram when I’ve been stuck at home, something they may never know just how much I appreciate.

(Or there was that time I was watching while walking around Tesco, attracting the gazes of everybody I walked past, but suddenly caring a whole lot less if I looked like a ‘loser’.)

I’ve enjoyed watching the bands so much, I ended up returning to London again twice this week so that I can see all three bands again. I also got myself tickets to see several other bands and wrote another bucket-list, specifically for all the bands I’m determined to see.

I took myself on a date to Daphne Restaurant in Camden, somewhere I’d always wanted to go when I was spending so much time in London. My ex and his girlfriend joined me to watch Romances this time and whereas that sort of situation might be awkward for some people, I had the best night with them. I’m so grateful to have them as friends.

After my experiences recently, now when I want to go anywhere, I don’t suppose that I wont go based on fear. Being alone certainly wont stop me! Now I know that I’ll probably go wherever I want to. My comfort zone has gotten a whole lot bigger all of a sudden.

I’m starting to think I was always supposed to go and see Romances eventually and I knew it, deep in my soul. It felt like destiny that I’d almost ignored, a chance to romance myself.

Advertisements
Personal

The Journey Begins: About the Author

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

post

I begin my career in complementary therapies in the summer of 2018, starting to see clients for Nutritional Therapy and brainstorming ways I can provide more, valuable services. It’s of course not clear yet if I’ll still be doing this in a year, in two years or even in ten years. I could end up taking another direction in life! However, as I never stopped wanting to finish counselling training and support people who might be having difficulties in life, I’m feeling confident today that I’m on the right path.

I was only 12 years old when I first had counselling training with Vale of Berkeley College. It was agreed among staff that students might benefit from having a team of “peer counsellors” available to talk to. They felt students in need may feel more comfortable opening up to people their own age, so about three students each from Years 8 through to sixth form were selected to receive specialist training from the school counsellor.

Staff invited students to apply for the role of peer counsellor and I was later informed I’d been selected because they thought I was a perfect candidate. The Deputy Head explained that though I was still so young, I seemed to have “lived” more than my peers and was noticeably already struggling with mental health issues myself, putting me in the perfect position to understand others going through a hard time.

I attended a three day training course at a pleasant countryside resort with about 15 other students. We never received official qualifications for the training done, but I’d say it was valuable training that had a tremendous impact on my belief system and helped shape the adult I eventually became.

I never stopped believing after that training that every young person would benefit from taking the course. Imagine being trained at the age of 12 to study your own prejudices, recognise them for what they are and come to the understanding they are not valuable beliefs! Imagine exercising your skills in empathy, listening and offering constructive and supportive feedback to those in need!

I can’t say I always effectively used the skills throughout my life and that I’ve been perfect. I can’t say I was always the best listener outside of a counsellor/client setting. I certainly can’t say that as I grew older, new prejudiced beliefs didn’t creep in that I’d eventually notice and challenge. But I can say I’ve been trained in such a way there’s a heightened awareness of these things upon self-reflection and such awareness of your faults is necessary for self improvement.

In my first training course, we covered more than just the basics covered in my OCN Level 1 counselling training course taken 6 years later. I began Level 2 shortly after completing Level 1, but my own mental health issues were so severe, I abandoned the notion of ever being able to support anybody.

I thought ‘Why would anybody ever want my help?’

25398714_167175834034173_2634550539205184779_n
Me during the summer of 2017. Still feeling very much like an alien.

At the time, I didn’t realise that most people working in psychotherapies and counselling (and other forms of therapies) are usually drawn towards healing professions because they have suffered themselves.

Carl Jung coined the term Wounded Healer to describe such people and so, professionals receive counselling and therapies themselves throughout training and during their careers to ensure they do not carry their wounds into sessions, thus potentially having a negative impact on their ability to help a client.

I have left it too long to begin counselling training again at Level 2, and must take the Level 1 training again, which I hope to begin next year. I think the timing will be perfect, as it is only now after many years of issues that I am finally on the real road to recovery and starting a new chapter in life. The time is right!

Throughout my difficulties, I have sought therapy over the years with the NHS and been rejected time and time again for various reasons. I am just waiting to find out if I will be rejected again or finally going to be having therapy. I begin studying psychology this autumn, after years of studying mental health and human nature at my leisure and being encouraged to go university because understanding people is supposedly one of the things I’m good at.

In the mean time, as well as completing a course in Nutritional Therapy and beginning to see clients, I continue to study nutrition at basic levels. I have taken some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy training and a course in Mindfulness and am trying to prepare myself for the huge (but slightly terrifying) moment I can officially get back to work after years of sickness and all my time spent as a stay-at-home mum.

The nature of my issues are quite complex, with me having been “signed off” for life. Nobody expects me to ever be able to function in society properly even as the unemployed, never mind at work!

I suffer tremendously with a disorder known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and quite frankly has been life-ruining. I’ve also over the years accumulated a stack of diagnoses, including a diagnosis of a personality disorder I have challenged repeatedly; Depression; Anxiety; an eating disorder; Agoraphobia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I also have physical issues such as joint complaints and a long-standing sports injury from my younger, more active years known as Chondromalacia Patellae which has been causing me immense pain and mobility issues for almost 20 years now.

I don’t feel any of these labels adequately describe the difficulties I’ve had, but it would take much longer to explain why I’ve been deemed such a “write off”, and at such a young age too! Let’s just say I am no stranger to being called “crazy”, however, and stigma follows me wherever I go.

Who knows exactly where my mental health difficulties began? I feel most of the worst things that have ever happened to me, happened after leaving school. That’s when I faced the worst kinds of hardship and trauma, not limited to total poverty and abuse. That’s when I abused alcohol and cannabis as coping mechanisms. That’s when authorities really started to notice my existence.

My last mental and emotional breakdown was incredibly recent – just before my last period. All my knowledge and skills are no match for PMDD when I am not more actively working on preventing it’s symptoms through better management and coping strategies.

I don’t feel like I had a particularly bad childhood at home, though I sometimes suppose that watching age inappropriate movies was not healthy. My father left when I was very young and I have only a few memories of him. I particularly remember finding school horrible, not wanting to go and that every bit of teasing and bullying from my peers deeply affected me.

I was a happy, but sensitive young child and by the time I got to secondary school I was miserable. What started out as sadness when I felt so constantly rejected by my peers started to transform into anger. I was angry with everyone, and angry at the “system”, forcing me into schools that I deemed nothing but little prisons to brainwash and prepare children for some sort of lifetime of enslavement.

Some teachers thought I was a genius. If they liked me, I was usually one of their favourites! It was obvious some other teachers thought I was a “bad kid” with behavioural issues and, quite amusingly, as well as being a peer counsellor, I was also placed in anger and behavioural management classes on and off for three years with the fantastic Rob Turner, who I believe might have been the brother of famous TV chef, Brian.

I’ve joked before that at school I was every character of The Breakfast Club, rolled into one. I was smart and athletic, so – when I felt like it – quite the high achiever. I was also the “basket-case” and “criminal”, often in trouble, finding myself suspended or placed in isolation. I was even “the princess”, something I never truly realised until well after I’d left school and understood that I wasn’t widely hated like I told myself, and actually had plenty of friends!

It’s taken me years to “get over” school and stop blaming it for ruining my life!

As an adult, I believe that mental and physical health issues are so prevalent in the west, because we’re genuinely doing a lot wrong and we’re doing it to people from birth. I can’t say I always agree with the way things are run and I never did. Perhaps, that’s, in part, why I became unwell in the first place.

So, I wonder, what I can do to help people on an individual level, and what can I do to make a larger impact on society on the whole and begin to effect positive change?

Is it partaking in marches, screaming until I’m blue in the face about political matters, social issues and so on, or can I find other, less mentally exhausting and potentially damaging ways to do something about the state of public health?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll do a little bit of it all. You’ll have to keep on reading to find out how I’ve chosen to continue my own journey of recovery and supporting others around the world in their own.