This morning I am at a loose end to the point where even my tedious but necessary admin work is up to date. This is a dangerous state for me. I start pondering all sorts of things from the mundane (what to cook for dinner tonight) all the way to the downright weird. Today’s thought stream is more of a raging torrent when I have nothing in particular to focus on. Cue a session with the Headspace app. There’s nothing quite like a ten minute mindfulness meditation to calm the thoughts and give the mind space to just be.
Towards the end of the meditation, there is a short section where the mind is allowed to wander off and do its own thing. Mine decided to wander off in search of inspiration for a blog post, this blog post. I asked for inspiration and found it a few minutes later in my inbox. Just one email, but with an intriguing title – The Sending to Coventry Game
Reading the first few paragraphs reminded me so much of my own experience at secondary school. The girls in my form used a variety of attacks, from taunting me about my clothes (domineering mother sent me to school looking like I was still at primary school), name calling, kicking, punching or lobbing fireworks over the toilet stall, to pretending I didn’t exist, enlisting the entire class in their games.
Every morning I would be physically sick at the thought of another day at school. My mother and my teachers trotted out the same tired, useless advice every time I tried to get help. How is “just ignore them” or “put on a brave face” helpful to a person? Is it any wonder I lost faith and trust in the adults around me? All it did was teach me to grit my teeth and deny my own feelings. Whilst I did not suffer physical scarring, my self-confidence was quite a different story.
I have menopause to thank for finally kicking my butt into action. I had no idea that I literally gritted my teeth. After several trips to see a chiropractor to help relieve the pain in my jaw, she recommended I have an informal chat with one of the other healthcare professionals in the practice, a psychologist.
At first I was extremely sceptical. I didn’t believe the mind could be responsible for physical pain. Additionally, I felt that psychology was mostly airy-fairy stuff, lacking solid proof of efficacy. It is a measure how just how desperate I was, and how much I trusted my chiropractor, than I took her advice.
Before my first appointment my anxiety levels were at an all time high. What if she thinks I am losing my mind? I certainly felt like it. What if she can’t help? Will I have to lie on a couch and talk about my childhood?
The actual experience was slightly different. To answer my own questions, no she did not think I was losing my mind. I was going through the menopause and it was prompting me to address my past traumas. Yes she could help. She did not have the ubiquitous couch in the consulting room. Instead she had very comfortable armchairs, flowers, and a box of tissues. And the childhood? Yes, she expected me to talk about this at great length.
For the first time in my life, I had permission to talk about all my feelings. I was allowed to be angry, sad, happy. I was actively encouraged to feel my own feelings without judgement. I have to say I was terrified of feeling sad and letting my tears flow. What if they never stopped? What if I howled like a baby waiting to be soothed? What if, in my anger, I let rip with some choice swear words? What if, after all the years of bottling my feelings and disconnecting from my emotions, what if I just couldn’t do it?
With Dr Siskin’s gentle help I found the keystone and pulled. Down came the wall. Over the next few months everything came out during my weekly sessions. Gradually I began to feel better in myself, less anxious and afraid of the changes in my body.
With my mind more open to psychological help I was able to work out why my jaw was so sore… I had gritted my teeth in order to bite back my feelings as opinions and to keep my face neutral. Menopause was demanding a change. Part of my therapy involved freeing my voice, letting my feelings show and honouring my emotions.
I found this relatively easy to practice with my husband and children but not so much with my mother. Along with the bullies, she is the reason I buried my feelings in the first place. She brooks no opposition to anything. Her way or the highway. Well I had a new option, agree to differ and trust my intuition to guide me.
So where am I today. My therapy is at an end by mutual agreement. I felt I no longer needed the weekly sessions and Dr Siskin agreed. I no longer look for approval from my mother. I will never get it and I don’t need it. Much to my kids and hubby’s amazement (and occasional irritation) I have found my voice. I sing when I feel like it, a true hairbrush diva, and I try to make time just for me every day, even if it’s only ten minutes.
So here I am, at a certain age, not caring a jot about what anyone thinks of me. I probably don’t want to know and it’s none of my business anyway.