Category Archives: self awareness

Therapy and mirrors

I had a telephone consultation with my GP (doctor) this morning. He is happy with regards to me starting my antidepressants again and I already referred myself for the NHS counselling service. I have been put on a waiting list for 6 sessions and in addition I am currently following an on line CBT programme. I’m grateful to have access to anything that might help and willing to give things a go. I’m not loving the online course I have to say. There’s a lot of information I already know. My problem seems to be with using the strategies. It’s all very logical and sensible but bloody impossible when you feel like crap and logic and sense have done a runner.

Overall, I haven’t had a lot of success with counselling. I had 6 sessions CBT face to face when I was initially diagnosed as depressed and anxious. This was organised through work. I’d go as far to say, it was a load of rubbish and a waste of time. I hadn’t taken any medication at that point in proceedings and I was in a bit of a state. The lady was lovely but I just said what she wanted to hear. When she suggested I looked at myself in the mirror every morning and say the words ‘I love you’, I just knew we were on a completely different wavelength. After the final session I walked out feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that I didn’t have to go back again!

My next dabble into the wonderful world of therapy was a locally run charity. My cousin had recommended it. There was a long waiting list but after 4 months I had my first session. Unfortunately, within 3 weeks of starting, my mental health hit an all time low and I had stopped eating. I saw the GP again and there was no choice really. Time to medicate. I continued with the counselling and we talked about a whole range of things. It was more helpful than before and certainly, with the antidepressants kicking in, I did feel more positive. That said, though it’s nice to have someone to talk to and not judge, I honestly don’t think it changed anything for me. It was interesting and I learnt a few new things but in terms of it improving how I was feeling or dealing with life stuff, it didn’t. Again, the counsellor, Sharon, felt I had done really well in the sessions and called them to a close. I am really good at talking the ‘counselling and therapy talk’ by the way. I don’t know why I do it because it doesn’t do me a single favour. I still do it though.

This is most definitely a cycle. I stopped the meds not long after this period of counselling because I felt well again. Yup, you guessed it, within 4 months I had re-referred myself back to the same charity and had started sessions again, with a new counsellor, this time a man. A few weeks in, I was back on antidepressants and so it goes on. I think I possibly took more from the counselling that time. He gave me lots to read and research and I learned so much about personal development. By this stage I felt I deserved a degree. I still however could not apply it to myself. Or maybe I just didn’t try. Again, the sessions came to a natural end. I was one of the hardest working clients he’d had. Same old story. Top of the therapy class. Gold star. Still no real progress for me though.

Not long after these sessions finished I gave up drinking alcohol. Interestingly my reliance and addiction to booze had never come up in any of my counselling or therapy sessions. I’d touched on it and I’d always been open and honest about how much I’d been drinking. On reflection I think they dropped the ball with that. Since being sober I have felt so much better. Sure there are times when it’s been horrible to have to experience the emotions without having wine as my crutch but I am more honest with myself and others. I’m not giving up on counselling or therapy, I just not sure what it can give me anymore. Whilst sober and taking antidepressants I can use the information and the strategies and yes, they work. Take away the meds and it’s like I’ve never heard of triggers, behaviours, reframing etc. Maybe I’m not cut out for counselling. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘fit’. Maybe it will finally be successful one day. I am absolutely sure of two things though. One, taking the medication only ever really worked when I was sober. Two, I am never going to stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I love you’. Just saying.

Claire x

Today

I have a mindfulness journal. I found it in a cheap bookshop and art store. It was £3. I have almost filled it with thoughts and emotions. There are exercises and prompts to help focus my writing and one of the final questions was …

What do I want to do today?

I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination but this is what I wrote ..

Today I want to move forward 
Today I want to feel acceptance and gratitude
Today I want love, peace and kindness
Today I want calm
Today is a day for people who love, respect and care for me
Today I want to let go
Today I want mindfulness, joy and laughter
Today I want nature and fresh air
Today I want family
Today I want friends
Today I want to look in the mirror and say ‘I like you, you’re ok’
Today I want to breathe
Today is the day it happens
Today I will move forward

The instruction was to write down one thing but as always I went rogue and created a huge ‘to do list!’ I won’t accomplish it all today, but TODAY is where it begins.

Love Claire xx

Waxing lyrical

Goodness it’s been a little while since I caught up with my blog. I find it easier to write about things that have been happening in my life rather than selecting a ‘topic’ so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I think I won’t have any particular order to my ramblings today. I’ll just write as things pop into my head.

On Monday evening this week I was taken aback by seeing photos of many English residents heading out in droves to the seaside and country locations. Pictures or large groups of people sat together and close to other groups. My husband said it was rammed in our local park where he had ridden with the boys. Gangs of lads and girls, groups of adults clearly from mixed families. I honestly thought I had missed a vital government announcement thar lockdown was cancelled. Turns out this virus is so fragile it’s fading out all by itself. Maybe there was a nugget of info I’d glossed over whilst trying to wade through the reports of disgusting and incongruous behaviour of Mr Cummings. But no! I hadn’t missed anything new. We were still in lockdown with strict guidelines that we should only meet one other person, in a public outside area and remain 2 metres away. What is wrong with people? Stop being so bloody self centred!

I’m struggling with a friend of mine who considers herself to have a more ‘relaxed’ attitude than some, proudly announcing that she’s non-conformist but not judging anyone else. I think it totally passed her by that referring to her approach as relaxed immediately places a judgement on the behaviour of others as uptight and OTT. But then she was never one to have much self awareness or consideration for others. Probably why she’s able to feel so relaxed when she risks the health and well-being of others to meet her own immediate needs. Before sobriety I would’ve responded to messages from her with little thought for the consequences of speaking my mind. Now I make a considered decision whether it’s worth putting across my point of view. I decided in this case not. I did make it clear that I take different actions, whilst acknowledging that it’s her own choice. Not drinking has allowed me to let these things go and not create further tension when it’s unhelpful and not needed.

I took a few days annual leave over our bank holiday weekend. Loads of decluttering, moving my youngest son into a larger room and all his consoles upstairs into a ‘gaming’ room. This leaves the back room downstairs for me and the guinea pigs. It’s bright and sunny. I have my office space in the corner, I can lie my yoga mat out easily and I have my boy’s keyboard in there ready to learn piano on my new app. Biscuit, Toffee and I are all set in our new space. It felt good to declutter. We carried on with the garage too. On Monday I took the day to relax. No housework. No food shopping. Yoga, a walk and the new task I had to accomplish… leg waxing. Don’t worry, I am used to having my legs waxed. I’m not totally nuts. I have never attempted it myself though. I must admit, after a few false starts, where I’d clearly not followed the direction of hair growth (tricky to work that one out) and when one piece of waxing strip managed to get stuck to my coffee mug, the table and my finger, I did ok. Fairly smooth and shiny. Unfortunately I’d carried out this activity outside on a sunny day and by the evening I was smooth, shiny, bright red and sore.

I have discovered some lovely walking routes close by our house. All these years and I never knew they were there. My mum and I finally met up for a walk for the first time since March. It was a glorious day and we managed around 5 miles. My mum is 76 – pretty bloody amazing too. My running has slipped. I can’t find my running mojo. As I said to one of my lovely bloggers the other day, I keep looking for it in the biscuit tin and chocolate drawer of the fridge but it’s never there, or if it is, I’m far too distracted by the bar of wholenut or the chocolate covered almonds to notice it. I’ve stuck with yoga every day. Only 20 to 40 minutes. I’m not losing any weight but I find it very soothing and relaxing. I must be the only person who gave up alcohol and gained weight!

Today, when I left for work I received a huge bouquet of flowers. It was a thank you from a lady who lives in the street next to ours. I didn’t know her before the lockdown but she contacted me via my leaflets offering support. I’ve been doing her food shop for her as her son became ill and then went rapidly downhill with COVID-19. Happily, after a stint in hospital on a ventilator, he recovered and is now much better. I was totally taken aback by the flowers and sent the lady a text to thank her. She said I’d been the light in an extremely dark time. I honestly don’t think anyone has ever said anything nicer to me.

My beautiful flowers

I will stop now. I have some other things I planned to touch on but I’ll leave those for another day. Right now I’d like to go play some scrabble with a good friend. Sending you all love and hugs 🤗

Love Claire xx

Easter kindness

I have to say, I don’t always find writing on my own blog very easy. I love reading other people’s and commenting but I just can’t seem to find the right words for my own post. Having said that, I’ve sat myself down in front of the lap top and I think I’m just going to chat about my Easter weekend. Just roll that dice, take a chance and have a ramble!

On Friday (Good Friday) it was a luxury to wake up late and not have to switch on my work laptop or check my phone for work emails. I have been grateful for work in recent weeks, its kept me occupied and stopped me descending into the Claire world of over thinking life, the universe and everything. I was so exhausted by Friday though and I made a purposeful decision to not ‘work’ at all for the Easter break. I lounged about in the morning, drinking tea, reading blogs and catching up with friends via what’s app. Then I went into the garden. Boy did I go wild in the wilds of our little oasis. The bushes and trees that run the length of the left hand side have not been touched since we moved in … 16 years ago!!! Once I start, I’m unstoppable. I pulled out weeds, that then suddenly became whole shrubs. There were trees with stumps as big as a bowling ball that came out in my hand when I pulled … because they were dead! I left huge gaping holes in the bushes. The neighbours are going to be delighted we can watch them sunbathe and also see what they are up to in the kitchen. Literally 3 days of cutting, pulling and bashing and its still no where near finished. You can imagine the pile of garden waste that now sits under, behind and in front of the trampoline. Oh and no garden waste collection (I forgot to renew it) and no refuge centres open. Oooooops. My husband is still not really speaking to me!

The gaping hole where the holy bush once stood.
Look what I did!!!

On Friday night we had a family quiz with my ‘in laws’ using Zoom. It was great fun. My parents joined in but I think I’m going to ban them from any similar activities until they agree to have their hearing tested. Multiple repetitions of each question becomes rather …. repetitive. By the end of the game people were clearly drunk, falling around and shouting at their respective devices. I sipped my alcohol free wine and was thankful that I gave it all up nearly 5 months ago. Sobriety has enabled me to cope with this lockdown and Covid-19 situation with a positivity and calmness than would not have been possible had I been still addicted to wine. Sure, I have bad days, but as Anna (Storm In A Wine Glass) said in her recent post ” I realise how my worst day sober is still a million times better than my best day drunk.”

Saturday and Sunday followed much the same pattern. Lots of gardening (well, destruction and demolition), chilled out lazy mornings and a trip to the supermarket for our food shop and one the for lady down the road. I arrived home from delivering her groceries to a little ‘care package’ left on my door step by my brother and his partner. He lives about a 40 minute drive away and had made the journey over to bring me some gorgeous goodies and treats. Their kindness overwhelmed me and I already knew I had a wonderful brother, but he really is the bee’s knees. I started thinking about ‘kindness’ after I’d checked out all the little gifts. It’s a quality I value greatly and true kindness is really a beautiful thing when it happens. I’ve had a lot of criticism throughout my life. Self-criticism, overt criticism, ‘subtle’ criticism and criticism meant to be constructive but really not. It has led to me being a little too judgemental and often having mean and unkind thoughts about others. In the past I have slipped into, not particularly nice, conversations about certain people and not really given it much thought. Since ditching the booze I have made a conscious effort to not do any of this, practicing kindness in how I act, behave and think. It’s actually an easier way of being. I still can find people irritating as hell and that’s ok. I’m not super human and people piss me off. I am, however, more able to understand a situation. I’m less bitter and resentful of what other’s have and do and I’m more at peace with my own world. In a selfish way, being kinder towards others has improved my ability to be kinder to myself. It’s a quality I want to instil in my boys. Plus you get really cute little gifts every now and then too!! Its a win win.

My little treats in the ‘care package’

Today, Monday, I have stayed out of the garden and left my husband to try and salvage something from the wreckage. I ran 5 miles and cleaned the house. I’ve made a tandoori chicken and rice tea for the boys and now I am sat typing this blog. My life is so different than it was 6 months ago. I am living under government restrictions but I am the most free I have been in a very long time. That’s a lovely feeling and I am going to savour the moment as my first sober Easter weekend draws to a close.

Love Claire xx

Cows spotted on my run, not following social distancing rules.

My week (in pictures)

When I left you last I wasn’t in a particularly good way. My unwelcome visitors were, well exactly that, unwelcome! Fortunately for me, this time they did not stay long and both Mr Anxiety and Mrs Depression went on their merry way as the week wore on. It’s hard to express how grateful I am that it was short-lived and I am following the advice you lovely people gave me. Yes, it’s normal to have periods like it and really important to continue telling myself it will lift. Things do get better.

The week trundled on. I was working in the hospital for two days and working from home for the other three. It’s been ridiculously busy but only in terms of organisation of services to enable patients to have some form of contact where needed. That’s been successful so far and assessing speech and communication over a video link has not been too tricky. I think it might be due to the ‘screen’ factor. I appear to be far more interesting now I’m on their phone, tablet or laptop. We cover an enormous region as a specialist service and I think this will change how we work in the future. It will enable some families to access services much more easily and not have to commute a one to two hour journey to see us. Every cloud eh? All staff have now received a letter informing us that we may now be redeployed to work on the front line and requested to cover shortages in other locations, in area outside of our usual roles. I just hope they give me some basic training if I have to do anything, particularly if nursing based – I could be more of hindrance than a help.

I’ve continued to support those in need in our local area. The people have been lovely and so appreciative of being able to have some shopping done for them when self isolating. To be honest, they are very straightforward as far as shopping goes. Compared with my own Dad anyway. His list consisted of baby plum tomatoes, Sainsbury’s taste the difference sausages, Rachel’s coconut yogurt, Coleman’s English mustard and a partridge in a pear tree! He and my mum are doing well with self distancing and I’m proud of them for sticking with it and following all the guidelines. We decided to delay Mum’s surgery for the skin cancer on her leg and nose. We agreed it was better to take the risk of a slow growing cancer getting worse than picking up Covid-19.

A little stop on my run yesterday

I’ve carried on running. I’m getting back into it slowly. It’s an interesting experience where some people make a lot of effort to move out of your way and there’s a clear mutual respect of the distancing rules. Others are not moving for nobody. No way. Not even a pretend wobble to appear like they are making an effort. They just keep on walking, sometimes two or three people across the path and I end up being forced to run into the road. I never ceased to be amazed by some people. Like those who are busily clearing out their houses of junk with all th spare time they suddenly have. Said junk is then bagged up and helpfully dumped outside charity shops who are, surprise surprise, shut. Never mind eh? I guess they are being ‘good’ by donating their useless crap to charity. Just someone else now needs to deal with it all.

Before the gardeners came off the Xbox to help

I’m trying to have some ‘me’ time but with work and having the boys home it isn’t easy. To be fair, they’d be happy on their screens all day long but we are trying to restrict that. Today they helped in the garden. It needs a lot of work and much to their disgust they had to spend 3 ours weeding and picking up the pruned branches. I spent my day cleaning. Let me just say, I HATE cleaning. Unfortunately, my anxiety was not the type that encouraged me to get cleaning and tidying. I particularly don’t like cleaning toilets. But today I did three of them and the surrounding areas. I also gave the kitchen a good going over. It actually felt good! My brain switched off and I sang and wiggled about to 90’s Indie music. I’m not promising anything, but maybe I might be persuaded to try the lounge and back room tomorrow. It could be a rock day for Alexa. Who knows?

A sparkly kitchen and alcohol free wine!

So, with the guinea pigs fed, our burgers ready to eat and my alcohol free wine poured, I’ll sign off. I’ll add some photos to make the whole thing more interesting. Oh, one more thing, I have reached 20 weeks sober today. 20 weeks. TWENTY WEEKS!!! I’m just going to give myself a big round of applause. Still the best decision I have ever made.

Biscuit and Toffee enjoying tea

Stay safe all

Love Claire

No respect for social distancing …

In the midst of social distancing and self isolation I still get two visitors knocking on my door. They don’t stick to guidelines or obey rules. Nope, they let themselves in and take over.

Anxiety has been here for a couple of days now. I kind of know how to deal with him (or is it a her?). I’ll refer to it as male for ease. He winds me up, throws all sorts of questions and ‘what ifs’ in my way. Dishes out problems I can’t solve and situations I can’t control. When I come up with a solution, he won’t accept it. Like a toddler repetitively asking ‘why?’ and ‘when?’.

I can handle anxiety. I use techniques to bring me to the present and the strategies do work, now that my body and brain are no longer muddled and confused with alcohol. Yesterday morning was particularly bad but I persevered. I cleaned, I ran and I listened to my buddhify app. So far so good. Or so I thought.

With a huge hit of anxiety I can sometimes have a visit from depression. She (I’ll switch genders in the name of equality) hasn’t been in my life for well over 6 months. I haven’t missed her, not one bit. I thought I was rid of her but like the proverbial bad penny, here she is! I could feel her coming late last night. I know that sounds weird but I know the signs now. Sure enough, 3am there I was. Wide awake and hanging out with two old ‘friends’.

This morning, anxiety had moved on for a break but not depression. She’s moved in, feet right under the table. That awful feeling of no feeling. Knowing there is so much you can do to help yourself and so much to be personally grateful for but absolutely no way to reach through the black fog and grab it. Not even a desire to do that. No energy, no interest in things that made you buzz with excitement only a few days ago. Most of all, no bloody reason. There is nothing in my life that others aren’t struggling with right now. Many many struggling with more challenges than I am.

At the moment I don’t have a positive, inspiring ending to my post today. I wanted to describe the feelings and emotions to try and depersonalise them. I’m furious that they, particularly depression, have returned to this extent and I’m praying it lifts quickly. I need to face what we are all going through as ‘Claire’ with my friends, family and loved ones by my side. There is no room for anxiety or depression. Quite frankly they can both fuck off!

Stay safe all

Claire xx

Sweet Dreams

This morning I woke up and felt I’d had a very deep sleep with few episodes of waking, if any at all. That’s very unusual for me. Even without the alcohol I wake up a few times but now I can usually turn over and go back off. After a few minutes coming round I suddenly remembered my dream.

I also haven’t really dreamt as much since becoming sober, not ones I can remember very well. This week I’ve been able to recall more of them. Last night’s was vivid. I was totally trashed!!! Trolleyed, kayleyed, plastered 🥴. I’d gone to a fancy, posh party with three girlfriends and I drank a shed load of Prosecco. I remember just pouring glass after glass into my mouth and then feeling sick and dizzy. We stayed over at a hotel after sorting problems with crap rooms. I woke up the next day with another party to go to that evening and I felt shocking. The day was subsequently spent trying to find a different hotel, being given more awful rooms, changing said rubbish rooms and then hotels. My husband and dad appeared and refused to stay in the final hotel. I’d decided not to drink again that night but the second party never occurred anyway. I was too busy moving hotels and having room issues.

Completely weird. Bonkers I know. I don’t think I want anyone to analyse all that thank you. I do, however, remember the feelings and emotions it generated. I felt ill, fuzzy, stressed, unclear and generally very out of control. Not just when I was drunk either. I felt on edge all the next day trying to get to the next hotel room. I knew for a fact I was not going to drink again but I couldn’t fathom why I’d drowned myself in Prosecco the night before. I’m not even that keen on it to be honest! Red or white wine, maybe.

Boy it was good though …. No!!! Wait! …. not the getting pissed bit. The good part was waking up this morning and realising, in a Sue-Ellen type Dallas moment, that it was all just a dream. I have spent my day today feeling I can achieve anything. Work has been stressful and busy, with all sorts of things not falling right. I dealt with what I could, remained calm and kept others reassured. There was no panic, no anxiety and no emotional reaction. I felt really in control without having to control everyone and everything, if that makes any sense at all? I enjoyed that feeling and I appreciated it all the more because my dream had reminded me what I would have felt like 4 months ago. That would have been a very different day and an ‘on edge’ Claire to say the least.

I particularly like the new confidence I have that I can’t be so easily thrown off course now. I sense a new strength that comes from understanding my emotional reactions a little more. Rather than seeking affirmation externally, I can often find it within. I know that sounds airy fairy and a bit OTT but quite honestly fuck it!

I generally write these posts with no idea what I’m going to talk about when I begin. Sometimes I delete them because, well because they are a bit shit and I even bore myself. Mostly though, I publish them. It’s a reminder of the ups and downs of sobriety and how far I have travelled. If it helps someone else to kick start their own journey then all the better. Plus, I selfishly love hearing from you guys and knowing you are there 😉.

Sending love to you all

Claire xx

Night & Day

I wrote most of this post late last night and just couldn’t bring myself to publish it for some reason. I saved it and re-read it this morning. I added another paragraph or two and decided to put it out there. It’s therefore confused and a bit of a ramble, not dissimilar to my mind right now.

I have started so many posts tonight and then decided not to carry them on or just deleted them. Life is very muddled sometimes and it can be so difficult to get those thoughts down on paper (or blog in this case!).

There is no clarity tonight. I’m feeling disjointed and uneasy. Interestingly I can identify that much more easily now but that isn’t altogether helpful when I am in the centre of it. There is no distinct issue. I’m not in a bad mood and nothing has ‘gone wrong’. I simply feel at odds with myself.

I know I’m overthinking and mulling over the future. I understand that there will be times where the lovely feeling of calm and peace are disrupted. I realise I absolutely need to deal with my own personal dissonance. It’s just tricky when I can’t put a finger on the problem. I’ll try to get some things down here. Maybe it will help.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my marriage. About how, as a couple, we interact, engage and communicate after 20 plus years together. Is there still enough between us to keep us together as the boys grow up and inevitably away? I’m probably not the first person to have ever wondered or worried about this. I doubt I’ll be the last. What were we once like as a ‘new’ couple? Did we talk and giggle into the early hours, wanting to feel each other’s presence all through the night? I honestly can’t remember. That makes me sad. Those memories are gone.

I don’t want us to only be able to function by living almost separate lives. I would like to share interests and hobbies and for us to talk about those interests. I couldn’t think of anything more lonely than feeling alone in a relationship. Maybe at this stage in a marriage/partnership you have to reinvent yourself as a couple. Or maybe I should just accept and be content with how things are. Lower my expectations. That’s tricky when you aren’t even sure what your expectations are. I don’t know what I want or what I need. Plus, if I don’t even know, how can I communicate it to another person?

Then there’s work. I do love my job. It’s rewarding and motivating and I’m one of those lucky people who work with people I’d consider good friends. Am I going to do the same thing for the next 15-20 years? There isn’t really anywhere I can progress to now. I can sense the time approaching where I need something new to challenge me. Does that have to be within work? Could it be something else entirely?

So many questions unanswered. I’ll sleep on it.

It’s now the morning after the night before. I have already cancelled my two gym classes which is often a sign I’m not functioning very well mentally. I have been struggling with numbness, pins and needles and stiff hands, wrists and arms for a while now. I’ve had lots of tests. Nothing found and they are still ongoing. Recently it’s become painful and very weak and achy. This morning was terrible. Is it related to stress in my mind? Perhaps.

I’ll try to get out later. Go for a long walk. I already know I won’t run. It’s going to be one of ‘those’ days for me. God I hate this feeling of being stuck. That’s the only way I can describe it. At least I’m not hungover or feeling weighed down by alcohol. That made days like today 100 times worse. Sobriety means I know I’ll get through it and the feelings will pass. I’ll find some tools to help me today. Ones I know I can cope with.

Too much ruminating about the past and the future makes Claire an anxious mess. Staying in the present is bloody difficult some days though. I will try.

Claire xx