Make me feel…

Of late I have been bothered by much of the therapy speak I see cropping up everywhere. I’ve always been slightly irritated by the therapy buzz words, but it used be reserved to certain arenas. Now it feels impossible to get away from it. Some are impenetrable, some misapplied and some a little stupid. So, come with me in a little therapy rant.

Sit with it.

The ‘it’ being emotions. I doubt there is anyone who has ever sought mental health treatment who is unfamiliar with this phrase. I have been advised to ‘sit with’ all manner of feelings. I’ve never been entirely sure what this means. Nor has any explanation ever satisfied me. Let yourself feel it makes sense if you are actively avoiding emotions. I used self harm, disordered eating and occasionally alcohol to block emotions that I wasn’t able to deal with. However, when I moved past avoidance it was still the guidance I was given. When I was ready to acknowledge and tackle those feelings I needed more. ‘Let yourself feel it’ is redundant. I am feeling it; that is the problem.

Sit with it in black letters

Don’t Judge it.

Once you are sitting in all that emotion you will often be advised ‘not to judge it’. Just feel it, they’ll say. Well, I’m sorry, that’s impossible. I have already judged it. Judging is a prerequisite for finding something problematic. The judgement is automatic. More than that, it’s involuntary. The minute I find the emotion unpalatable it has been judged. I came to the (sometimes correct) conclusion that perhaps what these therapist meant was don’t judge yourself for having that emotion. That makes sense, I can work on not attaching negative connotation to what I feel or how uncomfortable that makes me. I can even get on board with attempting not to label specific emotions intrinsically negative. I’m not convinced, but I do see how in some cases that could be fruitful. However, removing the intuitive I DO NOT LIKE THIS just doesn’t strike me as a realistic goal. If I were able to control my brain in that way, I wouldn’t have a problem.

Let it go.

Feel it and then let it go is definitely the aim. I’m not sure it actually counts as advice though. I know that getting stuck in difficult emotions is not good for me. What I need is help learning the way out if that. Restating what I should do is not helpful. I know the problem, I am here because I am looking for answers.

Inner Child

Many years ago when I first experienced therapy the inner child thing was kind of a joke. It never came up. Of course therapists talked about childhood experiences & being compassionate to past versions of yourself. However, a psychologist would never say the words ‘inner child’. Now it is everywhere; from woo woo spiritual healers to actual trained therapists. I’m sure it applies to some people, but it’s just not relevant to me. My inner child is a ok. I had a remarkably lovely childhood. I was loved, appreciated, supported, safe and very well taken care of. My ‘inner child’ is probably the healthiest part of me. I’m not carrying any painful scars from childhood. So, I have found it incredibly frustrating that everyone and their granny wants me to get in touch with my inner child and heal her. Even when I proffer my history and explain that my upbringing is not a problem area, I am still pressed to explore it. I don’t know how or why this happened, but I really don’t love it.

Picture of ly  with her hands on her hips and drawing of a child in her belly

Be vulnerable

This is another one that totally has merit in the right situation. There have been times when I have been scared of touching memories and emotions that made me feel vulnerable. I did need to work through that. Being vulnerable can be frightening, but it is also necessary. I would argue that engaging in therapy is already submitting to vulnerability in many ways. The showing up is a great first step. However, the canonisation of vulnerability has gone too far. There is definitely a time and a place for vulnerability. We can’t and shouldn’t always expose weak spots. We live in a fairly brutal capitalist society and being completely honest about your vulnerabilities will not serve you in many situations. People will take advantage, they will bypass you based on their perception of that vulnerability and many folk will judge you. Still I hear professionals who really should know better urge everyone to embrace their vulnerability throughout their life. It drives me crazy; we need to protect ourselves. Let yourself be vulnerable in safe spaces only.

Drawing of hands holding a heart on green background

Am I just jaded? Or do you feel frustrated by these therapy catchphrases? Maybe you have your own therapy pet hates. I would love to know your takes.

Close up of sleeining cat face and paws
Adorable Bronan for rant tax.

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Don’t patronise me…

I’m struggling to sleep tonight. My  pain got a little out of control last week & so my dr upped one of my pain meds. It was quite a big leap & my body hasn’t been behaving since.  My mood hasn’t really been behaving either. It took a dive earlier in the week for, I imagine, a combination of reasons. Perhaps feeling so bizarre, or the pain or an upcoming anniversary. Who can say?

On account of the above there have been days when even getting out of bed has been difficult. Yesterday was one those days, everything hurt & I was very foggy from the meds, but things had to be done. Bronan had to be fed. I had to return some important calls & I had to put my bin out to be emptied.  Dragging myself out of bed was a struggle, but I did it. So, up I got, flung on whatever clothes were lying on the bedroom floor, brushed my teeth & completed those tasks as best as I could. I did these not because they would lift my mood. Nor did I do them as part of an ‘action plan’. I didn’t derive any sense of achievement. They needed to be done, so I did them.


Later, I tried to write, but couldn’t concentrate for more than a minute or two. It occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten all day & perhaps something in my stomach might counteract the effect of my medications. My fridge contained some broccoli that had to be used today or it would only be fit for the bin. So, I steamed that broccoli in the micro, poured some boiling water on noodles & flung soy sauce over both. I didn’t cook because it would make me feel that I was worth taking care of. I simply used the ingredients available to feed myself in the quickest manner because otherwise, I would not eat.

I tell you these things not because they are interesting. I certainly don’t mention them because I want applause. I merely draw your attention to these mundane activities as they are the reality of day to day life.
THEY ARE NOT SELF CARE.
Mental health organisations & increasingly, just anyone are constantly spouting the merits of self-care. I am so tired of hearing this bullshit. Everything I do does not have a therapeutic purpose. Mental illness (or for that matter physical) does not define me. I am a single woman living alone. There are always tasks that need taken care of. I take each day as it comes & do as much as I can manage. That’s just survival. In that respect I am no different from anyone else. Obviously my illness can make simple jobs difficult. Things the average person may take for granted come harder to me. That doesn’t change the nature of life. I either keep living to the best of my ability or I lie down and die.

To label each chore or treat self-care is to rob me of my basic humanity. I am no longer a person, but a collection of diagnoses’. Illness becomes my defining feature. I strenuously reject that characterisation. To measure my wellbeing by how many dishes are in my sink is insulting. Similarly, to minimise serious conditions by suggesting a nice dinner will make it all better is also offensive. A cute badge with a star & I took my meds or A childish phrase is not going to brighten my day. 

I live my life as fully as possibly. I enjoy whatever I can and try my best to endure the rest. Doesn’t that sum up most people’s experience? I don’t hear anyone congratulating ‘non-mentals’ or ‘non-spoonies ‘ for continuing to exist, so why are they patronising me?

If my thoughts on this offend you, then just imagine how I feel when several times each day I am confronted with the cult of self care. If it works for you, cool, you do you. However, don’t suggest I have a bath with candles to get over terrifying flashbacks. Don’t tell me to give myself a wee treat to combat searing pain. Most of all don’t belittle me by suggesting my daily drive to survive is ‘self care’. Keep it to yourself, darling or prepare for my wrath.