There are things more important than surviving

This survival of the fittest idea…

Am I the only one who thinks we (as a human race) need to stop telling ourselves and each other that we have to be strong, be fighters, be resilient and prove our worth?

Am I the only one who doesn’t find it helpful to think of the world as a battle ground where you have to bulldoze or be bulldozed, fight or be dismissed?

If we keep pushing this idea on ourselves and each other (and the children of this world) the way our societies work might never change. We are just going to be locked in eternal battles, trying to impress each other, have our little piece of limelight, our little slice of security and resources.

I don’t want to fight to be heard, I don’t want to be a fighter to be taken seriously. I want to be seen as worth listening to even when I don’t shout or speak with big gestures.

Throughout my life I have found it so difficult to be alive, to be a human being in this world. But I kept hanging in there because of the important people in my life and I kept hoping that I would find ways to make it easier for me to be here.

The biggest turning point towards a more meaningful life was when I realised that I do not need to do anything, say anything or behave in a certain way to be okay. There was a moment where I felt loved, not by anyone specific, just deeply loved. It wasn’t a thought, it was a felt experience that filled my entire body – and in that moment I knew that I am okay just as I am, that being alive is more than enough.

This moment is still with me and I call on it to support me when I feel vulnerable, when I am intensely overwhelmed and experience myself as desperately displaced. I have a ring I wear when I want to remind myself of this truth; that I am loved and lovable just as I am in any moment.

I don’t have to justify my being here, I don’t have to please anyone, I don’t have to prove I deserve love, I don’t have to fit into any category to be allowed to walk this earth. All I need to do is just be me, all that I am and stay true to my values.

I trust in the way of the gentle soul and I believe in walking on the sacred ground below us with care and consideration.

I believe that we a custodians of this beautiful planet and not owners of anything that exists here. I believe in treating all things with respect and carefully thinking about our actions before we make decisions.

And maybe this will not make me survive the harshness of this world but I do not care. There are things so much more important to me than surviving – and eventually we all die anyway.

I may not be a great warrior who will change the world but I do not care. The world will change and who gets the credit is for others to fight over.

I refuse to live my life in survival or fight mode.

I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to be resilient, I don’t want to prove my worth.

I just want to live a gentle life and love the people who are close to me.

“That was just soooo like my mum!”

I had a pretty great moment when I was introverting the other day…

You know how you sometimes find yourself talking or behaving just like your mum or dad? Those freaky moments where you realise how deeply ingrained certain things are in you – you react to something instinctively and in that moment you get flashbacks to all those times your mum (or dad) did exactly the same.
The older I get, the more often it happens. Friends have started commenting on it too!
In those moments I can feel how my facial expressions, my body language and my voice are morphing me (involuntarily) into the spitting image of my mum. And I’m like “F**k! This is totally out of control, I’m just slowly turning into my mum and there is nothing I can do to stop it!”

One of the things my mum does, is make these sharp comments at times – my mum does not suffer fools gladly! I remember how when I was a kid I thought my mum was a bit too sharp with people and I would get embarrassed. I would try and tell her how it came across when she said those things and for the most part she took it on board. But it’s just part of how she is and today I am glad I didn’t manage to discourage her completely; she will still speak her mind and challenge people.
And now I find myself myself doing it! Sharp comments all around!

Initially when I get those f**k-this-is-freaky-moments it because of the embarrassment I remember feeling as a kid. And I think it’s a bit of a thing in our society really, not wanting to turn into our parents. Many of my generation have been pumped full of values like individualism, independence and progress – so being like our parents might feel like a failure, like we’ve not managed to free ourselves, find ourselves or evolve enough…

Anyway – back to that great moment I had.
I was standing in the kitchen – can’t remember exactly what I was doing but I suddenly found myself behaving like my mum. Again.
I noticed the initial internal teenage sigh and rolling eyes. But then I thought “Why does it wind me up? Why don’t I want to remind myself of my mum?”

What I’d just done wasn’t a major thing – it was probably just a specific movement or a response to being in pain. But a film came to mind. A friend had shown it to me a couple of months earlier. I don’t remember the actual film but I clearly remember the storyline; a young girl faced with the choice between her mother’s world and values or the values of her peers (there is also a tension between north American culture and south American culture). The daughter chooses her mother and reflects on this choice many years later.
This theme really struck a chord in me and it’s been brewing in the back of my mind since.

And at this moment, in my kitchen, it dawned on me… I don’t mind reminding myself of my mum, I don’t mind becoming like my mum. Actually if I had a choice about who to morph into, there is no one in the world I would rather be like. Though I imagine my mum wouldn’t wish that on me.

For years now I’ve been aware of this immense, unconditional love that I have for my mum, but as I’ve got older I am also able see my mum’s choices and behaviour in a different perspective. I have gained so much respect for her as a person in her own right. I can honestly say that she is the most fascinating and beautiful person I’ve met in my life so far and I feel honoured to be allowed to be close to her because she chooses her company with great discernment.

I am not saying my mum is flawless or good – she’s got plenty of imperfections and can be amazingly annoying. But when I think of her, speak with her (write with her as it is these days) or spend time with her, I can’t help but feel joyful that she exists.
If this is truly how I feel about her then there is no reason to freak out when I have those moments. Am I just a bit like her, then that is not something to feel upset about, rather it is something to cherish.
The irrational fear of losing myself and becoming her, suddenly releases its grip on me – being like my mum is no longer a possible near death experience but rather a celebration of my relationship with her. Because even if I wanted to, I will never be exactly like her. But in some ways, these glimpses of her in me is a way to always have her with me.

I hope from now on, I can enjoy those freaky moments when they jump on me out of the blue. I want to laugh about it with myself and with my friends and I wish for my voice to be full of gratitude when I say “that was just soooo like my mum”.

I really do think Self Care Rules

Getting proper rest when I feel overwhelmed can be tricky. After more than a month of looking after myself, I am finally able to have a fairly lazy day without
a) feeling guilty about doing nothing
b) feeling like I “damn well better rest so I can get better!”.
It’s such a silly tension; the to do list is just getting longer and longer and I just get more overwhelmed. But I can’t rest because the to do list is nagging at me and when I do do things they don’t feel up to my usual standards so then I get annoyed…
When I am in it I can’t see how its ever going to stop – how I can untangle myself from this paradoxical web. But one day at a time things get better. I do bits when I can, I schedule in time off, I make rules around social media and I get lots and lots of hugs (and cups of tea of course).
And then one day I find myself here; feeling pretty alright. Second day in a row!

So yes I really do think self care rules 😀

See more here http://wp.me/p5ELi7-3s

Feeling the ground beneath my feet

I used to live in a state of constant overwhelm and anxiety.

Only I didn’t realise it at the time, because it was all I knew. I suspected something was wrong; the suicidal yearnings and impulses to self-harm were good tell tell signs, but I didn’t understand them as such. I thought I was being selfish and attention seeking and I did what I could to try and control these shameful things that lived inside me.

I thought that what was wrong was me, that I was a terrible, rotten and disgusting human being. Everything I felt, all the pain, powerlessness and confusion, I truly believed it was all my own fault.
I found ways of coping. Self-discipline and self-control were good ones – they made me feel like I was doing something to correct the wrongness. Escapism was good too. And lots and lots of it. Escaping from my body, my mind and my un-understandable emotions. Escaping into books, films, dreams, other worlds and relationships – anything that would distract me from me.

When I began to ask for help from others, I thought that what I needed was some sort of psychotherapy or drama therapy; something that would help me analyse and express my emotions. Something to help me create some order in my chaotic inner world. I didn’t have the money to get a private therapist so I asked for help from mental health services. This turned out to be a much more complicated journey than I could have ever imagined.

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 22.

With the diagnosis of schizophrenia came the obligatory psycho-education and CBT based group sessions. I was not impressed to say the least. I began to realise, that trying to get the help I believed I needed in the mental health system, was going to be quite a battle.

I did however find it helpful to start thinking of stress and stressors. This wasn’t something I had really considered before – I had been so focused on being strong, surviving and controlling myself. And I really struggled to see how my life should be stressful or bad. Others clearly had it much worse than me. But I came around to the idea that I was stressed and amongst other things showing physical signs of this. Fatigue, tenseness and eternal headaches helped me get referred to the Physiotherapy Clinic at the Psychiatric Hospital.

Now I have to say, that if I could choose only one big turning point in my journey towards a more fulfilling life, this was it.

In “Living with Voices” by Romme and Escher I write about my relationship with my physiotherapist: “During a 3 year period of on/off physiotherapy I experienced  building a relationship with a man, based on trust and mutual respect for the first time in my life (…) He helped me experience my body as a safe place and I realised how tormented I was by anxiety – like a deer always ready to take flight.
For the first time in a long, long time I felt able to be in my body, feel my emotions, think my thoughts, hear my voices and feel that whatever I was experiencing was all right, and that things were going to be okay. (…) Discovering that I could live through a whole hour without having a single self-destructive thought or impulse and once in a while even enjoy being me –  was very unfamiliar and quite scary. That maybe I deserved to live after all – and live without constant fear and pain. That perhaps there was a way of healing years and years of dissociation, of separating myself from myself and others.” (p. 149)

It was a long and slow process to get to the point I describe above.
The work my physiotherapist did with me was based on Body Awareness Therapy. It was a mix of simple massages techniques and physical exercises and it was all about grounding and centering. Everything we did was designed to help me stay in my body – become aware of my body from within.
I used to think I had loads of body awareness because I had been dancing for many years. But I slowly realised that there is a big difference between being aware of your body from the inside and being aware of your body from the outside. The body awareness I had learned through dance was all about observing myself and controlling my body. Being aware of my body, of my movements, of sensations and feelings from the inside was a whole different ball game.
At first it was frightening. I think I expected to be overwhelmed because that was how I had experienced myself for as long as I could remember. That, as soon I would come back to myself from my various escapisms, I would be completely overwhelmed with my sensations, emotions and thoughts.
I had to learn that I was safe in my body, that my adult selves could handle the things that used to overwhelm me as a kid. By doing gentle stretches and movements I could calm myself down, calm my senses and find peace.
In various trauma and anxiety work, there are strategies and visualisations we can use to create inner (or outer) safe spaces. This is what my physiotherapist did with me. Today if I get anxious and nothing else works – no calming self-talk, soothing exercises, no music or walking or distracting works – what I do is I revisit those sessions. I will draw the safeness I experienced back then into the here and now. The memory of this deep sense of safety is ingrained in my body, available to me when I need it.

I think it is vitally important that we continue to create body-memories as adults that can support us and maybe help balance out painful body-memories from the past.

Today when I stand in the woods on the hill, looking out over the valley where I live, I can actually feel the ground beneath my feet. I can feel how solid it is – or how muddy it is when it’s been raining, as it tends to do in these parts.
I am not just watching my feet on the ground, registering it as if observing someone else. I really feel it. I feel my feet in my socks, in my boots and the soles of the boots connecting with the soil or the stones. I feel the cold damp seeping through the leather and I feel the warmth of my blood trying to dispel the cold.
Experiencing the world and connecting with my surrounding from inside out is only possible because I have found a way to be in me – literally be in me, in my body.
It still takes a lot of work and I still get easily overwhelmed emotionally, mentally and physically. But knowing how to  ground myself and get back to my centre is the foundation of everything else for me. It’s my roots, my base, my starting point, my anchor.
When I get lost in fears, thoughts, fantasies, insecurities, expectations, excitement and busynes, my body is always there to bring me back to the reality of here and now. My breath is always here, my heart beat is always here and if I contract the muscles around my core I can feel I am here.
The simplest way to ground myself is just to gently tense and release my muscles – in my leg, hand, stomach or feet – to the rythm of my breath. Breathing out as I tense and breathing in I let go and relax.
This works for me.
The amazing thing about body work is that you can find your own way of grounding yourself, the possibilities are endless. But it might take some dedication and patience to find what works for you.

 

groundingandcentering

The forgotten body

I think that the way society works today, it can be easy to forget the body. Even though we are bombarded with stuff about body image, food, exercise, healthy living and the importance of appearances, none of this really connects us to our body. Rather it disconnects us because it is all about how it should be, not how it is.
How it really is here and now, for us as individuals in our individual bodies.
What would we be without our bodies?
What could we do without the body?
The mind takes up so much of our time – even when we do physical tasks and exercise, we can easily find ourselves in our minds rather than our bodies. With screens playing such a dominant part in our lives, in schools, at home and at work we are forced to be in our heads, thinking, analysing, planning and entertaining ourselves using our head based senses (sight, sound, smell, taste). And the body-based senses get neglected.
The body based senses are not just in our skin. It’s our entire nervous-system which is connected to everything in us; our bones, organs, muscles, other soft tissue, fluids etc. I find the more I connect with my body the more amazed I become. Everything the body does – all the time! Everything the body experiences – all the time!
Even though my body presents me with limitations, challenges and suffering I still think it is an amazing mystery to be explored and celebrated…

After the floods

Thinking of ways to support the local area find its way back to some sort of normal…

The devastation is difficult to comprehend and people are still working hard to clean up. Rebuilding homes, businesses, schools and other community venues will take a long time. We all try and cope with the state of things in our own ways and there will be a continued need for support both practically and emotionally.

One way to support people in the beautiful valleys of Calderdale is to donate here Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal

————————————————–

I love films and I love cinemas. My first memories of going to the cinema is from the wonderfully charming Øst for Paradis in Aarhus. I remember watching La Gloire de mon père there in the early early 90’ies and later many more arty and independent films from all over the world.
In my early teens I lived in Hornslet and the local cinema Kom-bi became my sancturary. There were films I would go watch again and again – such as La cité des enfants perdus – and this was also where I saw the Star Wars triology for the first times.

Even though I have some beautiful memories of watching films with friends, my mother and boyfriends, the cinema is a place I love to go on my own. Whatever my mood is, sitting in the dark and allowing myself to be absorbed into the stories, the action and the emotions on screen, is magical (unless its a really terrible film – but luckily I have not had too many of those experiences).
I can enjoy all sorts of genres but if I am feeling overwhelmed my prefered remedy is to go and watch either some macho action packed film or a thriller. Somehow that will give me a break from reality but also give me emotional release.

Now I live in Calderdale and what excitement I felt the first time I went to Hebden Bridge Picture House! The building is amazing and the interior made me feel at home, bringing back memories of Øst for Paradis. But during the floods on Boxing Day the Picture House was damaged…

Update on December 30th from Hebden Bridge Picture House

“Today, the Picture House and Town Council staff cleaned the foyer and kiosk, the Friends of the Picture House committee cleaned the balcony and a whole load of volunteers of all varieties, with power tools and strength and at very short notice, came and unbolted the sodden seats – removing all 257 from the stalls.
We are now in a position to open our doors, and would like to invite you all to our not-so-grand reopening on New Year’s Day, launching the January programme as planned!

During this period only the unaffected original balcony seating will be available, meaning capacity is reduced to 230. This also means access is limited for those unable to use the stairs – thank you for your patience during this time if you are unable to attend for this reason.

Heating will be limited (unless we can get hold of some giant plug-in heaters…), so feel free to bring along a cushion, a blanket and your good spirit – the show will go on!

Thank you for your support, generosity and hard work – we’ve been overwhelmed with your response. We look forward to seeing you all very soon!

Hebden Bridge Picture House Team”

Dear Friends of the Picture House and all volunteers, helpers and workers – thank you for bringing such an important part of the community back so quickly.

So now I am in the wonderful position of being able to combine my love for films and my desire to support the local area to bounce back after the flooding. On New Years day a group of us went to see the powerful film Sufragette. It was an atmospheric and slightly surreal experience. People in their coats and with blankets almost filling up the seats on the balcony and below us the bare floors and walls showing markings where the water had been. There is no real escape from what has happened but it was good to sit there and get a couple of hours relief and sense the spirit of this strong community.
And today I hope to go see Black Mass. Bringing again my blankets and hopefully I will remember my mug for a cup of tea to help keep my hands warm.

local