Gratification

Feeling gratified… Feeling like you have achieved something meaningful, feeling pleased with – or proud of – yourself and maybe give yourself a treat. I have heard that our biology is supposed to reward us when we experience good things and I can see it happening in my own partner when he feels he has achieved something or done something that satisfies him. But somehow my biology does not work like that…

Or rather it doesn’t work like that with most things – things that seem to bring excitement, happiness and gratification to other people, quite often just fills me with unease and sometimes dull emptiness. When I have finished a job I don’t ‘feel it’. Somehow my body doesn’t know that I have finished a job, no matter how much I tell myself: ‘its done, you did it and you did well’. No flipping response…

September has really confronted me with this frustrating conundrum. My partner and I have been delivering at least 7 workshops this past month in very different settings – an activist gathering, a recovery camp, a well-being weekend for young mentors with sight loss and to a group of Mental Health Nurse students. I have felt incredibly privileged and inspired. But I have also felt very, very overwhelmed.

On top of this, I and my co-conspirator Mike have been working our a**** off to finish a translation. Its been an ongoing project this year but we had to get it finished before October. And today I did the last bit of editing and handed the book (Children Hearing Voices) over to the group in Denmark that is working towards getting it published. I have SO been looking forward to this day. The translation has been hanging over me for so many months and there have been many days where I have struggled through fatigue and fuzzy head to get the work done. I have experimented with ways to both relax and stimulate myself enough to be able to work. And now, today, its done. Done.

But I just feel a bit dazed.

No rush of excitement or them endorphin’s other people talk about. No serotonin or dopamine or whatever else is supposed to be shooting around in my brain… No satisfaction. No relief.

I remember the first time I finished a translation of a book  (Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World). Months of work finished. Didn’t feel a thing. Not even the relief I thought I would feel. It wasn’t till long after the book was published that a sense of gratification started creeping in – I am talking over 18 months later. And it wasn’t a powerful feeling, something I could get high on. Rather it was like a quiet confidence in my own abilities.

I get the same when I give talks. I don’t get high – I get drained and my satisfaction doesn’t come from it being over or from positive feedback from others. My sense of satisfaction comes days or weeks later – when I have had time to process what I have done, gone over the details, felt into my body and weighed all the things I did and what happened and I have decided how I did. Then I might begin to feel like I have done something worthwhile.

As I keep searching for ways to combine my talents with my passions I learn a lot about myself. I try and remind myself in advance that I won’t feel a sense of achievement so that I don’t get too confused – I tend to keep expecting myself to respond differently than I do. I also try and remind myself that rushes of adrenaline does not make me feel good and focused – it makes my allergies intensify, my body nauseated and everything in my head all jumbled up. To be focused I need calm and predictability.

In recent years I have come to realise, that if I want that excited sense of gratification I need plants around me. Growing plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables is my place of gratification – delayed gratification and sometimes uncertain because there are so many factors I cannot control when dealing with plants.

But there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking around the house or the garden to have a chat with the plants. Or harvest all the produce they are offering. Or look out the window and see the courageous nasturtium and unknown white lily-like flowers in my pots shining bright despite the stormy, wet weather.

Another way to work with my lacking sense of gratification is to treat myself. At which I am very good. I believe that by treating my body and my senses to good things – food, aesthetically beautiful things, loving touch and hugs or comfortable environments – I am telling my body that I am worthy of love, safety, beauty and harmony. Its like a wordless dialogue with my body – a body that keeps responding to the world as if it is a nightmarish hellhole. And I just keep telling it that there is more to life than all the overwhelm, fear and difficulties.

Going to the gym for the first time in years…

Trying to practice what I preach… Really enjoyed doing our ‘connecting with the body’s resources’ workshop at Leeds Beckett Uni today but afterwards I found myself feeling anxious and frazzled this evening. Partly because I haven’t been sleeping well last couple of nights, mixed with experiencing busy-public-transport-overwhelm twice this week as well as anticipating more busyness in the weeks to come.

So came home and felt annoyed with myself for feeling crap after a job well done. I absolutely love sharing my passion for bodywork and it feels incredibly important and meaningful so when I feel awful afterwards I can easily get a bit confused. But then I managed to get myself to the gym to calm my system down with weightlifting.

Getting back into this kind of workout has been a long time coming. And how I have missed it!

It’s been such a big part of my journey to coping better with life (and being me) and it brings back many memories. I prefer lifting weights using machines because I can focus on one part of my body and do everything slowly and controlled. I use my breathing very consciously (and very similar to Pilates or yoga practices) and I like using weights that are so heavy that I can only do 3×10 and the last set will make me shake. Afterwards I feel more solid, centred and grounded. And tired!

When self-care bites

Yesterday self-care was like looking into the dark abyss – yesterday self-care meant making a painful decision. Only two-three options to choose from and they all sucked one way or the other… My head, heart and gut strongly disagreed on the way to go, so what to do?

When in doubt I listen to my gut.

Even though my head and heart make much better arguments, I have learned from experience that that wordless wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach is the one to go with.

I cried and cried and cried last night, totally despairing that I had to make this decision. I wanted to stick my head in the sand AND soldier on pretending everything would be fine. But there was no way around it. While I was dissolving in tears I had moments of hoping that the crying would sort things out for me. Or that I would have some amzing insight into a way forward. But the crying didn’t change anything. I still had my crappy decision to make.

My back injury has flared up and it means that I am in pain from the chest down. Doesn’t matter if I stand, sit, lie or walk – it hurts all the time, just in different ways. Pain killers don’t make a difference and the pain affects my cognitive functioning leaving me in a bit of a haze. It also hurts emotionally because I’ve been doing well for more than a year now and been getting back into ballet, so it feels like a massive set back. And the uncertainty is painful as well; whether this will last for months or if it will get better within weeks. Once it took over a year and the fear is always that it won’t get better this time…

Thursday and Friday this week my partner and I have put on a two-day course in London on Compassionate Communication Skills in Mental Health Settings. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and was excited when a friend, who is a certified NVC trainer, was up for doing this with us.

I woke yesterday hoping my back might get better during the day but as the evening came nothing had changed. I was feeling sad and moody, annoyed with myself for not having done enough to prevent this flare up…  I’d sat down with my partner to find something to watch together when I suddenly found myself saying “I wish we weren’t going to London tomorrow.” Until that moment I had been in denial about the effect the pain had on me. And it wasn’t till the words came out of my mouth that I realised I had to decide whether to go to London or not.

My three choices were: 1) to go and do everything as planned 2)to go but be less involved in the training 3)stay at home.

My heart wanted to go. “Go!Go! Go!” It said. “Everything will be fine. You can’t miss out on this, there is so much to learn.”

My head wanted to go but take it easy. “You need to learn to be more resilient and this is a chance to thicken your skin a bit. You can’t keep bailing out when things get tough. You might always be in pain so you have to learn to deal with it”

And my gut… My gut was just full of this sinking, wrenching feeling at the thought of the long drive, sleeping in a different bed, being nice and sociable, facilitating training, negotiating space and roles with my co-facilitators and keeping my head focused while managing my pain.

I knew my heart and head were right. I could do it. But it would undoubtedly be at a cost. All three choices would have difficult consequences.

At the moment I feel like I am in shock from being in pain again and I know that I would have to dissociate in order to go and do the training. I dont mind dissociating – it is very useful at times like this – but then there is always an aftermath that I will have to take care of. Maybe if I had had a week to gather myself it would have been more manageable.

So for now I have chosen to go with my gut, stay at home and get reacquainted with my pain-managing skills… 

 

 

 

Connecting the past and the present

This week my partner Rufus and I went down to London to facilitate two separate workshops together with our friend Anders. First day we looked at Using Mindfulness with Psychosis and second day we shared different ways of Talking with Voices and learning from the dialogue.

Anders came over to England from Denmark and it was quite special for me personally, to try and bring together two equally important worlds.

In recent months I have started to feel like I am finally settling into my present life with Rufus in England . Moving to a new country has been challenging and exhausting and I have wondered what I might end up doing with my time and whether I’d ever feel valued here the way I do in Denmark.

I have been very consious of not losing my connections to my previous life in Denmark, my friends and my family – and it has been a painful juggling act at times. It is tempting to just focus completely on the here and now; on adjusting, finding new networks and on building a future. But my sense of self is deeply rooted in my past – in those first 32 years in Denmark, in the people who know me well and value me for how I am and not just for what I do.

Since moving to England I have been travelling to Denmark regularly but it often feels disjointed. Here in England certain parts of me have become stronger and when I am in Denmark I experience other parts of me strengthening or I feel myself going back to how I was several years ago. My hope is that in time – and as friends visit me here and Rufus comes with me to Denmark -the sense of jumping between selves and worlds will ease.

The last ten years I lived in Denmark I was involved in the Hearing Voices Project in Aarhus ; participating in a Hearing Voices group, delivering training as part of a team (quite often with Anders) and making new friends. I found that I was able to do things I hadn’t considered as part of my path in life when I was younger: public speaking, teaching, openly sharing my vulnerability with others, support people to set up groups. I have gained so much knowledge and experience doing this work and it looks like I will be able to build on this here in England.

Delivering training with Rufus and Anders was emotional and affirming for me –  obviously it is amazing to be able to do things together with people you respect and care about. But each of them also represent significant changes and times in my life.

As always, delivering training is exciting but also presents some challenges and I find that I always learn something new – about myself, about the material we are working and about working together as a team.

We were all exhausted by the end of Tuesday – and rush hour commuting in different parts of London does add an extra layer  to the predictable tiredness.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two days and there is a sense of inspiration and possibility here in the post-training days.

Much gratitude goes out to everyone who came along and co-created the training. I truly believe that everyone in the room creates what happens: each person brings their own energy and whether people speak up or keep quiet, engange with others in the breaks or not – it all makes the day unfold just the way it does.