Self Pity

I’ve got my first therapy session tomorrow. I’ve been racking my brains for days about topics to ‘work on’. My therapist prefers it if issue are delineated to address. Today I came up with something!

Walking is a good time for me to be mulling over current issues I’m preoccupied with. A big one for me at the moment is grieving my relationship with T. Yesterday I wrote about this issue. I’ve been writing about it for a while. In the past, I used to go to therapy for support in dealing with being in the relationship. Sometimes twice a week!

It no longer seems appropriate to deal with this as the major issue in therapy. It’s not the major issue in my life. But today I was reflecting that, as an AA member, a lot of what I describe as grieving, could be re-framed by an AA onlooker as self pity. I thought about this on my walk. That was when I came up with an issue: My AA program. I could use therapy to process my relationship with AA, which is a major issue in my life right now.

Process my relationship to the twelve steps and what that means to me. Process my grief about ways I feel I’ve messed up in my relationship with ‘the fellowship’ and past AA relationships which I think are still affecting me, at least unconsciously. I haven’t made many, or even any lasting relationships in AA. I think this is pretty unusual for someone who has attended AA as long as I have (29 years).

That isn’t to say I have no AA friends, I do here in Wales. But none from my London days. That makes me feel a bit sad (self pity?). A bit bewildered. A bit down-hearted.

Yesterday I had a natter with one of these AA’s that I am good friends with. We ended up on the subject of God. Or god, if you prefer. S believes in, has faith in, God. He sees it as an important relationship. I told him that I have no relationship with God. I’m probably an agnostic, or more on the atheist side of agnosticism.

Classically, in AA, if I felt that self pity was causing upset in my equilibrium, I would be required to pray to my (it can be anything) higher power to have it removed. But I tend to look on my upsets in a more psychological way. For example, I would tend not to consider feelings of sadness and regret as self pity. Rather, I would look to the source of my feelings and give them space to allow them to be experienced and processed. Tagging something as self-pity rather feels like giving myself a telling off, even though I know that a classic AA approach finds this tag more of a liberation than anything else.

One ‘defect of character’ I can certainly own however is jealousy. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that my jealousy negatively affected my relationship with T. This was something my therapist and I worked on in our previous therapy relationship. We were able to see that my mother had been, at times, a very jealous woman, and so I was in some way re-enacting a dynamic that was familiar to me from childhood. Not that this awareness freed me of it.

After our relationship ended I realised I never really felt T loved me and that was the reason I used to get so jealous. Something was missing between us. The jealousy was, I think, a symptom of the vacuum. Had I felt he wanted the relationship there would have been no reason for me to get jealous. This isn’t to excuse the negative way my jealousy impacted on T, but to understand why it happened. But now, I’m free of the jealousy, and have ‘self-pity’ in its place. Not simply over the loss of the relationship, but also over my feelings about the past.

Maybe I can ‘work through’ this self pity/grief in therapy. Because it’s draining me of enthusiasm for my life now. I could also work on the god-shaped ‘hole’ in my life. Ask myself what it could mean to me to have a relationship with a god I don’t believe in.

The End of A Romance

One of the issues that’s hard for me to escape at the moment how long it takes to fully recover from an intimate relationship. It seems to happen in layers.

I’ve been navigated the ‘friendship’ stage of relating, which, I must admit hasn’t really worked. My ex appears to have a compulsion to reject me that still gets played out between us even though we are no longer a couple. The last time I ran into him he invited me to join him for a tea, and then asked me to leave. I found this upsetting. Why wouldn’t I? I did text him about it afterwards, asking him what was going on, and he said (without saying sorry) that he’d needed to “reset” i.e. needed some “alone time”. I found this insulting because we rarely sit down for a cuppa nowadays. Like: Am I of so little value to him that even a cup of tea with me is intolerable without it being cut short? Am I so bad? So toxic? I had really tried to love him when we together and this attitude of his has made me feel totally worthless. I think he has an addiction to rejecting me. It makes him feel in control. And now, I’ve really had enough. I can’t be his friend anymore.

He never texts me to ask me how I am, which I did with him. I’ve stopped this now. And I won’t be subjected to another cup of tea in which I get asked (not in so many words) to go away after fifteen minutes. But it’s hard because I did love him and knowing that I won’t be spending any more time with him — he’s made it impossible — brings up another layer of grief. Hopefully the last one.

I suppose that, even though it feels difficult and sad, it will eventually pass. Life always moves on, even when it seems like that won’t ever happen. The difficulty, or part of it I guess, is that I still see him about. The door keeps being swung open again on my feelings every time I see him.

Yesterday, when I walked up to the bookshop for my volunteer shift, he was sitting in the cafe at the end of my road talking to one of his friends. As he didn’t see me it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have to negotiate the boundary of how friendly to be that wasn’t going to leave me feeling empty and unwanted again. Like he can pick me up and put me down as the mood takes him. I don’t want to be the subject of his whims any more. But I also don’t want to be mean, because I care about him. Caring about his feelings whilst looking after myself isn’t an easy task. Also, I think part of me still doesn’t want to close the door. But really, it was always him that was closing the door in me, not the other way around. It’s not my responsibility. I honestly don’t know why. I feel a responsibility to him and his feelings he has never felt towards me. I wish I was more self-protective.

I’ve deleted my Facebook app, so I can no longer get little snippets from his life to keep him in my imagination. I didn’t exit to get away from him necessarily, but it isn’t doing me any harm. It’s less fuel for the fire.

It does seem to be a case of just waiting until the fire burns out, slowly, which it inevitably will. I think that’s the healthy grieving process. Neither stoking it up nor chucking water over the pit. Just accepting the memory of a warmth and glow that no longer exits. A fire that was always a bit out of control and unsafe when it did live.

FALLING IN LOVE ETC

Over the past decade or so one of the ideas that has preoccupied me has been about falling in love. I had read the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on this topic, he said: you can’t do it on your own. You can only fall in love with someone who loves you back. That means unrequited love isn’t really love, according to Phillips.

As someone who has experienced a lot of what I would have called unrequited love, or, when in denial, a love that had yet to be made manifest due to some reason or other. I never really felt that I wasn’t in love when it was unrequited. My love was a ‘falling in’ type of love, I thought. This confusion perplexed me. Even when it was unrequited these loves that I fell into felt so powerfully strong how could it be anything else?

Yesterday, walking up to Aldi, I found myself thinking about this issue vis-a-vis my ex. No surprises there; I think about him daily. It’s hard not to because I still live in the town we spent so much time knocking about in together. I constantly see his friends or family — yesterday I saw his mother (we ignored each other!). So anyway, I realised that, contrary to what I have always thought — that I was in love with him — I couldn’t really have been. That’s because he didn’t love me back, even though we were an item for a year. We weren’t in love. I didn’t experienced that magical state I so badly wanted.

I did love him, but we never fell in love. Adam Phillips was right: falling in love is a two person affair.

Even though this was not what I wanted to realise necessarily, I learned something. I also realised how much I had wanted to fall in love. I thought I could somehow create that condition, through working on my appearance, or making myself more interesting by being an artist. But that isn’t how it works. You can’t manipulate a person to fall in love with you. It’s completely impossible. I really understand that now, and I wish I had known that a couple of decades ago, but the fact is that I didn’t know, and only the years of desperation have taught me. Ce la vie.

I have fallen in love once. I was seventeen. It doesn’t really make me sad that therefore my dream didn’t come true — falling in love again (I got the wish after that singular instance). But how different my life might have been had I realised that nothing I could possible do could conjure a beloved partner. I know that that does happen for some people, but it isn’t through anything they do. It just happens for them. So much of life is pure chance. Luck. Whether of good or bad fortune. It’s a mistake, I think, to take life too personally.

I think the best life advice is just to find and follow your own interests, but that can be hard if you can’t find things that really interest you, for an extended duration. Some people get those things early in life, some do not, for whatever reason. It’s hard for good things to happen when you don’t have direction. It’s easy to get caught up in things you don’t necessarily need. But perhaps that’s just the journey of life; finding yourself. I’ve always felt that to be true even if, as a lot of people say, it’s a cliche.

I’ve also been pondering on the truth of the “There are no mistakes” affirmation I’ve been running with since yesterday. This is something else I was pondering on my way to Aldi. I could agree with that notion when applied to my own life, or else I found the affirmation at least useful. But then I thought about some of the terrible stuff I read about and watch documentary’s about I came unstuck. For example, victims of femicide, or structural racism. The climate emergency. I mean these issues are certainly mistakes, in my opinion. They are worse than mistakes, they are crimes. For me, the affirmation does not work on these political issue.

Considering that it is relatively easy for to affirm that there have been no mistakes in my own life, it gave me cause to reflect that I am obviously, in that case, a relatively privileged woman. This altered my perception of myself and my currently somewhat depressed state of mind. So affirmations may actually work if you can find the appropriate one.

You may have noticed, if you’ve been following my thread (I’m never sure a ‘like’ guarantees that I’ve actually had my post read) That I’ve changed my heading from ‘Dreaming is Free’ to ‘I AM A CLOUD’. This is because I felt that I AM A CLOUD was not cliche, which I am keen to avoid. I also want to continue to affirm that nothing in my life has been a mistake in theory, there is one caveat — my childhood was a mistake. No child should have to put up with the pain I was dished out. But it wasn’t my mistake — it was the mistake of my ‘care givers’. So I don’t need to worry about that.

The writer Matt Haig, in his book, How to Stay Alive, affirms that he is not a cloud. He is the sky. I assume this to mean he is greater than the sum of his (negative) perceptions. Nonetheless, I will continue to affirm that I am a cloud; neither wrong nor exactly right, just floating along in a mistake-free state of being. I’d like to hear what you think of all this, if you feel like commenting.

One last thought. Lately I’ve noticed that when watching dramas on TV, whether fiction or true crime stuff (I watch a lot of detective/crime TV), I often feel sorry for the perpetrators. Not always; I watched ‘Honour’ on ITV a couple of days ago and I didn’t feel sorry for those awful men. But quite often I feel as equally sad for the criminals. Is this normal? I notice that in a Sally Rooney interview in the Guardian today she says “I no longer feel so completely confident about the line that divides ‘abusive people’ from ‘the rest of us’.” So perhaps I’m not in such bad company after all.

I AM A CLOUD

I’m trying to think of a better title for my blog. DREAMING IS FREE (etc) strikes me as a bit of a cliche, now that I think of it. If I actually spent more time on my dreams it would be OK, but I only explore them here when I they are memorable; I don’t like writing as soon as I open my eyes.

I used to be really into dreams, as in dreams that are desires. I loved dwelling in the possible. At fourth-nine, this no longer happens. I know that a lot of forty-nine year olds wouldn’t feel like this. I meet sixty year olds bustling with energy, dreams, projects, but that’s not me

London is a good place for the dreamer. It’s a place of creativity, ambition, furthering yourself and forging connections. Furthering myself was my principle reason for sticking out there so many years. Education. I was obsessed with education for years. You’d think that after zillions of courses I would be able to think of a compelling title for my blog. All that money and debt. All those essays. All that critique. All of that time being deconstructed and remade. You’d think I’d be better than appropriating a Blondie tune, but there it is.

Earlier on today scrolling my twitter feed, I came across the following quote:

Regard yourself as a cloud because you see, clouds never make mistakes. They always do the right thing.

If you treat yourself as a cloud or a wave, and realise that you can’t make mistake whatever you do.

Then through this you will develop a kind of confidence.

Alan Watts

This quotation was posted by Hiut Denim, an expensive designer jeans outlet based in Wales. Hiut Denim never deal in a cliche. Check out their branding and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve been repeating “There are no mistakes,” like a mantra this morning. It’s offered me some relief from my depressed brain actually, which seems to be incapable of nothing so much as raking over the past and regretting just about everything I’ve ever done. For me, there being no mistakes feels like a very radical idea. Because, left to my own devices, I seem to dwell, not in possibility, but in regret.

All of that said, if I was given the choice to start life over, I’m not sure what I would have done differently. I’m not sure what have made that difference I’m apparently craving. Maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe there really are no mistakes.

But I think I’d like to live somewhere where I’m not continually exposed to other peoples noise waste. My neighbours drive me nuts. Music I don’t want to listen to, banging and thudding, gossipy phone calls. I’ve asked everyone very politely to turn it down a bit and things have been adjusted somewhat, but not enough. Being independently wealthy with a large house and car would be very welcome, but that is never going to happen. I’m not at all good at making money. I don’t have a career or any ambition or money making skills.

I’ve always known that I was fucked in this respect. My family were rich, but I was disinherited when I was twenty-four — a terrible shock. After that I became obsessed with financially successful, or else just extremely talented, men. But none of them wanted to pair up with me; who can blame them? People tend to go for people tend, in my experience, to choose those of the same social status. Successful people like succesfull people, or else young people full of promise and beautiful people.

But there are no mistakes apparently.

When I was going out with the professor he told me he had met Alan Watts. He was an alcoholic apparently. The professor was one of the least sentimental people I have ever met. And one of the most successful I have ever met — certainly the most successful person I have ever dated. He was even willing to share his wealth with me. So you could say this dream did in fact come true for me eventually, but it certainly didn’t make me happy. You could even say that many of my dreams came true, to some extent, but none of those things delivered anything I had hoped they would. Actually the opposite was true. That proves the truism that getting what you want isn’t always good for you.

I would quite like to open a bookshop. There is no bookshop where I live that sells new books. I miss that. Foyles Bookshop in London, on Charing Cross Road, is my favourite place to hang out. I always try to meet friends in the cafe on the top floor. There are a lot of people hanging around working on lap-tops, although personally, I don’t know how anyone concentrates writing in a cafe.

I’d like to open a bookshop here where I live, but I’m in no position to set up a business. For a while I considered selling all my books in the market, where I could set up a stall fairly cheaply. But then what would I do when my stock ran out? And I don’t particularly want to sell all my books. I’ve got rid of a ton of books in the past and always regretted it.

But as there are no mistakes I shouldn’t worry: I’m meant to be living alone in this noisy place; I’m meant to have next to nothing materially; I’m not meant to have family; Boyfriend; Masses of friends. I’m meant to be unable to set up my own business. I’m not meant to have anything to do today apart from walking to the coffee shop and writing this blog post. I’m meant to have Bipolar disorder. I’m meant to watch TV every night. Have too many books. No job prospects. Few friends.

It’s all OK because I am a cloud.

My Happy Place, Therapy, Money and The Social Dilemma

I’m still working out how you headline a blog post with an image. Today I’ve chosen two members of my immediate family, a couple to whom I am “Auntie Ruth”. That makes me the ‘sister’ of my best buddy and this delightful pair his ‘children’. Recently I pointed out to him that his dogs get more love, and are better looked after than I was as a kid. He agreed, and said the same applied to him.

Every time I see pictures these fellas I smile, broadly, without intending to at all. They live with him in another part of Wales and next week I’m going to stay with them all for a few days, which will be a proper treat. I imagine that a few days with this bunch will be a happy place for me to inhabit for a few days. I’ll feel understood and appreciated and will laugh a lot; my buddy is certainly one of the funniest, if not the funniest person I have ever met. There is nothing quite like having a good laugh.

I’m also going back into therapy next week. I’ve seen a great many therapists, over the past thirty years: Jungians; Dr’s surgery counsellors; NHS psychotherapists; a Freudian, or ‘psychodynamic therapist’ and H, a ‘Transactional Analyst’. I’ve been seeing H, on and off, for the past three years.

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to “work on”. H has this thing about suggesting that we “work on” a particular issue. At first this was OK because being in a relationship with T had driven me back to seeing her; I simply couldn’t cope. Sometimes I saw H twice a week during this period, such was the extent of my distress. Going out with T turned out to be pretty expensive.

I’ve never seen anyone who wanted me to “work on” stuff before. I still can’t get my head around it, and I’ve told her this more than once. She’s told me not to worry about it, which hasn’t worked. It stresses me out, and no matter how many times she re-frames the “working on something” business, I still obsess about it. So, since we agreed to start with the sessions again, I’ve been worrying about what it is I’m going to “work on”.

If there is anything to “work on” at the moment it’s probably saving money, as this is my main project at the moment. Because of this project I’ve been having second thoughts about therapy. Especially since my Care Co-Ordinator frowned when I told her I was going into therapy again, and the cost. The cost has gone up from £30 to £40, starting next year. S said: “That’s 33%!” Since then I’ve been wondering how much I actually need therapy, especially as I’m supposed to be “working on” saving money (for the first time in my life).

Naturally this will need to be the first issue I raise when I see her again. I might even cancel, were it not for the fact that she put me on her waiting list for four months before agreeing to see me again and I don’t want to mess her about.

She is a good shrink though. I often feel more upbeat and hopeful after one of our chats. I feel understood. Apart from my best buddy, I don’t know anyone who has had extensive psychotherapy any more. It’s an experience that has definelty altered me, and I never quite feel on a wave-length with people who haven’t also undergone therapy. I think it gives you a certain cast of mind.

People in AA always have opinions about psychotherapy, both pro and anti. Actually the only reason I went into therapy was because of my AA life. In London, it isn’t unusual. But here in Wales it is. I think most people here are of the view that it conflicts with AA principles, and I think there is a certain amount of truth in that. In most cases I feel it puts me in the position of being at odds with my fellow Wales AA’s. That is not an easy place to occupy, but I don’t let it influence me too much. I don’t particularly care what people in AA think about me anymore.

All of that said, I think I’ll just make an initial commitment to therapy until Christmas. Maybe my urgent need to save any spare penny I have will take precedence over my need for support.

Last night I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I must admit I found it pretty shocking to realise the extent to which I am being manipulated by Silicon Valley. In the past I’ve minimised my worries about this addiction. My best buddy is always talking about it, but it’s not something that has ever particularly worried me. I don’t have lots of followers on any of my accounts, I don’t chat to a lot of people, I don’t have lots of Facebook Friends. This doesn’t particularly bother me. In the past I did have a lot more contacts on my various apps, but I always found the whole thing a bit fake, and deleted accounts. Inevitably I have gotten drawn back in, starting from scratch.

I do get upset if I post something on Facebook and my friends (who are real friends) ignore me. I don’t really need this kind of upset; I usually have enough to contend with on any given day without adding to the load. But then, I also get a boost from these apps, when I’m not being ignored. A dopamine hit, I learned last night.

I do spend a lot of time on my screens. Often from morning to lunchtime and then checking them all intermittently after that. I read the Guardian, scroll Twitter until there is nothing new left to read. I’m not on Instagram any more — I find it boring. I thought about it and reflected that were I to delete all my apps I imagine that I would be at quite a serious loose end.

Twitter especially does influence my behaviour. I buy and borrow books based on what I read there. Last week I spent about two days watching Malcolm Gladwell talks, purely because it popped up in my YouTube suggestions. I wonder how much I was being manipulated into that activity now. I find that a bit scary — that I’m being programmed to behave in certain ways by the tech giants. I’ve become a product, my attention is being sold. According to all these people talking in the documentary, many of whom were really powerful computer engineers, that is exactly what is happening. The limbic part of my brain is being programmed. Ouch.

Needless to say The Social Dilemma is not trending on Twitter.

Philipa and I

Yesterday Philipa Perry said on Twitter: I’ll answer any questions you may have until I fall asleep 😴ask me anything.

I had to think about this. One, because it was now the following day and I wasn’t sure she would still be answering questions (there had been a lot of them from her 160K followers), and two, there were literally so many things I could seek her counsel on I didn’t know where to start. In the end I plumped for the following: How could I stop being someone who collects rejection please?

Delighted I was to receive a reply! This is what she said: Collect the positives instead, This is hard because instinctively we look for rejection or aggression so we can keep safe. But make yourself count 3 positives for every negative.

I would never have thought of that! I was really grateful that she replied. Not just because I now have a strategy to cope with one of my major loops in the Low Mood canon, but also because if she hadn’t said anything that would have become another stick to beat myself over the head with.

So I thought of three positives to rub over the rejection balm regarding being dumped by my ex: 1: I’m sober from booze 2: I had a two month affair with one of the most famous psychotherapists in Britain (the unlikelihood of this occurrence still resonances getting on for a year since it happened) 3: Writing my blog (I’ve finally find the form I enjoy writing in).

It does work actually. It was a good question to ask as well as my brain pretty much works like a mnemonic device for past rejections. I’ll probably mull one of them over a day, at least. And today has already furnished me with one example of such. On my way back from my cafe latte J. (Proprietor of local trendy cafe that ignored my CV after I applied for a job) walked by me with his two kids. As I haven’t clapped eyes on him since before the lockdown it took me a while to recognise him but once I did, and he looked right through me, that familiar feeling of gloom infiltrated my being. So I quickly applied my Philipa Perry balm: I considered three positives 1: Writing my blog. 2: I’ve now saved a considerable chunk of money. 3: I’m sober.

It definetly diverts my thinking along more positive lines.

Then I got another one. Actually not so much a rejection as frustration: Since the day before yesterday my Twitter link to this Blog has been displaying the following message when I post my link: 404 Not Found. This is really winding me up, despite the fact that I don’t think anyone (apart from one Bookselling days friend) clicks on the link. I just don’t know what to do! It has occurred before, but the sorted itself out without my intervention, but doesn’t appear to be magically realigning this time. Technology 😬 Any tips would be gratefully received.

Actually, talking of tips, I’d be glad for any pointers from you. I’ve just started this in business, and whilst I’m not currently looking for cash rewards for my scribbling, I would like readers. It’s nice feeling heard, so thanks, if you’ve got this far.

What else? Yesterday I went on a bit of an in-county adventure, and made a bus journey to visit some new friends I’ve made. They invited me round for tea, and afterwards we all went to the local AA meeting. By the time I got home my brain was buzzing with all the excitement of my activities, and my dream life was very full on as a result. But I can’t be bothered to rehash all of that. Suffice it to say that Nick Cave made an appearance, and when I woke up I was rather disappointed to be returned back to my humdrum existence.

For the past three or four nights I’ve been watching Blood Pact on Channel Four. It’s part of the Walter Presents collection they store as ‘boxed sets’. I thoroughly enjoyed the three seasons they had produced, and am rather wondering what I will do tonight when TV time sets in. At this stage of the proceedings I’m feeling that I’ve more or less viewed everything worth watching across the channels I access. If you haven’t seen it I throughly recommend, although it gets a bit stressful. The characters are all risk takers (totally unlike me) and I found myself wanting to shout: Stop! Stop! Stop! More times than was comfortable.

Low Mood

Low Mood

I don’t know what to report today on recovery. Nothing immediately springs to mind. I haven’t been on my walk to Aldi, which usually gets the cogs of my brain turning. In fact, I rather woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, everything feels gloomy and like it’s going wrong: Low mood, as they say in the healthcare trade.

I’m not really sure why. It’s the sort of morning that were I to call someone in recovery, they might remind me to be grateful I’m sober. Sometimes this works, but not always.

I’m still brooding on my ex, after recently he dismissed me during our cup of tea, in what I thought was a rather untimely fashion. I’m angry. Recently, in Philipa Perry’s column, she said that, “it’s easier to feel angry than sad.” So, wrapped up in my ball of anger the other day I mulled over this bit of wisdom. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it actually. Good friend S. also said this to me with reference to my ex a while ago, an embarrassingly long time ago, in fact. But in this more recent interlude, I thought: what actual proof is there that beneath an anger lies sadness? Like: where’s the research?

That said, when I considered that I may be sad rather than angry really, it did lift the anger temporarily. Sometimes I find that airing my grievance can shift the anger too. But I’ve already tried that. I texted T. after my dismissal and enquired what had been going on, pointing out that he did not have to ask me to join him for a tea. He said that he needed to “reset”, which in his case meant going back to his sketch of the street, which is what he had been doing before I sat down. But he didn’t apologise. He simply explained.

I’m still pissed off. As I haven’t seen him, I haven’t had a chance to “reset” and be extremely unfriendly, indicating the new way of things. I realise this is a bit of a childish solution, but I feel upset, and I don’t know what else to do.

One thing that helped marginally, was that I realised how temperamental he is. Just having that word at my disposal enabled me to see him a bit more clearly. One minute you’re enjoying a nice cup of tea al fresco, the next he gets a mean look in his eye and shortly asks you to move on. Which, considering he was the person that asked me to sit down, was a bit off to put it mildly.

Another thing that I realised was that he’s actually acting exactly like he used to when we were ‘an item’. I use those words advisedly, because when we were ‘an item’ it was like living on a village below a volcano. I never knew when there would be an eruption. e.g. One day we’d got ready to go to the beach together (he wanted to draw), when suddenly he announced that he wanted to go alone and I would have to leave.

I always cut T. a lot of slack because he has Bipolar disorder (type 1, I’m a type 2), but really, this is no excuse. I got used to his erratic behaviour and tried to adapt myself. But we aren’t an item anymore, and the way he carries on I definelty wouldn’t accept from any other friend. Why do I cut him quite so much slack? The reason is, I’m used to it.

If he’d done that the first time we ever had coffee, I doubt very much there would have been a second meet up. But the first time we met he was fairly well behaved. He certainly didn’t dismiss me after ten minutes. We chatted for two hours. But after you’ve been involved with someone for a year, things change. The boundaries get lowered because you get close and that tends, I think, to make you accept things that ordinarily you wouldn’t. I should say: I wouldn’t.

I don’t know where I’m going with this really above and beyond venting. I feel incredibly frustrated by the whole thing, as well as exasperated myself for still being all tangled up in this spiders web of confusion and anger. As well as ultimately alone. I have few friends, no family, and a succession of disastrous romantic failures tallied up over the years. And even were things to suddenly miraculously change for the better, I’d still have spent the best part of the last two decades trying to recover and not getting very far. In some case not even recovering, but getting a lot worse. Partly this is because I could never really get my head around the fact that I had Bipolar disorder, and act accordingly. e.g. take medication. And there are all sorts of reasons for this that I’m not going to rehearse here.

Sitting in the cafe earlier having my daily latte I observed a happy young family on the next table. The beautiful woman was pregnant with what looked like her second child. Her husband was handsome. Her child was climbing over the sofa having all sort of fun and attention from what looked like the grandmother. I’ll I could think was: I’m never going to have that. And that that was all I had actually wanted, and for a very long time.

Then again, dwelling in this welter of what I’m sure no small amount of people would call self pity, I did reflect that I may have been guilty of doing that other truism often pulled out of the bag at such times: I was comparing my insides with other peoples outsides. The likelihood is that had I got all that, and I was married in my early thirties and had ‘my own family’ (I was ‘step mum’), it probably wouldn’t have been that one thing that would cancel out all the suffering and unhappiness. And the truth is I actually like being single. I like time alone, maybe not all the time, but a lot of it. But maybe this is also the key to why I’m so pissed with T. Because through him I had felt in some sense redeemed, that I had found out I did have the soul mate I had always hoped for, but he took it away from me, leaving me doomed to a lifetime of failure. And while this may not be actually factually accurate, I think deep down this is exactly how I feel. What I’m finding is that time isn’t healing, or not completely.

I think that rather than trying to fight this state of affairs, whether through owning my sadness, or anything else, I just have to accept that it’s how I feel. There simply isn’t anything else I can do about it. That just is the way it is. Temporarily, I do get relief, but the something will happen, be it seeing a happy family, or being ejecting from an innocuous tea al fresco, and all that rage and disappointment comes screaming back to haunt me. I’m sure that Philippa Perry would have some wise words to add to this. For example that he’s avoidant and me, being an anxiously attached, am drawn to him.

I did actually think that when she tweeted a link to her Observer column, how much this anxious/avoidant tag applied to me. So I replied to her tweet saying how much it had helped. And when she didn’t even like my comment, I got upset all over again. I seem to draw rejections like a bloody magnet. Or maybe I’m just too thin-skinned.

I wish I had something uplifting to say about all of this but unfortunately it’s just one of those days.

Various Recovery Bits and Bobs

Various Recovery Bits and Bobs

I’ve just got back from my walk to Aldi. It’s a warm sunny day, in contrast to the weekend, which was pretty grim. My local high street is still thronging with summer holiday tourists, although the coffee shop wasn’t too busy this morning.

My walk to Aldi is quite a good time to reflect on recovery issues. I had quite exciting dreams last night, which is sort of weird because excitement isn’t exactly my recovery narrative at the moment. Quite the reverse. It made me realise that dreams, in my case, seem to carry a feeling tone that is the principle meaning I seem able to immediately ascertain.

Whereas yesterday’s dream made me feel down because it featured characters from my real life that I do not exactly associate with joy and success (even though the dream did not depict failure as such), today’s dream gave me a surprising uplift due to the fact that I was being valued for my ideas and perspectives. I was asking various people whether or not they believe we have free will and having interesting and meaningful conversations. From my reading, both lately and historically, I understand this is one of the major questions that concerns not only philosophers, but also psychiatrists.

It also concerned me, and I have addressed academic essays that covered this topic — in art and in analytical a psychology (Jung). But in my dream I asked a couple of people and then gave my own point of view. My point of view was somewhat frivolous and jokey. I said I thought we could chop and change. I could have free will en route to the cafe. Then not, watching TV. I didn’t actually give these examples, but that was the gist.

I think the matter of free will is of pertinence to recovering addicts in twelve step recovery because of step one (wherever you take it): We admitted we were powerless over (fill in the blank) and that our lives had become unmanageable. It seems to me that what this step is arguing is that we have no free will — no control. We have no control when we take the (fill in the blank), nor do we have any control whether or not we will take (fill in the blank) at all.

The step doesn’t apparently address free will in general, just in the particular case of the substance or behaviour in question. Nonetheless, I think anyone who works the steps, will quickly come to realise that actually the steps posit the idea that we have no free will at all, except to the extent that we adhere to the principles of the twelve steps.

I’ve pondered the question of free will when it comes to the twelve steps in the last couple of decades. Something didn’t make sense to me because if I am making the choice to go to meetings and work the steps that means I do have some free will. Maybe not lashings of free will, but some and I think free will is a bit like pregnancy — you can’t be a bit pregnant. Some free will is free will. So this is a bit paradoxical. Conversely, when it comes to most other areas in my life, at this stage in the game — in contrast to my twenties, say — I think there is hardly any free will. Or a lot less of it than some aspects of culture might like to have us believe.

Another thought was: You can do all the right things in life, but that doesn’t mean things are going to turn out well. I think this is really important bit of information.

Another thing I was actually thinking about of my own accord, rather than simply pondering my dream life, was something a clinical psychologist I was seeing in London told me. She said, “Why don’t you compare yourself to people who are worse off than you instead of people that are more successful”. And this isn’t the only time I have heard this wisdom in the annals of mental health practices.

It’s a good piece of advice, although not something I have ever really practiced. Lately though, due to my daily routine, which consists of reading the Guardian and watching a lot of Crime on TV, I’ve become aware of just how badly off a lot of people really are. This applies to both fictional characters and real ones. Some people have really had a lot of shit to deal with. People that have really probably either done nothing wrong at all, or else had a really terrible hand dealt to them in life and didn’t see a way through. They couldn’t escape.

I’m basically of the opinion that I have had a lot of injustices to cope with, more than my fair share, in fact. With many of these situations I really am lucky to have lived to tell the tale. Countless people have told me that in their view I really am lucky to still be alive, but for a long time this observation had pretty much no impact on my consciousness. By now though, I’ve had so many near death experiences, I’m prone to agree. But this has never really made me feel exactly grateful.

So that’s my bit on gratitude — just read the papers and watch some Crime TV. You would have to be a total dullard not to feel like life isn’t so bad after all. Unless you’re watching that stuff in prison, which presumably a lot of people are; thousands, in fact. If you’re sleeping under a blanket in Haiti, trying to escape the current catastrophe in Afghanistan, or on a boat in the ocean in an effort to escape some persecution in your home country, this is obviously not an option that will be available to you. This is why I am of the option that, quoting that famous Jewish thinker, “Everything that starts with spirituality, ends in politics.”

I’ve also had another recovery topic on my mind today: amends. Making amends, which is the ninth step in recovery, and a pretty challenging step, as anyone who does it will attest. But perhaps that is for another day. I won’t go on because, I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty short attention span.

Success and Failure

Philipa Perry writes the ‘problem page’ for the Observer now, and I think she’s a really good agony aunt.

A few weeks ago she advised a man who was struggling with his life — boredom and ennui, as I remember it — to pay attention to his dreams. Perhaps new avenues for exploration would be revealed. Her advice has stayed with me, and I have been suffering in a similar way to her interlocutor, I have been meaning to pay a bit of attention to my dream life.

Yesterday, I wrote about a dream I had had about D. — a man I had a long experience of not being loved by (probably the best way to describe it). Of rejection. After finishing my blog, going about my daily business, I really thought about D. (I’m happy to report I refrained from Googling him again, although the impulse was there) and what a big deal that whole episode in my life had been. So much so, I thought I could probably write a whole series of posts about it, practically a book, and I resolved to do just that for the foreseeable future. But last night I had another dream which got my attention.

Actually last night’s dream stayed with me after waking with a strong emotional resonance; probably even more so than the dream the night before about D.

I thought about sitting down and writing today’s blog post about it while it was still fresh in my mind, but there were things I needed from Aldi, and I prefer to get difficult, less enjoyable tasks out of the way as soon as possible. So I went to Coffee1, had a latte, and then walked up to the supermarket. This was all well and good because it gave me a bit longer to reflect on my dream and the feelings which emanated from it.

So in the dream I was having a relationship with another male who’s name begins with D. This man I also knew from AA in London, and I similarly quite liked the idea of developing a relationship with him, although it was nowhere near as important to me as my relationship with the other D.

D. was a middle class Jewish man who owned his own flat and had a good job as an editor of one of the main newspapers in the UK. He was interesting and pretty friendly. One time he gave me a grammar lesson to help me in my writing pursuits, I visited his flat in south London a few times, and I regularly saw him in meetings and so got to know him in a highly person way. A personal way, but not highly personal to me way. This is one of the quirks of AA. You have these immensely intimate experiences with people that, at the same time, are not necessarily personal. Not particular to you and them, if you know what I mean. So with D., we were friends, but I also knew a lot of stuff about his life that only a thing like AA will provide. So, in the dream, unlike in life, we were ‘seeing’ one another.

The dream was located in one of those odd dream spaces that is hard to define. I don’t know what it was, but there was another couple there. The guy was a local who is a writer and runs a trendy cafe in my local town. He’s very handsome, probably in his thirties, and has a partner (who I have never met) and a young child. That is all I know about him. A successful local man.

The woman — the cafe owner/writer’s partner — was someone my brain made up. Both were milling about around D. and I. At some point D. confessed that he had had a relationship with the woman, or a fling, since we had being seeing each other. I was very upset about this, and it became clear that the cafe owner/writer didn’t know about it. I was upset about it, but at the same time, it provided some sort of weird satisfaction because the cafe owner/writer was a man that I had had a bit of a crush on (in the dream as well as real life). Cafe owner is called J.

J. and I start discussing his cafe, which has been closed after the pandemic, and had been similarly afflicted in the dream. I was asking him if the cafe would re-open and he said he didn’t know. I expressed dismay about this saying, “Oh, but I love your cafe”.

Various bit of said cafe furnished the dream: vegetables from the farm shop; salad; a bit of cake. I was somehow going through these items full of regret for what was going on with the cafe. Also with no small amount of amazement about the affair that D. had undertaken with J’s partner. I started to place small pieces of paper in a portentous fashion to hint about the secret life I had found out about.

Now in real life I did actually apply to J’s cafe for a job. I went into the cafe and met him and he told me to send in my CV even though the job that had been advertised had gone. I did as he asked and he didn’t even reply to my email. I felt really hurt by this denouement because I had put a lot of effort and feeling into writing that CV, and I absolutely hate writing CV’s (who doesn’t?). This turn-up actually caused me shame and feelings of depression. The reason being that I actually quite fancied J. and I really wanted a job in his cafe.

The cafe is a really popular destination in this town. They make amazing cakes and sourdough breads. The venue of the old place, before the pandemic, was really gorgeous. A bit like a huge artists studio, or large loft. There was art hanging on the walls, ladders with books on, old record covers and gorgeous bits of pottery. I loved the place, and it sold great coffee. The fact that J. didn’t even bother to answer my email, made me feel a bit ashamed, as I said. I felt like he’d intuited that I liked him and thought — I don’t want her in here. I should really have emailed again and asked why he hadn’t even answered my message, but I didn’t have the guts. After that I stopped going to the cafe, and wasn’t exactly delighted when I saw that they had a new post pandemic venue (not as nice) and would be opening up again in due course.

Sitting drinking my morning tea, thinking over the dream and real life stories associated with it made me feel depressed. It reminded me of my failures — D. number 2, J. and the job at the cafe. I felt: I am a total failure. Curiously the dream the night before that had not aroused such strong feelings in me, even though I consider the failure with other D. to be far larger and more defining, in my waking mind. But this new dream itself was not really about failure. The affair had in fact brought me closer to J. It made him more human and relatable to me, even though I was pissed off that D. had had an affair with J’s partner.

These feeling of shame and failure stayed with me, earlier this morning. I got ready to go to the shops and reflected on just how many romantic rejections I’ve sustained, like injuries. There have been simply loads. If I counted the list would be endless. It filled me with despair and self loathing.

The other night I watched the Channel Four (or maybe BBC) documentary about the INCEL movement. I found it quite shocking, and obviously topical for us brits, with the recent shooting incident here in the UK.

The anger of these men who have been sexually rejected too many times for them to cope with. Their despair about their inability to find a woman that wants to be with them; that I could really relate to. Not the rage, but the despair and depression. It isn’t often that you hear people being so open about this topic, which surely affects most people to a greater or lesser extent. And to place so much importance on this failure. To be, in essence, defined by it. This, in many ways, is how I too have felt in my life, but I have repressed these feelings in the knowledge that it isn’t really socially acceptable to own such overwhelming feelings of longing and grief about romance. It is thought to be shallow and childish, I think. And I must admit, as I watched these dudes going on about their lack of success, quite apart from their revenge tactics, which are obviously really appalling, my overwhelming feeling was — this has been blown out of all proportion. They have blown their failures into something much more self-defining than they should. I just wanted to say — get a life! Why define your life’s achievement by romance? It appeared stupid and childish. I wanted to say to them — go to college or something. Focus on something else; maybe you’ll meet someone eventually. But you know I really identify with their upset and I find it hard to right size these feelings, just as these young men do.

But on my way up to Aldi I thought things through a bit more. I thought: Is it true that I am really a total failure? (this is what the dream had made me feel again). True, I am not with someone I would like to be with. I don’t have a job I love. I have no money and few possessions like a house or car; that many people my own age do have. Because it isn’t as though I never tried to get my life together. I went to university, I’ve worked. I’ve met many people I would have settled for, and tried to relate to them. Is there anything I could really have done about failing? If I honestly gave things a go, which I really did, I think the answer to that question is no.

Then I thought: I have had some success.

This blog. I enjoy writing it and to find something I enjoy doing was all I ever really wanted. I’m interested in books and ideas — and after loosing my interest in things I formerly enjoyed, having interest in books again is not something I can readily take for granted. I have one really good friend who I can be myself with. I live in the country, which I really wanted and could see no way of achieving for my final years as a city-dweller. These are all successes. I have a volunteer job I like. And, and I think this is important one: I did have a relationship with someone who I really wanted a relationship with. I liked him as much as any of the ones who didn’t want me to be their girlfriend.

I realised that the inability to count success is just depression, which stops one from seeing reality. It makes you see everything as doom and gloom. It’s a form of insanity, a mental illness. It doesn’t reflect reality. In reality, I never had any control over how things would turn out in my life. Or not much control. The only bit that I had control over was that I tried. That’s the end of it.

I tried to be an artist for a really long time; that didn’t work out. I did all sorts of writing courses; that didn’t work out. I tried to stay sober but kept relapsing. And like I said, the men I liked didn’t like me. I could never save money, and lived on the brink of destitution for most of my life. I suffered from Bipolar disorder. These are my failures, or the circumstances of my life.

By the time I got home with my shopping I was feeling pretty cheerful. So I’ll count through that as another small success. I think small successes are what I should be aiming for from now on.

Dreaming

Had a strong dream last night about someone I used to be powerfully in love with. My love was not returned, although we did have a friendship for a few years. D. was a fellow AA I met in central London, when I first stopped drinking (again) in 2006.

I dreamt that I was staying in a house that was sort of like a communal Air B & B. There was some kind of social event going on with people milling about. I had a copy of Grazia which had a page size picture of D. in that I tore out and showed to him. This picture was is some way precious to me, and I showed it to him. He didn’t have much to say about it. I then lost this image and spent a good part of my dream looking for it and feeling dismay that I no longer had it in my possession.

D. was at this social gathering with his fiancé, a woman I do not recognise from real life. At one point D. and I start kissing, and he doesn’t seem too worried about his fiancé, who I later run into at the party. She doesn’t realize what is going on and I feel a bit uncomfortable. I also feel worried about my social status as someone in receipt of state benefits, and when I am going to be ‘found out’, and judged accordingly.

I woke up feeling rather perplexed by my dream and wondering what it was all about. I recently Googled D., for some unaccountable reason, and his Facebook profile had a picture of him and his fiancé in his profile picture, and his status marked ‘engaged’.

After doing this (Googling) I didn’t feel too good about myself, and wondered why I had done it — it seemed a good idea at the time. I wasn’t especially upset to see that he was taken. I had vaguely considered contacting him and saying hello but that was before I saw the picture. Afterwards I decided it would definetly not be a good idea. This illustrates that my idea probably had an ulterior motive, even if I wasn’t being honest with myself about it.

But why would I dream about him now? I honestly have no answer to that. I’ve never had a particularly powerful interest in my dreams. Not to say no interest at all; I have gone through phases of writing them down, but as I have never been able to decipher any sort of meaning in my dream-life, it’s not a practice I have ever engaged with. That said, sometimes, in retrospect, I have read through old dreams and thought: Oh, that makes sense. Like dreams do really sketch in something from my unconscious that I am never cognisant of when the dream strikes.

Maybe, somewhere down the line, I will think; Oh, that is why I had that dream. But today, as it is no doubt foregrounding an aspect of myself that is currently under wraps, I honestly haven’t a clue.

Nevertheless, I have thought about D. since undertaking my detective work. He looked older, of course, but he also must have changed considerably if he is getting married. During the time I knew him, he never had a serious relationship to speak of, which is part of the reason it was impossible for me to bury my hopes he might one day change his mind about falling for me.

D. was an incredibly charismatic person and I was utterly smitten for years. During this time, the intensity of my feelings for him made it impossible for me to ever consider getting involved with someone else. Eight years of wasted time.

Recently, I have looked back on this duration with heart-wrenching dismay: How could I have been so wilful and stupid? But if he could come back to me last night with such clarity and intensity of feeling, perhaps it was more understandable than I have allowed.

The whole episode with D. was incredibly painful for me. I was on a constant roller coaster of despair and self-loathing. The way he treated me was always ambiguous in the extreme. Sometimes he was unbelievable charming and lovely, and at other times he made me feel really hated. It was so confusing.

I also felt incredibly guilty that I had done something that cast me in an incredibly bad light in AA terms: I researched him online and found out all sorts of things about him that the meetings didn’t necessarily give me access to. Communication was not my forte at that time, and for a long time I lacked the courage to try and get to know him in a more orthodox manner. That said, we did eventually get to know each other better, and in reality I could have asked him anything I wanted. But I still lacked courage and confidence and carried a severe guilt about my surreptitious behaviour. That guilt gave him considerable power over me, and I think was the reason I allowed the whole thing to go on for so long. Feeling that I owed him something meant that I never allowed myself the luxury of getting angry and frustrated that he treated me so strangely. I felt it was no more than I deserved.

News of his engagement woke me up. It made me feel bad. If only I had seen a picture like that years ago, so much fantasy and hope would have been nipped in the bud. Had I contacted him recently, I’m sure he would have ignored my message. We didn’t exactly part on good terms.

Still, there must be a part of me that is still attached to him, as my Googling, and dream illustrate. Maybe it would be worth exploring in my forthcoming therapy. I haven’t seen a therapist for a while, but am due to start up sessions again in a couple of weeks. If I am feeling depressed, and I am, perhaps this past experience with someone that went so wrong, and for so long, could be affecting me in ways I am not aware of.

It certainly caused my self-esteem to plummet to lows I could not have dreamed of when I met him. Although, having said that, previously I had been subject to another powerful unrequited affection that lasted for many years, and made me feel almost worse than my associations with D. In that instance, I barely knew the man. With D. things were different.

I think these experiences issued from the very negative experiences with my mother, that also went on for many years, but got significantly worse in my twenties. At that point it was clear that my mother, who I really did love, clearly hated me. Although that state of affairs took a while to sink in and left me constantly baffled, in a similar way to my association with D. I think that dynamic got repeated over and over again; it was so familiar to me and engrained that in many ways felt entirely natural.

I do hope D. is happy and that this marriage of his works out for him, even as I recognise that perhaps I am not really as totally over him as I had assumed I was; largely because I rarely think of him. Or certainly not as often as I used to — he was a near constant obsession for a great many years. Maybe an experience like that, even if it does have its roots in bad family relationships, leaves a mark on a person. Perhaps I was naive to think that simply because I never see him anymore I have entirely gotten over it.