Monday, 8 September 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 16

Not feeling too well today so forgive me if I'm less coherent than usual.

Where was I?
(What? Oh it's just some inner ear thing - a bit dizzy and queasy. I'm on the mend now, thanks for asking.)

Today I just have a couple of small items to clear up before I begin to draw the whole thing together (the end is in sight)

Firstly, as I mentioned I do have various odd health issues - nothing huge, but inconvenient. When I was a kid I had terrible allergies, as I mentioned before - horrible itchy blebs on my body and sneezing every morning until my nose bled. The sneezing was mainly an autumn thing so probably fungal spores. The itching was a food allergy and I went for tests in my teens but it was not til my thirties when I requested my medical records that I really identified the problems - salicylates and benzoates - both occurring naturally in fruit and especially fruit products but also added as preservatives to many processed foods. Salicylates are also the active ingredient in aspirin. I remember my mum attempting to tackle the issue when I was at home, but I don't think we really understood just how widespread the substances are (juices and soft drinks, sauces, jams, pie fillings, cider, Chinese and Indian take-aways, vinegar etc etc.) It wasn't until I was in my 30s I really got to grips with it and it's hardly troubled me since. I can now consume most things in small amounts from time to time, and a few (citrus products, good red wine) I can consume normally.
The sneezing petered out at some point - not sure when - when most houses weren't damp any more I expect, but the reason I'm telling you this is because autumn is still a peculiar time for me - still subtly debilitating. I have to shower before bed or I lie there, cold and sort of hypersensitive in my skin and can't sleep. My mum has a lot of allergies - I probably get them from her. Neither my dad nor my brother do.
More recently I've begun to get migraines. It was a while before I got them diagnosed because there's no light sensitivity, but they used to lay me out for the better part of a day, unable to move much except to go to the loo and dry heave my eyeballs out. They were exactly like my hangovers (I'm a total lightweight where alcohol is concerned) but since they turned up when I hadn't had a drink that theory was out. Eventually I realised they happen if I work too hard the day before - running on empty - pushing myself on to get things finished when I really should stop. These days I pace myself more and I have a lot less bad head days, but I still get them, and now I have this dizziness thing. I think I maybe get this 'head stuff' from my dad who used to get migraines and my bro gets cluster headaches which, if anything, sound much worse so I think maybe I get that from my dad's side of the family.

Thinking about these vague, chronic conditions - I think they've contributed to some of the mental problems I've described. I start a new job alert and eager to please. It's ok for a while then somehow I just feel so tired and irritable and I don't want to have to deal with people, I can't think clearly, I don't want to try to tackle anything new, and I just want to go off somewhere and be on my own. Sooner or later I simply lose energy and/or confidence and that's it. And nobody wants to employ someone like that in a demanding full-time role or even a repetitive job where you have to concentrate (like a friend of mine who was paid minimum wage to stare at a conveyor belt all day picking off misshapen vitamin pills - my idea of hell).
I don't know which comes first - my lack of confidence about getting things done or the physical tiredness. Presumably they feed off each other but either way, I can easily bring to mind many occasions when this problem has lost me a job. It can also affect your social life because people expect you to be more or less consistent and they get funny about it if you have an off day, let alone an off three months. A friend of mine is the same and he calls it a kind of bipolar condition. I guess there's a spectrum. We're all variable - some more than others. One thing I don't have is SAD - I can be just as miserable in summer as winter. My feeling is that it is my doubts and anxieties that cause the problem because if I have something to do that I feel good and confident about I have loads of energy and can be very creative and positive.


Speaking of which, the other thing I wanted to get out the way is my generally positive demeanour. Yes you read me correctly - positive and creative - that's me. I've never been short of ideas and plans and I've always been hugely ambitious and aspirational (before those words became tainted with greed and egomania). I don't really know where I get this from because as I said at the start, my family always thought I should keep my dreams small and unremarkable. Nevertheless I have always thought I could do great things. I always thought I could be... exceptional. I don't know where this comes from. I can't think of one relative, teacher, employer, family friend, who ever looked at what I did and said 'You know what - you've got a real talent for this. You could do something with this...'
And I don't want to boast here but I've always known I could do things - they just came naturally - like this - the writing, and I've always been able to draw and make things in clay, make up stories and characters and scenery, and learn about things in books and think things through and invent new things, more than most people I think. I've just sort of taken it for granted - not in a competitive way - it never occurred to me to think of myself as superior until people started insisting I was inferior - inferior for not being realistic, and not being interested in normal things like football and money. So I learned that I had to do my things on my own, in my own way, because however good I might feel about myself it didn't count for anything in The Real World. Everything I've learned to do I've learned to do on my own, away from critical deriding eyes, only coming out when I've got the hang of it. Obviously this means collaborating or working as a team is out, which I learned early on just means being side-lined. It has nothing to do with how good your ideas are - just with how willing you are to talk over people. This is also why I never developed the 'I'll show you' mentality so lauded by self-made people. I just knew there was no point. Even if I did prove them wrong there was no way they'd admit it. They'd find some way to dismiss my efforts or make something up about how I'd cheated or not done it the proper way. The only way to get any recognition was to just do it their way, and then they could congratulate themselves on their teaching skills.

So how I got this much self-esteem I don't know, but I have a hunch. It's why I'm writing this - because I believe things should be better, and that's something I get directly from my dad. He was quite aspirational himself, certainly compared to most of the family and was a pretty independent minded man, and I believe he had high hopes for me. Unfortunately, as I've said before, his hopes were quite conservative (a better job, more financial security etc) not self fulfilment, originality, individuality (another tainted word unfortunately) etc and certainly not in doing anything at all 'Way Out', so he didn't recognise anything of lasting value in what I did, which I think is an immense shame.

to be continued...


Vincent said...

It's your show of course but there seems to be one fruitful line of enquiry you haven't touched on, & that is the various schools or models of developmental psychology &/or psychotherapy, both covering the same ground really, investigating how a person got to be like this and how the process of understanding can help. Freud of course but many more modern schools.

I started training in person-centred therapy some years ago, with a view at that time to being a part-time counsellor. It seems like a different life and I don't remember much. But Carl Rogers who founded it had some insights, that every human being is born to flourish unless something gets in the way.

He tells a famous story, here, which might be worth your time. It happens to be horticultural in content!

Vincent said...

I should add that Rogers started off on a farm, went to agricultural college, changed to theology, then (discovering himself without any kind of vocation there) to psychology. I think his first job was as a child psychologist, then he worked in mental hospitals. But his real practice, from which he developed his "model" of counselling, was in one-to-one consultations with adults. He quite intentionally departed from the Freudian model of psychoanalysis which was catching on strongly in the US, & ended up with his own line of thought & practice - like several others who started their own schools.

I think all have in common the notion of development in one's lifetime (not concerned with genetics), based on developing and attempting to satisfy various drives (for affection, self-expression, curiosity, reaching out to others in play & friendship etc). In various ways normal development can be affected by traumatic events, neglect, physical illness or disability. But whatever the throw of fate's dice, the individual struggles to make a go of life, & it is sometimes in this struggle, the way we try to cope with and compensate for this or that deficit, that we go off on strange paths.

These kinds of psychotherapy are not of course to be confused with those dealt with by medical psychiatrists (e.g. autism, dyslexia,) though in some areas there is an overlap.

Steve Law said...

Is he the guy who came up with attachment theory? I really want to look into that more. Emma knows all about it. It seems highly relevant. We studied Piaget, which is of course all about cognitive development. I want to know about emotional and relationship development. I'll certainly look him up anyway, thanks.
I did study Freud and psychoanalysis too some years back and came away sceptical. He has some useful ideas (the importance of early experiences, and the id/ego/superego thing) but a lot of the other stuff seems over-generalised from individual cases or simply metaphorical (the death instinct, interpretation of dreams, and of course penis envy). For the scientifically minded it's hopeless.