Could do better!
This week I had a really proud moment as I opened the Brown envelope marked Bham NHS I knew it was from my course. I was wondering would there be a promise of an interview for my Masters or would there be a rejection. It was actually feedback from year 2 I had passed and I felt very proud.
Years ago I was told I wasn’t clever enough to do a Masters by a lady at the Sherwood Institute in Nottingham. Both my therapist and supervisor were stunned as we all though that being a qualified counsellor who had studied in the field would grant me entry. I was told I had only studied at college level so couldn’t have a place. I cried all the way home and wondered how I would tell all the people that I wasn’t going to Sherwood. The shame was overwhelming and I still feel the emotions that I did that day as I recall it, constantly punished as a child “Shame was a big part of my world”.
I wonder how many of us have had our potential limited by those who hold the door to courses or jobs by someone who stands in judgement about whether we can do something or not. Shame is the emotion that people rarely talk about but we all feel at times.
I had a rough time at school found it impossible to make friends and was bullied because I would disappear twice a week for physiotherapy because I have Spina Bifida.
You couldn’t see my spine problem but because the kids asked where I went and I told them, my name for the next few years was “The spastic. Kids can be so cruel but they don’t show empathy if they have not had any.
Home wasn’t much better relationship with my mother was non existent and I would hear these words on her bad days “pissing kids I wish I hadn’t had them”.
With home not being safe and school being unsafe there was only place that I found solace and that was in the pages of a book. It is the pages of these books that I joined in the adventures I couldn’t have in real life. It was through the Famous Five, and Secret Seven that I leant what relationships and fun was supposed to look like.
I left at home at 16 and found a job, I hopped from one job to the next, my biology teacher had told me that I might make it as a decorator as my work was littered with tippex.
My earliest memories of school were having my work torn up because the handwriting wasn’t readable enough, I had to stay in at break to re do the work.
I was often kept out of art because my maths needed more work. I didn’t like art either because I was supposed to create something, but never knew what that something was. Those art lesson filled me with more dread more than the maths I couldn’t do it, my creative brain was dormant. I was well dressed and I was quiet and I wasn’t naughty so therefore I just slipped under the radar and was written off a bit odd and a bit thick.
Fast forward a life time of struggles through redundancy, divorce, an overdose and a break down. I am hear about to apply again for a Masters This time its Family Therapy. I spent the first Masters money on a play therapy course by the way, which opened up my world to working with children, something I said I never wanted to do.
Years on with a supportive husband and friends I did a counselling course, I had found the course that held my interest like no other. I consumed the books at a rapid rate and the process of learning about psychology, human development, counselling theory is still going on. All the rubbish has turned into valuable experience on which to draw upon. Us therapists call it “the use of self”.
My own journey has helped me realise I am gifted & talented in my own quirky way. I can type 90 words a minute and hold a conversation. I can see hope in the worst situation, I have endless motivation and determination. However I still don’t know where the apostrophes and grammar is supposed to go or how to do the complicated maths works but I don’t worry so much about it.
I was never good at school because it was too scared, I never felt safe enough to do anything or say anything so I shut down. I was silent but screaming inside and I didn’t cry, I didn’t shout I didn’t do very much at all, mostly I did as I was told as it meant less punishment, and less shame. The books would call me The frozen watchful child”
School needed me to pay attention I found it hard to do, I was bored, hours felt like days and I coped with the book under the desk clock watching all the time. They needed me to trust the adults I didn’t do that either, they needed me to think and I found that hard to do. I was always worrying how I would I get though the lesson, how would I get through break time. The the sense of dread about going home also filled the last hour of school. Fear Fear and more fear filled world my world and I couldn’t get anything right.
I could do better was all I had on my reports, my maths teach even spotted my love of books and commented that I might do maths if I put the famous five down, but never attempted to encourage my love of stories.
I think its now a mission of mine to make sure that every human being who comes through my doors for therapy leaves with the feeling that they don’t need to do better that there already doing the best they can. My love of stories remains strong as I listen to the stories that unfold in my therapy room, but I also love the creative way we can change the stories and rewrite the chapters and the endings.
If clients want change then they may have to stop take a long hard look to find their qualities to play to their strengths and not worry quite so much about the weaknesses.
I will help them to tolerate the feelings and regulate those emotions that suffocate and paralyse us. The doing better comes from not trying so hard, from learning to accept yourself, from finding what you love, from realising you are a thousand times better than the labels and words we hear from the bosses, teachers, parents and kids in the play ground.
That if we can silence the chatterbox just long enough we hear something else, we hear the own song in our heart. We learn to trust our own thinking feelings and decisions and we start to gain a sense of control of ourselves and our lives, we see that there are choices.
I grew up believing I was thick and actually I was traumatised, without a secure attachment, I desperately wantied to feel connected but I didn’t know how to cope with relationships because my mother didn’t know how to either.
I am still learning about me, through life, the theory and my clients. I read about myself and my clients in the books. I read about attachments and the need for love and safety, I read about neuroscience and how the brain grows and develps, how we regulate our emotions or don’t based on how our parents do or don’t. I can make sense of why some very simple things are outside of my grasp and yet other more complicated things seem so easy.
I am not this and I am not that, I am multi-dimensional, I am obsessive, and I am sloppy, I organised but I am also chaotic I am complicated and a contradiction I am many things. I have a brain that is slow at some things and lightening fast at others. I am human prone to melt downs and over excitement and total shutdown if you scream really loud at me.
I am hoping with 2 diplomas and 1 post grad that I will have my masters place, my tutor tells me that 8 years of study means I have more than proved I can learn.
Its not my learning that was questionable it was simply the methods and subjects that held no interest at school and the teachers that didn’t have the time to understand me.
I am also hoping one day to have a PHD not because I need the piece of paper, I don’t need it to tell me I am good enough. .I want it for every child that’s been written off by the education system that kills creativity and expects one size to fit all,, because it never will.
For every child that’s behaviour is not understood and is labelled naughty, demanding, challenging, disaffected and send to the nasty pupil referral units or expelled. For every child stood outside the class room filled with shame because they got it wrong again.
Its about time we stopped the labels and started understanding, its time we stopped blaming and shaming our children in the name of education and parenting and really offered them acceptance and love and compassion, because thats how we grow brains.
The evidence is there the attachment theory is not new but to do things properly would take, time money and resources and as long as some kids still get the A’s I doubt it will change very much in my life time in schools that put academia before emotional well being.
For those families who come through my door there is a different way to live without shame and blame but with love and kindness.
My traumatised brain work very well these days, I now work from a place of curiosity, and excitement where once there was only anxiety and fear. I still wobble but I am able to regulate the emotions and move on.
So next time you find a naught child or a wobbly adult an over eater or a substance user try to not use the words bad, attention seeking mental and crazy. Because they maybe traumatised, neglected, abused or just didn’t have what was needed to regulate their emotions. There probably trying to find love and connections in all the wrong places, desperate to run from feelings and survice this life.
We love labels but really under all of those names is a struggling person whose brain might be wired up a bit different but what they need is no further blame and shame they’ll do that for themselves anyway what they need is kindness and understanding.
If you have out of control behaviour of your own or in your family come and find me and together we can make sense of it.
There will always be reasons for the stuff, we call crazy or stupid and once we understand our selves and those we live with, the fog starts to clear and we can start living because life is amazing and so are you, take a moment to see it.
With best wishes