What do I need for my recovery today? Is it always the same, day to day, week to week, moment to moment?
Yesterday and the day before I needed space to write and paint and to do the paperwork that keeps my bank and life process on track. I needed to clear my mind as my voices had been loud and directive and I needed to understand the helpful message under the din of abuse that they use to attract my attention, to point at something I need to do, or not do! The time was peaceful, productive and I wasn’t shutting the world out, I was allowing it to flow in and through my brush and pen, to make colourful and semantic patterns.
But at this moment I need to find some energy to get out of the house because I’ve been in too long and I can feel my capacity to relate dissolving and my anger at the old and wild things increasing. Whilst I like to stay on my own I know it’s “not good for me”, but I don’t care at the moment. The “it’s not good for me” feels parental and shallow and lacks an understanding of the complexity of the struggle to get a coat on, brush my hair and teeth and get out of the door.
That’s familiar, in all its shades, to most who struggle to wield executive control over their most difficult thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But they’re not just any old thoughts and feelings, they are almost always linked to the memories of things that overwhelmed us once, maybe several or repeated things, and so left a mark or a scar or a bloody great crevice in our sense of self, of who we are. On days like this it can be easy to fall into feeling it was unfair, and so feel angry and out of sorts with the world. But the feeling is often complicated because we feel somehow that the bad event was probably deserved, so we feel diminished, ashamed and undeserving of feeling ok and we are not as entitled as others. It can feel like confusion, difficult to define and so difficult to find an antidote or a resolution. I can be locked in this prison of self-criticism and self-hatred for hours or days, getting spikier and more muddled, more threatened by the possibility of contact with another.
“I don’t want to engage, I haven’t the energy, they will want too much from me and I haven’t got anything”. Or maybe they’ll see just what a fraud I am and then I’m caught in the final trap, the loss of acceptance of the other and so shame myself again.
So, creative healthy solitude slides into stagnant, sickly isolation. Where is the tilt point? Because I’m writing about it and recalling that others feel complicated feelings and struggle with contact, I feel more empathy with the world, the spikiness and fear of it, even resentment, is dissolving and I can feel a small slide toward an equilibrium. My neighbour hopped out for a cigarette and I passed her on the stair, exchanging a social ritual, musing about the weather and her rabbit. She’s a lovely human being.
I know again, that compassion for the world is a way of balancing my sense of place in it and can arrest the ever cycling self loathing inner chat. I guess I’m offering some compassion to myself in the process and attempting to receive the compassion others offer to me. Receiving compassion is another lesson as big as a mountain. I don’t trust it. Receiving compassion is threatening, obligatory, a mystery, false, and in my experience, comes with a sudden change from giving to punishing, so I go blank and want to give the compassion back, because at least there is an exchange of compassion.
Yet I yearn for it. Everyone wants and needs compassion. It is humanities glue, it’s the knowledge of the safe place even when there is no risk. It’s the place where hearts, minds and souls are healed and damaging memories, muscle memory and trauma can start to be transformed from defeat to.... just part of who I am. There is no healing, joy or pleasure and no contentment when there is insufficient compassion, love seeping into your internal world. There is plenty of it about, but it’s whether you and I dare to look for it and then dare to let it in.
Is that the bravest thing we will ever do?