A new series: S3 : INITIATIVE

03 MAY 2016

Session THREE: INITIATIVE

As promised, here’s the new video re. the session about INITIATIVE.

We also talked about guilt, and Purpose in Life.

The topic of Purpose in Life (and the sense of having a Mission) is very dear to me, especially during my placement as a trainee chaplain at Chorley and Preston hospitals.

I mention Simon Sinek and his TEDtalk: if you have never heard of him, never saw his video, please do now! I highly recommend it and you can find it here.

And here is the video: enjoy!

A new series: S2 : AUTONOMY

26 APR 2016

Session TWO: AUTONOMY

As promised, here’s the new video re. the session about AUTONOMY.

We talked about shame & doubt, and labelling.

20160426_142546

I’m always mesmerized by the power of labels: we really do believe anything at times, don’t we?

The links mentioned in the video are:

Tim Urban website re. procrastination  here
Tim Urban TEDtalk here

Oriah Mountain Dreamer poem ‘The Invitation

 

Enjoy the video, and thank you for watching!

 

A new series…

01 – 17 APR 2016

I am very excited, very hopeful and cannot wait to start!

Tomorrow I will meet the new participants at Salus (Withnell Hall) for an introduction, during which I will explain what I will do, who I am, my core approach and beliefs. Somehow the basic contracting of any therapeutic relationship.

This time I have decided, after one whole year of practising (!), of making a short video after every session and upload it on here. So, this is going to be my own personal journey and somehow development at the same time, too!

Enjoy!

a life script: earthquake

I find working with Life Scripts extremely fascinating. And here is why:

Picture this day, the 6th of May 1976, North Italy. I am 8 years old at the time.

I go to school during the morning; dad picks me up and we are having lunch together at the barracks were he works; when we finish and go out dad notices some dead irises along a narrow stream nearby, flowers which were alive when we got there before lunch; dad talks to me about the nature of things, and death, and the caducity of life… and as a kid I can only feel a sense of impending doom; we go home to get changed but I feel scared so I follow my gut feeling and hide my favourite doll under a desk; we leave home and travel 30 km south to meet with mum and my younger sister; we go shopping and buy some new uniforms for dad; we meet with granddad and uncle and have dinner all together in a restaurant; the evening doesn’t feel serene and I remember arguments.

At a certain point, around 9pm, an earthquake. A strong one. A bad one. A dangerous one. Everybody screams and leaves, but for granddad and me. He tells me to keep on eating. I remember being so scared I was shaking. I feel abandoned and desperate. But granddad repeats that ‘this is life, and you just get on with it’. Later on in the car mum cries, sister cries, and I can physically sense sadness and drama. But I have survived.

friuli-1976

The 6.5 quake was centred on the town of Gemona del Friuli; it killed 939 people, injured  over 2,400, and left 157,000 homeless. It killed also my best friend; and most of my school friends. My dad started dying that day.

I survived. I am a survivor.

And this is how it happens: I have always thought I was a survivor, and that I should be grateful for it. As a kid I could not understand exactly what was going on, but children create their own stories: I survived because this and this and then this happened.

I survived because this and this and then this happened. A series, a specific sequence of events.

  1. I go to school (good girl)
  2. I feel impending doom & ending & death
  3. I experience mysticism
  4. I feel attached to objects
  5. I spend money for other people
  6. Arguments with family / uneasiness / not serene
    1. earthquake
  7. Abandonment + fatalism + ‘get on with it’

And now I can see how the pattern repeated itself in most of my life:

  1. I am a Perfect Daughter, so I act as a Good Girl
  2. I feel impending doom, weird sensation that the status quo is about to end
  3. I turn to mysticism / religion straight away
  4. I get very attached to objects / the story / … attached in general!
  5. I start spending money to compensate / attract
  6. Arguments begin >>> end!
  7. I leave with the sense of ‘It would have ended anyway!’ (fatalism / self fulfilling prophesy)
    1. + life is hard / shit
    2. + I just have to get on with it
    3. + I will survive / make it anyway

So, while as a child, I subconsciously thought that I survived only because of the sequence of events of that specific traumatic day, as an adult I repeat the same sequence of events over and over and over again – so that I can continually prove to myself that I can survive.

At this point I have a choice, don’t I? What if I start asking myself these questions*?

  1. What changes do I want / wish for in order to enhance my life?
    1. I do not want to feel a survivor any more, I want to thrive
  2. How will I need to change to get what I want / wish for?
    1. I don’t have to leave, I have to stay and speak my mind with honesty. Because when I don’t either I leave (survive) or I go back to pleasing and being a Good Girl which then leads me back to the beginning of the cycle again.
  3. What needs to happen for me to make this change?
    1. I need to be courageous enough to speak up
  4. What am I willing to do in order to make this change?
    1. Be vulnerable and risk.
  5. How might I sabotage myself?
    1. I might say to myself that it’s not that important, that even if I speak things won’t change, people won’t listen, people won’t understand, I made it before so I can make it even now,…
  6. How will I and others know when I have made the change?
    1. I will be assertive and won’t compromise unless it really suits me
  7. How will I reward myself for making the change?
    1. I really have to think about it… I feel a hint of sabotaging creeping in just now (!) … I may give myself permission to journal and be artistic without judging myself 
  8. What will I do in my life after I have made the changes?
    1. I will have gained respect; and I will live and thrive ♥

 

… I will live and thrive ♥…

So, what’s your life script?

 

* http://www.ta-psychotherapy.co.uk/pdf/101.pdf – p.21

Stoptober 2015: 3* month & pain

I have learned something new; and here it is!

I don’t know if you remember when I was previously writing about the three-worse-three: third day, third week and third month.

My ‘cruellest month’ is not April (thanks T.S. Eliot) but December. I woke up one day, about two and a half weeks after having quit also nicotine (no patches any more, thank you very much) and my body was in agony. Every thing was an effort, every thing was in pain. I felt like if a massive steamroller had been parked on my bones the whole night, and as if a constant electric current was creating spider webs linking my knuckles to my wrists to my elbows, to my knees to my ankles: I felt a decrepit, old, agonizing puppet.

Even my hair was hurting…

Could that have simply been cold or flu? Possibly, but I had no temperature. Either my body decided that it was time for me to experience rheumatoid arthritis to a whole new level; or, I was about to die.

I am not the kind of person who runs to the GP immediately, so I spent about 10 days trying the usual supermarket remedies, topped by herbal concoctions I remembered from home. I still went to work but believe you me, everything was an effort! I didn’t feel like eating, I was also sweating, tossing and turning in the middle of the night… I was feeling really poorly. I went through menopause before and I saw the other side of the tunnel, but it really felt I was experiencing that all over again.

One day I decided that I couldn’t take that pain any longer and when two friends also commented on the shade of pale white my face was displaying, I went to see my GP, who confirmed that if felt like if I was fighting some kind of inflammation: there was a battle going on and we needed to understand where and who was winning.

I went through a series of detailed blood tests which came all back negative (thank you very much), except for the hormonal one: I was in menopause. Well, I knew that!

What I didn’t know was that nicotine affects hormones balance. I was really experiencing menopause again; or, better: I was now experiencing it fully for the first time. Besides my breast feeling tender and painful (and having grown an extra size: thank you very much!) the pain I was feeling in my joints and nerves was due to the imbalance (or new balance) of the level of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced by our body in response to both mental and physical stress and it is also the hormone our body uses to fight inflammations. Now that I wasn’t smoking nor introducing nicotine any more, my body had to find a new balance in the production of cortisol and a whole new way to fight inflammations. Not to mention that my years and years of smoking were a constant inflammation in itself and my body, not receiving nicotine any more, had to get rid of it. During the process of quitting, the body tends to shut down the immune system, since the body is going through some massive changes.

So:

nicotine = creates and manages inflammations

no nicotine = no managing of inflammation and immune system on holiday >>> me = pain!

Cortisol imbalances due to inflammation, can also cause fatigue. I was telling my friends, as a joke, that where you put me, there I would have fallen asleep. Because cortisol is designed to keep people alert in times of stress, it can then cause insomnia; and hence, the lack of proper refreshing sleep will make you tired.

What did I do in the end? quote-reminder-wellbeing-glutes-soul

I took two full days off: sofa, bed, books, soups and warm water, teas and tears.  I slept all the hours I needed, I took regular anti-inflammatories as suggested and provided by my GP, I let tears roll down my cheeks and I hydrated myself with veg soups, chicken stock and warm water.

I am not a doctor, which means that I am not suggesting (never, ever…) that if you are in pain after quitting, this is what happened to me and hence, it must also be what is happening to you: please, go and see you GP! This is simply what happened to me: now I feel much better, I sleep all the hours I need, I set aside more time to recharge my batteries and I enjoy taking care of myself. I consider the word *self-respect* my new mantra and I take a day at the time not only in the process of quitting but also (and now especially) in the process of recovery, recuperating and regenerating.

Sending good vibes and do take care out there…

Stoptober 2015: friends & habits

I went to Liverpool to celebrate something important with a couple of close friends. Do you know, those kind of friends who really know you and you really know them; and you can talk and tell stories and they are always there to help you. That kind of friends.

We have known each others for years, years filled of evenings where the three of us spent hours with bottles of white wine, fags and tarot cards.

Sometimes just a text was enough. A text with one word: Kebab?!? which meant, again: food, yes. But especially white wine, fags and tarot cards.

This weekend was different. We have seen each other before, mid October, when I just started Stoptober and I was fuelled and charged up and quitting sounded just so easy.

But this weekend, it was really different: I felt out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t in my house, we also needed to talk and tell each other the ‘last news’ and I also had a pretty sweet story to tell. This meant: white wine and tarot cards. But no fags.

I can tell you that it was difficult. It has been hard, being there with two smokers and not smoke. I could have easily reached out for a cigarette. I had to force myself and ask them to please do not give me one if I caved in and begged for a fag.

Now I am back home and the moment I sat in my car, ready to drive back, I felt protected and the desire to smoke simply disappeared.

I am wondering what’s the ratio: alcohol? smoking friends? out of comfort zone? habits?

I am also thinking: if I stayed there longer, would I have been able to create new smoke-free habits with the ol’friends, or would I have caved in?

The things I am happy about, besides seeing my friends and spending some good time with them, are that of course, in the end, not only I haven’t smoke but I haven’t even asked for a cigarette (!): I didn’t beg, I didn’t plea… and that the moment I went back to my car I was happy to go back to my ‘usual’ smoke-free life. At the same time, I have felt how easy it can be just to lower your boundaries and relapse: still, no cockiness woman! It can be just so easy…

I know a relapse is not the end of the world! But why risk it?

I think I need to focus more (again!) on the WHY I am quitting in order to strengthen my armour… and as per usual, I’ll keep you posted!

Stoptober 2015: 1 Nov & my Chimp Brain

No panic! It’s the 22 Nov and I’m still a very happy non-smoker!

As advised by the chemist and by the literature I’ve been reading, I’m still using only the patches (no gums, lozenges, or other), even if sometimes I forget to put them on (!) and I normally realize that in the middle of the night when I simply cannot sleep and I’m sweating, tossing and turning in bed asking myself why… because during the day, woman, you wore no patch!

But one Sunday morning I woke up, I went downstairs, grabbed a coffee, sat on my sofa, stroke the cat and then BANG! …

FAAAAG

I stopped and thought: where is that thought coming from? Because it wasn’t a physical craving, nor a psychological need of a reward or to fill a sense of nagging boredom. Nothing was different: I did not change the coffee, my sofa was the same, my cat was the same and this time, this voice was like coming from outside of me, from a buried part of my brain which I did not recognise. I never felt that feeling, that voice, that buried urge to smoke before.

It was scary: believe me. Me, the rational, good, studious person, who knew everything about addiction and recovery, read all the books, knew all the theories… where did that ‘thing’ come from? What was it? … and WHY?! Why that Sunday morning?

And then, I realised.. It was the First of November, wasn’t it?!

I decided and convinced myself I was doing Stoptober… So, a part of my brain (which I have nicknamed ‘the Silly Bitch’) was counting days and I was totally unaware of it… that part of my brain, the chimp brain, was my automatic coping mechanism, which has worked so well previously during many years of struggles and problems and pain and hurts; that part of my brain did not need my rational and logic Self as on a day-to-day basis in order to live and survive (!). That part of my brain was independent and autonomous and had almost an identity on its own. It did not need Me. I always needed It, not the other way round.

I could only describe it as that kind of spinstery plain secretary that works in one of those open plan offices, the one dressed in grey and boring green, pony tail and glasses, no make-up, not a smile, always alone and silent, does not talk to anyone, eats always alone, never goes to a do, or a Friday night for a drink with the rest of the Company; but… she somehow knows everything about everybody because she listens, she checks, she keeps track of who’s who and who goes out with whom, who comes in and who goes out and then one day she simply opens her mouth and everybody is scared because ‘she knows things’… that’s my Chimp Brain! That’s my Silly Bitch!

So, what to do now? Well, I decided to ‘talk’ to that part of my brain: I told the Silly Bitch that I love her and that she had done an amazing job up to now, that I recognise all the times I could probably not have dealt properly with Life without her help in the past but now… BUT NOW… we could have worked together to change my autopilot: no more “fight or flight”, no more automatic extreme responses, no more reaching for fags.

I was different. This is when I realised I can really make this thing work: (still) one day at the time, retraining my Self.

So much so, that I have decided to make a vow and to commit myself to explore, research and produce a document that examines the connection between Trust, Hope and Faith in addiction and recovery, from a Nichiren Buddhist perspective.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted!

 

an afternoon at Juice, Colne

Sometimes we get cocky… a bit cocky…

I often thought ‘I’m not in recovery’. Because it’s true: I’m a daughter of alcoholic parents and a trainee counsellor, which is different. Or isn’t? It is also true that I love working with people in recovery and if someone sees me with ‘them’, do I mind being associated with (again) ‘them’?

If people are not able to see beyond labels, to see me as a ‘never-addicted’ person, are they worth my attention? And, as much as that previous thought might be true, if I cannot see beyond their past addiction, am I worth their attention?

I have spent hours, days, weeks, months trying to understand my parents’ addiction and to come to terms with their deaths. On the other side of the barricade.

I’m understanding more now, spending an afternoon with these people I am so grateful I had the opportunity to take pictures of, while they are creating something great.

I just wish my parents back then had the same opportunity…

If you wish to know more, come and join me.

If you need a safe island, join them. You can find them at Juice SRG, The Citadel, Colne BB8 0HY.

Thank you, for the lesson I’ve learned…