I've had a quieter week this week, which is fortunate because I'm preparing to go away for the weekend to London to start a piece of training which over the coming months will equip me to expand my therapeutic offering to couples and those who would like to work on relationship issues. So do keep an eye out for those services being added to my current session list and if you know of someone or a couple looking for relationship therapy then please feel free to mention me.
As for this week's reading, well, of course, there is mention of the #royalbaby (and you can see my thoughts on that from this week's blog post here, warning - it's controversial!) as well as some other worthwhile reads. Have a great weekend, I know I shall.
1) 'Drama saved my life': how performing can help mental health problems - The Guardian
2) “Childhood poverty and instability leave a legacy. I live with mine every day” - The Pool
3) Call You and Yours: How has your life been changed by other people's drinking? - BBC Radio 4
I turned on the radio this week to the "news" that The Duchess of Cambridge was in labour. "Fine," I thought, and switched over from BBC Radio Bristol (ah the BBC, unfailingly monarchistic to the end) to The Breeze, where I'd rather hear adverts for carpet than be supplied with a blow-by-blow account of a woman's labour.
I hoped that I might avoid any further royal family updates over the course of the afternoon, but Kate dutifully gave birth the same day and was displayed on the steps of the Lindo Wing of the private hospital St Mary's - where many princesses before her have pulled their labour-scathed bodies into some kind of shape resembling a person, and held their baby aloft in some kind of Lion-King-esque submission to the world's paparazzi.
Okay, I jest.
But I actually don't think this is funny.
In fact, I feel sorry for Kate.
I don't know that any woman should have to pull together an appearance fit for the press mere hours after giving birth to another person. To me, that seems pretty barbaric. That a person who is no-doubt still struggling to sit down without pain, much less tolerate a stylist, hairdresser and make-up artist when I imagine all they want to do is rest and occasionally marvel at the human that wasn't there a few hours before.
I feel sorry for her, and I feel sorry for the new mums (and not-so-new-mums) who have to see this and feel compared. To feel the scrutiny of others at such a vulnerable and exhausting time, where hormones play a huge part in feelings of achievement, failure, love, hope and sadness seems completely unfair.
I work with so many mothers who have experienced traumatic births or suffered from post-natal depression. For some, this can come on some time after the birth and bring with it other issues to address, such as anxiety or dealing with panic-attacks while also managing the day-to-day needs of being responsible for a new person. All this on top of the potential for fear of judgement and need for approval from others.
So who are we to look upon Kate and judge her? What does it say about us as a society that we want to see a mother mere hours after birth looking as preened and glamorous as if they were going to some formal event? Most of us don't aim for that level of formal presentation at a wedding, let alone the day that we've given birth to our third child.
So I'm not going to be poring over the pictures of the #royalbaby - instead I'm going to be taking a few moments to say well done to the mothers I know - who are quietly overcoming their own battles and issues - none of which can be resolved with a finish of hairspray of slick of mascara.
If you're experiencing depression either before or after the birth of a child and would like to talk further, please do email me at email@example.com or contact me via my web-form here.
The sun is here - and for who knows how long - so maybe today's reads are worth bookmarking for another rainier day... (hello Saturday...?).
Here are a few links that caught my eye this week:
1) I am bewildered in the aftermath of heartbreak - Ella Risbridger @ The Pool
2) Americans going abroad for illegal heroin treatment - BBC
3) Coercive control is dangerous and ugly, regardless of gender - Sali Hughes @ The Pool
You can read more on the subject of coercive control on this week's blog post here.
I came upon a few news articles this week on the subject of coercive control - they had been prompted by the sentencing of Jordan Worth, a British 22-year-old graduate who pleaded guilty to controlling or coercive behaviour within an intimate relationship, wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm.
Worth had subjected their long-term partner to a list of abusive behaviours which included scalding them with hot water - culminating in hospitalisation - causing injury with a knife and striking them with blunt objects. As for the coercion - Worth had isolated their partner from their friends and family and exercised control of many areas of their life. The partner was told what to wear, where they could sleep (being banned from their bed for some months), and controlled communication by taking over their Facebook account.
This may or may not surprise you - but Jordan Worth is a woman. Her partner is male. He lived under these conditions in their relationship for over a year. He was described as "ten days away from death" when medics and police intervened. She is the first British woman to be convicted of this crime since its recognition in 2015.
Many of us will know someone who has at one time described some of these abuses of intimacy and power within a relationship - though hopefully few who have experienced such extreme abuse as this. I wish I could say that hearing about these kinds of things was unusual for me as a private therapist. But it's not. Most often I hear about them after the fact - much after, usually years - when the victim has somehow released themselves from the relationship and the toxic erosion of their self-esteem. And it can take some years for that to repair, particularly outside of therapy.
While I am pleased that it seems that male victims are beginning to be taken seriously when reporting crimes of physical and emotional violence against them - it does not hearten me to hear of this kind of story. Not for the victim, nor for the perpetrator. Jordan Worth has received a sentence of seven and a half years for the abuse that she subjected her partner to (whom I won't name on my blog). That's two lives which have been severely damaged. For her partner, unfortunately, it may affect him psychologically for the rest of his life.
If you or someone you know is experiencing coercive control in a relationship the time to act is now. To re-create connections with friends and family - to reach out to those from whom we might have become isolated. To allow them to ground us and ensure that the version of reality that we subscribe to is not the creation of someone who might not have the best intentions for us. To allow them to remind us that we are lovable and loved.
You can read more about this instance of coercive control here:
To get help with a coercive relationship speak to friends and family about your situation - or contact a therapist who is experienced in dealing with relationship issues. In severe instances, it is advisable to involve the police.
If this is something that affects you, and you would like to discuss further in therapy then you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your first free 10-minute phone consultation where everything we discuss is confidential, and you can decide whether to book an introductory session.
Another busy week here in the office with a number of new clients and some formidable work going on with a number of my longer-term clients.
This week my eye has been caught by a few articles that I hope you'll find interesting:
1) I never took my mental health for granted – now I’m reaping the rewards - The Guardian
2) Loneliness more likely to affect young people - BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43711606
3) “I am mourning a potential life – a being who will always be both a stranger and a part of me” - The Pool
Many of the people whom I work with tell me that anxiety is an issue for them and the smooth running of their lives. Most often it's unpleasant and arises only in moments where we are under stress, for example bumping into an ex-partner in public for the first time after a break-up, or giving a presentation at an interview. Maybe trepidation around starting a new job, or watching our children go to school for the first time.
But some clients come to therapy when anxiety has become such an issue, such a crippling influence on how they live their days, that I meet them in crisis. In a place where they can't leave the house or meet friends any longer. Where they can no longer do their jobs or manage their responsibilities and need to rely on others to support them and their needs.
I was reminded of this recently when watching a documentary called "Minimalism: a documentary on the important things". https://minimalismfilm.com/. In it there is a section where Dan Harris - ABC News anchorman talks about his own anxiety and the experience of having a panic attack live on-air. You can see the excerpt of his experience here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0doY89Z28o.
He goes on to talk about his own efforts around managing his anxiety and using mindfulness and meditation as a constructive tool. About the kind of worry that he calls "constructive anguish" - the worry that helps us to get to the airport on time, or means that we prepare and over-prepare for that interview, talking to ourselves in the mirror of frantically searching Glassdoor.co.uk for tips on passing the interview questions for a specific company. That's the kind of anxiety that works for us, sharpens our senses and helps us to be where we need to be, when we need to be there.
But what about what Harris calls "pointless rumination"? The worry and thoughts that we might have about the same issues, but that don't help us but hinder us. The level of distress and fear that we experience in a panic attack or when our worries spiral out of control and we behave in a way that we would prefer not to. Where we act irrationally or linger on thoughts that hurt us.
Do you identify with any of these descriptions of anxiety? I wonder whether Harris' own account of a meeting where he discussed this with his meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein might be illuminating:
"He said “Yes, you have to worry because that makes sense in order to function effectively. However, on the 17th time when you’re worrying about that same thing, maybe ask yourself one simple question: ‘Is it useful?’“
At some point, you have thought it through sufficiently and it’s time to move on. What I have learned how to do as a result of meditation is to draw the line between what I call “constructive anguish” and “unconstructive rumination” and that’s made me a lot happier."
So where does that leave us? Where do you draw the line on your worry?
Let me know in the comments.
For me, this has been a week of playing catch-up to the many jobs which have been on my to-do list since I returned from France. It's also been a week for some fantastic progress for some of my clients and I'm feeling both incredibly pleased for and proud of them. I do hope that you've had a similarly fulfilling time. Here are a few links for your end of week delectation:
1) "I said I wouldn’t write about heartbreak. Still, here I am" - The Pool
2) Polyamory, sexual unicorns and Google Calendar – The Guardian Close Encounters sex podcast (explicit) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/audio/2016/aug/27/polyamory-sexual-unicorns-google-calendar...
3) The cult of being kind - The Guardian
Fitting counselling into their busy schedules is probably the thing that my clients struggle with the most.
Often the people whom I see work full-time and aren't able to ask for regular time away from the office to attend therapy. Or they don't want to admit to their work that they are in therapy at all, which is understandable. But as a result, my evenings are incredibly busy and evening slots are highly sought after.
To the point where I have a waiting list.
So I started to rack my brains for ways to make counselling work for those clients who either can't get an evening slot due to demand- or who might have a gap in their day but don't have enough time to travel across Bristol to Southville and have a face-to-face session.
This is where my decade of experience in the IT industry comes in. I know that telemedicine is a big emerging market and that people can use apps to access all kinds of help and support from healthcare to mental health professionals. And with my qualifications and knowledge, why not integrate that into my business model and the offerings which I have? So please allow me to introduce my telemedicine link to my virtual waiting room:
Here we can meet for both my £15 30-minute introductory sessions and also for regular 50-minute sessions at £45. This saves you travel costs, the inconvenience of taking time off work, and it's easier to fit therapy into your life. It's also totally confidential - as the platform is developed for medical use, and so must adhere to the highest levels of data protection.
But those aren't the only reasons to consider online therapy. There's also a compelling therapeutic reason for offering this kind of work arrangement and it goes beyond convenience. It's the opportunity to address problems when they arise rather than allowing our lives to become so difficult that we are compelled to seek therapy - not because it would greatly benefit us to do so - but because we can no longer function in the way that we used to. Because life has become so unmanageable that we concede to look into therapy despite trying to fix ourselves for so long,
I meet many clients who enter therapy at this crisis point. And it's a great shame - a shame that they have suffered when potentially the issues that they're experiencing could have been addressed earlier if the route to accessing therapy had been easier.
And so, now it is.
If you're interested in online counselling with me, then please feel free to email me at email@example.com to set up a session. Or alternatively, you can book in instantly online at www.harleycounselling.com/bookonline.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.