New Years reflections

The New Year always seems to be a time of reflection and hope to me. I reflect on the year past and hope and dream what the future year will bring, sadly it doesn’t always work out the way we want to.

For me on a personal level events in this last couple of years have meant I found myself reflecting a great deal on the past including things I thought I had dealt with and closed the door on.

The lesson for me is that doors don’t always stay closed and sometimes we have to revisit again and again painful memories.

The most profound thing for me though in that is that each time I process stuff anew, it is a very healing experience. By viewing the past from where I am now – with the support networks and self awareness I have allows me to put events into a different context. While my past will always be a part of me it doesn’t define me, but I also won’t deny it and sometimes it needs some attention and work.

That’s one of the side events of opening up yourself to therapy, once you begin processing, you never really stop. It becomes part of your being. I believe that’s a very powerful part to have.

It means that when the unexpected happens, as it surely will it is a resource we can call on to find a way through. To come out the other side with who we are still intact, even if we have been changed by new experiences.

I hope that whatever 2019 brings you, joys and sadness, fun and challenges that you have the resources to cope, inner resources and the support that comes from honest and loving relationships with friends and/or family.


Spending Christmas Day alone

Are you finding the thought of Christmas day difficult because you are going to be spending it alone?

If you use Twitter there is a hashtag #joinin which was started by the comedian Sarah Millican a few years ago. Its aimed specifically at people who will be alone to give them people to talk to on Christmas day who are in the same situation.

Social media can be a great way to connect such as the twitter hashtag above, but it can also be something that makes us unhappy. This article has an interesting take on how Facebook lurking just makes us more dissatisfied if we believe everyone else is having a much better time than us. If you can’t use it to connect with people, how about having a break from it on Christmas day so you don’t put pressure on yourself on what it is supposed to be?

Another option you may not know about (I only found out this week) is that some cinemas are opening on Christmas day. This may be something to get you out of the house and do something different. However, as public transport won’t be running this option is going to be limited to people with cars or who live near enough to walk. The odeon have a list of venues opening here.

I wish you all the best over the next few days and hope you find some peace and joy, whatever your current circumstance.

Male abuse victims

The issue of male victims of domestic abuse is beginning to get more attention. Sadly though there is very little support available to them and the very limited number of refuges for them are under threat.

This article gives details of some first hand experiences and the estimated scale of the issue. It claims 1 in 6 men could be a victim in their lifetime. However, this is an estimate as it’s such an under-reported and mis-understood crime.

Sufficient support for all victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender is sadly hard to come by.

Not such a great time of the year

There is a lot of celebrating going on around us at this time of year, but what if you aren’t part of that?

There are many reasons that you may be finding the festivities hard to cope with. One of those is bereavement, either a recent one or one that happened at this time of year in the past. Cruse have put together the graphic at the bottom of the page which you may find useful.

But there are other reasons; you may be suffering from an illness that makes it hard to feel like celebrating. This could be a mental health illness or one that gives you physical pain.

You might be estranged from family members and all the talk of family gatherings make it hard for you to join in the happiness because of your own emotions.

Your children may not be spending Christmas with you as they are with their other parent or your family is in another country.

You may be lonely and feel you don’t have anyone to spend the holiday with.

There are always organisations open to offer you crisis help if you need it, the most well know is the Samaritans who are there to talk if you need it.

Maybe what you need is to plan to change something longer term and are thinking about therapy. This might be the time to initiate that, please feel free to contact me if that is the case.

To all those people who are finding it tough this year I hope you find some solace and find some peace despite what is going on for you.

Separated families

I started reading a twitter thread early today about Meghan Markle’s father being interview on breakfast telly. He was telling the world how she is not in contact with him despite his attempts to communicate with her. 

I made the mistake of reading the comments – its always a risk going into this area of the internet. Thankfully the majority of them were agreeing with my view;  it isn’t anyone else’s business and its not appropriate to have on the tv. However, there were a few that were saying things like “life is too short”, “you only get one Dad” and making rude comments about her for not having contact with him.

Now, like everyone else apart from those directly involved, I don’t know the full story. I do know the stories of many people (including my own) of those who have chosen to cease contact with family members. It’s never an easy choice and it usually comes after years or decades of toxic or abusive relationships. Within those relationships, all parties may have displayed behaviour they are not proud of; they may have tried to repair things unsuccessfully; they may have papered over the cracks again and again. 

Each story will be different. What isn’t helpful is other people who are on the outside passing judgments. They are unwelcome and also potentially damaging and abusive.

I was reminded yesterday of the request by many school for parents not to take photos at school plays because they may contain images of other children who are at risk. With these being put on social media, then they can be traced must easier. I am sure there are people who object to this as their experiences have meant that haven’t had to consider these things. It’s the same with judging separated families.

Without the experiences then it may not be obvious why people make the choices they make. Instead of judging or worse interfering in a way that can put people at risk, try and ask yourself what would lead someone to make a choice like that?

If you haven’t had a family like this, then please recognise what a privilege that is for you. A secure loving family of one of the greatest advantages anyone can have. The evidence on adverse childhood experiences which I have written about before show just what an advantage this gives to you. 

If you have made a choice to remove contact with a family member, then I am sorry you have needed to and I wish you well. 

False accusations

I sometimes come across a view point that counselling is only for a certain type of person. While it’s not always specific what that type is maybe you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

It can be that a person comes to counselling because of a series of events but sometimes it is just one unexpected thing that rocks a person so badly they need support to come to terms with where it has left them.

None of us can anticipate or prepare for a day like that. We will get up, get washed and dressed, follow our usual routine or no routine oblivious to the fact that tomorrow morning our lives will be completely different.

The life changing event can take many forms. An error in judgement on our part or someone else’s. stepping out into the road too soon, not applying the brakes quickly enough. Getting on the wrong train. Missing a bus and walking instead. Our lives are full of these possibilities and thankfully they don’t always come to pass.

Sometimes though it’s an event caused maliciously and deliberately or one where someone is working to deflect attention and/or guilt from themselves.

False accusations of sexual abuse can fall into this category. Whatever gender we are, there will be others of any gender who will use these type of allegations for many reasons. To get revenge, to punish someone, to avoid their own feelings of guilt and shame, to convince themselves they aren’t responsible for their own actions.

Whatever the reason, the person accused will never to quite the same. Even when no charges are brought or if the are dismissed at trial, there will always be people who view them with suspicious and believe them guilty.

They will have to find a way in future relationships to share what has happened and run the risk of being judged as well. 

Finding a way to reclaim trust in people when it gets shattered is no easy task. It can take a great deal of work and determination to keep trying; to hang onto hope that things will improve; to make yourself vulnerable again. 

That’s when people need support.

Male domestic abuse

Trigger warning – the linked article contains details of domestic abuse

This article is a very clear at detailing the impact of long term domestic abuse. It documents both physical and emotional abuse over a significant period of time. The toll it took on the victim, not just while they were with their partner by the psychological impact they have experienced ever since.

The victim in this case is male, the perpetrator female. This is a form of abuse that is still not as recognised by society and the scale of if is I believe still significantly under-reported.

Even the victims can find it incredibly hard to name what is happening to them as abuse. How society views maleness and what a man should be like can make it even harder for them to seek help as they can be mocked and vilified for “letting” this happen to them.

I am affiliated with Mencasa which aims to help you find a suitable therapist with experience in this area. Please get in touch if you need it.

Young peoples mental health

Have you seen the latest NHS Report on Mental Health in Young People?

Some keys points for me are:

  • One in seven I14.4%) of 11 to 16 year olds were identified with a mental disorder. One in sixteen (6.2%) met the criteria for two or more mental disorders.
  • Of these, the most common are emotional disorders, present in 9.0%. Then behaviour disorders at 6.2%.
  • While between 11-16, girls and boys were equally likely to have a disorder, girls were more likely to have an emotional disorder and boys a behavioural or hyperactivity disorder.
  • Between the ages of 17-19 about one is six (16.9%) had a mental disorder. 
  • However, young women of this age are a high risk group as it was found that nearly one in four (23.9%) had some type of mental disorder, 22.4% had an emotional disorder. 
  • Half (52.7%) of young women with a disorder reported having self-harmed or made a suicide attempt. 
  • The results are further broken down into sexual identity, ethnic group, socioeconomics and social and family context and other factors. 

Adverse Life Events

The report states that “children with a mental disorder were that likely than those without one to have experience certain types of adversity in their lives, like parental separation or financial crisis at home.”

I have written many times about the impact of adversity childhood experiences and this report shows again how significant they can be. What is also worrying is the one in five of the children in the survey waited over six months for contact with a mental health specialist. This is unacceptable when the risk of self-harm and suicide in these children and young people is greatly increased by having a disorder. 

We as a society need to do more.