Mental Health: Bracing myself for 2020

One of the great things about therapy is that I’ve really started to get to know myself. Whenever I have a wobble these days, I can usually trace it back to something problematic from deep within my psyche. This is hugely helpful, for so many years now I’ve just been bouncing from one source of anxiety to the next; like a nervy little ball in a pinball machine. I’m better now, but not completely.

Since the year turned from 2019 to 2020, a whole heap of anxiety has dumped itself at my feet. 2019 was a year of quite radical change for me and 2020 should see all the seeds of the new life I planted last year grow into something different and hopefully something beautiful this year.

With a couple of weeks until my next therapy session, it’s up to me to try and unpick what all of my current anxiety is about all by myself. This is probably not a bad thing, therapy is partly about giving me the tools to stand on my own two feet and to be able to understand what’s going on with me better.

Unsurprisingly, my current levels of anxiety are all about change; my ability to manage myself over the next year and all that it will throw at me. I’ve got to get things right this year and I’m pretty terrified of cocking everything up and leaving a heap of angry and upset people in my wake.

One of the things therapy has taught me is that I am not responsible for other people’s issues.

I’ll say that again. I am not responsible for other people’s issues.

In the past I would merrily take on other people’s anxiety, anger, criticism of me, whatever and let that negativity sit on me and with me. I would take everything personally, even now I ache inside when I feel like I’ve not met expectations, let someone down or annoyed them. There’s a very damaged part of me who is so eager to please, but knows deep down whatever I do it will not be good enough. I will never be good enough.

It doesn’t take much for me to feel this way. Right now I feel like this. In the past the way to stop the anxiety spiral was to do something destructive or harmful to myself. That urge hasn’t gone and I’m not sure it ever will, but I am better at distracting myself from that path.

When I feel that I’m not good enough, I need to know that I am, and that is one of the things I am working on right now. It would be nice to hear it from other people though. You ARE good at your job. You ARE a great mum. You ARE a good friend. You ARE good enough. You CAN do this. Even typing this emboldens me. I am good enough, and I can do all of the things I need to do. I really, really am good enough.

Learning how to be an emotionally well adult is something which takes place during childhood and there’s a whole chunk of learning I’ve missed out on. I’ll get there though, with the help of my therapist and the people around me who love and care for me.

It will all be ok

What my son’s school report doesn’t tell me

I’ve just had a message from school to say that your school report will be coming home tomorrow. This is perhaps my least favourite day of your school year.

I see a child who has made incredible leaps since September. I see a boy who loves reading, and writes me notes about how much he loves me. My boy is someone who skips down the road shouting out his three times table. I see a boy who needs extra help, but tries so hard to help himself.

Your school report will tell me facts, facts that I’m not that interested in really. It will tell me your scores for tests which mean nothing to me, you or your future. It will tell me where you’re expected to be at this age and where you actually are. What it won’t tell me is how happy you are at school. It won’t tell me about the kind things you did to make the new boy feel welcome, or that time you reeled off a huge list of Viking facts the rest of your class, and perhaps even your teacher hadn’t learned about yet.

It won’t uplift and shine a light on the huge efforts you’ve made with your writing this year and how you’ve gone from hating everything about writing to scribbling notes on every available scrap of paper, and sometimes even my walls. Your report won’t tell me about how you’ve grown to love drawing and even got pretty good at it. It won’t tell me about how good you are at swimming and martial arts, or how you are learning to identify all the different trees we pass on our walks.

Your school report will tell me in bald terms how you match up against your peers and where you are lagging behind. There may be passing mention of some of what makes you my bold, brilliant, funny, kind and interested boy, but your school report doesn’t define you to me.

Your school report is largely a time consuming tick box exercise for your teacher. It needs to be done, but its contents are of little or no interest to me. To me you are an individual with a million strengths. You are a unique and wonderful personality. I have no idea where you will go in life, what you will be, even who you will be. All I care about is that you are happy and healthy, that you are kind and you are liked and that you try hard. Not everyone can be good at everything, we’ve got to try a lot of things to find our strengths and you have a great many of those my darling, and most of them won’t be listed in your school report.

I won’t show you the report, it’ll be read and then put in a box for a future us to read. Maybe in ten or twenty years you will find it and read it. I hope when you do you will remember the boy who tried hard above all else and a boy who was happy and loved.

I have spoken to your teachers and met with them regularly. They know and love you as the enthusiastic and interested individual you are. They do know your strengths and your capabilities, they do know the giant leaps you have made this year. But this will not come across in your school report. If you read it, do not take it to heart my dear boy; you are all I could have wished you to be and more. I’d change nothing about you, except your ability to tidy your own room.

Four pieces of paper do not define you to me; they do not define your future or anything of any serious consequence. Keep being brilliant and interested in the world; please keep learning and wanting to learn. Keep trying hard, because that is all I could ever ask of you, my brilliant darling boy.

What my son's school report doesn't tell me

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

Five years ago I was in a horrible place, physically and mentally I was broken. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get me back to the pretty good place I find myself in today. It was a long and at times painful road. The thing that really helped me back to wellness was talking positively to myself; or rather talking to myself with a more positive voice.

I have always talked about myself negatively. I have a negative voice in my head which tells me how terrible I am, how ugly I am and how useless my life is. My negative internal voice has always had a terrible impact on my self-esteem. I don’t think the negative voice will ever really go away, but when it pipes up, I make a point of trying to find some positive things to affirm myself with.

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

Five years ago when I was in that dark dark place, a friend sat me down and gave me a talking to. I needed to start digging myself out of the dark hole I was in. Every morning I would text them a positive thing about me. Some days it was really hard to find a good thing to say about myself, some days were easier than others.

Each time I sent a positive text to my friend I also copied it into the notes on my phone. When I needed some positive affirmation I could look back and remember good things, good times and the days when I was stronger, better, happier and know that more of those good days were ahead of me.

I no longer send those positive texts and I don’t list the good things each day. There are times when I can feel my mood dipping; my anxiety rising and I know I need to put my positivity pants on again and I make a list. I list the good things I am grateful for. I list the good things about me and my life and I try to balance every negative thing my internal voice throws at me with something good, something better, something incredibly positive about me.

It’s not an easy habit to get into, but if you struggle with your own negative voice then getting into the habit of finding something nice about yourself every morning and writing it down can help you focus a little on the positives when everything may seem quite negative.

It helped me to have someone to text my affirmation to; someone who would come back to me and say I can do better, or that’s not positive enough. It helped me to have someone to be accountable to.

It’s not a magic bullet which will cure depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. Talking positively to yourself is a tool in your armory which can help and did help me. I really do credit this daily habit I kept up for almost a year for helping to drag me out of the absolute depths of my depression.

I’ve looked back at my talking positively list. Here are a few of my positive thoughts and affirmations from that time… 

  • I know I can and will survive what life throws at me.
  • Overthinking and dwelling is bad. I can stop it and I will.
  • I am so lucky to be as loved as I am.
  • It’s a beautiful day and full of possibilities.
  • I can make good things happen to myself.
  • There is nothing to panic about. Everything is ok.
  • People can’t hurt me unless I let them.

How I learned to talk positively to myself every day

What low self esteem is really like

Lots of people have low self esteem, it’s a modern epidemic. I have chronically low self esteem, it’s a really bitchy bullying voice who loves to put me down at every given opportunity. If I’m generally up and happy, feeling safe and secure I am usually able to shut the voice up, or at least turn down the volume. But if I’m feeling edgy and vulnerable, a little bit low and anxious, the voice roars at me. I know lots of other people feel that way too.

How does it feel to have low self esteem? Or how does it feel for me with low self esteem? Everyone is different but there will be common threads.

I feel unworthy, worthless. Like a waste of space and a waste of a life. I speak at times with a little voice because my voice isn’t worth being heard, especially not by the vastly superior human who has spoken to me.

When a close friend doesn’t invite me out, or keeps secrets from me, it’s because I am nothing and worth nothing and they are simply tolerating my friendship because they have better friends, friends who are funnier, better company, more intelligent, attractive and they just hands down prefer them to me.

If I work hard on a project but the recognition for my hard work goes to someone else, this makes me feel like my work isn’t worth being recognised and that everything I do is pointless. I am diligent, I work hard and I work long hours, I don’t earn very much despite my long hours, but I usually love my work. It’s nice occasionally to get a pat on the back.

I look in the mirror and all I see are faults. I hate myself and everything about me. Comments and suggestions made by other people in an effort to encourage me just make me feel even more horrid. My Dad asking how my diet is going when he sees me eating something, anything, doesn’t matter if it’s lettuce or dust it just makes me feel like crap. My husband (who means well) complimenting me on my hair colour by saying he likes how it looks patchy and not all the same colour. Patchy should never be used as a compliment.

I hide behind a scruffy, shambolic image because it’s easier to be like this and not compete with the beautiful people. The people with the good jobs and the perfect hair, the people who are better than me. All the people.

And this. Writing this whiny little post about how pathetic I am makes me feel pretty shoddy too. But someone once said that writing was therapy. Low self esteem sucks big time. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, to feel so low and worthless at times that escaping this life seems the only option. But it’s not an option, I need to break the cycle because it’s not fair on me and it’s really not fair on my son.

low self esteem

Compliments for beginners

Last week I received a compliment, I’m fairly sure it came from a loving place, but it came out all wrong. For about three minutes I was mortally offended and rather indignant, but then the giver of the compliment explained it and it made some sense. The compliment I took offence to was “Your eyes look very much like Mark Rylance when he’s looking slightly worried”. This is Mark Rylance, he’s looking worried, do I look like this?


On further examination I discovered the compliment meant my eyes look very thoughtful, like there are deep things being considered in my head. Fairynuff. My eyes generally get lots of compliments, which is nice.

I’m sure everyone has at sometime been given a back handed compliment. I’ve almost given up wondering why people can’t just say “your hair is nice” rather than “is it meant to look like that?”. My family are experts in making me feel like a muddy troll wearing tattered sackcloth whenever they see me. Compliments are just not done and if they are they’re clearly meant as a ‘could try harder’ motivational piece of sarcasm.

If you sometimes give compliments, especially to ladies like me who rarely hear something nice about themselves, then I’ve put together a list of nice things I think are good to try and say to people, and a list of things you should NEVER say to people, but have regrettably been said to me, sometimes more than once. Is it any wonder I have the self esteem of a worm?

What’s good:

You look nice.
You look pretty.
Haven’t you got lovely eyes/hair/smile.
That colour really suits you.
Have you lost weight? You look great.
You’re beautiful.
You’re hilarious, I love your jokes.
I love spending time with you.
I love your perfume, it really suits you.
You write beautifully.
Being with you makes me feel good.
You’re such a good person/mum/writer/driver/lover/maker of tea/whatever.

What’s not good:

Is that how you meant your hair to look?
Are you wearing make up, or do you have two black eyes?
*looks at old photo* Oh you used to be so pretty.
You should wear black more often, it suits you, makes you look slimmer than you are.
You’re not very wrinkly, but that’s probably because you’ve got a fat face.
Your eyes look very much like Mark Rylance when he’s looking slightly worried.
Oh, you’re not very tall are you?
Gosh you can drink a lot can’t you!
Have you moisturised? Your face feels greasy.

What’s the worst compliment you’ve ever received?

Mental Health: Man hands on misery to man

I’m not great right now and I’m blaming therapy. I’ve been merrily plodding on for months and months now. I’ve had the odd bad day dragging me down but not for long. My strategy of locking all my demons away has been working terrifically, so as long as I don’t actually think about anything other than the things I’m doing that day I’m ok. Sometimes the misery can overwhelm me though.

Then last week I started therapy. After some mental health assessments I’ve been prescribed some CBT and some intensive counselling which is great news, but it does mean I have to put my misery and my demons in their best party dresses and take them out for a spin every week for the next three months.

My therapy will focus on sorting out my self esteem (minuscule) and getting my critical voice to be a bit nicer to me. Fine. But what that means is I’m now looking at WHY my self esteem is so tiny and WHY my critical voice is such a massive bitch and why I’m such a misery. I know the reasons why and it really really hurts to delve back there and pick at those open wounds.

If you want a clue as to why I’m a messy mess of messy issues. A pretty good starting point can be found in Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This Be The Verse. I had a perfectly nice, normal, average childhood. Regrettably I wasn’t a high achiever so it was devoid of praise, with fairly critical parents, compounded by my abject failure to match up to my high achieving younger sibling.

I love my parents and I know they love me, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a disappointment, a failure on all fronts. Even now their every interaction with me is peppered with criticism, or perceived criticism about me. How I look, how I act, how I dress. They criticise my husband and child; my life, everything really. Occasionally they tell me they’re pleased or proud of something and it’s so rare I figure they must be lying or have made a mistake. I do love them though, but I’m determined not to be like that with the small boy.

I know the first few weeks of therapy will be the hardest. Opening up to someone and showing them the darkness within. Talking about the things that hurt the most without having the strategies I need to cope with this new avalanche of pain will knock me for six. I’m really, really upset I’m feeling this way again and I’m frightened that it’ll drag me down again. That it’ll pull me under and overwhelm me and I just can’t go back there. Part of me wants to slam the door shut and run far away from it all. Part of me, most of me knows this is all for the best, in the long term at least.

So please bear with me, I’m struggling right now. I hurt a lot and I’m really, really hating on myself, but you know this isn’t really me. I’m not really like this. I’m just frightened of being swept away on the tide and never finding my way back again.

Man hands on misery to man

Read more of my mental health posts here.

Forgiveness – I need to find a way to forgive myself

Yesterday I was for no apparent reason having a bad day. I woke up feeling teary and couldn’t shake the grim feeling of my own inadequacy as a human being. I made breakfast but put it uneaten in the bin and just cracked on with some work for the morning, trying to focus on other tasks thinking that would help, it did for a bit but the gloom overtook me and I needed to get out for some air.

I went for a walk to one of the local parks. My friend has a cafe there so I went to drink coffee and try and shake my dark mood. That worked for a while and he made me laugh which was great, but as I walked home the gloom returned and I started crying. I got home and curled up in bed for half an hour, the blackness had taken hold now and a truly felt dead inside. I indulged myself for a bit, sometimes if I let it take hold it passes naturally, but yesterday it didn’t.

The boys came home so I threw a smile on my face even though tears were running down my cheeks, fooling no one. The boys gave me cuddles but knew I needed some space for a while so they left me to ruminate. I chatted online to a couple of friends, friends who I go to when I have a dark day. They spoke sense and helped a lot. One of them said to me “You might feel crap today but it’ll feel better as soon as you forgive yourself. xx”

Forgive myself. Forgive myself? What do I need to forgive myself for?

This morning I’ve started a new round of therapy. The therapist was talking about how my critical voice bullies me. She’s right of course, the voice which tells me how ugly and terrible I am and all the other awful things it says is just me bullying me. If anyone spoke to someone I love the way my critical voice talks to me I’d struggle not to slap them silly. So why do I let me talk to me like that? I guess the next few weeks of therapy will tell me.

Walking home my mind wandered back to my friend saying I needed to forgive myself. It’s just him saying I need to be nicer to me, to stop the bullying and the guilt for everything, for every sin I have committed, real and imagined. I’m no angel but I am a good person, full of love and good humour, I try to do no harm.

I’ve always blamed myself for everything, I have massive amounts of guilt hanging over me from my childhood, guilt about not being the person my parents wanted me to be, for failing to be the kind of successful they would approve of, failing to have more than one child, failing to be the daughter they wanted, failing to please them, just failing.

My failure, my consistent failure to live up to other people’s expectations leaves me with a weight of guilt to carry with me. And he’s right. I do need to forgive myself. I’m not sure how, but I do.


How positive thinking turned my life around

Low self esteem sucks. Feeling down on yourself the whole time and having that negative voice in your head pointing out all the bad things about you takes its toll. My negative voice tells me all kinds of “home truths”. It tells it like it is and is brutally honest. Whenever I tell someone else what this negative voice is saying they usually give me a whole list of reasons why it’s lying to me. Over the years I’ve worked to silence that negative voice. How? Through positive thinking and positive talk. Here’s how I did it.

A wise old man once sat me down and gave me a talking to. I needed to stop listening to the lies my negative voice told me and I need to drown it out with positivity. Every morning before the day got started I was to write down three positive things about me and my life. It could be about anything, including little wins I’d had in the previous 24 hours. Slowly this started to work. Slowly I stopped absolutely hating everything about me and my life and slowly I began to see positive things and make positive changes.

Positive thinking

In the spirit of sharing, I’ve decided to write down ten things which are good about me. A little bit of positive thinking never did anyone any harm, and for me forms part of my daily self care routine. Focus on the positives and less on what I think is bad. How’s that for real positive thinking?

♥     I am funny and quite quick witted.
♥     I’m creative and can think on my feet.
♥     I am a good mum. No, I’m a brilliant mum.
♥     I’m a good friend.
♥     I am very caring, I love to take care of people.
♥     I have nice, dark, soulful eyes.
♥     I’m honest and open.
♥     I have decent legs.
♥     I’m brave and stronger than I give myself credit for.
♥     I know I can and will survive what life throws at me.

It’s not all positivity. I could write a list of negatives more than twice the length of this little list, but I wont, because who wants and actual list of everything they think or imagine is wrong with them?

Positive thinking has changed my life. What I do can’t work for everyone, but it can’t hurt either. I know that drowning out my negative voice has helped me to step away from antidepressant medication (under supervision).

Positive thinking has helped me see more good in my life than ever before. I don’t skip through life carefree and bursting with positivity, but there is more of a balance between the good and the bad. If I find myself slipping, I just turn to my notebook of positive things and good memories and I’m reminded that I am ok. That I am worthy and I am valued and valuable.

Read more about how my low self esteem effects me here.

How positive thinking turned my life around


rejectionIf you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I have some issues around mental health, most of which centre around my self esteem which took a tumble when I was about 3 years old and never quite recovered.

As and when issues occur, it’s not hard for me to trace their roots back to my self esteem or lack of it. I have a monumental deficit of self-worth and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

This week in the cray-cray mind of Miss Jane, I’ve been wrestling with the thorny topic of rejection. This is not new, I talked about my feelings about rejection in therapy last year, like most things discussed in therapy they take a little while for me to process, this has taken 3 months.

Everyone faces rejection; it’s a fact of life. But not everyone magnifies and twists it like I do, so it becomes something much bigger than it ought to be. Some examples…

I fancy a pint, I say to a friend “let’s go for a pint” my friend says they’re busy but maybe tomorrow. The little voice in my head suggests that my friend hates me because I’m a selfish cow. I’m ugly, unattractive, terrible company, I’m not really their friend, that I’m pathetic and don’t deserve to live.

I ask my husband for a cuddle, he says no because he’s tidying the kitchen. The little voice in my head suggests that he hates me because I’m a selfish cow. He’s bored of me and our marriage. He finds me physically repugnant and can’t bear to touch me. He’s ashamed of me, being with me was a mistake and I don’t deserve to live.

Just two examples there of just everyday brush offs which I mentally work up into massive issues in my head. I know that my husband loves me and is just cleaning the kitchen; I know my friend is busy elsewhere. When I’m sane and thinking straight then it’s all ok, but when self esteem is biting, I really struggle not to have dark thoughts.

When something bigger happens, a greater rejection or a betrayal, then my world crumbles. Then my dark thoughts become a self-harming, suicidal reality.

I almost certainly have Daddy issues (who doesn’t? Take a ticket and get to the back of the queue lady). My Dad is the most difficult man in the world to please. I will never, ever make him happy or proud of me, not overtly anyway, not so he’d ever be moved to tell me or show me.

When I was growing up he rejected me over and over, this and lots of other things destroyed my self esteem. So the little voice in my head that tells me I’m worth so little I don’t deserve to live also, tells me that my Daddy doesn’t love me, and I’ll never, ever be good enough for him or for anyone.

So each and every rejection, small or large just underlines the fact that I am unworthy, I am a terrible, unattractive, miserable, pathetic waste of an existence. Those all might well be true. They might well just be the nasty little voice in my head. I’m trying to find another voice who can defend me, who’ll tell me I’m ok and funny and a little bit cute. It’s a whisper right now, but maybe someday it’ll become a roar.

Just Ok

I don’t need your validation.

Recently I’ve been meeting a good number of my fabulous Twitter friends who have supported me over the past few months, I’ve got on famously with them all and had some really great times. But…

When you meet someone you admire and respect. Someone worldly and intelligent they can turn your head, make you think differently and view your place in the world from another perspective. That is usually a really good thing.

You admire them greatly, this wonderful charismatic friend who shares so much in common with you but broadens your horizons and helps to underpin some of your flagging self esteem. And then you meet them and they are as great as you think they’ll be.

But they know everything about me. I’ve poured my soul out to a select group of online friends over the past few months and they know my vulnerabilities and the chinks in my armour. They know how to wound, they know how fragile I can be.

I met up with a friend, a wonderfully supportive and open friend. They said I was ok. What the hell is that? Ok? I thought they were amazing and good company and said so. I’m just ok. Well I guess that’s me. Just ok. I’ve brooded on that for a few days. Just ok.

Tonight my husband shot me a look which said that I wasn’t just ok that I was his world. That’s all the validation I need. There is a caveat. That is all the validation I need when I’m calm and happy. But otherwise I’ll probably continue to brood on being just ok.