I walk through the woodland, an excited puppy running around my feet. Headphones placed in my ears, a voice tells me to slowly breathe in and out. Each muddy step feels like a journey in a novel, a wander through an enchanted forest. I feel my heart beats growing faster, so I focus on the breeze as it swirls through the leaves above me and across my face.
The raindrops feel refreshing as they fall around me. I watch as they flow down the leaves to the woodland floor. Each droplet has a journey, a destiny as it tells a story washing fears away. I look at the many greens and browns that surround me. Degrading autumn leaves fallen are beneath my feet, the puppies paws disappear into the squelching mulch.
The ground goes up and down as I follow the path into the depths of woodland. My mind turns inside and I feel the pain within. In this woodland I am alone in its peace and the loneliness closes in. I can feel each scar and wound left on my heart. Damaged over and over by the loves and losses of my life.
Thirty-three years of heartache; wounds, scratches, bruises and stabs. Betrayals, insults and losses have taken their toll. My heart feels battered like it has had a long career as a boxer. Round and round of fists until hearing the bell ding. Family, friend and lovers leaving their marks. Stabs, although no longer a seeping wound they have left deep scars.
Sometimes I feel these scars will never heal completely. Memories cannot be erased and self confidence is hard to regain. The wall of protection around my heart is concreted in place, yet lately I see the cracks appearing. I feel my heart calling from it’s locked box, yearning to be free. Screaming out for another love to nurture it like it has never really known.
I enjoy my solitude. I like to take my dog walks bathing in nature. It is like I crave my space and time with me. However, I also wish for someone to share this life with me. Supporting each other. To share a cup of tea. Friends are amazing but a love is something transcendent. A love not to cure-all, but to provide additional forces in the fight for our lives in this mental world.
I am often told, ‘Teaching is a calling’ and to some extent I agree. You do not get into teaching for the money, that is for sure. The hours are long and the pressure can be high. You can be shouted, sworn and even spat at sometimes, by students and sometimes by parents. My pay is dependent on students results and it does add an extra pressure.
However, it is a steady income, above average salary, with long and frequent holidays. You can see students learn, progress and achieve. I have helped students though bereavement, abuse, physical and mental illnesses and more. Support them as they deal with learning difficulties. Inspire them to enjoy my subject, history.
Every job has its highs and lows. In teaching this can frequently happen in just one day. I understand the demands of the job. The emotional ties to wanting the best for your students. Leading to late hours of planning lessons, researching new ideas, preparing resources and marking, marking, marking. It is no surprise that media headlines show that teachers are leaving the profession at the highest rate ever recorded (Huffington Post).
I went into teaching to help students who might be having a similar childhood to mine. Even when I told a teacher what my home life was like, I was not believed. My mother worked at my school and she was very well liked. Do you believe the angsty teenager or the parent, who is also a friend? Behind closed doors she was different; emotional abuse, gas-lighting and neglect. I was made the family scapegoat and bullied by my siblings too. I did not know all the terms then, but I knew it was wrong. Although I believed it was all my fault.
As a teacher I want to save all those unheard ‘child Becky’s’ out there, yet I never can. I was programmed to be our family resucer and I can help and support my students. But I have had to accept that I can not save them from their lives. I can; report what I see to social services when needed, I can teach healthy lives and relationships, provide emotional support, teach resilience, model survival, recommend counselling and even make recommendations to parents. I am a pastoral manager within the school to be more involved in doing all these things. But I cannot save them.
Not only due to the fact I am not their parent, but also the restrictions on social services and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Both overworked and understaffed, so they are putting out fires. They have to prioritise physical and high urgency cases. So the mental or emotional are left dropping down the list. I am sure this is not the whole picture and I have simplified their struggles, but I do know this is how it feels to me.
I say I have to accept this but I am struggling, I find this so difficult. This failure to save them all then triggers my childhood feelings of worthlessness and not ever being enough. Their stories set off memories of my own. I empathise and relate to their lives as they happen. I wish I could do more for each one but I am not their parent or from social services.
Currently I am suffering with depression. I can not seem to shake it and have had to have two different periods of time of school/work. No single case has caused this but an accumulation of seven years of teaching and supporting young people and feeling like I have not saved one. I am not even sure what I mean by ‘saved’.
I am now re-evaluating my life and my choices. Do I keep teaching? Is it just the pastoral side, do I just drop the management role? Is it our catchment of high social care needs? Do I try a different school? Do I teach private or sixth form only? Do I do something completely different? Is this the time to decide? So many thoughts, going around and around in my head. Who do I turn to for advice?
I have started researching the options out there, knowledge is power. Should I start to apply? Then anxiety hits; interviews, meeting people, telling my Headteacher, letting people down, abandoning my current students, new curriculum, new friends, new students, moving house and so much more. Can I go through it? Will it help?
I keep thinking ‘what would I do if money was no object?’, apart from the luxury holiday I would take. I think about writing, getting into publishing, retraining as a counsellor, doing my Masters and so many other options. Then reality kicks in and I know I have bills to pay. I need a good regular income as I do not have anyone to lean upon. I having no partner or family to support me and nor would I expect this from someone. I have great friends, but none are rich and I would not expect support like this from them.
Today I have no answers, I will continue to research my options and maybe I will apply for a few. I will keep going through these thoughts and hopefully I will find some answers. Hopefully I will make a decision about my life in this mental world.
I am trying to escape from a triangle, it is known as the Karpman Drama Triangle or the Dreaded Drama Triangle. The triangle has it’s three points; Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim. It is a social model conceived by Stephen Karpham in 1968.
In my family this triangle has been playing out without me knowing it. My mother often played the Victim and she lives the mentality of a victim, however she was a persecutor to me. I am the victim of her abuses and so I should be the victim. However, as her scapegoat I was not allowed to be the victim and so I became everyone’s Rescuer.
This leaves me running to the rescue of my family, no matter how big or small the problem. I do not know when this started but an instance that comes to mind was when my Granddad died.
I was fourteen and I remember going to the hospital to see, the once stocky veteran of the Second World War, a man who wore braces to hold his trousers up over this enlarged beer belly. He was now a tortoise like creature, without his shell wrapped in the clean white sheeted bed. He had pancreatic cancer and he died.
After his death I remember everyone else’s tears and thinking ‘I have to be the strong one’. I refused to cry and stayed strong for everyone. No one specifically told me this but I felt this belief like this was my role. It was like a rule I had to follow and I am a stringent rule follower. I remember, I was able to not cry until I was in his funeral, two weeks later.
My role was cemented, Rescuer I was and Rescuer I am. Today anyone has a problem I am your girl. I will suggest solutions and support its implementation. I am at my best in this mode of operandi. Maybe I even crave it, I became a teacher to save children who might be in the situation similar to the one I was in as a child.
My therapist alerted me to the Drama Triangle in one of our sessions. We were discussing a nightmare I had experienced a few nights before. I now know I need to stop rescuing my family. Then I break the triangle and take back control, then they can no longer persecute me and make me a victim.
Easier said than done, of course. I want to help and the urge is fierce. Also, I like the fact I am a nice, helpful, generous person. I have to tackle with the idea of saying no against a key part of my identity. I need to gently remind myself that things are not black and white, I can say no and still be the kind, generous, helpful person I want to be.
It is a true self-care to say ‘No’ at times like this, because if I give into it and rescue it always bites back. My family members are unable to be grateful, they believe it is to be expected and so cannot be sincerely thankful. I am then hurt and feel unfulfilled by the process. If I cannot find a solution then I feel ashamed and a complete failure.
So anyway I play the game I seem to be burnt at the end. Therefore, I need to break the cycle of this triangle and be free of the pain it brings. However, in the short-term holding it in affects my health and increases my pain. In the long-term it will make things better, I hope.
I am finding holding back hard at the moment. My sister-in-law is struggling and I want to be there for her, I am. The issue is not this but the fact some of their issues are my brother and I want to fix him to help. I want to tell him some truths he won’t like. But I know doing this is my Rescuer wanting to help my sister-in-law and protect my nieces and nephew. Would it help? The short answer is no.
With narcissistic traits, like my mother, he would not hear me. He would resent the fact comments came from me, the family scapegoat. His ego would be wounded and so he would lash out at me and probably his wife, maybe even his children. So I know I need to stay out of it, I need to walk away.
I will help my sister-in-law but I need to listen and support her. I do not need to be her rescuer. She does not expect me to find and implement solutions. But to be her friend, her sister in this mental world.
It seems like an oxymoron to say “I am worrying about worrying people”. I know the people who care about me will worry about me. I know it is normal for them to worry about me, as they love me. I would and do worry about them. But that does not mean I do not try to mitigate the amount of worry they have about me.
I keep the deep and dark thoughts to myself. When struggling with my mental health or unwell physically, I hide away from the world. Look after myself, in my world. Usually under my duvet with my puppy keeping me company (he is currently next to me, dreaming).
Does everyone else feel this way? I know I find it hard to ask for help. I am used to being the strong independent type. I am used to relying on just me. Being single and not always having a supportive family has left me posing as super woman. I have great friends, the absolute best, but in the past friends have left. So, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that they would to stay through the worst of a person.
If I was to say “I need help”, I would feel I am admitting that I am not the strong independent woman everyone thought. I am weak and helpless. I know it is not as black and white as this, logically I do. But then in these recent times, I actually feel weak and helpless. So maybe, I am not the strong independant woman I thought I was and want to be.
I also feel that when I am asking people for support, I am asking people to care about me. This brings me back into the ‘I am not worthy of love’ cyclone of thoughts. Leading to my belief that I am not worthy of the support and so I shouldn’t be asking in the first place.
How can I feel worthy of someones worry? What is even on the criteria for that?
It gets even harder when I know a friend is also going through a hard time. Adding to someone else’s burden is even more difficult. I feel I should be the support beam, not the earthquake that could make it all collapse. My own problems should be pushed down the priority and others needs are to be put ahead of my own.
These are the circling thoughts in my mind. No answer, no solution just problems. Here are my thoughts, just trying to find the logic within the chaos of my life in this mental world.
When you feel like you are never enough, dealing with criticisms can be difficult. Any suggestion of a fault can be hard to handle. Corrective suggestions about my grammar recently sent me into a tornado of emotions.
Throughout my childhood and early adult life my mother told me, over and over, that I was never enough and not worthy of her love. This has left me with a hole in my soul which I am trying to repair. I have sticky notes around my house telling me; I am enough, I am worthy, I deserve love, and more. Four years of therapy have helped me to realise my mother was wrong.
However, one person’s opinion can still throw me back to the 1990s and my world as a worthless child. No one intends to trigger me, I know that. It is not their fault it makes me feel this way. But I do.
I need to learn my triggers and try not to let it not happen. But this is harder than it sounds. Especially when someone close to me, someone I care about, is the one giving me feedback. I want them to think the best of me, so I have to not show weakness or imperfection. Or they might not love me, like my mum.
It might not seem logical, it isn’t, but to me not being perfect is a slippery slope to people leaving me as I am not enough. People leave. People decide they do not like me or love me anymore. They find out that thing my mum saw from the beginning. The thing that stopped her being able to love me as she should.
In this case I felt I was trying to help. Swooping in on my white horse in rescuer mode, helping when someone asked. Instead of feeling appreciated I felt deflated as my work was criticised. They had every right to make suggestions for corrections, it wasn’t really a criticism. Yet it felt so personal to me.
Of course, in therapy I have addressed this. My mind knows my premise is not true, I am not defective, I do not need to be perfect. However, in the moment my brain goes haywire first. How do you control those impulses? When will my mind learn? How do you stop being a perfectionist? Just because we have gone through it int herapy does not mean I truely believe it, yet.
This I think is one of the biggest problems with childhood abuse, it programs your brain differently from such a young age. Scientists tell us that the brain is malleable and it can create new pathways. So, there is hope for my brain and yours, but trust me this is hard to do. I will keep working on it, to keep myself sane in this mental world.