The Language of Healing

This post originally appeared on Medium. I’m cross-posting here in the interests of updating this, my personal blog, to where I am in my life now.

Tuesday of this week was my one year anniversary in my role as an Accessibility and Usability Consultant which should have been cause for celebration — I had plans months ago to write a ‘One year in Accessibility’ post about all the things I’ve learned and all the amazing people I’ve met — but that feels hollow right now.

I’m not where I expected to be a year ago. A year ago, fresh from a fantastic holiday in the states, I was nervously excited about my new career and returning to study. I dared to dream that I could end up doing what I always wanted: something creative that involves and supports other people. I achieved that, but not without stumbling along the way. I wrote, back in August, about my deteriorating mental health and lucky escape (Trigger Warning: Suicide).

As much as I love our NHS, I’ve once again been left high and dry. I could press for another psychiatric assessment, but I honestly don’t have the energy. Instead, I’ve been having weekly therapy sessions, thanks to my employer. I have found it extremely beneficial. Just having that hour to sit in a room and talk about myself is very cathartic. I go in without a plan and before I know it the floodgates open and I spend the whole hour talking.

It’s (sometimes) what you say, not how you say it

My therapist doesn’t have answers, instead he helps me to frame things and question my thoughts. He has a way of drawing attention to the phrasing I use and probing where it comes from that has been insightful. In our very first session he pointed out that everything I was saying was about other people: what I thought their expectations were, what I thought they could handle, what I thought their opinion of me was.

Some of this was obviously to do with me figuring out how to express what I had just gone through, but as i’ve discovered throughout our sessions, I actually do this all the time. I put everyone else on pedastals and I do my best to help them stay there. I’m quick to encourage other voices and I always seem to find the kind, considerate (and genuine) things to say when others are struggling, but I can’t seem to do the same for myself.

‘Be the big circle’ as my therapist says. In other words, if I spend all my time helping others to take up space, that doesn’t really leave much room for myself. In fact it’s how I disappear: I’d rather help others than let them know when I’m not doing so well myself. I don’t want to ‘burden them’ or ‘bring them down’ and it then becomes a toxic cycle of offering help while also withdrawing from relationships that are actually really good for me.

Throughout all of this I find myself making up silly rules for myself. I can’t ‘like’ a tweet or comment on an Instagram post if I don’t have the positive outlook to match. I tell myself that I don’t deserve to engage if I don’t have the emotional reserves to back it up. I isolate myself and in doing so I sabotage myself.

The power of words

I’ve done many amazing things in my life and I make a difference to many people. I know this and I’ve been repeatedly told this. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to believe when I sit with thoughts that I’m ‘not good enough’ or that ‘I can’t do that’. I know that that’s not how other people see me but I have a hard time believing it.

I’ve been distracting myself with episodes of Doctor Who recently. In ‘The Shakespeare Code’ the Doctor has power over the antagonists by knowing their true name (Carrionites). If only it was that easy. I know that the thoughts I have are baseless and I recognise them as harmful thoughts that I should ignore. But i’m Martha in that Doctor Who scene: naming the same villains but finding myself powerless.

I’ve stepped away from yet another project that I had the opportunity to be involved in. I told myself that it’s the best thing for me right now and that’s at least partly true, but I also know that I’m denying myself the opportunity to even try. ‘Do it scared’ are words that I’ve shared with people a lot recently. There is power in those words — they’re how I’ve been able to do many of the best things in my life — but for me at least, that power seems to be waning at the moment.

We don’t have to know it all the time, *and* I think we have to actively make room for our worth to be seen and felt (by us) as often as we can, in whatever way we can. An ongoing practice.

Lisa Olivera

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