Accessible Online
Counselling: Blog

February 24, 2021

Kids and COVID lockdown 2.0

I wrote on November 16th 2020 about the potential negative effects that being OUT of the lockdown 1.0 might be having on ‘kids’ – and to that I would probably add the number of adults (myself included!).

Well, history seems to be repeating itself.  The government has announced a timetable for the easing of lockdown restrictions.  Sure enough there is evidence, very much anecdotal at this early stage, to indicate that the same worries and anxieties exist about returning into society, and for most kids that includes a form of state mandated torture, e.g., school.

I have heard stories of anxiety around COVID testing at school, not be able to catch up and being christened ‘thick’ for evermore, and there is no point because there will be lockdown 3.0 anyway.  Exposure to the opposite sex, or anyone of any sex has been minimal.  I can now just ‘cut and paste’ large chunks all my previous post because all the issues that existed before, still exist now.

Namely, the social pressures that were there before lockdown 1.0 and 2.0 are still there now.  In fact, you might argue that a large part of these issues stems from growing up, puberty and developing an identity they are comfortable with. Children will be out of the secure and familiar, yet boring environment of home and having to navigate physical friendship/social politics, peer pressure, bullying, standing out, sporting/academic achievement, appearance, personal hygiene, stages of puberty etc, all of which are presumably as confusing as they were before.  Again, because of the overriding sense that easing the lockdown is ‘a good thing’, I can again cut and paste the chunk of my previous post – in some cases this has led to an increase in child anxiety and a decrease in the feeling that children have that they can share their thoughts with adults.  Some children feel that they won’t be listened to if they speak, some children feel there must be something ‘wrong’ with them if they feel there is something not quite right in the post lockdown world.

Food for thought – if they do ask a question / share a thought – even if it is nonsense, trying not to show impatience / dismissive body language.  Don’t try and joke  / use sarcasm (unless you are very sure of yourself!) be kind, be patient, try not to ask too many questions (this usually results in monosyllabic responses), reassure them, try to have a conversation when doing something else (chopping veg, setting the table etc) – although not watching screen!  Allow yourself to be the butt of a joke, the subject of some gentle collective family ribbing, if they ask, say you’re just checking in on them and that you love them.  They will probably think you’re a weirdo, and might say as much, let them have the last word or just blame me!

Words have multiple meanings and, as I have touched on before – why use one word when ten will do?

Sometimes it is quite important to realise what is really inferred by the tone or words that somebody else uses.  Frequently it is the case that somebody will prefix the comment that they are about to make with an excuse.

Eg – “I’m not being funny but…” is the code for “I am about to be rude but it’s understandable…”

“Any normal person would…” is of the code for “I am the standard for ‘normality’, so you have to agree to me or else you are not ‘normal…’

– I find this one particularly difficult as the speaker is essentially assuming the role of speaking for ‘the greater part of society’ – which just is not true

The use of “At least,..” can be quite nuanced and quite sneaky.  I confess I have used that form of words that conveys the impression of being interested in what someone has to say whilst simultaneously shutting them down.

“How was your weekend?”

“Awful, I didn’t get any sleep on Friday night….”

“Oh dear…well, at least you were home, safe and sound…”

The “Well, at least…” is quite frequently a device used by the speaker to close the conversation down because THEY don’t want to talk about the subject.  Try it, you can close essentially any topic of conversation down.

The logical or illogical conclusion to all this?

“Well, at least you’re not dead…” because if you were, it would be a pretty one sided conversation!

We humans like to think we have control over our lives…  Which we don’t.

Simplistically put, our brains are hard wired to try and find patterns in things. Hence why we usually see ‘faces’ in the clouds, the Moon, knots in bits of wood and Jesus in pieces of toast and marmite…

At first, the mental cost of the Lockdowns was sold to us as limited to school-goers and the vulnerable (i.e. those seen to be more susceptible to loneliness).

What is, and always was, inescapable – but it was not really publicly highlighted as such – is that devastating toll that the pandemic will take on all members of the community.  The more obvious ones – Parents,  teachers, frontline health staff, the bereaved etc are recognized.  It seems are like others – students, people who were able to keep working, people who lost their livelihoods, people who lost opportunities  etc are coming to the fore.

Mankind has always tried to ‘explain’ the apparent randomness of events – pagan rituals, religious structures etc. (I’m not going to get into a philosophical argument of religion vs. fatalism etc).  Suffice to say not being able to explain and rationalise the fundamentals of a situation as the consequence of our own actions and decisions is deeply unnerving.  There are some fundamentals, that although assisted by mankind’s actions them, are natural phenomena and cannot be easily controlled.  The best we can hope for is some kind of the uneasy truce.  My guess is that in the way that the mental health of generations of people were harmed by WW I/II, there will be a reckoning.

What a jolly post!

Anyway, if you are slightly concerned please just email at [email protected] or arrange a free assessment at www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk

 

I heard about this letter on the radio from a primary school head teacher, trying congratulate ‘her’ parents for doing their best on the very difficult circumstances.  As long as your kids are safe, loved and cared for – that’s the key issue.

Please share and forward in any way you can,  just so she knows it’s resonating.

In counselling, another holy grail is the acceptance of the concept of ‘YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH’.  In this especially applies to you all as I bet you pride yourselves in being high flying workaholics!

https://www.facebook.com/138387672924388/photos/a.198304726932682/3666191333477320/?type

I’ve thought long and hard about shedding light on the murky/mysterious world of everyday tasks for disabled people (ie me!).  My reluctance is twofold 1.  My main coping mechanism is humour, which can be a bit distasteful to some – nearest and dearest included and 2.  I am a disabled counsellor NOT JUST a counsellor for the disabled, I thought writing this sort of post would define me as someone using their back story to push a personal agenda.  Then I thought “NAH! – stop reading if you don’t like it, you’re a grown up!  Also, sod it – it seems soo obvious yet not enough people saying it”.  Anyway, if you like look of this keep reading.

06.30 – alarm goes off, knackered – needed loo 4 times last night.  A tricky manoeuvre that requires putting the light on each occasion to ensure accuracy and hygiene.  I have tried guesswork and hoping for the best.  Not a good outcome…

06.30 – 07.15 – Various stretches and exercises to try and get blood moving.  Mostly a waste of bloody time!…

07.15 – 07.45 – pushed duvet to bottom of the bed (otherwise it just gets in the way) – not enough room for the two of us. Whilst pushing duvet down bed with stiff and inflexible legs, I randomly kick wall, side of bed and wheelchair, just to prove to myself, in case a miracle happened overnight, that I still have no actual control over my legs…

Sit up and manoeuvre self with right arm (left arm is rubbish) to sit on edge off bed.  Feel very drunk and unsteady but with no prospect of a one-night stand. Use litter picker to pick up clean underwear and socks.  Reach down carefully to pick up discarded trousers from previous night.  Lie back down on bed in order to remove old socks and replace with new, take off the PJ bottoms and pull-on clean underwear and trousers.  This takes a lot of huffing and puffing, effing and jeffing, straining and pleading (in vain-ing) and just for good measure, the other day, whilst trying to pull my sock over my foot, I lost my grip and thumped myself squarely in the bollocks. My already peachy day glowed ever brighter as my eyes welled up and a sensation I have not experienced since I was 13 washed over me.  At that point I would have gladly been paralysed from the neck down!

On the fourth attempt I manage to zip up my flies, but give up all my trouser button as I can’t be arsed to try and do it up again and I’m not exactly going to be standing up much!

07.45 – 08.10 – I pivot transfer from the edge of the bed (drunk again) to my wheelchair.  This takes five minutes of trying to get my feet into the right position to risk this manoeuvre and not end up on my face on the floor.  Once in the chair, I can remove my thermal top (elasticated and too big – for ease of putting on/taking off), use face wipes for a face / body wash, attempt to roll on deodorant (ha ha), then pull on a clean T shirt, no buttons or zips, whilst not tipping the chair over, nor tipping myself out of the chair.   Then it’s just a quick dash (ha ha again) as I put on my fleece top – again no pesky buttons or zips and add the final stylistic touch, a woolly cardigan.  This does pose some interesting existential questions as it has both a zip and it needs to be passed behind your back two allow you to pull on your other arm.  As above with the underwear and trousers this requires a lot of huffing and puffing etc etc.  I then spend 5 minutes trying to manoeuvre myself in a manual wheelchair out of the bedroom and to the stair lift. The manual wheel chair is controlled from the right-hand side – which is a bit like trying to work out how to reverse a car and trailer through a narrow gate, first thing in the morning after some intensive exercise!

Then I transfer again, blah, blah, blah.  It frequently it takes me longer to get out of bed, get dressed and downstairs than it did to commute to work in Central London from Basingstoke. Repeat ad infinitum.  I have just realized, another reason why I don’t talk about it, is that it is really dull!

Welcome to my world.

January 25, 2021

Disability knocks…

For me, the hugely important bit of this article is the line “But for…[those] with a disability, the tiny motions required for fastening a button or putting on a pair of pants can be part of a gruelling, multi-step process that takes hours—if it can happen at all.”
Often it is only when personally affected by the disability issues (and by that I mean anything that affects your functionality), that an appreciation of the – mostly blindingly obvious – physical limitations of everyday life for someone affected by functionality issues is created.
This inspired me to write another post about getting up out of bed and getting dressed!

One of the holy grails of counselling is the establishment of a ‘therapeutic relationship’.

Simplistically, this is the difficult process of creating the bond of trust between the counsellor and the client(s). Therefore, the client(s) feels comfortable, heard and not judged. The sessions can then go forward in a productive way for the client(s). Until the client(s) reach this point they are unlikely to feel listened to, comfortable and understood. It also follows they are unlikely to risk sharing their true emotions, opinions or own analysis of their behaviour.

Therefore, it was a little confusing to then learn about the phenomena of online disinhibition. The idea is that, due to the unique way in which an online environments impact upon your behaviour, can result in some oversharing of personal information BEFORE a therapeutic relationship has developed. This in turn lead to a kind of embarrassed ‘morning after’ realisation of drunken night before where you have this sudden recall of something you said or did.
Observed common alterations/changes individuals make to their internal/external identity in order to project the desired new or exaggerated characteristic when in a new online environment usually include little appreciation of the consequence of their actions, increased/exaggerated confidence and inflexibility in taking a viewpoint, showing little or no empathy or understanding of another’s position, deliberate offensiveness (‘flaming’) or deliberate misunderstanding due to the semantics of a post. It is also much more difficult to pick up body language, changes in voice tone or facial expressions via Zoom or text.

…And that is why we have emojis – saying ‘you’re an idiot’ can mean an entirely different thing to ‘you’re an idiot  

It follows that counselling online has a different set of behavioural pointers and triggers, and must to a greater extent than’ face-to-face’ counselling relies on honesty and transparency of understanding, or misunderstanding as the case may be!

Surprisingly, sometimes the biggest obstacle to an individual’s ability to manage change is the individuals own expectation(s), usually of themselves.

Previously when I mentioned grief it was in what you might call in the ‘traditional’ sense of the death or loss of somebody close to you or that meant a lot to you.  However, it important to recognise some emotional elements of our common reactions in the process of grieving are also common to changes to our ambitions, dreams, expectations and future.  Therefore, these reactions can be as important. I frequently talk about the ‘grief curve’, there are basically five stages to this, with any number of intermediate emotional stages in-between.  Shock, anger, understanding, acceptance and moving on.  Now think about traumatic event or personal change, for something that you were personally invested in – be it a potentially great job / promotion, potential new house or flat, a potential new relationship, potentially trying for a baby, the potential post COVID-19 world, your children growing into their potential whilst you slow down, a potential election result etc.  This could have presented you with a different future, an ‘ If only….’ moment.

Rationally you know it’s not the end of the world, plenty more fish in the sea and other fantastically facile/banal platitudes, however, emotionally you feel rubbish…  why?  Essentially, you’re grieving to a greater or lesser extent.  It becomes more difficult to manage when your expectations (usually your own!) increase the pressure on yourself and are greatly unrealistic/slightly unrealistic.

For instance, one of the most difficult times that I had adjusting to life in a wheelchair, a significant change in my expected future, was managing my mental image of myself winning the Dad’s race at my child’s primary school sports day.  This might be more understandable were I ever to have been any good at running or won anything in any sporting arena at any time pre-condition or post-condition and certainly pre-wheelchair.

The point I am trying to illustrate is that the expectation is less based in the rational and more in the emotional – sometimes it is more akin to a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  What my image illustrated was the loss of the opportunity to take part.  This was a loss, which I felt emotionally.

So be kinder to yourself and you should give yourself time and space to grieve for what you might feel is a trivial issue but that if you look closer (maybe with www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk) could be having an emotional impact.

December 17, 2020

The negative cycle

I  have previously mentioned in a post @ http://www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk/blog/ – (November 24, 2020 ‘Hundreds of arguments, usually the same one…’), some sort of negative cycle is common in your relationships and friendships.  I wanted to say some more about the common varieties that you might recognise.

When talking about cycles, be they unicycles, bicycles, tricycles or negative it has just reminded me of a joke my then 15-year-old Bolshy middle sister told me years ago.  A woman in a bar has just picked up a man and wants to take him home, when she says to him “I think I should tell you that I am on my menstrual cycle”, “That’s okay” says the man cheerily “I’ll follow you on my moped”… BOOM BOOM TISH.  Apologies and please find the full text @ http://www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk/blog/

In an attempt to mystify what is essentially a quite simple idea – therapists and counsellors will label repetitive arguments as ‘the couple dance’ or ‘the negative cycle’.  To you it is usually just frustration or despair as seemingly whatever you do you always end up at the same bloody place – either upsetting someone or being upset.  It is interesting to note that the very behaviour you might employ to try and defuse the situation, unintentionally, appears to inflame it.

The very repetitive / circular nature of things might cause you to realise that this is a pattern, however, once emotional responses get triggered it is very difficult to extract yourself.  Hence why Counsellors might need counselling themselves – they might be able to recognise they are in a cycle but once an emotional response is triggered, all bets are off!

And that in a nutshell is the key.  You need to recognise initially that you are in a cycle, and then break it.  Again, easier said than done.  However, what it is helpful Is that the behaviour in the cycle itself is seldom important enough to the person to avoid breaking it.  Simplistically, the emotional attachment to the other person is stronger than the emotional attachment to the negative cycle.  I have frequently seen that an individual, couple or family long to behave in a different way, but get caught up responding in the ‘expected’ way – to avoid losing face or being seen as vulnerable.  The expected way is like a choreographed ‘dance’.  It’s easier to act in a certain way as everyone knows their part.

How do you break the cycle?  Do something different, maybe admit to the other you are stuck.  Talk to each other back-to-back, ask the other if this is helpful or maybe highlight that this is ‘just’ a cycle and how you might change your behaviour together.

All of this can that be easier with an independent third party.  If you feel you might need further guidance please don’t just ignore it and arrange a free assessment at www.assessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk

December 16, 2020

Because you’re worth it!

Self-worth is a funny old thing. There are many measures of value. You just need to look at the old saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’, whatever ‘happiness’ is (but that is a whole different conversation!) Presumably it can if that is all you care about. Essentially, I believe it is YOUR contentment and YOUR ability to recognise something desirable or good in what you do.

One of the things that people find hardest to do is to recognise when asked and vocalise an aspect of themselves that they do well.  What I feel is so interesting is that people very rarely, if ever, cite resilience through the experience of failure, disappointment or enforced readjustment as a valuable characteristic.  It very definitely is and it is something that, as a disabled person, I have noticed people are far more willing to recognise in others (ie me!) than in themselves – a weird kind of British self depreciation that borders on the masochistic at times.  Amongst senior employees the attributes that frequently drive success in the workplace – focus, leadership, valuing rewards, prestige, people pleasing, ambition (conscious or subconscious!) are the very same attributes that drive disappointment and insecurity in their own performance.  Those in less senior roles have the added pressure they feel they are underperforming at work.  In counselling there is the well established idea that it is usually the original attraction between the two partners that is now the source of discontent.  If you are ‘successful’ at work why can’t you be as successful elsewhere in your life.  If you are not ‘successful’ at work, why can’t you translate the success elsewhere to your work.

This can all add up to a conscious feeling of dissatisfaction or an unconscious feeling of ‘something is not right’.  Either way leads to discontent / dissatisfaction, which can lead to an impact on other areas of your life.  So, ask yourself what do you do well, were you on time,  did you make someone smile?  YOU take the opportunity to think about what YOU do well and think about it every day for a week.

Easier said than done!