managing overwhelm


download.jpgI don’t like feeling overwhelmed- and its something that I feel happens to me quite a lot. I readily admit, most times it is of my own making- but whether its my fault or not is slightly irrelevant at this point, because when you experience those episodes the blame game is usually totally counter-productive.

Usually it is the everyday things of life that I find more overwhelming- cleaning, washing, cooking, taking the dogs for a walk… very occasionally it might be because I have a lot on at work- but that is actually quite rare. It’s the ‘normal’ that can reduce me to tears- especially a mouldy fridge!

A few weeks a go I had a few precious hours with Sandra driving home, and we were talking about this. I am still meandering over two things she said, firstly, after 25 years of friendship she said she had never heard me articulate the reasons for my difficulties with the everyday stuff- and that knowing the background was helpful to her. And she was right. I don’t think I’ve really told people why- not because I haven’t wanted to- but I’ve never listened to myself long enough to fully understand myself or take those things in to account. She reflected back to me that she could understand a bit more why I was like I was… I was really surprised…. to me the reasons for my problems are usually totally irrelevant… I always have a get a grip kind of attitude to myself and just get on with it. The problem is, that attitude can only get me so far. Most of the time I can bully myself in to action- but there are times when the overwhelm is so great that I can’t muster the inner drive to push through. It keeps coming back to

Now, granted, Sandra is one of lifes particularly kind people- she is just one of those lovely, generous people who is just so accepting and patient… but in those moments I realise that being like that is so much more pleasant than being a bitch to myself. She validated me. She wasn’t pandering to my weakness, she wasn’t excusing my tardiness… she just said she understood a bit clearer why I was sometimes the way I was.

And I want to offer myself that gift. Instead of berating. Or shaming. Or cussing myself. I want to show a little of Sandra’s love to myself. It is so much more lovely. Thank you Sandra for modelling that to me.

download-2.jpgBut the other extremely practical thing she said,  has really helped! We talked about, thinking about things as a whole- for example, cooking a meal- I have to get psyched up for a) shopping for the food, b) preparing the meal, c) eating the meal and d) then clearing up the kitchen. In my brain I psyche myself up for 4 different elements, and usually, I’ve given up after point 3- and it could be days before I clear up. Sandra just suggested- making all four parts- one. And it has really helped!

I make breakfast and I put the marge back in the fridge. Done. Finit. Finished. I put the plate in the dishwasher- dude, complete.

Doing the washing- putting clothes in the washing basket, putting in the machine, doing the wash,hanging up and then putting away are all part of doing the laundry. They are not separate jobs they are part of the one. It’s helped me a lot. It’s an acceptance of the situation. It is what it is.

Once again, I come back to kindness and acceptance. They’re not going away- I just need to dive in. images.jpg

Thanks for listening.



time and skills


My last session with Penelope was a sobering one. Challenging- which always fills me with an equal mixture of hope and despair. Something that came up is still very much at the front of my mind- as I think it could really help if I was able to grasp it. As always, these posts can be a bit meandering when I’m not totally clear in my mind- but that’s why I blog- to help get it clearer!

IUnknown-1.jpegt’s all about how I view time/ my day/ my week/ my month/ my year. And it seems that I have actually begun to use a helpful DBT skill and it has now become unhelpful. When I have had episodes of depression- I get through my days by breaking it down in to 15 min blocks. Where getting through an hour seems so overwhelming I can just about manage 15 mins and if its really hard 5 mins. (I still can’t wear a watch- when I am really struggling I become obsessed with counting the seconds until I die)

Unknown-2.jpegWhen I am not depressed, as a matter of routine- I break my time down into 3 slots: morning, afternoon and evening. I started it when I was revising for my GCSE’s and I still do it. It helps me ‘make’ time for things like my crafts and I try and plan in ‘rest’ sessions if I need them. Doesn’t sound too bad does it…. but the big problem- I’ve got so used to putting my life in ‘boxes’ and panicking if I can’t see some ‘rest’ slots, I’m living for the next ‘slot’. If I’ve only got 45 mins before i should be doing something else I panic. If I can’t see any ’empty’ slots I feel the overwhelm rise. I’m never in the moment. 

I have a rigid view of what I can allow myself to do when… I ‘sew’ on Sunday mornings. I can only watch a film in the evening. I only tidy during the day. I can do school work in the evenings but not my Masters…WHAT AM I DOING!!!! I only listen to the Archers on Sunday’s. And then  I begin to realise its not just time I am like it with…

I’m also like it with money. I can only buy a ‘non- essential’ when I deserve it. I can only pay for the dog sitter when the money I’m earning justifies it- that’s fine, but what I’m seeing is quite bonkers is that I equate the sessions. So today, I will earn about £80 – if I pay £20 for dogs- that’s not ok. But the reality was I earned £300 last week and I can pay the £20 for today out of that…. but in my head, I can’t… wowzers… this is all feeling a bit wonky! I also do it with food…

Over New Year I had glimpses that things could be different. I was staying with friends, and a couple of times I realised- I didn’t have any sense of the time. I noticed it was 5.45pm one day- it wasn’t the end of one slot or the beginning of the next- it was just 5.45pm. I also observed that they weren’t governed by time in the same way- they might watch some tele, then go back and do some work and then go to the gym. They watched films in the MORNING…. that is TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOUR!!! The day flowed/ merged. And I liked it.

Unknown-3.jpegI know it stems from trying to manage my overwhelm, but ironically I panic if I don’t see ‘slots’ for rest- but the issue with that is I can’t yet appreciate that I can ‘rest’ in shorter ‘slots’, or I can ‘rest’ while doing something else or I don’t have to prescribe ‘rest’ at Monday 7-9pm- I need to listen to my body and mind and rest when I need. Or even more shocking, I cancel something else to make time for me. Gosh, I know this sounds weird, but I have really been living back to front! My life is decided by my ‘to-do’ list. I am a slave to the tyranny of time- too much, totally freaks me, too little, stresses me… I live by the clock, because if I don’t I fear I will drown.

images.jpegI have time for work, time for crafts, time for study, time for my dogs, time for friends, time for family…. but as Penelope observed- it’s all my time. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. I’m ‘appointmenting’ out my life. The antidote- being mindful. Time to dig deeper in to that practise me thinks.

Thanks for listening



How do I know?


Step 1 of the 12 steps used in recovering communities, talks about realising that our lives had become unmanageable. At the end of my last post I was emphatic in my realisation that all was not right. The reason I know this… is because of ‘craft’.

I love to craft. I love working with the colours, textures and seeing things appear before my eyes. I love the sense of community it creates, not just with fellow crafters but also with recipients and onlookers.

I am currently recovering from some surgery a week ago and a wonderful family have opened their home to me. Rather naively, I think I viewed my time away more as a ‘holiday’ than ‘convalescence’ and was totally unrealistic as to how much I could do and how long I would need to recover… so in my innocence (or is that denial) I made sure I had plenty of craft to keep me occupied. Slash- understatement of the year…

IMG_3434compared to…everything else I need in one case…

IMG_3435I had to cover my bases for all potential eventualities, so I have with me:

  • sewing machine
  • a bag of necessary sewing machine accessories and haberdashery items
  • a bag of fabrics for sewing
  • 2 incomplete Christmas presents that I still need to finish
  • a repair of a disastrous Christmas present
  • an on-line sewing course I have purchased, as this could be a really good time to secure some of the basics a bit more
  • an arm knitting wool set
  • wool for knitting tea cosies- 2 of which are still owed Christmas presents
  • a part made tea cosy that needs some help making it fit
  • a picture felting kit to do in front of the tele- but just in case the noise annoys my friends I also have
  • colouring and all my different pens to do… but I had to make sure I had both thin and thick pens depending on the nature of the picture PLUS
  • I also ordered a giraffe decoupatch set to arrive at my friends house in case I didn’t have loads of brain space capacity… (p.s. the giraffe is 60cm tall)
  • PLUS: books: one book I really just had to finish, one just in case I feel up for some emotional stuff, 1 for the healthy living kick (that means I just have loads of books on my shelves about being healthy, but actually I’m still overweight, unfit, lethargic and poisoning myself with sugar)

therefore my friends’ entrance hall looks like this…

IMG_3436And, I haven’t even attempted ANY OF THEM (have done some colouring in bed and a bit of felting). HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. I haven’t felt well enough to partake of those things I love and I have found it so frustrating!

I could have achieved so much this last week. I could have completed projects, started new ones… enjoyed it… created and experimented… and I haven’t. And the worse is, I have totally NOT coped with not doing this stuff. Something as innocent as craft has become another piece of evidence for my lack of productivity- my inertia, my laziness…

I’m not entirely sure I explaining myself properly, but I look at this pile of ‘stuff’ and just see ‘failure’. And on Friday I realised, this is not ok. I don’t want to live like this. There is nothing wrong with crafting. There is something not quite right when I am so frightened of not having enough to keep myself occupied I force my long-suffering friend to fill the boot of her car with my rubbish and I have an ache in my heart when I see all that I haven’t done this week. Thankfully, my addiction isn’t alcohol or drugs- but my driven-ness- may be socially more acceptable- but its a really hard task master and I’m not liking it at the moment- because its fine when I’m on all cylinders achieving what I need to be achieving- but when I’m not it is a horrible horrible task-master. It’s got to go.



the next thing…


I’ve got lots going on in my head… and most of it is fairly uncomfortable!

Unknown.jpegLast Friday, I finished my Master’s dissertation. I have been studying hard for the past 18 months and it’s finally finished. So what do I do… celebrate? congratulate myself on working really hard? purchase some new wool as a well done present?



No, what I do, the night before I’ve even finished is

a) start to have a melt down that the thesis isn’t good enough, I’ve done it wrong, misinterpreted the task and

b) I’m researching Doctorates and organising open day visits…

Give me strength. I find myself so exhausting sometimes.

I saw Penelope the next day and she did tell me in no uncertain times regarding point a) to get a grip and press ‘send’. I could cope with that, but what was more unpalatable was her challenge regarding doing a Doctorate.

Some background info may be useful. I had pretty much finished the thesis the week before, and I could feel panic setting in. ‘What was I going to do once it was over?” I also realised how ‘contained’ the Masters had been for me. While other madness has been going on, the Master’s was a safe space for me. And I didn’t fully realise it until I’m faced with it ending.

So of course, I did confess this to Penelope and unsurprisingly her challenge followed.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to do a Doctorate- but the question is ‘Can I cope NOT doing a Doctorate?’ Can I sit with the lack of not ‘doing’ anything? Can I cope with just carrying on with the ‘status quo?’ Can I bear the feeling of not moving forward? Can I face the fear that I am wasting time, my life, my potential?

Actually, I think the answer is no. I can’t. I can protest and try and convince myself and others until the cows come home that I can. But I can’t. The fear of staying still, not moving forward, not having a ‘project’ terrifies me. Full stop. Society may think those values have some merits. But I know. And the reason I know is because I can’t NOT do a Doctorate. And that’s not ok. I don’t want my life to lurk from one thing to the next. I want the freedom to say yes and the freedom to say no. I don’t currently have that, but I will jolly well make sure I get it- no matter how long it takes. That’s far more precious that a Doctorate any day. But unlike a Doctorate, I have absolutely no idea how to do it.

images.pngThanks for listening.





I have not blogged for far too long… mainly because I’ve lost the publish button! I think I’ve found a way to publish from drafts, but it’s so frustrating! But whether this gets published or not, I want to write.

I LOVE the sight of Autumn trees. I think it is one of the most beautiful sights imaginable. The golden hues, abundance of colour, swathe of glorious beauty. road-1072823__340.jpgautumn-1072827__340.jpgfall-1072821__340.jpg

I was out driving with my friend Pedro, and I commented how much I loved Autumn. His response surprised me, “I don’t, it signifies the end of Summer.” And I totally got it. He loves Summer and when the trees start to turn, he knows that Summer is over.

It’s got me thinking about perspective. Seeing the same thing, differently. Neither is wrong or right, good or bad, rather just different. Equally valid, equally true but different.

In my job, I seem to spend a lot of my time talking with people who have different perspectives on things and the resulting conflict this can create. They heard me say something differently to how I thought I said it… they believed I said something that I have absolutely no recollection of ever saying… its pretty relentless sometimes. And then I saw this caption…

images.png I realised that seeing things differently isn’t the issue at all. The conflict arises when one of the party refuses to see that the other could also be ‘equally true’. The difficulty comes when one refuses to see that there could be another way/ interpretation/ understanding of the situation. I can work with conflict and people all day long, if we can both see how the other one could see this is a ‘9’ even though I see a ‘6’

I celebrate the arrival of Autumn trees, but I totally see why Pedro doesn’t.

Thanks for listening.


clicks of clarity


About 2 weeks ago, while on holiday, I had what I call, a click of clarity, I love them… those moments, when you can just see things clearly for what they really are. Sometimes they are totally unexpected and not even related to the current activity, but they just appear and you’d be stupid to ignore. This one was regarding my face, which as some of you will know has been a long term, ongoing struggle for me.

I was lying down on the sofa, and I just thought… my face is never going to change the way it looks- I have no intention of having more plastic surgery or cosmetic enhancers… my face will always look like this whether I like it or not- so actually, if the face isn’t going to change, your attitude better. CLICK. Just like that. After decades of therapy, I had that one thought and its changed me.

My face ain’t changing. So I have to. And I will.

When I don’t blog, I use a private journal. The journal is for all the stuff that is definitely not suitable for public consumption. But today, I will type out a letter I wrote to  my face on 1st August. This is uncomfortable for me, but I know I have to state the intention publicly- and for me blogging is an easier way than telling people (not sure I could do that yet). So here it is… unedited… just as it is, just as I am…

1st August 2017.

Dear Face,

I am sorry. So terribly sorry. For all I’ve put you through. Others have hurt you too, ut I know what I’ve done has been so much more damaging and deep. I have been cruel, neglectful, invalidating and abusive. So awful. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for functioning despite everything you have gone through. Thank you for being so patient with me. I place a marker in the sand- from this moment on my relationship with you changes. I give you my word and my intention. I can’t promise I won’t ever fall or slip in to old patterns, but I can promise as soon as I notice I wills stop I will not indulge the abuse. I will acknowledge it and let it pass- but I will also treat myself with compassion in these failings.

Face, I will need to develop my ability to listen to you and you will need to develop your voice. I know all the abuse has silenced you and you will need to grow in trust of me again. Again, I can’t promise I will never get it wrong but I can promise my desire and intention is to validate you and yours experiences. Keep talking and I will keep listening.

I accept you totally as you are. Your eyes and nose aren’t going to change – I’m not putting you or me through surgery so this is the way it is. I can’t change the way I look and I’m sorry that I’ve been so resistant to you. I’m sorry for the years I have been desperate to look different. I’m sorry for the way I’ve blamed you for everything. I’ve laid it all at your door. The whole lot:

  • rejection by mum
  • being single
  • the reason for my vulnerability to predators

There may be a grain of truth in all of these- but the truth is also that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Face, you are the way you are. You didn’t ask for it- and you are not responsible for other people’s reactions to it… mum, dad, club, peers strangers and most importantly myself. I have made the choices I have- not your fault. I’m not judging myself for those responses- I have done what I’ve done usually because I’ve tried to survive. I have survived. Nut now to live. Cant change what I’ve done but I can change what I do. Wow,such an important moment. I relish this moment: my face isn’t changing so I have to- actually ‘have to’ isn’t the full picture, I choose to… I want to… I really want to…

Facce- you are amazing. You see, smell, speak, breathe, communicate- wow, you are incredible, just incredible.

I don’t want tot insult you by not being authentic, so I’m not yet able to say you are beautiful etc, but with integrity I can say, I accept you the way you are. And I really hope to grow in my love and appreciation of you. Not sure what that really looks like but its got to be better/ different to how things have been until now. I want to look at you with:

  • delight not repulsion
  • compassion not criticism
  • kindness not cruelty
  • to cherish you not to abuse you

Face- may you be safe: safe from the judgement of others and safe from the judgement of myself

may you be happy: delight in your uniqueness, celebrate your quirkiness and glory in your radiance

may you be healthy- may your eyes continue to see, your ears continue to hear, your nose continue to breathe and your out and teeth be healthy and whole.

Your face is welcoming- your smile is radiant and your laugh is infectious. Your lips are beautiful.

“People will stare. Make it worth their while.”    Harry Winston.

may your face be at peace: with itself, with me and the rest of the world.

A new adventure together- not sure where its going and what it looks  like- but things will never be the same- they can’t, because my heart has changed.

“I love you just the way you are”

Love Hepzibah.

Thanks for listening.



self-compassion and how to do it


During the last few months lots has been going on. In the midst of lots of rubbish and drama, I’ve had so much clarity which has truly been significant for me. In my sessions with Penelope, I have been doing a lot of work on loneliness- an affliction that quite regularly paralyses me if I let it. We have been working on it for years to be honest and I jut feel its one of those things that Ive never yet had any success with. It always comes back to this one, I’m stuck in it and I want to get unstuck.

Penelope always says the same things really… look at the evidence, I’m not lonely, it’s my self-talk, its the judgement I place on being by myself- its because I don’t have a relationship with myself… and I know these are all true but they don’t help!!!! I still hadn’t found the hook on which I could grasp and then work with.

unknown-2-1.jpegBut I think I might have now… in my recovery I always come back to is this definition of stupidity. If I want to be different, I have to do things differently. So simple- but so profound.

But sometimes we just need what I call, the ‘click of clarity’. The way I have been relating to myself for the past 40 years is totally screwed! Its obviously not working! You’ve got to do something different. IT AIN’T WORKING! And in that moment, I set my intention to do it differently. To relate to myself differently. Kindly, with compassion. Not berate myself. Not say the most awful things to myself. Not abuse my body or wretch in disgust. But to be kind to myself.

And then of course, once you’ve set the intention, God or the Universe seems to kick in and ‘coincidences’ start to happen. A suggested post on Facebook, a chance conversation with someone, a book crosses your path…  all three have happened for me.

I already had this book, but have never read it… but as I’m packing for a cheeky week Unknown.jpegaway it ‘pops’ out at me. I read it and I start doing it! The same with the Artist’s Way- I’ve had it for years… but now I’m ready to do it.







Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying I read the books and things changed- it was sort of the opposite- I changed and then the books have helped put flesh on the process for me. One of the hardest things about recovery, is that it demands a different way of living to what you’ve been used to- but most of us have never experienced or seen that different way and just don’t have a clue how to do it!

If you were ever in my secret chamber you would hear my pleading to God- ‘but I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t know how to do that’. When Penelope and others would say, you need to love yourself, I would be shouting inside- WTF does that actually mean? You are talking gobbledegook. SHUT UP!

The Germer book in particular has really helped with practical suggestions- which have been intellectually credible. But the key to all this is in paragraph 4- I had to want to do it differently. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that miraculously I’ve got to that point of wanting that. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening.