Saturday, 17 September 2011

How your house can reflect your life

This week's therapy session....

T had a bad cold and was sneezing like mad. She said she hoped I wouldn't catch it. The part of me that is a  little bit obsessed with T (I will say 'part' because I don't want to take ownership of what I'm about to tell you!) thought that they wouldn't mind catching T's cold because it would be like some kind of physical link to a person who can seem so unreal when I'm not with her (I mean 'unreal' in the sense of, not existing). How sad is that?!

I was quite annoyed to then find that my sister in law had a bad cold when I saw her later that day. Now I am getting a cold and I don't know if it's T's or my sister's, so I will just presume it's T's. It's so silly, yet in a way I think perfectly understandable! It's not like I can ever hug her or hold her hand the way you would do with someone you felt close to. So I guess I will have to settle for a stinky cold to make me feel closer to her. LOL

Anyway, T pointed out that we have never actually talked about my childhood. This was because I was telling her some nightmares I'd had recently and in one I was back in an old childhood home. So I was recounting the facts about the houses I lived in and the jobs my parents had. I feel unable to talk about my childhood very well because I feel there are few details to give; it kind of frustrated me that all I had to say was what age I was when we moved here and there. We got on to talking about how I have moved house so many times and T asked if I felt rootless, which I agreed I do. She asked me about where I'm living now; if it feels like home. Does my home feel like home? In a way, yes it does. I feel it's mine and Adam's place, where we can shut out the world, so yes it is. In another way, it doesn't feel like home because it's so unhomely. I have never decorated and it's not very well looked after. We don't even have any blinds or curtains.

We talked about why it is that I haven't decorated and I talked about how hard it was for me to put up the two pictures in my bedroom that I have managed to put up. It was really interesting to think about the psychology behind why I am so scared to decorate my house and although T seemed to think it was one specific reason (she kept saying how passive I am about doing things), I could think of a few reasons:

1) I feel people will hate me if I show my true personality (as has happened in the past when I've been bullied) so I try to hold it in and be a blank slate. This is reflected in my house, where I keep it a blank slate so people can't judge my decorating and say they don't like it. T asked what I think people think of my house at the moment and I expressed that I'm sure they think it's odd but I'd rather it not be liked for having nothing done, than be hated for having done something. It's the same with me: I can cope with not being liked because I'm boring (blank slate) if it means I'm not hated for being me.

2) I am a perfectionist. If I do something it has to be perfect or I won't be happy, so instead of doing something to my house and being unhappy with the results or having to put a mammoth amount of work in, I would rather not do anything at all.

3) Part of me feels I don't deserve to have a nice, homely house.

4) It's what I was used to. My bedroom in one house I lived in as a child was concrete floors and unpainted walls with no curtains for several years until my parents got round to decorating. I guess these things just weren't seen as important and I've learned that.

5) Part of me is perhaps making a statement to the rest of me and the world. There's a part that feels they are in a very dark place but are forced to hide away so that 'I' can continue to function. Maybe they are making a statement that things aren't OK and the shambles of a house is a reflection of what's really going on inside.

6) I have so many varying likes/opinions that it is hard to commit to one colour/style because other parts might hate it.

7) I just don't have enough energy to do it.

8) I should have put this point first because it is a big one... I feel responsible for a lot of bad things that have happened in my life. If I hadn't done this or that, then this or that other thing wouldn't have happened. I guess in a way, I try not to 'do' anything now in life so as to prevent any consequences. It's a bit like point one really. This links to my father somehow. I felt responsible for his actions, like I could have prevented them somehow if I had not done this or that and maybe also for my parents' break up.

T reflected that she could appreciate therefore how big a step it was for me to put the pictures up in my bedroom. She wondered how I felt about them now (mixed feelings) and suggested that perhaps I should think about another step I could take now. I have been thinking about this a lot since Wednesday. Becoming aware of what is holding me back will perhaps help me move forward (Did she CBT me?!). I am so angry with my dad for the things he has done. To think that this is being reflected in something so personal to my life makes me want to change. I don't want to be affected by him anymore. I don't want him to hold me back. I don't want to look at the white walls and think that they are linked in a way to my parents. In a way, I feel determined now to change my house. But, I know it's going to be hard and I think T's right by encouraging me to take one step. I just need to decide what that will be.

Last week I saw a picture I really liked when I was out with Adam and he offered to buy it for me. I got really anxious thinking about where I would put it up and what other people would think of it etc and in the end it overwhelmed me and I had to leave it. Maybe taking a step like buying that picture would be a good step forward.

Do other people find things like this such a struggle?


Sandy said...

Yes! I have had these struggles too :( I was never really good in art, so I presumed I wasn't creative. I like colors, cool curtains and funky furniture but because I viewed myself as not being creative, I was concerned that other people would dissaprove of my "style". It seemed a lot less risky to keep it simple or bland.
I think that decorating is difficult when you don't know what you like. What is your favorite color? Until two years ago I would tell you that I like all colors, they are all beautiful. I'm sure you just read through that line of B.S. and instantly recognized that it is an excuse not to choose. It is just like you wanting to remain a blank slate to prevent rejection.
One of the first things I did when started healing was to pick a favorite color. I didn't know how to choose, so I let my feelings decide. I selected orange, because come on, who really likes orange? I felt bad for the color, so I took it :) And orange has officially been my favorite color ever since. Because yellow and red make orange, I have found them acceptable, so I kinda stuck with it.
Curtains, OMG not as easy as the colors. I think I went through almost a dozen different sets of curtains before I found ones that worked. This was a must though, because it gets pretty chilly here in the winter and having somekind of barrier between the windows and the outside cold saved money on heating bills. I would hang up a set, keep it that way for a few days and then would take them down and head back to the store. It was the only way to learn what I liked.
I say get that picture - but have Adam buy it for you. Not only will you get the picture, but allowing him to purchase it for you is a kind gesture of caring for you and wanting you to find the things you like. Being that it is kind of a gift makes you kind of obligated to display it to show your appreciation. Letting this experience "happen" is incredible on so many levels. It says that Adam isn't like your father because he thinks your wants and needs matter. It shows you the true kindness that people can exchange between one another, without strings attached. It could also be the focus piece in a room that you are struggling to decorate. That might inspire you to add on more components that represent the love you and Adam share.
You are so creative, look at what you do here on your blog. You selected a template, you add your words and express your feelings. Doing that is no easy feat - a lot harder than hanging up a picture. Why not try a smaller challenge that could be completed in a much shorter time and can inspire you to take on those bigger hurdles :)
Your beautiful and wonderful and are not responsible for the things your parents did. Kids just out right don't have that kind of power. Check out a playground - can any of those kids really make anybody do anything? Know that you were once like those kids too. Only your power was taken before you found out you had any. You can have it back, you just have to want it. And your personal worth is a gift that only you can give yourself. As you work towards that, I hope you find strength in the fact that I believe in you, and I don't believe that anything you did as a child warranted abuse. That is just what they want you to think. I won't let them win if you won't :)
(((Hugs))) - oh and have you ever asked your therapist about a hug? I hug Suzanne, (my T) after every session. It is a nice way to give closure to our sessions and it sends me off with a little pick me up. It isn't unprofessional, it is like a hug I would give a close friend. I think it has a theraputic effect too because it is someone touching you in a safe way, a good way. Sends good messages to those hurting parts.

ellen said...

I struggle with my home also. I moved here almost a year ago but have still not bought furniture, like a couch, and there are still bags and boxes all over the place. Very bad.

I get overwhelmed in stores, much as you describe with the picture. The only way I know to overcome it is have a friend go with me and basically decide what I should do.

Maybe it's issues of taking care of parents' house was conventionally decorated, so it's not their example.

It's an interesting angle on therapy. I know what you mean about wanting a hug...I am the same. But I have a male therapist so it's probably awkward. Plus some T's are huggy, but some are not. I've never hugged one, but this current T is the first where I would like that.

Hope your cold (caught from your T of course :-) ) is better soon.

Candycan said...

Sandy, I have not responded to your comment until now because I felt so touched by what you said and I just didn't quite know what to say. Thank you for the kind words and the hugs :)
It's funny how we are so alike. Maybe I will try buying curtains and taking them back if they don't look good. Sometimes the thought of 'what if they don't go?' puts me off buying things like that and it would be much easier if I knew I could return things.
I like lots of bright colours too, like you. The two most decorated rooms of my house are the library, which is like a rainbow in a box and the living room, which is very neutral really: white walls, beige carpet, beige sofa but autumnal reds and oranges on the rug and dark red/wine curtains and an armchair witha bright green throw and bright cushions. I like it although it sometimes seems too 'grown up' and sensible to be mine. But I wanted something that looks 'normal'. I don't know if I'll ever make it to the stage of painting walls. That seems a long way off! I am determined to take steps, although I'm aware they need to be baby steps... tiny baby steps! Something like the picture thing would be possibly huge for me at the moment.

Ellen, I was just the same. My husband and I sat on a trunk in our living room for the first at least six months and even now, after three years there are still unpacked boxes of stuff around the place. It's useful having a friend to decide for you (as long as you like their choices) although I guess it's important to try to be able to make at least some decisions on our own. Maybe you could try to set a target for yourself of unpacking one box per week? That's what I did and it did help (although obviously wasn't the answer to all my problems!)

Re hugs, there is no way in the world my T would hug me. I don't know if I'd even be able to do it anyway. I worry enough as it is. If she moves closer to me for any reason I panic and a million thoughts go through my head (some of which are usually really vain like 'can she smell my breath?' or 'she'll see my blemishes!' LOL.
In the UK we have the NHS which provides healthcare and there are very strict rules about health professionals and boundaries. Hugging is a big NO NO.

I worry that one day one of my child parts will try to get close to her and what would happen. She's very defensive of boundaries and it could be extremely awkward.

Thanks to both of you for your comments :)

Ethereal Highway said...

Oh, Candycan! I SO understand this. I was in a similar place for a long time. I am just now breaking out and it is sometimes a little overwhelming. New and colorful floor tile is being laid in the kitchen this week. New carpet will follow as soon as I collect myself. I had the overgrown landscaping chopped down and have been doing lots of work myself inside the house. I have sold off dysfunctional furniture and have just begun to replace the items with things more suitable. This all just started several weeks ago when I got disgusted with a giant sectional sofa that was taking over the whole living room and encouraging messiness. It's been very hard at times, but I am still going. I just want things to be nice. I understand your post. I got blocked from being active in my environment when the full-blown flashbacks hit me. These things are hard and few people understand the difficulty.

I think buying a painting could be a good start. You know what I did today? I bought a pretty new shower curtain with colorful butterflies on it, bold colorful hand towels for the rack and a vibrant purple rug for one of the bathrooms. It could take days or even a week or two to get the energy, courage and time to implement these pretty new items, but I will do it and it will be nice. I wish the same for you, too. We all deserve a comfortable and happy place to live.

JustEliza said...

I still can't get over how similar we are, Candy. I struggle with my house as well. It would be a lot easier if I had my own space.