What, You Too?

It was a few years back now that someone very close to me stomped badly on my feelings, and abused my trust. It left me re-assessing how I shared myself, both with others in my life and also on my blog. What I was prepared to share in order to say “this is me”. In some ways it left me incredibly sad that there are a few people ‘out there’ who will disregard the sacredness of my words so much. But it happened, and changes were made. I consciously cut back on what I share. The biggest shame of this is that it removed an opportunity to say “what, you too?

The connection of being able to say “so you feel this too?” is perhaps the biggest disappointment for me, because it is that which is what blogging is all about for me. The opportunity for a writer and a reader to connect and share a common thought.

When my feelings got stomped on in such a destructive way, subjects became off-limits, and I suspect I lost something as a blogger. Of course, there were always a few off-limit subjects, but now there were more. And with a couple already shared here, it was necessary to back-peddle and even change the privacy rating on posts which now went too far in exposing the real Cate. Now you were getting perhaps a slightly sanitised version of me. And that disappoints me, even though I feel safer.

One of the biggest changes in what I was prepared to write about was the issue of what comforts me, and what I use to self-soothe. It was too hard to put that ‘out there’ for fear of being laughed at, and simply being stomped on again. No one likes being stomped on, me included. I will do everything I can to avoid it now, even to the point of withdrawal. You see, it’s not just you that misses out when I choose to protect myself and not write about subjects close to my heart. I also miss out, as I lose the opportunity to connect with another who might say those few words “what, you too?

Perhaps it has been through a lot of therapy in years gone by that I have looked at what comforts me, particularly what I can use to comfort and self-soothe myself in times of distress. But also simply as I live and breathe. I know that I am perhaps a little weird in this. That was confirmed by my last psychiatrist. It felt okay to be described by him as such, simply because he heard me. I realised I didn’t have to be like everyone else, if someone I trusted with a part of me, heard and accepted who I was, what made me tick and what I used to comfort myself.

For there are some means of comfort which I have been using for as long as I can remember. I can remember doing ‘this’ (I’m not sharing details because that’s not the point of this post, and I still need to protect myself) as early as three years of age. My earliest memories include this means of comfort, even though I probably didn’t consciously know it was comforting me. I suspect that it went back further than that, too. Maybe back as far as being a baby.

What strikes me is that I wonder about my need for comfort at that stage. I have some ideas about that, but perhaps most importantly I realise that we all need comfort right from infancy, but almost more importantly we all need the ability to comfort ourselves too. We can’t rely on receiving comfort from others.

This week I read an interesting article about adults who use stuffed toys to comfort themselves. They literally carry these ‘toys’ with them. Of the two people interviewed, one had Autism and the other Asperger’s Syndrome. But there is a point to this beyond simply people with those disorders. They had worked out what comforted them, what they needed to get through interactions with the world.

“Tilley says she has always felt slightly different to others and is aware of stares when she’s out, but sometimes having Del [a stuffed toy pig] on her side helps her gain control of the situation.”

The article can be found by following this link:
Jamie and his Lion: The adults who take their soft toys to work

I encourage you to read the article, even if soft toys are of no interest to you. I think the article goes beyond a stuffed lion and a stuffed pig. It goes beyond the Autism spectrum too. It challenges us  to ask ourselves “what comforts you to the point that it enables you to traverse that thing called life?

I admit that when I read this article I had a “what, you too?” moment. I understood, for my own reasons, just what was going on here. What these people do makes total sense to me, and I applaud them in finding a way to comfort themselves while participating in that thing called life.

Many psychotherapists recommend something called a Soothing Box (and other names for the same thing). A box of items which a person can use to soothe themselves when they are in distress. I think these are a great idea, but I think that sometimes we have to go beyond a box we can occasionally pull out. We need to have ways to give us comfort, or soothing, in our everyday interactions. What do we need to get us through?

I think this is a particularly important question for people with mental illness. It can be hard interacting with the world. It can be hard to simply walk out our front door. So what can we do to ensure we are able to comfort ourselves? Maybe we don’t carry a four-foot long stuffed lion with us, but how do we interpret this article into what works for us?

Thanks for reading





21 thoughts on “What, You Too?

  1. Not everything, of course, but so many times I’ve read your blog (or your fb posts) and thought to myself, “Yep. Me too.” Now, with my life in the.. state it’s in, I find myself recalling a couple of your posts from the past and again thinking that same thing. Being able to commiserate with a fellow blogger, or even just feel that “what, you too?” pang, is one of the things I like (or I should say liked, as I haven’t blogged in I don’t even know how long) about blogging. Frankly, I miss that.

    Having a something (or a someone) in which we can take comfort is so important. I lived most of my life not taking particular comfort in people or in any one person. That changed not long ago, and it was a truly wondrous feeling. I need to refocus now and find comfort elsewhere, and I don’t believe for a second it’s going to be easy, and it’s definitely hard right now. Too bad I can’t take my cats with me everywhere…

    1. OMG, Sid, you totally read my mind and basically made my comment at the end there! The Munchkin absolutely is my comfort. . . I won’t say object. I had to leave him for the first time last week – fortunately he stayed at my parents’ house with my dad, who spoiled him properly. But it was five absolutely agonizing days for me, and I slept with one of his catnip mice I took with me. Neither was he delighted, it was the first time we had been apart for more than eight hours, and almost a week later he is still glued to my side.

      I do have a greater point, which is that my therapist has certified The Munchkin as a service/therapy animal. I don’t know exactly what that means I can get away with as far as taking him public places, and, let’s face it, he would not be thrilled to join me at the supermarket. But it does mean he must be permitted to fly with me in the passenger compartment, no extra charge or fuss, and I’m pretty sure that extends to hotels and other companion animal basics. I don’t know if your cats would be the right temperament, but thought I would share anyway.

      By the way, if you ever felt like posting pictures on Twitter, well, they are Munchkin’s cousins! Even if you made them an account, as I did, I’d follow. Only no pressure, darn it! Oh, and I have actually posted more of The Munchkin. I kind of fell off with that, but am trying again.

      1. You don’t have animals like that in New Zealand? Like even seeing eye dogs for the blind? That’s awful. I guess I just take it for granted.

        On the up side, that’s the first negative thing I’ve ever heard about New Zealand. 😉

      2. I hope so. Maybe it has to do with flying being so ubiquitous here, and fear of flying one of the most common types of phobia. But one woman at one of the airlines told me there are usually a cat or a bunny or two. I think also, particularly with cats, the outcome can often be unhappy when they are placed with luggage and freight, at least that’s what one of the veterinary nurses told me.

        So when Munchkin and I come see you, it’s going to be by boat. 😉

      3. I hope you’ve booked that boat. I can’t wait for the two of you forever. 😉

        As for NZ and animals, I think it’s pretty well accepted that people with medical conditions can get animals registered to go with them, but not therapy animals for mental conditions. I think that is pretty much seen as a joke here. Which is a very big shame. 😦

      4. It’s a damned shame. I can sort of play with the truth a bit, though it really is not my favorite thing to do. But I hedged my bets when I talked to the airline representative here. I told her Munchkin reminds me to take my medication, which is technically true, because when I start melting down, he starts freaking out and it’s like, ‘Whoa. Guess I forgot something this morning.’

        But there are in fact dogs who can – I think it’s a smell thing – but they can alert if you have epilepsy and they know a seizure is going to happen. That’s pretty

      5. That’s fantastic that you can have Munchkin with you when traveling, Ruby. My comment about the kitties was a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Lucy and Abby don’t do well in the car, but it would still be nice 🙂

        I think you’ve corralled me back into Twitter, by the way. And I’ll post some photos of my L & A first thing.

    2. When I had my break from blogging, I also found that I missed that “what, you too?” probably the most. But then it was not that which brought me back, but rather the need to say something somewhere. As for comfort, maybe you can’t take the cats everywhere with you but they do provide a source of comfort when you are home. The other thing that springs immediately to my mind is your photography. From an outsider looking in, it seems that taking photos of nature is something of a comfort. Yes? No? Just a thought.

      1. If I return to blogging, Cate, it will also be for the reason that I have so much to say, to get out of my head. Having lost my readers, I’ll be largely talking to myself, but I’m rather used to that.

        You’re absolutely right that the cats are a comfort when I’m home. Lucy greets me at the door every time, and that is no insignificant thing. They’re 12 and 14 years old, so they’ve been part of my life for essentially as long as I can remember. And you quite nailed it about photography, too. I truly enjoy it, and that’s saying something these days. Of course, to get pictures of nature, I have to get out into nature, and there is indeed great comfort to be felt among the tress and birds and deer and… Pretty sure my recent flurry of activity with the picture-taking is a subconscious attempt at regaining some bit of happiness. So don’t be surprised to see more photos here and there and everywhere.

      2. How have you lost your readers, Sid? People tend to just sit there and not remove themselves. But I happened to go by your blog yesterday (because my screen told me I wasn’t following you). Anyway it told me that your blog is now private and I would have to request access from you. Wanted to check with you before I did that. Just in case you do come back to your blog. 🙂

      3. That’s how, yes. I thought at some point that I had shared too much, publicly, that people like family were completely unaware of. What I put on my blogs was so much easier, somehow, to say to people I was a safe distance from than to say to my family. I didn’t think it good to keep all that out there in case they went looking me up online. They weren’t online at the time I was writing and are now, so, yeah. In any case, by all means I’ll give you access, Cate. Actually, now I’m thinking of making it public again, family consequences be damned sort of thing, and am wondering if my old readers would automatically be following again or if I’d be starting from scratch. Need to check into that.

      4. That totally sense. I have been tempted to do the same periodically, but now use my family and/or friends as a kind of censor. If I don’t want to say it to them then I don’t say it on my blog. But then there are times when I take the risk. So far I’m still alive so I guess I can’t have said anything too bad. 😉

  2. Okay. First and foremost, Cate, I am truly sorry for hijacking your comments with my reply to Sid above. It just hit smack into home when I read what he mentioned the cats.

    Having a good friendship with you, I think I know the subtext, which only matters because I want to beat up anyone who makes you speak of something so important in such an oblique way.

    I think everyone has a comfort object, though few would call them that. Haven’t you ever seen a husband or wife fiddle with a wedding ring when they’re nervous or ill-at-ease? Crosses, Stars of David. . . . I think it’s often a piece of jewelry for many, because no one thinks twice that it could be perceived as what it is. I have a ring that I wear pretty much all of the time, but when I’m highly anxious, I have a bracelet I’ll wear that has five Catholic saints and the Blessed Virgin. Despite the fact that I am a terribly lapsed Catholic, I chose each of them for a reason, and took the time to have a priest bless them, and had the bracelet put together. So maybe I’m not lapsed in all ways.

    Then of course when I’m at home, if it gets really bad I get under my quilt. Pretty sure I told about it when I got it a few months ago, but I swear I truly feel like nothing bad can get to me when I’m under it. Much like my “special blanket” I had as a child (still do) that my grandmother made me.

    And this is why I don’t do comments, because I go on and on and on. But to finish up, having gone through psychosis and hallucinations in addition to anxiety and depression and blah blah blah, all of these things serve as reminders in their own way to ground me, to keep me from floating away when my mind is on the brink.

    1. I’m so glad that you do comments here. I don’t mind if you don’t do them anywhere else, but I love that you do them here. I would be surprised if you didn’t get the subtext. Oblique perhaps but I have an agreement with myself (and an other) that keeps it that way, at least for now anyway. It is a shame that it’s still what I consider necessary but betrayal does that to a girl.

      Of course, you’re quite right about the jewellery. I have a ring which is a great comfort to me and never leaves my finger. I have also just started wearing my late father’s watch, for much the same reason.

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