Some time ago, I was watching Magicians and there was a scene where the actors sang Under Pressure by Queen/David Bowie (Season 3, episode 9). For the first time I really heard the lyrics, perhaps because the words were sung by different people in a slightly more emphasised way as they each had a line or perhaps they just resonated with how I was feeling. I wanted to write a blog there and then, but I held back and in doing so created a block for a few months. What held me back was how to write what I needed to say without going into other peoples stories, or being too detailed with my own. Then lock down happened and change was upon the whole planet, not just on my doorstep, so it paled into insignificance. Turns out a challenge for everyone right now is to seek crystaline truth, shine light on shadows and to speak up…
Whilst working within the NHS as a counsellor I would see about sixteen clients in three days. I had been told the NHS could not last more than two more years, so I could sense a pressure to keep things running as staff absorbed extra work and pressure increased and staff would often offload to me. I had an hour commute which helped for the most part to distance from the work and prepare for home, sometimes it was too long on the road with dangerous drivers. Home consisted of living with someone with Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and another person with anxiety, so I would not always know what kind of circumstances I was walking in to.
That made both home and work life unpredictable, and there was no guaranteed respite. I knew this couldn’t go on indefinitely without something breaking. My back was the thing to break.
So I left the NHS hoping this would be what was needed to bring some emotional stability for my back to heal. I set up a private counselling practice. I got a part-time job as a cleaner which turned out to be healing both physically and emotionally, and it may suprise people to know it also paid more per hour than counselling. A little while later, I began to work part-time for Dorset MIND facilitating their MIND Out group and freelancing for Blue Line Services to help kick start my private practice. Some time after this, a fifth part time job came my way in the form of a supermarket trade assistant to help make ends meet.
I realised when I had five part time jobs that I was in the same lesson as before, something has to give. Rather than work life now, I reflected on my homelife. I recognised the inconsistency energies of mental ill-health were mirrored by those energies during my older childhood. It was likely I had sought them out unconsciously as they were familiar and I pondered on how to change this pattern? Having been divorced, my greatest learning from this experience was that you can only meet people half way when communication breaks down. Any further and I would step into ‘fixing’ or ‘rescuing’ – which was an old pattern I broke since entering counselling training. I would continue to communicate and speak my truth.
When living with someone with C-PTSD its hard to know what is ‘complex’ talking and what is really meant during such a communication I was told that living under the same roof wasn’t working. This resonated with my truth, so I calmly began to plan moving out. I would have to gain PAYE work, full time to guarantee I could rent somewhere by myself. Having moved about 47 times, this time, I wanted to be alone and have peace at home. My reflections flipped over to my work what could I do? I had really wanted to make a career as a counsellor. Self employment only happens for 50% of counsellors and I know me enough to know Im not the best at marketing myself. To be in with a chance of a paid agency counselling work, I would still have to go through the accreditation process which although I had the amount of client hours required for the last year, I would have to find the money for the process, and wait out the time restriction of ‘two years post qualfication’, which was still a few months away. If I needed anymore signs to leave counselling, I failed my level 5 counselling exam, which was also a requirement for many agency counselling jobs. Unbenowsnt to me, for him, it was complex talking and immediately forgotten.
Further to this, I was not acknowledging the sign from my physical body. My back was carrying too much weight. The only thing that seemed to help lift this weight was deep belly breathing (thanks to my osteopath at the time for this guidance). Furthermore, I wasn’t the only person in my family to have this issue with emotions effecting physical mobility having observed my niece being suddenly paralysed (with no confirmed diagnosis) when both her parents returned to her life in the same time frame.
I had to say goodbye to counselling.
I put my notice in on all jobs, except for the supermarket. I had thought about asking for full time hours there but it would not have paid enough for me to rent somewhere on my own. I had a strong feeling that stayed with me for three months to look at emergency support work again. I had looked a couple of times, there was a recruitment drive on, and the location for work was easy distance from where I lived. I stalled on applying because I hadn’t ‘finished’ with counselling, and as I had done this work before I knew it too would have an emotional impact. I trusted my instincts, got the job and training would commence in three months. Life suddenly flowed with ease as I metaphorically sat in the boat floating with the current, rather than trying to go the other way without a paddle.
And then lockdown happened.
I suddenly I got the rest I had been trying to create for myself as I reduced down to one job immediately. Humans generally kept away from me as I was a keyworker, and that was a great breather (which supported my back) and chance to be by myself. Working at the supermarket was a God-send, as we couldn’t afford to fill our cupboards so we brought little and often which I could still do. My household consisted of key workers, and as we were already isolated in separate rooms there were no major changes. I was allowed to keep seeing Jac, which was my valuable outside in nature time and with my dearest non-human friend.
I observed the best and worst of humanity just in the supermarket alone. Panic buying really put other people in dire straits and we continued to have daily deliveries so there was no need for the panic. So much perishable food was wasted as a result of this fear based action. Aggressive customers threw things at staff and deceitful customers pretended to be key workers to get in early just after deliveries. Even staff were becoming ansty with staff for not social distancing. It was surreal but I just felt calm throughout it all. I rescued so many plants from the reject bin and shopped for those not able to get an online account, or an odd item they didnt have two hours to queue up for.
I wondered if this time of global change would affect the new job. It didn’t, and finally it was time to leave the supermarket and eventually put on my seventh uniform to date. I say eventually, because factories had closed so they weren’t making uniforms at that time.
The people closest to me happen to be ‘on the edge of the night‘ and this is perhaps the lyric of the song which stood out the most. This has placed me or I have placed myself, in a supporting role. Its taken me a while – coupled with trauma training for Dorset MIND – to recognise that with this supporting role comes with the strong likelyhood of secondary and/or accumulative trauma. Statistially living with someone with C-PTSD means I am more likely to have depression. Being a counsellor, or in any role where you actively listen to someone elses trauma, can lead to secondary trauma.
The line that follows is something I believe is my pattern changer – to change the way I care about myself. I have had my own trauma, I minimise most of it which is an adaptation to avoiding feeling painful feelings. I can also see the positives that come from the negatives, but I do acknowledge the speed I do this means I sometimes trap the negative within my body to present at another time, accumulatively. I haven’t had the safety net of a functional family to allow time to process my trauma because of facing the next thing.
I smile when I hear the saying that money can’t buy happiness, no but it can give you options and it can help change your perpectives which allows my joy to come to the fore. So I am grateful for my new direction, as it gives me financial stability and the ability to invest more in self-care and this ultimately gives my back its original role back of just holding physical me up.
So thank you for following Juniper Counselling and Therapies as it now becomes Georgina McBurney.com. A further thanks if you were ever able to support my short lived business and/or I had the pleasure of working with you or along side you (or your horse).
Hand-in-hand with endings is a beginning. My curiousity of health and well-being has lead to studying a masters in consciousness, spirituality and transpersonal psychology. There is as much synchroncity to this path as there was to my new job, so I am not overly questioning why I am putting myself back under pressure, I am going with it and floating on down the river.
Da da da ba ba…