Relationships & Mental Health

January 24th, 2021

I read this quote earlier and it just clicked: “the reason that distress in a relationship so often plunges us into inner chaos is because our hearts and brains are set up to use our partners to help us find our balance in the midst of distress and fear. If they instead become a source of distress, then we are doubly bereft and vulnerable.” – Dr Sue Johnson.

Feeling safe in relationship is such a gift. And it is a gift I have given to myself, but if you’re reading this you probably helped. Thank you.

I wasn’t safe in relationship before. I cried every day and for much of the day. People tried to get me to see what was happening, but I just couldn’t let it in. I was wilfully blind and it played into my childhood rule that goes: ‘if someone says or shows that they don’t love you, then you love them all the more and work all the harder at it.’

Boy did I work hard. In truth I drove myself crazy. I can remember the constant tension in my body, the agitation, the effort, the lack of a space to settle or to just be. There was no settling. Even sleep did not provide the rest that I desperately needed.

In truth, the same or similar is probably true for my former husband. I am sure it felt as bad and toxic for him. That’s his journey, not my business, but I accept that the other side of the experience was likely equally stressful and depleting. I can only speak of my own journey and it’s been long and painful. And so confusing.

Healthy relationships make a huge difference. I used to have just one person in my world. I often visualise this as fitting like a giant virus onto my attachment needs receptor, taking all the oxygen from the room and leaving very little space for me. It felt complete and abundant but also was so damaging and unsupportive. I felt criticised down to my bones, while I played mother to his needs and utterly neglected my own. And I needed people. There was a whole world of them out there and I couldn’t reach them. And I needed not to be chastised for needing that connection. I needed relationships to be plural not singular. For me that one person stood in the way of 7.8 billion. And I felt so guilty for wanting to connect with others besides him. Even as I am writing this I am worried that maybe you’re thinking I mean sexual partners or lovers outside marriage. No I just mean friends, acquaintances. To be able to say: ‘I met a nice lady at the shops today. We talked about the weather’ without getting that look or that lecture like I had broken my marriage vows. I was isolated. Social distancing and isolation during the pandemic is nothing like my life as it was.

Having relationships is healthy and, as I’ve discovered, it is essential to mental health. Gradually people populated my world. And again, I feel compelled to thank you for this. Whoever you are. (Even now, even if I don’t know you, this is still relating. Even if you’re thinking I’m the biggest arse on the planet, that is relating. And I am still grateful for it. I do think you’re wrong, mind, but that’s just my opinion. You are entitled to your own. And I love you for that too!)

For a long while, having other people in my world felt strange. I felt like I didn’t have enough spaces for them. Like each one needed a ‘slot’ or a ‘pigeon hole’ to fit into my heart. I worried constantly about forgetting people, letting people down, or not making enough effort. I even kept lists of names just in case someone I had met dropped off my radar. Gradually this feeling has subsided. Now people can flow in and out of my awareness and it seems easy to bring faces and hearts to mind. I feel grateful for every single one. You each had an impact that I value.

And I am grateful for something else which helped with the process. It was the worst pain I have ever felt: my kids cut off from me. For the largest part of 2019 I was alone. And I admit I was a wreck. People who met me that year will likely agree. I was like a tiny ship at sea on a huge turbulent ocean. To those people who stuck by me, even though I was such a shipwreck in the making, I am so deeply grateful. Sometimes people are going through huge things that we cannot see, and are definitely hard to be around. But if you can be the land that stays solid and stable while the little ship learns to steady itself, you have done a huge service to them. And I am learning in my own efforts to be that sturdy shoreline, that just being present is often healing enough.

So back to my kids. They gave me space to do that journey. They’d grown up seeing their mother as not quite a person, not self-actualised or whole. And they suffered too for having a mum that was never quite able to settle. Or at other times struggled to haul herself out of bed. If Mum can’t feel safety within herself, how can she offer safety to you?

So they knew I needed to go that journey alone, not just to switch my attachment to my kids instead of to my partner as so many of us are apt to do in midlife. And it was wise of my kids to look after themselves in that way too. It’s not their job to provide emotional support to their mother, and that is especially true where a mother is struggling to find her own sense of self. I am grateful that they looked after themselves. I learn so much about life and about boundaries and wholeness from them. Things my mother was never able to teach me. I feel guilty at times that my kids seem to be the teacher and I the student, but maybe that is how it always is as we go on this parenting journey, just as therapists have a parallel journey with their clients. We are all learning as we go. As Ram Das said: We are all walking one another home. In 2020 my youngest told me she hoped it would work out that I would find myself and that she is proud of me. I couldn’t be prouder of all of us!!

My sense of self came gradually during 2019. I gathered a piece here and a piece there. Many shorelines helping me along the way, as I put out to sea again and again, all the while learning to find that strength inside myself.

And one day it was there. My sails unfurled and I realised I felt for the first time in a long time like a person. ⛵️

Then about five minutes later, Covid and lockdown happened, but I am grateful that I had found that spark in those months before. And truthfully lockdown has only helped to ignite it into something that feels sustainable and self-sufficient.

And now relationships feel so nourishing, knowing that I can give and also receive. So many of my friendships before were paid ones – the nail technician, the yoga teacher, etc. There is nothing wrong with those relationships, but at the time I felt like I only had the choice to buy friendship. Now I realise the friendship came for free. I was the one putting a price on it, because I truly believed I had nothing to offer. Give and take is beautiful. Having friends I can rely on is so comforting. Having friends who rely on me feels wonderful. It’s all so nourishing and wholesome. It feels good!

And now I know: there is nothing to be ashamed of in seeking connection. In truth, if I hadn’t held the belief deep inside that needing others was somehow shameful, then my ex could not have fanned those flames with judgement that there was something wrong with me if I sought connection with other people. As if talking to a friend on the phone or sharing a good morning wave with a stranger was somehow a perverted and deceitful need. I laugh when I look back. It does take two to make a toxic relationship. I already had what he needed to hook into. I swallowed it willingly. It felt amazing when he was loving towards me, like our relationship was an impenetrable fortress. But it felt awful when I was alone behind those fortress walls. It was unhealthy and wrong, but I was a prisoner of my own love – which incidentally is what the plaque his sister gave us on our wedding day read. 😱

Now, I am happy to say that my relationships support my other relationships. My friends even get to meet each other! I feel part of many communities and those communities get to join together through me. Your vibe truly really does attract your tribe. I feel like I am surrounded in belonging.

I remember Deirdre teaching me to fill up the whole of myself, to take up the whole room. I hadn’t realised I was squashed into a corner inside my own psyche, my own body and my own home. (Thank you to her and Jack and all the community that I’ve met through them.)

Paul helped me to take back my home, to smudge the love from those communities all around my house. Yes I carried my laptop around all the corners with all your faces on the screen. You are all my sage!! (Thank you!)

Francis my therapist provided a secure gestalt at the same time every week of my fragile process. He knows me better than anyone else on the planet, probably including me! He has witnessed my change and my growth and kept me aware of my progress. (Sending out huge thanks to him across the ether as he is far too ethical to be reading this.)

All the Hakomi community made me so welcome. They are my family now. Finally a place to be that feels completely safe – and what’s more I know that if it didn’t feel safe I can bring that feeling and work with it.

My hypnotherapy and well-being coaching friends have been so supportive. My screenwriting friends have been stalwarts and they’ve witnessed me through some of my worst so huge kudos to them for sticking around!! I like to think that if nothing else I provided some fodder for writing their more insane characters! 😂

My school friends going way back – thank you. It’s been some journey hasn’t it? Just knowing you are there keeps me grounded.

And to one relationship in particular (who isn’t quite ready to come into the public eye just yet, but some of you may guess who he is) has been so steadying, so strong and nurturing, so wise and so vulnerable in equal measure, he has taught me what it really means to be loved – thank you!

Now I’m not saying my ship is completely steady, or that my crew is well trained or that the sails aren’t luffing about in the breeze at times. Or indeed that the boom doesn’t come about and smack me in the head and dump me in the ocean all too frequently. But I am beginning to feel seaworthy at long last. And I have a whole bunch of tools and resources to shiver me timbers to help me carry on. ⛵️(Ok ok I am letting the nautical metaphor go, it was useful but then it wasn’t. At least it may provide my ex with some nifty ‘my ex wife was a battleship’ jokes should he be reading this. If so, have at it, sir, and be on your way! I don’t feel any animosity but may we keep our distance from now on.)

My divorce came through last week. I am finally – and legally – a whole me.

And I’ve never really been one of those before.


Compassion for the blaming mind

January 21st, 2021

That space where we blame others … it is a space we may grow beyond if we work at it. Of course convincing people who have a strong need to blame that there might a better way is another matter. Plenty have tried it and failed.

In truth we can’t convince anyone of what they are not ready to perceive, especially when what we are asking them to believe runs counter to what their nervous system has experienced or is experiencing. And those who are victims of injustice and abuse need to occupy that blaming space, and rightly so. To bury our heads and not see injustice is to be complicit in it.

So what do we do when we encounter those who need to blame and to have bad guys and dramatic stories and conspiracies? This tests my patience so often and I feel helpless and frustrated that I can’t teach what I have learned to anyone else. I forget that it’s taken me a lifetime to grow beyond blaming others and I know I still have a long way left to travel on this journey. I forget what a hard journey it has been for me to get this far. I have to have some compassion that I am still learning as I go. This is a list I have made of things I remind myself to do at those times:

-Take a moment to empathise what the pain of the other person’s past and the fear of difference might hold for them.

-Take a moment to acknowledge your own journey and your own privilege.

-Take a moment to imagine what threats they may have experienced and still perceive. Just because you do not perceive them doesn’t mean they are not real for them.

-Take a moment to consider what benefits fear and anger can offer to a brain and a nervous system. Like any drug, fear and anger will be hard for them to move away or let go of. It takes time and patience.

  • Take a moment to experience some compassion for them. And for yourself. This is hard to ponder. Sit with it.
  • And take a moment to silently wish them well upon their journey of discovery. That is theirs. Now do yours.

We are all of us learning and growing each and every day.

May the wolf we all feed be love.

May each of us find a sense of safety and peace along the path 🙏

Missing Fun coz you’re Locked Down? Here are some Coaching Tips!

January 9th, 2021

The message – indeed the law in the UK – is stay at home. For those of us who aren’t key workers this is clear and simple. It means we can’t take a holiday, go on a shopping spree or take a hike in the mountains. And that is sad and stifling and depressing, and for some, isolating and lonely. So how can we keep ourselves and our interests afloat?

As a coach my role is often to help people prepare to do things they can’t do. In that process we spend a lot of time figuring out what aspects of it appeal to them. We focus on visualising those aspects and getting really familiar with the elements of it, the sensations, the emotions, the memories or the expectations of the experience. In many ways we do them without doing them.

So at home in this pandemic, how can we do the things without actually doing those things? Here are some tips:

  • Be brave. People are often afraid to think about what they want but can’t have for fear of feeling disappointed. But disappointment is just a feeling like any other. It will pass quite quickly, as all emotions do if we allow ourselves to experience them without giving them the fuel of thinking about them.
  • look at your old photos, videos and souvenirs of the last time you went to that place.
  • Or if it’s something or somewhere new you haven’t experienced before then taking a virtual trip can be amazing. If I am having a virtual vacation I tend to start with Wikipedia and find out about the transport links. Figure out the steps to get there. Look at journey times and flight stats. Then I tend to hit Google. Maps and hotels and attractions you might like to visit. What is the history of that place?
  • if it’s an activity I am visualising, start by researching in the same way. Find out lots of detail. Save a file or fill in a notebook. Get serious about this activity. Then sit down in a comfortable position and let your imagination go … 🏔 🛶 🏍 🏄‍♂️
  • Bring out your playfulness. You had it when you were a child. Well it hasn’t gone anywhere. This is as good a time as any to let it free. As children we can let our imaginations run free, whether that is by pretending or playing dress up or building a fort out of the sofa cushions. Who is going to see you? I hereby give you permission to spend the day pretending you’re zapping aliens, cycling the Tour de France on your exercise bike, boating on an imaginary lake (sofa cushions again are good for this!) in front of a documentary on kayaking the fjords. Play!!!!! If not now, when????? Bring your inner child out to play!!
  • Dress the part. What would you wear if you were there? If it’s not something you already have then go window shopping online. Put your printer and scissors to work to make paper cutouts of the clothes. Get creative!
  • What equipment might you take? Can you prep your kit for when you use it again? Maybe that means sorting out your camping kit, backpack or finding your hiking socks.
  • Learn a new skill. There is so much online learning available. You might just be well on the way to having a new skill by the time you can get out there for real again!
  • Even more bravery! Yes yes I get it, sitting in your bathtub in your snorkel might feel a bit silly. But that’s the point! Have a laugh. Make it fun. Take a selfie and post it online so we can all join in the fun. We take ourselves far too seriously these days. And sharing how you are coping will inspire others to find new ways to cope too. So be brave and give yourself and others the gift of seeing the wonderful playful, creative, zany, passionate YOU!!!

Have fun!

[And PLEASE stay home. And if you must go out PLEASE keep at least two metres from other people, wear a mask, wash your hands often, sanitise regularly, keep the room ventilated, and please please please don’t go into other people’s homes.]b

Well this site is out of date, lol

January 9th, 2021

Yup it is indeed out of date! Sometimes it’s better to start something afresh, and this site is probably no exception, but for now here it sits, neglected, certainly, abandoned, not quite.

The title “Vexentricity” or vexed + eccentric is possibly less apt than it was when the site was started so long ago. I am perhaps more eccentric but less vexed. Life has changed a lot! Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, embodiment practices, mindful movement, free dance, drumming, practicing in nature, as well as working with clients to help them learn to do the same.

I will get this site going again sometime soon. Like so many people, my content moved onto Facebook and Instagram. But I do intend to bring it back here too. So please bear with me!

The Subtle Violence of Self-Improvement at New Year

January 3rd, 2021

I am noticing so much “subtle violence of self-improvement” pervading social media at the moment. It’s really ok NOT to set ourselves goals, resolutions or plans for new year. Especially THIS new year when we have been through so much and so much uncertainty surrounds us.

  • It’s really healthy to be self-compassionate and understanding.
  • It’s really healthy to ask yourself what you really need. To listen to your inner wisdom. What do those upset parts need?

If we start “shoulding” ourselves after everything we’ve been through and with so much challenge and uncertainty still to face, then it’s likely to lead into mental health difficulties that will have long lasting consequences for our families and communities.

Wishing us all gentleness right now …


Meditating for tricky bit between Xmas and New Year – the egg meditation

December 29th, 2020

This gap between Christmas and new year can be a tricky time in the best of times. For me it can often feel like the doldrums.

At times like this I switch up my practice and bring out the big guns: the ancient zen butter meditation.

Here’s how it works: I sit preferably cross legged on the floor or bed, with my eyes closed. I begin by grounding myself and settling the breath and body so I am relaxed but alert. A little smile at this point often completes the setup nicely.

Then … I imagine a piece of fresh and fragrant butter, about the size of a duck egg, resting on the top of my head.

The butter slowly begins to melt and as it does it runs down over the head, face and body spreading warmth and a sense of ease as it goes. This spreads into and through the body, relaxing the muscles, cleansing and purifying the internal organs, the brain, the lungs, the heart and the liver etc. All worries, thoughts and difficulties flow with the butter into the ground that accepts them and takes them away.

When the butter has entirely melted and sunk into the earth, imagine a new piece of fragrant duck egg sized piece of butter sitting atop the head and repeat.

There you have the soft butter meditation. This is actually considered medicinal in Chinese medicine. I find it incredibly comforting.

Sometimes I will add ‘something’ to the butter as the meditation repeats … a pleasant aroma perhaps or a comforting thought or a memory of a place, but try it as simply butter to begin with.


Happy New Year!

Grieving as Practice at the End of 2020

December 19th, 2020

Mindfulness teaching and university courses all done for the year now. So now I am moving into a bit of a home retreat space. Time to practice more and time to rest. And most importantly, time to bring a bit of ritual into life.

I am realising how much ritual has been lost in 2020. Those things we do together and that we pay particular attention to doing carefully and well. Whether that is the companionable silence and holding modest gaze on a retreat, the lovely nourishing bit at the end of a Hakomi weekend, birthing a shamanic drum together, singing or sharing a story at a gathering, sitting in a circle, sitting around a fire, doing tai chi on the lawn, practicing consent at a cuddle party or tantra retreat, smudging each other with sage, doing mindful walking together, passing round a talking stick, dancing together in five rhythms, ringing bells at the end of a practice, lying down for a gong bath, suiting up for paddleboarding, reading aloud a poem, packing my backpack for a camping trip, and so many more rituals that I have been missing so much this last crazy year of restraint and distancing and survival.

I am really looking forward to the ritual of baring my arm and receiving a vaccine! 🙏 So that I can take part in all the other rituals in person again. 🙇‍♀️💕

But for now I want to honour the sadness that’s filling my heart after losing my mum and my brother and so many others. I want to honour the loss at the end of some relationships that I have been holding onto even though they were toxic to me. And I want to stay down with the difficult feelings at the end of this very difficult year.

For once I am going to let myself feel depressed and sad, and to trust that I will be ready to rise up again when this dark time has taught me every thing that it needs to. When I have fought my tendency to bounce back too hard and too soon. When all the changes and losses of the past few years have finally had a chance to be fully integrated, without my bloody resilience jumping in the way again. When I have looked after myself and nurtured myself through this.

When I am once again feeling ready to step forward into my life. When, instead of constantly feeling reactive to all that’s been happening in my life, I am once again clear and energised enough to step forward proactively, with my own energy and drive to go forward into this new and very different life.

For now I am moving into practice and ritual and turning towards this time of difficulty into a conscious deliberate way and honouring all that I find here. Stepping into the darkness …

👣 🙏 🙇‍♀️ 🕯🧘‍♀️

Go well and take care friends. ♥️
And don’t forget to find some ritual xx

Fear in this time of Covid

September 19th, 2020

It’s a funny old time right now. So much is becoming more familiar in this new way of living. But I notice a lot of people have an undercurrent of fear all the time. Fear is a natural reaction to the situation that we are seeing in the world. I wanted to add something to the thinking about this:

Fear is useful when we need to stay vigilant. It helps us keep our distance, remember to wear our masks and sanitise our hands. It keeps us focused and alert. And that helps keep us and others safe.

But when we are at home, or even in moments when we are out and the situation is safe, it can be helpful to notice the fear that’s present, and maybe to try relaxing into it a little bit, perhaps even letting it go for a while. Allowing the body mind to come out of fight or flight mode, and simply offering ourselves some rest and kindness.

It was a revelation to me back when I learned this simple truth:

The fear of a thing, and the thing we are afraid of, are two separate things!

For example, if someone has a phobia of spiders, then their fear of spiders is a separate thing to … a spider. Mostly we become afraid of the feeling of being afraid. We preload the fear: “I would panic if I saw a spider” ahead of time. This keeps us stuck in a loop. We don’t get to experience a spider in the here-and-now when the time comes, because we have generalised a belief that all spiders are dangerous. It’s entirely possible that at least for some of us that where we live there are no dangerous spiders or that dangerous species are very rare. In which case, reminding ourselves to be afraid of them ahead of time is a case of black and white thinking or catastrophising. (And if you do live in a place where spiders represent a real risk, you probably know that when you encounter one it’s really important to stay calm!) But for those of us who don’t, we get an unclear message. Because of this preloading, we don’t get to encounter a spider in the here-and-now to find out that all or some of them are safe. So we become partly afraid of spiders (which may be rational) AND partly afraid of the fear of spiders (which is not). Realising the fear of the fear is a separate thing can be mind blowing!

Similarly, in regard to Covid, we can become sensitised to those moments of fear panic at the thought of catching the virus or we may becomes sensitised to feeling loneliness or sadness brought on by distancing. We are pre-loading our fear of those moments or panic or despair.

What to do about it? We can notice if it’s possible, wise or sensible to relax the fear at times when it is safe.

Is it possible to mindfully explore the feeling a little bit? What does this feeling feel like in the body? What thoughts come up? Are they rational? Are there memories that are intruding from the past? What do those former versions of ourselves want to tell us about the past that they feel is relevant to the now? With the benefit of hindsight and knowing that you are not in that time now, what words could you say to that younger version of yourself that might be kind or soothing. Maybe could imagine giving that frightened young one a hug.

And how would it be to let the thoughts, memories and emotions go, simply allowing that they are there and accepting them as part of your whole experience?

In this way we can help our bodies and minds to titrate the fear a little bit, and learn how to manage it and use it to our advantage when it is useful to do so.

In this way, we get to encounter the world afresh rather than pre-loaded with expectations of what we will find. And we get to do so with clear heads, which is good for our overall safety.

When we experience fear, the brain shuts down its higher thinking parts. It limits the choices available to us. We see things in black-and-white terms. In order to get access to more nuanced and creative thoughts again, we need to relax. Then the blood flow can return to the prefrontal cortex and we have access to greater understanding and more options become available to us. We get instantly smarter!

So those are my thoughts around fear and the fear of fear. I’m not going to say ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’ because, hey, there’s plenty to fear out there and at times we need to be vigilant. BUT we are smart animals so we can choose when it’s safe to let that fear go a little so we can relax and let our minds work more fully again.

Thanks for reading. Go well. Stay safe. And remember to take some moments to relax XX

🙇‍♀️ 🙏💕

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans

June 1st, 2020

Yup once again married life went tits awry. A lot of taking stock has been happening here. And a lot of plunging forward into this next part of my life, embracing the great unknown, and generally discovering who the hell I am now that I am neither wife nor mother.

So many people told me to follow my dreams but it wasn’t long before I realised how hollow my dreams were. They lacked substance. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted. Or even how a person knows what they want.

Meditating felt like it only offered me words about desire rather than feelings. And words are flimsy and changeable and I often find that writing down dreams and desires feel hollow and flat when I came back to them. To be honest, it all felt a bit hopeless – if memory couldn’t preserve the motivation and written words left it feeling meaningless. I went into a downward spiral. How was I to find my way in this new solo life without a reliable way to stay on track? At a time when menopause was robbing both my sense of memory and clarity, things felt very bleak.

I got pretty down in all honesty. And in many ways that was exactly where I needed to be. I needed to grieve the losses. I had to turn and face the feelings before I could move on. And that’s hard to do. Especially alone.

But I found some great teachers and made new friends. My supervisor helped me work with staying with the difficult feelings and my gestalt therapist helped me work through them. My mentor taught me how to process emotions and how to really squeeze the juice out of living. I travelled all over learning from new people and finding myself welcomed into new communities. It was exhausting but invigorating.

And gradually my sense of desire began to appear. That lifting feeling in my heartspace became my polestar. So much less focus on what I didn’t want and dedication to following this star where it led me. There was always so much more to this person than I’d been able to express. Parts work helped me to work with my configurations and younger time capsules. I was finding I could do things I had never dreamed of and any resistance I felt was just like a signpost telling me what I had to work on next. It was like waking up from a coma – I was finally living!

Rounding out a difficult year in Istanbul was thrilling. And so here I am at the start of 2020 wondering what comes next.

Well we all know what came next. Lockdown. Plunged back into isolation and living through my computer screen. Again. Wasn’t I just here? Didn’t I just bust out of this place? Well at least I know what to do. And at least this time it feels like the world has come to join me!

We are all in it together. Stay safe!

Writing a Reflective Journal – Mindfulness practice

January 14th, 2019

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