Therapists are humans too

I was talking with a friend recently. She is a qualified and experienced therapist, and she has made a monumentally bad decision that is going to have long standing consequences. If I looked at the situation objectively, I could not believe she made such a foolish decision, a decision that must have presented itself many times in the counselling room. 

And it made me think, on reflection, therapists make bad decisions in their personal lives just like everyone else. They don’t have immunity, nor are they really any wiser than their clients. They, we, are still susceptible to relationship issues, dramas and bad mental health. And that is okay. Our clients, and sometimes, ourselves tend to hold us to higher and better standards than we expect from others but in the same way we practise compassion and care with our clients we must do so with ourselves. We all fuck up from time to time. 

Now, as a psychopath, I probably do think of myself better than others and would think it ridiculous that I would make such bad decisions and choices, that I am beyond ordinary mistakes. But in all truthfulness, I am certain I have made plenty, I just ignore them or diminish the impact that they have and am better at moving on and forgetting (or not taking responsibility). I am however improving, just publicly admitting I may be wrong is a big sin of self-development, but I still have a way to go. 

Axe Throwing and Pottery Painting

This week I went on two interesting and contrasting experiences as they are both designed for sighted people. But I am never going to let my blindness hold me back from enjoying myself and trying new things. 

Axe throwing is quite simple in principle there is a board about 15 meters in front of you with a target and you are given a pair of axes. The aim is to get the axe in or as close to bullseye. The execution is much more challenging. The first few attempts and I was barely hitting the board let alone being close to the centre. Luckily for me my sighted friends were also terrible, but I am very competitive in nature and wanted to win. What I quickly realised was that the technique we were taught in the introduction was wrong, instead of throwing the axe at a 90-degree angle it was far more effective to throw it at an 80-degree angle. After a bit of trial and error I mastered the art of getting a bullseye over and over again clearly winning much to my friend’s dismay. Who needs sight? 

Now how does a person who can’t see paint a pot? With great difficulty. I decided on a simple pot with little shaped holes in it so I could feel the length of the pot and different levels. And I went for a very simple layered design so as not to get confused in complication. Again, this time I had gone with another sighted friend (I don’t have any other blind friends so all activities I partake in have a sighted friend which is always helpful). She helped with the choosing of colours but said that was the only thing she would help with, and the painting had to be all me. I went for a classic starry night theme as I could easily layer that. With the bottom half of the candle holder being a dark green and the top half being a dark blue, I then used a flicking technique to flick on bits of yellow to resemble stars. 

Both activities, despite being primarily for sighted people, were great fun without the ability to see. As always, the activity is made and enhanced by the company kept and it was great to spend a few hours doing something a little out of the ordinary with friends over the usual going for coffee/food or drinking. If you have an axe throwing or pottery painting near you, I would highly recommend it. Both therapeutic in their own way, one in letting out a bit of anger and aggression the other calming and focusing. 

A counselling student’s guide to finding a therapist…

A friend sent me the following article https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jul/17/it-was-devastating-what-happens-when-therapy-makes-things-worse?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR2aWQNmKVaFb9jj9sAP-PZjy7sqAmLVa-De-rTFdGwSWrAbsyDZfomePfk

To me it highlighted how important it is to find the right therapist and what a person can do to ensure they have the best possible therapeutic experience; one that allows them to heal rather than causing them further harm. Counselling/therapy are unregulated professions so technically anyone can call themselves one ae. There are regulated bodies/membership organisations that a therapist can be part of which gives them credibility and ensures they have had adequate training, however in the above article, the therapist was an accredited member so even that isn’t a catch all. 

  1. Find an accredited therapist; Make sure your therapist has adequate training and credentials, ensure they are a member of a group or body so that if things go wrong you can seek redress as I said this isn’t a fully effective safety net so links nicely to point 2. 
  2. Do your research; Let’s say you have found a therapist then do some background research, it’s easy to find things about a person online now, all it takes is a google search. 
  3. Trust word of mouth; A lot of therapists don’t aggressively market themselves and rely on word of mouth. And if they have worked well with an acquaintance and you have personal testimonials it will go some way in reassuring you. Although some thrust, due to boundary issues may not work with you. 
  4. Set up an introductory session; all good therapists will provide this; it will allow you to test the waters and see if the therapist is a right fit. Looking for a therapist is like looking for any service. One size does not fit all, and you may need to work with a few before you match with someone whom you think can work with. 
  5. Ask questions; get to know your therapist, their intentions and motivations. Why are they in the profession? Do they give a well thought out answer or do they have a personal reason or just something that sounds nice but very well-rehearsed? Other questions can be on their experience and form of working. 
  6. Trust your gut; Your relationship with your therapist will be the primary factor in your journey so if your gut says no then trust it. Regardless of therapist experience and accreditation. 
  7. Ignore therapists that specialize in everything. They are lying. It’s impossible to do ao, there are so many potential issues a client can have, and some can be very niche.
  8. Linked to the above note, never trust a therapist who says they can cure you. Firstly, that isn’t their role. A therapist does not give advice, nor do they cure. 
  9. Terminate a therapeutic relationship if you feel your boundaries are being ignored or eroded. Be careful with this one. Therapy will be challenging, and a therapist will get you to “dig deep” but you must feel safe when this is happening and be able to challenge the therapist as they are. But if they are trying to be your friend, messaging you outside of sessions inappropriately or getting you to hang out with them the run and report them If they come on to you in any way or even suggest sex report them and document everything. A therapist cannot sleep with their client, it’s rule 1!

Those are my top tips, if you think of any others add them in the comments or share your own experiences in finding a therapist. 

Never Read the Comments

I remember watching Wreck it Ralph 2; Ralph Breaks the Internet when it came out with my Niece and nephew. Ralph, when going viral, is told to never read the comments as they are never nice. In fact, they are extremely attacking and hurtful. 

I have gone ‘viral’ several times now, most recently this week, a video we created has been viewed nearly a million times and has gone all over the world. And with views come the comments. And they can be hurtful, now I can brush off the comments as they don’t really affect me and I don’t get offended but my brother who is also on the video isn’t as resilient and he is also young. Now I understand once you put something out in the public domain willingly you forgo some rights, for example rights to privacy (in some instances). However, that does not give the right or permission to be cruel. 

I think the anonymity the internet provides can be both good and bad. A perfect example is this blog, I can write with freedom due to the anonymity, I can be myself without fear of repercussions. However, on the alternative side it gives a platform to those who have no right airing their vires and should be able to participate in public discourse with such a shield.  

Naturally if I had the time, effort and care I would sift through the comments, figure out the perpetrators and expose them and cause them harm, as a psychopath would, nothing displeases me more than unkind and discourteous behaviour. But first my brother told me not to and secondly, I have better things to do then sift through 10,000s of comments. 

Now I’m not really sure the purpose of this post but I suppose the simple message is to be kind online. It takes no effort to care and be kind. And if you want to write something negative, maybe because you didn’t enjoy the content produced that is okay, be constructive and don’t attack the people. I am not discouraging healthy debate and conversation. But we must remember there are real people, with real lives and real feelings on the other side. There is always a choice so choose to be kind or remain silent.

A Psychopath Seeks Compassion

My therapist has given me the task of being compassionate. I am angry at a person and want to cause them harm and terminate our relationship. I have spent the last week meditating, pondering, thinking how I can move past my anger without any luck. So, I am outsourcing, to you my dear readers, for help. How do I find empathy when I have felt used and wronged? 

Below is the letter I have composed which is very angry and hurtful in nature so you can get an idea of the state I am in. It is edited to maintain some privacy so it may not make full sense, but you will get the context. I’m hoping just writing this may clear some of my mental blocks. Again comments and help is very much appreciated!

My dearest B, 

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I am dictating this letter to you. I would have had this conversation with you in person, but I do not think I could adequately convey what I wanted to say, and we both have a greater understanding for the written word and the gravitas they hold. I am breaking up with you. It is going to be a clean break, by the time you have read this I will have removed you from all my social channels. I think it will be easier on us both. 

Over the last few months, I have been going down a particularly difficult and painful journey, that of losing my sight. Funny how that has led to me seeing things far more clearly than before. To state it simply at first, and I will try to elaborate and make clear a bit further on, I have sacrificed a lot more in our relationship than you have. And I am tired. I have given you all of me, I have been your hope and your strength, and it has left me empty and exhausted. You once said I would take a bullet for you and that is true, but I realised you would never do the same. 

Over the last Five years I have provided you with all my love and unconditional support in an unwavering manner and you have depleted me of all my empathetic resources. It was my brother who pointed out; I used to smile every time my phone notified me you were messaging or tagging or in some way contacting me, now I sigh, I am filled with dread and trepidation – what is the issue now? What new problem are you bringing me? How will I be able to calm you down and make sure you are okay? That is not how I should be feeling.

I have been reachable to you basically 24/7 365, every holiday I have been on you have had some sort of breakdown and called me in extreme distress and I have always picked up, even abandoned family to make sure you were okay and that I could help you regain a sense of reality.  When we are apart, I even sleep with my phone in my hand so that if it vibrates from you (the only person that has that ability) that I would wake up and answer you just in case you were being plagued with anxiety. And sleep for me comes at a premium so I hope that highlights how much I have been there for you. 

Now since my diagnosis, how many times on your own accord have you checked up on me or asked me if I am okay – I will save you the thinking 0. You once told me you do not ever ask anyone how they are because you have too much in your own head to deal with. That may be true but all it takes is a quick conversation when we are together, one text, one snap, one call just to ask and show that you care. Whenever you come to me with your problems not only do I talk to you about them but then I follow up later or the next day to ask how you are and if I can do anything else to help. For you to return some of that empathy cannot be so hard?

I know lockdown has kept us separate, but since we have been able to be together again, I have felt alone in the room with you. When it is the one time I never expected to feel alone – in the company of you. However even when I am with you, I am regaled by your work problems, family and relationship troubles. To such an extent I have trouble talking about myself and how life is going for me. 

You have a habit of blaming everyone and everything around you for your problems and never taking any self-responsibility for the positions you find yourself in. Maybe it’s a defence to prevent you from facing your own inadequacies and that maybe you will just live a normal ordinary life, which is completely okay, but for you is just not good enough and as you can’t accept that you aren’t where you want to be. You don’t have the ability to reach it you blame everything and anything but yourself.

In all the years I have known you, you have remained friendless and struggles with relationships outside of ours. I think the way you are with me demonstrates why. You use people, and you do not have a personality beyond being the victim. If my experience of you is what others experience, then you need to radically change how you are or remain a failure. You bring very little in terms of positives to a relationship and that leaves it feeling unfulfilled. Your victimisation can only be categorized as toxic. You accuse others, like your father, of being narcissistic, yet you are also egotistical, have an inflated sense of self-worth and no issue in finding faults in others but can see none in yourself.

I have made you several promises of always being there for you, always supporting you, to always love you and not to ever harm you, yet I will be reneging on all my promises to you and that causes me great distress. Promises are something that I hold very dear and do not break. The fact that I feel forced to turn on my own promises should indicate the reality that I face. What makes it worse is that I know this letter and the ensuing breakup will be devastating for you, even earth shattering, and you will not have anyone to turn to as I am normally that person. I loved you dearly, but this is about my self-respect, my self-love and my self-care. For far too long I have put your needs first, above mine. I have always advocated and advised you to put yourself first, now I am doing the same.

I have tried so hard to convince myself to discard this letter and to endure. That you are worth it. You are worth the time and energy, you are worth the sacrifice that you will change but all the evidence, looked at objectively, stands to the contrary. It has been problem after problem, issue after issue, vent after vent. I try to reason it down to your ill mental health, but you can no longer stand behind that and use it as an excuse and I must accept that I cannot be the person you need and want me to be anymore. Maybe it was my fault for not setting clear boundaries in our relationship early on, and I have paid for that and learnt my lesson.

I am certain this letter will be difficult to read and the breakup hard, I know it will be for me. Throwing away our relationship, our memories, our love. But I am left with no choice. I do wish you the best in life… without me. I hope you find it within yourself to do the hard work of self-improvement. You stop making excuses, stop being so reluctant and resistant to change. I hope you go on a journey of self-development. It will go a long way in helping you grow as a person instead of remaining in that childish mindset you have. 

Formerly yours,

Is nothing sacred

Psychopaths tend to be amoral and antisocial (hence the technical diagnosis being antisocial personality disorder). This means we do not follow nor are we constrained by societal rules or values. It gives us freedom and allows us to behave with impunity. However, all people place rules on themselves that control their own behaviours, these can be both conscious or unconscious. If we take an extreme example, where these rules create misery, people with OCD may have a rue that if they don’t perform a specific action, they (or someone they love) will come to harm – if I don’t make my bed three times and open and close a door five times, I will be seriously injured in a car accident. If these rules create problems as in the above example, then therapy can help.

 I have two said rules, both conscious but as they are so ingrained, they I am sure have unconscious elements to them. The first is I cannot break a promise and the second is I cannot talk about someone in a negative way behind their backs. Strange rules if you think about it and should be unusual for a person like myself. 

If I promise something I am committed to it. I cannot break it. I do have to use the specific phrase “I Promise” but once those words are uttered, I am bound. I very rarely make a promise and there is one instance whereby making the promise I have put myself in a very awkward and difficult position. Despite the trouble it continues to cause me I cannot break it. You might think it is easy to break a promise, there is no real consequence and why would a psychopath even care? Honestly, I am not sure. I know logically that nothing will happen, but I think if I break the rule then I will fully lose myself. I will have no boundaries or barriers and I will become the worst possible version of myself causing harm and destruction without a second thought. I have explained it to my therapist with the batman example. Batman (who in my opinion is a psychopath). He can go about causing untold misery, pain and destruction but he can’t kill. He can beat someone to an inch of their life, but they always live. 

The second rule is as unusual and nonsensical objectively as the first. Regardless of if I am in a group or speaking to an individual, if they are bitching or talking bad about someone I refuse to partake. I even go as far as to give the person a compliment or highlight a positive quality they possess, even if I hate the person. I have no qualms telling them to their face what I think about them, or even causing them harm, just not behind their back. Again, why would something so trivial hold such value to a psychopath – no idea it is just a self-imposed rule that I can’t break. Now if I am talking to my therapist or venting to someone about a 3rd party I have to be very careful about what I say and how I say. I contextualise the situation and try to defend the person whilst explaining what they have done ‘wrong’. It’s a difficult balance . But it’s the problem with self-imposed rules they seem impossible to break. 

There is a saying “rules are what separates us from the animals”, many consider psychopaths as animalistic. But even we have self-governing rules. Normally to protect something of value, it could be family, people in their circle of protection or more selfishly themselves. But if you pay enough attention, you will spot them – even though they may not recognise it within themselves. 

No phones allowed

As part of my counselling course, we go away on a three day residential, it takes place in a manor house in the middle of nowhere. No Wi-Fi, no telephone signal.  The aim of the weekend is to connect with yourself, connect with the people around you and to connect with nature. Now I consider my phone an additional limb and I find it difficult to connect so this was not an appealing idea. 

There was also a theme to the weekend, loss. It did not have to be related to death as that is what most people think of when reflecting on loss, but we can lose many things and all have an impact. I was not sure what loss I could bring, I considered my most recent loss, the loss of my eyesight but thought that was boring and something that I had come to terms with. I eventually decided on the loss of myself. Now this may be a little difficult to explain so bear with me. For most of my life I have felt different, alone, broken. Then I had my diagnosis which explained so much but felt like a death sentence, that I was permanently damaged due to my traumatic past. Then I realised I was being fatalistic and that I am in charge of how my future is. I could live in the past and blame everything on it, or I could make the effort to change. It was a conscious decision that I had to make but as a result I had to let go of the past. That is where the loss is, it was a huge part of my makeup and identity and there are aspects of myself that I liked that would also need to be gotten rid of. 

It was, for a lack of a better word, an emotional trip. The crescendo came in the form of a fire ceremony.  We built a massive bonfire and wrote on pieces of paper what we wanted to let go of or attract into our lives. We would proclaim out loud what we had written and then threw it into the flames. There was something cathartic about the ritualistic nature of it all. And honestly felt like a part of the group, one of the only times I have felt a part of something rather than being on the outside. Did I come out of the experience as a new person? Not entirely, it will take time and effort, but it has renewed my intentions and motivations. 

There were two other points to the residential that had a major impact on me that were unrelated to loss. A short walk from where we were staying was a bridge (pictured above). Due to its straight and supported nature I could run across it without fear of falling or tripping and without the need of my cane. A friend and I ran across it together and for those few seconds I felt like a child having fun, no worries or consequences, an unbridled freedom filled with real laughter. It really brought home what I had missed as a child. The other was swimming in the river the bridge crossed. I love swimming and I enjoy swimming in very cold waters, it makes you feel alive. There is a quietness to being underwater as if the outside world dampens and disappears and it is just you in the dark cold water. No pretence, no hiding, no acting, just you. Again, a very liberating moment. 

There is a residential for each year of the course and I am already looking forward to the next one, who knew it would be easy to live without a phone for a few days, surprisingly I did not miss it at all. 

Blind Photography

This week I am in Snowdonia, North Wales. Lots of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and forest. The perfect place to walk and wind down. Here are some of the photos I have taken so far.

The Knife Angel Hereford
The Knife Angel Hereford
Mount Snowdon
Mount Snowdon
Mount Snowdon
Conway Falls
Sunset
Lighthouse
Conway Castle
Conway Castle

A blind man cooks

I love cooking, it gives me the chance to be creative and to impress. Every time I visit a new country, I take cooking lessons from locals so they can teach me their delicious dishes. I have been spending my week at a friend’s house and have cooked each day. Being blind comes with new challenges in the kitchen, but I am nothing if not adaptable. For example, talking scales, using Be my Eyes – an app that connects you with a volunteer to assist you.

On Monday we had Mexican: This will be the first-time writing cooking instructions (for sighted people) so I hope it reads well and is easy to understand. Any feedback (before or after trying will be much appreciated1 

Tortillas (makes 8 medium sized)

 300g plain flour 

1tsp baking powder 

½ tsp salt

60g butter (room temp)

200g warm water 

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt
  2. Add butter and work it into the mixture making sure all the flour is coated
  3. Pour in water, bit by bit, mix till you have your dough (you may need a bit more/or less water).
  4. Knead dough briefly on a flour dusted counter, if the dough is sticky add a bit more flour
  5. Divide into 8 pieces, roll into balls and gently flatten, allow them to rest, in a covered location, for 30 minutes
  6. Roll out dough into circles (roughly 7” in diameter)
  7. Heat a pan/cast iron griddle on a medium to high heat (ungreased)
  8.  Fry tortilla for about 45secs each side – you can tell by eye (if you can see) , it may take a little bit longer. 

Make the tortillas first as you will need them for both starters and mains. 

Starter nachos:

Tortillas (which were made earlier)

Oil  (of your choice – I use olive) 

Salsa (recipe below)

Guacamole (recipe below) 

Cheddar cheese 150g (grated) 

  1. Heat oil in a pan enough to shallow fry – high heat to start, once oil has reached the right temperature turn down the heat a little
  2. Whilst oil is heating up cut up tortillas into triangular shapes (each one into roughly 8 pieces) 
  3. Put cut up tortilla in oil and shallow fry till browned and crispy, roughly just under two minutes
  4. Spread the fried pieces on parchment paper on an oven friendly tray. 
  5. Cover in salsa, evenly spread and sprinkle liberally with cheese.
  6. Place under grill for 3-5 minutes, till cheese is melted and salsa is hot. 
  7. Add guacamole over (or on the side)
  8. Enjoy!

Salsa: 

5 medium tomatoes – finely chopped

½ large onion – finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

½ juiced lime 

Small bunch of coriander – roughly chopped

1 Jalapeno – finely chopped (you can add or remove dependent on spice tolerance 

½ tsp salt

  1. Mix all ingredients together for a chunky salsa.
  2. Whizz all ingredients in a blender for a smoother salsa (and will save on the cutting)
  3. Garnish with a few leaves of fresh coriander. 

Guacamole:

2 avocados – peeled, pitted and smashed

1 small lime juiced

1tsp salt 

½ diced onion

Small bush of fresh coriander

2 small tomatoes diced 

2 garlic cloves – diced

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional – but would recommend) 

  1. Mix all ingredients together  for a chunky guac 
  2. Whizz all ingredients together in a blender for a smoother guac

Mains: Enchiladas

 2 red onions sliced 

2 green peppers sliced 

2 garlic cloves crushed 

3 large chicken breasts – cut into small cubes

400g of mixed Mexican beans (kidney beans, black beans, baked beans)

Small bunch fresh coriander

Tortillas (which were made earlier)

500ml passata (or chopped tomatoes for a chunkier sauce)

100g cheddar cheese

2tbs Olive oil (or oil of your choice)

1tbs caster sugar

Mexican spices (1tbs salt, 2tbs ground cumin. 2tbs onion granules, 2tbs garlic granules, 1tbs cyan pepper, 2tbs paprika, 1/2tbs brown sugar) – mix all ingredients together.

25g butter

50ml fresh cream

  1. Preheat oven 200c 180c fan/gas 6
  2. In a bowl add the chicken pieces and coat with oil, then add in Mexican mix ensuring each piece is evenly covered. 
  3. Add some oil on to a frying pan on medium heat, wait till oil is hat and add chicken
  4. Cook chicken for 5ish minutes and then add in the onions, pepper and garlic into the same pan and cook for another 5 minutes. 
  5. In a saucepan heat up the mixed beans (follow instructions on can or packet) 
  6. Add the beans to the frying pan with the chicken and vegetables and allow to rest whilst you make the sauce.
  7. Mix passata, garlic, coriander, caster sugar, butter, cream and a bit of the mexican spices into a saucepan, over a medium heat.  
  8. Gently heat until all the flavours have melded.
  9. Add a couple of spoonful’s of the sauce into the frying pan with all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. 
  10. Get a deep baking dish, fill each tortilla with the chicken, vegetables and beans mix. Fold each full tortilla like you would a wrap and place in a dish.
  11. Cover tortillas in sauce, ensure it is evenly coated and coat in cheese. 
  12. Place in a preheated oven and cook for 25-30mins or until golden brown. 
  13. Accompany with salsa/guac you had made earlier.

Dessert: luxurious hot chocolate

Full fat milk is best – amount is dependent on people ¾ mug per person

10g of dark chocolate (or milk if you don’t like dark) chocolate pieces 

2tbs of condensed milk per mug

2 barks of cinnamon per mug

1 small part of orange peel per mug

Fresh cream for whipping.

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan (apart from fresh cream)
  2. Gently simmer over a low-medium heat until it thickens to desired consistency.
  3. Whilst simmering, whip fresh cream.
  4. Pour mixture into mug (try and avoid adding the peel and bark)
  5. Top with whipped cream and savings of chocolate
  6. Enjoy!

I hope my instructions are easy to understand and if you decide to make it I hope you enjoy it as much as we did – all of these recipes are my own and I always welcome feedback. 

Happy cooking, I am away on holiday for a week so might not post next Sunday!

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