One for Sorrow

None of us chose to be here, we didn’t ask to be born, but here we are regardless. We didn’t chose our childhood experiences, we didn’t chose faulty neurological pathways over healthy emotional cultivation, yet here some of us are, responsible for ploughing new neural tracts with shoddy equipment and pesky compulsions to knock pieces off ourselves. Those of us who appear the weakest are more courageous than many will ever appreciate or recognise.

Suffering visits us all, as the crocodile will tell you, to live is to wait forever and a day in murky waters for something meaty to wander within range of your jaws. For some gloom doesn’t just pop by for tea, it moves into our bedrooms and though we plough away we can’t turn that gloom back into the ground or swallow it whole.

One day you wake up and realise life has been a series of fallen dreams. You sit cold and alone surrounded by the ruins of what once upon a time, in a land achingly similar to this one, were glorious castles. You never truly believed those castles were built for you and you wonder why you’re still foolishly trying to master this ploughing business. All you ever wanted was to belong to the damn CEPA (Chartered and Enthusiastic Ploughers Association), grow some frickin tasty cabbages in your field with adjoining cosy castle!

Sitting among these bricks, crumbling like the scattered pieces of my heart, wondering where to lumber gracelessly to next, an arid desert stretches out before me and I fear those shimmering mirages that will unceremoniously spit me out the other side.

I remember being with you in the garden at Costa Del Pat’s (ssshhh) chasing the giant bubbles you were blowing with your Minions wand and bubble solution. I remember us sitting in the “crazy” golf course “self-soothing” with some hot chocolate and Fredo bars. How I longed for us all to find peace, I wished I could reach in and save you but that lonely magpie was always hopping into my peripheral vision, scraggly and scruffy looking – where was it’s iridescence? To me you shone like stars and I wish that one day soon you will meet people who see your shimmer and treasure you for it, most importantly I wish for you to feel worthy of it. I wish that for me too but it feels so very unreal.

It’s human nature to sense the future through the haze of the past. Those who allow hope to paint a new future are called dreamers. I want to be a dreamer again.

Flaws ‘n All

Apparently there are healthy and not-so-healthy versions of perfectionism. Striving for perfection, the psychologisty types say, without attaching your self-worth to it, is broccoli munching behavior. Many of us more anxious creatures fall into the “neurotic” style – being nasty to ourselves about our perceived weaknesses and presuming that they are glaringly obvious to everyone we come into contact with. Like a leech on your butt cheek sometimes we aren’t even aware of some of the beliefs we hold about ourselves. If a friend were to say to you “I expect only perfection from myself and because I never achieve it I hate myself passionately” you’d be making one of those what-the-f**k faces and telling them not to be ridiculous, yet in that shadowy cave below your conscious thoughts a little slimy sucker is happily gorging away.

I think on some mind level, (I have multitudes of them, cos I’m confused mostly class), I have felt that I am only deserving of love if I can be perfect, of course I’m anything but so all sorts of protective (often ironically self-damaging) behaviors ensue. I also suspect that I don’t trust people. To avoid being torn savagely down by them I strive manically and grapefruitlessly to be some foolish idea of, what I reckon is, the “right” way to be or I swing in a plummeting arc the opposite direction and endorse the idea that I’m crap so don’t expect anything from this halfwit.

When I loftily judge the people I love on this rocketing planet (in the future they may also be on Mars or on their way to Mars or orbiting earth for some reason or spiritually removed from space-time via meditation) I see with my haughty eye that they are not perfect. I love them all the same.

Self-love with a healthy smathering of like

Do you know that icky, uncomfortable feeling that slowly submerges you? . . You know the one I mean. . . You get it when you’re stuck in a confined space with someone irksome, a real nerve plinker! It’s worse than a screaming child in a room with great acoustics. Well, I can give myself that feeling. Unfortunately for me, you can’t get much more confined than sharing a mind with your pet irritant! That pain in the ass is reflected back to me in my interactions with people; I allow my fears to read their reactions and the subtext is “ugh, you’re so annoying, stupid, misinformed and generally awful”.

It’s been my lot lately to try and accept and, more importantly, like this Homo toothachien who inhabits my consciousness. You see, you can love someone who pisses you off and disappoints you but it is damn hard to like them, or spend time with them, and to presume others will too.

When I divulge this particular dilemma to people close to me their response is generally along the lines of “don’t beat yourself up so much”, but I don’t really identify with that phrase, as my (rather nasty and relentless) self-critic tells me I don’t beat myself up – wallowing in self-pity is more my style. When this self-critic steps up to the pulpit a genuine disgust for elements of my personality, considered pathetic, permeates procedings. Countering the argument is difficult, the self-critic doesn’t entertain a difference in opinion.

Self-compassion is the solution I’m told but that can be tricky for an over-analyser; how do you disregard one side of the argument? Aren’t you just choosing the side that makes you more comfortable and letting yourself off the hook? Somehow that nagging critic is always more believable. After all, I’ve listened to it faithfully for so long now.

So, as for that healthy buttering of self-like, I’m still working on it.

Butter-knife anyone? 😉


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Para-RARGH!a-noia (and it’s battlements)

Apprehension and wariness of others is unfortunately, for me, a consequence of feelings of fear and anxiety lingering about from some not-so-fabulous past experiences. I often agonise over the meaning behind this or that comment, searching for the clues that confirm my suspicions – they don’t like me, I’m annoying them, they think I’m an idiot, they’re just hanging out with me because they’re bored/out of pity, etc. Why the distrust? This tendency to predict rejection really isolates me from others; a lonely walled space; drawbridge raised and battlements guarded.
I’m afraid to expect certain things from people, such as understanding, compassion, time even, horrified at the thought of imposing any kind of obligation. At one time in my life I believed this approach to be realistic, fair and principled – as if to count on more is too emotionally burdensome, impeding on other’s freedom! Not too long ago though I came to recognise this as a (semi-sub-conscious I guess!) strategy to avoid being let down.
I have a friend who once jokingly labelled me a “flight risk” due to my disappearing acts; connoisseur of the “Irish goodbye”.
A few drinks hampered my stringent self-monitoring. I’d jump ship at the slightest chance of judgement or criticism coming my way. Throw myself to the waves rather than reveal my vulnerable self and suffer any form of emotional abandonment. Such a contradiction, self isolation to avoid . . . well, . . isolation!
Admitting the problem, first step, so on. It’s not easy though to lower that drawbridge and disengage those braced arrows. It feels like moving to a yurt, perched on a cliff, wind howling and waves crashing hundreds of meters below.


Sometimes I feel like i’m 99.9% imbued with fear, fear overwhelms me. That poor little 0.1% courage has to do battle continuously, day and night, week after week, year after year; a lifetime of internal warfare. Even Hercules only had the 12 tasks and no doubt got to take a fair few breathers with alluring shapely maidens in between!

I’m not Hercules, I’m Aisling and my tasks are in comparison pretty puny; I doubt people would have judged Hercules too harshly had he been defeated by the nine-headed serpent lady or if he had taken two days rather than one to clean the smelly shed. Comparatively, people find it harder to fathom why getting out the front door to work would be such a laborious task or sitting in a one-on-one meeting with an authority figure or having to spend long periods of time alone.

In my anxiety ridden mind that step out the front door is a step into a world where criticisms and judgments are hurled at me like fiery canon balls; agents of this fast and furious city are lurking and ready to snuff out my pathetic, useless self; my terrible secret could be spilled at any moment – my inability sloshing onto the street for all to see. That authority figure is going to tear me down, “put me in my place”, like my English teacher did when I was in Secondary School. Those long periods alone is when that harshly critical voice, (people who tend to doubt themselves know well), gets louder and more seething.

On my worst days I give up, depression and self-loathing snake in and I step backwards into my lonely cave, out of the fight, into the fog full of whispers. “Where’s my shapely maiden?”, I ask full of self pity.

The psychology books and the CBT councilors tell you to face your fear, that cowering from it may provide short-term relief but it will inevitably lead to a lowering of self-belief in the long-term. I’ve found this to be very true, however, the more difficult sub-clause to this is learning not to berate myself when I do skulk back into the shadows. I’ve had to accept that sometimes I will be beaten by that fear but as yer man Beckett himself does be sayin –

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”

Cooperating with my CBT training I now aim to move past the failure by writing down what happened, the triggers, the feelings, the feeling following the initial feelings! (variously called an Emotional Diary/Thoughts Diary/Cognitive Diary, see 

CFT (Compassion Focused Therepy) might recommend I write myself a compassionate letter, e.g. “Memories from the past were triggered and your fightflightfreeze or appease response kicked in to protect you. You got scared, it happens to everyone, nobody finds dealing with distress easy but you do have the strength and wisdom to do it”(

Both methods are ways to allow me to learn more effectively from the “failure” (let’s be sickeningly positive and call it a “lesson”), to identify what feelings reared their head and why, and ultimately to put it behind me and move on to the next battle. 

Each time courage wins or even just makes a little ground, it grows in size. Fear’s proportion shrinks a little and there’s room in me for more me! 🙂

“A small daily task if it really be daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules” – Anthony Trollope

It really does take courage to clamber out of that dark hole in the rock, turning away from those foggy whispers that tell you they are protecting you, teaching you . . . but that view from the outside is worth it; that feeling of having control of your own choices.

If anyone tells you that’s not an admirable feat akin to a legendary champion just laugh in their face, manically if you want to add some extra umpph.

Bit O’ Background

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Mary Angelou

I was always a bit on the anxious side as a child. My first memory of feeling very depressed was at age 11. When I was about 17 I got my first panic attack – I had no idea what it was or why I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I knew I just needed to escape, to run, to squirm away from what felt like hands around my throat. For a long time I was so embarrassed and ashamed of the panic attacks, I felt weak and pathetic, dramatic and ridiculous. I feared what people thought of me, I wondered why I wasn’t strong and together like I believed everyone else was. I’m still learning to try and let the frustration at myself go after an episode of panic, to leave it behind and move on.
A few times in my life I have suffered from periods of overwhelming depression, including a spell in a mental health hospital. Depression for me is like being transported to a whole other universe; it looks a lot like this one but it’s cold and oppressive and no one really wants me around. I feel like I’m a burden on everyone. I feel like a parasite and the only solution I can see is one that involves removing myself from the equation. I overwhelmingly feel a sense of loss and grief, for what, I’m not quite sure.
It is important for people experiencing mental anguish to know it’s a human condition, anybody can suffer from mental health issues and some of the most admirable people who have walked and are currently walking this earth have suffered or are battling with mental health issues. We have just as much right as anyone else to seek help and to want to be happy.
The first psychiatrist I ever attended wasn’t the right practitioner for me, which can be frustrating and scary. I attended quite a few doctors and therapists who I couldn’t relate to so the jouney thus far has had many ups, downs, set-backs and topsy-turvey loops. Recovery isn’t always linear, in my experience it’s more like playing snakes and ladders which is why it’s so crucial to have support, a friend who understands and will listen, even if it’s just the number to the Samaritans saved in your phone. Samaritans’ 24 hour Helpline Ireland: 116 123
Getting the right kind of help is not always easy but things are improving in the area of mental health, don’t give up, there are good therapists and services out there. If you don’t feel you are being listened to or treated with respect find someone else, trust your gut on this, don’t doubt yourself, you’ll know if something is working for you or not. If you have a close friend or family member who can come with you to visit the GP or a therapist don’t feel you can’t accept their help, or don’t feel you can’t ask for it. The voice telling you not to put people out with your “silly little problem” is not reason, it’s the depression talking, everyone needs support from time to time. Being assertive is so difficult when you are down, your energy is missing, your body is flooded with stress hormones and your self esteem is at an all time low. This is the very reason there is not a drop of shame in asking someone you trust to support you and even advocate for you when you need it.

Eventually a clinical psychologist introduced me to Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), this really helped me and my particular difficulties and I’m moving forward.