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What a Difference a Year Makes

I’m noticing the tension in me to look back and reflect, while still trying to get things boxed off and finished before my out of office goes on this Friday. I suppose this post is a way of trying to find the space in between these two pressures as I move towards the end of the year.

The start of my reflection on how much has changed was a trip to Attingham Park (A National Trust Property near Shrewsbury). At Christmas they decorate each of the rooms beautifully and there is always a lovely walk to be found. (And the joys of a gift shop). We’d visited the previous December too, but it had been a very different type of visit.

Last year my fatigue was still incredibly debilitating and the slow walk round the house, with many rest stops was enough to wipe me out. I remember wishing I taken a stick with me to help me walk a little further, while feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and noise.

Pink paper birds swooping from a christmas tree to disappear up a grand fireplace chimmney

This year, not only did I happily walk around the house with no rest (although I did wear my loops to manage the noise) we also walked the fairy tale trail, attempted ice skating and stopped to see a friend and collect a wreath on the way home. All before going to a charity gig organised by some friends for the local foodbank.

When my wife an I talked about the differences we were both struck by how far I had come in the tiniest of incremental steps. I’ve written before about the power of penguin steps. The ones we take when it is too much to lift our feet off the ground, and all we can manage is a slow shuffle. It’s exactly what I was doing during my brief attempt to ice skate during our visit. Holding onto the edge and shuffling around to stop myself from falling over.

While it would be lovely to tell you that I ended up gliding across the rink (because it would make a lovely accompaniment to this idea) I can’t, my dyspraxic body is a danger to myself and other on an ice rink and I did the sensible thing and went for a warm drink instead. However, in other areas of my life, it does feel like I’ve progressed from my penguin steps.

Looking back at the year I wanted to capture the things I have manged to achieve that would have felt impossible at the end of last year, with tiny penguin steps, the support of lovely people, and a bit of luck.

In work I…

  1. Took part in a panel discussion of neurodivergent therapists that was gloriously affirming

  2. Presented at a BACP Supervisor event on A Neurodivergent Perspective on Inclusive Practice in Supervision, my first in person event since 2020

  3. Presented at the Online Events Conference Living and Working with Neurodivergence where I launched my model of Neurodivergent Wellbeing to wonderful feedback

  4. Properly developed my model of working with neurodivergent folks including creating lots of resources and tools that are already supporting clients

  5. Ran the pilot version of my course Supporting Neurodivergent Wellbeing to help me make it the best version before it’s launch

  6. Launched my training offer for next year (and people want to come)

  7. Maintained a full counselling practice and expanded my supervision practice

Six polaroid images hanging from a piece of rope they show: A yoa mat, a grpahic for Supporting Neurodivergent WEllbeing course, a special interest jumper, a graphic for Neuro-Affirming practie workshop, a mountain reflected in a lake and a graphic for my model of Neurodivergent Wellbeing

At home I…

  1. Survived the conversion of the loft into my new office

  2. Invested in my health by working with a yoga therapist to support my recovery and finally got back to a regular yoga class (with a lot of time in child’s pose)

  3. Started swimming in the outdoor pool regularly over the summer

  4. Visited the Norwegian Fjords in a way that attended to my needs from a place of compassion, rather than trying to ignore them

  5. Had a grown up conversation with a financial advisor about pensions

  6. Visited friends and went to gigs (mostly) without exhausting myself

  7. Knitted a special interest jumper that is more complicated than anything I’ve ever made before

Most, if not all of these things would have seemed impossible last year when the interactions of my neurodivergence, long covid and some external factors had left me fighting brain fog and exhaustion most days. But in hindsight I can see how all the small steps I took to work with my body and brain by resting, attending to my needs and slowly building back capacity and becoming resourced added up to a year I couldn’t have planned. (Despite the non-linear messiness that was very much a part of it).

As I prepare to teach my course in the beginning of next year, I’m aware of how much of what I speak about is exactly what has helped me to find ways forward. Even as my spikey profile got spiker, kindness and compassion were still the biggest tools I had to move me forward. So often it was the slowing down that allowed me to do more and go further; something that never came from pushing, which just led me back towards burn out.

Here’s hoping I can keep this balance as I go into the new year, and maybe even live up to my new word.

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