David Bowie, Cats, Everything Salad and a Patient who Hides

IMG_0870Slightly lurid picture of Everything Salad there, but the only one I’ve got. Wait. Has it got some weird filter on it? Possibly.  So, I was watching a picture of David Bowie flash up on the TV yesterday, all bony and glazed-eyed (him not me), and wondering why it is that I have always hated him. I mean, not him personally. I didn’t know him and am sure he was lovely – everyone says so and I believe them. But I never really liked the music (except for the obvious few that real fans probably hate – Changes, Modern Love….the easy ones to like), they aren’t coming on my desert island, and I’ve always found his face too hideous even to look at. This occurred to me. He doesn’t like me. Aloof. Distant. Other worldly. He doesn’t beg for our love in the way that Elvis did, the way most singers do. His seduction (at least in public) is the type I hate most – “I am really fantastic and I don’t give a shit about you.” A lot of people love that. I hate that. How is that attractive? I don’t know. It isn’t. I want someone in this world to show some vague flicker of interest in me (by the way, this is not going well as a goal so far). It’s the same as people who like cats. They always say; “They’re so cool. They just don’t give a shit about you.” Right. Okay. Cool. “Dogs are so pathetic because they love you so much. So needy.” Right. Okay. Cool. I want to be adored! I’m needy! I need to be bounded up to and loved. And I want my celebrity to love me, to need me, to ask me to love them. This was my David Bowie epiphany. I know everyone will hate this.

I had a patient who cancelled because she’s too sad to talk to anyone. I wrote an email saying she doesn’t have to talk. That I’ll be here during her session time if she changes her mind at any point during her hour (that mean 50 minute hour) and we can just sit here if she likes. That spending time with someone (albeit on Skype) with someone who is thinking about you and with you can be really helpful. Sounds so unconvincing, doesn’t it? So many people feel like they have to keep talking to the therapist, that they have to feel vaguely sociable to go to their session. But it’s your space and you’re allowed to sit there in silence, fall asleep (there’s a great Stephen Grosz chapter about a sleeping patient) or be rude and aggressive. It’ll get interpreted (“You can’t find any words today,” “You want me to watch over you while you sleep,” “You seem angry today” or whatever) but you’re allowed to do it.

Everything Salad! 

Here is my recipe. Find all the food in the house. If it needs cooking, cook it. Put it all on a plate with lemon juice and salt on it. Eat. I make this all the time.

It’s not as good without: toasted nuts, spring onions or crispy fried salted onions, crunchy fried garlic, a big handful parsley (I can’t be bothered to chop parsley. I mean, why?).

It’s good with any combination of these: spinach, watercress, asparagus (cooked very briefly, still crispy), chopped peppers, beetroot, lettuce, sugar snap peas or green beans (blanched), peas, fried halloumi in chilli, crumbled feta, boiled eggs, crispy bacon, baked, grilled or fried salmon, prawns fried in garlic, fried mushrooms, butter beans or any canned beans either raw or fried, new potatoes, a handful of cooked pasta, rice, chopped apple. You get the picture.

Therapy via Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com

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Dealing with trauma from online viewing, Chekhov’s Black Monk and Azerbaijano-Armenian (I know, I know) lamb meatballs.

Dealing with trauma from online viewing, Chekhov’s Black Monk and Azerbaijano-Armenian (I know, I know) lamb meatballs.

The Black Monk! I went to the Pushkin House to watch a play, filmed in Moscow, based on the Chekhov short story. There weren’t many people there and we were on kind of school chairs watching a small pull-down screen. The volume wasn’t turned up loud enough and the actors came on, pretending to be someone else, you know how they do, and I was thinking, ugh. I’ll leave in the interval. But there wasn’t an interval and, by the end, I was weeping while Sergey Makovetskiy died mad in a hotel room on the way to Yalta. I love Russia for not doing happy endings, not trying to pretend that life turns out okay if you want it to enough, not pretending we all have the power or ability to be happy and well. I love the truth that Russia faces head on. The lonely agony. So…(meatballs soon).

Later, I was talking to a friend on Skype.  She wondered how to deal with someone potentially traumatised by things she’d been asked to view online as part of a project. My friend didn’t feel qualified to be any kind of counsellor. I said; “Don’t worry about that. We’re not qualified to be mothers either.” Obviously, in some cases this is a disaster and some training might have been helpful, but, anyway, I was trying to say that counselling, and all the variants of talking cure, are really about listening. I emailed this to her after we’d spoken but then, while I was making the above meatballs, I went rushing back to add something. “Listening and bearing what you hear. It’s really important to be able to bear what you hear without needing to try to cure it, without trying offer a different perspective (especially the imagined motives of someone else) or somehow water it down to make them or yourself feel better.” Maybe that’s what’s hard about listening. The just listening and understanding and bearing without needing to do anything.

Then I made the most delicious meatballs ever. A mush of various recipes, just so, so good. Here! Try!

Minced lamb, prunes, coriander, parsley, onion, rice, chickpeas, cinammon stick, chicken stock, can of tomatoes and/or tomato puree. Egg.

Boil a cinammon stick and a can of chickpeas in chicken stock. Make sure, if it’s from cubes or whatever, that you use enough of the stuff for the amount of water. Not loads of water because it should be dense-ish by the end. I’m using a kosher chicken soup powder at the moment. It might be full of crap but it’s delicious. Put salt and pepper in and chopped chilli if you like, then a can of tomatoes and/or some tomato puree. Or not. It might be nice just in the broth too.

Make the meatballs – chop the onion and and prunes and mush into the lamb mince with your hands. Also chopped parsley, salt, pepper, egg and a handful or two or bastmati rice, raw. (Cooked rice would be fine too, I’m sure).  Then make little meatballs and boil them for twenty minutes in your stock. This is the most delicious thing ever. I just had it with asparagus and pitta bread, but am sure it would be lovely with rice, pasta, baked potato, anything. Oh, wait. Chuck coriander on top. Quick.

I will therapise you on Skype or via email: annablundy@gmail.com

 

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QuarkBrötchen, Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in German and mini-Daims.

QuarkBrötchen, Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in German and mini-Daims. Last night I discoverd that the whole of the 1948 film of Anna Karenina starring Viven Leigh is watchable on YouTube. But, in German.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7b_go4F1n0

Even though the only thing I can really say in German is Ich habe einen großen schwarzen Hund (and I’ve actually got two), I watched it anyway. I mean, I know what happens. My husband wouldn’t let me rent it from a video shop in New York 20 years ago because he hadn’t read it yet and didn’t know what happened (what kind of maniac doesn’t know what happens at the end of Anna Karenina???), but now I feel free to see it and I’m not sure if he ever did read it. Watching it in German, in grainy black and white with the soundtrack sounding like it’s being played on vinyl (maybe it was?) gave me the feeling that this really was Anna, that we really were there on the train, Vronsky with his weird moustache, Ralph Richardson (no, seriously) playing Karenin. Amazing. So, in tribute to late 1940s German dubbing, here is a recipe for QuarkBrötchen, again from Luisa Weiss’s lovely German Baking book. It’s a kind of cakey, bready thing, maybe a breakfast roll (what is a breakfast roll?), maybe to have with coffee or tea. Anyway, look, it’s to eat. So, make, eat, enjoy.

Milk, flour, Quark (just as good with Philadelphia, probably okay with cottage cheese even, or ricotta, but surely it’s supposed to be tvorog), yeast, salt, sugar, butter, cream, ice cubes!

Make a roux with 150ml of milk and 30g of flour. Mix it together with the flour, Quark, a teaspoon of instant yeast, a pinch of salt, 50g of sugar and 50g of butter. Knead it until it’s not sticky and then leave to rise for an hour. Then split into 8 rolls and leave on the baking parchment and tray for another hour. Cut the clover shape with scissors, brush with cream and bake until golden at 400F/200C. Put a pan of ice-cubes in the over too – then they’re all steamy and won’t burn on the bottom (Sheba).

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This is Marmite. (Today I accidentally ate too many mini-Daims).

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Weird sex dreams, Sesame beef, Mango stuff

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Weird sex dreams, Sesame beef, Mango stuff

Just got back from telling my analyst about these exhausting dreams – half awake all night. Drowning in a shallow ice flow while I was trying to tell someone who’d left or painted the footprints by her bed, someone who was standing on the beach. Then sex in a doctor’s examination room with Barack Obama who couldn’t get it up and was looking over my shoulder at a nurse he found sexier than me. Then going into my dad’s basement flat to stay the night. He was there and wasn’t that interested in chatting to me even though we hadn’t seen each other for 25 year (he died in 1989). It was dark and there was a big sofa and his back, dark blue shirt, jeans, trainers, standing at the sink was very real. Shattering. Worse than being awake, except not, because if I’d been awake I’d have had to read this book my sister lent me about gender identity and lesbian rage and anal sex and stuff. That might actually have been even more gruelling.

Well, it’s a beautiful post-Brexit day and my patient this morning was a joy – talking about her family in Baku and looking satisfyingly cured(ish). Hey, it’s all relative. Took the dogs to the woods and am now going to advise you to make this supper I invented yesterday. Can’t guarantee it won’t give you really weird dreams though…

Lev wanted steak but I didn’t fancy a heavy French deal. Also, the mangoes were getting over-ripe.

Sesame Beef

A steak

Sesame and olive oil

Ginger, Garlic, Sesame seeds

Noodles, any

Peas, asparagus, sugar snap peas, mange-touts, anything green, spinach leaves, watercress, anything salady.

Boil the noodles and asparagus very briefly. Then make a salad with them (spinach? sugar snap peas? whatever) and dress it with lime juice, fish sauce and soy sauce, salt and pepper. Chopped chilli if you want. Fry a steak with chopped ginger and garlic and a bit of sesame oil in the olive oil. Slice the steak and put it on the salad. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. So good.

Mango stuff

Mangoes

Mint, Parsley

Lime juice

Chilli

Pomegranate seeds (or whatever)-

Mix mango, pomegranate seeds, chilli, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, lime juice. You could do the same with oranges, or anything really. You could put olive oil in it. And garlic.

That’s it. Quick. So delicious.

I will therapise you by Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com

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Rhabarberkuchen

IMG_1399Bake this. Eat this. It’s from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss. Make a vanilla cake batter with lemon rind in it, put the cut up and sugar coated rhubard on top and bake. My friend Sheba (who, as she will admit herself is usually full of shit, but not on this occasion) told me to put a tray of water in the oven with cakes and cook on a lower heat and for longer than the recipe says. Then the bottom won’t burn and it will cook through.  Bake until beautiful.

500g rhubarb

160g sugar

100g butter

grated lemon peel

190g flour

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

60ml of milk to loosen the batter

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“My new wife hasn’t cured me of my grief, loss and depression. Shall I leave her?” Psychotherapeutic advice for real change.

I hardly know where to start as I’m so mixed up and unsettled. Six years ago I married for the second time, after four years alone, which were spent searching desperately for Mrs Right.

In 2008, by some good fortune, I thought I’d met a most lovely lady, whom I quickly took to — having had some seriously bad and fruitless blind dates. We married that year, as we both felt it would be right to make our relationship legal and decent as soon as possible.
But now comes the crunch. I am growing increasingly indifferent towards this hard-working, busy lady — despite her love for me. I’m finding life a void, as I just don’t enjoy spending time with her.
Often there is a third person with us wherever we go: namely a camera-phone, which, despite my protestations, always seems to spring from her bag sooner or later. That makes me feel even more alone.

My wife and I are both in our late 50s and quite healthy. Two years ago we moved halfway across the country to be near her relatives and to make a fresh start — which I hoped might help. But it’s only made the situation between us worse, as I’ve not taken to our new surroundings like she has.
I’m becoming seriously depressed and feel there is simply nothing to look forward to any more.
To make matters worse I lost both of my parents in 2012/13, and miss them so much. 
I feel I have reached the end of my tether and would rather be alone, full stop. What advice can you give me?
PS: My first marriage lasted 26 years and produced two children and five grandchildren, whom I rarely see except at weddings, etc. They all have little time for me as they are busy with their own lives.

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail

My Thoughts:

PS. The real issue in this letter is addressed in the PS, an afterthought. You are still deeply upset by the end of your first marriage and feel abandoned by your own family. You have perhaps tried to move on from them instead of focusing on improving those relationships. Moving on from one’s own children is not possible, as you are finding.

There is something odd straight away about the language of this letter. “Desperately searching for Mrs Right” is a turn of phrase, of course, but it’s quite an ominous beginning. The desperation immediately makes the incipient relationship sound shaky as your need overshadows anything real. You make clear you were looking for the ideal woman who, obviously, doesn’t exist.

The “seriously and bad and fruitless blind dates” followed by a quick marriage in order to be “decent” is also striking. It does sound as though you were in a frantic state, looking for marriage as an institution, as a defence against emptiness and despair. You were looking for something that sounded rather empty (“Mrs Right”) and you found it. You now say you are “indifferent” to your wife and that life is “a void” because you don’t enjoy her company. This is not a particularly complex point, but it sounds as thought it’s your own company you don’t enjoy. You gave her 100% responsibility for your happiness and state of mind before you even met her and now find that she cannot fill your void or help you to enjoy life. You sought a fantasy and ended up with an ordinary woman who could not cure your depression and sense of emptiness.

You try to blame her phone, but it sounds as though you find her and her habits irritating. You don’t say she’s addicted to her phone and ignores you in favour of it. You say she loves you and, by the sounds of it, she takes photos on her phone. You are irritated by her, not by her phone or her addiction to it. You say she is “hard-working” and “busy”.  Perhaps you feel neglected by her as well as by your children, whom you also describe as “busy”, and this might be addressed by telling them this, as a start. (I wonder if you had parents who were too busy for you, though you make no reference to this. Still, it’s a theme and perhaps a long-familiar state).

Again you try a “fresh start” (presumably both acknowledging that marriage itself was not enough of a fresh start) but you haven’t “taken to the new surroundings.” You state clearly that you are “becoming seriously depressed” and say there is “nothing to look forward to”. You feel the woman and the surroundings are the problem – this seems unlikely.

Clearly you are very unwell and feel terrible, but the mistake you are making is to blame your wife and/or the countryside. I would suggest you were already depressed before you met her and you are now using her as a defence against looking at the real causes and effects of your depression. You feel if she would change or if you could be with someone else somewhere else you’d be happy. This is probably not true.

You are recently bereaved (mentioned almost as an aside) and you are also missing your children and grandchildren. It has been a devastating time for you and it sounds as though you hoped a new relationship would cure you. You are blaming your wife for her failure to do this but really it sounds as though there is a lot of work to do on yourself. The catastrophic loss of your parents and your first family are things you perhaps haven’t worked through and these losses are still having a powerful effect on you.

Of course, your new wife may also be an irritating and unsuitable partner – your desperation to find her and the quick marriage suggest that you didn’t take much time to get to know her or to think about what you really needed (not from a partner, but from life, from yourself, from some therapy). She was a safety net or a life raft rather than a person to you by the sounds of it. It may well be that you would be better able to sort yourself out and deal with your grief without her, but the focus should be on you improving your state of mind rather than on her changing or on leaving her.

Advice for lasting change via Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com

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“I think my partner is unfaithful and I keep digging. Am I right?” Advice for Real Change – No quick fixes (sorry)

“My girlfriend and I (both 26) have been together in a long-distance relationship for eight years. It was a dream until she became a successful chartered accountant when she got a job, while I was doing not so well academically.
I dropped out of my law course  as I did not find it challenging enough. After that, I joined an organisation, where I worked  for a year.
During this time, we were going through a rough patch as she seemed to be uninterested in me. I later found out that she was having an affair with a man from her office.

I was devastated. When I confronted her, she admitted it but said she didn’t want to hurt me, wasn’t leaving me and still loved me. She promised she would break it off, and I told myself that she was scouting for other options since I wasn’t doing so well.
Two months later I found out she was still seeing him. Again, it was painful, but I decided that the  fault was with me for under-achieving — so I joined a Masters in Business Administration course.

She told me she was trying to break it off, but the guy was overbearing and emotionally blackmailing her.
She did finally end it and changed her company to move to the city where I live. Although we have never ever spoken about the extent to which they were involved, she told me that she was not involved physically (although she was living alone) and I trust her.
Or rather, I’m trying to trust her — but it’s hard.
I am quite successful at my MBA course and looking forward to getting a good job in the next few months. Moreover, our parents are involved now and we are planning to get married  next June.
That being said, she has a very good friend who worked for her old company. Recently, she made a work trip to London during which she met up with him and had a great time. However, since then she has been secretive.
She hides her phone, gets angry if I ask something and says I’ve developed a habit of digging.
But as a result, I have realised she lies to me about things related to this friend of hers. This is creating a lot of emotional problems and making me jealous.
I have tried talking to her, but I don’t think she’s completely forthcoming. She pushes me away, saying that people have secrets their partners shouldn’t be concerned about — and they are just good friends.
I try to believe it, but her behaviour depicts a different picture. I am at loss. What is wrong with me? Please help me.”

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail. 

My Thoughts: 
You say the relationship was “a dream” until she became more successful than you, in your own perception. The use of “a dream” does immediately suggest that perhaps there is a fantasy element to how well the relationship was really going, especially as it was long-distance. Then your idea that things started going less well when she became more successful than you suggests that this has more to do with your own self-esteem and how you evaluate success than with anything coming from her.

You say your course wasn’t challenging enough and that she seemed “uninterested” in you – it does feel as though you don’t deem yourself very interesting (you don’t much blame her for her perceived lack of enthusiasm).  Clearly, the vocabulary you use throughout is indicative of a relationship that is not healthy – hides, uninterested, angry, secretive, emotional problems, digging, jealous, secretes, pushes me away, at a loss, painful, devastated, not doing so well.

You don’t say how you “found out” about her affair but it seems she didn’t tell you about it – this points to a lack of intimacy and trust on both sides. She wasn’t fully open with you and you weren’t fully open with her (you must have investigated rather than asking).

Again you mention that weren’t doing well and I assume you mean you were feeling unhappy and unstable. You translate this into the kind of achievement you can tick off on a chart and you start on a new academic qualification. I think you already needed some therapy at this point since you rate yourself solely on acheivements and assume she’s doing the same. This is hugely unlikely to be the case, but she may, of course, have been struggling with your depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

Though you were living apart and she apparently “admitted” an affair, she says it wasn’t physical and you do not believe her. Trying to believe someone is an admission of not believing them. You make it very clear that you do not trust her and it’s impossible to tell from your letter whether or not she is trustworthy.

But you certainly feel very insecure in terms of what you call “success” and whether or not you are loved (translated, as so often, into sexual fidelity). You put the onus upon her to be trustworthy rather than looking at your own feelings of anxiety and inadequacy which I imagine would exist with or without this particular woman.

She says you have developed a “habit of digging” and that “as a result” you’ve uncovered some lies. If you feel the need to dig then you don’t trust her and this should already raise a huge red flag. Even if you had not uncovered any lies the mistrust would still be there. You have a fantasy that if you could prove she was 100% faithful to you all the time you could relax and be happy. However, nobody can provide that kind of constant reassurance forever. The unease resides in you and not in her behaviour.

She has already admitted one fidelity and you have decided to put up with that. Why? There seems to be a fair amount of masochism here and a desire to uncover things about your partner in order to prove your suspicions right. They may well be right (I’d say they are if I had to guess) but why do you continue a relationship with someone of whom you are suspicious? I suspect that it is partly a defensive measure that means you won’t have to look at the source of your anxiety and esteem issues because you can just blame them on her. However, that isn’t working because you seem to be aware that you need help.

You say very little about how you feel about her, what she’s like, what you do together – it’s all about your mistrust of her. You want her to make you feel happy, confident and successful. Of course, nobody can do that if you feel as worthless as you do.

It’s impossible to look at the underlying issues here with so little information, but I suspect you have never been able to live up to parental expectations of you and that you were brought up to perform well at school in order to feel loved. I wonder if your jealousy has a root in sibling rivalry – you felt your mother preferred a higher-achieving brother? Of course, this could be more classically Oedipal – a higher achieving father (particularly sexually) constantly won the battle for mother’s affection and something got in the way of your ability to work through this.

These are wild and fairly crass guesses, but what is clear is that you must think about and address these underlying issues before trying to fix your relationship or before embarking upon a new one with someone you feel you can trust. Marriage seems like a bad idea while you are still so anxious and uncertain about this person. Could you trust anyone fully? We don’t know. But we do know that you don’t trust this person and that your focus on that and on her behaviour is distracting you from the real issues – your own depression and anxiety and the lack of self-worth that makes you blame yourself for her infidelity and stay in a deeply unhappy relationship.

Proper Advice for Real Change via Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com

 

 

 

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