Life

Venting about everything bad at the moment

Hello, I need to vent. You know how your life seems to be all okay for a bit, maybe it’s not great, but nothing too bad, and then suddenly it all just collapses around you?

My physical health is deteriorating.

  • (note: talking about weight) I was supposed to be gaining weight because I am fairly underweight, but instead I lost more weight. Gah! (I am not restricting / other ED behaviors, I just have trouble getting enough food in my body and cooking and stuff. It’s more of an “it’s too much effort” thing.)
  • I’ve had my period for 13 days now.
  • I went to the eye doctor for my annual eye exam and said that I’d been getting headaches above my eyes when I read or look at things up close for too long. He took my concerns seriously, which I really appreciate, but he also seemed to think something was really wrong and said “this will really affect your career” if it gets worse over time and I can’t read and stuff. I have to go back for a 2-3 hour appointment to see what happens when my eyes get fatigued.
  • My hip has been hurting off and on this summer, and yesterday it was hard to walk comfortably at times.
  • My armpit was hurting two times earlier in the summer, and now it’s hurting again. My primary care doctor thought it was just a pulled muscle or something, but now I’m worrying it’s something else since it has happened repeatedly. On the other hand, if it is a pulled muscle, why isn’t it healing? What am I doing wrong? I know that I’m physically pretty weak and don’t have strong muscles, but I don’t know how to get stronger if I don’t use them??

Other stuff

  • I’ve been home alone all week and it’s been lonely and hard. It also makes me worried for after college if I get an apartment on my own or something and have to live alone for much longer periods of time. I don’t think I could do it. I guess I could have roommates. Well, that’s a problem for future me.
  • Since I’m home alone, I have to take care of our family’s chickens. I’m supposed to put them away at night and feed them and let them out in the morning. I didn’t put them away last night because I was in an awful mood, and it was really late and I was scared of predators (coyotes, etc.). Luckily none of the chickens were eaten or killed during the night, but now this morning I have to feed them while they’re running around, not locked up in the coop. I’m scared of doing this because the roosters are big and want to attack me! And I have to move the coop too. And it looked like they were out of water. And then after all that I have to clean the house and pack in the next two hours because I’m going on vacation.
  • I’ve started disliking my friends and this freaks me out. Does this mean I just don’t like anyone? What is wrong with me? My friends are people that I’ve really liked and enjoyed spending time with in the past. What’s going on? I’m confused.
  • (note: talking about sex) I was talking to a friend yesterday about dating and stuff, and it just really upset me. But I figured out why it upset me at least! I really don’t want to have sex and am disgusted by it and afraid of it. I don’t know if this means I’m asexual or if it’s just one of the many things I’m afraid of or ashamed of. I kind of always thought that what makes a relationship different from a friendship is sex, but I kinda want a relationship, without the sex? I feel like no one else would want that though. Now I’m thinking maybe I am ace. Hmm. Gah. I’ll think about that later.
  • I’ve been wanting to quit therapy for a while for lots of reasons that I don’t feel like explaining, but now I’m realizing that I’m still struggling a lot and could use some therapy. I guess I’m sad that I still need it. And ashamed. And confused about what to do.

So those are the things I’m struggling with at the moment. Oh and also I did not get enough sleep last night. Okay. I’m going to try again to feed the chickens and move the coop… any support or encouragement is appreciated.

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Life, Positives

Recent progress and good things

Hello! Some things are going well in my life right now, and I’m in a (perhaps temporarily) good mood, so I’m going to jot them down quickly while I’m excited!

  • I got my first ever paycheck yesterday!! 🙂 As I mentioned before, this is the first real job I’ve ever had, which I was ashamed about before but am mostly not ashamed of now (it’s fine, I’ve done other stuff, I was emotionally unwell for a long time, I was focusing on school and health, there are other people like me, etc.). Anyway, I have earned money by my own hard work in a formal, official, way (vs. babysitting which wasn’t very official and volunteering things that have been official but not paying). It’s going into my bank account, and I have freedom and options — I could spend it on random things I want! :O I could spend it on things I need anyway but that I would otherwise have to use my parents’ money for, so I get to feel less ashamed of that. I can save it for grad school :O ! I can save it for an emergency and feel more prepared! I can spend it on visiting friends! I can do all of the above! YAY!!! 🙂
  • I’ve been running a DBT group for my family to teach them some interpersonal effectiveness skills, and it’s been going really well! There are fewer arguments in my family now, which was my main goal in doing this. My dad said that he loves each of us and that his top priority right now is having good relationships with each of us. He said that my mom is the most important person in the world to him, and that us kids are a super small half inch behind. I didn’t really think he loved us. I thought and was kind of hoping that him and my mom would get a divorce. I was thinking about cutting him out of my life altogether. But now he’s shown that he does care. It’s amazing, and I’m very happy and grateful that he does feel this way, and that he’s able to express it now. I feel like we’re all on the same page now because we’ve established that we love each other. So now we can address communication issues from a common understanding that we love each other. I’m hopeful about the future of my family.
  • I’ve been to my local library a few times so far this summer and am really enjoying it. I hadn’t been in a looong time. I’ve been reading some books (!), which I haven’t done much of in recent years due to a concussion, being triggered by much of the contents due to ptsd, and lack of concentration due to depression. But I found some books that I liked and really wanted to read, instead of trying to force myself to read books that I felt like I should read. I used to love reading as a child and am so glad that I can do it again. 🙂 (For anyone interested, I really enjoyed “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard P. Feynman (funny and sciencey stories) and Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (rom-com). John Green is one of my favorite authors and creators, and I realized that I somehow hadn’t read all of his books! :O So now I’m doing that. 🙂
  • I’ve been having some digestive issues since January, and I am finally taking a medicine that is actually helping! :O Phew! 🙂
  • I’ve been driving into the city about 45 min. from my house. I was in a car accident before I got my license, so I was terrified of driving before I even knew how to drive. I’ve been improving and challenging myself slowly over the past few years, and I am super proud of finally being able to drive into the city. It’s a challenge because it involves merging onto busy roads, navigating intersections, dealing with other cars, driving for sometimes over an hour, and parallel parking once I get to my destination. It was really scary at first, but it’s getting better with time and exposure. Being able to drive to the city is really helpful in a practical way because my current therapist’s office is there, and most of my doctor appointments are there, too. This means that I don’t have to ask for rides from my parents, and I have more freedom. Yay! I am literally expanding my comfort zone. There’s a certain distance/time away from my house that I’m comfortable driving, and it used to be about half an hour max. Now my comfort zone includes the city. 😀

Ta da! 😀 There are also some things that aren’t going great, but I want to focus on the good for now, and I will do what I can to deal with them when I’m done writing this.

Does anyone have any good fiction recommendations?

Also, I haven’t posted in a while — What happened is that I got into a perfectionism spiral over writing/posting, thinking that what I wrote had to be good and that if I was going to write about something, I had to have fully formed ideas and that I had to write everything I would ever possibly think about it. As time went on and I didn’t post, I got more stressed out about it and avoided it more. When I tried writing, it didn’t seem “good,” and I gave up again. This pattern happens to me a lot in school, too: generate too high expectations/perfection –> procrastinate/avoid –> increase expectations because now that I’m late, whatever I do has to be better because I’ve had more time to work on it –> avoid more. I suppose some solutions could be to not procrastinate in the first place (i.e. get in a routine of just doing things right away), lower my expectations, be more compassionate and forgiving towards myself… things like that. I’ll think more about it I guess.

Coping Skills, Life, Uncategorized

Judgments and shame about applying to jobs

I’ve been struggling lately with a lot of judgments about myself. It seems that whatever I do, there’s a voice in the back of my head telling me what’s wrong with it.

I have a lot of judgments about where I think I “should” be in life, about things I think I “should” have done already, about the school I go to, about my mental health and its effects on my life… so many.

I feel afraid to put myself out in the world for fear of people gossiping about me, thinking negative things about me, and then ostracizing me.

I’m trying to apply to internships and jobs for the summer. I feel ashamed that I haven’t had a job before. When I think about applying to certain jobs, I immediately discount them because I immediately think of the negative things my family could say. I go to a “good” college, and people seem to expect more from me as a result. If I got a “typical” summer job, I can imagine that my mom would not approve. I can imagine her stare down at me and her sigh of disappointment, and then the twenty minute speech. I think she would either tell me to “just relax,” or to get a better internship and then give me a list of names or websites and tell me to email people… (“just relaxing” and staying cooped up in the house all day has made me really depressed in the past; emailing even one person is really intimidating for me and takes a lot of work; plus, I’ve already emailed people)

My purpose in getting a job this summer is to 1) make money and to 2) get out of the house.

Making money helps my long-term goals by making me less financially dependent on my parents, as I am now. I could also start saving for life expenses after college or maybe for grad school, if I decide I want to try to go there at some point. (Right now, my parents are paying for college, which I definitely appreciate, but I would likely be paying for grad school on my own.) I could also have “spare cash” to spend on eating out with friends and birthday gifts, and I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty every time I used my parents’ money.

Getting out of the house would help me get away from my family, be productive, have something to occupy my mind with, and possibly help me to socialize with people beyond my family. I suppose a theme in this is that I want to be more independent from my family!

So, I have good reasons for wanting a job (or internship). I’m sure that this is what I want. It’s valid to want a job.

I’m still in school, so of course I don’t have lots of experience. I’m still qualified in other ways. I’ve done things in the past. I’ve had a lot of schooling! I’m an okay person. I have some good qualities.

Some of my shame around not having experience comes from the fact that I spent most of last summer doing a partial hospital program for my mental health while my friends had jobs or internships, or both. But I can’t tell that to an employer, even though I was working hard and being quite productive, even though I wasn’t just hanging out at home as I normally tell people.

Sighhh

I think I just have to do my best with what I have now, knowing that the work I did last summer on my mental health was very valuable, even if I can’t tell everyone that.

Another thing I feel shame about is general formal interactions with people. I don’t know the proper etiquette. No one’s ever taught me! So I feel shame when I think I may have done something wrong, or when I’m not sure how to act, when to send an email, what to write, etc.

Shame signals that you have broken a group’s value and could be excluded, so when I’m applying for jobs and I could be rejected, yes, shame is justified! Shame is justified, but the intensity that I feel it is probably not effective. It’s probably more effective to send an imperfectly worded email than it is to send no email at all. The intense shame would prevent me from sending any email, but a little shame could make the email better.

Agh, it’s hard! And getting rejected is hard, too! I will keep trying… maybe not forever, because this is exhausting, but for a little more…

So, skills that will help:

  • checking the facts and doing what’s effective
  • self validation
  • FAST (especially Stick to your values)
  • fake it ’til you make it / opposite action
  • being nonjudgmental towards myself, noticing judgments and saying “a thought is just a thought,” not necessarily believing judgments

I was writing (most of) this at the time that I was struggling with this issue, in more of the way I write things in my journal than how I write them on this blog. So, if this seems a little unclear, like it’s jumping from one idea to another, or like some loose ends weren’t tied up, that’s why. I did try to go back and clarify things so that it can make some sense to people-who-aren’t-me.

And, a couple of weeks after I started writing this post, I am very happy to say that I did finally get a job!!! 🙂 It is not an internship, and it’s not full-time, but it will get me out of the house and earn me money, and I think it’ll be fun, too! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 And if I find some unpaid, part-time internship, I could potentially do both things and still accomplish my goals of earning money and getting out of the house. Wooh! It actually worked out! 🙂

Life, Therapy

Challenges and benefits of getting better

(Note: brief, vague mentions of self harm, eating struggles, deaths, and violence) 

I am happy and proud to say that I have been feeling much better recently!

My PTSD has almost disappeared! I have nightmares less than once week now, and their content is much less violent and traumatic. I can’t remember the last time I had a flashback! I’ve had many fewer intrusive thoughts, too.

I think the main reason for these improvements in my PTSD is that I’ve been doing Prolonged Exposure and directly confronting traumatic memories. I’m proud of this because I’ve put in the work and done things that scared me and were hard to do. I may write about this more later, but it really is remarkable to me how much it has helped.

I have so much more free time in my day now. Being upset took up so much of my days! I have more time available for going to class, doing homework, and hanging out with my friends, and sometimes I even have free time left over after that!

I got grades that I am proud of this semester; I took on a leadership position in a club I’m part of; I even tried flirting with someone I had a crush on!

Getting better is a change, and change can be scary

However, there are still struggles in getting better. It’s new and very different from how the past few years of my life have been. Change of any type is hard and scary for me, even when it’s positive change. There are new things to get used to.

Experimenting with the possibility of dating someone was a very stressful experience for me, even though I’m glad I tried and have grown from it and made a new good friend (I told him I liked him; he said he didn’t like me back, but we’re still good friends). There are a lot of situations I’m not used to being in. Applying for jobs? Having interviews that aren’t for therapy programs?!

It’s scary, but I’m growing. 🙂

Higher expectations for myself

As my mental health improved, my expectations for myself shot up. Before, I called a day a success if I went to all my classes and ate some meals, and I’d be proud of that and pat myself on the back because I knew it had been hard to do. When those things got easier and more routine, I felt that I needed to do more. I thought that since I was doing better, I had to take school more seriously and actually get better grades (in part to make up for the lower ones I’d gotten when I was struggling more). My mental health had been holding me back before, and it wasn’t now, so I felt that there was no excuse to not do well, to not do everything, to not be like my peers.

I didn’t see it at the time, but those were unrealistic expectations. There is a lot of room in-between managing to make it to most classes and getting straight A’s; it’s not strictly one or the other. I expected myself to be perfect all of a sudden. I wanted to be able to make up for all the things I’d missed out on over the years all at once.

Wanting these things did make me more motivated, and I plan to achieve many of the things that I realized I wanted — someday. I have to radically accept that I can’t do everything all at once, and I can’t do everything so fast. I need to be patient with myself. While it’s great that I am getting better and seeing improvements, I’m not fully better. It’s a slow process and something that I need to keep working on.

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Not everything gets better

Another thing to radically accept is that there are some things in my life that don’t get better as my mental health gets better. I came home from college recently, and it was a bit of a rude awakening to see my parents arguing just as much as they had been when I left. My improvement hadn’t affected them — of course it wouldn’t, but somehow I just assumed that everything in my life would get better as my mental health improved. That’s not the case.

Therapy also can’t make up for the fact that I have two family members missing in my life. Opposite action can’t bring them back from the dead. I think that I am dealing with the losses better than I was a few months ago (I’m not incapacitated by sadness; I don’t spend most of my days lying on my bedroom floor crying; eating isn’t as much of a struggle), but they are still gone. I am still sad. The grief resurfaces every now and then.

Worries about things worsening

Another challenge is that I worry about my mental health worsening again. Now that I’ve experienced how good things can be, I feel a deeper loss when I’m temporarily feeling worse again. I know all the things I’m missing out on and feel sorry for myself.

When something goes wrong, I also worry that it’s the beginning of the end. Will I go back to being depressed and tormented by nightmares? Good things can’t last forever, right? Is this a temporary blip in my life, or a more lasting change?

If I check the facts on these fears, I can see that the gradual changes I’ve made over the past year have lasted so far. I can see that I have been doing the treatment recommended to me by multiple therapists who believed that it would improve my life, and they agree that I have made lots of progress.

Yes, more bad things are bound to happen in my life, but I do have better skills to deal with them now. I haven’t self-harmed in maybe four months? I “graduated” from DBT group, and I use the healthier coping skills that I learned there every day. I can get through things.

Same friends, new relationships?

When I became friends with the people I’m friends with now, I was struggling, and I was looking (consciously or unconsciously) for certain things in friends — sensitive, a good listener, etc. In addition, many of my friends have their own struggles with mental illness. I’ve also stayed in touch with some people I knew from group therapies.

As a result of these things, many of my interactions with my friends were centered around me venting/asking for support, or me providing emotional support to my friends. I was happy and grateful for that, and it enabled me to have deep, intimate friendships, but I’m not struggling as much anymore. What do we talk about now?? What if we can’t relate as much because we’re not in the same dark place anymore? What if my friend liked me because she felt like she was helping me, and now there’s nothing left to be helped? The dynamics have shifted.

I don’t think that any friendships will end over this, but I may end up more distant from certain people, and that makes me sad. I suppose it’s also possible for friendships to evolve as people evolve, and I hope that mine will, because I really do like my friends.

On the other hand, I am also making new friends. Now humor and playfulness are more attractive qualities to me. I want to laugh for a while with a friend more than I want to express to them how badly I’ve been feeling. There is a time and place for both, but I find myself wanting more fun now than I did before. This is another change that is scary for me at times!

My friends enabled my avoidance

Some of my friends also enabled some bad habits that I want to stop doing now. They let me and even encouraged me to avoid things. Part of my exposure therapy is not avoiding things that aren’t objectively dangerous. I don’t want to avoid things anymore, but the message hasn’t sunk in for my friends yet.

Several people know that I hate blood, decapitation, violence, and related things. When there are scenes in movies with those things, they say, “[My Name], don’t look!” They say, “I don’t think you’ll like this movie, it’s not for you.” When I ask, “What are you laughing at on your phone?” they say, “You don’t want to know, you won’t like it, it’s bad, trust me.”

I very much appreciated these warnings at times when I felt like I needed them, but now I feel like I can handle things. I know that avoidance makes my fears stronger. I don’t want to avoid! I am ready to face scary things!

It’s just frustrating that my old habits were so deeply engrained that they spread to my friends, and now I have to change my friends’ habits, too, not just my own.

Overall

Overall, I’m doing so much better now than I was a few months ago. A couple of weeks before final exams, someone asked me how I was doing, and I said “good”! She said, “haha, like the dog in the fire meme?”

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“This is fine” meme — image from https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1401347-this-is-fine

Meaning, was I saying that things were fine when I was really super stressed out about finals? I wasn’t! I was serious that I was doing well! As I thought back on the conversation afterwards, I realized that I wasn’t just doing well, I was doing the best I had been in the past two years. That seems quite amazing to me.

I wrote this post because I think I had an idea in my head of “getting better” that was all perfect sunshine and butterflies, and I wanted to express the ways in which getting better is still hard. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. 🙂

Life, Therapy

Finally talking about my trauma in detail

I experienced a traumatic event four years and nine months ago. I decided to do DBT PE (Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Prolonged Exposure) to treat my PTSD eight months ago. And today, I finally talked about the trauma in detail in therapy.

I’ve been building up to this for so long. I’ve gone over the traumatic event in my head so many times in varying levels of flashback-y-ness but always fairly anxious states. This has been a part of my life for so long.

But I had never said it out loud to another human being. I had never said it in order from start to finish. (well, the finish of one part, at least)

This feels like a watershed moment. Something small but fundamental has shifted inside of me, a change that will grow more pronounced as I continue this treatment.

I am still going about my same daily activities and interacting with the same people, but I feel a little different, as if I’m experiencing everything with freer eyes. It feels a little like what getting baptized felt like, or what traveling to another continent for the first time felt like. I knew logically what to expect, but now I’m experiencing it emotionally.

Of course, it was also really hard, and this is also only the beginning. But I finally said it!!!

Coping Skills, Life

What to do when things aren’t working

I’ve heard other people on blogs and in person express the sentiment that they’re trying everything they know how to do, and it’s not working. What do you do when nothing seems to work?

I’ve been struggling with feeling like nothing’s working recently and then feeling even more hopeless as a result. I’ve been having a tough time since my uncle and and grandmother passed away. I’m grieving and being reminded of past trauma and the recent trauma of their deaths in intrusive and unpleasant ways, all the while being apart from my family (away at college) and trying to literally survive and not fail my classes.

So what do you do??? I wish I had more answers than what I have, but I’ll share what’s getting me through so far, and if anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

Validate yourself. If you’re trying everything you know and using all the skills you have, you’re probably trying really hard and dealing with some pretty hard stuff! Give yourself some credit and acknowledge that you are struggling.

Think about what you mean when you say “things aren’t working.” Sometimes the skills I use do work; they just don’t solve all my problems. For example, the goal of distress tolerance skills in DBT is to get you through the moment without worsening the situation. They’re not supposed to make you feel happy or to get rid of whatever was causing the strong emotion. If I hold ice up to my face (the TIPP skill) in place of acting on crisis urges, then the skill worked. Even if I am still really upset and the crisis urges come back soon, the skill got me through that moment. I expect that skills will help more than they are able to. Having more realistic expectations here would help, I think.

Make sure you’re doing the things that have helped in the past. Personally, I know that I have to eat enough and sleep enough and get exercise and see my friends and have time to myself regularly in order to maximize my okay-ness. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking, “But I slept so much! I ate three meals! I did so much good work and tried so hard! Whyyy am I not feeling better?” and maybe it’s because I’m avoiding my friends and haven’t had a real conversation with anyone in a week. Not doing one essential thing, even when you’re doing all the others, could be the missing piece.

Ask for and accept help from other people. You don’t have to do everything alone! Friends, family, strangers, online friends, old friends, therapists, doctors, etc. can all help! For example, my mom visited me at college this past weekend. She has offered to do this in the past, but this was the first time that I accepted her offer. She was willing to help, and I knew it probably would make me feel better and was desperate. Her visit ended up going great, and I felt much better afterwards deep down.

Still on the topic of asking for help, I sometimes know that I need help but don’t know what I need. When people ask, “What can I do?” or “How can I help?” I don’t know how to answer. I’m still working on learning what I need, but here are some things that I have asked for: a hug (many times), for my friend to let me vent, for my therapist to reply to my email, for an extension on an assignment, for someone to eat a meal with me, for a friend to send me something in the mail, to schedule an appointment with a doctor, to set up a time to facetime a friend. These are things I can ask for! People can always choose to say no, but asking doesn’t hurt and often helps a lot!

Maybe consider bigger changes in your life. I know that if I keep on feeling this badly, taking a semester or a year off of school is an option. Dropping some classes is an option. Going to an inpatient, residential, or day treatment center is an option. Changing my therapist is an option. Transferring schools or switching my major are options. There are lots of options!

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Radically accept that 1) you are having a tough time right now, and that 2) there are things you can’t change and have no control over. This can allow you to see a situation more realistically and therefore make better decisions about the things you can control. I can’t change the fact that my uncle and grandmother died, but I can celebrate their lives, think of fond memories, and strive to embody the qualities I admired in them.

Have patience. I know that this can be really hard to do. But giving things time and just pushing forward can work. Hold on. Time may not heal everything, but it can help with a lot. I have a saying that I like: “There are good days and bad days. Keep going, and you’ll find both.”