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.

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Affirmations, Coping Skills, Positives

An affirmation — Resilience

I’ve been writing things on sticky notes or scraps of paper and posting them around my room for a while now. Sometimes when I pull myself out of a bad place, there’s some nugget — thought, belief, or quote — that helped me out of the darkness, and I jot it down so that I’ll remember it in the future. I’ve amassed a nice collection and would like to share them.

Here is one (fyi, with a swear word):

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“I am so fucking RESILIENT.”

This has been inspiring me and giving me hope and confidence recently. I have been met with lots of challenges, but I have survived all of them.

I like It’s Okay Not to Be Okay‘s daily motivation quotes and would like to do something similar, so I will schedule these to be posted once a day for the next two weeks. Yay 🙂 I’m trying something new here in my blogging!

DBT connection: This is like the E in the “IMPROVE the moment” skill: Encouragement.

Life, Positives

I forgot we live in a universe

(Note: very brief mention of self-harm urges)

Today has been a rough day for a number of reasons that I don’t want to dwell on right now.

I wanted to hurt myself, but I decided I would look at my pros and cons list (pros and cons of hurting myself vs. using skills and not hurting myself) before I did anything in order to be sure that I was making the right decision. (This story is going somewhere, I promise, and it even has a happy ending!)

I didn’t know where I put my hard copy of my pros and cons list, so I went hunting through the photos on my phone in my “Lists” album, where I keep pictures of a lot of my go-to self care / skills info. Instead of finding it, I came across a picture of strategies I had a while ago for “reorienting yourself,” or grounding yourself.

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my list

It says:

Reorienting yourself

  • zoom out in time
  • zoom out in space
  • close your eyes and open htem
  • take stock of your limbs
  • how long until death? Is this an urgent, life-or-death problem?
  • what was happening before this?
  • look at a to-do list, planner, email, recent texts 

I was feeling dissociated, so I tried some of these. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, I tried to really see everything around me. I counted how many limbs I have. I realized that I am not in imminent danger, and neither is anyone in my family. I reviewed what I did earlier in the day.

And, I zoomed out in space. I imagined myself where I am, in my room, and then I zoomed out… to our house… our town… neighboring towns… our state… this part of the country… North America… the globe… little earth… the moon… our solar system… our galaxy……

It was at this point that I wondered if the Milky Way is part of a cluster of galaxies. Are there other galaxies near by us? Do galaxies even cluster together??

So I followed my train of thought because it was positive and a good distraction, and it made me feel curious and interested (emotions I haven’t felt much recently).

I googled “is the milky way part of a cluster.” It turns out it is! It’s part of the Virgo Supercluster.

Hmmmm, cool!

Then I remembered that there was some youtube channel I couldn’t remember the name of that had a bunch of good astronomy videos I had liked. I wanted to find the channel, so I got my computer and dug through google drive to find the website that I had made for my high school astronomy class, thinking my website would help me find the youtube channel.

I looked through the website and was reminded of the cool things I learned in astronomy that year. I had pictures of the moon and of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons that we took right outside our high school one evening. I had essays I wrote about the more philosophical parts of astronomy. They were good to read.

I eventually found the part of my website where I linked to the youtube channel I was trying to find. Yay! I went to the channel, SciShow Space, and watched some videos.

One was about how the universe could be shaped like a torus (a donut). I had never really thought about the shape/topology of the universe before. I assumed it was spherical and infinite, I suppose. At the end of the video, the person talking said that if the universe were a torus, that you’d maybe be able to look out into the sky and see our galaxy, the Milky Way, but much younger — the way it was many years ago. You’d be able to wave to yourself.

Mindboggling. The universe is so weird.

A supernova could explode in our direction at any time and obliterate not just us, but our planet, our sun, and our solar system. There are things out there that operate on such different scales than our lives normally revolve around.

I can’t believe I forgot we live in a universe. There is so much more that exists than just me and my family, than everywhere I’ve been in my life, than our entire planet… there is so much more.

So, yeah, wow, that sticky note was actually incredibly helpful. Zooming out in space was just what I needed to do. And looking through the “Lists” album on my phone was the thing that led me to that, so that was helpful, too.

It was also good because it rekindled interests I forgot I had. There were many years growing up where I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I used to think about the universe a lot.

It also made me think more about geometry, math, science. I love geometry so much. I think I’ve briefly mentioned on here that I’m in engineering school. I’ve loved math and science for as long as I can remember. Since I’ve been on winter break, I haven’t gotten to spend much time on those interests. I was actually really craving math homework recently.

Wow. It was really good to be reminded of all that — the things I love to do, the universe we live in, the awe and wonder and imagination.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
This is what we see when we look at the darkest part of the sky — not dark at all, but filled with galaxies, billions of light years away. Source: “Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014” from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website.


Did you forget that we live in a universe??

Have you ever been reminded out of the blue of (good) things you had forgotten?

Positives

Major accomplishments of 2018

I have actually made a lot of progress in 2018.

Mental Health

I’ve gotten more serious about making actual progress in therapy instead of using it as more of a temporary fix to my immediate problems and worries. In the winter/spring, I made a bunch of new lists to follow in different situations. Over the summer, I started DBT, which has really helped me. I learned more about emotions. I was a little clueless before. I can now generally identify what I’m feeling — sadness, anger, shame, fear, love, etc. — and understand where that emotion came from and whether or not it fits the facts of the situation. I didn’t really know that shame was an emotion before this year, and I feel shame a lot!

I also learned what dissociation is, what it feels like for me when it’s happening, and what I can do to stop it. Another thing I didn’t know that was happening to me a lot!

I made the decision to start prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD. I’ve been doing behavioral exposures on my own to things I avoid and things that scare me for the past few months, and already I can see a significant improvement in my PTSD symptoms. There are some reminders that I can fully tolerate now, like pictures of brains, and some reminders that don’t give me as bad flashbacks, like car chase or car crash scenes in movies. I am also doing exposure stuff in therapy and plan to do more.

Relationships

I’ve developed some very close friendships. I have one friend in particular that I’m very close with. I think it may be the most intimate (emotionally intimate) relationship I’ve ever had. I tell her so much. She tells me a lot, too. I love her and am so glad we’re friends.

I’m also much closer with my parents, mainly thanks to the DBT program I did this summer and the family therapy that came with it. They now understand the nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, and suicidal thoughts I struggle with. Although we still don’t always get along, it’s nice to not have to carry around those secrets anymore. I can also get emotional support from them sometimes, especially my mom. She has made an effort to learn how to validate my feelings, and it makes such a difference. Talking to her does actually make me feel better sometimes. It also feels like they’re on my team now. For example, my dad got me “stress relief essential oils” for Christmas, which I probably won’t use because essential oils have upset me before, but it was a sweet gesture that shows he cares and wants to help.

Because I did the program this summer, many more of my friends know that I have mental health issues and am in therapy. Everyone was asking what I was doing over the summer. I could have lied, but I chose to be vulnerable and tell them the truth. I’ve done a lot of vulnerability exposures in the past few months. They are hard but generally bring me closer to people. I recently also told my friends at college that I am in therapy. I kind of let it slip in front of a fairly large group of people at a Secret Snowflake gift exchange. This was a big deal for me because I’m not close with most of those people. But it was fine, and I feel so much better.

Adulting

I can now file an insurance claim! I can call my insurance company, I can set up my own doctor’s appointments, I can choose to take over-the-counter medicines and buy them on my own, I bought my own razor for the first time. A lot of these accomplishments have to do with me being away from home and being able to do things without my mom’s permission.

I set up some certificates of deposit, which mean I’ll be making some money, or at least not losing any to inflation. Planning for the future!

The place where I live at college has a kitchen (unlike last year), and I also had a portion of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable share this fall. As a result, I can now cook or prepare various vegetables for myself. I can make eggs (scrambled or in an omelette) fairly quickly. I can clean a kitchen and feel okay/confident about its cleanliness. I learned to use a gas stove (my family has an electric stove). I plan on doing more cooking next semester.

School

Well, I’m two semesters closer to getting a degree!

I declared my major, but that may change…

I think I’ve gotten better with procrastinating. I haven’t turned anything in past the deadline this semester!! 🙂 One skill that particularly helps me with this is setting a timer for 20 minutes and saying that I’ll only work on it for that amount of time. It helps me to get started on things and not be overwhelmed by all I have to do.

I’ve learned more about engineering and realized how much I like it. 🙂 Although I’m still not entirely sure about what to major in within engineering, and I sometimes think about becoming a psychologist, writer, dancer, or artist instead, I know that I really do like engineering, too. 🙂

General Health

I’ve consistently been getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night. 7 hours is now low for me. There are weeks where I get less, but for the most part, I really have been getting more sleep. This makes me feel so much better emotionally!

I lost some weight unintentionally over the summer and became more underweight than I normally am, but I’ve been seeing a nutritionist at school, and I’ve gained some of it back! More importantly, I am building better habits of eating, like eating 3 meals a day, every day, and snacks in between. I’m keeping more snacks on hand. I’m eating more calorie-dense foods first. If I skip breakfast, I’ll have two dinners instead of simply having only 2 meals that day. I think these strategies will continue to serve me well.

I haven’t had too many headaches! 🙂

Other

I started this blog!!! 🙂 Having a blog is something I’ve dreamed of doing for years. I’m so glad I finally did it and that I am still at it several months after starting. It feels like it gives me more purpose. What I didn’t expect from blogging was getting to read so many other people’s blogs, which has been really nice.

In the spring, I was baptized into a church, and I later left it. It was a very stressful, confusing experience at the time, but I think it has helped me understand what I actually believe, which makes me more confident and causes me to have fewer existential crises. People in this church group also gave me a lot of hugs. I generally avoided physical touch before then, but now I willingly accept hugs, enjoy hugs, give good hugs back, and am comfortable asking friends for a hug when I feel like I need one.

It’s hard to believe that my first time in group therapy was just last year. I’ve made some good friends through group and learned just how not-alone I am. It’s also been eye-opening to be able to talk with people about mental illnesses and similar struggles. I feel like I understand people better.

Lastly, I’ve been dancing for years, and last spring, I finally learned how to do a pirouette! 🙂 One of my goals over winter break is to be able to spin around twice in a pirouette instead of once.

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Yay! This was uplifting to write. 🙂 I’ve liked reading people’s reflections on the year. Do you have an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?

Coping Skills, Positives

There are still good things even when you don’t see them

I’m on the train going to my family’s home for Thanksgiving and am noticing all the good things.

We rode past beautiful bays and beaches, over rivers emptying into the ocean, through forests of bare branches with sun streaming through.

A little girl, maybe 2 or 3, in a cute dress and white sweater walked down the aisle of the train while looking at a phone, like an adult, and bumped into someone. It was so cute. It made me smile, and the person across the aisle from me (the one the little girl bumped into) saw me smiling and smiled, too.

I texted a bunch of friends I haven’t spoken to in a while. Scrolling through my recent text messages, I can see people from middle school, high school, college, my summer program, and my family. All these nice friends! I’m so glad I have all these great people in my life, even if I don’t see them that often.

The guy sitting next to me apologized after being on the phone for a while (which didn’t bother me at all) and asked if I’d mind if he ate lunch. It was very nice to be treated so politely and considerately.

I’ve been thinking more about gratitude lately since it’s Thanksgiving time. This year I have been making a real effort to pay attention to the good things.

At the beginning of the new year, I saw a BuzzFeed post that mentioned keeping a calendar of good things, or something like that. I liked the idea, and I’ve been actually following through on it, for the most part. I have a calendar with nice pictures hanging on my wall, and each day I write down one good thing that happened in gold sharpie (or green sharpie more recently because my gold ran out).

I don’t put pressure on myself to decide on the best thing that happened that day; just one good thing is enough. Sometimes it’s a good dance class, or someone saying something nice about me, or a yummy dessert I ate, or laughing at something. Some days, or weeks, I forget to fill it out, but that’s okay.

I’ve also been keeping a gratitude journal, which I write in as part of my morning routine. I write in it somewhat infrequently, but when I do do it, it really starts my day off well.

I say all this because noticing, remembering, and focusing on these good things has actually been really helping me. I notice such a difference in myself when I do these things regularly. I’m more tuned in to all the good things going on throughout the day. I’m happier, more appreciative, more loving, and more relaxed.

Sometimes when I’m feeling hopeless and depressed, I challenge myself to think of five good things, right now. In that state of mind, it’s hard to think of good things. I tell myself that anything good is fine; it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Oh, look, that cloud is really nice. That leaf that just fell in front of me has pretty colors. I’m walking and able to use all four limbs. I have a therapist. My jacket is warm. That’s five right there.

I have a friend who sometimes talks very negatively about the world. I wish she knew that when everything looks awful, it’s the depression talking and not the way the world really is. There are good things in the world. I have been in that place where it looks like there aren’t. But that’s just because my emotions are clouding my vision.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t bad things, too. There are, and those are very real and very valid. But it’s not all bad.

There are so many good things in the world, in my life, in my present. Even when I don’t see them, they’re still there. I think that’s important to remember.

Life, Positives, Therapy

I’m doing better

For the first time in a while, I am feeling solidly okay.

  • Sirens aren’t a trigger for me anymore. I go to school in the city, and this was a huge problem for me last year. I would get caught in flashback-y/dissociative states for a few hours as a result of hearing the unremitting sirens just outside my window.
  • Brains aren’t a trigger for me anymore. We look at lots of pictures of brains in my psychology class, and I am not alarmed and do not associate them with traumatic memories anymore (at least not unless I consciously prompt myself to think of the connection, like now).
  • I’ve been having fewer nightmares. I haven’t had a really bad nightmare, one where I wake up in a panic attack, in a while. The few nightmares that I have had haven’t been that bad.
  • I don’t feel as dependent on my therapist(s); I don’t feel as much of a need for a therapist. I think this is because I have formed other close relationships in my life where I feel comfortable talking about things similar to those that I talk about in therapy. What I want most from therapy right now is to do the trauma work (which keeps getting put off, because I didn’t have enough time left at the program I did over the summer to do the trauma work then, and then when I got a new therapist I had to get used to her, and I was overwhelmed at the start of the school year and thought I couldn’t handle anything extra until school settled down). As kind, sensitive, caring, and wonderful as my friends are, I know they don’t have the knowledge or experience (or time) to help me work through my trauma. So I still need therapy for that.
  • I haven’t self harmed in a while… maybe a month? I think the past few times I have self harmed have each been about a month apart. I’d say that’s pretty good! I used to self harm a lot, maybe a few times a week, although I didn’t think of it as self harm at the time.
  • I’m getting better at asking for things!
  • I’m being more vulnerable with friends, gradually, slowly.
  • My college feels like a real home now. Last year, my home home (place where I grew up and my family still lives) felt like my real home, and I missed it a lot. It was a better place than college. In contrast, this year, my college home is better than my family’s home. My suite there is my home, and my suitemates are my family. When I go back to my family’s home, I miss my suitemates. My suite is a much more supportive environment than my family’s home, and I feel more comfortable being vulnerable and being myself there. And my friends are there. And we’re at similar places in our lives and studying similar things, so it’s much easier to relate and get along. If I squint, I almost feel like I’ve lived here my whole life. In my suite, we have a kitchen and lots of people who love to cook. Sometimes my suitemates make food and share it because they have extra, so I sometimes wake up and am offered freshly made crepes, or come home from a long day and someone says I can have the caramel apples in their fridge. It’s really lovely.
  • I declared my major! This has a lot of benefits. a) It enabled me to drop a hard, stressful class that I don’t need for this major. b) I can stop worrying about what to major in, which I had been worrying about a fair amount for at least half a year. c) I can plan out what classes to take in the rest of my time at college. d) I can see a future for myself that looks at least a little enjoyable. I am more hopeful. 🙂
  • I’m doing my homework regularly.
  • I ask questions more in class and am developing relationships with professors.
  • I’m getting better at knowing what I need. Sometimes I need to express myself, sometimes I need validation, sometimes I need someone to know something, sometimes I need a hug, sometimes I need distraction, sometimes I need help grounding or need help checking the facts, sometimes I need a broader perspective. I am still working on this but have gotten a lot better at identifying what would help in a situation and taking steps to get it.
Positives

The beach

Warm sand that sinks with each step

Squinting in the sun

Smiling in the sun

Wind blowing my hair over my shoulders

Stray hairs across my face

Walking forward against the force of the wind

Sand gradually feels cooler, wetter, denser

A surprise wave laps my toes

Cool clear water

Step forward, cool up to my calves

Little butterfly shells

In purple and orange pastels

Disappear and reappear

As the wave ebbs and flows

White foam comes and disappears

Woosh in, wishh out

Stretching out

To the horizon

We’re here on the edge

Of an immense ocean

And I get to feel the water

And the wind

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