Hi, sorry (again) for being away from wordpress for a few months! I don’t really have a good excuse lol, I guess just that school was busy. Don’t count on me to be reliable!
Good news! I GRADUATED COLLEGE!!! 🙂 🙂 Woo hoo!! This is very exciting! I am proud of this because it really was a LOT of hard work, and I struggled a lot during that time. There were many times that I wanted to drop out, or thought I would fail… but I didn’t! I got through it all!!
I have gotten to celebrate with family and friends, which was very nice. 🙂
I was living on campus this past semester, and I am now living back at home with my family again. The transition is hard, and I don’t really want to be at home. I was having a lot of fun with my friends in person, and people were only just starting to get vaccinated, when I had to leave it all behind. I’m sad and angry about that.
My plan is to get a job or internship for this summer. I don’t have one yet. I didn’t end up taking that job that I wrote about earlier.
I had a pretty good semester, actually. One of my best. My social life, grades, interest in classes, independence, and mental health were all probably the best they’ve been out of all my semesters. This makes it even more sad and frustrating that I had to leave. I was really doing so well. It also makes me sad for all the time on campus that I lost due to covid.
The only major bad thing about this semester is that my health issues continue to worsen. My joint pain is still bad. My hands were hurting to the point that I didn’t want to / couldn’t take notes in class for the first time because of the pain. Dancing was difficult. My doctor thinks my gut/abdomen issues could be endometriosis. I had to go to the ER once. But I’m getting things checked out. I’m going to try a hormonal birth control for the reproductive system issues and hope it doesn’t make me depressed.
I think those are all my updates. 🙂 I will try to be a little more present on wordpress…
Way back when I first started this blog, I started doing a “coping skill of the week” thing. I might go back to it every now and then (but won’t do it every week!).
Anyway, this week I have been trying to have more social connection by snapchatting people pictures and video messages, and just calling people and leaving voicemails.
With most of my life and socialization happening online, it gets lonely. Even if I have a class with my friend, I can’t just turn to them and whisper the way I could if we had class in person. I also can’t talk to people before and after class or run into people in hallways.
So, I am trying to replicate that a bit. Texting sometimes feels unemotional and distant. Sometimes my friends don’t reply to my messages and just “react,” which annoys me. Instead, today, I sent a couple friends Snapchat video messages. I just said hi and that I hoped their day was going well and stuff like that. It felt good. Then my friends snapchatted me back!! 🙂 I got to see their faces moving and hear their voices. It was so nice, so much better than texting.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a time to talk to someone. We have to find a time that works for both of us, schedule it, wait, and show up… it’s a whole long process sometimes. But, with Snapchat video messages, I can kinda have a video conversation with someone asynchronously. We don’t have to plan a time to talk together. They can reply to me whenever they get a chance. And I can send them a message whenever I have something on my mind that I want to share. I can even leave a message in the middle of the night when they’re asleep!
I can also just call or FaceTime people out of the blue. I used to hate when people did this to be because I didn’t want to have to unexpectedly talk to someone, but my perspective has changed now that I’m more desperate for social things and want to see my friends more. Plus, my friends are people I want to talk to, and I’m okay with them seeing or hearing me when I’m not all put-together.
I called my friend and left a voicemail for her last week when she didn’t pick up, and it was good. It was also easier to get a lot of info out at once via talking than it would have been via text. I feel like she also really understood what I was saying, which she might not have if I had just texted.
Yesterday when we had a break in the middle of a long lecture on zoom, I just picked up my phone and FaceTimed my friend. If we were in person together, we would have been chatting and catching up during the break. My friend didn’t pick up, but she FaceTimed me back a few minutes later, and then we chatted for a bit. It was really nice to see and talk to her, even though it wasn’t that long.
I know that there are some other ways of doing this, too—some phones let you send voice messages through the texting app. Snapchat and good old fashioned phone calls seem to be working well for me. I somehow only realized recently that you can send videos, not just still pictures, on Snapchat. It’s basically like leaving a video voicemail!
Anyway, I am really enjoying talking to my friends more often in these small snippets.
How do you keep in touch with people you don’t see in person?
(This is my own experience. I understand that many factors contribute to people’s political beliefs and decisions, and I won’t judge you if you vote(d) for or support(ed) Trump, though I disagree. More on that at the end.)
I feel like it was more of an important historical event than I realized at the time in 2016. I’ve been thinking about it recently, and I am getting scared that it will happen again. There were some other stressful things going on in my life at that time, and I am scared that they will happen again, too. Almost like it’s a mini trauma anniversary.
In 2016 I was a senior in high school. I was 18, finally an adult. I was applying to colleges, and it was a very stressful process. The early application / early decision deadline was Nov. 1. My mom wanted me to apply to a certain school. I didn’t want to apply, and hadn’t done enough on my application. It felt like I was boxed in by what my mom wanted me to do. She sometimes wouldn’t let me hang out with my friends or go to sports practice (essential self care things) because I was behind on my applications. It felt like she was controlling my time and life. I made plans to run away from home. I applied to work at a place that would offer me housing as part of the job.
I ended up sticking it out, staying at home. I submitted my application to the school. I submitted it past the midnight deadline, but the website didn’t stop me, so I guess it was allowed. It was a bad application. I ended up getting rejected from that school.
While this was going on, we were having our roof repaired. But it rained before the seal was put on properly. The roof got wet and soggy, and someone’s foot fell through when he stepped on it. There were big gaping holes in the ceiling in my room, and my mattress got wet. I essentially moved out of my room and was sleeping in a different part of our house for a few weeks.
The application deadline was Nov. 1. A few days later was election day. I voted for the first time. It was fun. I got a sticker.
In school, I was taking AP US Government and Politics. We talked about the election in class a lot. On election night, as a “special treat,” our class had an election night party. We got on two busses, one “Trump” bus and one “Hillary” bus. We went somewhere to eat dinner and watch the results roll in on TV. My teacher gave us each a large map of the US, and we colored in the states red or blue as they were decided.
I remember leaving the main room and going out to the hallway. I found two other people. We cried.
I remember going back in, listening to some of my classmates celebrate when Trump won states. Feeling disgusted.
I remember going back out to the hallway, crying in silence. I got out my colored pencils and tried to color something.
It was meant to be a party, a treat, exciting. But it was so upsetting and shocking. It was a weird atmosphere.
Eventually it was time to leave. We left in a rush. My teacher didn’t collect the red and blue markers he had given us, so I grabbed a bunch so that they wouldn’t be thrown out. I still have them.
I got back on the “Hillary” bus. It was quiet and sad. I wondered what was happening on the “Trump” bus. I asked my teacher, who I trust and respect a lot to this day, what this meant. “What’s going to happen now? What will we do?” For the first time, he didn’t know.
I got home; the election wasn’t decided for sure yet, but I went to bed.
I woke up in the morning in this unfamiliar room on an unfamiliar bed and saw my friend’s snapchat story, captioned “Waking up to a different country.”
These are the memories that stick with me. I think I also just don’t like October in general — some bad (medical and family) stuff happened one October. And I don’t like the gory Halloween decorations. And this is when it gets dark outside.
It all combines together into a not-great feeling.
This November, I’m a senior again, now a senior in college. Thinking about graduation and my next steps again. But I’m still living at home (because of online school). Still feeling trapped within these walls with my family. Still fantasizing about running away. I’m still in touch with that friend and that teacher. Trump is still president.
Of course, a lot of other things have changed, too. I’ve been to college, lived in a city, made new friends, decided to major in mechanical engineering. I went to a partial hospital program, started DBT, did Prolonged Exposure to trauma, and got more open with my friends and family about my mental health. I started this blog! I’m more sure of myself. I’m more informed about the news and social justice. I’ve lived through a pandemic. I’ve managed health insurance. I’ve lost my uncle and grandmother, and developed a string of unresolved physical health problems.
These are good ways to remind myself that this is not 2016, even if some things are similar. “That was then, this is now.” Things change for better and for worse in four years.
(If you are eligible to vote in the US and have not voted yet, please vote! Your vote matters, even if you live in a solidly “blue” or “red” state. Check out this video with 10 reasons to vote right now and look at Vote.org to find your polling place, ballot dropbox location, etc. If you’ve already voted, yay! And if you aren’t eligible to vote in the US, hi! What are politics like where you are?)
If you’re undecided on who to vote for in the presidential election or any other election, vote411.org has unbiased information on candidates. You can also check out candidates’ websites (just google their name and the position they’re running for). Their websites should tell you something about their goals, policies, and ideals.
Personally, I voted for Joe Biden for President. Here are some of the reasons why:
Biden’s website describes what he plans to do in the next four years. Trump’s website does not contain any plans for the next four years. It only lists what he has already accomplished. I think that a President or anyone running for any office should have a plan for what they want to do.
I like Biden’s environment and climate policies. Like a lot of millennials, I think that Climate Change is the #1 problem in the world right now. I care about it because it will make every other problem — poverty, famine, drought, injustice, natural disasters, war, even pandemics — worse. Biden has plans (see website) to create lots of new Green Jobs. He cares about Environmental Justice. He wants the US to have a 100% clean energy economy by 2050.
Instead of modeling how to be safe during a pandemic by wearing a mask, Trump has encouraged dangerous practices and put people in danger. Trump’s rallies have been Covid “super-spreader” events that have gotten many people sick. This is the opposite of what I want from a president.
Biden would give federal money to schools so that they have the resources (like face masks and money to improve ventilation systems) to reopen safely. This would meet the need for safety from Covid, the need for social connection, and the need for money to make it happen.
Trump has divided the country, but Biden wants to reunite it. The last question of the final Presidential debate was “What would you say during your inaugural address to people who didn’t vote for you?” Trump answered the question by attacking Biden. Biden said, “I’m an American president. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me. I’m going to make sure you’re represented.” I think that Trump would continue to polarize the country, and I think that Biden would help to unify it.
I really like Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate and potential Vice President. I watched her in the Vice Presidential debate, and she was confident, firm, and factual. She didn’t talk over Mike Pence. If she can keep a debate calm and not resort to hostility, maybe she can do something to keep the country calm.
This is why I voted for Biden for President. There are other reasons, too, but I don’t want to list them all. I am happy to discuss this respectfully in the comments if you want to.
As a break from all this… here’s a nice video/song with pretty scenery. 🙂 I hope you’re doing alright. ❤
Note, this post contains lots of talk about coronavirus and hygiene, and some talk about the nasal swab test and death, among other things.
(I wrote this about a month ago in the middle of June! I recently found out that, since I’m a rising senior, I am NOT going back to school in person this fall. (I don’t know about the spring yet.) I will do college online this fall. I am relieved that I won’t be putting myself at more risk of coronavirus, but doing everything online will be hard in its own ways, too… Anyway, even though I know I’m not actually going to be living at school this fall, I decided I can still post this. There are other people (including my brother!) who are going back to school in person and who might have similar worries. (scroll down past the worries for ways to cope… advice and positive things))
I’ve managed to not worry too much about the coronavirus in the past couple months. The Black Lives Matter protests have kept my mind occupied for the past two weeks, and before that, I had final exams. I have been mildly worried about it, and worried about the general state of the world, and worried about many other things (as I normally am haha), but the initial stress of the first couple months (March, April) had died down. Plus, I’ve been at home, not interacting with people outside my family. I generally feel fairly safe here.
But now I have to consider going back to college in the fall. My school has not announced yet what its plans will be. They are supposed to be telling us soon, and now all my friends are talking about this all over again. I am stressed. I had avoided thinking about school for a long time. That was partially a good decision because it wasn’t worth it to worry when there was so much uncertainty, but I also just haven’t thought about going back to school in a while. Part of me thought that I would be stuck at home until January for the spring semester. But it looks like my school and others are trying to reopen in some form in the fall.
Should I go back to school if classes are in-person? Is it safe? It feels like a death sentence honestly. But I tend to worry a lot about health issues and think that death is more likely than it is (due to trauma).
I wrote out some of the things that worry me and the questions I have:
Things that worry me about the fall:
not being able to go home — in the past, I have gone home about once a month. This has helped my mental health a lot in the past (especially in contrast with my first year, when I barely went home at all and got very depressed)
the nasal swab test — I have heard that this is very uncomfortable. I am not okay with things being inserted into my body. I have had a lot of trouble with it in the past at doctor appointments and on my own. We might have to have this test done every week or so in order to make sure we’re not getting sick. That sounds very scary to me. But maybe I would get used to it? Maybe I could learn to cope?
intense rules and regulations over my personal habits — this just makes me feel powerless and unsafe and reminds me of bad stuff which I don’t want to go into
constant threat of death of me and my friends — obviously I am scared of this! I think I would be devastated if one of my friends died.
not being able to live with friends — currently I’m planning on living in a dorm with several close friends. I have been looking forward to living with my friends for months (maybe almost a year). The housing arrangement could change if we have to live in individual rooms with individual bathrooms. I’m not sure how I could manage living alone, especially if I wasn’t allowed to see my friends either because of social distancing. I’ve really appreciated being able to hug my family the past few months. I want to still be able to get hugs somehow at college.
not being able to partake in all the things I enjoyed — I loved dancing at school. I wonder if that will be cancelled now because there are too many people. Is rolling around on the dance studio floor safe? What about all the other events I liked attending: performances, lectures, events? Friendly get-togethers with friends? Will all my favorite parts of college be taken away? If they’re not there anymore, is it worth it to go? Would the in-person experience be any better than the online experience if those things don’t exist?
therapy? virtual still? privacy? — I don’t know how safe I would be traveling to my therapist’s office. It requires public transportation, and I would likely be with many people (probably not 6 feet apart) in a confined space for a long-ish time (half an hour?). What if I took a taxi? Would the surfaces be clean? What if the taxi driver was sick? Could I still have therapy virtually? If I did, would I be able to find a private space? If I was living with friends, would they overhear me? I have done therapy virtually at school before, but I didn’t like knowing that my people could probably hear me. But I could probably make it work.
bathroom cleaning? — my school website says that custodial staff will clean the bathrooms in my dorm once a week. On second thought, I think this is probably okay. If they’re cleaning the bathroom, they’re unlikely to make it dirty. Just having someone not in my less-than-six-feet-apart bubble (assuming I’m living with my friends) regularly entering my living space is a bit scary. But if they’re wearing a mask, hopefully it will be fine.
how would I do laundry? — my dorm has communal laundry facilities.
how would I get food? — I used to eat in the dining halls/cafeterias for most of my meals. Those don’t sound safe anymore, especially since you can’t wear a mask while eating. Will I cook and eat all on my own? I think I could manage that, but again if I’m doing that anyway, why not just stay home and do school online if that’s an option? (To be clear, I don’t know if it’s an option yet)
elevators? — I would likely have to use the elevator often to get to my dorm room and to class. Elevators are supposedly places where you can catch the coronavirus easily.
Okay, so, those are my worries. Naming them helps. Then I started looking up more information (which I had kind of been avoiding for a couple months). There’s a lot more that we know about the coronavirus now than we did a couple months ago!
I learned some things that I can do:
Things I can do:
stay 6 feet away
wash hands often (and use lotion afterwards)
avoid touching face — practice not doing this in the months before
wear a mask — make some masks
wear gloves on public transportation and in elevators
don’t get in elevator unless everyone is wearing a mask
wash clothes in warm water and dry thoroughly
clean the laundry basket
line laundry basket with bag? have separate bags for clean and dirty clothes?
So, I can minimize these factors, even if I am around other people. There are things I can do to prevent coronavirus. It’s not all out of my control. It’s not impossible to control either. If I do those things, I can mostly prevent getting coronavirus.
And finally, some positive things. (I actually wrote these first, but I’m putting them last here because it’s a nice note to end on.)
Lots of people are working hard to fight coronavirus.
We may have a vaccine one day. — This is something to look forward to!
Sleep, stress reduction, and exercise are good for my immune system.
People are making changes to improve the world. (Here is a nice list of changes that have happened as a result of Black Lives Matter.)
Hello! I haven’t posted in a few months! The reason why is that I had a really busy semester at school. I was taking 5 academic classes, instead of the 4 I had taken the previous two semesters, and it was a lot. They were also all hard classes; there wasn’t really an easy one I could blow off. All of my classes were for my major, mechanical engineering.
To be honest, it was a really different semester from any I’ve had in college so far. It was a lot busier, but it was often a good busy. I wasn’t as dragged down by my mental health issues! (!!!) !!! My ptsd really has been better since I did the trauma work. I was still anxious, and I had some depressed periods, and my ptsd was still there every now and then, but overall I felt a lot better than I’ve been feeling the past few years.
I was actually able to do the work! I don’t think I would have been able to handle the workload if I’d taken these classes a year ago. In fact, I couldn’t — I dropped a class both semesters to take 4 instead of my original 5. I had more free time for homework this past semester because I was spending less time upset.
I was also less lonely. I spent a lot of my time with my fellow mech e’s (mechanical engineering people) because we had mostly all the same classes. I like seeing people often, not just once a week. I like having people be part of my life and texting me to ask if I’m okay when I don’t show up to class.
It was also stressful — school itself was stressful. I know that school is known for being stressful, and many of my friends have been complaining/venting about this for years, but school had never really been that stressful for me until now. I think it’s because there were always other things stressing me out more than school. My stress about family members dying and whatnot gave me some perspective, and I prioritized other things above school and knew that if I didn’t complete my homework or do well on a test, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
It was like I had peeled a thick blanket off to reveal a messy heap of broken parts underneath. I had thought that my ptsd (the blanket) was the main problem in my life (and it was a big chunk of my problems), but all my stress about trauma-related things were covering up my other stresses, insecurities, and ineffective ways of coping (the messy heap). With less of the ptsd, I could see the rest more clearly, and it wasn’t pretty.
It turns out I do get stressed about school. A lot. I care too much about disappointing my teachers and letting people down when they have high expectations for me. I feel pressure to do well. I’m really bad at working in a lab group.
My health isn’t great. Eating is hard and has been hard for a while, which makes my health worse. I don’t know my body very well, and pushing myself too hard in dance has led to some injuries. I missed a couple days of school because I was in too much pain to walk to class.
I’m uncomfortable with lots of things to do with dating and sex. I’ve never dated someone, and I’m not sure how I would. If that makes sense. Like, what the relationship would look like, what stuff I’m comfortable with, which stuff I’m scared of but could get over, who the relationship would be with, etc. It’s just stuff I’ve got to figure out for myself at some point.
I have a lot of social anxiety and often think that people hate me or are trying to kill me.
I’m still really sad about the losses of my grandmother and uncle last January. My family feels really small, like it has suddenly shrunken.
But…. I can do something about all of these things! I can work on these things in therapy! Little by little, it’s going to be okay! Lots of great things happened this semester, too!
I finally got to choreograph a dance in my dance group!!! 🙂 😀 I’ve been wanting to do this for so long. It was wonderful, though stressful at times, and it was really fun to play around with the formations! It looked great on stage, too, and I got a lot of compliments on it!
I have some good friends! I became closer with one friend this semester, and it was amazing. She’s really fun to be around, and we laugh a lot, but she can also be serious, and she’s helped me through some dark moments. She also replies almost right away when I text her! :O For whatever reasons, I’ve never had a friend before that both replied to my texts quickly and whom I wanted to text back quickly. Texting her doesn’t make me anxious.
I took on a leadership role in a sustainability club I’m part of, and it was fun to get more involved and have more responsibility! Plus I’m friends with almost everyone else who has a leadership role, so hanging out with them was fun, and I felt included.
And I do like my classes and my major. It took me a long time and lots of anxiety to decide what to major in, but I’m glad I chose what I did. It seems like a natural (not necessarily easy, but natural) thing for me to do. Mechanical engineering involves a lot of geometry, moving parts, forces on this and that, this goes here so that happens, this affects that, etc. and I think that’s just how my mind works. That’s how I like to think. I like making things. I like figuring out how things work. I like understanding the world around me.
So when it’s hard, at least I know that this really is what I want to do.
Overall, it was probably my best semester of college yet. 🙂 It was the hardest academically, but other aspects of my life were the best they’ve been in a while.
Anyway, I hope to have some more free time (which doesn’t always translate to me doing more with my time, lol…but maybe) over winter break, so I want to get back to writing more! I like writing. It helps me make sense of things. Sometimes when I’m thinking through things in my mind, I imagine what I would say if I was writing it as a blog post, and that seems to help me be more logical. So I already have lots of ideas in my head for what to write. 🙂
I’m also going to try to comment more on people’s blogs! I read some of them in my email, so I have been reading, but now I’ll (hopefully) actually comment, too! 🙂
I hope you’ve all been well, and I wish everyone the best in the new year!
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.
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
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! 🙂
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.
College has been a struggle with my mental illnesses. I thought I’d make a list of stuff that I have found through trial and error that works for me in hopes of having a nice list for other students who are struggling, anyone who has stuff to get done and has trouble doing it, and myself for when I inevitable forget about all the good skills I have to remind me that I can do things.
Set a timer and work on something for only x amount of time.
This is good if the assignment seems too scary or overwhelming.
You break it down into a smaller piece that you can handle and feel okay with. Sometimes I set my timer for 20 minutes, and sometimes I set it for 5, or even less. The key is to do something manageable.
Then when the timer goes off, I stop and take a break. If I’m up for it, I set the timer again, but I don’t put any pressure on myself to do that.
I give myself stickers when I do important stuff, especially stuff that’s hard for me or things that I’ve been procrastinating. I actually mainly use this for therapy stuff, not school stuff, e.g. I give myself stickers for doing exposures, being vulnerable, using skills instead of doing target behaviors, etc.
Rewards can go along with the timer thing above. During my break, I can get to play one round of a game on my phone, go out to the lounge and hang out with friends, read comics, etc.
Important note: do not use self care as a reward. A reward is something extra. Keep up with your normal self care habits regardless of whether or not you complete something. Take breaks regardless of whether or not you got anything done.
Ask. for. help.
This can be really hard to do, and sometimes asking for help doesn’t actually get you the help you need, which feels awful, but overall asking for help is so essential.
To me, asking for help means:
asking questions in class when I’m confused,
emailing the professor or TA when something is unclear,
emailing my professor to ask for an extension when I’m going through a rough time,
asking people in my class if we can work together on the problem set (if collaboration is allowed),
asking people in my class how they did x problem I’m struggling with,
going to office hours,
emailing my disability services coordinator if I have questions or need something or am having a rough time,
going to see my advisor,
asking to switch my advisor when the relationship isn’t working,
asking my friend if I can talk to her when I’m having a bad day,
asking a friend if I can hang out with her,
asking for a hug,
asking my therapist if we can talk about something that’s been bothering me, or if we can have more frequent sessions,
asking people in my suite if there’s a problem I’m not sure how to deal with or could just use some help with (mouse in my room, people are being too loud at night when I’m trying to sleep, etc.)
and many other things
The main thing that gets in the way of asking for help, for me, is lots of shame. I try to check the facts on whether the shame is justified and if the intensity is justified and effective. It’s usually not. Generally, asking for help will a) get me what I want and b) help to solve my problems and also c) show people I care enough about something and d) am working on it enough to ask.
Be realistic when planning out what to do.
This is hard for me, especially when the amount of things I have to do is not possible.
I have to radically accept that I cannot do everything, and I cannot be perfect.
In that case, I have to decide what to skip. Sometimes this means getting less sleep, but I try not to do that because I know less sleep will make me feel worse later. Sometimes it means I don’t go to a club meeting, don’t answer all the questions, get some wrong, skim readings, miss a class, and don’t do things as thoroughly as I like to or as thoroughly as I think my professor would like me to, ideally.
In these times it’s helpful for me to remember that other people are skimming the readings, not understanding everything, and getting questions wrong, too. No one is doing all the work.
Being realistic is beneficial in the long run because I don’t feel as guilty later for not doing everything. I knew from the start that it was unrealistic, and I had already decided not to do something and accepted that I wasn’t going to do it.
Prioritize, and do the priorities first.
I have a new planner this year that categorizes the to-do list into three sections: top priority, priority, and errands. This has been helpful to me because I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the things I have to do. When I put them into the categories, I find that I only have a few top priority things to do, and most of the things I have to do are errands. It will be okay if I don’t get to the errands because they’re less important and less urgent. Knowing this helps me feel less stressed.
When deciding what’s a priority, I think about this equation: priority = important + urgent.
I also have a drawing on my wall of the fish tank thing where you put the big rocks in first. The fish tank thing…I’m not sure where I heard of this, but it was a while ago. Basically, you want to put the big rocks (important things) into your fish tank (you life, day, schedule) first so that the extra space is filled up with the less important things. If you put the smaller things (sand, gravel) in first, you will fill up your tank before you have room for all the big rocks. Here’s a video explaining it.
In more concrete terms, for me this means having a rough bedtime to make sure I get enough sleep, blocking out time for meals, going to classes and doing homework before reading random emails and fiddling around on my computer, doing the assignment that’s due tomorrow instead of the one that’s due in two weeks, etc.
Sometimes it’s hard to motivate me to do the highest priority things first when other things are more fun or easier. Recently I’ve learned (the hard way) just how guilty, ashamed, sad, angry at myself, and stressed I feel when I don’t do the important things. Although the intensity of these feelings is not justified (i.e. the magnitude is greater than the actual situation calls for, and I should use opposite action), I still want to avoid feeling like that. I’m currently using that as motivation to do the most important things first. (or first-ish)
Lots of little breaks while you’re working (see timer thing),
some longer breaks, maybe every few hours (or more/less frequently, depending on how you’re doing)
and some really long breaks — I like to take Friday afternoon though Saturday afternoon off and not do things related to school. I also go home about once a month.
Have other important things in your life besides school/work.
I like to think of the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you put all your eggs in one basket and happen to drop the basket accidentally, all the eggs will crack. But if you keep some eggs at home and put some in a purple basket and some in a green basket, and then if something happens to the eggs in the purple basket, you will still have most of your eggs.
When one things gets tough, you can rely on another to keep you going.
Therapy, dancing/ballet, arts and crafts, and relationships with friends are things important to me outside of school. I spend time on them, have fun, and make progress. This also helps me keep some perspective. There is more to me than this one thing.
If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate effectively.
If you just can’t do that hard thing now, do something else productive. Take a shower, do laundry, eat a meal, reply to an email, etc. Then you won’t have to do it later on, and you’ll feel accomplished!
Take care of yourself when you need to.
If your anxiety is too high to concentrate at all, or you’re dissociating and can’t focus, or can’t stop crying and thinking bad thoughts, take a step back and evaluate what skills you need to use. Forget about work for now and just focus on taking care of yourself and your mental health. It’s more important. Use skills that you know work for you. Then go back to the work later, once you’ve recovered. Communicate upfront if you didn’t do something that others were relying on or expecting (e.g. group project). Be honest if you can.
Budget in extra time. Allow for mishaps.
I’m not very good at this now but hope to be better at it. I sometimes have flashbacks or other crises that take me out of commission for a few hours. Ideally, I would not be doing my homework right before the deadline, and I would schedule in a few spare hours with nothing planned so that other things can flow over into it so that when this happens, it wouldn’t cause as great a problem, but I’m not there yet. I’m working on it.
Listen to music while working.
This probably doesn’t work for everyone (well, nothing works for everyone), but I find music helpful in blocking out distractions. If I listen to upbeat music, it also keeps me somewhat energized and hopeful about what I’m doing. Today I’ve been listening to a 60s music playlist on youtube. 🙂
Keep up with normal self care habits.
They generally make people feel better overall and more motivated and able to do things.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You can do it!! 🙂
In summary, because this was a long post:
Set a timer and work on something for only x amount of time.
Ask. for. help.
Be realistic when planning out what to do.
Prioritize, and do the priorities first.
Have other important things in your life besides school/work.
If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate effectively.
Take care of yourself when you need to.
Allow for mishaps. Budget in extra time.
Listen to music while working.
Keep up with normal self care habits.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You can do it!! 🙂