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! 🙂

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Coping Skills

Little changes to help your mental health

This is for those times when everything is too much, and you’re desperate for something to make things at least a little better, but you don’t really want to do anything.

Change your language

“stupid” –> “valid”

e.g. “I’m so stupid” –> “I’m so valid”

e.g. “I did something really stupid” –> “I did something really valid”

“always” or “never” –> “sometimes” or “might”

e.g. “I’m never on time” –> “I’m sometimes not on time”

e.g. “Things like this always happen” –> “Things like this sometimes happen”

“should” –> “could”

e.g. “I should have done things differently” –> “I could have done things differently”

e.g. “I should do that” –> “I could do that”

Change what your body’s doing at the moment

breathe in, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, out, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, 3, 4, in, 2, 3, 4…

helpful for any unwanted emotion that gets the heart pounding — fear, anger, etc.

do 20 jumping jacks (if you’re able to)

helpful for dissociation, hopelessness, sadness, and shame (or anything that makes you want to curl up) because it can break the inertia and show that you’re a valid person taking up space in the world and doing things

also helpful for any strong emotion that gets your heart pounding because the body associates the heart pounding with the exercise and will calm down from the actual emotion

stand up in a power pose: hands on your hips, biceps flexed, punching the sky, etc. or, while sitting, stretch your arms up to the sky

similarly helpful for things that make you want to curl up (this is opposite action!), but not as intense

Make a list

five things you’re grateful for

e.g. pretty pictures of flowers, living with other people, having headphones, buzzfeed, warmer weather

three recent accomplishments!

e.g. got up! (multiple times!) replied to some old texts! ate brunch with my friend!

the bare minimum of what you’re going to do the rest of today (and/or tomorrow if it’s late at night)

e.g. brush teeth, call my mom, do the assignment for one of my classes

then check them off!

Change your computer/phone/tablet experience

change your background, lock screen, or desktop background

pretty nature? cute puppies? memes?

snow capped mountains under the cloudy skies
Photo by Stephan Seeber on Pexels.com
pomeranian puppy
Photo by Vanserline Vandenberg on Pexels.com

bookmark a site you want to keep handy

something funny? something helpful? something thoughtful?

download an app

in the spirit of trying something new!

 

Congratulations, you made it to the bottom of this post! Look at you go! 🙂

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.

IMG_8670

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?

Therapy

Wanting to be my friends’ therapist

Recently I’ve been struggling with an urge to act like a therapist towards my friends who are emotionally unwell. I am not a therapist.

And I am certainly not their therapist. But, I can relate to many of the issues they struggle with. I know (some of) the issues well and know ways that I have overcome them or ways that other friends have overcome them. I am also a friend. I enjoy spending time with, appreciate, care about, and want the best for my friends. So I want to help them, and feel like I am able to help them, but…

A therapy relationship is different from a friendship. People aren’t always ready to be pushed or analyzed—they’re just saying random things, and even if the things they say are concerning, people just want to go about their day and not be bothered, corrected, or dragged into painful memories. I wouldn’t want to push that on someone, and I don’t want to act like I’m superior to anyone.

I also don’t want to constantly push advice on people, even if I think it could really help them and it comes from a place of good intent. I very rarely say, “you should…” because I know from personal experience and from hearing many people’s experiences that “should”s can be annoying and unhelpful and make people feel worse. But I do say things like, “When I’m feeling x, I find that y really helps me z” and “What if you did x?” I don’t think saying these things is harmful if I don’t say them that frequently (I think they’re probably helpful and appreciated), but if I’m saying them a lot, I wonder if it starts to get annoying.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess one of the main ways I interfere is to try to change my friends’ negative beliefs. I have one friend that consistently says things about how she’s lazy, she has no friends, she’s a bad influence on other people, people don’t want her around, she’s failing, etc. I feel really sad when I hear her say these things because I firmly believe they’re not true and that that’s just her depression talking. It makes me really sad that she truly sees herself this way.  I sometimes try to argue back and say that I disagree, and we can agree to disagree, or I try to remind her that I am her friend, x is her friend, and she was really worried about that last test but ended up doing well so maybe this one won’t be as bad as she expects, and Halloween is coming up so that’s something to look forward to, etc. I don’t know if I’m actually being helpful though. I suppose I could ask… asking would be a good thing to do but would require courage and finding the right time and wording it correctly.

I just want to fix all my friends’ problems.

Another part of my problem is that I’m not entirely sure how to have a close friendship without it being a therapeutic relationship. My relationship with my therapist that I’ve had for a few years was my first real place I shared a lot of things I had kept inside me for years. I feel like when I make close friendships now, they’re modeled on that relationship – I ask questions and listen similarly to how my therapist would. (Not the same way, though; I’m my own person) And the people I feel closest to are the people I talk about my mental health with.

Most of my closest friends also have mental health issues.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with writing this. I’m also not sure what to do about this in general. I’m not even sure if it’s a problem or not.

I guess the part that’s a problem for me is that I feel more distant from my friends when I’m acting more therapist-y because I feel like I’m less “on their level,” even though I am.

I also want to be friends in a way that doesn’t have to do with mental health. I guess I do this sometimes when we watch movies or go to events or cook together or talk about what makes soup soup (it was a hilarious discussion).

It’s also a problem for me because I stress about my friends not doing well, and I worry about whether I’m acting wrong and what I can do better.

And, this could also be a problem for my friends if I’m making them feel worse.

So… something to think more about later 🙂

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.
Coping Skills

Staying Busy: The Coping Skill of the Week

This week has been better than the last week, and I think it’s because I was busier and did more things.

I went on a walk with a friend, had lunch and hung out with another friend, did some volunteering online and in person, went to my high school’s graduation, went to a reunion, repainted my door, cleaned my room a bit, helped out at the dress rehearsal for my sister’s dance recital, went to therapy, taped things up on my wall, started a new project for my family, and started learning new languages on duolingo.

I had some bad days this week, when I was feeling depressed, or anxious, or triggered/flashback-y. But I also had some great days: the day I hung out with my friends, the day I volunteered, the day I went to the reunion, the day I discovered duolingo.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I felt best when I was busy doing things. I think staying busy helped to keep my mind off other things. It was good to be around people, too. I felt valued and not alone, and being with my friends reminded me of good things I that used to like and had forgotten about.

It also felt good to be productive. My repainted door looks beautiful. I did that! It took a good amount of time and a lot of help from my brother, but it’s very satisfying to have it back in my room now in its beautiful, new, sky blue color.

Duolingo is another way that I can be productive. Instead of mindlessly turning to buzzfeed, I can open the duolingo app and actually learn a new language. I can see my progress very quickly, and it’s really cool to think of the new skills I’m learning.

Yay! Now I just have to make sure I have plans for next week, too. 🙂

Coping Skills, Positives

Something over Nothing

(Please be aware that the first part of this post has to do with life/death and wanting to die.)

It’s the name of my blog, so I might as well say why…

I believe something is better than nothing. That’s why I’m alive. If you’re dead, you have no opportunities, no chances, no smiles, no sunny days, no cute babies, no flowers. None of that. If you’re alive, you might have a lot of pain. It might take up almost the entirety of the day. Or the week. Or longer. But it is not like that all the time. There are still some good things. There are some good moments.

Once, when I was having a bad day, had been in the throes of a flashback all morning and part of afternoon, was overwhelmed by school and life, and wanted to die, I had a meal with my friend, and she asked me what good thing had happened that day.

I nearly started crying at the question. I thought there was nothing good. Everything was horrible. But I thought about it. It took some time, but I came up with an answer. I had had peanut butter on my bagel that day, and it tasted good. I told my friend this. She smiled, and we talked about how good and versatile peanut butter was. It was a lighthearted conversation. It lightened my mood and made me realize what other good things there had been that day. I had had other good foods to eat. I was currently talking with my best friend, an amazing person.

There were a lot of things going wrong, but it wasn’t all bad. There were still things I could enjoy in life. As long as there is still something in this life for me (and I think there always will be, since even if nothing else good happens in a year, spring will always come), I. am. staying. here.

agriculture cloudiness clouds cloudy
Photo by Ghost Presenter on Pexels.com

I also remind myself that something is better than nothing when I start to worry about making things perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good enough.

In school, it’s better to submit an incomplete or imperfect assignment than to submit nothing at all. It’s much better to fail an assignment than to get a zero. I’ve been there and done that! Zeroes affect the final grade so much more than even a 50%. I once spent a whole year trying to bring up my history grade from one zero on a summer homework assignment at the very beginning of the year. If I’ve been in class a little and done some work on the assignment, I can make something. It’s much better to submit what I have than to not submit anything. Even if it’s below the minimum page length. Even if my code doesn’t execute. Even if I know it’s the wrong answer. I tried. Most teachers give partial credit. Some are even understanding when I explain that I couldn’t do it or haven’t been in class all the time because of mental health issues. Some will give me an extension so I can bring up my grade from at 50% to a 70, 80, or even 90%. Partial credit exists and is beautiful, and teachers are humans and understand struggles. 

I often worry about sending the perfect text or email, too. I delay replying until I know what perfect thing to say. But at some point, a quick, short, not-the-best-but-okay reply becomes more valuable than the perfect reply a week later… if I even send it a week later. Sometimes it’s just better to send something and let the other person know I’ve read their message. I can give a quick answer, or maybe say that I’ll get back to them later. But I’ve said something, and that counts for a lot. It’s better communication.

Even with this blog, I could have waited a few more months, or years, before starting it. But who knows what will happen in a few years?! I can do what I can and learn more as I go along. But I’m starting something now.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Let it be good enough.

Something is better than nothing. 

bridge daylight guidance high
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com