Life

Here are my current secrets

Hi. I’m pretty sad and lonely right now, and I feel like no one likes me. I think part of the reason why I feel like that is that I’m not telling everyone the truth. I’m hiding things from people again. I’ve done this before, and then I get better at being vulnerable, and then eventually I slip back into hiding. My secrets are piling up. I think the solution is to share them with the people I’m keeping them from, but for now, as an intermediate step, I’m going to share them here! (opposite action to shame!)

(note: mentions of eating struggles, self harm, suicidal thoughts, and masturbation.)

Things I’m keeping from my friend #1:

  • It really hurts me that you guys are in a group chat with out me and made plans without including me. I wish I could be in the group chat too. I think you guys became closer friends without me during the time I was grieving my uncle and grandmother. I’m sorry I wasn’t part of your fun activities then, but I really couldn’t be.
  • It also hurts me that you’ve been hiding this from me for months. I’ve known about your group chat! You know that I know about it! Just tell me, and I’ll be happy for you for having other friends and having fun!
  • Do you even like me anymore?
  • I wanted to tell you that I went to a peer support group for people with acquired brain injuries and people who know people with brain injuries, but I avoided it, and then other people we knew joined us for dinner, so I couldn’t say it in front of them.
  • I’m not doing well. I’m doing better than I’ve been in the past, but that’s still not good. Eating is a real struggle for me, and I wish you’d take it more seriously and help me out.

Things I’m keeping from all my friends:

  • I have self harmed in the past and been suicidal in the past, and currently I do think of suicide at times. This has been going on the entire time you’ve known me. I haven’t wanted to worry you, because I know you would worry if you knew.

Things I’m keeping from my therapist:

  • I think I have seasonal depression! What should I do about this??
  • I feel like I’m getting more depressed!
  • I’m not sure if therapy is working anymore, or if this type of therapy is working anymore.
  • There’s another bad way that I sometimes cope with things to escape for a bit. It’s masturbating, in a way that makes me hate myself afterwards and feel sick. I have never told anyone this! Please don’t hate me or think I’m horrible and weird! I wish I could stop but it’s harder than I thought!
  • I have a blog! It’s a good thing and it helps me.

Things I’m keeping from my family:

  • I wish I went home this weekend!
  • I’m not sure I like what I’m majoring in anymore! Maybe I want to be a teacher instead??
  • I went to the brain injury support group.
  • I didn’t have a good day yesterday. I wasn’t too busy to call because I was having fun like I said. I was mindlessly watching tv instead of eating because I liked feeling lightheaded. I did go out eventually to spend time with friends, but I didn’t really have fun and kept almost crying.
  • I was upset when we talked because I had just found out about friend #1’s group chat and plans without me.
  • I know I did that whole ptsd treatment thing and was doing better, but maybe now I’m not anymore! I mean, ptsd is still better, but I’m depressed a lot. More than before.
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! 🙂

Therapy

Self harm or self care?

(Please note: This is about self harm and suicidal urges, self-destructive thoughts, and specific ways I try to harm myself (including with food).)

I’ve been struggling recently with basic self care. Anything that I know is good for me or that will help me is hard for me to do.

I used to self harm myself in one specific way. I told my DBT therapist over the summer about it, and I’ve been tracking it on my diary card and using skills like distraction, “riding the wave,” etc. to not engage in the behavior. And, I’ve been successful! I haven’t done that behavior in over three months. Yay!

But… the urges to hurt myself or kill myself haven’t gone away. I have the urges as much as I did when I was still using the behavior. Sometimes I’m successful in using distraction or some sort of positive coping mechanism to manage and resist the urge. However, if the urge is very strong, or I’ve been feeling it constantly for several hours and nothing seems to be helping, or I’m too hopeless to believe skills will work… then I bargain with myself.

I say, “Okay, fine, I won’t kill myself. But, as a compromise, I won’t eat dinner. I know that eating dinner is something that will help me and make me feel better, and that is exactly why I won’t do it.”

I’ll say to my emotion mind, “I know you have the urge to hurt yourself. You can’t do that because it’ll mean you have to stop trauma work. But you still feel intense shame and anger at yourself and want to harm yourself. So, here’s something. I know you feel tired and want to go to sleep. How about you just don’t go to sleep?” And then I stay up until 2 am and don’t get enough sleep and feel more angry and guilty the next day and even more tired.

I’m still harming myself, just in less obvious ways. Not eating enough. Not sleeping enough. Not brushing my teeth. Avoiding friends because I know they’ll make me feel better. Avoiding using skills because I know they’ll make me feel better. Not submitting applications because I’m mad at myself and don’t think I deserve it. Eating chocolate late at night because I know it’ll keep me awake, and I want to prevent myself from taking care of myself and sleeping.

It’s almost easier to self harm in these ways because it’s a smaller decision to make. It often doesn’t require action, just intentional inaction.

Writing this out is helping me realize that self harm is still an issue for me, even if it doesn’t leave visible scars. I’m losing weight, even if it’s not noticeable. I’m hungry all the time. I sometimes have an erratic sleep schedule. My teeth hurt often. My eyesight is getting worse because I refuse to look up from my phone or computer when I start to get a headache. I feel as though I need to feel the pain of the headache because I deserve it.

So, it’s not good. There are negative consequences to doing these things. My “cured” self harm has really just been transformed into different behaviors because I was replacing the behavior, not acting opposite to it.

To be fair to myself, I do sometimes just distract and not do anything harmful. I sometimes reach out to friends or my therapist. I sometimes eat meals because I know it’ll make me feel better. There are just some times that I don’t…

I think the solution is opposite action. Instead of acting on the urge to harm myself, I want to acknowledge that it’s an urge, use the self talk that my therapist and I came up with, and act opposite to the urge.

The self talk is along the lines of,

  • “This is emotion mind talking. It’s strong, but it’s emotion mind.
  • Using skills has helped in the past.
  • Sometimes skills take a while to work.
  • Skills “working” is relative.
  • Distress tolerance is supposed to help get you through the moment, not make you feel better. If you feel better, that’s an added bonus.
  • When you are feeling better, you like feeling better.
  • In the times that you’re not feeling like this, you would want to take care of yourself and help yourself feel better.”

Opposite action to the urge to hurt myself and to the emotions of shame and guilt is to be kind to myself. Some options are: putting lotion on my skin instead of hurting my skin, eating food, hanging out with friends, wearing pretty clothes, watching or reading something funny, etc.

Opposite action to self harm is self care. It’s hard to do because it’s the very thing that the self harm urges are telling me not to do. That’s where the self talk comes in. I have to believe it’ll work and have enough perspective to remember that there’s more than this moment and that self care or skills have helped in the past.

If I’m not thinking clearly enough to do the above, then distraction, calling my therapist, or other skills (if I’m willing to use them) are helpful.

In conclusion… self harm is still a problem for me, and I, Wise Mind Me, want to use the techniques listed above to take care of myself as opposite action to the emotions and urges I sometimes feel. I do deserve to feel better.

Coping Skills

The Emotions and Opposite Action

These are the ten primary emotions as I learned them in my DBT treatment program this summer.

Knowing more information about them helps me understand what’s going on inside me and what I need to do to resolve the situation, if anything (see the flowchart under Emotion Regulation in the DBT Skills Summary).

Emotions are important!!

IMG_7373

The picture says:

The Ten Primary Emotions

Fear

  • signal: threat to health and happiness
  • urge: flight, fight, freeze
  • opposite action: approach mindfully

Anger

  • signal: threat to health and happiness
  • urge: defend, attack
  • opposite action: be gentle, take a time out, willing hands

Sadness

  • signal: something is lost or missing
  • urge: replace, isolate, withdraw, ruminate
  • opposite action: activate

Disgust

  • signal: toxic to health and happiness
  • urge: avoid, throw up, get rid of it
  • opposite action: approach mindfully

Guilt

  • signal: I crossed my values
  • urge: repair/fix, hide, avoid, compensate
  • opposite action: don’t apologize, self-validation 

Shame

  • signal: I crossed group values, will be judged or excluded
  • urge: hide, don’t do it again
  • opposite action: reveal, tell, show

Joy

  • signal: good for health and happiness
  • urge: continue to do it
  • opposite action: avoid, focus attention elsewhere

Love

  • signal: relationship is good for health and happiness
  • urge: pursue and maintain, spend time with them
  • opposite action: focus on other goals

Jealousy

  • signal: fear of losing something that matters to someone else
  • urge: protect, control
  • opposite action: trust, give space, don’t stalk

Envy

  • signal: wanting what someone else has while feeling equally entitled 
  • urge: get it (motivation) 
  • opposite action: count your blessings and accomplishments 

What’s this opposite action thing?

Opposite action is a DBT skill I really like and have been using a lot.

Once I’ve identified what emotion I’m feeling and validated myself, I determine whether it’s justified or unjustified and if the emotion is helping me to be effective in this moment.

All emotions are valid. It is what you are feeling, and that’s the way it is. There’s probably a good reason you’re feeling that way, even if the reason no longer applies to this current situation. But an emotion is only justified if the presence, intensity, and duration of the emotion fit the facts. For example, fear is justified when a threat is present. My fear is often caused by reminders of trauma and is often unjustified. Shame is justified when I’ve broken a group’s value. Guilt is justified when I’ve broken a personal value. Sadness is justified when I’ve lost something. Et cetera.

If the emotion is unjustified, then it’s time to use opposite action! Opposite action is doing the opposite of the urge an unjustified emotion is giving me. I’ve been using opposite action a lot for shame. When I feel shame, my urge is to hide. But, if I 1) identify that I am feeling shame and 2) find that it’s unjustified, then I know I need to use opposite action. Instead of hiding my face, getting squirmy, curling up, running away, talking quietly, and not speaking, I do the opposite. I stay where I am. I sit on my hands so that I can’t cover myself up with them. I keep talking about whatever thing I think is “weird” but which really isn’t. I put myself out there. It is very uncomfortable, but it helps the shame go away.

Instead of wallowing in my (unjustified) feelings, I react in a more effective way. Yay opposite action!

Understanding emotions has been really helpful to me.