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.
Affirmations

Affirmation #20 — A speck of sand

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This is a speck of sand on the seashore of my life.


This is something that my 10th grade English teacher used to say. That vocab quiz that everyone’s freaking out about? It seems important now, but in the scope of your life, it is a speck of sand. It’s okay if you don’t do that well. Applying to colleges? Maybe that’s bigger than a speck of sand — a seashell — but think about the seashore.

In high school, my friends and I would remind each other, “A speck of sand on the seashore of your life!” before tests. It just adds a bit of perspective through some nice imagery. 🙂

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

Getting stuff done when anxious and depressed

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.

Rewards!

  • 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.
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I have a sheet of paper pinned to my wall where I write down my accomplishments in pretty colors and give myself a sticker and checkmark.
  • 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.
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This is my drawing. It’s some sort of vase instead of a fish tank, and I have flowers instead of rocks. The size of the flowers roughly represents the amount of time, relative to the other things, that I want to spend on it. Sleep and self care are the biggest. Classes, homework, and eating are second. Hygiene, fun, planning, and replying are third. Clubs, socializing, and cleaning are next. (some of these things also fall under self care) Projects, events, and volunteering are the smallest.
  • 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)

Take breaks!

  • 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.
It’s like this cartoon. 🙂 (image from https://www.reddit.com/r/GetMotivated/comments/3i8z5r/image_convertible_and_a_lake_peanuts_by_charles/)
  • 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.
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Also on my wall — this reminds me of what self care means to me. The blowing bubbles imagery reminds me to breathe out as if I’m blowing a bubble.
  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You can do it!! 🙂

 

In summary, because this was a long post:

  1. Set a timer and work on something for only x amount of time.
  2. Rewards!
  3. Ask. for. help.
  4. Be realistic when planning out what to do.
  5. Prioritize, and do the priorities first.
  6. Take breaks!
  7. Have other important things in your life besides school/work.
  8. If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate effectively.
  9. Take care of yourself when you need to.
  10. Allow for mishaps. Budget in extra time.
  11. Listen to music while working.
  12. Keep up with normal self care habits.
  13. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You can do it!! 🙂