this too shall pass?

Something’s wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can feel it deep within. I have decided to play this one out…see if I can wait it out until it gets bored and subsides. I know it’s a futile attempt.

This mounting, ominous presence has made my torrid relationship with sleep even worse. I want to outlast my inevitable sleep – a looming fear that begins when I wake up. Every decision I make throughout the day, I wonder “will this help tonight or make it worse?” I’ve become paralyzed. Complacent. Sad. Scared. I remember six months ago, when the medication was in full effect, still waking up scared, but excited too. I didn’t know if I would have a good or bad day, but I wanted to try. I miss that feeling.

For the past year, I have tried really hard to develop a sleep regimen to lessen my insomnia. I have to be in bed by 11, take my pills to help me sleep, and read, not watch tv. I turn on my fan and my noise machine, prep my eye mask, and as soon as I feel my eyes begin to tire, I turn off the lights and wait for my dreams or nightmares to come – I’ll take what I can get. But now, I feel a panic inside as I start to wash my face and begin my process for bed. I brush my teeth and I start to think about my day, my life, what lays in store for me once I get underneath the covers – the thoughts that will consume me no matter how much white noise I use to try and block it out.

I tried to avoid dealing with this panic for a few weeks by staying up until I was exhausted and over-medicating myself with relaxants. The problem was, I woke up painfully exhausted, spending the day with a headache, frustrated and sad, and unless committed to someone else, canceling all of the things I use to keep myself above the tow of depressive thinking because I was just too fucking tired.

Before I fell asleep last night, I reviewed the day. I did not get any errands done. I did not do any homework. I did not contact any friends. I did not do any cleaning. I did not go to the gym. I did not shower.

I opened the book I have attempted to read with little interest, and noticed the age on my hand: veins, dry skin, worn down knuckles. I am not a child anymore even though my life is like one. In therapy, we talk about trying to volunteer one day a month; we discuss learning who I am and who I want to be; what could make me happy; why I have so much hate and detest for everything I am. I have barely maturated past the emotional age of 15, but my age hasn’t. And I started to cry.

I cried for how little I have accomplished. I cried for the potential my life has and had that is slowly and constantly draining away. I cried for the exhaustion of fighting this disease even with medication. I cried for the craving I fight every day not to self-harm, to punish myself. I cried at how long I have been fighting this and how when each day passes, opportunities lessen. I cried because I am so painfully lonely. I cried because I never wanted to make it past 30 for this very reason. I’m getting older, but I’m not moving forward and my life is passing me by – unlived.

I cried because I’m losing hope in myself that I can be saved.

I woke up this morning, and did not want to get out of bed. Once I got out of bed, there would be choices to make, and I knew already that I wasn’t going to make the ones I wanted. And I knew that that was my fault. Maybe this weakness has been triggered by events beyond my control but I haven’t been fighting it, at least not enough.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and find the power to push past my fear. Maybe it’s just a phase in the process. Maybe it’s just a down time, “like all people have.” But maybe it won’t, and I’m scared, and I’m sad; and I’m just so fucking tired.

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Dealing with Confrontation…if that’s okay with you…

I am terrified of confrontation. I bitch and gripe about how irritated I am at someone or something, and then continue on, not saying a word, but increasing my harbored resentment. It might be a driver in front of me; a friend who hasn’t called; someone who took advantage of my kindness; or someone who just up and wronged me.

So I sat down and tried to figure out what it was that scared me so much. My initial thought was that I was scared the other person would have a negative reaction, i.e. yell at me. I know yelling happens, but I haven’t really had it at me (unless it’s myself to myself,) and for some reason that kind of anger scares the bejeezus out of me. (It probably has to do with my father’s lack of anger management and the volume of his voice.)

I’m also scared I’ll be wrong. What if I had waited a day and realized that it really wasn’t what I thought and the irritation had passed? Or worse, what if I end up apologizing and being a horrible person for accusing someone of something that was my fault all along?

I know I’m not alone. I know someone who avoids confrontation by convincing herself that everything is fine and “letting it go.” She abides by the philosophy of: “there’s nothing to talk about because it’s not a big deal,” as if saying so, then makes it so. Or so she hopes. Others use the passive aggressive approach, a fav of mine.

In fact, I only know a few people that are actually confrontational. In fact, I would argue they are overly confrontational. And while I have no desire to have their temperament, I do wish a little would rub off on me. I enjoy watching them in action. They don’t like something: they tell the person. Someone hurts their feelings: they give them hell. I’m not saying they’re effective at problem-solving, but they show no fear, no trepidation – a confidence of sorts – and they don’t hold on to the irritation, frustration or anger, and they definitely don’t turn it inwards.

I know that it’s unhealthy not to speak up. And I know it’s fair to have feelings, even if the other person doesn’t agree. I also know that by holding in my anger, I turn it inwards, and all of a sudden a slight outside irritation becomes another form of self-abuse. (I believe they have tools for avoiding this behavior in DBT called interpersonal effectiveness. Clearly, I haven’t gotten to that chapter.)

My issue of confrontation recently arose when I noticed I had a few issues with my therapist. I was disappointed by something she said and realized that I was developing a bad behavior with her that I did not want to have in our therapy. I told a friend of mine who had recently described her own confrontation with her therapist. Now this friend is not confrontational at all, but she told me that she yelled at her therapist and that she even stormed out! She told her therapist that she wasn’t getting what she needed and if the therapist didn’t change, their relationship was over. (And I bet she even looked her in the eyes.) Ok, I wasn’t quite there in terms of anger, but if she could do it, I knew I had to try too.

I wasn’t worried my therapist would yell at me. I just didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I didn’t want to be wrong about something and change the dynamic of the relationship. I didn’t know where my confrontation would take us: would we find ourselves realizing we no longer fit? Would she look at me differently? Would I have disappointed someone who’s opinion of me matters so much? Maybe I should just let it go?

I wrote out a list of the three things and with my cheeks a-blazing, I told her about my concerns. I suppose it wasn’t a “confrontation,” but it kind of was for me. Of course, like most things, it wasn’t as scary as I expected. I might have held back a little bit, tempered my irritation a bit, but I still told her. And she listened. And I started to turn the argument around to blame myself, but then stopped. And it was quiet. And then she thanked me. And we talked about what we should do to change things, and we clarified some things that I wanted and needed that I didn’t feel I was getting, and how I might get them.

I suppose that’s an ideal confrontation – talking to your therapist about being frustrated in therapy. But maybe next time someone is taking advantage of me or too much in my space, I’ll get up the courage to tell them no or ask them to step back, or even just walk away. It makes me giggle thinking of myself actually doing that. I can’t tell if the giggle is fear or incredulity.

I don’t know … how do you deal with confrontation? Are you the bull or the dirt? Any techniques you have found effective? Does practice make it easier?

I guess it’s something I’ll have to work on in therapy with our new revised system.

Perfectionism and the Terrifying Fear of Failure

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was accepted into a Master’s program in London and decided to defer for a year to prepare myself for the challenges I might face. As part of that preparation, I signed up for two classes at a community college. After 12 years of being out of college, I wanted to freshen up my writing skills, get back into the “groove” of school. I have written quite a bit for my previous jobs, but writing an action alert and writing a critical essay require very different skills. I also wanted to see how I handled the stress, time management, ability to focus, retain large amounts of information, etc. I just wanted to make sure that the impact of the last three years would not make school an impossible task.

And I love school: going to class, learning, asking questions, debating, having homework. Still, I leave class overwhelmed, anxious, and often feeling very lonely.

I had my midterm essay for one of my classes due this past Friday. About two weeks ago, I noticed an increase in panic attacks, crying fits, random, rapid, and intense mood swings, and horrific insomnia. I was nauseous all the time, and often too exhausted to eat, call people, go to the gym, shower, or clean. As I started to prepare to write the paper, bad habits and feelings reared their ugly, gigantic heads. I was rereading and over-reading, creating intricate outlines, going on tangents, overanalyzing the question. Sometimes, my mind would just go totally blank. I hated everything I typed. It was taking me hours and I was getting nowhere. Most days I would sit, the books and my computer on the table in front of me, watching tv, avoiding the process of creating a piece of shit.

At that point, I would have rather not turned anything in, than turn in something I was ashamed of and let my teacher see what a fucking moron I was. No matter what I wrote, it just sounded so awful. I was so angry at myself for being so stupid. I was sad that I would never be good enough. I mean, I couldn’t even write a six page paper at a community college, for an introductory class, on a subject I had already studied.

I went to my therapist a mess. She asked me if I ever felt this way before. I have always been the engaged student: participating in class;, seeing my teacher after to make sure I was understanding the information properly; discussing the issues with my friends at lunch (while they rolled their eyes at me) – but I wasn’t the “A student.” I believed this even while getting A’s and awards for my academic work. I always found an exception every time I succeeded.

Turns out, a lot of these problems actually manifested at work too. I was scared that if I produced great work, there would be expectations that I wouldn’t be able to maintain. However, I also worried that I might create something subpar, and disappoint my boss. I always got my work done, always got fantastic performance reviews, but I would always focus on the “things to work on” with overwhelming shame – even though (funnily enough) they were usually about confidence and anxiety. I actually think a part of me believes that I need the anxiety and fear to ensure I do a good job – that it pushes me to work harder, see things others would miss. No matter how many accolades, I always felt like the other shoe would drop if I ever relaxed or thought I had mastered anything.

This constant fear of failure led to migraines and massive depressive burnouts. After large events, I would have to take days off from the exhaustion – not because of the event, but due to days spent not sleeping, worrying constantly about forgetting something or the event falling flat. Over time, I would completely burnout, missing weeks of work, and quit my job. This has happened at every job I have had since I graduated college. At the last job, I kinda kicked ass, and then quit, right after receiving an award for my work.

My therapist says that this fear of failure is derived from being a perfectionist. I find that so amusing because I have never viewed myself as a perfectionist. In fact, far from it. My fear of failure and rejection has manifested into a habit of always doing slightly less than my best. Take for example my appearance. My thought process has always been that if I don’t try to look my best, if someone thinks I’m ugly, I know that I could look better; but if I try to look my best, and they still aren’t interested, that affirms the validity of my worthlessness. There is a comfort in knowing I can’t truly fail if I don’t truly try. And that doesn’t sound like a perfectionist to me.

I turned in my paper Friday afternoon. I don’t know if it was good. A part of me imagines my teacher sitting in front of my essay thinking “what the fuck is this?” Sometimes, I give myself a moment to imagine him reading my paper, thinking: “I get why this kid is going to a top grad school.” But then I feel cocky, embarrassed, and ashamed in my vulnerability of allowing myself that contentment.

So how do you change something that feels like an ingrained component of your personality? How do you change the way your mind thinks? How do you really know when your’re good at something? What if success is chance? Why do some people believe in themselves and others don’t? I know I’ll never be a person who sits back in my chair, smiling with my hands laced around the back of my head, thinking: “damn, i rock.” But it would be nice to be okay with trying, and when validated, allowing myself to feel the joy of that success.

Will I ever be able to believe in myself? To accept who I am, both my strengths and weaknesses? To approach projects with rationality and excitement, rather than fear and anxiety? Maybe CBT and DBT will help, but I’m not sure if even those techniques can break down what has become a belief system of sorts.

Any suggestions – ‘cuz I’m stumped. Hey look, I failed again. :)

‘Nuff Said: Mental Illness, Gun Control, and Our Nation’s Offensive Ignorance

Okay, so I clearly have some thoughts on this. And a few people in both the news and around me that I would like to “have a word with.” I would imagine anyone who suffers from mental illness or knows someone who does, has thoughts on this. But honestly, I can’t do it justice. However, my man, John Oliver can. (I should note that the segment is really more about how our country is not dealing with mental illness – guns are really just the jumping off point.)