The DBT Divas: When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Getting Real

The last session of the last module of DBT ended last week. And while I was thankful for a respite of the hour commute, I was sad. Not just because I like the idea of going to “class” and learning tools to help IRL. But also, I was sad about the idea of not seeing my peeps.

There’s a small group of us that started at the same time and have gone through all the modules together. While we don’t always go into the specifics of our lives, after a while, you start to pick up on what the person is going through. You get a general sense of their demeanor, their struggles, and what they are trying to get from DBT.

I don’t like group therapy. In fact, each time I have tried, I have walked out hating it more. But DBT is different. It’s not about sharing and commiserating, it’s about learning, practicing, reviewing together, and then trying again. DBT group relationships are not based on the connection of our misery; but on the connection of our growth.

Before it ended, we managed to get everyone onto a group text message. We even named ourselves the “DBT Divas.”We’re meeting on Wednesday at the time we usually have class and we’re going to take a walk. I’m not saying we are going to be besties, or that we even have that much in common. I also question how good it is for people who are in bad places to spend a lot of time together because it can be ineffective if you bring each other down. But because we met in DBT, we come together as survivors, not victims; and we are all fighting to get better, not to wallow in our misery.

So I hope in hanging out, we can learn more about each other, and maybe play through some of our personal scenarios, but I’m not proposing that we all get along and connect on a deeper level. I can already tell, from being in three modules together, all of us lead very different lives. A lot of us have the same diseases or are on the same meds or even have been through similar experiences, but that’s different than our personalities and the values of our lives. DBT is a tool for anyone, but it’s used differently by each person according to their specific needs.

I’m a little torn between whether this is a good or bad idea.

When you normally meet people, outside of a therapeutic environment, you take time getting to know each other. The conversation is light and general. Maybe the second time you meet, you share a little bit more about your day and in that, your personality and style becomes more apparent. And by the third friend date, maybe you float your mental illness subtly into the conversation. You see their response. It’s usually: 1) blank face of the terror of not knowing what to say; 2) “Oh, my cousin is crazy!” (ugh); 3) “My sister deals with depression”; 4) “I’m sorry to hear that” or, 5) “Oh, yeah, I actually have dealt with that too.” From there, you can kind of see the viability of a long term friendship. After all, it plays such a large part in your life, it’s going to come up.

And I could have a fascinating conversation with anyone I meet – I find people so interesting: their lives, how they speak, how they tell a story, their inflections, their beliefs, the background behind their beliefs. But when I meet people for the first time, it’s more like an examination and study, rather than a potential friend date. If they make me laugh or we seem to be on the same level, then I start to relax and think of it more as a step in the direction towards friendship.

But when I meet people through therapy, or groups, they already know I have been through some heavy shit, and I know the same of them. I have found a lot of people feel that connection and therefore think it’s ok to ask really personal questions – they want the whole story of how you got where you are; and they want to tell you about their illness. You miss the basics and dive right into the deep shit. I usually play along, but afterwards I feel raw – like a piece of me was taken before I had prepared to give it. I know I am sad to see them go, but I do wonder whether once outside the classroom, what will be the dynamic? If our connection is our struggle to stay above water, how do we go back to the first friend date material? Can a relationship start in the middle and go backwards? Or are we meant to have had this experience together and that’s that?

I guess I’ll know more on Wednesday night.

 

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One Extra Pill: My Brain is Such a Drama Queen

Besides the constant tremors and occasional rapid heartbeat and dizziness, the new drug regimen I started last Tuesday seems to be working. I feel different. More steady. Anxious more than sad, which while anxiety sucks, still feels safer than sadness.

I am astounded at how incredible the mind is. Changing a medication by .25 sends it into a rapid depressive episode that last for weeks. Upping a drug by 100mg makes the person feel ready to face the day, even on the days she doesn’t want to.

Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t fix you. I still have dark “abnormal” thoughts about myself and my life. I worry I will, like before, suddenly spiral into destructive behavior. I’m not normal, whatever that might be. And I never will be.

But for now, at least for today, I’m pretty sure I won’t. And that is amazingly different than just a week ago.

Fighting Depression: A Sword Duel With a Wooden Spoon

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Wooden, Silver…You get the idea.

Well, it’s been a few weeks since the tapering debacle. Since about Thursday, I was feeling like I was coming back to “normal.” I will say this past episode really did a number on me…

and it reminded me of a few things:

  • medications are not cures.
  • in terms of mental illness, healthy sustainability, consistency, or complete “repair” are never viable realities.
  • patience is necessary for managing mental illness. and i am shit at it. too bad they don’t have a drug for that.
  • medication is a delicate dance with brain chemistry, and you can only take one step at a time. each time we try to change a med by lowering or upping, i can only do one, and have to wait weeks to see if it works, or if side effects pass or stay. if the med is not working, that means i have two to four weeks of feeling like shit, hoping that maybe it will work. and if it doesn’t, i try a different one and wait.
  • memories may fade, but the feelings of pain you feel from depression never leave you and you never really feel safe.
  • bad habits never truly die, and they feel so comfortable, right, and easy. even when you know it’s wrong, it still seems, at some place in your brain, so very right.
  • and so, every minute of every hour of every day is a fucking testament to will power, resistance, and opposite action, and it’s exhausting.

the scariest part about this past month was how low i got. the thoughts i had. the close calls. being ripped from my path of self-healing was brutal.

i wonder if it’s because my brain has gone to a very deep, dark place in the past. and so when i get depressed, it goes back there. like, if i had never gone that low, then my brain wouldn’t get there right away. but i think of it like a neuro “path” has been burned to that area of thinking in my brain, and so now, when i get sad, instead of just going to point A like a typical sad person reaction, my brain goes all the way past to point B.

and point B is a volatile, dangerous place.

i will say the fact that i know it’s my brain and not “me” really shows the progress i have made and what a lifesaver having this past year has made. because i now know what normal is, and so i know when my brain isn’t at its’ right chemistry. i think it’s what allowed me to reach out and ask for help when in the past i would have spiraled alone.

still, it didn’t matter because as we all know, when your brain tells you stuff it feels real and right and makes sense so it’s really difficult to fight it. it also makes the bad decisions even worse since you know you can do better. it’s a fucking temptress. (what is the male version of that word – tempter?)

i’m just a jumble. i feel great for 12 hours and then i panic and want to drop everything and disconnect. i use my dbt skills and get myself to do something i’m afraid of, and then 5 hours later, i’m sitting there and i just can’t use them. they seem moronic, useless, and dumb.

yesterday, i sat across from my psychiatrist and i talked. i gabbed, really. it might have been the caffeine, but at the end i said to her, “so it sounds like i’m back.” she agreed. and then i got in the car and started to drive. five minutes later i was crying. i got home and didn’t leave the apartment, answer any phone calls, clean, or doing anything positive for myself.

i’m either having mood swings right now as i recover, or i get excited that i’m doing better and am self-sabotaging to protect myself. or both.

either way, i don’t know what to do. or maybe i do, but i can’t. or maybe i can, but i don’t want to.

An (attempted) Day Without Judgement?

Ok, so I’m oddly angry. Anger is a weird emotion for me. Usually, it turns to sadness quickly. I think I’m afraid of anger – both because of how much I saw it as a child, and also because I don’t want to make someone else angry (also probably because of what I saw as a child).

In the past, my anger was directed at myself. And I suppose I’m frustrated with myself. I am getting things done. I am not lying in bed crying or self-harming, or stuffing my face with pancakes. But I’m frustrated at myself. And it bothers me that all I can see are the things I’m not doing – wanting to punish myself with anger because there are other things I “should” be doing. DBT tells you to take “shoulds” out of your life, i.e. not be judgmental. This is intended not only for others like: “He should have taken out the trash” but also to yourself :”I should be stronger than this.”

One skill is to practice being non-judgmental. It means stepping back and observing a situation as it is, without thoughts or emotions. So instead of “I’m at the computer again because I’m terrified of failing at the things I have to do outside of it” you merely note “I am sitting in a chair, typing on a computer. There is traffic and sounds of cars driving on wet, rainy streets The blinds are closed.” You get the idea. You take the judgement out of the situation and in doing so, take the emotion you are feeling out.

It sounds so fucking simple, but it’s really hard. Most DBT skills are like that. You read them and you think “duh” but you realize when you try to do them, especially if your emotions are not regulated or you are in distress, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

I have options about what today looks like. I have options about what I am going to let ruminate in my big black cauldron of a mind. I also can choose to be okay with whatever the day turns out to be. I can allow myself to live the day without judging what I “should” be doing. Let’s see what happens.

Men; Chapter 32: Male Therapists

A quick note on the title: I have a shit ton of issues with men – to the point that there is no way to just write one post about them. My list of problems run long and deep, and I decided maybe the best way to examine them is to take each issue one at a time. So yeah, I’m starting with Chapter 32. After all, if you were reading a book of essays, it wouldn’t matter what chapter you started with – so roll with it, folks.

I have always had female therapists. I mean, there was never any doubt otherwise. With all of my issues (as mentioned above) with men, the idea of sitting across from one and explaining why I’ve never dated, been intimate while sober, or dealt with the sexual assaults and rape I have experienced – it’s unfounded.

So I am starting this DBT workshop in February. Part of DBT is having a DBT therapist. I have no money and the organization I am working with has a funny idea of what “sliding scale” means. The only way to afford the therapist is to see their intern. They have one. And you got it, it’s a man.

When I first spoke to him on the phone, I flipped out. He just sounded like this young, super hot guy. I know, can you really tell if a guy is hot from his voice? Yeah, you can. I went online and found a picture of him with a description. The good news is he looked much older, almost balding, and had three children and a wife. Okay, unattractive, older but not too old, and settled. That’s not too intimidating.

So I saw him this week. He really needs a new picture. He’s not like speechless hot, but he’s definitely not that old, not balding, and has a fantastic energy. I told him off the bat my concerns with having a male therapist and he tried to explain that he wouldn’t try to understand the female perspective and I could call him out on it.

Yeah…that’s not the issue. I don’t think because he’s a man he’s not going to understand – he’s a therapist – I think he transcends that simplicity of heterosexual gender. So I’ve been trying to decide what “it” is. And I think it’s this: I can tell a woman and a man the same thing. I can tell them about my depression, my mishaps, even my assaults. But when I tell a woman, and it’s not because I think she can understand, but I feel safe enough to be vulnerable (at least if I trust and respect her). I can not only tell her the facts, I can explain the emotional weight and consequence behind it. I can explain the disgust or fear or self-hate and I don’t just say it – I express it. With men, I pull back to protect my vulnerability. I tell them what happened, I might even tell them the feelings it brought up, but I tell them about it like telling a story. I’m self-removed. Like I’d say something personal and immediately follow with: “but whatever. shit happens. emotional fuck up. i get it. blah blah blah.” I’m already dismissing its’ significance and depth.

I think my unhealthy boundaries with men as a child; spending time with boys growing up where I was seen as asexual even though I certainly didn’t see them that way; my horrible decisions with men as I got older due to my overwhelming self-hate and destructive behavior; my traumatic sexual experiences which have kept me emotionally stunted with men for over a decade now…I imagine all of this plays into it.

There is a power dynamic with men – maybe because I fear their emotional power over me in their ability to reject or lead me astray and in my attraction to them. Maybe because I fear my weakness in setting boundaries, in feeling guilt and shame, always feeling like I have to constantly prove my worth or they will get up and walk away. I guess for me, vulnerability is the scariest release I could provide. Allowing myself to be open, makes me feel dirty and disgusting, pathetic and unworthy.

It’s not that I don’t have these feelings around some women, especially those I have yet to develop respect for or trust in their support (i.e. all women except my therapists.) And if I am vulnerable with a woman and she judges, crosses a boundary, walks away, it hurts like a motherfucker. But it’s a different pain, a different power dynamic, a different exposure.

The good news is, DBT isn’t so much about exploring your past. It’s about dealing in the present. Of course the first module we are working on is interpersonal effectiveness, which is going to mean discussing my issues with men. But DBT is less emotional, it’s more of a skills-based practice of managing life. And maybe that in and of itself sets a boundary of safety.

My female therapist, who I will continue seeing, said that it is common for women to not want men as therapists – especially if they have had severe negative experiences with them. But she also said that for some, it’s an amazing opportunity to actually develop a healthy, trusting relationship with a man.

He seems really kind. I don’t believe he has ulterior motives or an agenda. I really believe he wants to help and he is excited to start this journey with me. The real problem is within me and my skewed perspective of him. I just hope he wears a really ugly sweater next time I see him or has something in his teeth. Could that change the power dynamic I have somehow established in my mind? It certainly couldn’t hurt.

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.

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. :)

Self-Help Can Go Help Itself, I’m Fine Without It’s Trite, Incorrect Expressions

You know that expression: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “we don’t know what we have until we lose something” or “failure is great because it teaches you something”….yes, i am horrible at expressions, the same as with song lyrics, but i think you get the gist of what i’m talking about. expressions created to make you feel better about your failures. i feel like i see these in self-help posters, books, ads, or strangers who find out i’m having a shitty day or am depressed. here’s the thing: i don’t agree.

when my dog died, did i appreciate how amazing she was and how amazing it is to have unconditional love? yes, i suppose so. but i knew that already when she was alive. i didn’t need her to die for me to get that.

what doesn’t kill me doesn’t actually make me stronger. a lot of times, it exhausts me and weakens me and sometimes it happens more than once and it sucks even more the second time

failure teaches you something? ok, i suppose so. but you know what would be awesome? to not fail. that would teach me something too. because you can still learn with imperfections but not necessarily failures.

my friend and i recently got in an argument about the idea of risk and reward: for him, an eternal optimist who’s cup is not only just half-full but overflowing from the rim of the cup, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. his thought process is that if you want something a lot and you don’t get it, you learn even more because it was something you really wanted. the more you want it (i.e. the higher the risk,) the more you learn when you don’t get it (i.e. “the reward).

Yeaaaah…no. The more I want something, the more it hurts when I don’t get it. In fact, i often find myself purposefully not doing something to the best of my ability so that if i do fail, i can know inside that i didn’t really try my hardest and so maybe i would have gotten it. I do this often with men. for example, i will not try to look as pretty as possible so that if someone didn’t find me attractive, i could say to myself, well i COULD look better than this, so maybe he would have found me attractive had i tried harder.

also, the higher the risk, the more potentially disappointing the reward. let’s say, we’ll stick with guys, that i really really think this guy is great. we have texted and talked on the phone and i think he’s attractive. wow, he’s the one. finally, someone who understands me and still likes me and wants me…and then i meet him and maybe he isn’t very witty or he doesn’t understand my sarcasm, or he’s oddly sexual. whatever it is – the reward (wah-wah) was not worth the risk of hope.

i suppose they should refine that expression more. perhaps: “the higher the risk, if you actually get what you want or it’s better than you want, the greater the reward.” but i suppose that’s a bit too technical for a saccharine expression invented to make you feel better when you lose.

i’ve spent my life dispelling positive thoughts. all that chin up, it’ll pass, just keep moving – and the depression was sitting on my shoulder being like “yeah, fuck them. they just don’t get us. now let’s go drink something or make a really avoidable idiotic mistake that will make us feel worse.”

now that the chemical depression has lifted, I am trying to be more open to thinking. not necessarily positive thinking because honestly, if you say “chin up” i still don’t think we should be friends. however, i am trying to find my own version of compassion for myself. ok, the word compassion is a bit too strong – i am trying to be more gentle with myself when things don’t turn out the way i want them to, or i chicken out. i am trying to tell myself that maybe it is the right decision for me at that time or that it’s the decision i made and at the time it was the right one and it’s okay that i chose the decision that i did. (my brain is really wordy.)

i’m also trying this thing where i listen to myself – like my inner self. (nuts! right?) i never really believed in mindfulness when i was younger. my family wasn’t really into what we called “hippy dippy” stuff. but it’s amazing when you stop for a second and you try to internally find what you’re feeling. it usually has a location in your body (creepy!) and often times it is not actually the emotion you assume it is.

for example, i had an occasion where i had this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and i assumed it was my anxiety telling me to flee the situation. but when i sat with the feeling, and breathed into it, i realized i was actually just excited. it’s amazing how fear and excitement feel so similar and can be connected though can lead to opposite reactions. i think i have assumed that feeling was always anxiety and never really stopped to see if maybe it was something else.

also, i have always been embarrassed when i was sad. i guess because i was more “sensitive” than most people and so i would get sad from watching a television segment or reading a history book. or sometimes i would get a similar feeling to sadness which is feeling overwhelmed – which can happen when i’m literally overwhlemed but can also happen when i’m in awe of something – being overwhelmed can also actually be the feeling of wonderment. the fact is, when i am sad or even overwhelmed by life or by wonder, i can breathe into the feeling and sometimes just slowly breathe it out. my throat feels tight and my breathe is shaky but slowly i can breathe through the feeling and come to peace with the thoughts – whether that we are in really dire straits in the world, or that nature is truly extraordinary.

so positive thinking? not really in the cards for me. the idea of taking thinking and turning it into thoughts? that’s a task i think i can attempt to accomplish. (Thank you DBT).

in the meantime, we are only as strong as …. fuck it.

Jealousy: She’s a Bitch, But I Love Her Shoes…

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I would never call myself a jealous person…but I am. When I was a kid, I was jealous of the wealthy people at my school: their ski trips, houses in San Francisco, nice cars. I was jealous of the thin girls, the pretty girls, the smart girls, and the seemingly “happy girls”.

But my jealousy has “evolved” with my disorder. I’m not jealous of your clothes or your money, I’m jealous that you don’t have a mental illness. And let’s get this out of the way: jealousy is illogical, moronic, and unfounded 98% of the time. All humans are fucked up and most things are not as they seem. But that’s not what my irrational, dark, angry, “emotional” mind thinks. (In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy a.k.a. DBT, they call irrational thinking your “emotional” mind. The healthier thoughts are from your “wise” mind. And yes, they fight ALL the time and technically are both true. Don’t worry, more on that later.)

But just because something’s wrong, doesn’t mean we don’t do it. Just because I know someone has shit in their life, doesn’t mean I still can’t think I’d rather have their shit than mine, which is covered with a thick layer of bipolar II to boot. Your car broke down and that sucks; but when my car breaks down, I am too anxious to call the repairman if I’m alone. So, I have to call someone to come before I can even make the call, let alone get it fixed. What’s that? Ah yes, the sound of whining; a common companion to jealousy. It is also moronic, unfounded and childish. But it happens. So let’s continue…

At this point in my life, that’s what my jealousy is all about – why do I have to be the “sick” one? Most of the time, I look at people without a mental illness and I think: if only I didn’t have this voice in the back of my head, I could be like that person. I AM that person, I just can’t BE that person because of this illness. Without this illness, I am an extrovert at heart. When I was a child, I loved being loud, getting attention, and being around people. I wanted to either be an actress, comedian or journalist. But with this illness, I have become an introvert – even exhausted by personal exchanges. For example, if I have coffee with someone, that’s my talking/smiling/engagement quotient for the day. I have days where I literally cannot leave the house. If I can, I can’t go to CVS and buy personal products in public. And if I can get to CVS, I find myself having a full-blown panic attack with profuse sweating, overactive breathing, tunnel vision, and eye-contact avoidance – unless I end up turning around and asking my mom to go inside for me instead. But at that point, I’d rather have a broken down car.

When I’m feeling better, I feel the real me come alive, take ownership: the person that loves talking to her friends, helping people across the street, making eye contact and smiling, talking loudly, and being the center of attention. And I want to just be that person. I mean, I am that person but now I have to monitor how much I allow her to be out and about. I have to ask myself: am I actually having a hypomanic episode? Will this engagement burn me out into a depressive episode? And at that point, fuck jealousy, I’m just pissed that I have to even worry about this at all. (Cue whining violin…again.)

So go ahead and wear uncomfortable heels, show off those kick-ass legs, and brag to me about where you went to college, how amazing your job is, or how hot your boyfriend is. I’m not competitive, I had to let that go long ago. I just wish I could imagine a life where I could have those expectations, and not have my emotional mind laugh in my face and push me down again. And I suppose to rid this jealousy in the long term it will be about accepting my new expectations of myself and my lifestyle. At least that’s what my wise mind tells me.