Avoidance of News

Today’s session with S had been emotionally and physically exhausting. It wasn’t his fault of course. Rather, it was all of the things that I talked to him about; all the things I made myself feel all at once today. I was overwhelmed this past week and I had numbed myself through it all until I opened up and talked about it today. (I’ll have to write about the session more later when I have more time. Writing a serious blog post 20 minutes before I leave for work isn’t ideal.)

This is just a quick one to say that I avoid the news, especially those that are tragic, because I can’t handle the trauma it triggers in me and I feel so deeply for people that it affects my mental health. It may seem like I’m apathetic or maybe even like an ostrich, just burying my head in the sand but if I don’t, I think I’d probably be in tears constantly.

This past weekend was extremely difficult for me which was why when S asked me if I needed to see him one more time today, I had said that I would like to (after some hesitation). I had told him that last week had been good and bad. When I saw him today, he said to me as we sat down, “So today, we talk about the bad, huh?”

Well, the shooting in Orlando at the gay club, Pulse, has profoundly affected me because I identified to both the shooter as well as the victims. Before anyone thinks that I feel bad for the shooter, please understand that there’s a difference between relating to what he was feeling and thinking that he didn’t do anything wrong. He got what he deserved – I only wished that he was alive to explain his actions and then to be punished duly.

Anyway, I identified with the struggle he had with his identity as a gay person, his denial of that side of him, as well as his struggle with the faith that he grew up with – trying to reconcile that part of him with his faith. It’s a huge struggle. I’ve struggled with it for all my life and its only been this past year that I’m even entertaining the idea of processing it. I’ve even wrote about this at a longer length in another post: A Struggle Of Identity.

So, I speculate that his anger towards seeing the gay men kissing and his resulting shooting was his attempt to absolve himself of his “sin”. Purely speculation on my part of course but I thought about how angry I am sometimes with openly LGBT people because I, myself, struggle so deeply with being able to reconcile who I am with what I feel like God wants for me. That whenever I see openly gay people who are so confident in themselves, I feel envious which triggers the anger. I’m not really angry at them. I’m angry at myself because I am unable to cope with my own feelings of unworthiness and the pain of feeling rejected by God.

Aside from that, the news and social media has also been constantly been reporting on the Stanford rape case. Though I have never personally been raped, it still hit me close because of my own childhood traumas as well as the molestation that I had suffered. So this has been an awful week as a result.

I can’t stop feeling so deeply for people and though it’s a great thing to be able to empathize, at the moment, I feel like it’s a weakness because it constantly breaks me.

Of Bravery

So out of the blue, I just decided to play an online quiz – this time, I was curious to see what my Hogwarts House would be. Being a protector and leader-type, I’ve been placed in Gryffindor very consistently in the past. On rare ocassions, I get put into Ravenclaw because I am pretty bookish.

This time, I wasn’t surprised to see the red and gold colors of Gryffindor show up on my results. I was told in the results that:

Gryffindor

“Gryffindors are unparalleled in their bravery and courage. You are a natural leader and are usually the first to step up to the plate in a crisis. You like to take risks, and are often rewarded by your ability to go where others cannot. However, you can be a little reckless, so be wary of situations in which you might be out of your depth!”

Interestingly, while I am usually the first to step up to the plate in a crisis (this is especially prevalent while in group therapy setting as I’m always the first to offer my story despite the vulnerability I feel when that happens), I don’t know if I’d ever call myself brave. I don’t think courage and daring is something I have because I’m never one to stand up for myself. I only do so for others’ sake but never for my own. So I don’t see that as bravery – I just see it as foolishness in some ways.

Yet, people often point out how brave I am. S has told me multiple times now that I show so much courage and resilience. I’ve had other psychologists say the same thing – B said it to me during group last semester, C said it to me too during group last semester, J has called me ‘resilient’, a group member has also called me ‘courageous’, T (the group co-leader) has also mentioned that in my last group session, Q (my friend in the blogosphere who writes here) has also told me that before…

So many people have pointed this out and yet just like everything else that’s positive about me, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it because it doesn’t feel right. It never feels right.

Though I can agree that I have shown courage and bravery in these instances, I can’t accept that I am intrinsically so even though I can name all the times that I have done things to save others and often think about what I could do in the future to help make a difference. I think the reason it’s so hard for me to accept is because of how prideful I feel after I get praises and compliments. I feel bad because I feel like a truly brave/courageous/honorable person would not feel proud or pleased – rather, that they would feel that their duty was completed.

I feel like in my mind, I see myself as a kind of a knight or a soldier – doing a duty, performing a service; for honor. Honor seems to be important to me and that a soldier or a knight without honor is the worst thing I can be. It seems to me now that losing my honor is worse than failing at something (for the longest time, I thought failure was my biggest fear). Somehow, I’ve adopted a Japanese-samurai/bushido-style philosophy that I’ve ingrained in myself so much that I can’t accept praise.

I want to be recognized for the good I do but accepting that recognition destroys me emotionally as I grapple with guilt and shame from accepting such recognition.

 

 

 

 

PS: I used to enjoy the Harry Potter series until I felt that JK Rowling was being careless with her word count, sloppy in her editing and superfluous threads of plot, as well as ruthless and uncaring in the way she handled all the deaths. As such, my good memories of this series has been tarnished by the last 3 books and I don’t think I could ever go back to enjoying this series ever again.

Spiritual Atrophy

As I was revising the information that I had to know for the completion exam for the Health and Wellness Promotions Leaders Academy, I came across something very interesting in the “Spiritual Health” module that I had accidentally skipped.

It says under “Spiritual Atrophy” that someone who is experiencing spiritual atrophy have the following traits:

• emptiness • anxiety • loss of meaning • self-judgment • self condemnation • apathy • long “dry” spells • conflicting values • needing to improve myself • worried/annoyed/acting in haste

It was interesting because I think I have all of those traits. What follows is the next slide that says:

Signs of Spiritual Distress
  • Loss of direction
  • Sense of emptiness/feeling alone in the world
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Self-destructive language
  • Bitter or jaded outlook on life
  • Fearfulness, dissociation
  • Prolonged anger at God/higher power

It was interesting for me to read that because I have lost my direction and sense of purpose. I don’t feel like I have a purpose in this life except to suffer and to waste oxygen. I do feel extremely alone in this world – feeling like no one care or understands. I feel hopeless and helpless every single moment of my life. I’ve withdrawn from friends and family and have a bitter outlook in life. I’ve dissociated myself – which has resulted in all the different parts of me. And though I haven’t really had prolonged anger at God, I have had a prolonged sense of shame whenever I think of God.

I guess my depression which are all these traits and more is very much connected to my spiritual health. I have stopped praying or reading the Bible because of how afraid I am of God’s anger (or perceived anger) towards me. I told S on Monday that I have stopped doing those things because I’m afraid of what I will find in the Bible when I do read it.

Interestingly also, this conversation I had with S on Monday relates a lot to my post today:

The context is that we’re talking about my struggle with my sexuality. After a while of hashing things out, S said, “That’s an interesting point though, I mean why, with everything that you’ve been through, why do you think it’s been… That you haven’t turned to God with this?”

“I don’t know. Um… I think… I think in some ways… I feel like… I think um… I feel like… He must be angry with me. He must be disappointed…” I said.

“You think he must be angry. You don’t want to face that…” S said, completely hitting the nail on the head. He does that a lot.

“Yeah… I mean… I feel like… In fact, I feel like even with people I feel the same. Sometimes I feel like ‘I wonder if S’s like ‘Oh man that’s disgusting’’”

“Like I’m judging you…” S said, completing my train of thought.

“Yeah and and… If you’re like disappointed or… I mean, I know you’re not. It’s just that feeling…”

“There’s a part of you that thinks I must be in that moment…” S again, completed my thought.

“Or anybody who’s straight… If I ever tell them, must think this… Um… God must think this.”

“And that’s… I’m glad you brought that up. I remember… I feel like that sort of theme has come up here before… Seems like you’ve felt comfortable with me since the very beginning… And yet there’s these things that you haven’t been able like to bring up. So seems like there’s part of you that’s like ‘Well I know he’ll be fine with that’ but another part of you that’s like ‘No, he’d be angry. He’d be disgusted with you’” S said, providing me an interesting insight.

“Yeah… I’m not sure why you know? And I wonder… If part of it is just what society thinks of it. And you know um… I think just what my parents think about it… Cuz someone’s asked me before ‘Have you ever talked to your parents about this?’ and I said no. She asked why not and I said that ‘I really don’t think that they take too well to this…’ you know?”

“Does it go back to the shame that we’ve talked about before?” S asked, referring to the time we had discussed my shame.

“There is a lot of shame connected to it. There’s a lot of pain. Almost all feel like a really tightly wound up ball of pain, and shame, and guilt… And uh, it doesn’t get any better… I mean… Back when I was in college (the first time), I was really involved in the church. We would talk about, we would study the Bible very constantly and although I feel like… I feel saved… At the same time, these verses also condemn. The thing is intellectually I realize that I’m saved, that there is nothing I can do that I can add to my salvation. And yet I can’t stop feeling the way that I do. I can’t stop feeling so guilty. Feeling like I’m not good enough…”

“It’s that ball of guilt, and pain and shame…” S iterated.

“Yeah…” I confirmed.

“I guess that’s… Some kind of an ironic thing really… Because you’re trying to obey God’s laws, you’re turning away from these desires and you have all this guilt, and the pain, and the shame, because of that, but that’s the same thing from what you’re saying is what’s keeping you from turning to God more fully… And it sounds like it’s the same with other people as well… That even in here, you feel that shame and it’s kind’ve preventing you from fully opening up sometimes. Though you’ve been very open most of the time, there are times when you haven’t been able to bring something up. You worry that I’m going to judge you…” S said, bringing up something that I’ve never considered before – that what’s happening to me pulling away from God in order to please him has been an ironic thing.

“Yeah…”

“And the same with J (Hubster)… And the same with your parents… You mention that point where you get in a relationship where you start feeling like a burden. And I wonder if that’s kind of what’s going on there as well…” S theorized.

“Yeah… I think so… I feel like… I don’t know. I think that’s why I get so angry at people sometimes. People who are openly gay or people who are Christian but have a partner or whatever you know… It’s like… I think I get angry because it’s like ‘Wow it’s so easy for you. You’ve totally copped out’ or something like ‘I wish I could just say the same too… Be ok with this…’ At this point, I really can’t. I’m not sure what to do about it…”

“I think… Maybe that’s not the important thing right now… You’ve mentioned that God has always been there and you felt like you’ve been turning away. So maybe that’s what we need to deal with right now… To help you connect with God. And figure out what he wants for you…”

“Yeah…”

“I think maybe… We’ve talked about transference here… I think the same thing can happen to God. I mean, Freud thought that all God was was just us projecting our own paternal figures into the ether and that’s why God wasn’t real. Now obviously I don’t agree with that (he and I both identify as Christian) but I think there’s something to that. God being distinct or at least not as empirically sensible as a human being kinda enables us to do that projection. We think about what our parents were like sometimes by eerie coincidence mirrors our perception of God and it can be hard to get past that….” S said, saying things that really made sense.

“Yeah…”

“But I encourage you to pray about some of the stuff that we’ve talked about… And just maybe, focus in a way that you haven’t before and see what that feels like.”

“Yeah… I’m gong to have to do that. I think I’m… I think I’ve been running away…”

“I understand why” S said, kindly.

“Yeah… Cuz I think it’s the same exact thing that I did to my physical parents. I’ve been running away from facing these things… I guess it’s easier to run away from my parents”

“It is… You put a lot of distance between you and your parents…” S said, agreeing.

And that conversation ended there because we ran out of time but it was an insightful and interesting conversation. I didn’t think it would be something that I would relate to again so soon after we had it.

I know my spiritual health has been suffering – it’s been suffering for years now. I’ve just never wanted to fix it – again, it goes back to the fear that I’ve been having that God is angry at me.

It seems like finding that module in the Health and Wellness Promotion Leaders Academy course was timely. It seems like a sign almost – that I need to get back on caring for my spiritual health. Again, I don’t expect people who don’t agree with the idea of a God governing the universe to understand. But I respect people’s opinions enough to not get mad if someone were to tell me that I just need to not believe in a God. In any case, I do believe in God and it isn’t something I’m willing to back down on.

Despite being a thoroughly non-confrontational person, when it comes to my faith, it is definitely something I’ll defend to the death. It’s just my opinion and my belief on the matter and I accept that not everyone can see it this way either. And that’s fine with me. I just hope that others can be civil with me about this as well. I don’t set out to try and “convert” people either. I’m not like most Christians you’ve met or heard of in the news. I don’t ever intend to be like that either.

Anyway, this has been an interesting exercise in reflection. I was in a very distressed state of mind just an hour ago due to some circumstances and was contemplating suicide again. I had a plan. I’ve calmed down enough now though.

Lashing Out After Session

Due to the nature of the topics we covered today, the belligerent and stubborn angry “teenager” emerged. I took up more of S’ time than I should’ve because I refused to  acknowledge that I’ll be okay for the rest of the week.

The “teenager” decided that she wanted to hurt herself. S asked me if I’d be safe for at least today, and I said I don’t know. I said that I want to reach into my bag and grab my knife to hurt myself with. The “teenager” is so angry. So angry at myself.

Something we talked about really triggered the anger and I was hateful towards myself. Hateful, stubborn and angry. I wasn’t hating S per se, but I was definitely a little angry that we talked about some stuff that I didn’t want to. Then I turned the anger inward and I started hating myself.

When I left S’ office and walked into the elevator, I punched the wall and hurt my fist because I had to relinquish my knife to S. He asked me if I felt like I needed to go to the hospital. I contemplated it. It felt like a good idea but I also know that I need to go to classes and be the rational adult that I am.

I’m in class now. I was feeling really dejected as I walked out of CAPS. I stood outside the building for 10 minutes, contemplating the roof of the parking garage across from the CAPS building. Then I started to walk to campus, looking at the ground as I walked. As I neared the main road that runs through campus, a classmate of mine broke my glum thoughts by calling my name. I looked up and instinctively put on the mask that I always wear when I’m out in public. I forgot to put that back on when I exited S’ office. Only S, CAPS staff and Hubster really ever gets to see me without my mask on. My classmate walked with me to class and at this point, I think that was really the only thing that prevented me from hurting myself.

I know I made S worry. I could see it all over his face. I feel bad about that. But I can’t stop the “teenager”. I wish I could.

“We’re in the middle of it now”, S had said as we ended. “And I know it doesn’t feel good…. But you will get through this, Jules…”

The “teenager” refuses to believe him. Even now. I hope I can convince her that she’s going to be okay.

What Does It Mean to Let Go?

Since yesterday’s session with S, I had been thinking about what he said – specifically what he said about letting go; “You don’t need to feel the guilt and shame. You didn’t do anything wrong. You couldn’t have known.” and at one point, I think he even used the words, “Let go of these emotions”.

The first question that came to mind was, “How?” – I should’ve verbalized it and asked him because right now, I’m left wondering what it means to let go of something. How do you not feel something? Does it mean that I stop thinking about it?

I stopped thinking about the jerk who had used/abused me for 10 years but the realization that my trauma from that “relationship” has left me being triggered for all these years prove that not thinking something is not a guarantee that I have let go of something.

To me, the idea of letting go is very abstract and until someone can point out practical things I can do to “let go”, I will not understand this concept. I struggle with abstract concepts and so the times when S have told me to practice mindfulness without giving me clear practical examples, I have not been able to do as he has suggested.

At one point in our session yesterday, he did say to me, “I think the first step you need to take right now is to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for all the things that have happened and not blame yourself for all of them anymore…”. What he said left me sobbing uncontrollably. Somehow, the idea of forgiving myself is too monumental a task for me – something that I seemingly can’t and won’t do. Is that what it takes to let go of something that has been hurting me for years?

What does it mean to forgive myself? Is it to tell myself that yes stuff happened but that it’s ok? That it wasn’t my fault?

I don’t know. I’ll keep thinking about it but for now, I’m not quite clear what this all means.

When “Suicide” Is Nonchalantly Used As An Excuse

Recently, I was in the room when a conversation began between some people. Normally, it wouldn’t have been a conversation that I would’ve been interested in as one of the participants of the conversation, a girl, was talking about getting something cosmetically done to herself. What has made this conversation stick to my mind was because part of the conversation touched on the topic of mental health – more specifically, on the topic of suicide.

It was a harmless enough conversation when it began. Girl said she wanted to get a piercing done but had to skip class to do so. Girl was worried about the excuse she would have to come up with in order to skip class. She and everyone else in the room started brainstorming things she could tell her Professor. Even I chimed in with a suggestion that she just tell her Professor that she can’t attend due to personal reasons – why go into specifics, right? That was my reasoning.

Girl wanted to use the excuse that someone in her family had passed away. I told her that it was a weak excuse unless she could produce proof that she had attended a funeral. Besides, I said, who wants to use such a terrible excuse because it would mean condemning some family member to some death – even if said family member was fictional, I felt that it was pushing things too far.

After a somewhat lengthy discussion between her and the other people in the room about what excuse she should come up with, someone said, “You know what you could do? Just say that your friend committed suicide.”

Just as the words came out of his mouth, I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Those words were impactful, even if he hadn’t meant it at all. “Yeah, someone I knew had committed suicide once and I was here working. When the call came, I went and told our director that I needed that day off and when I told him why, he asked no further questions. So if you told your Professor that, you’ll be off the hook for sure! No one wants to talk about suicides…”

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” I said to that person. I didn’t know how to feel at that point. I was taken off guard.

“Yeah, it wasn’t really someone I was close to but you know, part of the family and all…”

I excused myself from the room after that. I couldn’t hear anymore. I felt like I should’ve said something but between being taken off guard and feeling fearful that people would want to know more about my own mental illnesses and whether I too was suicidal, I had to leave. I don’t know why but at that moment, I felt ashamed and fearful. I was afraid that someone would say, “Hey Jules! Don’t you have mental illnesses? Are you suicidal too?” I can’t explain it but at that moment, I had to flee.

And flee I did because I left the room, while feeling my heart pound in my ear. I had to tell myself that the person who had said that didn’t mean it, that it wasn’t personal, that I wasn’t the one he was talking about.

Despite telling myself that I am unashamed of having mental illnesses, when it comes down to it, a face-to-face interaction is difficult to do. I know now, that when it comes down to a verbal confrontations, I really still don’t have the courage to face up to the person who had said whatever stigmatizing thing they said and tell them how I really feel about the situation. It makes me feel small and weak.

At the same time, I also made made me wonder if they would have said the same things had they had known that I was suicidal or whether it was something that they had said because they didn’t think through their words. If I had been better prepared, maybe I would have said something about the comment.

I might not have been mad – I don’t get offended when people talk about mental health topics in a negative way – but I might have used that opportunity to just shed some light about mental illnesses and mental health. It might help the students realize that mental health topics aren’t jokes to be thrown around.

I am disappointed by how I reacted but I hope that in the future, should something like this arise again, that I would be better prepared to give a more positive response. I hope to shed the fear and shame – it is still an ongoing thing that S and I are working on.

Self-Blame, Guilt and Blame-Shifting

It was a good thing that I had actually made the decision to go to CAPS on Wednesday. As I suspected, I started having a really bad transition into the weekend (I work Thursdays to Sunday so I often classify Thursday – Sunday as my weekend).

If I hadn’t seen the on-call therapist, J, when I did, I might have succumbed to my self-destructive desires. Like I’ve mentioned before, not only do I have art supplies like X-Acto knives (which are scalpel-like in their sharpness) and box cutters, I also have access to kitchen knives and steak knives at work. I am at a point in life where I can’t trust my own strength – I know I am stronger than I think I am but really, sometimes, my resolve can be a little weak especially when I feel like I’m overwhelmed.

Anyway, I have realized that I am quick to blame myself for everything and I perceive people’s reactions as more negative than they really are. And when I do, I quickly assume that I’ve done something wrong and that the other party now hates me.

Today, I had advised my husband to cook fish at a low temperature as the kitchen was starting to smoke and the inside of the fish was undercooked. I thought that the high heat must be causing the fish to sear on the outside and not cook thoroughly in the inside. Being the awesome husband he is, he took my advice and cooked the fish at a lower temperature. What ended up happening was the fish starting to fall apart and overcook as the low temperature didn’t help the fish come together as one single piece but to cook at an individual flake level. He ended up with a pretty disappointing piece of fish for lunch. I felt extremely bad because I knew that had he just worked with his own understanding of cooking, he’d have gotten the fish right. Instead, he had listened to me and now he had a lunch that he was forced to eat despite it not tasting right.

I felt guilty. I felt really bad – devastated would be a little too strong a word, but I felt close to that. Over a piece of fish.

If I were to tell this to someone that I am now withdrawing from my husband because I gave him advice that caused him to ruin a piece of fish, they would probably laugh. “You feel suicidal because of a piece of fish?” might be something they might say.

Sure, when you put it that way, it seems silly.

However, I realized just now that it wasn’t about the fish. It was about my advice – it was about how my husband had trusted me to give him good advice and he had trusted me to help him. Instead, I had let him down. It’s about how guilty I feel for letting him down. It’s about how quickly I judged myself and how much I blame myself for the tiniest thing. I realize that it isn’t the end of the world but at that moment, it seemed like it was.

Now I’ve projected all my own feelings of worthlessness on him and acted like I am the one who is mad at him when in reality, he should be the one mad at me. I realize now that I still can’t stop myself from feeling as my first reaction. I still can’t stop myself from reacting before I think.

If I had just stopped and thought about the matter, perhaps I wouldn’t be isolating myself now and acting like a puppy with its tail tucked between its legs. I know I need to acknowledge that yes, this feeling sucks; that yes, I made a mistake; that yes, I should’ve looked up more information online or something because I am no cook. I also know that I need to forgive myself for these things. I was trying to be helpful but I did so without first thinking. I know that I need to overcome that impulsivity that is inherent with my ADHD. And I know I need to stop beating myself up over things that others might not even really mind.

My husband is probably not mad at me but in my mind, I project that he is. That he must be in his office now being mad at me. I know these thoughts are probably lies my mind creates to keep me burdened and depressed. After all, J told me that I had created a fool-proof way to keep myself in a depressive loop. That I invalidate my own thoughts and thus destroy any semblance of self-confidence.

I told my husband a few days ago, “You know… I used to be more confident than this. I used to be able to stand up for a value or point that I believe in and not feel bad for believing what I do. Lately, I can’t even be confident that I’m good at trig when I know that I am. What happened?”

I think it’s starting to become clear to me that for the longest time, I’ve been blaming others for killing my confidence. “It’s their fault that I couldn’t do that…”, “It’s not my fault that the knowledge I got about that topic was flawed. The person who shared that knowledge with me was wrong… I just did as they did…”, “It’s my parents’ fault that I grew up not knowing how to deal with anger…” and so on and so forth. I am starting to realize that despite the anger turned inward that I experience in my self, I also experience blame-shifting.

Yes, I do blame myself for the tiniest things. But at the same time, I also blame others for a lot of things. I blame others for killing my confidence, for bringing me down, for not supporting me, for ignoring my pain etc. when really, I am the one who is killing my own confidence, I am bringing myself down, I am not self-caring, I am not self-empathetic, I am ignoring my own pain and I’m projecting all these thoughts and emotions towards others. It’s no wonder that I don’t have many friends. It’s no wonder that no one wants to interact with me anymore.

I find that it’s interesting that I sat down to write a little short post about how I find it ironic that even what is considered the “happiest” country in the world, Switzerland, has suicide rates. That despite being the happiest country in the world, they still have people who struggle with suicidal thoughts. Instead, this post turned into a self reflection on a deeper level – on a topic that I’ve not really allowed myself to contemplate because it’s too shameful and too painful to broach.

That I feel guilt, shame and self depreciation which I try to shift onto others through blame because to acknowledge that I’m doing these things to myself is far more difficult and painful than it is to blame others. Is this a breakthrough I need to move forward? Is this the breakthrough I need to stop the vicious cycle I’ve put myself in? Of finding answers, then invalidating the answers with self doubt and then slipping into depression again?

I don’t know these answers but I do know that this is probably the first step I need to take.

As for how I feel at the beginning of this post (how I felt extremely down because of my poor advice), I am actually feeling a lot better since I started writing this.