Thoughts from Therapy #39

Today during therapy, I used the word “shame” out loud. I’ve internalized that word for so long and have always felt terribly embarrassed to even utter the word “shame” because it makes me feel sick, bad, and disgusted all at once. The effect that the word “shame” has on me is similar to the effect the word “moist” has on some people.

S seemed impressed that I had used that word. He said, “I don’t think you’ve ever used that word before”

I nodded and said to him, “Yeah. I hate that word. I can’t even say it without feeling really bad. I hate how it makes me feel and I hate how disgusting I am when I think about it. I’ve always just preferred to use the word ’embarrassed'”.

“Well, that word does seem more benign…” S agreed.

It definitely is. Somehow, just saying the word “shame” makes me feel like a bad person – like a bad child who needs to be scolded, and punished. It brings up horrible memories of all kinds of unresolved negative situations and traumas. The worst part about all that is how vivid these bad memories are.

So, instead of learning to deal with embarrassing and shameful situations, I’ve replaced any kind of shameful feelings with anger. Any time I feel threatened, I flare up in anger. The annoying thing about this anger is how no one ever sees it but Hubster so it makes him think that I’m always angry at him even though it’s not true. I am angry at myself. I have so much self-loathing that I can’t deal with; so it projects out as anger towards my loving and kind husband.

I told S that I don’t think anyone else has really seen my anger. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even showed my anger towards you. I mean, I’ve never gotten angry while I’m here with you despite the fact that I trust you…”

“Yeah, you have never shown me that side of you before,” S had agreed.

As I continued talking, I realized that my anger is just a way for me to escape having to feel anything real. I know I have talked about my anger before. In fact, in our first session ever, when S had asked me what brought me to therapy, I had told him that I don’t know why I’m so angry all the time and one of the goals for therapy is to fix that. We’ve dealt with my anger and rage issues off and on since then. It’s the underlying problem in my daily struggle for the most part. I know I’ve talked about it a lot here on my blog but I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten very far with this topic.

Today though, as I kept talking (I usually somehow stumble on my answers as I just ramble – it’s like when I’m in therapy, my unconscious has control of my mouth), I started to realize that the anger not only triggers a sharp dip in my overall mood and sends me into a downward spiral of negativity, it also triggers my “I give up” mechanism. My anger causes me to punish myself repeatedly and vivid memories of incompetence, negligence, or plain ignorance on my part haunt me. They make me relive all of my failures and embarrassing life moments. I theorized with S that it must be because of a childhood trauma that I had experienced that had started all of this.

“I’m disgusting,” I said to S. It just occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve ever said that aloud. I’ve never told myself that before but I realize that that feeling has been a part of me for a very long time. I have some memories of a happy childhood before that trauma but after it? I can’t say I remember any good memories. Almost all of the memories I have since then (I don’t remember how old I was but it was below 5 years of age), have just been ones related to shame.

“You feel like somehow what you’ve done is related to who you are. That because you didn’t do something right that it makes you a bad person.” S iterated. He likes to do that – I think it’s so that he can understand my perspective better and perhaps a part of it too is to make me realize things that I have said. Sometimes, while I’m in the thick of the session, I can’t always remember what I’ve said because I was just rambling in the middle of all the ramblings were clues and important hidden truths.

He told me then that when people can’t deal with shame, it’s often because they feel like somehow what they’ve done or not done is somehow related to who they really are even though that is a false belief.

“So I think we’ve come to an important point this week. Shame. This week, it’s something you should focus on. That every time you feel it, to name it. That ‘I feel shame’. This is how I feel,” S said, as we wrapped up.

I felt a shudder go down my spine as he said that. It was by far, the hardest homework he’s ever assigned me.

“When you said that, the first thought that came up was ‘That sounds painful’. It’s painful to even think about it…”

“It is painful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I don’t think I can say that “I feel shame” so easily. I mean, I can say it easily now with no feelings. But if I were to really feel it, then I don’t think I can make it through those 3 words. I mean, I could say it just now but I wasn’t feeling anything…” Inexplicably, tears sprung to my eyes as I said that. I think it was a reaction to the pain I would feel if I acknowledged my feelings of shame.

I told S that I feel like I never do anything good – that any time I do a good thing, it’s always because I want to feel good. I told him that I feel like a selfish person. Someone who only does something good for someone else just to get something back.

He also told me that he understands better now why I so desperately need validation from others and how self-validation always makes me feel worse.

I can’t believe that I’m not doing something nice just for the sake of it because I have thoughts that say otherwise. ‘Oh, you’re just there for her so that you can have a friend’, ‘Oh, you bought him a birthday cake just so you could get recognition for what you did…’, ‘Ugh. Look at you being all prideful about your work. You’re so arrogant’, ‘You try to uplift people during group therapy so that they can acknowledge what a brave and nice person you are. Wow, you’re so desperate for attention’ – are some of the things I hear in my head whenever I do something nice or good. How much of that is true? Is it selfish to want someone to do something nice for me without me asking them to? S said that that was a good question and I knew that he probably said that because we were nearing the end of our session.

I hate how it takes me at least half an hour to get to a point where my thoughts and emotions are flowing and I then only have about 10-15 minutes to really has those important thoughts before we’re done for the day. Then when I try to keep the things we talked about in mind for the next session so we could pick up where we’ve left off, other things usually happen throughout my week to replace the progress and so we end up talking about those things instead of the important things that I had brought up the week before. I wish I had more time in therapy. Maybe I’m just being impatient but I want to get things figured out. (At the same time, I don’t because on the other hand, I want to stay in therapy as long as I can – yes, I know it’s messed up)

I complained about how much I hate that I don’t have enough time to really work out my issues in therapy. S looked sympathetic on that. He didn’t have a response and repeated, “Yeah” empathetically. “That’s the reality, huh?” he eventually said. I nodded.

“It definitely is…” I replied, bleakly.

“Well, I think it might be a good place to end. Good work today.”

I barely heard his praise and in fact, I didn’t even think about it until now that I’m writing this. Perhaps it was his way of validating me or helping me realize how I’ve done good work but thinking about those three words now makes me feel good. And at the same time, it makes me feel bad too. My self-loathing needs to stop. I know that.

I also know that the rest of this week is going to be a difficult one. I had a relatively easy-going week last week but I can already feel the beginnings of a very emotionally heavy week. Still, despite that, I am still thankful that I am beginning to venture into the darker territories of my mind and hopefully this means that I’m now more ready to face the demons that come out of that dark territory. I know at the very least, I have a partner I can rely on to help me fight it.

Lowest Point

Well tonight I hit my lowest point. I don’t remember a time worse than this or a time where I had actually contemplated writing a note.

Perhaps it’s time for me to answer my BHM (Behavioral Health Measure) questionnaire with a “Moderate” risk under the “How high is your risk of suicide?” section. I’ve always put my answer at the “Low” to “No Risk” sections. I’ve never contemplated writing a note before.

Tonight I did.

Tonight so many things came together to kick me down and I think it’s largely because of some miscommunication and misunderstanding on my part. It’s like my brain, which is already in a depressed state, jumped straight to negative overdrive and stayed there all night.

I am still in that state but a little past wanting to actually kill myself. I’m back in the passive suicidal mode where I want to die and wish I was dead but am no longer contemplating writing a note and things like that.

The thing is, the people I complain to all the time have heard it so much that it’s become possibly grating to them. “Oh here we go again. She’s suicidal again.” – if it isn’t, then at least that’s how I perceive it to be. If I had a loved one who kept going back to the suicidal mode, I would be annoyed to at some point.

I won’t kill myself tonight. But I sure wish I was dead.

Late Night Desperation

Well, I’m still struggling today.

I think it has largely been because of the poor choices I’ve made today and now ruminating on those poor choices is making me feel more depressed. I had a grande size Starbucks green tea latte this afternoon – against my better judgment. Not only have I been getting used to consuming only about 50-100g of carbs a day, I’ve also cut down on my sugar intake and have almost entirely eliminated caffeine from my diet. Downing the 16oz sugary drink that was loaded with caffeine was a terrible idea. I did it because I was tutoring trigonometry to a student who had decided that Starbucks is the place she’d like us to meet at. I did it because I didn’t feel right taking up room at the coffee shop without purchasing something. I suppose I could’ve gotten a bottle of water. But I didn’t.

Later that evening, I decided that it was a good idea to join in on some wine tasting at work. I don’t think I consumed anything more than 3 oz of red wine but being the lightweight that I am, I was pretty “lit” for a few hours after the wine consumption. Alcohol almost always depresses me – the only time that had proven to be the opposite was when I was in the company of my best friends who had taken good care of me – and as I am already depressed as it is, the alcohol kicked things up a notch.

I chided myself for being an idiot. I know myself well enough to know that consuming sugar, caffeine and alcohol would lead to disastrous consequences. Then why did I do it? I can’t explain it myself.

I did tell Hubster earlier tonight that I can’t enjoy all the things that people find enjoyable – I can’t tolerate most stimulants which includes my ADHD medications (Adderall and Ritalin), caffeine and energy drinks. I can’t tolerate alcohol. I can’t tolerate cigarettes. There’s another thing that most people enjoy that I can’t enjoy either but it’s something that I’m not comfortable discussing yet. I mused over the fact that I really have nothing that I can relate to people with where socialization is concerned because most people bond over having a cup of coffee or a smoke or a few hard drinks. I can’t enjoy any of that and it made me feel somewhat bitter.

So I’m still up at 2.12am, wasting time in front of the computer and wishing that I wasn’t feeling so desperately lonely. I mean, no one I’m close to is up at this time. Who am I to talk to but my depressed self?

I know what I have to do to end this – I have to go to sleep.

Sleep is the thing that will help me stop ruminating and overthinking. Yet, I can’t sleep because the Straterra that I just took two hours ago is keeping me up. It’s ironic really, that when I take the Straterra in the morning, I get so drowsy that I can barely function but when I take it at night, I can’t sleep. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I’ve taken this medication and I’m told that the side effects will lessen once my body gets used to it.

Until then, I think it’ll be more insomniac nights for me then – nights where I lay awake, dwelling on things that I really shouldn’t be thinking about; tossing and turning in bed while having stress dreams about Calculus and Computing, and feeling listless and depressed.

I am afraid of the things that my mind will push my body to do when I’m tired, grumpy and desperately sad. I haven’t hurt myself in a at least a month now. I don’t want to start again. I don’t want to do anything stupid. I hope I don’t.

I need to sleep.

I’ll try to sleep.

Fall 2015 Grades

Full Grades

Fall 2015 grades

Not bragging but I received another 4.0 this semester and I’m extremely grateful, especially since as you all know, I’ve been struggling pretty badly emotionally and psychologically this semester.

I don’t know why exactly but this semester had been a mostly downhill rollercoaster ride and I had been more depressed than I’ve ever been in my life. I was also more anxious than I’ve ever been and more unfocused and impulsive than I’ve ever been. I don’t know if those are just a result of higher stress or whether it’s because therapy is shining a light on these issues and so I’m more aware of it – by being more aware of something, it’ll seem more severe in many cases.

I’m grateful for all the encouraging people I’ve met this semester who have had a part to play in my success in school – of course my ever faithful husband who bears the brunt of my emotional upheavals and instabilities, my patient and insightful psychologist, S, and my new friends, El, R, M and E who have been extremely encouraging have been consistently there to support me. Without them, I doubt that I would’ve achieved all A’s in all my classes.

I’m also grateful for my instructors who had been understanding about my difficulties as a non-traditional student whose English is a second language who also struggles with ADHD, Anxiety and Depression. They had been gracious – especially my Color and Design instructor who had allowed me to turn in an assignment a couple of hours later because my ADHD-addled brain couldn’t remember that I had an assignment due. I’m also grateful to my Speech instructor who encouraged me to speak my mind and allowed me to share my experiences in mental illnesses. I am grateful for the reconsideration of my grade for one of my drawings in Architectural Presentation as I felt like I could’ve definitely done better on that drawing but was allowed to make up for it anyway. And I’m definitely very thankful to have met my Algebra and Trigonometry 2 instructor because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have applied to be a tutor for math or have even gotten the 107.69% grade and “Best in Section” title for that class. He is by far the most passionate math teacher I’ve ever met and I’m so glad to have been able to be a part of his class.

Now, I just need to calm my anxiety down because it’s already telling me that I won’t be able to keep this up for yet another semester. Hubster exclaimed, “But that’s what you said last semester remember? And see how well you did this semester!” and I countered with “Yeah, but I’ve got Calculus and Computing next semester!” to which he responded with, “Oh whatever. I know you can do it. You’ve proven that you can!” A mutual friend had also said to me, “You know Jules, you really prove that with a will, there’s a way!”. I truly believe that now. That if I want something bad enough, I will achieve it because I will work hard to do so.

I also need to remind myself that if I can do this well when I’m struggling with being emotionally unstable, what can’t I accomplish when I’m better? It’s a good reminder to keep fighting. I may have added three more scars to my arm from the self harm but I know that someday I will be able to overcome that – even if it means having to fight every single day against that impulse.

Difficult Semester – Another Visit to CAPS

This has definitely been a really difficult semester for me.

For the fourth time this semester, I had to go to CAPS for yet another on-call session.

This plus the fact that I’m only in school for another 2 weeks is the reason why I have not been posting anything on this blog lately.

I’ve been struggling with feeling down and haven’t felt motivated enough to do anything. I’ve been slacking off on my math homework as well and so I’m struggling with the conics section.

I had a very insightful on-call session with my psychologist and it was an hour and 10 minutes long conversation. We covered a lot of things – most of all, we covered why I had cut myself the evening before.

I had been feeling numb and dissociated lately. I cut myself last night because I needed to feel something. Something other than the desperate despair that I had been feeling lately. Something other than the anger and the frustrations that I’ve been carrying around since the weekend has ended. Something to show that I could still feel.

I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel anything before I cut, while I cut and even after I cut. I didn’t feel any emotions after I cut, though I did feel a lot calmer. For some reason, I felt like I needed to look at the cuts – to see a physical sign of my depression. Seeing the cuts gave me peace of mind – strangely enough.

I was fortunate to be able to meet with my own psychologist again today. I was able to learn a great deal about myself and about what I’ve been feeling. I’ve been suppressing them and denying them because they’re too painful to bear. They’re too difficult to process.

In the conversation we had today, I learned that my psychologist is not frustrated that I keep having to come back in to CAPS to see him – despite having only seen him yesterday. He is committed to helping me and I need to believe that he is. I wanted to tell him how afraid I am of the possibility that he is disappointed in me – I view him like he’s my mentor/father/older brother. So his opinion of me seems to matter to me a great deal. And I was afraid that when I walked in to CAPS today to see him that he would say, “What are you doing back here again? We just spoke yesterday!” – but he didn’t. Instead, he told me that he’s glad that I came in to see him again. He told me that he and I have a good connection and that because of that, he’s able to help me figure out things better.

At one point, I came to a huge realization (“I can’t affirm myself because when I do, I feel guilty”), and it came without any pre-planning on my part. The words had just tumbled out of my mouth and both of us sat there in stunned silence for a few moments.

I said to S, “What was that? I swear that just came out… I can’t affirm myself because when I do, I feel guilty… Have I ever told you that before?”

“No… That’s the first time you’ve ever said that. And I’m actually surprised too…”, S said.

Then I started laughing and he did too.

“Wow. How do you do that? You know… I always leave here feeling awed at how you are always able to figure stuff out for me. I’m always thinking… How did he manage to get us to this point and this revelation? I mean, I know you’re an experienced therapist and that must be it but really… I’m always amazed…”

He then revealed to me that he’s been a licensed psychologist for almost 10 years and had been doing therapy for many many hours in his career. But he also wanted me to know that I’m not just any other client – that we have developed a bond and a relationship in which the conversation can flow well. I’m thankful.

I’m so very thankful for this patient and kind psychologist. I had actually gotten to a point in the conversation where I had expressed my fear and anxiety, “Why do you care about me? Why do you want to help me? How are you not frustrated at me for always going back to the same things over and over? How are you not frustrated at me for being so addicted to my depression? You’re not a part of my life, so why would you care? In fact, why would any therapist care?”

My friend, El, had said that they care because it’s their job.

In retrospect, now that I’m reading what I said to S, I’m beginning to think that I was extremely rude to him in saying that. Now I wish I could’ve taken it back because it sounds so accusatory. It’s not. I don’t mean it that way at all. I just feel so anguished and disbelieving that anyone would or should care about me.

He responded to my question with a question that was redirected to me. (I have realized that S does this a lot – answering questions with more questions. And usually answering them in a way that would mean that he would not have to express his own opinions. He’d usually redirect them back to me or reuse my words to explain things. It’s a little frustrating sometimes because I want to pick his brain sometimes…). He said, “Remember a few weeks ago when I asked you what God’s purpose is for you and you had said that maybe it’s so that you can help others? Remember all those random people you met, whose lives you had no part in, that you had helped just by your simple gesture of talking to them? Did you not feel like those were meaningful interactions for you? That you had found meaning in helping them. Yet, you weren’t a part of their lives… Why did you help them?”

I was again, awed. He had done it again. He had brought me another impactful revelation. He was right of course. He is helping me because I need help and he’s able to provide it – and along the way, he is able to find meaning in doing so. Just like I did when I helped all those other random people about two weeks ago.

S is awesome. Like all the other times, I had contemplated not going in to talk to him. I had tried to reason with myself that I didn’t need it. That I could deal with it myself. I didn’t even think we would have anything to talk about. We ended up talking for an hour and 10 minutes. Longer than our usual sessions. And we found more insight today than most days.

He told me that back when I first started therapy, I couldn’t even identify the feelings that I was experiencing. The fact that I can now do that and am consciously doing it is a good thing. He then suggested that I try to self-affirm for the rest of this week and be curious as to how I’d respond to those self affirmations.

He told me to say things like, “I am a good wife”, “I am good at math”, “I am able to do many different things and be successful at them”, “I am worth S helping me”, “I deserve therapy” and to see how I feel every time I do so. He wants me to “sit with my feelings” – as he would often put it.

Then as our session drew to an end, he asked me how I felt.

I told him how tired I was and how tired I am of struggling with myself. I told him that every time things go well or we figure something out, something else comes up.

He reminded me that I was self-invalidating again. That I do that very often – so it creates a mental block for me and one that is so strong that it’s hard for me to overcome.

I didn’t realize that for me to say that I am tired of how new things keep coming up was also another indication that I was self-defeating. I noted it and realized that I am so self-defeating all the time. S told me that I need to keep myself in the more positive realm of my affirmation – to avoid telling myself things like “Oh I may be good at math but someone else is better” or “I can do this fine but so-and-so is so much better” and the like.

I guess I never realized how I’ve developed this really bad habit and I never even realized that I had this bad habit!

At the end of our session, I felt much better than before I had walked in. I was thankful that I was able to defeat my anxiety and go in to ask for help. I was glad that I was even brave enough to ask for help.

I know now that I can’t do this alone. And I’m glad that I have a partner in my psychologist, a steadfast partner who is there to help.

I think I’ll be able to deal with the rest of the week better now. At the very least, I might not be as prone to cutting myself as I was this past week. I will try the things S suggested. Ultimately, he can only do so much – the rest of the work is up to me.

When You Expect Things

I don’t expect my friends or family to understand how it feels like to wake up in the morning and feel hopeless about life. I don’t expect them to understand how hard it is to live in my own skin and be happy with my own life choices. I don’t expect them to understand how hard it is to battle my desire to harm myself. I don’t expect them to understand how hard it is for me to not think of all the different ways I could kill myself.

But in saying that, I realize that even when I don’t expect anything from them, that in itself is an expectation. When expectations are unmet, it creates stress, unhappiness and tension. I realize that my not having expectations from them is a false feeling. It’s a feeling I’ve given myself in order to keep myself from being disappointed. Yet, it is still an expectation.

I expect my friends and family to at least care to ask. I expect them to at least educate themselves on what I’m struggling with. I expect them to at least be there for me.

Yet, I don’t verbalize these expectations. I expect them to know. I realize I’m also part of the problem.

However, that said, I have been talking about my experiences. I have posted many things about the things I go through. So in my mind, shouldn’t that be enough to exemplify what I expect?

Apparently not.

Last night, I had written a Facebook status bemoaning all the grey hairs I was finding. It was part humor and part anxiety – I don’t know why but I’ve always been afraid of growing old. Probably because I don’t want to become irrelevant the older I get. The response from a friend was, “You turned 30, not 60. Chill out”. Which is all and fine – funny and admonishing at the same time, even.

I laughed at it until I realize that a deeper issue lies in the comment – one of ignorance to my condition. The comment was not out of malice – this was after all, a friend that I knew had been there for me – yet, I couldn’t help but read deeper into it as a response from someone who didn’t fully understand what goes on in an anxious person’s mind.

Yes, I shouldn’t dwell on the fact that I’m aging. That bit I agree with. But I’ve heard the words “Chill out” before when I spoke of my desire to die and I’ve heard those words from people who are supposed to care. I guess that’s my first mistake – to assume that people are “supposed” to do anything.

Maybe that’s why things are so bad for me – I assume and expect too much from people who are “supposed” to care.

36 Tattoos That Give Us Hope For Mental Health Recovery

I’m always excited when I get featured on The Mighty. If you haven’t already noticed, on the left side bar of my blog, I state that I’m one of the contributors to The Mighty – a website/community representing all people with disabilities, diseases and illnesses. I write primarily about my anxiety and depression.

It was because of The Mighty that I got the help I needed and came to terms with the fact that I am in fact in need of help. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone and it inspired me to write.

So now, whenever I have a chance, I try to contribute to them. I haven’t done that in a while now because you know, Depression, but from time to time, I do little things like submit my photo and stuff like that to answer questions.

Today, they posted an article about tattoos that give people hope through their mental illnesses. My tattoo (albeit temporary) was featured and I’m actually pretty happy about that.

Here’s the article in case anyone’s interested: 36 Tattoos That Give Us Hope For Mental Health Recovery

On a side note, I succumbed to peer pressure during the dinner that my co-workers took me out on and had a martini that they had ordered me. Their goal was to get me drunk, which is not hard because I’m actually alcohol intolerant. I refused several times and told them that I have a quiz tomorrow but lo and behold, a martini arrived in front of me moments later. I totally appreciate the gesture and for them to want to get me to have some fun but at the same time, I am currently battling my Depression and it sucks. It sucks feeling like I wish I were never born; it sucks that I feel like I want to cut myself again; it just sucks.

It really was my fault that I drank it. I shouldn’t have.

Anyway, “Thoughts from Therapy” will be posted as soon as I get some studying done for my trig quiz tomorrow.