Pride Deserving of a Gryffindor

Today, I’m proud of myself.

Now, that’s quite a rare one, isn’t it?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you’d know that I have a high level of self-shame, self-hatred, and I find it hard to self-love.

Lately however, I’ve been coming to terms with how I feel about myself and learning what it means to self-love.

I said to S today, “Part of me can’t believe that I got to the realization that I need to cut off ties with my ex in order to heal in just a matter of days…” (I had come to terms with my decision early this week since having made said decision just a few days prior) and he said something that I’d known in the back of my mind but never really paid much attention to.

S said, “I want to challenge that notion that seems to undermine the amount of work you’ve done here. We’re coming up to 2 years of working together, and in that time, we’ve been dealing with the same things over and over again. You’ve worked incredibly hard!”

I thought hard as he said that and I realized that he was right.

Come April, it’ll have been 2 years of therapy. It’s almost unbelievable how long I’ve been grinding away at this, and how much I’ve worked. It still feels surreal. How could we have known each other that long?

Is that why I could just saunter into CAPS and say hi to everyone there as though I’ve been buddies with them for ages? I walk in through the doors and just casually say, “Hi D! How’s it going this week?” or “Hi K! Whatchu up to?” (K is the new receptionist that was hired to deal with the increasing demands of front desk work)

Is that why I could plop myself down in S’ client couch and just lean back like I was very comfortable? And is that why I can now ask him questions more plainly without having to ruminate over them for months before I bring anything up?

Wow. I don’t know why I am thinking like this is such a big deal – I mean, sure, I’ve been there almost 2 years now, so what, right?

That said, a part of me recognizes just how important this is – how important this journey has been thus far.

I keep undermining my efforts because I’m so short-sighted – I only see what’s immediately in front of me. S, on the other hand, had the privilege of being a third party observer who has his own informed perspective to use.

He said, “I don’t want you to sway you to my perspective but that’s how I see it. I see it as you, having put in so much time, energy, and effort into this recovery process, that it took you only a few days to come to terms with your decision because it’s been a long time coming. All those months of work have prepared you for this. You didn’t just wake up one day and decided that you were over the divorce…”

As I chewed on his words, I realized that I started to feel the warm feeling of pride inside. I started to realize how strong I’ve been – despite all the batterings I’ve endured last year, I emerged through that alive.

I started to realize that I am proud of myself for all that I’ve achieved.

I told S that. He beamed and assured me that I completely deserve to feel that way. He also told me how impressed he was with my ability to pull myself out of a suicidal thought 2 weeks ago.

It had been a rough time for me and I had reverted to the old habit of self-punishment, and suicidal tendency. I wanted to kill myself – I was triggered by my ex, and was led to believe that I was crap. That I should just die so that I didn’t have to feel the awful way that I do. I had also hurt Cherie’s feelings – something that I couldn’t believe I would do. I felt worthless.

While beating myself and telling myself that I deserve to hurt myself again, another voice chimed in. It was a different voice this time – it sounded nothing like the critical voice that I was used to hearing. It was a strong, confident, pleasant, and kind voice.

The voice said, “No! You’re not worthless. Why do you have to hurt yourself? Why do you have to die? If you do that, he wins. If you let him get to you, he wins. You’re better than that, Jules. You’re stronger than that! You’re worth more than what you’ve ever been told. You are too valuable to have to resort to self-harm, and suicide. Punishing yourself doesn’t do anything but hurt you more. You’ve already hurt enough”

When I had shared this with S last week, he had beamed so brightly, and told me several times how happy he is to hear that, and that I was able to get there. Today, he told me that he was impressed with my positive self-talk. He said that in the past, my pattern had been suicide –> self-depreciation –> worse thoughts of suicide –> visiting CAPS for emergency sessions –> have good sessions –> leave feeling better –> if lucky, the good feelings last for a couple of days –> get triggered again –> suicide –> rinse and repeat.

“So the fact that the affirmation didn’t come from me, or anyone here at CAPS, but rather, from yourself… That is very strong. It makes me happy to know that you’re reaching a stronger point”

I was already proud of myself but hearing his words made me even more proud. It added to my affirmative feelings and validated me.

This, I believe, is my first step toward breaking more bad habits, and being a stronger individual. I know that I will regress – as S kept reminding me, “Progress and recovery is not a straight line upwards. It looks more like a zig zag upwards, where there will be times when you will slip. But that’s okay. All that matters is that you keep going”.

Still Alive

Anyone who follows my Facebook, my blog, or knows me personally knows that I’ve been through a hellish year with processing the traumas of my life, processing a painful and messy divorce, battling suicidal thoughts and intents, battling self harming tendencies, processing my sexual orientation and what it means to be Christian despite it, dealing with the pain of intense self-shame, self-punishment, self-defeat, as well as experiencing all those feelings as I project them onto others, working two jobs while contributing as a Peer Educator, and struggling with financial issues.

At the end of the day, we’re on the cusp of the beginning of the final month of the year – I’m still here, after all that shit, I’m still fighting.

I’m going to fail all my classes – in retrospect, that shouldn’t add to more shame for me right?

Then why do I still keep feeling like I’ve wasted an entire semester doing nothing? – Even though, I’ve done more in this semester where my mental health is concerned than I’ve ever done in my life.

The critical voices in my head need to stop.

After all the shit, I should get a medal for still being here. What are 3 F’s in a transcript compared to how I’m still alive?

Difficult Weekend

It’s been a difficult weekend but I’m still here.

I promised my group that I would be back next week despite the difficult thing I shared with them during group on Friday. I had initially been silent – I kept quiet for the first hour of the 1 1/2 hour session. I didn’t want to say anything despite the fact that I was getting triggered and reacting to all the things that the other members were saying.

Finally, after about an hour, J – the lead facilitator – asked me what I was reacting to and what I’m thinking. I had been abnormally quiet in my corner of the room.

I hesitated. I didn’t really know if I wanted to take the attention/focus away from M, who had been sharing his experience being abandoned by friends that he thought he was close with. He didn’t think he would be betrayed like that and was expressing his anger, bitterness, and sadness over that. I reacted to all that he had said because I have experienced betrayal, and abandonment as well.

When I finally spoke, I unleashed a floodgate of emotions. I was overwhelmed as I spoke – my voice trembled and tears streamed freely. I tried to control my outburst but it was difficult. I talked about how distressed I was last week when we had cancelled group because half the group didn’t show up and how that had led to self-harm. I talked about how abandoned I felt when that had happened. I had had a bad week (dealing with the aftermath of my divorce and my ex’s remarriage), and thought that I could be helped at group – I also thought that if I was at group, then at least I can focus on helping someone else. That usually gets me out of my rut. But since the group therapy session got cancelled, it really triggered feelings of hopelessness in me.

Inevitably, that led to me opening up about how I felt about my divorce and the remarriage. As I started to speak about my divorce, I had to quickly stop because I was going to start sobbing really hard had I continued. “I’m sorry, guys…” I said, as I tried to compose myself again. When I felt a little more composed, I continued and gave a short summary of all the things that I’d been feeling the past 2 weeks. As I spoke, M, who is also experiencing a break from a 7 1/2 year relationship also broke down. I felt bad for triggering that and I apologized to M for making him break down too.

With 10 minutes left to the clock, I said I’m at the point in my relationship with the group that I start to withdraw because I’m starting to feel like a burden again. S noted that it seems like I have been starting to do that again. That I am being more withdrawn than usual. I said to the group that I felt like a burden and that no one should have to help me with this shit that I have to deal with.

T, the co-facilitator, told me that he hates that we have to end at such a point in the discussion, but that we were running out of time and he wanted to check in with M to see if he was okay first before we ended. M said that he was okay, but that he was experiencing the grief that he has been having over his own break up. Then unexpectedly, R spoke up (he’s the quietest member of the group but always has something valuable to offer whenever he speaks). He addressed me, “Jules, I don’t think you’re a burden. I hope you keep coming back here and keep telling us your problems. At least on my side, I don’t think that you’re a burden at all. We’re here to support you. And that’s why we’re all here, right? I just want you to know that so that you don’t beat yourself up…”

I started crying again. I thanked him and told him that it was a very genuine gesture that really touched me. Then the other two members also offered their support and kind words. We actually went over time by 5 minutes but after group had ended, and the facilitators had left, 4 of the members hung around to give me more support. It was very touching.

I felt touched to know that if nothing else, I have this group of people who actually know me better than people I’ve known for 10 or more years, because this group of people knew the core of me – all my problems, all my genuine and truthful opinions and thoughts. We are in this together and we’re all working hard to help each other. I really liked that about group.

On a different note, financially, I’ve been struggling badly as well. I’m not making the tips that I need at the restaurant that I work at and often, I feel like I’m wasting time at work when I could be working on my programs, assignments, and Calculus homework. However, when I get home, I am too tired to do any of those and I feel bad too.

I’m pretty stressed out about having to work so much while going to school full time, but I don’t feel like I have a choice at the moment. I have way too many credit cards and bills to pay for and my situation just looks really bleak.

It’s hard to get out of my rut sometimes. Also, my computer – the one I take to school to program with – just broke so I just had to spend $150 getting a refurbished Chromebook to replace that. 😦

So yeah, I’m still here. Still struggling. Still trying hard to do better, to BE better.

People Care

“I want to die”

4 words I posted on Facebook that gained almost immediate attention from one of my coworkers and an old friend whom I’ve not seen in 5 years. It was touching.

In that moment when I posted it, I had meant it. I did want to die. I was overwhelmed and exhausted.

I had a Discrete Computational Structures assignment that I barely understood and therefore had barely done that is due on Wednesday. I also have 3 sections worth of Calculus homework to turn in. And on top of that a programming assignment that I hadn’t started yet. That was just a matter of school alone. On top of that, I was just so discouraged by the fact that I had gotten such terrible marks for my Calculus test – I was just so perplexed as to how I could get a 56. I thought I had a good grasp on limits.

I also didn’t think that my ex’s re-marriage was such a big deal to me – that is, until it happened and I was hit by the realization that I still hurt. Maybe not as much as I did before, but it’s still there.

So, in the heat of the moment, in my discouragement and despair, I posted that status on Facebook. Almost immediately, my phone rang. I was in class so I replied to the call with a message, “I’m in class, booboo”. I asked my coworker/friend if she needed something. She asked me if I needed anything or if I needed to talk. I told her that I was ok. That there’s nothing to talk about. I just have too much to do and too little time.

“Don’t push me away, Jules” – her message was insistent and clear.

“I’m not. At least I’m not doing it consciously. I guess I’m just pushing everyone away. I need to regroup somehow. I just don’t know how” – I’d responded.

“It’s ok. I understand you need your space. But when I see ‘I want to die’ on Facebook, the last thing I’m giving you is space. Push everyone away when you’re stronger. Not right now. You are wonderful and valuable, and your coworkers, your family, your friends, those who look to you for support, need you. You are needed and wanted. You’re always smiling. You have a natural smile, you don’t even have to work for it”

As I read her messages, tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t think I’d receive such sweet and kind words so instantly. I felt heard and almost immediately, that felt like enough. I was whining, and someone answered to the whines.

I know that I do have people who care about me. I know that – especially here on my blog, I know that there are those who would respond immediately to my posts. I also know that there are people in my life that I can rely on for comfort. Yet, my EQ hasn’t caught up with my IQ. Despite all this knowledge, the heart hasn’t learned it yet. The brain has, and the brain is frustrated with the heart.

Multiple people after the initial two responses I got, started posting supportive messages and it felt good to read them. Q, and PD, both sent me messages that I needed to hear – most notably, “Give yourself a break, take care of yourself”, which gave me something like an excuse to have ice cream today. I’m also going to turn in for bed early without doing any homework.

I am burnt out. I need to be honest with myself on that. I am so burnt out that I’m barely functioning. I am honestly a zombie; just dragging my feet around campus, trying to keep awake in classes, trying to stay afloat.

Physically, I’m also not rested enough. Dark circles have formed under my eyes, my hair is some days very difficult to tame (because I desperately need a haircut), and my skin just looks tired, and pale. My nose had been bleeding for the past 2 days. I’m amazed that I hadn’t fallen asleep driving yet, like I used to back when I lived 30 minutes away from campus.

I’m just suffering on all the different aspects of life. I know I need a break and I promise myself (and everyone else who cares to know) that I will be taking a break 10 days from now. I can’t wait. I am going to go out of town and hopefully if all works out, be better rested when I come back.

It’s definitely something I have been looking forward to for maybe a month and a half now. The last time I was going to go out of town, my plans fell short so I’m not trying to be too hopeful this time.

Anyway… I called the Crisis Line yesterday. I am thankful that I did because the lady that spoke to me was very kind and empathetic. She and I spoke for 40 minutes or so (I had to be put on hold twice for about 5-10 minutes each time). She helped me feel a little better. Just having someone listen to me was definitely what I needed – to feel that human connection, to hear that person’s voice… It was comforting. I was skeptical at first and didn’t want to give it a chance because I hated speaking on the phone. I didn’t think that anyone could say anything that I hadn’t heard before. It turned out that despite having heard some of the things that the Crisis Intervention Specialist said, it didn’t sound condescending or old. In fact, hearing it from someone else who’s a complete stranger, felt really good. It just reaffirms what others have said to me.

I don’t think I’d have done anything harmful to myself – after all, I don’t have any more knives with me, and I’d surrendered my rope to S as well. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to go to bed without feeling terribly restless though.

The 4 words that I’d posted on Facebook was dramatic and probably unnecessary but it was a helpful reminder that people care. That I need to stop the knee-jerk reaction of pushing people away.

Another Walk-In Session

Hey guys, remember this incident: Walk-In Therapy Session That Bombed? It was the first time ever after a year of sessions at CAPS that I had ever had a somewhat negative experience with a therapist.

Now, this is not a reflection of the therapist’s skill or personality but rather my incompatibility with her and how I wasn’t able to relate to her. And of course, the last post that I’d written all those months ago had been written while I was in a lot of distress.

Today, after a rough session with S, I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. I could barely contain myself in class and kept bursting out in laughter – it wasn’t anything funny at all. I just found everything “funny”. It was less humor than it was just pure stress.

I think the session had triggered a lot of instability in me – stuff that I’d been trying to keep in check for a week now. And it was just stuff that I’d not been able to deal with for the past week because of how I was just literally going to school, going to work, and then sleeping. I didn’t have time to process my sadness, pain, anger, dismay, despair and so on. So when I saw S today, everything just came out all at once and it was not only difficult to contain, it was also difficult to stop the dam once it had started gushing water.

I sobbed through the entirety of the session, stopping only to laugh hysterically when I related an amusing incident to S. I had told him, “Here’s something I wanted to bring up that I feel you would find very amusing… So yesterday, as I was in the middle of the anguish over being divorced, your voice popped into my head – there was no prompting or anything at all. And in the same tone and same voice that you would use, the you that resides in my head said to me, “Jules, what would it be like if you didn’t see X and Y for a while?” I don’t know why that suddenly came up but it was apt”

Before I could continue any further, S and I were in fits of laughter. His laughter made me laugh even harder. He was definitely very amused.

“It’s ironic because I was just about to ask you the same exact thing! I guess you do know what I’m going to say to you or how I’d react to certain things!” (PaperDoll, this!! It reminded me of our conversation – I pointed out to S your wisdom and he nodded, agreeing with you that yes, he’ll be giving me less quality attention if I keep seeing him so much).

Anyway, that little laughing fit that we both dissolved into helped me regain some stability before I walked out of his office. But after that, when I was alone again, I started laughing again, loudly and hysterically. It happened off and on, of course. It wasn’t like I was just walking around just laughing the whole time.

I knew that the laughing wasn’t quite right. I knew that because it was the same kind of laughing fit that I’d had back when my paternal grandfather passed away. My father drove us to the funeral home and on the journey, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was joking and laughing – even when the coffin entered the furnace. My father was enraged by my “disrespect” and snapped at me. I was hurt – he didn’t understand just how anguished I was over my grandfather’s death. He didn’t realize just how badly I was hurting inside. I couldn’t control the laughter though – I didn’t know why I was laughing so hard myself. It was the same kind of laughter that I had today.

Deep down, I wanted to sob. I wanted to keep sobbing. I was in so much pain. But instead of sobbing, I laughed. I think I lost my marbles this afternoon/evening. I couldn’t take the stress any longer, perhaps.

I was confused with my reaction so I decided to give CAPS another visit. As I skateboarded there, I kept laughing off and on. I almost couldn’t keep quiet while I waited to be seen. D said to me, “Don’t worry, Jules. We haven’t forgotten you…” I laughed hard. And then I said, “Oh it’s ok. I’ll just fade into the background” to which D responded with, “I guess we have new wallpaper!”

Then, the therapist that I hadn’t had much success with the last time walked out and greeted me. I was hoping that it would be somebody else. I took a deep breath and just decided to give her another chance.

She asked me as I sat down what had brought me in. I explained to her that I was concerned about my uncontrollable laughter and how I felt like I was losing my mind. I wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown. She said to me, “Oh well you were happily talking with that person over there so I thought to myself, ‘Wow, she seems pretty happy… Why is she here for a walk-in?'”

Just moments before she came out to greet me, I was talking to a friend of mine about some things (he had come in to CAPS to provide moral support to his friend and I just happened to have been there) and we had been laughing over those things. Sure, I must’ve looked just fine.

I told the therapist that I wasn’t okay and that I am just very good at pretending. I felt a little annoyed that she would say that, to be honest. But I also realize that I do fool people very well. The only person I can’t fool is S because he knows me. This therapist didn’t. Publicly, I’m very well put together. I’m successful, I’m intelligent, I’m extroverted, I’m confident, I’m goofy… All the things that you would associate with someone who has their life together and who is happy. I’m none of that – I just pretend like I am because I not only don’t trust people very well, I am also paranoid that people will judge me or not want to be around me if they knew who I really am.

I explained to her how I’ve been almost delirious all afternoon. I couldn’t figure out why I was the way I was. I realize now that she’s a more action-based therapist. She doesn’t really let me explain or rant or vent. She just wants to know what brought me in so that she could give me a list of things I could do to overcome how I was feeling. Perhaps this is a different approach to therapy? I don’t know.

I didn’t have as negative an experience this time though because her action-based style was what I needed this time. She noted that I was very anxious – I kept tapping my left foot on the floor. And she said that I seem to have a lot of nervous energy. So she suggested that I do some relaxation techniques. I told her that I’ve tried but nothing has ever really worked. She said, “Have you ever tried relaxing each part of your body as you think about them and breathe through them?”

I said that I had heard of such an exercise but had never really attempted it. She suggested that we do it together. I internally groaned because the socially anxious part of me didn’t like the idea one bit… But I gave her a chance.

We then spent the next 10 minutes doing the mindfulness exercise together. By the end of it, I did feel more relaxed and the nervous tics were gone. She encouraged me to practice this technique every day and to remember what that feeling of relaxation was like so that I could have a basis for comparison the next time I did it. Before I left, we chatted a little about the Peer Educator program.

I left this time, feeling less judged, and actually felt like I was helped. It also allowed me to learn that how she administers therapy is just very different from what I’m used to with S (and a few of the other staff members). Perhaps there are others who benefited from her more aggressive action-based style. I certainly don’t like it very much myself and prefer S’ patient, kind yet firm style of allowing me to vent and express myself.

At least this therapist got me to stop laughing though. I felt more stable and more grounded when I left CAPS than when I had entered.

Overwhelmed 

I haven’t been blogging because I’m so overwhelmed by the immense workload that I have. Sure, I’ve dropped a class but I’m still drowning. 

I just got a new job today which hopefully (theoretically anyway) will help give me more time because the new restaurant I work at closes at 11pm at the latest whereas the one I work at now closes at midnight on weekdays and 3am on weekends.

I’m behind on all the homework and assignments that I have. I’m stressed out. I sound like a broken record, I know. 

I cut myself again too. 3 small cuts on my arm. They’re pretty shallow cuts but cuts, nonetheless. 

I just want to give up, drop out of school, and just not do anything. I just want to wither away. I’m so sick and tired of everything.