Strange Social Behavior

I’m drained.

Burnt out.

Stressed out.

I’m all kinds of not-doing-well, I guess. I flip-flop between being okay, and not okay throughout the day and some of the time, just feeling nothing at all.

I’m a little nervous about seeing S this week – not only because it’s a change in routine (he had something else going on during my regular appointment time – we have been changing our scheduled time around A LOT this semester. He had apologized and told me that he hasn’t gotten the hang of managing his schedule yet – but also because I’ll be making a solo trip out of state the next day, as well as the fact that I have so much to talk about but just not enough time in the session to do so.

I’m also nervous about what had happened on Saturday. I feel a lot of shame for my behavior and I had contemplated not writing this post.

On Saturday, my university had the biggest annual event of our campus. We had a kayak racing competition for all the students, alumni, faculty, as well as staff. It’s a huge deal here in our campus because it’s a day where everyone on campus gets to get together and just have a great day.

It was a beautiful day to have a 1/2 mile kayak race down the canal too. Even I, who hates being outdoors and under the sun, enjoyed myself being outside.

I was at the event at 10am and had a great time just being at the canal. It’s beautiful there, even if the water looked really gross. XD I had a great time just skating up and down the sidewalk next to the canal. When the race started, I had a great time just cheering the random teams on.

This was my first year attending the event – I hesitate to name it because I don’t know if I’ll be revealing my school’s name if I did since it’s a pretty unique name, so I think I’ll just call it “the event” for now. I was excited to be there just because I had never been to this annual event and yet have heard of it ever since I joined the school in the Spring of 2015.

I was also excited to be there because I knew that CAPS had two teams representing their department. I was excited to see how the staff at CAPS would fare in the race and I was also thrilled at the chance to see them outside of the dreary CAPS building.

When I saw D, the receptionist (whom I now realize is actually an Administrative Secretary – I think they changed her title recently), I told her “Good luck!”. I said hi to T, the co-facilitator for my group, and nodded at Y, whom I had seen once before for a walk-in. D was excited to see me and cheerfully thanked me. 10 minutes later, the teams were all loaded up in their kayaks and within minutes they were all racing down the canal.

I hopped on my skateboard and followed them down the canal. I stopped halfway through to wait so that I could cheer them on as they changed rowers. When the CAPS team came by again, I recognized S, and B (she was the lead psychologist for my previous group) and I felt my heart catch in my throat. I didn’t realize that S was going to be in this team. I thought that he would be in the other team. I felt pleased that I could see him.

And suddenly, I found myself feeling like a creeper or a stalker because as the CAPS team raced by, the rest of the department were following them on foot – cheering and screaming their colleagues on. I hopped back on my skateboard and followed them.

I was totally creeping on them. My curiosity drove me onward. I felt a mix of guilt, shame, and giddy excitement as I followed them. When I arrived at the docking area, I saw that CAPS had gotten 4th place. I was very impressed because these are professionals who spend all day sitting on their office chairs in front of their computers as well as sitting on their couches/armchairs across from their clients. For them to beat some young people was an impressive feat. I felt proud for them.

I watched from 20 feet away as they disembarked and excitedly talked to each other about the race. As they started talking to each other and walked away from the docking area, I realized that they were headed towards their families.

I followed them and I saw their families. It warmed my heart to see them with their kids, spouses, and partners.They all looked like they had picture perfect families – of course, it’s just an impression but everyone looked very happy to be there. None of the kids were crabby or complaining and it looked like everyone was just having a good time. It looked like a picnic scene from a movie. It was great!

Now here’s where the shame comes in.

I felt ashamed of myself because I just stood from afar and observed them. S and I had not discussed our boundaries when it comes to school events so I didn’t quite know how to act. I didn’t know whether it was okay for me to go up to them to say hi or not – although C, the Office Manager, did recognize me moments before the race had begun and had said hi to me. Though she is the Office Manager, and not a Psychologist so the rules don’t quite apply to her. I didn’t know if any of the psychologists had noticed me or not and if they knew that I had been observing them.

I tried to be as surreptitious as I could. See, I have a huge fear of rejection – I’m so afraid that things I do and say could cause people to judge me or to not want to talk to me again. I’m always afraid of causing friction with others because I’m not always sure of how to act. So, because of that, I tend to just stand from afar and observe people, gathering knowledge of them without ever having to expose myself to the vulnerable position of potential rejection.

I think I might have stood around for maybe half an hour to an hour just observing everyone. Now, doesn’t that just sound like something a creeper would do?

I started beating myself up the longer I watched them. The more I criticized myself, the worse I felt, until finally, I snapped out of my trance-like observations and told myself that I needed to run some errands before I headed to work. As I drove to the barber’s for my desperately needed haircut, I told myself that I was being such a weirdo.

Then something else happened that was somewhat unexpected – which lends credibility to my thought that I’m really improving and recovering.

I suddenly stopped myself from criticizing myself and instead said to myself, out loud in the car as I drove, “Jules, you need to stop beating yourself up. You were curious about them. You were particularly curious about S and his family. You wanted to know what his wife looked like. You wondered if he had a mixed race family, or whether they were all Caucasians. You wanted to know what his children looked like and you wanted to confirm for yourself the gender of his youngest. You’re just really curious about him because you don’t have access to him on a regular basis. And you just want to see him in that context because you wanted to know more. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know more about someone. It means that you care about them. You didn’t do anything weird or creepy. You and S didn’t discuss what boundaries you should have during school events so you stayed away so that there was no potential backlash. After all, the director of CAPS was there. She could have deemed your actions inappropriate and S could’ve gotten in trouble. So it was good that you stood far away and didn’t engage them”

Every time the critical voice came back, I would speak to it and say, “It’s okay. You felt what you felt. Your curiosity was burning. What you felt was valid. It’s okay…”

When I calmed down, I marveled at how I had handled that. I was so distressed when I left the canal. I felt disgusted at myself but later was able to recognize that yes, I was creeping, but that I was not doing it out of malice or inappropriate reasons. I was/am curious.

The only thing is now… I don’t know how I’m going to bring this up to S. I don’t know how he would feel knowing that I had seen him and his family. I just know that he would want me to talk to him about this. There definitely are underlying issues behind my creeping behavior as he isn’t the first person I’ve done this to – I’ve done this to everyone who’s been heavily involved in my life at some point or another. My intense desire to connect with them, and be a part of their lives overwhelms me and I obsess over them. I don’t know how normal or abnormal this behavior is but I just know that in my case, it’s a sign of deeply rooted issues that I have yet to process.

So that makes me nervous to see S on Thursday.

I hope things work out and I’ll be able to figure out why I’m so obsessed with people and how I can work through that.

Discomfort For Being Me

Yesterday, I had a session with S where I spent the first 20 minutes talking about how hilarious it was that I had served my group therapy leader, and also spoke about some other unimportant things. I was not in the mood to delve deeper into my issues. I wanted to keep things superficial and light.

I think it was because the reality is, despite not feeling so bad lately, internally, my struggle has been deeper than it’s ever been. I just don’t want to face it, and I don’t want to deal with it. I haven’t been feeling as bad because of the Zoloft that I’d been taking. This drug has definitely raised my tolerance for distress and has numbed all my depressive symptoms. Simply put, since taking Zoloft, I’ve just been existing. I haven’t really been thinking or analyzing things, I haven’t really been feeling. I’ve just been… Around. I guess. I feel like I’m here but not really living. I feel numb.

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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.

Coping With The Holidays

So my in-laws are visiting for Thanksgiving.

I really don’t mind being around them because I’ve gotten used to having them over and stuff.

That said, I’m currently upstairs in my little messy sanctuary I call my office because Mother-in-Law decided that she needed a 15 minute nap and I decided to use this time to just be myself for a little bit. They’ve been here since noon so it’s not too bad but I know that they’ll probably still be here come evening time.

Again, I like them and they like me – but per my post yesterday, it still is difficult to be around people. I’m rather anti-social a lot of the time. Ironically, my husband with Asperger’s is more social than I am some of the time and prefers to spend time with people more than I do.

I can’t explain it. I just get so worn out being around people.

When I want to have a get-together, it usually has to be on my own terms – small group of just very close friends and no surprises, meaning no one can bring an unexpected guest or I’d freak out. Well, since I’m not a fan of confrontations, usually people won’t know that I’m freaking out – my world would just be turned upside down in my mind but on the exterior, I probably look fine.

This is the reason why it’s difficult for me to say “Yes” to “Would you like to come to my party?” type of questions. I say yes just because I can’t say no – I haven’t learned how to say no and so I always get into situations I don’t want to because when put on the spot, I go with an affirmative answer.

This is why starting a club is a little worrying for me because I know that when the club picks up momentum and starts getting larger, I’m going to have trouble keeping myself engaged or interested. It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just going to be very difficult for me to deal with the large number of people. I’m just very glad that I have a good set of core committee members with me who I’m sure will be able to help me keep my fort from falling apart.

I think this trait of mine is also why whenever I get into arguments or confrontations, my go-to strategy is to stonewall and withdraw. I just can’t handle people’s emotions – how can I when I can’t even identify and handle my own?

This and many other traits is why sometimes I suspect that I have Borderline Personality Disorder – I know that I am extremely picky about who my friends are and often have very intense but unstable relationships. I also come across as quite abusive in how I sometimes speak or respond to those who are closest to me. I’ve asked S if he thought I could have that and he personally thought that I don’t present enough outward anger/rage towards others to have it and that he doesn’t feel like I do. He told me that those with BPD often projects a very strong feeling that they have BPD but I don’t present that way. *shrugs* In any case, it doesn’t matter. After all, it’s just a diagnosis. I know that I do have traits and working on overcoming them should just be all that matters for me…

I digress… I guess I should probably go back downstairs and rejoin my family.

I just need to keep reminding myself not to bring up anything mental health related (we run out of conversation topics so quickly sometimes that I feel like I have no choice but to talk about it since that relates to the question “So how have you been?”). I did mention to my Mother-in-Law that I’m considering switching majors to Computer Science and she seemed quite ecstatic about it. I was surprised because I thought she would flip out since it’ll mean that I’ll be in school at least one more year but she didn’t… She does have pretty intense mood swings though so I think today might just be a good day for me to have talked to her about it. Also, she has never approved of me going into Interior Design Technology anyway so perhaps she thinks that Computer Science is a better choice of career path.

Anyway, to everyone else suffering from some kind of mental disorder or sensory processing disorder, good luck for the holidays! Know that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re any less of a human being just because you struggle. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should and shouldn’t feel this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving/Happy Holidays folks!

Keeping Up Pretenses During the Holidays

Whenever the holiday season descends on us, I have a hard time. In fact, it’s not really just the holiday season but any time I have to spend an extended amount of time with family or relatives is a hard time for me.

The reason it’s hard is because not only is it already exhausting just dealing with people, it’s also exhausting to put on a mask and pretend to be someone I’m not. I often have to pretend like I don’t have depression, anxiety or ADHD. I often have to pretend like everything’s fine.

It’s exhausting because it’s hard to keep up with lies and it’s really hard to act okay when you’re not. And if I don’t keep up the pretenses, then everyone will be uncomfortable because who wants to talk about mental illnesses on a holiday?

People already get uncomfortable enough when I mention the very words “mental illness”. What more if we discussed it at length.

I have relatives and family members on my Facebook – they know full well how I’m struggling with my daily life. Yet, no one has ever reached out. I assume it’s because it makes them feel uncomfortable, not knowing what to say or maybe not knowing how not to be insulting when asking questions. The stigma of mental illnesses is very strong in my family…

I don’t know about you guys but I really feel like the holiday season just sucks. I feel like I have no freedom to be who I need to be and that I have to put on my best fake smile – the kind I put on when I go to work.

Anyway, that’s just my take on the holidays. Tomorrow, my in-laws will be coming over to celebrate Thanksgiving and I’ll have to once again, pretend to be a-okay.

Why I Had To Go See the On-Call Psychologist… YET Again

So this is the third time this semester that I’ve had to utilize CAPS’ walk-in hours. I know I always preface it that way because of my own guilt and insecurities about going in to CAPS on a day that I’m not scheduled to. Note that this post will be slightly disjointed as I wasn’t really paying attention to much of the details of my conversation with the psychologist – I was in too much distress for the first half of our conversation anyway.

This is also an extremely long post just because I am writing this as a sort of journal entry for me as well. So bear with me – this is almost like a play-by-play.

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Sharing My Story So Others Can Share Theirs

I have social anxiety and though it’s actually improving now since I’ve started therapy, I’ve also noticed a thing where you can put me on a stage with a topic and I can talk people’s ears off while still making enough sense.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I had been exposed to public speaking since I was in middle school. I was forced into it and was never good at saying no so I was trained to do public speaking and was always able to bluff my way through my speeches despite not being able to remember what I’m supposed to say. I was later trained to be a debater and won many “Best debater” awards thence. Even in my first round of college, I was forced into the debate team for a year or so before I mustered up enough courage to quit.

In any case, since middle school, I’ve just been good at speaking in public despite my somewhat debilitating social anxiety. I was always able to bluff and pardon-my-language bullshit my way through things. That’s why I ended up being a teacher and loved every moment of it. I had a chance to just talk and people had to listen.

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Tonight, I was invited to a casual event on campus called the “coffee house” where other students are also invited to perform or speak as well. Tonight’s theme was “mental health awareness” in lieu of mental health awareness week. I was nervous about my speech because I’ve never spoken about mental health in front of strangers.

I was second to take the stage after an amazing acoustic guitarist. I have to admit, I didn’t prepare for my speech at all. I shouldn’t have mentioned it in my introduction but I’m always self deprecating to lighten the mood and prepare myself. Once I got into it though, the words flowed.

I quoted Glenn Close who had said that “it’s an odd paradox that our society which can now speak about many topics are still unable to speak about mental health” and said that mental health matters to us because 1 of 5 adults experience mental illness but 5 of 5 have mental health. I likened mental health to physical health and pointed out the fact that people so readily accept others’ physical illnesses but aren’t so ready to accept one’s mental illnesses. I spoke a little about my experience and what I was diagnosed with. I spoke of my amazing husband and his support while validating him publicly for the first time in our relationship. I told the crowd that it took me 7 years to realize that the best friend that I’ve been searching for my whole life have been there all along for me.

I also explained to the crowd that everyone thinks I look normal and fine but really, I struggle with my own version of depression – the irritation and anger, the feeling of being “hangry” all the time but no amount of food can change how I feel, the hopelessness and helplessness I feel all the time. I talked a little about the stigma and why I feel compelled to speak out about mental health. I told the people who were listening that I am now trying to get involved more on campus to raise awareness.

I also addressed anyone else in the crowd that could be facing mental illnesses that someone cares. It could just be one person but someone cares for them so they shouldn’t give up. That even if they only have one person who cares that they’re extremely lucky to have that person.

I then addressed the resources we have on campus that are invaluable and have helped me tremendously. I urged those who feel the need to seek help. I told them that if they’re afraid to speak to someone face-to-face that they can visit the website. I then thanked the student committee that made the night possible, thanked the crowd for attending and for caring about mental health enough to attend and thanked everyone for their time. I then said to end, that people shouldn’t feel alone and that it’s ok to not feel ok.

Overall, I felt like I was rambling. I felt like I was unfocused because my medication had worn off by then. I didn’t think I did a great job.

The applause was loud but I barely heard it as I walked back to my seat. It felt almost surreal. I couldn’t believe that I had addressed about 40 or so people tonight. I gave an important speech on an important topic but I hadn’t prepared for it. It was pretty dim so I couldn’t tell what people were thinking or what their expressions were like. It is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it didn’t throw me off my flow. Curse because now I’m left wondering if it was an effective speech.

When I got back to my seat, a classmate of mine who had turned up to support me – God bless her, we haven’t had much interaction except in class but she cared about me enough to come see me speak and support me – said to me, “That was unprepared??? Sure sounds really prepared to me!”. My husband who had also attended also said that I had the crowd enraptured, that everyone was very focused on what I had to say. He said that no one looked away at all through the entire speech.

I’m glad. As self deprecating as I am, I’m actually very happy to hear that people were listening. Even if I had reached one person, that’s good enough for me.

A few minutes after my speech ended, someone was reached. A girl came up to me, thanked me for my speech and asked me what she can do for her boyfriend who has ADHD and how she can support him the way my husband had supported me. I gave her some pointers about communication and told her how to clearly communicate to someone who has ADHD like me. I told her to forgive him for his lack of focus and messes around the home because he really isn’t doing it to make her mad. I also told her that despite that, it doesn’t mean that her feelings don’t matter. That both of them need to work together to have a harmonious relationship. I hope that what I had shared with her will help her.

I’m glad I shared my story. It wasn’t very specific though I did mention at one point that I was close to an attempt at suicide but it was specific enough to be relatable (at least I hope it was). In the future, should I be given another chance to speak, I’ll make sure to prepare better and to include more personalized information.

For now though, I’m just thankful for the people I reached. I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak and I’m thankful for this newfound passion of mine to raise awareness about mental health. I’m also thankful that I have found a new friend in my classmate. She used to be someone I just sat next to in Trig but after a 3-hour profound conversation with her tonight, I can see her being more than just another classmate.

Tonight has definitely been a night of small victories. Victories that in light of these past 6 weeks have been victories I desperately needed.