Caught In The Grip Of Anxiety

My anxiety levels over the past few weeks have been worse than they have been in a long time. I deal with anxiety nearly every day, but the last time I remember it being this bad for such a long period of time was when I was still in my 4-year toxic relationship. It’s got to the point where just thinking about leaving the house causes overwhelm and panic. Not to mention the chest pain and the feeling of not being able to breathe deeply enough.

Nightmares have been a nightly occurrence, often many times a night, and it can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to settle down enough to go back to sleep. In my therapy session last week, my therapist reminded me about a plan we had put in place where I would take a week off from all work every 3 months, a sort of mini-holiday (she wants me to do stuff for myself during this time that make me feel relaxed and happy) and suggested this might be the right time to do that. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind and when she mentioned it, I felt relief at the thought.

So that’s what I’ve done. I didn’t go into the office this week, although I didn’t exactly follow the plan properly as I have a current client for my design work who has been a major pain (a 4 month project that should have been finished long ago, but he’s been dawdling and suddenly rushed me and wanted some stuff done by Tuesday). I finished it in time, and now suddenly he’s vanished again. He’s been doing this since we started. I’ve started rewriting my contract to account for clients like this as I’m not going to go through this kind of situation again. Going to let my dad’s lawyer have a look at it when I’m done. They’ll have 8 business days during which to review and comment or I start charging extra, instead of 3 months with no additional charges, as in the case of this guy! A positive is that I’m learning how to run my business from having difficult clients in the early years.

I’ve had two therapy sessions this week because I just feel I need extra support right now. On Tuesday we walked down to the park/duck pond close by and sat on the swings, which was really nice. I adore swings, and wish I had one of my own! Never had a therapy session outside before. It feels very different, but a good different. The weather was perfect. Cloudy and cool, my type of weather.

I’m not sure what’s happening with our moving situation. Went to go look at a place a few weekends ago, which I loved, since my room would be downstairs and on the opposite side of the house, far from the family. With my own bathroom. But the parents didn’t like it. There are also apparently complications with the owner of the house we’re currently in, and no one can tell me what’s actually going on. One minute my dad is telling me to start packing, and the next it’s a case of “it’s complicated”.

Yesterday was the first day in a while that I felt able to meet up with a friend, M. I was supposed to meet with her last week Friday and then again on Wednesday, but didn’t feel up to leaving the house. I really wanted (needed) to see her yesterday. I absolutely love spending time with her, so me not meeting up with her sooner wasn’t because of her or because I didn’t want to spend time with her, but just due to my anxiety. It’s a bitch. M wanted to take me to the clinic when we met up (I couldn’t stop crying), but instead, we spoke about something that might help me even more than going back in (because I don’t want to go there again). I’ll write about that soon, just first want to speak to my therapist about it before I make a decision.

I don’t feel ready to go back to the office on Monday. But I’m going to make the most of this weekend by switching my phone off, and even if I have to force myself (and take anxiety meds), go down to the beach if only for half an hour. There’s nothing quite as healing as nature.

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Self-Respect & Boundaries

When I was in the clinic last year and while attending the Tuesday group sessions, we often spoke about boundaries, and, using DBT, ways to enforce those boundaries while maintaining self-respect.

While I’ve become better at setting and stating my boundaries, the follow through doesn’t come as easily. I may do well for a while, but then give in for some reason or the other. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling lonely (not to be confused with being alone). Maybe I feel bad for the person. And sometimes, maybe because I feel the need to fit in and avoid conflict (as in the case of my dad).

I’m still a work in progress, and don’t know if I’ll ever become an “expert”. But that’s okay. The important thing is to remember that I have the right to set and maintain these boundaries.

With that in mind I’ve decided to make a list of things I’d like to remember when it comes to my self-respect and boundaries. This list may change and grow over time, but for now this is what I’ve got.

It’s not my responsibility to fix or heal others.

I have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty about it.

I have a right to my own opinions.

My feelings are valid.

I have the right to my own space and time.

I don’t have to explain my reasons.

I’m allowed to change my mind.

I have the right to walk away when a situation or person makes me uncomfortable.

My needs are also important.

I have the right to ask for what I want and need, just as the other person has the right to say “no”.

It’s okay to be different to those around me and not force myself to fit in.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

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A Dizzying Few Weeks

For the past three weeks my stepmom’s parents have been here, which means they’ve been staying in my room. The first week they were here, I stayed at M’s place. She was supposed to be there with me, but went into the clinic a few days before, so I ended up staying there alone. It was nice being alone and away from the family, but I still had to go into work and see them every day. I’ve realized I really can’t live alone because I’m terrified at night, and sleep badly because of that. Maybe having a dog sleep with me will help with that. Maybe I just need a being present in the house.

I saw quite a lot of M during the weekend I was there as she got day passes. We went out for dinner and coffee. I really love this woman. There was a really beautiful moment on Saturday. I had had a bit of a sensory overload situation while we were out, and she just hugged me tightly while I was “shaking like a leaf” (her words). She held onto me for quite a while, which really helped me slowly start to calm down. We went to go sit down, because I was feeling very disoriented. After a while of silence, and when I was starting to feel better (it took a while after I had gotten back, alone, to her place to feel completely better) she started talking to me. I apologized for what had happened, and she told me there was no need to apologize. She told me that she loves me, and sees me as a daughter. That I’m special to her and bring so much joy to her life. When she said this, I didn’t know how to respond. What do I say? Thank you? I love you too? You too? Do you really mean that? What? I was still in a “weird” space, hence the confusion I think. It took a while for me to say “I also love you”, to which she replied, “I know. You show it.” That made me feel better. Okay, so I’m not a complete freak then, I thought. It was only a few hours later when her words really hit me, and I felt the warmth of them. For some reason when I’m in the state of mind I was in earlier, I don’t really feel, and if I do the emotions are dulled.

When I got back to my dad’s house, I spent the rest of the time in my stepbrother’s room, while he slept on the couch downstairs. It was a full house again, and uncomfortable. Had family from Sweden visit as well (my stepmom’s brother who lives in Sweden got married here last weekend), so meeting lots of new people too. Wanted to bang my head against a wall. Okay, maybe I did. It helps, okay, even if I lose a few brain cells in the process! I got my room back this week at least (which is weird, since stepmom’s parents spent one night somewhere else, then came back and slept in my stepbrothers room, leaving this morning) and am only now starting to feel “normal” being in my room again. I still feel a bit all over the place and confused, as if I don’t belong in my own bed, but I’m getting there. I don’t know why my mind struggles with orientation in space (and change) to this degree. Here’s another example of what I mean. There was always a ladder in a specific place in the garage where I park my car. It helps me judge how far in to park. One day my stepbrother had moved the ladder, and when I drove into the garage and it was in a different place that day, a little more to the right, I suddenly panicked. I felt disoriented and stuck. Then I got furious. It took quite a while for me to calm down and realize that I could just move it back. Logically, I know I don’t need that ladder in that specific place in order to park properly, but that logic doesn’t matter to my mind/brain. Everybody now knows not to move that thing, and if they need to use it, put it back where it belongs immediately afterward. Please tell me I’m not the only one who experiences things like this?

I’ve been having a lot more issues with my dad lately too. I don’t back down as much as I used to. I feel stressed and he makes thing worse every day. He’s constantly complaining, criticizing everyone and the country, and being far more negative than is even normal for him. I can’t remember when last something positive came out of his mouth. I just can’t take it anymore. He’s driving everyone (except his darling step-daughter) crazy. I know I need to get out of working there with him, but I still can’t find any other work. Some days I feel I could strangle him. The temptation is huge, but I know I’ll be even worse off in prison. So there’s that.

There’s more I can write about, but I just can’t right now.

On a good and positive note, my uncle and I have started a new tradition. On the first/last Sunday of every month we’re going to take a drive to our favourite place (about an hour away) and have our favourite ice cream and sit on the beach. Tomorrow is that day, so I’m really looking forward to that.

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“Hold On”?

I don’t believe that suicide is selfish. It may not be entirely rational. But selfish, no. I understand why people do it. Those who have left me behind… I’m not mad at them. They were in pain, they felt like they were a burden to the world, that everyone would be better off without them. I get that. They weren’t a burden, at least not in my life, but I never got to tell them that.

We don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We don’t know when someone we love will leave this world, either through their own hands, those of others, or “natural” causes.

Sometimes we have to say goodbye to someone sooner than we thought. Sometimes there’s no warning. It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. But that’s the reality of being alive.

The Strength To Keep Going

I had my usual therapy session yesterday. I didn’t want to go. I left later than I usually do, battling within myself until then. One of the reasons is because I didn’t want to set foot in that clinic again. I didn’t want to run into the person I mentioned in my previous post, or anyone else there. It doesn’t feel like a safe, healing place anymore. It had its season in my life. It helped me once. But that’s over now. It’s time to move on.

The other reason was that I wanted to disconnect at least a little from my therapist. Not because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because of wanting to let go of my attachments. But I realized again yesterday how important healthy attachment can be. Connection sustains us. It’s part of being human. The minute I sat down in that office with her, I could feel my defenses starting to crumble. I felt drawn towards her again. The one thing I didn’t want to have happen. But I’m really glad it did.

I haven’t been kind to myself for a while now. I’ve been treating myself like my own worst enemy. But I was inspired by my therapist, just by the way she interacted with me yesterday, the kindness and gentleness she showed toward me, to start treating myself like a friend again. I’ve come to realize that treating myself harshly only feeds the cycle of depression. I’m not perfect. I’m never going to be. There are a lot of things I don’t like about myself, but I also have a lot of good qualities. Which is something I tend to forget. My therapist often asks me whether I allow myself to feel my emotions without judgement, and most of the time, I don’t. I can’t stand it when other people judge one another, yet I so easily judge myself. Most of us struggle with this, and simply being aware of it is part of making the change.

Near the end of the session, I asked my therapist about the other office she practices from. It’s further away, but completely do-able. So we’re going to be moving our sessions there. Well, she wants me to first just try it out next week and then decide. The office I currently see her in is shared with another psychologist at the clinic, so it will be nice to see her in her own. The day and time will also change. I don’t like changes to my routine, but this is one I’m happy to take on. She’ll be there after all, one constant.

I’m still a little more wary with regards to connection and attachment than I was before this thing happened on Tuesday. But I choose to trust my therapist as much as I am able to at this point. The connection I felt with her yesterday is holding me. Giving me strength to keep going. It doesn’t solve everything. I’m still feeling depressed. But knowing that at least one person has my best interests at heart, and feeling supported makes a difference.

I want to mention something regarding my previous post. I thought about taking it down because I don’t want to scare people who need it, to not seek help. But that post is the reality of life with mental illness. Even of life in general. It’s part of my story, and that’s what this blog is about. I was in a lot of pain and in a very dark place when I wrote it, and reflects only one part of my experience with mental health professionals. I’ve had some good experiences as well. So I want to encourage anyone reading this, that if you need help, absolutely (and please) ask for it. It’s hard to do, and sometimes you won’t get what you need from certain people, but there will always be someone who will give you their hand and be glad to help.

Why I Won’t Be Reaching Out Again

It was my birthday just recently, and I had a bit of a “mid-life crisis” that day. Panicking that I’m in my middle 30’s and still living with parents, and that it seems things will never get better. It doesn’t help that I’ve been in a depressive phase as it is for the past while. I go to bed praying that I don’t wake up, but when I do wake up try to tell myself that today will be a better day. It never is.

I find myself becoming increasingly unstable, and I don’t know what to do about it. I learned a couple of months ago that reaching out for help either gets met with rejection or being completely ignored. Of course, I knew this for most of my life, but I seriously thought and hoped (and was told) that it wouldn’t always be that way.

Tonight I learned the hard way again. It doesn’t matter how much I’m struggling, or even when I desperately beg (something I never thought I’d ever do) for that support- support they absolutely have the power to give- I’m not going to get it. The message I hear loud and clear is “you don’t matter”, “your life means nothing to me”, and “I don’t care”. It especially hurts like hell when it comes from someone you’re so attached to, someone you thought cared. Finding out they actually don’t… Words can’t accurately convey what that feels like.

I genuinely feel unworthy, rejected, abandoned and like I don’t belong anywhere. Just want to mention that I’m not talking about my therapist, but someone else in the mental health profession. Although on that note, the way I feel is that I’m just another client. That’s the truth though… I am just another client. I’m not special. I’m not important. You know, you go into therapy and don’t count on how important that relationship is going to be. But I’m beginning to see that I don’t want that relationship anymore. I don’t want a close relationship anymore, because it just leads to hurt and disappointment. Our therapists are professionals and can’t give us some things we wish they could. They’re not our friends, siblings, parents, etc. It’s just a working relationship. I don’t see the point of attachment anymore. I don’t think there ever was one, other than a baby’s necessary early attachment to their mother or primary caregiver.

Often these days I wonder… do I even want to continue? Because I’m slowly giving up on attachment and support. I’m definitely done with asking for help. From now on I’m a closed book. No one needs to know I’m struggling. After all, it doesn’t help even when they do know.

Celebrate Small Wins

I just read a short but valuable article on the TED blog, titled “How to make your small wins work for you”. What Mehrnaz Bassiri says in these couple of paragraphs is so true:

“The problem, says Bassiri, doesn’t lie in the puniness of our accomplishments but in the outsized nature of our expectations. Whether in the news media or in our friends’ and family members’ social media posts, we’ve gotten habituated to seeing major successes — the video from an unknown musician that goes viral and scores them a spot on Beyonce’s tour, the unhealthy person who loses half their body weight and completes the Ironman, the company started by college students in a garage that gets sold for an eye-watering amount.

These stories “have programmed our thoughts and desires to want and expect the same kind of results in our own lives,” says Bassiri. “We’ve started to measure our progress on an oversized scale.” So instead of recognizing our small triumphs for what they are, we view them as failures.”

If we set goals for ourselves, instead of only recognizing our progress when crossing a specific point, or after a major “win” (which sometimes feels like it will never come), we should rather celebrate the small milestones we make along the way. Because it’s those small milestones or steps toward our goals or dreams that take us closer to them.

I’m most certainly one of those with super high expectations of myself, and get discouraged quickly and easily if I don’t see any major progress in a goal, project or  change I want to make. I become blind to the small bits of progress I do make, because it’s just “not good enough”, or “it doesn’t count”. But it is good enough. It does count. And I’m going to take note of all my smalls wins, as the article suggests.

I highly recommend giving this a read:
https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-make-your-small-wins-work-for-you/