Growing In Assertiveness

I went out with Jasmine and my business partner/friend (Kim) last night. I had sent Jasmine a message last week, telling her that I have been feeling rejected and unimportant to her over the past few months, and that I miss her. She then invited me for sun-downers with her and Kim, as well as another mutual friend of theirs.

I really wasn’t in the mood to be with people, especially having to meet someone new, but since I haven’t seen Jasmine in months, I decided to go anyway. I’ve also been having some issues with Kim over the past few weeks and wasn’t looking forward to seeing her and talking more “business” (she has a habit of bringing business stuff up anywhere and everywhere). Our recent business meetings have been all about her and her own business and I was fed up. She’s back to her old pattern of constantly relying on me to help her with things she can easily figure out herself or Google. I’m trying to work on building up my own businesses and this is taking me away from that. I don’t get time to work on my own stuff because I’m constantly helping her out.

Last night when she started talking about our next meeting (on Friday) and how there are some more things she wants to change/add/remove on her website, I felt my anger rise up. I took a sip of my drink to buy myself some time, because I didn’t want to react immediately. Thanks DBT and Mindfulness. I told her that we’d talk more on Friday. Once the anger died down, I decided that I needed to talk to her about this now because I’m not sure whether I want to meet up on Friday anymore. Jasmine and her other friend were in the middle of a conversation, so I felt it was okay to talk to Kim about this quietly. I told her that I feel as though our meetings have changed. That I used to enjoy them, because I almost always left feeling inspired and motivated, and they had been a benefit for both of us. These days I just feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I wasn’t nasty about it, but made sure to use a firm tone of voice. She insisted on just one more meeting focused on her business and website, so we can get that out of the way and she can relax. I agreed, but told her it will be a short meeting. I’ve also decided that after this, I’m going to start charging her for any new work on her website. I’ve shown her how to do certain things herself, but she keeps losing the papers she writes the instructions down on. That’s not my problem. I’m going to make this clear to her on Friday. I just can’t continue on like this with her. It’s draining me. I know I’ve been enabling this behaviour lately by giving in to her demands. But at least I realize this. Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s okay that I slip up from time to time and don’t have it down perfectly. It will take time.

I left early last night as I was exhausted, and while I enjoyed talking with Jasmine, there were two other people there as well so we couldn’t just ignore the others. In the past I’ve always been afraid of leaving early, not wanting to offend anyone, but these days I find it much easier to excuse myself and not feel bad about it.

Assertiveness had always been a foreign concept to me. I took on the passive, people pleasing role in all of my interactions with others. Now that I learned there’s another way, I’ve realized just how much damage I was doing to my own self-esteem and mental and physical health. Assertiveness is vitally important, but it’s also damn hard if you’re not used to that way of communication and interaction.

A lovely online friend of mine created a new course on assertiveness and kindly sent me a copy. If you struggle with assertiveness, this course will help dispel common myths and help you toward achieving a healthier style of communication. Reading through the PDF helped me cement my decision to stop being passive, and it has lots of helpful advice and action steps, complete with examples. If you’re interested, you can find it on her website here:

How To Communicate Effectively & Stop Being A People-Pleaser

This is one of those things that will only improve with a willingness to change and lots of practice. Oh, and lots of uncomfortable feelings at first. But it does seem to get easier each time.

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Want

I recently came across something I wrote years ago. This was before I started therapy, and it’s beautiful to see how things have changed. I still struggle with most of these things, but not to the extent I used to. It’s become easier to reach out and open up. To be honest about my feelings, needs, and wants. I’m still a work in progress, but then again, aren’t we all?

Want

You want to reach out. Instead, you keep it inside.
You want to know whether they care. But you don’t ask.
You want to be seen. Instead you hide.
You want to be heard. Yet you silence your voice.
You want to feel real. So you hurt yourself again.
You want to tell someone you want to die. That you can’t imagine living one more day. Instead, you smile, because you don’t want to be a burden.
You want to cry. Instead, you hide behind humour.
You want to open up. Instead, you put your shield up. Afraid you’ll be rejected and cast aside once again.

Not Going To Happen This Year Either

This was going to be the year where I finally start my Psychology degree.

For the past couple of years, from the beginning, I kept coming up against roadblocks. Even so, every semester, and each year, I’ve tried to make it work.

Last Saturday I was able to finally start the registration process. I really thought this was it. I was so excited. After hitting “submit”, I got a message telling me that my registration couldn’t be processed due to outstanding documents.

I know what documents they were talking about. Only, here’s the thing. I had already sent those documents through in early December, and had a generic confirmation of my email having been received. In early January I had sent through another email to confirm that the documents were in order, but haven’t received a reply as yet. I tried calling a few times too, but, as I’ve learned (both from personal experience and talking with others about this specific university), they never answer their phones.

Their admin is crap. I’ve also heard of other unacceptable issues by people who have studied there, or are busy studying, but wanting to continue at another institution.

Do I really want to study with such an institution? One that’s in any case on its way down? They’ve apparently already lost some accreditation for certain subjects. Their fees are very low for a university, so I guess you get what you pay for. I’ve been looking into other universities, and found one that I have my heart set on now. It’s more expensive, but everything looks good. I’ll just have to save up more and wait longer. But it will be worth it.

I know I’m doing the right thing. But it still sucks, and is highly disappointing. The situation sucks, and it doesn’t feel good. But it’s not as discouraging as it would have been in the past. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Or even a few months ago. I find I can handle situations in a more mature way.

Maybe the time wasn’t right. Maybe this wasn’t where I was supposed to study. So I’m willing to wait and continue doing what I can to make my dream come true.

Sometimes we have to let go of one thing, to make way for something even better.

It’s not the end.

Dependence On Therapy

Since we’ve started working together, my therapist has mentioned quite a few times, that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy. Whenever she’d say that, I’d feel uncomfortable and get defensive. Even though she would tell me that she didn’t say I was dependent on it, I still took it as an attack. And I think I have figured out why it bothers me so much. Deciding to see a psychologist (or any mental health professional) is terrifying. I was terrified when I first reached out to my therapist. Deep down inside, on an unconscious level, I felt ashamed.

Even up to today, that shame is still there. It’s died down a lot, but a few fragments of it still exist. The man who calls himself my dad contributed to that most of all. He’s told me so many times how some people need therapy, while others have strong minds, so they can deal on their own. How do I take it? I take it as him telling me, and thinking, that I’m weak because I’m getting help, when I should just suck it up and get on with life the way he does. So here my therapist is telling me that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy, and in my mind it sounds like an affirmation that therapy is “bad, so you shouldn’t get used to it”. I know that’s not what’s being said, but that’s the way my overly sensitive, reactive mind takes it.

I see now why regular therapy sessions are so important. It’s not about being dependent on it. How do you become dependent on the process of therapy? It’s damn hard sometimes, and even if I’m okay during a session, it hits me afterward and sometimes I just want to crawl under the covers and shut the world away for the rest of the day. There were many times that I didn’t want to have a session. Where I wanted to cancel. But I knew that those were probably the times when I should have one. So I didn’t cancel, no matter how much I wanted to.

I read a lot of your blogs, and from what I’ve read, the majority of you have weekly sessions, some of you twice weekly, and you’ve also expressed a hesitation and even downright resistance to attending a session from time to time. So I know I’m not alone in this.

As my therapist mentioned during our short phone call on Monday (which was strangely helpful, which I didn’t expect it to be- mostly because I didn’t know what to expect in the first place), I need structure. I thrive on it. I feel unstable, and everything feels chaotic without it. My nervous system feels under threat. When things are structured, I feel calmer.

When I had 3 therapy sessions a month, I felt more secure. It felt more structured than it does now. Now it’s just all over the place.

Sometimes we open up a topic, but there’s not enough time in a single session to really delve into it. Then having to wait two or three weeks, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about something painful, difficult and shameful, and have two or three weeks go by before we can pick up on where we were. It feels like something is lost, and it gets disrupted. I know that the nature of therapy is that just because it seems something has been worked through, it might come up in future sessions again. Sometimes we think the work may be complete, only to discover that it actually isn’t.

Even when I write down things to discuss in the next session, it’s not quite the same. Those emotions that I felt, that were so extreme, die down, and it feels pointless to talk about it. If I do talk about it in our next session, those emotions are a distant memory, and I talk about the situation, or whatever it was, without really connecting with my inner world.

I think it’s important to have that safe, consistent space every week. I don’t show up just to see my therapist. I show up because I want to do the work. If you’ve got a physical illness that requires you to see your doctor every week for a checkup, does that mean you’re dependent and happy to go for those checkups every week? No. You do it because you know it’s important.

In keeping an open mind, if a person can become dependent on therapy, is that necessarily a bad thing? We’re dependent on work for an income. Which enables us to live, to pay rent, have food to eat, etc. So why would it be any different with therapy? The purpose of therapy is to help you heal and to craft the life you want to live. To help us grow, giving us valuable tools in order to function optimally in life. We’re still doing the work during and between sessions. But knowing that the next session is only a few days away helps, as you can more easily bring up any observations, experiences, etc in the next session, as it will still be fresh in your mind. Which, brings that sense of continuity.

Of course, right now I can’t afford to have regular therapy sessions. But when I’m able to, I’m definitely going to invest in it. The point of this post is just to share my view on how I don’t believe that one can truly get “dependent” on therapy, and why I think regular sessions are so important. I’m grateful for my therapist, who really tries to bridge that gap between sessions, and keep the therapeutic relationship safe and secure, which has been so helpful.

A while ago, I heard someone say that attending therapy is a form of self-care. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I like hearing different opinions and view points, so please let me know what you think about this topic.

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Practicing Acceptance

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about Radical Acceptance during our group sessions. I felt as though my mind was fighting against this idea. It wasn’t until Friday morning that it grabbed a firm, positive, foothold in my mind. Since then, I’ve been working through the concept, trying to understand it better and just basically thinking about it from every angle.

One of my biggest challenges is in accepting myself. I’m my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? No matter how many compliments I get, what kind words come my way, I struggle to believe them. How can I believe that which I don’t feel is true? I’m still trying to get to that place of being able to accept compliments without feeling embarrassed and like I don’t deserve them. Or that people are just saying these things without actually meaning them. I have become better at this over the past year, but still have a long way to go. I also struggle with the concept of being accepting of myself, the way I am, while also working on changing that which needs to be changed.

Then there’s acceptance of others. It’s easier for me to be accepting of others, than of myself. But of course, I said “easier” not “easy”. One of my biggest irritations is having people cancel plans with me, too close to the time. The reason I feel so strongly about it, is because keeping commitments is very important to me. I stick to my commitments, unless of course, there’s a very valid reason for cancelling. No matter how depressed or tired I may be, or how much I want to cancel, I will keep that coffee date with a friend, for example. But I need to accept that not everyone is like this. We all have our own values, and what’s important to one person, might not be important to someone else.

In Thursday’s support group, near the end, I awkwardly shared a tiny bit of where I am in life. Living in an environment in which my boundaries aren’t respected, but unable to get out due to a lack of financial resources. One thing that stuck in my mind since then is when they said that I’m doing the best I can. But I can’t get the inner critic to stop telling me that I could do more. I feel this constant pressure to do better, be better, and I get so angry and frustrated with myself because I can’t think of how to do that. This constant striving and fighting is exhausting. Adding fuel to the fire is the feeling of excessive guilt. That maybe I’m doing something wrong, did something wrong, or just not trying hard enough.

I need to accept that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. The circumstances in which I find myself. But I still need to be aware, and open to anything that comes my way (including ideas or solutions that cross my mind) that will allow me to change these circumstances. I just don’t need to fight so hard anymore, which hasn’t accomplished anything worthwhile anyway, and just keeps me in a constant state of high anxiety.

Something else that came up during Thursday’s support group, is how much I tend to compare myself to others. Everyone there had such positive things to share, and seemed so mentally stable. While I was struggling, and in a very dark space in my mind. On Friday I realized that I need to accept that I might not be as far in my healing journey as some others are. Just like there are those who are not as far along as I am. We’re all dealing with different problems. Our lives don’t look the same. Besides, just because someone is having a good day (or seems to be), doesn’t mean that they’re not still struggling. Healing and growth looks different for all of us. There’s no mould for this.

As the writer of a good article I came across yesterday, says:

“Radical acceptance takes lots of practice. And understandably, it might feel strange and hard. But remember that radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality – not liking it or contesting it.”

You can read the article here.

I Am Not

I am not my past. The past represents those things we have been through. It’s external. Yes, it may leave imprints. It may have changed me. But it’s not who I am deep down inside.

I am not my mental illness, anymore than someone with a physical illness is that illness. It’s the deepest parts of our soul that make us who we are.

I also have a dark side. We need both the shadow and the light. This shadow side doesn’t make me a bad person. It balances me.

I will always just be me. Whoever that may be. Day by day, I’m learning who “me” is.

All Around Me

Can I see the wind?
I can see it move through the trees, but I can’t see the essence of it.
I can feel it blow across my face.
The effect is there, all around me.

Can I see my growth?
I can see it in my life, but I can’t see the essence of it.
I can feel it in my heart.
The effect is there, all around me.