“Be Kind To Yourself”

These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.

My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.

“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.

“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.

When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.

Attachment: Here We Go Again

I’ve gone and done it again.

I got attached to someone else. My psychiatrist.

When I first met her, that Friday that I booked myself into the clinic, I can’t remember most of our interaction. I saw her four more times after that, and didn’t know what to make of her. So there wasn’t an instant attachment, like I had with my therapist the first day I met her.

Then, yesterday, everything changed. I went to a DBT program that the clinic organizes for previous inpatients. As I was signing myself in, I felt a presence behind me, and heard a voice. I turned around and saw my psychiatrist. She smiled warmly at me, greeted me and asked whether I had an appointment with someone. I told her that I was there for the DBT group. She smiled again, and told me that she’s proud of me, which caught me unawares. She asked me to walk with her, and started asking how I’ve been, what’s been going on in my life, etc. I was surprised when she asked me about something I had told her in one of our sessions a few weeks ago. Surprised because I didn’t think she’d remember that so clearly. Especially since she sees a lot of patients.

Eventually we got to her office, and she announced me to her assistant (who I really like- she’s awesome), with a “look who I found”. It’s nice to be remembered. The instant my psychiatrist touched my hand, that was it. I became attached to this woman, right then and there. My vulnerable child self emerged, and I could feel her hunger for love and care. Psychiatrist had just done something that made her feel warm inside and cared for, and she wanted more.

The three of us spoke for a few more minutes and then Psychiatrist had to leave to go see patients. But before she left, she told her assistant “take good care of her”. She left with a gentle touch on my arm. I didn’t want her to go, and the vulnerable child felt so sad watching her leave, thinking that she might never come back.

The group was really good, but near the end we had to lay on the ground for some meditation. After a few minutes of that, I suddenly felt this overwhelming sadness. I felt my vulnerable child self becoming activated again. I started crying (I’m glad no one would see me), and just kept thinking over and over again “I want Psychiatrist and Therapist”.

Why do I find myself getting attached to someone because of a simple, caring touch? It’s not like that with just anyone though. And never with men. I can feel when it’s genuine and there’s a measure of care. And that’s when it happens. It’s an amazing feeling, but at the same time it’s terrifying. It’s just one more person to worry about being abandoned by. But I can’t stop it from happening.

My therapist is still my favourite and most powerful attachment. I’ve got a session with her tomorrow, and I can’t wait. She sent me a voice note last night, just as I was getting out of the car to go to group, telling me that she’s proud of me. I had reached out to her and told her that I’ve been struggling with abandonment issues a lot this past week or so, and I was in a young and vulnerable place. I told her I was forcing myself to go to the group, even though I didn’t really want to (I’m glad I went). It was so nice hearing her voice again, and I always love hearing her say that she’s proud of me. So I got two “I’m proud of you” messages yesterday. It felt good.

I’m seeing my psychiatrist next week Friday for an hour. But I don’t want to see her only then. It feels like a lifetime away.

What the hell is wrong with me?!

Kindness & Gratitude #1

It’s so easy to get stuck in the darkness, and feel that we’ll never get out of that place. To feel like the whole world is against us. Which is why it’s so important to notice the kindness and compassion that exists, and focus on those things for which we are grateful. I’ve decided to start a series of posts to remind us that there is hope. I don’t know how often I’ll write a post for this series, but I’ll try to do one at least once a month.

A little while ago, Jasmine and I went for a walk through one of the many forests in the countryside. On our way back to the car, a guy came running after us. I froze, my heart pounding. Until I saw what was happening. My driver’s license had fallen off my key holder, and he had picked it up to give back to me. I was so relieved. And exceptionally grateful. I had my driver’s license stolen in a smash and grab last year, so I know how much of an inconvenience and hassle it is to get a new one. The kindness of a stranger.

After our walk, I drove Jasmine back to the clinic where she was staying. Sitting with her on the bench just before I left, so close. Not talking. Just feeling. I felt sad. She wasn’t feeling too great, and lay her head on my shoulder. It was a bittersweet moment. I realized that we might have lost some of the things we had being in an intimate relationship, but the connection and love is still there. It’s the simple things that are the most important. Not taking anything for granted.

I was sitting on the beach a few weeks ago, enjoying my alone time, and watching the sun set. These words came to me:

If you can look at a sunset and feel the beauty of it in your heart, there’s still life and hope inside you.

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Being My Own Friend

During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.

Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.

If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:

“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”

Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:

“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?

I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.

Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.

She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):

What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?

What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like  working with me?

This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.

I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.

“I’m a failure.”

What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.

This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.

I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.

We deserve to be our own best friend.

The Challenge And Necessity Of Being Good to Ourselves

My psychologist shared this quote online, and it’s been at the back of my mind since I saw it.

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I was approached by one of my male friends a few weeks ago. Someone I’d known for a number of years. We’ve never been close, but the friendship had its merits.

He asked me to take on a personal project for him. It would require a lot of time and work on my part, and the only thing I would get out of it would be the satisfaction of having done something for a friend. As usual, I agreed. However, since my break up and move, I don’t have the large amount of internet data it would require. I had unlimited WiFi access, but in this new place, there’s a limited amount of data available every month and it has to be shared by six of us. This project has been causing me a lot of distress lately. To say I’ve been dreading it would be an understatement.

This quote came into my mind again yesterday, and I knew what I had to do. I was nervous telling him I couldn’t do it anymore. I also told him that I’m going through a really hard time and I have so many other things on my plate at this time, and am already overwhelmed. That I need to be kind to myself now too. It took a whole minute for him to tell me he never wants to hear from me again. Thanks, and fuck you too.

I’ve never been good at handling stress. I get overwhelmed easily, and it used to result in panic attacks. I’ve since learned how to stop it turning into a full blown one. But a lot of it was my own fault. Always taking on too much. Never wanting to disappoint or offend anyone. Never standing up for myself and taking people’s crap. In all the jobs I had, I spent many moments in the bathroom hitting the walls or cutting myself where no one could see. Then walking out, the picture of calm and control. There was only one job where I allowed myself to express my frustration and anger. My boss and I would often have screaming matches with one another, swearing included, which would end with him going into his office and slamming the door. I’ve never been able to fight with anyone like that, not even with my ex. But I felt comfortable letting this man have it. Everyone else in the company was terrified of him. But the bastard loved me. Would always bring me chocolates or flowers afterward or the next day. Ah, the good ol’ days. 😛

I recently became obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence. It was her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” that really got my attention. I watched it a couple weeks ago with my family. They thought she was crazy… I was fascinated and loved her character. Who I’m pretty sure has BPD by the way. Anyone else happen to think so?

Just as a side note: That scene in the restaurant was epic. I played it back a few times when everyone else had gone to bed. It made me feel so satisfied. What can I say? I’m messed up.

Anyway, in one scene, Tiffany (Portrayed by Jennifer) tells Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat:

I do this time after time after time, I do all this shit for other people, and then I wake up and I’m empty. I have nothing. I always get myself into these fucking situations. I give everything to other people and nobody ever… I don’t get what I want okay?

Those words really hit me hard. A lot of us are in the habit of doing things for others, even at the expense of our own needs and desires.

Being good to ourselves also means taking care of our own needs. It’s okay to ask for what you want. This concept is something I struggle with. I’ve realized that a few times in my life I’ve offered others hugs simply because I wanted or needed one. Manipulation much? I send my apologies out into the universe to those people, wherever they may be. The other day I followed the example of Tiffany (who asked Pat to help her with her dance), and told a friend that I need a hug. And you know what? She was more than happy to give it to me. It was terrifying to ask, but I felt good afterward. Proud of myself for a change. We need to be proud of every step we take in a positive direction. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

It makes me feel good doing things for others, as I’m sure it does for you too. But sometimes there are things you don’t want to do, aren’t comfortable doing, or that go against your values or beliefs. We need to learn to say “no” and become comfortable in doing so. I don’t like hurting or offending people. But I think I need to learn to balance being kind and good to others and myself at the same time. This won’t always be possible of course, but I’m sure most situations will enable me to do just that.

I’m currently reading a book, ‘Coping With BPD’.  After this experience with my “friend” I was trying to get the situation off my mind and decided to read a little. I opened up to the next chapter in that book. Surprise… The title? ‘Saying No’. Funny how these things happen, isn’t it? I read about the FAST skill of DBT. FAST is an acronym for:
F – (be) Fair
A – (no) Apologies
S – Stick to values
T
– (be) Truthful
They don’t go into too much detail in the book about it, so I found this article that explains it really well. Will definitely need to practice this skill.

People won’t always treat you well. But whenever you remember, and whenever you can, treat yourself well. You deserve to be good to yourself. You’re worth it. The saying “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is true. But you know what’s also true for those of us in the habit of always putting others first?

“Do unto yourself as you do unto others.”