Building The Therapeutic Relationship

My therapy session last week Wednesday marked a turning point in my relationship with my new therapist. I usually do 30 minute sessions with her, as that way I’m able to see her every week. But I wasn’t ready to leave this time… I wasn’t in a good space. So she said we could stretch it to an hour session. The nice thing about having her work part-time at the clinic is that the patients don’t have set times for sessions. Which was a major problem for me when I was still in there, and after figuring that out, my therapist started giving me rough times for our sessions (+/- an hours difference), which was so much better for me than not knowing at all.

At some point during the session I realized… I’m growing attached to C. I never thought it would happen. It’s terrifying, and was one of the contributing factors to my intense moment on Friday. I had become really good at containing myself when it comes to emails and texts, but had a relapse on Friday, which culminated in me sending her a panicked apology email after the first one I had sent. She was nice about it though, and in her reply told me that I didn’t do anything wrong (I had been convinced I had, and that she would “drop me”). We had a session today, and spoke about it. She told me that she won’t do that to me. She won’t just reject and abandon me. The relief those words bring is profound. Although I still don’t trust her fully just yet, but like she says, it’s a process.

She had asked me last week if I have any items or objects that I use to help soothe and regulate myself, and helps me feel connected to certain important people (like A) or places. I showed her one of the cards that A had sent me (and that I carry everywhere with me), and also that I have a “therapy jacket” from my early days with A that helps with that. When my therapist asked me last week what I can do to take our safe space, that feeling, home with me when I leave, I told her that I can’t seem to hold onto things like that. I jokingly told her I could take her with me though. That was a nice light moment. Before I left today she told me that she has something for me, and after packing out her whole bag (this had me laughing, because as a lot of women know, this is a familiar scene), she handed me a piece of rose quartz. It’s significant because in her office there are some small pot plants and a big rose quartz ornament thing, all of which I love touching and looking at, so she uses them as grounding objects when I dissociate. Anything I can touch and play with helps significantly. So I loved that she gave me that, because it reminds me of that space and of her. When I got home I just crashed onto my bed, got under my weighted blanket, put on an episode of a series I’m watching and just held onto that stone the entire time. I decided to just listen to my body, no work, no nothing, just watch TV for as long as I wanted and take a much-needed nap. When I hold this stone I feel calm and soothed. I can’t believe how much it helps. It has the energy it’s intended to have.

I sent A an email last week. She told me that she doesn’t want me to feel guilty or have regret at having moved to C. That she agreed and supported my decision, and that she was proud of me for taking that step. Those words meant so much to me. I realized how much guilt and fear I have been holding onto. Reading those words felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. “It’s okay”.

I haven’t been doing well lately. Life is too much for me to handle right now. So many things are going wrong. Yesterday and today I’ve been angry at the whole world. Myself included. And I’m not too sure where all this rage and hatred is coming from. I’m aware that I’m being irrational in some moments, but I’m struggling to find a more balanced and mature way to handle things. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m angry. What I’m really angry at or about. I’ve had intense cravings and desires to relive the drug and alcohol filled days of my 20’s. Just one of the reasons I’m angry at myself. During today’s session I threw something across the room (nothing that could break) and punched the wall. Essentially throwing a teenage tantrum. I was relieved when my therapist didn’t yell at me, and there was no negative reaction from her, which helped calm me down. Maybe a part of me wanted her to yell at me. Maybe I wanted a reason to hate her and not feel the attachment. I apologized and told her that I’m not angry with her, which she said she knew. I spent the rest of the session just crying. I’ve been filled with so much anger the past couple of days and when I would start to feel tears coming and the anger dying down, I’d resist. But in the session, I just couldn’t anymore. I know it’s okay to cry. I know it isn’t good to shove it down. But still, I couldn’t break through that wall until today.

I just feel exhausted now. All that pent-up energy is gone and I feel like sleeping for a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off work. And that means all work, not just from my office job. I’ve been trying to do too much and solve too many problems that I just don’t have the strength for right now. I need to take care of myself.

This post seems to be a little all over the place, but I couldn’t be bothered about that, so it is what it is. I need to process and my brain isn’t functioning at optimal level.

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Healthier Perspectives

On Wednesday I had a therapy session with the psychologist I was seeing while an in-patient at the clinic. I’ll write more about what’s happening with my therapy once I’ve had a session with my usual therapist, who is currently on leave.

When I got to the clinic, I ran into one of my roommates (who is still there). It was lovely to see her again, and we spent a few minutes catching up before my appointment.

In our session I told the therapist everything that I had mentioned in my previous post. I was worried that I’m disconnecting myself from people. She told me that she doesn’t think that’s the case. Especially since I’m still keeping in contact with my friends and family, and have made plans with two of my closest friends for Sunday (today), which I’m looking forward to. She saw me interact with my roommate before our session, and with the OT I used to have sessions with (she walked by and I made a joke with her). When the therapist told me all this, I knew she was right. I’m not pushing people away.

Since my time in the clinic I’ve developed a healthier view of connection. It didn’t start in the clinic though. I believe it’s been happening for a while now, and the breakup with Elizabeth also played a big role towards pushing me toward that healthier perspective faster.

I’ve been feeling so strange, because I’m not used to this new way of being. Over the past few days it’s starting to feel more normal. I think I’m settling into my “new” self. I’ve been practicing mindfulness every day, and am starting Yoga tomorrow. I’m taking much better care of myself these days. I’ve been learning what my limitations are. How to listen to my body. To my mind. I’m working on myself from the inside out, and I can feel my self-compassion and confidence grow. I’m also less compromising on my boundaries.

On Friday I went for a job interview. It’s for a half-day position, which is perfect for me. The interview started off well, and I was enjoying talking with the lady who was interviewing me. Then, the general manager of the company walked in and took over the interview. I wasn’t expecting this at all. My agent told me I was only meeting with the accounts manager. It was also a last-minute interview, so I didn’t have time to prepare beforehand. His questions, and the way he asked them, threw me. I felt a panic rise up inside, and the urge to run. In that moment, I mentally took a step back and allowed myself some time before I answered one of his questions. I told myself “It’s okay. Just do the best you can. That’s enough. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get this job.” That helped calm me down enough to put on a confident face again and continue on with the interview.

I was so relieved once it was done. I had been there for almost an hour… One of the longest, most intense interviews I’d ever been for. As I was walking back to my car, the old familiar voices started coming. “You blew it.”, “You can’t even interview properly.” etc. As soon as I noticed these thoughts, I started reframing them and talking back to that critic with words of compassion and love. After the interview I was convinced it was a failure. But after some self-compassion I realize that it wasn’t a complete disaster. There were good points too. Within 10 minutes I started feeling better. I bounced back quickly, and felt pretty good the rest of the day.

Last night I felt sad for a while. That my relationship with Elizabeth didn’t work out. We shared a lot of good times together. I miss our early days, and even some of the more recent moments. I miss her touch. The way she used to look at me. I miss her. But this wasn’t an overwhelming sadness. It felt more of an acceptance type of sadness. It didn’t work out. And that’s okay. I hold no resentment or bitterness toward her. She did what was best for her, and it was also the best thing for me. She’s coming through to my place tomorrow to collect her things, and I don’t know how I’ll feel when I see her again. But I’m ready. I don’t know if we can still be friends, but I’m not making that decision yet. There’s no rush.

All in all, I’ve been well. And I’m grateful to be alive.

Safe Haven

These past two weeks have been a nightmare.

Elizabeth and I broke up last week Monday. I want to write about it sometime soon, as I feel I’m still processing this. I don’t want to get into it right now.

On Friday afternoon I hit a crisis point. I had been dealing with suicidal ideation since even before the breakup, but it came and went. It wasn’t until afterward that it started to become a permanent fixture in my mind. My current living and work situation, and a few other things as well, were leading me down a very dark road.

I went to a job interview on Thursday. The first interview I was actually looking forward to, as the job seemed perfect for me. Even though I was feeling like shit, I managed to compartmentalize and focus on the interview. I felt it went well from my side. I was supposed to hear back from my agent by the end of the working day, but I didn’t. On Friday morning when I hadn’t had any feedback, I emailed my agent and asked her whether she had heard anything. I was positive. So positive. Later that morning I received her reply that I didn’t get the job.

That was the last straw. I was in the office with the dad and stepmom, and I had about an hour or so (can’t remember) before it was time to go home. I had a “meeting” with my ex business partner (we still meet up to chat and help one another with our individual businesses) directly after work, so I went to meet up with her.

She could see I was in a bad space. I broke down right then and there in the restaurant. Usually I’m able to keep my composure in public, but not this time. To cut a long story short, I ended up admitting myself into the clinic that day.

I’m still here and I’m glad I made the decision to come in that day. As I mentioned before, Saturday evening’s are usually my worst days. Since I’ve been struggling a lot with suicidal ideation and had my plan in place, I knew the weekend was going to be a hard one. If I hadn’t been in here I don’t know if I would have gotten through the weekend. I’m still not completely over the suicidal ideation, but I’m very slowly starting to regain a sense of distant hope and the will to live.

Boundaries

About a week or so ago, I came across a video on Facebook from an interview with Brené Brown. As usual, I was captivated by what she had to say.

In this interview she talks about the importance of boundaries, and how empathy and compassion go hand in hand with having good boundaries, which is something I haven’t realized until now.

Then, a couple of days ago, I also came across an article on the topic of boundaries. It felt like the universe giving me a sign. So since then, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I’m sensitive to other people’s energies, and tend to take their feelings on as my own. If someone is stressed and overwhelmed, even if I was in a peaceful mood, I suddenly become just as agitated as they are.

This leads to me feeling as though I need to “fix” them. That it’s my responsibility to make them feel better. Could this perhaps be a selfish thing? By making them feel better, or doing things that I think would make them feel better in such a situation, isn’t that just an attempt at making myself feel better? Almost like saying “I don’t like that you’re feeling this way, it’s making me uncomfortable because what you’re feeling, I’m also experiencing.”

When I look at it this way, then in this interview, when Brené says that some of the most compassionate people she knows are also some of the most boundaried, then her words make sense. If I have good boundaries, I won’t be taking on the other person’s emotions, but will rather be able to keep a healthy distance. And that will help me better support that person. Does this make sense?

I’ve realized that because I don’t have firm boundaries when it comes to what I let in, I’m almost constantly emotionally exhausted. I can’t, and don’t want to, do this anymore. It’s not healthy.

I got to practice this just yesterday. Elizabeth was upset with someone who had crossed one of her boundaries and was being rude and disrespectful. She had walked away from this person in order to get some distance, because she was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want to say something she might regret. I listened to her, and really focused on what she was saying and the feelings she was expressing.

Just being present with her there in that moment, but mentally picturing a bubble around each of us, helped me gain that necessary distance between her emotions and mine. I could still empathize with her, and offer compassion, but her emotions didn’t affect me negatively. I wasn’t able to keep it up for very long though, but I think this is one of those things that we become better at with continued practice. The little bit I managed to do already helped quite a lot.

When she was feeling calmer, I told her I’m going to go do my own thing for a while, while she speaks to the person who had upset her. I went to the room, put on some music, and worked on some photo’s. I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, like I would have and managed to let go of the little bits of negative emotions that she had expressed. Knowing that those emotions weren’t mine, I was able to more easily return to my own equilibrium.

Boundaries are so important. And they aren’t selfish. After all, you can’t be there for someone if you’re so overwhelmed yourself due to having weak boundaries. In 2018 I’m going to focus on strengthening my own, and implementing them more effectively. I only realized, after watching the video, and reading the article, just how much I’ve been negatively affected by other people and situations. Unnecessarily so, because I haven’t had proper boundaries established. It’s my responsibility to look after my mental and physical well-being. Not having the right boundaries in place, has made me give my power over to situations and other people. My goal is to work on that. I’ve already started, and I know I can do this.

Here’s the video for anyone who’s interested:

You can find the article here:

10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. Thanks for all your support this year.

What I Want Now Vs. What’s Best For Me

It’s been a long and busy week, full of stress and pressure. Not all of it external, some of it was self-inflicted. But here’s the thing. Most of it was at a healthy and reasonable level. When I think back to the stress, anxiety, and the pressure I felt to perform at all of my previous jobs, I notice the difference to how I’m experiencing these feelings now. I’m doing work I enjoy, and I’m my own boss. This makes such a huge difference.

I’ve also learned a surprising thing this week. I’m much more passionate about web and graphic design than I am about photography. I’m also so much more confident in myself in this field. There have been a couple of times where I surprised myself this week in doing something in record time, pulling off “the impossible”, or having just figured something out on my own. When that happened, I felt a gentle sense of pride in myself, and gave myself a pat on the back. With my photography I hardly ever felt proud of myself, just like a failure.

There were a couple of moments while working on my design projects where I felt so overwhelmed and just wanted to scream and bury my head under some pillows. But, instead of panicking, I got up, stepped away from what I was doing, took some deep breaths, and started speaking out loud to myself. Telling myself that I’m in control. The work doesn’t control me. The clients (or my dad) don’t control me. I am in control, and I don’t have to give my power away. These conversations with myself really helped a lot. I feel good about what I accomplished this week. Sure, I wish I didn’t get tired and overwhelmed so easily, but I do, and I need to accept that and be kind to myself. I need to know and respect my limits. Know when I need to push myself just a little bit more, and when to step back and take a break. I’m trying to learn how to balance things.

Since waking up this morning I’ve felt low on energy and depressed. There were a few things I wanted to get done on one of the websites I’m building, and starting feeling some pressure to do it. So I decided that I’m not going to work on anything today. I’m taking a break. I’m photographing a newborn tomorrow, and those sessions can last up to three hours, so I want to give myself some time off. I’ve worked hard and long hours this week, and I deserve a break.

All I want to do right now is stay in my room. I don’t want to do anything. Usually when I’m feeling low on energy I enjoy just reading, writing, and maybe watching a movie or episodes of a series I like. But with this depression, I don’t even feel like doing that.

Elizabeth and I have plans tonight. We’re meeting up with one of her friends who’s visiting South Africa from Europe, and one of his other friends. I’m not in the mood. Like I said, I just want to stay home. I know I can tell Elizabeth that I’m not coming, and stay at home instead, but I also know that would not be the best thing for me. If it were just tiredness, and I wanted some time to myself to “re-set” or refresh, I might have cancelled. But I know myself. If I stay here, the depression will just grow, I’ll get bored, and go down a very slippery slope. I just have to look at past experiences to see how good it had been for me to go out when I had felt this way, versus how I had felt when I had stayed at home in this current state I find myself in.

What I want right now, isn’t what’s best for me. Staying here won’t serve any good purpose. Sometimes we have to do what we don’t feel like doing, if we know it’s the best thing for us in the medium to long-term, and for our well-being. So I’m going out.

It might be just what I need.

And I’m Back

Is going to group a habit now? It seems that way. Yesterday was a public holiday, and with me being in the dissociative slump I’ve been in today, it would have been understandable had I forgotten it was group night. But no, I found myself there buying a cappuccino. One minute with my laptop on my lap in my room, the next buying a cappuccino at the clinic coffee shop. Well done! I’ve figured out why I was still able to get to group and be responsible with my mental health upkeep while not fully being “Rayne”, but that revelation is for another day… And maybe just for my therapist, I haven’t decided yet.

I was dissociated for the first one and a half hours, and then slowly started to become grounded during the last half hour. Last week I had left group just after the break, because I started dissociating quite heavily and was unable to ground myself. For some reason I thought it best to go home before it got too bad, but in hindsight, it would have been better to stay. I can’t remember anything after having gotten up and walking outside the clinic toward my car, and before finding myself eating my supper in bed. Having lived with this kind of thing for as long as I can remember, I know to always check the time once I come around and realize I’ve lost time. So I did drive straight home from group.

I need to get to bed now, but will write more about this tomorrow if I’m able to. My posts of late have been a bit cryptic, and I think I’m now able to write about what’s been going on.

Oh, and I had an amazing (almost-completely-dissociation-and-mental health crisis-free) day with Elizabeth yesterday “celebrating” our first month together as a couple. Despite my mental health being what it has been lately, our relationship just keeps growing and getting better, and I truly feel lucky.

Withdrawal

I’m not doing as well as I had been over the past few weeks.

I’ve started the process of tapering down my mood stabilizer, Lamotrigine. The side effects started to outweigh the benefits (one of the side effects was especially worrying)… Which I’m not happy about, because it worked so well as a mood stabilizer. I was on 150mg, which was the therapeutic dose for me. When I went down to 100mg, I was still okay. I stayed on that dosage for about 3 weeks, and then went down to 50mg early last week. That’s when things started going downhill. I started getting headaches. My mood started crashing and suicidal ideation made a few small appearances. I felt drained, and still do, and have been struggling with a lack of focus and concentration. My co-ordination had also been a bit off for two days… I’m naturally a clumsy person, but this was off the charts. This symptom is gone now thankfully. The headaches are also getting a bit less.

I’m hoping that the next move, coming off it completely, will be like going from the 150 to 100mg… No withdrawal symptoms. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be this drug, so I secretly hoped that the side effects wouldn’t go away. But they have, in a large part, with only a few mild one’s still existing, but in a lesser capacity. So it definitely was the Lamotrigine. I can’t imagine how much worse I would have felt if I had gone cold turkey. It was only on Saturday evening that I made the connection to how I have been feeling, and the possibility of it being withdrawal from my meds. When the thought entered my mind, I did some reading from multiple sources, and saw that everything I’ve been experiencing could be related to withdrawal. Since I had no symptoms when I first started tapering my dosage, I didn’t think I would get any as I continued down. I can’t wait for this to just be over.

Just because I’m feeling this way now, doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to how I was before I started a mood stabilizer. I have more skills and tools now, and a better support system. So I’ll give it a few months, making sure that this medication is out of my system for a while, so I can more accurately judge what I think might need to be done. Whether I’m okay without a MS, or whether to try another one. I hope I don’t… Don’t want to go through all that trial and error bullshit. And I could also do with the money I’ll save. My finances are also having a big effect on how I’m feeling.

Elizabeth stayed over on Sunday, and went back home yesterday (Monday’s are her Sunday’s). I had to go into work yesterday morning, so she stayed at my place and did some studying. We’re both drained. She had a very stressful and busy week, so she also didn’t have much energy. So our “over excited” mental state whenever we’re together wasn’t completely present. But we loved this state of being together as well. It doesn’t always have to be this intense “alive” thing every time. It won’t be. So it’s good to see this side of one another as well. The quiet, tired, and low side. We had a movie night, which is our first time watching a movie together. I love having a TV in my room (which I hardly ever use anyway as I mostly watch Netflix on my computer when I want to watch something).

It was soothing having her around when I wasn’t feeling emotionally strong. I didn’t need anything from her. She didn’t need to do anything. Just being in her presence was enough.

Elizabeth had invited me for drinks with a couple of her friends last night, but completely understood that I’m not up for it. When she first invited me, I was already feeling a little low, so I told her that I’ll think about it and see how I feel. I didn’t end up going, so she went alone. I don’t think alcohol is a good idea for me for a while. I also haven’t met these two friends of hers yet, and I didn’t want to have to fake anything, especially since first impressions are so powerful. I just wasn’t up for it. And that’s okay. I just needed to be alone last night and deal with this storm going on in my head.

I feel a little bit better today, even though I’m still super stressed about my finances and my business that doesn’t seem to be taking off. Adulting is hard.