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.

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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.

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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A Hostile Takeover

I’m an introvert.

When I spend too much time with a person or people, I start getting frustrated. Even with my friends. I need time alone. I don’t want to spend every weekend with people. Sometimes I just want to spend time with myself. Being lazy, watching TV, reading, studying up on things that I find interesting (such as psychology). There are many times where I crave closeness though. And it comes at the worst possible times. When everyone else is so busy with their lives that they don’t have time to spend with me. I tend to fall into a depression then, and feel unimportant and rejected. I’ve never actually had anyone hold space for me while I was going through a difficult time. When I really needed someone, just anyone, I was alone. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m so attached to my therapist. She’s helped me through a lot of dark moments. When I had no one, she was there. She was (and is) my person. I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll find that person who will walk with me through it all, and let me do the same for them. Through both the good and the bad.

Right now I’ve withdrawn into my shell.

I had to photograph a wedding on Friday. I’m a photographer but I don’t do weddings. But I made an exception in this case, as it was a small wedding and I know the bride. I was terrified. One of the reasons I don’t do weddings is because it’s the one event that you just can’t mess up on. You don’t get a second chance. And I just don’t have the confidence that I feel every other photographer has. I wanted to cancel every day for a week, wondering what the hell had come over me in accepting the job. But when I make a commitment, I stick to it, even if it hurts. Besides, it was a job, and I desperately needed it.

It was so stressful. And now I’m working on the photo’s, before putting together the package that they selected. I’m going to be working on it for the rest of this week. At least I enjoy it. All that anxiety had built up over the week, and now that it’s over, I’m exhausted and just want to be alone.

The photo’s came out better than I expected, but less perfect than I wanted. People keep telling me my photography is really good. But no matter how many times I’ve heard that, it just doesn’t stick. Unfortunately our brains have a negativity bias. The bad sticks, while the good seeps away quickly. It’s automatic, as the brain has a high sensitivity to negative stimuli. Fortunately, it can be changed (with a lot of hard work). You can read more here.

When I’m doing a photo shoot, I pretend to be confident, calm and collected. One of the reviews I received said “she was professional, calm and comfortable”. If only this client knew how I was trembling inside, feeling like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking photos. It’s the interacting with people that I struggle with. And the fear of messing up.

In other news, my stepmom’s parents are here for the next two weeks (and they might even stay for 3 weeks), and I’ve been exiled from my room. I’m now staying in my step brother’s room (he’s sharing with his sister- obviously in separate beds). There are now 8 people in the house. It’s crowded, and noisy. I want peace and quiet when I wake up in the morning. To be able to sit outside and not hear twenty voices. I’m not a morning person. I have my own bathroom in my room. Now I need to share one with the kids and my uncle. I can’t shower when I want to, I need to schedule it around when they want to shower, and then I’m stuck with lukewarm or cold water. Even the kids get preference over me, which is frustrating.

I think of it this as a hostile takeover, hence the title. See how I blow things way out of proportion? It’s a talent of mine.

In our last session, my therapist used a REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) “technique”. It goes something like this:
My beliefs: I should have my room to myself. I should have all my stuff around me. I mustn’t let this upset me so much. I must get over it. She’s helping me eliminate the words “should”, “have to” “must”, etc. So I’ve been trying to re-frame those thoughts. Instead of “I should have all my stuff around me and have my space to myself” I’ve been saying: “I would prefer to have my room and space to myself, but they’re not going to be here forever. I’ll get my room back when they leave. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, and yes, I’m annoyed about it, and I get to feel that way”. It’s the anger that I’m trying to replace with less destructive, intense emotions. So I’m practicing this (my homework).

Wish me luck for these next few weeks!

This Unwelcome Feeling

This unwelcome feeling seeps into my soul. Where did it come from, and will it ever go?

It’s not a thought, nor is it really a desire. It’s a feeling that haunts me day by day.

Constantly lurking in the shadows. It’s presence can be felt even on the best days. I can’t stand feeling this way, and it never really goes away. Always lingering.

 

I don’t want to live.

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