Circumstances Can Change

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Sometimes it feels as though things will never change. But life is a constant state of change. Nothing stays the same. It may for a while, and this while may feel like forever, but there’s no escaping the fact that at some point in time change will come.

This is where I currently find myself. A couple of months ago I was still living with my dad, working for him and getting paid peanuts, and working on my business with no real prospects. Life seemed pointless. Hopeless. I felt stuck. I’ve actually been in this “stuck” place for years, and didn’t see it ending anytime soon.

But then I moved in with my older friend M, and things started changing for me. In December I had met a potential client (in a restaurant where I was talking to a friend and he overheard me talking about my business), and he told me that he was looking for a freelance graphic designer and social media manager. He gave me his details and asked me to contact him in February, which I did. I started working with him beginning April, and it’s been great. It’s a lot of work, but it’s work I enjoy, and he’s a wonderful client. Easy to talk to, open and transparent, and most importantly, quick to respond and get information from. We have a 3 month contract for now, but he told me that he wants to make it more permanent. We had our first end of month progress/update meeting and he’s very happy with my work, so it’s all looking very promising.

As regular readers of my blog know, I found it very stressful and frustrating working for my dad. Just being around him and my step-mom in the office affects me negatively. Add in all the other things going on in the shop and it’s just too much for me. With this new client, I get 3x my salary, so I’m much better off. Their business is still struggling, so that, along with this new job, made me decide to give my week’s notice. They can save the money they pay me every month (at least for the next two months), and I’m free to focus on my own business. I’m far more productive and relaxed working from home. I also have two more potential website design clients, so that will be additional income if all goes well.

I thought I’d never “escape” my dad, but now I only see him if and when I want to. I actually feel like an adult. Free. Staying with M is really great and we get along perfectly. She’s become a real mother figure to me and I’m learning a lot from her. Therapy is also going well, especially now that we’ve switched from weekly 30-minute sessions to 1-hour sessions. My therapist pointed out that I wasn’t doing so well with 30-minute sessions. When I had my sessions at her office in the clinic we’d often run well over, but when we switched to her other location a couple of months ago, time was more limited. And that’s when it became obvious that I was struggling with only 30 minutes. So now we’re on weekly 1-hour sessions and things feel more settled. We’ve also gone back to having it at the clinic as the way there is less stressful and overwhelming for me. My stress and anxiety levels have decreased and my mood has been better overall.

So, a lot has changed in such a short amount of time. I feel like I’m still adjusting to all the changes, and certain things are still overwhelming and anxiety-provoking, but it’s slowly getting better. At the beginning of this year I never imagined I would be here. That life would look different. But it does, and I’m so grateful. To M, for taking me in and showing me that I am worthy of life and love. To my therapist, for always having my best interests at heart and for all that she does to help me.

Circumstances can change. It’s so easy for those of us who are so used to constant disappointment to wonder when things will blow up again, waiting for the other shoe to drop (this saying doesn’t make much sense, but I’m using it anyway), but I’m determined to just embrace how things are in the here and now. Because right now, I’m happy.

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The Strength To Keep Going

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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.

Getting There

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Yesterday was a better day.

This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.

I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.

I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.

Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.

My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.

Comparing Therapists

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I know it’s something I shouldn’t do. It’s something I didn’t want to ever do. Yet, I find myself doing that very thing sometimes.

As my regular readers and those who have followed my blog for some time know, I changed therapists earlier this year. You can read this post if you want to know more. At the time I knew I had made the right decision. And even though there have been moments where I’ve questioned it, I still believe it was the right one.

Even now that I’m not seeing my previous therapist, A, for sessions anymore, it was agreed that I’d still check in with her from time to time and say hi (she has also sent me messages first). I also like sending her a funny video or cute picture. And she still consistently replies to me each and every time. This makes me feel secure in knowing that she’s still around and still cares about me.

From the beginning, C, my current therapist, told me that time management isn’t her strong suit. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have areas we don’t do great in. But this really bothered me in the beginning of my therapy with her. It doesn’t bother me as much anymore, and sometimes I actually even find it enduring. But then there are times like yesterday where it gets to me. I had been upset with her because she hadn’t replied to an email I had sent her earlier the week. I hadn’t asked for a reply, or even posed a question, but still wanted her to reply because I was ultimately reaching out for connection.

When the session started C could tell that I was upset and frustrated. I took out my play-dough and just sat playing with that. She had told me to get some a few months ago, and it’s awesome and so helpful! Anyway, I eventually told her why I was upset, and feeling hurt and wanting to push her away, told her that I want to go back to A, because she always replied between sessions. I also told her that just when I feel I can trust her, this happens and that trust is gone. But after the session yesterday I realized that’s not the truth. I do trust her. My black and white thinking just gets in the way. I get the idea of holding both the positives and “negatives” about others, but the application of it is another matter. I still struggle with either/or. I can do it, but it takes a lot of effort, and when strong emotions are involved it’s even harder. One thing I can say is that when I specifically ask C for a reply, she does, as she reminded me in our session yesterday. So she is consistent in that way.

This whole thing wasn’t actually about the email. There were other factors too, and they were the real issues.

When I went to sleep on Thursday evening, all of my dreams revolved around A, so waking up I missed her like crazy for the rest of the day. C had also told me about two weeks ago that my psychiatrist, who I also have an attachment to, is emigrating in February. Abandonment schema activated.

What I also hadn’t realized until C mentioned it, was that I know it’s almost time for a break in therapy. We have one more session next week, and then only on the 16th January again. That’s the longest I’d have gone without seeing her. And with the news that my psychiatrist is emigrating after having just come back from her honeymoon, I was worried that C will also decide to leave when she gets back in January. She told me that she’ll come back, she’s not planning on leaving. I know it sounds strange to some people that I have to hear those words of reassurance, but it really does help me. I gave her my journal from my Box of Hope yesterday to write something for me for while she’s away, which she agreed to do. I’m really grateful for that.

I know my therapist cares, because she’s done a lot for me, and still does. Things she didn’t and doesn’t have to do, but that mean a lot to me and really helps. It’s not fair to compare my therapists. I know that. They’re two different people, with their own ways of working, strengths and weaknesses, and both of them have helped and continue to help me in so many ways. But I also know that I’m human, have attachment issues, and that it’s part of my process. I don’t want to have moments like this again, but it’s okay if I do. I’ll work through them.

It’s something that we humans do in most other relationships as well. “So and so never did that”, “I never had this problem with so and so”, for example. So I know I’m not alone in making these sorts of judgments and comparisons. And I’m pretty sure that most therapists are guilty of this at least on one occasion with regards to their clients as well.

We’re all human after all.

“Be Kind To Yourself”

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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.

Struggling

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I’ve been struggling a lot these past few days.

My sympathetic nervous system and good old Amy(gdala) thinks I’m in constant danger. My emotions are all over the place. For a couple of hours yesterday I felt completely empty, then another torrent of emotions.

Reading my previous post back, I’m aware that my current emotions will pass, but then what? It comes back again at some point. Like the ocean and waves, it’s never ending. Like I told my therapist today, using coping tools and skills is hard and exhausting.

My sensory system is even more sensitive lately too. Everything feels brighter, faster, louder, leading to me losing my shit much much quicker. Anxiety is a bitch. And my trusty benzo’s? Well, no effect, they’ve been pretty useless. Although I wonder if they haven’t actually been working, and I would have been even worse without them?

Thank whoever for therapy today. It was intense, and most of it a blur, but C was once again very comforting and helpful. We didn’t do much “work”, as most of the session was focused on helping me get regulated and become present, but I was exhausted afterward. I still am.

At the end of the session I got nice firm hug from her. I needed that so much. Hugging a stuffed toy just isn’t the same as close contact with another human. Just as an aside, we don’t always hug after sessions. It’s only happened about three times because firstly, sometimes I’m too ashamed/scared to ask for one, while other times I just don’t feel the need. I wouldn’t like regular hugs, because then it just becomes like a routine and while I thrive on routine, this is something different.

I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning. Just the thought of another day gives me a sinking feeling. I could take the day off work, but even that feels depressing.

They say struggles make us stronger, but it feels like the opposite is true. I don’t feel stronger. I feel weaker instead.

The Photo That Made Me Smile Today

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I haven’t written about it, but last week was a difficult one for me, with BPD and PTSD symptoms in full swing. It’s hard enough dealing with one of those things, but together? At a few points I literally thought I was going to die, or that I was busy dying. Unless you’ve experienced something like this, you’ll probably think I’m exaggerating. But it all feels so real, so intense in those moments. The flashbacks, the physical bodily sensations, and on top of that the fear (and being convinced) of abandonment, among other things. It was just a horrible few days, and even despite having spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning with two friends, I still feel some of the effects.

After therapy today (which really helped me make sense of some things, and made me feel heard, validated, and held), I came home feeling a little lighter and more “here”. I came across this gorgeous photo of a Golden Retriever (my favourite dog breed), and couldn’t help but smile. It warmed my heart.

Sometimes it’s that one tiny moment of happiness that whispers “stay”.