Category Archives: therapy

sometimes you just have to laugh

When you get out to your car, preparing to head off for an appointment for which you’re already late, and notice your gas tank is almost empty.

Then remember that, the other day, you hit a post outside a sketchy supermarket and there’s a big crushed area on your back bumper.

Your therapist thinks you’re going to commit suicide.

You can’t, for the life of you, decide where you want to live or what you want to do for a living or who you ARE.

You spend way too much of your time thinking about other people—for the good and the bad—and losing track of yourself.

You thought your boyfriend wanted to break up with you, then found out he’s been overwhelmed & stressed, totally unaware of what’s been running through your head.

You have spent the past several days in the deepest funk you’ve experienced since high school, when you tried to suffocate yourself.

Every time you think you’ve found a new place to live, you come up with at least two dozen reasons why you shouldn’t move at all.

You’re trying to plan three separate trips at the same time.

You miss your best friends like crazy. One of them is having her first baby in June. You are 700+ miles away.

There’s a huge dollop of bird shit on your windshield, smack in the middle of your line of sight.

Your bar trivia team got 4th place out of 4 teams in last night’s competition, and you kicked yourself all night for providing a wrong answer that lost you 6 points. All night. 6 points. BAR TRIVIA.

You made your therapist laugh when you told her you fear picking restaurants and movies when out with others because you feel solely responsible for the outcome and the well being of your companions. Will you ruin their lives if you take them to a bad pizza place? MAYBE.

You’re getting up a few minutes later every morning until, this morning, you got up at 7:10, giving yourself 50 minutes to get ready and get to the office. It usually takes you 90 minutes to accomplish this. You did not make it on time (though you were only 10 minutes late).

You haven’t done laundry in about three weeks and the only pair of clean underwear remaining in your closet is a striped thong. Your only thong. There’s a reason you own only one thong.

You’re drinking a soda with the word PHENYLKETONURICS on the label. You theorize that this means your insides are rotting more and more with each sip. You’re probably right.

You realized today that your mom made you totally anal about money, and until you realize that there’s a gray area between miserly hoarding and 10 maxed-out credit cards, you’re never going to be happy.

And you have to laugh.

Because, really, what else are you going to do? Once you’ve reached the end of that list and tacked on a few footnotes of crazy, the only option that remains is to smirk, then smile, then tilt your head back and guffaw. Not like a crazy person, really, though you may be perceived as such. But as a person who is learning to let go of the unmanageable weight on her mind/shoulders.

I’m about to call the doctor and set up an appointment to talk about medication. I think the cloud that’s been hanging over me this week is lifting, which says I’m healing faster than I did in high school and college. Friends help. So do siblings. Boyfriends and parents too. Thanks guys.

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Filed under depression, lessons, therapy, thoughts

negative thinking

I know I’m a pessimist by nature. And, sure, my negative thoughts do overwhelm me from time to time. But it wasn’t until someone laid it out with neat little section headings that I realized just how messed up my thinking really was. As Dennis put it, “10/10.” These are all true of me (from Everyday Health):

All or nothing. If you don’t perform flawlessly, you consider yourself a complete failure. (This one actually goes much further than this simple statement—more on that in another post.)

Overgeneralization One negative event, such as a slight from your spouse or an encounter with a dishonest merchant, fits into an endless pattern of dismaying circumstances and defeat. For example, you might think, “He’s always cold” or “You can’t trust anyone.”

Mental filter. One negative episode, such as a rude comment made to you during an otherwise enjoyable evening, shades everything like a drop of food coloring in a glass of water.

Ignoring the positive. Positive input, such as an affectionate gesture or outright praise, just doesn’t count. Self-deprecation deflects all compliments. You might say, “It’s no big deal.”

Leaping to conclusions. You draw negative conclusions without checking to see if they have any foundation in fact. You may be mind reading: “My friend seems upset, she must be mad at me.” Or you may be fortune telling: “I just know the results of my medical test won’t be good.”

Magnification or minimization. You exaggerate potential problems or mistakes until they snowball into a catastrophe. Or you minimize anything that might make you feel good, such as appreciation for a kind act you did or the recognition that other people have flaws, too.

Emotional reasoning. You feel sure that your negative, emotional view of a situation reflects hard and fast truth. For example: “My husband drops his socks on the floor just to aggravate me.”

“Should” statements. You adhere to a rigid set of beliefs and internal rules about what you “should” be doing and feel guilty when you don’t stay the course.

Labeling. Rather than describe a mistake or challenge in your life, you label yourself negatively: “I’m a screw-up.” When another person’s behavior bothers you, you pin a global label on him or her: “She’s so controlling.”

Personalization. You blame yourself for triggering a negative event that occurred for complex reasons or for something that was largely out of your control. “If I had taken care of myself properly, I never would have gotten cancer.”

Phew. That definitely took me back to eleventh-grade psychology class.

BUT WAIT!

Let’s not get too down about this, people. Even in my first handful of sessions with the therapist, we’ve identified many of these issues and started trying to pin down the sources behind them. I’ve been overanalyzing my own emotions and thoughts for years and yet, somehow, we’re looking under rocks and peering into shadows I’d never even noticed before. It’s pretty fascinating.

I can already look back on the life I used to lead and see how much improved I am today over my former self, drowning in paranoia, anxiety, fear. It’s still there, and sometimes the current is too strong for me, but I’m seeking help now, which is sort of like having a built-in life preserver that bobs up to the surface when I need it. Whether it’s the sessions themselves, the exercises I’m assigned or the mere knowledge that I’m working through the issues—whatever it is, it’s something to which I can cling in the choppiest waves. I’ve escaped the undertow thus far. I plan to stay afloat.

Also, did I mention I went to a Passover Seder tonight and got a little tipsy on red wine? No? Drat. I’ll have to write about that another night. I do find it a little funny, not writing about every single little thing I do. Normally, I have so little going on, every activity or outing seems noteworthy. But this week, there’s something every minute of every day, and absolutely no spare minutes to write about those other minutes, which means you don’t get the minutes of the minutes, and then… goodnight. =)

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Filed under depression, happiness, health, therapy, thoughts

blatant litter bugs

On my way home from bible study this evening, I was driving behind a mid-’90s pickup truck. At one point, said pickup slowed, and I noticed debris of some kind flying from its right side. I first assumed it was trash from the truck bed, which, though bad enough, was not a deliberate act of littering. But then I noticed it was coming from farther up, from the passenger-side window. No sign of life in that seat, but I have to think there was someone sitting there. Every hundred feet or so, some new piece of litter cascaded from the window, as if the passenger were unwrapping something and throwing off the wrapper piece by piece. I rarely honk my horn, especially in the hair-trigger South, but I couldn’t stop myself from sounding a little peep as we rolled up to a four-way stop near my neighborhood.

I can’t wrap my mind around blatant littering, around blatant harm of our planet of any kind. Now, I don’t recycle every piece of 1 or 2 plastic, and I waste a lot more energy than I should, but I try to make up for it in other ways. I recycle everything else I can, turn off lights whenever I don’t need them, etc. Basic things I remember learning from PSAs (and my mom) in elementary school. But when I think about my coworker who drinks strictly bottled water and Bud Light (or so it seems) and never recycles a single bottle or can? Wow. He even has curbside recycling at home! And if he didn’t? Our office recycles those two things in the break room. And? There’s a recycling facility two minutes from the office. The last time I was at his house, I wrangled all our empties back to my house, to our mini recycling center in the garage, which I inspired my landlady to start. I find it humorous to think that she sees me as an energy waster, when I have the best intentions about keeping our energy use low and our waste even lower. Sigh.

Now that I’m back, here’s the quickest recap I can muster: I am well again. The side effects from my meds caused me to go off them prematurely, so I’m praying not to relapse. Dennis came to visit me in Memphis twice recently. We saw “Watchmen,” ate lots of food at many restaurants, had a Photoshop lesson at a coffee shop in Midtown, went to a sports bar to drink and watch basketball and some other fun stuff too. I plan to visit him in Birmingham next weekend, which will be my first trip there in over a month. I went to my second session of therapy, and while I’m still not certain it’s worth my hard-earned cash, I’m going to stick it out for a full month of sessions before deciding. I made another effort at finding a new place to live, and in the end, chickened out because I’d prefer to save $300/month rather than waste it on an apartment that’s nice but not really worth it. I can handle this a while longer and reevaluate in a few months, unless I get kicked out sooner. I made some new friends in Memphis and then abruptly lost them because of my own foolishness. I attended some interesting local events (Lil’ Film Fest & Memphis Pillow Fight) and wandered around the Memphis Zoo by myself, taking photos (they will come eventually). I spent some time with new coworker-friends whom I treasure. I’ve been going to bible study regularly at St. Louis Church and learning about the Catholic Mass & Eucharist. We currently have three human and one canine house guest staying with us for the week. So far this hasn’t caused me grief; I’m praying that continues. My sister & her fam will be here in two weekends for their visit, so I’m still looking forward to that. There are several events at church next week that I’m interested to experience, so I hope I can make it to most of them.

And that is all. It is after 10 and time to sleep and/or read. More to come…

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Filed under environment, fun, happiness, recap, therapy

relax

Today has been a day of reflection for me—you know, whenever I wasn’t napping from sheer exhaustion or struggling to get comfortable in the recliner. There was a lot of those things too.

But today reminded me how much I need to relax. I am not skilled at being sick. Those people who know how to take full advantage of their sick days, catch up on their reading and revisit their dusty DVD collections? I am not one of them. I bury my fingernails in the armrests and worry about what I’m not doing, what I’m missing, how I’m failing or letting someone down. Forget doctor’s orders—I need to be at the office, darn it!

Then someone comes along and gives me a solid swat upside the head, and I realize that’s just not how it’s supposed to go. I need to take these next two days off. I need to read a book and take several naps and recover, so I can avoid having something this hellacious happen again.

It’s more than just being a good patient though. I am running on high at all times, even when I’m staying in one place. That anxiety creeps in about everything (am I being a good friend? a good girlfriend? calling my mom enough? writing enough e-mails? being social enough?) and it leaves me pretty exhausted at the end of the day… or, more to the point, every morning when I should be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and in front of my computer at work. It needs to stop before I find myself in a downward spiral similar to those of 2004 and 2007, when I was so overwhelmed by a variety of factors that I crashed, shut down, boarded up my windows (so to speak) and felt like giving up.

I watched an episode of “Gilmore girls” on ABC Family this afternoon. It feels like an eternity since I’ve done that. The last time was in my condo in Ann Arbor in early ’08, so not that long really. But in watching this show that I own and have seen multiple times, one of the characters stood in a whole new light for me: one Paris Gellar. She is a total basket case in high school, with impossibly high expectations for herself (perhaps brought on by her parents; it’s never really made clear) and no hope of reaching them. She and Rory Gilmore end up in the same dorm suite at Yale, which was the episode I watched today. Paris finally had taken some control over her neuroses and hired a life coach to help keep her calm. Her “craft corner” became a permanent fixture in the girls’ living room, a therapeutic way for Paris to deal with her incessant need for productivity and industriousness. But every few minutes, the life coach had to rein her in and have her breathe to get through moments of difficulty and stress.

Even though I was curled up under a fleece blanket, completely incapacitated, while watching her struggle with her neuroses, I felt a little bit like Paris, unable to stop wringing my hands mentally about my shortcomings, other people’s failures, etc. And that all sort of came to a head this evening when I talked with Dennis and we discussed our usual two-hour chat-a-thons that stretch late into the night and consume what used to be his hang-with-the-roomies time. I finally saw some things about myself, and about our relationship, that I knew I didn’t like. Apparently I needed even those brief moments of relaxation today to realize what was wrong, with me, with him, with us. But I did. And we set about to figuring out a solution, which will take time, effort, patience and care. I think we can do it.

For those of you who know me well, you realize I’m the unlikeliest candidate for a long-distance relationship. I know that too. But I have a lot of hope for myself, mostly because I was starting to come apart at the seams, but also because I really like Dennis and want to do my part to make things work if I can. Through therapy and self-definition, I’m going to figure out what needs to change, who I am, what I want. In the end, maybe it won’t be Dennis. Maybe it won’t be Catholicism or working in Web design or living in the south. None of those things define me anyway, but they are major parts of my life today. So maybe I’ll step back and see that some or all of them don’t work for me anymore. I just want to be able to do that without anxiety. I know I’ll be OK without every single one, but it’s hard to want to be single again, to want to be unemployed or homeless or without faith. Those don’t sound like particularly enjoyable things. But maybe my future will just take those things in a slightly different direction. Maybe I’ll become renewed in Protestantism, take up residence in the Pacific Northwest, become a book editor and date a veterinarian named Dan. It could happen, right? And maybe I’d be just as happy.

Either way, I want to learn to make the most of what I have, smile about it every day, stop looking at what’s lacking and focus on how blessed I am with what I got. Walking around for the past several days with such pain, I am overcome with compassion for those in constant pain, physically, emotionally or otherwise. To be unable to breathe without discomfort is indescribable. It’s awful. To think that there are people in this world who deal with such conditions daily is… well, it’s beyond my comprehension. So for me to be incapable of embracing the relatively amazing life I do have and make the most of it? It’s ludicrous. What reason do I have to frown all the time? Why should I curse myself or others for shortcomings? Why should I do anything but smile when I think about Dennis and the next time we’ll talk or see each other? Why should I avoid phone calls or shut out the world more often than I let it in? I shouldn’t. I can’t. It’s not working for me anymore. It never did.

I’m done. I’m breathing. I’m learning to relax. If you have any tips for my journey, let me know.

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keep it ashy

Much to report since last time, though it’s been only a few days. It’s a mixed bag, so bear with me…

My first therapy session was at lunch on Monday. I can’t believe I’ve managed to stay away from therapists for the past 24 years—I’ve been needing to visit one since well before high school even started. I think my counselor was pretty aghast at that, too, but she kept her facial expressions under control.

Session one was mostly an overview, an intro to my crazy, so she’d be familiar with my background and history. I filled out a questionnaire beforehand, so she referenced some of my answers there, asked about my family, etc.

The funny thing about me: I know a lot about my mental issues. I not only recognize having them, but also can point to where I’m being an idiot about things, what I should be doing differently, what may have caused the issues initially, etc. Basically, one part of our conversation went down like this: “So, you realize that (x, y & z) behaviors not only caused problems in your past relationships but also ended up driving away your significant others completely, and you want to stop this pattern from repeating?” “Yes.” “Well, that’s easy—that trims a couple days from our schedule!” What can I say? I’m an easy therapee.

In the end, it was just nice to talk through some things without feeling any sort of guilt for dragging someone else down. My friends and boyfriends have never indicated irritation at being my sounding board, but I feel guilty nonetheless. Even if that’s “what [they’re] there for,” who wants to be in constant contact with Miss Wet Blanket 1997 – 2009? I wouldn’t. So having someone there who not only understands some of my neuroses but also is being paid to listen to them and help me solve them? Awesome! Session two happens next Monday at lunch.

Monday night held the first meeting of my new Bible study at … wait for it … St. Louis Catholic Church! (Yes, I know. Leave me alone till I can come up with a good explanation.) It’s a 10-week study on the Mass and the Eucharist, topics I feel I’d benefit from knowing a lot more about. So I now own a Cathecism and a workbook and have a daily reading/Q&A assignment. Very exciting! I’ve learned a lot already and we haven’t even had an official “study” session yet.

Basically, Mondays are going to be sweet from here on out. How many people do you know who can say that?

I participated in Ash Wednesday mass today at St. Louis CC as well. As of last night, I was under the impression that A.W. was not for non-Catholics (or those Protestant denominations who don’t find it necessary), but I was wrong. After reading a bit about the difference between a sacramental and a sacrament this morning, I hopped in my car and headed for the noon mass. I was nervous about what would be expected or how it would work, but it was a piece of cake. I even saw three female co-workers there!

The rest of the day, I’ve experienced strange looks but no questions. I was kind of hoping for questions, as I feel I can answer them properly, much more than my high-school classmates could back in the day when asked. That has always been my biggest thing: I do not want to misrepresent. If I’m going to wear ashes, I want to be able to explain their significance, in history, to the church and to me. If I’m going to label myself a Christian, I want to be living a lifestyle that reflects my faith and my obedience to God. Which is why I rarely label myself: I’m not always great at keeping up with things. And not just appearances—realities. I want to truly be who I claim to be, not just look like I am that person.

The boyfriend (hereafter referred to as Dennis, because that is his name) and I are still laughing at each other’s jokes and talking way too much on the phone late at night. We talked last night about a wedding in April that’s taking place on the beach in Gulf Shores, AL. I managed to weasel my way in as his plus-one, so that’s something about which I’m really excited. He narrated the website of the condos rentable at a discount to wedding guests, but that may still prove too rich for our blood unless we can get some roommates, so we’ll see. There is talk of an early arrival on Friday and staying at a seedy motel so we can spend the day on the beach together. Hopeful!

My sister, BIL and niece are planning to visit on Easter weekend! Before my niece’s traveling soccer season starts up and just in time to try to relieve some stress over my BIL’s job-loss fears at Ford, they’re hitting the road and planning to stay at the nearby RV park in Memphis for a few days. I’m looking forward to attempting another tour o’ the town! And considering the rift that once existed between my sister and me, it’s a pretty big deal that they’re coming here. I’m happy about that.

Well, tonight was to be trivia at the local pub (ashes and all)… and apparently it’s still going to be. Peace!

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Filed under dating, faith, happiness, health, plans, recap, therapy, travel

positivity

After what seemed like two weeks of hell on earth, I am feeling quite a bit better. It was a combo platter of too much stress (external and internal), PMS, varying levels of anxiety and a dip into the old vat of depression. As soon as Flo came to town—Alabama guy too—I began feeling leaps and bounds better.

This weekend, Birmingham came to Memphis from Friday night to early this morning. I was a little bummed when I heard the Sunday departure would have to be at 7 a.m., but I managed to get past it, especially when Saturday was such a good day. I fed him leftovers on Friday night, phase two in my “best meal ever” (though definitely not as good reheated): baked bbq/garlic chicken thighs; skillet o’ potatoes, asparagus tips, mushrooms & onions; hickory baked beans with bacon. My landlady was so kind about having him come visit—it makes me feel so guilty for how hard I am to get along with on a daily basis. I’m never openly rude or horrible, but I’m unresponsive and weird. Anyway, it was nice to have him here and have it be a comfortable, not-awkward situation.

We didn’t get out and about till midday Saturday, but it was worth it to lounge around in the morning together. We had lunch at a sandwich shop, where I may or may not have picked up a random duck-hunting stalker by asking him where he got the duck ringtone on his cell. I thought, I’d like to get one of those for my phone; I’ll avoid being a wuss and ask where he got his. Well, that turned into his calling his daughter to find out where she downloaded it, not getting a hold of her and then asking for my number so he could let me know when he found out. My hope is that he’ll be another well-meaning forgetful person who never remembers to ask about it or call me back. I’d be OK with that. Of course, boyfriend was jokingly aghast at the idea that I’d given my number to another man while he was sitting nearby. I am such a dork. =P

Anyway, I took him on a rainy walk at DU in the hopes of identifying a group of ducks that were definitely not mallards. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get close enough, then ended up getting hit with some sleet when almost back to my car. Needless to say, the remainder of the daytime hours were spent drying off on a driving tour of the city.

I wasn’t sure how skilled a Memphis tour guide I could be since I’ve seen very little of the city myself and know pretty much nothing about its history. Plus, with cold, rainy weather, I knew getting out and walking around would sound less-than tempting. I think we probably could’ve gone off on foot, but I’m saving that for a warmer, drier weekend in the future. For the time being, we stuck to the road. And somehow I managed to show him pretty much all the sights! I have to thank Garmin for that, since I would’ve been going around in circles near the end without it. We drove by the FedEx Forum, Autozone Park, the Pyramid, the Peabody Hotel, the Lorraine Motel, Beale Street, the Mississippi River… We drove onto Mud Island, parked and watched a barge go by on the dimly lit river. Then we went to the Cooper-Young district (Memphis’ Ann Arbor), where I showed him The House of Mews (cat adoption center in a regular storefront); we browsed “New, Used & Rare Books”; we had mochas and he tried to teach me chess at Java Cabana. By then, the rain had ceased, but the evening temperature drop made for a chilly return to the car. We did pass by some lofts that I had found on the Internet that sounded neat, and they WERE literally a few steps from Cooper-Young, but the drive to work would be about a half-hour, and it would involve property purchasing instead of renting, so… meh.

My “lame” idea for dinner was to buy Chinese food by the pound from the local Tasty China buffet. I had considered taking him for Ethiopian (still on the list for a later date), Indian or something else semi-exotic, but I felt like relaxing after a day afield and in the rain and cold, so we went lame. Seriously, though, had I known I could get so much decent Chinese for so little money, I would’ve gone there sooner! It was $4.49/lb for take-out buffet, which ended up being a great deal because I made rice at home and we stuffed our boxes full of various chicken, beef, veggies and side items, all for around $15. It’s nice to have that variety, especially if you don’t know which dishes you prefer. We ate way too much while watching a “House” rerun on TBS, then went into Scattergories battle mode.

The bet was that whoever won would get to choose who went where for the next weekend visit. That visit will not happen until the second weekend in March (sad), as he has basketball tournaments and 30-Hour Famine the next two weekends. After that, though, we will have “Watchmen” to see and much lost time to make up. =) So, we fought hard on Scattergories, even though the prize was not all that significant. Both being of writing backgrounds, we wanted to reign supreme in that game. He held the lead throughout, but I started closing the gap in the last few rounds. I think we determined that the deciding factor was my “Liar, Liar” answer to Movie Titles, when he didn’t have time to come up with anything. I figured he’d pull out a double or triple on that one, so when he didn’t, I was able to make up ground and end with a two-point lead. However, I’ve definitely met my Scattergories match. He is far more than a worthy opponent, as he said he’d be. I’ll never tell him, but I knew it would be close—all my smack talk aside, I thought there was a chance he’d beat me even before we got out the boards, the timer and the letter die. Looking forward to the rematch…

His departure was early this morning, after which I went back to sleep, though I didn’t really feel the need. I did, however, want to feel somewhat rested after the weekend, and two nights of fitful slumber meant I hadn’t accumulated a ton of rest. So I dozed till noon-ish, then arose to shower and look online for a new church to visit this evening. I found a handful with evening services, so I’m planning to check one out at 5 or 6.

Tomorrow at lunchtime I have an appointment with a therapist at Memphis Mental Health Resources. This will be the first time I’ve seen a psychiatrist in my life (outside of one epic-fail visit to the counseling center at MSU, where the therapist wanted to help me write out a schedule for my day, with my bagel condiments being of the utmost importance—I didn’t go back for a second session) and I’m kind of excited for it. Less excited about the $80 fee, but I am still hopeful it will be of help to me. With the past two weeks of crazy mood issues, I fear the depression of yesteryear sneaking up on me without my noticing, something that I cannot allow to happen. My current road is not without deep potholes and ruts, to be sure, but it is so much less hazardous than the roads of my youth, which were often impassable and washed out by heartache, depression, fear, anxiety, stress, self-consciousness, self-loathing and pain. I want to stay off that earlier road at all costs. I don’t know what it will take—just talking to someone, implementing self-help exercises in my daily life, getting on medication—but, whatever that is, I want to do it. I want to feel my definition of “normal,” or at least have some steps in place to keep me from getting too abnormal again. There are many reasons for doing this now, but the past two weeks scared me, and that was the main thrust behind it. Costs aside, it needs to happen. It needed to happen when I was 16, 18, 20, 22… but it didn’t. So it’s happening now. I hope it will be beneficial for me and that’ll I’ll be patient enough to let it work.

All right, time to make a move toward accomplishing something today. Sorry for the blog silence, faithful readers. I’ll do my best to write more now that I’m about to be a full-fledged psycho. =)

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