Shame. So much shame.

I’m in that place right now. You know the one. The dark, cavernous depths of depression filled with sinister voices that remind me my life is useless and make me feel like nothing more than a hollowed out shell.  I post from that place every now and then.

It’s pretty grim here right now. My waist is covered with fresh cuts. I’ve been making poor eating choices and spending money in the wrong places.

Why am I here? Why? I don’t really know. Little things. One of them flipped the switch, sent my world from light to dark. Who knows which one. It doesn’t particularly matter.

I think back to Thursday morning. Before that, the week had been pretty okay. Then small things began to build.

One of the first things I do that morning is to officially assign an evaluation out to different service providers for a student who is due to be tested. About ten minutes later, I run into one of my colleagues, who immediately wants to know why she had to test the kid. I’d mentioned this to her a few weeks ago, and I thought she was on board, but I’d misunderstood her response. So now she is annoyed, and is telling me that he’s not going to be able to get the services anymore after this evaluation and his teacher will be upset.

You fucked up. She’s annoyed with you, again. She hates working with you. She thinks you are an imbecile. And maybe you are. It seems like every time you try to do something, you piss someone off. Then you can’t even manage to stand up for yourself! You stand there stuttering, like a moron.

I don’t have long to focus on this, because the little ones are coming in the door. Preschool starts early, but there’s a snafu with scheduling today because of the weather. I follow my colleague around like a lost little puppy, as we try to figure out what to do. Or as she figures it out. She’s stressed, and I don’t know how to be helpful.

I don’t know how she handles it. I never know what to do in these situations. I’m useless. Why am I so useless? 

The day after that is okay-ish. At one point, my friend comes looking for me because one of my preschoolers is throwing a fit and needs to be calmed. I go, because I case manage him. I’m having trouble controlling him, and eventually my colleague is called in too, which makes me feel terrible. Between the two of us, we try to help him regulate. I bring over something that I think will help and my colleague shakes her head, as if to tell me no. But here’s the thing, he responds to it. After a couple minutes, he stops fighting us and returns with the calming object to the table.

Why was my idea wrong? It worked, didn’t it? Is she mad at me now? Does everyone think I’m so worthless at this? This is why I can’t trust myself with any of my decisions. 

We are on early dismissal because of the weather, so I get to leave school early. Therapy is cancelled, both my sessions with L and J. So I go right home. I’m so, so grateful to just be at my house away from the world.

I’ve asked for an afternoon check-in with J in lieu of our session, because it’s been a hard morning. I call her and we chat for a bit. It’s fine, and she does give me something helpful to say, but I just feel off. I ask her if she read the post about shame I sent her, which felt risky to do after she interpreted the last post I let her read so poorly. She says she remembers us having a conversation about the shame shields, which is something I’ve completely forgotten.

I know she doesn’t mean it this way, but I hear that as why would you have me read this? That was a waste of my time considering we’ve talked about this before. Why would you act like this is such a big revelation? You’re so dramatic, always seeking my attention.

When we get off the phone, I feel sad. I check my email. Turns out I have one from my secretary, who has something to say about me assigning out the evaluations this morning. I guess I fucked up the process somehow, even though I was just trying to stay on top of things. She says we’ll chat tomorrow. I know she won’t be too mean, she’s just going to let me know what I was supposed to do.

But instead, all I feel is more shame. I am a mistake. Everything I do is a mistake. Even my best intentions end up wrong.

I am slowly descending into shame. I know at this point that I will definitely cut myself, but I have promised L that I will go through the actions of my safety plan before I do that now. So I do. I text a friend from work, because I’m upset about the day and I want to vent to her. She’s kind in response, but I feel more dismissed than heard.

You’re doing it again. You’re being to negative and attention-seeking with her. This is a new friendship, do you really want to push it away by showing too much of your true colors? Stop bothering her with your whining. She’s going to think you’re high maintenance if she doesn’t already and definitely pull away from you. 

So talking doesn’t help. I light a candle. I eat dinner. I crochet for awhile. But eventually, hours later, I find my way to my razor. Then I sleep.

Friday, school is cancelled because of the weather. I sleep in late and then awaken to find I’m still in the same piss poor mood I fell asleep with. I kind of float around my room lazily, without much energy to do anything. I’ve been given the option to either babysit or cancel, and I’m really leaning towards the latter. But I know me staying home will not end well, so I force myself up and out the door.

My dad has been kind enough to clean off my car for me, but for some reason this makes me angry. I tell him he doesn’t have to do it as I trudge outside to clean off the snow from the back deck. I can’t even look him in the eye, which is a fairly common thing that happens to me around my parents when I’m feeling upset. He shrugs and continues working on my car.

You can’t even say thank you to him? He’s trying to help and you’re being a jerk. What’s wrong with you that him doing something nice for you infuriates you? You’re such an ungrateful brat. 

After the deck is clean, I leave to babysit. By babysit, I mean that I keep them entertained, considering both parents are currently home. I feel a little bit better being around the girls, but it comes and goes in waves. Lately, being there fills me with mixed emotions, because as much as I enjoy them, I feel like I’ve almost gotten too involved. Like I’m using it to fill a void for all the other things in my life I’m missing.

There are a few moments while I’m there that I say something and their mother has a different opinion. I chastise the kids for something that their mother excuses or vice versa. Every time that happens, I wonder, was I wrong? Is she annoyed with me now?

Suffice it to say, I go home and continue to feel bad. This continues all night and into Saturday, when I push myself to go to my grandfather’s even though I’m feeling more like laying in bed all day.

This is the general course of my weekend. When I am home, I feel that emptiness. My friends all seem to have plans, and I have none. I see these happenings on instagram and fall deeper into the pit of depression. Why am I such a loser? Why do I have no one?

One of the things that really triggers me is seeing my ex-friends from college hanging out again in a post. I don’t know why, but that continues to really bother me so much. It sends me into such grief, because part of me is saying well, they weren’t really the greatest friends anyway and the other part is saying yeah well, you can’t seem to hold onto anyone in your life, so maybe you’re the problem here, not them. Notice how you have no one left in your life from high school or college? 

I threw myself into more crochet. I watched an entire season of This Is Us. I played games on my phone. None of it helped. More cutting. More shame.

All the way into today, where I now sit dreading going back to work tomorrow. Where I now sit feeling so tired and lazy, frozen for periods of five and ten minutes sometimes as I look around my room, unable to process everything I need to do.

I’m drowning in shame all the time. So much shame. I just want to hide away from the world. The world is a scary place. Trying too hard or not hard enough, I can never seem to get it right. Don’t know how to set boundaries. Don’t know how to be around people. And it’s left me with this intense emptiness.

The shame is so painful, and I know that being in it alone is not helpful, but I cannot think of a single person I want to talk to about this. No one that I think could make it better. I don’t think it can get better.

Right now, I’m severely doubting the utility of therapy. I’m supposed to see J tomorrow night, but I doubt if anything helpful will come of that. I’m still not feeling the connection with her, which is impacting my ability to let the emotions out in a healing way. Instead, I sit, constantly bracing myself to feel invalidated or misunderstood or like things are lacking. I know that’s no way to go into therapy, but it’s just the normal.

Things are resolving, I think, but very slow. I still very much feel like perhaps my therapist is over me, or at the very least out of things to say, and it’s putting me at a distance.

Tomorrow, we are supposed to write the letter I asked for together. I’m not feeling very confident about it. Vulnerability is frightening.

Plus, it’s the 4 year anniversary of my grandmother’s death tomorrow. I have three of those anniversaries in three months and they are particularly painful to me. I want to talk about it in therapy, because I don’t feel like I can talk about it elsewhere, but I feel like I’ve shared too much about it even there. Aren’t I supposed to be over these feelings by now? I never hear any of my friends still pining over their lost grandparents.

So many feelings and no where to put them. No one wants to hear it, and I don’t blame them. It’s annoying. I’m annoying.

Why won’t it ever stop?

Therapy feels pointless. Nothing seems to stop the voices in my head. I think that I am just expected to deal with them, but I don’t want to. I don’t want the voices or the intense emotions. I don’t want any of it. I want to not exist.

I don’t have a good place to end this, but I’ve run out of things to say, so I’m just going to stop here. I just want to sleep. The thought of waking up tomorrow and going back out into the real world just fills me with dread. And shame.

So much shame.

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Shame and Vulnerability

At the beginning of the school year, a continuing education magazine ended up in my mailbox at work. In it was a coupon to view an hour long talk of Brené Brown’s online for free. I cut it out and let it sit in my desk for almost two months. But it was about to expire, so I decided (finally) that today was the day to watch it.

I’ve heard the name Brené Brown before, mostly from other bloggers who talk about her books. Her work had always intrigued me, but I hadn’t delved into any of it until today. After I watched this first course, I ended up watching her two TED talks.

Might I say, she’s quite the game changer.

I have written repeatedly about this distinct feeling I have that I am fundamentally flawed, destined for nothing beyond being alone and a failure. I call it a core belief, because it is. That feeling dominates me on my darkest days, and it has for some time. I’ve always thought this feelings was a figment of my BPD, which I guess is kind of circular logic.

Turns out, I have a different monster to blame.

According to Brené Brown, that feeling I have? It’s shame. Shame is the experience that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It calls into question our ability to make connections. Shame disconnects us from the world.

Shame, I learned, is different from guilt. Guilt is a focus on behavior. It’s the recognition that “I did something bad.” Shame is a focus on self. It’s what is for me a very common feeling that “I am bad.” In her words, it drives the tirade of “I am not good enough” that has played like a broken record in my head for over a decade.

When Brené Brown described shame, she used the word gremlin to describe it, which is as close of a description as I could ever imagine to something I’ve been describing in my blog for months.

I see it now very clearly. The minions.

The minions in my head are operated by shame.  Every time I take a risk, reach out for help, try to make a connection, the voices that come to the surface do so in a way that remind me I am undeserving. Undeserving of success. Undeserving of friendship. Undeserving of compassion.

By far my favorite part of Brené’s talk was when she described her own experience with this phenomenon. She’d been devastated when her husband didn’t make a big deal of her birthday, when he knew birthdays were important to her.

The outcome of that story was that when she went to couples therapy a few days later and relayed her pain to her therapist, the therapist asked her if she’d asked him to make a big deal?

No, she hadn’t. But he knew what it meant to her, she reasoned to the therapist. If she asked, it wouldn’t have been as special, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

As she told her story, I nodded along with it, fully on her side.

Her therapist’s response? “Maybe you don’t think you’re worth it if you can’t ask him”

Well, fuck.

I often believe if I have to ask for something from someone, it diminishes the value of what I’ve asked for. If I have to ask for reassurance, it doesn’t count. If I have to ask for someone to show they care, to validate, it’s not worth it. It’s pathetic. I’m pathetic. 

There I sit and wait for validation that’s been offered spontaneously without me manipulating it because I assume the other person being willing to volunteer it is an indicator of my worth. I’m trying to use other’s actions to manufacture something that’s supposed to be generated from within myself.

I don’t believe in my own worth enough, so I can’t ask for validation or care or reassurance without a hell of a lot of discomfort following.

I think on some level I knew this, but to hear it described that way was very enlightening.

For example, I’m literally sitting in therapy half the time thinking that I’m not even worth her time or mine. I shouldn’t bother her with my stuff. That’s shame talking. Shame is inhibiting my ability to participate in therapy, to improve my life, because I don’t even feel like I can ask for help from a person whose entire job centers on helping people. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of support or capable of growth.

Maybe this is part of the reason I’m feeling so stuck?

As a follow up thought, I’m now wondering if the circle of shame is also what causes my sense of connection to slip away so quickly in someone’s absence. We might connect in the moment, but I know deep down that I’m unlovable and that I’m not worthy of their sustained connection, so I don’t trust it. I can’t imagine a universe in which I would be continuously deserving of someone’s love or care.

I also think this is really important because we’ve discussed in therapy lately that socialization needs to be a big priority. We’ve discussed that I generally feel empty right now and want to make some more meaningful connections.

The title of the first talk I watched was called Shame Shields. Brené stated that we deal with shame by using one of three shields: We move away, hiding our shame with secrets and withdrawing. We move towards by trying to please others as a way to squash shame. Or we move against shame by using anger to spark more shame in others.

I’m partial to one of the first two. Either burying myself in my shame through self-punishing methods or trying to build the other person up in a manner of getting them to overlook my shameful self. To overlook that I’m a bad friend or bad colleague or bad client.

If I want to make connections, real connections, hiding behind those shields is not going to be particularly useful for the cause.

So what will?

Brené went on to state that the way to combat shame is with vulnerability. In her research, she found that people who felt worthiness were not only willing to embrace vulnerability, they felt it necessary. They told the stories of themselves to the world, warts and all.

Shit. I wanted to stop listening right there. I like guarantees. I like being prepared and knowing exactly how things are going to work out. I thrive on it. Vulnerability is the exactly opposite of that. It’s flinging yourself into relationships and situations not knowing how it’s going to end. That sounds terrible. It sounds excruciating.

So yeah, I wanted to just turn it off and pretend that what she had to say was a falsehood. Tell me how to make connections without having to feel so damn exposed all the time.

But then she said that we humans have a tendency to numb vulnerability. We numb those painful feelings by eating and spending and whatever other vices we have.

Wow. I feel called out.

Considering I feel everything at the maximum level of intensity, of course I’ve been suppressing the negative feelings. They fucking suck.

Plus, you wouldn’t think that the answer to how to get in control of your life would be to accept that feeling out of control is necessary sometimes.

Brown argues that we can’t numb the pain without numbing the joy. I can’t suppress the imperfect parts of me without suppressing the good parts too. Part of me learning to interact with and build strong relationships with people will be discovering this “authentic” self of mine and communicating it freely to others instead of hiding behind those shields, hoping that they don’t see my shame.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of worthiness, love, belonging. It’s the birthplace of creativity and change.”

I want to feel worthy. I want to have a sense of belonging and love in my life. I still have these fleeting hopes of a life with a husband and kids, a set of close friends and me being a functional part of my community.

Which means that…maybe I’m going to have to learn to start taking more risks and investing in relationships with people while simultaneously tolerating and even respecting my imperfections?

There was another quote of hers that really stuck with me.“It’s seductive to stand outside the arena and think, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and perfect.”

We’ve always been working for this, but it’s almost like I’ve still been using therapy as a method of completely eliminating my imperfections. It hasn’t worked, no surprise. She’s been telling me since day 1 that you can’t be perfect, but I’m only ever half entertaining that notion. Part of me is always still pushing, because if I’m perfect, I don’t have to be vulnerable.

But no, I have to start making these changes now and practicing vulnerability in relationships, learning to tolerate the unknown. I can’t keep putting it off, waiting until I reach a certain threshold of “good” or “healed” before I feel ready. Because I’ll never feel ready.

Vulnerability means maybe we need to talk more about my shame and it’s origins? Naming the feeling as it occurs, dissecting the thoughts, identifying their triggers. Talking about that in the context of social interactions and normalizing the feelings.

I’ve already asked for repeated encouragement and assurance from her in helping me be more vulnerable, which may not be the point, but it seems like lately the second I try to say anything vulnerable, I end up diverting to safer topics before I can stop myself. Brené Brown did say those who don’t about shame have the most of it, and that’s certainly true here.

I wonder if maybe using this language will help support that journey. I wonder if I can truly let go and let myself embrace vulnerability

I’m afraid of this because being honest about the same means letting out more of the crazy and she’s seen more than enough of that.

I’m afraid of this, because I’m afraid of shame consuming me. Brené spoke about these shame conversations being like an exploration into some great swamplands. The purpose isn’t to go there and set up camp, it’s to explore, become more familiar with the territory, and then return home. Talking about shame is like quicksand and I’ve found once I enter that territory it’s hard to escape. You’ll find on our exploration that I’ve got a whole freaking village set up with the time I’ve spent there.

Shame has had a place in my life for so long now, what would it mean to give in to vulnerability? To let it exist? Would I see that increased connection that Brené Brown promised? Or would it just be too painful to tolerate?

I’m not sure which one is more terrifying.

 

What I’ve Learned…

I’ve completed nearly two months of my job now. It’s hard having a borderline personality, a disorder built of its fluctuating emotions, a harsh inner critic, and difficulty managing relationships in a job that’s full of stress and talking to people! Here’s what I’ve learned about life in this position so far.

It’s hard. Like really fucking hard. I knew it was going to be, because I’m new to the position, but I was not prepared for how really intensely difficult this job was going to be. There are a lot of different things I’m expected to manage. Case management. Testing. Social lunch groups. Consultation with teachers. Phone calls to parents. Documentation of everything: reports, phone logs, progress monitoring, education programs.

It doesn’t matter how on top of things I feel at the end of one day. The unexpected is coming, whether it be a concern about a student or a new referral. I’ve learned I need to get used to the fact that it’s never all going to get done in a day, my to-do list is just going to be a revolving door.

Closing my door is a boundary. It lets people know that I’m busy. Boundaries are important. You don’t always have to answer the phone when it rings. You don’t have to answer an email right away. You can wait a few hours, regroup, and call back.

I’ve learned that you can ask a question four different times and get four different answers, depending on who you ask. Administration isn’t always cohesive, and everyone has a different agenda. You need to be careful of what you say to who, and avoid throwing someone under the bus.

The nature of my job and the nature of my age puts me on my own little island. Sometimes what I need to do for a student goes in line with what a teacher wants or perceives the student needs. Our values do not always align. I’m not there to make friends, I’m there to do a job.

I’ve learned that the rumor is true: high school never ends. Especially when you work in a school. There are cliques, there are loners, there are politics to navigate. It’s confusing as hell.

I’m really bad at this, by the way. Put me in my office writing reports all day and I’m fine. Put me in classrooms and offices asking for missing surveys or making a suggestion for a kid and I’d like a hole to appear in the ground and swallow me up.

The minions constantly want me to believe that other people think badly of me. For example, I’ll stop in during a teacher’s lunch to ask for something and walk away feeling insecure and anxious. They’re talking about me. They’re annoyed at me.  They hate me for asking for that. I might be right and I might not be, but it doesn’t really matter.

When I’m there during the day, it’s about everyone else. It’s about my students. It’s not about me. My problems get put on a shelf and will be returned to later. However, it does need to be about me during lunch. I need to eat, need to drink water, need to take bathroom breaks. Otherwise I’m of no use to my students. This is not always easy to remember, and days have gone by where I have forgotten to eat lunch and then wonder why I’m cranky come 2:00.

I’ve learned you can go down to the cafeteria and ask for pizza at 1:00 on a Friday and they’ll give you leftovers. And if you bribe the technology guys with candy, they install programs on your laptop when you can’t figure it out yourself.

It’s really easy to compare myself to the girl who came before me, the one others thought highly of. She had five years experience on her way out the door and I have two months experience. I want to be as good as her, and I find myself inserting myself into situations and trying to make comments just to show that I know things, to try to justify why I was hired.

It’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay to sit back and watch, to examine the dynamics and absorb more information. These things do not make me worthless in the position, they show that I’m interested in learning.

I don’t always believe this, but other people say it, so it’s probably true.

I’ve learned that work follows me home each day, even if I don’t take any physical reports to write or try to update my calendar. The kids come to me in my dreams. I find myself thinking about them in the shower. I’m so obsessed with the notion of being effective and making a difference that their needs bleed into my world and overshadow my needs to get a break.

For this reason, I’m working on setting timers to limit work outside the walls of my office. I’m working on affirmations to share with myself when I feel like thoughts of my students crowd my brain.

I’ve learned that 6:00 is really early, but that I can survive being among the conscious world at that time.

And, as it turns out, 9:00 feels quite later than it ever used to.

I’ve learned that when all eyes are on me, I panic. When we are sitting in a referral meeting, my brain refuses to concoct questions or make connections between what’s being spoken and the things I’ve learned. I may as well be useless.

I try to make lists to compensate, so I have something to refer to and can develop enough information to make a decision. This helps in some ways, but doesn’t in others.

Without a doubt, I love my students. I am 100% positive of that part. They have their unique challenges, but I am learning them. Their histories, their mannerisms, their needs. I want so desperately to help them grow. I celebrate them as often as I can.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to adopt the mantra of one day at a time. When I want to stress about everything coming my way, the multitudes of spring evaluations on top of referrals, and our program’s growing number of needs, I immediately feel panic rising.

But then I remember, that’s not today. Today, I have X number of things on my list to tackle. The rest is coming, but it’s not here yet. I’ll focus on what’s in front of me.

I’ve learned that this job is stressful. Not just hard, but stressful. I was afraid from the beginning that it would tear me apart. Sometimes I still fear that, like the nights where I break down crying because there’s so much to do or because I’m so tired.

When people ask how my job is going, especially my friends working  the same job, it’s easier to just say “It’s fine” or “It’s a lot, but I’m getting through.” Sometimes I just call it a challenge. No one knows the true extent of it, except my one friend C, who I told just the other night in the middle of a panic episode.

The truth is, I wish I loved my job with the same passion that my friends do.

I’ve learned that I don’t know if I want to do this forever, but it’s what I’m going to have to do right now. It’s a job and it’s a salary, and that’s what I’ve worked for. Acceptance is still iffy on this front, but I get up and go in each day.

One day at a time.

Hello from Rock Bottom

There is really no point in reading this post. I only wrote it to try to get some of this out of my head.

I’m stuck. Paralyzed. I have spent the majority of the last two days in bed, playing games on my phone and watching Grey’s Anatomy. For as many times as I’ve felt my depression sink me to rock bottom like a weight, I can’t ever say that I’ve ever felt this unable to act or move or do just about anything.

Self-care has gone so far out the window I’d have to go miles to retrieve it. I am still tracking my moods and to a lesser extent, my diet, but I’ve been eating terrible. Other than that forget it. No mindfulness, no self-affirmations, no coping thoughts. I am not utilizing my self-care box. The most of my relaxation plan that I’ve managed is using my oil diffuser.

It’s bad. I feel really awful and low. I haven’t done a single productive thing in days. Every time I think about doing it I either feel tired or I think, what’s the point? 

I finally got out of bed this morning, but I’ve just moved over to my desk, where I can conveniently continue watching Netflix on my laptop.

After some reflection, I’ve decided that one of the biggest triggers of this awful depression is the holiday weekend. It’s Memorial Day Weekend in the US and I had a total of 0 plans. As I laid in bed feeling the hopelessness of inaction, I saw a whole slew of posts on Facebook and instagram of people who are off traveling in other countries or are attending cookouts with family.

Don’t go on social media and look at pictures, you say? Fine, I’ll give you that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I know people are out there having BBQ’s, going to the beach, and doing other fun activities. It doesn’t change the fact that they have friends and spouses and families who want to do those things with them and I don’t.

I have my parents, but it’s not like they had any plans. And honestly, I’m currently still dealing with a lot of pent of resentment towards them for not being the people I need them to be. Being around them makes me pretty angry sometimes. Even when they have good intentions and are trying to help, I find myself easily annoyed and looking for an escape because I’m so wrapped up in how their faults screwed me up. I can’t get over how different we are, how our values are so far apart

Which makes me feel like an ungrateful asshole. What kind of terrible daughter can’t spare any tolerance towards the people that gave her life? What kind of person can’t just accept and move on, instead blaming two people who did the best they can for her own failings? What kind of awful, unappreciative person times leaving her room so that she doesn’t have to run into them?

Let’s not even discuss the fact that I’m pretty much trapped in my room, because it’s my only personal and private space in this house. That’s it’s own trigger.

I don’t want to feel this emotions towards them, but I do. They are eating me alive, overwhelming me. I feel so much shame for all of that and the fact that I do a piss poor job of hiding it.

I’m not just angry at them. I’m angry at everyone who had plans. My therapist, who took days off to spend at the beach with her husband. My friend, who was just in Florida and is now at the beach with her other friends. The family I babysit, for being able to take three vacations in six months while I get to stay home and watch their dogs to barely make enough money to pay what would be one month’s rent.

It’s not anger, it’s jealously. I’m jealous of all the people who had things to look forward to while I spent my time alone in the same four walls where I always am. I’m jealous of all the people who have the means to live their lives. I’m jealous of the people they have to experience that fun with.

I’m awful.

I’ve made propositions to my group of friends from grad school to do fun things. We talked about going to Mexico after we graduated, but that never happened despite mentioning it multiple times. We’ve talked about Niagara Falls this summer over drinks, but that hasn’t transpired. They all go on vacations with their families or boyfriend or group of friends from high school or undergrad. This isn’t a priority to them and I don’t have my own group where it would be a priority.

I could push the issue a little more, yes, but then I’d worry relentlessly that they didn’t even want to go somewhere or do something fun. Unless they show any initiative, I can’t be sure that they even want to really be with me. It’s so defeating to ask about when we are booking a trip and get only a half-hearted response. I’ve given up.

Sometimes I think about trying to do these fun things on my own. Taking a day at the beach. Actually traveling somewhere. I wish being out in the world didn’t make me so anxious. I wish the thought of doing those things alone didn’t make me feel so pitifully empty.

I also think about going out and trying to make some new friends, people that I could do these things with. That seems like a possible solution, except I have absolutely no idea how to go out and acquire new friends at this point in my life. Even if I did, I have no confidence that I’m worth anyone’s time and I’d be too damn awkward about it.

I have a lot of shame for these feelings too. I feel like I should just suck it up and be grateful for what I have. Some people don’t get to do all the things that I want to do. Some people just get what they get, they work hard and live a simple life. Some people have it so much worse than me. What I have should be enough for me.

Are you catching on to all the reasons I’m not the good person everyone believes me to be?

My critic is in overdrive, as has been stated by some in the comments of my last post. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m put off by the dark circles under my eyes, red marks on my face, the size of my pores. Every time I look at my thighs, I’m put off by how fat they are.

And yet what have I been doing the past couple of days? Eating more than I should be, making unhealthy choices. That’s certainly not helping me be less of a fatass. I’m so impulsive when it comes to food. It’s always easy choice, the lazy choice.

Every choice I’m making is a lazy choice.

Possibly the worst part of all of this is, and maybe a secondary trigger, is that I bombed one of my interviews on Wednesday. I don’t know that for sure, but even being as tough on myself as I am, I just know that I didn’t put my best foot forward. I felt completely frazzled and just froze up when they asked me questions. Like an imposter masquerading around as someone who is actually deserving of a job.

It’s been so hard to go to interviews and not know whether I’m being perceived as competent or unfit. I feel like a little kid in adult shoes, and I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to function independently. As much as people say kind things about me and how I am “an asset” to the team, I feel like they just don’t get how much I struggle to make decisions when confronting teachers and administration.

I do not trust myself. I don’t believe in myself. Why should any of them believe in me?

I feel like I stand no chance of doing this job well: the one I like but also spend ample time questioning whether or not I’ll even be able to make a difference.

Ungrateful. Lazy. Loser. Selfish. All of this is running through my head 100% of the time. I feel helpless to it, and have kind of resigned myself to the fact that it’s true. I’m failing. I’m failing all across my life.

It’s my job to at least try to be better. Literally no one else out there can care or put in the effort that I can to be better. But what happens when even I don’t feel like there is a point?

I can learn skills, great. I can tell myself some nice things, sure. I can spend an hour a week paying for someone to be nice to me, awesome. I can keep pushing, keep surviving this.

But why? Why should I do that?

I feel like I’ve made all the wrong decisions, messed up all my chances to be happy and have the things I want. I can’t go back and fix any of that, I’m stuck with where I am and what I’ve got. Now, I feel like all that’s left is coming up short in life, not achieving what I want. I’ll go to work (maybe), come home, rinse, repeat. That sounds miserable.

Maybe I should hope for more, maybe I should fight for more, but from this dark place I have no fight in me. I just don’t care.

Since I don’t care and since there is no point, I’m really thinking about cancelling Thursday’s session, more than I ever have before. Plus, I feel like I’m more undeserving of J’s kindness than ever since I’ve only spent the weekend hurting myself and laying around. If I go to her and complain about all this again, it’ll just prove how attention-seeking I really am. This is my consequence. This is my punishment.

Of course, it’s not easy to cancel, but I feel like I should. J deserves the break from me anyway. The holiday weekend is over tomorrow, so I’m going to try to force myself to text her then.

A week ago I felt so hopeful and was seriously looking forward to graduation. Things have gotten so bad so quickly. You never know when it’s coming. But it always comes back.

J thinks good things about me. She thinks I’m a good person. She thinks I work hard. But she shouldn’t. She’s wrong. Maybe this feeling is temporary, but the truth about the flawed, shitty person I am is permanent.

 

Sundays

Sundays are hard.

Sundays are typically the day I like to stay inside. They are my break from a busy week. They are my escape from the world of conflict and fear and people, which might sound awful but it’s true. On Sundays, I get to sleep late. I get to lay in bed. I get to be lazy.

Sundays are my chance to catch up with the chores I’ve fallen behind on and prepare for what is up ahead. On Sundays, I might put away laundry or dust my furniture or finally sit down to write a post. Today, for example, I rummaged through my closet again to rid myself of clothes that I don’t wear. I might pack a week’s worth of lunches or pick out clothes or make a list of what I’d like to get done for the week. I just did that last one about five minutes ago

I have to make lists, in lots of bright colors, because Sundays are also a time of mounting anxiety and stress. Sundays mean that my time without pressure and expectations is about to come to end because there’s a whole week of crap flying at me and it’s about to hit me in the face. Hence, the lists. It’s about the only way to feel like I’ve got any form of control.

The problem is that it feels so overwhelming. I really need to learn to stop time traveling, because if I could be more mindful than I could keep from being overloaded with every scary thing I’ve got waiting for me this week. I might be able to appreciate the rest time, really enjoy it, instead of worrying about running a referral meeting, testing a child who will likely prove untestable, getting through my counseling group, and getting my car dropped off for inspection.

I know that once I get going, once I’m in these situations, I will feel okay. At least, I know I will survive it. Everything is okay once you get started, once you’re moving. But until then, I just live with the anticipation, dreading everything that is coming.

Waiting is the worst. Sundays are always about waiting.

I almost wish that I didn’t get the break that a weekend provides me, because if I didn’t have to stop moving, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to get going on a Monday. It’s like when you are on your feet all day and don’t realize how tired you are, how much your feet hurt, until you take a moment to sit down. You’d have been better off just pushing through.

Weekends are the equivalent to sitting down for me.

I had a moment of overwhelming stress and panic today, because I knew the clock was ticking down on my free time. Tick, tock. Tomorrow, it will be Monday. Tick, tock.
I will be out in the world, subject to the extreme feelings and the irrational thoughts that come my way from interacting with others and taking risks. I can’t stop that from happening. Tick, tock.

I wanted to hurt myself in that moment, but I didn’t. I did other things that were more productive, kinder. Celebratory points awarded to me for that. J will be proud. I’m proud. But I still have a major case of the Sundays.

I’m trying to focus on this moment, the only one I can control, but I’m an avid time-traveler. It’s hard to shake that habit off. Tick tock.

Like I said, Sundays are hard.

Suck It Up

There are many phrases that I, a member of the mental health community and also someone imbued with the distinct experience of having mental illness, despise because of the implication of the message.

The one I hate most right now? Suck it up.

I’ve heard this used by many people in my lifetime. To me, it is one of the most invalidating things you can say to a person who is struggling. It simplifies a very complex and nonlinear healing process into a one-step solution. I’ve noticed that I hear it most from people when they have been interacting with someone who is repeatedly struggling. If all attempts to help the person are met with continued sadness or poor choices, the previously empathetic helper becomes frustrated and defaults to ‘suck it up’.

To wit, it is pretty much equivalent to saying figure your shit out and stop bothering me with it.

I get it. When people make comments like this, they aren’t necessarily referring to the illness itself. I think there is a common understanding that most people cannot help what their thoughts and emotions do sometimes.

Where I believe that understanding changes is in consideration of people’s response to those thoughts and emotions. There appears to be a statute of limitations on falling apart. When something happens, you get a period of time where you’re allowed to react. Think about how people respond when someone close to you dies. For awhile, emotions are okay, reaching out is okay. To some extent, it’s even okay to make choices that aren’t the best. It’s okay for your struggle to be visible.

At some point though, you’re expected to just get past it, or at the very least shove it inside enough so that it no longer affects you visibly. So that no one else knows its there. This is what we value in society: stability, happiness, security. Even if we don’t feel it, we are expected to fake it.

Lately, I’m realizing the way this is true for mental health. We get a pass at the beginning, when symptoms first start manifesting in a public way to others. People empathize with us. They step up, show concern, try to help us. They say you can always talk to them (which, as nice as it is, often ends up being a lie they don’t realize they are telling). You get the space to be a little bit of a mess.

But at some point, we are expected to pull ourselves together already! We’ve been dealing with these demons long enough, aren’t we done yet?

That’s why even the most well-intentioned friends get irritated when you haven’t taken their advice and blossomed into a perfect, functioning, no-longer-depressed soul. They feel like you’ve overstayed your welcome at the pity party. Surely, your suffering at this point must be your fault.

Which is probably at least partially why I’ve cycled my through a fair share of friends. Many of whom probably thought I should suck it up.

The last few times I have heard any comment in this area, it has been from people who work in the mental health field. Just the other day, my friend said it when she was talking about a client of hers who is currently choosing to wallowing (client’s words) in her miseries instead of pulling herself together.

I’ve heard similar statements elsewhere too, from others in helping positions. These are the same people who purport to care about students or clients and then assign them labels like hot mess, lazy, or manipulative in the same breath. The things that we say behind the backs of those who are struggling: it’s innocuous, maybe, with no malice intended, but I think it sets a precedent.

Remember when I was triggered by a comment by a colleague? Remember when I asked: if the people that are volunteering to work in the mental health community, those who are trained to understand, are making these comments then what does that mean for everyone else?

It’s exactly like that.

Are all of these people right? Did I use up quota of ‘mentally ill’? It sounds ridiculous, and I would say so to any one of you if you asked that question. Yet, as much as I hate the phrase Suck it up, I’m starting to wonder if that’s exactly what I should be doing. Especially in therapy.

Here I am, feeling completely emotionally unwell, and a voice in my head is telling me (screaming!) that I should cancel my session for Thursday. Perhaps it’s a minion. Perhaps not. How do I know the difference?

What is the truth?

I know that when I walk in there, she will look at me and ask how I am. In that moment, I’ll have a choice. 1. Say that I’m fine, quickly guide the subject into DBT skills, and hope she doesn’t notice I’m lying. 2. Fess up to some of what I’m feeling at a shallow level, but brush it off in favor of wherever she takes the conversation. 3. Be honest. Brutally honest. Give her the truth, the same truth I’ve spoken on and off for months. Say how hard it is. Say how much I’m struggling. Say that things feel hopeless and impossible to overcome. Potentially, fall apart.

Except I no longer feel like I have the right to go in there and fall apart. I am no longer entitled. I’ve shed enough tears, repeated the same useless things about how things are hard and I’m so angry and ashamed and also really don’t want to do this anymore. How many times do we have to have this conversation? I’ll ask. As many times as it takes, she’ll say. And round and round we’ll go.

I have insight I did not have at the beginning of our work together. I have skills. She is literally teaching me skills. Good skills, too. I believe in them, so I should be using them. J says not to should myself, but I should be! I always have the best of intentions to use them and then things get hard and it just doesn’t happen.

If I were using them like I should be, I would be feeling better.

I lamented the other day how hard it is that she cannot fix me. She cannot fix me. She could hand me the key to solving all my problems and it’s still my job to put that key in the door and turn it. It’s my job to make things happen.

I’m not though. I’m failing myself again and again. I’m failing her too.

J is patient. She is so patient with me that she deserves a damn medal. Is she thinking that I should suck it up? Because at this point, I don’t even think I’d blame her. If I were in her shoes, I would definitely be frustrated with me and self-influenced my lack of growth. I should be better by now and it is my fault that I’m not.

I want my hour with therapist, I do, because she is safe and trustworthy. She reminds me that I am not the bad person I think I am. She encourages me to see the silver linings, always, even when I don’t want to hear it. But I do not feel like I deserve her time. I do not deserve her care and support.

Perhaps if I’d spent the last week really putting everything I could into using all my tools, then I’d feel like I’d earned my safe space. But I haven’t. I spent last night staring at my computer, paralyzed by my own depression and exhaustion. I could barely follow through when she told me to take care of myself after last session.

Is it true that I felt like I couldn’t do it in those situations? That the minions were too strong and even something as simple as writing felt herculean? Sure. But that just sounds like an excuse. Saying that I couldn’t is a lie, because I could have tried to do some more positive things, but I just gave in to my mental illness and didn’t.

Failure.

I haven’t cancelled, and I know I won’t, because I’m selfish. But what else is there to say? It will not change anything, will it? I can say it all and still leave at the end of the hour, completely alone with my problems again. It’s on me to handle them. I have to continue to keep it all in. Figure it out.

I’m not trying hard enough. I have to try harder. I just need to suck it up and deal.

Angry.

It is currently about 9:30 on a Monday morning. I got home late last night, achieved very little sleep, and then woke up too nauseous to eat. Despite all that, I managed to get some makeup on my face, get dressed, and head off to work. Now that I’m here, I’m barely functioning. I’ve spent most of the last half hour staring at the screen, rereading the same passage because I’m just not processing what’s there.  Not that it matters, they don’t have anything for me to do here.

With great effort, I am trying to use some of my coping statements and affirmations.  These feelings are not comfortable, but I can tolerate them. Here is a chance for me to practice coping with some difficult feelings. I am strong and I am doing the best I can. I can survive this.

Perhaps to no one’s astonishment, it is not working very well.  In fact, the only thing that has calmed me thus far is taking a break to get these thoughts out.  While I don’t feel better, I will say that in the last few minutes there is less tension in my body, and my stomach may have settled some.

I was triggered quite easily last night and this morning by trivial words and actions of others that most people would be able to brush off without a second thought. Yet for me, these moments sent me on a tailspin.

Last night, I went to a concert with my cousin and his friends and felt largely ignored by him. This is nothing new. Then, when we were on the way home. We got into the car and were waiting for him and his friend. It was late and I was sick of sitting in the middle seat, where I’d been the whole ride down, so I slid over to the side so I could rest my head on the window. He got in and basically kicked me out of the seat, despite my protest. I had some choice words for him because I was so annoyed. I know, I know, it’s just a seat, but he grew up always getting his way. Always. He was older and he took what he wanted. And when I complained about it, feeling like it was unfair, I was always labeled the one with the problem. He’s like my older brother, and he certainly pushes me around like that. It’s amazing how things never change. In that moment, I was just over it.

Then this morning, I was speaking with a colleague about some of our students who are up for re-evaluation. She is going to give me one of them to assess, which is great, but is not willing to let me test the other one because the student is potentially up for being declassified from special education. On one hand, I understand it because I am an intern and not an official district employee, but on the other hand, I am nearly off on my own. For all the kind things she says about me, it feels like she has no faith! About fifteen minutes after that conversation, she asked me if I could help out one of the counselors by teaching them how to use one part of our online program. I agreed, which was fine. But then she called her back a few minutes later and told her how! So did the counselor not want me helping her again? Did my colleague think I couldn’t do this simple task? What gives?!

This is what I mean by there’s nothing for me to do here. It’s quiet as it is, but it seems like no one is even willing for me to have an opportunity to do anything. I might as well have just stayed home.

These little things would only be annoyances to most people. My recognition of that fact is sparking all kinds of shame and anger. I literally had to sit down and write this as a compromise for not getting up and walking out the door from work today. I had every urge to flee from my environment, but I knew it was not an option.

I am doing everything I can right now to maintain enough function where I may not be productive, but at least I am not destructive either.  And you know what, that makes me so damn angry.

The littlest of transgressions between a family member and me makes me feel buckets of resentment towards them and just increases desire I have to completely withdraw from each one because I am so different from them. Every behavior from someone else at work that feels the least bit invalidating or tense starts me on the path of The pressure of this job is too much for me. It is not something I want any part in. How am I going to do this job every day? What if I can’t?

These statements and affirmations I am learning from my DBT book are great. When I’m in a more neutral place, or even slightly upset, they are far more effective.  But once I’ve slipped into a state of extreme heightened emotion, those statements do little so offer solace.

Which, unfortunately, has been an awful common state for me in the last few…weeks? Months? Who knows anymore.

Right now, they are only marginally helping, and not in any way that makes life fulfilling. Just in more of the “keep me from listening to the suicidal voices” kind of way.

I don’t want to be one of those people who cannot cope with anything. I don’t want every minor slight from another person to feel like an assault.  But it does. It so vividly, intensely does.

And because of that, I am quite the angry human being lately. Being confronted with the happiness of others renders me a furious, cursing internally at whatever poor soul happens to step in my path. Yesterday, I listened to an artist I like playing live on the radio and I hated him for being able to do something successfully that he was so passionate about.  During the concert, I watched a couple swaying to the music in each other’s arms, clearly in love, and felt fire in my stomach. Each time I hear my friend at work articulate something beautifully, in a way that shows off her knowledge, I am irritated with her skill and confidence.

I sound like an awful person, I know. Maybe I am an awful person. That feels true. It’s the anger. It turns me into a spiteful and bitter person that I hardly recognize amidst my ire.

I am angry that other people get to be so, so happy when my emotions flare up at everything and I can’t cope with it. It makes the world a dreadful place to be. It makes me look forward to sleeping and being away from other people. I don’t want that to be my reality, but alone and isolated is where I feel I can get the most control over the anger and the anxiety.

Of course, being alone exacerbates the depression and shame and hopelessness. That’s the catch-22 of it all.

So today, I am seriously angry. I think I’ve been that way for a while, although I’ve honestly just recently become aware of it. I’m angry with other people for being calm and easygoing, I’m angry that at their happiness.

I’m angry at myself too, for more reasons than I can count. I don’t know where to put all this anger, how to pack it away, because right now it is winning. It is winning and I cannot cope.