webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
So I asked my therapist where we were going today. I said I'd told him everything I really thought there was to say about me, about what made me me, and that I was trying to figure out what maladaptive behaviors I might have, but looking at the book I couldn't find any. I certainly didn't find myself attracted to abusive partners or trying to make my partners abusive so I could "recatch those childhood highs;" similarly I didn't think I sought out partners who were cold so I could relive my childhood rejection from my parents.

He said he thought I might have a bit of a problem with the abandonment thing, but I went over my situation as it stands, and it's not some kind of "oh this really stable relationship here, I just keep fantasizing it's on the verge of collapse" kind of thing, and he seemed to agree that, while I certainly feared and greatly wished to avoid abandonment, it wasn't really something where we were looking at maladaptive behaviors.

He said I also seemed to show a certain amount of emotional flatness, which I find funny in a way - I think I really enjoy my ups and don't surpress my emotions at all.

He then said that, as near as he could tell, I didn't seem to be doing things that would drive people away. I said I thought being depressed drove people away, because they just doing like to deal with it or hear about it. He agreed, then said, "Are you depressed? Because if you are you've been hiding it really well." And I said, "Well, you know, I always come here after Pilates, and I'm always in a good mood afterwards!" But I added that I feel like I've been feeling better and more stable the last four months, no due in part to more stability externally/emotionally (J not being mad at me anymore, mostly, and, you know, things being more settled with my best friend). I'd been having a hard time getting out of bed to go to work in the morning, but that seems to be as much about there being nothing to do at work as anything else.

He then said he felt like I mostly dealt with him as a rational adult who is working on adaptive coping strategies and trying to work to make a better life and self, but that he doesn't see much of the "child" me. And I said, well, it's there, but I am not usually in that headspace between 9 and 10 PM on Mondays; I'm in a "let's look at this and see what we can do to make it better" mode. I partially came here because I wanted friends I could be real with; and I have them; and I can be myself, in all of the highs and lows and ups and downs and rational and "Oooh, look, a giant chocolate bunny!" as the mood takes me, and they're okay with it. Well, some of them are, and the ones that aren't have slowly been dropping away.

And, well, I'm going back next week, and I suspect I'll go a few times in May, but mostly it feels like after tonight there's not much more for schema therapy to do for me. And the happiness program has been fairly well successful and I'm looking forward to going back to having a few more nights for Pilates and a little more cash in pocket.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
I am writing this for the benefit of other people who are considering schema therapy, for those who are curious about schema therapy, or for anyone who's been abused as a child and wants to know that they are not alone and also not to blame. It's hard stuff. You're warned.

We started this week by reviewing a questionnaire I'd filled out (and having a brief recap of my week, which I think went well - I said though that I wanted counseling to focus on fixing the foundation and not patching holes and didn't want to talk about the week much). The section we looked at asked a bunch of questions about how you deal with your emotions, say "I feel numb," "I feel like I don't know where my life is going," "I hide from my feelings by drinking/taking drugs/watching TV." I said I had had some dissociative episodes in the last 6 years (starting on my first trip to Lyme Regis), but 1) mostly I didn't feel like I hid from my feelings, I did things to make myself happy that I considered adaptive, not maladaptive 2) when I did things (i.e. November and December) to stop thinking about my feelings, it was because there simply wasn't anything I could do about what was upsetting me and I thought it would be better to try to focus on some happy-making things and give myself a break from the brooding 3) I exercised to try to make myself feel better but I didn't think it was hiding. So ... I'm not sure where we got with this.

This got him to wondering if I'd had dissociative episodes when I was growing up. He asked how I'd dealt with negative emotions growing up and I said ... I really just couldn't remember any more. I knew I was sad and lonely a lot of the time but I don't remember trying to "deal" with it. I remembered I liked to read a lot, as I do now, but I didn't feel like that was really escaping, it was just what I did all the time. I also watched TV with my family. I just couldn't remember very much any more. This led to The bad stuff. I have been abused in the past. Don't read this if you don't want to hear about it. I've avoided the goriest details. )

I told him what made me sad is that after this I seemed to be contaminated. No one, my real dad, my mom, anyone in my family, would try to touch or hold or hug me anymore. So I was starved for physical affection. Read more... )

Anyway, so when it comes to "have I picked up some maladaptive behaviors along the way," well, yeah, I'm willing to cop to maybe having picked some up (though I still don't know what they are), but you know what, I've tried really hard to deal with what life has dealt me and still be a person I can be proud of. And I told him at the beginning of the session I didn't want to talk about how my "anger" drove away people, because I feel like I've only really lost my temper maybe three times in the last ten years, so it's a bit of a non-starter. There are other issues for me to look at more urgently.

Then I walked home along Tooting Common and thought WOO is it cold and thought about the gorgeous Chinese food dinner [livejournal.com profile] wechsler and I had at San Xia Ren Jia on Goodge Street tonight and how deliciously sore I felt from Pilates and that, people, was my Monday.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
We started yesterday by talking about a dream I had the night before. I was in a house with [livejournal.com profile] miss_bordeaux and her husband; it was sinking into water but simultaneously disintegrating. They were panicking but didn't want me to leave the house. It had left me disturbed when I woke up but I realized later it was a really easy metaphor and not at all about the Japanese tsunami.

He asked me about the feelings I had during the dream (fear and frustration). We then talked a bit about my weekend and how I felt about it; he focused on my desire for acceptance. Then he got on some side track about whether or not I was willing to hear negative things said about myself, and I said I was wanting to hear what he though was useful, not things I already know about myself (like that I am trying to build a family out of whatever I can find given that I don't feel like I have one). I felt like I had to spend rather a lot of time explaining that what he said hadn't annoyed me because he'd hurt my feelings but rather because it was something I'd known about myself for years. Why am I having to reassure him? I told him it was okay if he needed to tell me something about myself that hurt my feelings as I was sure he'd be as nice about it as possible, and I am very thin skinned so it's just likely to happen.

Then he went back to something I'd said before, that I have a very bad temper. He said he thought it would be good to talk about where that anger comes from and when I react to people so negatively that it drives them away. The thing is, it happens so rarely that I didn't really have any good examples to give him. He was trying to convince me that my anger comes from a situation of hurt feelings; whereas I really feel it is about being angry. When I'm only moderately angry, it usually blows away after about ten minutes if I can just talk about it and be heard, and there are no residual feelings of hurt underneath it.

I found today frustrating. Why am I having to reassure him he can talk to me about hard stuff? How much of my time is going to be spent listening to things I already know about myself? To what extent are we going to be going on wild goose chases about things he things are problems because I told him so but which actually have almost no bearing on my life or my relationship with other people? I am beginning to think I may be wasting my time.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
We started by checking in on the question of emotional impact. Am I aware of the impact what I say and do has on others? Am I aware of the impact it has on my counselor? I told him I tried to talk to him honestly but not think about how he feels about what I say to him, as I expect him to want some personal space where he can think and feel what he wants. He again asked me if I felt I could trust him. I'm not sure why he's been asking that so much ...

We talked about me taking care of other people and being concerned about their feelings, but maybe not having people who are similarly "mothering" me. (I am definitely feeling the lack of a best friend in my life, someone who just "gets" me and who has an infinite capacity to hang out with me and enjoy my company.) He said I need to spend some more time getting to know the "little cowgirl" (if you know my name) and figuring out what her emotional needs are. He said I have managed to be very successful in the adult arenas but I may be leaving my "child needs" behind.

I said I didn't see what the point was of getting clearer about what I think I "need" when I'm not going to get it.

We also discussed figuring out if I had maladaptive behaviors.

Anyway, I was pretty tired then and I'm tired now. I'm not sure what to say about the counseling in general tonight. I guess we laid out a plan for what we're doing for the next couple of months.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
Last night was mostly focused on the relationship aspect of my life. I want it to be nice and smooth and non-stressful. Apparently part of the "emotional deprivation" issues I have is serious bad reactions to withdrawal of affection. This is only made worse by my "abandonment" issues - I will push people away rather than experience the gut-wrenching destruction of being left behind.

You can see how these things might feed into each other.

Anyway, it was a busy session with tears, before, after, and during. It was a rough day. And it got rougher after I came home and got a message saying that my dog, Shadow, had inoperable stomach cancer and was going to have to be put down. That was really bad.

Today at work I was very heads down. I had my end of year wrap up with my boss which went super positively. I will talk about it in another post.

I feel better today. I feel like my head is more settled. I've spent the night watching nature videos, cooking, and drinking some Rioja. And I found a new roommate to move in. She'll be here come April 1st. She's a theater nut like me. Hopefully the next two or three months with her will be fun. I'm looking forward to it.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
The last twenty-four hours have been very difficult for personal and work reasons, and for that reason I think counseling tonight focused on my immediate issues rather than anything deeper ("but the surface reflects the turmoil beneath," the counselor said). I thanked him for his advice in dealing with my work issues (which were hopefully wrapped up Monday in the mediation session I went to, which, shall we say, completely blew my ability to do anything else for the rest of the day other than sleep on the train). He's said my boss is protective toward women, and that showing him some emotional response would probably aid my cause; I feel it's bad form to do anything more than stick to the facts when dealing with work people, but, well, needs must and they did.

Otherwise, well, I think we talked a bit about my abandonment issues (although he found it very interesting that I'd rather be by myself than live with someone who hates me), and rather a lot about my life right now, and that's not something I particularly feel like sharing with the world as it's not so much about dealing with my big issues and learning about schema therapy as it is about the wonderful world of wishes and horses.

I was filling out a form in which I had to say "agree/disagree" (on a scale) to statements like, "I don't deserve things I enjoy" and "I try to do things to distract myself from my problems." I'll be doing distracting the next few days. Thank God I've been very seriously engaged in project Get Happy as I don't think I'd have been able to bounce back from all this stress as soon as I'm sure I will, but my feeling is that a little push today, some good company tonight, and everything will be right as rain. That big picture stuff ("Do you avoid thinking about your life?") can just sit on the burner, I've got to Get Happy Now and I know I can do it.

Also, Pilates yesterday kicked my ass, with the immediate result that I'm ready to do it again ASAP. :-D
webcowgirl: (BooBear)
The social ostracism thing is flaring up again. It was weird talking about it with the counsellor, but I think this is something that bothers me more than it does most people, in part because it's been going on for such a long part of my life. It's not helped by the fact that I have this inner voice saying, "You're worthless. Of course people don't want you at their social gatherings. Who would?" At my best it only dings my armor a bit; but it is a voice and a theme with a powerful hold over me. It's one of the reasons I moved here, to find people who can accept me the way I am. And I've realized there are those people who can truly accept me as the non-perfect human being that I am, but the ear for the negative voice listens like rabbits tuned to predators and the negative messages have way more powerful receptors than the positive.

I've got positive, though. I've got a cards party tomorrow, and birthday drinks Saturday. I've got a big fun trip planned to Sicily with people who are excited to spend time with me that should leave me glowing and cheery all the way until my birthday. I think I need to find something social to do Sunday night, though, to keep my spirits up. Spending time by myself does really cook my brain, and there's no doubt in October of last year that I was really suffering from severe isolation related issues. Part of the New Year's goal to "be happy" is to recognize this is something that affects me and just deal with it - not fix it, but manage it, by trying to be around people and keep my spirits up. Changing me is a long process; more short-term happiness makes it easier to do, I think.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
First, I just had a huge cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon in it. Yum! I deserved it, I did cardio at work today, then I did Pilates with [livejournal.com profile] wechsler at the Y, Carlo as ever kicked our asses, and THEN I had counseling and a half-hour walk across the common (in the brrr) to get back home. So hot chocolate was totally deserved.

Counseling today focused on this "rate each of these statements 1-7 "this isn't like me at all" "this perfectly describes me" " worksheet I filled out. It had about 7 or so questions on each of the different schemas. He focused on the high ones - obviously I feel like I'm socially ostracized (and not because I just feel it, you can't pretend it's in your head when people are going around talking about how they don't want anything to do with you, whatever their reasons are), but I also suffer from the emotional deprivation. However, he was curious because I didn't say I feel like I'm unlovable by anyone who really knows me. I know I'm not: I know at least one person who knows me to the bone and loves me, and one who almost does. I know one of my friends has said in talking about zir depression that zee believed that anyone who said they loved zir had just been fooled by zir. But I know that's not true. That said, I still feel essentially worthless, and doubt that I will have any partner in my life at all this time next year, and think it's quite likely that I won't find someone else who loves me wholeheartedly like that again.

Then we talked about some upcoming changes, and about why I would feel hurt to have Mr Webcowboy say that living with me would be a step backwards in his life. Perhaps, the counselor suggested, I have always been expecting him to leave me, and this just confirms my inner belief that I'm unlovable ... and that's why it hurt so much to feel rejected by him? Who knows.

He also asked me if I thought the sessions were going well, and what I thought he was getting out of them. I guess maybe this is because I feel that people will betray me. Well, I don't think he will, and he has a good rapport with me, and I think he takes pride in his work and wants to leave me better than when he started seeing me. Hopefully he felt reassured. At any rate, the night went quickly, and it's already 11 now that I've written this up and I'm going to bed.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
At the end of today's session (at which I just talked but we didn't seem to do anything special), I said, "Wow, we're already four sessions in - you've pretty well got me figured out by now and ought to be able to tell me the solutions to my problems, right?"

My therapist paused for a long while and said, "Do you mean that?"

I waited just long enough and said, "Naw, man, I'm totally pulling your leg." He looked relieved.

Anyway, so today I spent a lot of time looking at why people reject me. There's two "schemas" at play here: the worthlessness one and the social exclusion one. Worthlessness makes you expect people to reject you because that's what you deserve; social exclusion ... well, it can be something you imagine, or (key thing from the book) it can be real. I have plenty of examples of hit happening, from Matt from my senior year in high school to the pretty boy who told me to my face while I was in China in college that even though I was smart and cool he'd never hang out with me because the other kids didn't like me to Ivana the Russian girl who just stopped returning my calls and of course Ann who was my best friend for three of my years in Seattle and then shut the door in my face when I came by her house with a present I'd picked up for her in Florida.

The book says when it's NOT your imagination (and obviously this isn't, plus it's not something just from my childhood that still scars me) that you have to look at your behavior - but the book gives no clues as to how to tell what you're doing to drive people away. I try to avoid being clingy or trying to draw attention to myself (though I am naturally exuberant) as those are two things I see as being desperate. The counsellor suggested that perhaps I am "insensitive to other people's inner child" and am unknowingly cruel (not his words) because I'm not aware of people's feelings and don't think about how deeply my words might hurt them or how much impact I might have on them (an easy assumption when you think you're worthless and thus forgettable).

Oddly I try really hard to pay attention to people's feelings but I still just utterly miss things and I don't know that I've said something that's offensive or hurtful or upsetting. And when you know you're bad at this and you really try to pay attention but you still get it wrong, and, brother, I've been working on this for 15 years now, just what are you supposed to do to try to get it right?

I read a Dan Savage column some years back that said that normal people don't want to have big scenes when they don't want to be friends with/date someone any more, they'd rather just say, "Oh, it's me," even though it's clearly not true. This was a revelation to me, that people could figure it out just by you choosing not to hang out with them anymore, and it's true; when you do this, people don't usually ask why you're blowing them off. They get the social signals. I had to be told. But then, there's this part of me that thinks, if I really care about someone and they're doing something so horrible that it's driving me away, don't I owe them the right to change their behavior? Lately I find myself tongue-tied because I want to help them but then I think either I'll damage their self-esteem horribly by saying something negative.

But what's worse is when I think they just won't listen, or that they can't change even if I tell them. And then I realize, well, giving up really is the best option rather than saying anything, as I'd just cause damage and accomplish nothing. So I say nothing.

Anyway, it was a session with a lot of talking on my part. People will probably continue to reject me my entire life. I will continue to say things that are upsetting because I can't figure out the social rules and I just don't seem to have the capacity to learn how to do it - and you can't implant a chip that teaches you what you don't know.

It's four sessions on and I haven't got anywhere. We'll see how it goes. It's all rather expensive, to be honest, and when May comes around if I'm not feeling like I'm accomplishing anything, I'll have to seriously reconsider whether or not it's worth continuing.

Afterwards I zipped back into town and went and saw the Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Donmar for the grand price of ten quid. Now there's some therapy I can really get behind. Does it really fix me? No, but it makes me feel better for tonight, and if the things that are wrong with me can't be fixed, then maybe what I need to do is work harder on being happy and stop worrying so much about what I can't change. For now, I am still trying to figure out what is changeable, so I'll keep going for the three months I've agreed to and see how it all feels.

Tomorrow I'm working up north, and with luck, I'll catch up with my reviews of Frankenstein and Spelling Bee. Ah, writing, my great albatross. But for now, bed.
webcowgirl: (Tiger monkey)
Today was my third visit to my therapist. I thought maybe we should talk about the habit I have of cutting people out of my life. Usually I do this when I decide they are crazy or irrational, this frequently being triggered by my being (as I see it) unwarrantedly attacked by said person. I think this seems to happen more frequently for me than it does for other people, and per [livejournal.com profile] booklectic, I kind of think maybe when people verbally attack me it gets to me more than it does others. Or does it? Here's some examples:

1. Michelle D from college. Read me the riot act for not thanking her for cleaning my house after she'd house-sat for two weeks. Nearly 20 years later and never spoke to her again. (Was friended by her on Facebook this weekend. Ignored it.)
2. Aunt C. Jumped on my shit for asking my dad to stop drinking after he'd polished off a pitcher of beer at post-funeral dinner. Brother and husband stood by in silence. I told her (basically) to go fuck herself and that she had no right to address me that way. We have never spoken again (and it's now almost 10 years).

And other people.

There is also this theme of me being attacked by others and being not supported, like the time my dad yelled at me in a baseball stadium while my brother and husband sat there in silence (cue me having panic attack later) and again when my mother in law jumped on me for some misremembered slight she'd been holding on to for over a decade, again while my husband was in the room listening to her tell her twisted tales about me (cue panic attack again, how I managed to stay there and not go to a hotel to wait out the end of our stay I don't know).

The shrink asked me to go to the "safe place" (bedroom at Grandma's house) then go to a recent incident of my being yelled at for no reason I could understand and describe what I was seeing and how I felt there (which I did). One of the things that surprised him was that I wasn't feeling like my self-esteem was being cracked - but that I had a profound feeling of not being safe and wanting to get far away. I told him the self-esteem was only when friends shut ME out without explanation, because I figured there had to be a reason, and me being a worthless pile of shit (not what I said at the time) was clearly why.

He also focused on the fact that I had to defend myself and didn't have anyone to stand up for me. "Clearly, when you were a kid, there was no one there to stand up for you;" true, and for most of my adult life (before I got married anyway) I never expected anyone to defend me. And, well, when my sister said she'd come out and take care of me, that she "had my back" about two years ago, I about cried because it was the first time ever in my life I felt like someone really would look out for me. But I'm thinking all of these time when I was attacked and people that I thought were my friends stood by and let me take it may have had its toll on me. Certainly it's one of the things that rings deep within me for W; I know he'd absolutely jump in front and make sure I wasn't fighting someone, anyone, by myself.

So, inner feelings of worthlessness, lack of a sense of safety and place for defense leading me to defend myself as hard and as fast as I can, to quickly identify danger and distance myself from it as quickly as possible. We haven't defined all of my problems yet much less come up with any solutions yet but we certainly are seeing a lot of problems.

And with that it was off for a walk across the common and to my house. I'll be home tomorrow as I have an appointment at the doctor at 9:50 to see about getting a physio referral for my ankle. The ligament went wonky twice today (once after Pilates) and I just really don't need that much pain in my life.
webcowgirl: (Default)
I KNEW I meant to write about something, that I'd been holding off all week, and this is it: I finally found a therapist to go to. Last week was my first appointment. This guy is right next to the Balham station (walking distance from my house!) and he charges 45-55 a session AND he does schema therapy (actually the thing I was really looking for), so I had high hopes (after Miss 130 a session got me down); and I met him last Wednesday and he seemed really nice and easy to talk to. It was a bit of a downer telling him about my childhood and my current life, both of which are complete disasters, but I felt like he was easy to talk to AND (bonus) the session he was able to fit me into (for weekly sessions, not what I was originally planning but oh well, I'm obviously in sorry need of help) was 9PM on Mondays, which meant, rather than having one day for Pilates at the Y and one day for therapy, I could do them both on the same day and have another day in which I did something else, such as go to a pub, play board games, or (you'd never guess) see a play.

I'm going to irritate all of the people who think I overshare and am overhonest on this journal and I'm going to keep track of all of my sessions here, because I feel one of the major pluses of blogging is that it helps other people find what total strangers have done and helps them come up with solutions for their own lives. And if you already know me, well, maybe you'll find it interesting. Or not. I think I will find it interesting in retrospect.

But some bad things have happened to me in my life that I realize may be triggering for others so I'll cut some of it. ) So we established that my childhood, between my mother being an alcoholic who kind of checked out permanently when I was 12, and my other problem (behind cut), may have had some lasting effects on me. This is on top of my current problems, in which I continue, as an adult, to feel rejected, depressed, and God knows what else (like I'm a bad person, basically). But those are some of the things I'd like to fix, and, even if we can't get my life perfect, I want to see about not feeling like there's no point in living it anymore like I did at the end of October. So I've signed up for at least three months of counseling, one day a week, through mid-May.

Tonight we started out "exploring some of the schemas." I closed my eyes and envisioned a place from my childhood where I felt safe and happy. Of course I was at my Grandma's house, on the farm, in my bedroom on a summer day, with the window open and the smell of hay coming in from the pasture. I was reading, and my biggest worry was "was I going to run out of books before next Monday when we get to go back to the library." (In fact that wasn't my biggest problem: my Grandma and I would sometimes fight horribly, as she was very impatient and I was very stubborn; I was also constantly aware of both the doom of having to go back home and the fact I just didn't feel liked at all by the other kids in the neighborhood.) Grandma wasn't very affectionate but she wanted me to do everything with her; she took me everywhere, she treated me to the movies I wanted to see, she took me rollerskating (I imagine this was quite dull), she took me to her farm wife quilting events. I read and played by myself and followed her around; she taught me how to tie my shoes, how to cook, how to read, how to drive. I knew she wanted me around.

Switch to a memory of some time when I felt like things were not very good (he said); I kicked up a memory that could have been anytime from 15-17, of me standing in the doorway of my mom's bedroom in the trailer on a Saturday at about 1, trying to get her to let me go do something, when all she wanted to do was shut up and leave her alone so she could sleep. "How did you feel?" "Frustrated and angry." "What did you want?" "Her to get out of bed and do something, hang out with me, just anything. I would have love it if she'd made me breakfast. I hated her shutting me out. I didn't understand what a hangover was, or that she was an alcoholic. I wasn't the kind of kid who'd do things wrong just to get attention so instead I was just entirely ignored."

So we established pretty well that I have emotional deprivation issues. My dad also gives me nothing, and really never has; I eked out what I could where I could get it but mostly learned to live without ever getting love, affection, or approval. I mean, hey, isn't that what school is for?

Talking about my dad and him brushing me off and being rude to me, we got onto another schema; defectiveness. I've been rejected for most of my life, starting with my parents (and you can say, "Oh my dad's got Aspergers" but that still doesn't help you feel like your daddy would really love you if only there wasn't something wrong with you), and unfortunately this has continued as an adult. Now, sometimes people will cut you off and tell you why ("No point making friends with someone who's moving anyway"), but a lot of the times if you feel defective, even minor rejections just hurt really hard because they kick up your inner feelings of worthlessness. I'm having TWO issues here; one is that I'm having people very publicly reject me for whatever reasons (and seriously my relationship with my husband is mostly nothing you should get in the middle of one way or another, and woe betide the person who picks sides in a family feud) or like my brother saying it wasn't worth seeing me if it meant losing sleep; then there's the thing where I want to see people and they don't want to see me and I just take it really badly, as a statement of personal worthlessness, because 1) all of these other people are shutting me out anyway 2) I feel worthless and that's obviously why they don't want to see me 3) I'm depressed and don't have a lot of perspective to step back from the feeling of DOOM DOOM REJECTION and realized people have busy schedules or not as much energy as me or WHATEVER because my 8 year old heart hears the worst. So we agreed defectiveness is probably one of my schemas, too.

Then we got on to coping mechanisms. Apparently people with "emotional deprivation" will cope in three ways. First, they numb themselves so they just don't have to feel things. This tends to involve drugs and alcohol; it's not me so much. Second, they deliberately choose partners who will keep them at arms length and reaffirm their feelings. Jason actually was always a positive person who would feed me good messages about myself, despite not really knowing how to cope with my melancholy; Richard regularly praises my accomplishments and progress. While I may have chosen people who tore me down in the past, in fact, I don't like people who belittle me or make me feel unworthy; I want to be around people who praise me (but when I deserve it, not sycophants).

The third coping mechanism was ... to be demanding of attention and praise, to be too needy. An example in the book is of someone who gets a birthday present and then feels like it's just not as expensive as what they should have got, "deprivation when you have clear evidence of caring." I don't think I'm too needy, but I've been accused of "fishing for compliments." So maybe this is or isn't a problem for me now, but, I don't know, I could sure just use a bit more praise - anytime someone says something nice about or to me, I mull over it for days and days just like I'd found a particularly pretty pebble on the beach, or been given a lovely candy that I wanted to admire instead of eat.

This also kind of feeds into the "defectiveness" feeling. I mean, I feel like there's something just critically wrong with me, so when people do say something nice about me, it's almost impossible for me to accept the compliment. (So I think what I need to do is raise my self esteem a bit ... then get more compliments and praise because it makes me so happy!) Defectiveness (as a schema) can make you choose people who tear you apart ... or it can make you the kind of person who is highly critical and rejecting of others. This may be something I do. But it also may feed into ...

A third "schema" came up briefly, the "mistrust and abuse" one. Clearly I was in a situation in which I had to be on guard and on the defensive, constantly judging and looking out for attack from others. And when something happens that makes me feel attacked ... well, it kicks up bad things in my head. Apparently one of the things it may do is cause a dissociative episode, something which happened rather frequently to me over the last 2 1/2 years, the feeling of just trying to float away out of my body and out of the situation I was in that I felt I couldn't leave. And the part where you weren't protected from the abuse, that causes problems too (although I'm looking at my book here to get both of those tips). The therapist just barely touched on the possibility that this may have affected me in ways that very negatively affect how I deal with life as an adult ... and I think this is very likely true. He did, though, praise me for trying to take some control of my life and not carry on in situations in which I was likely to receive abuse of some sort or another - a hard thing to reject a relationship when you know it will get you some attention and affection but also abuse.

Anyway, we got through the session pretty quickly, it seemed, though I was grateful to have it be over and be able to leave. The walk back home across Tooting Common was nice for clearing my head although I was a bit worried it might not be safe to be on it at 10PM at night. I made it home safe, though, and while what I really want to do is write up my review of Salad Days or do more research on where to dive in the Red Sea, I wanted to share this with the Imaginary Reader who might be trying to figure out just what squirrely thing in their head was making them do something they didn't understand.
webcowgirl: (Default)
One of the things the counseling I'm supposed to be getting started next week looks at is underlying false beliefs about yourself or the world that negatively affect your behavior and cause you problems. One of them (an easy one to understand) is that the world is basically dangerous. Another is that you are basically worthless.

Another one is that people will always reject you.

This is something I know is a problem for me, but it's not something that is an imaginary belief, it is a reality. I could name numerous people in the last ten years who have just cut me out of their lives. Some have done it without saying why. Some of them have made big announcements about it.

It's not something that's just my imagination. It's something that really happens, has happened, and is happening. It's such a big deal for me that it's part of the reason I moved to England, after the three girls I considered my best friends all shut me out simultaneously then denied it was happening. This was probably the worst of all of the incidents because it was such a head fuck that I spent a good year very seriously believing I was just a worthless human being that no one would ever want to be friends with me. And my parting gift from one of these girls, as I got ready to move, was, "Those people will get tired of your shit, too." It was a nice pick-me-up but also just incredibly effective at fucking my head up just a little bit more.

Anyway, so social ostracism really bothers me. When I'm feeling really good about life and on top of things and like I'm not the source of all evil, I can shrug off people that I consider acquaintances deciding they don't want to be a part of my social circle any more. People are all very different and I'm not everybody's cup of tea; there's no O- / universal donor when it comes to friends. When someone I think that's a close friend shuts me out, well, that would probably be upsetting at the very least because I would miss them; because I consider really close friends important bellwethers as to when you're a fuck up, their stamping of "not worthy" is something that inevitably leads to soul searching, or at least a lot of questions if they'll let me ask it.

Now sometimes my stress all amounts to nothing. Once I was rejected because someone didn't want to get close to someone who was going to be moving in a year; another time a girl had successfully developed a relationship on someone we had both had a crush on and suddenly I became a threat. These just aren't things I can do anything about, or things I really think should involve a bunch of self-questioning about my morals and how I conduct my life. Me, when I reject people, it's usually because they are verbally abusive to me and unable/unwilling to quit, or, worse, disinterested in my feelings of hurt. Accidents are forgivable, but if you hurt my feelings and don't want to stop doing it, I want to get away from you. And if I really care about you but you don't care about me ... well, this is probably a relationship I also need to step away from.

So the point of all this is that, as you might guess, I'm not really at the strong point this decade right now, and I'm not able to shrug off shunning easily. And I'm getting a lot of it. And it's getting to me. And the upshot of this is, again (as I mentioned it a few days ago), I'm looking at parties I might go to and they're making me feel anxious, because I don't actually like to be around people that don't like me. Counseling might help me be able to (at some point) shrug lesser rejections off as the quirks of human relations that they are, but I realize that, to get to a good point, I probably also need to avoid putting myself in situations where I'm going to really be feeling the hate. I really want to go and show people that I don't care, that they can't get to me, but I do and they have and I know the end result will be me being miserable. It's sad, I love being around lots of people, but right now, one or two bad apples will send me home with an ache in my heart that lasts for days and days, and I need to not be doing that to myself especially if I can see it coming.

Anyway, so scuba diving. I have my class on Saturday. Tomorrow night I expect I'm going to pop by the Tate for a bit to catch the Gauguin exhibit before it closes, then I'll go home to study. I hate that when I think of how I'm going to be spending my evening was that C was right, those London people have gotten tired of my shit (at least some of them have), just like she said they would, and I hate that such a little piece of poison could have lodged itself so firmly in my heart. Maybe if I get lucky I can find someone to have dinner with me somewhere so I don't feel as adrift as I always do when I spend the whole evening with no one to talk to. And maybe in six months it just all won't be bothering me so much, and the people who've gone to so much trouble to show how poorly they think of me will have receded into tiny pinpricks in my consciousness, like stars dying in some distant galaxy.
webcowgirl: (Default)
In London, they use "cotton wool" as a way to say you're overly protecting people (correct me locals if I've got the flavor wrong). And I'm trying to do that, too. I want to try to keep my stress down, which means avoiding thinking too much about things I don't have control over, actively trying to improve things I need to fix, and staying away from the people who are hostile toward me.

In the positive world, I'm trying to focus on good things. Hey, I still may have the dregs of a cold, but my energy levels are up. I've made lots of plan for travel and am pencilling piles of shows I want to see (though not buying yet as the budget is too tight). I'm working on organizing my week so I get at least one round of Pilates and one round of counselling in. I'm spending what in my mind seems like a lot of time with someone who loves me, and trying to spend time with other people that I feel are good friends. With luck, I'll come up with the magic formula to get myself on a better footing. I think it's working pretty well so far. Keeping busy, physical activity, being around people; these are the things that make a stable cowgirl. Let's check in again in a month and see if it's holding up.
webcowgirl: (Default)
I feel like I will be going to less parties this year due to not being able to manage the stress of social ostracism. I was looking at some upcoming events, two soonish and one late in the summer, and just thinking about them has made my "fight or flight" feelings start creeping around the edges of my consciousness. Why push myself when I can already feel the nervousness and illness this far in advance? Do I really want to keep running out of rooms in tears? People on London transport already are sufficiently traumatized without my adding to their problems.

Congratulations seem due to some people for their work in accomplishing this, though I doubt they'll ever see this post. I don't like being around people who are actively shunning me. Being a bunny walking around in a room full of stoats? I really don't like that feeling at all.

On the other hand, this could be great for my budding career as a fiction writer.

Also: found a schema therapist I can afford. What's sad though is that one of the "life-traps," feelings of rejection, seems focused on problems as a child, but I've clearly got problems as an adult, and not with things I've imagined, they are with people who actively tell me (or publicly announce) they want nothing to do with me. With any luck maybe this guy will tell me what I'm doing wrong; but I note the last counselor basically said I was picking the wrong sort of people to be friends with.
webcowgirl: (Default)
Have you noticed I've not been doing much besides linking to my reviews of shows? Here's the one I wrote about Black Watch, a play about a regiment of Scottish soldiers sent to fight in Iraq. According to one of the people who commented on my post, because I don't love the soldiers of the Black Watch (as I didn't not love love love the play), I am conscienceless. I'm kind of not sure where she gets theater mixed up with politics, but it does, apparently, happen. I decided to mostly stay out of the discussion; feel free to comment if you wish. I still have to write up my review of the Nutcracker I saw on Thursday, but I'm not sure when that's going to happen right now.

So I think one of the things that is useful about blogging, that is, (in this case) writing a diary that is shared, is that it helps other people see and understand lives that are not their own and, in some cases, learn lessons about how to live their own lives (or not to) by seeing how others live theirs. This belief that there is sharing that needs to happen in order for this blog to really be valid as something other than a list of what-I-saw-and-what-I-ate means that I have to be honest, in ways that make some people uncomfortable; they, I guess, perhaps have all the answers they need for their own lives, or don't think they will find any truths in how I'm living mine. But I've learned a lot from reading about the lives of people like [livejournal.com profile] kingrat and [livejournal.com profile] copperwise, especially about how to lead lives you can be proud of. I'm hoping some day my life will feel like that, but in the middle of it all, it just seems like a big mess. I've also learned from the two of them about how to deal with really traumatic stuff, and, especially for C, I've felt that there is at least one model out there for getting on with your life when you're having to deal with stuff most people don't even like to acknowledge exists or happens.

Anyway, so me, my life is a pretty big mess right now (if you exclude the 40 hours that is My Job, which is going fine), and I'm trying to figure out how to improve it. I'm also trying to figure out how to fix my head, a bit, which has normally done pretty well but has been having blowouts sporadically for the last six years or so. Unfortunately new engines or transmissions aren't as easily found for the brain as they are for, say, hearts or hips. I've had little luck going to counsellors - I documented what happened with the one I went to see this summer (who pronounced me cured in September), and the one I saw last year was just generally as not good and much more expensive.

I do have a friend who's an MD type shrink, though, and he suggested this thing called "Schema therapy" that he thought might work for me based on the kind of stuff that I am responsive to and maybe the kinds of things that might be troubling me. And he gave me a book to read ("Reinventing your life") to poke around in to see if this might, really, be helpful - and if so, you know, I could see about getting a therapist who specializes in this sort of therapy, with the book being a sort of "try before you buy."

I started reading this book last Sunday and have found it pretty interesting. I'm going to write here (sporadically, as you see I haven't been writing much of late, having people slag me off about my journalling is really off-putting to my desire to write, thus more reviews and less me of late) about my experience reading the book. Obviously the first bit I read didn't make me throw it out the window right away so I think there's some value to it.

So "schema:" the big picture of what this is is that there are ways you see the world that may or may not be true but that are based upon your own experiences and how you see yourself. These schema profoundly affect how you act and think, and may cause you to act in ways that are bad for you. The therapy is kind of based on cognitive behavioral work, with a focus on changing your behavior and thoughts, but also in understanding why you came to have the destructive beliefs you do have and (as I saw in chapter 5, which I'm in the middle of) how to "unbuild" them.

I have bought into this schema thing. However, the book is pretty well insisting that they are based on childhood trauma, and seems very much to neglect the role of adult trauma in causing us to, say, continuously expect people to reject us. I don't buy this at all: a lot of my current mental problems with expecting people to reject me is due to having three of my friends simultaneously reject me back in Seattle and the way this cooked in my head. I'm not discarding the book because of this. I figure, like a book adapted as a movie, simplification was necessary to make it all fit in the space they have. They also call schema "life traps," which I think sounds twee, but, you know, gotta sell it to the masses.

The book lays out 11 schema, ranging from dependence to abandonment to entitlement and so forth. ("Causes of entitlement: excessively spoiled as a child. Few boundaries set.") I thought that I was very strongly matching in the "social exclusion" and "defectiveness" categories, with some "unrelenting standards" and a bit of "abandonment" and "emotional deprivation." In many cases, the origins of these beliefs (as elaborated in the book) seemed unlikely for me, though apparently having one or more parent who is an alcoholic seems to be responsible for half of the problems you might have. And my reactions aren't matching up in a lot of cases; clearly, I have no problems forming emotional bonds with people and I don't avoid socializing with people, but the way I deal with people ignoring and excluding me can be very extreme. And, sadly, I fit to a T the pathetic fragility they describe the "defective" schema people having - not in conjunction with thinking I'm superior, but just when something takes me down, it causes me to collapse since it's just been an air bubble between my mellowcreme center and the chocolate crunchy coating.

Now, in chapter five, they are suggesting a basic method of dealing with this problems, suggesting you just deal with one at a time. I am having some problems with what they suggest you do because of what I consider their 1) inherent silliness and 2) irrelevance to the origin of my own problems (as I seriously don't believe most of them are based on problems with my parents). Step one is to label and identify your lifetrap (I'll go for "defective" as my biggest problem, as it's what causes the black paralysis to take me over); step two is to "understand the childhood origins of your lifetrap: feel the wounded child inside you." This one isn't resonating for me. Step three: disprove the validity of your lifetrap at a rational level. So for me, I would make a list of why I think I'm a useless loser and then a list of reasons against this belief. Fortunately, they admit that for some things your belief may be true, i.e. if you've been rejected and shunned all of your life you may have failed to develop certain social skills. That's how I feel about myself.

The fourth step is to write a letter to the "parent, sibling or peer" who helped cause your trap. For my worthlessness thing, I just don't see anyone at fault here; I can't understand the origin of it; I certainly can't imagine myself writing some silly letter to my mother or father telling them it's their fault. Ditto abandonment and emotional deprivation. They may have something at play here, but I have never really bought into them being "at fault" for my mental state. Step five, however, looks very interesting: see how your schema plays out in your current life. "What self-defeating habits reinforce your lifetrap?" Each one of them has a chapter dedicated to them and I will write about them when I get to them ("in our next installment"). The book carries on to "pick one, pattern-break, keep trying." Then it says to forgive your parents. Well, if we get beyond that, I think there is some useful stuff here, a way to try to unpick my head and figure out why and where I'm going wrong.

Next step (come January) if I think all of this is not just silly is to get a counsellor. They look to be running really steep, like 90 quid an hour. On the other hand, my life is really just so much in the shitter right now, and my brain is really so bad, maybe I need to just pony it up. I know I'm better than I was this time last year in some ways, as there was that long period of time when I was crying at least every week (and I think it's probably been two weeks since I've cried, and I've probably gone for even a month or more without crying since April, well, at least five weeks, I think), so I must be in a better state than I was, but I have to say this: my feeling of hope about my life is actually much lower than it was back then. I've been very busy trying to keep myself amused and keep my life as light and stress-free as I can possibly manage in the last few months, but I can't make my brain work better, and with people turning against me I can see myself getting squirrelier and squirrelier as I start to feel cornered and defensive and my God, am I in need of a line to pull myself out of this life. I've never had a counsellor do a lick of good for me but I am quite desperate. Maybe this sort of therapy will work for me.

Anyway, thanks for patiently reading through all of this. In lighter news: I spent Friday watching David Attenborough videos with [livejournal.com profile] wechsler, loafed around the house Saturday and then went to a dress-up event (the Anarcho-Dandyist Ball) with [livejournal.com profile] dreamsewing, then spent most of today at [livejournal.com profile] wechsler's playing Carcasonne and generally being social, because, you know, underneath it all I'm actually profoundly lonely and he had the free time. Yay [livejournal.com profile] wechsler, you are a great best friend.

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