Category Archives: negative thinking

a familiar voice

My therapy session on Tuesday went a little better than usual. Usually when things get hard–that is, when we start going deeper–I shut down. On Tuesday I stayed with my t as much as I could. I feel good about myself (for once) for actually having stuck it out even though it was incredibly difficult. I’m giving myself credit where credit is due; it’s a strange feeling, to say the least.

Well, now that I am analyzing, and writing about, it, there were times I felt very frustrated and maybe did quit a bit.

We’ve been talking a lot about the cycles I go through. Anticipatory anxiety, social event, depression–and how each one is setup by my own negative beliefs about myself. My t is interested in my beliefs, because that’s where change will occur. I’m not sure I believe that. It’s hard for my beliefs to change if they’re constantly being reinforced by my actions. But in a therapeutic session we can only work on what’s inside me, not the outside world and what goes on around me. So, we talk constantly about my beliefs, which is frustrating.

There is a genuine part of me that does want change, that does want my deep, rigid beliefs to be exposed for what they are–lies. I want to be able to engage socially without that voice in the back of my head saying, You are no good. People notice you are anxious, and, consequently, they don’t like you. You will never be anything other than what you are right now. Logically, I know I have an innate worth, and I know sometimes I do appear anxious (but it’s not as bad as I make it out to be), and even if people do notice I am a bit anxious, they probably aren’t judging me or coming to conclusions that I am a bad person. But logic doesn’t always help. It’s what’s deeper that matters. And sometimes I do want those beliefs to change–or at least be challenged.

Which is what happens in therapy. Which is why I shut down sometimes. Why would I want those beliefs to change? They are me. Without them, I won’t know who I am. So, most of the time, I don’t want those beliefs to change. I just want to be able to live my life, while still thinking I am a piece of shit, which has been difficult thus far, obviously.

What’s more, sometimes it feels great to fail because it reinforces those negative, irrational beliefs about myself.

“It feels so good sometimes,” I told my t, “coming in here and telling you what a shitty weekend I had, because now I have something to point to. Now I have something to show you, and say, ‘See. I am messed up. There is something wrong with me.’ It’s fuel for the fire.”

“That voice is what I’m interested in,” he said. “That’s the voice that doesn’t want change, the voice that says you’re not good enough and never will be, the voice that says you should die. It’s a familiar voice. It’s something we need to shine light on. But when we look at it something happens in this room, something changes. You get flooded and leave.”

Anyway, during the session, I tried to open up about the voice, explaining when it comes out in social situations and how it’s, seemingly, out of my control during periods of anticipatory anxiety. I stayed with it as long as I could, but, inevitably, I shut down, relinquishing control. But I did stay with it longer than I have in the past, which is a step in the right direction. I just feel frustrated that I wasn’t able to open up more. I couldn’t find the words.

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perspective

Although my head is still in a fog, I think I’ve gained some perspective not only about the wedding, but the last year of my life, as well. Despite what most people are saying around me, I feel I’ve taken quite a few steps back over the past year. I wouldn’t say I’m moving backward, but I wouldn’t say I’m moving forward either. It’s more like I’ve been stagnating; some things have definitely gotten worse, while other things are better.

The basis of this post, by the way, comes from two major events that have happened this past week or so. One being the wedding, and the other my one-year anniversary with working with my therapist.

I can’t ignore the fact that I am not the person I was one year ago. I’ve changed in many ways, good and bad. I’m really an entirely different person. I went to a wedding a year ago, and it really wasn’t that bad. I felt some anxiety, but I got through it. The wedding on Saturday, however, was a much different experience. I was completely flooded during it and could barely communicate, let alone smile.

So, what’s different about me? Let’s take a look–

Anticipatory anxiety. My anticipatory anxiety is much worse now than one year ago. The dreading and worrying is much more intense, and it starts to happen earlier and earlier. It’s even been so bad that I’ve had to avoid certain social situations altogether. I never avoided situations a year ago; I’d be scared to go, but I’d still go.

Depression. Like my anticipatory anxiety, my periods of depression are much more intense and they last longer. I’m usually knocked on my ass two days a week, unable to do anything, and I have a breakdown about once a month.

Mood swings. The lows are much lower today, and the highs higher. I’m constantly swinging from low to high, as well; in a typical day, I usually have at least one or two swings.

Binging. I didn’t consciously binge a year ago. That is, I wasn’t purposely binging to elevate my mood. Today, I know how to control my moods through binging; and, consequently, I’m binging a lot more.

Isolation. 14 months ago I quit my job; moved in with my girlfriend, away from my roommates and friends; and started an online graduate program. I quickly became isolated and stopped hanging out with friends. My best friend moved to NY last January. I pretty much have to rely on my girlfriend for support and someone to hang out with.

Joy. I do not get pleasure out of the activities that used to relax me. I don’t enjoy reading, writing, meditating, yoga as I did a year ago. I don’t really enjoy much anymore, actually.

Medication. I’m on some serious medication now. Lamictal, Klonopin, Ativan, Propranolol. What’s next? Just seeing all the pill containers reinforces my beliefs that I am fucked up and broken.

Therapy. Yes, I am in therapy now–isn’t that a good thing? I don’t know. I’ve had to admit that I have issues and that I need to work through them. Instead of internalizing everything, I’m having to face my beliefs, feelings, and fears. I’m not convinced this is a good thing. I’m moving too fast; it’s all too much to handle.

Beliefs. I’m also finding out that my beliefs are extremely rigid. I sincerely believe that I am a bad person; no one likes me; I’m inferior to those around me; I can’t cut it in this world; I’m a fool, a failure, a loser; and I will never get better. These beliefs are obviously reinforced by my actions and social experiences. Each time I engage, my beliefs are reinforced. It doesn’t help either that I bounce from one huge, overwhelming group social situation to the next; there’s nothing in between because I’m so isolated.

Awareness. It all comes down to awareness. I am much more aware of things going on inside my body. I can recognize when a depression is coming (but it’s frustrating because I can’t stop it). I know about my beliefs and feelings (but, again, I feel powerless to change them). The major difference is that I understand why I feel the way I do, but I haven’t been able to change it, and so, I feel even more powerless, hopeless, and listless. I’m scared.

What’s more, last night my g/f said she’d like us to go to couples counseling. It feels like the beginning of the end. I can’t deal with anymore therapy at the moment. I can’t deal with unlocking more deep-seeded beliefs and feelings because I can’t deal with the ones I’ve already unlocked.

I don’t know what to do anymore. Maybe things aren’t as bad as I think they are, but I cannot dismiss the fact that I am more unhappy than ever.

Each day grows harder. The longer my beliefs stay the way they are, the harder it will be for them to change. Plus, my inadequacies are further reinforced each day as I go about my life watching all the other “normal” people function like I should be functioning. Every time I see someone smile, I tell myself I’ll never be happy, which only fuels my beliefs.

I’m stuck. I’m trapped. I’m really, really scared.

    inhale, exhale, slow down

    As you know, the last few days have been tough. I started feeling better yesterday afternoon though, but the depression hit again on my way to therapy. I didn’t want to rehash everything that’s been happening; I didn’t want to think about anything any longer. I just wanted relief and understanding, and, surprisingly, I got it last night in therapy–sort of.

    ***

    Most sessions start with me manically describing every detail of my week; it’s like a giant exhale. I don’t feel much at that point, because it’s all very shallow. There is a little anxiety, I guess, because I’m processing everything so fast. I want to get everything out there in the open and let my therapist decide what to look at. Inevitably, at one point or another, he stops me, asks me to take a deep breath, and slow down. I smile. There’s no more anxiety, but now I don’t feel anything at all–which is sometimes worst.

    Sometimes I say a few more things, sometimes I don’t, and then he decides what to focus on, and more often than not, it’s the things I don’t want to touch; it’s the subject I speed through even quicker, hoping he won’t hear it. I like this about him; he knows what I don’t want to touch, and he makes me touch it. Anyway, we talk for a bit about the subject, still superficially. I’m a little anxious; I can feel the tension creeping up from my stomach, like a tank slowing filling with water. And then it happens–

    “What’s beneath?” he asks, knowing I’m going to shut down. “What are the underlying beliefs–that’s what I want to know about.”

    I manage a few more sentences before shutting down. The remainder of the session is like pulling teeth. He brushes right up against my beliefs, and I push back. I get angry, frustrated, and very defensive. I feel attacked. I feel threatened. I feel like he’s not on my side. It usually gets to the point where I don’t say anything for the last five or ten minutes. We sit in silence. Sometimes he talks about how difficult therapy can be; sometimes he even congratulates me on coming in and doing the work, which is the last thing I want to hear in that moment. Thankfully, there’s a beautiful picture of the ocean right behind his chair. If I look long enough, I leave the room altogether.

    I become the ocean.

    ***

    Last night I did something different, though. I started out by talking about the thing I didn’t want to talk about: my suicidal thoughts.

    “I don’t know what to do when I have them,” I said. “It’s hard. Most days I just have them while walking down the street–looking up at every building, wondering if it’s high enough for me to die if I jumped off it. But over the weekend, the thoughts intensified. There was intention. I may have had a plan, I’m not really sure. When they get that intense, I’m not going to call you. I’m not going to call anyone. When I’m that low, I only want to binge because that’s the only way I know how to regain control.”

    I paused, letting this seep in. His facial expression changed; he was visibly upset. Sensing I had more to say, he nodded.

    “But I’m scared because binging is becoming less and less effective. I can’t rely on it anymore. I’m scared that I won’t be able to quickly pull myself out of my next deep depression.”

    I talked about the wedding, and the holidays, and my upcoming class presentations. I’m scared of them, yes, but they are not the cause of my suicidal thoughts. It’s easy to blame them, but the real culprit is beneath.

    “Tell me about the beliefs?” he asked, as always.

    “I’m a monster inside,” I said. “An ugly monster. I’ve made so many bad decisions in my life. I deserve everything I’m going through. It’s all my fault. People do not like me because I’m not like any of them–and I made the choice not to be like them. I will fail. I am a failure.”

    “There’s more there,” he said. “It’s in the room. We just nicked it.”

    At that point, I was flooded. I felt a bit nauseous. All I wanted to do was leave, but I didn’t. I never leave. I guess I like the pain, or I just don’t want to disappoint. I thought he was going to push back against my beliefs again, but he didn’t, something different happened–

    “You know,” he said, “if it becomes too much you can ask me to pull back. It’s okay.”

    He gave me exactly what I needed in that moment: space. I looked at the clock: five minutes left. Five minutes of silence and me staring at the ocean. I am that ocean, I told myself over and over and over again.

    i will fail

    I’m in a bad place right now. I have to go to a wedding next Saturday. It’s actually a three-day event (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), but I think I’ve managed to find good excuses for the other two days; but even still, I’m feeling really bad about it. I dislike the groom and his family because they’re all very outgoing and seemingly don’t understand people who are shy and quiet, let alone people like me who can’t engage even in the simplest of conversations.

    I tried working on some CBT earlier, but what’s the point when I’m feeling so depressed? There’s this constant voice in the back of my head saying, YOU WILL FAIL. I counter it with- “I’m going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m just going to relax, calm down, and everything will be OK” and a load of other coping statements .. but that voice is still there.

    Next weekend I will fail. I’ll be flooded with anxiety and won’t be able to say anything, let alone smile. I’ll have to hide in the background, hoping no one notices me, relying solely on my girlfriend to help me through conversations.

    This wedding will ruin the rest of the this week and probably the week after. I’m scared. Wish me luck.

    illusion of control

    When I am alone or with one or two people who I feel comfortable with, I am at ease. My body and mind are calm. I can loosen up, be myself, and have fun. Why would I want my body to be in any other state? Why would I want to insert uncertainty into my life? Why would I want to relinquish control? I don’t, and so anxiety comes into the picture, which says–

    “Why would you want to be anywhere else but where you are now? You don’t know these people or the situation. They may make you feel bad about yourself or inferior. You have no idea what’s going to happen.”

    So, my anxiety is trying to protect me from uncertainty. Anxiety is really on my side. When looked at it like this, anxiety is just my rational mind trying to convince me to stay put, to not change, and when I listen to it, there is a payoff: I stay in control. But this also reinforces the anxiety and makes it harder the next time around to go into the social situation.

    Anxiety is a logical response to the world. No one wants to feel unconformable, no one wants to be put down or hurt, and anxiety manifests to help protect us from that.  What our anxiety doesn’t know and what we sometimes forget is that anxiety is always going to be there no matter how much we isolate ourselves. For example, when I used to be more isolated and not leave the apartment. I would feel in control most of the time, but every now and then I’d hear my neighbor walking up the stairs, and I’d think- Maybe he’ll stop at my door and knock. What will I do then? I could ignore him, but maybe he knows I’m home. I’ll have to answer. Then, he’ll see what a mess I am.

    Control is an illusion. I have very little control over my own life or the outcomes of specific situations. Yet, I’ve convinced myself that I do. Throughout my life when I didn’t have control, I gave power to my anxiety. I’m slowly taking the power back by not giving into the anxious thoughts as much and telling myself that I do not have total control–and never will.

    It’s not that people don’t like me–it’s that they don’t know me.

    stepping back ..

    I had a setback yesterday. Put simply, I woke up feeling down about the social situation from Monday, but instead of trying to deal with those feelings, I went right to my obsessive behaviors.

    I’m obsessed over how many people read and comment on my blog. So, I shelved my feelings and went right to looking at my blog, and then I read and commented on someone else’s blog (with the hope that they will respond by checking my blog), and then I checked my blog’s stats (and felt disappointed), and then I commented on a message forum (with the hope that people would make their way to my blog), and then I checked my blog’s stats (again, dissapointed), etc. etc. This lasted for about an hour.

    Afterward, I had to go back to my feelings, and, by that point, they had grown. That, coupled with my disappointments with my blog (which I can probably never satisfy), I fell into a depression, and I made a conscious decision to binge after my g/f left for work. So .. she left, and I binged.

    Now, I haven’t binged in almost a month, and I thought I didn’t need to eat as much to get the desired effects (pushing the negative feelings back down in my body). Well, I was right and wrong–I got a terrible stomach ache (which I don’t normally get) and the feelings only grew along with my depression. As the hours progressed my actions grew more and more erratic. By the end of the night, my g/f was rubbing my forehead while I laid in our empty bathtub with all my clothes on, turning the water on and then back off again (just enough to get my back wet). I wish I could explain, I guess I just find comfort in the bathtub but I didn’t want to take a bath, I don’t know.

    ***

    Anyway, my original intent for this post was to focus on the scope of this blog. I waver between thinking I can truly help people with social anxiety and thinking I can’t help a soul because I can’t even help myself. I’ve talked a lot about the healing process as of late, abstractly–I haven’t really thought about what it means to me, that is.

    There’s always going to be setbacks. Two steps forward, one step back. Forward, forward, back. Forward, forward, back. It’s not quite that simple, either: there’s ups and downs, and yesterday I just felt like I was spinning around and around. But in the most general sense, yesterday was a setback.

    This past month I’ve been trying to focus more on my steps forward. I want this blog to be positive. I want to provide support for people going through the same things I am. I want to be a leader. But I guess I’ve only been sharing one side to the healing process: my successes. Healing is also about failing. It’s about setbacks and destructive behaviors and hopeless, suicidal feelings. Having those feelings is good every now and then, because they are proof that I am healing.

    So, I just want you–and I–to know that I am going to do my best to show this process more completely. To show the darker sides even if that’s not what you want to hear or what I really want to write about.

    ***

    Finally, I’ve been taking care of myself today. I just got back from a run, and I’m going to eat a healthy breakfast. My g/f made pumpkin soup for lunch. I’m going to try to not stress about schoolwork. Maybe I’ll take it easy and watch a movie or go to a gentle yoga class or something. Or maybe I’ll just write a few posts. Or maybe I’ll take a bath (with water this time). Or read things like this. We’ll see.

    Also, I’ve noticed that my obsessions with my blog only come out when I’m feeling depressed and/or anxious. They help to mask my feelings. I’m going to try to take it easy and just let things play out the way they should, but it’s hard. I know there will be a setback or two .. and that’s okay!

    trust

    I’ve talked a lot about trust in the past, particularly in this post where I discussed how I replace trust with constancy. Anyway, I came across an interesting comment on this post, and I want to address the questions left by the author–

    Trust is an interesting one though…you’ve maybe done it already but it can sometimes be useful to explore the following three areas:

    What trust means to you…
    What has to happen for trust to be there
    What stops you from trusting

    What does trust mean to me?

    Trust is hard to define. It’s much easier to describe the after effects–i.e., what happens after trust is established. In the most general sense, a trustful relationship is a peaceful relationship. When there’s trust, I feel comfortable calling the person and talking to him or her about anything; I don’t get hung up on my negative thoughts; I simply don’t care what the other person thinks of me. He can judge me all he wants; it’s not going to affect the relationship. Finally, and this may be the most important factor, in a trustful relationship, I not only trust the other person, but I trust myself as well. I’m not constantly questioning or analyzing my behaviors. I can be myself.

    Trust is important to me. I want and need to have open, trustful relationships with others. Trust is the willingness to be whoever I am in the moment. There are no walls. Or filters. There’s only me.

    What has to happen for trust to be there?

    Several things need to take place for trust to develop–

    Be honest: Being honest with yourself as well as with the other person. Your actions must match your words, as well.

    Be reliable and predictable: If you say you’re going to do something or be somewhere at a certain time, then do it and be punctual. Predictability is important, too.

    Have the willingness to share: Tell the person who you are, faults and all, and reveal what you want/need from the relationship.

    Take a leap of faith: All of the previous things don’t really matter if you aren’t willing to take a leap of faith. Trust means you have to open up. You have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself on the line. You have to be willing to be hurt. You have to have faith that the other person will be there when you fall–and you have to be there, too.

    What stops you from trusting?

    I don’t like myself. In fact, most of the time, I hate myself. I’ve been hurt so much in the past and have gone through so many negative social experiences, that these hateful feelings are ingrained deep within. I can’t seem to penetrate these ancient beliefs; I can’t change them, in other words. Hate is there–and it may always be there.

    So, how can I let someone else in when I hate myself so much? If I don’t like what I see and feel inside, why would anyone else? I know exactly what I need to do–I need to learn to accept, appreciate, and love myself. But I don’t know how. Or rather: I do know how. I’m doing it right now. I’m going to therapy, I’m writing, etc. It’s just hard.

    Also, I can’t ignore empirical evidence. I have let some people in, and, more often than not, they run away. They must have seen something they didn’t like. And so, I’m no longer willing to take that leap of faith that’s so vital for establishing trust in relationships.