Tag Archives: negative thoughts

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!

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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.

reiteration

I want to go over something I briefly touched on earlier this week. In the post life means suffering, I said–

When I’m anxious it’s very difficult for me to smile, and as a result I look serious or angry or mean. Ironically, inside I’m terrified. I just want people to like me. The response I got from Ms. D reinforced my anxiety, and it was appropriate given my comment and how I looked. I really shouldn’t take it personally, because she’s responding to my social anxiety not my true personality, but I still do.

Essentially, I felt like I got criticized by Ms. D, my girlfriend’s half-sister, and I took it personally. But when I took a step back and analyzed it a little more objectively, I felt like she was attacking my anxiety, not my true self.

This is important because I take everything personally. When a co-worker’s having a bad day and doesn’t smile at me, it must be because I didn’t smile at him first. When a friend’s angry at someone else but he takes it out on me, it must be because I did something wrong. When a librarian is aggravated because she is busy and gets pulled from her schedule to meet me, she must not like me. When I’m with an acquaintance and there’s an awkward moment of silence between us, it’s because I’m boring and don’t know what to say. Whenever something goes wrong, it’s my fault because there’s something deeply wrong with me.

None of those are my fault, none mean there’s something wrong with me. They’re just negative situations which can be interpreted in a number of different ways, and more often than not, I find the negatives: it’s my fault and they don’t like me, personally.

Awareness is key. When someone negatively judges me, real or imagined, because of how I act when I’m flooded with anxiety, they aren’t attacking me personally–they’re attacking the anxiety.

***

Have a great weekend, and enjoy Halloween–if you have/celebrate that.

life means suffering

life means suffering

Suffering is equally divided among all men; each has the same amount to undergo…. (Paul Bowles, The Sheltering sky)

***

Depression hit me on Wednesday–killing my positive, albeit hyper, mood–when I started analyzing the interview in my mind, over and over and over again, finding all the negatives .. I found a bunch, of course. I also had a difficult tutoring session (see previous post). This depression stuck with me until Thursday evening when anxiety took over while I was in the car with my girlfriend and her father, on our way to my girlfriend’s hometown to visit her family. I actually started panicking a little.

I know I need to connect more with people, especially with my girlfriend’s family, but it’s too hard. I can’t do it, and I really don’t want to, either.

On Thursday night I went with my girlfriend and her sister-in-law to a bar to watch a baseball game. I had two beers which really calmed me down. I felt calm the rest of the night, but I woke up depressed again on Friday and felt down throughout the day until my girlfriend’s brother arrived.

Her brother’s a lot like me–he suffers from anxiety and depression, he doesn’t really like people etc–but I actually think we’re too similar: neither one of us knows how to talk to the other, and a third-party needs to be present in order to facilitate conversation. Actually, I pretty much always need a third party. One-on-one conversation is the hardest for me, and, consequently, that’s when anxiety hits me the most.

Surprisingly, the anxiety wore off quickly, and I was able to relax for a bit after her brother arrived. We all talked for a while, and then I went to bed. My girlfriend joined me after some time.

Like clockwork, I felt depressed again in the morning. I went for a run, reflecting on my week, focusing on a letter I sent to my parents on Thursday. In it, I briefly described what I’ve been going through as of late, as well as my frustration with my family’s lack of emotional connection.

Some highlights–

I haven’t connected with either of you in a long time; and I’m angry and frustrated because of this. There’s so much distance between us—not just geographic distance but emotional distance. Our family has always been a very private family. We just don’t talk about things. I think that worked for us when we were all together, when we were seeing one another every day. But now that Jeff and I are both gone, that lack of emotional connection is catching up to us.

..

I have Social Anxiety Disorder. I’ve suffered with it for over ten years. I know that everybody experiences anxiety in social situations to some extent, but it’s much more intense for me, even debilitating. Often times the anticipatory anxiety is much worse than the actual anxiety I get in the event. Just last week, my anticipatory anxiety kept me from going to a job interview, for example. Also, after social situations, I continually brood on the negatives from the social event. This is self-defeating—it reinforces the anxiety, in other words. Recently, I’ve also been diagnosed with Cyclothymia. It’s a form of Bipolar Disorder—albeit a very mild form. I’m also a Perfectionist, an Introvert, extremely Shy, Highly Sensitive, and so forth …

..

You weren’t/aren’t perfect parents—and that’s okay. I’m getting to the point where I can accept that you weren’t the type of parents I wanted you to be. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m close.

As of writing, I still haven’t heard from my parents. I’m a little worried.

Anyway, I began to feel anxious on my run. I kept going over and over what my parents would say to me. Would they be mad? Or sad? Or concerned? Happy? Confused? .. These thoughts took me from the present moment. I really wanted to get away from my thoughts. I wanted to enjoy my run and connect with nature, but instead I got lost, and eventually trapped, in my own thoughts.

After my run my anxiety intensified, as everybody, aside for me, wanted to go visit my girlfriend’s sister (Ms. D) in Oakland and her baby and fiance–and we ended up going. I get really anxious around them because her fiance is really cocky and outgoing. I never know what to say around him. Whenever he even looks at me I just freeze. I can’t think, I can’t talk, I can’t do anything. I’m overcome with anxiety.

I also don’t really do well around children. I never know how to act or what to say. I feel like everyone is judging me: He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He probably has no experience with children. He’s an idiot.

I guess it didn’t go too bad. I felt stupid when Ms. D asked me how I was doing because I always say the same things: “I’m good. I’m just trying to get through school and find a job.” She gave me an awkward smile and nod, and thankfully the conversation moved on, the attention put on someone else.

A few minutes later everybody was lively and talking about babies and weddings while I just sat in the corner, keeping silent, trying to pretend I was playing with the baby (and enjoying it). Finally, when the conversation was over, I shouted out, “I don’t think I’ve ever been licked so much in my life,” referring to their dog. Everyone turned toward me, looking at me as if they were surprised I was still in the room. I’m not sure why I said it, I really don’t. Well, actually I do: I wanted to be included so bad, I just said the only thing I could think of. No one really knew what to say. Finally, Ms. D broke the silence–

“Mike, no one really likes it.”

“I’m not complaining,” I said.

A few people laughed, awkwardly, and then the conversation moved on. I probably appeared like I was complaining, because when I said what I said I know my face was stoic. When I’m anxious it’s very difficult for me to smile, and as a result I look serious or angry or mean. Ironically, inside I’m terrified. I just want people to like me. The response I got from Ms. D reinforced my anxiety, and it was appropriate given my comment and how I looked. I really shouldn’t take it personally, because she’s responding to my social anxiety not my true personality, but I still do. She gave me the reaction I’ve gotten most of my life–the same reaction that fuels my anxiety. If she could only understand that I’m feeling something entirely different altogether on the inside she would probably respond differently. I came across as unfriendly and uncaring and yet on the inside I just wanted to connect and be heard. I wish she could have seen this. I wish everybody could see this. Social anxiety changes my personality so much–making it impossible for me to be myself.

I didn’t say much the rest of the trip. Depression followed me home. I carried it with me on Sunday and on in to today. Right now I’m analyzing and interpreting every single word spoken, every gesture, every facial expression from the weekend. I’m also beginning to feel anxious again because I have another social event tonight: dinner with my girlfriend’s former roommate.

***

I suffered constantly in one form or another this past week. When I wasn’t anxious I felt depressed, and when I wasn’t depressed I felt anxious, and when I wasn’t anxious or depressed I felt hyper.

I’ve been thinking more about suffering recently. I’m starting to believe that everyone suffers in their own way. If you alleviate one form, like starvation, another appears, like anxiety–so what’s the point of even trying? I think the answer can be found in the Buddha’s four noble truths. Suffering is all around us, it’s part of life, but it only affects us if we attach ourselves to them.

To me, that means suffering is a choice. I suffer because I choose to believe my thoughts. I choose to let them control me. That said, I’m not sure how to go about releasing, or detaching, my self from my thoughts, but I do believe I’m on the right path. I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

P.S. I got a haircut and nobody noticed. My hair used to be long, and I cut it really short. I thought for sure someone would say something which would open up a conversation, but no one did. I’m invisible.

interview success

So, as many of you know, I had a group interview yesterday. The interview was originally scheduled for last week, but I canceled last minute because I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Fortunately, I found a good, partially true excuse and was able to reschedule for yesterday.

I already had one interview with them a few weeks back with the library director. It went well. It was very relaxed. We talked about my future and what areas I’d like to work in–nothing too formal. At the end of the interview, she mentioned that she wanted me to come back in to meet with her and the rest of the librarians. I said fine. On the way out, I asked her how many librarians worked there and she said ten, and she also said that out of those ten there are a few who aren’t receptive to interns.

That information hit me hard–not only am I going to be interviewed by ten people; not all of them want me there to begin with. And since I take everything personal, I took this personal.

This set off my hypothetical mind; I began thinking of different scenarios of what this interview would be like. Mostly I just pictured ten librarians sitting across from me, asking difficult question after difficult question. Me, barely able to breath, stumbling, blushing, sweating.

My original interview was on a Thursday, and we scheduled the next one for the following Monday. I was a mess that weekend. Actually, I think I probably wrote a post about it. Anyway, the anxiety intensified to a point where I couldn’t function. I couldn’t sleep Sunday night and had to reschedule for yesterday.

From that point until today, though, I’ve been doing great. So what’s different about this past week from the week before?

Well, for starters, my thoughts haven’t controlled me. The negative thoughts were still there–they just didn’t dominate my consciousness. Part of this is attributed to CBT, the other part mindfulness. By becoming aware of my thoughts, before they took control, I could use cognitive techniques to ensure that they wouldn’t take control.

Next, I began to use meditation to help me relax. Two hours before the interview, I was laying in the bath, listening to a meditation. Once I got out I felt at peace. This feeling carried me into the interview.

Finally, I hashed out the situation with my hypnotherapist on Friday, meaning: we tried to look at my hypothetical scenarios in a different light.

“What’s your worst fear?” she asked me.

“To get up at the end and have to go down a line of ten librarians, shaking each of their hands,” I said. “They’ll see how much I’m sweating.”

“Do you really think it will be like that?” she asked.

As soon as she said that it was clear: there’s no way it would be like that. I may have to wave goodbye, but shaking hands with ten people sounds absurd, and it certainly wouldn’t all be in one line. I always feel so much better after playing out scenarios in my head. Seeing just how absurd my thinking can be, reminds me that my logic can be irrational at times.

The interview, itself, went well. I met only with the library director and one other librarian–no biggie, especially since I was expecting ten people. I did have to engage in a formal interview, but it went well. The director called one of my references earlier today. I think I got. Hurray!

Leap of Faith

So: I can’t change how I feel in social situations because I can’t change my beliefs, and I can’t change my beliefs because I can’t change how I feel in social situations.

Right now my life is like this: beliefs + action = I’m a fucking failure

For example, I just RSVP’d “yes” for a game night on Friday. My thoughts are already telling me I’ll be awkward, people will see that I’m awkward, and because of this they won’t like me, etc. etc. etc. These thoughts will probably intensify over the week, culminating with me telling myself I’m going to fail and I probably will fail if I’m telling myself I’ll fail–which will reinforce my beliefs. So … what do I do? Logic tells me it’s irrational to believe I’ll just wake up one morning and be anxiety free–hence, change must come from my beliefs. But how can I change my beliefs if they are just reinforced by my actions? Leap of faith? Whatever that means. Suddenly believing everything will be fine is absurd. My beliefs are deep-seeded. As beliefs become stronger and stronger, they sink deeper and deeper in my intuition. Change must come there but it has to start in my logic.

I’m thinking too much about this. Off to do some CBT …

Perfectionism: Past, Present, and Future

Like most kids, I experienced lots of changes when I entered middle school. Most of my good friends from elementary school attended different middle schools, and that, coupled with the enormous pressure to fit in, meant a lot of change for me. I had to find a new clique–and fast. And I could no longer just be me. I had to be something different, something better and more profound. Suddenly, I desired popularity–everybody had to like me and seek me out for friendship.

Again, I wasn’t the only one experiencing change, but taking genetic factors into account, I believe change was harder for me (boohoo, poor me). I scrutinized, analyzed and reflected on everything I did, every move I made. Sixth grade was a very difficult year, and it was probably difficult for a lot of my peers. It’s a normal process for kids to go through, but for me, it was the start of my perfectionist tendencies–and the beginning of Social Anxiety Disorder.

I took every “failure” hard. When I didn’t get picked first for dodgeball in gym it wasn’t because I didn’t know the person picking very well or because I may not have done very well athletically the last time we played dodgeball, but because I was inferior, ugly, and altogether unlikeable. If I didn’t get an A+ on a math test I failed, and I had to do better the next time. I felt terrible when I didn’t get invited to a movie or to sit at a certain table at lunch or to a birthday party–all because of my inherent, negative qualities that everyone could see. I took everything personally. If I wasn’t first, I was last, and, more often than not, I was last. If I knew I couldn’t win at something, I wouldn’t even try. I stopped putting myself out there for friends, focusing less on things I couldn’t control and more on tangibles that I could control like my appearance and test scores.

And, since it’s impossible to always be number one and in total control of everything, I began to withdraw. I withdrew from sports because I was no longer the most athletic person. I stopped hanging out with certain friends because they were smarter, better looking, or funnier than me. I stopped raising my hand in class because whatever I had to say was never good enough.

I told myself I didn’t really want the things I so desperately wanted. When I didn’t get invited somewhere, I always found an excuse why I didn’t want to go in the first place. This not only made me feel like shit; it fueled my perfectionism, as well. If you tell yourself you don’t want something that you really want, it only fuels the desire. So, by telling myself I didn’t want to go to the movies with friends, for example, this only intensified my desire to connect and be included.

Even when I found a clique to hang out with, I still didn’t feel accepted. I had to always be on guard for the slightest signs that my new friends didn’t really want to be friends with me–they just “allowed” me to hang around because they felt sorry for me or something. Every word, every look, everything they did, I analyzed. And when you look at everything that closely, you’re bound to find something–and I did.

Over time, the things I found built up until I couldn’t trust anybody anymore, and I dumped all my friends.

***

Perfectionism is an ugly beast which has dominated most of my life. It started in middle school; its voice developed in high school and college, growing stronger and stronger; and it continues to control my life today–even in this very moment. As I write this, the voice in the back of my head is saying–

No one likes you or your little blog. You can’t write and, besides, nobody cares about your thoughts anyway. You should just give up.

***

So, now that I know all this, the obvious question for me is how do I control this perfectionist voice? I don’t think it’s a matter of control. I’m never going to be able to control my thoughts. Thoughts come, thoughts go. It’s up to me, though, to decide if I grab a hold of those thoughts and give them power or not.

For example, just yesterday I had some negative thoughts regarding my therapy appointment–

You’re not making any progress in therapy, they said. Your therapist is getting frustrated. Eventually he’ll quit on you; so you should quit first to avoid getting hurt.

When they came I immediately told myself to STOP! In that moment I made a choice not to let my thoughts drag me down. Instead, I focused on something else, and eventually the thoughts went away, losing their power. This obviously took a lot of awareness and practice, practice, practice on my part. Honestly, nine times out of ten, I let my thoughts get the best of me. But I am learning.

Changing my thoughts changes the way I feel, countering my perfectionist tendencies. It will take time and considerable effort, patience and persistence. The important thing is that I don’t give up because that’s what my perfectionist voice wants: to be fueled by my own pessimism.