Good, the bad and the naffness

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I’m conscious that this blog could become a place for me to simply record every slump I have, and probably gloss over the good.

So here’s the good, the bad and the naffness…

A bit of good + lots of naffness…

I’ve started the Living Life to the Full computer based modules. I’m not sure they’re really meant for working on at the same time as having face-to-face CBT. But although they use different words to describe things, a lot of the approaches are the same as what Celine has been showing me. In fact, rather than confusing things, it is beneficial to see the same concepts from two different angles, as thinking about it just in one way can make it sound really naff. But when I see the computer thing explain something that Celine has been trying to tell me and vice versa, I can start to see what they’re trying to get at.

The third module on the ‘Little Book’ course (bad me, I haven’t actually bought the books. Just listening to the audio version online) is called ‘Why does everything go wrong?’. Initially I thought that I’ve been trying so hard not to be pessimistic, that how would something with that title actually be helpful? Well actually I did find it to be very relevant to me, though title is definitely Naffness No1. It goes through a five step plan, called the ‘Amazing Bad Though Busting Plan’ or ‘ABTBP’ (Naffness No 2) on with how to deal with the a Bad Thought (cutely drawn as a little gremlin: Naffness No 3). Simple things like 1. Label the thought 2. Leave it 3. Stand up to it 4.Give yourself a break 5. Look at it differently (Naffness 4 through 8). Despite it’s naffness, I think it is what Celine was trying to get at with trying to think through a problem that was making me upset, in a more logical way to find a rational statement about the situation which would upset me less. I like that this gives a step by step way of doing it (I like step by step things).

The fourth module is called ‘I’m not good enough’ (I’ve got used to the condescending titles now. Because in fact they do accurately describe a lot of my thoughts!). Basically it teaches another set of steps to pretend to act confidently. I think this is really applicable to me as over the course of this year, I’ve realised how inconfident I am in a lot of things. It doesn’t help that that confidence is the one thing I hear from prospective employers about what they look for when they interview: they know they can’t except you to know and be good at everything, but they want you to be confident in what you’ve learnt and what you find out. Which has tended to make me feel even less confident about applying for jobs, as I don’t even have confidence in myself! What I like about this module is that it lets you accept that you might not be very confident, and then shows you a way to do something about it.

A bit of bad…

So Monday morning, I was looking forward to testing out the ABTBP with the next bad thought I had, and to pretend to be confident while doing it…except by mid Monday morning I’d already become become upset at some silly little thing: printer only agreeing to print pages miniscule. While standing at the printer watching quarter-sized pages on full A3 sheets come out, I could feel the tears coming (realising I’d miss my uni tutorial because I wouldn’t have any legible notes to discuss = waste of money, paper and time) and felt like an idiot for yet again being so slow with my work that I didn’t have time to print my work properly, which would underline how useless I am at getting work done in time for deadlines or meetings etc. Cue tears and more time wasted being upset.

As I felt the tears coming I was desperately trying to think of what it is you’re meant to think when you have a bad thought. Except by that point I was already too upset to think very logically. I tried asking for some advice on the Living Life website on how to tackle negative thoughts without having to play mind gymnastics – which in all honesty I’m not going to be able to cope with when I’m close to tears! I was in tears again as I was writing that website post just thinking about what an idiot I was to get upset at the printing. It’s only university work! (which makes me more upset to think how on earth am I going to cope in the Real World??).

The only thing I can think of is just making writing out those 5 steps on a little piece of paper to keep in my pocket.  Another member on the support forum also said she uses pocket lists to help her keep her thoughts and actions in check. Though chances are that piece of paper will just end up going through the wash and littering my clothes with white fluff (or am I catastrophising again?!)  Looking back at the list now, I’m not really sure it would have helped. I can do the ‘labelling’, but how do you ‘leave it’ or realistically ‘stand up to it’??

Using Celine’s method, of finding a more rational explanation and objective statement, was equally as impossible to do while starting to feel upset. Even now, when I think about it, I still feel equally frustrated with myself: “I didn’t give myself enough time to experiment with printing. It will cost money to get it right. My portfolio isn’t meant to be perfect yet. That is the idea of a tutorial anyway, to help improve it. He isn’t the one I will be asking for a reference from, and he wouldn’t write a bad reference based on this one lack of tutorial anyway. I am unhappy that I didn’t make as much use of the tutorial as I had hoped/planned. I have a headache now because I didn’t drink enough water the day before. I made sure I had enough sleep last night, so I probably feel less bad about myself than I might otherwise have felt.”

Summary of the bad

I’m starting to identify a pattern in my moods over the week… I tend to have a good weekend, exhaust myself and then when Monday comes realise how much I have to do and what I didn’t get done over the weekend, because of having done fun but apparently unproductive things, and make myself feel upset about myself and frustrated by what I’ve not done, which then frustrates me when I waste more time being upset and underlining that I don’t seem to be able to cope.

Well it’s the second week in a row that Monday has been my wobbliest day (this is a Good Thing in itself, if I can identify a particular day that hasn’t been so good – the wobbles are starting to become the exception rather than the norm…fingers crossed at least). Or else the other pattern is that when I try to print anything, I will get upset. Unfortunately I’m not sure I will always be able to avoid Mondays or printing altogether, or avoid anything else that I might get worked up over. As my doctor says, ‘maybe it’s my personality to get worked up over anything…I’d die a thousand deaths simply trying to boil an egg’ (all his words, not mine!)

The rest  of the good…

So trying to keep it balanced…I want to write about the good things I’ve been doing this week, then things that are evidence that I’m working with my ‘new rule’: ‘try hard to keep and maintain my high standards in career and personal life goals (eg sailing, hockey, friends, family and happiness), and enjoy doing it all’.

My week so far, and plans for the next couple of days:

Friday

  • Finished moving everything out of studio
  • Arranged time to go over portfolio stuff with tutor

Saturday

  • Started work on portfolio

Sunday

  • Walked in Wye Valley
  • Early night (10hrs sleep)

Monday

  • met tutor to go over portfolio
  • Worked on portfolio
  • Skype call with friend
  • Got drinks with friends in evening

Tuesday

  • Hidcote Gardens
  • Went through photos from day
  • worked on portfolio
  • Did food shop

Wednesday

  • Pack up room
  • Sort out paying balance of rent
  • Collect train tickets to Glasgow to meet sailing ship
  • visit Bristol & go to friends for supper

Thursday

  • Finish packing
  • work on portfolio
  • Final session with Celine

Friday

  • Squeeze in tutorial on portfolio
  • Leave university town for good

Summary of the good

I think I’ve managed a fairly balanced week. Nothing totally out of this world, but, after tonight, will have included three trips out of my university town – a record in a week for me! Even Monday, which I thought was a write off because of problems with printing to prepare for tutorial, and being dehydrated from the day before so quite headache-y, I still did other things, saw tutor even if I didn’t have anything to discuss, and did stuff with friends in the evening. I haven’t felt quite so much like I was simply going through the motions either – there were some genuine laughs on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. I hope that’s an improvement that will stay.

Plans and more plans

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My session with Celine last week ended up with the homework to write a six month and a year plan, as well as to record how I got on with meeting those plans and following my new rule, ‘try hard where reasonable to reach and keep my high standards in career and personal life goals, and to enjoy doing it’.

The first part of my session this Thursday (already #9) was going over what I had done this past week: I’d met up with friends for drinks, gone to a food festival, watched a film, did laundry like a normal person, visited a landscape architect’s office with friends, and finished my final piece of uni work. My general feeling for the week was that on paper it looked like I’d had a pretty good time, Celine even wrote a great big ‘GREAT!’ across my notes. Except that in reality, finishing that final piece of uni work had totally exhausted me, so all I could think about was being frustrated with myself for having taken such a long time over it all – which frustrated me further as  I knew I should be feeling relieved and happy I’d managed to fit in a balance of ‘normal people’ things too, but I was too tired to appreciate all that! I just hope that it was just tiredness that stopped me properly enjoying everything, because if not then I don’t know what to do. I think I will have to keep going through the motions of doing other things, so that when I have the energy to properly enjoy them again, I will be doing them anyway and able to enjoy them. Or just fake it til you feel it???

The second part was to go over my plans. I’ve already mentioned how I’m not totally convinced that I’ve moved on from tripping over immediate problems and am ready to put all my effort into making grand plans. But I thought I would have a go with it. I ended up with three versions of a six month plan, all of which involve getting back involved with the activities I always used to do, but differ on what the main thing I’m doing, or location. The year plan is to make sure that what I’ve started finding out about during the first six months are in action:

Plan A – based on applying for jobs, getting a job and setting up ‘home’ in the UK – making new friends and reconnecting with old ones from my boarding school, undergrad and post grad universities.

Plan B – getting a job back at home, probably meaning I’d need to move back in with my parents. On the one hand that feels like I’m moving backwards. Though it has the obvious financial advantages, and I already know a lot of the people involved in the activities and groups I’d like to get back into, and some of my friends are still there, so that whole side of things is less of an unknown and not so scary.

Plan C – if a job doesn’t materialise either at home or in the UK, I’d fall back on my original original plan from a few years ago, to continue with my postgrad course and write my Master’s dissertation. That wouldn’t be bad in itself, but I’m nervous I’m not up to it. Hopefully I would find that that is just an irrationale fear. And then go back to plan A or B and find a job. If plan C went according to plan, and possibly as a part time student and an unscary job-  I could have more free time to spend travelling, ideally volunteering or working along the way, to help keep costs down.

I was fairly happy with these plans.  Any of them have their positives and negatives, and hopefully cover any eventuality in the big things – whether I can get a job fairly easily, whether I continue with my postgrad or not, what country I end up in – so won’t feel like I’ve fallen off and failed at my plans. Also hoped that, by leaving my list of things I would like to get back into as broad and not fixed, will give me ideas when I’m feeling braindead but not be so stringent that if I don’t feel like doing them all, it won’t be another fail. I expected that Celine would point out that the point of the list was to get me to do things, and not to give the possibility of not getting around to doing things and being sucked  into a new job or dissertation to the detriment of everything else, which has been a big problem for me while doing the PGDip uni course. I tried pointing out that I didn’t want to just set myself a load more deadlines that would put pressure on me, which as the past couple of years have shown I’m not good at, so she left it at that. I do honestly want to get back to doing the things I used to do, so I hope that will be enough to get me going again and keep doing them.

The last part of the session was the most useful part. I guess from what I said through in the first two parts of the session, it was clear I’m still getting caught up on the day to day things. I told her how each week after seeing her, I feel quite upbeat (I won’t complain about that!) and every time I feel like this will be the week I will stop crying over silly things. Except that so far at least something every week, often tiny, has worked me up and tipped me over. It’s exhausing aside from the added worry that I’ll make an idiot of myself dissolving into tears at an unsuitable moment or place. Another common theme through everything I do, is that I hate wasting time, and I want everything to count. I presumed that both those things, not wanting to cry every week, and not wanting to waste time, are totally understandable ‘rules’ that most people would subscribe to. Celine thought that it was ‘worth looking at those more’, which translates to, ‘you weirdo, no wonder you’re unhappy’. Anyway, we wrote down the train of thought over a particular ‘trigger’ this week:

My computer not wanting to save the file properly that the printer would agree to read properly (fairly harmless in the grand scheme of things.)

>> felt frustrated with myself for being so slow when I realised that yet another day would go passed when I hadn’t finished my work. Although I knew that I had a university extension for the work, I had wanted to get the work done by Monday, so that the tutor would barely have realised  I gave it in after my earlier Friday deadline. Silly me. Ended in tears and me feeling like gouging out my eyeballs (thankfully not quite literally, but still making me realise I was reacting like an idiot. Cue more tears)

>> me thinking that everything I do wastes time and clearly I’m not doing things right: if I were, I would have finished this work over a month ago like all the rest of my friends.

>> clearly I’m an idiot and can’t cope with the work.

I guess it doesn’t help that all through this thread I’m realising I’m an idiot for reacting as I do and letting this spiral down and down. Even more so as it is crying over uni work…it’s only uni work! Except that I do spiral down and down which seems to confirm I am an idiot. The result is that I waste even more time being upset at not coping and being an idiot, which then makes me more upset for wasting time and being an idiot!! And round and round, down and down I go.

Celine suggested that I try to unwind the story and make it logical, so that I will stop spiraling down and wasting time, and can stop myself either at the first set of tears, or even preferably before. So:

My computer not wanting to save the file properly that the printer would agree to read properly

>> Think: it is the fault of the computer

>> I can come back and do it tomorrow, when someone else is around to help with computer geekery

>> Recognise that I’m not happy about it, that it’s upset me as I wanted to finish.

This thought process is meant to be better because it is logical/objective and therefore avoids the self-criticism spiral, while also being believable because it acknowledges that I’m unhappy and upset at not finishing. I thought the first parts sounded better than my original version, as it didn’t jump to me feeling so slow and were more problem solving orientated, but I didn’t see how the last bit would stop me from feeling badly about myself. Celine suggested that the emotion would more likely be anger and irritation at other things, rather than directed at myself. I’m not sure that’s a good thing either. I guess I hadn’t mentioned about the eye gouging or that I had already smashed my computer mouse at some point during the day. I wouldn’t like to see what I could manage in pure anger and irritation.

Anyway, as I said already, and said at the time, I thought that little exercise was the most useful part of the session. I slightly question it now, but I guess I do want to try putting it into action, and that is part of my plans of the week: When I feel that something might tip me over, to stop and try to work out a a more logical thought that is less likely to make myself frustrated with myself. If I can get through this week without tears, it will be worth it, so I’m willing to try. Just need to remember to cotton wool myself and everything else if the anger and irritation takes hold 😉

When I thanked her for going through that thread with me, she admitted that something had ‘clicked’ with her when I described feeling that I shouldn’t cry so easily, but that such little things seem to tip me over. She told me that if it were her being up against a deadline and then having the computer do irritating things, she would have been in tears too. Then she described how last week during Supervision, she had a migraine and had had a tough week, and something her boss said just tipped her into tears. She was so angry with herself for breaking down over ‘only work’. I expect she was making those stories up to make me not beat myself up so much for letting things get me me, but I couldn’t help having a slight feeling of the blind leading the blind…

Ah yes. I am freaked.

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I couldn’t remember what I was going to write about while trying to write that previous post. How silly (that was me ‘coping’ by obliterating my thoughts). I was going to write my thoughts on how freaked I am about finishing uni and trying to get a real job!!

That someone would actually want to pay me??? I wouldn’t trust/want to employ myself! Those thoughts going round in my head haven’t been very condusive to getting my uni work finished. Which just underlines how hopeless I am when any deadlines are mentioned. I have no idea how to avoid them though? Everything has a deadline. It wouldn’t be a job if someone wasn’t expecting a piece of work to be completed? Those thoughts have been swirling round me head for months now. This week it totally hasn’t help having that MP suggest mental people might like to work for less. While that is definintely the thought I’d been having as a solution to my worries: that if I offered to work for less then there wouldn’t been the same level of expectation and pressure on me – the one thing that made me feel a bit better was recognising that that wasn’t a rational solution or thought, and that of course my work, when I complete it, is worthy, and that with positive support, I would be able to get it done as well as anyone else. Ha! So much for ‘recognising’ that as ‘irrational’! Now someone in real power is suggesting that as the Real Answer! Let me just go and curl up now >>

Where has this week gone?

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Not sure really what has happened since last week. I’ve been feeling a bit all over the place and not getting anywhere with anything.

After last week’s day of self-sabotage, I saw Enise. I’d had been stuck the previous week and had emailed her, but she only phone me back last week. By then I had had the second slip, so she said I could go over and see her. In fact as my tutors were the ones to tell me I needed to let up on myself and take an extension, I didn’t need a medical note again. But Enise was useful for generally letting me know my various options for support over the summer when I will be away from uni and this town, and what to do about signing on to another GP practice, or rejoining my existing one as a normal person (students are another species or in a parallel universe it seems). I guess that puts my mind a bit at ease, though that has never been one of my worries (thankfully), I just figured things woud sort themselves out over the next few months.

Basically support options over the next few months boils down to a cCBT course (called livinglifetothefull.com I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. Not really convinced by it. It all seems like too much ‘all good in theory, but in reality…’, which was how I found the guided self help I was initially offered by the IAPT service), and some more Books on Prescription. I pointed out that I’d looked at quite a few and hadn’t really ever identified with the case studies, so hadn’t found them very useful. She told me about a series called ‘Introducing…’ which as more like workbooks that just stories,  so  I would make them my own, rather than reading about other people (I sound so selfish…), but then that comes back to the same ‘all good in theory…’ again (I must be sounding so dismal). I might give them a try, and they’re not very expensive (£2.65, free shipping) though I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather spend my pennies on!

Enise did say she’d push to make sure I got as many more sessions as I could with Celine while I’m still in the university town. I’m happy for that as that is the one thing I have found useful, except that most of the sessions have been either just focusing on the deadlines I was pressed up against, or just skimming the surface of  deeper issues and helping ‘solve’ them on a theoretical level. The things I’ve come up with so far (such as the previous worksheets I’ve mentioned) have all been good and hunky dory, but have not really helped (at all) on my day to day moods, deadlines and slumps I keep having.

I saw Celine again last Thursday, session 8 by now. She was pleased with the stuff I’d come up on with on my last worksheet, of identifying the goods and bads of my ‘rule’ and how I could change it so it would be useful to me. The result of the session was a reworked ‘rule’, and homework to come up with a six month plan and a year’s plan and goals. On the one hand I know that as these sessions have to come to an end, more because of me moving away than having used up an ‘alloted’ amount of time, so it is good we’re looking twoars the future, I’m also scared that with still having so many little difficulties every day, that I’m running before I’m crawling by just focussing on the big stuff. I’m reminded of the saying, ‘look after your pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’. If I could manage all the little things better, and not keep tripping up on them, then maybe everything would work out ok anyway. There is the danger there (which Celine has also said), that it will just keep going as I am like that, and always be about to trip, or spend my time avoiding trip ups, whereas really I need move on to a whole different plane to avoid those trip-ups altogether. But at the same time keeping on tripping up while just thinking loftily about bigger stuff isn’t helping me on a day to day level. I think I’ve just said the same thing about five different times. That’s how I feel about everything. Just the same things going round and round all the time. Saying things in different ways but nothing ever developing or changing.

I think I did start out with a point of this blog post in mind, but I can’t remember it anymore. I’ll think of it again. Anyway I guess this is just a summary of who I’ve seen, what they’ve recommended, and me just going round and round in circles with the same boring thoughts.

Self-sabotage?

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Today’s not been such a good day. Thinking loftily about my future a few days ago did make me feel a bit better. It made my current deadlines and tangles over work seem small in the bigger picture. But now it’s Tuesday and I’m brought back into the current moment. I’m so far behind with my work. I tried making a plan for my work for the final two weeks of uni, and I’m still working on last week’s stuff, and the due date is Friday. It’s not scarily close, like if it were tomorrow, but in a way that means I just have a longer drawn out race/crawl to the finish.

Due dates. Marginally better than ‘deadlines’. But all too much like giving birth (not really likening it to labour. I have no idea what that would be like). I’m ready for an epidural now please.

I’d hoped to have a tutorial today, just to make sure I didn’t have too many walls destined to fall down, but I wasn’t ready with my plans. I did try asking one of the tutors a fairly straightforward question during the morning: ‘given that I have three days left to get all my work complete, what is a reasonable amount to expect to be able to do, and what parts should I focus on that actually matter?’ I listed all the things I had on my list, with the hope of circling a few ones that he thought were important (I’ve lost/never had any gauge of what counts in their marking criteria). He just looked at me and said, ‘You look awful, are you ok?’

I just stood there and couldn’t think what to say. And promptly burst into tears.

From there starts the self-sabotage. (Well it started last night. I only ended up with 5 hours sleep as I was trying to get something ready for a tutorial today. In the end I just had to go to sleep. But now since I’ve been more regularly getting 7/8 hours sleep, I couldn’t do anything useful today. So my fault for lack of sleep). I feel like such an idiot getting worked up over my uni work. Something about the fact that I don’t *need* to do this piece of work to pass, yet obviously I *want* to, and if I want to do it, then I want to do it half decently. Otherwise I might as well have started my summer holiday weeks ago. I’m frustrated for being an idiot and getting worked up over it when it doesn’t matter. I know it doesn’t help anything to be frustrated, and just makes me waste more time being in tears. Except when I think about that, I just get even more irritated with myself and go round in circles.

Basically there is no way I can come close to completing my work for Friday, having wasted today being upset, and yesterday/past weeks for being so slow. I know that my deadlines are a bit flexible, but  really don’t want to have to change them as then I really will know I can’t cope with the work. I’m able to accept that I’m six weeks behind, as two of the weeks I was physically ill (from exhaustion), and another month basically zombified by mirtazapine. But I really wanted to show, to myself more than anyone, that I could do it in more or less the same time as an ordinary person.

I don’t know what to do. All I’m good at it seems is beating myself up.

CBT Convert?

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Ha! Reading that last entry must make me look like I’m trying to be the Gov’t’s poster child on CBT interventions.

I’ve have mixed feelings on this…

When I agreed to go for an assessment with the IAPT team, I think I really was look for a quick fix. I couldn’t have cared less if it was a sticky plaster that was going to slip off in the rain. At least it was something that might change the position I was in, which I wasn’t enjoying.  I was also (still am) at university, and as far as  I could see (which wasn’t much past the end of my nose), the semesters and assignments have strict time constraints and I was falling ever lower and faster towards these deadlines, and seeing them as just that: the line that would make me dead once I hit them. That may all sound very melodramatic, and I knew it was, but that realisation only made me feel worse. (I’d long been going down the meds route, but it kept feeling like they were just conking out on me. My tutors kept trying to reassure me about my work, but when they realised that maybe the problems were more to do with me, than the work, they shied away from helping.)

I am grateful that through my university, I was able to see an IAPT assessor, SG, the following week, and he offered that I could start the local Talking Therapies programme with him within a couple of weeks. (In fact I think I am remembering this wrongly, it wasn’t quite as quick, as it involved first my GP suggesting I see the university’s advisor (Enise), who then told me about the local Talking Therapies service with the IAPT team, and eventually I made the appointment to be assessed. But still, I appreciate that it was relatively very quick with little waiting time, only a bit of time at the start being passed from person to person). My friend, who for whatever reason isn’t going through the university access route, has been given a waiting time of three months, for the same service in the same town.

I’m grateful too that the university has been very understanding, more than I had imagined they would be. The deadlines have been flexible, and it’s helped rethinking them as ‘dates to work towards’, rather than a killing guillotine. I may have missed this term’s external examination board, but I can still catch the next one in September, so I will still be able to graduate at the same ceremony along with my peers. In the grand scheme of things a few weeks really doesn’t matter. I’m still nervous that I could find myself in the same position again feeling horrible about myself and my work, and that in the future it would be in a real job being paid to supposedly produce actual work, and to me that is an even scarier thought. But I think I’m making progress (I’m not in tears thinking about it right now. yay!)

So, I’m learning that CBT and the IAPT service hasn’t been the solve-everything-make-a-little-happy-Zee. But the idea that something could be help me relatively quickly did make me feel a little bit better. If I had been told at the start, well after nine-months-of-interrupted-face-to-face-sometimes-telephones-self-help-with-some-help you might start to feel a bit of progress, I probably would have just curled up in a corner and not even tried.

It’s obviously a fine balancing act they have to play with individuals, especially crucially at the beginning and they don’t even know you, and that’s before they add into the mix budgets, targets and other number games. It also helps them that my issues were mostly imagined. They didn’t actually have to get their hands dirty digging deeper. I suspect they are not very good at that. Maybe I can take some credit too: its in my nature to persevere (aka stubborn), maybe if I hadn’t felt so desperate I wouldn’t have bothered making sure that just because I’d had six sessions with SG (back in Jan/feb time), or bothered to try to do session homework (even if it is just an hour the night before), I wouldn’t have reached the point I’m at now.

I finally feel that I might be safe to consider myself in the waiting period on my anti-depressants. If I can get through the next six months feeling more or less as I do now (or even possibly better if I dare wish), then I think I will be confident to begin to come off them. I have no idea, and no way of knowing, if that’s just the nature of the depressing beast (I hate calling it a Black dog. I like dogs too much!) and it happens to be lifting now, if its because of other things settling in my life (though arguably transitioning from the security of education to the big bad employment world is actually a fairly major change), if my anti-depressant medication is now a good one for me (currently mirtazapine 30mg/day), or because of therapy. In reality it’s probably a combination of them all.

<taking cover now, waiting for the crash>

‘Challenging the Old Rule’

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This blog post is a continuation of my worksheet from my CBT session on Thursday. But it’s also struck me that I have seem some parallels on others’ blogs, specifically around plans and goals. I have found these others so inspiring for a number of reasons: So often I can’t untangle my thoughts in my own mind, let alone put them on paper (or computer screen). What others write so eloquently is like them putting a dollop of olive oil in my sticky strands of grey matter. It is also heartening to see others’ face their challenges with such strength, and to show me that my ‘issues’ are really not that important. Not in a demeaning way, but helps me see things in the bigger picture. Recently I’ve had the tendency to ‘not see the forest for the trees’ (or whatever that saying is).

The rule that I’ve identified as causing me problems, ‘I must push myself to try ever hard to reach my high standards, to the exclusion of everything else’, stems from my belief that I’m not good enough/as good as others.

The worksheet has the following headings:

Origins/’It is understandable that I hold this rule because…’

Irrationality/’However, the rule is unreasonable because…’

Dysfunctionality/’It is helpful/unhelpful because…

Reformulation/’A more helpful fule would be…’

Action plan/’Given that I have held the rule for a long while, it will take time and effort to change it. What I need to do is…’

GO! Let the games begin…

Origins:

I think I’ve mostly covered that in my previous worksheet: I had a supportive upbringing given lots of opportunities and encouragement. Did well at school, seen as a high achiever. Because of support, encouragement and that I did well early on, I’ve had the luxury to set myself high standards and mostly achieve them. Now I still have those high standards and feel I need to achieve them because I expect that of myself, as well as to ensure that the good start I was given by my parents, and the effort I’ve put in til now, are not wasted. I want everything to count, and not waste more time either.

Irrationality & disfunctionality…

Helpful:

I’m rather goal orientated, and have good perseverance. This has payed dividends in the past, so I don’t think that in itself is a bad thing, or irrational. It has served me well in the past with lots of things, eg getting myself from the operating table and onto the international hockey pitch in under two weeks was only achieved through sheer determination and encouragement from my nurse/hockey team manager. I wonder at my younger self how I managed to fit everything in: playing ‘cello, hockey training & matches (each x 3: school, youth and national squads/orchestras), volunteering at an old folks’ home and at the local aquarium, playing tennis and at the same time doing well with school work. I know at the time I had some low points and wished I wasn’t good at things, as that wasn’t ‘cool’, but I think I enjoyed it and wanted to do everything. No one ever forced anything on me (which I’m grateful for).

Unhelpful:

The problem for me arises when I end up with such a narrow perspective that all I can see is that goal, and focusing on it is to the detriment of everything else. Unfortunately my view isn’t so narrow that I can’t see that, so my real problem arises when I can see that my perspective is becoming so narrow and that I’m missing out on other things that I would like to be doing at the same time. Everything then cascades on from there:

  • I start to resent my work towards that goal.
  • I try harder to reach the goal so that what I’m missing out on isn’t missed out on in vain. Except then I exhaust myself – which I know isn’t good and doesn’t actually help anything.
  • I end up not enjoying the work, not being able to enjoying the other things that I could be doing, or even properly enjoy what I do fit in, because then I think they’re taking away from the goal I’m trying to get to.
  • As well as lack of enjoyment, then I have regrets for not doing the other things I would like to do and guilty when I do do the things that should be fun.
  • Maybe the goals I’ve set myself are unachievable anyway. (I still argue against the perfection label: generally when I achieve what I’ve set out to achieve, then I am happy. I don’t do the thing of moving goal posts. Promise.)
  • At the bottom of the spiral is me in a low mood, which isn’t enjoyable for anyone.

Go me…grr. Yet I can’t seem to get myself to not focus only on the goal I’ve set out to achieve.

If it were a goal that I only thought I should be aiming for or to fulfill others’ wishes, then I might be happier to take my eyes off it. But at the moment, my goal is to complete university with a portfolio that I can be proud of and willing to discuss at job interviews, and a good reference from uni tutors. This is really is something I want, because the field of landscape architecture is really what I want to get into and brings together my interests (now I remember all the other things I used to do too, like lots of art and photography –  winning competitions etc, each year I would grow tons of plants to enter in the local Agricultural Exhibition and I studied [sorry, read] geography at undergrad). So working in that would be my ideal job. Also I rather need a job if I’m going to have money to live off, so I need show myself well to be employable.

Reformulating a more helpful rule…

Previously I haven’t been able to challenge that goal with a more rational one that I can believe.

Though just writing this much has been eye-opening for me: I can see that when I was younger I had lots of goals all at the same time – everything I did was working towards a goal, so it never felt that I was taking time away from the end goal, and I could enjoy it all.

Therefore the key isn’t to take away goals, it’s just to make sure I don’t get focused on just one thing and blow it out of proportion. While I’m not 16 anymore and what I used to do may not be possible any more, so simply doing again what I used to do isn’t realistic, I need to find away of ensuring that I can follow the rule: “I must push myself to try ever harder to reach my high standards” without the caveat “to the exclusion of everything else”.

Action Plan…

  1. Get through this final week of university. A distinction doesn’t matter. I can put together a portfolio that shows my best work that I have already done. If this final piece of work isn’t what I would like then I can improve it over the summer. The tutors know I’ve been conscientious throughout the course, so will probably write a good reference regardless of this last piece of work (providing I do at least bother to submit it).
  2. Finish making summer plans, be a good crew member on the Tall Ships, enjoy the time off. Those are goals in themselves and I should approach them as such as I always used to do, and not see them simply as frivolous activities that waste time.
  3. Join clubs/societies/groups for my different interests, including sports, music, art/photography, gardening. As above, these are goals and not time wasters. They are fun, good for being social as well as improving my skills.
  4. Volunteer again.
  5. Adopt a cat from the SPCA. As well as the enjoyment and therapeutic qualities of stroking cats blah blah blah, this is will help make sure I go home in the evenings to look after it and don’t spend unreasonable amounts of time at work. My goal is to become Cat Lady (if all else fails…)
  6. Don’t be worried about interviews. I am good enough. Get a job, preferably one that is meaningful and also fits with my interests and uses my skills. This is number 6 on the list, and should be treated just as that. It is not the be all and end all.

<I am tagging this ‘step in the right direction’, as I do feel somewhat happier even just writing this stuff down. I feel like I have a plan that I want to do and can see myself enjoying it, without it being too arduous>

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