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…