‘Yes, it WAS worth it’

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Back around the New Year, Enise (uni MH advisor), asked me: ” I wonder, when you look back now, if you think it was worth all the stress and effort?!!”.

I finally had the confidence today to write as a reply: “It’s taken me a while to decide, but I think that it was worth the effort, if not the stress, last year! (sometimes even find myself missing university and the strange landscape architecture studio life!) Thanks again.”

It feels good: It took six months from my last appointment with her, last June, to feel I could reliably thank her for helping me feel more positive and sorted. It’s me taken a further six months to decide that yes, persevering with uni and staying where I was living was all worth it. It may have been a flipping long ‘blip’ (as my friend tried to reassure me it was), but it feels good to look back at the good memories of the last few years and enjoy them, and also know I’ve learnt a lot about what I can do for myself in the future!

When I read Celine’s CBT competion letter to me, I was at first a bit miffed that, despite feeling she got to know me quite well, she’d just sent me a bog standard letter: “continue to work on your new rules for living – getting better balance in your life with work and play, sleeping well and having fun”. Then I re-read it and realised quite simply she was speaking directly to me, referring to my own silly little saying she helped me make:  “Don’t lose heart, Don’t lose sleep, Put fun in wherever I can”. I’m grateful to have discovered that three such simple things (in idea at least) can have such a powerful effect. I haven’t perfected the art of it yet, but seeing how quickly I can slip when I stray from those three things is enough incentive to make a conscious decision to keep trying everyday.

With that, good night x

Seeing the good: Week in Pictures – 12th-18th March

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Pne of Dream Electric’s recent posts, ‘Three Good Things – The Positive Data-Log’ struck a chord with me – it was what Celine (CBT Lady) encouraged me to do back in June last year, and what I aimed to do by starting the challenge of photographing what I did or saw each day! I find have a tendency to automatically see the bad side of things, so challenged myself to end each caption on a positive note, regardless of how it started out. It must be a positive thing to be able to do that (see what  I did there?!)!

Monday, 12th March: I've been keeping an eye on the buds on the shrub by the office door,. Reassuringly they'd sprung open over the weekend.

Tuesday, 13th March. This photo is meant to represent my Tuesday night running activity (our club runs start and finish at this tennis club but). After feeling a bit knocked by one of my bosses telling me my drawings weren't good enough, I appreciated going running and being competently able to put one foot in front of the other!

Wednesday, 14th March - Juicy kiwi berries (basically what it says on the tin: grape sized very sweet kiwis, eaten whole!) were on a sale offer at Budgens today, seemed very exotic in a corner of Suffolk!

Thursday 15th March: My birthday! Went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the old fashioned but perfectly decent Riverside theatre. Although at 26 I have to accept that I'm more than a quarter the way through my life, the pensioners in the film made me feel young still!

Friday 16th: Hazy Sunshine. I tried to line the sun up as a light bulb on the mast, but then forgot and missed half of it from the frame! I hope you still get the idea.

Saturday 17th: Came back from three hours of rowing to find I'd 'locked' my bike like this! Though I was thoroughly frustrated with myself for being so inoompetient, I did sort of persuade myself to see the funny side of it (my post on FB got quite a few '*likes*) and to be grateful that I live in a fairly civilized town with an undesirable 10pound granny bike.

Sunday 18th: I visited the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex. It's a quiet time of year for the gardens, but the woodland bulbs and scree garden sempervirens were worth the logistics of 3 trains and a cycle ride to get there!

Weekend in Pictures

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I’ve got to admit I surprised myself with an impressively full, for me, weekend! After several slumpish weeks I decided I needed to do something to change things, so on Tuesday, before the middle of the week crawl hit, I planned a weekend of activities in London. Though there were a few times when I tempted just to stay at home and hibernate (but knowing I’d berate myself again for being a useless hermit) – my aunt aptly described the logistics of organising my friends: ‘like herding cats’ – everything fitted together nicely like a jigsaw.

I travelled to London on Friday night.

By their nature I think rail stations are pretty grim places, so I appreciated this cheerful little touch in Ipswich station as I made my way to London.

Spotting this on one of the trains in London made me smile. Almost made up for the fact I'd jumped on the wrong train!

On Saturday morning I took my Granny out for a wheelchair walk along the Thames. We watched these scullers by Hampton Court. She later reported she had a very nice visit from her daughter-in-law. I guess she got it close enough, though I'm interested to know who she thinks her son is!

In the afternoon I visited Wisley. Though my friend thought it would be a washout to the point of not bothering to come, I still found a rainbow of colours and lots of textures. I also hope my company’s clients have generous budgets when I get to design their planting plans, I have made long lists of plants I’d love to include!

Colours and textures at Wisley

Saturday evening I met up with friends at an Iranian restaurant. Pomegranite and walnut sauce stew highly recommended!

Sunday morning went to see the Wildlife Photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum. I had lots of favourite photographs, though none of them were the winners actually selected by the judges!

Tern Style by Ilkka Rasanen. In a children's category no less! I would say it is well worth visiting, but Sunday was its last day! I think it will be touring the UK now, so in fact not too late to see it. It has inspired me to plan more photography focused outings, as well as just carrying my camera around for opportunistic snaps.

One of my own much more boring photos:

Exhibition Road, by the Natural History Museum, V&A, Royal Geographic Society and close to the Royal Albert Hall, has recently undergone a makeover, turning it into 'shared space'. With reduced road markings and no pavements, it is meant to be more pedestrian friendly and less car orientated. Its had mixed reviews, but considering that I was with two other landscape architect friends and none of us could agree on the 'rules of the road' in this scheme, I don't blame the general public for being a bit confused too! General consensus is that, unless its a very quiet Sunday afternoon, as it was, it is probably still best that pedestrians don't cross the road with a blind fold on!

We came across a nice Lebanese restuarant where we were talked into ordering far too many, but equally delicious, mezze dishes. I must have been inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine weekend (by chance I’d bought a carrot-coriander-houmous sandwich at Wisley too!) as I absent mindedly stocked up on houmous today in the supermarket.

Feeling well stuffed, had time just to dash back to pick up my stuff and start my mission of a journey to get home on Sunday night (thanks Greater Anglia, your rail ‘improvements’ had better be worth it!)

One other positive thing from last week:

7th March: Leaving work in the daylight for the first time this year!

I’m a graduate!

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Graduation. PGDip (Dist), Landscape Architecture. All good though I wish I'd brushed my hair!

My other major exciting thing recently (now already over a week ago), was my graduation ceremony last Tuesday!

It was fun seeing friends again, and I was really happy my mother flew over to England for the ceremony, so she could meet them, and my lecturers/tutors from the past two years. She’s heard all about them, and I suppose it’s better late than never to meet them in real life. She was pleased to thank them for all their looking after me too.

There were times this year when I couldn’t imagine actually getting there in the end. Though I’m embarrassed by the total drivel I found to worry about. But somehow, with lots of support, I (I should say ‘we’) managed it. And with a usefully selective memory, which I noticed before when I re-visited my uni last time, I even have fond memories to boot!

A Week of Freedom

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It’s now been exactly one week since I officially finished my postgrad university course (after several extensions and having dropped the MA dissertation component) <– struck through as I’m really trying to be a bit less pessimistic – no ‘excepts’/’yets’/’buts’, I Am A Post Graduate!

My aunt picked me up from my university town last week, and we managed to get all my stuff into her car in 3D jigsaw/Rubiks cube fashion.

I’m off sailing aboard tall ships this coming week. I have my fingers crossed that the last year/two years have just been a blip…a long blip…and hopefully a summer of doing completely other things will allow me to come back in the autumn raring to go and able to apply for jobs with confidence. Fingers crossed at least.

Final session

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I had my final session with Celine this afternoon. I’m sorry that they’re coming to an end. I’ve felt like I’ve been making progress. This is a good feeling in itself. But the last couple of sessions have felt rushed, like I was jumping ahead of myself, simply because we were trying to fit too much in. I’ve had 10 sessions (actually 11, as one afternoon she gave me two slots), and she never made me feel like I was ‘using’ up my allotted time. She always told me that she would be there for as long as I needed. I’m grateful for that reassurance. Though I’m not sure how long she could have realistically been allowed to keep that up. Or else she always knew that I would be leaving my university town before she was forced to stop the sessions, so was safe in pretending to reassure me they were limitless.

Anyway, one way or another, yesterday was my last session and today I’m leaving the town altogether. As usual at the beginning made a list of what to do in the session:

  • First: do ‘blue print’ stuff – the thing for me to take away from the therapy in a neat, condensed form,
  • then: ask about how to stop getting upset when I’m on the verge of becoming upset (going through my printer woe from earlier in the week. Not the only recent wobble, but one I’d written about already and seemed like a nicely contained, typically trivial example),
  • lastly: go over the positives of the previous week

The blue printing stuff was fine. Fairly formulaic and obviously just something they want everyone to fill out during the final session. Sleep kept coming up. Isn’t there a saying about sledgehammers and overkill…did it really take 10/11 sessions with Celine, plus how ever many with SG before, to find that my problems could be solved as easily as just  forcing myself to get 8 hours sleep each night? I don’t think that sleep itself isn’t the cause, symptom or problem, but I do agree it is a barrier to dealing with things.  Anyway I wrote down that my “message in a bottle” for my future self is “Don’t lose heart, don’t lose sleep, put fun in wherever I can” – what I made as a key ring fob a while back.

How to not get upset…I recounted what had happened earlier, and filled in one of those hot-cross bun thingies: Thoughts/emotions/Behaviours/Physical reaction. I had sort of hoped she would have an easy solution to how to rethink the situation in a less upsetting way at the time, before I reached the point of public tears (ie how to do the 5 step ABTBP of Living Life to the Full module 3). I said that I could come up with other ways of thinking about the problem afterwards, in theory, but in reality that hadn’t helped me at the time. Interestingly she agreed that when you’re up against a deadline and realising you’re wasting time/money/opportunitity for advice, it’s only natural to be upset. So maybe this counts as a ‘real problem’, rather than a ‘bad thought’? or else just that she recognised it would be really hard for me, once on the verge of tears, to do the mental gymnastics to make myself feel better.

Instead she suggested I should try to approach what I do differently, to avoid problems altogether – like being more organised and realistic in the first place, and have a contingency plan for when things don’t go right, eg in this case maybe it was unreasonable to have expected myself to be ready for a Monday tutorial anyway, if I were to fit a bit of fun and sleep in as well, which hopefully no one would argue with. Or I could have made sure I had enough credit on my printing card or have left enough time to be able to find an ATM to get cash out to top it up.

Well we could all wish to live in an ideal world.

At this point she then pulled me up on how, “when you walked into the room today, you listed what you thought we could get through in the session, and I knew that was most likely unrealistic, and so warned you we probably wouldn’t get to the third thing, of going through your previous week’s activities”. Oh hum, I guess I should have warned her that I’d already Dx myself with “Over-optimism that invariably leads to a crashing low mood“. But I guess it does also match up to the post I wrote about brick walls – I tend to under estimate time and only give myself enough time to bash the walls down, which will always hurt and end in tears, rather than be realistic and give myself time to look at the problem and find the path of least resistance. On the plus side, hopefully recognising all that now is a step away from Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I also think those low moods are less deep than they were a few months ago, and hopefully that is directly linked to improving my sleep, and therefore sustainable, rather than pure chance.

I’ll write a more coherent summary of my thoughts and what I’ve learnt from my sessions with Celine when I’ve had a bit more time to reflect. In the meantime, maybe I do just need to try harder to be a more normal person to avoid problems, and then just accept I will be upset when I come up against some, so that hopefully I don’t waste more time being frustrated with myself for being upset!

Oh, we did have time to go through what I’d done the previous week. So maybe my problem isn’t over-optimism after-all! I didn’t bother to tell her though that her negativity just reminded me of typical hurricane forecasts: they’ll always predict the hurricane’ll hit, just so that on the off chance it does, they’re covered, and for all the rest of the time no one will complain that a hurricane doesn’t hit!

Coping & Maintenance

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The second to last section on the worksheet I’ve been working on:
‘WHAT HELPS ME COPE’
Helpful                                    Unhelpful
Helpful:
I’ve begun by just copying over the list I have under the ‘Weapons’ tab. I’ve been trying to build up my arsenal to attack my problems from various angles, including medication, various talking therapies and generally trying to take care of myself and put fun leisure in wherever I can.
  • Mirtazapine: 30mg/day (around bed time. Zonks me for about three hours)
  • Diazepam: 2mg PRN (works out to be about 1-2x2mg once or twice a week, more around deadlines)
  • Talking Therapy: 1hr/week (more or less) with Celine, an NHS CBT therapist who comes to my university
  • University Advisor: a meeting with Enise every now and again (every few months)
  • Making a conscious effort to get 7 or 8 hours sleep/night, eating 3 proper meals a day
  • Making a conscious decision to “put fun in wherever I can”, especially when I feel anxiety rising
Also:
  • Art – lots of sketching, especially botanical illustration. I think that helps slow me down and I can focus on fine detail which actually produces something. Helps especially when I’m getting really frustrated. (most recently a series of ‘Zentangles‘)
  • Walking, photograph – though these things only help before I’m wound up!
  • Generally trying to persevere, not give up and get through problems, reminding myself that if I can get through a particular bump, I will come out the other side (although this can lead to exhaustion and can be Unhelpful too…)

Some less helpful things:

  • NOT yoga (tried. failed. miserably)
  • Staying up too late and missing meals trying to push myself too hard to get work done = physical exhaustion.
  • Pushing myself to get things done when I’d rather be doing fun things = resentment.
  • Getting distracted with fun things and not getting the goal achieved = guilt.
The final section is:
‘WHAT MAINTAINS THE PROBLEM NOW’
Thoughts
|
Physical  – + – Emotions
|
Behaviours
I’ve done this ‘hot cross bun’ thing before in my sessions with Celine. It’s become fairly clear as I’ve been listing my ‘rules I live by’ and ‘what helps me cope’ is that everything is a vicious circle. Now that I’m in it, the more I push myself to get through a problem, the more I feel its a problem that I have to push myself. With the physical (exhaustion) and mental problems (guilt, resentment) as well as cloudy thinking, lack of focus and general frustration that come with it.
Therefore, my maintenance pattern boils down to:
“I’m not good enough”
|
                Exhaustion – + – Frustration, worry
|
Push myself, be upset
I think I knew all this already. Which is why I’ve become so irritated with myself because I can see how silly it is, but it’s still happening. I have been trying to build my resilience so that I can make the effort to either challenge the initial thought, or if that is too difficult or too believable, then at least I will have the energy to not be such a slave to my emotions and stop myself from doing the behaviours that result in a bad physical state with low resilience.
Here are links to my entries for the rest of the worksheet: Intro | Early Things | Core Beliefs | Rules | Current Problem & Triggers |

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