‘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

To cCBT or not to cCBT

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I had planned to write a few blog posts following how I was getting on with the Living Life to the Full (LLTTF) cCBT modules this summer.

Except I haven’t.

I haven’t even looked at the website recently, and have just had to request another login password as I can’t remember mine anymore. Or at least the one I do remember apparently isn’t the right one.

I don’t blame myself for not following the course while I was sailing, as aside from the fact my mind would be somewhere totally else and my time filled with activity, internet access on the ship was via satellite and would have cost  €1.65 per kb!

But I have little excuse now that I am home, with freely available broadband and wi-fi.

I have wanted to look and listen to some of the modules, but my only excuse is that I simply don’t know how I can listen to them, with Dr Chris William’s distinctive Scottish accent, without raising eyebrows in my family. (I know I could use ear phones, but I have wonky ears that make them uncomfortable to use).

I suppose my main problem now is why am I worried about what my family think of me using a computer based therapy programme? I guess it is because it is just that- therapy. That’s the sort of thing that my dad’s sister is into. But not me, not my own parents’ daughter needing therapy. They know I got super stressed by uni this past year, and I’ve told my mother I take mirtapazine (to reassure her I was doing something about my moods, so she wouldn’t get too worried). I did vaguely mention that I was seeing someone at my university for advice about work. Though I think I probably conflated SG (NHS Stress Guy), Enise (University mental health advisor), Celine (CBT Lady), my dr, various nurses and uni tutors into the same person to avoid really revealing who or what help I was receiving.

Maybe I am just censoring myself. Maybe I should just be forward with my own family (if I can’t be open with them, who can I be open with?): I got super stressed, stressiness slipped into depression, I’ve been on anti-depressants which have helped take the edge off things, and I had been going to cognitive behavioural therapy (does putting in extra big words help soften the t???). Now I need to try to keep the momentum up with the cCBT stuff in order to help me learn better ways of dealing with things to help make sure I don’t fall back into the depths of depressions again. OK? Happy? Case closed.

In fact maybe that is what I should do. Or at least just listen to the LLTTF modules and be prepared with my explanation if questioned.

Except I know I most likely won’t.

Because I want to look/be normal.

(But to be confidently normal I probably should follow a bit more of them.)

[I just looked, and the next module is entitled, ‘The Things You Do That Mess You Up’! Maybe it would have some useful tips for this very dilemma. Except how can I watch it without raising suspisions? I’m heading round in circles…]

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.

Confidence?

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I hope I am not being too hopeful. The past couple of days, since I wrote out my Three Options and came to a decision about how I would go about getting one of my uni projects done, I have felt quite upbeat. As I said in the previous post, things seemed to click and finally I haven’t felt like I don’t know what to do/what I’m meant to be doings, and as a result haven’t felt too exhausted/brain dead.

Yesterday morning, Enise (uni Nurse Shrink) phoned me to check how I was getting on (she’s good like that). I said I thought things were quite good. She asked me to rate it, 0 being the worst, and 10 the best I’ve felt. I said (I think truthfully) that compared to the rest of this year where I’ve felt so lost, I thought it was a 10. I’m not sure she believed me. I’m doing my hardest to convince myself that I am doing OK, it really didn’t help that she’s not convinced!

I explained that I had done what Celine (NHS CBT Lady) had gone through with me, of writing out my different options and evaluating the +ves & -ves of them to come up with a plan that I would be happy to follow. I explained that I was happy with my choice to just work through my work methodically and to be happy giving in the work on Tuesday in whatever state it is in, rather than killing myself trying to make sure it is complete or else trying to do a little bit on everything and just making myself more confused, tangled and upset.

She then prodded me, asking how I would make sure that I didn’t fall back into the option 1, of working myself into the ground trying to make sure it was all complete. I’d already said to Celine that that is a concern of mine. Perhaps I’m just being a bit unfair to Enise, that of course she wasn’t in on the session with Celine, and so as I had raised that concern with Celine myself, then its natural that as I didn’t mention it to Enise, that she would have the same thought herself.

I just wish that she would have a bit of confidence in me that I won’t do something bad to myself!

No wonder I lack confidence in myself!

Uh huh. Huh?

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Enise phoned me this morning, she’d just received my email I’d sent her last week:

I’m sorry I can’t remember the particular suggestions you gave me for how to think about, and approach my work, so that I don’t end up either just keeping on transferring work that I didn’t finish one day on to the next day, ending up with giant holes and tangles in my work in order to be finished by a certain time – which just confuse me even more the following day, or else staying up til silly hours trying to get done what I needed to do that day. Sorry I know I should have made some proper notes, but wondered if you could please remind me of what a better way to work might be!

I was trying to make notes while she was on the phone today, but I still don’t have a clearer idea of how not to get stuck or go in circles with my work. She just suggested that when I start feeling anxious and can’t go forwards with my work, to go out for a walk for half an hour to refocus on my goals for the day. I just agreed with her.

Idiot.

I will try it today, but really not sure it’s something I can do, safely at 10pm, midnight, 1 or 2 in the morning, which is when I tend to get most anxious with my work: worrying that it’s going to be yet another day lost if I don’t achieve anything before I go to sleep. It’s that part I need help with. I’m worried now too that if I let myself get more anxious earlier in the day, so I can go for a walk in daylight, then I’ll just end up with every waking minute being stressed!

False Start?

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Right, so I didn’t get very far using this blog as a thought splurge. Instead I’ve been beating myself up and stewing (bad combination), with the result that possibly a stench of rotten flesh may be belching occasionally.

Ewwgg gross. No. Not quite. Unless it’s that mug, specimen A4.b2 that is floridly developing pinky greeny things in the corner of the studio.

I may or may not play catch up on this blog eventually.For the moment I just want to put down my thoughts for today. One day at a time any way.

Today I had an appointment with the university’s nurse shrink. She has a proper fancy title too, in fact one I prefer. For two reasons: I’m not sure she is actually nurse, or a shrink, to begin with. Secondly, ‘shrink’, given that it’s a shortening from ‘head-shrinker’, sounds like one must have a giant ego that needs taming. Given that my brain already feels like  raisin, I don’t think that’s what I need! But I’ll keep to nurse shrink, in fact, from here on in, as NS, because it’s 1) shorter, and 2) writing her title could easily link this  back to a google search. I’m trying to steer clear of that.

So, NS. I was having mixed feelings about the appointment. I guess nervous hopefullness. I’ve seen her a few times before, and I’ve also felt she’s been ‘on my side’, even sometimes too much (trying to help me see that I didn’t need to always compare myself to others on my course, that it was ok to get a little bit of extra time – practically forcing upon me a couple weeks’ med certificate for uni).

I have always approached my work by thinking, right I want to get x done today. And then I will stay till that is done. (If anyone accuses me of being perfectionist, really I’m not. Honestly, once I get x done, then I’m happy, and can call it a night.) The problem comes when I haven’t done x at a reasonable hour. Do I stay to try to get it done? Or go home and have to face it again in the morning? When I will really be hating it and myself. Sometimes I wonder if x simply wasn’t a reasonable amount to expect to complete in a day. Except of course it is. Everyone else can manage it. I’m sure I normally could manage it.

Alternatively, I could work by the clock, simply going home at 6pm, regardless of the state of my work.I did try that for a week or so, and it was useless. I found myself clock watching, waiting for it to be time to go home. That is totally not what I want to do. I want to be able to enjoy the work and feel achievement at the end of the day. In addition, that didn’t actually help me complete the work either!

The next version of work I tried, on the suggestion from CBT Lady (a whole ‘nother story), was to set myself the same x target for work, and a particular time to be finished by (10.30pm being most realistic). At first this seemed to be a good thing. I wouldn’t be ‘clock watching’, rather it would be more like racing the clock to be finished by a certain time, which might work well with my competitive streak. But that solution still hasn’t really been a solution. I seem to have lost my competitive streak (thanks to Enise[=NS=nurse shrink]’s kind words?), and it just meant there were so many holes in my work from where it wasn’t complete each day, that every time I opened the document, I couldn’t make sense of my tangled drivel, and burst into tears. Really not helpful.

My most recent mode of working, where I just work on the bits I enjoy, has helped a tiny bit. I think I will actually have something to hang in our End of Year Show tomorrow. However, although this is a nice way to work, and made me feel productive, I guess it can never be a long term solution, as unfortunately I can’t always just have my cake and eat it too (does that quote even go?).

Which leads me back on to my session today with Enise (=NS=nurse shrink). Except for the life of me can’t remember what she suggested. Something along the lines of just set myself a goal, this time ‘w’, which are just the things I need to do. Don’t even think about trying to do what I want to do, or what I would like to do (I’d better go back and check those catergories. 2 & 3 sound the same to me UPDATE: it’s just what I like to do.). At least getting done what I ‘need‘ to do will help ensure I get the minimum done, and if I have time then I can go back and do the other categories. But is that really what she recommended? That I shouldn’t do the ‘would like‘ things – the things that I enjoy? Now she’s starting to sound like my mother, that I’m just ‘frittering away’ my time on the things that make me happy, rather than doing the things that will stop me panicking later (they are two different things).

So where I started again, I had felt Enise was on my side through all this. But now she’s not. Now she seems to have forgotten her kind words that I shouldn’t trying to do something just because other people do, and feeling badly when I don’t. That I should just focus on what I can do, and keep healthy too. I feel like now she’s hounding me just to get the work done and not worry about it. Of course that is what I do want to do. Honestly! That is why I went to her in the first place! So I have successfully come full circle, and not achieved anything. Yay me!

And with that, I think I’d better get on with the needs, and this blog doesn’t make the list. Also, my printing for the end of year show is now complete, which is what I was waiting for while typing this, this afternoon.

List for self:

Check with Enise about what her suggestions really were. Not just what I remember. I think I remembered wrong. Or is that just me lacking confidence again?

13th March: I’m just like…a fungi ridden field

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One of the things Enise (uni mental health advisor) said to me in trying to convince me to reconsider antidepressents, and it’s something I’m coming round to agreeing with, is that there is not reason I should be unhappy. So I ought to change something to let me enjoy myself more and be happy. Perhaps, as I say it isn’t the uni work itself that is upsetting me (evidence against: everyone else can cope, I’m not normally dumb, I’m already doing as much as I can to keep up with it), and I’ve been doing my best with SG’s guided CBT, I need to look at something else to change, like chemicals. And that means a change in medication.

I made up the analogy to help me figure out what I feel like. As I’m studying landscape architecture, it seems apt to think about problems with vegetable crops (and yes I’m weird):

I feel like I’m a field of soil with a fungal problem: if the crop were being damaged by caterpillars, then you can see them and could go out and kill off the caterpillars. But if you have a fungal disease in the soil, the crop will die off even though there is nothing visibly wrong with it. And for a fungal disease, you can’t go out and manually pick it off, you have to go after it with horrible fungicidal chemicals. aka anti-depressants. Similarly, if you have a fungal disease in the soil, if you trashed the affected crop and replant the following year, you’d end up with just the same problem in the next crop as you haven’t dealt with the root of the problem. aka if I deferred the modules I am taking this year, I would still be just as stressed by them next year, unless I change how I am feeling now.

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