‘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

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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!

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…

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.

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>

‘Rules of Living’

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Another session with Celine and another worksheet. At the top it says, “Your therapist will have helped you uncover a rule which may be causing you problems. This worksheet is designed to help you rethink a rule and make it more useful for yourself”. I’m not really sure that my whole life can be turned around on the basis of a single worksheet, but I’m keen for anything to help, so I’m going to work through it.

Like before, Celine went through the questions with me briefly, with my answers based on the worksheet from the last session. This week I’ll have to go back through it properly to make it relate more to me. I have my final university deadline just after the next session, on Friday, so not sure how I will get on with it this week.

The first line is: “The rule of living I need to rethink is…”

 I must push myself to try ever harder to reach my high standards, to the exclusion of everything else.

I needed to add in the final bit, as I think for most people who do well, the probably have to push themselves. I’m not imagining that in my ideal world I no one needs to try hard. But I definitely fall down on the ‘exclusion’ bit, as that is what then makes me resent the work, feel guilty when I do do something that is meant to be fun and generally feel in a low mood.

The one line: “Typical situations in which I find myself using this rule”

At the moment this is quite simple for me (I’m grateful that at least my problems are straightforward): University work

“The kinds of things I do because of it”

Work extra hard

Don’t sleep regularly

Forget meals

Don’t do other things like fun

Don’t enjoy the fun things that I do do

“How many other people do I know who seem to have this same rule?”

None. As I said before, everyone else seems to be perfect at whatever they try. They may work really hard, but they don’t get upset doing that. Or else they don’t work as hard, but at least they are doing plenty of other things instead.

“How many other poeple do I know who DON’T seem to share this rule?”

Everyone else

“With people who don’t share my rule, what happens?

They mostly achieve what they want, and have fun

It looks like she added another list to the worksheet: “What happens when I follow my rule?”

Relationships get lost as I’m not around (this one came about because she was shocked when I mentioned that I hadn’t noticed my housemate leaving (took a couple of weeks to realise), and haven’t seen the other for a month or two. As I’m in the studio mostly and just come home to sleep and shower, it didn’t surprise me. Maybe I am weird.

Most of the other ‘kinds of things I do because of it’ could be inserted here too.

When I get a chance to work on the worksheet again, I’ll have the fun of “Rethinking & Challenging the Old Rule“.

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