Eye contact o.O

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I feel like my mother is picking at scabs. Or acting how my little cousin when he used to poke sticks at my dog, saying ‘let’s aggravate her!’. The newest thing my mother is poking at me with is the fact I apparently don’t make eye contact when I talk to anyone.

I know when I was really little I used to be bad at making eye contact (in fact I didn’t really talk at all). But I thought I had got better at keeping eye contact and it was now something that I didn’t need to worry about. Or at least it was good enough that I could let it be pretty far down my (long) list of things to worry about. So I don’t know why it is something that my mother has just decided to pick on that now, as it it isn’t a new problem. Maybe it’s just that she’s got bored of telling me to be less floppy/be more happy/be more sparky, which has been her favourites for the past couple of weeks.

She thinks she’s doing me a favour by just ‘letting me know’ that my eye contact’s not too great. She says she’s worried for me (or for herself, that I’m a poor reflection on her?) that people will think I’m just rude. I’m reminded of this nice little piece of embroidery by Lindsey.Joy.

During the past few days I’ve been really trying to make an effort to keep eye contact, supposedly to show my mother that she is wrong, and that am perfectly able to keep eye contact. But to be honest, I’m finding it difficult (read: impossible for more than a nanosecond).

So my problem is actually two fold: firstly, chances are that I’ve been wrong all along thinking that I’ve mastered this skill, and in reality people really have always been finding me rude or aloof. It would be ok if I actively wasn’t trying to make eye contact, but as this seems to be my personality, congratulations to me, I’ve added another thing to my list of why I hate myself! Secondly, despite consciously trying, I realise I don’t actually know how to keep eye contact, so don’t know how to fix myself either! My mother thinks that’s a crazy excuse. But really, I mean, where do you even look at the person?! If I look at their eyes I feel like I’m burrowing into their skull and I hate that feeling when someone does it to me, so I don’t want to be a person who does that to others. But if I look at bits of their face, then I feel like a weirdo and it probably looks weird if my eyes are darting about the place. Not really eye contact anyway. I’ve thought about trying to look in the middle distance so that I’m not having to make focused contact, but I’m sure that my gaze probably looks vacant and weird. And again, not really eye contact either.

The other fundamental problem of eye contact is that I suppose it’s meant to help show you’re genuine. But in reality I’m not feeling genuine at all when I’m thoroughly unhappy pretending to be confident making eye contact. I don’t want people to see how uncomfortably I am trying to keep eye contact, so then I look away…and boom, I’ve messed up again.

If any one has some useful ideas on how to keep eye contact – like what to think or where to look, I’d be grateful if you could let me know!

PS This is the one thing that makes me feel marginally better about myself: A Cartoon about Avoiding Eye-Contact

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De-mirtazapin-ize me please!

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A lot has come together for me in the past couple of weeks, which culminated in me deciding to make a dr’s appointment for this afternoon to get advice on how to go about tapering off my dose of anti-depressants – currently I’m on 30mg mirtazapine per day.

I didn’t really come up with a good pros/cons list of staying on or going off the medication, but in the end I’m starting to realise how tired I am doing day to day things, to the point that I haven’t really done much at all. I hadn’t really noticed how I’ve been acting or feeling recently, as I thought I was doing fine, but my (dearest) mother keeps on at me for not being more active or enthused or getting out and about. To which all I can say is that I’d love to be active/enthused/out and about, if only I didn’t keep feeling like I could do with another nap or a bit more sleep.

I’ve tried going for runs, but they only make me spend the rest of the day exhausted, I’ve tried eating more to get more energy, but I’m at the point of just putting on more weight, and I’ve tried getting more sleep, but I’m already getting plenty, and the need for sleep keeps eating into and destroying plans for doing other things like meeting up with friends in the evening or going out to photograph sunrise.

The other thing my mother keeps trying to tell me is how I ‘don’t seem happy’. Again, all I can say is that I’m doing my best to ‘seem happy’, but pretending to be happy is really starting to get exhausting, and being properly happy, without the inverted commas, is equally exhausting, and too hard not to be cross when no one can understand me because I’m slurring my words because I’m so tired, and too hard not to be upset at what I’m missing out on with friends when I’m just too tired to make plans, let alone think about actually get myself to town and back again, or being decent company.

I don’t think I’m depressed anymore, not in the depressed way of not being able to bring myself to do anything, or not feeling anything is worth moving for. Rather, it is a pure and simple problem of not doing things because I don’t have the energy. Basically I know I just need to get a grip. Which I feel like I could do if only I wasn’t so tired…and round and round in circles I go, making myself upset as I don’t have the energy to fight the tears either.

I’m not blaming the medication entirely on my tired state, but given that one of its headlining actions is to help insomnia, the mirtazapine is almost certainly not helping me stay alert and energized through the day. While the medication almost certainly helped me through April and May, and the side effects were worth putting up with, now the side effects are outstaying their welcome. I’m imagining myself as a hot air balloon, and while the mirtazapine was a useful safety tether while sorting my supplies and gear out, now I need to cut the anchor and lines so I can rise up and float away.

So I’m now cutting my pills in half, down to 15mg/day, for the next two weeks, and then I’ll take half (15mg/day) every other day for the following two weeks. I  hope I’m ok with that. I think I should be. Through the day today, after I decided on my plan and felt like I was taking decisions into my own hands, I felt excited and lighter in my step, and for the first time in the longest that  I can remember, I felt a slight crackle of electricity coursing through my veins. I’d completely forgotten that feeling, but I like it and am glad to have it back.

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.

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.

Slump II

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I guess I knew it was coming. I don’t know where to begin on how to get anywhere close to completing my uni coursework project on time for Tuesday. And as it’s a bank holiday weekend, I don’t feel I can’t really email tutors asking for such major help like ‘how do I go about designing an eco-town?’. I’m ok on the principles. But trying to actually put it on paper/in CAD, where you can’t just put a rough line, it demands precision, I am falling down on. I can’t believe I’ve got to nearly the end of my course and still can’t do such a basic thing.

As I’m down to so few hours now, especially if I’m going to fit in sleep (I already forgot to eat supper last night),  I need to prioritise so at least I get the important bits done. But I don’t even know what those things are. And that really is what post-grad is meant to be about: to recognise, understand the problem and challenges, and plan to meet those (just to pass) and then to do it well and produce an inspirational plan, vision and strategy, all well back up and rationalised.

I’m failing at even doing the bare minimum, despite putting in what must be more than normal number of hours. I’m just not using them right.

I wish I hadn’t been so darn positive and optimistic last week. I could have had the opportunity to sit down with my tutor to go over what I needed to cover over the next few days and a plan for how to achieve that. But no, I was feeling good about work and life, and said I was fine and had everything under control. What an idiot. I wish that when I feel good I would know to ask, and know what questions to ask, to get hep and advice. Instead I seem to shrug off any offers of help when I’m feeling good, and then when everything goes pear shaped, I’m not in a state to ask for help, and then it’s too late anyway. Idiot.

Slump

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Things have been going fairly smoothly for the last few days. Not easily, but like I’ve been balancing, and trying my hardest not to tip. Were things going along too easily? Or am I just so used to a few good days being followed by a slump that I’ve jinxed myself into feeling slumped? Could I have predicted it? Should I have? Did I predict it and fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy (SG’s favourite phrase)? Lots of sleep the past few days, followed by last night’s 4.5 hours. Which isn’t really a tiny amount, but a drop compared to the previous few nights’  9, 9, 11, 8.5hrs of sleep.

I did what I promised Celine and Enise I wouldn’t do: to keep myself up til 3am trying to finish a project. But I needed to. I had made a timetable with Enise last week, which was going to ensure I finished my essay on Tuesday in order to be able to get my next project completed for the end of May. So come yesterday evening, I hadn’t finished it, so stayed up til 3am to complete it, in order to avoid it running over my timetable and causing me panics over my next piece of work. Sensible, right? Today I managed to get that piece of work handed in, rushed, but done. 1 point to me? But now have had no energy to start the next piece of work, despite me forcing myself to try to work on it all of today. So I’ve given in a crap essay, wasted today, will be late starting my next piece of work and am so exhausted now I doubt I will feel any better about it tomorrow.

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. I should have packed up yesterday evening and got a good night’s sleep last night. Finished the essay today, calmly and well. Get another good night’s sleep tonight and start work feeling fresh on my next project tomorrow. Instead I’m back to my old ways of late nights and pushing myself futher and further to exhaustion without the good work to show for it.

I don’t see my patterns of work changing soon. I doubt I’ll be able to put my work aside the next time I’m pushed late at night, and the vicious cycle will continue.

Or maybe tomorrow I’ll be fresh eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go, catching up on today’s missed work and fitting two days into one!

…the thought just exhausts me further and makes me feel even more miserable about myself and uni.

26th March: I’m just like…a fisherman with fishhooks in his hand (and sticky out-y ears)

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So I am an idiot
I don’t know what to do.

I wish I could just start this year over again. Except that I still wouldn’t know what to do.

I feel like when anyone suggests I ‘just need a break’, then it would be as useful as saying to a fisherman who keeps getting fishhoods stuck in his hand, that he just needs a break. But duh, if course as soon as he started handling fishlines again, he would be getting them caught in his hand again. What he needs is to learn how to avoid getting fishhooks stuck in his hands, while still continuing his job. Isn’t that obvious? so it should be the same obvious for me: I just need to deal with my work properly.

But I don’t know where to learn/how to learn/who to learn from about not getting fishhooks stuck in my hand. Or my work upsetting me.

Whenever some tells me I’m doing fine, I feel like it is the same as if they were trying to tell me my ears didn’t stick out. That doesn’t help anything! Because obviously they (the ears) do! In the same way that obviously I am not doing fine with my work. Because I’m so far behind with my deadlines, and no one else seems to end up in tears over their work or clawing at their skin over it.

I do feel a tiny bit of comfort knowing that I will be seeing Celine (CBT Lady) this Thursday. But that seems like so many days away. Days keep drifting my so fast, and if I’m just waiting for Thursday to come, then that will be yet another week gone by without achieving anything. And there’s nothing to guarantee (obviously) that there’s anything that she can do to help me. Especially as she isn’t a university person or knows anything about my course etc. Or knows anything about me at all, for that matter.

So what do I do? Today’s Saturday:

  • Talk to parents this weekend? Don’t want to worry them. Nothing they can do anyway.
  • Talk to tutor on Monday? Two days gone. What help can he be? (see ear story, as well as I don’t want him to know my problems with my work in case he doesn’t care anymore to help me)
  • Phone dr’s on Monday? Two days gone + more waiting for Dr to get back in touch/be able to see me. I don’t think that medication is the answer anyway. Am coping ok with mirtazapine even though it isn’t helping much/at all yet. He’d just say to give it a proper chance to work. University wise there is nothing he could say from his position to help (see fisherman story). 
  • Phone Enise (uni nurse shrink) on Wednesday? She’s always too busy anyway, would have to wait to see her properly, that would be another week gone. She’d probably just say wait for my appt with Celine anyway. 
  • See Celine on Thursday. The only thing already set up. But not sure what she can do with helping me find practical solutions (see fisherman story). 

Conclusion:
Don’t know what to do. I guess just wait til Thursday to see Celine as that is already planned. Just accept this week is a write off and try to get what I can done in the meantime.

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