’10 Things’ Reloaded

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I’m going to try that final Living Life to the Full cCBT module again, this time with a happier hat on than I wore last night!

1. A banana a day

I can do this!  Especially considering I’m used to having to eat bunches at a time, one a day will be easy.

2. Breakfast every day

I already always do this, so that’s an easy tick on the list

3. Exercise

I do already do a bit, and will look forward to doing more when the weather cools off/move to England where it’s cooler anyway.

4. Get some wow glasses

Yup, looking at the emulsion paint right now…strange to imagine that some of the ingredients started life as itsy bitsy creatures that collected up to form oil beneath the deserts or sea. And while that was happening (well maybe some millions of years inbetween, have no idea about ages), tiny coral polyps were growing and dying one top of each other to build calcium carbonate rock that was ground down and resolidified as limestone hills. These were quarried out to make the stone for the building that the oil-based paint now covers…pretty cool I guess!

5. Music

Firstly I realise that listening to BBC World Service, although not music, does fulfill the intent of this point: to break silence and give me other thoughts to think about besides stewing in worry.

Secondly, why not listen to Mozart or Portuguese folk music if that’s what I like?!

Thirdly, being open to listening to other music that others also like might help me widen my repertoire of acceptable noise.

6. Do a small act of kindness

I will do something for someone every day.

As I, like all other children in my country, have been brought up to be courteous to others, I’m already often saying the right things. I just need to make sure I am sincere with my ‘good mornings’ and ‘good afternoons’, and that my ‘thanks’ are said genuinely, and not just for fear of being told off for forgetting!

7. Take away a takeaway

If I find myself eating takeaways unnecessarily, then I will change and make the effort to cook myself an meal from this type of fast food. (But I will not stop eating a takeaway or readymeal if the alternative is to go without food!)

8. Heavy breathing – get out of breath and get your heart pumping by doing some housecleaning

Point taken, will endeavour to houseclean, quickly.

9. 5-a-Day

Smoothies! Yum!

10. Let memories make you happy

My 101 Things to make me Smile list is growing! Today’s things (and it’s only middle of the afternoon):

  • Daisy Chains (thanks to Nosebody[who happens to be #24!] for reminding me!)
  • Beating Pringles can lids (bongo style!)
  • Lizards
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’10 things to make you feel better Now!’

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Nope, sorry I don’t have the magical keys to a happy life, but this is the title of the 8th and final Little Book module on the Living Life to the Full cCBT website.

I seem to have had an ugly negative hat on when listening to the online thing, but anyway, here goes a summary of it and a few of my thoughts.

1. A banana a day

Bananas are a natural source of typtophan, an amino acid required to make serotonin. Well, as for much of the last eight years I’ve had serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and then serotonin antagonists coursing through my veins, it makes sense that having the ingredients to make more of the serotonin in the first place is a good thing.

Aside from the chemical stuff (which I find more interesting), bananas are meant to be good at releasing sugary energy slowly.

My only problem is trying to get myself to eat one banana a day. Having been brought up on homegrown bunches of bananas, the trend I am used to is to gorge myself on bananas for a week, and then feel sick of them for the next couple of weeks til the next bunch is ready. So now I tend to just remember that sick feeling when I think of bananas, and the thought of actually having to buy one, part with money for it, puts me off too.

2. Breakfast every day

Muesli and porridge every day.

I already do this. Porridge in winter, generic weetabix+generic alpen+granola in summer. I am certain breakfast helps, but it hasn’t been the tipping point into guaranteed good moods.

3. Exercise

Don’t be unrealistic: you don’t need to splurge on gym memberships just yet, start by simply choosing the stairs over the lift (like when going out to buy bananas)

I can relate to the realism conundrum: until the weather cools down or I find a silver bullet to energy, I have had to accept I really can’t keep up my morning runs, as they too predictably leave me in a snotty exhausted heap four hours later in the day.

However, I tend to avoid going out to shops like the plague, and I guess I can’t expect the lovely Dr Chris Williams doesn’t know where I live, but in my country we have the silliest planning laws that prohibit any house over two floors. Thus I have a grand total of one (random) step in my house to crawl over every day. It will take a lot of climbing up and down it to call it ‘exercise’.

4. Get some wow glasses

Oh dear!

The online thing tells you to put them on (figuratively is ok) and “look with joyful wonder at the things around you right now. Don’t take things for granted. Think about all the amazing things it took to make the surroundings you’re sat/walking in… even to think about the processes it took to make the emulsion paint on the walls.”

My first thought was oh dear! Then after the emulsion paint line, I had to think, ‘hmmm I’d like to have a bit of whatever the lovely Dr Chris Williams is on!’. But I have to agree that in my heart I know the idea is right. Sometimes I forget to appreciate the good things around me. While noticing the good things doesn’t make everything right, and sometimes in the the short term makes me feel worse about myself for still feeling bad, I also know that being blasé about the good things doesn’t help!

5. Music

Silence = space to worry, so music must be used to drown it out.

Good in theory. Slight problem only in that I really don’t get on with music very well. I can cope with classical music, and even traditional toe tapping stuff if I’m in the right mood. But on an every day level where mainstream music is expected (ie what I can admit to listening to and/or when others might be listening too), I can only put up with it for so long before I have to remove myself from the scene.

As exemplified by conversation with music-college-student-cousin:

MCSC: “Zee, what sort of music do you listen to?”

Me: “Umm, not much, nothing in particular”

MCSC: “What, not even the radio?”

Me: [eyes light up] “ooh yeah!”

MCSC: “Great! What station?”

Me: “Umm, 1160AM…BBC World Service”

MCSC: “God you must be dead”

Point taken.

6. Do a small act of kindness

Eg write a thank you note, put someone’s bins out, say thank you to the check-out girl

I can’t argue with this one. Except for that last one. Again, the lovely Dr Chris Williams can’t know where I’ve been brought up, but let me say it’s in a place where ‘thank you’ to a check-out girl is more likely to be said in the context of “thank you for letting me pass my ‘attitude adjustment‘ exam and letting me out alive!”

7. Take away a takeaway

Cut down on your takeaway meal diet by cutting out one meal a week.

Good in theory and probably for many people, but to be honest it’s rare I do ever get a takeaway meal in the first place! Though I know I should try hard to actually cook myself something, rather than resort to a another sandwich or a bowl of cereal.

8. Heavy breathing – get out of breath and your heart pumping by doing some housecleaning.

Good in theory. I guess doing any sort of cleaning would be a good start!

9. 5-A-day

And drinking them in smoothies is a fairly quick and painless method for getting lots in. Plus you can check off the banana from Step One too!

Just slightly worried by the small print at the bottom: ‘Kidney problems? Please check with your doctor before drinking smoothies’

10. Finally, let memories make you happy

Don’t forget the good things. Write down 3 things everyday.

Funnily enough I started a101 Things to make me Smile list a month ago, completely independently of this cCBT module! However I have now stretched it to 31 things, so that is only 1 thing a day on average (I must not smile much!).  I will make more of an effort to smile and then remember what it was, with the aim to complete the last 69 things in 23 days.

The things I smiled about today and added to the list are:

30. Putting tourist sunglasses on and going sightseeing!

31. Remembering the New Forest Show Heavy Horse Dressage display (and double smile to find they’re still using the same theme tune compilation as they did from my earliest memories when I was 4 or 5 years old!)

I also slid in 21. Explaining geo-caching to others 😉

It feels like this is a rather downbeat post to end my journey with Living Life to the Full.com. I don’t think that has been my overall feeling from it, so I will plan to gather my thoughts on the website course and write a summary post about it. (I know I said I’d do the same thing after my sessions with Celine, the CBT lady, ended, but I haven’t yet. I keep wanting to, but at the same time don’t feel I’m ready to draw a line under that experience.)

read the Reloaded version for a more positive account!

“The Things You do that Mess You Up”

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A few nights ago I decided to forget my fear of being overheard while listening to the Living Life to the Full computer modules, and watched/listened/read the 6th module in the Little Book cCBT course entitled, ‘The Things you Do that Mess You Up’. In the end, no one questioned me on what I was doing at my laptop, and I could concentrate on the module in peace.

When I saw the name of the module I laughed a bit as it was just what I had been thinking about: I seem to be pretty stable at the moment, even, dare I say, enjoying some things, like sailing a few weeks ago, and working on little bits and pieces that don’t require brain work and can be finished in an hour or so. But as soon as I try to tackle something longer or try to fix up my uni work again, I realise I’ve just been dancing round the edges of the things I really need to do, and then I feel like I mess up.

So back to the module. It begins by listing a load of things that might ‘mess you up’, and tells you not to ‘kid yourself’ when thinking about them. Some where fairly stereotypical, like comfort eating, drinking alcohol and overspending. Thankfully these aren’t too much of a problem for me. (I’m probably the most miserly girl I know. That gets me down more than anything, that I can’t even go windowshopping to brighten my mood. I couldn’t think of a worse pastime actually!)

It also had some less obvious messing up things. I felt these applied to me more. Like ‘setting yourself up to fail’ – I don’t know how many times I’ve teetered between being over optimistic and defeatist. Still haven’t found the realist’s middle ground with my planning. Another one was ‘hitting out at people’ – while I’m not a violent sort of person, I sometimes snap at people unintentionally and then feel awful afterwards. It finished up with a few more simple ones that I could also identify with. Including ‘hiding away’ (check. Been home 2 weeks and still haven’t met up with non-family yet. And this is me supposedly ‘stable’!) and ‘putting things off’ (check again, that’s the blunt way of saying I’ve only been ‘dancing round the edges’).

Other things included: taking risks, self-harm, being clingy, bullying, shop-lifting, being impulsive about important things, tv/internet addict, doing too much, wanting others to sort out your problems, caffeine, oversleeping, overworrying.

After identifying the particular things that mess me up (setting up for failure, hitting out, hiding away & putting things off, are all current things for me. I recognised myself in a few others, but happily I think I’ve worked those out), the module asks you to pick on or two to tackle using the *naff alert* E4SP (Easy 4-Step Plan – had been introduced in the previous module, ‘How to Fix Almost Everything):

  1. break it into chunks
  2. brainstorm the first piece
  3. plan to do it
  4. put plan into action.

So, I figured the ‘hiding away’ would be a good one, and easy, to tackle, especially as I’m running out of time to actually come out of hiding before I have to go back to the UK to job hunt!

Emailed friend (preferable to phoning) to try to meet up for Friday Happy Hour (a specific limited time with chance to bump into other friends).

The emailing worked ok, but then it turned out my friend is away on holiday this week. We’ve arranged to go out next week.

In fact I’m happy to report that was all quite harmless, and I’m looking forward to Friday.

Now to tackle the things with realism that are properly making me upset at the moment…

The module also gives some ideas to help not become messed up. A lot of them are things Celine was also trying to get me to work on. It’s reassuring that the same things she talked about are also mentioned here, though that shouldn’t be too surprising.

  • Eating regularly and healthily (check)
  • Giving yourself time to sleep (check)
  • Keeping up with routine things (mostly)
  • Doing things with other people (starting to)
  • Doing things that give you a boost (trying)
  • Sharing problems with trusted friends & family (not working out too well with family so far…don’t want to scare off friends either…)
  • Find out more about how you feel (writing this blog is helping)
  • Letting upsetting thoughts just be (good in theory…)
  • Facing your fears (starting)
  • Doing exercise (good til I’m exhausted = more easily upset)
  • Using your sense of humour (good for easy things)
  • Medication (check)
  • Relaxation (good in theory. I can relax when I’m already relaxed, harder when I’m not!)

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…]

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.