Celebrating my first job application!

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Today I dropped my first job application and portfolio off! Given my stresses over university over the past few years, and especially the final year, this is quite major for me and I thought it was worth of a post of its own!

At the moment I am figuring that I will be happy to make 50-60 job applications and attend 14 interviews before I give up/change tack. The first few I will definitely treat as practices. Rather arbitrary figures, but I’m trying to keep the pressure off myself for now, as I know that stress won’t help anything.

To celebrate, I met up with a friend to visit the Serpentine Pavilion.

 The 2011 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Peter Zumthor

A rather unassuming black box building – I’m not surprised I missed it when I first tried to visit in August. In fact it is in Kensington Gardens, not Hyde Park as I’d been told, so that is another reason why we didn’t spot it the first time.

According to the blurb, it is inspired by fenced Alpine kitchen gardens. I’m not sure I would have guessed that! A narrow, dark corridor wraps around the inside edge of the building, and contrasts to the airy flower spikes and seedheads in the courtyard garden within the building. The plants were especially bright with the backlit sun streaming through them.

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The Wrong Answers

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I’m totally afraid I’ll shoot myself in the foot during an interview (I love how optimistic I am, that I’ll even get to the interview stage!)

I’ve got 1,001 answers swirling through my mind to use in response to the obvious questions. Unfortunately I know I lot of them are The Wrong Answers. In a bid to clear my brain of the bad, or at best, useless responses, I’ll try writing them down, here. Hopefully The Correct Replies will be more obvious after this exercise.

Tell us about yourself…
  • *goldfish impression*
  • You may be thinking the deafening silence is me thinking of a witty and/or heartfelt response. I wish it were too.
  • *tears*
  • Marathon Worrier

Why would we want to employ you?

  • Um, you wouldn’t?
  • Given that I wouldn’t employ myself, I’d keep a wide berth of me, if I were you.

Why should we give you the job?

  • Because you’re a brilliant charity
  • Because I’ve worked blinkin hard to get to this point and it would give me a much needed confidence boost.

What would you bring to our company?

  • Not much, I’m a liability
  • Fear, stress, paranoia and a puddle of depressed tears

What are your weaknesses?

  • Are you ready with a long piece of paper?
  • I’m overconscientious. My tutor thought that would be a good one to say.

What are your attributes?

  • I won’t give up. I’ll go without sleep and food if that’s required

What are your achievements?

  • Earned my Duke of Edinburgh gold award…5 years ago
  • Represented my country in women’s hockey…10 years ago
  • Completed course of CBT…this year

What makes you want to work in the UK?

  • I’ve somehow made myself a good reputation in Very Small Home Country. I don’t want to ruin it!
  • NHS
  • I’m from a very tiny itsy bitsy Dominion of the British Empire. I would like to enjoy the benefit of this Domination.

Do you have any questions?

  • Do you have a safe room?
  • What is your sickday policy?

’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

’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!

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

‘Are You Strong Enough to Keep your Temper?’

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A couple of weeks ago I looked at the next module on the Living Life to the Full cCBT course, entitled “Are you strong enough to keep you temper?”. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post summarising my thoughts on the module. Except I haven’t done either yet, basically because I can’t really decide what to make of the module. Hopefully writing this post will help get my ideas together.

Module’s Intro

The introduction explains that it means ‘temper’ in terms of  anger, irritation and losing control

I like to think that I’m not a very angry person. I’m sure it’s true that I’m not the angriest person in the world, though equally true that I do get angry sometimes. Actually right now (or when I started writing this post), my mother’s vacuuming and the noise is driving me crazy and making my skin crawl! Can’t even think and have had to shut myself away in my room with my laptop volume up high to re-listen to this online module.

So far so good. At least I can see that this module might apply to me and be helpful.

According to the module…”Irritability upsets yourself and others. And can make you lose things, like a job.”

I haven’t had the latter occur to me (touch wood). But I can definitely relate to the first bit. I think the upsetting myself is mostly how my anger and irritability manifests itself. To avoid upsetting others and deflect attention away from me, I’ll turn the anger in on myself and be mad at myself for feeling mad. Like now, I know I can’t get mad at my mother for cleaning the house, so I’m mad at myself for not being able to deal with the vacuum noise, and mad at myself for not summoning the energy to vacuum myself and let my mother have a rest.

The module goes on to say, “it’s weak to stay and argue…things get out of control, you end up in trouble”

This is where I get a bit confused. To be honest, I think that doing what I do, of avoiding conflict and instead getting mad at myself, is an unhealthy way of dealing with things (especially when I feel like I’m simmering away and end up scraping at my skin to deal with myself…). But at least I don’t stay and argue, so, according to the module, I must be doing something right.

Having written that, I see that in fact if I am turning the anger in on myself, then even if I don’t show it outwardly, I have still gotten mad. Maybe the contradictory things that were confusing me aren’t contradictory afterall. Perhaps this module is helpful, and I’ll think about the rest of the module in terms of things that will make me mad at myself, rather than just concentrating on things that make me outwardly lose my temper at others.

So, on we go.

3-Step Plan

In order to avoid anger, the module gives a three step plan: ‘1,2,3, Chill!’ … and says it should be sung…oh dear. Through gritted teeth I remind myself to accept the naffness.

  1. Know your buttons
  2. Know early warning system
  3. Use your Escape Hatches
  • Chill!

1. Know your buttons

The online thing gives a few ideas on the sorts of things that might ‘push your buttons’, ie the things that will make me mad or make me upset. Therefore these are the things to avoid in the future. The things that I can think of for me (mostly things I’ve already mentioned on this blog):

  • Not knowing what I’m meant to be doing/what’s expected of me
  • Not being able to ask the right question, not being able to communicate what I want to say/ask
  • Not knowing how to fix something or what to do next when given criticism
  • Being criticized for something I don’t know how to change, or something that is intrinsically me.
  • Thinking that maybe this is me, I’ll always be stressed and on the brink of tears. I’ll always be on the verge of pushing myself over the edge, just to do something normal
  • Being too tired to think clearly, too exhausted to do something
  • Trying to doing something helpful for others and messing it up
  • Not having motivation, especially when I know it is something I should want to do
  • Being fobbed off. Especially when trying to ask for help
  • Being thought of as a cheater. Especially when attempting to ask for help
  • Being thought of as a whiner.
  • Spending unnecessary time just thing about problems and worrying about other things
The module then suggests that these triggers should be avoided, giving examples like:
  • Avoid it/the people/the places
  • Go to different places
  • Talk to different people
  • Drink less
  • Drive more slowly
  • Ignore others’ comments
I’m sure these are well meaning, and it’s hard to argue with the drinking and driving suggestions. However the rest I have more difficulty with, both with how to do them realistically, and with their intentions. I can’t really go about avoiding anything that might upset me, especially when they’re to do with what people say to me: Presumably I need to learn how to ask for constructive criticism, and not take things so personally, not avoid being criticized altogether. Same with asking for help but then fobbed off. I’m sure the answer isn’t really to avoid asking for help for ever more, and I can’t ignore their comment if I’ve specially asked for their advice! Similarly, I can’t avoid talking to my close friends and family, though they’re the ones who, chances are, I will be talking to about these things that upset me. Other things, such as vacuuming, scraping chair noises, and the ice cream van jingle really shouldn’t make me mad, so I need to learn to not be irritated by them, rather than always making sure I’m out of earshot of them for the rest of my life.

Or maybe I’m missing something. Will read/listen further with this module.

2. Know your early warning signs

The online slide for this section says to write down the physical things you feel just before trouble starts, and therefore when to put Step 3 into action.
Mine:
  • eyes prickle
  • welling up feeling in throat
  • stomach clench
In fact these are more to do with crying, I guess the outward sign of me being upset and feeling angry. However, I’ve glanced at my mother’s recent emails where she writes that she feels she has to’tiptoe round’ me in case I ‘erupt’, and my cousin said to me on the phone the other night that I sounded ‘abrupt’. Unfortunately both these things have slightly got to be as I’ve actually been feeling fairly normal in myself, so haven’t felt any ‘early warning signs’. The module suggests asking people close to you what signs they pick up on. I should do this, but talking about how I feel, especially when I’m trying really hard to be normal, is a surefire way to make me upset. Funnily enough I therefore avoid these conversations, as per the suggested solutions of the first step above!

3. Use your escape hatches

The module suggests a range of options to defuse and a situation and give space to sort it out:
  • smile! – enough for others to notice
  • relax shoulders – drop them
  • breath slowly
  • ‘you’re right about that’ (works best when you really disagree! – you don’t need to mean it!)
  • hum a little tune

These sounded vaguely useful things to do. Unlike the the ABTBP (Amazing Bad Thought Busting Plan, described under ‘Little Bit of Good + lots of Naffness, and ‘A Bit of Bad’), which I found virtually impossible for me to do the mental gymnastics required to stop the tears once they are about to flow, these physical actions are a bit more do-able.

However I have already run into a couple of problems when trying to use them: Smiling: been told I’m acting like a five-year-old child being the Cheshire Cat. Likewise with humming a tune.

Chill!

Give yourself respect. Walk away, show you are stronger than the things that try to make you angry.

Summary

I seem to have had some misgivings at each step of this module. I think it’s better if I don’t take every bit of advice literally, and just take the bits that might be useful.

Looking at my list of buttons makes me realise how sensitive I am to other people’s comments and reactions to me. I’ll have to think more about this, Maybe I’ll have a look back at my notes from Celine, who I saw for face-to-face CBT while at uni. I hope I’ll find something useful there.

Shall promise myself to take the advice of step 2, asking others’ opinions of what my warning signs are. Aside from being useful, I think it will help me and my family if I can be a bit more open about my feelings, and will remind me and them (more me in fact!) that in the context that I am still working on helping myself. This should be less confrontational than the current situation, where I am pretending that I’m fine, cured of depression, anxiety, worry etc and totally myself. I think this has led me to unnecessarily feel like like their comments are an attack on my personality that is cast in stone. Which of course is untrue on all counts!

I basically like the ideas it gives for escape hatches, as they don’t require mental agility. I’ll just have to persevere and not worry about people’s comments (ahh, like the module’s suggestion for solutions to having buttons pressed, that I rather poo-pooed earlier).

I’d like to be…a palm tree

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Recently I read a post over on Monkeytraps, ‘Human Treeings‘. Referring to attitudes towards control, Steve said:

Hurricane Irene swept through here the other day, reminding me of a conversation I’ve had with many clients over many years.

“Let’s say you’re a tree, and a hurricane is coming,” I say. “ Which would you rather be, an oak or a birch?”

The oak versus birch question was refering specifically to attitudes towards control: do you stand firm against a problem, but possibly be knocked down (oak), or do you flex to accommodate the problem and then bounce back? That got me thinking, and, seeing as Hurricane Maria swirled past here today, I thought I’d write a post about the tree I’d be.


My answer to Steve’s question would be, a palm tree. I’m not sure what Steve would have to say about me wanting to choose a different tree altogether…

Watching a palm tree in a storm makes me marvel: at the first breeze, the leaves rustle and dance elegantly, more alive. As the wind picks up, the whole trunk begins to sway, and the leaves are swept away from the wind. In this way, nothing is damaged and once the wind drops, the palm tree will look picture perfect again. On the other hand, if the wind strengthens even more, its second defense comes into action: its leaves will rip off. Perhaps no longer elegant, but by reducing its surface area and resitance, the tree becomes a javelin and is barely be buffetted by the wind. After the wind dies down, the new leaves, protected by the hard sheath in the centre of the crown, can unfurl. Then slowly but surely, as the sun comes out again, the palm tree will be living vigorously and growing once again.

In direct relation to Steve’s analogy, the palm tree is like the birch: being flexible and accommodating the problem, then bouncing back and being resilient. I’m not saying I am the palm tree or have its qualities (at the moment I feel like a sickly little seedling scuffed off the edge of the path under some dark leaves, but trying its utmost best to bat its way up and through those dark leaves to reach up to the light and become stronger), but it’s what I’d like to be:

  • I’d like to be able to float on my experiences, take them in my stride and enjoy them elegantly.
  • I’d like to be able to be flexible and bend if an experience begins to be troubling.
  • I’d like to have backup plans, and second lines of defense. Just like a palm tree will loose its leaves, I’d like to be able to shed my excess activities and unnecessary responsibilities, knowing that I’ll be able to develop new ones when the future’s calmer, and in the meantime they can be adopted and enjoyed by others (not wanting to draw a direct correspondence between the bugs and grubs that will recycle the leaves as energy and shelter for themselves…but the idea is there!)
  • I’d like to be sure that while my heart is protected, it’s never so tightly packed away it can never open up agai.
  • Best of all, palm trees always look their best in clusters or shoulder to shoulder, they’re rarely lonely.

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