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anxiety

Therapy hurts. It hurts and hurts and it hurts some more. Two and a half days since my session and still I’m in pain.

I worry that this is bad therapy. This is exacerbated by a book I’m reading, a memoir written by a psychologist about her placements during training. It’s not a bad book, but her type of treatment does not involve having the patients suffer. The author is empathetic and listens to her patients’ stories….but any good she does happens pretty much right away, it’s obvious, and it doesn’t involve anyone going off for a week to feel worse than ever.

My therapy is not like that. At all. Nothing is obvious, everything moves by inches, if at all. It’s like a mess of stew where you can’t really tell what all the ingredients are, as opposed to a nice steak and baked potato.

The psychologist/author provides insights, but those insights do not seem to cause pain to her patients. Most books seem to skip over this part. Insight causes pain. Or at least, emotional insight does. It’s why people generally don’t wish to change, despite the level of suffering that’s brought them to a therapist. The pain of feeling this stuff is just too great.

As usual, we cover a bunch of stuff. Ron waits silently for me to begin. I cast around, usually say something about the traffic or the weather. He responds minimally and continues to wait silently. Sometimes I wish he would launch into some therapeutic topic, but no, he just waits.

I’ve been struggling with my job search, so I talk about that a bit. I tend to shut down when I’m trying to force myself to apply to things, which makes looking for work tricky. I shut down, then can’t remain upright, so I lie down and actually sleep. Which makes me more depressed, so then I spend the rest of the day trying to feel better.

At the same time, I have been doing activities again after the Christmas break. I tell Ron about three activities I went to, which I rated good, OK, and pretty bad.

The good was a choir I think I’ll join. It’s an unauditioned choir. They sing without written music, instead they learn songs from recordings. I’ve struggled with a choir in the past, but was amazed at how I was able to sing with this one without the stress and anxiety I’d had previously. I think it’s partly that it’s a very low key choir where the emphasis is on fun and enthusiasm rather than skill. But also, I really seem to have changed. I could still hear some of my anxious thoughts, but they didn’t take me over, so I was also able to enjoy singing out without worrying too much. The women around me were super nice, ensuring I got copies of the lyrics and chatting a bit. A good experience.

I was trying to tell Ron how I really could see I’d made progress, with about a decade between today and the last time I’d tried to be part of a choir. That gap really let me see a difference. Not sure he really got it, but to me it was a great sign that I have changed.

The OK was a book club I’d been meaning to attend for ages. I didn’t love it – not everyone got a chance to talk, and you kind of had to seize the spotlight if you wanted to give your opinion on the book. I did speak for a minute or two – I hadn’t liked the book much actually. Tried to come up with the reasons. I had reasons, but a big one was that it just didn’t grab me, which isn’t a great reasoned argument. So I felt awkward, but at the same time, I felt it was OK for me to sit there and listen, even if I didn’t feel part of it in quite the way I’d have liked. I wasn’t overcome with anxiety about what everyone else thought of me, and this too is progress for me.

And the bad. The bad led to some discussion of what my family is like, which is what seems to have set me off into this depressed bad time. Or maybe it’s mourning. Whatever.

The bad was a games afternoon at the pub. It’s a meetup group that plays boardgames, which sounds like a nice, low key endeavour, but isn’t. I had been to it before though, but this time the triggery parts of it just took over. It’s a large group, maybe forty people. We break up into smaller groups to play various games. The majority of participants are young men, tending to the nerdy socially awkward side. There were maybe two or three other women there, and I think I was the oldest person overall.

The people there seemed to be experts. Most new a great number of games already, or could relate the games to others they’d played, unlike myself. They were nice enough about teaching me the rules though. However, the rules were complex, and also the games needed a fair bit of skill – logic, or probability, or strategy. I became very anxious that I couldn’t remember all the rules, and then, that I would play badly. Which I did. It’s hard to be learning complex sets of rules for two hours, plus play with any degree of skill. And my fellow players were looking to be challenged. They took the games pretty seriously – they certainly weren’t an excuse to drink beer and chat.

So I got anxiety. I think I was likely switching a bit to kid space, and I know my voice got quite childish at times. The leader of the meetup actually came by our table a couple of times with a worried look asking how it was going, and later, I suspected he was worried about me perhaps. Who knows.

Anyhow. Nothing much happened. I left after two hours (they mostly stay for many hours apparently), feeling anxious and depressed. I felt like I hadn’t kept any kind of dignity and had been hijacked by really hurting young parts.

I try to explain to Ron. It’s as if I feel overwhelmingly stupid and incompetent. I am so afraid, when I hear the instructions, that I won’t understand, that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

This is an issue I also have had in my jobs, when I’ve been working. Young techie guys will explain what they do in their jobs, and I have to get it down as a procedure. It is massively stressful for me, because I’m afraid I won’t understand and they’ll look down on me. Which happens sometimes. I struggle to take in what they’re telling me.

We start talking about my family when I was growing up. I start to feel like I’m going to go to sleep, in my usual shut down mode. It’s as if I see them down at the end of a long tunnel. Ron wants me to describe specific things I remember related to feeling stupid. But I can’t remember specifics. There was a huge emphasis on academic achievement. Do I remember report cards? Not really – my parents never said much, neither praise nor blame really. I try to remember. I can’t. I remember it felt like a kind of a fog. There were no such things as feelings, and things felt a bit unreal to me I suppose.

Later, trying to think, I just have a sense that my family didn’t seem to care about me. Any problems I had were my own fault, so were therefore shameful, and so couldn’t be mentioned.

It was just a very strange atmosphere. I suppose I was a kind of scapegoat. I fought the hardest, and had to be made an example of. But it’s hard to grasp how I was made an example. I suppose never praised, while my sibling sometimes were. Generally considered inferior.

Anyhow. One of my difficulties is trying to pin down what went on. It’s very hard for me to get a grasp on what it was. Whatever it was, it made me feel ghostlike and inhuman. And confused.

So, since the session, I’ve felt bad. I just hope this is going to help me somehow, because to fall into a depression like this when I’m doing my best to climb out is discouraging.

 

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Home alone on a Saturday night. Ugh.

I worry that I have offended my main friend that I spend time with. She has not called me, and when I call her, she’s very fast to get off the phone. We used to spend some time together weekends, but not for the last three weeks. Maybe my life has gotten too depressing for her to deal with. No job, no date, sick…She does disappear when things get difficult. I worry I’ve been too pathetic and clingy. I’ve decided to give her space and wait for her to call me at some point.

This is making me more lonely than usual. I’m also still recovering from this flu. Still coughing a bit, congested, and I have that post flu fatigue that is dragging me down. So I’ve not been going out to things I was going to, like the movie group or the 12 step group. I feel too tired when it’s time to leave for these, but then I feel lonely later.

I’m still going to therapy. I feel like I’m paying for a friend sometimes. Quite an expensive friend. I just have to have someone to listen and provide some caring, if only for fifty minutes a week.

I went for a job interview for a full time role Friday that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I guess I appeared sick, for one thing. My voice was very hoarse, and I did cough a few times. They remarked on it several times.

I was interviewed by three directors for a bank. It was technically the second interview, because I’d missed the first with the hiring manager because I was sick. They were bending over backwards to have me come in though, so I appreciate that. Just, it was very formal, and I got asked questions I wasn’t sure how to answer, though I did say things.

It would be great to move to full time from this contracting. I can’t keep interviewing every three months, looking and looking. So I’m disappointed the interview didn’t go better.

Therapy was Thursday, and I told Ron I didn’t want to be triggered as I sometimes am, because I needed to be able to pull myself together for the interview the next day. Ron was agreeable, though it’s hard to tell sometimes what is really going to hit me after a session.

The main topics Thursday were – mother, who called me, and how we ‘don’t get along’. She doesn’t speak really, and doesn’t listen or respond to things I say, so I’m reluctant to tell her anything much. My worries about my friend. How I must be pushing people away, to be alone like this, but I don’t know what I’m doing. And what it was that caused the last boss to fire me so fast, what I did to contribute. How I wished Ron could be present for some of these situations, because I can’t tell him what I don’t know. I don’t know what goes wrong.

On the boss question, Ron said that from his knowledge of human nature, sometimes people will be disturbed by and push away someone who is vulnerable. And in my case, she went beyond pushing me away, and also wanted to ensure she hurt me.

Could be. I really don’t know what it was. It’s kind of painful to think I appear in public as so very vulnerable.

We also talked about fear. Sometimes lately I’ve found myself full of fear. I started to feel this towards the end of this session, and remarked that it would be preferable not to have to leave feeling like that.

Ron asked what the fear was about. I didn’t know, but felt maybe it’s about being rejected by everyone in the world. He said he didn’t think he was rejecting me. Which was true enough, he wasn’t. He suggested maybe it’s an inner part that is afraid and that I’m punishing. I could let it be OK to be afraid. That actually seemed to be kind of true, true in the way that some things just resonate. A part of me that wasn’t being heard was afraid.

So I left. I felt upset about some of things discussed, but was better Friday. I can’t blame the unsuccessful interview on being too close to a therapy session.

 

I went back to therapy Thursday. I’d say the session was helpful.

We chatted a tiny bit about Ron’s vacation, and how it’d been four weeks since we’d met.

I spoke about the work situation I described in my last post. How furiously angry I’d become, and how it seemed out of proportion to what was happening. Ron had pointed out previously that with bosses, I almost always fear they don’t like me, or don’t like my work, or that they are somehow displeased with me, and he thinks this is the case now. I couldn’t really point out anything specific this boss had done that showed she was angry with me – I just assumed.

Well. I do think I was getting up her nose a bit, because she doesn’t like a lot of questions. Ron pointed out that my anxiety was likely affecting her also. And I did find, on Friday, that as I was less anxious, she reacted better to me.

I found after a while, I really wanted to leave this topic of my new boss and myself. I was feeling more and more anxious, and gaps occurred in our conversation, and then I was tempted to change the subject. I had other things to talk about, and parts also would have liked a say. However, I mostly do jump about a lot in therapy, and as a result, never tackle any subject in much depth.

At one point, Ron asked me to speak in both voices – the part that wants to continue with the topic, and the part that wants to change the subject. I found that really hard to do. Like a pros and cons list, he said. OK, I could do that. Pros of continuing on – we can go deeper with the topic, it’s good to stand up to and tolerate anxiety, instead of running away from it. Cons – it felt like this was a conversation I could have with a friend, and didn’t need Ron for, and there were other things I wanted to talk about – a massage I’d had, and some troubles after exercise. Ron said maybe we could discuss this in a way that I couldn’t with a friend, and that we could come back to the other topics next week.

So I stayed with this. The boss. The feelings of anger. How it tied back to being criticized as a child, how nothing had been enough for my father.

I can’t remember any grand conclusions actually. But the next day, I felt calmer at work, in a way.

That night though, I couldn’t sleep. Parts of me were furious with Ron for not getting a chance to speak about their concerns. I actually wrote him a furious email in the middle of the night, but luckily I didn’t send it. I felt differently in the morning.

At the end of the session, Ron asked how it felt to be back after the break. I didn’t really know – I didn’t feel anything in particular really.

This adult way of doing therapy is kind of new. I like it in that i don’t have a huge therapy hangover the next day. And spending time on a topic seems good. The downside is younger parts don’t get to speak. But, maybe that’s OK. Speaking in therapy wasn’t really getting us anywhere much except triggered.

I’m still going to therapy every other week. This week was a no session week. I’m trying to remember a week back to our last session. What did we discuss?

I remember Ron did bring up this time that I’m cancelling a lot and wondered why. I just said I wanted some time where I wasn’t triggered, and that sometimes, therapy seems to trigger all kinds of emotions but doesn’t really resolve anything, so that I’m not sure how helpful it is.

Ron didn’t say much. I got the impression he doesn’t agree that we should have fewer sessions, but he didn’t say so.

I didn’t say this, but I also think I can commit to approaching difficult topics every second week, but not every week. I’m willing to sacrifice some days to therapy recovery if it’s not every single week.

I’ve been thinking about how alone I’ve been in my life, and how that’s especially evident now. I suspect one reason I can’t seem to recover from therapy is I have no one in my regular life to help me ‘regulate’. It sometimes is very helpful to have people around, not even to discuss issues with, but just people doing ordinary living. It helps me calm down.

I’ve noticed this at work. I now have the option of working with some other writers at a big table, instead of in my cubicle. I actually prefer the big table. I thought I would hate it and feel horribly exposed, but having little interactions with other writers makes my day feel so much better. Just being able to speak sometimes, or listen to someone else go on about something.

I spent one day in my cubicle at work, and was pretty much suicidal by the end of the day. No one spoke to me. It’s a bit of a bad atmosphere there at the moment as the contract is ending, although we haven’t been told that in any kind of an upfront way. As well, there’s renewed pressure to produce lots of work very quickly. And the PM is no longer friendly to me, maybe because I’m not that fast. I like to think about what I’m doing, and produce quality, and all he cares about is quantity, because that makes his project look good.

When I moved to the table the next day, I had a much much better day. Other people are in ordinary moods, and they are catching. If I want to grumble about something, I can, in a low voice. My mood was so much improved.

So generally I’ve concluded, although I do need some time to myself, in general I do better with people around.

Somehow I’ve ended up pretty much alone. My one friend and I seem to have had a bit of a falling out, unless I’m imagining it, so she hasn’t called in a few weeks. I know I could call her. I have my ex I suppose. He’s very misanthropic and unsociable however.

I feel that I am fairly well liked at work. Chance threw myself and my star co-worker, whom I disliked, together, and it turns out we do OK together. He’s pretty outgoing, and it’s helping me to practice being more outgoing also.

Having people around at work is cushioning some of the blows of work – the contract is not being extended as promised, the PM is asking for impossible quantities of work, and other things. I just think in the same way, if I had people in my life outside of work who were more reliably present, it would help me come out of the bad places therapy puts me into.

I’m not sure Ron can really conceive of my difficulties in sociability. His view is that we need to be authentic with people and have real relationships. But I think we first need to have any kind of relationships. If I have no ability to attract anyone, I need to work on that. I don’t mean attract as in sexually attract, but attract in terms of someone wants me around. And I will not be attractive to people if I’m completely depressed and unable to be social.

I just came back from a birthday tea for my sister at my parents’ house. I can see how my social anxiety developed by watching them. My mother basically doesn’t speak. My father has very set topics that he wants to talk about – his garden, his work when he worked. So everyone dances about him speaking in horrible detail about his garden, as if we were all fascinated by this, to appease him.

Some other guests came, and so the conversation veered to different topics. At that point both my parents stopped speaking at all.

I think the dynamic is that speaking puts you at risk. In my family it’s not safe to have your own life, your own experience and opinions. So no one risks speaking about anything. I do, and I get rejected quite a bit. For example, this afternoon my brother wasn’t veering far afield, but started to talk about how he wanted to plant a miniature rose for his front walk. I suggested a tea rose. Well. My father is obsessed with old fashioned once flowering varieties. My suggestion was completely unacceptable to my sister and my father. Because intelligent people only love the old style roses. It doesn’t seem to be OK to have your own opinion on what you like.

Anyway, I can see where I developed a fear of saying anything that dogged me for my first forty years. I experienced this as not being able to think of what to say, but it’s more that all topics were potentially humiliating, so I kept quiet. Even when keeping quiet was peculiar in the situation.

So now, I can speak, thank goodness. Just I haven’t peopled my life with people who want to hear me and speak back. Wanting people in my life doesn’t have much of anything to do with ‘authenticity’ though, as recommended in therapy. I don’t really want to pour my heart out at this point. I just want some people around who like me.

 

 

I’ve been considering cancelling my therapy session. I go back and forth on it. This week, I really feel therapy is not doing me any good. Do I want to go through the suffering the session seems to catapult me into, when I don’t see how it’s helping me?

I felt all this mistrust of Ron last session and voiced it close to the end of session. I was trying to follow what he was saying about anxiety, and I realized with another part of my mind, I was feeling like I was being tortured. Ron was kind of taken aback when I said that, though he did ask me to speak from that part of me. It was almost end of session at that point.

I quickly still told him about my moth dream, getting into a younger part at that point and becoming upset. So as it was end of session, I told Ron I needed to ground so I could leave. He tried to do a quick visualization of grounding through my legs. Which was fine. Just the sound of his voice really irritated me, so I asked him to stop.

So I left.

I was running into huge amounts of anxiety in the days after the session. I decided to trust Ron and sent him two emails about what I was going through. One of them, I asked him a question about something he’d said in session. He didn’t reply to either email, which really distressed me further. Maybe he does think we are not doing well, I am experiencing him as an enemy, and so why should he respond to me.

On the other hand, I don’t want to run when the going gets tough. Is the toughness to some purpose, or is it a sign I need to leave?

So Mr Coffee Date is not even going to respond to my email. What a change from when we hadn’t met yet, where he responded to every email right away. Personally, I think it’s rude not to say a polite no thanks, when someone has taken the trouble to meet with you and sends a follow up. At least I found out he’s a bit of a jerk right away. I suppose it’s a bonus that I’m not that attractive – men won’t deceive me by pretending when they just like how I look.

I feel better knowing he’s not interested, instead of wondering and trying to read the tea leaves. Trying to date will be painful for me. I don’t have social ease, men see me and think they have to try and be intellectual, and then are bored, I have parts that can cut in if I get anxious, which then makes me look like I’m kind of stupid. I need someone to see past all that to the greatness within! Without insulting me on my appearance, which has also happened to me.

At least I made an effort.

The anxiety has left. My method for conquering it was to play dead – I went to bed, I read a classic I already know very well, I dozed and stared out the window. And like magic, no more anxiety. Instead I feel calmly sad. I got nothing at all done today, though I did go for a walk. Job hunting activities made me more anxious, and I couldn’t bear more anxiety. Sometimes giving up is the way to go. I am appreciating being able to sit and write without all the fear I was experiencing today.

My session last week was one hundred percent more helpful than the last. We talked about how unhelpful I’d found therapy the week before, about how I wasn’t feeling trusting. Ron brought up the fact that I hadn’t sent him any tracking – I had decided to wait and see if he would bring it up, or just let it go by. I’m glad he brought it up, otherwise we’d be in denial land, where I no longer wish to live. I brought up that Ron seemed to be taking a bit personally what I’d said the week before about him not seeming caring to me. And that I’d left the session with a kind of pain in my gut that lasted for days.

Ron listened and did not seem to take anything at all personally this time.

However I did have a major therapy hangover this time, which took up the rest of Friday and all of Saturday and most of Sunday. Which did suck. If I’m going to do any socializing or see anyone at all, it tends to be on weekends, so if I can’t function for those days, it really affects my life.

Ron asked by email if I had thoughts on what part of the session caused me to collapse afterwards. I think it’s because I pretty much completely switched into B in the last part of the session. This was crying and upset B. I was trying to switch back out so I could leave and it was really difficult to do. So maybe it was that. One painful thing leading to another at home until I was completely flooded with sadness? And perhaps stuck in a young part, with my mind not working correctly.

Another topic that came up was my sister. My mother did greatly prefer my sister to me as a child. I’d had some dreams where there was some kind of theme that related to being ignored in favor of other people. It seemed to be about that. Maybe that was the trouble?

Hard to say. I don’t really understand why therapy affects me like this. Ron has said this doesn’t happen for his other clients. So it’s not something he’s trying to do, or thinks is especially positive. I’m not sure he thinks it’s entirely negative either, but to me it is. I do need therapy, but I don’t need to lose all those days either.

But, all in all, it seemed a better session. I felt cared about and connected. I felt Ron was hearing me on some things. For instance, at one point, I said I feel like I don’t want to answer that question, and he was ready to back off, as I’d asked him to. But then I went ahead and answered the question anyway – it actually didn’t feel like too much after all. I’d asked him to back off, weeks ago, if I said I didn’t want to discuss something, so it was nice to see that he was prepared to do that.

Unfortunately, I was not in good enough shape to record the session after, so I’ve forgotten most of it. I do remember the dreams, speaking about sibling favoritism, discussing the previous bad session…. That’ll have to do. It’s good enough for now.

 

I seem to have landed in anxiety land. After three full months of unemployment and fruitless job search, maybe it makes sense. Almost every action causes me intense anxiety, and mostly, I’m seamlessly anxious/afraid without needing to do anything much. Big sigh.

Despite the fact that yesterday, I went for yet another interview, and it seemed to go quite well. I had a bunch of memorized ‘examples’ of things going well at work and myself being a working superhero. The interview was at my favorite time, early afternoon, so I had no struggle getting there on time. And then, the interviewer didn’t use the standard behavioural interview questions at all. He was pretty off the wall in fact, and very ready to be pleased with me it seemed.

The interview was not with a big corporation. It is a small company that contracts out to large corporations. So, more informal. And in the old section of town, which makes me feel a bit better – a lot of buildings in that hundred year old orange brick that’s a little crumbly and narrower than modern brick.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer said he liked me a lot, and that most likely they’d ask me to join them for a three month upcoming project. So I know nothing for sure yet. As they are small, I’m a little uncertain about them. The project might fall through, for instance. However, the fact is, I did well in the interview, they liked me, and whether I get work or not, this is a good experience.

I also took a small dose of an anti-anxiety med before hand. This makes a big difference I think. I certainly feel better, and I believe I come across as more trustworthy and competent when I’m not trying to batten down mega doses of anxiety while fielding bizarre and useless questions.

So I should be feeling calmer. I’m not. This is anxiety like a sickness – I’m not aware of thinking anything in particular, and most everything is causing it.

The other thing that happened was I went on a short date. A coffee date, with someone from the internet. Men will stir up my anxieties and could be that this has contributed to my current state.

The man was quite nice. He wanted to talk about culture, so we talked books and movies, as well as jobs. He was more self-assured than I was, more outgoing, and I told him i don’t date much so am a bit shy at first. I did see a look of boredom flash on his face a few times, especially at first. After an hour, I said I wanted to get going. I wasn’t bored, but I was anxious, and so glad I had had the courage to meet someone, and relieved it could be over now.

I’m not sure what he thought. The situation made me too anxious to really evaluate how much I liked him. I think I did basically like him. He said maybe we’d talk again, I said sure, that would be great, and that was it. I haven’t heard from him since – we met three days ago. A friend advised a quick email after several days, so I’ve sent an email saying I enjoyed meeting him and hope he wants to meet again. Haven’t heard back. So could be, he’s actually not interested. Though he might still write back I suppose.

I have to learn to tolerate this kind of thing I suppose. But maybe the dating/ probable rejection plus the rejection inherent in a job search has been a bit much for me to cope with.

If I go to bed, and do nothing much, or try some light reading, the anxiety goes away. It’s like playing dead. Maybe I have to do that for a while now. I should be continuing to look for work but it’s too anxiety provoking at the moment.

Anxiety like this that’s around all the time is unusual for me. I’m much more likely to be felled by depression than by endless feelings of fear when there is actually no threat.