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shyness

A difficult weekend, after several in a row that seemed better.

I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. It’s all I watch at the moment. Not sure what that’s about – I can see very well it’s a soap opera, the situations are so exaggerated as to be ridiculous, the characters, well, operatic. And yet. I believe a younger part of me loves this show. As well, it is about emotions, and I want to think about emotions, and about how people are relating to each other, and this show lets me do that.

Several situations and characters remind me of my own dilemmas. In one episode, a short man has had botched surgery in China to lengthen his legs, and winds up in the hospital in danger of losing his legs altogether to infection. He defends his decision to have the leg lengthening surgery – how he can’t get any dates, how his life is a misery, how he has no confidence and no success, all due to his short stature.

And you watch him, and it’s pretty obvious his height has little to do with his problems. It’s like seeing shame on display. He feels so unworthy, so defective, that he needs to blame the length of his legs. He needs a focus for his misery. Yes, he’s slightly homely – by American TV standards he is not handsome. He would be average in everyday life. Lots of average people find partners. It’s his shame that’s the issue.

I identified with that feeling of being tainted, just doomed because of who I am. I ran into some more criticism at work last week. One of the clients I’d worked with previously in this job had complained that I’d lost one of her projects, which was ridiculous, but the complaint went through several rounds of emails without anyone ever trying to figure out if it was true or not.

Then this same client didn’t want me to document a procedure for her. She spoke to her manager about it, with me standing right there, saying it was too complicated for me to comprehend. Apparently, I ‘didn’t get it’, and had done a terrible job with a previous document. I’d thought this client and I were on friendly terms, but we’re not.

Then on the same morning, QC ‘failed’ one of my documents, and this was copied to several people.

And so I felt ashamed. So ashamed of my work, my skills, my worthiness. I almost broke down crying that morning, despite having back to back client interviews. I actually insisted on a Starbucks break so I could get away for a few minutes and replenish, which I’m pretty sure is not really allowed.

I feel that shame a lot. Not good enough. Even if I don’t run into headwinds like i did that morning. My face is just wrong. My reactions are too much, not right. I say the wrong things. My questions are wrong. My voice is wrong. Just bad.

Ugh. Luckily I don’t think I can fix it by flying to China for life threatening surgery! It’s not that I’m ‘too short’. But that feeling of shame displayed by the character who had the gruesome leg surgery – I so get that. That feeling that you’d do anything to ‘fix’ what’s so very wrong about yourself.

I was thinking about my last post. First, wow, did I ever leave a lot out of my session. And second, about my distrust of my therapist currently. I’m so depressed. I think I distrust everyone at the moment. I’m seeing all the darkness, all the failures, all the disappointments. I’m not seeing the caring, the many responses I have received, the attention to me while I’m in his office. So I find some of the things he says off. It’s OK. I’m pretty sure I’d find that with anyone.

One thing I left out – I talked about how I used to be somewhat like the young silent people at work. In my twenties, I barely spoke. I’d make an exception for a very few ‘safe’ people. But I’d never speak in class, or elsewhere. I felt scared to speak to anyone. And kind of arrogant at the same time – I’d think how could people be talking about such stupid things. At the same time, I’d long to join in. I felt I didn’t know what to say to people. No one in my family ever chatted. I didn’t know how to make any kind of small talk. And my silence would build – as time went by, and I didn’t make any kind of remark, I’d become more and more self-conscious, and would feel as if my face were maybe frozen.

This was one reason I clung to a fellow misfit – my ex. He also rarely spoke to anyone and didn’t do small talk. I felt like I was the exception to his general scorn for other people – that I was the one person worth talking to. I didn’t realize his reticence was also from low self-esteem, because he was so critical of everyone. Anyway.

Now I’ve changed. I think it’s important to talk with people, and I’m no longer as afraid. I’ve figured out what some common topics are, and what it makes sense to discuss in different contexts. I’m still a bit anxious sometimes, but I can handle myself a lot better socially than I used to.

I’m also no longer drawn to people with low self-esteem. I would accept them, but wouldn’t seek them out.

I don’t know if the young people at work have the same shyness problems I did, or if they just prefer to very silently focus on their tasks. I can definitely understand either way. Just it makes me feel lonely I guess.

I wrote the last post right after my session. So later on, I feel a bit differently.

I ended up needing to lie down for a few hours to deal with some of the sadness that kept coming up as a result of the session. I think even though they didn’t get that much time, the time parts did get opened those feelings up, and I got to feel more of it later.

Today I’ve been down but functional. Which is a change. I feel unhappy, but I can still do the grocery shopping, iron, and tidy up. I even went to a service this morning. Which was OK. I chose a  United Church that’s in close driving distance. The sermon was nothing special, but on the other hand, it was very easy to remember the gist of it. If I go and there’s a complex, nuanced service, I often enjoy it at the time but then am unable to remember much about it after. The gist was that God pushes us into challenges, and that these are good for us. We may not like them at the time, they may seem like losses or struggles, but that is God’s push for us to grow. And that’s fine. Nothing to object to really, and maybe it’s a helpful thought.

I didn’t bother with coffee time. I just wanted to see if going to the service itself does anything for me, without activating all my social anxieties. And – I’m not sure. One of my sociable parts loves church – just seeing people, singing, being part of something.

A more cynical part of me dislikes it because it seems hypocritical. People are so enthusiastic with the ritual of giving the peace – smiling, shaking everyone’s hand – but they don’t actually greet you if you’re sitting next to them, or say hello or goodbye. I guess they’re waiting to be introduced, lol. So I say hi to one woman who sat in my pew, and leave.

Today and at the end of yesterday, I once again feel connected to Ron. And as if something took place that helped. I think it’s the fact that he talked to parts. They need him, and are very attached to him. And after, I felt less fragmented and more of a piece. Yes, the price is a lot of sadness coming up.

The other part that helped was having an adult in charge. It is pretty frightening to have an adult life to maintain, and to have the adult go offline leaving traumatized child parts to deal. So keeping the adult self present seems vital.

Last night I slept a bit better, though still waking up several times. The second time I woke up, I wrote to Ron describing how it felt. Because when I go in to see him, I forget what the middle of the night is like. I was full of fears of never being accepted by anyone, and thinking of a thing that happened at the group I sometimes attend. This may be me being paranoid of course. But it seems to me that people there avoid me – like they won’t sit in an empty chair that’s next to me, if there are any others to pick. Last time, one of the regulars seemed to be making a point of coming over to sit in an empty chair beside me after the break. I know he meant well, but it just underlined to me how I’m not really accepted there – that he felt he needed to do that. So in the middle of the night, I woke up just pumped full of adrenaline, afraid that there is something so repellent about me everyone avoids me and will avoid me forever. It’s a really awful and scary feeling.

So I wrote it all out and sent it to Ron, and was able to sleep again.

Next week, I have to go to a session after work again. I want to stick to the same plan, if possible, to have time for parts in the first half, then spend time just being adult again in the second. Sometimes it helps to have a plan.

Chilly winter has come back, even on the second day of spring. Well, my mood is down to match. I am so down. Yet there’s been no therapy to blame for this. So that’s interesting – that I can feel awful even without talking about the past.

I know this part, V., is still very prominent. This is a very very sad part, and maybe that’s the reason.

Or maybe I miss Ron? I could write to him, but at this point I don’t even know what to say – more like a scream of pain. I don’t know what’s wrong, just that I feel like crap.

Today I wonder if I need to quit my job. It’s a corporate job, and it’s not very meaningful. However. It’s not like meaningful work is out there, waiting for me. In fact, because of my issues, I almost need a job which is not too demanding, where no one notices if I’m not producing for a few days. I’m a cog in such a huge machine, once I’m there, it’s OK to not be doing anything very much, sometimes.

Yes, I’d like my work to mean something. And my cubicle is so dark, somehow. It’s several rows away from the windows that line the perimeter of the floor. Nothing ever happens, unless I make it happen. But….I do have this little micro relationship with the young cubicle mate. Last week, her manager was away for Spring Break, and she had no one to talk to either,  so we had a few little conversations. I appreciate that.

My job is to produce a fifty page policy document. It’s to be modeled closely on another document they’ve just published. This document is written in a very dry, difficult to understand way. So I’m trying to get them to let me modernize the language and make it easier to use. Luckily, the manager is somewhat open to the idea. However, the other manager involved is not. A lot of people in banks are very very conservative, and so to them, the only reason you need for doing something a certain way is that it was done that way in the past. Anything new is threatening.

As a consultant, I’m not there to engage in battle with the staff. However, I also want to do something that bears some relationship to my skill, which is writing clearly and simply and to a particular audience. So I go back and forth, and I worry. I want my work to be decent. However, am I pushing too hard? Am I pissing someone off?

Then there’s not enough to do really. But they’ve allotted the time, and I need the money, so I try and stretch the task to fill it. I take breaks, wander around.

So there’s a lot of futility, a lot of loneliness, a lot of powerlessness.

I do need to support myself. So I need to stick it out. No one is being mean to me. I actually like this boss, and he seems to like me.

Does that explain my depression? I have no idea. I think also, bits of sadness and trauma get joggled loose by exercise. So there’s that. Oh yeah, I forgot this. I had started building in bits of support, bits of human interaction, and with working, I’m too exhausted to do those things anymore. I’ve missed all ACA meetings since I started this contract. I just feel too out of it, Saturday afternoons, when I’ve either gone to therapy already, or had training at the gym. At the time, it makes sense to stay home – I feel sad, I feel fragmented, I need to rest and recuperate. Same with church. I have not gone – it always seems more important to get extra sleep.

But then, I end up being alone all the time I’m not at work. I don’t talk to anyone, mostly. I end up feeling really frustrated, that I seem to be too exhausted to make use of my off work hours. It seems as if just surviving is all I have energy for.

Maybe next week I’ll go eat out a few times, and not cook. What if I eat out on a night there is ACA, then go to it? I wouldn’t have to cook or clean up.

None of this feels exactly right – it doesn’t seem to explain the sadness. It’s kind of half there, perhaps. I can’t feel the whole thing, and I can’t place it or make sense of it.

Glum again. Work is hard. The ‘aunt’ thing didn’t kick in today. Instead I am reminded that I’m not one of them. I’m never the expert, always the learner. It’s in the nature of what I do, but it’s hard. Where I work, knowledge of our products is very highly valued. It’s a financial institution, yes a big bad corporation. Anyway, the products are very complicated and highly regulated. Add to that the systems needed for completing and recording transactions – it’s a lot of stuff. So I learn, I ask questions, but I’m never one of them. Combined, the two women I’m working with have over sixty years’ experience with this institution. And they’re fascinated by the products – the policies, procedures, the people, the ins and outs of it all. What they don’t know about this may not be worth knowing.

It’s not knowledge I can go and read a book about. I can read their documents, but they don’t make sense if you don’t already understand. So I have to ask questions. Which I do.

Can I just say in my defense, being on my own side here, that asking questions takes energy and some intelligence also. A lot of people don’t bother. However, then I’m always one down it seems. I don’t know, they know, I have to ask for help.

I have my own skills to offer. But often it seems that isn’t much noticed. People working in the department I work for are there for their knowledge. Some think – why is this woman here, who knows nothing?

I can make their documents better, but I can’t do it by myself. I have to meet with experts who can answer my questions. They don’t have the time to do this, since they’re busy putting out the daily fires of their jobs. So I’m this troublesome extra. I’m underfoot. It’s not great for my ego.

I’ve been trying to get my manager to give me things to do for the next weeks, when we will stop meeting. She is going away for two weeks also. She’s given me one small project, which isn’t yet ready for me, and that’s about it. So it’s looking like I will be at home again with little to do. I still get paid, but I want to work for my money.

Then today she wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying. I thought I had a contract until mid-summer. I went home and looked at my agency confirmation – it’s a little unclear. So then I panicked – will I be out of work in a week or two? They don’t seem to have anything for me to do.

It’s the nature of contracting that contracts end, but I need some notice so I can look for something else. It’s great in a way to have free time without money worries, if I could use it guilt free.

If I’m back to weeks with little to do, I’m going to have to start planning things so I have some human contact. Maybe I will take a yoga class, maybe some other thing too.

Anxiety is a bit of a bitch once she’s triggered off. Also haven’t heard from my son for a long time. He seems to have not charged his phone, it goes straight to a message. I worry.

So today I felt like a stranger in a foreign country. Even the chat, when I could have contributed, I held back, I was super shy once again.

But, I’m coping. I’m getting that bus at ten to eight every single morning dammit. I have work clothes for every day. I rock. At some things. I have a fear that I can’t cope with working every day, but I kind of can.

I have not been wanting to feel things, so I haven’t been writing, and I haven’t been writing to Ron either. Very self-contained these last weeks. It took me a long time to feel better after the last therapy session. I still don’t know what to do with that memory, how to make sense of it in my mind. Perhaps that is the essence of dissociation – memories and feelings seem to have happened to someone else. Even when they come back, they don’t seem like my own.

I’ve had a cold since Wednesday. Very miserable yesterday. Finally, after a day of nose dripping uncontrollably, I decided to try an anti-histamine, and what a relief. I’m getting these odd colds that combine a head cold with an allergy attack. For me, and allergy attack that is out of control is completely disabling – my eyes and nose stream constantly. Very odd, because my allergy season is essentially over. I suspect my body’s defenses are low because of the constant jarring of PTSD. So this falling apart happens.

Today was a better day. I did some work, so won’t book another day off sick. I don’t get paid for sick days, but it’s a grey area, because working from home is OK. I’ll take a one day hit for Thursday and let it go at that.

I’ve been considering how alone I am. This week it’s not bothering me, though I have barely spoken to anyone all week. I wonder if it’s something I put out – that people don’t want to talk to me or be around me? I’m not looking for reassurance BTW, to anyone who knows me. Just – how come I’m alone all the time at work, and most of the time at home?

I have friends, and I spend time with them. But essentially, I am always by myself.

I’ve been worrying / thinking about group, which begins next week again. I want to do a better job this time. I feel bad about how I behaved in the last group actually. I want to talk to Ron tomorrow about this.

For one thing, I want to try to hold on to the idea that Ron cares about me, even in the context of the group. I completely lose that sense in group for some reason, which makes me so anxious I can barely stand to stay in it.

I want to keep tabs on parts and not let them act out. That’s different from totally suppressing them. Having some scared child attack another group member just isn’t going to be helpful to anyone. It wasn’t helpful last year. Nothing really got worked out, I just stirred up a lot of pain as far as I can see.

I also want to be a supportive person. I do. Ron stresses honesty and ‘realness’, whatever that may be. But I think now, more than before, that there is a lot of value in showing kindness and support. All the people in a therapy group are suffering and fragile. We’re not supposed to be there to make friends – but what is wrong with showing concern?

I’m intending to talk to people before and after the group, not leave in silence. I can at least wish them a good week, and maybe hope that whatever the issue is gets better? What would be wrong with that? We are all fellow travelers after all. I don’t see how some expressed fellow feeling in the group is going to be untherapeutic. I’m not a therapist, I’m just a person in a group, I can act like a normal human being.

I do wish R. would not be in the group. I won’t be offering him a ride home, and if he asks, I will actually refuse. I’m not interested in working out any feelings about him in the group. If he does that, I think it will be a cowardly act actually. He had the option of talking to me directly – if he feels safer in the group and decides to air his feelings, whatever they are, there, I’ll think he is too chicken shit scared to talk to me directly.

Anyway, trying not to obsess on R. I think the last group helped me with social relationships. I’d never considered the option of ‘being real’ before, so it was practice with that. I want to feel and express more sympathy with people, (OK, except for R). That will make it more of a healing force for me.

Very very hot day Friday. This therapy session I have more to say. Ron looks mournful today. Typically I worry about this. He really does look sad and distant.

R. What was it like coming to see me today?

E. Alright. I’m a little scared as usual.

We sit for a while. I straighten the kleenex box and re-arrange the cushions on the couch.

E. You look really sad. I feel like I should ask you what’s wrong, let you talk to me….It can’t be about me? Must be your life….

Ron’s eyes twinkle a bit when I say I feel I should let him talk to me about what’s bothering him. 

R. (small voice) I’m here.

E. I thought we could talk more about the group. Why do you think I kept needing to leave and hide in the washroom?

R. How did you feel when you left?

E. So much better.

R. Better in what way?

E. Less anxious. Sometimes there’d be a voice shouting, so that stopped.

R. What did it say?

E. I can’t remember.

We sit.

R. You had very strong feelings about me. That I had ‘bad energy’. That I didn’t like you.

E. Well, that’s true. I did feel like you didn’t like me often. But let’s not worry about the energy part. I just didn’t know what it meant. Anyway it only kicks in if I’m sitting next to you, so it doesn’t matter.

R. Your feelings towards me seem to shift a lot. My own towards you stay the same. I want to be helpful to you – including in the group.

E. I found the group difficult. And it didn’t seem to be clear what we were trying to do. If we were trying to give our honest reactions to people, or if we were trying to go deeply into our own issues, like in therapy. People in the group seemed to have different ideas about it. For instance A, when she said something like – she didn’t feel safe because I criticized E – well, I can see her point. If her idea is that the group is a safe space to explore issues, with other group members acting kind of like lesser therapists….well then I was doing the wrong thing.

I can’t remember how this conversation proceeded. Ron essentially did not agree with me about the group, without ever coming out and saying so. He felt the purpose was clear, and that my issues were my issues – personal to me.

E. And that second last session, I’d started, then you completely switched the focus to E. But I had issues I was trying to deal with. I don’t think you’d ever done that before, switched to a different person entirely. Even if they kept saying how much they didn’t want to talk, you’d keep encouraging them to talk. But for me – no.

R. But don’t you remember all the times I switched the group back to you, when you asked to talk?

E. Yes. Because I asked you to do that. I’m not saying you didn’t reach out to me – you did, and I appreciated that a lot.  I remember lots of times you made a point of helping me.

R. (kind of annoyed now) So what are you saying then?

E. I’m just saying that that time, you acted in a way that wasn’t usual, and it upset me.

R. It’s as if you’re saying you were not important, that the authority figure in the group ignored you, but really…you were the most important.

Here Ron seems to be trying to flatter me or manage me or something, which annoys me. I know and I support that no one is ‘most important’ – we are all equal. I’m trying to explain how I felt, and he’s not really getting it.

E. And also, it seemed as if I was the only person who gave negative feedback. Well, except R. And R stays really calm when he does it, so it seems to go over better. Well, and A. But A only talked about people in the group when she was defending E – both to me and to R. She didn’t seem to talk about her own feelings, just criticized how we interacted with E.

R. A also talked to Y about how he was talking to R….

E. Oh. OK. I didn’t remember that. But I would never have said some of the things I said in a support group for instance. I mean, I told E she was mean, for goodness sake.

E. And for instance Z. Man, I got tired of her questions. No matter what was happening in the group, she’d ask the person who was talking another question. Never shared any thought of her own, any experience or opinion. It was irritating.

R. Yet you didn’t feel you could say that?

E. I felt  as if I was already critical, I felt really exposed. I just didn’t want to go there as well. I felt like a scapegoat.

Ron actually seems to accept this. I really felt so much guilt whenever I said negative things, and in the context of this very ‘polite’ group, it made sense to venture a certain amount and then stop and re-group.

E. And I don’t understand the huge hostility I felt towards E. I mean, it was so bad it woke me up one night. It’s not as if she actually did anything to me.

R. I think that isn’t helpful, to put it that way – that she didn’t do anything to you. She did say some angry things to you.

E. Well…yeah. But I felt hostile to her apart from that. So why do you think that was? It was – projection? Something deep in me projected onto E?

Ron nods slightly.

R. You said E reminded you of your sister….

E. Yes. Though as I got to know her better, the resemblance wasn’t so strong. E is more assertive than my sister is. Well..hey…she has brown hair, she’s younger than I am – what more do I need to see her as my sister?

R. So the hair, the age….that’s enough? How do you feel when you think of her?

E. And you’re involved somehow. I feel like a train is bearing down on me – heading straight for me. It’s going to run me over.

R. And what’s my role?

E. You’re….your job is to pull me out of the way of the train!

R. So you feel as if you put yourself in front of a train in relationships – and you need someone to rescue you. Relationships must feel dangerous to you in that case. You put yourself in front of E like you’d stand in front of a train….

This seems completely wrong to me.

E. Well….that seems good on paper. I can see why you’d say that. But it’s completely wrong.  It doesn’t feel right at all.

Ron looks put out. What can I do. I don’t think that’s the cause of my problem with E.

E. And the way R said E ‘missed him’? That was so true…I could see it happening, it was really clear. She missed me also. It was like I would trigger her issues, but she didn’t really respond or connect with me ever.

R. And what was that like?

E. It was an odd experience…like not being seen. But…that’s not my main issue with her I don’t think.

We never do figure this out.

E. You know, I’m having this experience a lot. It’s maybe a kind of dissociation. I feel like there’s a line across my body – usually just one. The location varies, it could be pelvis, belly button, heart, throat. Maybe it’s like chakras…maybe I should look into that. Anyway, when I feel like that, I can’t do things. I feel like that right now, which is why I’m mentioning it. Though there’s nothing to do, except talk to you.

R. Where is the line now?

E. Pelvis. So like last night for instance, this happened. I needed to go to the grocery store, and I just couldn’t do it. It was as if there was a wall in front of me I couldn’t get through. Then I took a xanax, and I got to the store, no problem.

R. And what did it feel like, before you took the xanax? Or now?

E. Well, it’s as if one part of my body is solid, but the other part is not, like it’s made of paper. Right now, the bottom half of me is not solid, but the top half is.

R. So you don’t feel grounded at the moment.

I smile at this. It’s so new agey and not really like Ron, and it’s not what I’m trying to get at. But maybe it’s true…I don’t really know.

R. What emotion is stopping you from doing things, what is making that wall.

I consider this. I feel very uncomfortable.

E. Well, I feel kind of a sadness. And some anger. And – some choking type feelings. 

E. I just don’t want to do this. Why do I have to?

R. What part of you is saying that?

E. I don’t know….

Something has catapulted me back in time for a few minutes. I start speaking in a young voice.

E. So they don’t like me and I don’t know why they don’t like me because I’m nice.

R. How come they don’t like you do you think?

E. I don’t know….and….

I am suddenly remembering what it’s like to be in public school – the look of the desks, the big lined pieces of paper written on with marker, pinned to the cork boards on the walls…the other kids…recess…the immense feeling of being disliked.

E. I have braces. I have to go the the orthodontist in B….it’s stupid. It’s too far to go there. The other kids just go downtown.

R. Why did you go to B?

E. My dad used to work there, so he had to go back sometimes…so he took me with him to see the orthodontist.

I don’t talk a lot from this kid place. It’s kind of overwhelming me. So Ron sits and waits, but doesn’t really know what’s going on. Then I switch back out.

R. What age were you?

E. I don’t know – going to public school. Grade 4 – 6 maybe, somewhere in there….I had these braids then. I didn’t use to wash my hair very often….They’d get greasy, and the kids would make fun of me.

R. So people made fun of you, criticized you….and in the group, you were afraid that was happening again. You felt different from the other members.

This does seem valid to me, and I don’t say anything.

We talk a little more, back and forth. Ron asks me some question I can’t answer, so I look at the clock.

E. Oh – the session’s over.

R. Yes. So one more session, then I’ll be away for a week.

E. OK. I’m really glad I didn’t quit therapy and came back to see you.

Ron doesn’t say anything.

E. OK, thanks.

R. Take care.

For some hours I feel fine, then I’m hit with therapy aftermath and have to lie down. But Saturday, I can again function pretty well.  When I’m thrown into a part, there always seems to be processing after a session. Even if it doesn’t seem traumatic, as in this case.

I can see how the school experiences would relate to my feelings about the group.

The relationship with Ron makes me anxious. It’s a little rocky at the moment. It seems to me as if I’m ‘getting to him’ to some extent, even while he is also attempting to be a good therapist. We do some decent therapy this time IMO, but the relationship feels precarious to me.