Changing With the Leaves

October 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s a new season for me. I’ve decided that I’m reaching the point in my life where I am an adult. A human that is no longer just a morbid collection of childhood hurts, teen angst and treasured disappointments languishing in the dusty trophy cabinet where badness lives.

After so many years of being puppeteered by fear, guilt and a need to change myself, I’m now a collapsed pile of limbs and costume, relieved and resting.

That need to change. I was always trying to improve myself, based on my own bizarre list of personal standards. Not improve; CHANGE. Erase what was there and replace it with something better.

And now I’m not. The work I do now is acceptance. I like who I am. I can put time and effort into buffing up the good ’til it glows, and I can sandpaper the not-so-good to a smoother finish if I fancy a spot of DIY. But I’m not a problem to be overcome. I’m a maze, a puzzle; the whole point of my life – any life, I think – is the adventure of exploration as one figures out the next turn.

I guess this means therapy works. It’s been tricky and not always nice, and it’s taken a lot of mind-bending. A lot of shouldering open stuck doors in the cobwebbed old library I keep upstairs.

There’s books in there I could burn, but I won’t. I’ve sorted them, bundled them – then put them aside. I’ll keep them like old text books from school; they’re how I got here and they taught me everything I know, but I’m not going to build the next 40 years on them.

A big stack of obsolete books. Theories disproved, authors forgotten and covers faded to grey.

Going to Get My Head Shrunk

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Though the NHS has really done a very nice job of keeping me alive and relatively sane, it couldn’t give me any kind of counselling beyond internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As I’ve said before, I find CBT very easy to game – a nasty drive of mine – and therefore nearly useless.

Tonight, I begin with the Christians. My session is at a 1917 tuberculosis sanatorium set up by The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège, for God’s sake. Oh, I’ll have to try to curb that. In my assessment hour, I crossed myself for effect (a prop I often pull out of the box) and was asked not one minute later if I belonged to a local church.

Not going to let that put me off though. A shrink is a shrink is a shrink. I don’t think they’re allowed to let their personal leanings influence their dealings with me.

But I’m afraid. I was so affected by just my assessment that I backed my car into a brick wall. Gently, mind, but I was dead shaken. I don’t have the same guy this time, which I’m glad about because, although he was perfectly nice, I found him unsettling. He did that silent staring thing. I didn’t find it easy to be honest with him.

I’m worried about that bit. There’s literally no human on this planet apart from your therapist that you’re expected to tell the absolute minutest detail of your ugly, twisted life. He’s supposed to not care if what you share is criminal, selfish, jealous, hateful, shaming or frightening. I can only liken it to when you have to wee outside and your body’s like, “Um, no? This is not what we do. I ain’t weeing here, love.” How does one go about letting go?

Phil reckons this analysis I’ve been doing is exactly what’s wrong with me. But that’s another part of my worry: what if there’s not enough wrong with me?

I don’t know how they’re supposed to fix me when I’m fine. I am fine. I’m medicated, aren’t I? Sure, I have nervous habits but generally, I’m happy. So – what are they going to fix?

CBT

September 1, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ve been doing CBT for the last month or so. I started out very, very sceptical because to my mind, it’s patching over the problem by teaching you methods to quell your anxieties or the symptoms thereof, rather than actually ‘solving’ them.

And to be blunt, it is all common sense. There’s nothing in CBT that is a new concept to me. However, the sessions serve as a reminder; a bookmark that pokes me into TRYING when I’m faced with a situation that makes me want to back away.

It’s extremely simple: I struggle with anxiety in a social setting because of my inward focus. I’m thinking about ME – how people will view me in this situation, and that causes me to blush and makes my heart race, which in turn blinds me to anything but myself. But the truth is that no one much cares about how I look or come across. I would say that a person’s perception of me runs at about 30% compared to my own. I have a theory that people don’t look at the entirety of a face: they look at the eyes, the mouth; they flick between that and the space around the person they’re talking to. That doesn’t give much of a chance for study, the kind of study required to find someone lacking on the microscopic level that a person finds themselves lacking.

I knew this, or thought I did. But now I ACTIVELY know it –  I think I was being very lazy before. I was allowing myself to wallow in my anxiety, because of course everything would go wrong. There was no point going anywhere because it would inevitably be awful.

The most useful thing I’ve achieved is the decision to not over-plan. I have a terrible need to plot out all the negative eventualities that could occur in any social setting – and those usually outweigh the positives in my head, so it’s not worth trying. But if I don’t plan, and things go awry, so what? I’ve only experienced one set of that negative, instead of suffering over it before it’s even come to pass. Now I am an adult, with money and a smartphone, there are very few occasions where I am truly trapped, so really – what’s the worst that could happen?

I’ve allowed myself to be wounded by minute trespasses against my super-ego, that the perpetrators are probably completely unaware of. I’ve let them fester in my mind and grow their own mutations. But I am trying to regrow my world now and make a history of experiences that don’t make me feel twisted up inside.

So while CBT might not have impressed me, it has certainly helped me. Having someone say to you “But does it really matter that you’re not in control?” or “Does it matter if you say something silly to people who know you’re not or to someone you’ll never see again?” and finding that you actually don’t have a clever, bitter, negative answer is very good for perspective.

This morning I read the transcript of a speech David Foster Wallace gave, on the inward focus that causes so many of our anxieties and prejudgements. He killed himself, so perhaps he didn’t manage to live the concept he put into such great words – but what words they were.

Read it, it’s sad and uncomfortable and beautiful.

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