Thursday, July 31, 2014

Observing Your Thoughts With Curiosity: It Turns Out I am a Total Bitch

One of the key components in practicing mindfulness is non-judgmental observance, or learning to pay attention to your thoughts as they arise. As my psychologist put it, my homework for this week is to approach noticing my thoughts with an attitude of open curiosity. Oh, isn't that interesting! And then letting them go. The mind, after all, is a fascinating place if you just pay a little attention to it. We're so used to thinking thoughts all the time that they become a kind of static we don't hear any more.

But they're there, influencing us. And if we don't know what they are, how can we begin to unravel the complex ways that our mind behaves during periods of depression to reinforce our mood, to dig us deeper into it, to make us think that the things we're saying about ourselves to ourselves are so automatic that they must be true?

I saw my therapist on Tuesday, so it's only been a few days, but already I've noticed a disturbing pattern in the way I talk to myself. I call myself an idiot an awful lot of the time. Like, a lot. I insult myself, say I should have known better. I am very sarcastic: when I do something wrong, like pushing the elevator button for the wrong floor, I say 'good job' in an obviously demeaning way.

These are things I'd never say to anyone else, certainly not in this way. These are things that are unacceptable. If I was my own wife, I would call myself verbally abusive and tell us to get into couples' counselling right away!!

The hardest part of the assignment is not to judge myself -- or the thoughts! I can't help but feel disappointed in myself when I notice the way I self-talk. I can't help but feel like an idiot for calling myself an idiot. So I notice these patterns, too, this tendency to spiral off into a cycle of self-abuse that leaves me feeling worse and worse.

And then I put it aside.

If I saw a beautiful flower, I wouldn't say to myself, 'You are a wonderful person for noticing it there, its soft petals and its delicate fragrance.' I didn't put the flower there on purpose, or create it, and it isn't mine, though I did choose to notice it. It was fascinating. If I saw a hideous flower, I wouldn't say to myself, 'You are a terrible person for noticing it, its ugly color and sickly scent.' I didn't put the flower there on purpose, or create it, and it isn't mine, though I did choose to notice it. It was fascinating. These things tell me that I am the kind of person who chooses to notice things, as they are, and tries to let them be an experience without judging it, as best as I am able.

It's fascinating to choose to pay attention to your own thoughts. I knew I hated myself. I was aware that I didn't like myself, that I don't think well of myself, and that this would be surfacing in my thoughts. But I had no idea the extent to which I was doing it. I am going through my days surrounded by this great cloud of words. It's...fascinating! I was like, wow, I had no idea it was like this inside my head all the time!

I don't know what to do with all of this yet. But it's interesting. After 31 years, I keep being surprised by my own brain: how cool is that?!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Can Has Internet!!!! (Or, rejoining the land of the living)

Well, I finally moved out of my parents’ house into my own place, which was a milestone for me not only because at the age of 31 I’ve never had the opportunity to live on my own and be truly independent, but because I’ve never moved in my life. Ever. Yes, that’s right, lived in the same room in the same house, always.

I meant to blog about this whole process, but in the upheaval and overwhelmingness of all that was going on, I totally forgot that the internet can’t be magically and instantly delivered to your dwelling. A shame, really.

It was a long, drawn-out process because I hired movers for the first day I could take off work – July 11th – but really wanted to move in before. So I had all my Ikea furniture, including a bed that was a nightmare to put together (apparently), delivered the Saturday before, and my family helped me build it. Well, my family built it while I washed dishes and then lay helplessly on the floor, curled into a fetal position when faced with the enormity of what I’d done. I mean, I made my family build a crap-ton of Ikea furniture together: it was a nightmare.

I’m the kind of person who hates change. My life is carefully structured into tiny and large routines that govern my days, everything from what coffee cup I use any given morning of the week to how I do my makeup, what I eat, what time I get up in the morning, to how and when I pay my bills, the kinds of jobs I apply for, and the rhythm of my days. I like routine, and structure. Sure, I make allowances for when things inevitably don’t go as planned, but when I’m facing huge adjustments I’m an absolute nightmare to be around. I run the gamut from sobbing hysterically, to withdrawing and shutting down, to hiding under the kitchen table only to be bribed out with jars of peanut butter.

When I was about to start kindergarten, my stress drove my brother so batty he moved out of our shared room and into his own space in the basement.

Anyways, this whole moving-into-my-own-apartment thing was a really, really big change. I spent every night the first week crying. The first day was particularly distressing because, even though I had a bed, I didn’t have a table or chairs, so I ate dinner sitting on the hardwood floor balancing my plate on a stepping-stool. I admit, the thought ‘what in God’s name have I done?’ crossed my mind a few times.

I had a difficult moment in my first week, when the Douglas hospital called me to say I was eligible for maintenance treatment one week a month, every day, for six months, the thought being that I would benefit by seeing an increased duration to the effect of treatment and a possible delay of recurrence. Unfortunately, none of this was included in any of my return-to-work medical papers, so I had to turn it down because I can’t afford the two-week exclusion period that comes with a new claim.

To be honest, I’m lucky my health insurance is so good that I don’t have to choose between food and medication. Please remind me not to lose my job!

I struggled in the middle of the first week when I unpacked a bottle of Remeron that I’m not taking anymore (but, of course, I hoard medication I’ve stopped taking). When I cried at my desk at work Wednesday morning, I reflexively dumped them all on the desk and counted whether or not I had enough to kill myself with if I needed to.

I know that having my own space, my own independence, control over my own life, is a stepping-stone in the direction of changes in myself that I need desperately. But, for today, I’m still battling to live with my dragons.