I just had an interesting therapy session

Unfortunately, it involved a lot of crying, but at least it was productive crying!

I had a little contretemps with my mom this morning (what else is new) and I realized afterward that what really bothered me about it was that she didn’t seem to have any confidence in my ability to make good decisions by myself without her “reminding” (read: nagging) me about things I already knew. This not only made me feel like she was guilting me, but hurt my self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy because it indicated her low opinion of me and therefore made me doubt my own abilities to make decisions for myself like the 32-year-old adult I actually am.

Having a discussion about this with my therapist, I realized that this is a big part of the dysfunction in our relationship. I said to Mom a couple of times that I needed her to say that she loved me and was proud of me. But honestly, I think part of what I meant was that I needed her to say that she not only loved me, but respected me. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with a lack of self-respect, and part of it is because I feel like my mom doesn’t respect me and my abilities–and who knows you better than your mom?

Only, of course, she’s wrong.

When I got really sick of her making a big deal out of me occasionally forgetting to pass her something at the dinner table, and was fully convinced in my own mind that this was HER problem and I shouldn’t feel bad about it, I managed to maintain my self-esteem and not descend into a boiling mess of repressed anger, hurt, guilt, and anxiety when the problem came up: I was better able to let it slide off my back because I knew SHE was the one being unreasonable rather than ME being the one failing in a basic family duty.

I need to learn to do this with the rest of my life. Because I have this VERY BAD PATTERN of having to tell her (and, especially if I don’t get the reaction from her I want, my friends) about every decision I make: and it’s because I want confirmation that I made the right decision. Well, I have to realize that my mom is not the arbiter of good sense, the unbiased judge she’s set herself up as in my life, and that I really am the best judge of what’s right for me. It doesn’t mean I won’t take advice, but it does mean that I need to learn to take my mom’s judgy behavior with a grain of salt.

And hopefully it will also make me less judgmental of other people’s decisions, too, because even when I don’t express is, I am often super judgy in my head. And I need to learn that other people also have to make their own decisions for themselves and probably know what they’re doing a lot better than I know what they’re doing, if that makes sense.

Advertisements

Answering questions

On one hand, almost nothing has been going on in my life (event-wise). On the other hands, lots of things have been going on in my life (internally). I don’t know what to blog about. So instead, I shall blog the answers to these excellent questions by Marla Tabaka. They’re business-oriented, so I may edit some of them.

Continue reading

I’m feeling depressed and agitated.

I know that I need to go back to the habit my therapist told me to get into, of writing down every day a few things I’m grateful for. I know I should do that. But I really don’t want to.

Because when I do that, I have to totally ignore all the bad things I’m feeling and not write THEM down. I have to couch everything in this positive language that feels totally dishonest. I have to ignore most of my feelings.

I know that a lot of battling depression is focusing on the good things and not the bad. I know that focusing on my bad feelings reinforces them. I know this. But it’s how I feel. And I want so badly to have someone validate how I feel.

I really want my mom to comfort me at this juncture. But she’s SO uncomfortable discussing my depression that I really can’t talk to her about this stuff. I had a discussion with her the other day about my health, and we were talking about how a hysterectomy increases your chance of heart attack and stroke, and I said, laughingly but actually kinda serious, “Honestly, everything sucks so much, if I’m gonna have a heart attack and go quickly, bring it on.” And my mom, instead of doing ANYTHING to comfort me or engage with my feelings, almost INTERRUPTED me in order to change the subject to the cat. “Rexie, what are you doing??!”

I need verbal validation. I need hugs. Not just over the internet, but in real life. And from the person whose opinion matters most to me: my mom. And I can’t get them because she doesn’t know how to validate me. We speak different love languages, and she just can’t seem to figure out how to speak mine.

I just feel like such shit.

EDIT: I just realized I’ve been having trouble with my hormonal birth control, and that might have caused the depressive mood swing I’m currently in. Guess it’s time to make another appointment with my Ob/Gyn… *sigh*

train of thought rambling on stories you’ve prob heard before

My life hasn’t been my own.

I mean, when you’re a kid, of course someone else plans your day and decides what you’re going to go. And there’s always that expectation: you’re going to go to school. You’re going to go to church. You’re going to go to your extracurriculars. You are going to behave yourself. You are going to clean your room. You are going to do your homework. You are going to do well in school. And someday, you are going to grow up, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, live out your dream career.

But at some point, expectations become a prison. Who HASN’T sat in class on a beautiful day, staring out the window, thinking, “I should be out THERE, not in HERE.” And that “dream career” thing became a prison, too. Because you really CAN’T just  be whatever you want when you grow up. I loved art as a kid, but I never even CONSIDERED becoming an artist, because I knew that wasn’t a practical way to make money and support myself. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was little, but I learned very early that professional ballet is an INSANE world and that I simply didn’t have what it took, so I dropped that idea, too.

All your life, especially if you’re a “good girl” and an overachiever like me, you are hedged in by expectations. I had to keep doing well in school. I had to devote energy to that. I HAD to do what my parents wanted. My parents were constantly pointing out whenever I stepped out of the lines they had drawn of their expectations. It gave me the feeling I was never good enough: I was never doing enough. I was overachieving, and it wasn’t enough. Only perfect was enough: only perfect would make the criticism end. And perfect was always just out of my reach. Every time I fixed something, something else was wrong. It was a moving goalpost. (I’m not, of course, saying that my parents were emotionally abusive. But they grew up with high expectations, and they carried that on into their parenting style.)

Continue reading

Yesterday I sold copies of my books at a local sale. I had been worried that I would be overly fatigued by it–carrying the heavy box, interacting with people, etc–but I was okay. A friend visited with me for the last hour or two of the sale, and she kept urging me to participate with her ballet studio. I kept saying no, that I didn’t have the energy. I was surprised at her persistence, because at one time she was extremely ill with Lyme disease, and she continues to have some chronic problems with it. In fact, she was the one who first introduced me to spoon theory.

Since I’m prone to self-doubt and recrimination, I began to find myself wondering yesterday if I really did have more energy than I thought I did and if I was just being lazy and not wanting to do things rather than not actually having the energy to do them. So I began reminding myself of a few facts last evening, and I decided to type them up here to be able to find them again in the future if I start to feel like this again:

I am not simply “being lazy.” I reached a point where the demands on me–mental, emotional, AND physical–were increasingly unbearable. Slowly, and with major resistance, I gave up on various activities: ballet, swing dance, job applications, subbing. Those last two required the actual commands of God to make me give them up because my sense of responsibility for those activities is so strong. God TOLD me this was the right decision, and otherwise, I probably never would have made it.

And this break has been good for me. I have finally reduced my activity level to match my energy level (which is why I am no longer experiencing the extreme fatigue that reminds me of how sick I am). I have made a wise decision. I have also, through this enforced rest, learned that you shouldn’t do things out of a crippling sense of guilt and obligation, and I’m beginning to believe that the practical choice–in things like career trajectory–isn’t always the right one. If I have true faith–willing to do the “impractical” thing for the sake of God’s plan–then I will keep resting as long as he tells me to, and without guilt.

Our associate pastor, Dale, preached today on 2 Chronicles 36:14-23. He particularly mentioned the fact that after the Israelites went into exile, the land finally had the Sabbath rests and Years of Jubilee that had been owed to it and that the Israelites hadn’t given it over the centuries. Dale suggested that the land was allowed to rest in order to prepare it for the return of the Israelites. I really felt like God was saying that this was my Jubilee rest. Situations and my own sense of obligation had kept me from really resting for years, and I never would have truly rested unless God had forced me to. But this rest, which feels to me like a waste, is actually a time while God is preparing the next portion of my life: preparing a career and/or a future for me. I just have to remember all this and keep myself from falling into despair and self-recrimination.

Unhook the Train

I’ve been really upset the last couple of days, first by an argument with my parents, and then by finding out that the sleep study I waited MONTHS for in order to get a CPAP machine (and hopefully kick some of this debilitating fatigue) came back negative, which I’m SURE is false. So I was feeling pretty crappy when I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep.

You know what it’s like when you’re worried and upset about something: it just keeps running through your mind, over and over, and you can’t shut it down. And especially when the problem is anxiety/depression, the more it cycles, the worse it gets. You know the kind of thing: “Doctors never listen to me, they just run tests and get false negatives, and what if I’m wrong and it’s NOT sleep apnea? We’ll NEVER figure out what’s wrong with me, and I’ll feel like this FOREVER and I can’t do anything with this fatigue, and I’ll never get a job, and I can’t exercise, so I’ll just get fatter and fatter and…”

And then I realized: I had been feeling kind of crappy for the last few days ANYWAY. It’s probably hormones, because it’s about the right place in the cycle for it.

Which means that these things going wrong are NOT what’s making me feel depressed. I’m feeling depressed, so these things are BUGGING me more.

So it’s not that my situation is terrible and that’s the problem, and since I can’t fix the situation, I can’t fix the depression. Actually, the situation isn’t that bad, as long as I separate it from the depression. It’s like unhooking the train from the engine: it stops that train of thought from going around and around and around on that circular track.

Just that little intervention of thought–“This is my depression making me feel hopeless. The situation itself is NOT hopeless”–was enough to totally disrupt the cycle. I soon fell back asleep, and I feel MUCH better today (despite having a headache from the insomnia).

I share this in the hope that someone else may find this approach helpful–and so that I can remember to use it again in the future!

WHAT IF

I realized something last night. What if… God is not like my mother?

Lemme esplain.

My mom is a lovely person and a lovely parent. There’s one big thing I’d criticize her for, though: she’s a perfectionist. Like most perfectionist parents, she is highly critical of herself and of others. And she feels like she needs to point out to me every thing that I do that she doesn’t entirely approve of. Though she tried constantly to express unconditional love, she did NOT express unconditional approval. I had to do things RIGHT for her to approve of them, and since her idea of RIGHT was, in practical terms, unobtainable, I feel like I have never had her complete approval as a person/adult/professional, etc.

Having this as my basis for understanding my self-worth, basing my approval of MYSELF on the approval of my mother, I have unthinkingly believed for decades that God views me the way my mother does. Like this impossible standard (Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect) is somehow obtainable, and I’m falling down on the job. Like I SHOULD be doing better than I am.

But what if… God is nothing like my mother? What if God actually DOES provide justification–that is, he actually DOES view me as righteous simply because I’m trusting in him, and not because of anything I’ve done to deserve it? What if my worth in God’s eyes actually has nothing to with my behavior or how perfect I’ve managed to be?

And then–what if the things my mom has made me feel guilty about for all these years aren’t sins? What if there’s nothing wrong with swearing as such, unless I’m doing it in a way that is being unloving toward others? What if there’s nothing wrong with accepting gifts? What if there’s nothing wrong with being proud of my accomplishments? What if there’s nothing wrong with sexual thoughts as long as they don’t lead to sin? What if… I’ve been feeling guilty for years for literally NOTHING?

It’s a lot to take in.

Three Kinds of Attraction

(Reposted from my Tumblr)

I’m going to write today about three kinds of attraction: sexual, sensual, and aesthetic. It’s very common for sexual people in our culture to mix all of these together, but there are plenty of cases where they happen separately, especially to people who identify as being on the asexual spectrum.

Sexual attraction: When you find someone sexually arousing or you kind of wish you could have sex with them (even if you would actually choose not to if given the chance, for instance, for religious reasons or because you are in a monogamous relationship.)

Sensual attraction: When you desire to be physically intimate with someone yet not sexually intimate. Could involve cuddling and/or kissing.

Aesthetic attraction: When you enjoy looking at someone (or hearing their voice, etc) because you find them in some way beautiful.

I have frequently had people who otherwise accepted that I am asexual express surprise or disbelief that I could possibly BE asexual because I find some people physically attractive:

Me: “Oo, he’s hot.”

Them: “Wait–are you SURE you’re asexual?”

When they say this, they are mixing up sexual and aesthetic attraction: just because I don’t want to have sex with anybody doesn’t mean I’m blind: I can still find their faces or bodies beautiful and enjoy looking at them.

Here’s an idea

One of the things I’ve been discussing lately with my lovely friend Bea, a newly-minted local pastor, is the idea that a lot of the things I feel guilty about actually aren’t sinful: things like not working enough, or not doing things around the house the way my mom would, or not eating right, etc. Combined with the thoughts of my last couple of posts, I’ve come to view myself, my desires, my preferences, differently. Instead of feeling guilty about not wanting to become a teacher/prof after studying for it, I feel like I’m not SUPPOSED to follow those careers. God doesn’t WANT me to. This means that my own personal desires might not be selfish, sinful, prideful, unrealistic, irresponsible, wasteful, or any other guilt-inducing thing I might have thought them before. What is in me that is not sin is gifts God has given me to do his work and carry out his plans. God made me what I am, with these desires, these personality traits, these preferences, because He has a specific plan for my life that these things will help me find and accomplish. I should therefore feel free to pursue my non-sinful desires, because they represent God’s desires within me.

Some of the things I should feel more free to pursue and to value in my life because I have an inherent desire for them include:

–creating art/literature
–beauty (and the collecting of beautiful images/objects, within reason)
–curiosity
–knowledge
–freedom (including free time and the option to be spontaneous rather than rigid and regimented)
–delight
joy/sehnsucht
–romance
–contentment (including financial stability and pleasant home/surroundings)

If these are NOT what God wants me to pursue (or not NOW), He will tell me so, as long as I continue to seek His will, or He will give me something else He wants me to pursue instead.

I find this idea tremendously liberating, encouraging, and exciting, and it makes me wonder what kind of career and life God is leading me toward!

A decision

This summer, I felt like God was saying I should stop looking for jobs temporarily, probably partly because I’m so fatigued and the job search was making it worse. I’ve been feeling freer to take more days off of work at my subbing job, too, as part of my attempt to take it easier on myself and my increasing realization that if I’m really dreading work, it means I’m actually too exhausted to do it. Well, since posting yesterday about my situation, I’ve really taken the pressure off of myself totally: I’m going to continue to take off work until I REALLY feel like I can do it again. I worked a grand total of one day in January, and as soon as I got home afterward I had to go straight to bed. There’s no point in my torturing myself like that, and torturing myself emotionally/mentally for not working when I feel like I “should.” As someone online with chronic fatigue reported that her doctor tells her, “You keep thinking that you can play basketball and you keep trying to. Don’t you realize that you have a broken leg, even if no one can see it?” 

I feel like my new paradigm really helps me to see that I’m faultless in this situation and that a lot of it has probably been enforced rest because I’m so physically messed up. (Last week I got diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause musculo-skeletal pain. Until I read that, I didn’t really think about how much I hurt sometimes: I frequently wake up feeling like I’ve been beaten up or run over by something!) I keep mentally downplaying my symptoms, partly because they’re so invisible to everyone else, so I feel guilty if I claim them. But I feel like God is saying, “It’s okay, sweetie. Take a break.” And I intend to.

As long as my parents don’t get on my back about not working… :/ (Which, to be fair, they haven’t been lately. It’s been nice. 🙂 )