Tag Archive | Social anxiety

Opposite of Lonely

I don’t often feel lonely, not the way I hear others describe it. I looked it up in a dictionary and thesaurus, and curiously, could not find an opposite for lonely that makes sense to me.

Lonely is defined as the one of the most terrible things in the world: Sad because one has no friends or company, isolated, alone, lonesome, friendless, with no one to turn to, forsaken, abandoned, rejected, unloved, unwanted, outcast, deserted, uninhabited, unfrequented, unpopulated, desolate, isolated, remote, out of the way, secluded, off the beaten track/path, in the back of beyond, godforsaken; in

the middle of nowhere.

Opposite? Populous. Crowded.

I do have a longing for meaningful connections in my life. Love and acceptance from people you can trust. I have a deep, dark, pain, an emptiness much greater than loneliness, because I know it will never be filled. I’ve looked into the depths of this chasm, and it is seemingly bottomless. It seems I’m safe as long as I only glance at it, no jumping in.

For me, acquaintance people are nearly always a nuisance, a stressor. Hell even the current people in my life that are supposed to be loving, supportive, combat loneliness, like my husband and in-laws cause stress and conflict. My kids are the only people I enjoy time with, and even then after a bit , I still feel crowded, smothered, like I can’t think or breathe. When I am alone, I feel peaceful. When I am with others, the tolerance clock starts clicking and I have limited time before I bolt, hide, isolate myself and recover from the constant scrutiny, questions, confusion, misunderstandings, obligations, words…so many endless words attacking my system.

It wears me out to nod, smile, be polite, figure out how to respond, sense danger, protect myself. Talking is my least favorite activity. I’d rather go to the dentist than have to chitchat with some random person. Is it my turn to talk? What did they just say? Are they lying right now? What time is it? Is that a TV show they’re talking about? Is this something I’m supposed to know snd recall or are they telling me something new? Ugh. Too stressful

Add multiple people and this feeling is exponentially heightened, to being the opposite of lonely, I get a strong need to be alone, to escape.

I’m not heartless. I do wish all these people well. I just don’t want to hear about it, sorry. Most things people tell me I can’t do anything about and I feel uncomfortable having to express sympathy or advice. Most people I start diagnosing their personality disorders, recognize cognitive distortions popping up, and of course I must remain silent. People don’t want to know this. They don’t actually want to change their own behavior or think about their thoughts. And they would be insulted or embarrassed, even though they are the one oversharing to me. It is only socially acceptable to offer support like, oh you poor thing that sounds difficult for you. They just want to hear it sucks, for validation.

I’ve found when I interact online, I can control the pace and intensity and don’t get overwhelmed. Each time I venture out to a real life Meetup, it is not a positive experience.

I’m not sure that’s bad or unhealthy. At this point in my life, if I feel satisfied by this level of connection, than maybe I need to stop trying to force myself into a more social, extroverted role just because I’m supposed to be lonely this way.

I’ve been reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain and embracing my introverted self. I don’t think I need fixed. When I socialize it is to complete a task, or because others want me there. I get nothing but stress from most gatherings otherwise.

I watched the Netflix series “Atypical” which was fantastic. I’m not an expert on autism to know if they portrayed this accurately at all. It was entertaining, but also I indentified strongly with his social struggles. I don’t think I’m autistic. But I do think I’m atypical and that my brain can’t be changed much at this point. I don’t connect and form bonds or relationships like most others do. I’m highly sensitive, tuned into emotions, which is the autistic difference. My hyperactive neurons though gives me high scores on tests for autism, overwhelmed by sensory input, can’t look people in the eye, don’t make friends, can’t work in groups, hate loud noises and bright lights, take things too literally at times, repetitive soothing behaviors, trouble following conversation, it goes on and on. Fascinating really. So it seems that autism may be caused by too many neural connections, a lack of pruning, is one theory. I’ve read similar theories for anxiety and PTSD, our connections stay strong reinforcing past memories to keep us vigilant and safe.

This is me rambling and I hope not being stupid or offensive with these curious thoughts. I only look for similarities to figure out the puzzle of me. I don’t claim to be right, ever.

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Sometimes I don’t hate myself

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Here and there I experience moments of peace, freedom from self loathing. I am trying to make more of these moments appear in my life, if I can.

These moments come either when I am alone, or with my kids. Never with anyone else. Okay. Good starting point. It doesn’t always happen though. So what else is going on?

These moments come when I am not trying to change myself. When I am living. Doing something, like playing a video game and laughing with the kids, taking a hike and snapping photos, watching clouds transform into shapes and colors, feeling the hot water of a shower on my back, blowing bubbles and watch them float or splat, petting the soft fur of my dog, lifting weights feeling my muscles strain. I have brief mindful moments when I take in the world and I do not think about it. No analysis. No paranoia. No decisions, judging, evaluating, scanning for danger, making sure I am saying the right things. Just live and breathe, watch and experience.

These moments come when I am not trying to be perfect. I often am being childish. I make a rude or inappropriate joke or comment. I eat too much candy. I do the dishes later. I forget about something on my to do list. I make a mistake. AND my brain does not attack me and say I am a horrible person and need to die.

This is new.

These moments come with acceptance. I have accepted my current state of being – my weaknesses, my tendency to forget, my difficulty learning and processing, my auditory troubles, my daily flashbacks and slips into dissociative states, my irrational fears and panic attacks, my obsessive unbalanced thoughts. I have accepted that this is me right now. My kids accept ME too. They call me demented – but with a hug and a smile. They love my quirks. Maybe I can too??

I have made some BIG decisions to change my life. I am no longer going to desperately try to change ME. Instead I am going to accept me and accommodate me. I am no longer putting on a fake smile. The people closest to me don’t like ME. They like submissive, complacent me. And ya know what? I hate her. But I don’t hate ME.

This is really important I think. I have built a life, surrounded myself with people that never accepted ME. I have decided I am no longer obligated to be a part of their lives.

The in-house separation with Hubby is going really well. The space and distance is exactly what I needed to start healing and feeling stronger. I am no longer triggered and traumatized daily. I am getting some rest and peace here. With our separation, I have told him that I will not be going to any get-togethers at the in-laws’ houses for the holidays. He can take the kids without me as if we were truly separated.

I cannot tell you the overwhelming relief this decision has given me. Freedom from the chaos. Instead of my stress getting worse each day, I am getting more relaxed as the holidays approach.

I have accepted that I hate parties. I am going to stop forcing myself to attend them. I don’t need a label as to why. If you want to call it social anxiety, PTSD issues, attachment disorder, paranoia, whatever it doesn’t matter. I suffer when around people. Especially Hubby and the inlaws. I suffer for days before and after social events. I hate talking to people. I hate listening to people. I hate trying to fit in – because I don’t. I hate pretending to like things, pretending to agree with them. I also hate conflict and disagreeing so that doesn’t work well either. I hate analyzing motives, interpreting body language, making sure I am not being rude, making sure I am safe. It is exhausting. Not one second is ever fun.

I used to drink to get through social events. A few shots of whiskey before we leave. A few more while we are there and wine with dinner. Maybe add a benadryl or a sleeping pill to take the edge off.

I don’t do that anymore.

I won’t hurt myself any more. I won’t keep going to therapy to try to change the fact that I am not a social person. I have one more session to wrap up my program and then I am done with therapy. This is ME. I prefer being alone. I do not get lonely when I am alone. I am only lonely when I go to parties and see how different I am. I start feeling bad, like a freak, watching everyone else enjoy themselves, laughing and chatting. Why can’t I do that?

I don’t know why. But I don’t care anymore. It is no longer a goal of mine. I have accepted that I have different social requirements and I am going to stop trying to change and force myself to fit into a convenient mold that everyone else wants for me but I have never actually wanted.

This decision may hurt some people. They may think I am being selfish. I say good. About damn time I figured out how to do that. If the people actually NEEDED me, I would be there in a second to help. No one will die or even suffer because I am not eating turkey at their dinner table. Perspective is needed.

What about my kids? Won’t they be confused? No. They accept me too. I have explained to them this past year a bit about my troubles. That parties make me nervous and sick, cause headaches, too much stress, no fun for me. I am here for them all the other times. They can go to a party and come home and tell me about it. Instead of us going together, and me hiding, recovering, sick for the next several days. I am a better mom this way. By being kind to myself, accepting what works for me, and stop chasing normal.

I hate normal. But sometimes I don’t hate ME. And that is the key to everything. That is how I am going to get through this. I just know it now. I keep picturing a future where I might not hate ME. Is it possible?

No self worth – when a good little girl is never good enough

Don’t tell anyone. Don’t let them see. Don’t let them know. Keep quiet. Smile. You’re so pretty when you smile, no one wants to see an ugly face. Don’t bother the grown-ups. Be a good girl.

It’s our special secret. Crying never helped anyone. Only boring people get bored. Never let them see you sweat. Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which piles up quicker. Dreams are for idiots, geniuses make plans. Only fools waste time on books and art but you’re just a girl so I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t why you try so hard, you’ll never do anything important. Girls only get good grades or good jobs because you’re cute or because you cry.

These are only some of the messages I heard on a daily basis from my parents. I learned to be perfect – to only show people that I was perfect, and to hide every flaw. I was put in an impossible position of needing to be superhuman to be accepted and no matter what I achieved, I was treated as less than human, as nothing, nonexistent, an invisible nuisance like a gnat or fun toy for their sick amusement and pleasure.

Not only did I suffer from low self esteem and low self worth, I suffered from no sense of sense at all in this environment. My parents did not allow me to grow and develop into my own person, with unique desires, needs, and emotions. I existed only for them. I was completely enmeshed and served them. My only desires were to please them and be accepted – something I never knew was impossible. Abused children never know this, how can they?

So today I have some maladaptive behaviors based on core beliefs stemming from no self esteem. In fact I have way too many to describe in one blog post, so I will pick one that I’ve been discussing with my counselor recently.

I have a need to keep my secrets. I still need to hide my flaws. I still try to be perfect.

How can this be? I’m not a tortured little girl any longer. Why do I still resort to the same social behaviors that were taught to me as a child? Well, I haven’t learned any new ones yet. And until last week, I wasn’t even aware of how ridiculous some of my behaviors are, based on these unbalanced core beliefs. I’ll explain.

In January I had a particularly bad hemiplegic migraine attack that weakened my right arm and right leg for a few weeks. Sometime about 2 weeks after the attack, I decided to go grocery shopping by myself. I started pushing the cart and was doing fine for a while, until my right side fatigued as I put more in the cart and as I walked along. This was the first real exercise I had attempted since the attack but I was walking fine so I thought I could do it. First I started to limp, and then my right leg started to drag. I could no longer lift it. This was not alarming to me. Annoying, yes, but not alarming. I just knew it was time to go and headed to the checkout line. But to my horror, as I walked to the front of the store – people noticed my struggles.

People can’t see my struggles. People can’t know. Don’t tell them. Don’t let them see. Smile, no one wants to see your ugly face. Now you’ve done it. You screwed up.

First one, then another, then another, oh God no, another…people kept asking me if I was alright, did I need help, should they call someone, did I need a chair, could they push the cart for me….

Shut up! Leave me alone! Go away! Why did I come here today? Why did I think I could do this? I should have known better. I have to get out of here.

I smiled politely and told each person that I was fine. I refused help. Because I was fine. Because they have to think I’m fine. And if they can see I’m not then I’m actually going to pretend?? Hmmm.

Somehow I slowly made it out to my car, got my bags in it, locked the door. I wanted to take a moment to recover, but everyone was still there watching me! I had to get away. I drove home, with shaking hands, and tears started before I pulled into my driveway. I screamed and cried and hit the steering wheel and had an amazing fit that confused and shocked me. I had no idea what was happening. I felt horrible everywhere. My stomach was queasy, my throat was tight, my head was aching. I thought about my class and therapy – was this an emotion? Ha, I actually laughed at myself while I cried. I pulled out my chart of emotions and went through it….sadness, fear, shame, guilt, despair, frustration, humiliation, anger, grief, anxiety…I went on to name some more and ended with overwhelmed.

Why? What happened? Why is that response so strong for me? I’ve been working on this for a week now, completed several worksheets and I think I have a clue now. This situation actually encompasses several layers of stuck points, each one triggering the next core belief until I short circuit. I used to shut down, numb out and dissociate. This time I felt it all. Woah did I feel it.

Some of my stuck points for this event:

  1. If I can’t do my job I am worthless
  2. If people see my flaws I have failed
  3. If people see my flaws they will know I am nothing
  4. I’m not allowed to share my faults or secrets
  5. If I break a rule, I am bad
  6. If I get caught breaking a rule, I will be punished
  7. If people see me struggle I will be humiliated
  8. If people have to help me, I am a bother, a burden to them
  9. If people see something that I failed to hide, shared unintentionally, I have been violated
  10. If I let people see the real me, they will hurt me or leave me
  11. If I let people see my struggles, I am a failure, disobedient
  12. If I let people see my struggles, I will hurt them, make them uncomfortable

I overwhelmingly felt like a bad dog at that grocery store. Like I had messed on the carpet, chewed up the pillows and now my owner has caught me. The shame and fear were huge, but the disgust and self-loathing were intolerable. I was taught to hate myself and that lesson has stuck.

Like when I asked Mom if we could eat at Wendy’s after my back surgery at age 12, she said we could get drive-thru, couldn’t eat inside because she didn’t want anyone to see my leg brace and be uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want them to be unable to eat their lunches would you? They made me practice walking at night so no one would see. Kept me hidden away like I was hideous and would make people lose their appetites. I had a metal and plastic brace from my hip to my toes to stabilize the knee and ankle. It looked a little like the picture below, but my leg was a bit girlier, skinnier, and not so hairy.

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I see this now and I get so angry at my parents. Seriously. I wasn’t ALLOWED to be paralyzed? I am so freaking sorry that my being paralyzed put such a damper on your fashion plans for me and ruined lunch and social events that summer until, all on my own, because you denied me physical therapy and after care, I learned to walk again. A-holes.

OK. Sorry about that.

So anyways, I have some deep seated stuck points regarding how I am to behave, and even though I know rationally they are not healthy or realistic, I can’t simply snap my fingers and change it all.

Another example:

I told my counselor I am afraid of having flashbacks of my first back surgery during my next one coming up soon. And I’m not sure how to best prepare for it. I told her, it’s not like I can warn the hospital staff.

She says Why not?

Huh?

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. No way. not possible. You want me to tell all of those strangers, nurses, transporters, volunteers, doctors, surgeons…that I might have a flashback? That I have PTSD? That I’m not normal? The thought filled me with the same mixed bag of fear, shame, dread, guilt, anxiety…no…we don’t tell people…they don’t need to know…

She challenged me. She does not back down. She asked me to list out everyone I’ve ever told about having flashbacks and PTSD. It was a VERY small list. Then asked which ones of those people humiliated, rejected, or said horrible things to me. Sigh. None of them. Each person I have told has been compassionate and understanding so far.

Then she asked if I’ve ever told medical personnel. I said yes, my neurologist, after I had been seeing her a while. And the counselors in the psych ward. And her of course. She asked if any of those people treated me horribly once they knew about my flashbacks. Again I had to say no.

Then she had me visualize, a brand new nurse coming in to my bed, and I was telling her her hello and just by the way, I might have a flashback, I have PTSD, I just wanted you to know. How do you think she would respond? I tried sooo hard, but in every scenario the worst I could come up with would be maybe a nurse being abrupt or like ok, whatever, but no one being horrible. Most responses I imagined were “Thanks for letting me know, is there anything I can do to help?” or “What can I do to help make this less stressful for you?”

This fear I had…fear of what?? I had no idea. I had no idea what the terrible consequence might be. What exactly had my parents been trying to prevent all these years? Why did we all have to be perfect? What is this horrible thing that happens when people know the truth?

The answer is NOTHING!! Nothing happens. Its all a lie to keep us quiet and afraid. Was it all about control? Did they need us to be perfect so they could be perfect parents? Had my mom not told her friends I was paralyzed so she couldn’t risk anyone seeing me? If kids are perfect, then other people don’t ask questions and they get in trouble? Was it about her and them – and never about me at all? All of my shame was about covering their own asses? And I’m still doing these behaviors, to protect them, unknowingly, because it is habit, hard wired and ingrained in me.

I’m such a good girl.

I’m both sickened and amazed by these revelations. I think one day I may be free. But these chains are still bound tightly.

(picture credit: By Pagemaker787 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Challenging beliefs, cpt example, social anxiety

Saturday was a doozy of a day. One of those days that takes me days to recover from and process it all. I used to recover by disassociating, stuffing the bad feelings down as deeply as possible, distracting myself and moving on ahead as if nothing happened. Like whatever, its fine, it doesn’t matter.

After attending my group therapies, 3 dbt followed by 3 months of cpt, I have new skills to use when these doozy days arise. First I use breathing and mindfulness to stay grounded and present to avoid disassociating. I tune into the bad feelings instead of run away from them. Well mostly. I’m not quite an expert at this yet. Some are still overwhelming and all I can do is bring myself back to the moment later. Next I fill out my challenging beliefs worksheets. If I’m out somewhere, I write a note in my phone and work on it later. Or like today, the events were so big I need no reminder, I know I need to do a worksheet. So I thought I’d do it here and share my thought process.

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Saturday morning started with an argument with Hubby, quite painful and ugly. That will need a separate post and worksheet and I’m not ready to delve into that yet. But it sets the stage for huge amounts of tension between us. It was his only day off this week and he was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of tasks he had to complete. I thought I would get the kids out of his hair and take some tasks off his list.

I decided I could handle taking them to the library and to a playground, it was a beautiful uncharacteristically warm and sunny day. I thought I could also go to the pharmacy and pick up my meds refill. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to shower. I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I didn’t want to see anyone. I slowly prepared myself, as I do, calmly getting ready, bracing myself, doing breathing and grounding, not thinking too far ahead to get panic, but far enough ahead to do pre-coping skills. I had not showered in a few days again, this is always hard for me in this depression to get the energy and to simply remember to do it. So I was headed for the shower when Hubby asked me if I could pick up some stamps at the post office.

Apparently my face said no before I did, because he reacted so quickly. He pushed his chair back abruptly and slammed his hand in his lap watching me. My throat was closing and my heart was racing as I felt the panic. I had to breath and count before answering, and telling him I don’t want to. He got angrier. He said something like, Fine, Whatever, ya know do what you want to then, I just thought you could help out, but everything is always on your terms, and I don’t understand. Nevermind I’ll get myself after work sometime. Thanks a lot.

My heart sunk. I felt so misunderstood. I didn’t want to hurt and disappoint him. I wanted to be normal and run normal errands and be helpful. I haven’t been to the post office many years. It is a place I avoid. I’ve never admitted this before because then I would have a problem. I don’t want to have social anxiety. I hate places where you have to stand in line and then tell someone behind a counter what you want. Especially when I don’t know the rules, like where the line forms, what the stamps are called, how much they are, will they need ID, will they ask me for anything else, how long will I have to wait in line, will the other people in line start talking to me, I won’t have a grocery cart in between me and the other people…my mind races with these questions and the anxiety takes over before I have a chance to counter it.

I cried in the shower. I do this often. No one knows, and it is such a great release. I also figured out that I could send my daughter in for the stamps with some cash. She is old enough and would actually enjoy it, feeling like an adult. I did attempt this, but turns out the post office was closed when we got there, it was closed when he asked me to go, so the whole thing, all that stress for nothing.

I could do a worksheet on that event, but that’s not the most distressing, so not the example I’m choosing. It does build up to the other one though, so it was needed for backstory.

The library was similar, I send my daughter in with my youngest to help him pick up new books and return the old. I’m walking so slowly these days, they actually offered to save me the pain, and to save themselves the time of waiting on me. win-win. my kids get me.

The pharmacy was uneventful. I have no anxiety in there. I know the rules. I know where to stand, I give them my cards, I tell my birthday, I sign the form, I pay. No chitchat. In and out. Easy.

Now the next part is complicated. Next was a playground. If Hubby was working I would be taking all my kids to a playground together. But since he was home I thought I would give him the option to join us. He likes to play tennis with the girl sometimes. But with our earlier blow ups, and him seeming so busy he would not commit when I left and he asked if I would check in with him after my errands and before the playground. So I did. I sent a kid in to check if he wanted to come. I should have gone in myself because the message got all confused and I ended up waiting forever. The problem here is that the youngest wanted to go this big cool playground and that park did not have tennis courts, so if he was going to play tennis then we had to go separately and I had no reason to be waiting, he could go when he was ready with her.

So he comes out and tries to get in the van and I try to tell him this, and gets upset thinking I don’t want him to come with us. Sigh. I’m just trying to balance needs and make everyone happy and get out in the sunshine. Why is it so damn difficult? He stomps off to his car ending our conversation, I was going to discuss options. He motions for me to go, so I do, and I make to the stop sign and one of my boys decides he wants to play tennis too. OK, fine, hop out and go with dad. So now it is just me and youngest boy off to the cool playground.

Cool playground is crazy busy. I’m happy to see this so kiddo will have someone to play with now. We start walking towards it, and I see that all of the benches inside are full of parents. Here comes the panic again, damnit. I spot a bench on the outside where I can still watch him but sit alone. I send him inside and sit down. Less than a minute passes and kiddo returns in tears. He says he can’t go in there…He doesn’t know anyone.

Oh for the love of mud!! I just want to go home!! Seriously?? Little dude is afraid to be by himself in there without his big brother and sister. Of course he is. This is the first time he has ever been asked to go in without them! But I can’t comfort him. I am angry. I am angry because I can’t help him. I SHOULD be able to go in there with him and run around with him, push on the swing, chase him a bit, help him feel at ease until he meets a new buddy and forgets about me. But the pain in my back means I can’t climb that structure or push him on a swing. And the anxiety means I can’t even go in there anyway, not with the swarms of people today.

Its not fair. I felt like a horrible mum. I failed him. I was able to do this for the other kiddos, but this youngest guy has gotten a defective mum. I couldn’t even hug him. I put him back in the van – by himself so I didn’t hear him cry. I closed the door and stepped outside and sat on the bench next to the van. I couldn’t take it. It was unbearable to be this helpless and defective. It was all my fault. I caused him this pain. I caused all the problems today. All the confusion. All the extra work for Hubby. I was a miserable excuse for a human and I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

I called Hubby. I tried to explain. He was very confused and thought kiddo was being bad, and having some sort of tantrum. I told him he was afraid, and Hubby said I was projecting my own feelings onto kiddo, and that I should tell him he has to go in or I have to take him home. I knew that was wrong. I recognize fear, and it was natural and developmentally correct for his age. Its me that has it wrong for my age. Emotionally my age is the same as this child – I see it so clearly now on days like this. How much I needed my mom to hold my hand and help me.

I couldn’t do it myself that day, but I wasn’t about to let the day end like that for him. I explained to him that it was ok to be afraid but that my back hurt too much to go in with him today. I told him that after my surgery, we would work on him feeling safe there without his siblings, but not today. So I drove him to the other park, where his siblings were, and let him play there a little while. I explained he would not have much time to play now, once I drove there, and he understood, no more tears, and none when we left, even though he only had about 15 minutes of play time.

My sweet little boy is always so happy and friendly,  I had no idea he had any social fear, and that his strength came from the security of his siblings.

So back to the worksheet now that you know the story.

A. My son (and I) are afraid to go in the busy playground
B. It’s pointless to try, bad things will always happen
I will never be understood by others
I should be able to do more
I am defective, broken in too many ways
I am a freak, I’m not like those other people
C. anger-100
helpless – 100
ashamed – 100
sad – 80
confused – 80
guilt – 90
D. Most of column D is usually a duh for me, of course my thoughts were extreme, exaggerated, unbalanced, based feelings not facts, habits, have much more evidence against than for, but these are my automatic thoughts and reactions that need to be challenged and rewired
E. Again when I look in E, I can see the problems easily. I am aware and understand them. I know how many problems I have at this point. I jump to conclusions often prethinking outcomes and conversations that have not yet happened.I exaggerate effects of my actions making them life or death, like I may have ruined kiddos life at that moment by not going into a playground.I don’t think I ever oversimplify, I tend to overcomplicate as I analyze. I’m often mind reading, assuming I know someones thoughts based on body language, like that I already know I’m so different from EVERY parent in there even though I have not spoken to any of them. I’m often guilty of emotional reasoning too, meaning that since I felt helpless I thought I actually was for a moment. Or feeling ashamed does not mean I have anything to be ashamed about – it is a remnant of my past and the ptsd.
F. This is the most difficult and most powerful part of this worksheet. you take your unbalanced thought, what you say to yourself in B, and rephrase it so that you believe it and its negative power is reduced. My first thought ” It’s pointless to try, bad things will always happen” could maybe be “Sometimes when I try my best, it doesn’t turn out as I hoped, but we can all get through it”. The idea is not to be over the top PollyAnna but to use realistic, coping phrasing.
G. Now revisit those first thoughts, are they still so powerful and believable? No, I suppose it does not seem pointless to try. I did not curl up in a ball and give up and abandon my kid. I may not have handled it as gracefully as I would have liked. I may have other problems preventing me from being the mom I want to be right now. But I’m still his mom, and I still found a solution that worked. When I let go of perfection, I’m able to move forward and feel less defective, less helpless. He is ok, he is safe. we have time to work on his fears together now that I know about it. Hubby said he would take him to play without siblings some time. It was good we identified an issue. He may not have to suffer like me, we have time to help him.
H. anger – 60
helpless – 20
shame – 100
sad – 100
confused – 0
guilt – 90
hopeful – 50

So this worksheet can help sort it all out, reduce the power of the confusing, overwhelming, negative emotions, and introduce some empowering ones like hope by reducing helplessness. I’ve noticed my guilt and shame tend not to go down. Need to work on that in therapy with something else. I also feel sad today, it seems to come after the anger passes.

I did this one without my counselor, so it may be missing something, she usually adds really important insight that I don’t have. Next time I’ll share one that I completed with her help.

Friends like broccoli

Five minutes of anxiety. Thats all I felt on the way to party. Getting ready I felt annoyed with myself because my favorite denim shirt was not where I thought it was and my flannels are way too casual and too warm for the evening.  And all of my other tops have become alarmingly tight around my middle – damn dryer. Hubby helped me look through the sorted but not yet put away laundry baskets.

He found the shirt!

He was my hero for a shiny yet brief moment of time until I noticed the time and felt the all too familiar tugs of guilt and shame as my inner voice whispered “you don’t deserve to go to a party if you can’t get there on time. Are you seriously late because you got so fat that you only fit into 1 decent top? You lazy pig, just stop eating already”.

I swallowed that message and headed out the door. We still needed to get something to take. Some drinks and maybe a dessert I was thinking.

My head was in full on assault now. “You’ve known about this party for weeks, how on earth is it that you are now 15 min after the party started and just now thinking of what to bring? Seriously, for shame, you don’t deserve to go to a party. How rude to be so late! What if the food is cold when you get there? What if they all wait on you, watching while the food gets cold? What if we all have to eat reheated food all because of you? You are so selfish. It’s no wonder you don’t really have friends. They only invited you to be polite and you can’t even be polite enough to get there on time.”

I knew enough to simply ignore my head at this point. Like a toddler in full on temper tantrum, I was spewing out irrationality left and right. I recognized this and grabbed the cookies and drinks and headed to the check out all while no one seemed to know there was a meltdown of epic toddler proportions beneath my calm looking smile.

Rush back to the car, and start driving. Drive for about 15 minutes when Hubby says “where does this friend live?” I look around and try to figure out where I am going. I had been so happy to start driving that I was on auto-pilot and not actually headed to a destination. oops. (yes I actually yelled fuck and rolled my eyes at myself in the mirror, but oops sounds so much cuter)

OK, a quick survey, we weren’t too far off course, only added about 5 minutes if I took the next exit. My head almost started in on me about being late and now being later because I’m too stupid to remember how to get from point A to point B and actually remember how to drive – but I squashed it again and turned on the radio. But I felt my heart racing and sweat  brewing.

We made it, and I actually laughed when I saw we were guest # 2, not even close to the latest. I stuck out my mental tongue at my inner toddler as I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles and directed towards the appetizer table. As I filled my plate and grabbed a beer – I felt happy. I did it. Again. I have found that getting through the pre-social anxiety is the worst part, surviving the evening is usually easy after that, just have to get out the door and into the next. We all laughed and ate and had a nice time telling stories, some new, some we’d heard a hundred times over but still laugh at the good parts.

And then a friend left early with her new partner. And all the good feelings were gone in a flash. the mood went from relaxed and joyful to dreadfully concerned and downright pissed. See, this friend is newly divorced, ending a 30 year marriage full of anger and control. 3 months ago she started dating, and 2 months ago she moved in with this new person. And this new person appears to be just as controlling as her ex. The inner circle is pissed. We all see the changes and have tried to warn this friend, but she says she is fine, we are over-reacting. It’s no big deal this person makes her sleep on the couch as punishment when she forgets to take out the trash. No big deal she gave up her puppy because this person doesn’t care for dogs. No big deal that this person makes her go home early every time now, even though she used to be a ‘last call’ kind of girl.

I nodded my head as my friends shared their concern and discussed ways to ‘save’ this friend. I learned the new person came from an abusive relationship and apparently my friend thinks she can counsel and make this person change – if she is patient. It isn’t this new person’s fault, been through so much. Our friend says she is fine. She wanted to go home early. She says she can’t hang out with us so much because this new person feels threatened by us. She says  she can’t call or text us so much because this new person gets angry and jealous and it’s just easier if she plays it cool. No big deal.

This was all way too triggering to think of someone in this relationship, and so deep in the muck that she can’t see the signs. And way too uncomfortable to learn all of this about someone I only see every few months. I wasn’t sure my opinion was worth much, but I could see our friends were truly concerned. I listened and gave my support as best I could, but stood up, getting ready to make my escape as soon as I thought I could.

And then, it got really awkward as I realized that I too must have been the topic of these heated conversations 2 years ago when I was miserable and thought I could hide it. These friends knew, and reached out to me, and pulled me in. A major turning point in my life was when they all ganged up on me, hugged me and said, “You know we love you right? We’re here for you. We mean it.” They offered couches, safe havens, drinks, hugs, and shoulders to cry on. I took them up on each one at some point as I figured out who I was and reformatted my marriage, rebooted my life. I had been stuck for so long, it took these amazing friends to see my sadness – and for them NOT to look away. They could not tolerate my suffering.

And that’s what it is for this other friend now, they can’t tolerate her pain. They know they can only do so much, but believe me, if something needs doing, they will all be there to get it done. and then, once the injured lamb is restored to the fold, we will all go back to talking about nothing and sharing silly stories. I guess maybe they understand that life is serious enough, so we should only be serious when we need to be. No one here talks about work and the boring suckiness that fills all of our lives – when we get together it is all about sharing the joy.

“You look tired – everything ok?” “Well I had a really bad day at work, and a tough week actually” “Yes me too” “Yup” “Me too” “Work sucks” “Fuck it” “Yup” “Yeah it sucked but we’re here now” “yes” “Alright” “Awesome” “who needs a drink?” “I love this song” “Remember when we heard this song and we were driving to . . .”

And that’s it, the work week melts away and the stories begin.

I don’t know. So I guess I had a good time, mostly. I definitely had a time. I experienced a bit of life that would have gone on without me, but since I got off my couch, it went on with me. My inner toddler felt dragged along and confused at times, but went home dazzled by the experience and slept soundly from all that excitement. Those tantrums passed and once I did what I thought I couldn’t or didn’t want to do, I found out it was good for me after all and no where near as bad as I expected. Like broccoli.

Dose of Social Life

I’m going to a dinner party tonight, at a friend’s house. She invited me and Hubby, and about 10 other people. Big enough to be fun, but not so big I drift off and get lost in the corner alone.

I just realized I am looking forward to this party.

I just realized I have no panic or anxiety related to this party.

I know it starts at 6pm but that no one would care if I showed up at 8pm, they’d be happy to see me no matter what.

I’m not going to spend much prep time on hair or clothes, it is just my friend’s house – come as you are.

I’m so happy hubby gets to come too, kids are at grandma’s. So if I need to drift away from the conversation with the group, I have him there to exchange glances and inside jokes. My friends are becoming his friends.

I am ready to laugh. I am prepared to have fun. I don’t how it will start, but someone will get us all laughing so hard it hurts.

I no longer feel like an outsider – but if I look closely, I do feel like I’m on the outside compared to the others in the group. Like a few key members make up the core and I orbit around the extremities. Why? why do I feel like this? Partly because I am invited to about 1/4 of their get togethers. It is apparent that they see and talk to each other daily. They all live within minutes of each other and text constantly. I live nearly 30 min from them, next city over. And I don’t want people calling and texting me nonstop. I’m sure if I were responsive when they do text that I could be in that inner circle. But I like it out here.

I like it a lot. In fact it is perfect. I get exactly the right dose of social life this way – not always alone at home, and not always in the middle of their business. I enjoy catching up with them and learning what I missed. They enjoy sharing stories with me that they can’t share with the inner group because they all already know them.

Such a transformation if you read my earliest blogs in here when I never to spoke to ANYONE. Wow. And how did this happen? I made it happen.

Even though it was terrifying – I put myself out there and made myself vulnerable, and made myself smile, and said ‘yes’ a few times. I searched out people with similar passions – artists, dancers, musicians – and struck gold. We work together to make the arts more accessible to the community, and when we’re done working, we play together too.

 

I’ll never be Norm

I have friends now. This fact should be comforting, but it often cause me great distress as I navigate unchartered territory.

I’ll never look forward to joining my friends and living at the bar with them. Although they do often shout my name happily-I will never be Norm. (From cheers in case you are not in US)

One friend planned a surprise birthday party for another friend and invited me and many others in her friend circle. I was happy to get invited, really happy. I made arrangements for kiddos to go to MIL so Hubby and I could both attend.

As the date drew near though, the typical inner hell began to plague me with questions and doubt and anxiety.

What should I wear? Does my hair need colored? Should I get a gift, and what kind of gift? What if I’m late? What if I wear the wrong thing? How late do I need to stay? Am I expected to know something that I won’t know? Will I look like a hermit or a psycho if I don’t know the latest news? What if I don’t recognize someone I have met before?

It was planned to be at a wine bar. OK good, I like wine.

The wine bar is a bit fancier than the bar we usually hang out in, and this friend always makes a fashion statement. so I decide I need some new clothes. All of my dress pants are too tight (curves has given me a bigger waist so far, but not panicking yet, as my metabolism adjusts and I get stronger. It must be muscle it must be muscle. Acually I think I’ve been wearing my sweats and baggies and have not tried to wear dress pants in about a year. Lots can happen in a year) and all my jeans have holes in them or paint splatters. Hubby decides he wants to go shopping with me and get new jeans too. I am annoyed by this but not sure why.

I tell hubby I am feeling anxious and irrationally worried. I tell him I want to stay home. I tell him I don’t feel good enough and I want new clothes but I also don’t feel good enough to deserve spending the money. The last time I bought a new blouse was well over a year ago. And for craps sake I am shopping at jcpenneys. Not nieman marcus.

So there I am. Feeling fat, frumpy, dumpy, cheap and wasteful simultaneously, anxious about being late yet too anxious to make quick decisons.

I look up the wine bar online and check out th
Scene and what people wear. Yup. Def cater to business woman with taste and money. I dont have either.

We arrive at the mall with only 2 hours until go time. I get angry. Now I am afraid I will find nothing and will also be late to the party and ruin the surprise, or miss the surprise if not entirely ruin it. I am angry at hubby for working this morning though I could have gone shopping at any point in the last 3 weeks since getting the invite.

I send hubby to look over there to look for jeans and get annoyed when I have to say my size out loud. I hate my size and pretend I am shopping for my fat aunt. I get the large and am disgusted how my belly pushes the fabric.I get a larger size. Then I want to ask hubby something and he isn’t back yet. I get angry that he didn’t look at anything on his way over there, so we have to walk back to see what is there. I mean really, he should have memorized every item by walking through, right?

I see nothing at the first department store and panic, making me see nothing. I want something cute but not sexy, pretty but not fancy, like business casual, like I care but not too much. And nothing too loud, but also not too plain. I keep seeing crops and capris, and no jeans in sight. I scold myself for not knowing this was the wrong time of year to shop for jeans. I like the capris but it is a very cool day and I already have nice capris.

we go to the other end of the mall, and find nothing there either, but because everything there started at $44. for a t-shirt. sorry no can do. I tried on 6 different pairs of jeans, all the same size, and they ranged from barely making up to my knees to being so baggy I could do Hammer Time. Why don’t they use measurements in women’s clothing like they do in men’s? Now I start hating clothing manufacturers too.

I get upset and yell at hubby that we shouldnt be at a mall.

He asks me why I’m yelling at him. I yell some more and tell him i already explained that I would and I know it doesn’t make sense but I’m scared and angry right now.

Telling him how I feel made it seem normal. I was still fat and had nothing to wear but I was feeling less like a freak.

We go back to the first store and really start looking this time. None of those clothes were there 10 minutes ago. Really. I see clearance racks full of all kinds of cute items. I find my jeans, a bit stretchy to make them soft and comfy but not too much. I find a cute blouse, black and white so I can mix/match easily. A pushy sales lady tries to convince me I really do like this skirt that I attempt to put back on the rack, and I keep saying thank you, that’s ok, I’m fine. ratio of sales ladies to shoppers is 4:1 and I go into evasive action and avoid eye contact.

Now I panic again and feel selfish. I spent all this time shopping for my own clothes and did not get a gift for the birthday girl. This is all Hubby’s fault. Why didn’t he look for a gift while I was trying on clothes? I get angry and sweaty. He looks scared, but he says he saw some pretty jewelry over there . . .Yes! of course! My dancer friends love big jewelry. I pick out a pretty silver bracelet with concentric squares, also on clearance. Woot!

So we get my jeans and blouse, 2 pairs of jeans for hubby, a polo for hubby, and a bracelet for $100. I am extremely happy for about 2 seconds.

I see the time. We are supposed to be leaving home, not leaving the mall at this time. We’re going to be late. I hold back vomit and get blurry vision.

We rush home, I take a college shower, get changed, quick makeup and hair brushing. Hubby prepares gift while I get ready (I didn’t even ask him to! he is thinking efficiently now! I am happy for another 2 seconds.)

Do I wear cute summer shoes? How far do we need to walk? my cute shoes make my limp stand out and I usually lose a shoe with slightly less than Cinderella-like elegance. If I walk slowly and not too far, I can wear cute shoes. But I can’t find the cute ones, so sensible it is.

We arrive at the wine bar 10 minutes later than I wanted to, but before the birthday girl! I am so happy! for 2 seconds. Everyone else is there, and they expect hugs. I make the rounds of awkward hugs – I don’t think I will ever enjoy that – and see the only open seats are next to people that I don’t know. Gulp. So thankful hubby came along so I don’t have to pretend to play with my phone.

Birthday girl arrives, is completely surprised to see so many of her friends there and squeals in delight as she opens her cards and gifts. She loves the bracelet and puts it on right away. I get extra hugs. I am happy that I made her happy and shared this moment with her. And then I don’t know what to do or say. Everyone is chatting and laughing and I have nothing to say. I’m not interested in what I overhear, and pretend to laugh when everyone else does although nothing seemed funny to me. I check my face often to make sure I am smiling – because parties are fun, dammit!

We order tons of wine, which helps some, and we order an amazing dinner, which helped a bunch, and then I counted the minutes to when it was too early to ditch. I caught up with everyone I already knew (Yes the new job is going well, yes the kids are happy school is almost over, did you hear from that guy you liked, I really like your shoes, blah blah blah on and on), met new people (oh you’ve know her since high school, how great, oh you have a job too? how great, oh you have kids too? how great, oh we have so much in common being human and all and friends with the same person, wow)

I admire the metal ceiling and read the wine list a hundred times. I admire the artwork. I see everyone laugh so I join in again.

I really do like people, and care about them. I just don’t understand what is supposed to be fun about ‘hanging out’.