Paradoxical Feelings

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Over the last week I started talking to a new person I met online and had a few nice conversations which you might think would make me feel better but strangely I actually feel worse. I have been trying to break it down in my head as to why I feel like this and it kind of happens in a few stages. First of all I usually expect to be rejected by everyone because it is my honest belief (I don’t just say this to try and make people disagree and reassure me) that I am a boring, worthless person who is fundamentally unlikeable. If this doesn’t happen then I can occasionally have positive experiences, like how I described in a post from last year (I cannot believe a year has passed since that already..) but afterwards I start to get a sense of dread building up. On rare occasions I can fight it for a while but I inevitably end up replaying conversations or things I did over and over in my mind and thinking about how stupid and inept I came across. I usually get the urge to try and correct it by giving some sort of apology or seeking approval in some way. I feel ashamed admitting this because it sounds so pathetic but that’s what it is really. The alternative is what I am feeling right now about the most recent experience, that I feel guilty for deceiving the person into thinking I am more interesting or less of an idiot that I really am.

The main conclusion that I have drawn from this crude self-analysis is that a lot of my problems come from my fundamental beliefs about myself, which have been formed from years of experience both personally and from listening and reading about what people say about others. I know I am the kind of person who is almost universally thought of as a complete loser and looked down upon by pretty much everyone. The thing is, I don’t necessarily disagree with them. I don’t like myself at all, and I’m not just saying that for effect. This leads me to think “if I don’t like myself, why should anyone else?”

This is a big sticking point when it comes to trying to get better. I have been feeling very depressed just lately (but not actively suicidal) and fed up of not knowing how to deal with it. I read a book called Reasons to Stay Alive because I thought it might have some insight. The author gives a very good description of how depression can feel (at least in my experience) and obviously had more acute and severe anxiety than me. I couldn’t help but come away with the feeling that our situations, and the situation of a lot of people whom I have read describing their dealings with depression are very different and come from a completely different place. I think for some people, depression is a completely irrational thing. This guy had a loving girlfriend, to whom he gives enormous credit for helping him through what was a very difficult time. I’m not trying to play down anyone’s experiences, but I can see why it might not be quite so hard to find reasons to stay alive if you have that kind of support.

I find myself in the same old situation of not having anyone besides my immediate family who I can talk to or get any kind of support from. Even this is very limited because I don’t like talking to them about things because I don’t want to upset them any more than I already have done in the past. I never talk to my dad about things, my sister is so busy and stressed out by her job I don’t want to add to her troubles and my mum seems completely unable to understand why I feel the way I do even though it is clearly not a normal situation at all. Even though they are sympathetic, I cannot shake the feeling that it’s because I am related to them and doesn’t really reflect on my value as a person because people often support their family members even if they are truly awful. Maybe this makes me a bad, ungrateful person, I don’t know. I simultaneously crave, but cannot believe that I will ever have, acceptance and friendship from other people who aren’t obligated to give it.

The common thread I have seen when people write about recovering from depression is that they try to invoke the fact that you can return to some sort of state that you were in before you were depressed, and I can see why that is valuable because if you used to be OK then I’m sure it would be possible to be OK again. The thing is that some of us don’t really have those memories or experiences to look at and think “I can be like that again”. I can’t remember any prolonged period in my entire adult life where I have not been depressed. At 18 I felt like my life was falling apart because I couldn’t cope with university and this was the first time I fallen off track from what I was “supposed” to do. 19 to 21 felt like an extension of my school days, at 22 I realised work was just as bad and that people there could hate me and make my life a misery just as much as they did at school. At 23 I spent a year unemployed and isolated (as I have done from 2012 to now) my mid 20s were spent battling suicidal thoughts and actions that I have described in tediously great detail on this blog. The closest I can think of is the last year I was at university. This would hardly rank as a great situation for most people, I spent virtually every day alone and only briefly spoke to one person in my classes every now and then. I didn’t feel utterly hopeless though, perhaps that is the high water mark I have to aim for.

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A Good Day

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I wanted to write about this earlier but with the annoying web hosting problems, haven’t been able to…

My university was closed on Thursday because of the snow. I found out before I got ready to go to my early class fortunately, but instead of spending all day in my room and just sneaking out to get something to eat as I usually would have done, I decided to go and get a drink from the kitchen and sat with my flatmates and the people from the opposite apartment. I actually managed to say a few words here and there which I was quite pleased about. Later on I went shopping with one of my future housemates, J, and we had lunch with E, the other girl we’ll be living with. It was nice to spend a bit of time with them and we actually had a decent conversation, I talked to E about films for quite a while before I went back to do some work.

Last week we’d planned to go for dinner at the pub on campus to celebrate getting our house for next year and this time we actually did go, unlike when they suggested going out for my birthday. It was just us 3 at first and then some of the girls from the other apartment came to join us for a few drinks afterwards and I actually had a nice evening and managed to act reasonably normal for once. I don’t think they thought I was too strange and I wasn’t completely silent the whole time which is about as good as it gets for me.

I’m not sure what happened to me, to be honset. It seems rather strange that I can go from being extremely depressed and constantly thinking of suicide to probably as sociable and happy as I’ve been for about a year or more within 24 hours. I’m aware that I could and probably will crash back down again soon, but it was nice to have a day where I wasn’t feeling awful for a change. I really, really have trouble believing that people don’t think that I’m a complete weirdo, but I didn’t feel that bad on Thursday. I almost fit in. I can’t help but feel something was up though, looking back on it. The day before I sent a message to E on Facebook, asking if they were really sure about living with me next year. I was feeling bad about how boring it must be having me as a flatmate. She was really nice about it though and reassured me that they wanted me to stay with them. I explained a bit about how I feel nervous around everyone but didn’t go into too much detail, but now I’m thinking that maybe she asked the others to be especially nice to me or something. Oh well, I suppose I should be happy but already the nagging doubts are coming.

I’m home for the weekend again, I’m not sure if constantly coming home is helping or hurting me. In a way, I couldn’t have done without it in previous weeks because I wasn’t eating when I was at uni and I probably would have gone insane spending that long alone. I feel like it might be better for me to try and spend more time around them though. It’s incredibly difficult and mentally draining for me to be around people and I’m not sure how long I could manage it for though.

Apologies if this post doesn’t make much sense, I didn’t sleep well at all for the past couple of days. I’m trying to ensure that I don’t get addicted to zopiclone so going without it for a while.

Beliefs Distorted?

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After the CBT therapist who assessed me yesterday suggested the Gillian Butler book: Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness to me as well as pretty much everyone else in the know about SA has, I thought I’d give it another read through. Now, one of the key things in there is about how you develop distorted beliefs about yourself and working out how to look at things in a different way. This is where it breaks down for me though, I appreciate the author is good at explaining what happens to socially anxious people in certain situations and identifies a lot of the thought processes that lead to these reactions but her methods of dealing with them aren’t really that great in my opinion. They might be ok if you only have a mild case of SA, or if you really aren’t ugly/clumsy/boring or whatever you think about yourself. They say you should look up what evidence there is to support your beliefs, in the hope that you won’t find any and that will allow you to challenge them. Well I decided to do a little exercise from the book and see what evidence there is for my negative beliefs about myself.

Belief Evidence
I’m ugly I would just post a picture but I don’t want the whole world knowing exactly who I am. I have been told so by many, many people. Probably in the region of 30-40. I’ve been called every name under the sun, laughed at directly to my face, pointed at and laughed at, people look at me and whisper to others and snigger, I can see mirrors. 24 years old and no-one has ever found me attractive, never been in a relationship. Optician told me I have a fat face, I’m overweight, pale, freckled, my eyes look half closed and it causes me vision problems.
I’m boring I have no hobbies or interests. I’ve had no friends since 1996, never go out anywhere or do anything. I don’t drink or like clubs or loud places. I don’t play any sports. There’s nothing interesting about me whatsoever, besides as a possible scientific study in isolation. I hardly leave my room. I’m so scared of people I sometimes don’t eat because I’d have to interact with them. I can’t start or maintain conversations. I don’t have strong feelings about music, tv programs or whatever else is popularly done. I don’t know anything about books, films, music, any topic of conversation you could possibly think about. I spend probably 50% of my free time in bed, alone. I don’t care about mundane details of people’s lives like who is going out with who.It’s obvious from the fact that I have no friends and that nobody would want to spend time with me. At best, I am ignored and invisible to everyone.
I’m socially inept This can be interpreted from the previous two really. I don’t know how to talk to people and haven’t had any friends in upwards of a decade. Never had a girlfriend ever. I go days without speaking a single word to anyone. Every time I’ve tried to speak to someone they get away as soon as they can and never show any interest in talking to me again. People avoid me if they know who I am and how utterly boring and inept I am.

That’s all I can be bothered to write out for now, I might do the rest in a later post. As you can see though, there is no lack of evidence for my beliefs and there is no evidence to suggested they are distorted in a major way. I don’t know how they are going to argue against this and convince me to change my mind. If they can come up with something that makes logical sense then I’m open to it, but I don’t think there is such an argument to be made.

Unfortunately I feel like CBT or any other self-help approach is based on the false assumption that “everyone is ok” and no-one is fundamentally unacceptable within a society.  Whatever approach they take with me, they’re going to face an uphill battle because I am objectively defective and weird.