Socially Phobic

April 5, 2007

I don’t regret

Filed under: Disclosure,Self Esteem — iambrave @ 1:20 am

a thing that I did this week. I got the most amazing emails back in support of my disclosures and I’m so glad that I did it. Regardless, I am nervous about returning to work tomorrow and seeing my boss. This is a totally new situation for me. I have told past bosses about my situation before and they have reacted positively, but it was always at the end of the job, not in the midst of it.

I’m really trying to reframe the way that I think about everything. When people wrote back to me, they told me positive things about myself that I really needed to hear right now:

In spite of your very hard time now, I truly believe that you have so much strength and wisdom, that you will soon get over this really tough place right now. I know you were a real pleasure to work with last fall. I hope you can believe in that strong self you showed when we worked together.

and

You are a terrific addition to the department and I want to continue here if that if what you want. Let me know how you are and I look forward to seeing you as soon as you are up to it. I know you will be responsible about getting your hours in so I am not concerned about that at all.

So, I am trying to look at things differently than I ever have before. I am trying to see the bigger picture: that although I am not perfect, I am capable. Although I may not be able to be there every single day, I have enough to offer on the days that I can make it (which at this point, is most of the time) that I am still valuable to other people. The illness is only part of the picture; it doesn’t define my entire life. The problems that I am experiencing are not all about bad choices that I have made.

For as long as I can remember, I have blamed myself for everything and now my intention is to stop doing that. It’s not that I don’t advocate taking responsibility for my life and my mistakes, but there has to be a middle ground somewhere. There are times when I do things wrong and there is a little voice in the back of my head that tells me that I am doing something wrong and that I need to stop it, but these are different from the times when I don’t feel well. When I am not FEELING well, this does not mean that I am DOING something wrong. It’s just the way that I feel, and, as further proof of the fact that my issues are legitimate, no doctor (out of dozens?) has ever seen me and told me that I don’t have real health problems. In fact, what they have told me at times has been even worse than what I have accepted for myself: You will need to be on medication for the rest of your life. You need to be in a day treatment program. You need to have little thingies implanted in your brain because your depression is so untreatable. You should apply for disability. Maybe some of those suggestions would have actually helped me (day treatment and, well, money), but I guess part of me wasn’t willing to give in because I knew that I, along with my support system, was strong enough to pull through without it. I still haven’t gotten past being on medication all of the time, but I am trying to have faith right now that I’m going to be able to do it for at least long enough to endure a pregnancy or two.

I am having a really hard time expressing myself tonight for some reason, but I am trying to write every night before bed so that I don’t lie awake thinking about the things that I should have written about so I am doing it anyway.

P.S. The cognitive exercise that I did earlier really worked. Maybe I should try it right now about what I am currently most worried about: What’s the worst that can happen tomorrow when I go back to work? I will feel awkward and embarrassed. Guess what? I have felt awkward and embarrassed a million times before, and it hasn’t killed me yet.

April 3, 2007

Let’s go back

Filed under: Disclosure,Self Esteem,Stigma — iambrave @ 1:28 am

to the sweeping metaphor for a second. It’s been a hard day for me, and I ended up going to the seder and it was nice and I pulled it off – my dad called it “passing”, which is an interesting term that I suppose can be used in a lot of different contexts to essentially mean the same thing: pretending to be something that you’re not, or maybe hiding something important about yourself is a better way to put it. He knows what it’s like to have a chronic illness (Parkinson’s Disease or PD), and we talked a lot about this today. Obviously, it’s hard to be dealing with any chronic health problems and to deal with the issues of disclosure and stigma and disability regardless of whether these issues can be “proven” through blood tests or biopsies or whether it’s just a matter of feeling bad on the inside and no MRI can tell you that you’re not just making things up. I’m guessing, without having any personal experience (and I have to say knock on wood here), that if you’re diabetic or have cancer it’s still hard to know who to tell and what to tell them. My dad confirmed this, saying that he knows people with PD who choose not to tell people.

Anyway, I ended up panicking later in the day. I ending up vastly regretting sending out those emails (to which I have yet to receive a response) and thinking that they were stupid and I was stupid and I just should have sucked it up and gone to work today. I felt humiliated and like I never wanted to go back to work or school ever again. Well, I still haven’t found that time machine. And as someone who I think is very smart told me regarding the issue of disclosure, you need to make sure that you are ready because once those words are out, you can’t take them back.

Maybe I wasn’t ready, if I ended up panicking about it later. Which made me start thinking was that I was trying to “sweep out” some external areas of my life when I still hadn’t gotten done sweeping out the inside of my head. The problem is, I think, that even after all these years of treatment, I still question whether my problems are, in fact legitimate. I wonder whether I’m just weak and if everyone else in the world feels the exact same way that I do except I’m just a big drama queen. But the thing about that is that I would NEVER judge anyone else the same way that I’m judging myself. If I read your blog, for example, and I have been amazingly lucky to stumble upon other bloggers this week who are writing about very similar things that I am going through, I would never, ever, ever tell you that your problems aren’t real and that you just need to suck it up and quit your bitching.

Why can’t I show myself the same level of empathy? I have heard it said that “you can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself”. Well, my friends, I can tell you from personal experience that I am capable of loving other people very deeply and that I am highly empathic to other people’s problems. I believe that there are very few times in my life that I have told someone that their problems aren’t real and that I didn’t care enough to listen. When I learn about mental illness from a clinical perspective there is no part of me that thinks that what I am hearing is bullshit. And the main reason that I am able to believe the truth about these things is because I am living them.

So, why do I persist in beating myself up over my own problems? Why do I hate myself for all of the bad days that I have had, for all of the things that I have quit, for all of the days that I just couldn’t make it out the door? Clearly, there’s a lot of sweeping that still needs to be done inside my own head. I say that I want to work on decreasing the stigma of mental illness in society, but it seems as if I need to stop stigmatizing myself first. Because cliches are the theme of the day, they also say that “peace begins at home” or something like that.

I just want to make my peace with myself. I don’t want to be angry at myself anymore. And even if I were doing something wrong, even if there were a chance that I could’ve done some things differently in my life, hating myself for it only makes me spiral downwards into more depression and more anxiety.

I guess I’m glad that I wrote those emails today, regardless of the outcome. At least it’s got me thinking about it and writing about it and confronting these things head-on. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? I don’t know if I do or not. I don’t know if the disclosure was something that I was meant to do or had to do or if this is a time in my life when things are really going to start changing for me inside my head. Regardless of the root cause of my problems, there is most certainly a cognitive aspect. I wish that there was a magic button that I could press to automatically change the way that I think about myself, but I suspect that the button is hiding somewhere near the time machine. 20-odd years of low self-esteem aren’t just going to magically disappear overnight. But why add to my problems by judging myself? It’s not helping a damn thing.

And, why make any more snap decisions and insist on telling myself things that may not be true? “I can’t handle this, I can’t even finish out the semester, I will never get my life together, etc.” One day, one hour, one second at a time is the way that it’s going to have to be. Forget that – it’s the way that it’s going TO be or I am going to lose it right here and now. And with that final cliche, I’m signing off for the night.

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