Socially Phobic

July 18, 2007

Back Again

Filed under: meditation,spirituality,Things that help — iambrave @ 1:42 am

Hi, how are you? Good, I hope. We can chit-chat later, and I’ll get you up to date on the things that I’ve been up to. But it’s late, and I’ve been working reeealllllly hard on regulating my sleep schedule, so I’m going to make this one brief.

I wanted to make note of an experience that I had today. First, some background. I’ve been exploring Tonglen meditation and the work of Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. I’ve been reading a book that she wrote called The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessnes in Difficult Times. I feel like I am not well-educated enough to write much on this topic, but I understand Tonglen to be this, in essence: during the meditation practice, you inhale pain and suffering and discomfort, not only your own, but that of the world, and then exhale calm and relief. Wikipedia says that in the practice, one visualizes taking onto oneself the suffering of others, and giving to others, one’s own happiness and success.

The book says:

Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed. But bodhichitta training doesn’t work that way. A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s also what makes us afraid.

Bodhichitta training offers no promise of happy endings. Rather, this “I” who wants to find security – who wants something to hold on to – can finally learn to grow up. The central question of a warrior’s training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort. How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day?

…we can ask ourselves this question: ‘Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?’

I guess the links to anxiety are fairly obvious. But really what I want to talk about is my trip to the dentist today. It sucked. I already had tears streaming down my face from the gagging from the X-rays (man, do I wish sometimes that I weren’t such a delicate little flower), and then came the cleaning. The cleaning was horrendous. I hadn’t been to the dentist in almost 3 years, and my teeth were in drastic need of some work. The last time that I had my teeth cleaned, the pain was so bad that they I had to come in twice so that they could Novocaine each side of my mouth. Today, I found out that my insurance didn’t cover multiple visits. And so, I had to do it all without any sort of analgesic. The hygienist used some sort of cleaning machine, and the pain ranged from god-awful scraping/cutting of my gums to the feeling that she was possibly striking the center of each and every nerve directly. (Side note: it’s my own damn fault. I am flossing three times a day from now on.)

So, I was in pain. I would estimate that the cleaning took around 45 minutes. But at certain points, I realized that I was holding my breath. I started to meditate into the pain. I accepted the pain for what it was. I tried to experience it fully. And you know what? I think it helped. I was able to cope better at the moments during which I was focusing directly on the pain; the times when I wasn’t trying to change anything. (I wasn’t able to take it so far as to take on all of the pain of all of the dental patients everywhere, or even to exhale relief. What can I say, I’m still a novice.)

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…it’s a cliche. And it has always sounded great in theory, but I’m not sure that I really understood it. Now I get this: I was definitely stronger after the dental cleaning from hell today. First, the endorphins that seemed to kick in afterwards were glorious. I was high simply on the fact that no one was stabbing my gums anymore. But also, as far as relating to life directly goes, accepting the full adventure: it helped me to remember that sometimes you have to spend some time at the bottom before you can fully appreciate just being normal. The dentist made the rest of my day better for the simple fact that I wasn’t at the dentist anymore.

That’s all. I hope this is coherent. It’s way past my new 11:00 bedtime (can you believe it??? But more on that some other day).

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April 11, 2007

We did something really cool

Filed under: OCD,Social Phobia,Things that help — iambrave @ 1:10 am

in class tonight. The professor had us all lie down on the floor and led us through a guided meditation. I have done some meditation in the past, but never in a group of people and never with guided imagery. He had us imagine ourselves three years from now, going through a day at work, and it was a really positive experience for me. I have had a very bad habit for a very long time of not letting myself imagine the future positively, as if even thinking good things would automatically make bad things happen. It’s like having to say “knock on wood” after you acknowledge that the traffic is light or the weather is good (which I do) except more extreme because it’s all based on my thoughts.

I am trying really hard to let go of my superstitions. People have been talking a lot lately about the power of positive thinking and how you can make good things happen just by thinking about them. However, for good or for bad, I do not want to believe anymore that my thoughts have power to influence the universe, regardless of what The Secret might say (although I have to admit that ever since I saw a piece about it on TV or possibly online, I have been imagining the perfect parking space magically appearing in front of my house and I have found good spots subsequently and apparently if I even let any doubt into my mind that it’s because I envisioned it there won’t be anywhere for me to park anymore. I haven’t actually read the book, just the hype). In fact, I would like to be able to believe that my thoughts have zero impact on the universe, and the reason is that it is way too much pressure to hold on to the belief that you are making things happen simply by thinking. A positive superstition is still a superstition and given my obsessive tendencies I think that I need try to let go of superstitions as a whole. I’m still knocking on wood, though. I do have one compulsion that comes readily to mind which is that I can’t wear socks that don’t match. I am having trouble letting go of it because if I did wear unmatching socks and something bad did happen it would probably just drive me out of my mind.

So, I really don’t want to believe that my thoughts/socks have extraordinary power.  On the other hand, I think that allowing myself to think positive thoughts has a positive impact on my life because it has a positive impact on the way that I think about myself and my own capabilities for success. I pretty much put the “O” in OCD, but just writing this has made me realize how far I have come.  I did strict CBT for a few months last year, and while I didn’t like some things about it, particularly that the therapist didn’t really give me much time to just talk and I am a firm believer in the fact that just being able to randomly vent to a paid professional can be helpful sometimes, it taught me a lot about managing my thoughts. I don’t know if you can ever change the fact that negative thoughts pop up, but you can become more aware of them and learn to refute them and I’m living proof of that. This post does a pretty good job of explaining what I’m trying to say.

I don’t really like my Tuesday class, and it’s embarrassing for me to try to articulate it but I’m going to try anyway. I guess that it kind of makes me feel like I’m in high school again because there’s a lot of pretty, young people in there and I waste a lot of energy feeling left out, even though I do rationally realize that it’s all in my head. Here’s a secret: people tend to congregate before the class and it makes me really anxious to walk up to a group of people that I don’t really know so I try to get there a little late, or RIGHT on time. I guess I do the same thing on Wednesdays, too. But I’m glad that I was able to relax enough to have the experience that I did tonight.

One other thing: I got to class really late tonight accidentally (I didn’t mean to be 15 minutes late or whatever it was) and apparently I missed some sad news. At the beginning of the semester, we saw a talk by a man named Jack with bipolar disorder who had become a peer counselor/public speaker and it blew my mind to hear him talk so openly about his illness in front of a group of people. That experience was one of the biggest inspirations for me to start focusing so much energy on disclosure issues in my own life and gave me a lot of strength and courage, one of the end results being my writing here. Well, it’s my understanding that he has since committed suicide. I didn’t know him personally, but I just wanted to put it out there that I think that Jack was an amazing person and that he had a huge impact on at least one person. I am sorry to hear that he was hurting so badly and I hope that he is at peace now.

April 4, 2007

I seriously don’t have time

Filed under: Anxiety,Things that help — iambrave @ 1:29 pm

to be writing right now, because I need to be studying, but I am feeling incredibly anxious and I need to take a couple of minutes to try to talk myself through it. I need to figure out what exactly it is that I’m so anxious about and then address these thoughts to hopefully make myself feel a little bit better so that I am actually able to study.

I am anxious about the test itself. My mind is full of negative thoughts, like, “I should’ve started studying earlier” and “There’s no way that I can absorb all of this information in the next couple of hours”. Too bad. I’m here, it’s now, and I’m not going to get caught up in all of the things that I should have done better. I can only do my best from this point forward.

What’s the worst that could happen? The worst case scenario would be that I failed the test entirely and that it brought down my grade for the semester. Okay, if I fail the test it wouldn’t be great, but I got a 90 on the first test and have gotten 100s on both homeworks so far. I’m at an A. Failing the test does not necessarily equal failing the course. What if I did end up failing the course? Life would go on. Maybe I would be able to retake it. Failing at one thing does not equate to the end of my career as a whole. This is not a do or die situation. Besides, I’m not going to fail the test. We get to bring in some study materials, and I understand at least some of them at this point. So, what if I don’t get an A on the test? It’s okay. I don’t have to be totally perfect at everything I do. See above.

I am anxious about leaving the house, because I haven’t been out by myself in a week and I haven’t been to school or work since Thursday. Sometimes, the act of leaving can generate its own degree of anxiety. It seems so insurmountable to take a shower, get dressed, get in the car, drive my car, etc.

What’s the worst that could happen? I can’t do it. I go out, it feels unbearable, I come back home, and I deal with the consequences. I send out more emails, in this case to my professors, similar to the ones that I sent on Monday. I tell the truth about what’s going on, and I hope for the best. Besides, if it came down to it I could probably get a doctor’s note making this an excused absence. I also know, from past experience, that while sometimes I feel worse when I actually do get out and do something, a whole lot of the time I end up feeling better and realize that I spent way too much time dreading something that isn’t really that bad.

I am anxious about seeing other people. I don’t want to see the people in my classes, because I don’t think they like me. I am worried about seeing the people who know that I have been missing classes, because I think that they now think that I am incompetent and may ask me where I’ve been. I think that they can tell that I am mentally ill and weird and dysfunctional and judge me for that.

What’s the worst that could happen? The people actually don’t like me and are judging me. Seriously, what effect does this have on my life? These specific people do not have any impact on me and my future career. I don’t need everyone in the world on my side; I just need a few people there. And I HAVE a few people who are there for me and don’t judge me and do love me and will help me to get through. Screw their opinions. Besides, the people who I am referring to are barely acquaintances and probably have no opinion of me whatsoever. I guarantee that they are not obsessing about me in particular right. If someone does ask me where I have been, it is probably out of concern as opposed to contempt. And, I have answers at my disposal. They are partially lying answers, but that’s okay because I am under no obligation to disclose the entire truth about my personal life to anyone that I don’t want to. I can say that it was Passover. (True). I can say that I was sick without getting into the details of it. (Also true). I have options. Besides, chances are that a lot of other people are really anxious about the test and aren’t going to be paying me one bit of attention. The universe does not revolve around me, and in this case, that’s a good thing.

Gotta go.

March 31, 2007

I changed my

Filed under: Things that help — iambrave @ 3:12 pm

name from iamscared to iambrave. Aren’t those just two sides of the same coin, anyway? Don’t you have to be doing something scary to be considered brave in the first place? I don’t care for this particular definition of courage, courtesy of Dictionary.com:

cour·age [kur-ij, kuhr] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation –noun

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery…

What I don’t like about it is the “without fear” part – fuck that. If I had to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear in order to consider myself courageous I would have to think of myself as the weakest person on the planet. In my book, facing anything IN THE MIDST OF FEAR is the definition of bravery.

I have spent (wasted, really) a lot of time in my life beating up on myself for being afraid of everything all the time. And then I was able to reframe my thoughts in the way described above – I honestly don’t know if I read it or heard it somewhere or what so I won’t claim that this is mine, originally, but the idea seemingly just came to me – and I felt a lot better. It made me able to be proud of myself for the things that I have done, given how scared I was the whole time.

March 30, 2007

As a side note,

Filed under: Things that help — iambrave @ 4:40 am

I am becoming completely obsessed with this blog. This is somewhat unrelated to all that has been posted here before. What is related is the fact that since I started this blog, I have been able to make myself feel better simply by posting here. I will not share the technical issues that I am currently working on to improve the site, but let’s just say that it’s a work in progress. I mean, even if the blog is devoted to mental health issues, doesn’t presentation count just a little? Besides, creative therapy comes in forms other than writing. For example (okay, now I am sharing), I am trying to figure out how to create a link to the homepage of the site that is in an acceptable location which doesn’t involve changing my theme, because I just created that new custom header. I find that all creative endeavors help. You should try it, if you haven’t already.

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