Well, the New Year has been and gone, and January has absolutely flown by. I can’t believe that we are nearly reaching the end of the month already. It feels like I have done loads, but at the same time haven’t done enough. I came back to Uni on New Year’s Day, and have been working almost constantly in the lab ever since, except for taking 3 days to journey up to the “grim” North to visit my girlfriend. I am proud of myself for having worked so hard, but am definitely glad that she will be back in a very short time, so that I have some downtime to look forward to with her! I definitely feel more comfortable as a person when I’m with her, and I think it shows how important it is to try and have people around you, both as a distraction from any problems, and because it gives you something to focus on, and realise that no matter how bad things may feel, there are people that care for you, and people that you can talk to, and have fun with!
I have been carrying on with my mentoring sessions, through the University’s disability service, and they have been very useful, if somewhat difficult for me too.
Something that has come up throughout the different treatment options I have pursued, is that I really do have a very critical, and often nasty, view of myself. It has become ever clearer that this lack of self-esteem and poor self-image have been helping create a vicious cycle where I find myself feeling bad about whatever the issue is, because I tend to place a most, if not all, of the blame on myself, and make it very difficult to actually see the positive side of things. So, when I had my first mentoring appointment after the Christmas break last week, it was to this side of things that we turned our attention, since otherwise things seemed to be going quite well with work, and it seemed that this is probably the last major area where I needed to try and make adjustments to help me get into the right frame of my mind.
Our first session was spent talking about the different reasons I felt that I was not good enough. This was surprisingly difficult! Even though this is something I tend to feel all the time, I think that it had become such an automatic reaction (I have been told these are called ‘negative automatic thoughts’ in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), that it wasn’t even something I was consciously aware of doing. I actually found the whole process of trying to delve into these feelings of inadequacy and generally not being ‘good enough’ quite distressing, and found myself to be quite teary-eyed on more than one occasion during the session. Despite how hard this was, I know that it is vitally important for me to get on top of this. It is funny (well, not funny… but, hopefully you know what I mean!) that when I am in this sort of situation where I am talking about it in outside of the actual situation, I can talk very rationally about why these feelings need not be true, and can be completely logical about the situation, and aware of the lack of evidence for a lot of these things. Unfortunately, because I was struggling to think of some of the things that come so naturally to me, I actually began to do exactly what I normally do, and feeling that I wasn’t good enough for not being able to think of these things, so this upset me quite a bit, but at the end despite being a little shaken, I knew that it was putting me on the path to helping investigate this and resolve it. It was a very intense session, with my mentor asking many questions, asking me how I felt about those things, and what I was thinking whenever I went silent, but I know that it is the right way to go.
We then moved on this week to talking a bit more about what I could do about it, and perhaps the way that I see myself. My mentor (a clinical psychologist), discussed with me how she saw three major parts of my personality (although as she said, this is not an exhaustive list, which I was glad to hear!!): The persecutor, the victim, and the adult. The persecutor is the part of my personality that ‘bullies’ me, and makes me feel bad for things out of my control. This is the part of me that says that I am not good enough, that I should do better, that I don’t fit in, that I’m not trying hard enough, that I’m too fat, too ugly, and all the other things that I criticise myself about. The victim is the part of me that reacts to these things, and ends up feeling ‘sorry’ for myself about. It’s the part of me that feels helpless and hopeless because of the barrage of abuse that I give myself. Both of these are obviously unhealthy if they are being followed too closely, and having too much influence.
The final part of the triangle is the adult. The mature, reasoned, logical part of me that is actually sometimes able to look at things through distortion-free lenses, and able to realise when I have done well, or when the thing that has gone wrong is something over which I have no control. We discussed that I need to try and realise when the adult is being swamped by the persecutor and the victim, and try and look logically at things where I can.
I have been challenged for this week to try and remind myself to think about these things more. My mentor suggested that I do something like put an elastic band around my wrist to remind me to consider whether I am thinking about these things, and to try and recall what they were and how I was affected by them. I was actually quite anxious about doing that because I felt that it would make me stand out, and then people would think badly of me, or that it wasn’t normal… It’s quite telling that such a little thing would provoke such a strong response about what I thought other people would think of me, when in reality there is probably very little chance of that happening! However, I have resolved to put some sticky labels with a triangle drawn on them both on my desk and in the lab to remind me whenever I am in one of the two places to try and bring myself back to thinking about these issues. Hopefully this will help drawn my attention back to this and I can think about them more clearly and make some progress before next week!
That will do for now, I hope everyone is settling back in after a relaxing Christmas break!