When you least expect it

I was on training today at work. It was based on Compassion Focused Therapy, and I found it really interesting. I can really identify with the model and I want to learn more about it.

I knew that a lot of it resonates with me, but I didn’t expect what happened. At work I have my shit together (most of the time anyway), and I don’t like to bring my issues to work, particularly in front of a group of colleagues.

We were doing a visualisation about the compassionate other. We had to imagine the “ideal” compassionate other – the characteristics they would have, it could be a real person we know or imagined. Obviously this threw up some stuff for me. The description of strong, caring and committed reminded me of S, of what S used to be to me.

He was my compassionate other, he made up for my lack of self-compassion, and obviously I don’t have him anymore. At one point I realised I had tears streaming down my face. I was getting panicky, I half ran out of the room, to the toilets. By that point I was hyperventilating, full panic attack and I couldn’t stop crying.

I kept telling myself I need to stop because I’m at work. I managed to slow my breathing eventually. Tried to get the tears under control. But the voice in my head, the self-critic, was so loud. It spiralled:

You’re pathetic

You are a failure. You can’t even get through training at work, how can you do your job?

You’re a hypocrite. You want to help others but you’re a mess yourself

You are alone and always will be.

You messed up your chance at happiness

You don’t deserve to be happy, you don’t deserve to be loved

No one will ever fill that space.

How can you be a therapist when you can’t even manage your own shit? You should give up.

Others must think you are incompetent, broken, a mess.

I hate you

You are a failure. You are not good enough. You are unlovable.

It was pretty intense. Some of my colleagues came to see if I was ok, I felt very embarrassed. I am absolutely mortified that this happened at work.

My brain took me straight to some difficult places. I thought about hurting myself. My self-talk was so negative, so critical, so angry – I know I would never speak to anyone else like that. It made me doubt myself in so many ways – professionally, as a person, as a friend, the list goes on.

I don’t know if I’ve written about this on my blog, but in September I am due to start training as a CBT therapist. Today I genuinely considered emailing them and saying i won’t be taking my place on the course. I’m terrified. If a 2 day introduction to compassion focused therapy training can do this to me, how will I cope with training as a therapist? Maybe I can’t do it, maybe I’m not doing as well as i thought I was.

I was not very self-compassionate today, which was ironic given the topic of the training.

I didn’t expect a response like that at all. I knew it might press a few buttons, but this was a physical response. I had no control of my tears and no control of my breathing. I got pins and needles in my hands and felt dizzy. It had been several months since my last panic attack, and I had almost forgotten how horrible they are.

This was nicely followed up with a migraine this evening. I feel exhausted mentally and physically. I’m trying to be kind to myself now… I am having a quiet evening, reading my book, had a sleep to try to get rid of the migraine. I have texted my therapist to tell her what happened, I want to talk about it in our next session: I clearly have issues around compassion, around attachments and around S (duh!!) which need to be dealt with.

Love,

Ellie xx

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Hello anxiety

Today I had to go to a presentation evening because I achieved an award through scouts. I was dreading it. It turned out to be so much worse than I expected.

Even though I knew most of the people in the room, I felt so anxious. Knowing I had to stand up in front of people and answer questions was anxiety provoking. Waiting for that moment was agonising.

I got through it. I found the whole experience incredibly awkward and was literally shaking, but I got through it.

Then someone came up to me and started criticising the way I run my cub pack. Because of my already high levels of anxiety, it really got to me. Instead of being angry, I was quiet. When she had gone I basically had a melt down in a cupboard. Tears and panic. And then I couldn’t stop crying. It really got to me. Cupboards seem to be my new place for panic attacks. Oh dear!

Now that it’s over and several hours later I have stopped shaking and crying (although my eyes still feel like they’ve been crying – you know when they feel dry and sting a bit?) I am feeling quite angry about the situation. I don’t really know why this person was there, and I don’t know why they thought that an award presentation was the best place to make me feel like crap, but for some reason it happened.

It really pressed my “not good enough” buttons. I worry that I am not a good cub leader. I know that I don’t manage to do everything all the time, but that’s because I have a full time job and a life outside of scouts that I have to fit in too. Obviously the last few months has been bloody awful for me, and I’m very aware that I haven’t been on top form in organising things.

Anxiety levels were really high this evening. It’s really sad because I had been feeling better than I have for ages this weekend until that. My parents said not to let her ruin it, but it’s really tainted the evening.

I kind of forgot how physical and how consuming my anxiety can be. I sat throughout the presentations shaking and feeling really on edge. I was unbelievably warm (not helped by the heater directly behind me!) All I could think was “I can’t wait for this to be over”, so I didn’t really get to enjoy it at all. When I had to stand up and answer questions it was really hard. I struggled to answer questions and when asked to say a simple sentence in german (it was relevant honest!), I couldn’t even do that, embarrassing!

Take home message – anxiety is still definitely something I need to work on. And the whole “not good enough” fear comes up in more contexts than I had realised. At least I can reflect on this now, and this is definitely an example I will mention to my CBT therapist this week.

Time for bed now, and hopefully tomorrow will be a less anxious day!

Love,

Ellie xx

A collection of things

A few things:

– One month, 31 (or 30) days… until I’m off to Germany!!

That is scary stuff, scary and exciting!

– And today I got my laptop back, so I will be back to posting more and hopefully will see everyone’s posts as I am not relying on the WP app anymore (which seems not to put all posts on the reader!)

– I am still feeling quite motivated and happy(!) at the moment, despite…

– Last night I slept really badly because I kept having nightmares. They are not the usual really horrible type of nightmares, I can’t remember most of them, and a lot of them are just strange! (Like a dream featuring my house being full of cats!) After one last night, which I can’t really remember what happened but I know my family and I were in danger, I woke up with a racing heart, panicky. I have to confess I turned the light on and slept with the light on for a while because I was feeling very distressed and anxious (although I don’t quite know why.)

– And now I’m off to work!

Not safe

*possible trigger warning – it gets pretty negative.*

Every so often I seem to have these little panics…

I’m not safe. Nothing is safe. No one can keep me safe.

I have got too close to S and it scares me. He could leave like the ex did. Not safe. I caught myself thinking I should get away from him (S), I need to leave before he leaves, then it’s my fault choice. But Ellie you tried that one… you ended it before and felt worse than ever. 

I think maybe it’s about control. I can’t control how I feel and how I would feel if he left. I can’t control whether he leaves or not (that’s why I feel like I should leave first, then I’d be in control). 

I don’t know what is going to happen when I move to Germany. I can’t control it, I can’t plan it all. It’s new and big and scary. New language, new place, new people… What if I can’t handle it?*

It’s happened again… this downwards spiral. It was about one thing, and now it’s about EVERYTHING.

I just want to be safe.

I feel so low and I don’t really know why. Maybe I’m just thinking too much (as usual). When I feel like this I wonder if the progress I’ve been making is even real. My thoughts scare me. I just want to be safe, or at least I want control. I want it all to stop, it’s all too much. I want to die. I’m not safe here, how do I carry on? Sometimes I really think it would be easier if I wasn’t alive.** And the urge to hurt myself, punish myself for all this is strong. But it doesn’t help. I know it doesn’t help so why do I want to do it? It doesn’t solve anything.

*I know I’m not allowed to say “what if”, but I did anyway.

**Please do not read into this too much – these are thoughts and not plans, I know these feelings/thoughts will pass. 

New things

Too many new things can be overwhelming. I am visiting a friend at her uni this weekend. We went shopping and for lunch and it was really nice.

Then we went to one of her friends for drinks. They all knew each other (obviously) and I only knew my friend. This was a bit difficult, but I could cope and settled down a bit when I got talking with some of the others.

We played some card games. I realised I get irrationally stressed by these things… Maybe it’s like A says, I have this need to do everything perfectly – including playing card games apparently. We played a game called “cheat”, which involves putting down cards and saying what they are (you can either tell the truth or lie) and if someone thinks you are lying they say “cheat”, and if you are lying you take the cards, and if not they take the cards. It’s a fun game, but I find it difficult. I realised I feel genuinely guilty when I lie (even in this game) and so I struggle to do it. The other thing is that I’m terrible at lying – you can always tell if I’m lying. I look guilty.

After that we went back to my friends house where there was (is) a house party going on. There was loud music and lots of people (who I obviously didn’t know). They all seemed really nice and I had some good conversations but I felt pretty anxious and on edge for most of the evening. (Especially as the alcohol started wearing off).New people, new place, loud music… Not a good combo.

So now I’ve gone to bed and I hope my friend isn’t annoyed. I am tired but needed to get away.

I can hear my critical inner voice: “they all think you’re boring”, “monkey will be annoyed with you”, etc etc

Time for sleep, good night xxx

Ellie’s little think (and ramble)

Today I went to the doctors. It seems like I haven’t been in ages! Last term I was going every week (not an exageration) but I think this was only the 2nd or maybe 3rd time I’ve been this term (and the term is nearly over now!) That’s progress in itself, I haven’t felt the need to go because things have been improving.

Over the last month or so I have felt a bit worse again and had a few wobbles. But I’m still a lot better than I was, so maybe recovery isn’t a straight line all at one gradient, it seems like it has its ups and downs, and times when things seem to stay the same for a while. But looking back, things are SO much better than they were, and I’ve come a long way this year.

I also got a copy of the letter from the psychiatrist (that I saw in February) to give to my GP in London when I get home. So obviously I had to read it… (Ever tried having a letter that is about you and not reading it? No thank you!) I thought it might upset me a bit, it is the reality of how things are (were?) in 4 pages. Written without compassion or explanation, just the bare bones of it really… And it was difficult to read. I had a little cry.

And then I had a little think, because these kind of things do make you think. One thing about this letter was that it had an actual diagnosis. It says depression and anxiety with post traumatic symptoms. And in that one sentence, it brings validity to what I am feeling. Someone else’s words shouldn’t be worth more than my own experience and emotions, but somehow it is. Sometimes I still think that maybe it isn’t that bad, or I’ve been overreacting to normal emotions. Sometimes I still doubt that it’s all real. But this man knows his stuff, and he is saying it’s real.

But since February things started to improve, little by little. Sometimes there were big changes, sometimes tiny, almost insignificant changes. And still now, I have my wobbles, and I have my little victories, but most important of all I have hope again. Hope that things can change and get better, hope that I can do this!

Well this is all sounding a bit positive and progressive isn’t it?! Time to add some worrying (because otherwise this wouldn’t be an Ellie post!)

I got an email back from the school I am going to in Germany today. I emailed them yesterday, in German. My “Betreuungslehrerin” (mentor teacher) emailed me back today, in English. So now I’m stuck; a decision that probably wouldn’t phase most people, but somehow any decision gets me into a flap! I’m just not good with decisions. So do I reply in English? Do I reply in German? Do I do half and half? (No Ellie, that is ridiculous!)

And what about living arrangements. She mentioned that in the past sometimes the assistant has found a flat in the town, sometimes lived in the nearest city (about an hour away) or she said I could live with one of the other teachers… Too much choice, too many decisions! I’ve decided not to reply today, but I’ll think about it and try and get out of this anxious worrying. Because really, whatever decisions I make – English or German, town or city, alone or with people, it’s not that important. And living arrangements can be changed if it doesn’t work out when I get there…

So time for Elllie to take a deep breath, and CALM DOWN.

Talking of breathing, I must do my meditation for today! And that’s another thing I want to blog about.

I’ve also been trying to plan my dissertation. As I’m doing psychology, we have to do an experiment so need ethics approval. I’ve been working on my ethics proposal today, but have been stopped in my tracks as there is a large flaw in my experimental plans… I have a PC and not a Mac. I have never seen this as an issue before, but apparently the software that I was planning to use for testing in my dissertation which measure reaction time does not exist on PCs!! (I mean seriously, come on!!) So there has been a lot of rushing around, panicking, and emailing my supervisor… hopefully we will sort this out soon! The problem is that next week is the last week of term, and I’m leaving Lancaster then so won’t be able to organise these things once I’m gone!

(Once again, breathing may be useful here!)

So little time, so much to do! In just over a week I will be leaving Lancaster until after my year abroad! Scary stuff!

Edit: I have just seen that I have passed the 200 mark on followers! Wow!! 🙂

Experimenting on Ellie

Today (yesterday now) was the last time that all of my housemates were together so we decided to go out to our student club in Lancaster for one last night. I have to say I was not massively looking forward to it, but as last night was quite good, and it was a chance to see everyone again, I decided to go (and having pre-bought a ticket was also encouragement to go!)

It just so happened that tonight was the night that we had guest DJs in our club – which doesn’t happen very often. It was Rudimental, and the tickets sold out way before the actual day. Obviously this was a recipe for disaster for me: loud music + smoke and flashing lights + LOADS of people = my idea of hell.

But I went, and hoped it somehow wouldn’t be too busy.

It was busy. Immensely busy! Everyone was crammed in like sardines in a tin, and it was boiling hot. But as I was there, I thought hey, let’s do an Ellie experiment here.

So I tried some mindfulness techniques – I tried to be aware of the present moment, I looked around at the exact situation I was in. I tried to identify escape routes, and decided that wasn’t really an option – something even worse than being squished would be being squished and lost! And I allowed myself to become aware of the panic I was feeling – the dissociation I was feeling, the fast heart beat, the increased breathing… and accepted this.

I told myself: I am safe, there is nothing that is going to hurt me here, and I can do this. And as time went on I accepted the current situation – I was surrounded by a lot of people, it was quite tightly packed, it was very hot and there was loud music, flashing lights and smoke… but none of this is actually dangerous. Especially as I was very fortunate to have my lovely housemate (Mr Maps) to try and keep a bit of space around me so I didn’t get too squashed!

And once I had done this, I wasn’t so scared anymore. And as time went on, I started to relax, and maybe became a bit desensitised to it all, and even started to enjoy it. 

I was very proud of myself for staying in there, I have run away in much less busy and calmer situations before, but not today. I stayed, I experimented, it paid off and I quite enjoyed it. It was a night where instead of constantly checking my phone to see if it was an acceptable time to leave, I was not the one to suggest leaving. And I stayed until 2:20, which may not be that late to most people, but considering there have been many times that I have left before 1:30, or even 1, I think it was a pretty successful night! 

So sometimes when you have the right people, the motivation to experiment, and more importantly, the right shoes*, things can turn out much better than expected, and you can do things you didn’t realise you could do.

So today turned into a pretty nice day. I also went to Morecambe with Mr Maps and Footballer earlier in the day. We went to the seaside, which was incredibly windy! And then we went bowling, (where I decided not to pursue a career in bowling) followed by a game of pool (where I decided definitely not to pursue a career in pool!) It was a really nice day, followed by a great evening with great people. I will really miss those two when I’m away in Germany… unfortunately my other housemate decided she had more important things to do and people to see to spend the day or evening with us, but we weren’t going to let her ruin this!

And now it is 3:45, I am sober and about to go to bed, and I just ate some yummy cake (that Footballer made for me as a leaving cake – it says “miss you” on it!) So now I am feeling pretty good, and I’ve decided that some people are worth the effort and some aren’t – and that’s ok.

Now time for lots of hours of sleep! – I definitely won’t be getting up early in the morning!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

*Tonight I decided to wear heels – my most comfortable ones. It was definitely a good move tonight because those extra 4 or 5 inches really helped me not to get too squashed in the crowd, and being only 4 feet and 11 and 3/4 inches tall at my natural height, I need all the help I can get!! Although, that aside – my feet are killing me now!

I miss him already

S left today, I waved and watched his train pull away, heading back to London.

I miss him already.

It’s sad but it’s true. That’s the problem with long distance relationships. I don’t see him for ages, and then I see him 24/7 for a few days, and then he’s gone again. There is no normal because it’s all or nothing. Of course I talk to him a lot and I am glad I’m with him but sometimes it’s so hard.

Especially after finding out about the ex on Thursday night. It opened up a whole new can of worms… the self-doubt, not feeling good enough, the shame, the guilt, the whys and what-ifs…

And I cried a lot while he was here. I got scared easily. I always do. It’s pathetic.

And then the spiders in the night. (See my previous post!)

So much anxiety. So much self-doubt. Self consciousness. Fear. Don’t leave me, please don’t leave me.

And now he’s gone again. And I’m scared. I don’t know why, I don’t know how to make this stop. 

We had such a nice few days together. Walks in the park, along the canal. We went climbing together and I managed to do the hardest route I’ve ever done. We went for a lovely meal and on my birthday we went out for drinks with lots of my friends. It was lovely and perfect and I wish it didn’t have to end.

I guess I realised this weekend how much I hate being away from him, how hard it is, how much I care.

And now I’m panicking.

I don’t even know what’s wrong.

I can hear all the criticisms in my mind: you’re pathetic, he only left today and you’re crying. How are you going to survive being in Germany when he’s still in England? You are weak, useless. He is going to leave you when he realises what you’re really like. No one could really love you.

I am going to try using my safe space and grounding techniques to calm me down before bed. Tomorrow I’ll write about this week’s CBT.

I’ll be ok.

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

Feeling more like me

These few weeks are stressful time – exam season, when all students realise they haven’t done enough work all year and try to make up for it over a couple of weeks. I have done two exams now – cognitive last week and my german speaking today. Two down, four to go.

But the thing is, as much as I am hating revision and stressing, I also came to the realisation that I feel a lot more like me than I have done for a very long time. As I’m revising, I’m remembering why I chose psychology and german, I’m remembering that I like to learn, and I’m wishing that I had enjoyed learning it at the time (then revision would be a much easier process!)

That’s not to say that I’m not still having my moments. Today about an hour before my speaking exam I felt incredibly sick and could feel the anxiety bubbling up. But some fresh air, some water, deep breaths and reassurance from a good friend later – I did it. And no, it didn’t go perfectly, and yes – it could’ve been better. But maybe (just maybe) I’m finally realising that that is ok. It doesn’t need to be perfect. I did the best I could today and that’s all I can ask of myself. I could go over and over it in my head, analysing what I said wrong and where I used the wrong case or gender… but that won’t change it, so what’s the point?

Today it has been sunny in Lancaster (a rare sight!) It’s been such a beautiful day and at one point I realised that I’m definitely on my way to becoming me. I don’t really know who that is anymore, at the stage in life where people become themselves, I was being controlled by the ex. I lost all sense of who I was (am?) and I didn’t know what to do without him. Since then I’ve been so lost in darkness that I haven’t really figured out who I am, but now the fog is clearing and I’m realising – I can be who I want to be now. It’s my life, my choice and I’m never going to let anyone take that away from me again.

Talking of which, in summer 2014 it looks like I might be on an exciting trip! (I definitely wouldn’t have been allowed when I was with the ex!) A trip to Namibia, and guess what’s in Namibia?? That’s right… elephants!! 😀

Maybe it’s the revision making me crazy, but today I don’t have too much to complain about. Anyway, back to stats revision I go… (can you think of a more thrilling Tuesday evening?)

Lots of love,

Ellie

xxx

What if…

Today I’m having lots of “what if” thoughts. I think that’s called catastrophising, but whatever it is, it’s making me panic.

What if I can’t answer the question on my exam on Monday?

What if I fail the exam?

What if I fail my degree?

What if I can’t go into clinical psychology because my grades aren’t good enough?

What if I’m not strong enough to go into clinical psychology anyway?

What if I mess it all up?

What if I do all of this, and then I realise I don’t want to do it anymore?

What if I’m just useless and a failure?

What if…

What if…

The real answer is “then it happens”.

There’s nothing I can do about it now, and if it happens then I will have to deal with it.

It’s amazing how one little thought spirals out of control, until you’re questioning your entire being and the meaning of life!

Maybe I should spend less time panicking about “what if”s and more time revising… but that would be too sensible wouldn’t it? 😛

Back to the books I go…