When things go right & CBT

Things seem to be going right at the moment (not to jinx this!)

Today has been pretty productive:

For my psychology dissertation I am using a computer program to make the experiment (a dot that moves, pictures that come up, and it records reaction time etc.) So today’s first victory was making a dot move across a screen (no, I’m not joking!) It’s not quite right in terms of timing yet, but there’s a dot and it moves so I’m half way there with that bit!

I also had an email back today from my project supervisor, and he has only made a few suggestions for changes on my ethics proposal, meaning that with any luck I will be able to finish it and hand it in early next week (ahead of the deadline on Friday.)

I also had a response back from my old school about doing my research there, using the pupils as research participants, and they said yes!

I also rang work (I will be starting work again once I’m home for summer) and sorted out some hours, and they’ve said I can have a few days off in mid-July so it turns out I probably will get to go away with S afterall! 🙂

This week I have also heard back from my school in Germany and my mentor teacher seems lovely. And she’s sorted out somewhere for me to live for the first few weeks of my stay in Germany, so I will be able to find somewhere for the rest of the year when I get there!

More good news on the Germany front – apparently if you register at a university you can get a card that gives you free travel (bus, tram and train) around the region… this sounds amazing!!

And today was also my CBT. We talked about the progress I’ve made this week – about going out last Friday and Saturday and that I managed to think mindfully that I was safe, and in doing so actually enjoyed my nights! We also spoke about these negative thoughts, the next thing to do is to try and stop them when I identify them. At the moment I seem to have a negative thought (now I become aware of it) but then it turns into a negative spiral and I end up feeling really low, paranoid, sad, lonely (insert other negative emotions here!) SO as I become more aware of these thoughts, hopefully I will start to be able to look at the thought, accept it, but stop it (because it is a thought and not a fact!) and thus not “Put the same DVD on”/”Get on the negative thought train”/go into a massive negative spiral. It sounds so easy when it’s put like this, but in reality it really isn’t. BUT I am determined to continue to make progress even after my CBT is finished.* I have bought a book and CD about mindfulness, (but silly Ellie sent it to London instead of Lancaster so I don’t have it yet) so I will write about that when I get home and start using it. Apparently the book has a mindfulness program that you can follow (I think A said 8 weeks?) so that should be interesting (and hopefully helpful!)

On my way home from CBT, I bought a card and a box of maltesers for my friend (pres**) as it’s her birthday tonight, and I am going to her house later for predrinks (jelly shots? Yes please!) and then out to a bar/pub and our student club. BUT I am being nice to me (yes, really!) and I am saying that I will go to predrinks and the bar/pub but I might not go to the club if I don’t feel like it. I am very tired and have had a lot going on this week, so I will see how I feel later. Quite proud of this development – compromise: I am still not letting down my friend (because I do want to celebrate her birthday with her) but I am not forcing myself to go “out out” if I don’t feel like it later. 

Final good news for today was that I rang a Mental Health Centre where I am going to be doing some volunteering over the summer. Originally they had asked me to do Fridays (as it’s their busiest day) but unfortunately work said they can’t give me Fridays off (because it’s a busy day!) so I was worried about what they would say when I said I can’t do Fridays anymore. But the man (who I met in the easter holidays) was lovely, remembered me, and said it’s fine to do Thursdays. In fact he said Thursdays are the nicest day to be there, so that’s exciting! I will be volunteering at a mental health drop-in centre where people can come and chat, have some tea, do different activities etc., and Thursday is the women only drop-in.

Oh yes, and another good thing! Tomorrow I am off to Warwick to visit one of my best friends – Monkey. That will be great as I haven’t seen her since easter, and Leamington Spa is a really nice place as well!

So I probably won’t be back (on WP) until Monday as I’ll be in Warwick and socialising rather than blogging, but this afternoon’s plan involves a nap and catching up on reading blogs before I go out!

Lots of love,

(from a pretty positive) Ellie xxx

*Next week is the last session with A! Arghhh!

**Not sure if I have mentioned her before. She is called “Pres” as she is the new president of one of the societies at uni.

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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!! 🙂

Painful hands and procrastination

My hands hurt, that is all I have to say really. I just got back from climbing with Owl, and although I enjoy climbing, today was not great!

I couldn’t do the route I was trying to do, my hands are in agony and I’m tired. But it was a pretty good workout. We spent a bit longer bouldering than usual, and tried some harder routes. That’s probably why I couldn’t do the route I was trying in top-roping (hands were already hurting after bouldering!), but it’s still frustrating. 

Today I haven’t managed to get much work done either. Did a bit of German grammar this morning (what could be more exciting?!) but I really need to get into proper revision mode… the exam is on Tuesday!! What am I doing going rockclimbing this close to an exam?!

Since S left I have been feeling pretty down and my concentration is worse again. A couple of days ago the anxiety really kicked in (again), I was hiding in my bed for most of the day and I was really freaked out (haven’t worked out why though) but that seems to have subsided (at least for now.) I keep putting myself down, and usually I feel a sense of accomplishment after climbing which helps with motivation, but today I didn’t manage to complete the route so I feel like a bit of a failure. (Even though I know it was a hard route, and it was only the 2nd time of trying a route of that grade!) 

In other news, I have come to the conclusion that nice nails do not go with climbing. I painted my nails on Friday before I went out. Owl bought me a magnetic nail varnish for my birthday that makes a cool pattern so I used that. Now (Sunday) after climbing they are ruined… It’s to be expected. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to do them again now… (More procrastination! Wait until after the exam!!)

Sorry for the boring update, but I don’t really have much else to say at present. (Just having a little moan really!) After Tuesday when I have finished my exam I will have to start focusing on my CBT stuff… I’m sure I’ll have plenty to blog about then!!

Talking of after exams, I’m going to have to start planning my dissertation! I am doing some research into how EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing – A type of therapy often used to treat PTSD) works. Has anyone tried EMDR? And if so, how did you find it? (Would be interested to know if anyone feels like they want to tell me about it)

Negative thought patterns

I wonder whether I will ever be happy with myself.

My housemate said “you’re so negative.”

She’s right I am. It’s not like I choose to be though. I can’t help all the “what ifs” that pop into my head, the paranoia that no one really cares. I don’t do it on purpose, but I put up barriers, making everything harder. I don’t know why, I don’t know how.

If I ever treated anyone else the way I treat myself, I would not be considered a nice person. Sometimes I will berate myself over something, but in a very similar situation involving someone else, I will offer support, tell them it’s not their fault. From a psychology point of view (because I’m not studying for nothing!) I see myself a lot in what we learned about attribution styles. I tend to have an internal attribution style for bad things relating to me – if I fail an exam, it’s because I’m useless. Yet, for others I have an external attribution style for negative events – if a friend fails an exam I will say maybe the exam was just too hard, or maybe you had a bad day (not your fault – everyone has bad days sometimes.*) Then when it comes to positive things, I’m the opposite – if someone else succeeds at something it’s because they are clever, they worked hard, they deserved it! (Internal attribution) but if it’s something positive relating to me, I must have been lucky – the exam was easy, or it was because of the situation that I did well (external attribution.)

It’s strange when I see psychological concepts in real life. I wrote an essay about attribution for my social psychology module. And it turns out I’m not unusual in my attribution style – it’s common for people with depression to have a negative attribution style. I suppose it’s to be expected. We teach ourselves that everything we do is wrong and that nothing we could ever do will ever be good enough, and will never be as good as what others can do.

Yet EVEN THOUGH I know the psychology behind it, and EVEN THOUGH I know it’s a distorted way of thinking, I can’t seem to stop myself doing it.

I have a need to succeed, but when I do I never give myself the credit for it. For example, I recently got back my last lab report, it’s only worth 5% of the module, but somehow I got an A+. My first response: they were being a nice marker. Or it was an easy lab report because it was about format not content. EVERYONE probably got an A+**. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because it’s only 5%…

I don’t even know what I’m trying to prove, or who I’m trying to prove it to. Maybe I’m trying to show everyone that I’m not nothing. Maybe I want to prove that the ex was wrong about me. Maybe I want perfection because I think it will make me happy? 

I always thought a perfectionist would want perfection in everything. In themselves, other people, everything they do. I don’t, but A said it is perfectionism. I always see the best in other people, but the worst in myself. I don’t care about mess or if other people make mistakes. It’s only when I make mistakes that I can’t handle it. And it’s mostly about academic stuff, it’s like if I don’t succeed then I’m proving everyone who ever doubted me right. 

This reminded me of a conversation I had with A a long time ago. We were talking about uni and how I felt that I really need to get a 1st. I said I want to show that the ex was wrong about me, to prove that I’m not useless, that I can succeed – that I am good enough. And she said, “Wouldn’t it be succeeding if you got a 2:1?” And that stopped me in my tracks.

Of course that still counts as success. And if anyone else got a 2:1 I would be congratulating them. I know at 2:1 is a really good mark, I know it’s something to be proud of. And yet there would be this part in my brain saying “See, I told you that you couldn’t do it.” I think it has a lot to do with my parents always pushing me to do well in school*** and the school I went to, that was driven purely by exams. A school where getting an A is a bad thing (you need an A*) and where I learned that everyone gets As/A*s all the time. It wasn’t until I had left the school that I realised that is not what the rest of the world is like. Not everyone succeeds all the time, in fact most people don’t succeed all the time. We are human, not robots, we make mistakes, we have strengths and weaknesses, and that should be ok. It’s normal…

Sometimes it’s like an internal battle in my mind. I feel like shouting at myself: WHY can’t you just be happy for yourself that you wrote a good lab report?! WHY do you have to put yourself down all the time?! And the other side is just telling me I don’t deserve it, I’m useless, a failure, I’m never going to be good enough.

Bet you can’t guess which side is winning…

*Except me – I mean I do, I just don’t allow that as an excuse for myself.

**This is not true, but it’s the way my mind works.

***This makes them sound horrible. I know they never meant to do any damage, they just wanted what’s best for me, but when you are pushed to do better all the time it takes its toll. And I’ve seen it start to emerge in my brother too, I’ve talked to my parents about it and they’re trying to put less pressure on him now. I don’t want him to turn out like me.

Freedom!!/ Happy days!

Today I did my last psychology exam of the year – statistics!! And I actually think it went pretty well, so here’s hoping!! 

And I also got out of my exam, checked my emails and found that I have finally been allocated to a bundesland (region) in Germany for my year abroad!! I am off to Nordrhein Westfalen (Or North Rhine – Westphalia in English), but I don’t know where exactly yet! It’s all exciting though, and found out that one of my coursemates is in the same region which is great! 🙂

So today has been a good day!

I feel a sense of freedom now my exams are over (for now). But I actually have one more exam – my written German exam, at the end of May. But that’s a different sort of revision, and it feels less pointless because I can actually use what I learn rather than trying to cram a bunch of psychologists names into my brain and then forget them before learning another bunch for the next exam!

Today was the last psychology exam that I will do until after my year abroad… that’s nearly 2 years exam free!! 🙂

So now I am off to have some dinner, and later I’m going climbing with Owl, and I don’t have to feel guilty about not revising tonight because there’s no exam anytime soon!

Shall be back properly now and will probably have more to write about because my CBT sessions are starting up again on Monday!

Hope everyone had a happy Wednesday!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

One of those days

It’s been one of those days – unproductive, tiring and frustrating.

Today was a revision day. I have an exam on Tuesday and Wednesday. These 2 exams contain the most content out of all of my exams this year, and well done uni…they are on consecutive days.

This morning wasn’t too bad – got through a lot of statistics and I now have notes for all of that module – And better than that, I even understand most of it. The stats exam is on Wednesday. 

Then this afternoon it was onto social psychology. I find that module really interesting, and it was a lent term module so it wasn’t learned that long ago, I thought that would make revision ok, but I was wrong. Owl (friend from uni) came over and we were working together all afternoon and evening. She arrived at about 2:15 and didn’t leave until 9:15, we had about an hour break for dinner and were working solidly except that. But… we only got through one lecture. In 6 hours. So unproductive. My brain hurts, I don’t understand any of it and my concentration levels are shocking. 

Maybe I tried to do too much in one day. But that’s the only option. Today was one of those afternoons when you stop, put your hands up and say – right, it’s not working, I’ll write today off and try again tomorrow. But you can’t do that when the exam is the day after tomorrow. There is no more time. 

So now I’m stressed. STILL don’t know anything about social psychology and I have to learn the rest of the module tomorrow. Plus they want extra reading to include in the essay… are they crazy?! 

The stress is all building up and now I have a headache. I’m starting to panic and I don’t know any way round this. Tomorrow HAS to be a productive day, I have no choice. But the more pressure there is the more stressed I will be.

I need to calm down but I can’t. I really wanted to do well on this exam, I thought it was my best chance at a decent grade in these exams (except stats) and now I guess I’ll be lucky to scape a pass.

But to me there’s no point in passing a module if it’s not a 2:1 or first. A 2:2 or third is no good to me, so it may as well be a fail*.

I know I’m stressing myself out more by worrying, but that’s what Ellies do best – worry.

So I’m giving up for tonight. I want to give up entirely, but I can’t. I feel like in everything I do I have to do well, I have to prove I’m not a failure. I don’t know who I’m proving it to. Is it to the ex who made me feel like I’m not good enough? Is it to my parents who always push me to do well? Is it to S to prove I’m not nothing? Or is it to myself? because I see myself as a failure and all I’ve ever had to prove myself wrong on that is academic success.

Causal bit of self analysis there…

Anyway, I’m going to sleep and hoping to wake up with a bright and attentive brain, ready to learn all of the information in the world**.

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

*I know this is not actually true, blame my perfectionist tendencies. And what I really mean by this is that I can’t go into clinical psychology with less than a (high) 2:1.

**I feel this is only a minor exaggeration.

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…

CBT – week 10

After 4 weeks of no CBT, I went back to see A again on Monday morning.

We talked about my easter holidays, and I filled in the depression and anxiety questionnaires again. My scores were much lower, a big difference from the last time I saw A. Something is changing, and I still don’t know why, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

I am still having down periods, and with exams coming up the stress is starting to build up already.

I am trying to do regular exercise so hopefully that will help with the stress! I’ve managed to go to the gym 3 times already since I got back (last Thursday) and I’ve upgraded my gym membership to include the climbing wall – so I will be giving that a try on Saturday! 

We talked about how things are, and I said I feel a lot better. I am having a lot less thoughts about self harm/suicide, although they are still there sometimes. But it’s progress.

I feel like I am more able to be sociable, and although the anxiety is still high, I feel a lot more comfortable around people and less need to hide away. 

Next monday I won’t have a CBT session, instead I will have an exam! (Lucky me!) We have moved my CBT to Friday for next week, and we will be talking about the hardest issue, which I still can barely bring myself to talk about. Next week’s CBT session might be in a password protected post, we’ll see.

Last night I got upset before I went to bed. I had to call S in the end because I was really scared and I didn’t know what to do. He managed to calm me down and make me stop crying, and he wasn’t even angry that I woke him up. I am so lucky to have someone who is always there for me like that. I’m not sure why I was so scared or even what I was scared of, but I think maybe it was to do with thinking about what we are going to talk about next week.

Last night I think the ex was in my dream (nightmare?) I have a vague recollection of him saying he cheated on me all the time when we were together, but I can’t remember anything else. I’ll never know if he did or not, he’d never admit it and I don’t trust anything he says. It doesn’t even matter anymore.

Now I am off to bed; I’ve got a lot of revision to do tomorrow. And by that I mean I have to learn the material for the first time, because when we were learning this stuff the first time was when I was feeling awful, and I slept through lots of lectures. At least it’s something kind of interesting – my first exam is cognitive psychology, and tomorrow I’m making notes on Long Term Memory.

Good night,
Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

Where has my motivation gone?

I am generally a driven person. I have high expectations of myself and I want to succeed. I have goals in my life, goals which will be hard to achieve but I have always been determined to keep going until I reach them.

And yet now none of it seems to matter.

I have ridiculous amounts of coursework to do. I have exams coming up. And I’m doing nothing. I have no motivation to do my work. My concentration is through the floor, and my mood is down there with it. I sit and look at the list of things to do and it’s like a huge mountain. I know I should break it down into little mole hills, and then it will seem possible. But even that feels like too much effort.

I feel like I’m being lazy. Other people will think I am making a fuss over nothing. The closer the deadlines come, the less realistic the chance of me getting the work done. And yet I’m not panicking. Not yet. I don’t really care. None of it really matters.

But when I don’t get a first, then it will matter. Then I will feel like a failure. What am I saying? I already feel like a failure.

I should be able to do this. It’s not that I don’t have the intelligence, it can’t be that hard. Everyone else manages. And yet my head is all fuzzy and cloudy, with nothing making sense. My memory is terrible, I can’t concentrate at all, and most worryingly, I don’t even care about my work right now, even though it’s the things I wanted to study, and the subject that I am was passionate about.

I want the determination back, the motivation, the drive. Where has it all gone?

I’m running out of time.

Anyone know how to concentrate?