Why?

I just don’t get it.

Things are good, really good.

I got my first for this year, against all the odds. I got my summer job back so I will have some money. I’ve booked my flight to Germany and got accommodation sorted for the first few weeks, and I’ve even met a girl who will be in the same town. I am going on holiday with S next week (although we still haven’t actually booked it!) and this morning I received an email saying that I won a prize for my work in German this year.

So why do I still feel low?

I have everything right now, and I’m still not happy…

Do I just want too much? Do I just expect everything to be perfect?

But there is nothing wrong, nothing at all. So why do I want to hide in my bed? Why do I feel like crying? Why do I still have this inexplicable feeling of sadness, emptiness, pain…?

I know I am a lot better than I was. But before things were hard, I had some reasons. I guess I still have some reasons, but a lot of them are gone now – living away from home, exam stress, coursework stress, the massive fear of not doing well enough in my uni work… All of that is gone and yet I don’t feel better. At least the anxiety should be lower.. but it’s not. I am on edge, and I’ve bitten all my nails off (again.) 

To be perfectly honest, even reading that I got a first didn’t properly cheer me up. I was happy, surprised for a few minutes. And then I was like “oh well”. What is that?! I have worked so hard all year for that, I have worried myself for months, I have waited anxiously for my results, and then all I can say is “oh well”?!

Nothing I ever do will ever be good enough (for myself.)

Maybe I’m doomed to always be disappointed because perfection doesn’t exist, no matter how much I or anyone else strives for it.

I just want to be “normal”… I want to react to things in a normal way. I should be celebrating my achievements, I should be excited and looking forward to the future, but instead I’m feeling numb.

And I still haven’t unpacked… I’ve been home over 2 weeks (oops.)

Someone explain all this?

 

I can and I did

Anyone reading my blog in April/May/June will already know that that was the dreaded exam season! Well yesterday was the (possibly even more dreaded) results day!

After this year, I don’t think it would be strange for me to expect to not have done that well on my exams. Although towards the end of the year and exams I was starting to feel better, it became clear during revision that my revision was in fact learning material (rather than revising it) and my concentration levels were just too low.

It’s no secret that I aim (too) high. I am a perfectionist, particularly with my academic work… so only a first would be “good enough” according to my brain.

But I did it. Despite all of the difficulties of the year, despite having exams that went quite badly (and results from these exams that aren’t great) there were also exams that I did very well in, bringing my aggregate score up to a first (just!)  – but still, a first is a first!

So I did it. I got to my goal for the year. As soon as I saw my results I felt so strong. I felt like it was a big “fuck you” (excuse the language) to all the people who didn’t think I could do it and who made things difficult for me. It made me feel like the ex was wrong about me – I am not weak. I got through it, and came out with the grade I wanted. 

So it seems that the mantra “I can and I will” was quite helpful, it kept me going. And now I can say “I can and I did!”

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!! 🙂

Mindfulness: Body scan

I have started work on mindfulness, which I wrote about in my latest CBT post.

I have got to do a guided meditation called the body scan everyday this week as homework. Yesterday I listened to it for the first time, and somehow I think I managed to fall asleep! Oops! The track is 43 minutes, and you lie with your eyes shut so it is easy to fall asleep, but that definitely is not the plan!

I underestimated how hard it would be to try and keep concentration on each part of the body as instructed. There were lots of intrusive thoughts and mind wanderings… “I can’t concentrate”, “I can’t do it”, “I wonder how much longer this is”, “kind of bored now…” etc.

I repeated it again today and although it was still hard, I think it was better than yesterday. Hopefully it will become easier each day! And I managed to stay awake for it today, which is always a bonus! 😉

The point of the body scan is to pay attention to each part of the body and breathing. To become aware of all of these processes instead of doing them on autopilot. Presumably the point is that once you learn how to shift attention within the body, you can then use the skills to practice mindfulness in everyday life, staying in the moment and paying attention to reality rather than going onto autopilot and repeating the same behaviours we usually do.

So far I am not sure how helpful mindfulness is going to be because I’m struggling to do it, but I have been told that it normally takes a while to get it, and that’s why I have to do the body scan everyday as practice. With the CD, A gave me some paperwork – an introduction to mindfulness and the body scan. There is an example of a participant’s report about the body scan, and it says “For the first 10 days it was like a burden. I kept “wandering off” and then I would worry about whether I was doing it right.” This sounds very similar to my experience (so far – it’s only been 2 days!) and that’s reassuring. So I will definitely be keeping this up, and of course I’ll keep you all updated on how it’s going!

Now it’s off to bed for me because I’m taking part in a psychology study for a friend and it involves being at uni at 9:00 tomorrow morning. This may not sound early, but getting up before 8:00 is a difficult thing for me! 😛

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

CBT – Week 11

Today I had my CBT session, on a Friday for a change as I had an exam on Monday. It was still 9am though – an early walk up a hill!

We planned to tackle a difficult issue today. One I really struggle to talk about. I was meant to write about it for “homework”, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even bring myself to think about it properly. I just cried and felt awful. 

We are leaving it until after exams. Maybe I will feel stronger then, once the stress of revision and exams is over. I know it needs to be dealt with, but I can’t handle any more at the moment.

We decided not to have our next session until after most of my exams, the next one will be 20th May. A said she thought it was best because it adds more stress and I need to be able to concentrate as much as possible on exams. I will still have the rest of May and the whole of June so hopefully we will have time to sort things out.

We talked about perfectionism today.

I never realised before how much I have spent my whole life trying to please other people, trying not to disappoint anyone, trying to be “perfect” all the time, but of course it doesn’t exist. And that means that I am always striving to do better, no matter how well I do it will never be good enough (in my eyes) because I am not good enough, I am not perfect.

I knew I felt like that about academic work. I have always been pushed to do my best. From year 2 until now I have had exams every year. At the age of 10 I took entrance exams for secondary schools and I got into one of them (only on the waiting list though). At that school they pushed us to get the highest grades. It is one of the few places where getting an A would result in being told “that’s a shame, hopefully you’ll do better next time.” At this school I was surrounded by people who constantly achieved academic excellence, where As and A*s were the norm. I thought that was how the world was, that everyone achieved all the time and so I pushed myself harder to keep up, I didn’t want to be average, I wanted people to be proud of me, I needed to do well. It came to GCSEs and I got good grades, but in comparison to my friends from my school I felt like I had done badly.

I did my A levels, I got into uni, but I didn’t get all As, I didn’t get A*s. Must do better. And then I got to uni, started Psychology and German, and I convinced myself that I needed to get a first. I know it is not essential, and I would never think that a 2:1 was a bad mark if anyone else got it, but when it’s me I have much harsher standards. It’s a massive fear of failure, but my perception of failure is actually not being perfect.

If I do well it’s because the test is easy, it’s because I was lucky, or it’s because I get extra time*. But if I do badly it’s all my fault. I should’ve done better, I could’ve worked harder, I am a failure. It’s internal and external attribution, something I wrote an essay about recently actually. I recognised myself in a lot of the research I was doing, about how people with depression give internal explanations for bad things (it’s my fault) and external explanations for good things (I was lucky). 

I crave reassurance that I am doing well. I constantly get people to check that what I am doing is right and I never trust my own judgement. When I write in German, I tend to look most words up in the dictionary, even when I know them, because I doubt my knowledge and I don’t want to be wrong.

I realised today, I have never failed anything (academically) and yet I am never satisfied with how I do. 

I am indecisive too. I can’t make simple decisions. I don’t want to make a mistake, ever. It’s ok for other people to make mistakes, but not me. I have to be perfect (but of course I’m not). Big decisions are hard of course; they are for everyone. “What if”s are abundant in my mind and I am constantly worried about making the wrong choice. A said sometimes there isn’t only one right choice, sometimes decisions take you on a new path that’s different, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And then it comes to small decisions, like what to have for tea** and I am anxious. It can take me a ridiculous amount of time to make the most simple of decisions. And does it really matter? No, of course it doesn’t. When decisions involve other people it’s even worse – where to meet for lunch or what film to watch… What if the other person doesn’t like my decision, what if it’s wrong, it will be all my fault if we don’t have a good time. I avoid decisions as much as possible. The phrases “I don’t know” and “I don’t mind” are very common in my vocabulary. I go along with what other people want. I’m a people pleaser.

My whole life I have done what I have been told – by my parents, by the ex. As I was able to start making my own decisions (approaching the age of 16) the ex was there, controlling me, manipulating all my decisions so that it made it look like my choice, but really I was doing whatever he wanted me to do. Looking back I am ashamed that I let someone control me in this way, but I couldn’t see it at the time.

And then we come to the issue of looks. I think I am ugly. Fat and ugly. S says my view of myself is distorted, that I don’t see what he sees. I say he is crazy, that there is no way he can find me attractive. There are so many things I wish I could change about myself. And since I put on weight from the mirtazapine, I’ve felt even worse. Some of the weight has come off since I changed medication but not all of it. Half of my clothes still don’t fit and it makes me feel terrible about myself. I don’t like trying on clothes while shopping now because I just end up feeling bad about myself. I am disgusted with me and my many flaws. I crave perfection and again it doesn’t exist. I will never be good enough in my own eyes.

I need to accept that S loves me for who I am and I don’t need to be perfect to be loved. It’s difficult though. I walked on eggshells for so long with the ex. The slightest mistake and I’d never hear the end of it, I had to be perfect to keep him happy. Late out of work and I’m in trouble, even though it’s out of my control…

Today I gained a lot of insight into my own mind. I knew that I can be a perfectionist, and I knew that it affected how I think about myself, but not quite how much. I think that counts as a good session, somehow I just need to change these behaviours now.

As a closing note, I will leave you with what A said I should do:

Aim for 75%, because you don’t need to be perfect (100%)***.

*which is another thing. I am entitled to extra time in exams because of depression/anxiety, but I always feel that I don’t deserve it. As if I am a fraud and I am at an advantage having this extra time that I don’t deserve.

**Or dinner (I’m picking up Northern words now!)

***Of course I said if I get 75% in my degree then I’ll be very happy – it’s a first. But that wasn’t what she meant. She meant I don’t have to aim for perfection because then I will always fail (in my eyes) but 75% is more than good enough.

Fried brain

My brain is frazzled. I’m trying to cram a lot of information in at once and it’s not going too well!

So here I am, blogging! Procrastination much? 

My exam is on Monday afternoon, so I have this afternoon and evening, the whole of tomorrow and then Monday morning to learn everything. I’ve written most of my notes, so will probably write them out again and read over them a lot to try to learn it all. And then fingers crossed for Monday! Please give me a question I can answer!!

In other news, remember when I disappeared for quite a while because I had too much coursework? I’ve got the results back, and got an A on my lab report and a B+ on my essay, very happy about that!! 

I am trying not to think too much about the exams. I have a major fear that I’m going to freeze, forget everything and write nothing. That cannot happen, so I’m trying not to think about it.

Well, this post was pretty boring – sorry about that.

I guess it’s back to revision for me!

But later I’m going climbing 😀

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

Oh dear…

Today I started trying to make a revision timetable (I’m not sure why I’m bothering, I’ll never stick to it anyway!) 

I guess it’s good to have a plan though.

But it’s made me realise how much there is to learn – way too much!

For 1 exam, I can get away with learning 2 out of 3 topics, which is by no means easy but not quite so bad as learning the entire syllabus, but for others I have to learn EVERYTHING. There is an essay question (pick 1 out of 4) and short answer questions (pick 3 out of 4) meaning you can’t do targeted revision… damn!

I’ve made a list of the topics I’ve got to learn and it’s a bit daunting to say the least! And now I’m procrastinating by blogging instead of revising… oops!

At least most of my exams are quite spread out, so I guess I’m lucky there! 

And just think, come the 28th May I will be free from exams for over a year (because of my year abroad!) 

I am very thankful at this moment that I am feeling much better than I have been for most of this academic year. Although the amount of work seems daunting and scary, and my motivation levels are not as high as they should be, I am in a much better position now than I was a couple of months ago, and I think I can do this.

I may not be able to do as well as I want to, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I’ve had enough of letting depression beat me, and I feel like I can fight it. I’m so glad I’ve got my CBT as it really seems to be helpful (even if it does result in A LOT of crying!) so hopefully by the end of my CBT I will be feeling much better.

I know there is still a long way to go. For example last night I walked home from my friend’s house (owl) and got genuinely scared by a car park ticket machine! I jumped and gasped, thinking it was a person! The rest of the walk home I was hyper-aware of everything, and anxiety levels were high, who knows why! I felt pretty silly after, it (obviously) didn’t even move and it made me jump!! 

But overall things are pretty alright at the moment. And I’m back to blogging which is nice – I’ve really missed it!

I’ve caught up on a lot of reading but I don’t have the time to read over a month’s worth of blogs unfortunately, so there are some bits I’ve missed, but now I’m up to date, hopefully I’ll be able to keep up better now!!

Anyway, enough Ellie rambles for now… back to do some work I think!! 

Lots of love,
Ellie xxx