Worry

Worry

Worry about worrying 

Worry about migraines 

Worry about having forgotten something. 

I am currently on my way to Scotland to go camping with the scouts for a week and it is likely that this anxiety will continue until I arrive and have set up my tent. 10ish hours to go…

Anxiety is irrational, I know that. Trying to explain it to someone that doesn’t understand is impossible, they don’t get it. They say it doesn’t matter, if you forget something they do have shops in Scotland. But it’s not really about that. It’s just constant worrying about anything and everything. I guess that’s why it’s called generalised anxiety disorder.

On a more positive note, I am hoping being in nature will be good for me, a week to chill and not think about work. And bonus, I get my own tent this year! 

I love the sound of rain on the tent (as long as it stays outside the tent!) and it’s Scotland, so rain is inevitable. I will be doing my mindfulness there too, already done some on the coach (trying to drown out the shouting/singing of lots of teenagers!)

Love,

Ellie xx

What if this is it

I’m afraid this is a bit of a negative one. Feeling sorry for myself this evening. The fear that things will always be this way is strong today. My physical symptoms are getting on top of me and being positive is too much today. 

Love Ellie xx
Like a vampire, avoiding light 

A slow and tired sloth 

There are a group of little creatures

Having a disco in my head. 

Their music thumping away. 

Someone has pumped my body full of lead

Limbs heavy 

Mind heavy 

A thought occurs to me, a whisper in my mind 

“This is the rest of my life”

Pain and tiredness

Feeling blue 

“What if this is it?”

Chasing dreams

I know what I want to do with my life. I know how to get there, but it’s going to be hard. And I don’t know if I can do it.

I want to be a clinical psychologist, which means once I graduate I need to get 1 – 2 years of relevant work experience, and then apply to do a doctorate in clinical psychology which takes 3 years. There are only about 500 places a year in the UK, one university alone (which has 24 places) had 650+ applications last year… And then if I make it onto the course, I’ve got to get through the course, which normally has 5 or 6 placements, plus a research project, and then obviously you have to pass everything.

But what if I can’t do it? What if I’m not good enough? Or what if I’m not strong enough? What if my own issues (depression, anxiety etc) get in the way? How many attempts do you give it before you give up and do something else?

I’ve been thinking recently maybe I should take an easier option. I’ve always thought about being a primary school teacher. It’s not really what I want to do, but I know I could do it – I guess I’ve seen it as a backup plan. I like working with kids and in a primary school there’s nothing too hard to teach, I can be creative, and primary school involves a lot of art/creative stuff. I’d quite like to be a primary school teacher I think, long holidays, working with kids, getting to make a difference to people’s lives. But it’s not the thing that I really want, it’s not where my passion really lies. But it would be easier. Because we always need more teachers, there’s always places going – especially as I’ll have a language, and psychology which involves a lot of knowledge about development of learning etc.

What would you do?

Strive for something you want but might never achieve, and might struggle with due to personal issues? Or go for something that would be ok, but easier?

I’m normally full of fight but lately I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. Only the best can make it into clinical psychology, and I’ve spent my whole life trying to be the best, but I’m not. Maybe it’s just setting me up for failure. Damn perfectionism. Of course I want the most competitive thing.

It’s strange. I’d like to go down both paths and see how they are, but of course I can’t. I’ll have to decide.

Just as a side note, I am in no way saying that a teacher’s job is easy or shouldn’t be valued. I think teachers are amazing, I’ve seen the work that goes into that job (my mum was a teacher) and I know that it wouldn’t be easy. But the entry route to teaching is easier, that’s all I mean by this post. I think maybe one day I’d like to be a teacher, but the thing I’m actually really really interested in is psychology, and especially mental health.

And another thing I’ve noticed… Although the careers of teachers and psychologists have a lot of differences, I have realised that there is a big thing in common – both aim to make a difference, to change people’s lives. And also, both would have the opportunity to work with children. I think I need a job where I’m helping people, I’m definitely the sort of person that will be in the job for the people rather than the money!

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?

 

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!! 🙂

That letter I’ve been waiting for

In November (2012) I applied to be a language assistant in Germany for my year abroad. And today is the day that I finally got the letter I was waiting for!!* I knew the region I was going to already (Nordrhein – Westfalen (or North Rhine Westphalia in English)). I was hoping to go somewhere near Köln (Cologne) or Bonn, but that was not to be! I am instead off to the most northern town in Nordrhein Westfalen, Radhen (which is actually nowhere near Cologne and Bonn at all.)

A bit disappointed because it seems like it is a bit in the middle of nowhere… It’s at least an hour to the nearest big place and it looks like it’s a town in the countryside. But every cloud has a silver lining – I will probably learn more German there because the smaller the place, the less likely they are to speak English (apparently). 

Also, my research this afternoon seems to conclude that there is nowhere to go rock climbing nearby, which is disappointing (especially as there are so many rock climbing centres in that region, it just turns out most of them are in the centre/south and I am in the very north!) 

I am hoping that there will be good transport links and that it won’t be too expensive to travel, so then I can still go to see these bigger cities – Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Bremen… And even Northern cities like Hamburg and the far-away Berlin are on my list of places to go, which will be a bit easier to get to as I’m further north than I expected.

I don’t think I would’ve been happy wherever I was put though. Because this makes it real. There’s a real school in a real town where I’m really going to go and live for nearly a year. And it’s scary already. I think this made it feel more definite, and now there’s not really a way out. Before there was always going to be the chance that they email me and say “oh sorry there’s no place for you” and I would’ve had to stay in England and it wouldn’t have been my fault.   But I am going in September. I need to start planning and actually looking forward to it, at the moment I am just scared, I want to cry (who am I kidding? I am crying..)

I think it’s a bit of a shock really, as the wait has been so long, I wasn’t actually expecting the answer to come! 

And today also marked the end of “year abroad preparation week**”, so now with my brain full of information, I’m meant to be ready to go. But I’m not.

There’s still a couple of months but I’m scared. What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? What if I hate it there and become more depressed? No one is going to be there to help me then…

I know I should be excited, I should be grateful for having a place and for having this new information. But the fear is getting in the way of all of that, and the disappointment that I’m so far from where I hoped to be.

I’ll probably cheer up soon 😛

Lots of love,

From a very anxious and worried Ellie xxx

*Ok, so technically I don’t have it yet, but it arrived at home (London) and my mum has told me the details and has now posted it to here (Lancaster).

**which did not last a week (as one might expect) but 3 days!

Tear-free CBT

That’s right people, I got through a whole session of CBT without crying today! There were a couple of moments where tears weren’t far away but no crying today. Not that it’s a bad thing to cry in therapy, but it’s exhausting. Today was definitely easier than the last session, but I guess that’s because what we talked about wasn’t as painful today.

We spoke about how I have grown up, and why I have always felt this need to do everything perfectly.

My mum had to work and work to prove she was good enough. When she was at school she wanted to be a teacher, from the age of about 11. She did her O levels and A levels, and had to retake some, and she was told she’d never become a teacher. But she did it, she got her grades, went to college and became a P.E teacher. It’s so sad that the thing she wanted to do for so long became one of the things that made her ill. And now she lacks the confidence to teach again, doesn’t want to go back there. My dad is a very hard worker too. He always gives everything 100%. He is the person who gets into work early and leaves late. And so you see my parents have both been very successful and they want the same for my brother and I, and that’s why they always try to push us to do our best. Unfortunately in my case, with a mixture of family pressure and going to a school where everyone is very bright (like a grammar school), I ended up feeling that I will never ever be good enough.

And I also realised that maybe part of it is that I’m trying to prove that I’m good enough, trying to prove that going to college wasn’t a bad idea. I left my school at 16, much to the dismay of my parents, and went to a college to do my A levels instead of the school 6th form. But I did it, I got my grades. I went to uni, I finished my first year with a first… Maybe I feel like if I get a first I’m proving that college was a good thing, that I wouldn’t have been better off going to my school’s 6th form. But the thing is, it’s done now anyway. Maybe I would’ve done better at 6th form, maybe I would’ve done worse, or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. We can never find out.

We also talked about mindfulness. A says that I am getting much better at identifying the negative thoughts as they happen, but now we need to focus on the here and now – ignoring the past and future, so that I can react in a suitable way to these negative thoughts.

I explained the cycle I spoke about in my previous post. How S said something as a joke which made me paranoid, then the paranoia made me scared he was going to leave me, then I realised I was overreacting, so I was scared he was going to leave because I worry so much… And on and on and on.

As we are coming to the end of the CBT sessions, A said it would be good to do some work on mindfulness, and that is something I can use after my sessions have finished, to help me.

According to Wikipedia*, mindfulness is the focusing of attention and awareness, based of the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It says mindfulness can be useful in the treatment of pain, stress, anxiety, depressive relapse, disordered eating and addiction.

It appears, from the definitions to involve bringing attention and awareness to the present moment where thoughts/feelings etc. are acknowledged and accepted.

A handed me a pen and asked me to look at it while she talked about it, asking questions (which aren’t to be answered.) What does it look like? Are there any marks on it? What about writing? Does the nib have any ink on it, or any marks?

At one point she asked me to hold the pen by my ear and listen to it when shaking it. At this point I thought “well, this is a bit weird!!” A said that is an example of when your mind wanders and thoughts go to other things rather than focusing on the pen (in this case).

This week’s homework is to do the “bodyscan” each day which is a guided mindfulness practise, involving listening to a CD (Kind of like meditation I think). I’ll be writing about that as I go along too!

So today’s session was quite helpful I think. I’ve made some realisations about my perfectionism and where it comes from. And I’m starting to accept that it’s ok not to do everything perfectly (because in most cases perfection doesn’t exist.) We also talked about my little experiment from last week – actively giving 80% (rather than 100%) to see what happened. You might remember, I did it when climbing. I decided that instead of pushing myself hard to finish the route, I would just come down and try another time, and the world didn’t end 😉 (In case you were wondering!) A said she thinks the key to all of the stuff with the ex is anger, and that when I am ready to access all of the feelings, I will be able to feel this anger that’s been locked away for so long. It also explains my anger outburts, which are almost always disproportionate to the thing I am actually angry about. (Like when I went completely crazy shouting at my housemates over the bins situation… but it wasn’t actually about the bins, it was about everything that has made me angry ever!) Anyway, progress is definitely a good thing, so I’ll let you all know how I get on with the mindfulness this week!

*obviously the source of all knowledge!

CBT – week ?*

This week’s CBT was on Monday. I filled in that horrible depression questionnaire (as I do before every session) and I realised how different it looked to when I started. A few months ago, every question would be answered with a 3 (nearly everyday) but now there are some 1s, some 2s and some 3s. It’s slow progress, but still progress and that’s what matters.

We discussed my exams and how they have gone. Some went ok, one went terribly and one went quite well. And I told her that I have accepted that I probably won’t get a 1st this year. And that’s ok**. I’m starting to look at things a little bit more rationally, and a little bit more “normally” but there’s still quite a way to go.

I told A that the ex and his new girlfriend are having a baby. We talked about it. About why it bothers me, about why it hurts and the thoughts it has brought up. I have to do some homework for my next session. I have to write a letter***. It’s going to be hard but it needs to be done.

I’m worried that I’m going to run out of sessions before everything is sorted in my head. And then what? Once I leave Lancaster for the summer that’s it. No more A, no more CBT, no more help. Once I go to Germany… who knows what happens if things go downhill again.

We sorted out my sessions for the rest of the term. It’s scary how little time there is left.

I don’t know what I’m going to do once the CBT finishes. There’s no point in thinking about that yet… but it is going to happen (and it’s going to happen quite soon!)

After my CBT session I went for a walk in the park with S. It was nice and sunny (for a change) and I really like that park. It’s probably one of my favourite places in Lancaster (or maybe anywhere?)

I feel like there was something else that I was going to write about, but I can’t remember now… That’s irritating.

* I have lost count of weeks, and I think I might not have written about some sessions… oh I don’t know!

**Kind of… The perfectionist side of my brain disagrees but I’m trying to be RATIONAL here!

***I will write about it/maybe even put the letter on here, but probably with a password.

CBT – week 8

I managed to oversleep this morning, and woke up at about 8:20 (should have left my house at 8:15) so I had to get a taxi (again) – oops!

But I made it on time so it was ok.

A asked how my week was and I said not good. I have been feeling really hopeless and hadn’t managed to get any work done.

We talked about the work and how I am expecting perfection from myself when I am actually ill. I am pushing myself too hard and that is actually holding me back. I think that I can’t do all of it to the standard I want, therefore it seems hopeless and pointless to even try, so I don’t do it, and end up feeling like a failure anyway.

If I could accept that my best at the moment isn’t perfect, maybe I’d get further.

We talked about how I am a perfectionist, and will feel like anything less than a 1st is failure. A asked me: If you get a 2:1, will you have failed? And I thought about it. And no, of course that is not failing. I know that. And yet, I know I’d be very disappointed if I don’t manage it. A said maybe the perfectionism is me trying to make up for my past mistakes. And if that’s the case, then even getting a 1st won’t help – it won’t change what happened, it can’t change the past.

Then A asked if I had been feeling worse after doing the retelling last week about the strangling memory. I actually haven’t been though. I haven’t been having nightmares, screaming in my sleep or having flashbacks this week *touch wood*. So I guess that’s progress in itself. I felt kind of relieved after the last session because I had been able to talk about it, and nothing bad happened. A said something at the time that made a lot of sense – What is the worst thing that could happen? (and I said nothing really, it would just be scary) and Will it be as bad as it actually was? (No). And somehow after all this time trying to repress it, it turned out talking about it was actually kind of helpful, even if tiring.

We will be coming back to that I am sure, as I haven’t really finished dealing with it. But today we talked about the thing that I think is the root to my depression/anxiety/PTSD.

I’ve written about it here only once. And I ended up making it into a password protected post. I was paranoid and terrified that somehow someone I know would find my blog and read it. I might try and write about it again soon, because it might help and because I am trying to deal with it (finally) but I may end up with password protected posts again…we’ll see.

As next week is the last week before the holidays, we have decided that we won’t look at that next week because it will be 4 or 5 weeks until I see A again, and she doesn’t want me to end up feeling worse if we end up opening up the memories without having time to deal with them. I think that’s a good idea, but in a strange way I am looking forward to starting sessions again after the holidays, because I feel like once I can deal with this, I’ll be a long way on the way to recovery. (If that even makes sense).

So instead, next week we are looking at thoughts again. Thoughts that cause worry chains, but they are just thoughts and they don’t have to come true. Like about A crashing her car – it didn’t happen (of course).

So this week I am trying to take note of the thoughts that cause these worry chains.

So I’m going to be having a good long think about all this, and I’ll let you all know what I come up with. And today I feel like there is actually hope (again).

Sometimes having therapy on a Monday morning seems like a bad start to the week, but I do find that generally after my sessions I feel more hopeful. So maybe it’s a good start to the week.

Maybe everything’s going to be ok after all? I just need to give it (even more) time.

I have now had 7 sessions out of a possible 20. In a way it doesn’t feel like I’ve got very far, but in another way it feels like every week I’m getting a bit further, and all of these little steps will add up. It seems like now I have got to trust A a bit, and she is getting to know more about me, we are making more and more progress each week.

And the moral of the story is, give it a try. It might help (even if you were convinced it wouldn’t.)

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

P.S. I’m starting to notice a trend in my blogging/thoughts – the beginning of the week (following therapy) I am hopeful and things seem to be on the up, and then as the week goes on I seem to feel worse… Hopefully in time this will lessen and everyday will become a hopeful day!

Anxiety, depression and perfectionism – intertwined

Yesterday I went to see Matilda (the musical) up in London. It was great and I went with one of my best friends (Monkey) and her family, which was lovely.

But parts of it brought on anxiety. If you are not familiar with the story, it features a horrible, abusive headmistress of the school (Miss Trunchbull) and the parents of the main character (Matilda) are also horrible, selfish people.

I don’t think it was so much the storyline which brought on the anxiety, although it did bring to the surface some memories of things with the ex…

But there were several instances where there was loud sounds, flashing lights and I felt disorientated, and anxious at these times. I have noticed that sometimes when there is loud noises/lots of people/flashing lights that it brings on anxiety, although I’m not sure why.

Maybe it is because I feel disorientated and there is too much going on.. Who knows!

Another example of this was today at work. I was in one of the aisles, and it suddenly got really busy and I felt really trapped and as if everything had got louder than it really was. I have had this feeling several times at work, and always under the same circumstances (busy aisle – too many people and too much noise.)

Luckily I have been able to control it by focusing on my breathing, and in some cases I have been able to leave the aisle in question.

It is really bizarre… I did think that my main issue was depression, but it seems that anxiety is more of an issue than I thought.

I think it is very common for the two (depression and anxiety) to exist alongside each other, and they probably fuel each other as well.

Having been in this anxious state (which has definitely not been helped by my rising stress levels over different things!*) I have now bitten all my nails off, which is sad because I thought I had cracked my nail-biting habbit. Every so often, I get stressed and I end up biting them.. Grr!

So all in all, things are not great at the moment.

I had a day or so where I felt quite optimistic, and have done quite a lot of my work (but not all of it, and it’s probably rubbish anyway..) but that seems to have disappeared now, and I am back in the gloomy worry of whether I can finish this year or not. This morning I had a bit of a melt down… Spent about an hour hiding in my room in the dark, and crying, because I feel like I’m never going to get my work done (and even if I do, it won’t be good enough.)

Having read what I have written here, my perfectionism is glaringly obvious, and it seems incredibily irrational, but at the time it feels like the truth, and feels like there is no way out of this gloom. Even now, rationally, I know that this is irrational, but that doesn’t stop my brain telling me all these things… like how I am useless, a failure, and I can’t do what other people on my course can do, therefore I am not clever enough, and must be useless.

Damn perfectionism….

*Coursework for uni, worrying about going back to uni, stressing about the amount of weight I have put on, the fact my clothes are mostly too small now… etc.