I really don’t know how to feel at the moment. I’m coming out of a few days or weeks (I forget) of bad depression and some good things have happened recently but I’m still not feeling very hopeful about the future.
I’ll start with the good, for a change. I got a First in my computer systems module at uni. The pessimist in me wants to tell you how the first year doesn’t count for anything and that it was an easy module, but I will try to ignore it. I’ve been determined to get good grades and not let the mental stuff interfere with my work as it did so much before and so far I’ve done reasonably well.
The university recommended we start looking for accommodation for next year soon, as all the good places are taken quickly. I was going to stay in a privately run halls-type place since I don’t have any friends with whom to look for a place of our own but I got a bit of a surprise. Two of the girls who live in my apartment found a really good house that they wanted, with 3 bedrooms and paid the deposit for the 3rd room between them so they could make sure no-one else would take it. Anyway, when I got back to uni after being ill, they asked if I wanted to live with them next year :-S I was quite shocked to be honest and I still don’t really know why they asked me. Maybe they know I’m trustworthy enough not to steal things and will probably pay the rent on time, but we’ve never really talked much and although I remember pretty much everything we’ve said to each other before (random note: I think being so socially deprived allows me to remember and assimilate much more from conversations than a lot of people. I’ll sometimes surprise people with some random thing from years ago that I remember) I don’t think they know hardly anything about me. We went to look around and it is a great place so after some consideration I decided to take it. It means I will at least know the people I’ll be with next year, and of the people in my apartment, I get on with those two the best.
The bad. I felt guilty signing the contract because I really don’t know if I’ll still be alive by that time. After worrying about that for a while, I made myself feel even worse that I must be subconsciously taking that idea seriously otherwise it wouldn’t bother me so much. I’m not sure if that makes sense… I feel sort of under pressure to resolve things by then, I don’t want to traumatise them by letting them discover my broken remains one morning.
It seems paradoxical, but my strongest suicidal feelings don’t necessarily correlate (there’s a less pretentious word but I can’t think of it) with my worst periods of depression. When I first started on antidepressants, the mental health practitioner told me that sometimes when very depressed people start them, it’s a dangerous time because they feel like they have the energy to kill themselves and sometimes go through with it (hence the black box warnings on them). I was lying about my history of suicidal ideation at the time, but I can sort of understand what she meant now. I don’t want to unduly worry anyone, I’m not about to do it right now, but it is rather disheartening that I am probably less depressed and am in a better position now than any time in the last 2 years but I still feel like I want to end it. I don’t want to experience the fall in mood, the drifting sadness and childish jealousy that overcomes me. I still check the price of my preferred method, I made a test order of zopiclone and it came through without problems so an unscheduled, non-controlled substance should have problems. Also I can sleep at night now.
I’m worried about how honest I should be at my CBT assessment. Full disclosure seems like a sure fire way for them to write me off and probably send people around to my house to interfere again. I think I’ll play it by ear.
9 thoughts on “Conflicted”
i wont dwell on the bad stuff other than encourage you to be strong. you are doing well and u can find the strength to continue. u should be as honest as possible at your appointment so that u can get the very best, most appropriate help.
now on to the good stuff … CONGRATS on placing first in your module. it doesnt matter if year 1 doesnt count. its still an achievement!!! and a very good one at that!! its fantastic that u already have a room for year 2. you wont have the hassle and stress of searching for a place. and that should helps tons with ur anxiety as u wont have to worry about new people and u wont have the hardship of house-hunting.
you are doing well, so focus on the positives and keep moving forward.
Well done on your first in your computer systems module! That’s really good! It’s hard to get firsts even in first year because they hate giving them out usually. Plus we were always told that what you got in first year could be a good indicator of what you would get later on.
And that’s good about accommodation as well. It shows that those two girls must like you if they asked you, they wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m quite jealous actually that you’re sorted! I have no idea where I’m living with next year or who with!
I think be as honest as you can, surely it will only work if you’re honest? But I don’t know much about CBT, they said it wasn’t right for my problems! Seems like things are looking up for you, really hope that it continues.
Wow. What a change in just a few short posts? That is amazing news, really it is great. I’m so chuffed for you that you got a first. You’ve clearly worked hard for it, and you got the grade that you deserved.
And the houseshare is perfect, no? They wouldn’t have invited you if they didn’t like you Nick. I can understand why you might see it otherwise, but I think you should know that from a strangers perspective, you appear to be a very different person to how you describe yourself. It’s like you have a set image of “you” in your head, probably formed from the way people have made you feel about yourself in the past, and it tempers your view of how people behave towards you.
I love reading your blog because everytime I leave a comment, it reminds me how I do exactly the same thing. I also have a picture of who I am in my head, and who I should be, and neither bears any resemblence to the person who I am, or why others like me. It becomes so I get selective hearing only ever noticing the parts of conversations which confirm the picture I have in my head. It’s just not reality.
As for suicide, it’s a tricky topic so I’ll not start trying to talk you out of it, although I want to. I think it’s natural to still think of it even if things are going better, a few positives doesn’t detract from the work ahead, and if you have a fixed picture in your mind of who you are, when good things happen it almost amplifies the negative values you have about yourself. Making you feel less worthy, and further away from who you think you should be. I hope you stick around Nick, you have a great deal to offer us.
Like commenters above I am not going to mention too much about the bad stuff. All I can suggest is to focus on the right now, and right now you said you are definitely sticking around. And I am really glad for that. I loved reading that post. I think it’s great that they asked you to move in. At this time when I was at uni I had nobody to live with and something similar happened with me. And, even if you are not friends, it just goes to show that they must not see you in the same way you see yourself, as they could just as easily have found someone else. There is no way they would live with anyone they disliked.
And about your grades, that is not just reasonable it’s amazing! Especially that you can get such a good mark when so much must be occupying your mind. In my experience my marks got better in 2nd and 3rd years after I knew what was required, how to work etc. I hope it continues like this 🙂
I’m almost twice your age but you sound a lot like my younger self and I remember what it used to be like. The fear of people, the fear of phone calls, the having to psych myself up for ages to make a call, the fear of going into a common space because of not feeling able to cope with the other people who would be there, the thoughts of suicide, the memories of how mean people had been in school, causing me to become scared of everybody outside my family by the time I was eleven, the inability to talk to people, the inability to make friends, the paralyzing self-consciousness, the keen eye for any signal of rejection, the excellent memory for conversations. It’s all very familiar. I completely understand the significance of the accomplishments on your positivity list, and congratulate you on them. They are not small things. They show courage. People dealing with social phobia are extraordinarily brave ten thousand times a day.
I not infrequently think how fortunate it is that I did not kill myself in my twenties. Had I done so, I would not have discovered that things actually do get better. For example, would you believe that by this point I have had the experience of performing onstage – multiple performances – in front of many hundreds of people each time – and loving it? Also, I was really good at it. Tons of people made a point of complimenting me – not just everybody in the large cast (with most of whom I was barely acquainted) but random audience members approaching me in the lobby 🙂 I have held a front-desk job in a busy office, answering phones, making calls, greeting people, and explaining stuff, and I did an extremely good job and had no problem with it. I can spontaneously chat with random people and have fun. I do still tend to be kind of shy in a group – but not always, and it’s nothing remotely like the way it used to be.
This didn’t happen overnight. It was very slow. But it happened. Having social phobia is like being a fish swimming upstream, I think. When I was coping with the worst of it, nobody talked about social phobia at all. I had never heard of it; I was just experiencing it. I don’t believe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy had been developed yet – anyway, I had never heard of it, and I wish I had, because it sounds like it would have helped a lot.
As things were, what saved me was that someone both empathetic and bossy made friends with me. This was back before I was at all able to initiate friendships. The value of empathy is clear and the value of bossiness was that she kept gently but pushily prying me out of my shell over and over again – it took a year of this before I could start tentatively opening up without her prying for ten eons. Then I progressed from there – very slowly, and with big bumps in the road, but the ultimate change in me is huge.
Note that this friend was someone whom, before we happened to be thrown together, I had known slightly for a couple of years without an inkling that we had anything much in common or would ever be friends. I had noticed that she was pretty bossy with people, and practical, but that was about it. Obviously, not just any bossy person would do, but I seriously recommend that you keep your eyes open for signs of empathy and good person-hood combined with pushiness, and if you see those characteristics in somebody, start regularly sitting at the same table or whatever, even though of course doing so will be extremely painful and frightening.
Reading about social phobia now that it’s actually written about, I’ve noticed that apparently there are support groups of people dealing with it, and I wish there could have been such groups back when I was in my twenties. I would have been going to them. Maybe you could find one.
What I did do was make a point of going into social situations even though I was petrified and couldn’t really participate. I would sit with people who were talking, and just not talk myself because, of course, I couldn’t. I would go to any available parties even though almost all I could do when there was eat the snacks and look at the bookshelf and feel like a total failure because I was so nervous of all the people. I had been lucky as a child in running across some books about the possibility of major behavioral change through exposure to different circumstances and experiences, so I knew that I would be able to change myself if I just kept putting myself in the terrifying situations, where bit by bit I could accumulate morsels of positive experience in order to change the expectations that had gotten wired into me by my childhood.
And it worked. It took a long time, and things were really hard, but it worked. I bet CBT would have worked faster. Not that that would necessarily have been instantaneous either, but I do wish it had been around for me.
I’m telling you – do not kill yourself, or you’ll be really annoyed with yourself later 🙂 Stop preparing for suicide. Protect yourself by being absolutely unprepared, so as to avoid doing it in a period of bad judgment. It’s true that life is full of pain and difficulty, and the two-steps-forward-one-step-back experience – but it is also full of major enjoyment, and you can get there.
Also, note that people rejecting you do so not because of you at all – they are running away from their own fears about themselves. They had those fears before they ever laid eyes on you. They don’t have the experience to understand themselves (maybe they never will have it) and they don’t know how to cope. When they see someone vulnerable, they either run away or attack. Both responses are based on their own fear of what could happen to them if they themselves are vulnerable, and that fear comes from their own personal childhoods, the details of which you will probably never know.
Some of those people will, of course, tell you that the way they treat you is due to your supposed deficiencies. Your problem – and mine 🙂 come from our having believed them as children, and having built that belief into our whole view of ourselves, interpreting all our experiences based on that framework. It’s a totally natural thing to have done. Children believe what they’re taught, and it’s notorious that they tend to blame themselves for things that are not their fault. Then there the child is, emerging into adulthood with a hidden but massive disability – not inherent loser-hood but rather a problem of wiring – of maladaptive, learned beliefs and responses. Those beliefs and responses can be rewired and I am living proof.
You are not deficient. Of course you have ordinary human imperfections such as every single person on the planet has, but that is all. I find it very helpful simply to observe any negative thoughts I have about myself. Instead of saying to yourself, “I am worthless,” observe your thoughts and say, “I am thinking that I am worthless.” Step back from the thoughts and just note that you are having them.
I found that in my case a statement like “I am a pathetic loser” was actually an attempt to protect myself from whatever fate I thought ought to befall an appallingly defective person – probably death – by repudiating myself – as if I were saying to some oncoming avenger, “Don’t attack me; I am fully aware that that lowly person over there is unbelievably worthless; that’s the one to attack.” By attacking myself, I was trying to disassociate myself from the vulnerability because I was scared. This is, by the way, exactly what other people are doing when they attack or avoid you.
But running away from fear by putting oneself down just whips up more fear. By contrast, when I set the thoughts right in front of me, as if they were sitting in a nearby chair, look at them, and say, “I think such and such negative thing about myself,” it’s very calming. There’s no agitation of trying to escape, and I can see that these thoughts are just thoughts, and they are mistaken.
Be aware of your courage in doing all the stuff that’s incredibly hard. This development of courage may stand you in surprisingly good stead in some future context where others with less practice in courage are intimidated. There’s no need to put yourself down for the fact that things are hard. You simply have an injury.
If someone receives a physical injury that causes them now, in adulthood, to have to learn how to walk, for example, you wouldn’t put that person down because for them, at present, two small steps are a big, painful accomplishment which they can’t manage every day. You wouldn’t make invidious comparisons about their personal worth as compared to that of someone who had never been in a car crash and was therefore able to walk down a hallway easily. Of course not.
You, too, have a physical injury, a longstanding one. The brain is a physical thing and you have certain neurons that, because of your bad experiences in childhood, fire wildly when encountering related stimuli. 95% percent of people were not in this particular accident and didn’t get this injury, but you and I did. Those excessive neuron firings produce the fear; the fear results in the isolation and self-blame and shame, and those cause the depression. But there is no shame in having received an injury. There’s no reason to blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault. And that injury can heal. Those neurons can calm down. That fear can ease up bit by bit until you are amazed, looking back, at how far you have come.
Anyway, Nick, it’s clear from your writing that you are a fine person with a lot to offer the world and the potential for a good life. I’ve thought for years that I’d like to be able to pass on the stuff I’ve learned about handling this problem, and I really hope that what I’ve written here is helpful. All the best to you.
Here Here to Greenery!
I will leave a better comment later but I just wanted to say thank you
K: Thank you, I am glad I won’t have to live with new people next year too 🙂 I didn’t actually place first in the class, but I got the highest grade (it ranges from first, 2:1, 2:2, third and fail).
Hannah: Cheers, I think I only got it because it was 50% exam based so there’s not much room for them to interfere and be harsh on the marking of it heh. I’m not sure that they like me, maybe they don’t dislike me but I’ve barely spoken to them and only been out with them once, apart from a couple of times I went to a shop. I will try to be honest with the CBT person, but it’s sometimes hard to hear the words come from my mouth despite how easily I can type such depressing and morbid thoughts.
Lola: I’m really unsure why they asked me. They both have friends who I’d assumed they would rather live with but maybe it was a case of they couldn’t decide who’s friend to ask so I was a compromise. After all; I don’t make a mess and I’m like the quietest person ever so I wouldn’t keep them awake at night. It’s not like they have to worry about me bringing people over either 🙄
I think there’s a grain of truth in there, I do have a set image in my head of who I am and it is based on all of the horrible things I’ve experienced from so many various people, who were unconnected (so it’s not just one person or group’s grudge against me) and random strangers. It’s also based on the fact that everything I am is a target for ridicule in the media and popular culture. I’m a walking joke.
I’m not really sure how I appear to you or anyone who ‘knows’ me from this blog. I can’t understand how you can take anything positive from it because all I do is complain and write about bad things. It stops me from going crazy by keeping it all inside, and I have some delusion of grandeur that maybe one day somebody might discover this and realise what incredible damage bullying and social phobia can do to a person. I’ve basically lived like a prisoner in solitary confinement for over a decade (minus the physical abuse).
I don’t think I can change my opinion of myself, because unlike most people’s it is realistic. If everyone in the world was honest with themselves, I think they’d all realise that they aren’t that great. The majority of them would have to admit that they pretty much suck. I can’t bury my head in the sand and pretend I’m alright, I realise that life isn’t fair and that I am on the lowest end of the scale when it comes to social skills, looks, mental stability to a certain extent and confidence. I have nothing to be confident about. I can complain well. Whoop de do.
Penny: Thank you, I hope I can do as well in my other modules. I have a couple of 2:1 from them so far, but they were assignments which I’m not usually as good at as exams.
Greenery: I shall reply to your comment in a minute, I don’t want to lose all this by typing a super long one 😉
Greenery, first of all thank you so much for writing all that and I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve had such similar experiences 😦 I will have to update my positivity page, I don’t often feel in a good enough mood to acknowledge such simple things as achievements though.
It must have been so much harder when social anxiety disorder/social phobia was not a recognised condition.
I’m glad you managed to find that friend who helped bring you out of your shell, do you mind if I ask how old you were when you met? I am also totally incapable of forming friendships or even acquaintances. The only people whose names I know on my course are from looking on facebook or overhearing them talking to each other. Nobody approaches me either because I obviously give off the vibe of a creepy loner and I’m also unfortunately very weird looking which tends to put people off as well. I can’t honestly see when anyone would bother putting the effort in with me. Even if they managed to get to know me, there’s really nothing to me. I don’t just mean I’m an empty-headed moron who only talks about soap opera’s, I just don’t have any life experiences whatsoever. I can’t relate to people about anything. There aren’t many others around who spend their time in voluntary solitude and don’t even accomplish anything like being well-read or skilled at anything in particular.
The people I live with seem relatively empathetic but they have no incentive to bother with me. See, this is one place where a huge problem lies with me. I don’t drink and I don’t like clubs or being loud and partying. It scares me to be around that kind of thing and I could never enjoy it myself. That is all people that I’m around want to do though. I actually got the courage to ask if they wanted to watch a film at the cinema on my birthday but they all said that they didn’t have enough money. All their cash goes on drinking, the opiate of the student class. I made the effort to go out with them once, on the first night we were here. They didn’t know me so I had the chance to try and pass myself off as normal (other than looking like a malformed creature) but I only lasted until they all went to dance, I can’t imagine many things that I’d less rather do. I just had to leave them and stand around at the side by myself. Eventually I became too self conscious that I was looking like a complete loser standing alone with my J2O and I went home early. I just can’t do that kind of thing. It’s excruciating to me, and it baffles me how it is seen as the height of good times for everyone who I’ve come across who is around my age.
These are the only social situations that I’ve heard them get involved in, other than drinking games in the flat’s kitchen which usually ends up with them vomitting; not my idea of fun. I’m not a “lad” by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m not pretentious, I don’t look down on them for doing what they like. They are more successful than me, in that they enjoy life and if handed a gun would not shoot themselves like I would. I’m not aware of any parties, except for the aforementioned club outings. Nobody I know of does anything other than that.
The thing is though, I am deficient. It is an unfortunate fact of life, but not all people are born equal. I’m deficient in social skills, looks, co-ordination, emotional strength, “emotional intelligence”, maturity and experience to name a few. I’m past ‘thinking’ negative thoughts, it’s the negative beliefs that keep me down now. I realise that I’m not the only one, I’ve seen people who are also deficient in those areas make complete fools of themselves because they don’t realise how strange they are compared to 99% of society (I’ll refrain from calling them normal to avoid that semantic argument heh) They aren’t based on nothing, they are based on my experiences and the messages that I constantly hear from eavesdropping on people’s conversations (that’s naughty, I know) and from pop culture in general. I am everything that is undesirable.
True, but that person will never run a marathon either. Life is my marathon.
I’m not convinced that this applies to me at all. I know what you are saying, and that it probably applies to a lot of people with similar anxiety issues, but I don’t think I’m one of them. Personally I think that how I feel about myself is the only logical reaction. I could try to bury my head in the sand and blame my bad feelings on this condition or the bullying I’ve endured, but I think that would have the cause and effect the wrong way round. I was bullied because of my hideous appearance and awkwardness, they did not develop because I was bullied (in my opinion).
Thank you, I do appreciate it a lot and I’m glad to hear you are a lot better than you were. It gives me hope for the other people I know with SA/SP who aren’t born losers like me. I’m really not sure why anyone’d think I’m a fine person or have anything whatsoever to offer the world though…