Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Constructive Emotional Recognition

Recognize the things that make you angry, make you cry, create that knot of tension in your stomach that rises into your throat telling you an anxiety attack is on the way.

I’m not always the great at doing this in the moment. I still don’t have the best ability to be emotionally immersed in the present when something unpleasant happens. I still dissociate emotionally – my emotions and feelings are shut down until I’m in a physically or emotionally safer place to process them. However I can recognize and reflect on these things in order to make conscious decisions about similar situations in the future.

It’s very difficult to learn to create constructive behaviors and improve your environment if you don’t know what is contributing to your distress in the first place.

For example: I am a civil rights activist. As such, I participate in a number of on-line forums to expand my worldview and knowledge. One of them was hosted by a friend to discuss current events. There were a couple very reasonable and rational people in this group. I didn’t always agree with them, but they always had thought out and well researched opinions which I respected. More often than not, people would post articles or rants that had very biased and bigoted viewpoints. One member in particular would attack everyone that didn’t share his exact opinion. There were mornings I’d open my feed and some of these would be the first thing I saw for the day. Ignorant, hate filled, historical revisionist, sexist, xenophobic posts that I do not have the capacity to ignore without calling people out on their bs. I found that just looking at new posts from the group, seeing a response from a particularly sexist member, or even building the courage to post something myself (because I was anxious about other members) created a massive internal struggle. The anxiety and anger that was being caused would stick with me for hours. If this was the first thing I saw that day, I would have a very difficult time getting my day back on track.

At first I simply blocked the people that were causing me the most strife to keep up with the group. Finally, after someone attempted to take a snippet of history and shoe horn it into their own agenda – I called them out flat and spoke my opinion of the general trend occurring in the group. After that; I deleted the whole group. I realized many of these groups and random people caused an unnecessary amount of strife for me and got rid of any that created more emotional debt than rewarding experiences. I needed to find my own balance between my activist communities and my mental health.

I can’t control the actions or thoughts of other people. I can control my own and make informed decisions about what I need and do not need in my life.

I enjoy trying new things. Talking to new people and groups. Sometimes they’re just not a good fit. Even family or friends can be this way.

Another example: I’m from the Midwest and every Christmas/holiday season I go back and stay with my parents for a few days. 5 days this past trip. My father and I get along just fine (though he can aggravate me too) – probably because he and I have similar reclusive personalities. He’ll chat with me occasionally about something important or if I’m actually sitting down to engage in conversation. Otherwise he basically leaves me alone. I appreciate this.

My mother is a different story. My mother is a nice woman. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you she’s the sweetest person alive. She’s very friendly and always has to be talking or engaging with you. No matter what. Even in the bathroom. Our personalities clash – which is as much my problem as it is hers.

The second I’m in her line of sight the questions and chattering start. Nothing important. Nothing that anyone would find offensive. Just nonstop poking at me. She has no concept of boundaries or personal space – regardless of how many times I’ve asked her to back off or give me room in the past; it never sticks.

When I’m in a room alone with her I can feel not only my anxiety, but my anger rising. I can keep my anger in check though I will bark at her occasionally when she’s pushed me for too long. Granted I rarely say anything until it’s gotten to the breaking point instead of letting her know earlier that she needs to back down. It takes two. I recognize my part. If I don’t say something, often multiple times, she can’t read my mind and won’t realize what she’s doing.

I have noticed that when there are other people around and her focus isn’t solely on me; I’m able to remain calmer and even happier to participate in conversation.

As far as I can tell I have 3 options for fixing this one:

1.       Never visit my parents or be in a situation where I am alone with my mother ever again. Not the most reasonable – as I can’t always predict this.
2.       Only visit my parents when I’m sure I’ll have Bats or my siblings there as well to mitigate the full attention of my mother.
3.       Open up some kind of therapy or dialogue to discuss what is going on to improve the quality of our relationship with the hope that they/she will eventually learn my boundaries and stop pushing my buttons.

The thought of discussing my relationship with my parents – with them – fills me with dread and irrational guilt because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’d rather spare their feelings than stop my own distress. That, and I don’t actually want a better relationship with them. I’m perfectly happy with the amount of closeness we have now, which is very little, and I don’t want any more.

I do believe the solution lies in #3 though (with a bit of #2 thrown in). I have to find a way to properly express myself that will let my mother know what she is doing and how it affects me.  Hopefully then, she will make the decision to alter her behavior.

She clearly can’t tell when I don’t want to engage with her, or if she can she completely ignores it. Subtle is not the approach. Being able to recognize when my anger and anxiety are triggered in relation to her will allow me to formulate that dialogue in a more rational way before actually speaking to her. Working on the solution (not fixating on the problem) ahead of time will help prepare myself mentally and emotionally, and allow me to organize my thoughts so I can discuss things in a constructive manner.

Even if it’s as simple as, “Could you please give me a little more space in the morning until I’ve had a chance to wake up. I’m not very sociable when I first wake up and I don’t want to be crabby.” Not a full discussion of every incident, but a small correction in the moment when things happen. I feel I could handle that.

Though frankly if it wasn’t my mother, I probably wouldn’t even bother. I’ve discovered that when certain people routinely cause you an inordinate amount of strife, anger, or anxiety, it’s often best to choose not to associate with those people. I’m very empathic, often overly empathic, so when other people are having a garbage life, I end up feeling that burden as well. I take in a lot of what others put out. Not all people are healthy to have in your life – even if you really wish they could be. Sometimes you have to decide what is best for you and not for anyone else.

This is not the same as avoiding problems or hiding from responsibility. Especially in relationships. Relationships take work and effort. Both people must be willing to work on it though. If you find that you’re the only one contributing; it may be time to reevaluate.

It helps to make a note of the events that create these feelings. Family, friends, groups, work, doctors, social activities and interactions. This can help you organize your thoughts and feelings on each one and make them more manageable.

Remember, this is not about placing blame. It’s about recognizing your own limitations and making a conscious decision to continue or move on; and how to go about that.

·         Recognize the problem

o   Try writing down when you are emotionally triggered
·         Determine a Course of Action for yourself
o   You can’t control anyone else’s thoughts or actions
o   You can control your choices and involvement
o   Write down a list of possible actions/solutions that you can take, no matter how minor, to aid in your decision
·         Act Constructively
o   Work towards a solution if one is possible
o   Do not make anything about blame
·         Evaluate
o   Reflect on what you’ve accomplished or didn’t
o   What was helpful; what wasn’t

What do you think? 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Long Time No Update - Healing


It’s been a very long time since I’ve written or updated. I removed the majority of the spam. I don’t know if my blog has actually been down or not. I had an official domain but GoDaddy never gives me renewal notices and it apparently lapses which may make it impossible to find the site. The last time they did that they wanted to charge me over $100 just to use my domain. No thanks. So I’ll just be sticking with the blogspot domain.

There have been three main reasons I haven’t been blogging.

  1. One of my friends told me my Evil-Ex had found my blog and I got very paranoid. I’m not sure if this is actually true or if he just didn’t like the fact that I referred to some of our interactions. His girlfriend had found it and showed him and he did express displeasure. I don’t use anyone’s name – this blog is for me so I was extremely anxious and unhappy about this
  2. My relationship with Bats. I need it to be about us and not fodder for my blog. As so much of what triggers me or what helps me is tied to him, it’s hard to write about my every day without including him and I don’t want our relationship public.
  3. I haven’t had time. I work very long hours. I was promoted to the Head of my own division which I’m building. By the time I get home I barely have time to shower, see Bats, and feed/play with my cats. I’ve had an enormous amount of stress and anxiety from work, but I believe this is normal stress and anxiety in general from working a high pressure job (only the occasional panic attack or irrational anger).

I’m doing very well. Well, okay. I just got back from visiting my family and that can only go so well when your mother has no sense of personal space or boundaries. I’m still with Bats and fortunately he was there to mediate. That helped enough to get through the week.

Relationship: Bats and I have been together for about 1 year and 7 months now. Living together for a year and three. Yes, we moved in together after 4 months. That was a bit overwhelming at first but once we established our routines and had the occasional “fight” which really lead to us communicating our needs better (and civilly), it’s worked out very well. We also adopted a kitten together =)

Work: As I mentioned I was promoted. I am the head of my own division now. Which still includes the responsibilities of my regular job, but now with new and improved piles of work to do! It’s rewarding and exhausting at the same time.

Therapy: I’m out of therapy. Officially. I didn’t just stop going. My therapist had graduated me back to coming once a month. To be honest this was a difficult schedule to keep. I do much better when my schedule is highly structured and I’m there routinely. Once a month was pretty useless. The whole point being that I rarely had anything of significance to discuss and it was primarily a check in to see how I was doing.

Unfortunately I think my therapist was so convinced of my progress, the healing I’ve done, and the coping skills I’ve developed, that when I did occasionally express something I felt was a real issue – she only gave it passing consideration. I felt those conversations always went very quickly from me describing my dilemma and how I handled it (which I’m very adept at doing now), to her being proud that I handled it but not exploring the issue beyond the surface events. I often felt like she was brushing past something I needed to talk about further. Idk, perhaps she believes I’m capable of handling and digesting these things on my own now. She must be as it was decided I no longer needed a regular therapist. Though I can always call for an appointment if I need one.

On the one hand I feel I may have outgrown this therapy. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of my sessions any longer so it made sense. On the other, I’m a little sad. Therapist was probably the only adult fixture I’ve had in my life. Not that my friends and I aren’t adults, but a more adult type of adult. The kind that has lived life longer so they know things and you can actually go to them for counseling. I’ve never had that before. I definitely felt some abandonment twinges (even though this was my decision too!) – but only as passing sadness really. I think that’s normal.

Medication: I’m almost completely off my medication. I had gone to see my Psychiatrist – told him I felt over medicated (100mg Pristiq, 200mg Topamax) because in the morning at work my head felt kind of fuzzy and I wasn’t able to focus or concentrate. His solution? Up my Topamax to 300mg. Jerk. I tried that for about a week until I realized that was probably why I was having vicious dreams, flailing and kicking in my sleep, and waking up both myself and Bats. I immediately went back to my regular dose and that stopped. I’ve since been weaned off the Pristiq completely and am on about 50mg of the Topamax.

I initially wanted to adjust my medication because that coupled with the birth control I was on. I wasn’t sure which one was zapping my sex drive. (Though frankly it might have just been stress, anxiety, and/or not eating great – so many things can affect this). Going off my birth control hasn’t changed much, which doesn’t surprise me because I’ve never had that kind of reaction to birth control (Except Seasonique/Seasonale – that shit is the devil). As soon as I started lowering the Pristiq I could feel my sex drive normalizing again. I honestly can’t tell if the Topamax does anything for me but now that I'm on very little of it I'm not as fuzzy and I can concentrate better.

I’m not sure if staying off medication will be my forever route, but one thing’s for sure…. I will be getting a new Psychiatrist before I start anything new. Psychiatrist never seems to listen to what I tell him. While I’m sure there are legitimate medical reasons for his choices – he needs to listen to me when I tell him something is wrong or isn’t okay. Always make sure you have a good working relationship with you doctors and therapists! If they stop listening to you, there are others out there that will. You pay them to help you! You are not bound to go to them if they aren’t helping you the way that you need.

I’m in a happy, loving relationship, work is progressing rapidly, graduated from therapy, and almost completely off my medication. I don’t know if you can be cured from this, but I certainly feel like I have learned to cope and have developed the skills I need to be in control of my own life – not my maladaptive impulses controlling me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have good days and bad days. Or that occasionally new things don’t come up. I’m capable of recognizing what is happening though and taking appropriate and responsible action for myself. 9 times out of 10 anyways. Everyone screws up sometimes.

I will try to post occasionally again, though probably not every day. Or even every week. Let me know if there are things you’d like me to look into.



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