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New year reflection


Ralph

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So it's 2012. I think I've been taking my career too seriously due to anxiety. That plus bad economic news makes me think I'm hanging by a thread and just one bad decision away from homelessness. This causes me to freak out over every day hardships, random bills that come in higher than expected. More money, more problems; no money, more problems still. To paraphrase The Shins - a patient me would never give it more than a frowning hour, but loss has conquered me. Loss of job in 2008 that I never got over, loss of normality in relationship. Never felt like I belonged or that anything was stable. Hence thoughts of suicide.

However thanks to help from people here I realized it wasn't ending life that I wanted; I probably wanted life more intensely than ever in my depression. It's just that the change I desired seems out of reach and I have struggled to overcome learned helplessness ever since I realized there could be an alternative way.

Then there is the opposite current, the cheerful me, the creative one. The me that comes out when I am not alone, but still allowed to be myself without concern about status or networking or strategizing for the future. The me that I am performing on stage, or that I am when spoiling my niece. So it would seem the solution is to find more opportunities to be the positive one and avoid the situations where I will feel like a victim of a Kafkaesque dystopia.

It is there that I am stuck. Opportunities to be creative cost money, which means I have to play the game of being the corporate climber in order to have the occasional opportunity to travel and see my loved ones or to work on my musicianship to get back to the point where I could join up with a new band. Then again, the demands of full time careerism consume energy that is needed for more satisfying pursuits. Next step then is to figure that out.

For the past year my brain and heart have been going through the grief process of accepting that I have a mental illness. If I look back I was going through the denial, bargaining, guilt/fear, and anger over the fact that I'm not like normal people. I'm still not sure if it's depression or something else. I have all the symptoms of depression and that's my most common diagnosis, but at the same time I've been diagnosed with anxiety multiple times and done years of work to get through my PTSD problems. Last week my therapist said she thinks I have significant ADHD issues as well, although she only works with childhood ADHD not adults. This is a lot to come to terms with.

I have always had concerns about ADHD because of my problems planning, managing time, etc, and even this is why I joined this site in the first place, but I had just gotten used to the idea that it was all anxiety/depression when one Xanax got me to a normal feeling after a panic attack, and this was the first time since college I didn't feel my emotions were out of whack with reality.

For the moment though, it seems like acceptance is the only way I'm going to move forward. I can't change it, and no matter how hard I try to control all the moving pieces in my world, I can't do much if I'm wasting energy complaining about the way things are. Noticing a problem and troubleshooting it is one thing, but fighting the nature of reality is taking an admirable tendency too far. Taking things too far seems to be my preferred M.O. At least that has been stable in my life. So the trick now is either to learn how to set and respect my own limits, or find a way to use my tenacious tendencies as a strength.

I have no clue if this will stick. I'll probably change my mind about all this in a couple weeks. I wonder if that is normal, which has been my question for the past few weeks... is this normal.

Whether it's problems scheduling/procrastination (is this something everyone deals with or do I really have a problem here) or wondering what ever I will do if I get laid off at 50 like some people have - is it even possible to mitigate that risk - I feel lost without a standard of what is normal, what is excellent, and what is a problem.

In conclusion my current direction is to practice acceptance that I'm just different from my normal thinking peers and figure out if I can use that to my advantage. If I'm lucky, my career will take care of itself as long as I am comfortable with who I am and I know what I want to do. Neither of these conditions do I meet yet, so I guess my work is cut out for me.

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I buy lotto once a month for my boyfriend. Just in case you know. Don't want to do it too much because if you look at the odds it's not a good bargain. It is called the fools' tax for a reason. I won $3 this month though.:)

If I had more money I would certainly worry less. Most of my anxiety is about providing for myself and aging parent in the future.

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@ IJ - thanks and same to you.

@Jai - sheesh and I am constantly telling other people they are catastrophizing. My boyfriend is aware of my issues and has said that he would take care of me if I got so far as to be disabled. I could just teach English in Thailand for income. Wouldn't be much but at least still making a contribution.

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I just went over what I read and it looks like I was in a weird state when I wrote it, as are most of my blog postings. I realize it's rather poorly written. While just getting things out to capture fleeting insights is the focus, I do try to write well in my blogs. It's too long to rewrite though. I believe I was a little too self pitying and will keep this as is to remind myself what that looks like.

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I don't think it was poorly written or self-pitying. You got a bunch of ideas across. It feels like a New Year's blog. Reflection, acceptance, challenges, future plans.

You do seem obsessed with answering the question: "Am I normal?" I think maybe the question is "Am I being my authentic self?" Because I think NOT being that is what gets us into trouble. That's what makes us feel not normal. Because I don't really believe in normal. I believe in feeling at peace, feeling comfortable in one's own skin, feeling accepted, having interests, unique talents, a passion, fitting in somewhere, having a place in society, having 2-way loving relationships, having something to offer the world, joi-de-vivre, feeling fulfilled. I guess to me - that's the goal. I don't know if I'd describe that as 'normal'. It's probably a bit demanding. I don't think that achieving all that is 'normal'. But that's what I want.

When I look around, what others seem to want are material things - is that normal? If so, I definitely don't want to be normal. I'll take loving relationships over a fancy car or house any day.

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I think I haven't been my authentic self for a while, and that could very well how I got in this mess. Somewhere along the way I picked up the label that the real me was bad, and I had better conform in order to survive.

I think my depression got severe when it started to occur to me that my authentic self may be beyond recovery, or that maybe I committed a suicide of sorts already in killing my original personality in order to fit in. Of course my resentment at feeling I must conform didn't do any favors for me socially so overall it wasn't the best bargain.

Feeling comfortable in my own skin, fitting in, being accepted sounds nice. If I could achieve even one of these all this money on therapy & meds would be worth it.

But what I mean by normal is just the opposite of dysfunctional. Functional sounds too much like the way you would describe a robot or piece of equipment. Able to have healthy relationships and appropriate emotional and behavioral reactions without resorting to meds or the guidance of a therapist. Definitely not normal in the sense of average, as most people probably don't meet this definition.

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I think I haven't been my authentic self for a while, and that could very well how I got in this mess. Somewhere along the way I picked up the label that the real me was bad, and I had better conform in order to survive.
This sounds like this problem has not been lifelong then. Can you remember what your 'authentic' self was like?

I think my depression got severe when it started to occur to me that my authentic self may be beyond recovery...

I feel like this several times a day...beyond recovery. But part of us DOES believe in recovery because we are still trying. I think the tough part is not to be complacent in therapy. Be demanding, guide it, when you get blocked, figure your way out with the T. Find the answer to the question "Is this the right T, the right type of therapy for me?" If you are doubtful, do what you need to do to be sure that you are going down the right path. At least that's where my head's at after resolving my last long blog post.
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This sounds like this problem has not been lifelong then. Can you remember what your 'authentic' self was like?

Yes. I can't quite explain it but it has a lot to do with music. I used to hear music in my head as if it were part of my inner dialogue. I don't anymore' date=' but when I play sometimes certain musical phrases come out that suggest it's in there somewhere.

But part of us DOES believe in recovery because we are still trying. I think the tough part is not to be complacent in therapy. Be demanding, guide it, when you get blocked, figure your way out with the T.

I alternate between hope and despair. At the low points there is the fact that my boyfriend has done so much to help me stay afloat that it would be cruel to throw all that away. But when there is hope I work hard and hopefully get a little better each time. I am doing better now than I was, at least behaviorally. Drinking less, more productive, etc. As long as I'm making progress I'll keep working on it.

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Yes. I can't quite explain it but it has a lot to do with music. I used to hear music in my head as if it were part of my inner dialogue. I don't anymore' date=' but when I play sometimes certain musical phrases come out that suggest it's in there somewhere.

[/quote'] What happened? Was there a specific event that happened around the time this faded away?

I alternate between hope and despair. At the low points there is the fact that my boyfriend has done so much to help me stay afloat that it would be cruel to throw all that away. But when there is hope I work hard and hopefully get a little better each time. I am doing better now than I was' date=' at least behaviorally. Drinking less, more productive, etc. As long as I'm making progress I'll keep working on it.[/quote'] OK, so behaviourally and physically you are improving. Yet you still fall into despair. Is there a trigger to this? Do you feel like you are getting the support you need from your CBT therapist in order to tackle the emotional side? Has despair become so ingrained that to lose that would be like losing part of your identity? ie: you are on the right track but some demon inside you says "No, you just aren't meant to be happy - you just don't deserve it".

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I can't point to a specific event; it happened gradually as my anxiety got worse and worse. The anxiety was triggered by the economy most recently. I stopped practicing and lost my creativity.

I feel like my therapist is still trying to get to know me. I don't feel very supported, but from what I've been told CBT isn't a supportive mode of therapy; it's more like skills training.

My despair has become deeply ingrained but I wouldn't say it's a part of my identity. It feels alien from my identity and that's why I think there is something wrong.

Not that I think I deserve to be happy. It would be nice to be happy but if I weren't happy per se but at least didn't struggle with suicidal and self destructive urges then I would consider therapy & medication to be a success.

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I can't point to a specific event; it happened gradually as my anxiety got worse and worse. The anxiety was triggered by the economy most recently. I stopped practicing and lost my creativity.
Would it help to go for lessons? A set weekly time with a teacher to hold you accountable?

I feel like my therapist is still trying to get to know me. I don't feel very supported' date=' but from what I've been told CBT isn't a supportive mode of therapy; it's more like skills training. [/quote'] Exactly - skills training.

My despair has become deeply ingrained but I wouldn't say it's a part of my identity. It feels alien from my identity and that's why I think there is something wrong.

Strangely, I think that's actually a positive. Maybe reading some positive/inspirational things would help you. It seems you are anxious about what's going on in the world, jaded about society and how people seem to want to just screw everybody else over. The media is a huge source of this horridness. 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' always managed to pick me up and restore my faith in humanity. Hmmm, now I wonder where that's got to.....I must go look.
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I thought about lessons but if I did that they'd probably be piano lessons because I want to learn that and I'm already advanced in bass where a teacher wouldn't do much good.

I'm reading three books right now. Will check out chicken soup for the soul if I come across it in a bookstore

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Oh, and i concede victory to you Ralph on our pact. Should have been checking in weekly. I'm sure you exercised WAYYYY more than i avoided the net. Anyway, i got some good feedback from another site that is really helping me now in therapy. So my penalty is no junkfood/sweets for a week.

That's gonna be tough. Gotta clear out the pantry first:).

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I'm exercising 4-6 times a week now. It feels strange to skip a day because I've got the gym in my daily routine.

I need to cut back on junk food too. Even with this exercising and trying to watch my diet I'm still gaining weight. Obviously not watching closely enough. :P

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