My Social Environment

I don’t do well in social environments in fact, I downright suck at them. I always feel awkward, like I don’t fit in. I never feel like I’m part of the group, but just hanging on by my fingertips.

Social environments have always been hard for me. I didn’t thrive, socially, in school. I usually had one or two close friends and many acquaintances. I remember times when I would be chasing after the popular group of girls, wanting them to accept me but never being accepted. This hurt, but I never considered it to be my fault. When I was younger, I just accepted it as status quo and I was ok with that. I had friends elsewhere and I never had to worry about having friends to hang out with.

As I grew older and entered high school, I never found my niche. I was involved, with my classes, with choir and theater, but I never quite fit in. It was the same story, feeling like I was on the outside looking in. I was never invited to events unless it was a group thing and while this bugged me every once and awhile, I was too busy for the most part to care. I may not have felt like I fit in but I was involved enough not to care.

College was a disaster for me. Everyone thought I would thrive in a college environment, at this point, I feel like I did everything but thrive. I feel like I crashed and burned. I had many issues with roommates and by the time I left college 3 years in, I hadn’t made any serious friends. In fact, the only thing I had done throughout college was lose friends. As I said, not a good experience for me.

Today, I have 2 friends, one of which is an ex-boyfriend while the other is my current boyfriend. I don’t know what they see that no one else can be I’m grateful that they do. My social environment still sucks. I don’t really get out, but then again I don’t enjoy doing the things normal 20-year-olds do, like drinking every weekend. But I do want to have fun. I want to hang out with people and do things, I just can’t find the people to do things with and I don’t even know how to go about meeting people at this point. I wish I could make friends but my depression makes that nearly impossible, so maybe if I get better, my social environment will change for the better.

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My Story Part 8

This is a continuation, part 8, of my daily journal of life after outpatient treatment for depression, and anxiety. Please click for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Part 8, Day 1:

I’ve been so tired lately. I have a feeling this job is starting to take its toll on me. Working overnights and sleeping during the day is harder than I thought it would be. My new puppy has been driving me crazy lately. She won’t listen to me at all! It’s very frustrating and on top of being tired all of the time my patience is at an all time low. I need a break.

Day 6:

I’m nervous about this upcoming vacation/wedding. Things are tense with this side of the family, so it could be an interesting trip. The BF and I are killing two birds with one stone by going camping instead of staying at the hotel. It gives us a little  more room, more privacy, and this way I get to bring the new puppy with. Hopefully there is no bloodshed at the wedding and everyone is on their best behavior

Day 12:

The wedding/camping trip went very well. My cousin (the one who got married) and I had an interesting heart-to-heart and he told me that he only wants me to be happy. Of course, he and I were more than a little drunk when this occurred. I spent most of the reception getting drunk but had a lot of fun. I caught the bouquet, but I’m definitely not the next person getting married. That would be my other cousin. Unfortunately, I can’t go to his wedding because I have to work. I’ll be working 10 days in a row now because of this vacation and my next trip. This could be interesting.

Day 18:

I’m heading to my grandparents’ house this week. They live on a lake and I love it up there. It is so peaceful. Plus, being born a Pisces, I love the water. It’ll be fun spending the ‘weekend’ during the work week with my boyfriend in a place that I love. I am a little worried because sometimes I get cornered and have to discuss (or receive someone’s opinion) about a topic I would rather not talk about, but all in all it should be nice. When we get back, I’m going to help my best friend with his fundraiser and meet his new girlfriend. I’m a little worried about that, but then again, I worry a lot anyway.

Day 23:

The trip was amazing although the weather did not cooperate. We (the BF and I), ended up going to a couple of wineries because the weather was bad. This brings our total to 15 wineries in 3 months!! Good thing it’s something we like to do! We had nicer weather on the last full day before we left. We spent the day on the beach. My puppy wasn’t very happy because I wouldn’t let her out of her crate, but she had just gotten spayed and I didn’t want to risk infection. When we go up in 2 weeks, I’ll let her out and see what she does in the water. I have a feeling she’ll love it as much as I do!

The fundraiser was an interesting day. He ended up not needing my help which made me feel useless and unwanted. Plus, it seemed like I was ignored by everyone there like I was the plague. I felt like a social pariah. I met his new girlfriend and she seems nice, but I don’t think she likes me very much. Of course my BF says ‘you only said two words to her!’ but some things you can just feel. I hope this doesn’t cause problems between me and my best friend!

Please stay tuned for Part 8. Here are the links for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

The Trouble with Psychiatrists & Doctors

Until my stint in outpatient treatment, I had my fair share of struggles with psychiatrists. I often felt like they weren’t listening to what I was saying. And out of the 3 that I had seen, the 5 different medications they had prescribed hadn’t worked.

With the initial psychiatrists I had seen, I felt ignored. You walked in for a 15 minute session, perhaps a 30 minute initial session and you talk to them. They ask you how you feel, and you give them some background history on your mental illness. At the end of that 15 minutes, they either up your dose, change your medication or tell you to continue taking it. This often frustrated me, because I would be told to continue taking something that I felt wasn’t working.

I’ll admit that a psychiatrist’s job isn’t easy. There are no tests that they can perform to find out exactly what medication you need to take for your illness. It’s all guess work based on what you tell them; trying to figure out which receptors in your brain are working overtime or are not working at all. But it’s still frustrating trying different types of medications and having them not work or getting viciously sick on them because of the way they are interacting with your body.

My previous therapist had heard so many complaints about psychiatrists and medication that she decided to go back to school to become an APN, or nurse practitioner. She felt that because she saw her clients weekly, it would be easier for her to prescribe a medication that would work for them. I think this is admirable because at the age of 50, she is going back to school and getting her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate to become a nurse practitioner.

Now that I’ve finally found a medication that works, I feel better. I’m not so down anymore. I’m glad I followed my doctor’s directives at the outpatient center and I’m glad that I’ve found someone who listens to me.

If you don’t feel like your doctor is listening to you or if a treatment plan isn’t working, speak up. Try and explain to them how you feel or, look for another doctor. You’re allowed to see other doctors. Find a fit that works for you and will provide the best treatment so that you can recover. Be proactive, it’s your health that’s at risk.

My Story: Part 7

This is a continuation, part 7, of my daily journal of life after outpatient treatment for depression, and anxiety. Please click for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Part 7, Day 1,:

Vacation was amazing!! I lived in the moment and all of my stress and depression melted away. I felt so good on vacation. Of course, the minute I walked through my door at home, everything came crashing down onto my shoulders. So I guess I need to learn how to live like I’m on vacation. That’s easier said than done.

Day 5:

So I’ve decided to get a dog, or more specifically an emotional support animal. I’ve been putting it off lately, but I’ve finally decided that it’s now or never. I can’t keep waiting forever. I’m looking forward to having an emotional support animal. Hopefully it will help me with my depression.

On the flip side, learning to live like I’m on vacation is not an easy task. I’m struggling with it. I was so happy and living in the moment while on vacation and now that I’m home, everything is getting to me. I feel like I’m upset every other day. I wish my depression would get better. Hopefully a dog will help.

Day 12:

Today was a horrible day. I spent most of the day crying. First, I found out that the third dog that I was interested in was no longer available for adoption. Then, I found out that my best friend had changed his plans, making me feel like he had lied to me. Normally, we get lunch or dinner every Thursday, but today I feel like he is blowing me off. I feel like I’m not important or wanted.

All of which is a little ridiculous, because my boyfriend was hanging out with me today so it should have been a good day. At least he lets me use his shoulder to cry on. He even cried a little because I was so upset and he hates seeing me that way. He can be so cute. Of course, I cried when he left. I hate when he leaves. I know I’ll see him again, but I hate that we only get to see each other twice a week. I wish we could be together more.

Day 15:

It’s hard to stay angry at your best friend when he does nice things for you. I’ve been angry at him ever since I felt like he lied to me. But today, he might have found me a puppy and then he stopped by my work on his way home just to say hi. It was very nice of him and I made sure he knew that I appreciated it. It’s just been a struggle with him having a new girlfriend. I feel forgotten until he suddenly decides to do something to show me that I still exist in his life. I just wish those gestures weren’t so few and far between. That can make it difficult to remember.

Day 18:

I got the puppy!!! I was so nervous that my application was going to get turned down. I went and visited them yesterday, but they didn’t have any of the unadopted puppies in so I was told to come back tomorrow. Boy, was I surprised when she asked me if I wanted to take the puppy home with me that day. I wasn’t ready at all!! I had to ask my mom to puppy-sit so I could go get everything I need for her. I’m sure she’ll be a handful but it’ll be so nice having a dog to come home to. I can’t wait to train her!!!

Please stay tuned for Part 8. Here are the links for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Reprogramming Me: My Issues & My Struggles

According to the doctors, I have ingrained personality traits that are causing my depression. This means that I have learned certain ways of thinking and doing things that are actually part of the problem. This basically means that I have to learn how to reprogram my ways of thinking and my outlook on the world. Here are a couple of things they believe I need to work on:

  1. Mindfulness
    1. I’m not very mindful. I’m constantly reviewing the past or worrying about the future, so I have a very hard time being present. I need to learn to stay in the moment and be mindful, to pay attention to what is going on around me and to what I am doing in the moment.
  2. Quick Fix
    1. I want a quick fix to everything. I don’t want to have to struggle for answers or solutions to problems, I just want them fixed immediately.
  3. Catastrophize
    1. This is one of a couple cognitive distortions that I have. I tend to view situations in the worst possible light and look for the worst possible situation to occur. You can read about Cognitive Distortions here.
  4. Avoidance and Fixations
    1. I tend to avoid situations that I don’t want to deal with and fixate on things I shouldn’t.
  5. Negative outlook and worst case scenario
    1. I tend to have a negative outlook on life and believe that the worst possible scenario will occur.
  6. Expectation for things to go my way, or the way I plan.
    1. I have an expectation for things to go the way I plan and for everything to work out exactly as I specify. This is often not the case, and I can get extremely upset when the plans I have made go awry.
  7. Fixation on connection.
    1. Because of a lack of friendships, I have a fixation on connection. I yearn to connect with people and make friends. Oftentimes this connection causes me more harm because I form connections quickly and often believe I have a close friendship with someone who may only consider me as a passing friend.
  8. I also need to explore why group social settings are so uncomfortable
    1. Despite my need for connection, I have a hard time thriving in a group social setting. I need to explore why this is the case. I yearn for connection, but feel uncomfortable in group settings. Why?

I also have issues with my primary support group (my family) which I have discussed here and problems related to social environment which I will be discussing in a later post.

Some of the ways the doctors and therapists have suggested that I work on these issues is by focusing on and accepting myself. I’m holding onto ideals and an old relationship with myself that is only hurting me now. By focusing on myself, something I’m not very good at, I can form a new relationship and connection with myself that will make me a stronger person, and help me fight depression

All of these problems are works in progress and I will continue to update you on my progress in my journey to mental healthiness.

Cognitive Disorders

Cognitive Distortions are thoughts that cause reality to be inaccurately perceived. These inaccurate thoughts are usually reinforcing negative thoughts or emotions. This can lead to an anxious or depressive mental state when they combine to give an individual a negative outlook on their world. Cognitive distortions are also known as automatic thoughts. These thoughts are ingrained in individuals and affect the way they think. It takes time and patience to overcome these automatic distortions.

Here is a list of just a few of these distortions.

  1. All or nothing thinking:
    1. Also known as black and white thinking, it is ignoring all forms of in between or the ‘shades of grey’. This thinking also involves using absolute terms like ‘always’, ‘every’ or ‘never’. The thing to remember is that there is usually some grey in a situation and all or nothing thinking leads an individual to ignoring that.
  2. Overgeneralization
    1. Also known as categorizing, it is placing judgements or evaluations on an event, person or thing rather than describing the item or person. This thinking usually involves absolute terms such as ‘always’ or ‘never’. Overgeneralization causes individuals to ignore the facts and evidence in favor of their distorted vision.
  3. Mental filter
    1. This filter allows an individual to focus on a single detail (usually negative), about an event or person so that they overlook any positive. This thinking blocks out what doesn’t ‘fit’ with our ‘filter’ and is also known as looking through dark blinkers or ‘gloomy specs’. A mental filter causes individuals to ignore the positive or anything outside of what that filter provides.
  4. Disqualifying the positive
    1. This distortion causes individuals to overlook their positive experiences in favor of negative ones. It is also known as compare and despair, seeing only the good and positive aspects in others and comparing ourselves negatively against them. This can often be seen via Facebook, where people compare their everyday life to their friend’s ‘highlights reel’.
  5. Jumping to conclusions
    1. Mind reading
      1. Mind reading is assuming we know what other people are thinking, usually about ourselves. This distortion causes people to believe they can predict a person’s reaction or attitude.
    2. Fortune teller error
      1. Fortune teller error is assuming that a situation is going to end negatively despite lack of evidence. This can also be known as a self-fulfilling prophecy; because you assume a situation won’t end well, oftentimes it doesn’t because of that mindset.
  6. Magnification
    1. Also known as exaggeration or catastrophizing, this distortion causes individuals to overlook the one side in favor of the other. For example, overlooking the negative in a person by exaggerating the positive. It’s also known as making mountains out of molehills or imagining and believing that the worst possible thing will happen.
  7. Emotional reasoning
    1. This distortion causes individuals to take feelings as fact and base your decisions and actions on them. An example would be ‘I feel bad so it must be bad’. Individuals use this distortion to often put off doing something because they don’t ‘feel’ like doing it.
  8. Absolute Statements
    1. Absolute statements are words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, or ‘ought’. These statements raise expectations, and if these expectations are not met anger, frustration and disappointment occur. Absolute statements set up unrealistic expectations and can make people feel guilty.
  9. Labeling & Mislabeling
    1. Labeling is another form of black and white thinking. This is done by assigning either good or bad labels to yourself or other people. Again, there are no shades of grey and outside circumstances are not taken into consideration.
  10. Personalization
    1. Personalization is blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t your fault. Blaming others for something that is your fault, also falls under this category. This distortion is taking things personally when perhaps they didn’t involve you in the first place.
  11. Memories
    1. This distortion is when current situations or events trigger upsetting memories and lead you to believe that the danger is in the present rather than in the past. This causes distress in the present when the situation isn’t in the present, but in the past.

Perhaps after reading through these cognitive distortions, you realize that your way of thinking tends to lean towards these distortions. The first step to fixing these distortions is to realize that you have them. Please read the following article, Cognitive Distortions: Fixing the Problems for information on how to retrain your thinking away from distorted thoughts.

 

Cognitive Distortions

From: The Feeling Good Handbook

By: Dr. David Burns

 

http://jayuhdinger.com/chapters/faulty-thinking/

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/AutomaticThoughts.pdf

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/UnhelpfulThinkingHabits.pdf

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/FindingAlternativeThoughts.pdf

 

How to Deal With Being Mentally Ill Part II

So you’ve just been diagnosed with a mental illness. You’re scared, you don’t know what to do and you don’t know what other people are going to think of you now. You feel like you’ve been labeled and this label only makes you feel worse. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Here are some things you should know.

I’d like to first describe depression for you. Depression is like your high school bully. Except, unlike that bully who is taking stabs in the dark trying to find what to say to hurt you the most, the depression is in our mind and knows exactly what to say. It pulls out everything we don’t like or that we think is not good enough about ourselves and shouts it at us just like that high school bully would. The depression knows exactly which nerve to strike. And while you can walk away from your high school bully, you can’t walk away from your mind and the depression that preys on it.

So you’re probably going to need medication and therapy. This doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, this makes you a better person. You are doing what you need to do to be healthy. Medication will help fix the chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s necessary just like the treatment needed for cancer and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have a little help. This fight is just as important as fighting cancer, or any other sickness.

Your next step would be to find a therapist. Make sure you find someone that you like and whom you feel comfortable talking to. They are there to help you. Don’t be ashamed of asking for a little help. These are trained professionals who deal with mental illness on a daily basis. They want to help you and they want to help you help yourself. Learn what works best for you. Everyone’s struggle is different. You’ll have to learn of your triggers and warning signs and figure out what coping skills work best for you.

Mental illness isn’t easy. It is a disease of the mind. It is something you might have to work against for the rest of your life, but you are not alone. I urge you to seek out groups in your area for people with mental illness. Depression often makes you feel isolated, so hearing of other people’s struggles will remind you that you are not alone.

And I am here for you. If you need to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me. I understand the struggle you’re facing and how much of an upward battle it can seem like. I am facing it myself, every day. Just remember, you are not alone and you can do this. Win your fight!