Taking Out the (Emotional) Trash

I tackled the concrete things in my life I want to do in the next year in my last post, and now I want to focus on the mental health issues that I want to work on in the upcoming year. This is more difficult because I can’t simply say, “I will set better boundaries three times a day–” Hey, wait. I actually probably could do that. It’s just a matter of discerning what boundaries I want to set and then do it. Yeah, that’ll be easy. A better example is, “Just stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself all the time.” OK, yeah, I’ll get right on that. I’ll just eradicate the thoughts that have been in my brain for nearly forty years like that. I”m snapping my fingers in case you’re wondering. That’s where the ‘write down concrete steps’ comes in, but so much of the advice for combating negative thoughts is horseshit. “Just replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.” The problem with that is I feel as if I’m lying when I say positive affirmations about myself. I can’t tell myself I’m beautiful because that is just patently false*. I can’t tell myself that I’m worthy of love because I don’t know what that even means. The few positive things I can say about myself–I have nice hair and eyes, that I’m smart and creative–I can’t even take any credit for them. I was born with them, and while you could argue that it’s up to me to use my creativity and my intelligence to my best ability, I was still born with them.

The other problem is that some of my best attributes are also my worst problems. I’m empathetic and have a knack for getting people to open up to me, which is ostensibly a good thing. I can hear you saying, “What’s the downside to that?” The downside is that sometimes, it’s more about appearances than actually caring about the other person. I’ve explained before that I need to be seen as a caring individual, which is partly why I exert myself in such a fashion, but there’s also a part of my brain that says, “This might be the only positive interaction this person has all day. Don’t fuck it up!” Again, it’s part of my training from childhood that I feel responsible for everyone else’s feelings. Logically, it’s self-aggrandizing to think that if I don’t respond to someone’s tweet or I don’t follow up on a person telling me s/he’s had a bad day, I’m sending that person into an irrevocable death spiral. Emotionally, it’s how I feel. I’ve been trying to work on it, but it’s not easy. Especially since showing concern and asking questions is like breathing air to me.

The thing is, I feel like a hypocrite when I do this and I’m not feeling it. It’s gotten me in trouble when people think we’re closer that we actually are. For all my caring and empathy, I have a coldness at the core of me. I have very few close friends in real life, and I like it that way. I prefer spending most of my time alone with my two cats. They’re enough companionship and sometimes, they can be too much when they’re being especially bratty. Despite my array of issues, I’m comfortable in my head,** and I can entertain myself endlessly. I don’t want to go out every night, and even when I have something planned that I know I will enjoy, I have to talk myself into actually leaving the house.

So how am I going to tackle this issue? I’ve already started by taking a very baby step. When I first started Twitter, I felt compelled to answer everyone who tweeted at me. Again, it’s that weird god complex thing I have in that I felt I would totally ruin someone’s day if I didn’t. In addition, I tend to attract broken and damaged people who don’t have other outlets for their loneliness, so I felt doubly compelled to respond to their tweets. My baby step is that I’m not always responding to people who simply say, “Agreed!”, or, “Same here!”. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s a step for me. I also don’t respond to obvious trolls or people who just want to call me a stupid cunt, but I don’t get many of those. I keep Twitter open all the time, and I’m thinking I may stop doing that as well. Now that I have a new phone*** that notifies me when someone DMs me or tweets me, I don’t really need to have Twitter open all the time. Not that I needed to before, but it became a habit that I haven’t stopped.

That’s another issue I need to deal with. I sink into ruts very easily. Part of my OCD traits is sticking to a routine no matter what. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I’ve started recognizing the benefits of these traits in order to use them to my advantage. My BFF once said that one thing she admired about me was that when I decided to do something, I did it. She’s right. It just takes me a long time to actually make a decision. I’ve used my OCD traits to good end during NaNoWriMo. My goal was to write 5,000 words a day, and I told myself that I had to write 2,500 before doing anything fun, and I stuck to it. It’s the same this month with my goal to write and publish a post a day. I simply told myself that I had to do it before I could do anything recreational (other than surfing, obviously). So far, I’ve done it, and we only have two more days in December. Speaking of which, how the hell is that possible? I can’t believe we’re almost done with 2015. It’s a truism that time goes faster as you get older, and I’ve found it to be apt.

Back to ruts. I find that I work best with a routine and with deadlines, even if they’re ones I set for myself. I always meet deadlines, even if it’s only with a minute or two to spare–which it usually is. When I don’t have a routine, I tend to just futz around and think I can do whatever I need to do later. Then, later becomes too late, and I put it off until the next day. I’ve resisted making a schedule for many years because I feel as if they’re too restrictive, or rather, that I make them too restrictive, but I’m starting to see the value in them as long as I can retain some flexibility.I have the same problem with my diet. i tend to eat the same thing every day, which isn’t terrible in and of itself, but it’s because I don’t want to have to navigate the minefield that is my disordered thinking about eating on a daily basis. It’s easier just to eat the same things than to be mindful about what I eat. I know that’s a shitty thing to do, but it’s what I can handle right now. I have to give myself some credit because I’ve been adding things into my diet–healthy things, too!–as well as slowly taking out the not-so-healthy foods. I’d like to be a little more carefree in choosing new foods, but that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

One other thing my last therapist said that has stuck with me is that I’m not going to be able to change everything wrong with me in this lifetime. She said I had to prioritize and to realize which issues aren’t as important to me or that I don’t actually think are a problem. I could say that me being a contrarian is a problem, but it isn’t most of the time.  I do think there are times when I could just chill with it, but in general, I like that I don’t just go with the crowd. On the other hand, my constant negativity is a problem. I can see the downside to anything, and while I manage to keep it to myself much of the time, it’s wearing on me. It’s hard, though, because there usually is a downside to something, even if it’s a good thing in general. This is also a hallmark of my childhood, by the way. My family could always find the cloud around the silver lining, and nothing was ever good enough. I think it’s partly Taiwanese culture because you’re not supposed to think too highly of yourself, and while I think it’s good to stay grounded and not be needlessly arrogant, it’s also important to have self-confidence. Which I don’t.

I have a hard time making decisions because I think I’m going to fuck things up no matter what I do. That’s really the bottom line to my indecision. The ironic part is that when I actually tackle projects, I usually succeed. I really am my own worst enemy, and while I’m better than I have been in the past, I’m still far from where I need to be. I stopped seeing my last therapist about a year and a half ago because we’d gone as far as we could together. She helped me heal from a lot of my childhood trauma, but that’s only a fraction of the hard work I need to do. I haven’t been to a therapist since because quite frankly, I was tired of working on myself. I’ve been to therapists on and off since I was fourteen, which is thirty years ago. I don’t have any illusions about being a healthy person, but I was worn out. Plus, my therapist and I were increasingly butting heads in the last year of our working relationship, and I found myself hunkering down inside myself more than ever. I know that I need a different kind of therapy, either one that is behaviorally-based or one that is intensive. I have some issues that won’t be resolved just by talking about them, and I need to be outside my comfort zone as well.

My last therapist employed a variety of methods to help me, including tarot reading (by someone else), body work, EMDR, EFT Tapping, visualization, medication, and the traditional talk therapy. If I get another therapist (and I think I need one, no matter how much I really don’t want to do it), I need one who’ll be flexible about methods used and not wedded to one ideology or another. The one thing I think my last therapist didn’t understand enough was how much cultural issues affected my mental health, and I would like my next therapist to be Asian or at least really knowledgeable about Asian cultures. I’m more American than Asian, but being a second-generation American has affected me more than it might seem just by looking at me. I also need someone who specializes in codependency issues because that’s a big part of my problem as well. However, again, I need someone who is cognizant of Asian issues because Asian families put much more emphasis on the family as a whole, and while I know my family is dysfunctional (and how), I do think some of what Americans would call the intermeshed nature of my family is cultural. My mom said that her goal as a therapist is to reunite family, which is a very Asian way of thinking. It’s difficult to balance the two in a way that feels emotionally healthy.

I think in regards to the negativity, I’m not as concerned about expressing it or not, but with experiencing it. Another thing I recently realized is that I have several Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) traits, though I wouldn’t categorize myself as BPD. I have an intense fear of abandonment and rejection, intense mood swings related to that fear, and I can get very angry about it. The thing is, though, again, I keep most of that to myself because I recognize that it’s unhealthy and not rational. It doesn’t make it easier to deal with in the moment, but at least I spare others from my craziness. It’s hard, though, because my BPD tendencies clash violently with my avoidant personality, and the results are not pretty.

Side Note: The fact that I can put labels on many of my mental health issues is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s a relief to know that it’s not just all in my head, no pun intended. To see a label, read the description, and realize that I’m not just making shit up is a relief. It’s a curse because one, there are so many of them. Chronic Depression, Severe Anxiety, OCD (though my last therapist said, “You know, Minna, you don’t actually have OCD, don’t you?” I do know that. I just have some traits.), BPD, Avoidant Personality, Codependency, and that’s just off the top of my head. In addition, it’s too easy to just say, “Well, that’s my codependency at work” and not actually do anything about it.

Side Note II: It’s the perks and hazards of having a psych degree and with keeping up on the issues. I know enough to know what’s wrong with me, but not enough to actually fix it, damn it. In addition, it’s frustrating to be able to say exactly what my problem is because I’m used to being able to think my way out of my problems. I can’t think my way out of my issues, unfortunately.

Once again, this is getting long, so I’m going to stop here and pick it up tomorrow. See you then.


*To me.

**Probably a little too comfortable. My last therapist said I could get lost forever in my own thoughts, which is true.

***Nexus 5X. It’s amazing. Too bad I use it mostly for playing a cat game and tweeting.

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