The temporary ease

•February 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Its not that I’m addicted to drinking as in addicted to the substance alcohol.  That would suggest I’m addicted to something else in the act, but that too is only partially right. The problem is the feeling of life’s meaninglessness that makes me uneasy. I treat the feeling by having a beer or a few while watching one of my favourite shows for the seventh time from my laptop screen. However,  after a few hours or days another void or hole makes its appearance. That is the empty spot my mind has about social life. Its 11 in the evening. I can’t contact anyone for a beer and a chat anymore. So what I do is I try to fill that void by going to where there are people – the nearest bar. Although it, as usually, disturbs me to be around many strangers alone, the relief of not being trapped inside those four walls alone overcomes it. I don’t like spending a lot of money drinking outside, but I don’t feel I have many choices to ease the situation – the building anxiety of condensing loneliness that follows my current life of killing time and trying to enjoy myself by myself as long as possible.

I admit it

•April 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I yearn for approval from others, to the point of obsession, anxiety or ecstasy.

I often plan my words and actions accordingly.

Trouble Functioning

•April 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Why do I have difficulties performing simple, everyday things? Because everything I see and do has to go through my problems of anxiety and fears. I don’t think of my life as myself in the middle of the picture and school, hobbies and problems around me in a circle. Instead, I’m on the other far side, everything I have to do is on the other and between every single thing are my problems and fears, both in general and towards the particular issue.

For example, between me and taking out the trash or doing laundry: dressing up (between me and that: finding something that’s not filthy and feels comfortable enough) and picking up the bags and going out to the trash cans or down to the laundry room: do I look stupid while carrying them? Am I doing something wrong by that? Will there be somebody else on the way?

Going to school: going to sleep early enough and waking up (Will I get enough sleep? Can I manage to get up? Will I have enough energy to get ready? Am I feeling secure and confident enough to leave home? What happens if I skip today?), dressing up, taking the tram (Anxiety in public transportation, Ticket valid?, Will i make it in time? etc), coursework (Something late? Something difficult I have to do and am unsure about? Do I have to have a presentation?), being with people and being in school (I hope I don’t embarrass myself, I hope I feel comfortable, I hope I don’t feel sick, nauseous or tired like I often do, I hope I can focus and learn something), eating in the cafeteria (Will I be able to eat, or am I too nervous/anxious? Is the food something I can eat? Will the queue take long? Do I have cash or do I have to spend time paying with my credit card? How will I feel after I’ve eaten? Should I go to the bathroom before eating so I don’t have to go in the middle of it?) and so on.

It’s not that going to school or doing something else is difficult by itself, but because of all the pressure and uncertainty surrounding it that makes every task require a load of mental effort to get through.

All of this is affected by the current mood or feel I have at the moment: being confident, relaxed and physically comfortable  vs being stressed or insecure and e.g., being nauseous, tired or otherwise not feeling well.

At a Crossroads

•March 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

That’s where my psychologist tells me I am at. The other road being the one I’ve travelled so far, trying to externally control my emotions and avoid my issues. This includes food, video games, tv-shows, music, alcohol, self-harm, smoking etc. The other one would be addressing the problems internally, trying to resolve them inside my head.

How do I do something like that? How do I think away being lonely, having been dumped, betrayed and left to suffer, always feeling like everyone has a reason to hate me and thus isolating myself, having betrayed a friend mine myself, every social circle having people that cause me grief so I don’t want to go anywhere, being always tired and exhausted, dizzy, disoriented – also failing school because of this.

Dysfunctional Empathy

•March 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

After talking to a friend about depression, mental health and the like, and taking the subject further in therapy today, I came to a discovery. It would seem that my fear of people disliking me is not just about low self-esteem. It is also not only because I can’t forgive myself for acting stupid or am too embarrassed about these things. Most likely not even that other people don’t forgive me for these things.

The problem’s heart is that when I’ve done something humiliating and put myself in another person’s position, I can’t forgive me on that person’s behalf. I cannot see him or her liking me even though I’ve acted like an idiot. What I see in his mind is all the reasons why he doesn’t like me, and all the ways he dislikes me in.

No wonder it feels impossible to make new friends. I don’t believe in them not laughing behind my back or not having a secret loathing of me. I even doubt these things about really old friends, especially ones that I haven’t seen in a while. Once a certain amount of time has passed, I start thinking that they probably don’t want to see me again or contact them for anything. I find myself thinking of this regarding my bandmates, who I see every week. At every practice, a voice in my head asks “Do they still think I’m good enough? Can they still put up with me?” and every tired or snappy statement adds more to the cauldron of doubt.

Difficulty to Settle, Satisfaction Sought

•March 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’m feeling a bit brighter for now, and I started listing the things I enjoy while taking the subway to band practice. The reason why I felt I had to think of everything I find satisfactory is because it’s been a very long time since I last felt like my life was good enough and that I had “enough” things that gave my life some sort of meaning. For example, when I stay home for a week and only watch tv-shows or play games on my computer, I feel like I’m wasting time I should use for something better: something that’s social, intellectual, has long-lasting benefits et cetera. And when I don’t have enough of these “valuable” things in my everyday life, I’ve made my life something that I shouldn’t be able to enjoy. I can’t settle for spending time alone eating and entertaining myself in front of my laptop – and it feels like I shouldn’t settle for it either.

It may sound silly to try and settle for life as it is instead of trying to improve it or find new things to spend time on, but my problem is that when I feel like I should have more things in my calendar, I can’t really enjoy anything that I do have there. Therefore I’m trying hard to visualize all the things I enjoy so that I could see them as fulfilling enough for my life at the moment. Most of them are simple, such as eating, but still very effective at improving the quality of life, at least for the time I spend doing them. Yet the feeling that those things aren’t worth settling for makes them all feel like a sort of “guilty pleasure”, something that I actually enjoy but feel like I shouldn’t.

Here goes:

Food: cheap both in monetary value and in the mental effort required to achieve some euphoria. You can’t be really depressed or really anxious while eating. Although when you are, it’s almost impossible to eat anything, as if all the muscles in my neck were trying to block anything from going through. Not that great in the long run, as gaining weight doesn’t do wonders to self-esteem.

Music: very situational. Sometimes listening to music relaxes or helps by amplifying certain feelings and thoughts, but sometimes silence is the best treatment for anxiety caused by social paranoia. In terms of playing bass in a band, it has the benefit of giving me something to do on each weekend, and learning to play better is a very satisfactory achievement. Getting gigs and recording music in a studio feel like “doing something” which feels like a great change from my everyday life. Slightly improves social life even outside the band. On a downside, causes stress as I’m responsible for filling my spot in the band, coming to practice every week, learning new songs, being able to play etc. The band chemistry is also sometimes a problem, as you can’t avoid the people you have to play with.

Games: a massive time-spender. This is both a good and a bad thing. I can decide to occupy my mind in games for weeks and weeks, so I can avoid some of the suffering from feeling depressed. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and I’m usually very good at video games. Some of them also have the social element of playing with the same people over the internet. This leads to the worse part, as playing with a social group means I’m also responsible to them: playing enough so the gaming group keeps running. Also, I have a bad tendency of starting the ritual of gaming and watching tv-shows even when I’m supposed to do something else, because having all your senses overloaded makes it impossible to feel or think of anything else.

Tv-shows, movies: a bit same as above, but requires no active role from me, thus making it a lesser form of entertainment. I usually combine these two, doing something very mechanical in a game while watching a tv-show in a smaller window.

School, learning, studying: I like learning a lot, but I’m not good at spending effort towards it. It’s hard to start doing homework when the sensory-overload-ritual is such an easy solution for being bored or unsure that I’m not going to feel down that day. Seeing schoolmates is an experience that usually brings me down to Earth from my world of paranoid thought. Something that is really worth it in the long run, but causes stress and burnout because it feels so important and has a heavy pressure around it in my mind.

Social life, friends: having someone call you or send a message via Facebook, Msn etc is a really nice feeling. It’s a shame that people in my social circle rarely do anything that doesn’t involve drinking. Not that I don’t enjoy that as well, but I’d really like to spend time with many of them even without a “reason” or an event.

Thinking, philosophy, psychology: I like spending time inside my head. I enjoy making deductions of things going around, trying to evaluate politicians, figuring out principles and rules for various things. There’s a ton of things I like thinking about, more than I can verbally express. However, I often try to occupy my mind with something else, as when I’m having a difficult time the same engine turns to running depressed, paranoid and disturbing ideas around my head. I’d like to feel better even if just to be able to “free my mind” and not have to try numbing it down.

Physical exercise: it makes me feel better and I know it. Still, it’s hard to muster the energy to start doing something as I’m almost always tired and it can even make exercising painful. Going outside for a jog also requires a confident enough feeling because I have to let other people see me without my normal shield of clothes and exterior. I’m not really into going into a gym, because the uncertainty of not knowing what to do and how to act makes me over-conscious of myself and other people.

 

It would seem this post was needed, as I’ve written half a page of text about things I enjoy but felt like I only wrote about the obvious and not that noteworthy stuff. Time to start being content with these and not feel guilty about not saving the world every day?

Stagefright

•February 12, 2012 • 1 Comment

Imagine being in a situation where your whole career and life will be at stake. You’re preparing a presentation, and the audience is hundreds, maybe thousands of people. You try to focus as hard as you can on every move you make and every word you say out loud.
You try to do everything as perfectly as possible. If you take one odd step and land with your foot in a strange position, you’ve failed. Hopefully nobody saw it, but you feel like you made a mistake. This may change how people think of your performance: you are supposed to prove your worth but you can’t even walk normally!

You have no idea how everyone is reacting. Whenever you can, between sentences and changing slides, you try to take a look at the audience. You look for any signs, any hints of how the presentation is going. Are people impressed? Do they think you’re good or bad? Does someone think you look like an idiot? In those few seconds when you take breath you scan as many of the viewers as you can, spotting the ones that look like they have an opinion of you. The ones that seem supportive and interested make you want to focus on them, to try to talk to them more than everyone else.

Those who look at you with disappointed, bored or otherwise negative expressions make you want to hide. Try not to look at them – try to forget them – because the more you see of their judgemental faces the less confident you become. And you don’t just lose confidence in your presentation. You feel like you lose your worth. If these people think you are not good enough, that is the reality. It can’t be helped. Must try avoiding them, otherwise nothing is purposeful when you have no value.

Have to keep focus on how you act. Keep up the person you want to be. Make yourself believe it, and try to make everyone else see him instead of the person hiding within. Don’t make mistakes, choose some weaknesses to show. Carefully think which ones are acceptable, which ones degrade you the least. After showing them it’s easier to hide everything else. Nobody believes in a flawless person. They must see some or they’ll try to dig them out themselves. You don’t want that.

Monitor your body and how you feel. Are you sweating? Is your heart rate rising? Try to calm down. Don’t let it past the point where it’s visible. Try to lose focus of your body. Try not to feel your legs or tongue. If you let yourself be aware of them, you can’t control them. They start to bother you. Forget about the body, but keep up the exterior. Pretend that you don’t care how you are standing. Put your hands somewhere as if they’re in a natural place to keep. Use them to shift the focus of your face while talking, point things out by waving them in the air, empower your verbalics with their movements. Make sure everything looks fine on the outside. Try to do this without anyone noticing, and fix anything you can so that it seems like normal movement. Don’t touch anything too many times. Try to fix your hair with one handstroke.

Don’t show that your hands are shaking. Put them on the table, on anything solid so that they stay still. Try to make it seem like a normal position, or hide your hands behind your back if you can’t justify keeping them on anything. Don’t let your legs tremble, that will make it impossible to stand still. Try moving and making it seem casual. If your legs are too stiff, just stand still. Move your upper body with your arms so that it seems you’re not frozen.

Why is this presentation relevant to anything? Because that’s what my life is: a neverending show where I’m unwillingly the male lead. Every moment of every day when I’m not alone or drunk, these are the things going on in my head. Every decision to leave home means that I’ll have to put my game face on and start being a professional actor again. It makes me postpone or avoid very basic things when I’m feeling unusually anxious or vulnerable – such as going to the store to buy food or pretty much doing anything outside my apartment. Even going downstairs to the basement to reserve a time to do laundry has the risk of meeting a neighbor on the way. I can’t help it.