Monday, 22 October 2012

Battling With Self Hatred

It is far from easy to change my time-honored abhorrence to myself. When asked to choose three words to describe myself it would always have been a hateful expression of self disclosure. Mistake, awkward and failure would be ones that would instantly spring to mind.. Self-negativity just comes more natural to me than self-kindness. I can’t tell you an exact time when my thinking began to deviate towards such a spiteful disgust for all that is me, but I can honestly say I don’t have childhood memories where I ever looked at myself with compassion or kindness or self validation. 

So, now that it comes to using the DBT skill of SELF SOOTHE and ACCUMULATE POSITIVE EXPERIENCES I shudder at the thought of doing something for me, only for me. The only way I can describe it is; it’s like trying to be kind and professional to a really nasty customer in a shop. All you want to do is clobber them. You are forced to be nice to them through gritted teeth because you are obliged to, and because the security cameras would capture your every move! 

That is how I feel today. It’s been a rough few weeks since finished the skills group. I feel so despondent and isolated from the only thing that gave me some sort of a life. My mood has been near to the ground and I have been clinging on to every resource and skill base I can access to keep my emotional boat afloat. 

I strained myself to do something nice for myself today. I went and got a massage. I did enjoy it, but found my automatic negative thoughts overtaking any pleasure that was coming through my senses. I was so worried about taking my clothes off, as I have put on a considerable amount of weight since stopping the disordered eating behaviours. For so long I punished my body physically with food and exercise, I ravaged my muscles and bones and skin. So today, when the therapist’s warm hands glided over my body and caressed each part so tenderly, it felt unnatural and wrong. The juxtaposition created by the comforting touch and the undeserving thoughts was too much to contend with. I found it hard to settle into the hour and really relax. Instead my mind was racing with spiteful digs of unworthiness and unpleasant sensations of guilt. 

I guess I can say I was at least WILLING to use DBT skills today, but this one created a worrisome chain of thoughts which I did not intend.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Is life about seeking happiness or embracing life's inevitable challenges?

Without a doubt, my life has procured an innumerable amount happy times. Times filled with smiles and giggles and the excited squeals of childhood birthday parties.  Times filled with warmth and nurture and the encouragement of educators and mentors. Times I lock away as if  precious jewels, in my vault of memory, so as never to lose them. Yet it is often very hard to find the key to this vault, and to the positive times I describe, when your mind is polluted by a haze of mental illness.

I earnestly try to recreate these happy times each and every day, only to become compounded with distress as my life fails to reproduce them, fails to provide the embrace of contentment they produce, leaving in their place an empty, hopeless void of distress.

Have I got it all wrong though? Am I chasing the wrong thing? Am I casting shadows on my immense intrinsic power by seeking to recreate happy times?

Tonight I am lying in my bed eating frozen blueberries to tolerate the distress I am experiencing. Savoring the bitter coldness in an attempt to survive the moment. I am not enjoying the warmth of those happier times. I am frozen in the chill of distress. I can't see where my life is leading or fathom as to why I should keep trying.  Something is not right about my pursuit of happiness, and I think I am beginning to understand why.

Implicit in the phrase of 'overcoming an adversity' such as mental illness is; that success or happiness is about emerging on the other side of a challenging experience unscathed, unmarked by the experience. As if successes in life have come about because of an ability to side step, or circumnavigate presumed pitfalls of a life with mental illness.

But I am marked, I am changed, of course, by a challenge. I am starting to think that adversity needn't be an obstacle I need to get over in order to resume living a happy life. It's part of our life, part of who I am as a holistic being. I tend to think of it as a shadow, sometimes I see a lot of it, sometimes there is very little, but it is always with us. 

Now, in no way am I trying to diminish the impact, the weight of a persons struggle. What I am trying to say is that there is always going to be adversity and challenge in life. Its very real and relative to every single person. The question is not whether you are going to meet adversity, but HOW you are going to meet it. 

So the responsibility is not simply to be shielded from the adversities and challenges we face, but to prepare us to meet it well. We do a disservice to each other when we make others feel like they are not equipped to adapt. There is an important difference and distinction between the objective medical fact of psychiatry and the subjective societal opinion of whether or not we are are mentally unwell. But in reality the only real and consistent adversity I face is the world ever thinking that I can be described as disabled or unable to contribute to society.

In our desire to protect those we care about by giving them the cold hard truth about their medical prognosis, or indeed the prognosis of the excepted quality of their life, we have to make sure we don't put the first brick in a wall that will actually disable someone. Perhaps the existing model of 'what is wrong with you and how do we fix it!' serves to be more disabling to the individual than the pathology itself. By not treating the wholeness of a person, by not acknowledging their potency, we are creating another 'illness' on top whatever natural struggle they might have. We are affectingly grading someones worth to our community. We need to see through the pathology and into the range of human capability. And most importantly, there is a partnership between those perceived deficiencies and the great human creative ability. 

So its not about devaluing or negating these trying times we want to avoid or sweep under the carpet, but instead to find those opportunities wrapped in the adversity. The idea I want to put out there is not so much overcoming adversity as it is opening ourselfs up to it, embracing it, grappling with it as Katie Taylor would do in the boxing ring, maybe even dancing with it. And perhaps if we see adversity as natural, consistent and useful, we are less burdened by the presence of it. 

In my own experience, adversity is simply change, to which I have not yet adapted, and the greatest adversity we have created for ourselfs is the idea of normalcy. I mean, who here believes them self to be normal? There is no normal. There is 'common' and typical, there is no normal.would you want to meet that poor beige person if they existed? I dont think so.

If we can change this para-dime of achieving normalcy, to one of possibility or potency, we can release the power of so many people and invite them to engage their rare and valuable assists with the community.