Moving House (November 2017)
I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my mum and stepdad were buying a new house together. Well they actually ended up buying a bigger house, and my siblings and I moved with them. My sisters and I had initially talked about moving out together, but unfortunately it just wouldn’t be affordable for any of us right now. It’s really nice finally having my own room for the first time, though I do feel very odd living in a fairly fancy neighbourhood. My stepdad is paid ridiculously well for what he does, and there is no way he and my mum would have been able to afford this house otherwise. I’m trying not to get used to it, as I am extremely unlikely to ever make a lot of money if I am able to get a job in my chosen field!
Without meaning to offend anyone with severe SA who is older than me and still lives with parents (because I know not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been in terms of making progress with anxiety/ in general), I’m getting to the age where I feel pathetic/ like a loser for still living with my mum. I cringe every time someone finds out about this, and maybe it’s just my paranoia, but I feel them instantly judging me/ looking down on me, as if I live in my mum’s basement doing nothing but playing video games all day. I know that living with parents well into one’s twenties is certainly not unheard of these days, even for “normal” people, but this is something I feel so much shame over right now. It’s something I constantly beat myself up about and feel awful about myself for – it seems I always need to be beating myself up about SOMETHING – and I know this isn’t helpful. I just feel like such a burden. I would have liked to have been much more independent by now. I do what I can to help out (including cooking the odd meal for everyone and cleaning up after my 3 younger siblings) at home, and do get on fairly well with my mum and stepdad most of the time. My mum frequently tells me she’s grateful to me for helping out, as I’m the only one who does, and who seems to empathise with how much she does for all 5 of us, and how much she deserves a hand/ a break. Yet I still feel like I’m taking a loan of my mum and stepdad.
At the moment, I’m only working at my supermarket job 2-3 days a week, so I very much doubt I could afford even the cheapest of flat shares in Edinburgh. Every other day of the week, I volunteer (except for having most Saturdays off, which I usually spend with my boyfriend, at a meetup, running, or just generally collapsing into a heap). (I’ll talk a bit more about my voluntary work in my next post). I hope that the volunteering will eventually pay off in terms of helping me to get a full-time job more relevant to my degree, though at this point, I’ve absolutely no idea how much longer I might be living with my mum for. I also have to consider my dog when it comes to moving out, as I think finding a landlord who allows pets – and flatmates who would be happy to live with a dog, especially MY dog, who gets in at everything – may be quite challenging. There’s also the issue of what happens if I decide to go back to university to do a masters this autumn (God help us all!), and where I and my dog would both be living if I do go ahead with that. I’m really lucky that my mum and stepdad still allow me to live with them, and that my mum (who has recently been applying for jobs for the first time in decades) has some understanding as to how difficult it is to get a job these days.
I think perhaps a large part of the shame comes from having encountered a small number of people who, due to not being as lucky as I am, had to leave home at a very early age. For example, a woman I volunteer with comes from a fairly abusive family and had to leave home at the age of 16. This must have been incredibly tough. Yet her experience seems to have given her the view that anyone who hasn’t moved out of their parents’ house by the age of 18 is a complete and utter scrounger. In some ways, it’s a good thing that I’ve made so much progress with my anxiety that she apparently can’t tell that I may have issues that contribute to being less independent than most people my age (because let’s face it, while it’s certainly not an excuse for not trying my best to work my way up to full independence – mental health issues ARE a large part of that), though I do wish she could understand that perhaps my life isn’t so easy as it would appear on paper. My various issues have meant that since my teen years, I’ve hit many of life’s milestones significantly later than the majority of people. I am completely determined to get a graduate job, get my own place, and become a fully independent adult. It may take longer for me to get there than it does for most people, but I WILL get there. I just wish I could accept myself and stop beating myself up in meantime.
Local Mental Health Group
Around the time we moved, I started going along to 2 groups at a local mental health organisation – an introductory course on living with anxiety and depression, and a course on stress management (ironically, the first session was on the day we moved house). A lot of what we covered in the introductory course was things that I already knew, but I found it helpful and still learned new things nonetheless. One of the key things I took from that group is that we allow ourselves sick days when we’re physically ill, and tend not to feel bad about ourselves for lying in bed all day/ neglecting our usual responsibilities for a bit, yet we beat ourselves up terribly when we need to do the same things due to mental illness. Physical illness is seen as totally acceptable, and no one blames us for that, yet unfortunately that’s definitely not the case when it comes to mental illness.
I think I need to go over the booklets I got from the stress control group again, or possibly even attend the group again, as stress management is definitely is a major weakness of mine. I seem to get overwhelmed very easily, even by relatively minor issues. I’ve also just started a mindfulness course with the same group, which I hope will help. I don’t seem to get the same benefits from practising at home as I do in the group (in fact, I find it difficult to stay awake when practising at home), but hopefully it’ll benefit me in time. I’d say I spend around 99.9% of the time in my own mind/ preoccupied with other things, especially at the moment because I have so much on. It’s actually gotten to the point where I often can’t even pay attention to what other people are saying because I’m so fixated on other things. So I hope it will enable me to live more in the present moment. However, I find practising mind-numbingly boring even at the best of times, and, ironically, I’m so busy that I think I’ll struggle to fit it in most days.
I’m also working through a self-help book on self-esteem right now (though admittedly I’ve been very much neglecting it in recent weeks due to trying to fit so much into each day), as I’ve realised that low self-esteem is perhaps my single biggest issue. I cannot for the life of me understand why none of the mental health professionals I’ve seen ever brought up my low self-esteem, given how incredibly obvious it was. I realise now that my cripplingly low self-esteem was likely caused by some combination of bullying in high school, emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse by my dad, and being overprotected/ sheltered by my mum. My ‘Bottom Lines’ (i.e. the core beliefs I have about myself that fuel my low self-esteem) are:
- I am unacceptable as a person
- I am incompetent and inadequate
- I am unlovable/ unlikeable/ undesirable
- I am worthless
- I am inferior and unimportant
- I am a horrible/ bad person
I’ve written about my negative core beliefs previously, but the 6 bottom lines above are essentially what all of those core beliefs boil down to.
At a social anxiety meetup I attended recently, some of us were discussing the root causes of social anxiety. While this is fairly obvious, it seems, at the core, social anxiety is about feeling that you are not acceptable to other people. And I think perhaps a lot of our anxiety and depressive feelings stem from projecting our own negative beliefs about ourselves onto other people (or rather, how we think other people think about us). I think I’m worthless and unlikeable, so surely everyone I come into contact with must think so too, right?
I will likely write more posts about low self-esteem/ self-compassion (which seems to be the more modern approach to the issue, though I have not yet been able to get into) as I continue to work on self-help books. If anyone else knows of any good resources for either, please feel free to recommend.