If you can hold on, hold on

Due to how depressed and hopeless I’ve been feeling lately, I went to see a counsellor at my university a few days ago to see if they could refer me to any support services. I was referred to a mental health advisor, also at my university. She was actually really helpful, and I think she’s the only mental health professional I’ve seen who has realised that my depression results from the ways in which social anxiety disorder limits my life. She’s also the only person (except the stoner guy I mentioned a few posts ago) who has noticed that I blink really frequently when I’m anxious. In fact, you can usually tell how anxious I am by how often I’m blinking. She also said that it isn’t that obvious that I’m anxious, but I appear very aloof and like I’m putting a wall around myself (she said this was understandable, given the bullying that I experienced in high school). She suggested that maybe people don’t realise I’m anxious, but that my being distant makes them reluctant to approach me. It’s interesting to have that insight because, despite how insightful I am about my own thoughts/ feelings/ behaviours, I don’t really have a clue how other people see me. She recommended that I get back in touch with my befriender (I’m reluctant to, but I will try and contact the woman who runs the befriending services).

She also recommended that I try online dating again and try to join a group, whether that’s joining a society at uni *shudders at the thought*, or going to a meet up group with my befriender (which I have been wanting to do for months now). She says it sounds like what I really want and really need is some companionship/ to be close to someone, and to have someone in my life who understands. This is all very true. It’s encouraging that she seemed to understand so much after less than an hour of me telling her about my history of mental illness, though I am still very wary/ detached when it comes to mental health professionals. She said it sounds as if there isn’t any fun in my life at the moment, and she’s also completely correct about that. All I’ve done the whole summer is work and try to get various things sorted out before I go back to uni. It’s all work and no play. I don’t even feel like I’ve had a holiday/ break at all, which is stressing me out because my final year of university will probably be horrendous. She says that I need to take more breaks and learn to work (on coursework) more efficiently (very true, though I have no idea how to). I’m seeing her again in a couple of weeks. She has given me some small goals to work towards in the meantime.

In other news, CMHT FINALLY got back to me (after I pestered the psychologist who assessed me), and I’ve been put on the waiting list for Interpersonal Therapy. I doubt that it’s going to help me very much, but we’ll see. When I told my mum that I don’t think it will help, she told me that that was the wrong attitude and I have to think positively. I wanted to say to her: “Try being repeatedly failed by a mental health system that was never intended to help those with severe and long-term mental health difficulties. Try having to wait MONTHS for help when you are suicidal. Try putting up with all of the bullshit that I’ve put up with from mental health professionals. Try talking to so-called “professionals” who refuse to even accept that the disorder which you suffer from exists. Try talking to GPs who think that you’re just shy and being pathetic and need to get a grip. Try fighting an illness with all you have, only to end up stuck, feeling hopeless and suicidal, fearing that nothing will help and you will never get better. THEN try feeling positive about the fact that the “professionals” think that six sessions of therapy will magically make a lifetime of suffering all go away”. To be honest, it’s a miracle I still bother to seek help at all after all of the nonsense and unhelpful people I’ve been through. CMHT is a complete joke. They only ever offer you a few hours’ worth of treatment, and then stop seeing you regardless of whether or not it has made the slightest bit of difference to you. They may as well just play the chorus of this song (I apologise for including such an annoying song) to you when you go in for therapy. Nonetheless, I will give it a try.

At work, things are still very difficult. I honestly think I must be the most awkward person ever. This is me in pretty much every social situation (minus the Glaswegian accent and tendency to refer to another person as a “cow”):

hello_awk

I somehow always manage to say the wrong thing, no matter how hard I try. I never know what to say to people or what to talk about. I feel so bad that it’s almost always my colleagues who make the effort with me. And my stupid, anxious brain never knows what to say in response to their questions/ comments, so I end up looking rude/ unfriendly, or like a complete idiot. It’s like my brain just freezes whenever people talk to me. My avoidance has gotten worse lately because of this. I know that isn’t good. But I suffer no matter what I do, whether I try to be social, or avoid social situations. I know I need to get back into exposure therapy. I think writing down particularly awkward situations would help, as I will probably be able to see how I could have made things less awkward, and how to improve next time. I could also write down the very rare instances where things went well, and try to work out what I did that made things go well, and use that to improve my social skills in future. What you have to remember is that, as someone who has suffered from social anxiety disorder for probably my entire life, my social skills are probably very underdeveloped for someone my age. It’s like I don’t even know how to be a human being. I know things will never get better if I avoid social situations, but it’s terrifying going into an adult social situation with the social skills of a 3-year-old. It’s like going into battle armed only with a water pistol. And this is why I distance myself from people. I’m so afraid that they will realise that I’m a freak and reject me, or worse, hurt me and bully me/ make me feel even more afraid in some way. (I would hope that adults wouldn’t act the same way as people from my high school did, but there are more subtle forms of bullying that adults are capable of, as I have already discovered at this job). I really need social skills training and some positive social experiences. Work is making me miserable because I spend most of the time feeling bad about myself and deeply regretting the fact that I can’t form working relationships and have a laugh with my colleagues in the same way that they can with each other. It just serves as a reminder of how different I am to other people.

I’m really stressing about going back to university, especially as I still have not the faintest idea what I want to do after I graduate. I worry that doing this degree will have been a complete waste of time. I don’t really even want to do my final year at uni, other than for the simple reason that it’s delaying the inevitable: long-term unemployment. University just exacerbates my anxiety and depression. ‘The Term From Hell’ in particular really messed up my mental health. And it irritates me to no end that university gets in the way of my recovery, because I’m usually too busy to do CBT or go to social groups during term time. University also prevents me from exercising and getting enough sleep much of the time. I also find it incredibly frustrating that I have absolutely loads of posts that I want to write, but never seem to have enough time to do anything these days due to work (which makes me feel exhausted for the rest of the day), and about a million other things that I’m trying to sort out before returning to uni. Also, I apologise that I’ve been so terrible at responding to emails lately. I will get round to responding to you as soon as I can. Please be patient with me. I should probably follow the same advice myself. And yes, I really do get weirder with every post.

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5 Responses to If you can hold on, hold on

  1. Just A Random Person Passing By To Drop Off A Comment says:

    Shaddap you face sounds like a Hetalia character sang it…..it was written by a Hetalia character XD btw Hetalia is an anime. Oh wait, this isn’t Tumblr. Another pointless comment from me…..*hides*

    Everyone is weird in their own way. Including me. It’s fine if you can’t respond to my email right away because I’m also like that, sometimes I’m too busy or have no time or just really tired.

  2. Please stop referring to yourself as a “complete idiot.” You’re not.

    It sounds like you met a reasonable competent counselor. I’m glad you had a good experience there. You need a win.

    Is there any possibility of going part time at university and extending things a bit? That would give you the breathing room to work on healing and also give you more time to transition from school to post-school life.

    Don’t assume you’re headed toward long-term unemployment either. A lot can happen in a short time when you find something or someone that clicks.

    I can share one thing that I did (and continue to do) to help me with social anxiety. I started forcing myself to compliment or offer to help random strangers. You get lots of positive feedback that way in low-stakes, totally transient relationships. I found that it was very confidence building to say, “That’s a nice dress,” or “I love your tattoo” and have someone be surprised and delighted by the small effort. It also takes the focus off of you, but you’re still engaged in the interaction and practicing basic social skills.

    • Gemma says:

      I’m already part-time at university (I decided to go part-time after completing my second year, due to how difficult/ stressful I was finding it), but still struggling. Being part-time allows me to defer graduation if I want to, so I could graduate in autumn instead of in the summer, and could have a bit longer for my Honours project if I wanted. I think what I really need, though, is to learn some stress management skills and also learn how to work more efficiently, while being kinder to myself and actually allowing myself to take regular breaks, so I don’t overwork and become stressed out and too tired to actually get much done.

      Thanks for the tip. I will see if I can do that with people at work.

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