Isn't it frustrating when things that are supposed to make you better actually make things worse? I guess I should know a thing or two about that. Tonight, I'm feeling generally pretty discouraged about life, and my frustration with how things are going with my new therapist isn't making me any cheerier.
I feel hopeless yet again. I was going through a pretty good phase for the last few days - having good talks with friends, feeling optimistic about the future, having a piece published and receiving some heartfelt responses - but today I took a turn back down into the gutters. I don't know why my mood keeps going back down, it's so frustrating and discouraging that I can't just be happy or at least just stable. It's frustrating to get your hopes up that things are getting better only to be plunged back into the numbness of hopeless discouragement, even despair.
I realized yesterday that I am kind of self-absorbed and selfish, obsessed with seeing how far I've gotten and how many views my pieces have garnered. Maybe I need to take yet another social media break. And a publishing-on-other-sites break. And stop trying to get this blog or my other projects attention. Maybe I need to find a way to give back somehow. I feel so selfish, complaining about my life and feeling constantly dissatisfied with all I have when so many are out there suffering. I whine about school but I'm so lucky to be able to attend school and to have my family support me in doing so. I complain about not having a boyfriend but I am so blessed to not have been married off to a decades-older man as soon as I entered puberty.
Yet, I hate the game of comparing lives and "who has it worse". But I do recognize that I have become a bit too wrapped up in my own life, especially now that I no longer live in a dormitory with friends. I neglect encouraging people even though there are still plenty of people around me who need encouragement and a listening ear.
You know, part of me feels a little scared lately. I'm scared because I'm thinking about the possibility of dating a person and how much that puts me at risk. Emotionally, I'm at risk of getting my heart broken. I'm at risk of investing a lot of time and heart in a relationship and having it not work out and feeling like a failure as a result. I'm at risk of getting wrapped up in a person and not dedicating the time and effort I should to other parts of my life. I'm at risk of becoming enraptured with a man and ignoring his faults and then getting burned by his flaws. I'm at risk of being abused or even assaulted. I'm at risk of getting sucked into someone who seems wonderful on the outside but once you're trapped within turns out to be poisonous.
I'm scared of having fights. I'm scared that he'll turn out to be insensitive (or just a typical young guy) and will hurt my feelings and I won't have the strength to communicate that or he won't have the maturity to listen. I'm scared I'll get involved with someone who isn't taking care of their emotional (or even physical) health and I'll get sucked into being his counselor or I'll get frustrated watching him cope poorly with situations and unravel but refuse to seek help, just as I do every day with members of my family. I'm scared I'll make a wrong choice of guy. Heck, let's be real...I'm scared I'll try talking to a guy who I'm interested in and get judged and rejected and disappointed in the first place.
I also feel overwhelmed by the thought of navigating my career. (Which reminds me of another boyfriend fear...what if he turns into a workaholic and our relationship grows distant and I become sad and lonely and...okay, let's stop going down this rabbit hole...) I feel so ill-equipped even though I know I have a lot of promise, ambition, work ethic, and talent. And I'm afraid of getting far along a career path and then ending up hating it. And all of that doesn't help with the whole "feeling hopeless" thing.
I feel overwhelmed by those nagging everyday little questions that float around your brain unresolved...How do I respond to this? How do I deal with that? Should I pursue this opportunity? Should I contact that person? When things just float around in my head, I get anxious because I know there's something I'm supposed to be worried about, but I can't quite remember what it is. Then a generally anxious feeling develops in me around that vague thought, and the problem starts to take on much more weight than it's usually really worth. Molehills turn into mountains, in other words, but in the periphery of my mind so I don't fully realize that it's happening until I feel the dark shadow of unnamed worry hanging over my thoughts.
I feel frustrated with myself because of how little work I get done. I fritter away so much time browsing this or that, slowly strangling my attention span in the process, that could be put towards just getting my stupid homework done. But I have trouble paying attention to reading (I'd much rather listen to a day's worth of lectures) so I tend to avoid it. And even though I'm a historian, I honestly have little patience for research (though I can do it if any potential employers happen to be reading, heh...) So I find myself procrastinating more and more lately, which I hate. I want to relish learning and do it well and be grateful for the opportunity, not sit around and whine about it like the over-privileged kids I lived with at my last school.
I guess the cherry on top is that I don't feel like I can trust my counselor as much as before. Last session left me pretty frustrated. I mean, first off, two sessions ago when I told her I was feeling down again, she asked me for the second or third time whether I track my menstruation cycle and then went on and on about how that really helps a lot of women to realize that some weeks they might be in a sour mood, etc. Okay, I heard you the first time, first of all. When counselors say something multiple times, it makes me wonder if they even remember what we talk about together. And if I wanted to take this particular piece of advice, I would have. Second of all, I am not one of those people who is comforted by this piece of knowledge.
So I shared with her, "Well, that's kind of a bummer to think that every month for the rest of my life, I'll feel depressed some weeks." To which she replied, "Well, join the rest of the world." I can't tell you how much this pissed me off. First off, I have been with the rest of the world on that point since May of 2006, much earlier than I would have ever cared to have been, and I have gone for years having menstrual cramps and bodyaches so bad that I would throw up and be so weak I could only crawl. So don't get sardonic with me, you little...ahem. I won't go there. Second off, I was trying to communicate that it doesn't help when you already feel hopeless to consider the idea that you will feel hopeless at some point of every month for the rest of your freaking life.
I felt like she wasn't listening to what I was trying to communicate and she wasn't respecting my feelings. Counselors are not supposed to say, "Tough. Deal with it, bitch." That is what the rest of the world tells you. Counseling is supposed to be a safe place where you can share your fears and hurts and have them carefully handled and respected, even if (and especially when) other people have laughed at, belittled, and brushed aside those experiences and emotions. One classic way people discount others' emotions is to use this move, "So do the rest of us. So stop complaining. It's a part of life. Deal."
Maybe my therapist could have delved into why that makes me feel discouraged. She would have found that it's because, 1) I was already feeling hopeless, which is a serious concern that should be addressed, and 2) I have negative feelings about the situation of being a woman on this earth. Not that I would want to be a man, but I hate how being a woman makes me feel so vulnerable and scared, discounted and disrespected. That's a pretty hefty set of issues to explore.
Next session, my counselor fixated on one topic that we've talked about for multiple sessions. Her message wasn't bad, but I was tired of hearing it. It made me feel like I was a failure for not living up to some standard she has set. It made me feel like she was pointing out yet another flaw of mine that I can't seem to change. And when therapists keep talking about the same thing over and over, it makes me lose faith in their ability to address my needs well...Are you just a one-trick pony? Also, I've never met a therapist or psychiatrist who talks so much about his or herself. Most of my practitioners barely reveal a thing about themselves, yet she has brought up her own accomplishments multiple times in sessions. I think she means for it to be helpful, but it starts to sound like bragging sometimes, even a "This is what I do (correctly) vs. This is what you do (incorrectly)" kind of thing.
But what really frustrated me was when I tried to change the subject to ask for advice on something that has really been weighing on my mind, talking to a guy I'm interested in and the social anxiety and aforementioned concerns that that prospect brings up, she continued on her own agenda. I've noticed that this is a common error that mental health practitioners make, which is why I'm taking the time to write about it here. I've had almost every psychiatrist or therapist I've seen get fixated with a certain idea they have about me or what I (or people in general) need to do or know, such that they then ignore the need I'm actually trying to communicate to them. In other words, they have their own agenda or obsession that they keep harping on instead of answering your question or addressing the issue you've brought up that you want to talk about. It's like a presidential debate.
If I could go back, I would have made it more clear what I wanted from her...Looking back, I think we were just talking past each other, but I was frustrated by her continued efforts to take the conversation back to the subject she had been hammering over my head for the entire session when I was trying to get some practical help and address some significant anxieties. Now I've lost some faith in this therapeutic relationship, which is discouraging because I really need to feel like there is something that can help me get better. There is somewhere where I can figure things out. But now I'm afraid that I will run out of things to talk about or just close up and stop sharing because I no longer feel safe. I wish I could delve into more of my past and present issues that go untouched, but I'm afraid to bring them up and the more you feel uncomfortable and unaccepted in a relationship, the harder it is to open up to explore those darker parts of life. And it's frustrating to have the burden of bringing subjects up rest on you.
So that's how I'm feeling. Defeated. Discouraged. Anxious. Confused. Overwhelmed. Hopeless. Like things aren't working out quite the way I hoped they would and I'm worried I'm doing this whole life thing completely wrong. The reality is, even when I've gone down paths that turned out to be dead ends that didn't work out, such as attending the college I did (for three years, no less) or majoring in the things I did, I wouldn't say any of those decisions were a waste of time or a mistake. There are few things in my life that I would go back and completely erase or even call a "mistake".
So maybe it's time to stop obsessing about "doing things wrong", whether pursuing a career that I end up hating or dating a guy who I end up hating, things have a way of redeeming themselves in the end. I mean, even the worst, worst part of my life has given me this incredible opportunity to speak to people who are broken and to find a voice (and dare I say purpose??). A lot of bad things have worked out for good over the years, it just took a lot of time for that to happen. So maybe it's time to kick the "what if I'm making a mistake" worry to the curb and just do the best I can in each moment.