Early into my therapy, my therapist started talking about belief systems. This is a concept I've touched on before, but I was talking about it with Dom a while back, and she suggested I do a post. Then an email with Linda ended up with me ranting about how destructive these things can be, and, well, here we are.
To be clear, this has nothing to do with religion. That is simply a catchy title. It caught your eye, didn't it? You controversy-loving reader, you.
It's easy to see that your belief system is the way you see the world. In this case, it is like a religion. But the way my therapist uses the term, it describes how you interpret events that relate to you, and how you handle the various things that life throws at you.
My belief system, at its core, is that I am largely worthless as a person, in almost every way.
Well, it was. I don't really think it's still there, but there are aspects of that. Everything that happened to me I interpreted as someone picking up on and reacting to that fact about myself. If someone corrected me about something, I assumed I was an idiot, and that person was, of course, right. When dating someone I assumed I had, essentially, tricked them into dating me and they would wake up any day now and realize my deception of flattering clothes and put-on intelligence. If someone invited me along to something I assumed it was because they felt they had to, not that they wanted to. If a conversation with someone hit a lull I assumed it was my fault for not keeping things going. If someone liked me (you know, like liked) I assumed it was, at best, because of my personality and in spite of my body, that no one could ever be attracted to me as I am.
The realities of these situations are so different, and yet they never even really occurred to me until recently. If someone corrected me, they could be wrong too, or not think I was an idiot for one mistaken fact. I also have dated intelligent, wonderful women, who couldn't be tricked into anything, let alone a relationship. People invite me along to things because I'm fun and funny, often. It is not solely my job to keep a conversation going and real people have lulls all the time. And people can, and have, been attracted to my body just as it is.
I don't know how I developed this belief system, but I see similar things from so many people, people who don't think they deserve happiness, who accept so many of their own readings of situations as absolute fact. Challenging these, and believing differently about them, has been very difficult. It requires constant vigilance.
Because the sneaky hate spirals that tend to come out of those thoughts, where I hate myself, my laziness, my lack of intelligence, my lack of motivation, my lack of willpower, those feel good. They feel familiar. Like a warm, scratchy, unwashed blanket. It feels right to flog myself, to beat myself up. Maybe it will prevent others from doing the same if they see me doing that. Maybe it gives me an excuse to buy that thing, to eat that unhealthy food, to let the dishes sit another day.
This was such an odd revelation when it came to me, that some part of me liked these times where I felt terrible. But I think it makes sense, in a twisted sort of way.
Now, I work on changing this belief system. And I am, slowly but surely. I have to watch my thoughts every second, stop the ones that serve no purpose or reinforce that belief system, examine them, and reject so many. I still doubt I'll ever get there, to that point where my belief system is a more positive one, but I sure as fuck am gonna try.
Today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week! It's hard to keep track, I know, but do try to keep up!
- No word on the iPad, so I think it is likely gone. It's still possible it may turn up in the lost and found, but at this point I have my doubts. On the plus side it does appear someone just wiped it straight away, which in the grand scheme of things is the best I could hope for, in terms of data integrity. I don't quite understand the mentality that could take something like that, even carelessly left behind, and not feel a pang of pity. I almost wish I could talk to the guy/girl who picked it up and made the conscious decision not to turn it in. Maybe they sold it to feed their starving family, I'm not sure. So that sucks but, really, if I'm gonna have something bad happen, losing a non-essential item is hardly the worst. I am realizing how much I use it, though, and I did order a new one (though a cheaper model than before).
- Work stress continues unabated. It's partly just the time of year, partly that they keep expanding my job duties, partly that we have some major projects, but overall it means I'm often leaving work exhausted and unhappy. I've been leaning into WoW a bit heavily lately but, truthfully, I'm glad the outlet is there.
- I love my parents, but I get some judgment from them on leaning into WoW, at staying locked up in my room, at my more introverted nature. When I try to open up to them lately I've gotten interrupted with "solutions" and, truthfully, I feel like it may be time for us to part ways. More on this in the section below.
- Tying in with what I said before, I am having such a blast in WoW these days it's not even funny. I'm learning to tank on my monk (who's level 86), I'm taking my time going through the Mists questing and it's just been so much fun kind of losing myself a bit and forgetting my cares. And smashing mobs with kegs of beer, obvs.
- After I finish this post I'm emailing my realtor. Period. No more excuses. No more "I'll wait until"s. It's time to start. I keep putting it off but, I also have to realize that it's not like tomorrow I'm gonna find my place and move. This will be a long process of finding the right place, for the right price, and it's time to get started. My finances aren't 100% totally perfect, but will they ever be? I'm tired of waiting. Course, I'm emailing my realtor to say "can you refer me to someone else?" because I'm pretty sure he doesn't work in the area I now want, but hey, still! Progress. A start. My goal would be to host a birthday party in my new house, but I'd rather find the right place than the quick and easy place.
- Therapy has been going well. There haven't been too many huge and amazing break-throughs, but I'm making quiet, small changes that seem to be helping. I'm catching myself before I'm spiraling into bad thoughts. I'm stopping myself before I read too much into things. One of the big things has been reminding myself that, often times, when someone criticizes me or speaks harshly to me, it's more reflective of them than me. I'm trying to stop myself from taking such things personally, and instead just shrugging and saying "ah well, buddy is taking out his/her bad day/insecurity on me. Next."
- As much as I may have some issues with my parents, they have been pretty good about letting me be and recognizing I'm stressed and need some time. My mom has been really good about helping me out, which I'm grateful for, and my Dad's been pretty good too, they just don't quite get it. They grew up in big families; privacy and introversion are entirely foreign concepts to them, as are the ideas of just wanting to talk things out and not really solving problems.
- My friends continue to be awesome people, and I love them all for it. Positive, supportive and awesome. The only problem is that so few of them live nearby. MOVE TO CANADA YOU PEOPLE.
What are you loving this week? And what's making you whine?
Two weeks in a row! Blogging win! Today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week! It's hard to keep track, I know, but do try to keep up!
- I left my iPad on the train sometime on Monday. I've been worried sick about someone getting into my data, harassing friends or doing God knows what with it. So far I believe we're safe; it looks like whoever got it either turned it into the lost and found or has wiped it. Using the iCloud stuff I can tell it hasn't been online (at least without being wiped) at least since Monday night, which means either it's been turned off since then (which is the lost and found's standard procedure) or wiped. I've set it to wipe the next time it comes online for data integrity. All signs seem to be pointing to it being in the lost and found, but since all that stuff has to be processed I won't know for a few days.
- Honestly that's been the big one, and some of the fallout and worries from that. Besides that, work's been busy, but I could practically leave that on here permanently!
- I haven't been sleeping well lately. Part of it is just bad habits, part of it is the myriad things I'd rather be doing than sleeping, part of it is iPad and work things on my mind a lot. I've been trying to get to bed earlier, but it's not easy when there's so much I want to do.
- Mists of Pandaria continues to delight and entertain, which is great. I said this last week, but I cannot overemphasize how glad I am to have this awesome outlet and the wonderful people that come along with it. We ran dungeons last night and, even though they didn't go super well, I had a blast. If you've ever thought you might enjoy WoW, do give it a try, and let me know so I can bring you into my awesome group of people there.
- My friends have been amazing. GFM especially has been a big help and is great at keeping me grounded and keeping things in perspective. Thanks, GFM.
- I bought a ticket to VidCon! Still figuring out the flight and everything, but it'll be awesome to meet and hang out with people I've blogged around with and whatnot for so long.
- I'm generally eating healthier and feeling better these days. I've had one person ask if I lost weight; I haven't checked in a while, so I'm not sure, but that was nice. I feel like I see a little bit in my face, but that could be imagination.
- Therapy has been going well. I feel like I'm making real progress, which largely means breaking down a lot of the things I had thought I knew about myself. It's fascinating, and a tad bit scary, but good.
- I've moved some money around and cleared up some financial stuff, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. I'm getting close to being ready to tackle the move. Not quite there, but close.
What are you loving this week? And what's making you whine?
Therapy so far has been full of revelations. Little moments where someone else, looking at my thought processes, rearranges them and shows them to me in a whole other way that I had never quite considered.
This always amazes me, because I'm a very introspective person, and tend to think I've explored things from all possible angles and avenues. I feel like I have myself figured out when, in reality, I likely don't.
The most recent session involved a lot of that sort of thing. A lot of what my therapist uses is a technique whereby she asks me to say the first thing that comes to my head, particularly when she's asking me about my motivations for things. And when I'm honest about what first comes to my head, well, I'm not always pleased with what comes out.
But sometimes I think you have to face some of your more uncomfortable desires before you can start to change them. The idea that money is a large motivator to me will likely not come as a shock to some who know me, but realizing it really was was uncomfortable for me. I don't want to care about having the bigger house, or the fancy suit, or the nice car. I do, apparently, and I'm not happy about that. But I'm confident I can learn to change that because, mentally, I know, that all means very, very little.
The other interesting piece that came out in that session was the high standards I place for myself. The conversation came around to a point where I was describing the kind of person I wanted to be, and she asked me to run through what the ideal day, for that person, entailed. And when I laid it all out, it sounded exhausting. To lay it out for you, my ideal person;
- Wakes up early.
- Runs/does yoga (possibly both).
- Cares for his animals.
- Reads the paper.
- Takes care of his hygiene for the day.
- Cooks and eats a delicious, healthy breakfast.
- Goes to work.
- Eats a healthy and delicious lunch he prepared himself yesterday.
- Comes home.
- Cares for his animals.
- Cooks a healthy and delicious dinner.
- Catches up on blogs and vlogs.
- Plays a healthy chunk of World of Warcraft.
- Socializes with his friends.
- Watches some television.
- Reads a book.
- Gets 8 hours of sleep.
That all would be very tough to fit into a day. Near impossible, I'd say. When I finished laying that out, she looked at me like I was a little crazy, and she's not wrong. I do want to try and fit more of these things into my life, but the idea that…not that these things would be impossible, but that I was setting a very high standard for myself, was kind of surprising. I'd always thought this kind of life was just what everyone else led, and that I was just lazy. The idea that, hey, maybe not everyone does all these things…well, it was a bit of a shock, albeit probably a good one.
This week, I'm trying to look at the ways I sabotage myself. A lot of what we've been looking at lately is how I have a tendency to stay in comfortable patterns, and even sabotage my goals to stay in those patterns, because it's comfortable and easy. She's asked me to take notes on any ways I've sabotaged myself. There are a lot of similar themes so far, food related mostly, but it's been an interesting exercise, and we'll see how it goes.
Have you ever had any sudden revelations like these?
So that happened.
And it was good. She's a tad bit hippy, but I'm okay with that.
I was worried about a lot of things. There's a lot of things I love in life that I think a lot of folks would judge, or see as not worthwhile. Twitter. WoW. I'm transitioning to a place where a lot of my best friends are people I've never met, and may never meet, and that's awesome, to me, because almost all of them are awesome.
"I believe that online friends are just as real, if not more so, than regular friends."
Once she said that, I knew I had found a good one.
She agreed that, yes, there was stuff I could work on, and that a lot of my self talk was not good. She understood my wanting to just stay home some nights and weekends and cautioned me against villainizing anyone.
Part of me worries that I need more of a challenging person, but it was the first session. I think right now I need the support. I need someone who will help me on the path I want to be on, not tell me it's the wrong path right off the bat.
"Is it making you happy?"
"Is it hurting you in any way?"
"Well…no, not really."
"Then it's good."
I loved that lack of judgment. That understanding.
She told me something at the end of the session which I can't at all remember. Something positive, something about self-talk. My usual crappy memory fails me. Something she told me to think about, of course. But it's okay. I walked away feeling more aware. I walked away feeling like, hey, maybe I can actually change some of this stuff in my head. Maybe I can really start to turn things around.
I mean, hey, instead of caving and buying the new iPhone cause, I'm sure, this will be the gadget that fixes my life, I've resisted. It may sound like a silly victory, but it is one for me.
As the title suggests, I'm seeing a therapist.
I may be jumping the gun posting this, as it's my first session tonight, and this person may end up being not a good fit at all. However, she's used smilies in the emails we've exchanged so far. So I have a good feeling. I was referred to her through a network others have had good experiences with, so here we are.
Why am I seeing a therapist? Because I keep repeating the same patterns, and I want help breaking them. It may be as simple as just exercising better willpower, but I think there are a few extra bits to this.
I fall into funks pretty easily, at the simplest of words from the right person. An offhand comment, not meant to offend, can make me moody and angry.
The words I speak to myself I would hit someone else for, in real life, for speaking to me like that.
I try to spend my way out of moods and to a better life. I realize I am hardly alone in this problem, but that doesn't mean it's not worth addressing.
If I'm not spending my way out, I'm eating my way out of them. I eat things I know are bad because I "deserve it," because "I can start things tomorrow."
It may be I need a life coach more than a therapist, but I'm willing to give this a shot. The last one I went to was just not for me, and I worry a bit that it may be tough to find someone who will understand that spending the weekend relaxing and alone is not unhealthy (and often not entirely alone, thanks to the internet). I do worry someone will say to me simply "stop playing that game" and snap to judge me for that, as if all my problems centred around playing a video game. Plus she was a bit more into New Age thought than I was entirely comfortable with and was not very understanding of the fact that I couldn't really take off work to see her.
So I don't know how this will go. I don't even know if I absolutely, 100% need this, or if all my confidence issues could be solved by moving out, losing weight and not playing WoW. But I'm not sure, and I'd rather try something and it not work than not try it at all.
Have you ever seen a therapist? How did it work for you?