Hopeful for the Future

Last week was quite the (good) overwhelming week.

Like experience always dictates, the situation I was anxious about [professor rejecting &/or not willing to be on my committee] did NOT come to pass. In fact, the professor I spoke to last week was quite interested in my paper idea.

Silly anxiety.

I had avoided conversation with this professor for (almost) an entire school year because I didn’t know how this professor would respond, or whether he’d agree to be on my committee.

It’s interesting, though, because for the first time after this interaction with this professor, I feel hopeful for the future. After I finish this paper (if, and when I do, that is…) the next step is trying to find five professors for my qualifying exam committee. Certainly a jump up in difficulty for this socially anxious individual. Previously, I would’ve told myself “I’m gonna die or have a heart attack.” or “I’ll never be able to do this.”

But for the first time, I feel hopeful about the next step. I can do this. Really. At this point, I have hope that I’ll be able to get through this. I remember after the meeting with the professor last week, I had this thought in my mind: It’ll only get easier and better after this. I’ve gone through the process once (of having to get to know/meet/ email professors about asking whether they’d be on my committee) and I can certainly do it again.

Sure, I still do think that at times, I wish I could take a pill and wish anxiety away forever. But perhaps doing the hard work NOW will make the process that much easier down the road.

I’m hopeful for the future. 🙂

An Easy Way Out

Can I just take a pill and hope for the anxiety to be gone forever? Wouldn’t that be easier than doing all this hard work? Why focus on changing thoughts and behaviors instead? WHY? People who rely on anti-anxiety meds are luckier than me…

I often have this internal debate with myself when I think about anxiety and anxiety-provoking situations. I remember a few years ago, Yoda asked me this question that I thought about again for the first time today: “Is it possible that you consider yourself a victim in this situation? What might be the reason that you feel this way? Let’s explore this further…

I really didn’t know how to answer Yoda’s question at the time. Did I consider a victim of anxiety? I don’t remember what I considered at the time, but something current T said today reminded me of that question…

I’ll be honest and say part of me is particularly resistant to do all the work involved in getting through anxiety. I know it’s not true, but it’s always been my perception that people who take anti-anxiety meds, SSRIs, SNRIs, etc. have it easier when it comes to overcoming issues. Kind of as if medication was an “easy way out” that helps them do half the battle of working through difficult things. I know I’m hugely biased thinking that medication makes things “easier”, because for most people who are on medication, medication allows them to function in daily life.

I had a similar reaction a few years back (wanting an easy way out) when I sprained my ankle. I remember going to the clinic to get my ankle checked out, and the doctor suggested that I get an X-Ray just to make sure that no bone was broken. I happily hobbled on over to get an X-ray because some part of me was hoping that this time I might have a broken or fractured bone instead?? Alas, no broken bone. I remember feeling so disappointed, I went home and cried after the appointment. In some ways, the frustration level of having a sprained ankle is worse than having a broken bone. Recovery time with a sprained ankle and broken bone is about the same amount of time (6 to 8 weeks), but after a sprained ankle comes intense physical therapy. Without PT, the ankle ligament is weakened, and a person is more likely to sprain the ankle (or roll it out again). Granted, I’ve never broken a bone before, but breaking a bone seems much “easier” to deal with. Casting, or getting a boot on a broken bone, and voila! Good as new–kind of. Bones heal much, much faster than ligaments. So I remember after my sprained ankle diagnosis, I felt so frustrated. Why is it always my ligaments? Why never a bone? Why do I have to go through so much pain when I got injured, during recovery, and after recovery?

Perhaps one day after I’ve made huge, huge strides toward overcoming these feared and anxiety-provoking situations, I’ll be glad that I didn’t take the easy way out. But for now– I just wish I could take a magic pill that would take my anxiety and anxious thoughts away.

 

Getting over Anxiety Hurdles–Kind Of…

Today I clumsily jumped over a hurdle in my “anxiety journey” that a friend basically dragged me through.

I’m working in earnest to finish my MA thesis paper (-ish thing) this quarter. But for this paper, I’ve needed to have three people on my committee– my advisor, and two other professors. During fall quarter, I had one professor outside of my department agree to sign on as part of my committee, but I had been holding off and avoiding trying to find a third committee member basically for an entire year.

Today, I had a friend who basically sat there, typed out an email for me to request a meeting with my third (potential) committee member (I corrected the grammar and made the email more of my “voice”) and she clicked “send” for me. That’s how she dragged me over that hurdle.

I swear, though. Every social-anxiety-related thought and fear came up with this committee member situation. Talking in person seemed (and still seems!) intimidating. Emailing was intimidating. And often, it seems like I go around and around in circles with this same fear when I mention it in therapy.

More often than not, I want to face this situation, but I would rather not deal with the unpleasant effects of anxiety (mostly racing heartbeat and sometimes shortness of breath in my situation) so I avoid anxiety-provoking situations. Obviously, though, anxiety’s best friend is avoidance, so this type of situation never gets better.

I’ve done enough of my own research and article-searching to have a cognitive, brain-level understanding of how and why anxiety happens. I have enough knowledge about relaxation techniques, challenging negative thoughts, and the ins and outs of CBT techniques. What I’m missing at this point is forcing– or rather gently nudging(?) myself– into feared situations, follow-up and de-briefing after facing an anxiety-provoking situation, if I decide to face these situations.

Most articles and books will say that people with social anxiety fear judgment from others. On a deep brain level, that’s true. But in the moment (of an anxiety-provoking situation), I swear I don’t think I’m even considering the “judgment” aspect anymore. I’m just thinking: “Get me out of this place, because my heart is going to fly out of my chest at any moment. I’m definitely going to get a heart attack.” That’s what my body’s screaming at me. So in a sense, it’s almost the physical symptoms that are worse than the fear of others’ (perceived) judgments. Lessen the physical symptoms, and I’d venture to say that the fear of perceived judgment will decrease as well.

Who knows how long it will take my body (physically) to catch up with my brain. It used to be that a few years ago, this internal negative self-talk was very loud in my head. It is much quieter now– except for when I physically feel anxious.

Baby steps of self-awareness, I suppose…

Had I Met You In A Different Context

Had I Met You in a Different Context
Had I met you in a different context
Would it still be like this?
So awkward to admit certain feelings
And fantasies of mutual bliss

Had I met you in a different context
Would I be able to admit-
How much my soul longs for your affection
And for you to be my mom–for just a bit

Had I met you in a different context
Would I ever let you know-
How I long for a simple hug
Instead of avoiding and saying “I don’t know”

Had I met you in a different context
Would I be able to see-
That you’re not God atop a pedestal
And that you’re human–just like me

Had I met you in a different context
Would it be OK to say-
That I want more of your attention
Especially when we are away

Had I met you in a different context
I would want to say
I need a bit of assurance
And to know you’re not going away.

Had I met you in a different context
I would want you to know
How important this relationship is to me
And how I wish this relationship would grow

Getting *The* Diagnosis

Somehow, I managed to get up this morning for an 8 AM therapy appointment. Yes, 8 AM…

When I read the time, I was thinking… are you sure you mean 8 AM and not PM?? I believe I’d function MUCH better if it was an 8 PM appointment.

How do you put into words the feeling that occurs when you wish for something for years on end, and finally get it? I’d always envisioned the thrill of excitement, feeling light as a feather, motivated, excited, etc.

After asking for a sooner appointment and feeling like I was the biggest nuisance in the world, and was inconveniencing my therapist from her “life”, I got an appointment this morning.

Who knows, maybe it was the way I phrased things when I messaged my therapist to ask about an appointment, but I’m guessing something prompted her to think about my *original* diagnosis when I first started seeing her (unspecified anxiety–basically, “who knows what’s up with this client”) to today’s appointment.

She told me that she’d be “changing my diagnosis” after having observed me for some time, which surprised me, because I’ve never EVER had that discussion with my therapists before.

Of course, it came as no surprise to me when she said she’d be changing my diagnosis to social phobia/SM. So, I’m assuming it’s on paper now. I’ve suspected it for MANY years now. Maybe for the past 15 years or so, I’d been wanting someone to validate that. I’ve had therapists outright tell me: “No you don’t. This is what social phobia is…” and proceed to explain it, assuming that didn’t know a single thing about it. Apparently they didn’t realize the number of hours I’d spent on Google, in different forums, etc.

But it was weird that even though someone FINALLY validated everything I’d suspected for years, now it all feels so anti-climactic. I can only describe it as someone who’s been wishing to get their dream job, but once they get it, the reaction is… “Now what?” Because it doesn’t specifically change anything for me..

My feeling is that without the crutch of email to help bridge the gap in communicating what I’m too freaked out to verbalize, I’m forced to face all these issues head-on now. It’s like everything finally comes out into the open when I don’t have any of my other coping mechanisms to help me…

I guess my current therapist has been the first person to dig beyond everything…(whether I’m ready or willing or not!)

Stretching Way Outside My Comfort Zone

I have a random question… I know you don’t email clients because of ethics reasons, but hypothetically speaking, what would happen if I DID send you an email? Would you read them? Or would you just ignore the email and delete it? Like… what if I spammed your inbox with 10 emails, just because?

I was mostly genuinely curious just to know what my therapist would do when I asked her this question. Mostly. Obviously, I already knew that my therapist would say “no” and explain her reasons for not engaging in email contact (for both ethics reasons as well as due to her own personal boundaries & work-life balance).

While I could understand and see her point that emails and words can get misinterpreted easily, learning how to communicate verbally is a necessary & important goal, and that she isn’t available around-the-clock for support, this just feels like a stretch way beyond and way outside my comfort zone.

It is a struggle to verbally communicate what I’m thinking. Sometimes after I’ve tossed around in my head what I’m going to say and repeatedly watched YouTube videos to reassure myself that it’s completely “safe” to share what I’m thinking, I’ll share, but only after a bit (or longer!) of time has elapsed. For the more difficult topics, it feels like I’m forever verbally constipated.

I know. TMI type of analogy…but, you know… I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced the uncomfortable effects of constipation before.

At this point, not having email (or texting) as an option feels like such a disadvantage. I don’t mind being nudged a bit outside my comfort zone, but this feels like I’m being shoved outside the comfort zone.

The obvious choice would be to write a note/letter and bring it in to session, but is it me, or do notes also feel just as vulnerable-inducing verbally trying to communicate things?

Has anyone found some (creative) way to communicate with a therapist without having to rely on email? [the thought of calling my therapist directly & sending a voicemail also freaks me out, BTW!]

God, Please DON’T Bless America

I (rarely) if ever post on politics. And maybe after today, I’ll lose some followers and friends, but I’m OK with that.

Like millions of Americans around me, I woke up this morning feeling confused, defeated, angry, and agitated.

And then there are the people who are trying to be optimistic by saying that it’s only 4 years, that Trump can’t have too much power, and so on and so forth– but I think the election results really reinforces in my mind my entire experience growing up in “white America”, and “white Orange County”.

The mindset and the message that came across from 80% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump is that it’s not OK to be different. It’s NOT OK to be LGBTQ. It’s NOT OK to be female. It’s NOT OK to be black. It’s NOT OK to be an immigrant. It’s NOT OK to be anything but “white”, “male” and “Christian”.

But that’s the problem with all the people who supported and prayed for Trump to come into office. They don’t understand their privilege. They don’t understand what it’s like to be different and to feel different. Growing up in Orange County in the 90s as an Asian American makes my blood boil. I can’t believe the ignorance of some people: “Where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from?” Those stupid games of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc where “white” people would try to “look Asian”. Being excluded from class activities, groups, PE games, the lunch tables, because what I brought to lunch to eat “smelled weird”, “looked funny”. Being asked ignorant questions in middle school: “Why is it that all Asians look the same? Are you REALLY from the US? Do you speak Asian?” And answering back in a sarcastic way: “Why do all white people look the same? Can you speak American?”  That’s white America for you. It’s ignorance. It’s privilege. It’s judgments. It’s everything that I cannot bear to understand or accept.

But that’s what white America wants, though. They want a cookie-cutter country. They want “white American values”. But what makes America unique is diversity. You don’t have to be a Christian, don’t have to be straight, don’t have to be male, don’t have to look a certain way, or speak a certain language. When America can finally understand that concept, I think we will have made progress.

Until then, PLEASE, God, DON’T bless America.

Today I’m mourning for America. Today, I’m mourning for where the votes went wrong, where the mindset went wrong.

Today, I’m wondering why we’ve returned to an adult version of the childhood bullying and exclusion I experienced. I can’t stand behind those values. I can’t call myself an American today. Today, I’m NOT proud to be an American.

The Transference Monster Returns Again

The familiar monster has reappeared again.

Except, this time, I’m far away (about 400 miles away) from any form of therapist support… it sucks.

Rather than staying in my apartment this summer, I figured I’d spend the summer working near my hometown and live at home with my parents. No rent payments, no grocery bills. (win-win situation?)

After a bit of convincing, I figured that I could also skip out on therapy as well, since I’m going on vacation in August, and could only get a max of 8 or so sessions during summer. Last summer was fine with my extended therapy break as well, so I figured that this summer would be the same. After all, I’m never going to be the type of person to waltz into a therapist’s office and spill all of my secrets, so this short-term model doesn’t work out well for me, either…not to mention the time it takes to develop a connection/trust someone new.

I think I’d feel less agitated about the familiar monster if my current therapist was open to email, phone calls, or Skype for alternative methods of therapy or support, but in the name of confidentiality, current therapist doesn’t use any of the above methods and would rather see clients in office. Email/phone/Skype are all for administrative uses only.

So I am left to fend for myself….and try to fight it off.

I’m too familiar with these emotions. This monster that comes out again. The longing to see/hear and talk to School T. The attachment. The emotions. The transference. It never gets any easier.

Yet again, School T is on my mind. I feel like I have devoted so much brain space to thinking about School T. I miss school T. I wanted to have one last in-person or phone session with School T. I wish she was still at our school counseling center. I wish I could still have the option to email School T. The only consolation is knowing that she’ll be back in office on September 9th to return Voice messages. I wonder if she’ll be able to receive mail.

I know I should’ve processed and attempted to talk about the emotions that came up when School T announced that she was leaving, but last quarter’s main battle was trying to conquer anxiety approaching and talking to my professors. So I left for summer with emotions surrounding School T pushed away deep in my mind.

Thanks to Google, these feelings have only become more intense. School T is getting married near where my university is. But come next school year, she is moving out of state to work in a different university counseling center. [Actually, shortly after she left our university counseling center, I was Googling her, as usual, and had already found her name on a new university counseling center’s webpage.] It all seems more difficult now, because School T’s leaving is “official” this time.

With School T gone from the university counseling center, I feel like a child who has gone off to summer camp without a beloved security blanket or teddy bear. Even if this child no longer has to rely on the bear/blanket to fall asleep at night, having some sort of token object is better than nothing.

The same is with School T’s presence on campus. Even though I hadn’t seen School T in a year, knowing School T was still present on campus made me feel safe.

Not having therapy or therapist support during summer makes me miss School T all the more. School T was very attuned to my needs and didn’t judge me for requesting an earlier session or writing an emotion-filled email. When she thought it was necessary, she’d call me in between sessions if she sensed I was struggling.

My brain keeps circling round and round about School T. So much of my mental energy is spent thinking and dreaming about School T.

I wish this obsessing about School T monster would just disappear…..

 

The Cost of Avoidance

The units situation is almost–but not yet— resolved.

And I think everyone in my department is getting sick of nagging me, and I’m sick of getting their emails.

But SERIOUSLY?! I WISH it was something that could be resolved in a day, but it feels like each step of the process requires department approval, signatures, and all this other crap that I don’t want to deal with.

And today, the graduate adviser sends me a forwarded email (from the grad coordinator) saying that she got an email from someone in grad studies threatening that they’re going to take away my stipend for spring quarter if I don’t get things resolved by tomorrow (June 1st)

But it seems like everyone in other departments is just taking their sweet time…

Of course, having anxiety — with authority figures– doesn’t help make this process any easier.

Something else I’ve put off for more time than necessary– getting a dental cleaning. I swear, it’s been years– even though everyone suggests the “every 6 months” cleaning schedule.

Well, because of my avoidance, I now have larger, more expensive issues to deal with.

I have to get 3 fillings “re-filled”, 2 root canals (and 2 crowns on top of those teeth) since my old fillings are getting cracked, and a new night guard… on top of my regular dental cleaning. Holy schmoly!!

I knew I needed to get a cleaning and contemplated it last year, but kept putting it off…. and look at where it’s got us??!!

Someday I’ll learn to NOT avoid situations…. maybe… hopefully….

Trying to Get 12 Units

I mentioned this briefly in my last post, but this entire situation has my stomach tied itself in knots, simply because it’s so complicated and frustrating.

So– this quarter, due to some bureaucratic reasons, I found myself in a position where I didn’t have any classes to take. Well, I’m sure I could’ve filled my schedule with SOME courses, but as far as required courses were concerned, there was NOTHING my department was offering that would fulfill my course requirements. (Which is basically 2 more classes in my “track” or “specialization”).

If you’re curious to know what happened, basically, the day before classes started this quarter, 1 of my classes that I was planning to take got cancelled, since the professor had to have appendix surgery the week before Spring quarter began. The second class, I discovered on the first day of classes….was only open to this certain professor’s students. (If you know Harry Potter, it’s like the “Slug Club”)

So– basically, I ended up going to bed the night before the first day of classes in MAJOR panic mode. It was basically like getting a panic attack… before the quarter started. Not only did I not have classes I could take, but I knew that if I didn’t decide on a major professor this quarter, that I was going to have some department advisers starting to ask me questions about WHY I hadn’t decided on a major professor.

So— I started the quarter with 4 teaching units. I figured… sometime during the quarter I’d *hopefully* get units figured out. Part of me also wanted to take this quarter off completely, because I felt overwhelmed just thinking about having to register for classes. Sitting in class made me feel panicky, and I thought… if things don’t get better my mid-quarter, I’m just going to take the quarter off completely. But various departmentmates kept convincing me to “just take it easy” this quarter. So, I decided I would just “avoid” conversations with my professors about courses and picking a major professor, lest I have a MAJOR mental breakdown.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I had a sit down talk with one of the graduate advisers… in order to keep my funding (AKA TA position) I need to be registered for an average of 12 units per quarter, which is full-time status. He told me during that meeting (which was 5th or 6th week) that I needed to get units ASAP.

So I started shooting emails back and forth with the professor that I had been thinking about asking to be my major professor (the professor who will supervise my research). She agreed to be my major professor AND to let me do research units with her. (Yay)

But it’s been a LOOOONNNGGG process TRYING to get the units.

Since this professor is not actually IN my department, I’m having to get research units from outside the department. I didn’t get the correct version of the form until last Friday (end of 7th week). And I FINALLY was able to Skype with my major professor this morning and get the form sent out (this week is the 8th week of the quarter, meaning we only have 2 weeks left in the quarter to get me some units…)

UNFORTUNATELY

Since the policies are different in the two departments, I can only get a maximum of 6 units for research. Still leaving me 2 units short of full-time. My home department doesn’t have this 6 unit maximum requirement…

And believe me, I’m trying everything I can. I’ve gone to our school’s disability center (to see if I can get medical documentation to get a lower unit amount), and I’ve been advised to talk to someone in our graduate student dean’s office to see if I can get an exception to the “unit limit” (via medical documentation). But honestly, maybe at this point, I’m just hoping for 2 “pity” units from one of the advisers in my department…

To make matters more pressing, I got an email earlier today from one of the grad advisers in our department (who had CC’d the other grad adviser, my major professor, and another professor in the department) who said our department coordinator  heard from our school’s graduate studies that they are threatening to revoke my TA position for the quarter (over not having enough units).

What’s the most frustrating thing is that the department coordinator is only seeing what’s happening on paper and doesn’t know that I’ve been doing EVERYTHING I CAN, and that the process is just so frustratingly SLOW.

But department coordinator (and other grad advisers) only see that nothing (on paper) has been done to get the units… grad adviser also mentioned in the email this: “department coordinator also says that she’s emailed you about this before, but you haven’t responded to her emails“. Which is absolute BS. DC sent me ONE email about the situation, and I responded within the hour telling her that I was trying to get the situation sorted out. Pisses me off…

And it doesn’t help that I’m so stressed out over this entire situation, which is causing my intestines to just tie itself around in knots. Aa;dlkfjaad;flkalgj!!!!!!!