One Of Us! One Of Us!

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I don’t get this Pokémon Go thing.

It’s been out a week, and folks have been going absolutely bonkers over this game. I’ve heard a couple of negative stories, like the threesome that was waiting at a PokéStop to rob people who were stopping by for supplies, or the girl that discovered a dead body floating in a creek while hunting for the little critters. But far and away, the stories I’ve heard have been phenomenal. The story of those who were previously homebound due to anxiety getting out and exploring their neighborhoods and socializing with others. The article from Inc. magazine on how to utilize Pokémon Go as a marketing tool to maximize foot traffic into your place of business. The story of the kids who were traveling as a group, taking turns catching Pokémon, who got beat to a find by an old man walking his dog. The kid on the autistic spectrum who broke out of his routine, engaged strangers in conversations, and occasionally even looked people in the eye during his first outing with the game. The multiple stories of how the game has had an immediate and noticeable effect on players’ mental health.

I went to therapy today and discussed Pokémon Go with my therapist, and told her about these stories and more. I said that my wife had downloaded the game and was having fun with it, and that she’d let me catch a couple for her, and that she noticed that I got excited when I caught them. And my therapist told me that she thought it would be a good idea for me to download it and start playing.

So I did.

I can tell you the game is as fun as my wife made it look. I took advantage of the starter trick – let the three choices (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) for your first Pokémon spawn, then walk away until they respawn, and keep repeating this process until they respawn with a fourth selection – Pikachu. Since I started playing about an hour and a half ago, I’ve gotten a little exercise, set off an incense from the comfort of my couch, and caught a total of eleven Pokémon while making it over halfway to level four. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of them yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Like I said before, I don’t get this Pokémon Go thing. I hope that I’ll eventually find myself out and about looking for wild Pokémon and strike up conversations with other players. It would be good for me socially, and the walking would do me a lot of good too.

One last thing – my wife’s favorite Pokémon is Snorlax, which means that I’ve grown a little fond of him as well. Neither of us have one, but the closest gym to the house is currently being held by a Snorlax.

Just don’t ask me what team I’m on. I haven’t got a clue which to choose yet.

Difficult Deeds Done

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We continued last session’s line of discussion in therapy today.

Today was difficult to get through. It meant acknowledging some tough truths about my life and beginning the process of coming to grips with them, but I think some good will come out of today’s session. We’re looking forward to long-term goals at this point and that’s a good thing to be doing. There will be baby steps along the way, but today for the first time I felt that I might could handle getting back out and associating with people on a more regular basis – either as a volunteer somewhere or perhaps even a low-stress part-time job. (I’d volunteer first, at least until I understood everything that goes into working while on Social Security disability. I don’t believe that I’m ready to return to work full-time yet and I don’t want to endanger my benefits while I test the waters, something the SSA allows you to do on a limited basis.)

We also talked about my emotional detachment while discussing this, and it’s apparently a normal thing to disassociate one’s self from one’s trauma. People handle trauma differently and it’s not uncommon for people to respond how I have, with emotional indifference, like I’m telling someone else’s story and not mine. I had long questioned how it could affect me as much as it has while I can tell the story of what happened almost clinically, and now I know it’s nothing to fret over.

In addition, over the past few weeks I came to acknowledge my inability to fulfill a pledge that I made some time ago, and today I asked to be released from it. It took me a long time to work up the courage to write that letter, and I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a negative experience down the road.

Today is show day so I’m about to immerse myself into my radio persona and forget my problems for about three hours or so. This will actually be a good thing for me, I believe.

One Giant Leap

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Back on Sunday I wrote vaguely about my greatest shame, and how it would be a topic of conversation between me and my therapist at some point in the future.

That point was today.

I’ve told the story before, but clinically, never invoking the emotions that I felt during the experience, and so I’ve never really fully told the story to anyone but my wife. It was surprisingly easy to get out once I started. I digressed during the telling of it to tell another, unrelated story from my childhood. While I’m still keeping my shame to myself for now, this part of the story I’ll share with you.


When I was about 17 I took off from home for a couple days to get my head screwed on straight. I wouldn’t call it “running away,” since I had every intention to go back home. I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina at the time and I took an evening drive to Washington, DC, arriving there around three in the morning.

It was something of a different time, and I wasn’t aware that Washington was a town you really shouldn’t be out by yourself at age 17 at three in the morning. But they had installed the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial since my last visit to Washington, and I wanted to see it, so that’s where I found myself.

I wasn’t alone. At that time – they may still be doing this, for all I know – there was a small visitor’s tent set up where the walkway to the Wall intersected with the sidewalk on the street. It was manned, and inside they had a guide to find any name on the Wall, along with solicitations for veterans’ relief funds. I gave a couple dollars, which was a significant part of what I had on me at the time, picked up the guide, and went down to the Wall to pay my respects. I spent maybe thirty minutes at the wall, just taking in what it meant to be face to face with so very many names of those that never made it home.

The walkway ran parallel to the Wall and turned with it, heading back up the hill toward the statue of three soldiers that was opposite the visitor’s tent.

There was a man there, and he was crying.

The part of me that felt like I should at least give the man an ear took over, and I asked him if he was okay, and he told me his story.

He served in Vietnam, lived in Washington state, and had saved for three years to make it out to Washington to find the names of his fallen comrades. He finally made it out and took pictures to have a tangible memory of the place to take home with him.

He set his camera down for a moment at the base of the statue, turned away for a moment … and someone stole his camera.

That was the last straw for this guy. My heart went out to him, and I held him for several minutes while he vented his tears and frustration and what had to be anger onto my shoulder.


When I told this story today in therapy, it brought me to tears, and I couldn’t figure out why spilling my guts about my darkest moments would keep me dry eyed, yet telling this unrelated tale about someone I spent maybe ten minutes with total would make me cry. It was my wife that pointed out the similarities between that situation and mine, and I knew that she was right.

So next session we’re going to touch on the feelings that the story about the veteran brought out and how they relate to my own past, and hopefully start getting to the meat of the matter: the climate that arose in my life after my darkest moments were over.

I know that I’m being vague, and I apologize for that, but some things I may never be 100% ready to discuss in a public forum. Just know that today I took a huge step towards processing the mess my past has gotten me into.

Life Snippets

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We’re going to have a guest in town from Houston tonight – she’s got professional development activities locally tomorrow – and so the second evening of my wife’s new work schedule will involve a great deal of socialization. This is a good thing – this is a dear friend of ours from way back – and I’m looking forward to it.

Nothing really earth shattering in the book today. Lots of laying groundwork for the rest of the book – it’s still the introduction, and I’m not reading for speed, I’m reading to comprehend concepts, which takes me longer than I’d read strictly for entertainment – but still good information.

The last couple of days have been pretty good. No real lows to speak of, no highs either, just …  a couple of days. Nothing to write home about, but that also means that they haven’t been much to write about either.

Tonight we’re having one-pot lo mein. It’s a fairly simple recipe – everything goes in the pot, the pot gets stirred frequently through the process, it simmers down into a sauce, and you serve. It’s a tasty recipe and it’s one we enjoy doing. There will be socialization tonight, along with following basketball and softball scores (championship series for one, championship game for the other) online.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting with our guest in the morning and since it’s show day, most of my afternoon is dedicated to programming and most of the evening is dedicated to broadcasting. I don’t get much done on show days, but I can still keep track of my checklists and get everything done. There’s also hockey to keep an eye on Thursday night, so I’ll be a little distracted. (I don’t watch sports that often – we don’t have cable – but I track scores and progress online. Besides, I couldn’t watch the game during my radio show.)

Friday I think I’m going to start work on my notes from my last therapy session and get some work done on that front.

Saturday is show day, and programming that show takes longer than my Thursday show does, so we’ll be at it for the better part of the day.

Sunday is do-nothing day, and I’m glad for it.

So that’s enough rambling, I suppose. Our guest is here and it’s time to go prep dinner anyway.

The Long and Winding Road

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I went to see my therapist today.

We talked at length about my feelings of shame, and she gave me a little homework – think of a time (several, if possible) that I made a mistake, dropped the ball or otherwise just flat screwed something up and DIDN’T feel shame. We also identified some possible triggers for my shame and some ways of countering it when it first arises.

We also talked briefly about the sudden downward spiral of Saturday night and made a little progress in resolving that situation. As before when it first arose, I’m keeping the details of that conversation to myself.

The bottom line is that we’re starting to make progress on getting me back in the workplace, which has been the end goal this whole time.

Sorry today isn’t really longer, but today’s therapy session was largely for me and me alone. But I promised an update, and now you have one.

The Root of the Problem

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This morning I had an altercation with my wife.

I wouldn’t call it a fight – nobody called anyone names and nobody yelled. There was just an instance of me being called on something I had been doing for some time, and my reaction to it.

It all started when I reached for my checklist this morning and remembered that I missed one very simple thing yesterday that would have given me a perfect day and got upset about it. Internally, I was kicking myself for missing such an easy task and my wife tried to console me about it.

That’s when I pointed out that I exercised yesterday, something I rarely do anymore because I’ve been waiting for her to come home from work in the evenings so she can join me and invariably we both get distracted and don’t exercise. In my own self-directed anger, I came across that I blamed her for my not exercising.

Naturally, she got defensive. She raised her voice, but never yelled. She pointed out that yet again she was being blamed for something I failed to do, and that it wasn’t fair of me to make this a habit – which is true.

But the second she raised her voice I went into full panic mode.

I shut completely down and basically let everything go in one ear and out the other because I couldn’t stand the fact that I’d upset her to the point that she was being critical of me. In my head I was listening to every other time anyone had ever criticized me and the red-hot embarrassment that I felt in being called out on my actions. I was deeply ashamed at myself and I was losing myself to my shame.

And the longer this went on the more I obsessed over it.

It finally took the distraction of the outdoor kitty wanting attention for me to start getting back to normal and watching a new movie trailer to fully snap me out of it.

But I still reflected back on all the embarrassments of my life for a long while after that, and the shame that I felt during every single incident.

And I realized that every single time something like this happens, I’m replaying dozens of instances where I felt shame.

Now, I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it. On the contrary, I’m glad she called me on what was errant behavior on my part. It’s something that I’ll need to work on in the future. But I couldn’t separate this instance from every other one that I’d experienced where I’d felt the same thing, and every single one of those past occurrences came back just as fresh as if I were experiencing it for the very first time.

I don’t know why I do this. I wish I understood so I could work on it. But this happens any time someone is critical of me. Call me thin-skinned, I admit that I am, and that I need to suck it up and learn to deal with criticism. But I cannot for the life of me stop this tidal wave of the past crashing down on me every time I’m criticized for anything, and I have no idea how to do so.

Now imagine me at work, receiving criticism from my supervisor.

It’s always been everything I could do to hide the fact that I was rapidly going almost catatonic in an attempt to hide from the shame and those kinds of rebukes, the ones from work, always resulted in weeks of me being terrified that I was about to lose my job. Which invariably cause me to make more mistakes, which brought more criticism and shame and terror that I’d lose my job, until I oftentimes did.

This is likely one of the biggest issues that I need to work on in therapy but I’m so often distracted with the day to day goings on that I’m failing to address the big stuff.

I need to cut the crap and get serious about getting well. I only have a year left on my disability before they reevaluate it, and I need to be ready to go back to work at that point, because we cannot afford for me to lose the disability payments without replacing them with employment income.

The clock is ticking.

 

 

NaBloPoMo Day 19: The Pursuit of Imperfection

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I had an appointment with my therapist today.

During the session, I mentioned my blog post NaBloPoMo Day 12: Learning to Forgive and how I had written the letter to my ten-year old self. I explained the backstory of the letter and then read it to her. This led to a brief aside where I discussed how my interest in sports had improved, and I cited a Sports Illustrated article that presented odd statistics that were coming out of the new NBA season. During that aside, I mentioned Stephen Curry’s average of sinking a three-pointer every 6.8 minutes, which is far more frequent than anyone else in the league. When I presented this to my therapist, she corrected my pronunciation of “Stephen” (stuh-FAHN, not STEE-vin). This may seem trivial, but it ties back into the story later.

We talked about how I felt during the incident, and I told her that I was mortified that someone pointed out the mistake I had just made, and it came to light that I’m just generally mortified by embarrassment. Another example, vague though it is: when I was 15, I was doing something that’s a basic function of everyday life and those within earshot made a joke about it, and as a result that profoundly changed how I execute that function to this day. (I’m still too embarrassed to discuss it in detail more than 30 years later.)

That’s when the subject of perfection came up again.

I’ve talked about my struggles with striving for perfection. They are a lot better than they used to be – once, when I was in school, I crumpled up a test and took the zero rather than mar the paper’s pristine surface with an eraser because I had written something incorrectly – but I still work hard to remember that perfection is not logically attainable.

Take, for instance, pizza. What do you consider the perfect pizza? Mine’s hamburger, mushrooms, and bacon on a hand-tossed crust, with light sauce. I’d be willing to bet yours is different. Yet that’s your version of perfect. Since mine is different than yours, it’s fair to say that perfection is a subjective term in most instances.

I’ve also talked about how I tend to look for perfection in the process rather than the end result. I brought this up in therapy today, and was corrected in my conclusion that a perfect process brings about a perfect result, and so my logic about the result following the process was imperfect. This wasn’t very easy for me to hear, but I knew that it was correct once it was pointed out to me.

She then asked how I felt about being corrected about the pronunciation of Stephen Curry’s name. I told her that I honestly was glad she did, as I think it’s important to be able to pronounce people’s names correctly, especially when talking directly to them. I also mentioned that since it was just the three of us in the room (myself, my therapist, and my wife, who sits in from time to time) I wasn’t embarrassed, but the more people that were around (and, thinking back to it, the FURTHER away from the center they were) would drastically change how I react to an embarrassing situation.

At the end of the session, she gave me my homework: think of a time when things did not go as expected but turned out better than I hoped for. I can think of a very, very big one. When my wife and I started dating, I expected that it would last for about four months before one of us got frustrated with the other and decided it was time to move on. (That had seemed to be my M.O. for a couple years beforehand.) We’ve been together for over fifteen and a half years and married now for over thirteen. That was decidedly something that turned out better than I expected. But it’s also an obvious and unique one. I would like to try and think of some other, less life-changing instances that fit the bill.

I’m not sure what I think about me getting that diagram backward, with me putting more weight on what the outer circles think of me than I do the inner. Maybe it’s because I know the closer to the middle I get, the more secure that they aren’t going anywhere, and so I don’t feel so compelled to make sure they like me. That’s a big, big thing for me – finding out someone didn’t like me once put a dent in my progress for over a year – and it’s something that will likely be discussed in the next session.

NaBloPoMo Day 8: Sunday Wrapup

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I don’t really have an agenda for writing today. No well-thought out cohesive commentary on the things that are going on in my world. So today, you’re going to be treated to what a typical day for me is like, at least in my head. Here are my thoughts on this beautiful, comfortable Sunday.

  • I love this time of year. The temperatures are finally dipping to the levels that we don’t have to have the AC on all the time (in fact, it hasn’t even been turned on since early this morning, and it barely ran overnight). The windows are open, and it’s a gorgeous day. Both of us are pretty low on energy today, since we’ve been through the ringer trying to adult (more on that word later in this post) over the past few days, so rather than get ourselves out of the house to go enjoy it somewhere we’ve just been sitting on the couch goofing off on the computer while we watched the day go by from the second floor. Rather than having a railing for our balcony, we have a half-wall instead, meaning that there’s nothing we can see out of our living room window except for the second floor and above of the apartment building across the way. It’s days like today that make me wish I were a little better prepared to handle life out where there are people. I miss being outdoors, and I miss being healthy enough to go take advantage of it some place besides lapping our apartment complex.
  • As I said in a recent post, I am a Panthers fan. Today’s game nearly gave me yet another heart attack. We won, but the Packers were DANGEROUSLY close to being able to tie the game late. Little more cushion next week, please guys. My blood pressure thanks you.
  • The financial situation that I wrote about yesterday was resolved yesterday. They reversed the charge so fast it was back in our bank the day we called. Finally, our provider does the right thing.
  • I really need to start talking to my therapist about how to process the events in my past that have exacerbated my mental illnesses, and start learning how to work through them in any situation, even work. It is not a delightful thing to be stuck at home all day with extremely little to do. I miss working. I miss being able to work, to contribute to society. I want to make getting back to that point a higher priority, which means we’re going to be minimizing what’s going on now from week to week and concentrating on what happened back then to lead up to this point.

And finally, five good things that happened this week:

  1. We’re tending toward the use of “adult” as a verb in today’s lexicon. “I adulted so hard,” someone might say. “I don’t want to adult today,” another might complain. Over the past few days, I’ve adulted very hard. It’s been a challenge trying to manage our budget for this month due to unexpected expenses, but so far we seem to be managing decently. Financial planning always takes a lot out of me, since it’s somewhat depressing seeing the blueprint of how all of our money drains away right in front of me, but I persevere through it. To many people, this is assumed to be just a thing to do, no big deal. To someone with mental illnesses, tackling this kind of preparatory exercise can be easily overwhelming, and I needed today to just be, no real agenda or anything.
  2. The Panthers won again. Yes, I’m putting that as a good thing. This is the best start they’ve ever had and I’m excited to see just how good they’ll be in the second half of the season.
  3. I got to follow through on a yearly tradition in the house, that being the watching of V for Vendetta on November 5th. (Okay. So. We started it at five minutes to midnight on the 5th and the vast majority of the movie actually ran on the 6th, but at least some of it happened the day of, right?)
  4. I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to food. One egg and three strips of bacon in the morning. Two ham and turkey wraps for lunch. A smattering of variety at dinnertime. Recently we tried a new ham and turkey for our wraps. Neither of us were very impressed, myself to the point that I could barely choke down even one of the things. We finally made the decision to switch back to the ham and turkey we know we like and that made all the difference in the world. I’m back to wolfing them down like crazy.
  5. I managed to get through the week without any meltdowns into irrationality. There was some self-doubt scattered throughout the week, but nothing was bad enough to get to the point that I couldn’t listen to reason when it was told to me.

Funny, I Was Supposed To Be Resting

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I haven’t felt well all day. Between my sinuses being aggravated by all the new fall allergens in the air, my head pounding because of my sinuses, and my shoulder hurting just because the day ends in Y, I’ve been a mess. I slept in until 11:00 am and was promptly informed that I’m going to take it easy today. So this is my definition of “taking it easy.”

  • I went to see my therapist, and got the important stuff discussed in 30 minutes so I could go home and go back to bed, since I couldn’t stay awake in her office.
  • I canceled my weekly radio show, then managed to participate in the replacement show broadcast by my wife. She did most of the work, but the idea was for me to rest. (My wife was home today due to the same allergy problems as well as generalized body pain.)
  • I’ve managed to do everything I would normally be doing during a regular day checklist-wise up to this point in the day, and honestly don’t see any reason to not complete the rest of my tasks.

So yeah, I completely fail at “taking it easy.” In fact, I made things worse, as my walk today tweaked my back and I came straight home and applied Tylenol. (Ow.) Maybe tomorrow I’ll take it easy, if I still feel under the weather.

NB: A factoid that will interest only me – today I have been married for 4,719 days, or roughly 27.85% of my life.

Sleepwalking Through Psychotherapy

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I saw my therapist today.

I was drowsy for the whole session – in fact, I came home and took a nap for about an hour – so I don’t remember a lot of details.

I remember that we talked how I tend to let others, especially my wife, have their way about anything that also involves me, so I am to work on becoming more assertive in establishing boundaries with others regarding my needs. We talked about possible exemplar situations that I could try this skill in the future.

We also talked about trying to find ways of not feeling attacked when my wife is trying to get clarification from me in certain situations. If I’m the least bit irrational I think everything is a criticism, even if it’s an innocent question to gather more information.

My therapist wanted to know one thing that went well since the previous session, and I told her that I’m making steps toward getting my SCA office into high gear, including reaching out to others whom I’d like on my team. I also told her about reporting my lack of progress to the person that oversees me, and how that went

My homework this week is to list ten things that I’m grateful for, and to make a list of rewards for when I accomplish certain things. (I’m complete pants at working on a reward-based system and so I’m trying to teach myself how to function this way.)