Overgeneralizing an unsafe world

computer-generated ellipse fractal

I’ve written before about cognitive distortions, and in this post I’m going to focus on overgeneralization.

When something bad happens, the message I take from that is the world is an unsafe place.  This feeling of being unsafe spreads from whatever is related to the problematic event to the world in general.  People hurt me, and therefore I shouldn’t have people in my life.  I push away everyone indiscriminately, because I feel like I can trust no one.

Recently, something negative happened to do with one of my jobs.  I turned to one of my favourite maladaptive coping techniques, avoidance, to pretend that this just wasn’t happening.  Despite my attempts to pretend, I felt unsafe.  So when a friend tried to get in touch with me, I stayed in my figurative cave and didn’t respond.  I felt unsafe talking to anyone.  This friend kept trying for a while, although in my warped little mind they weren’t trying hard enough, and then appeared to give up.  It was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy; I felt unsafe and found a way to prove to myself that this person was unsafe.

I don’t like that I do this.  It’s maladaptive, but I seem to be unable to recognize that until after I’ve kind of made a bit of a mess of things.  The problem is, I’ve accumulated so much evidence over the last few years that the world and the people in it are unsafe.  I truly don’t believe this is a cognitive distortion, and I could come up with a pretty long list of specific examples.  So with all this evidence the question becomes how to convince myself that the same pattern is not necessarily going to repeat itself in the future.  It just seems so naïve to expect that the future is just magically going to be different from the past.

I don’t have any insightful conclusion to this post.  It seems weird to think that not all that long ago I had a very optimistic outlook and I thought the world was generally a good place.  Maybe I’ll get back to that someday, but right now I’m just not sure how to even begin to transition back to that.

 

Image credit: DavidZydd on Pixabay

My own little piece of paradise

wildflowers shown against blue sky

I have a page in my bullet journal devoted to what my own little piece of heaven would look like.  Here’s what it would include:

  • sunny and warm with a gentle breeze
  • an ocean beach with waves crashing against the shore
  • a grassy meadow teeming with guinea pigs and other cute critters, as well as four-leaf clovers and wildflowers
  • yummy food that was magically good for both body and soul (i.e. cheeseburger is the new salad)
  • only kind people, and not a lot of them
  • no pressure or obligations
  • simplicity
  • no trauma reminders
  • people I love
  • no future to worry about, only the present
  • good mental health

What would there be in your own piece of paradise?

 

Image credit: Soorelis on Pixabay

20(ish) Questions

pile of question marks

I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from blog awards, but when I’m nominated for awards I’ll answer the questions posed to me in this 20(ish) questions format, along with assorted other question tags and the like.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own answers to any or all of the questions 🙂

 

Questions from Rory at A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip:

  • If I could spin round on my chair fast enough how long will I need to spin round to move forward in time to next Friday?  Well, I was just watching a documentary about Einstein on Netflix, so I could share my newfound wealth of knowledge about the nature of space-time, but that wealth of knowledge that I could pretend to have is smaller than a pinkie toe, which brings us to the next question…
  • Why do we only have five toes?  Ok seriously, toes are ugly enough as it is without adding extra ones to join in the ugly party.
  • At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?  Preferably both.  But I like to get an aisle seat to ensure that I have at least one.  Arm-related manspreading is just as prevalent and obnoxious as leg-related manspreading.
  • What is the purpose to the mosquito, the cockroach, the snail and the slug?  To give people the heebie-jeebies.  Except for snails.  They fascinate me.  I think if my house always lived on my back it would permanently be bedtime, and there’s something very appealing to that.
  • What’s the difference between a drum, an egg and sex?  Having recently watched Fifty Shades Freed I could pretend to give you a kinky explanation of how well they all go together, but since I don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll keep it vanilla and move on to the next question.
  • Why oh why is it so difficult to find the right fitted bra? [Asking for a friend]  First off, I don’t believe you Rory.  Secondly, breasts are like fingerprints, all unique. Anyone who manages to address this issue is deserving of a Nobel prize.  The easiest fit to find is a compression sports bra that keeps those babies sucked and tucked even if you’re falling out of your seat trying to escape the manspreading ape from question 3.
  • If you had only one match and entered a dark room containing an oil lamp, some kindling wood, and a newspaper, which would you light first?  I feel like I need more information, including what else is in the room, who else is in the room (and their level of attractiveness), and why on earth I entered the room in the first place.
  • Dragons, did they exist or not? [Interpret how you will]  I wonder if my vagina might have been a fire-breathing dragon in a previous life [Interpret how you will].
  • If you only had one year left to live, what would you do with those 12 months? Go to France and eat so much buttery and cheesy goodness that I would have a heart attack before the 12 months are up.
  • Okay, your best friend has really bad body odour and bad breath at the same time do you tell them and risk offending/upsetting them or not?  My question here is how did you become best friends with this person in the first place?  If someone can’t be bothered with industrial strength deodorant as needed, how can you rely upon them to perform their friend-ly duties?
  • Ok, you are given the chance to flip the card to win 1000 [your currency] or keep the 500 [your currency] that you already have. Do you take the risk and flip the card?  The thought of losing money for a random card flip is just as icky as the above-mentioned cockroach.  Needless to say I’m the person who, on the once in a blue moon occasion I’m at a casino, is playing the 1¢ slot machines and cringing with every dollar I lose.

 

Questions from The Barefoot Aya from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip‘s Friday Funday: I’m not following the rules, but hey, you gotta be a rebel sometimes.

  • If you were a vegetable, which would you be, but more importantly why?  I’m actually going to rebel and be a fruit instead, specifically a durian.  They stink to high heaven and there’s something awfully appealing about repulsing everyone who comes near me.
  • Milk, water or juice?  I drink copious amounts of water every day and feel like I would shrivel up like a raisin without it.  I probably wouldn’t taste as good, though.
  • Ok, for some bizarre reason, you have awoken to a fresh day, go to the fridge, open it and there is a giraffe inside stuck, how are you going to get it out? [Asking for a friend]  I would crawl on in and snuggle up with the giraffe, cause somewhere behind one of those body parts has got to be a magic portal to the Serengeti.
  • Oh grief, emails are the bane of our lives right? We have an email for everything, you open up your inbox and you find that you have a staggering 2000 sitting in there that require answering, BUT you can only answer 200 – how do you choose the ones to answer?  That would never happen, because I’ve got my system.  I could tell you what the system is, but then I’d probably have to kill you.  Then of course there’s the fact that I don’t like people so there are a limited number of people that actually email me.
  • You have a party of 28 people turning up on your doorstep and the caterers have let you down, you have 2 hours to make some kind of meal and you only have a potatoes,  bananas, breadrolls and taco sauce – what you are going to make?  What I’m going to do is lock the door and turn off the lights because I would rather spend the evening with the giraffe in the fridge than have 28 people show up at my home.
  • If you could eliminate one invention from the history of the world and it could never be reinvented, what would it be?  Guns.
  • You were given the opportunity to fly anywhere in the entire world with the ability to fly back from that exact same spot. You can’t fly to or from any other place and you can only do it once. Where would you go and why?  I think I’d fly to the south of France and just never come back.
  • How can you drop an egg from a height without it breaking ?  If you eat it and it’s in your stomach.  You have to worry about other thinks breaking, but that’s beside the point.
  • If tattoos were easily and cheaply removable whenever you wanted, how many would you get, what would you get, and where?  I’ve been thinking about getting a Celtic oak tree design on my leg.  I’ve got 3 tattoos already.
  • Oh my goodness what a conundrum! You have found yourself in a position where upon you are driving late at night and the heavens have opened – you spot three people in the rain and want to help, but only have space for one passenger …

    • An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
    • An old friend who once saved your life.
    • The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.
    • … Who do you help?  Well, I’d leave the old lady because if she dies anyway I don’t want to be stuck dealing with the body.  The dream perfect partner is most likely gay/psychopathic/smells like a durian, so I’ll go with option B.
  • What is the length of one piece of cooked spaghetti??  That depends how far Lady and the Tramp have gotten in their spaghetti a deux.
  • Where are your keys to your house right now?  They always live in my purse.  Very few of my clothes have pockets, so the purse always comes with me.  I feel like there must be some sort of conspiracy going on between the female pocketless clothes people and the handbag people.
  • Bob’s father has 4 children. John, Adam, and Peter are three of them. Who’s the fourth??  Nancy Drew.  Obviously.

 

Come on, you know you want to answer a few – that’s what the comments section is for!

 

Image credit: qimono on Pixabay

Weekend wrap-up

wrapping paper, ribbon, and twine

Here’s what happened in my life over the past week:

  • Self care this week included a yoga class and a massage.
  • I was struggling again this week, and there was more boozy non-coping than there should have been.  However, by the end of the week  I’ve been able to get in touch with wise mind a bit more.
  • I worked 3 night shifts at one job and just had one client to see for my other job.  One of my jobs I only work nights because I can’t tolerate the BS during the day, and every so often I get subtle yet clear indicators from management that they don’t think I’m very competent.  I think the same about them, so their opinion really isn’t that important to me, but it would be nice if they could restrict it to inside-the-head voice.  I cringed at an email the program director sent to the team yesterday; she wrote “too much compassion is paternalistic”.  Wow, I wonder what the Dalai Lama would think of that load of crap.
  • The client who had OD’d on fentanyl on my shift several weeks ago managed to do a fatal OD this week.  The only emotion that stirred up in me was envy.  I suppose that’s a bad thing, but it is what it is.
  • The weather has been yucky hot this week and it’s made me feel sluggish and gross.
  • I’m reminded how hard interpersonal relationships are.  But I took Brene Brown‘s advice and dared to be vulnerable, and ended up having a really good conversation with a friend about some things that have been bugging me lately.
  • I called my Grandma to let her know I’ll be coming for a visit in a couple of weeks.  She’s struggling with her health, and I’m so annoyed that my mom isn’t doing anything to support her.

 

How has your week been?

 

Image credit: Rawpixel on Pixabay

Judging P4J – Journal goodies!

I was recently a judge in Revenge of Eve‘s P4J (Photos 4 Journals) contest.  Candace, being the lovely lady that she is, rewarded not only the contest winner (Beckie from Beckie’s Mental Mess) but also the judges.  Barb from Bipolar Barb showed off her goodies here, and today I got mine!

The gold foil paradise journal showed up blue in the photo but it’s more of teal colour, and it’s got a cool P4J ROE stamp on the first page.  The Daily Mindfulness guided journal from Punch Studios includes prompts related to self-care, affirmations, and remaining present.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Candace creates with her handcrafted stationery passion project, Not Your Average Chick.

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for the last six months or so.  I’ve been pretty consistent with it, and have managed to write in it pretty much every day, even if it’s just a daily gratitude entry.  I’m finding it very therapeutic, plus it helps me to see patterns that I probably wouldn’t notice otherwise because my memory isn’t that great.  I’ve actually got 2 journals on the go right now, and because I’ve added page headings and trackers as I’ve come up with ideas, it’s pretty disorganized.  I’ve got lots of ideas now, though, to set up my next journal more efficiently.

Do you journal, and if so, how do you approach it?

What is… shame and guilt

psychology word graphic in the shape of a brain

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: shame and guilt

According to Wikipedia, guilt is a social emotion that stems from the belief that one is responsible for having violated standards of conduct or morality.  It tends to be strongly correlated with empathic responsiveness.  Guilt may be a part of various mental illnesses, including anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and mood disorders.  “Guilt of delusional proportions” refers to guilt with associated beliefs so firmly held they have reached the level of psychosis.  From a Freudian perspective, there are several defense mechanisms that may be used to avoid experiencing guilt.  These include repression, projection onto others, sharing the guilt, and engaging in self-harm.

Wikipedia describes shame as being another type of social emotion.  It stems from negatively comparing oneself to certain social standards, and doesn’t have the same moral connotations that guilt does.  Also, it is negatively correlated with empathic responsiveness.  I found this line in the Wikipedia entry very interesting: “no action by the shamed being is required: simply existing is enough”.  The self is seen as bad and inadequate based on the expected perception of others, and contempt is a key element.

Several types of shame have been identified, including genuine shame associated with genuine social disgrace, secret shame, toxic shame that is induced by child abuse, and vicarious shame experienced on behalf of another person.  Narcissism may be one type of defense system against shame.

There are various psychometric tests that measure guilt and shame, including the Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale.  But it seems to me that in essence it comes down to guilt as the feeling that comes with the thought that we’ve done an action that is wrong, and shame as the feeling associated with the belief that we ourselves are just plain wrong.  I also get the sense that shame is often deeply rooted in trauma and other childhood childhood experiences.

I don’t tend to experience a lot of shame, and I think much of that comes down to the fact that I had the sort of stereotypical normal, happy childhood.  What I have experienced is guilt.  I mentioned guilt of delusional proportions earlier in part because that’s something I apparently had during my first depressive episode, although I have little memory of that time.  When I’m highly depressed, I tend to believe that the depression is my fault, and that any events/situations that contributed to the depressive episode were very much my fault.  What did trigger a lot of shame for me was the workplace bullying experience, particularly before I came to understand that what I had experienced was in fact bullying.

In general I tend to be a fan of the acceptance and commitment therapy idea that emotions aren’t inherently good or bad, and it’s the resistance to perceived negative emotions that often gets us in trouble.  I do think, though, that we need to apply a sort of cognitive behavioural therapy-style evidence barometer test to the guilt and shame we experience.  Since they’re social emotions, they both involve how we relate to the social world, and that’s something that’s heavily influenced by our cognitions.

Are guilt and/or shame emotions that you struggle with?

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilt_(emotion)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_emotions

 

Image credit: GDJ on Pixabay

When events overwhelm coping skills

wooden toolbox sitting on grass beside a stuffed bear

We’ve all got our toolbox of coping skills to draw on when things start to get difficult.  It’s usually not quite as simple as that, though.  My toolbox has multiple different compartments, and multiple different keys.  When I’m well, I’ve got the master key and I have access to all the different compartments with all the different skills.

Things change when I get depressed.  Perhaps the guinea pigs have stolen the master key, or perhaps I swallowed it in my self-defeating misery, but wherever it is, I can’t find it.  That means there’s a bunch of higher level compartments that I just can’t access.  And there are damn good locks on those puppies, plus I have zero locksmithing skills.

Still, there’s a few different compartments with a few different tools that I can still use.  Then something stressful happens, and boom, the keys to a few of those compartments have disappeared.  I fumble along trying to pull myself together, and maybe I find one or two of those lost keys.  Then life comes along with another kick in the ass, and I might end up reduced to my 7-Eleven strategies that are available 24/7/365, namely avoidance, and alcohol to lubricate that avoidance.  Then maybe I’ve decided to venture out into reality again, and some other shit comes along, sending me straight into fuck-it mode, where I’m ready to throw the whole fucking toolbox off a roof, and perhaps myself along with it.  But just as I’m getting ready to head up to the roof, one of the guinea pigs coughs and out pops a key.  Then once I’ve got one toolbox compartment open, I realize that hidden in there was a key to another compartment.  And slowly I’m able to gain access again to more and more of my toolbox.

I’ve probably overdone the metaphor,  but I suppose I’m trying to remind myself that even though it feels like I can’t cope most of the time, the tools are still there and hopefully I’ll be able to use them again.

Do you ever struggle with being to access the coping skills that you’ve developed?

 

Image credit: blue budgie on Pixabay

I dream of ketamine

arm with intravenous tubing

I love Canada, but sometimes we’re a little behind.  Drugs are slower to get approved by Health Canada compared to the US, and we have fewer clinical trials going on here.  I would be really interested in trying out ketamine, but it doesn’t have Health Canada approval for use in depression, there are no clinical trials in my neck of the woods accepting new patients, and going to a private clinic in the US would be extremely expensive.  So for now, all I can do is dream of ketamine.  But in the meantime, what is ketamine and how does it work?

Ketamine has been in use for some time as an anaesthetic drug, and it has been abused as the club drug Special K.  In the last several years multiple research trials have shown that it has a rapid onset antidepressant effect (within about 24 hours).  It increases rates of remission in major disorder, but the effect is not as pronounced for bipolar depression.  It appears to have a protective effect against suicide, and unlike many antidepressants it doesn’t appear to trigger mania.

Mechanism of action

It has a different mechanism of action than other antidepressant medications.  It acts on NMDA and AMPA receptors, affecting the balance between the calming neurotransmitter GABA and the excitatory/stress neurotransmitter glutamate.  It also boosts production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which in turn promotes the formation of new synaptic connections in the brain.  It has been suggested that people with depression may have abnormalities related to their NMDA receptors and experience what’s referred to “excitotoxicity” from glutamate overactivity.

Dosing

Ketamine is typically given at a dose of 0.4-0.5 mg per kg of body weight, which is a lower dose than would be used for anaesthesia, with 1-2 doses per week.  The effect from each dose typically lasts 3-7 days, but can last up to 15 days.  It can be given as an intravenous infusion, or the esketamine version of the drug is available as a nasal spray.

Side effects

Apparently side effects are generally mild and wear off within 2 hours.  While harmful effects to the bladder can occur at high doses, this hasn’t been demonstrated at the doses used for depression treatment.  It can have dissociative effects while the drug is being infused and in that 2 hours window after the dose, which could potentially limit the tolerability for some people.  It can trigger spikes in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, abnormal sensations, and perceptual disturbances.  Patients remain in the clinic for a period of time following the dose so that they can be monitored.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any experience with ketamine?

 

Image credit: biker_becca on Pixabay

What, you can’t read my mind?!?

two minds connecting

I’ve talked before about my tendency to experience mind-reading as a cognitive distortion, i.e. thinking that I know what others are thinking.  I also do the reverse; I expect those close to me to know when something’s wrong.  The problem is, they’re no better at mind-reading than I am.

I feel like I’m not very subtle.  When things aren’t good, I think I leave some fairly obvious clues.  But am I a reliable source?  Or am I falling more on the clueless doofus end of the spectrum?  Inspector Gadget is what’s jumping to mind, although I suppose he was the one trying to sort out the clues rather than leaving them, and perhaps this whole paragraph is a complete load of crap.

Someone in my life knew that recently I was expecting a negative result to come out of something.  That negative outcome did happen, but this person didn’t ask any follow-up questions.  Being avoidant as I often tend to be, I wasn’t volunteering any information.  But I left signs that things weren’t good.  And either my clues sucked, or this person’s perception was crap, or perhaps both, but the message didn’t get through.  That starts me thinking that this person expects me to support them, but isn’t willing to support me, and so on, and so forth down the rabbit hole.

I get that it’s unrealistic for people to magically know what’s bothering us.  But is it unreasonable to expect them to be sufficiently in tune to figure out that something’s up?  I don’t know where I stand on this, because part of me says yes and part of me (perhaps the more reasonable part) says no.  I’m very selective about who I choose to let in, so it kind of feels like they should get me, but past experience would tell me that’s just not the case.  Which leaves me in a position where I should expect to have to actually say what’s on mind, and that makes me run far in the other direction.

Moral of the story, I guess, is that when my mind is sufficiently messed up that even I can’t tell what’s going on in there, I shouldn’t expect anyone else to figure it out either.

 

Image credit: geralt on Pixabay

20(ish) Questions

pile of question marks

I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from blog awards, but when I’m nominated for awards I’ll answer the questions posed to me in this 20(ish) questions format, along with assorted other question tags and the like.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own answers to any or all of the questions 🙂

 

Questions from Michele at The Hippy Chick

  1. Would you consider your family functional or dysfunctional?  My family is for the most part pretty functional.  For the last couple years I haven’t functioned well as part of that family, but that’s more how the illness has affected me rather than things that they’ve done wrong.
  2. What are your core values?  Open-mindedness, curiosity, kindness, and empathy.
  3. Would you consider yourself addicted to anything?  No, luckily my brain doesn’t seem to be susceptible that way.  I’ve never even had mild withdrawal coming off meds or going without caffeine.
  4. Most embarrassing moment? Probably ding the walk of shame in Turkey.  Yes, Turkey the country.
  5. Do pigs, indeed, fly?  The closest I’ve seen is one of my guinea pigs who likes being bounced up in the air.  If I could rig up some sort of strap-on wing system the bouncy guinea pig might like it but the rest are very happily earth-bound.

 

Questions from Tropical Storm Alaska:

  • What cartoon character would you like to have as a best friend?  She-Ra princess of power!
  • What is your preferred journal style? (ex: bullet, planner, lists, etc.)  Bullet journal because it includes a little bit of everything.  I’m not sure if what I’ve got going even really qualifies as a bullet journal, but thinking outside the box, right?
  • What does your dream home look like? Where is it located?  I think where I live right now is pretty dreamy.  I’m on the west coast of Canada, which is great, and I’ve been living in my condo for 13 years so it’s very comfortable and familiar.
  • Where is your “safe place”?  My dreamy home, specifically in my bedroom.
  • What is your favorite way to express yourself?  Writing!
  • What was your favorite thing to do as a child?  Play with My Little Ponies.
  • Did you have an imaginary friend?  I suppose the My Little Ponies would probably count.  I had a whole little Pony world cooked up in my head.  In fact, maybe what I need now as a substitute for human interaction is to revive Pony world.  Hmm….

 

Questions from Pretty Words for Ugly Thoughts:

  1. What is your spirit animal?  I think I would say the dolphin.  They’re intelligent and they have so much freedom.  My first tattoo was of a dolphin.  And as a dolphin you can pee in the water because that’s just expected of you, which is pretty darn cool.
  2. If you had to choose, would keep your vision and go deaf, or keep your hearing and go blind?  I don’t really like people all that much so I could live with not hearing them.  Vision is something I’d like to hang on to, especially since it makes it easier to get around independently.
  3. What’s your favorite book and why?  Probably Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I’ve read it a million times (ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and it’s still just as good each time.  Elizabeth Bennet is so feisty, and I like that in a main character.
  4. What’s your favorite flower and why?  I’m kind of partial to African violets.  Someone gave my parents an African violet when i was born and it’s still living 39 years later, which I think is pretty cool.
  5. What’s the most interesting/creative dream you’ve ever had?  I seldom remember my dreams for very long, so I’m not sure.  But hopefully it involved Brad Pitt from the Legends of the Fall days.

 

Come on, you know you want to answer a few – that’s what the comments section is for!

 

Image credit: qimono on Pixabay

Weekend wrap-up

wrapping paper, ribbon, and twine

This week has been a bit of a write-off for me.  I’ve tried to keep my consciousness limited to the outskirts of my brain, if that makes any sense, and I suppose my crappy concentration is likely related to that.  I’ve got a few books that I want to read that I haven’t even gotten started on, and I haven’t made any progress on some other stuff I wanted to do.  Normally this weekly post comes pretty much straight out of my weekly summaries in my bullet journal, but my journal has been pretty neglected this week.

On a positive note, I had a massage, and went to yoga for the first time in a couple weeks.

How has your week been?

 

Image credit: Rawpixel on Pixabay

What is… neuroticism

psychology word graphic in the shape of a brain

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: neuroticism

According to Wikipedia, neuroticism is “the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression” and is associated with “low tolerance for stress or aversive stimuli”.  It is similar to but not the same as the Freudian concept of neurosis.  It is one of the “big five” higher order personality traits (along with openness, agreeableness, extraversion, and conscientiousness).  Such traits are influenced by both heredity and environmental factors.  They tend to be relatively stable across the lifetime, although neuroticism tends to decrease as adults age.

People with high levels of neuroticism are more prone to moodiness, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness.  They tend to be self-conscious, perceive situations as threatening, feel hopeless when faced with minor frustrations. and difficulty with impulse control and delayed gratification.  Neuroticism also associated with increased risk of common mental disorders such as mood, anxiety, and eating disorders.

There are a number of tests that measure neuroticism.  Many of these are self-report questionnaires, and the tests may involve self-descriptive sentences or single word adjectives.  The International Personality Item Pool has a free test called IPIP-NEO, available in a short a 120-item version and a full-length 300-item online test.  In the IPIP-NEO, the neuroticism score is broken down into six facets: anxiety, anger, depression, self-consciousness, immoderation, and vulnerability.

I did the IPIP-NEO short version, and noticed there were a lot of questions I would have answered differently if my depression was in full remission.  I often found myself trying to answer somewhere in the middle between how I feel/think now and how I felt/thought when I was well.  What I ended up with was a neuroticism score that was classified as low overall.  When I’m well, I tend to be happy and don’t experience a lot of anxiety, guilt, frustration, and other kinds of distressing emotions.  Yet these “negative” emotions are quite pervasive in my illness landscape.  I guess it’s important to keep in mind that who I am when I’m depressed is not who I am full stop, and symptoms of illness are not personality traits, even though it can feel like they start to define who we are.  Even though they’re not really designed for that purpose, doing tests like the IPIP-NEO can help remind me of that.

What are your thoughts on neuroticism?

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

Image credit: GDJ on Pixabay

Pass the magical thinking hat

magic hat and cartoon rabbit

In psychiatry, magical thinking refers to the idea that there is a causal relationship between one’s thoughts and the outside world; basically that thinking something makes it so.  I tend to combine magical thinking with avoidance to produce a thought pattern of “I won’t think about it and therefore it’s no longer real.”  It’s entirely illogical, and yet it’s a pattern I keep repeating.  Supposedly Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”, and I’m guilty as charged.

In order to create my false world where bad things haven’t happened, it feels like my mind slows down.  I find it hard to concentrate.  I actively avoid even opening my journal.  I watch mindless videos.  I project my negative emotions onto other issues that are less triggering.  And I drink.  I don’t normally have a problematic relationship with alcohol, but when it comes to tuning out of reality, alcohol is a favourite crutch.  Nothing too wildly out of control, but enough to provide a dose of brain-numbing.  And pass the potato chips while we’re at it, because at this point who cares, right – the world is a collapsing circus tent, and nothing is reality!

It sounds unhealthy, which would be because it is, but to put a more positive spin on it I guess what’s I’m trying to do is buy myself a bit of time for the emotional mind to calm down a little bit so wise mind is more within reach.  Not that I’m consciously wallowing in emotion mind; in fact, I’m running as far away from it as I can knowing that it will naturally start to mellow out as time passes beyond a given event.

But for right now, I’m that kid with their fingers stuck in their ears shrieking la la la la la la la!

 

Image credit: kalhh on Pixabay

A letter to my brain

fountain pen and piece of paper

I’ve seen several bloggers do this lately, so I thought I would join in the party.

Dear brain,

Seriously, wtf?  I used to be quite fond of you, but it’s turned into a bit of a love-hate situation. Sometimes you serve me very well, working like a finely tuned orchestra.  Other times I feel like I’ve got a head full of jello.  Is this some kind of sick revenge for who knows what?  Are you mad at me for the funky bugs I’ve picked up along the way in my quest to travel the world?  Or for my partying phase when I was younger? Are you trying for early retirement?

Well listen up, you may think you’re running the show here, but the rest of me is here too and not willing to just sit back and let you be in the pilot’s seat all the time. You’re infected by this depression BS, and we need to get control of this thing.

By the way, if you think of any ways we might be able to do that (what with thinking being your job and all), please let me know.

xo

Ashley

Image credit: Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Book review: Kaleidoscopic Beauty

book cover: Kaleidoscopic Beauty by Karen Horsley

Kaleidoscopic Beauty: A Collection of Poetry on Love, Loss, and the Beauty of the Natural World is Karen Horsley’s first book.  It’s been exciting to watch Karen develop as a poet on her blog.  It was quickly apparent that she was very talented, and I’m so glad she decided to run with it!

There’s great variety in writing style among the poems in this book.  I’m by no means a poetry expert so I lack the terminology to actually explain what I mean, but Karen experiments with different structures, both visually and rhythmically, as well as different rhyme schemes.  There are unexpected descriptions; while we might generally think of snow as bright, in one poem it results in “earth’s rich palette dulled to white”

I liked the range of vocabulary that Karen used, and the beautiful combinations of words that make the whole process appear effortless.  In the poem that inspired the book’s title, Karen writes:

“Washed by rain, the earth shimmers

The sun’s golden rays intensify

Nature’s glorious colours

Of kaleidoscopic beauty”

The nature poems are a reminder to be mindful and appreciative of the beautiful world that surrounds us, and they evoke vivid imagery.  Some of the descriptions of nature were also very significant as descriptions of human life, such as

” The fragility of perfection so easily marred

And tainted by footprints in the snow.”

The poems about the challenges life throws at us are likely to resonate with many readers, as they seem to capture the essence of the human experience.  The poem Forest In My Mind reminded me a lot of some of my own mind’s inner tangles.  There were other poems, such as Life View, that were equally effective at evoking visual images to correspond to experiences we face in our lives.

I particularly liked Karen’s choice of final poem for the book; I Rise gives hope that rising from the ashes is possible.  This book as a whole is a wonderful reminder that from life’s greatest challenges can come great beauty.

 

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You can find Karen on her blog Blue Sky Days 365

All rise… being a P4J judge

I am a P4J judge badge

I got to be a judge in Revenge of Eve’s Photos for Journals (P4J) competition.

 

The winner has been announced for Revenge of Eve’s Photos 4 Journals (P4J) competition!  You can find out who on the Revenge of Eve P4J winner post.

It was pretty darn exciting to be asked to be a judge in the Photos 4 Journals (P4J) competition.  Every week, I got an email from the lovely Candace at Revenge of Eve with your amazing submissions for the week.  Each week I thought damn, how on earth am I going to narrow down my picks?  The judging criteria, i.e. the photo that evoked strong emotion, was very subjective, and how do I even begin to trust my subjective?  I’m glad I didn’t know who had submitted each photo, because who needs complications with an already difficult decision?

Candace has said that we judges will be getting some stationary goodies from her Not Your Average Chick passion project.  How often does a judge get to be a winner at the same time? Super cool!  Photos to come when I get that special something in the mail…

G2K: Get 2 Know

Revenge of Eve G2K - get to Know

It’s Get 2 Know (G2K) time at Revenge of Eve.  Here are my answers to this week’s questions; I’m in the middle of languishing in unhealthy coping strategies, and the answers reflect that.

  1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would you change?  I would live in a yurt, with a pet yak for a cuddle bunny.
  2. Who would benefit from such change?  Mostly me and the yurt, but the sunshine of our love would spread over the whole yurt-ing community.
  3. Are there steps you can take to make this change happen?  1) Buy plane ticket to Kyrgyzstan.  2)  Purchase yurt.  Somehow I’m guessing this isn’t available on a realtor’s website.  3) Adopt a yak.  I’m not sure if I can just track down a wild one and win it over with my fabulous personality; that will require some research.
  4. How does this impact your life? (The thing you want to change)  In every way, I would think.
  5. How would your life be different from what it is today if this change occurred?  No more work.  No more stress.  No more nights all alone.  Just me and the yak, making sweet non-sexual love.

G2K

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Answer the following questions honestly

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365 Days of gratitude

gratitude word graphic with woman holding arms open toward the sky

I have been keep a daily gratitude log in my bullet journal, and so far I’ve only missed one day this year (because I was working nights and confused about what day it was).  I try to come up with something new each day, although I’m not always feeling creative enough for that, and some things I’m so grateful for that a single mention just isn’t enough.  Here are some of the things I’m grateful for that have made it into my journal so far:

  • the sun
  • the blue of the ocean
  • my amazing Grandma
  • lots of guinea pig behaviours: the way they beg for food, the noises they make, their funny sleeping positions, the games they play with each other, and of course their cuddliness
  • going for massages regularly
  • treats from Starbucks
  • my comfy cozy home
  • aromatherapy
  • blogging and the WordPress community
  • that I have a doctor I feel comfortable with
  • nights that I get lots of sleep
  • for the natural beauty I see right outside my window, including the birds nesting on my balcony in the spring
  • my friend who supports me even when I’m upset
  • a somewhat odd assortment of food, including pancakes, chocolate pudding, apple pie, baguette with brie cheese, and Raisin Bran
  • cozy socks and slippers to keep my feet warm
  • occasions when I’ve been able to help others

 

What are some of the things you’re grateful for?

 

Image credit: johnhain on Pixabay

20(ish) Questions

pile of question marks

I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from blog awards, but when I’m nominated for awards I’ll answer the questions posed to me in this 20(ish) questions format, along with assorted other question tags and the like.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own answers to any or all of the questions 🙂

 

Questions from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip‘s quick fire round 7:

  • Are eyebrows considered facial hair or just surplus eye hair?  They’re ear hair that’s gone for a walk.
  • If a kid refuses to sleep during nap time, are they guilty of resisting a rest?  Groan…  They’re a pain in the ass is what they are.
  • She sells sea shells by the sea shore, has anyone asked why yet?  Everyone realizes she’s dumb for thinking people will pay for shit they can just pick up for free.
  • If glassblowers inhale do they get a pane in the stomach?  Groan again…  No, they get a snow globe the have to squeeze out their butt.
  • Why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs.  What kind of rabbits are you looking at?
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?  Genital warts.  They were transmitted from a warthog.  (yup, groan again!)
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?  They don’t actually believe you about the stars, but it’s too much bother to try to prove to you that you’re a doofus.
  • Why do people keep running over a thread a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?  Well at least now I know I’m not the only one!
  • If you met a vampire, would you let it bite you for eternal life or would you shove a stake in its heart?  Depends if it was Jacob or Edward.
  • Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?  If I lived in a hunter-gatherer society I would quickly starve unless I could find someone to bribe with sexual favours.
  • Have you ever tried to contact a spirit with an Ouija Board?  No but I have cheated while playing with a Ouija board.
  • If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?  All Bran because then I’d always be regular.  But it’s gotta be the All Bran Buds – regular All Bran is just yucky.
  • Have you ever seen a ghost, a spaceship, or anything else you couldn’t rationally explain?  I’ve seen people doing stupid things… does that count?
  • Would you rather fight 1 elephant sized duck or a 100 duck sized elephants?  Ducks can be mean buggers if you get them riled up, so I’d go with the elephants.
  • If l gave you a 1000 dollars, pounds or a currency of your choice how would you double it in 24 hours?  I only need 5 minutes – I’ll go to the bank, withdraw $1000, and boom, I’ve got myself $2000.
  • Ok, you have woken up groggy eyed and worse for wear and find a giraffe in your kitchen, what are you going to do?  I would give it a snuggle and ask it to take me on a ride around the neighbourhood to show off.

 

Answers please on the flipside of the flip side of the reverse side of a doubled sided coin …  You can only see that side if you look through a one-way two-way mirror.

 

Questions from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip quick fire round 8:

  • What’s your philosophy in life?  Guinea pigs make everything better.
  • Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?  Introvert all the way baby.
  • What was the best phase in your life?  While I was doing my first university degree.  I had so much fun during those years.
  • When younger, you had a dream job, what was it?  I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was very young, but I know that when high school rolled around I wanted to be a cardiologist.  Why, I really don’t know.
  • Did you get close you your dream job of young, now that you are grown up?  Right now I’m in my current dream career.
  • What’s more important to you – looks, brains or humour?  That’s a complicated question.  What are we talking about?  A friend?  A life partner?  I value intelligence, I enjoy a quirky sense of humour, and if we’re talking romantic partner physical attraction is a must (although what is attractive to me does not necessarily correspond with what is generally considered good looks).
  • What’s the best age for marriage?  Whatever age at which someone happens to be mature and finds the right person.
  • If you have children in your life [be they yours or family/friends] what advice do you give them if any about when they are older?  Use condoms.
  • Do you ever stay friendly with exes?  Yes, although as a general rule I’d say it probably doesn’t work that well.
  • What’s an ideal weekend for you?  Hanging out at home with the guinea pigs.
  • What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done and would you do it again?  I had a one-night(ish) stand with an Aussie I met in Turkey when I was in my early 20’s.  It was irresponsible and fun, but the only thing I would change is him giving me mononucleosis (yup, the “kissing disease”).
  • Ok, so you are nearing the end of your days – and you offered to live your life once more but are allowed three changes – would you accept those changes or live your life the same way again?  Is none of the above an option?  Once is enough!
  • If you chose those three changes what would they be?  One yurt, one yak, and one me, all combined into one happy little love nest.
  • When you are enjoying some ‘alone time’, what do you think of?  Guinea pigs.  But somehow the ‘alone time’ in quotes seems suggestive of autoerotic activity.
  • What are your top 5 movies to date?  Dirty Dancing, Top Gun, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Sixteen Candles, and Can’t Buy Me Love.  Gotta love the 80’s.
  • Fess up, we all like some routine and order to our lives, what can you NOT go a day without doing?  Multiple cups of tea in the morning.  With milk, no sugar.
  • What’s the most exciting thing to have happened this year?  I’m more inclined to ask has anything exciting happened this year?
  • Did you ever play Battleship the game as a kid or for that matter maybe even now?  I’m fairly certain I played it back in the day; that may just be a fabricated memory, but it was definitely popular back when I was a kid.

 

Answers please on the third skin of a banana please using pixie dust and egg!  That sounds a little too R-rated for me!

 

Come on, you know you want to answer a few – that’s what the comments section is for!

 

Image credit: qimono on Pixabay

Weekend wrap-up

wrapping paper, ribbon, and twine

Here’s what happened in my life over the past week:

  • I worked 6 night shifts at one of my jobs.  One of the shifts was a last-minute overtime shift which meant I couldn’t stick to my normal medication and sleep schedule.  I was reminded that I can’t sleep if I don’t take medication, no matter how exhausted I am.  It’s hard to say how much of that is the effects of depression and how much is because my brain is used to having drugs.  Regardless my brain on no sleep is not a pretty place, and I’ve been pretty low-functioning for the second half of the week.  Overtime makes for damn good money, though.
  • At that same job, I saw on the schedule that in a couple of weeks a new hire is going to be orientating to night shift, and rather than schedule this person to orientate with me, they’ve booked the person to orientate on a different unit with another casual nurse who’s only 3 months out of nursing school.  Now I don’t have any desire whatsoever to orientate new staff, but I’m sensing an underlying not-so-subtle message here; this isn’t the first time they’ve made it clear that they don’t want new staff orientating with me.  Fuck that place is obnoxious.
  • I’m fairly certain my other job is going to cease to exist.  HR has set up a teleconference for all staff in my program on Monday, so I should find out then what’s up with the suspicious hints lately.
  • I saw my doctor for the first time in a few months.  I didn’t really feel like I had anything to say.  I told him I was doing fairly ok most of the time.  He wasn’t totally convinced, but he said I looked good so he would let it go.  Normally I’m not a fan of the “you look good” routine, but he’s consistently observed that when I’m struggling I don’t even try to put on a mask with him so it’s quite visible, so in this particular situation it didn’t bother me.
  • I had dinner with my brother, and while it wasn’t quite as painful as the last time I saw him, it was still uncomfortable.  He was telling me about some of our parents plans that came as news to me, and it bothered me that I was hearing this stuff via my brother rather than directly from my parents.  Pretty much all my parents ever tell me is where they’ve gone out to eat or what they’re watching on Netflix.  I’ve been feeling alienated enough from them all ready, and now I feel that even more so.
  • I decided to go ahead and book a flight to Italy for October.  I’ve been contemplating it for a while now, and I finally came to the conclusion that I was never going to feel fully comfortable making a decision, so I might as well just go for it.  And I’m flying on points, so if I end up cancelling the flight it’s not the end of the world.

 

How has your week been?

 

Image credit: Rawpixel on Pixabay

3.2.1 Quote me!

Beckie of Beckie’s Mental Mess tagged for for A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip’s 3.2.1 Quote me game, on the topic of greetings.

 

“Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion. ‘How are you’ is a greeting, not a question.” – Arthur Guiterman

Oh, and they don’t want to know about your mental illness either…  Perhaps we just need to permanently remove the question mark from “how are you?”

 

“A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.” – P.J. O’Rourke

I have a feeling this was what he may have had in mind:

beatrice

 

Image credit: The Daily Mail

What is… judgementality?

psychology word graphic in the shape of a brain

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: judgementality

Shortly after I scheduled this post in my queue, I saw a post on the same topic on Scarlett’s BPD Corner.  I figure a topic must be a pretty good one if it’s on multiple people’s minds at the same time.  [As a quick spelling geek comment, judgementality is spelled with an e after the g, while judgmental is more commonly spelled without an e.  I also had to look up what the noun version of the adjective judgmental would be, because I really didn’t know.]

According to Psychology Today, being judgmental involves getting satisfaction out of making negative moral assessments of other people.  This serves to increase the judgmental person’s sense of self-worth by establishing that they are better than others who fail.  The judgmental person may quickly leap to conclusions, and move from an assessment that another person’s actions are wrong to a view that the person as a whole is flawed.  Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers recognized the negative impact of judgementality, which was why he believed therapists should demonstrate unconditional positive regard.

We all consider the world through an evaluative lens, and Psychology Today suggests several factors come into play in determining whether this is being done in a constructive or destructive way:

  • the use of empathy to understand where the other person is coming from
  • the values-frame dynamic: whose values are being used to frame the judgment and why?
  • the power dynamic: how much influence do your judgments potentially carry?
  • the person vs situation dynamic: is this a selfish person or a person being selfish in this particular situation?
  • the person vs act dynamic: distinguishing between the person and their actions
  • the open vs closed dynamic: are we open to changing our evaluation if new information arises?
  • the shallow vs expert knowledge dynamic: a strong evaluation shouldn’t be based on limited knowledge

Another Psychology Today article points out the distinction between making an observation such as “he talks very slowly” and adding a judgmental conclusion to the observation “he talks very slowly, therefore he must be stupid.”

Being judgmental isn’t something that’s generally seen as desirable, but we all do it to a greater or lesser extent.  I think mental illness makes us particularly likely to pass judgment on ourselves, but perhaps it makes us less likely to be judgmental about the challenges that others are facing.  I see a difference between judgment that is kept internal and judgment that is acted on externally.  A lot of the judgments I make remain with the inside-my-head voice and don’t spill over into my interactions with people.  I also try separate general observations of broad groups from specific individuals (e.g. in the case of racial stereotypes about bad driving).  If I think someone is batshit-crazy for their religious or political beliefs, I try to keep in mind that is only part of who they are and don’t extrapolate to them being batshit-crazy full stop.

I struggle with passing judgment on others’ intelligence (or more specifically, lack thereof).  I’m a fairly intelligent person, and there are a lot of stupid people out there in the world.  I sometimes feel kind of guilty about this, since it seems so snobbish, and I’m not always sure where the line lies between making an observation and being critical.

In my work I think I probably struggle the most with being judgmental regarding antisocial types.  My clinical approach is to give a very controlled, matter-of-fact non-reaction when they talk about their criminal and other assorted nasty behaviour, but on the inside I’m thinking damn this dude is a scumbag.  So much for empathy.

I think it’s not a bad idea for all of us to give some thought to our own particular flavour of judgementality and whether it’s helping or hindering us.  What are some of the contexts in which you find yourself passing judgment on others?

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bringing-sex-focus/201204/whos-judmental-five-key-symptoms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/theory-knowledge/201305/making-judgments-and-being-judgmental

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-well/201801/are-you-good-judge-or-just-judgmental

Image credit: GDJ on Pixabay

The best things in life are free

shaggy yak

The world is pretty darn expensive these days, especially when income is limited related to our mental illnesses.  But there are some pretty cool things that can be done for free, and here’s a few that I’ve come up with:

  • You may wonder why I’ve chosen a shaggy yak picture to go along with this post – well, it’s because the internet allows you to find free photos of anything you could possibly want (and I mean who wouldn’t want a shaggy yak)
  • Speaking of the wonders of the internet, it allows you to learn about just about anything at no cost
  • Snuggling with animals
  • Reading (the local library is my go-to for books, and I love that my library has ebooks that can be checked out)
  • Writing
  • Watching nature
  • Thinking about the mysteries of the universe
  • Listening to things like raindrops falling, the wind blowing through the trees
  • People-watching
  • Walks in the sunshine
  • Daydreaming
  • Singing along to your favourite songs
  • Love (cue J.Lo song My Love Don’t Cost a Thing, but don’t cue the video because I find it annoying)

What are your favourite free things to do?

 

Image credit: hbieser on Pixabay

Book review: Furiously Happy

book cover: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

In Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, Jenny Lawson uses “furiously happy” as a weapon to counter mental illness, and intends to “destroy the goddamn universe with my irrational joy and I will spew forth pictures of clumsy kittens and baby puppies adopted by raccoons and MOTHERFUCKING NEWBORN LLAMAS DIPPED IN GLITTER AND THE BLOOD OF SEXY VAMPIRES.”  This is my kind of gal, someone who doesn’t let depression stop her from embracing her quirkiness and finding humour in the world around her.

Some chapters talk specifically about mental illness, but the majority are funny anecdotes.  The book is jam-packed with all kinds of critters ranging from living to taxidermied to costumes, including Rory the scary as hell taxidermied raccoon on the front cover.  There are also random observational rants, e.g. about female clothes not having pockets, and a pocketbook being neither pocket nor book.  She talked about being bewildered by a Japanese computerized toilet, leaving me wanting to shout me too soul-sister!

She challenges some of the stigma around mental illness and its treatment.  She sarcastically observed that if someone’s cancer returned, “it’s probably just a reaction to too much gluten or not praying correctly.  Right?”  And then there was the gem about dealing with medication side effects “which can include ‘feeling excessively stabby’ when coupled with some asshole telling you that ‘your medication not working is just proof you don’t really need medication at all.'”

You know those silent moments that crop up every so often when you’re seeing your therapist?  Jenny knows how to fills those awkward silences with panache, with such observations as: “Is it normal to regret not making a sex tape when you were younger and your boobs still pointed vaguely at the ceiling when you were on your back?  Because I feel like no one ever talks about that.”

She points out that seemingly having it all doesn’t mean not being depressed of anxious.  She admitted that “I only have a few days a month where I actually feel like I was good at life…  The other days I feel like I’m barely accomplishing the minimum or that I’m a loser.”

I don’t usually rely quite so heavily on quotes when writing reviews, but Jenny’s words are far funnier than mine, and I wanted to share some of my favourites.  This book is laugh out loud hilarious, and a delightfully sneaky way of attacking stigma without being  primarily about mental health.  You will read more about taxidermy than you could ever imagined, and you might even be tempted to get your very own taxidermied armadillo purse (yup, that’s a real thing, Google it).

 

You can find Jenny on her blog The Bloggess.

 

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