Today in therapy: it’s all about reactions

Therapist told me an analogy she hear once from a NAMI instructor who taught the family members of mentally ill people about coping with the disease. Imagine this: you’re wading in the ocean up to your knees. A wave comes. To a neurotypical person, the wave hits your waist and passes by. For a sick person, it’s like a tsunami — threatening, overpowering, a crisis. Totally accurate. If a neurotypical person has a bad day, it may suck. But the same this that cause that person’s bad day can drive a mentally ill person to a dangerous and scary place.

My biggest therapy-related problem isn’t my mental illness. It’s how I blame myself for everything that happens to me, whether it’s under my control or not. According to Therapist, the only thing I can control about my symptoms is how I react to them. (And take my meds, of course.)  She says the way I handled my paranoia should actually count as a victory, because rather than fall down the rabbit hole into fannish obsession and increasing paranoia, I decided to take a step back and disengage myself from the thing making me paranoid. I couldn’t help being paranoid, but I did help myself react to it in an okay way. And I didn’t behave badly while paranoid, I just had paranoid thoughts. I wasn’t running around trying to convince everyone of a Steam Powered Giraffe conspiracy, I just felt my feelings and tried to think it out.  I still feel a little paranoid, but on the scale of 1 to 10 it’s about a 3.5.  Acceptable but still a little troublesome.

It is very, very hard to internalize this as a win. I’m still upset at myself for feelings those things, like I should have been able to force myself to be sane. But I know Therapist is right. If I had arthritis and my joints hurt really bad for a couple of days, it wouldn’t be my fault. I’m trying to focus on that.

I cried during the session. Not entirely sure why, whether it was relief or anger at myself.

Frequently I beat myself up a lot over perceived flaws and mistakes, especially when I’m already having symptoms. My goal for the next week and beyond is this: when I have those thoughts, ask myself if someone else would say those things to me. Therapist pointed out that when she had the same problem, she realized that she treated the bagger at the grocery store, a stranger, better than she treated herself. My course, my instinctive reaction to this is, “if the person knew how awful I was, they would say those things to me, no question.” But I know that’s Irrational Brain talking and not truth. But, as I’ve said before, in those terrible moments it feels like the truth, and those feelings are hard to overcome.

I’m writing this in the doctor’s office, by the way. Follow up appointment for my bronchitis. Because I haven’t been coughing up anything, that mass of gunk is still sitting in my left lung and I need medication to break it up. The doc is putting in the prescription as I type this. I hope my insurance covers it, because the albuterol causes such bad tachycardia.

I was in the waiting room for an hour.  I spun, as usual.  Old people stared at me, as usual.  I don’t mind if they’re friendly about it, but most of them look mad at me for doing something a little odd.  One elderly Hispanic woman came over and asked what I was doing.  Her English wasn’t great, but showing is better than telling anyway.  We had a nice conversation as I demonstrated how it works and gave her the very simple version of why the fibers stick together when twisted.  She was so excited ti see somebody doing something crafty.  She said she’s a tailor so we kinda bonded over crafty stuff before I got called back.  It was cool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *