I don’t know whether I’m merely gripped by this feeling I get every few months – of having a particular trait that’s wrong with me but is right with everyone else but I’m saddened at present by the thought that I’m like a virus or a blight in the lives of the people I know.
I don’t really think I can really speak to anyone about it. Speaking to others to gain comfort is precisely the type of past behaviour t hat troubles me now.

I wonder to what extent, in the past, friends were people I used to ease the chaos within my crazy head. I feel somewhat hollow now that the smog of depression has mostly dissipated from my brain. I don’t know whether there is anything positive about me that is of value to others.

I had a date recently with a gentlemen I met from a dating app. He coincidentally turned out to be quite familiarly acquainted with one of my friends from University. During the course of our date, he revealed his awareness of a couple of pieces of media that our mutual friend enjoyed. They weren’t particularly personal revelations and so it startled me that I wasn’t aware.
The conversation got me wondering if once I got to know my friend slightly, I sought her company to simply improve my mood or act as a partial band aid to the wounds that depression wrought.

The cycle is a familiar one. Due to anxiety or introversion I say no to requests they make or to taking part in activities they like. But when I desire aid, I seek them out

If I suspend my negative emotions for a time, I know that there are probably people who enjoy spending time with me. There are even those who seek me out because I’m a decent listener and they might require my judgement-free advice. But I don’t know whether I’ve cultivated bonds with people who think of me with fondness when I’m not around or who might go to the hospital if I were involved in an accident in a year’s time. In that way, I feel somewhat lonely. This loneliness, however, is much less than the pang I’ve experienced in the past when I’ve pondered on the noticeable lack of a maternal or paternal figure in my life.

Truthfully, I don’t know whether I was capable of acting differently. I now suspect I’ve scared off the man I would have called my best friend last year. Perhaps I was too honest about my mental health and he grew sick of me. Now that I’m better, I suspect that he is wary of speaking to me lest I reveal what new slight inconvenience has made me feel suicidal. And yet, last winter, genuinely afraid that I would end my life, I asked a few friends if they were willing to write a card for me saying they’d missed me if I died.
In the end, I didn’t ask for the card but the willingness of the people to accommodate my request touched me. But from their perspective, it isn’t something that warms the heart. I probably never told them how it helped me as despite my graphic posts on here, I am not that open a book and rarely feel like talking about my darkest moments when I feel better.

So it wouldn’t surprise me if that best friend no longer speaks to me, nor would it surprise me if my friends at University no longer speak to me when I go away for my year abroad or after I graduate. Who would blame them?

The trait I used to value most in friends was their ability to pull me up when I began to sink into despair. My perpetual fantasy was making plans to end my life, only to be pulled back by a well-meaning friend. Truthfully, nothing close to that has happened. Whenever I’ve done something particularly extreme, my thoughts have been very much inward. And despite feeling like wanting to die or cause great pain to myself, there is a strong sense of self-preservation and doubt that keeps me from reaching out in my worst moments. I tend to fear that either a lack of response or a harsh response will be the last straw that causes me to make that final decision that I’m tempted to but prefer not to make. I know not whether it’s a delusion, but I like to think that if I were to make a call, there’d be kindness on the other end of the phone. However I prefer not to put that barely-held belief to the test.

I no longer need saving. I don’t really know what I value most in others, nor how I should act without pain motivating my pursuit of bonds. I have the strength to critically evaluate relationships I currently possess and see the weaknesses.
And despite not being in the sick frame of mind that believes that people wish me harm or are out to get me, I find them wanting and that is my fault. And I suppose its on me to find out what I can do nourish them and discover what positive traits I should highlight, now revealed with the absence of depression’s shadow.


First CBT session

I had my first CBT session in Leicester on Thursday. The experience was interesting.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had therapy. Awful University guidance counselor notwithstanding, when I used to live in Manchester, I saw someone semi-regularly. My memory of the experience is hazy but I do recall making great strides in my self confidence and levels anxiety. It would be hard to categorize the type of approach used as he used multiple strategies. One occurring viewpoint was that there are Human Givens: I’ve listen them below from the Human Givens institute

  • Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  • Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of status within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement
  • Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.

I lacked many of those things. I worked but unlike friends of mine, didn’t have parents to rely on if times grew tough. For the majority of my relationships, it felt like I was merely tolerated. I felt that I had to be different to who I was to be accepted by others. I was largely isolated and a part of no groups. I had no purpose in life. My dreams were shattered when I got my initial disappointing results at the end of sixth form college and the only purpose I felt in life for a time was getting into Cambridge when I received my offer a couple years ago. I had attached so much meaning to it that I regularly thought that my life would be forfeit if I failed to meet it which I ultimately did indeed fail to do.

I met some of those givens when I came to University based on the people I met there and also began laying the ground work to meet certain ones alone. For example, University has provided me with some breathing room to become debt free and I hope to build some savings by the time I graduate.

So I entered the therapy room with no idea what would occur, what type of person I’d be meeting, but hoping that in our sessions together I’d be equipped with strategies for dealing with extreme emotions and thoughts in the future. I was 10 minutes late and she remarked upon it as soon as I sat down, asking why. She was similarly interrogative throughout the session making me feel repeatedly uneasy. I could feel that tension building on multiple occasions and wondered whether I’d reach that maximum  on my emotional bell curve, eventually sinking on the other side to melancholy. I was relieved to discover that that was not the case and in the end, I was glad for her snappy questions as a lot of ground was covered in the initial session, more so than if I’d been allowed to ramble unencumbered.

I left with a big hypothesis in mind – a suggestion she’d made as to why I so often feel the way I do. Observing that most of my problems stem from others such as my belief last term that a group of students wanted me to self harm, my belief that a professor hated me and more recently, my bouts of insecurity around friendships, she suggested that it might be because I miss so much that is conveyed in conversation.  Various studies have demonstrated that most of what is conveyed in communication is non-verbal and includes tone of voice and body language. I already have difficulty reading between the lines in the verbal part of communication but also make things harder for myself by often refusing to look at the person I’m talking to in the face and their body gestures are often rendered meaningless by my brain’s software. Perhaps, she suggested, my autism creates blindspots which are prime breeding grounds for negative emotions, borne out of insecurity and past events, to take root.

That theory resonates with me. It makes so much sense. I’m constantly playing a guessing with people as I find them to be so confusing. And as I don’t have positive reassurances from their interactions, my perception of them is very much determined by my present mood. I have a hard time interpreting actions as well, something neurotypicals would be informed by the body language of the person in question. A suitable maths-based analogy would be trying to solve the equation a+b+c+d=x with the only additional equation being a+b=3. You would need additional equations in that system in order to work out the identity of the variables a to d, and by extension x.

It would be unusual for people to say “I like you and so I’m doing Φ action”. So I guess how they feel about me which may or not be true. I also guess what those actions may mean based on my impression of the individuals. With my perceptions being as limited as they are and my propensity for negative emotion, things can easily go wrong leaving me prone to the woeful imaginations of my ill mind.

Identifying the problem is just step one of the battle and I am deeply curious to see what approach the therapist will take with me. Unlike other times when I’ve blogged about my mental health, I didn’t write this post to experience some release or even to order my chaotic thoughts. Unique backstory aside, I could imagine that there are many people out their with an unfortunate communication disorder and mental health combination that may experience similar issues. If this therapy is helpful then I hope to distill the advice I receive in future posts!