Dear Bully…

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I was perfect.

I came into this world untarnished and pure.

There was nothing wrong with me.

Nothing at all.

So why did you have to treat me like there was?

I tried so hard not to let you in.

I tried so hard to remember that I was better than that.

But somehow you got to me.

I guess even I’m not that strong.

Your poison seeped in through my skin and started to eat me away from the inside out.

But I didn’t even notice because I was so busy trying to build up walls.

You were just a child.

I can hardly blame you now.

But what about the child that I was?

You hurt that child, you hurt me, and we didn’t deserve it.

You hurt us, and I barely remember it happening.

Probably because I was trying so hard not to pay attention.

I knew not to listen because I was a swimmer.

You wanted, you needed to see me sink, but I was too strong.

No way was I letting that happen.

You had no right to that kind of power over me.

But you were unrelenting, you just wouldn’t give up would you?

Usually so precise and clear, my memory of this is vague.

I even think it must not have actually happened.

How could it have?

But the thing is, I can feel that it did.

I can feel it everyday in how strongly I hate myself.

In how forcibly I seem to want to hurt myself.

See, your poison got to me after all these years.

And you’re not even around to see it.

It took my insides and turned them rotten and it made all of my walls come crashing down.

Now those walls were all I ever had.

They were all that I ever knew, and without them I feel like nothing.

~Adeline Daniels, February 11, 2014Image

An attempt at self-compassion

ImageThis was one of my most recent attempts at writing to myself from a more compassionate mindset. I wrote it after having self-harmed (this was actually the last occasion that I did self harm which was about 3 weeks ago…yay :) And I am determined to keep going). Anyway, instead of making things worse by getting very angry and being rather mean (hah, an understatement…perhaps the correct word is EXTREMELY harsh) to myself, I decided that the best way to make the situation more tolerable was to try to soothe myself with self-compassion. So! Here it goes:

“You were having a hard time. It’s understandable why you did what you did (self harm). It doesn’t make you a bad person. In absolutely no way does it do that. You are not weak or pathetic or lame for it, just struggling and in pain. And there’s nothing shameful about that. You are perfectly human and I know that makes you want to die and not be human any longer, but my wish for you would be that you will be fair to yourself and remember how much hope you have for the future sometimes.

Your heavy heart and scarred arms do not undercut all of the good things you want to do either. Not even slightly. You are going to run an amazing fundraising event for a very special organization, an organization that has helped you in so many ways. They are your secret heroes and it is so good that you are giving them all your support in this small but meaningful way. It’s giving back, helping to ensure that other young people, just like you, can find the help they are looking for and deserve.

Shhhhhh…it’s okay. I don’t hate you, okay? I am a voice that doesn’t hate you. You are safe with me. If I had arms I would embrace you right now. I would hold you while you cry. I would look into your eyes, and you wouldn’t be scared to look into mine, and I would tell you that it must be hard to live with such emotional pain. I would tell you that’s it’s okay for you to feel this way, that it doesn’t make you a bad person. I would sit with you there in an understanding and calming silence. I would take care of you and soothe you for as long as you needed me to. I wouldn’t rush you or blame you for taking that time, and I wouldn’t accuse you of being self-indulgent either. You would feel safe and comforted in my arms, and it would be relieving to feel so vulnerable for once. To express such vulnerability.”

My Psych Project

 For my psych research methods class this semester we have to design and conduct an experimental study. We get to pick our own topic and the only restriction is that there must be two independent variables and one dependent variable (2 x2 design) blah blah blah…all that technical kind of stuff. Oh and it’s done in pairs. Last week my partner suggested that we look at the effects of chewing gum and music on memory (if any of you have heard that myth about how chewing gum helps memory – I hadn’t actually heard of it, and as another aside I shouldn’t necessarily call it a myth because there appeared to actually be some research supporting it. Something about how chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain).

Anyway, I must say that the prospect of devoting a considerable amount of my time to something I really don’t give a shit about (that being chewing gum, music and memory) was a little disheartening and was making me kind of dread the whole project. So, over the last week I’ve been searching around trying to find a topic that interests me more and is doable with our very limited resources. I had actually already thought about doing something related to self-compassion but I had been unable to make it work with all the technical restraints of the project (the 2 X 2 design).

Today though I finally came across a previous study that I can modify to fit this design. The cool thing (in my opinion) is that there has actually only been ONE paper published on the specific topic I want to address, which means that it has not been studied to death and it is novel! I was super pumped about this and basically sent my partner a Facebook message essay about why we should not look at chewing gum and memory, and why we should investigate self-compassion related things. It was actually very easy for me to make a good argument and she was on board right away. But I was doing it no matter what, even if she said no J Because as I said, I’m super pumped about this project.

Another great thing about it (besides the fact that I’m pumped, as I’ve mentioned 3 times now) is that it means a consolidation of all of my extra-curricular academic reading (i.e. things I read about and research that aren’t actually for school) and my school reading. In general I seem to spend more time reading about topics not related to school than I do my coursework. Perhaps less now that I have switched to psychology from science. But with this self-compassion project it means that my school interests and my personal interests will be the same which equals less work. Yay! 

I guess the bottom line here is that I am conducting a small study on self-compassion and I am super excited about it!

My Compassionate Image

So little while ago, for therapy, I put together an image that represented the big evil self-critical voice that causes me so many issues in my life. I made it in Microsoft word. It consisted of a number of images (very angry looking eyes and faces that looked wracked with pain) and very harsh self statements – like “I can’t stand you, I hate your (insert f-word) guts, You don’t deserve to live, go die, etc – not very nice things to say to one’s self to say the least.

Anyway, I set it upon my self to create the opposing image, one of self-compassion. And I did it last night. This time, I used Inkscape which I introduced myself to yesterday while designing a logo for my Amazing Race. I actually got to modify a lot of the images, add gradients and cool looking word art designs and all that jazz :) I have to admit, that I am super proud of my compassionate image final product because I put a lot of thought of it, and even though I might be a little biased, it looks great. I copied the layout of the evil big self-critical voice image, and tried to replace the images and statements with more self compassionate ones.

My replacement statements looked like this:

ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME YOU PIECE OF SHIT?!?! became “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

It’s a Dr. Seuss quote in case you didn’t know and I chose it to remind myself that no matter how small or insignificant I might determine myself to be, I still deserve to be treated with respect and that nothing can make me (or anybody else) less-than human. In other words I’m saying to myself that no matter how worthless I might feel and think I am, it’s no reason to treat myself like shit because I am still a person and that counts for something. It counts for everything really.

“I FUCKING HATE YOUR GUTS BITCH! became “You deserve your love and affection.”

I pulled this from a much longer Buddha quote that goes like this:

 “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

 I chose it to replace the very harsh statement above because love and affection seemed to be the appropriate remedies to extreme self-hatred. The statement” you deserve your love and affection” seems to serve as a good reminder that it is okay to be compassionate instead of loathing of myself.

 “I CAN’T STAND YOU! becameYou are perfect as you are”

 I chose those words because they communicate radical acceptance of the self. They capture the idea that you are not expected to be anything other than you are in the moment, and that even though change may be needed in the future, in the present moment you are perfect. This to me was the opposite of the self-rejection communicated by the words “I can’t stand you.”

 “GO KILL YOURSELF NOW” became “Your thoughts are just thoughts”

 I figured that this very DBT statement was a good reminder of the fact that thoughts are indeed just thoughts and that one does not need to act on thoughts of suicide, or self harm, or any other problematic behaviour impulse for that matter.

 “YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND DISGUSTING” became a quote that is very dear to my heart from Anais Nin. That being “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I guess I picked this to replace “you are worthless and disgusting” because it seems to represent the idea that even though it might be really, really hard to change such negative beliefs about yourself, to let go of them and let them be in the past, it is ultimately a step that must be taken. For me it is quite literally a “do or die” kind of thing. Do develop a more compassionate mind, or end up killing myself because the big evil self-critical voice took over. Anyway, in addition to being a step that must be taken, it is a step that should be taken because (if I put it in the context of the quote) a blossom is much more beautiful than the bud. And Anais Nin’s words offer me comfort in that they remind me that the time for change has come, and that the change is worth it in the end.

 YOU DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE! DIE! became “You are worth many chances.”

Someone who has helped me in many ways said that to me once (that you are worth many chances) and those words have stuck with me. There seems to be some kind of ultimate truth (at least from a compassionate perspective) in those words to me. I suppose that it communicates the message that no matter what happens, you are worth another chance, and that there is nothing you could do to change that. For me it connects to the idea of inherent worth (kind of like “A person’s a person, no matter how small”). As well, it too seems to contrast quite nicely with the harsher statement above, by saying that you will always deserve another chance, always deserve everything life has to offer, and never deserve to die (one could most certainly discertain from this that I am completely opposed to capital punishment, but that is another matter not to be discussed here). 

The two images

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Everything I post here is my property. 

 

So, things are going great right now and here’s the reasons why…

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I wrote a list last night of why everything is going AMAZING and WONDERFUL in my life right now, and I think I will share it here. If only I can remember muahahaha (I don’t have it with me, but it should be easy to recall seeing as it is my life :)

1. THE AMAZING RACE : I am planning a two day overnight Amazing Race fundraiser in support of only my favourite organization in the whole wide world and I am SOOOOOOOO excited about it. I’ve run Amazing Races before but they were always on a much smaller scale (like 4 hours as opposed to two days, overnight!) and this one that I am planning now is so much more exciting. Plus it’s for as I said my favourite organization in the whole wide world, so it’s like the perfect combination of two things I’m super passionate about and have so much enthusiasm for.

2. SELF HARM FREE : I’ve been self harm free for 2 weeks and one day now and I have committed to myself to beat my previous best of 2 months. It’s seem like an impossible feat to accomplish but I am determined and I am going to do it!

3. I AM GOING TO CAMP THIS WEEKEND!!! And my favouritest (yes, I know it’s not a word) people in the whole wide world are going to be there! My favourite campers and my favourite staff friends. I’ve been anticipating this weekend for like two months now and I’m so excited. Plus going to camp in this super elevated mood I am in these days makes it all the better!

3. I’M A PSYCH MAJOR : Now why is that a good thing? Because I never in a million years imagined myself ending up a psych major until all of a sudden I was a psych major (after a one year detour in science) and I realize now that it is exactly where I am supposed to be. I never really realized it but all of my extra-curricular academic interests have for the most part been psych themed (like personality theories and the misinformation effect and just human behaviour in general). I have always been a little bit of an amateur non-malicious private investigator, learning about people through stalker-ish/observational methods, making connections, etc….and I’ve always said that if med school doesn’t work out I’ll just apply for the CIA. Mind you, I am Canadian so I don’t know if that will quite work. Whatever, they need international agents, right?

4. I”M NOT DEPRESSED ANYMORE: Woohoo!!! After 2 and a half years of feeling depressed and crappy almost everyday, my mood has lifted at last. And it feels great. Everyday existence feels so much lighter and I don’t feel bogged down by the very heavy, all-consuming negative energy of my depression. YAY! Life feels much lighter (as I already mentioned) and easier these days.

5. I MADE A FREAKING AWESOME COMPASSIONATE IMAGE LAST NIGHT which I’m going to write a whole separate post for :)

6.  I’M DOING A STUDY ON SELF-COMPASSION: Okay so I think I might about this separately too. I’m not that big on super duper long posts and I’ve just realized that I got a lot to say about this topic :)

7. I know there were more that I wrote down last night, they’re just not coming to me…not flooding into my brain like water I should say.

8. I REMEMBERED ONE :) :

I’m living with one of my best friend’s next year. And that’s all I have to say about that.

This is why people love me!

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This is why people love me!!!

I have been feeling super super amazing these past couple days and it turns me into this super charismatic person with contagious energy and zest for life. Okay, so I think I am hypomanic right now. 100% high on freaking wonderful and amazing brain chemicals that are making me feel really really really happy and I love it. I feel like I am on some sort of drunken talkative high.

This is the me that everyone loves. I have so many good things to say. Everything is so funny to me. I laugh and smile at things that normally don’t seem that funny, mostly just because I feel so high on happy energy that everything is joyful and laughter is a great way to express that. I feel like I’m flying. I feel so determined and productive. I love myself. I love being me and I have so much hope for all of my freaking amazing plans for the future. Ahahahahahahahaha!!!!

This is the me that all of my friends are so fond of. The one that they can’t get enough of.The person that they look forward to being with.

I seriously have so much energy : ) I’ve been up to 3am multiple nights in a row and I don’t think I’m feeling it at all. Last night I could have seriously went for a 5km run at that time.

I’m like a multitasking pro when I feel like this too and it makes me soooo productive : ) I’m multitasking at the moment, and I seem to do iot with ease. This post is being written while sitting in lecture :) Taking notes and blogging at the same time no problem-o.

My eyes are bulging with excitement. Excitement at what? Well nothing really others than the joy of existence (and there is not a single hint of sarcasm in that:)

Oh how good it feels to love living and to love being me :)

Ready to let go of self harm at last

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I finally felt ready to stop cutting. This feeling came upon me after one of my more recent episodes of self harm. I realized that I wasn’t getting enough from it anymore. And I think I felt like I had outgrown the behaviour, that I had become strong enough to survive without self harm. It was an incredibly relieving feeling.

There was a time when self harm really helped me. It was the only relief I could find from a very painful existence. I try my best to be understanding of that and empathize with my past self, and for the most part I am at peace with my past self harm. I try my best not to blame myself for resorting to self harm, and most of the time I am successful in that.

Often the only thing it seems to offer me now is a barely noticeable rush of calming endorphins. And considering the scars it leaves behind, that’s just not good enough.

It’s hard to imagine never cutting again. It has become to me such a normal behaviour. I wish I could return to the days where self harm seemed strange and scary and painful, and like something I could never imagine myself doing. The days before I was so intimately familiar with self harm. The days when I had only a vague idea of what self harm even was.

I have tried to stop self harming a number of times over the last year and a half. This feeling of readiness is new though. Before, I have tried to stop because I knew that the behaviour is not a healthy way of coping, etc. but it was more of an intellectual thing. Never a feeling inside me that pushed me to let self harm go.

I sort of challenged myself the other day. You see the longest I have gone without self harming in the last year and a half is 2 months. Since then, the longest I’ve made it has been 3 maybe 4 weeks. Currently, I’m at the 2 week mark and even though the thought of going 2 months without cutting myself feels extremely overwhelming to say the least, I challenged myself to try. To try to make it longer than 2 months this time. One day at a time of course.

I know that it won’t be easy and that it will take a lot of effort. The urge to hurt myself arises multiple times a day, everyday. It was present for the couple of hours leading up to writing this post. But I know that I can do it. I did it before and I can do it again, no matter how hard it is.

The F-word

We’re talking in my French class right now about swear words. French swear words of course. But more so about the phenomenon of taboo language. Oh, and as a side note it is pretty funny to listen to your French professor stand at the front of the class cursing in English in his french accent. “Fuck you, fuck him, fuck this, fuck that” He pointed out that “fuck” became a commonly used word during and after the Vietnam war. Apparently it was the American soldiers who attached “fucking” as an adjective to everything. And yes, you can imagine my french prof up at the front of our small and intimate classroom going on about the”fucking war” and the “fucking car” and “fucking boat” and it goes on. Anyway, now that I’m done with that little side note I’ll get back to the phenomenon of swearing.

The class discussion moved to how swear words or taboo words (whatever you want to call it) lose their power once people hear them and use them over and over again. I’m sure most people if not everyone can relate to this. I look at my own experience as an example. When I was six years old and the boys I rode the bus home with tainted my virgin mind by teaching my the big, bad and ugly F-word, it felt dangerous to go home and utter it in the presence of my mother. It was a heated and intense moment when I let the syllables escape my lips. I thought it was funny. It’s just a word right? Why is it any different than any other combination of syllables? (I still make this argument to my mother today when she gets all offended hearing it from me, and I guess I would say that we don’t quite see eye to eye on the matter). So when I was little and much into my adolescence it felt scary to use the F-word and it was reserved for only the most desperate moments. But now that I’m all grown up and a university student I have actually quite a liking for this supposed-to-be forbidden word. I use it to be funny, use it when I’m angry, use it when I’m happy, sad, whenever. I was going to add wherever as well, but I guess that I do not speak it to my grandmother. She would be appalled to say the least. Not so much at the word, but at me saying it to her I would imagine. the point is that me and most people I know say “fuck,” “fucking,” and whatever other variations they can come up with all the time and it’s no big deal.

The take home message of this part of the class discussion is that the English language needs to come up with some new taboo words. Something that’s so bad that even the most bad ass of people shudder when they hear it. So the prof asked the class if we had any suggestions. this made me think of the kids I work with. The ones with swearing problems that are most creative in their cursing. Their often nonsensical swearing.

“Fuck the toilet”

“My fucking abs”

Abs = the ingenious replaced for ass. It’s not an asshole with this kid, it’s and “abs-hole”

Man, I’m really letting myself down right now. I should be able to generate a list as long as my arm and then some (okay that’s kind of a bad analogy) of crazy and hilarious things that these kids say. Perhaps another time.

Past and present

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This isn’t something I want to share, it’s not something I really want to talk about, or something that I think is worthy of being talked about. I don’t like that writing this feels like a big deal to me. I don’t like telling you that it feels like a big deal. It shouldn’t be. I should be able to just state the facts, stick to what is true, and be done with it. Ultimately that is my goal. I simply want to state things as they are. I want to say this is what happened, and this is why I think it might be worthwhile sharing.  I want to be truthful and accurate, with no exaggeration and no omissions.

When I was younger I was not treat kindly.

People excluded me, made me feel left out, put me down, insulted me, called me names, made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I was a less-than, and just not good enough.  Being liked and accepted seemed like an impossible task for me. I always felt like an outsider. Rarely did I feel included.

This is what defined a very large portion of my elementary school career, from Grade 2 or 3 all the way through to Grade 8.  It felt like my role, to be unpopular, unwanted, disliked.  It happened for so long that it seemed completely normal, and that there was nothing wrong with it at all.

I denied to myself that I was treated this way because I blamed myself, felt like I was responsible, like it was my fault, and that there was something wrong with me, that I was not good enough. I was ashamed of the fact that I could not get people to treat me with more respect.

Whenever the topic of bullying came up in school, I would feel really uncomfortable because I was worried that when other people thought about who was  bullied they would think of me, and I didn’t like that. At all.  I would examine the definitions of bullying and  convince myself that it was something far more severe then what I experienced.  

So, I denied it to myself, avoided the topic, tried to convince myself that I was well liked, that people were my friends and enjoyed my presence, that no one was mean to me, no one really thought I was a loser, and that we were all just joking around. I learned to laugh at myself before anyone else could, and I learned to self-deprecate before anyone could.

For years and years I told myself that no one could hurt me. That I was like a brick wall. Unbreakable. Thick skinned. That I didn’t care what anyone thought about me because I was so “confident” that I was amazing just as I was. I prided myself on my resilience, my ability to let whatever was said and done to me pass right over me, and I built for myself on the surface, a sense of heightened self esteem.

I told myself that even though it seemed like no one saw how great I was then, they would in the future because I was going to be so freaking good at so many things that my awesomeness would be undeniable and people would have to love me.  I told myself that one day they would all see me and be amazed. They would respect me, and regret how poorly they had treated me when they should have been trying to be my friend. Because honestly, if they had seen me for who I was, why wouldn’t they have wanted to be my friend? I was so kind, so hilarious, so easy-going and easy to get along with, and I was happy if other people were happy. So what was wrong with me? Why did people treat me like I wasn’t good enough. Like I was worthless?
 
Maybe I just understood people wrong. Maybe what I was, was not what other people wanted. Maybe I was just too clever, too smart, too eccentric, too good for them. Maybe I was too much of my own person. Maybe that was it. Maybe they were blinded and simply did not see me. I tried so hard though. I was outgoing, friendly, kind, yet it seemed like so many people hated me. It seemed like I was unwanted and I just couldn’t understand how that could be.

I pushed aside the present though, because I knew that eventually  I would come out on top. I had faith that one day I would have accomplished so much that I would have long surpassed  “good enough.” I was after all the “smart one,” athletic and good at sports, fairly musically talented, involved in the community, a natural leader. I was pretty good at almost everything, one of the one’s most primed for society’s idea of success. I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted to be and where I wanted to go, and inside I knew that I would make it happen.

My plan failed though, and eventually it all became too much. Too much on the go, too much pressure, too much failure to achieve unrealistically high expectations, just too much and I couldn’t handle it anymore. It was too exhausting, and the walls I had built for myself very quickly collapsed inwards, my sense of healthy self esteem suddenly disappeared. I became really depressed, and I felt completely encapsulated by very negative energy. I tried and I tried to escape from it but I just couldn’t. Everything started to become a huge effort, my mind felt foggy, I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t see the point to doing much at all, I didn’t see the point to bothering with living.

None of it seemed real though, I thought I must be imagining it and that any day I would get my act together and snap out of it. But that never really happened and I remained feeling trapped in a mind and energy so unfamiliar, so drastically different from what I used to know. This went on for months and months and eventually I started to really hate the person I was. I began to believe that I was not important, that I did not matter, that nothing mattered, that I was worthless, replaceable, and a waste of resources on this planet. My days became filled with lots of really intense emotions. Lots of anger, rage, hate, sadness, and tears. I didn’t know what to do with it all and I couldn’t stand it anymore so I began to self harm because it gave me the satisfaction of acting out the hate I felt for myself.

I’m sharing this because as I reflect back on my my very privileged life in a developed country where I have been well-fed, well-watered, provided with shelter, love, freedom from violence, this is pretty much the only thing I can identify that explains how I came to hate myself so much. I can’t really find any other reason for how I have come to want to hurt myself other than this, and it feels really, really silly, like it’s something in the past and I shouldn’t be talking about it now, but the fact remains that there are a lot of similarities between how I used to be treated and how I treat myself now, and as much as I hate saying that, it is true, I think.

The land of Doom and Gloom

Once upon a time a happy, confident, adventuresome, hopeful, smiling young girl is skipping through the land of Butterflies and Rainbows when she slips and falls in a hole. She hits the bottom hard and lays there crumpled, recovering from the impact. After a while, she stands up and takes a look around. This place is nothing like Butterflies and Rainbows. It is strange and dark. The air is heavy and thick, making it difficult to breathe. This is the land of Doom and Gloom. She stares up at the top of The Hole, barely able to see it, and ponders how to get out of there. Unfortunately, there is no ladder, and her voice is too weak to cry out for help. So she starts to wander around this new place. Eventually The Hole becomes familiar, a friend. Every so often, she comes across a door.  She opens it and is greeted by her old home, Butterflies and Rainbows. How bright and colorful it is. She takes a daring step forward and thinks, maybe The Hole won’t realize I have gone. She takes one more and starts to feel a sense of freedom. But then she looks up. Instead of seeing the bright, blue sky and fluffy white clouds typical of Butterflies and Rainbows, she sees a thick, grey cloud right above her head. It appears to be following her. Then she looks down. Around her feet are chains. The Hole had known she would try to escape and it has shackled her to it. She looks ahead again. Butterflies and Rainbows is fading away. The Hole is dragging her back into Doom and Gloom. She sits all alone in a dark corner, rocking back and forth, back and forth, cradling her head in her hands, tears streaming down her face, hoping that the Hole won’t find her there. But it does. It circles around her, angry that she tried to escape. It screams at her. You disgusting piece of shit. Selfish, ungrateful, attention-seeking bitch. You don’t matter. No one cares about you. You’re not important. A waste of space. That’s all you are. You don’t deserve to live. Hah! You thought you were going somewhere? Hopes? Dreams? Aspirations? Bah! Humbug! I hate you. Go die. Slowly, this begins to define her past, her present, and her future.“ This is a fairy tale though, awaiting its happily ever after. 

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