Saturday, September 29, 2012

acoustics and mental health

You know how sometimes your various interests end up interacting in surprising ways? Well, I was doing my homework when... (amazing how much of life can start that way) ... I learned that the study of acoustics of speech has been used in an investigation that indicates a possibility of recognizing between depressed versus non-depressed, and perhaps more importantly, depressed from suicidal people (the accuracy wasn't very good for a 100% perfectionist, but hey, it is a start) just by the acoustic properties of their speech, not their actual words. Here is a link that I was able to find thanks to my text book (that I was actually reading!) "Acoustical properties of speech as indicators of depression and suicidal risk" by France et al. It is actually pretty technical, considering I was only partially able to understand it after a month of study in a class on speech acoustics. But I found it exiting to see how mental illness and speech acoustics might relate.

Positives and perfectionism

I probably deserve the B that getting an 80% grade on an exam gives (could still change before the class is over, but that is what I got on the first exam). But I was relieved to see that the teacher was giving back some points for questions lots of people missed or that weren't quite clear. I'm back in A land. Barely, but there I am. I do wonder about how accurate the new grade is. I mean, if I really knew the information at an A level, wouldn't I have gotten a greater percentage right? And there my perfectionism comes and messes up a nice thing. Again.

Wait, this was supposed to be a positive post. Let's rephrase that. I'm back to having an A- in both of my classes instead of having a B in one!

Now for the rest of my good news. I finally went ahead and talked to my boss about working afternoons not working well for me. And it was okay! So soon I should be back to working mornings without coming back for afternoons. That was a relief.

Now the positive part of the post is done. The relief was soon countered by second guessing myself. Not enough to get rid of all my relief, though.

Wait, one more positive. The Miracle Ball Method. My sister had it when I visited her, and my back was hurting due to sleeping a lot (due to the stomach flu, which thankfully was very short and not too severe), so I tried it. And was so impressed, that I went and bought it with it's two balls right away. Basically, in Elaine Petrone's Miracle Ball Method, you lay on the floor with the ball in various places and learn to relax, which can help your muscles, your pain, your stress, your figure, your posture, sound too good to be true yet? But here is the thing; it worked for me, at least the first time. It helped me relax. And it was perhaps the first relaxation method that I have had so much success with. Maybe this will work in a way that I couldn't get some of the mindfulness stuff to work. (It does, of course, share characteristics with mindfulness.) So anyway, this is my newest, exciting step in pursuing greater mental and physical health.

Now back to perfectionism, did you know it could mess with homework in a class on acoustics of speech? It sure can. I was measuring the length of a part of a sound. And remeasuring. And wondering which exact millisecond count to use. Yes, I know. Very detailed and immensely important. (Actually I could counter that by deleting milliseconds from sounds without changing the sound much at all.) I finally got over that somewhat, and stuck to measuring things only like three or four times instead of however many I used to be doing it (wow, that doesn't sound so good when I actually write it out). Then I moved on to the next part of the assignment where I deleted parts of one sound to make it sound like another. Only, if I didn't like a change, I'd try to delete it. And maybe I started making changes and undoing things too many times too fast, and then the program would mess up and I'd have to wait and start over again. Or call it good enough, like I did in one case (inviting the honesty OCD to invade, asking if I really did the assignment since I didn't re-do it many times). Oh, wonderful. OCD has come to visit.

My psychiatrist thought that was a funny way to talk about OCD, when I said it visited [a stronger episode] about once a week. "Hello, OCD, will you please go away again?" He said jokingly, appreciating my term. But actually, isn't that quite accurate?

"Hi, OCD, why did you have to show up today? I'm in a bad mood. Oh, that's why you showed up? Duh. Well, I still don't like you. But you leave faster when I invite you in. So how about it? Whatcha got? What accusations are up your sleeve? I'm a bad person? Oh, depression already said that. You are behind the times. I'm... what? Oh, a bad student. Wouldn't that figure from being a bad person? Not necessarily? When were you so logical? I cheat? Ah, now you're talking. What if someone reads my post and thinks I actually cheat? Oh, now you are really starting to call out my anxiety, but it shrank again as I typed my reply. Oh? You've interrupted my blog post enough? You'll come back later? Deal."

Anyway, hopefully with less work, my mood will perk up. Otherwise, I'll be tempted to look into a light box or something, in case this mood dip is related to the season. Or just lay on the floor with a Miracle Ball. At least that doesn't take much effort.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

visiting deeper depression

You know when the deeper depression comes for a visit? How one moment I think, "How did I get this low (never mind the warning signals)?" Yet on the other hand, it is so familiar, it is as if I never left. I try to tell myself, it might just be for tonight. That happens sometimes, at least for me. I get some sleep and a new day and I'm back to my normal level of depression, the one that is somewhere between mild and moderate (I think), that I think of as so much better because it is so much better.

So maybe tomorrow, I'll feel better. But for now, I will chronicle my sad struggle with depression and hours worked (at a paying job). I wanted to be able to tell my counselor tomorrow, "Oh, it worked out with me still working afternoons. It's fine." Or, if not that, "My psychiatrist agreed that I should stop working afternoons." You know, something definite that does not involve me being responsible for stopping working afternoons, or that at least quiets the judgmental voice in my head.

Of course, if I'm afraid of a judgmental voice in my head, I should consider what judgments would be worse, since it doesn't seem likely to shut up at this point. Do I want the deeper depressed thoughts? Or do I want to feel like I'm not working enough. Oh, and yeah, I did think of how by now, chances are I'll get both of those singing in my head. Singing is the wrong word. Chanting would be better.

When I talked to my non-depressed friend, it seemed so logical and doable to merely discuss my desire to get off work after 8 hours. When the work week comes, however, for starters, my assertiveness is used up on daily work without supporting me in talking to my boss. And then, I'm super at justifying my plan to keep working as if I had no depression problem. Like today, the work time went well. I started home thinking I wanted to go swimming at the gym. But by the time I got home and sat on my couch to watch a dvd while eating supper, well, I didn't want to do anything besides watch more and more episodes of this tv show. And the depressed thoughts were happy to pop back up when I took a break from watching the tv.

So it is classic, annoying depression.

And a classic, indecisive moment for me.

And I think to myself, if I could only justify taking the afternoons off in my mind. And now I wonder, did OCD steel that opportunity? Will there never be assurance? Fake conscience, am I stuck with you?

Probably. So now that I know I'm just going to be bugged by my fake conscience, period, maybe I can move on... by talking to my counselor again. When will I stop trying to remove the responsibility from myself? But if I have the responsibility, I might fail. Hah, I have the responsibility, and I might fail, short term. But in the interest of a happy blog post ending, how about I switch to thinking about the present, not what I should or shouldn't, can or can't, will or won't do about the future.

Like right now. I can go to bed as soon as I take my shower. And bed sounds nice. Last night, sleep had its share of bad dreams (people chasing me, believe it or not) and sweat. But at least momentarily, this night, I will enjoy playing solitaire and falling asleep. And tomorrow I see my counselor. See, Abigail, it will be okay, at least the next twenty-four hours will, and that is as far as I need to worry about right now. Funny how much relief I get out of breaking time into smaller pieces and only dealing with a more manageable segment.

Oh, and I enjoyed tap dancing class. I did go into my shell by the end. But it was in the evening. And maybe as I continue lessons, I wont retreat into my shell as much. And I'm referring to the less-intentional shell crawling. When I just seem to start shutting down, though I can keep a good face on top, usually.

Monday, September 24, 2012

teary weekend

My younger sister had her good bye dinner with my family. She's getting ready to get trained in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) so she can be a missionary somewhere. My Dad asked her how it came about, and she told about how she felt God led her.

Then I went home, and filled out some Spiritual Growth Assessment thingy. Which, of course, measures your Christian life based on some external and/or subjective symptoms of the stereotyped "good" Christian's spiritual health. For the record, my pastor has done an amazing job not turning this whole thing into a legalistic judgmental thing. But when I'm looking at the paperwork by myself... Well, it wasn't too bad, until I got to the part where you graph your spiritual level (once again, not in legalism levels, but the goal is for planning to intentionally grow in your spiritual life. Unfortunately, they do this by looking at certain stereotyped symptoms). Anyway, I colored in my blob of a Christian life, reflected on how I was short in the whole missions/witnessing area, and then considered how I would have looked better a few years ago, when I was trying to go back to the mission field, or even when I was on it.

I didn't put the stuff with my younger sister and then the spiritual growth stuff together until later, and I was rather taken aback at how upset I got. I haven't cried that much in a while.

See, here is something I've said many times, sometimes around tears. You hear people talking about "those people who wouldn't answer God's call to missions, so there aren't as many missionaries as there should be" or whatever. Lay on the guilt, despite the fact that without lots of people to send them, missions wouldn't work as well. (With sufficient selfishness, I used to tell people that it was fine they weren't going over seas. We couldn't all go, and I really, really wanted to go.) Anyway, the part of the story that I pretty much only hear from myself or people agreeing with me is about all the people who really, really wanted to go over seas, but due to being turned down or finances or health or some combination or who knows what, they are unable to go. Secret sufferers. Hey, what are you going to do? Follow the people trying to recruit missionaries around and inform them that the world isn't as simple or pleasant as they might think it was? Hmm, you'd think I was depressed or something. Actually, I haven't been too shy about telling my story of not getting to go back over seas. Perhaps I should be more shy than I am.

Anyway, I was so upset, and it hung over me through most of Sunday, until I talked to another of my sisters and had one final cry.

It isn't just the mission thing. Its the actually standing up for myself instead of being a complete doormat all of the time (now I'm just a partial doormat). That doesn't look so good on your Christianity rating on paper. Or depression and anxiety. Really? That's like a black mark. But don't worry, once you do some averaging of your total score, people don't have to know that you have a mood disorder. They can assume you fall short somewhere else.

But when I met with my small group, it wasn't so bad. They agreed with me when I said the paper was kind of like measuring someone's swimming speed in a swimming pool and later in a river but without accounting for the influence of the running water. See, the group has been pretty decent. The thing/one that isn't so good with this sort of evaluation is me. Putting it on paper, I could see what I've feared for some time; My faith life looks worse (at least on paper) now than it did a couple years ago, before I started fighting the depression and OCD.

But I wasn't completely swamped. I still knew that actually my faith has grown, even if it looks different on paper. So maybe before I got a bunch of outward indicators down, but now I've (more or less) kept faith through a year and a half of wanting to die. It might not look as good on paper, because they don't take the depression into consideration. But God does. Despite my tears, I knew that he was happy with my spiritual growth. And that is what really matters.

So there is my long religious story. I have passed the tears stage. Last night, I switched from crying to thinking that I had a sinus infection. It gave a physical reason for me to feel down, so that helped. Today, I might stick with the earlier dirty air (stale smoke from forest fires) allergy theory, with maybe an infection, but I'm not going to pay a doctor to see him about it yet.

But I'm soo tired. After talking to a bunch of people on Sunday about the work situation, and determining to try and stick out working afternoons, just hopefully getting off after 8 hours, I'm exhausted. And, of course, trying to figure out why. Never mind the emotional weekend or simple lack of sleep. Is it depression? Is my depression getting worse? Do I need to enact more anti-depression measures? Can I quit working afternoons? Seriously, Abigail. Give it time.

It doesn't help that issues keep coming up at work. They really aren't that serious, except as people make them out to be. Sure, problems, but not the end of the world. Problems that are just going to happen when you have a bunch of toddlers and one teacher (or even two teachers). One of my co-teachers assured me it wasn't my fault. But I'm struggling to emotionally grasp that. I know it in theory, but emotionally, I'm still working on it. My job is just straight out stressful.

And when I think about cutting hours, I get into the financial issues of my own, and that is also stressful. And when depression gets a little worse, it makes it that much harder to sort out the financial mess. That much harder to even look the financial mess head on.

Well, I'll call it a night for blogging now. :) I'm actually going to exercise tonight. I can say that, because I'm going to a tap dancing class, and I will almost certainly enjoy it, and I sure don't want to miss it. So that is good.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"might" and "should"

Well, I write ... I can't say that word because I don't know how to spell it (don't worry, it wasn't a bad word). I write tiredly after a loong day at work. I wasn't really expecting my two afternoons a week to go past 8 hours total each day, but I was kind of wrong. The chances are somewhat half and half that I'll get out close to 8 hours or over. But I'm having a little trouble.

Today was over, but my boss apologized, saying I shouldn't have been there that late. Ahhh. That's nice to know.

But then what about Tuesday, when I also worked late?

My counselor suggested that I enact my back-up plan to ask to go back to just mornings, since afternoons are giving me a bit extra struggle.

The biggest issues? One, I hate making waves, and not working afternoons might mess things up, and a "might" is all I need, since I have OCD, to spike anxiety. The other? I was finally feeling like I was working "enough," like I wasn't working less because of my mental health. Admitting that the afternoons aren't working feels like admitting weakness, and I don't really like to do that in work situations. And remember that "might" word? Things "might" get easier. The afternoons might fall into a nice flow that would allow me to keep these added hours and feel like I'm working as much as I "should" be able to. And there it is, the "should" word. "Should" describes why I work two afternoons a week in addition to my long mornings. I "shouldn't" be making so little money, I "should" work more hours, I "shouldn't" go into debt any more than I have to, I "should" be able to work more hours. After all, I "shouldn't" need time for myself to relax and do fun things. I "should" be able to work all the time, transitioning from work to homework and back again, with just enough time to clean my house (which "should" be clean, but isn't) in between, and a half hour or hour of television while I eat my supper, well that is kind of spoiling myself, but we'll let that go considering all the "take care of yourself" and "it's okay to have fun/you deserve to have fun" speeches I've heard. (I "shouldn't" have fun because I deserve it, though, because I just might not deserve it).

Well, I took my mood chart from the last three or four months and averaged out the weeks so that I had a shorter, readable summary, intent on checking the trend of my mood this last month with more work. The results were mixed. I've been tracking my depression at its best and worst each day, so that I wouldn't have to pick just one number. Well, on the positive, my least depressed moment has generally gotten less depressed. On the other hand, my most depressed moment jumped down, then back up and is rising higher. So how's that for inconclusive? Add to it the realization that charting my mood at its best and worst misses the whole question of how much time the worst depression was around during the day. So facts? I don't know. The whole mood chart was supposed to create scientific certainty in my mind regarding trends. Instead, it is just one more questionable indicator. Oh, and there is the little problem of every day having to record things subjectively. So it never would have been solidly scientific fact.

Aside from the chart, I'm pretty positive my stress has climbed, and it makes working in the mornings harder. And the quantity of more depressed thinking seems to be growing. So I'm giving serious thought to my counselor's words. Tomorrow I see my Psychiatrist, so maybe he can weigh in on the matter.

Looking at the chart, during the last two months, my anxiety and my sleep level have been inversely related, my anxiety going down as my sleep increased and vice versa. Of course, the secret unknown is that I slept more when I was sick, and when I'm sick, sometimes it fogs my brain over so that I'm not as emotional and my thoughts are slower, which would lessen my anxiety.

Well, 'bye for now. I'm running late...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

isolated OCD moments and exposure therapy

Recently, my OCD has been giving me isolated OCD moments when I get really anxious, fight back, and then somehow forget. Like last night. I was picking up a dvd that cost 15 dollars. I asked if a check would be fine, and was told who to make it out to. Then I worried about if I would spell it right, if it would work. So then I got 15 dollars in cash (okay, now I see that the build up took several steps over twenty-four hours). So then, I put the $15 cash in an envelope with the name on the front (the spelling wouldn't matter this way), put a blank check in my pocket, in case the cash didn't work, and went to pick up the dvd. I requested it, and was told I owed $15. So I rechecked the envelope (which I did not seal just so that I could recheck it), observed the three 5 dollar bills, and handed it to the man. He looked at the name on the front and said that worked. He didn't recheck the 3 five dollar bills. He gave me the dvd and I walked out, slowly so that he could call me back if the change was wrong. But I don't know if he checked it. I worried that if he did, and I was short, he wouldn't awkwardly confront me (he's a friend). So the anxiety mounted.

And then my years of therapy kicked in! I started repeating over and over to myself how I've stolen the dvd and it will mess up relationships. Over and over. I was going to get used to the anxiety! Well, I don't actually remember stopping. I remember that it took concentration to repeat my feared outcome. And I remember concentrating to do it. And then I remember observing people around me and trying to plan how to get into the room where auditions were taking place (not for me this time; for my little brothers) without causing a distraction or an embarrassing moment for myself. And guess what? The fear went away, not even to bother me later in the evening. Of course, now that I'm saying the fear is gone, it starts creeping up. I think that would fall under the "afraid of lying" obsession and compulsion more than my "afraid of accidentally stealing" fear.

Well, this morning, I got a text message. Usually that isn't too bad. But this was with the new pastor's wife of my new church. So I got really anxious. You know when it takes you a long time to decide on wording for a simple text message that anxiety has come knocking. The text conversation involved me sending two time-consuming, anxiety-provoking texts. And then I started repeating how my text would hurt the pastor's wife's feelings and my relationships with the small group she is a part of would be forever awkward and messed up. This time, I didn't get it into one sentence, which is a bit inconvenient when I try to repeat it. But the same effect was achieved. I repeated it until... I don't know what exactly happened, but I moved on. I forgot to keep repeating it.

And so I am once more grateful for Exposure Response Prevention. I think it is really hard to do for really bad (strong) obsessions and compulsions, but I find it works well for smaller issues.

Friday, September 14, 2012

pretty good moment :)

I have several pieces of good news. One is: I got two of my three medications through patient assistance programs! I am so thankful for that. These two meds cost more than a hundred dollars each month with a prescription savings card but no insurance. So with this assistance, my medications wont cost more than my rent. :)

Another good thing... I"m forgetting it... Still forgetting it.

Well, yesterday, working morning and afternoon went well. I thought, I will be able to handle this. Then today was a rough day. Not so much the kids as me, at least at first. Then I got a bunch of kids, so anybody would be stressed. So part of me wonders if I had more trouble today because I worked long yesterday. I'm still worried about working two afternoons a week in addition to my mornings, but I'm mostly sticking with a somewhat worried, "I think it will work out." And I do. At least, I really, really, hope it will work out. Part of it is just that now I feel like I"m working "enough." So much for learning that I'm an okay person without working "enough." I can understand the concept with other people, it's more with myself that I have this issue.

What was the other good thing?

I dared to join an online dating website. Who would have thought? I finally feel "ready" - for a first date. Not sure about anything beyond that. :) Great progress socially for me, though.

Ummm, I talked to my mom about switching from the gym membership my parents have generously gotten me to taking dance lessons once a week. I think that it might work out better and be more enjoyable. I'm not doing a good job at actually going to the gym to exercise.

I rearranged my tiny apartment so that the heater can actually heat the room when I need it too. :) I just have to finish that so that the whole room is done, not just in a state frozen midway on the moving around process. Oh, well, it works for now. I kept a path where I needed one, my seat on the couch, the basics. So procrastination can be performed successfully. But I want to procrastinate more on my school work than on my house organizing, so I think I will get further tonight.

Ah, I remember what might be the other good thing. I got a proctor set up for my online class tests. And I was bold (for me) enough to actually talk to a librarian so that I can get this done for free instead of paying 15 dollars every time to take it at the local testing center. I was about to give in and just use the testing center, even though it would probably end up costing me something near a hundred dollars this semester. It shows one way that my anxiety can cost me money. :) I'd rather spend money than put in the extra effort and ask a favor of a librarian.  I think I feel like I'm making extra work for her, but I don't feel that way about the testing center, because that is their job, not to mention the money I pay for the service. But my anxiety isn't charging my bank account this time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

monday without saying no

Maybe I should get better at saying no. But at the same time, I want to help cover other people's shifts when they need/want it because on occasion, I like to take a day off, too. Planning ahead might help.

Because I was looking forward to having this afternoon off. Then a coworker showed up singing the length of her to-do list that just had to be done this afternoon/evening, and my boss asked if I could stay late. So I did. But somehow, the balance of enough hours of work and too many is hard to find. Because when I work the afternoon, it doesn't mean finishing an 8 hour day. It means staying until they don't need me any more, which came to a 9 and a quarter hour day today as well as one of those last week. There was a reason I didn't say I could work every afternoon, okay? So I don't want 40 hours squished into two or three afternoons, okay? I'm holding out, so far, but I know that if my stress gets too high, my mood tends to go down, and I'm closer to that point than I'd like to be. Or, to put it simply, I didn't want to work this afternoon.

I tried for the good attitude thing, well, at least while I was there. It tends to fade after 8 hours even on a good day, though. And there is smoke in the air from some wild fire somewhere. I realize that a little smoke is nothing compared to being by the actual fire, but now my throat hurts, so either I'm getting sick, or (the more likely one, I'm thinking) my allergies - the ones I supposedly don't have, thank you allergy specialist doctor - are acting up. In conclusion, not long after work, I decided the air smelled like smoke mixed with the memory of dirty diapers (thanks to my job?). In other words, I suspect, stale smoke.

Well, I heard some rumor (more likely read it) that ranting doesn't really help get rid of anger. Not sure if it's true or not. I'm guessing sleep is the most likely solution for my anger. Maybe some silly tv show preserved on a dvd would help, too. And supper. Food can help that sort of thing, too. Ha, so see there? Three things that might help me.

As for church stuff... did I actually ask the pastor my questions at the small group? Oh, no. Instead, I did my normal, "he's a pastor and that makes him scarey" routine. Some cross between "don't even look at me" and "I wish you would talk to me." Talk about a loose-loose situation. And what brought that up? Possibly too much stress in one day. When I am less stressed, I usually do less of the "pastors are scarey" thing. Maybe small group the same day as church isn't the best. Or maybe it would be better if they weren't saying they were getting too big and might need to split but they don't want to. The pastor's wife was nice, saying, no, I was still welcome. So I'm going to believe her. I don't add any more kids to the mix, so that probably helps (this is a small group with a plentiful supply of little children, which I like, but if I had some of my own, that would add to the craziness). But anyway, now I'm tossing around the thought of calling the pastor (which is scarey, period) or putting off my questions (so they can grow into monsters before I ask them?).

Enough for the moment. A long day tomorrow, and then hopefully, if I'm asked to stay late Wednesday, I will have the courage to ask if there is another way to cover things.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

church/pastor support for mental illness?

This morning, the OCD monster got up pretty close to when I did. I guess you could generally put it under scrupulosity. It has to do with relationships and being appropriate and fear of not being appropriate. How's that for a general specific definition? Because that's about as specific as I want to get right now. So I was like, "Bring it on. But I don't mean that I want OCD to bring it on, I mean that I'm ready to fight it." Since, obviously, I'd better define my statement, lest something bad happens. Oh, sneaky, was that you, OCD? I was fighting you in another area, and you aren't supposed to switch battle fields. Ha! I know you don't follow that rule.

Anyway, I told myself I was probably one of those bad people planning on doing what my obsession thought I was at risk of doing. I tossed around the idea of trying exposure scripts later (I was getting ready for Church, so my time was limited). At the moment, I was actually planning to do the exposure scripts. But things got better. Maybe my cognitive behavioral response tricks worked. Maybe the meds helped. For sure, I got distracted by other things. And so the battle was won, or at least put on hold.

Then was church. The subject was touchy for me - the passage was a wide open door for a how-to sermon, which my former pastor probably would have given. Remarkably enough, this pastor did pretty well at staying on solid ground and avoiding the slippery how-to slope. But I was pretty agitated. I played with my toy Koala (he's brilliant light green, and he's one of those squishy, textureful toys like the balls with a thousand soft rubber spikes that light up when you throw them on the ground and that squish like an amoeba. There was a time when I tried to keep him hidden in my hands, not letting the world or the church know that I was playing with a toy in church, a stress-release type toy. But by the end of the sermon, I wasn't really caring too much. So what? So what if they see I'm playing with a toy during the sermon. It isn't a complete secret that some people do better with a stress ball or doodling (though I don't usually hear of doodling as a stress reliever, though it is for me).

Anyway, we got through the sermon with no terrible problem. Then I looked at the small groups available. I'll be trying one out tonight. Then I picked up the little packet of papers to help us with self-evaluation of where we are in our Christian life and growth. And then I walked to my car and looked it over. And then (do I sound like a little kid telling a story yet? "And then... and then... and then... ) I looked through the papers. It didn't take long to realize that my depression and anxiety were going to through a monkey wrench into the evaluation. There's a question about whether hope, joy and peace or anxiety and worry manifested themselves in my life. Um, my Anxiety disorder(s?) and Depression are going to get in the way.

So I really thought, today is the day to ask the pastor about his view on mental illness, though my counselor thinks I might get better results if I say "depression and anxiety" instead of "mental illness." However I word it, I'm really wanting to know now. Like, I feel the desire for tears coming up, so this is a really important matter for me. So I returned to church, but the pastor was busy talking. So I chose option B. He should be at the small group tonight.

So here's a question for me; how important is it for me that he or whoever ends up being my small group leader understands mental illness? Is this an issue I could get around? Because I'm liking this church. Anyway, I'm not sure. Maybe I could get around it. Maybe it depends on exactly what their opinion is (there are ways to disagree that are more hurtful and that are less hurtful).

The youth pastor at my other church - the one who moved on to another church - he didn't have too good a grasp on OCD. The time I got into particulars about ERP in the hope for pastoral approval, well, he didn't have the most helpful understanding. But what he did have was this; respect, willingness to listen, and care. He cared about me, he prayed for me, he respected me, he listened to me, he didn't assume he had all the answers, he didn't rush in to judge me. So here was a pastor who didn't have the most helpful understanding of anxiety disorders, yet he was able to support me anyway. That's what I mean by thinking maybe the people at my new church don't have to understand. Maybe they can't understand yet, or don't know enough to understand yet. That's okay. It's maybe more about how they treat me and how they assume or don't assume that they know the answers. Because really? I don't need people to have the answers. I just want them to respect me, trust me, still care about me.

What would you look for if you were looking for a church that would help or at least not hinder you in dealing with your mental illness?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I keep getting healthier and healthier from my cold. I think I will ride this one out without needing to see the doctor or take antibiotics!

Today, I saw my counselor again. The last few times, instead of wanting to cry near the end, I've ended feeling happy and ready for the world. But a little bit guilty. What if I'm wasting my counselor's time and generosity (the sliding scale rate she charges me)? But as I was typing, I remembered what you have told me before - it's her time and she does get a say in how she uses it. :) Besides, she told me today that she appreciates clients who keep their appointments faithfully (only canceling for sickness or something else reasonable) and who do homework between visits. So we see that my teacher's pet abilities transfer over to counseling. Show up, pay attention, do the work. Of course from my perspective, I see the homework that I didn't do, while she sees the work I did do.

On another note, I have succeeded in scaring myself a little bit by registering on an online dating site. Fear not; I will take the appropriate precautions and not give out my phone number or place of residence, etc. Actually, thus far, I have had very little contact with anyone through it. So at this point it qualifies as an exposure.

Well, maybe I should download my college lessons so that I can study them later... :( Working two afternoons a week has added a sizable amount of stress and energy drain to my life. In some ways, it is exciting, because I can work an 8 hour day! But then, due to the scheduling methods, I can end up working over 8 hours. Yesterday, I worked 9 and a quarter hours. After that, I went home a read a  book. I'll give this arrangement some time and hope I can work the two afternoons of work into the rhythme of my life for this semester, along with these two new classes (and hopefully that distance learning course on Human Anatomy that must be finished by April and floats around the back of my mind like a poster on the wall. Those don't usually float, though. And I need to work exercise in, too. That's a to-do that rises higher and higher on my list.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This and that

Well, I went to a New Members class at the latest church I've been attending. I'm definitely not ready for membership, but it was nice to get to know more about the church and the pastor. And he passed a couple more questions on my list. Maybe this will work out. That would be so nice. Not have to keep searching for a church "home." I still have a few more questions, but I really don't want to get the "wrong" answers, so I don't want to ask them too fast. I think it probably helps pastors give better answers when they know me a little better/over a little bit of time. Maybe it will help him give me the benefit of the doubt with mental illness if he's already seen me for several Sundays. I'm almost always late, but otherwise, I'm probably fairly normal, except I might ask more questions with specific answers in mind.

Actually, I asked him about Sanctification, and he gave me a great answer, that included not understanding it all. What I didn't want was some legalistic, guilt-incuding answer. Instead, I felt he kept a pretty good perspective.

My flu has transitioned to the cold part. My left ear has been under the weather for several days now, but it isn't keeping me awake as long as I sleep on my couch. It did make things a bit extra overwhelming at church between service and the new members class, because my balance seemed slightly off in addition to my one ear echoing sound.

Yesterday, I took a break from my grand plan to rest all weekend (aside from church and classes) to drive my mom and her friend over to do some sightseeing. We went on a tour of a mine. It was actually not as exciting as I thought it would be. We walked into the mountain, but we didn't go down deep. We basically walked in and walked out without much elevation change. I did, however, feel quite safe.

Then I read a whole book last night! I smiled in anticipation, enjoyed the book, and still almost smile at the rememberance. I plan to read another this afternoon. They are romantic suspence paperbacks. Sometimes those books scare me a little, so they aren't 100% "safe," but I still enjoy them. Hey, maybe I could even call them a very small exposure.

My dishes have fallen back into a dirty state. Multiple nights, I stopped to wash a few just so I could prove to myself that I hadn't fallen back into the don't wash all the dishes more than once a month problem. But I tried to remind myself, I'm sick. People in general very likely would not wash their dishes as much while they were sick. This doesn't make me a failure.

Nor does being late for church. Once again, the "I'm always late for church; I can't get to church on time; what kind of person am I?" thoughts visited. But in the book Learned Optimism, by Martin E. Seligman, I learned that that type of overgeneralization promotes depression. A better option, using the principles in the book, would be more alon the lines of, "Today I am late for church. I could be on time for church. I get to work on time, so I could get to church on time." In issues like this, I have found the Learned Optimism book to be helpful. I didn't actually read the whole thing, though, so I can't represent the whole book. And there was the normal promotion of his ideas as this great cure for depression. But he did have some good cognitive therapy type ideas.