On getting some things out

Coming across intense

I had a weird dream the other night. In it I was friends with two women I don’t recognize, throughout the course of the dream one of the women expressed her desire not to be friends with me anymore. She explained this using an Excel spreadsheet (it was a dream, what do you want me to say?), and when she did I cringed a bit and said “Ah of course, I come across too intense, argh.” as if I knew what she was going to say. I did know she was going to say it, because this is something that has been weighing on me a bit. Your conscience will do that sometimes, put something in a dream to quietly remind you of it.

Someone told me recently that another (I suppose former) friend had conveyed to her that I come across really intense. The friend who said this has broken away from myself and some others in the past several months. When I heard this I knew exactly what it meant. The reason I know what it means is because of therapy. One of the key things therapy showed me is that I need to have my thinking flaws exposed. If a therapist asks me the right questions and keeps following them up to the point that I prove my own thoughts about myself wrong, I have to smile because my flawed thinking has been categorically proved wrong. This is what I enjoyed about therapy, the therapist knowing me well enough to do the thinking that I have neither the energy or desire to do. Ultimately therapy is just another teacher-student dynamic, they are there to teach you to manage your own thoughts, and to give you the tools to survive, by yourself. Back to the original point, I come across intense. I know it’s true because I think I sometimes try to emulate the position of the therapist, keep asking questions until no answer can be given. However I understand that not everyone appreciates that, and if they are feeling worried or upset about something, being drilled about it probably isn’t that helpful. I regret that the way I acted almost certainly lead to this friend being driven away. I hope in future we can reconnect. I am trying to be more empathetic and just listen to people now, without telling them what to do or anything like that. Questions are better when they are an either-or  type situation, rather than a deep exploration.

One example of a great question I landed recently was to a friend, she said she was feeling guilty because she hadn’t done much work  that day. She had however been working really hard before that, and over the previous weekend. I said to her “Is the guilt more important than you feeling able to relax?” and I know it was good because she smiled because she knew I got her! It was an open ended way of asking her if out of all the feelings she could feel, why was feeling guilty the most important, and the answer is that it isn’t. I know when I feel that same guilt, it is an example of zooming in on a tiny thing and applying it to everything else, as if it is the one universal truth. But it’s not, it’s just our minds focussing on the negative.

Being attacked

Last Saturday I came back to Nottingham after spending Christmas at home with family. I’ve done the trip a lot of times and I quite enjoy it. I take a Chelmsford to London Liverpool Street train, take the tube to King’s Cross and from there to Nottingham. I like entering the fringes of London and seeing the train get deeper into the heart of the city. A novelty I enjoy because I don’t live there. This Saturday was different because on the tube I was attacked by a man because I wouldn’t pay him for a poem.

The man strolled up as I sat down on the Metropolitan line from Liverpool Street and asked me and the couple sat across from me if we had any spare change. The man was carrying a dirty blanket and looked homeless. I said I didn’t have any change but I had some food he could have. He then said he had already eaten. He went on to ask if I would like to hear a poem (the couple had disengaged from him at this point, and he focussed on me), and if I like it, I could tip him. The man recited a pretty nice poem actually, and then he talked about being an ex-Navy man. I lamented that it’s a shame that they weren’t taking care of him. After this he asked if I would give him his money. I said again that I didn’t have any, but that he could have my food for later if he wanted. This is when he turned. He stood up and started to tower over me and said “I’ve explained it 5 times now so you can understand. I asked you if you’d give me money and you said yes! Now give me my fucking money!”. At this point I’m just surprised. I said again that I didn’t have any. After this he said “I don’t care if you think I’m gonna use the money for drugs or whatever, just give me the money!” I think I just looked puzzled. He then said “Give me my fucking money or I’ll smash your head through the window!” then he got in real close and bared his teeth and spat. He backed off and then I said “I don’t know what to say, am I supposed to feel bad?” and then he launched at me, grabbed my neck with one hand and thrust me back so my head hit the window. At this point I’m staring him dead in the eye, refusing to be intimidated. The woman sat across from me (incredibly bravely) immediately intervened and shouted for him to leave me alone. At that point I thrust his arm off me and stood up, still staring him dead in the face. At some point he had tried to grab my bag, but I can’t remember if this was before or after he tried to strangle me.

At that point I was waiting for him to try something, anything, again, I was considering what to do, whether I would have to punch him or what. He was now arguing with the woman, and then a man from further down the train shouted “Oi! Leave him alone!” and came over to try and diffuse him as well. I appreciated people stepping up for me when I would not step up for myself. At this point he did move off but continuted arguing with people. It happened so quickly that I barely had time to even react. It went from talking to a man who seemed nice, to thrusting his arm away from choking me. The woman turned to me and said “Are you ok?” and I said “Yeah I’m ok.” she then said “Are you sure?” and I nodded. She then said “I also know you need a hug” and she gave me a hug, and at that point I felt quite teary. I said thank you and that I had to get off (the trip from Liverpool Street to King’s Cross is quite short, 5-7 minutes perhaps). I went to find the closest station staff I could to tell them I had just been strangled. They almost didn’t seem concerned, they said they had another incident ongoing. I said I was worried he might try and corner a woman who was alone. After this I tweeted the British Transport Police, and within 20 mins I was speaking to an officer. The BTP have been really good so far, I gave them an initial statement over the phone, and I will go into Nottingham to give a full statement tomorrow and they will submit this to the Officer in Charge in London. I am happy to push for the man to be prosecuted. I don’t know if he lied about being ex-Navy or if he really is and has PTSD, but I don’t really care. What he did was pretty damn awful, and I didn’t deserve it.

The past few days I don’t quite know how I’ve been feeling about the whole ordeal. I have of course replayed it over and over in my head, but I can’t decide if I am really bothered by it or not. I feel… sad, in the sense that I didn’t stand up for myself. Why wouldn’t I stand up for myself? Is this another expression of how low my self-worth is? Or did I genuinely just freeze out of surprise? I had a productive day on Monday, but today was hopeless. Tomorrow might be different. It is tempting to feel bad about this, but I seem to be in a phase where I am good at turning my thoughts around from negative to positive. After all I can only go one day at a time.

New routines

The closest thing I have to a New Year’s Resolution is that I want to take my mind to the next level. Did you ever see the film Limitless? Or the Netflix series that is a sequal to it? I am fascinated by the concept, that you can unlock this great potential in your mind. I know that we can do things to improve the way we learn. Nowhere is this shown better than by “Memory Champions” or people who participate in contests of memory, they are shown some information and must remember as much of it as possible in a certain time. Everyone has different ways of doing it, but it boils down to how a person learns things, and you can learn things incredibly quickly. I am interested in doing things to boost my own abilities in this regard. I have gotten myself access to some courses by some world renowned super-learners on how to improve things like speedreading and committing things to memory. I plan to work on these courses a small amount every day and make it routine. I look forward to seeing how it pans out.

This was a post I felt I really needed to write, I think the two major topics have been weighing on me quite a lot so it’s good to get them out. It got to 10pm and I decided I would go to bed, except I then decided to go for a walk because my back hurts. My back hurts because I put on weight and my body hasn’t adjusted… I texted some people and bought a coffee and some rubbish. I came back, chatted and played games with some friends, and then I wrote this. Maybe next time I can skip the crap and get right to some healthy writing as a decent outlet. This quote about discipline springs to mind…
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My progress in 2018

I originally started this post with “2018 was a mixed bag” but that wouldn’t be accurate. 2018 was good, because if I compared what I knew at the start to what I know now, objectively I am better off than before. If I could compartmentalise the areas of my life I think the most about, they would be as follows:

  • My ongoing PhD
  • My recovery
  • My social connections

Let’s see how these have all progressed. It is important to me that I measure my progress because all too often I feel like time rushes by, and I realised why with an extract from East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

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My ongoing PhD

I started 2018 not fretting too much about my PhD, I had until 30th September 2018 to finish it. I cruised on by doing some contracting to pay the rent, but that left me feeling empty. I couldn’t find a way to start making meaningful forward progress with my thesis or the work I had left to do. I had no structure and no drive and I wasn’t seeking help from my supervisors. I did that thing where I let time go by because I had loads of it. I made some new friends who have helped push me forward with writing, and I am thankful to them for that. Writing by itself however is not enough. What I need to do is two main work areas, and then write the chapters they fall in to. I read a book about how to write a thesis (the ultimate in productive procrastination, don’t you know?), and I gleaned some interesting things from it. First and foremost about how I insert myself, the scholar, into the text, and how I fit there. The second key lesson I got from the book is how to disentangle “writing up”. The authors discourage minimising the thesis to “writing up” and instead frame it as a crucial part of research. The reason it is crucial is because hidden within the task of doing the thesis, is learning how the writer feels about the research they have done. I have a lengthy catalogue of work I have done for my PhD, I know how I want to weave it all together, my overarching model, so why can’t I just bulldoze the thesis? Having to write something means having to think, and the thinking you do when you attempt to write is different than the thought process when doing other things. Writing is the way one creates meaningful, ordered conclusions from disordered thoughts. Writing the thesis is crucial to learning how I feel about my research. I will reach my conclusions by trying to write, and trying to write will create order from my thoughts.

The next major area of my PhD going forward is setting up my old test rig. I have reassembled and fixed my old test rig from when I first started. This rig was the first thing I designed at the start of my PhD, so it is quite sentimental in some ways. I need to perform a series of experiments to contribute to part of my overall model. It has been hard getting back to this, because I have dealt with regularly feeling like a failure and retreating into procrastination. Procrastination was always a problem, but I have found ways to move through it. I got back in touch with my supervisors and they have been a tremendous support to me. As time goes by, I tend to feel as if I am not worthy of receiving help. This is especially crippling for my PhD as I regularly avoid reaching out to people for help, even when the problem is merely to ask a technician to drill a few holes in a plate. I am doing better with this now, I am remembering how to be assertive. Assertiveness is an interesting word for me, because I think of it as merely asking for what I deserve. The technicians for example are staff who manage our lab, they are happy to help with these things. My supervisors are also happy to help me, and I should not feel like I am unworthy. My supervisors afterall want to see me finish my PhD, get a good job and be successful. They have been key to getting me back on track, we have reestablished weekly technical meetings to discuss work I have done and where I should go with it next. This has given me the motivation to do something in order to have something to present to them.

I struggle with routine as I have to plan all of my time and the tasks I do. I think in many ways getting a 9 to 5 would make my life much simpler, go to work, do work, go home again. Sometimes I don’t even reliably get up early and start working. I have started planning my weeks in a planner a friend bought for me, in order to combat this. I am still fine tuning my method for planning, but I am getting somewhere with it for sure. I am interested in learning how to engineer new habits, and I think planning my weeks underpins that really well. I usually write four lists; PhD, Me, Social and Commitments. PhD is self explanatory, it can be any task I plan to do. “Me” is anything to do with things solely related to me, i could be going to the gym or even things like laundry or cleaning my room. Social is plans with other people, and Commitments are things like meetings or private tutoring, things I have committed to other people. I then assign these tasks to specific days, so “P3” would means number 3 in the PhD list. I think I might be slightly overdoing it at the moment as I assign too many PhD tasks each day, so I should aim a bit lower and just make sure I achieve something.

I have always had a problem with perfectionism, which governs the order in which I do things and the height to which I aim. I need to aim small and go from there. Instead of listing all the tasks I have to do and trying to cram them all in to one or two days, I should list my tasks and just aim to do one, and if that goes well I can tackle another too.  Recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger did an AMA on Reddit, and I saw his response to the comment below:

Screenshot_1A guy asks a throwaway question in the hope of a reply, and Arnie gives him the most wholesome reply possible. Just do something. Anything will do. Nothing is too small to achieve in a day, but it is definitely possible to aim too high. I know that if I give myself too much to do in a day, I will fall short, I may even do nothing. However, if I give myself one thing to do, that is no sweat. I often find that if I go and do something straightforward and short for my PhD, there is often impetus to do more to build on it. If I can “trick” myself into getting up and doing something, I will likely end up doing more. This mentality underpins everything going forward. With this I can engineer new habits and begin my ascent once again to everything I am capable of.

In the meantime I have to stay grounded, I can’t allow myself to become overworked by never stopping, and on the other hand I must not allow myself to never start. I had some thoughts today on one of my last days of holiday that I should be working. Who else thinks they should be working when they are on holiday? Holiday is holiday, being able to compartmentalize work and leisure is key to balance. I am tired of swinging from pole to pole.

My Recovery

I often feel very conflicted about my relationship to food and my recovery from binge eating. I have learned a lot from lots of different people, mainly other people who suffer from eating disorders. Even though I don’t know anyone else who struggles with the same thing as me, there is a large amount of universality to eating disorders. We all struggle with basics like not even knowing what a “normal” person eats, and we all feel shame. I also had quite a bit of therapy throughout the year, but in my opinion it always ends too soon. I think this happens to people a lot, they need therapy, they get it, but because you only get 8 sessions, you’re done before you get into “maintenance mode”. Maintenance mode is when you’ve had some therapy and kind of learn the mistakes your brain is making, and start to challenge it, and keep having therapy to fine tune it. It isn’t enough time to properly build a new habit I don’t think.

Right now I have ended the year heavier than when I started it, but not by much really. I know that when I get my routine going (which includes the gym!) the weight will begin to secede. In order to fix my body, I have to fix my mind. No amount of brute forcing the gym will really fix me if I feel compelled to binge eat as well. If I make peace with the forces that make me want to binge eat, I will move forward again.

I have binged frequently over the Christmas period. I knew I would, but I just kept telling myself I won’t because I’ll be too ashamed for anyone to find out. In some ways it is pretty impressive how well one can hide things from people nearby. I was binging heavily for about one week in particular recently, but I managed to break that. I resisted the temptation to go to the nearby shop and buy the usual binge foods. I made sure to walk the dog at least once, picking times when I was feeling negative so that I could use the exercise to rebound. It worked. I would like the gym to be a place I can go after a long day in order to relax. I want any feeling of resistance or anxiety about going, to be gone. I want the gym to be a sanctuary.

Last night I reflected on how things will be fine. However I did binge and subsequently purge. It felt bad, but I didn’t dwell on it really. I knew it was a one time thing because I had eaten so much chocolate and regretted it. Then again, that’s what the process of binging and purging is, purging is an attempt to undo the binge. I know that it won’t continue though because I believe in myself enough to not allow it to continue.

In summary, I am not in my best shape because Christmas is hard, but I am in a stronger mindset. That mindset has evolved as I have been writing this post over several nights, but more on that later.

My Social Connections

2018 was a big year for this. I made some new friends through First Steps and it all grew from there. Ever since I had over a year of therapy, before bariatric surgery, I was festering in solitude. My therapist and I struck up such a good connection that she had even offered to meet me at boardgame nights. However I could never muster the courage to go to them. I actually still have not. I started putting a lot of pressure on myself to go to things like this but I think ultimately I felt too scared about how I looked to other people. But that’s in the past.

Just before 2018 I started going to First Steps weekly drop-in clinics. They are a place for people to come and talk about their struggles, or not. It is a supportive environment for people who need it. Through this I made friends with other people, through our shared experiences with eating disorders. I soon felt comfortable around these people because they already knew my biggest vulnerability, and they knew theirs, and we realised we were the same. I find that when I am feeling bad, I need constant exposure to other sufferers, to remind me that my thoughts and feelings are not unique to me, and that they are temporary. One of my friends invited me to her birthday get together, and there I met another who has become a really good friend, and through her I met other people as well. It is pretty cool how things can progress like that. I am lucky they have. Through being with more people I became more confident at approaching new people. After being in a shell for so long, this really is a big step for me, and I need to recognize that. I am now a volunteer for First Steps, because somewhere along the line some people there recognized I am good at talking to people and helping them feel better. I have at times doubted my ability to do that but at the end of the year I realised I want to stick at it, because ultimately it is good for me too.

The whole point of this post is to recognize how I have progressed in a year, not to assess that I feel bad at any current moment. I decide to take the long view. I would like to try more to keep in contact with the people I don’t speak to enough. Family is included in that because I almost take for granted the fact we have a WhatsApp family group. It is important to talk about life stuff rather than just passing memes and pipe dreams.

What Comes Next

I omit the question mark because this isn’t a question about what comes next, this is what comes next. I must endeavor to remember my worth in all areas. I have a lot of things, I know I am smart, I have the credentials for that, I know I can work with people, but more than all of this, I know I have potential. I don’t know how far I will go, but I haven’t even really started. I am in the state of mind currently where I feel like I can do anything, but a lot of the time I do not think that. I often think that because my PhD is a niche area, I am not viable for many jobs. However, from another angle, I have a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from one of the best Universities in the UK, soon to have a PhD in Mechanical Engineering too. A PhD recognizes not just expertise in an area, but capability as an Engineer. I can enter a field different to my PhD because I am a quick and capable learner. I have made a lot of contacts and done significant work alongside my part-time PhD in the last few years. I can reach out to the careers office and seek more careers advice. I think that I let the unknowns keep me down, I don’t know about how the job market works for PhDs, as it will still be my first industry job. But not knowing doesn’t mean it cannot happen. It speaks a lot about the depth of my lack of self worth that I can convince myself that I am still worthless even with a PhD. I must endeavor to remember that I am not.

2019 has a lot in store, but without creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and setting myself up for failure, I will keep it broad; I will finish my PhD, I will know what my next step after the PhD is, and I will be more in control of my thoughts and feelings. It is time I work harder to engineer new habits and to leave behind the volume at which I retreat into nothing. I have taken steps to improve my productivity and my ability to learn. 2018 was good because ultimately I know more, and I have started to do this, write a blog, and share it all with You. I know some people read it, because people have been really kind about it too. Thank you for taking the time to read it and/or say something nice, from someone who struggles to feel good about themselves, just know that that means a great deal to me, more than you can know.

I am not ashamed of my struggles <3

Fighting Butterfly

~”I am not ashamed of my struggles, that shit made me” ~

It is 8pm and I’m sat on the edge of my boyfriend’s bed while he’s been napping (or sleeping) for the last few hours. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to kill, and that got me thinking, and that thinking got me thinking even more and then I decided to write a blog post while I wait for him to wake up. You may ask yourself, “I wonder what she was thinking about”, if people even read this, and if am honest, I got thinking about how much I’ve changed over the years and how this year has been incredibly weird and difficult at times but also so so amazing.

2018, well what can I say, you have been one hell of a roller-coaster ride with ups, downs and twists and turns. Everyday I’ve woken…

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Step 3

My interpretation of step 3 is “Turn to a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity”. In this context, the power I refer to is the sum of the forces behind the veil of what I am worried about. Sanity means balance. Together this means looking- objectively- at the reality of my worries and use this to bring my mind into balance. I only realised this in so many words, today. Today was a non-starter because I started by going to bed at 3:30am. I skipped the gym and I got up late and achieved nothing. I tried to set up two new SSD drives I bought, but failed at that too. I tried to eat dinner, but in my anxiousness I ate too quickly, threw it all back up and threw the rest of it away in anger. But then I had a moment of understanding, on the bus, just like all great ideas. I realised that the things worrying me today are as follows:

  1. I am not on pace to finish my PhD as quickly as I hoped.
  2. I can’t fucking clone this shitting harddrive.
  3. I wasted another day.

How true are these? With number 1 I am holding myself to impossible standards again. In the last few weeks I have done much better work than in the weeks before then. I am moving forward, this is a truth. With number 2, I don’t have to install the drives today. My life won’t combust if I leave that for another day (though I did send a pretty scathing e-mail to tech support asking them to advise on why what should be simply, seems to be anything but). I didn’t waste a day, thinking a day is wasted implies there are non-wasted days, which opens the door to castigating oneself for not meeting our own expectations. How can I reframe this list?

  1. I am moving forward with my PhD.
  2. I attempted to install two SSD drives but have consulted advice instead.
  3. I made it through today.

This restoring of sanity can be explained mechanically as I have done, but really it seems to happen chemically and much quicker. At some point I was feeling bad feelings and thinking bad things, and then I countered a though and a switch flipped. I didn’t feel so bad, I felt open to reinterpreting my thoughts. This chemical switch flipped and I was restored to sanity. You have to keep trying to counter the thoughts, like I have been doing more and more. The capacity is within us, even if we are not able to find answers in others, just keep looking.

Structure

It’s been a good week I think. I got some stuff done, and since the last post I’ve had people really responding to it in amazing ways. Old friends have been in touch, I have a new thesis writing partner in crime, and one friend has gotten me writing lists every day. If my blog posts are a cry for help, then that cry has been pretty well received indeed. Thanks to everyone who is reaching out.

Every week has ups and downs, I have days where I don’t get anything done or I back out of something, but these days aren’t the defining points that make up the experience of being me. Ups and downs are normal, so normal in fact that it probably isn’t worth dwelling on them. I am a firm believer that there is no situation or problem too big that you cannot figure a way out of it, but some things aren’t worth exerting enormous energy into. If I feel shit one morning, it is far simpler and far more efficient for me to just get up and go, than it is to try and convince myself that things are ok, nothing is scary and that I must tiptoe around oncoming guilt if I hide away for the day. I can’t always force myself to push through it, but when I can, my mind can quickly move on to other things I have to do that day. I could sit and ruminate on every little thing, but like everything else in life, I have to pick and choose what to think about. Some things just are not worth the time or effort. Time I spend thinking about the PhD and things I need to do for it, that is time well spent, at a certain point enough energy gets spent on a problem and a solution is created. That is a dependable model, as my supervisor said recently “I have never known you to shy away from hard work” – and he’s right, I don’t. When it comes down to all this it isn’t really a fear of not doing well enough at my PhD, because objectively I would say I am skilled enough to finish it (I got this far), my supervisors have never doubted me, so what else is there? It’s the general feelings of doubt and worthlessness, these creep in to anything. If I am playing a game, I will believe myself to be crap and that I am letting my teammates down. If I am shopping then I will believe myself to be making poor choices. No area is off limits to the overarching feelings of doubt and worthlessness.

A friend who I made through a game has been checking in with me every day and telling me about the things she does to plan her week, and I am really into the idea. She is going to send me one of her planners too. I desperately need any kind of structure, so making lists of tasks and deciding a little bit ahead of time when I will do them is the way to do it. It doesn’t seem like it would work, when you hear the words, but I often find myself so paralyzed by the idea of having multiple things on my plate at once, that I can often keep putting them off. If I structure things a bit, then I know in advance what is to come, and I don’t need to fear the unknown, effectively.

I went to a book club get together on Friday night. I almost did not. I baked brownies to take along, and if i’m being modest, they were fucking great, they went down a storm. I almost didn’t go for the same reason I don’t or almost don’t go to other things. It’s that “micro-decision” as I see it, you can be ruminating about something for a long time, but until you actually decide, the rumination is pointless. The time it takes to make the decision is comparitively small compared to the time spent deciding. I often make the micro-decision to not go to things shortly before things happen. However, I said this to my friend (who is also my thesis writing buddy now) and she gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to go. I am glad she did, and that I went. With these things I can only ever see the immediate reward of self-soothing and hiding away; I have to trust that the social experience will be worth it after the fact, and it rarely isn’t worth it.

A friend that I and a few others have been worried about has distanced herself further than she previously had. She stopped speaking to any of us a few months back and none of us could reach her, but she finally left a group chat and unfriended us all. It’s unfortunate and slightly worrying, because a few of us suspected she might be being abused by her husband, and three of us suspected this independently of one another. There is nothing that we can do for her now, if indeed she is in some kind of trouble. It just doesn’t seem likely that someone is doing so well with recovering from an eating disorder, that they totally distance themselves from friends and fellow sufferers… But we can’t know now. Hopefully everything is ok with her. If she really is just in search of a fresh start, then I can respect that. A fresh start per se, involves a lot of changes to one’s life, and usually is not embarked upon half-heartedly.

I did some teaching this morning. I had the usual nerves beforehand, some mild anxious sweating during, but a positive conclusion in the end. I talked to my co-demonstrator about what he is doing for the rest of the day. He and I are in very similar positions, both late stage PhDs, both jaded, both still with plenty to do including experiments and writing the thesis. I thought to myself what I have to do, and how my friend has been getting me to write lists, and in that instant I wrote my list for the day and everything seemed easier. Right now I am finishing this post because the class finished early and I am going to have lunch. I have planned lunch, I have given myself time in the day to eat and to relax. After lunch I have my work planned out. Instead of just eating something and guiltily wondering when I should start work, I can eat in peace and I know when I will start work, and what it will be. Cautiously, I am building some structure into things.

 

 

Another post about everything I am doing wrong

I write a lot about all the things I perceive myself to be doing wrong, and I rarely actually do anything to change them. This summarizes my character quite neatly; inaction. I don’t do PhD work, I don’t do much other work, I am not doing social things currently. One major thing I noticed is that I don’t prepare food at all. I actually cannot bear too. I have had this in the past, where I have resorted only to convenience foods (meal deals). I can’t even bear to heat up a ready meal. I’m not quite sure why I am so averse to it. I understand with eating disorders/disordered eating that eating not enough or too much can be the problem, but I have never known anyone to be averse to the preparation of food, rather than the eating of it. There are a great many shameful things I feel when it comes to eating. I don’t like to eat in front of people, I don’t like to eat in public, and I don’t like to eat at work either. These all can fall under the eating in front of people umbrella. I developed a shame for eating when I was younger, I was overweight from a young age because I chose food as a way to medicate for my feelings of unease. People commented, including family members. Others tormented me for it. That feeling of total worthlessness has never truly gone away, I can feel myself choking up, tears in my eyes even thinking about how I was treated on the playground. When I perceive myself to fail at something, be it a game or some kind of work, that worthlessness comes flooding back. I can’t think of any other person in the world who I would wish this upon. I feel totally dissatisfied, moving from one fix to the next, without any real attempt to solve the problem of disconnection, alienation and tepid despair.

I keep finding myself in a position where I just can’t bring myself to go and do some PhD work. Days go by and days go by, and then I have to think about how to explain this to my supervisors, who have generously agreed to meet weekly to help keep me on track. They have no obligation whatsoever to do so, but they do it, and I am fortunate for that. I stay up late at night because I know that I don’t want to wake up the following day, even writing this post is a distraction, it is past midnight. I got out of bed at 4pm today, and I joked about this with a friend, but deep down I feel pretty ashamed of this. I keep doing these same things day after day, buying bad foods, eating hidden away in my room, avoiding people and things, trying desperately to distract myself from how I feel, staying up until 2am, and repeat. If I had to speculate at the truth, I suppose I would think that it is because I somehow enjoy this, it is bearable to me and it is not. It is bearable in the sense that it is all I can tolerate. I could do with someone to help get me to do the things I need to do, but I don’t really know how to get that when I spend each day feverishly avoiding people. Tomorrow night I have a one to one gym session with a trainer, to assess my fitness and set some goals. I have already re-arranged it twice, because when the time approaches I let that voice inside convince me to go home and self-soothe and to do it another day. I constantly regret these micro-decisions after the fact. I think of them as micro-decisions because I spend a great deal of time thinking about something, but it is only in one moment that I decide to make a bad choice about it, like rearranging this session instead of just fucking going for it. Tomorrow at 5pm I have this gym session, if you feel like it, would you mind following up with me about it? Perhaps if I imagine that there is someone who can hold me accountable, I might be more likely to do it. Who could possibly know?

From chaos to order

Been thinking a lot about my life and the things I do on a day to day basis. There’s no routine to it, other than a few teaching commitments, some volunteering and a supervision meeting. Everything else is just passed time. I’m not really taking care of what I am supposed to be taking care of, my thesis. I keep finding myself doing a morning of teaching, and then slacking in the afternoon without having achieved much. I need to be sensible and use that afternoon to advance my PhD. This is after all temporary. I need to find ways to bring balance and routine to my life. So I am joining a gym, yikes. Never been good with gyms, I have and always have had cripplingly low self esteem. This goes back to primary school, and it progressively worsened as I got older. The idea of using a gym, particularly with lots of people around, petrifies me. However, I know my recovery has stagnated, I know I am beginning to regress. I know that there are numerous benefits to regular exercise, and yet the only barrier to changing this is me. I put the roadblocks up, I make the micro-decision to slack, I make the decision daily to choose comfort and familiarity and food over healthier pursuits. So now I choose to reject this. I reject the voice that says I look stupid. I reject the same voice that says “stay in, play computer games”. I want to get better, and this might be the only way to snap out of this cycle. I’ve gone just about as far as is possible in terms of mental support; there’s nothing any therapist can say that will instill in me an unshakeable confidence to go into a gym and exercise. I have to walk in and carry all of my unease with me, and exercise in spite of it. Maybe it will get easier. The age old twelve step philosophical trope says “You can’t think your way into acting better, but you can act your way into thinking better.”. I do not have to be held prisoner by the standards I imagine other people to hold. I need to do this for me, not for anyone else. As it is for me, only, why does what anyone else might think, matter? Nowadays I am so used to feelings of unease about what I presume people to think of me, that I pretty much just shortcut to feeling uneasy, without any thought to it at all. I cannot in this moment picture a time recently where someone actively did anything to me to trigger feelings of doubt and worthlessness. Unless you include me of course.

Maybe with balance I can achieve that idealised version of my working life, where I can have several plates spinning and remain at speed with them all. All of the people I most admire can do this, and I aspire to this level of “mental exaltation” that Sherlock Holmes talks about. The very thing that I want is being interfered with by the very same thing. It is amazing how the brain is the source of so many incredible things, and so many falsities all at the same time. That we develop these routines of self-doubt, amidst all of our high-functioning capabilities, is quite strange really. It takes incredible hard work to outsmart our own minds, but I think I just did.

Words I happened to be thinking about earlier today:

“You exist because we allow it, you will end because we demand it.”

“Savior, conqueror, hero, villain. You are all things, Revan… and yet you are nothing. In the end, you belong to neither the light nor the darkness. You will forever stand alone.”

“Perfectly balanced, as all things should be”

“Daniel-san you remember lesson about balance? Lesson not just karate only, lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance, everything be better, understand?”