Intrusive Thoughts

Part of the experience of trauma is that it’s difficult or nearly impossible to regulate intrusive thoughts. I never knew this was a phenomenon until I grew older and sought professional help. It explains why my whole life I’d heard criticism that no one was really voicing.

One example right now is how I’m paranoid about privacy. Part of that comes from growing up in church where adults scared me into behaving because Jesus was always watching. Nowadays, our society hands over its privacy for free so that corporations can monetize it. Data is the new oil. Whether it’s a fitness tracker, social networking app, or a personal blog, we don’t seem to mind how we broadcast intimate details about our lives. We’ve taken on these risks for decades prior, but only recently have they been weaponized against us. Edward Snowden helped reveal to the world how governments are tracking citizens of their own country or those of others, and in a large sense, there was a collective shrug and dismissal. Yes, it’s a crisis, but a lot of people continued on their merry little way. And with the critical mass that social networking has reached, choosing to not participate isn’t enough. People will still take photos of you and post them online. We live in the Orwellian world of constant surveillance, but instead of having it forced upon us, we invited it into our homes.

One aspect of mass surveillance that I take issue with is when it’s used to oppress the already-marginalized. Activists for the queer community, women, and people of colour are closely monitored while white supremacists roam free. One aspect of personal security audits is to evaluate your risk profile. There are different security requirements for an average citizen and a politician. In general, I think I’m twice as cautious as I need to be due to my trauma. I put a lot of effort into never breaking any traffic laws while driving because I never want to encounter a police officer. I make several backups of my information, both locally and remotely, such that I don’t expose myself to the risk of data loss. Friends have poked fun at me for wearing my tin foil hat when it comes to privacy, but I also don’t think they understand at a deep level the degree of vulnerability I feel on a daily basis. Feeling even a little exposed is a frightening position for me. A quick fix is to stop blogging so openly about all the ways people can and have hurt me, but that’s not the life I want to live. I must write. I must express myself. There are numerous areas of risk where I feel exposed, and though privacy is just one of them, it’s an important one.

Counselling helped me to realize that even though I feel a certain way about my personal safety, grounding myself in objective facts and reality can keep my mind from running away with anxiety. Reminding myself of ways that I’m able to protect myself, as well as how I’ve done so in the past, is a great way to empower myself and to lower my fears. It’s important to distinguish the hand-waving and minimizing people often resort to in order to slap a band-aid on an emotional wound.

"I had a rough day at work."

"At least you have a job."

There’s a time and place for taking perspective, and that’s after the emotions have been acknowledged and normalized. However, not only do I have to give credibility to my intuition and emotions, but I also have set up guideposts for them with cold hard facts.

After acknowledging my childhood abuse, I was faced with a decision. Either I could live a quiet and restricted life, or I could blast through it and try to live life to the fullest. I chose the latter, and I paid dearly for it. It’s still a constant battle for me to feel comfortable in my own skin because of the physiological impacts of my trauma. I have the tendency to get so absorbed in video games to escape the uncomfortable feelings that it can hurt other areas of my body. Sitting on the couch with controller in hand, playing for hours at a time, it becomes very painful once I finish a gaming session. I played Starcraft II for the first time in a while, and I left after one mission because I was feeling super dizzy. Sometimes we need to talk about our problems, and other times we need to shut up about them. Due to how my brain works, it’s better for me to resort to escaping my problems since I’m a bit obsessive.

My coping mechanism can be both the solution and the problem. If I don’t sleep well, I’ll feel disconnected from my body all day. Then I’ll turn to obsessive behaviours in order to feel reconnected with myself. I’ll eat delicious junk food until my tummy hurts from stretching. I’ll drink the hyper sweet fizzy sugar beverages. Binge eating and video games tend to exacerbate my anxiety, which leads to worse sleep. Sleepiness and exhaustion enhance our cravings for fatty and sugary foods, and Coke is my productivity drink of choice when I didn’t sleep well. Then it ruins my sleep. Right now, the gym is my saving grace because of how effective it is at tearing my mind away from my intrusive thoughts. Failing that, sometimes I need to zone out using various news feeds, but it only works when I’m bothered by small to medium issues. Otherwise, I would have to read for so long that my eyes hurt, which simply shifts the problem and usually still leaves my brain hurting from the original issue. That’s why dancing is so important to me. It combines physical exercise, friends, delicious drinks, good tunes, and tons of fun. Dance therapy.

We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind

Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance

Well they're no friends of mine.

  • The Safety Dance

There is a positive aspect to having obsessive thoughts. I’ve learned to use it to my advantage, especially in aspects of design. I’m able to look at a problem and walk around, asking a hundred questions in order to crack the puzzle. It’s helped me design electronics and 3D models, and it helps me to learn and improve my performance in various areas at work. On the same token, it can be a challenge to turn off the designer’s mindset. It’s super annoying to look at everything and wonder “how would someone use this if they were hearing-impaired or colourblind?” While it’s a useful and worthy perspective to take at times, constantly thinking can be really annoying. Brains are stupid. What good have they ever done on this earth?

I’m happy to be in this space. I know what I need, and now I simply need to follow through. I never used to be able to escape those nasty feelings, and they would pile up week after week. That’s probably why you’ve read so much on this blog about what’s bothering me. Every once in a while I try to write about what I’m grateful for or what’s going right for me, and it’s a practice I’m trying to do more regularly. Healthy minds already fixate more readily on negativity than on positive thoughts. You could receive 20 compliments and feedback on one “area of growth,” and you’ll forget all about the nice things people said and only remember the bad one. It requires more effort for me to appreciate the little bit of life I got left.

I’m going to part time hours at work. I’ve been working too hard both at my job and in my marriage, so I’m going to let Carrie carry me for a while. I’m burning out. I feel like my mind is sending commands to my body, and all my body responds with is a shrug.

Me: "Let’s go brush our teeth and sleep at a reasonable hour."

Also me: "Nah, let’s eat instant noodles and watch Futurama until we pass out on the couch instead."

Not everyone gets a life partner who’s willing to pick up the slack. Carrie is fortunate to have me, and I’m lucky to have her. That’s a pretty good thought to allow to intrude on my mind.

Longsuffering

Picture the worst suffering you ever experienced. Now imagine that you went through it just so someone else didn’t have to. Like Redbull, martyrdom gives you wings -- angel wings. Life’s hard. Marriage is hard. To make things easier, I use a sacrificial mentality. I may not enjoy carrying out certain chores, but doing it for someone else makes it easier. That perspective can help in a pinch, but it also gets old.

I’m a firm believer that if you sow generously, you’ll reap generously. If you put out good energy, you’ll get it back. I don’t really worry much about getting paid out immediately for everything I do. Sometimes I should. When you realize you’re suffering in order to help another person, you get an instant boost from that simple shift in perspective. It’s a mentality that can be abused, especially when the martyr needs validation and credit for their suffering. Sometimes people suffer when they don’t need to, and they start crying out for attention when they realize no one is praising them.

People usually live in a disconnected way. I used to work extra hard in order to be happy, whereas if I had stepped back to take an inventory of my life, I could have been happier with way less effort. When I earned more, I spent more, which required me to work more, then I bought more stuff to compensate for the extra stress. It’s normal for our lives to become inconsistent and hypocritical, like when I hit the gym and immediately follow it up with a bucket of fried chicken. We aren’t perfect, but we can make our own lives more comfortable by trying to be more connected and consistent. I’ve been playing the victim lately in order to keep us going, but now I’m running out of fuel.

It’s heroic to be viewed as the bad guy when you’re really the good guy. You’re the champion that the people need, not the one they deserve. You’re giving up the credit due to your name. The praise you receive for being a martyr is so inviting that some rush into suffering just for the look. The narrative is so powerful that even someone who has it all can look very sympathetic to the less fortunate. It frames the situation to give you a very flattering look. It’s more impressive to say I lost 15 pounds than to say I never put on that weight in the first place.

There are only a few times in life when we can exert superhuman strength. Turn on the turbo jets and get things done. We all have that capacity. Parents fend off wild animals to protect their kids. People can lift cars when they’re trying to free someone from a collision. Others work three jobs in order to provide a life and education for their siblings. The trade-off is that the turbo boost is limited. You can only use it a short time before you need a rest. Even Goku can only go Super Saiyan for a limited time.

IMG_0018.JPG

Carrie and I have at least one crisis per year, and we’re just wrapping up the 2017 edition right now. It’s been a tough couple months. I’m tired. I don’t daydream anymore, but I do have stressful nightmares. The work that I’ve been doing this fall is hard to see. I listened to Carrie vent even though I wasn’t in a good space to listen. I held her when she cried. I took care of myself when she couldn’t support me. It took a lot of energy, and I drew strength from being a martyr. By pushing my own limits of suffering, I was helping Carrie through her storm.

And now I’m ready to collapse.

Nostalgia

My high school friend got called to the bar recently, so we had a mini high school reunion. Following weekend had a wedding for a friend from university, whose reception was actually at the university. Even ran into an old professor randomly that weekend, so I guess the theme for this week is nostalgia. When I went to Edmonton, I felt like driving around some old roads. I hadn’t visited in some six months, but even prior to that, I only really stuck to a small portion of the city where my friends and I hung out. There’s a whole bunch of the city I used to drive through or spend time in which I hadn’t really seen in years, so it was nice just driving around the neighbourhood I grew up in, taking the routes I used to take to go to church or school, all those little connecting roads. There’s been lots of development in the city, and lots of interesting construction. I don’t like to live in nostalgia, but I appreicate being able to visit the feeling every once in a while. It keeps me grounded, reminding myself of my roots and where I came from. At the same time, I realize that not speaking to my family anymore means I cut off access to a lot of where I came from. I’ll miss looking through photo albums of when we were kids.

Lots of little anniversaries this time of year:

  • Hernia surgery.
  • Friend got married.
  • Pokewalks. Still got 9 eggs waiting to hatch.
  • Started going to the gym.
  • Some friends moved away.
  • Quit my job.
  • Employment insurance.
  • I bought Philips Hue light last year to help regulate my sleep by syncing it with the sunrise and bedtime. I only just got around to doing that just a few weeks ago.

What’s the purpose of nostalgia? How does it fit into people’s lives? Why am I feeling it now?

There’s value in tradition because it’s a foundation we can build on. Friends often introduce us to new ones. We can derive new information based on information that we already know. Small machines are created to make micro machines. Once we have a stable base, then it’s easy to take risks so long as they don’t threaten our headquarters. Our brains can’t handle new stimuli all the time. It’s overwhelming when nothing is familiar, so the brain filters out the known variables so that we can better handle the unknown.

I’m living a new life. I’m turning my back on my family. I’m not pursuing engineering work at the moment, even though I just started wearing my iron ring again. Carrie is done her four years of school, and now we’re both making money again. I’m finished at the moment with counselling and working through my mental illness and trauma directly, but I’m maintaining it daily. In a couple years, Carrie and I will start having kids. Feels like we’re starting a new chapter here, and before moving on, sometimes it’s good to review and even re-read the previous chapters to remember what happened. It provides context and history to new situations, which inform how you should feel and respond moving forward.

Nostalgia is comforting when the world changes too quickly. I’m going through a lot of changes. I re-watch a lot of old TV shows because there aren’t that many good ones out there, but it’s comforting to hear the same old funny jokes. I like to eat the same foods. Some adventurous types like to only eat at new places, whereas I prefer to eat places that are consistently delicious.

Part of why I spent two years in counselling was to increase my adaptability to change. I could barely handle working full-time, so when there were changes to my regularly scheduled programming, like leaving town for the weekend, I did not recover quickly. I’d work, and that was about it. I couldn’t help Carrie with groceries or cleaning. I’d be watching TV for pretty much the entire evening, barely getting ready for bed before passing out. I did almost nothing on the weekends, whereas now I’m learning to cook new recipes so Carrie has good food to pack for lunch. Probably not a big deal for you well-adjusted adults out there, but it’s a big accomplishment for me.

I’m normally not really a nostalgic person, so if I’m feeling it a lot right now, that tells me I’ve been more stressed than usual. My three year resolution runs out in January. I used to be chomping at the bit to take on extracurricular activities, but I banned them almost three years ago in order to retain my sanity. Even after it expires, I may just want to keep chilling. A couple more months and then I think I’ll be healthy again. Sometimes I get wild ideas that need to be brought into this world, but I just feel tired right now. I don’t even feel like drawing some deep, grand conclusion from this whole experience into this post. It could also be this cold that I recently caught.

It’s tempting right now to prepare to hit the ground running once the resolution expires, but if I’m feeling stressed enough to feel nostalgic right now, I’ll take that as a sign that I should keep resting.

Freedom

Whenever I can, I do nothing at all. There’s only so much you can do to tidy, file away, reserve, pick up. I don’t really have an urge to do much on my days off, which is a new experience for me. I don’t really feel like playing Breath of the Wild. There’s nothing terribly interesting on social media. I have enough new music on my to-do list that I don’t need to get too adventurous. Nothing I even really feel like printing these days. This is how life calms down. Back when I was in the corporate rat race, I felt like I was never doing enough. Even on my weekends, I had to relax extra hard because I worked extra hard and I was extra miserable. Now, I try to not be so extra. Eventually I want to get back into reading more books.

My schedule now is pretty light. Work five days, get two days off. On my days off, be productive during the day. Otherwise, if I sleep all day, I won’t sleep at night. Part of that productivity means writing on the first day, editing on the second, then hitting publish. About once a month, I go out with my friends, and we go hard. Sundays, there is family dinner. Every night before bed, I stretch my feet and neck so that the simple act of existing isn’t so painful the next day. I’ll meet up with a friend once a week or so. Any more than that, then my structure falls apart. Any changes to that structure puts pressure on everything afterwards, and then I stop functioning. I’ve found my rhythm. Steady state. Homeostasis. This is what I’m capable of for now, and I need to protect my schedule dearly.

Sleep solves and creates many problems, so it’s a matter of using sleep effectively as a tool. Through my worst days, sleep was usually a way for me to escape my situation momentarily so that I could recharge and attack it again. Thomas Edison famously napped whenever he was stuck with a problem. Sleep serves a couple functions, one of which is to improve your memory. Your memories are rearranged during your REM cycle, tossing out information you don’t need and consolidating the data you use more regularly. Even now, when most of my bigger problems have been put to rest and my day to day problems are smaller in size, sometimes the only way to solve an issue is to sleep on it.

This week, I somehow got around to processing a painful experience from a previous job. I was tasked with recreating someone’s work but in a format that was easier to audit and understand. I was given ample time, but the problem was much more complex than it seemed at a high level. Hint: they always are. I delivered it late, but I never heard anything from my manager. He never mentioned anything about it being late, asked why, checked in to see if I needed more help. That’s fine, but I also expected him to be more of a leader than that. He went to great pains to make sure the rest of the team was in check and had the resources they needed, but I was left out in the cold. I never knew he was upset about it until I got my annual review. I knew that I didn’t communicate my struggles and needs, so he wasn’t wrong about my performance. Nevertheless, the pain stuck with me. I was blind-sided, and I felt betrayed. I knew he was taking jabs at me behind my back with other coworkers. For some reason, that popped up this week. I had been thinking about it unconsciously for the past little while, but ultimately it was an unresolved issue that kept hurting me until I dealt with it. If I hadn’t created the space, the peace and quiet at home, creating structured unstructured time, it would have gone on continually hurting me.

“Don’t take it personally.” You hear it all the time, and it isn’t always helpful. “Just get over it.” This advice comes from people who currently aren’t hurt by whatever it is you are complaining about. There’s no empathy there. There’s no understanding that you’re human and that your reaction is understandable. It’s how Barney deals with getting sick:

It’s like when you’re rock- or wall-climbing. You’re supposed to rest the majority of your weight on your legs, but when you’re more experienced, you can use your arm strength and claw-like grip to lift yourself up. People with weaker upper body strength can’t “just do it” compared to someone with more developed abilities. Emotionally, we all have some ability to muscle through whatever is bothering us, and each of us has different strengths for dealing with different emotions. However, the energy to do that eventually runs out, and then suddenly you’re the one that snaps when you least expect it. You can’t always tough it out in every single situation. Since I’ve dealt with a lot of my deeper wounds, I’m less sensitive now. I still have to be aware that everyone has a different level of sensitivity, so I can’t just assume that since I’m okay now, everyone else should be too. People like to say that "time heals all wounds," but that’s not true of trauma.

There was a dead bee laying in our building’s basement. We go down there maybe once or twice a month, depending on what we need to put into or take out of storage. This huge fuzzy bumblebee died and laid itself to rest in the hallway on the way to our storage closet. Now, it’s already a creepy basement with poor lighting and fading architecture, and I was traumatized as a child by a bumblebee. We had this apple tree in our garden, and I went outside to pick an apple to sate my appetite on a hot summer day. I grabbed a juicy apple and bit into it, and as I was walking back to the house, a bee decided to pollinate my ear, which I guess must look like a flower to them. I was stunned for about 5 seconds, then I started freaking out and batting at my ear, shaking my head, screaming, and running inside. Pretty quick series of events, but ever since, I haven’t been able to get rid of the heightened fear whenever I hear a buzzing sound close to my ear. I wasn’t stung or anything, but I simply can’t handle little flies, mosquitoes, and especially yellow bugs like wasps or hornets. Anyhow, seeing that huge fuzzy bee in our storage area triggered that fear. I could have dealt with the trauma directly, I suppose, but I don’t think it’s the biggest worry I have, especially living in the frozen wasteland of Canada. After seeing it about three times over a couple months and reacting the same way every time, freezing up in fear for a second, I decided to remove it. I didn’t have a broom or anything, so I just kicked it with my sandals until it was outside, where the cleaner would remove it that night. Ugh. Gross. Blech. I shudder thinking about it now.

I think trauma leads to addiction, and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to orange soda. It pulls me into the moment. The bubbles burning, coupled with the sweetness, makes my mouth taste the cold, tingly, citrus nectar. It draws my mind out of the troubles that might be plaguing me from the past or the future. It’s also super warm in our place most of the time, so it’s partly just another way to cool down. There are many things we do to draw our minds into the present, like playing on our phones, watching TV, going to the gym, taking a walk, video games, drinking and smoking. As long as the pain or pleasure is strong enough, it transports our headspace from wherever it currently is towards the present. I’m not drawn by the thrill of gambling in a casino per se, but that feeling still exists inside me, just in different areas. Taking questionable risks, betting on shaky ground, feeling a hot streak. Sometimes it happens when I’m 3D printing a detailed model. Addiction is incredibly complex, and I don’t claim to have much insight into how it works. However, I’m trying to play with ideas in order to get a better grasp on the parameters and impacts of my behaviour. Some nights I can’t sleep until I’ve snacked a bunch and drunk an orange soda. When I get stressed, all I want is a fizzy sugar drink. That can’t be great for my health long term.

Freedom. Why did I go through two years of counselling and let my world fall apart? Why did I go to school? Why do I write? Why do I fight so persistently with Carrie and not give up until we find a resolution? I wanted to be free of the trauma that trapped me, and now I have more control over how I regulate my emotions. I’m free from my family now, whereas I used to feel so poisoned with toxic stress and anxiety when I talked with them. I worked through my PTSD so I could live a normal life. I think addiction and trauma are so interrelated because they both point to a feeling of being stuck, trapped in a cycle. There’s a way to break out of the prison, but it’s really difficult when everything is falling apart at the same time and you can’t catch enough of a break to get ahead. My two most recent examples of creating some room was from a painful experience at work and a traumatic childhood experience with bees. Not only did I need to create space in order see the problems, but I also needed to deal with those emotions in order to create more room. The purpose is to live freely. Now I’m not afraid of going downstairs. I know there won’t be a monster hiding down there to terrorize me. It’s a straightforward mentality dealing with physical wounds, but we tend to ignore our emotional wounds.

It’s a new experience being able to peel away my mind and heart from an emotional situation and to decide whether or not I want to proceed. Being so sensitive before, most overwhelming scenarios would max out my anxiety and stress, and it would take days or weeks just to calm down about it. Now I can negotiate my emotions in the moment. Instead of thinking of a witty comeback three weeks later in the shower, I can come up with a response almost right away (or the day after). It’s a remarkable change. I used to just tell myself positive messages like “don’t let it bother you” or “you’re better than that,” but it never really started working until now. I used to need several hours a day to put my emotions on ice, and as a result, I was completely unavailable to Carrie after a work day. Now I can bounce back much quicker using several coping methods, and I’ll even clean up the home and get ready for bed early instead of simply passing out on the couch. I’m crashing and burning a lot less. Way less boozing. Eating my emotions less. I’m even being proactive and intentional with my free time, figuring out ways to get ahead for tomorrow’s needs. I spend less time feeling confused about what I’m feeling, why, and what to do about it.

I’m functioning better. I’m staying within my window of tolerance more often. Before, my stress would rise quickly and fall slowly, but now it rises slower and falls quicker. I can even avoid stressful situations altogether! Imagine that. Instead of letting my addictive tendencies derail my life, I’m creating balance through sleep. By taking the time to deal with my emotional wounds, I’m free to operate in the ways that I like, such as using my free time to do my chores and run errands. With that free time, I can do whatever I want, like doing nothing at all. That allows me to see new problems, and dealing with those problems creates room so I can sleep or do nothing at all. It’s a healthy cycle. It’s liberating.

Emotional Tiers

I wrote a little while ago about how we can choose our responses to everything that happens to us, but going further, sometimes we can choose our emotional state. For instance, even though I was unemployed and searching for work only a few months ago, I didn’t want certain types of work, like the service industry, factory jobs, construction. These are all things I could have considered, but I didn’t want to because of the emotional tier I wanted to occupy. I didn’t want to work in something I’d find too embarrassing to talk about. In fact, I quit my previous job during a time when people were being laid off and moving back home. When my dad fled from the Viet Cong, I’m sure that any job I had over my lifetime would be better than living under their regime. Some people are content with being miserable at their jobs. They take in a lot of abuse in order to get that paycheque or pat on the head. At some level, I have to appreciate that some people can raise a family on my retail salary, whereas I’m just preoccupied with buying better clothes and a new 3D printer.

I’ve observed that satisfaction with your life starts with a decision. As a kid, I knew that when I grew up, I didn’t want to struggle to find work or money. I knew I would go to school, but later on, I learned that getting myself into a relationship would also provide financial relief (and responsibility). Even through the unemployment, I could have done a ton of things to escape financial hardship. I could have not quit my job in the first place. I could have stopped counselling. I could have moved in with my in-laws. However, I refused to leave my emotional tier. I was relatively content with my setup, such as my living situation, my transportation strategy, my food intake. Instead, I refused to change up a lot of things which would have helped my finances. It was more challenging to get by because I didn’t want to lose any ground, even temporarily.

On one of my days off last week, I went for a nice meal, biked around the river through the yellowing autumn leaves, and laid in the grass with the sun shining on me. It was a beautiful day, but I still had to choose to be content. Even though I wasn’t over the moon or having the best time of my life, that kind of peace and quiet is hard to attain. Things aren’t always perfect, but when they aren’t bad, that’s great. We can’t always escape to Hawaii and stare out at the ocean or take a long weekend at the cabin, but there are pockets in our everyday spaces where we can transport our minds and stop worrying about everything. Presented with this kind of peace and quiet, it’s tempting to complain that I’m bored, but compared to just last year, my life’s amazing now that things aren’t blowing up anymore. I have to make intentional decisions to be glad because otherwise, I would be unhappy with my life no matter how good it got. On the flip side, there is no pleasing some people, who find any reason to be unhappy with themselves and others.

I’m feeling better about myself. I’m receiving more compliments for my work and my looks, which is a new experience. I’m sticking with a hairdo that works for me instead of buzzing it, I’m buying nicer clothes for my wardrobe, and I’m moisturizing. A friend patted me on the back the other night, and they were like “Whoa, someone’s been working out!" I have been working on my back, but I never thought anyone would notice. That compliment will probably stay with me for weeks. Each nice word I receive now feels like someone taking a brick away from the walls built up around my old identity. I was a perfectionist growing up, so I was never good enough for anyone, especially myself. I was awkward and nerdy (an awknerd), so I felt like I never fit in with most people. I hated myself, so I was ashamed of who I was and what I did. Most times when I would receive a compliment, I would correct the person by making a self-deprecating joke about how lame I truly was. Now people say I’m cool or I’m awesome, and it’s all terribly humbling and terrifying. Look how hot I am:

New profile for every account.

A post shared by Jon Lê (@jonle_) on

The compliments spike my anxiety. This goes back to a topic I covered while in counselling. My core belief about myself fits a certain definition. People tell me what they think of me, and if their comment conflicts with my own definition of myself, it’s physically and emotionally upsetting. I tend to have low self-esteem, and people saying such nice things about me is scary because it doesn’t usually fit in with how I identify myself. I have a distinct fear that they’re manipulating me to gain favour and to eventually screw me over. Ya, not a great response. I’ve never considered myself good-looking, but now that I think about it, there have been a decent amount of girls that had crushes on me based on only my looks. I don’t know why it is, but it’s usually people my parents’ age that say I’m handsome. I’ve never really accepted these nice words before. I used to fish for compliments and then reject them once I got them. Now that the counselling has helped me change my self-perspective to be more positive, I’m getting better at receiving compliments. I want to find other ways to feel good about who I am. Apparently it’s common that when people finish therapy, they start dressing better. Feel good, look good.

When you get to take control of your life, it takes a decision to be happy (plus a lot of time) before you reach that emotional tier. It doesn’t simply fall into your lap. Even when bad things keep happening to you, it takes a willingness to fight back and refuse to be broken down in order to eventually be content. It doesn’t happen right away, but given time and persistence, it’s attainable. I used to think I was supposed to be miserable. I was supposed to suffer being around people who brought me down, and I was resigned to my fate of misery. The situation only improved once I decided I wanted to be happier. It took years of hard work and support from my loved ones, but I’ve dealt with a lot of my emotional baggage, which has allowed me to feel better about who I am. I’m dressing better, working out more, and people are starting to notice. Not only that, but I’m noticing that they’re noticing, which feeds back into my goal of wanting to feel better about myself. Instead of criticizing, I’m being compassionate with myself and allowing myself to feel good, to reap the rewards of the hard work I’ve put into fighting my demons. Being in this emotional tier makes me want to cry.