In Which I Have a Lot of Regrets and Complaints

I was supposed to have a work event this past weekend, meaning my ex would definitely be there and possibly his GF, though possibly not since her name got scratched off the sign-up sheet. Since I wanted to know what exactly I’d be in for after four months of not seeing either of them, I had my best friend check to see if they’re still together and yep, they are. They are still in each other’s profile pictures.

And then I just plummeted. (And by the way, I didn’t go. Figured I’d be happier if I just stayed home and studied.)

I guess I’d gotten my hopes up, even though part of me thought them breaking up would be too good to be true. And part of me just wants them broken up just so that means I have some space without them always flirting in front of me. But the other part of me still really misses him and wishes I had just one more chance with him to do things right because I have a lot of regrets and things I would’ve done differently if I’d known better at the time.

When him and I were together, I was under an enormous amount of stress.

First I was in summer school taking a Psych Stats course that requires a C+ or higher in order for me to apply for my major, plus I was still new at my job and learning things and worried that I would screw up and get fired.

Then I was seeing different psychologists to try and get a diagnosis for whether I had a mental disorder, submitting paperwork to my school to apply as a student with a disability, then having to drop out of school to take care of all these appointments and paperwork, which then resulted in StudentAid BC telling me that since I’d dropped out too many times, they would no longer loan me any money. Which is devastating for me because I was still living in poverty and didn’t know how I would pay for school and my receiving BC Housing and child support depends on me being a full-time student, and at the time BC Housing and child support were paying for the roof over my head. Plus this means that I’d sunk about $20, 000 into a degree I now might not get to finish.

Then I had to do more paperwork concerning student loans, which they wanted me to start paying back despite the fact that I am still in school, full-time according to my university since I now have a documented disability, but they won’t acknowledge my disability because I can’t prove that it will last for the rest of my natural life, so therefore I am a “part-time” student and should pay my student loans back. Because eight years of crippling anxiety and depression is not solid enough evidence for them.

I was helping my mom job hunt and rebuilding my relationships with my siblings, which was also stressful, and living in a dump of an apartment that needed constant maintenance because that’s all we could afford.

This all resulted in me being tired all the time. So we didn’t actually go out for dates all that often, but usually stayed in at my place or his. Each time, the plan was to watch a movie, but it got to the point where I felt so tired I didn’t even feel like watching a movie but would rather just cuddle on the couch… which usually ended up with us making out on the couch. I’m not sure where the energy for that came from, but somehow it was there.

I don’t regret going as far as I did with him sexually, but I do wish I’d spent less time making out with him and more time actually talking with him. I wish we’d went out for walks or went out swimming or ice skating or played board games or video games or sat around listening to music or reading books together or even just studying together.

And I just had so much of my own baggage. I never suggested going out to restaurants or movies because I knew he would insist on paying for me as well as him and I hated being a drain on his bank account. He’d made it clear on the first date that he didn’t have a problem paying for me (in fact, I think it makes him feel rather manly), and after date number four, during which I had my “I hate being poor” breakdown, he insisted on paying for my things. He was just trying to take care of me.

But thing is, I like being independent. When someone is always paying for me, I feel like a burden. And he was younger than me and I wanted him to enjoy that. I wanted him to save that money for school or for a trip to his dad’s in Alberta or for that video game he’s had his eye on or on a new book. I didn’t want him spending it all on me.

And during the summer when we’d dated, he was working two jobs, both of them very extraverted while he is rather introverted, then once his summer job was over he was in his first semester of university, taking full-time courses while working close to thirty hours a week. I figured he was tired and he had mentioned being really exhausted so I didn’t suggest actually going out to do something either because I wanted to make sure he was getting the rest he needed.

Now I realize how stupid it was. He was the one who suggested us going for a walk on our Thanksgiving date and he had a great time. He had a great time! He was talkative and energetic and fun. So why did I think he wouldn’t want to go out to actually do stuff? And I’m so mad at myself for not even thinking of just asking him about it.

I wish I’d been more assertive. I wish I’d confronted him on things like him not telling people about us, particularly not telling his mom, and I wish I’d insisted on him telling me at least something about his past relationships. But I never did because I was trying to be respectful of his boundaries and because I didn’t want to be seen as a “nagging”, “clingy” girlfriend (which is an idea our society put into my head, not him).

I wish I’d been more affectionate with him in public. I would hold his hand and put my arm around him in public, but I’d never kissed him in public, not once. Since I didn’t really have any relationship experience, I wasn’t sure what “appropriate” PDA was and didn’t want to offend people, so I didn’t give him a kiss even when I wanted to. And I worried about people walking in on us kissing too. I wonder if that put a damper on things as well.

I wish I wasn’t so scared. Sometimes I wonder if it was my own fear that ended the relationship.

My mom says that she understands my thoughts, but that it takes two to make a relationship work and he wasn’t trying. Which is true. I know the break-up isn’t my fault. He was the one refusing to talk to me that last month of our relationship. But I guess sometimes you just go over it all in your head because if you’re the one who wrecked it maybe you’re the one who can fix it.

I wish I could have another chance, to tell him what I’ve learned and what we could do different. Maybe things would be different with me on antidepressants and taking a lower course load and having less paperwork and appointments and not being so scared of what others think of me and with my mom having a full-time job and us living in a nice place.

And I’m just so confused because I feel like I’ve been dealing with two totally different people in my memories of him. One of those people loves me and thinks I’m just the most wonderful person and is excited to see me and be around me. The other doesn’t care about me at all and is cold and rude. I don’t know how to reconcile them with each other. My world doesn’t even make sense to me. Dating him now, after all that’s happened, doesn’t make sense. But being apart from him doesn’t make sense either.

So I had several breakdowns over the course of this weekend, after which my mother lectured me. I hate being lectured. I’m either being told what I should’ve done differently, which frankly isn’t helpful to me now, or told that life’s not fair and to just get over it.

(I feel like I’m painting a rather negative picture of my mom. She’s actually really great with me most of the time and I’m glad she’s my mom. It’s just that when I’m super close to someone and they get on my nerves, it affects me more than if it’s someone I’m not close to getting on my nerves, so I complain about them more even if they’re great the rest of the time.)

I also overestimated how much medication I had left and ran out, so we wound up having to grab that on the way to my brother’s place so I had it for exam time. So we wound up being an hour late, which my brother was fine with, but my mom lectured me in the car about how I need to plan ahead or write things down and how now this is affecting my brother and his family. And I just said “‘Kay” and kept my mouth shut. Sometimes I want to say “Can’t you see I’m already doing the best I can? Can’t you accept that sometimes things just slip my mind? Can’t you see I already hate myself for being a burden on my loved ones?” But I don’t because it would worry her and she worries about me enough already.

It’s been tight financially. Obviously, having to come up with like, $2000-$3000 out of nowhere to get moved took its toll, but we had to shell out even more money because now that my mom finally has a medical plan, she had to catch up on all the medical appointments that have had to be neglected for the past, mmm… seven years or so. Which was another $1000. And then there’s gas money to get to and from work from us both. Plus Christmas shopping. Plus I needed a new sports bra and new pajamas.

In short, we didn’t have much money for groceries so I haven’t eaten much this week. As I’ve already referenced, when I don’t eat enough, my thoughts wander to places they shouldn’t and my muscles get sore and it’s harder to sleep so I just feel like crap.

And then of course, there are final exams. Yesterday felt like the longest day ever. Sunday was spent getting my medication then visiting with my brother and his family then studying super late then having that breakdown and then more studying and then yesterday morning I had one of my finals then work, so I wound up being up for over thirty hours with only a nap for sleep.

I’m also taking on more hours at work next semester, which means I’ll have to go to staff meetings, which means my ex will be there and his GF too unless I get lucky and she has a class at that time. I’m really dreading it because being around them all summer really messed me up and I never want to go through that again. Honestly, I’m petrified.

Again, my moods have been all over the place. There are some days where I’m passionate and opinionated and alive and am interested in all these things and love learning and am a genius and will one day do great things and feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. Then other days, like these days, nothing that used to make me happy makes me happy, I feel like I have no personal interests or hobbies, and just feel like this boring, empty shell of a human being that never gets anything done.

I’ve been trying really hard to be positive but lately it’s been falling short. If you believe in prayer, I would really appreciate you praying for me.

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November in a Nutshell

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My accomplishments for November include:

Getting moved.

Completing three papers in one week, two of them in one sitting, the other one being the Lit Review From Hell that I’ve been anxiously procrastinating on all semester.

Miraculously getting caught up on my reading for school after draining all of my cognitive energy on the Lit Review From Hell.

Being confident about crushing finals.

Signing up for next semester’s classes.

Having my moods so all over the place that I almost wonder if I’m bipolar except I’m probably not because I don’t have manic highs, I’m just moody and depressed.

Going for a walk in my new neighbourhood, which is very nice, and finding a giant maple leaf, which I brought home for my mom because she used to tell me about how when she lived in Ontario there were these maple leafs over a foot across.

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A photo of me holding that maple leaf, so you all know I am not kidding about it being a GIANT maple leaf.

 

Stopping at the thrift store and running into a random old lady who started giving me advice about hats because the one I was trying on was too baggy at the back so she went and grabbed me a different hat to try on, which she thought looked very nice on me. She also told me to wash it by hand and that I could let it dry stretched over a coffee tin to help it keep its shape. I still wound up buying my original hat, since I prefer floppy knit hats, but it was sweet of her.

Going grocery shopping and initiating a normal conversation with the cashier.

Watching two seasons of Supernatural and royally screwing up my sleep schedule doing it.

Painting my nails, even my fingernails, which never happens since, well, honestly, it feels really weird playing the piano with painted fingernails. Like, weirder than playing with gloves.

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Ta-da!

 

20171019_155055Finding toe socks!

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I haven’t seen these since I was a kid. You have no idea how excited I am.

 

Discovering my new favourite things on the Internet (Why My Kid Is Crying, James Breakwell, Misha Collins talking about his kids, and anything that pokes fun at Luke Skywalker and/or Kylo Ren).

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An example of my favourite things: Misha Collins talking about his son West.

 

Seeing my doctor, my chiropractor, and my massage therapist. Also, getting my medication dosage increased, hallelujah.

Watching Hidden Figures–again– with my mom, then having a great conversation about health.

Visiting a friend in her and her husband’s now fully renovated basement suite and having a wonderful discussion about school, finances, politics, health care, and psychological disorders.

Playing with my adorable youngest nephew.

Attending martial arts classes and Instilling Terror Into The Hearts Of Men.

Attending martial arts classes and being slammed into the ground by a teenager who is a higher belt than me but still hasn’t grasped the execution of taking someone down gently.

Eating food on my bed while using three of my four limbs to keep the cat from shoving her nosy face in it.

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Spending an hour every morning laying in bed, cuddling with my cat.

Writing and editing some blog stuff.

And going through some clothes and getting rid of several bags’ worth.

My cat’s accomplishments for November include:

Sitting on the floor and looking up at me with sad eyes while I watched a movie on the new couch that’s she’s not supposed to be on (because her claws tear the material), ultimately persuading me to let her up on the couch (I put her quilt up for her) and persuading Mom to change her mind about the “no cat on the couch” rule.

Getting on the windowsill all by herself and watching the goings on of the great outdoors.

Turning sixteen.

So, yeah, we’ve made it through another month. Hurrah.

I Feel Filthy and I Instill Terror into the Hearts of Men

Tomorrow is moving day, at long last. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to the banana boxes that we’ve been using to pack our stuff up in because I’ve been super itchy ever since we brought the boxes into the apartment. I’m probably going to wash all my clothing once I unpack it. Thankfully, the new place has an in-suite washer and dryer, so I don’t have to pay four dollars for every load I do.

To try and make my last night here bearable, I vacuumed the carpet, which turned it from dark grey to beige, and took a shower, but I still feel itchy and filthy both inside and out.

I also have these lovely bruises from walking into our furniture, which is antique and made of solid– very, very solid– wood. I get more bruises from this furniture than I do from practicing martial arts. If a burglar broke into the place, I wouldn’t even need to grab a weapon to defend myself. I could just push them into the nearest piece of furniture and they’d be out for the count.

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All from the same table.

Right now I’m procrastinating. I should be finishing (ahem, starting) that essay that’s due next class, but I can’t concentrate because everything is so chaotic. Everything is packed up in those nasty, itchy boxes and those boxes are everywhere, crowding in and taking up space. So instead I’ve been spamming my friends with memes. And letting Buzzfeed guess my relationship status:

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Buzzfeed failed miserably. Also, why does it show a picture of Carl and Ellie from Up and then say not to have a kid?! Carl and Ellie desperately wanted a kid!

I’m not sure how I’m going to get the essay done on time. I just realized this weekend that, since I need four studies to examine in my essay, I could’ve just looked at one study each weekend for the past month and I could’ve had all that read and be writing the actual essay, but I didn’t plan ahead or pace myself. So now I have to read at least four studies to figure out which ones I want to write on and I happen to find reading about cognitive psychology studies rather boring and abstract.

And it’s only being marked for completion, not content, so if I don’t get it done, I’m losing an easy four percent. So I’m a bit frustrated with myself.

But I got an A on one of my midterms! Twenty percent above the class average! Whoo! That’s what happens when I don’t take my studying too seriously, so I’m thinking maybe all these ways that “successful” people write about in their books on how to study aren’t for me and that doing what they tell me to do will just freak me out and screw me up.

And I managed to pull a B on my other exam, which is a relief because I felt like I bullshitted half of it.

I did my belt testing a couple weeks ago and am now moved into the next class up, which is cool. One of the men in my class has started to refer to me as Romanoff. If Halloween fell on a class day, I would’ve dressed up as Black Widow because I think he’d get a kick out of it, but it doesn’t so I guess I’ll save it for next year.

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I googled her to figure out what I would need to make a good Black Widow costume. I love that Wikipedia felt the need to specify that she is a fictional superhero. As opposed to a real-life flesh and blood hero, cuz we have so many of those in our reality.

Also, one of the second degree black belts does not want to spar me. There’s this one guy that nobody ever wants to spar because he hits hard and this black belt wants to spar me about as much as he wants to spar this other guy. Apparently the fact that I can easily kick to the head is a little intimidating.

So I told my best friend about this and she responded with, “So you instill terror into the hearts of men?”. Now whenever I’m feeling down, I will tell myself that “I am Romanoff and I instill terror into the hearts of men!”

My best friend also mailed me this card and this weird package of gum because she missed me.

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The inside reads “IT WAS REVOLUTIONARY”. I showed it to my mom and she was like “I don’t get it.” I told her people wore powdered wigs around the time of the French Revolution and that’s how I discovered my mom did not know what a powdered wig was.

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I really have no idea where Best Friend finds this stuff.

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I really don’t.

I also learned how to reverse stall park, which I’m rather proud of. Didn’t have a problem with parallel parking but reverse stall parking was always a struggle. So maybe I’ll test for my full license soon.

So yeah. And I just dropped my mac n’ cheese on the ground, so I think maybe I need to sleep. G’night.

Crushing Homework is Not Going As Planned

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She’s soaking up the information through the cover by laying on it.

 

 

Well, my plans for tonight fell through. My plans of doing homework, that is. I have midterms in the next two weeks and I still haven’t started on my two papers yet. One is due in a week and a half and the other at the end of October. I’m pretty up-to-date on my readings, but I have only taken three chapters of notes out of, like, twelve chapters so far. I was going to power through the note-taking because how hard could it be? I already read and highlighted the stuff. But it took me all day to get just one chapter of notes. Chapters are around forty pages and are really information-dense so reading takes about five hours per chapter even when I’m not taking notes.

My mom thinks I’m expecting too much of myself. “I thought everyone worked on their school like this,” I said, but once I said that, I realized that maybe that’s not true. When I glance at other students in the class, most of them have printed out the PowerPoint slides that the professor posts before class and they fill in notes as the prof lectures and goes over the slides.

Whereas I’ve insisted on taking my own notes from the textbook and then integrating the professor’s notes into them. The plan was to get the notes done before class so that way I already have all the important ideas written down so I can just listen to the professor and add in anything in the lecture that’s not in the textbooks. But I’ve only done the readings and no note-taking, though I still just sit and listen in class and participate in class discussions.

I would’ve worked on (and agonized over) my homework today, but Mom said last night that I need rest. When I woke up exhausted this morning and then wonder of wonders, joy of joys, my period decided to show up, I thought maybe she was right, so today has been a day of rest for me.

I started the day off cuddling my cat. She was laying up by my pillow and purring really loud. I think she knew I was tired and hungry and sick and sore, so she was trying to make me feel better. Then I ate breakfast and went for a shower then I finished reading a book, did some packing and some cleaning, got all my laundry done, and posted two more things on the blog.

Tonight I will get a good sleep, then tomorrow I will start by reading the one chapter I didn’t read so that’s done for Monday’s lecture, take my notes as I read it, then I will read some research studies and narrow down which ones I want to use for my literature review, then I will review the PowerPoint slides. If I have time, I will get a bit caught up on my backlog of note-taking.

So that is my game plan for tomorrow. Here’s hoping I actually do it!

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Perks of being a psych major: Googling APA citation and finding Publication Manual of the American Psychological Ass

This Past Week’s Been Rather Tough and I’m Overwhelmed

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I think I am a sassmaster. I had this one dream where my ex was bragging about how smart his girlfriend was and she was acting all proud and I just said, “She can’t be that smart. She’s still dating you” and they just looked puzzled and offended and my one co-worker was like, “Ooh, ouch!” That’s the only dream containing my ex’s girlfriend that I’ve actually enjoyed. But it makes me kind of scared to run into them because I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my big mouth shut if I do and will probably get myself into trouble.

Anyway, it was Thanksgiving last weekend. We had my mom’s boyfriend and his daughter out for Thanksgiving, which was fun, but we also babysat my nieces and nephew the day before and I had to write that paper so I was pretty tired by the end of the weekend.

I keep remembering that Thanksgiving last year, I spent the morning and afternoon with my boyfriend because we had the day off work and school. We drove around town and he showed me these places he often goes and we went for lunch at this place he usually goes with his family and walked around in the park close to where he used to live, holding hands and talking the whole time.

So I’m sad because I don’t get to do that anymore and I know he’s probably doing something with her for Thanksgiving and that she actually gets to do dinner with his family, which I never got to do because he never told them about me even though I was under the impression that we were kinda serious. So, yeah, I’m sad.

And this past week whenever I’m sad my mom tells me it’s been nine months since we broke up and I need to get over him and let go and that he doesn’t deserve me and now I just nod and try not to throw up my hands and scream “I KNOW, OKAY!?” I know she’s trying to help, but I’m so sick of being told what to do and what to think and what to feel. I’m sick of being told that I need to get better “somehow”. “Somehow” is useless. I can’t make a game plan off of “somehow”, I need a bit more information to go off of than that!

And I feel like every time I have a bad day where I’m feeling down, she acts like I’ve been like that forever even though I’ve made so many improvements lately. I wish she would just stop giving me advice (since it’s nothing I haven’t already figured out for myself) and just let me cry for a bit.

I’m also emotional because next Monday is the first time in almost two months that I’ll have to work with my ex. I know I’ll do fine, because I’m awesome at my job, and because last time him and I worked together, we actually kind of had fun, but the thought of seeing him and knowing he’s with someone else really hurts.

I also had my car broken into because there’s no door on the underground parking in my apartment complex and some genius left a broom down there and guess what was used to break my driver’s window? Nothing was stolen, so clearly they did not find what they’d hoped to find, but I had to file a police report, vacuum out the glass, miss a day of work because I’m stranded at home, and then shell out a $300 deductible to get my window fixed.

I was very tempted to leave a snarky note on my car the next night, like “Hope you find something valuable in here, like your conscience” or “Don’t bother, you didn’t like anything in here last time”, but figured that would be interpreted as asking for trouble.

BUT! I am pleased to announce that I am moving! My mom and I found a basement suite close to where she works and it’s much smaller (and more expensive, unfortunately) so we’ll have to downsize, but it’ll be worth it to actually have a standard of living again. I will not miss this place at all. I feel like all the misery I’ve felt over the past two years has been absorbed into the very walls of this place and that I’m breathing it in like a toxic gas or mold spores or something.

So, the place is a mess because, hey, that’s moving, and it’s very distracting for me. I’m constantly walking into boxes and clipping my shoulder on things as I walk by and it’s hard to find space to do my homework on.

And I have a lot of homework to do.

For my one class, there’s a major paper due at the end of October that I have barely even started on. It’s just the rough draft due, which only counts for 5%, and the good draft isn’t due until mid-November but that good draft counts for a quarter of my grade and I want to give myself enough time to work on it. For my other class, I have another three papers to write over the course of the semester and I don’t even know what to do my next paper on. And in both classes, I have midterms to study for and though I’ve done all the readings up to date and attended the lectures, I haven’t taken my notes yet so I have to do that this weekend along with getting a start on those papers.

And it smells weird in the apartment, like someone rubbed their armpits all over the place, not even kidding and we’ve cleaned pretty much everything and that smell is still there and that is just depressing. It’s been like this for months and it’s not the furniture and it’s not the laundry and it’s not us, so I guess it’s the apartment itself.

And I need to submit some receipts to my health insurance and apply for bursaries and make an appointment to get the cat to the vet before we move.

And I’m worried about my cat because she’s old and arthritic and I don’t want her to die.

And we ran out of laundry money, which means I have a huge pile of laundry– including my bedsheets that are dirty from my cat laying all over them– taking up space and that I can’t make my bed until they’re clean, which is distracting.

And between the deductible for my window and the damage deposit and the pet deposit, things are very tight financially, which means I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for my cat to go to the vet, or how I’m going to buy sparring gear that I need for my martial arts class, or how I’m going to pay for massage therapy which I would really like because everything hurts, or how I’m going to buy a new sports bra which I need since my old one doesn’t fit anymore. And I’m just so sick of having no money.

And I weighed myself and thought I was gaining weight and I was so excited. “Mom! I’m 125!” I shouted. She was excited at first then looked at me and said, “Are you sure? You don’t look 125. You look more like 115.” She looked at the scale and it turns out the thing isn’t working quite right and that it’s set forward ten pounds. So I’m not 125 pounds. I’m only 115, which is even less than what I weighed when I weighed myself at the doctor’s and decided to work harder to gain weight. I just wanted to cry because I’ve been working so hard and nothing is happening and my old clothes don’t fit and I can’t even wear my favourite pair of jeans anymore and same goes for all of my really nice bras and bathingsuits.

And I’ve just been so sore lately. My whole body hurts all day and I’ve been getting sharp pains in my arms and chest. I haven’t had them for years, since I was in high school, I think. I know the pain is from anxiety because I’ve already had my heart and stuff tested a couple times, but, ugh, I thought I was done with the anxiety pains. Granted, I’d rather have the anxiety pains in my body than the crippling panic thoughts I’ve had over the past six months and the headaches from crying so long and hard over those thoughts, but it’s certainly not fantastic.

And I was going to get together with a friend of mine and watch movies with her, but she cancelled because her parents planned something for them instead so now I will be at home, doing homework, so I want to cry because my whole life looks like homework right now.

And I haven’t really had the time and energy to work on the blog (I told myself I had to complete my paper first) and I’ve really missed it. I feel like school is taking up all my resources then wonder if maybe my problem is that I’ve been spending too much time on Pinterest and that’s what’s eating up my time. I decided that since I can’t focus on homework right now, I might as well write this and get it off my chest. At least I’ll get something I want done this weekend.

Really, though, I think it was that damn paper that did me in. All that other stuff is a lot, but working so long and hard on that paper really exhausted me. And it’s hit me how much more self-care I need than other people in my life. I need more rest to recover from even normal stressors. It’s taken me all week to recover from writing that paper and I dread having four more like it. I’m just glad I’m only taking two courses this semester because I could not keep up with more than that right now.

And it takes me literally all day to eat because of feeling sick to the stomach, which is why it’s been so hard for me to gain weight since eating takes so long that sometimes I’ll decide eating is just too much work and go to bed. This is what I mean when I say I have a disability. I might be able walk and run and speak and move like I’m able, but so many daily functions like just eating take such a toll on me.

There. I should be done complaining for a bit. I know things will get better. It’s just been a tough week, having one “bad day” after another. Next week will be better, I’m sure. And next month better yet once I’m in my new home.

Now it’s time to go crush some homework.

Paper-Writing, Exposure, and Cognitive Therapy

I’ve spent last weekend alternating between exploring Pinterest and working on the paper I’ve been procrastinating on for the past three weeks. The weekend before, I looked at the actual outline for the assignment and realized it was a bigger project than I’d anticipated, so good thing I didn’t procrastinate as long as I usually do or else I’d be screwed.

My mom says I’ve always been an anxious procrastinator and that I’ve always freaked out whenever I was assigned essays, but this time was more of an anxiety-driven, hope-it-will-go-away-if-I-ignore-it-long-enough-but-I-know-it-won’t kind of procrastination than usual. A couple years ago, whenever I had to write something for a class, I would put it off but it was more of a “Whatever, I know I can write the whole thing in one sitting and pull a B, if not an A”, though well-seasoned with thoughts of “But what if I don’t?” Now, I dreaded it and felt like anything I wrote would fall short of my standard, like I would be embarrassing myself by even trying.

But I needed to write it. I told myself, “This is the first paper. It counts for 5% of your grade, which isn’t too much. You have another three papers to write for this professor this semester, which in total will make up 20% of your final grade. You need to complete this paper and see how she marks it and figure out what she expects.”

In my head, I know how unreasonable it is for me to be anxious about writing this paper. There’s no reason for me to think I’m anything but good at writing. People keep telling me I’m good at it. I have a stack of high school and university papers–history papers, psych papers, philosophy papers, analyses of English literature and of music– all marked with Bs and As, telling me that I’m good at it. In the English course required for my degree, my one professor assigned a paper and when he handed it back, he said that most people scored quite well, but no one ever gets perfect marks for this paper… except this time, this one student wrote too good a paper for him to mark it at anything less than 100%. When he handed the papers back, I found out that student was me.

But this past two years, I feel like I really haven’t been able to rely on any of the skills I thought I had. Easy, breezy test writing? Gone. Easy, breezy paper writing? Gone. And this paper is a lit-review type paper for a second-year course and it needs APA citation, which I’ve never really done before. And it requires research, which on the one hand should be great because research means reading and I love reading, but on the other, reading scientific research can be very dull and very hard to focus on because one does not take poetic license with science. And I’ve heard this professor is a hard marker…

But I’ve been thinking about something we’d covered in class, exposure therapy. It’s probably most well-known for treating phobias, but is often implemented in treatment of other anxiety disorders as well and is considered one of the most effective treatments. The idea behind it is that you expose the person affected to what they’re afraid of to show them that those worst-case scenarios that occupy their mind won’t happen and when you build up those neutral and positive experiences of the feared object, eventually the person will learn that the object does not need to be feared. Exposure can be combined with cognitive therapy to help the person interpret the situation to be less negative and so reduce their fear.

So I decided that writing this essay will be exposure therapy for me. The past couple years have been filled with so much stress for me and the recent negative experiences in my academic work (mostly related to my anxiety) are crowding out the older positive experiences, even though those experiences probably outnumber the negative. It seems that having recent positive experiences is really important so I need to create those, starting with this paper.

And on the cognitive end, I told myself that it’s just been a really long time since I’ve done academic writing, I just need to get in the habit again, that I will probably do okay and if I don’t, I can use this to learn what this professor expects from assignments. These things I’m telling myself are responses that I come up with to combat my “I’ll never finish it on time. I’ll probably do really poorly on it” thoughts– cognitive therapy.

I put the finishing touches on my paper the morning right before class, leaving the specifics of APA citation for last. For anyone who is unfamiliar with APA or MLA citation styles, the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) has a lot of information on it. My old English prof recommended it to the class and I’d recommend to other university students. I also noticed Purdue OWL has some sections for different kinds of writing, including academic writing, ESL, and job search writing. I haven’t read through those sections so far, but if they’re anything like the stuff they have on APA citation, it should be helpful and straightforward.

I actually feel pretty good about my paper. I was talking with a classmate during break and asked her how her paper went and she said “Okay, hopefully”. When she asked me about mine, I was able to give a lot of details about what I wrote about because I’d immersed myself in it, which I don’t know if other people did. I’d memorized a lot of the points in my paper.

After hearing others talk about their papers, I think that I probably put a lot more work into it. Sometimes while I was writing it, I thought, “This is an awful lot of work for 5%.” I wrote about double or triple the maximum word count and had to hack it down to a thousand words and end the body of it with a derivative of “And there’s much more, but that’s beyond the scope of this paper, so there.” I’m wondering if maybe I put the same kind of effort into this paper that most people do for a final paper counting for half their grade. So, yeah, I am still perfectionistic but if this paper is up to my standard, then maybe it meets my professor’s standards, too.

Of course, sometimes I still have some anxiety about it and don’t check my school email because “What if my prof emails me to tell me how awful it was and it upsets me so I can’t focus on my other homework?” But really, that’s ridiculous because a) professors don’t email you about that, they write, ‘Come talk to me during office hours’ on your paper when they hand it back and b) my paper couldn’t be that bad.

But I finished it. One down, four to go.

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Here’s my study buddy. She’s been snoring and purring contentedly next to me the whole time.

 

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And this is her sitting up to investigate the thunder.

The Saga of How I’m Taking the Summer Off (Part Four)

Reset

So, now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I’m going to use this summer to heal, to teach myself new and more helpful ways of thinking. I’m confronting my perfectionism demons, which I think warrants its own post, but here’s some thoughts to combat my academic perfectionism.

Firstly, I’m thinking “my best” instead of “the best”. My mom used to tell me in middle and high school “Just do your best and don’t fail the class.” Maybe she has a good point.

Maybe it’s time that I stopped trying to be “the smartest” and “the best” and “the top of her class” and learn to evaluate my intelligence by a different standard. I need to remember that there can be only one smartest, one best, one top of the class and that there are plenty of smart people out there competing for that so it’s not likely that I will be any of those things.

But maybe I don’t have to be any of those things. Maybe it’s okay to just be smart and not the smartest, good and not the best, and maybe it’s okay to just graduate instead of having to be the valedictorian. After all, most people aren’t the smartest or the best but they’re still getting along just fine.

And all those things–“best”, “smartest”– are relative to how well other people performing. Maybe those things aren’t even a good objective measure of what I’m capable of. It’s much more objective to think “This is what I’m good at, that is what I’m not good at. Someone being better than me at what I’m good at doesn’t mean I stop being good at it. Someone being worse at what I’m bad at doesn’t make me cease to be bad at it.”

I’m trying this new thing where instead of expecting straight As, I aim for a B average. After all, that’s all I need to get into the program that prepares me for grad school. And also, I’m trying to focus more on having intelligent behaviour than intelligent grades and am considering that there are other types of intelligence that aren’t measured in school.

I also realized that when it comes to your grades, you have to consider context. Some classes really are more difficult than others. I already mentioned that I failed one class this semester, but I got a B in the other one. I was disappointed with that B because I was so sure I’d get an A when I was studying twenty hours a week for this class.

Then I talked to an academic advisor. Turns out this class is practically impossible. Apparently it’s really difficult to begin with (it’s biopsychology, which requires a lot of memorization in Latin), but it becomes even harder when you take it fully online like I did, and even harder when you take it with the professor I took it with. Some of my classmates are retaking it this summer because they failed it. But I, mentally disordered, disabled me, got a B. (Yes, I’m aware this contradicts the attitude of “comparison is not objective”, but it feels awesome to do good at something other people are doing poorly in.)

And obviously, doing the math (see https://intersectionofeverything.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/the-saga-of-how-im-taking-the-summer-off-part-three/ ) for how much time I’d need to spend on school and realizing that spending that much time on it isn’t a luxury I have really put things into perspective.

I’m focusing on the fact that I am the only me there is, the only me there ever was, and the only me there ever will be. I may not be the best, but nobody’s mind works quite the way mine does. I can show people things they’ve never seen before. I have something that I alone can offer. I am reveling in my uniqueness.

I’m also focusing on all the little things I can do. Like, my nurse sister commented that she could NEVER put contacts in her eyes, it’d creep her out too much (luckily for her, she’s always had perfect eyesight). She might have a better education than me and be further along in her career, but I can put contact lenses in my eyes every day in a matter of seconds. It’s so small and so mundane, but it’s something I can do.

And nothing gives you appreciation for little things like taking Cognitive Psych. Did you know there’s something called prosopagnosia where people are unable to recognize faces even though they can see quite well? And that there is actually a thing called motion blindness? I can recognize the faces of all my loved ones and every person I have to work with, which enables me to do basic things at work, like make sure the parent of this kid gets that handout. And I can see motion, which means I can drive safely, among other things.

I have a new appreciation for all the complex things my body does just to keep me alive. The human body is fascinating and beautiful in all the things it can do. This is why I love science. It helps me see how blessed I am.

I’m also switching my focus from “I have to get my degree” to “I’m here to learn and I love learning”. This is part of why I’m taking longer to do my degree: because I want to really learn the material, not just memorize it for an exam and forget it once the class is over. I told my genius brother-in-law this and he thought it was a great idea.

And thinking like this improves my grades by making school fun. In a lot of ways, school is a hobby of mine. (“Expensive hobby,” my friends remark.)

And I’ve realized that we’re often taught that taking a break is being a quitter. Well, it’s not. Taking a break is nothing more than making sure you have the resources you need to tackle whatever comes your way. (Analogy: if your car is on empty, would you keep driving it until your car dies on the side of the highway or go to the nearest gas station to fill up? I think we know what the logical answer is to that one.)

And that sometimes, it’s okay to quit. If what you’re doing is making you unhappy and unhealthy, maybe it’s high time to step back from that and try something else. Maybe you’ll find a new passion in life. Or maybe you won’t, but you’ll just be happy.

So, I’m taking this summer to put myself back together again so that I’ll be refreshed and strong for school in the fall. And I’ve made the decision that I’ll probably take summers off from now on, so I have that time to rest and work on all these little fun projects I have lined up.

I’ve made this “I Can” list, for all the things I’ll have time for now that I’m not in university:

I can watch movies, and all the special features too.

I can read the books piled up in our bookcase.

I can work on my blog.

I can practice my piano.

I can write music and maybe even get something recorded.

I can take on some extra hours at work.

I can save up money for school. Or a new car. Or a real piano.

I can pay down my student loan debt.

I can cuddle my cat.

I can find a nicer place to live.

I can keep my room tidy.

I can do my laundry (which has become a luxury).

I can grocery shop and try cooking new recipes.

I can plan little trips with my friends.

I can be my best friend’s maid of honour.

I can take piano lessons, maybe even voice lessons.

I can babysit my nieces and nephews.

I can visit friends and family.

I can lay around, just daydreaming or listening to music, and squander my time in whatever way takes my fancy.

I can see the psychologist and get some answers, maybe get my anxiety and depression under control.

I can see the massage therapist (Yay!).

I can learn how to sew up the tears in some of my clothes.

I can write a book.

I can read old university textbooks at my leisure until I can wax poetic about their contents.

I can go to my kickboxing and martial arts classes regularly.

I can sleep at night.

I can go to church again.

I can spend all day on Pinterest if I want.

But most of all, I can DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT ON WEEKENDS BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE TO STUDY!!!

I love my “I Can” list. It makes me feel productive and like I have something to get excited about, instead of my life looking like work, work, and more work.

And these past few weekends, I did some of those things. I watched four movies in a row, without any feeling of guilt or “I should be studying”.

I finished reading the Two Towers and started on the Return of the King. I also finished reading a book on finances.

I took my mom out shopping for some work clothes.

I did my laundry. I cleaned up my room and the bathroom and scrubbed down the whole apartment.

I practiced my martial arts and did kickboxing and can already feel myself becoming strong again.

I videotaped my cat snoring and videoed her making these funny sounds she makes when she sees birds. I gave her lots of cuddles; she’s been lonely with me working and in school and with Mom working full-time too.

I went for a walk on a sunny day, and went swimming and played on the waterslide like I’ve been wanting to for ages.

I went on Pinterest, again without guilt. I read some blogs and worked on my own blog.

I had dinner with family and played card games. I babysat my youngest nephew, and later my two nieces and my other nephew.

I just sat around, listening to music I hadn’t listened to in years.

I spent a whole afternoon walking around my old stomping grounds with a friend of mine.

I went to church, got in touch with some old friends, made some new friends, and taught my mom some philosophy.

I helped my best friend pick out her wedding dress, and came along to do the registry, and goofed off making the wedding invitations.

I tinkered on my piano, sang some songs I wrote, and even got ideas for new songs. Which is incredible because I haven’t been able to write music for a very long time. I worried that maybe I’d lost that.

For the first time in a very long time, I have rested. And I’m amazed at how fast I’m recovering myself. And I’m excited to see what I’m going to do over the summer. Right now, I’m just going to focus on the little accomplishments, because it’s often the little things that we build our lives off of, the individual molecules that form the foundation.

And lastly, I just want to give a little shout-out to my family and friends. They’ve all been really supportive of me taking time off school. Even my sister, who I figured would be the most critical of it thanks to that “What do you mean you failed Info Tech? It’s the easiest class you could possibly take!” comment she made back when I was in middle school, has been really encouraging and said, “Sometimes, you just need a hard reset.”

So, here I am. Reset.