December 5th, 2010

Sea dragon

If it ain't broke ... but it is. Black Watch review

Have you noticed I've not been doing much besides linking to my reviews of shows? Here's the one I wrote about Black Watch, a play about a regiment of Scottish soldiers sent to fight in Iraq. According to one of the people who commented on my post, because I don't love the soldiers of the Black Watch (as I didn't not love love love the play), I am conscienceless. I'm kind of not sure where she gets theater mixed up with politics, but it does, apparently, happen. I decided to mostly stay out of the discussion; feel free to comment if you wish. I still have to write up my review of the Nutcracker I saw on Thursday, but I'm not sure when that's going to happen right now.

So I think one of the things that is useful about blogging, that is, (in this case) writing a diary that is shared, is that it helps other people see and understand lives that are not their own and, in some cases, learn lessons about how to live their own lives (or not to) by seeing how others live theirs. This belief that there is sharing that needs to happen in order for this blog to really be valid as something other than a list of what-I-saw-and-what-I-ate means that I have to be honest, in ways that make some people uncomfortable; they, I guess, perhaps have all the answers they need for their own lives, or don't think they will find any truths in how I'm living mine. But I've learned a lot from reading about the lives of people like kingrat and copperwise, especially about how to lead lives you can be proud of. I'm hoping some day my life will feel like that, but in the middle of it all, it just seems like a big mess. I've also learned from the two of them about how to deal with really traumatic stuff, and, especially for C, I've felt that there is at least one model out there for getting on with your life when you're having to deal with stuff most people don't even like to acknowledge exists or happens.

Anyway, so me, my life is a pretty big mess right now (if you exclude the 40 hours that is My Job, which is going fine), and I'm trying to figure out how to improve it. I'm also trying to figure out how to fix my head, a bit, which has normally done pretty well but has been having blowouts sporadically for the last six years or so. Unfortunately new engines or transmissions aren't as easily found for the brain as they are for, say, hearts or hips. I've had little luck going to counsellors - I documented what happened with the one I went to see this summer (who pronounced me cured in September), and the one I saw last year was just generally as not good and much more expensive.

I do have a friend who's an MD type shrink, though, and he suggested this thing called "Schema therapy" that he thought might work for me based on the kind of stuff that I am responsive to and maybe the kinds of things that might be troubling me. And he gave me a book to read ("Reinventing your life") to poke around in to see if this might, really, be helpful - and if so, you know, I could see about getting a therapist who specializes in this sort of therapy, with the book being a sort of "try before you buy."

I started reading this book last Sunday and have found it pretty interesting. I'm going to write here (sporadically, as you see I haven't been writing much of late, having people slag me off about my journalling is really off-putting to my desire to write, thus more reviews and less me of late) about my experience reading the book. Obviously the first bit I read didn't make me throw it out the window right away so I think there's some value to it.

So "schema:" the big picture of what this is is that there are ways you see the world that may or may not be true but that are based upon your own experiences and how you see yourself. These schema profoundly affect how you act and think, and may cause you to act in ways that are bad for you. The therapy is kind of based on cognitive behavioral work, with a focus on changing your behavior and thoughts, but also in understanding why you came to have the destructive beliefs you do have and (as I saw in chapter 5, which I'm in the middle of) how to "unbuild" them.

I have bought into this schema thing. However, the book is pretty well insisting that they are based on childhood trauma, and seems very much to neglect the role of adult trauma in causing us to, say, continuously expect people to reject us. I don't buy this at all: a lot of my current mental problems with expecting people to reject me is due to having three of my friends simultaneously reject me back in Seattle and the way this cooked in my head. I'm not discarding the book because of this. I figure, like a book adapted as a movie, simplification was necessary to make it all fit in the space they have. They also call schema "life traps," which I think sounds twee, but, you know, gotta sell it to the masses.

The book lays out 11 schema, ranging from dependence to abandonment to entitlement and so forth. ("Causes of entitlement: excessively spoiled as a child. Few boundaries set.") I thought that I was very strongly matching in the "social exclusion" and "defectiveness" categories, with some "unrelenting standards" and a bit of "abandonment" and "emotional deprivation." In many cases, the origins of these beliefs (as elaborated in the book) seemed unlikely for me, though apparently having one or more parent who is an alcoholic seems to be responsible for half of the problems you might have. And my reactions aren't matching up in a lot of cases; clearly, I have no problems forming emotional bonds with people and I don't avoid socializing with people, but the way I deal with people ignoring and excluding me can be very extreme. And, sadly, I fit to a T the pathetic fragility they describe the "defective" schema people having - not in conjunction with thinking I'm superior, but just when something takes me down, it causes me to collapse since it's just been an air bubble between my mellowcreme center and the chocolate crunchy coating.

Now, in chapter five, they are suggesting a basic method of dealing with this problems, suggesting you just deal with one at a time. I am having some problems with what they suggest you do because of what I consider their 1) inherent silliness and 2) irrelevance to the origin of my own problems (as I seriously don't believe most of them are based on problems with my parents). Step one is to label and identify your lifetrap (I'll go for "defective" as my biggest problem, as it's what causes the black paralysis to take me over); step two is to "understand the childhood origins of your lifetrap: feel the wounded child inside you." This one isn't resonating for me. Step three: disprove the validity of your lifetrap at a rational level. So for me, I would make a list of why I think I'm a useless loser and then a list of reasons against this belief. Fortunately, they admit that for some things your belief may be true, i.e. if you've been rejected and shunned all of your life you may have failed to develop certain social skills. That's how I feel about myself.

The fourth step is to write a letter to the "parent, sibling or peer" who helped cause your trap. For my worthlessness thing, I just don't see anyone at fault here; I can't understand the origin of it; I certainly can't imagine myself writing some silly letter to my mother or father telling them it's their fault. Ditto abandonment and emotional deprivation. They may have something at play here, but I have never really bought into them being "at fault" for my mental state. Step five, however, looks very interesting: see how your schema plays out in your current life. "What self-defeating habits reinforce your lifetrap?" Each one of them has a chapter dedicated to them and I will write about them when I get to them ("in our next installment"). The book carries on to "pick one, pattern-break, keep trying." Then it says to forgive your parents. Well, if we get beyond that, I think there is some useful stuff here, a way to try to unpick my head and figure out why and where I'm going wrong.

Next step (come January) if I think all of this is not just silly is to get a counsellor. They look to be running really steep, like 90 quid an hour. On the other hand, my life is really just so much in the shitter right now, and my brain is really so bad, maybe I need to just pony it up. I know I'm better than I was this time last year in some ways, as there was that long period of time when I was crying at least every week (and I think it's probably been two weeks since I've cried, and I've probably gone for even a month or more without crying since April, well, at least five weeks, I think), so I must be in a better state than I was, but I have to say this: my feeling of hope about my life is actually much lower than it was back then. I've been very busy trying to keep myself amused and keep my life as light and stress-free as I can possibly manage in the last few months, but I can't make my brain work better, and with people turning against me I can see myself getting squirrelier and squirrelier as I start to feel cornered and defensive and my God, am I in need of a line to pull myself out of this life. I've never had a counsellor do a lick of good for me but I am quite desperate. Maybe this sort of therapy will work for me.

Anyway, thanks for patiently reading through all of this. In lighter news: I spent Friday watching David Attenborough videos with wechsler, loafed around the house Saturday and then went to a dress-up event (the Anarcho-Dandyist Ball) with dreamsewing, then spent most of today at wechsler's playing Carcasonne and generally being social, because, you know, underneath it all I'm actually profoundly lonely and he had the free time. Yay wechsler, you are a great best friend.