Sunday, 26 July 2015

A journey of self-discovery - part two

Friday June 12th

"You don't take the piss out of my mentor; my mentor takes the piss out of YOU.

This woman will have none of your bullshit. She's just not having it. She is not afraid to give you what she refers to as “tough love”. She's not afraid to be hard on you, if she thinks it's necessary.

In this session, she told me that the negative part of me, the part of me that's mean to myself, is very clever. It's quick, and sharp, and highly manipulative. It is, according to her, just as clever as I am. Most people would have figured out how to silence their negative part ages ago, and would never have allowed it to get this bad in the first place, because they're simply not clever enough.

Basically, the negative part of me runs the show, and because I'm clever (according to my mentor), it is clever. At every turn, it outsmarts everything else, so it's going to be very hard to take control over it. I would say it's impossible, but my mentor would tell me what a load of rubbish that is, so I won't, because you don't mess with my mentor.

“Imagine you were out riding your pony,” she said at one point. “You suddenly find yourselves stuck in mud, and you're sinking. Is it helpful to just sit there and blame yourself while both you and the pony are drowning in mud?”
I told her that I would never let my pony sink.

“But you'd let yourself sink? Why?”
“I actually care about the pony. The pony matters to me.”

At the end of the day, it always comes back to the fact that I don't really matter. Everything is my fault, anyway, but I'm not going to let that affect the pony!

She told me that I am too busy looking down at the shit I am currently standing in. All I can see is the crap I'm stuck in now, and if I keep looking down I'm never going to get anywhere. I need to start looking ahead.

“If you're going for a ride, how do you go about doing that?”
“Um… I get into the saddle and kick my pony in the sides so he starts to move?”
“And do you look ahead or are you busy looking down?”
“Well, if I didn't look ahead, that would be pretty irresponsible…”
“Thank you!” she exclaimed.

So I need to look ahead. I need to focus on the future. If I don't, nothing is going to change.

Needless to say, she did not approve of my negative credit thing. “That's complete rubbish!” (Haha.) I mean, of course it is, but it's how I feel. I feel a strong sense of debt, both to myself and to those around me, and yes, I am aware of how destructive that is. It's not helpful; it's detrimental. It does me no good and a world of harm. It stops me from getting anything done. I want her to help me put an end to this line of thinking.

Towards the end of the session, my mentor told me that she knows she is being hard on me. She said she was being a bit mean, and she's not normally that hard on her students, but she's hard on me for the same reason that she was hard on certain people as a riding instructor: those who show the most promise are usually the ones you're extra tough on. That's how she seems to feel about me. She thinks I'm intelligent, and that I have the mental strength to handle her “tough love”.

I told her that I don't think it's “mean” at all; I see it as necessary. I really need it, and I appreciate it.

My mentor calls them as she sees them. Most therapists, including my own, are gentle souls who just want to listen to you and maybe subtly guide you with questions and observations from time to time. THIS woman doesn't do that; she reads you like an open book, and tells you exactly what you're about with terrifying accuracy. She is completely revolutionising my life.

Without her, I would still be banging my head against the wall."

Saturday July 4th

"I'm so angry with myself.

I have this irrational fear of showing my work to my mentor, and until now I've thought that it's just about my fear of scrutiny, and of being judged, but that's only one part of it.
My mentor told me, “You need to get over yourself,” which is a statement that has been bothering me for two days now, ever since she said it. I've been wondering if it's true, even though it doesn't sit right with me at all. And I've finally realised why.

It's not myself I need to get over; it's whatever my screwed up relationship with my mentor is that I need to come to grips with, because it's not real, and it never will be. And it's almost as if she's pushing for the transference to happen. It's either that, or she has a serious case of countertransference going on, which doesn't seem very likely. The whole thing is so messed up, and I'm really struggling with it, because now I need to kick it to the curb, somehow.

I'm not sure if I should bring it up or not, because the thought of it is so uncomfortable. At first I was angry about the pretence of it, but now I'm angrier with myself for actually buying it. I'm so annoyed for letting it get to me.

She told me that she thinks we have a very special relationship, and that if she were my mother she would be so proud of me. HAH. Yeah right. The only reason why she is even able to say such a thing is precisely because she's NOT.

Also, it's highly unlikely that she would have raised someone like me in the first place. In the five months that I've known her, we've had fourteen sessions, and during those sessions she has said more nice and encouraging things to me than my mother has during my entire life. I love my mother, and my family, but giving compliments is not really something we do very often. It's not our speciality.

So in a way, I think it's about that, to some extent - it's about how this person has come into my life and is telling me how great I supposedly am; how funny, and lovely and intelligent, etc., and once I show her what I've been working on the illusion will be shattered, and she will join the ranks of people who exist to provide criticism and tell me what I'm doing wrong. I don't want another person like that in my life, and that really irritates me because THAT is the only thing she's really there for. I need to get over it and accept that.

The compliments make me feel uncomfortable, and part of me wants her to stop doing it because it feels wrong. But there's another part of me that doesn't want it to stop. There's a sad little part of me that needs it. It feels really pathetic to admit that.

There's also this overwhelming feeling of not living up to what her impression of me is so far, if her constant stream of compliments is anything to go by; I can't possibly live up to it, so whatever I do will ultimately be a disappointment. But why the fuck does that matter? This is nothing new. I've been a disappointment my whole life, so I'm used to it by now. Why is it, then, that I can't face being a disappointment to this woman who has no real place in my everyday life? And why do I think that it even remotely matters to her in the first place?

It's completely fucked up. I am fucked up, and it makes me so angry."

Monday July 6th

"A letter to my mentor

My default position when I am approaching a task is that I'm most likely going to disappoint someone as a result of completing it. I have always been told, directly or indirectly, that I'm supposed to be intelligent, mostly by my dad, and it's always been, “You could have been so great, if only…” or something along those lines. Basically, I cannot live up to whatever other people seem to think I am somehow capable of.

And now…. there's you.

You keep telling me that I am this intelligent person who is capable of greatness, so now, in my head, you are just another person I am going to disappoint, which is monumentally stupid because, of course, you do not give a single fuck about how well I perform. You're simply paid to make sure I somehow do the work.

And yet, I have also allowed myself to believe (unconsciously) that whatever this, our relationship, is, is real. As much as all the compliments and words of encouragement make me uncomfortable, there is a small, pathetic part of me that really needs it. I have needed to believe that you actually care about me as a person, and I am so angry with myself for not realising this earlier. There's a part of me that hasn't wanted to share my work with you because it would shatter the illusion, and you would inevitably join the ranks of people who exist to provide criticism and tell me everything I am doing wrong. And because I don't want that, I've been stopping you from doing your job, which isn't fair, and this whole twisted mess is so stupid I want to cry.

You keep saying that you would be proud of me if you were my mother, which kind of breaks my heart because the only reason you are able to say that is precisely because you're NOT. You're not, and you probably wouldn't have raised someone like me in the first place.

You've said more nice things to me in the five months that you have known me than my mum has said to me during my whole life, and that terrifies me, because it's probably all completely meaningless. I'm just a student you are trying to help, which makes the imbalance even worse, and it really shouldn't be the case, but it is, and it sucks. Why can't you just be mean so I don't have to worry about any of this?

If your goal has been to make transference happen, then congratulations: you've succeeded.

And now I need it to stop. Now I need you to be honest with me about how much I really suck, and what an enormous failure I actually am. You can't be nice to me anymore. You just can't."

Wednesday July 8th

"I'm so frustrated with myself.

A crack has opened up for this pathetic little part of me that needs some sort of affection, whether real or imagined, and it is now getting in the way of the rational part of me, preventing it from being efficient; keeping me from being productive. Basically, this pathetic tiny part needs to shut the fuck up. It ruins everything. It mustn't be allowed to have a say in anything, ever, because it's nothing but a stupid nuisance that serves no real purpose whatsoever.

Pathetic little part of self just wants to sit around and pathetically pine for real affection, which is not something I'm going to get from an academic mentor. That isn't real, it's just an illusion, and it needs to end.

It's always better when the bubble bursts."

Thursday July 9th

"The mystery of my mentoring situation is fucking with my head.

On several occasions, my mentor has told me that she feels she has been “mean” to me, by pushing me to talk about, and reflect upon, my severe emotional struggles. She has told me that she knows she is challenging me a lot, but she does it because she thinks I can handle it. And while it has most certainly been challenging, I would never refer to her behaviour as “mean”.

My mentor is never mean. She is overly nice. She is too gentle - too “nurturing” - to qualify as “mean” by any definition of the word. There doesn't seem to be a mean bone in her body.

This is actually part of the problem for me.

I need mean. I need harsh criticism. It's how I operate - how I get shit done. Lately, however, there has been a lack of “active criticism” in my life. I used to get it from my parents when I was younger, but I don't anymore (it's mostly passive now); I also used to get it from myself when I was undiagnosed and horribly depressed, and then my level of self-hatred would eventually reach a point where it pushed me to do my work, telling myself, “Just do the work, you useless piece of shit! No one cares about you! Stop being such a horrible waste of space and such an enormous disappointment to those around you and just DO THE WORK. GET IT DONE.” But nowadays I don't get this kind of harsh “active criticism” from anyone, which has resulted in very little progress when it comes to my university work. And my mentor's version of “mean” is all about pushing me to realise how much I abuse myself.

I fear it is too late to do anything about that, though, because she has now established herself as this kind and caring figure in my life, which I have tried, but failed, to reject. In fact, it has actually awakened this sad, pathetic part inside of me that now actually wants it, and this makes me so angry because I feel helpless about it. I think the abusive, bossy part of me is beginning to resign, and that CANNOT HAPPEN. I am at a critical junction right now, and I need to go in a direction that somehow halts the development of this “pathetic self” before it gets out of control.

Maybe I need a new mentor. It's a thought that breaks my heart, and I'm wondering if it's a self-destructive one, deep down, but I need to put a stop to this imbalanced relationship that is ultimately keeping me from doing what I am actually supposed to do. It isn't fair to my mentor either, because she is not able to do her job, but at the same time I'm fairly certain that she won't be able to give me the realness I need at this point in time. I seriously doubt that I'll be able to make her treat me for what I am: a 26-year-old failure who is most likely going to continue to be a failure because she is incapable of getting her shit together. If my mentor had just seen me that way from the beginning, there would be no illusion to shatter at this point in time; there would be no reason for me to despair over the fact that I have to, rather painfully, burst the bubble myself, while that small, pathetic part of me is crying and screaming NO.

This part of me is so pitiful that it is becoming increasingly hard for the other part of me to tell it to shut the fuck up."

Friday July 24th

"It has become harder for me to write about this therapy/mentoring process lately, for some reason.

Last night, I felt this sudden worry that I might not continue to receive mentoring when I finish my BA. What if they don't offer me mentoring for my masters? I want to go straight onto the MA, to keep the momentum going, but I don't know what I'll do if they don't let me continue with the mentoring.

And what it comes down to, in the end, is that I don't want to lose my mentor. My stomach twists into knots whenever I think about it.

Why have I allowed myself to become so attached to her? I didn't ask for that. I'm not sure what I was expecting going into it, but it definitely wasn't this. I've almost started to cry about it a couple of times, because it's so stupid, and so very sad. I keep trying to push it away, but it just keeps coming back, even if my rational self knows that it's all in my head and that the moment I finish university, she'll be gone.

I will no longer have someone who regularly tells me to be kind to myself. I will no longer have someone who says that I should be proud of myself for everything I have overcome. I will no longer have someone who seems to really see me.

She makes me feel seen. She makes me feel heard. She makes me feel validated. She makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm not a complete failure. My inner bully doesn't want to believe her, but the small, pathetic part of me desperately does. It's like she sees how much I have struggled, for years, just to stay alive; no one else seems to think this is something to be proud of, and to my parents I'm nothing short of a disappointment, but my mentor sees things very differently. The small, pathetic part of me is wrapping itself in her perspective. It's like a protective blanket, and it seems to be making my sappy side grow stronger. My inner bully is despairing, but I guess that's a good thing?

I don't know. She is doing her job. I bet she says stuff like that to everyone. I know I'm not special in any way, which is why I'm still trying to push all of it away; I want to distance myself from it, because it's an illusion. It's a bubble, and I can't allow myself to live in it. I can observe it, but I cannot inhabit it. It's too dangerous.

I can't feel these things, but I do, and it's scary. I don't know what to do about it. I can't deal with the idea of losing her, and that seems unhealthy, but I just… I can't. Will it ever get easier?"

Sunday July 26th

"Why am I of so little value?

My mum told me that she and my dad have been talking to my youngest sister about her irresponsible drinking. She was saying how worried they are about her, for her safety and wellbeing, and how it adds to her (my mum's) current depression.

I've seen my mum yell at my sister before, a few years ago when she was on the verge of an eating disorder. My mum tends to work herself into a state where she ends up berating us, making us feel judged rather than cared for. She did the same to me, when I was a teenager; she used to shout at me about how lazy and useless I was, and how I would never amount to anything, making me despair even more than I already did because yes, I did feel all of those things about myself. I was clearly failing at life, but I couldn't help it. So I hated myself, and I wanted to die.

However, my mum claims that they have been talking to my sister in a very calm and rational manner. They have apparently been very nice and friendly about it, asking her questions like, “Is there something going on that we don't know about?” “Are you upset about something?” and, “Is it something we're doing?”

It seems my sister's drunken shenanigans keep my mother up at night.

I guess my sister is valuable to my parents. They want her alive and well, and they tell her that, which is great, and I'm obviously glad they're doing that. It does, however, make me feel even more invisible (and I feel so ashamed of myself for even typing those words).

No one ever saw me. No one ever seemed to think twice about what was happening to me. I was worthless. They weren't particularly concerned about my wellbeing, and I guess I always thought that no one ever would be.

That's why what my mentor is doing to me is so very heart-breaking; she sees me, she tells me that she worries about me, that she is concerned, and she generally just seems to understand that I'm actually really struggling. She gets it. Or so it feels, anyway, and that's where the heartbreak comes in: no one has ever made me feel this validated before. No one has ever made me feel like I matter, to this extent. No one else has ever taken the time to look beyond my protective shell, but she does, and I'm sick about it because, at the end of the day, she is nobody to me. She is just a person who drew some sort of cosmic short straw and got stuck with me. She can tell me otherwise until she is blue in the face, and I'm sure she will, but it's the fucking truth. I'm her job, so if she is the first person to ever really see me properly, that is upsetting, and quite frankly terrifying. I can't have that. That is messed up. Wrong.

But I don't know what to do about it. I'm so attached to her now, and my relationship with her is so temporary, and conditional, and it pains me.

It shouldn't, but it does."

Sunday, 21 June 2015

My misery loves itself. Apparently.

According to my mentor, my misery likes to shine. It's competitive. It likes to win.

So she's not going to fight it anymore. She's not going to compete with it. Instead, she is going to try to boost my "perfect core". That's her new plan. That's how she's going to disarm and defeat my negative side.

I have always been my own worst bully. Always. So when I was bullied by outsiders as well, that was more like confirmation than anything else. Everything they said to me hit very close to home, so of course I got defensive; if I didn't think there was some truth to what they were saying, I wouldn't have felt the need to defend myself to the same extent. Lashing out in response to it was a reflexive response to a threat; I felt like I was being exposed, in a way, like the horrible truth I'd been trying to conceal my whole life was being revealed, somehow.

But I couldn't make it stop. So instead, I gave up, because they were right, after all: I am a loser. I am worthless. I am ugly. I'm all of those things.

So it's not just a matter of getting past being bullied as a teenager; that's just a fraction of a much bigger problem. Did it make my life hell for three years? Yes. But the next three years were even worse, because my cover had been blown. It was like the whole world could finally see what a huge failure I was. I had moved on from secondary school, but I entered into the last three years of school, upper secondary, with everything out in the open. And I was horribly depressed, struggling with a level of self-hatred that was extreme, even for me. It had always been somewhat contained, but not anymore.

"Where are the bullies now?" my mentor asked me.

When I tried to explain to her that the biggest bully was always inside of me, and that being angry with those who bullied me in years 8-10 isn't going to help me move on because the one person I hate the most is myself, she leaned back in her chair and said, "Wow, your negative side must be so pleased with itself right now."

So she thinks I'm some misery-hugging twat? She thinks I like being miserable?

Okay. Yeah. I fucking love it. I love feeling like shit, it's fucking great. It feels really good, not lying to myself, trying to tell myself I'm this supposedly "great" person when I'm clearly not. If I were such a "great" person, I wouldn't fucking be where I am right now. I wouldn't have to sit in that chair with her, every fucking week, trying to defend my pathetic existence. I wouldn't have to listen to her trying to deflate it, to prove me wrong, to somehow magically try to change who I am; who I've been my whole life. I wouldn't have to sit there and feel so fucking small for a whole fucking hour, knowing I'm supposed to be doing my work instead of whatever the fuck it is I'm actually doing with my life.

The worst part is probably the pretence; the stupid fucking notion that we have some meaningful relationship when it's all just bullshit. She's there because it's her job, and I'm there because of some twisted sense of guilt and obligation. I show up every week because I feel like I have to, because of the ridiculous fake notion that she actually gives a shit. She doesn't.

She keeps saying that she'd be upset if I stopped showing up, but who the fuck does she think she's kidding? She must think I'm stupid; though, of course, she tells me that she doesn't. Why on earth would she give a crap if I didn't show up for my session?

She does this thing where she showers me with all these blatant lies, like, "Oh, but you're a wonderful person. You're smart, and kind, and intelligent, and beautiful, and strong, and [insert adjective of absolutely no value whatsoever]" and just… it's unbearable. Suffocating. I can feel my insides curling up and dying whenever she starts doing that, because it's such blatant crap, I can't stand it. If these things were true, WHY AM I SITTING IN THIS CHAIR? Why am I such a fucking failure? I cannot possibly be all of those things and yet be sitting in this chair, with you, wondering why the hell I have to be alive.

Fuck this shit.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A journey of self-discovery

A few weeks ago, I wrote the following lines:

"Most of the time
It's about being brave
When your brain is your enemy
Try not to cave"

When our brains are working against us, how can we fight back? I've been searching for an answer to this question for years, but I'm beginning to realise that we need to stop fighting our own brains and instead try to understand them.

You see, your brain is playing a cruel trick on you: it's turning you against yourself. You have become self-destructive, and you are following scripts that only exist in your head. You are letting these ill-written scripts run your life, because you are unaware of them. They run the show and you are nothing but a puppet. It's time to change all of that!

I have horrible scripts in my head. These scripts tell me I'm supposed to be miserable, and I'm supposed to fail. I'm not supposed to ADMIT to failure, but I'm supposed to fail. Having been made aware of these scripts, I am now deeply disturbed by what I have been doing to myself for years without even knowing it. And yet, I don't know how to stop.

But awareness is key. Awareness is step one.

A helpful tool in the process of self-discovery is to keep a journal in order to document your "findings". I've been doing this for a few weeks now, and here's what's been happening so far.

Thursday April 23rd

"My mentor has superhuman powers.

Had mentoring today. This woman reads me like an open book, and it makes me so uncomfortable. At the same time, I feel like it is necessary for me to have someone to push all those buttons, and, in turn, push me to realise things about myself that are buried so deep within me that I didn't even know it was there.

I have realised that I can't remember the last time I did something for myself. It's always about other people, ultimately. It's about not letting other people down. It's about not being a burden to my parents. It's about the feeling that I HAVE TO, rather than it being something I genuinely want to do. I do what is expected of me, because it is ingrained into my being that this is the way of life. There is no pleasure in it, just obligation.

Even staying alive wasn't for me. I didn't kill myself, because I didn't want other people to feel guilty, wondering if it was their fault. I didn't think anyone would miss me, but I did think they would experience some guilt over it, and that wasn't something I wanted anyone in my life to have to go through. So I suffered in silence, as I continued to to feel endless amounts of shame.

I feel like I am almost expected to fail, because that's what it has been like my whole life. I have never felt good enough, and a large part of that was down to me, but my mentor insists that I couldn't possibly have been born with that level of self-criticism. It must have come from somewhere. Subconsciously, I am meant to fail. I'm supposed to. It's in the script. No matter what I do, it will never be adequate, so it will be a failure, and therefore not doing anything at all is what makes the most sense.

In addition to that, I'm not doing any of it for me. I'm doing it because I'm expected to. I have always done things because I've been expected to. And I am expected to live up to the standards of healthy people, because my illness is invisible. That is the way it will always be, and there's no getting away from it; people are going to judge me, and I will not be able to make them understand that it isn't actually “all in my head”. I didn't just wake up one day and decide to be sad, or whatever, and it's not about “changing my outlook on life” or “snapping out of” something. THIS SOLVES NOTHING. THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM. Depression, like every other illness, has a root cause that's PHYSICAL. It starts developing because your nervous system begins to fail you. There is a re-uptake of serotonin that prevents this neurotransmitter from being transported to where it is actually supposed to go: TO YOUR BRAIN. Serotonin is what makes you feel happiness. If you didn't have a steady supply of serotonin flowing from your nervous system to your brain, you would be depressed, too. However, no amount of explaining this to ignorant people is going to make them understand.

This is why I don't want to go “easy” on myself: I am the only one who's going to be doing it. Everyone else is still going to judge me. I cannot escape from that, so I need to accept it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Society isn't going to allow me to give myself a break, so I can't do that. There is no point. It has just become easier to agree with them, to nod my head and say, “Yes, I am a failure. Yes, I need to pull it together.” They're never going to stop saying it, and I'm never going to stop feeling that way. I haven't got it in me to fight it anymore.

My mentor then said, “No wonder you never actually do anything. Because what's the point? You're not doing it for yourself, and you're supposed to fail, so why bother?”

Am I really supposed to fail?

I talked about how doing something for myself, like taking a stand when I'm unhappy about something, mostly ends badly for me. In my experience, if I stand up for myself, I will get told that I'm wrong. Like in year seven when several boys in my class spent the better part of a lesson throwing pieces of rubber in my hair, and I eventually exploded, standing up and shouting at them to “fuck off”: my teacher took me out into the hallway and told me that I was not allowed to do things like that. To me, that was like being told I was supposed to sit back and accept the shit people did to me because, after all, they weren't the ones who were disrupting the whole class. They weren't being loud, shouting inappropriate things. They were really only bothering one person: me. And clearly, I didn't matter. I wasn't important. I was a human punching bag, just there for other people's amusement, and if I were to speak up and say that I wasn't okay with this, I would get in trouble for causing problems. This was not a positive message for me to receive as a child, and it did serve to reinforce that I was a bad person.

I wasn't considered to be of much worth, in general. That's why no one ever stood up for me when I was being teased, or bullied. That's why the teachers didn't pay attention to what was going on with me, and occasionally punished me instead of trying to help me. I was, in all honesty, the very definition of a joke. It is very hard for me to alter the way I have seen myself my entire life, even now that I know I was suffering from bipolar disorder the whole time. If I accept that I need to change the way I see myself, and in particular who I was before I was medicated, it is like I'm accepting that everything I've known my entire life has been untrue. It doesn't sit right with me. I can't just undo twenty-two years of my life like that, even if I really should.

So how am I supposed to suddenly decide that I am a good person, or whatever? Who am I to say that about myself? My mentor said that these are all things that other people think about me, and not the truth. She then asked me what the truth is. My answer? “Whose truth?”

I was also asked to choose between these two alternatives:
a) I am a good person
b) I am a bad person

and I couldn't. It had to be one or the other, and to me that was just impossible. I didn't want to call myself a bad person, but I also didn't want to say that I'm a good one.

She asked me to explain why I couldn't choose one, and I said that I don't consider the things I am saying about myself as a child as either good or bad; it's just what I know to be true. They are facts. This was my reality. It may not be my reality anymore, and no, I may not have changed my personality, but that's what it would feel like to me, if I had to re-arrange history by changing what I know about being a child/teenager. That's all there, now. It happened. The best I can do is accept it, no?"

Saturday April 25th

"Thinking about the, “If you can't beat them, join them” thing.

I think this is true for a lot of things in my life. I learned to stop fighting back against the bullying, for example. I couldn't beat them. I couldn't win. So I ended up joining them instead. When they laughed at me, I laughed with them. I accepted that they were right, that I was ugly and worthless, and that I deserved to be laughed at just for being alive.

How bad does it have to get before a person accepts something like that? I started to bully myself, in the end. I started to see those things as the truth. It became MY truth.

Being pushed into realising these things, though very uncomfortable, is incredibly important. I didn't want to accept it at first, and I especially hate all the compliments because to me they are lies, but I now realise that my mentor has been a much needed catalyst for me. She isn't afraid to call bullshit."

Friday May 15th

"My mentor has a lot of interesting thoughts.

I told my her that I can't handle the pressure of doing my work in the sessions, because having someone dictating to me what I should be doing and telling me all the things I am doing wrong reminds me of all the times in the past where I have felt stupid because my dad has done the same thing. The difference is that my dad actually called me stupid several times, whereas my mentor hasn't called me that once. And yet, I sometimes feel like she thinks I'm an idiot. But it isn't her fault. She wanted to know what she did that made me feel stupid, but all I could say was that it's not something she's doing, it's what I'm doing. It's what I do to myself.

Then she told me that she doesn't deal very well with idiots, and laughed about it because as a therapist she shouldn't be saying that. She insisted that she doesn't think I'm stupid at all, because she can tell when a person is stupid just by talking to them, and she thinks I'm “extremely clever”. It's hard, though, to accept that as some sort of truth. Most of the time I do feel stupid.

She also told me that she sees a lot of people who don't even have half the problems I have, yet they come in and cry about everything, saying they can't do it (their uni work). Apparently, she thinks I am someone who actually has a lot to be proud of. That's definitely hard to get on board with, because really, what do I have to be proud of?

Am I supposed to be miserable? Am I supposed to suffer because I deserve it? Do I push myself to keep going, even though I'm not supposed to succeed?

I'm supposed to fail, but I'm not supposed to admit the ultimate failure: quitting. I don't quit. No matter how miserable something is making me, I do not quit. Giving up is not an option.

My mentor's theory is that if I keep going this way, I'm going to end up making some crappy attempt at suicide, and end up with some kind of permanent damage. She seems to think that's where I'm headed, that this would be the end result for me. I won't actually kill myself, but I will try, and fail (because I'm supposed to). I tried to tell her that there is no reason to worry about that, because I'm not going to, but she didn't seem convinced. She thinks I'm very good at “pretending”. I have a lot of practice.

She's not wrong. She's also not the first person to point this out.

“I have a lot of time and energy for you,” she told me at one point, after telling me she thinks I'm clever and determined. She claims she would be sad if I stopped seeing her. I told her I’m not going to do that, because I don't quit. At least she seemed to believe me when I said that."

Thursday May 21st

"I'm so confused and tired.

I asked my mentor if her telling me that she sees suicide in my future was a scare tactic, or something like that, because that's what my therapist seemed to think.

However, my mentor said that it was meant as a reality check. She doesn't think that I can sustain what I'm doing to myself in the long run, so, as she pointed out, she decided to be straight with me instead of being “polite” or whatever. According to her, I am cruel to myself. I beat myself up. Basically, I'm abusing myself, because that's what it would be called if someone else was doing it TO ME. So I'm abusive, and I won't be able to live like that forever, she says.

She claims that I “kid” myself. I'm mean to myself and then I laugh about it, which allows me to continue doing it. I turn it into a joke, so I don't really have to think about how horrible it actually is. I told her that I don't actually think hating myself is funny, but I have learned how to use laughter to cope with it. She says that I shouldn't be doing that.

Me: “So what am I supposed to do?”
Her: “You're supposed to stop.”

But how can I do that? It's similar to that conversation I had with my therapist on Tuesday, where her question was, “What positive messages do you want to give yourself?” I don't know how to respond to that, because I don't want to give myself any positive messages. I want to punch myself in the face. I have nothing nice to say to myself at all. If I just made some shit up and pretended to say them to myself sincerely, wouldn't I be “kidding” myself that way, too?

I just don't know anymore."

Friday May 29th

"How did I get here?

My mentor thinks I'm this hard on myself because of the environment I grew up in. It was somehow projected to me that I wasn't good enough, that I was “wrong” or “faulty” or something.

My parents wanted to take me to PPT (pedagogic-psychological services in Norway) to have me evaluated when I was starting school, but were told by my teachers that it wouldn't be necessary. So if my teachers insisted that I didn't have any problems that needed the PPT's attention, how did that affect my parents? Could it be that my parents have placed blame on me for being who I am? And if so, did they do that because they ultimately blamed themselves?

My mum has admitted to me, more recently, that she does feel like she has failed as a parent. How is that supposed to make me feel? Am I such a disappointment that I can be referred to as one of her “failures”?

The thing about feeling stupid also came up again. I told her that I know I'm not stupid compared to the greater masses of people, but in relation to where I come from… I'm pretty stupid. I'm not good enough.

I do bully myself. I've become more aware of it now that it's been pointed out to me, and it's a continuation of the bullying I experienced in school. I joined the bullies, back then, because I couldn't beat them. I laughed at myself, just like they did. I learned how to do that, and to this day I still do it.

So I know that I do this to myself. But I can't stop it.

“Why not?” my mentor asked me.
My response? “Because I don't want to.”
“That's it!” my mentor concluded.

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of being nice to myself. It seems wrong to me; it would be fake. So I can't do that. I can, however, make a mental note every time I abuse myself. I can try to identify how it actually makes me feel.

I know one thing for sure, though: if someone came up to me tomorrow and told me that how I feel right now is as good as it's ever going to get… I would kill myself. And maybe, if I don't turn myself around, I will drive myself to suicide by continuing to beat myself up until I can't take it anymore.

I don't know. I don't know what to think or feel anymore. But I'm not happy. I'm tired, and I don't want to live like this."

Tuesday June 9th

"I have a negative amount of credit.

I was asked in therapy today to define the meaning of “success”, and my answer was, “reaching your potential”. I guess I have this idea of what my potential is supposed to be, and so far I am failing horribly.

I feel the need to validate myself. I need to make up for all the shit of the past, but that seems impossible, so instead I just sit back and accept failure. My credit is so far into the negative digits that it feels impossible to rectify it. It can't be done. I will never be good enough.

My therapist asked me who I feel I'm “in debt” to; whether it's my parents, or society, or myself, and I realised that it's all of those things. She asked me to strip away the thought of “owing” other people something, and I told her that, even so, my credit would still be negative. The stakes are too high, and the pressure is too much, and I just can't cope with it. It seems so insurmountable, and it's terrifying.

I'm supposed to change the way I view “success” and place less importance on it, but I can't do that. My life is already a huge disappointment. My life so far has sucked. If I'm going to restore the balance of my credit, I can't just aim for mediocrity; I have to aim higher. So I do, and then I shut down. I can't make it happen. I will fail, no matter what. I always fail. I'm supposed to fail.

My grandma never reached her full potential. My dad didn't reach his full potential. The pressure falls on the next generation, I suppose, but I can't do it. I'm not what they're looking for.

Has this pressure always been there? Did my parents put it on me, or did I do that myself? Neither my therapist nor my mentor thinks I could have created that pressure in my own head. It must have come from someplace else. But where?"

That's it so far. It's been an interesting journey, and I'm sure it will continue to be interesting for years to come. Having been bipolar my whole life without knowing it, I have a lot of unresolved issues. On top of that, I also have an unfinished BA in music that urgently requires some of my brain capacity. Due to my illness, I've already spent five years on a degree that should only have taken three, so I need to do this thing, but my brain has gone into overload and it feels like too much. Thinking about it, life has always felt like too much.

And I am definitely thinking about it. I'm aware. And I'm working on it, one step at a time.

By the way, I highly recommend the book "They F*** You Up" by Oliver James. Because your family does; they're just not aware of it.

Lots of love

A Norwegian girl in London