Archive for the college Category

Failing the social part of college – again

Posted in college, personal with tags , , , , on December 13, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

The best summary of my experience with social interactions is given by Dexter (novel, not TV show) as he watches Cody´s first encounter with the boy scouts: I still remembered the pain of it; realizing that this was all and forever something for the others and never for me – that laughter, friendship, the sense of belonging, were things I would never really feel. (…) I remembered the dreadful clumsiness of those first years of trying (…), watching with such intense focus for a hint of belonging that would never come.

When I started to pursue my new course of studying I was determined to do everything right this time. Be an industrious student, get to know people, participate, belong. I mostly managed the “industrious” part. The rest, however? Blatant failure. I have not magically stopped being weird. If anything, I appear even weirder. I barely even see a hint of subculture in anyone from my classes. I don´t even know what good it would do me if there were a lot of goths, punks and metalheads around, since I´ve always been an outcast among the outcasts, but it would at least be a little reassuring, maybe? Then again, I actually don´t know if I register as “subculture” with others, my style is rather tame by now.

I´m not even sure, to be honest, if it´s really my fellow students who feel I don´t belong. Of course they will have noticed that I´ve not made any friends yet, but it´s not like no one talks to me, ever. It might actually be me myself who lacks the sense of belonging. Hence the quote.

I think much of my depression of the last few weeks stems from the fact that I noticed I was still as weird, of me feeling there was no one there in a crowd of a thousand people I could spontaneously relate to, and that once again I was doing everything wrong again. Withdrawing, instead of approaching people. Shutting down instead of talking to the people next to me. Reading during breaks. Secretly hoping that I don´t meet anyone on the way from the train station. It was not just my anxiety, but also my very own needs that made me repeat the same old pattern.

Going back to uni after more than a year since my last lecture was a shock. The crowds. The noises. The constant stimuli. So many faces, so many gazes to avoid. I found myself smiling awkwardly whenever I went through a crowd, a half-assed attempt at nonverbal communication, not sure if anyone was taking notice of me or not. It didn´t take long until I loathed how small the hallways were, how narrow the platforms, how slow the people. I felt violent surges of aggression at every obstacle, every noise, every interruption of my attempts at studying somewhere in the hall. Then I stopped going to lectures and spent as much time studying alone at home as I could. It makes me feel like a miserable failure. I feel like I should have pushed myself harder, like I should try harder to belong, and to feel like I belong. It seems to me as if, by feeling alienated from my fellow students, I´ve proven myself unworthy of this whole course of study. It seems like a bright and clear sign that says: “Not for you, apparently. Go on searching.” Or maybe: “Are you sure this is the right thing for you if you feel so alienated? Sure there has to be a group of people where you fit in?”

Yes. Nerds. The only people I consistently get along with are nerds. Unfortunately, though, I don´t give rat´s ass about Starwars, computers and theoretical physics, so I guess that´s ruled out as a career choice. Precisely because of that, even with my nerd pals I often zone out, quit listening and feel like I don´t belong. The difference is that they don´t find it weird. They simply aren´t as pushy as normal people. Befriending them doesn´t require being on Facebook, smiling a lot and drinking beer. They don´t feel threatened, offended or provoked in some way by unorthodox behaviors. They don´t demand explanations, leave alone justifications, as normal people regularly do. Maybe it is some form of caring on their part, but I find it hard to perceive it as such. As far as I´m concerned, the constant inquisition as to why I don´t have Facebook and whatnot is pushy.

In a way I feel sorry for potentially pushing away people who might at least not be completely disinterested in me, at least not from the start, but I simply don´t know what to do with them. I don´t want to get Facebook. I don´t want to argue about getting or not getting Facebook. And I don´t want to be told by kids who are 6+ years younger than me what I need to do. Also, I don´t want to have to explain myself if I´m tired and my eyes are puffy since I had a breakdown the night before. Not when the only two acceptable reasons are “ill” and “hungover” because we don´t actually know each other well enough to tell the truth. Not being ignored can be incredibly stressful, and I feel like a mutant for perceiving it so. I can already hear the admonishments in my head.

These admonishments largely deal with the idea that I need to do anything about this. I cannot just have a negative attitude towards social interactions. It´s mean towards others, and I, too, am missing out on so much great stuff, I just don´t know it yet. The voices don´t sound cruel, they sound like someone who despite having the most benevolent intentions genuinely can´t understand me, but that is precisely what makes them cruel. The complete lack of understanding. I am a conundrum. My feelings are beyond comprehension.

But do I understand myself any better?

I don´t know why the way other people approach me feels intrusive rather than kind to me. I´m tired of blaming myself for this, and I´m equally tired of blaming others. Both approaches suggest there is a solution, that spontaneously connecting with a wide range of people is possible for me. And yet I´m not even interested in advice or solutions. When I don´t feel connected to others, then why exactly would I want to train how to make friends with them? That seems awfully stressful to me. It´s like lying once to get yourself out of trouble, and then having to lie again in order to keep up appearances, and in the end you have all kinds of obligations and social duties which you´d have never signed up for if you´d had the choice. I´m not going to learn how to win the favour of people I don´t really want to befriend. That would actually be highly unfair towards them.

I don´t want to learn how to fit in better with a world I feel alienated from. I want to walk into a place and fit in just the way I am. Nerds are the best fit I´ve found so far, even though we have different interests, but this is not quite what I´m looking for. I´m not so much looking for individual friendship opportunities (I´m happy enough with the ones I have and I don´t think I could juggle any more personal relationships anyway) as I am looking for a world in which I don´t feel like a stranger. I guess that one would be called Utopia.

The inner kindergarten growing up

Posted in college, personal with tags , on May 14, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I don´t like the last two entries, but especially not the last one. They are, once again, the opposite of what I wanted to do. They might turn out helpful eventually, but somehow I feel like I got stuck in victim mode again.

I feel like I have completely lost myself, though I probably haven´t. When I say “myself”, I currently mean “state of mind in which I´m motivated to act and in which I feel responsible for my own future”. What I feel, though, is that right now this state of mind is a stick to beat myself with.

Over the last weak I was very anxious what to write, and not to lose the “good” state of mind again. Maybe that was the mistake itself. The angry searching for a continuation of my latest progress. I will never make progress if the price is that I must constantly monitor myself. That´s just too scary. And it also hinders progress. I can either just stick to the insights I had or I can move on further at the risk of going wrong somewhere. There´s no point censoring myself or trying to be especially clear and coherent. Clarity is often the result of making a great deal of a mess repeatedly. Oh my, words of wisdom!

I wonder who I´m trying to impress, internally I mean. On the outside, I´ve done everything right last week. I made some dreaded phone calls, sent an important letter and a job application. I met the minimum requirements. What is really important are this external reality and its demands. I should feel happy with myself having fulfilled them. It´s not like the demands I place on myself in terms of what I want to achieve if I get accepted for the study program I applied for are small. If I reach my goals in external reality, I´ve done a lot. I´ve taken care of that precisely by applying for that study program. I want a certain level of success, I want a shot at greatness, and I strongly doubt I will be able to achieve that by just being me and expressing myself. Not because I´m useless, it´s just that this places even worse demands on me as a personality. If I want to be able to give people something they couldn´t have found in themselves, what kind of person would I have to be in order to do that?

Expressing myself is something I cannot force. I get frustrated far easier then when I´m learning. If I get accepted at college, all I´ll have to do is learn and I´ll get somewhere. It sounds like the triumph of reason, and yet on some level this feels like a defeat. I´m scared to go deeper into this, I don´t want to lose my motivation for this new path. I will hopefully be able to express myself there, too, by doing research on subjects that touch me personally. Maybe it is also a form of psychiatric first aid, maybe I need it in order to bring structure into my personality and my life. Also, it is an adventure and it will hopefully teach me skills which will help me gain self-confidence. It is the best choice I can make from my current point of view.

The defeat – what did I fail at? I failed at being a person who has such rich gifts or who has analyzed herself and the world so thoroughly that she has the answer to everything without having to study anything. Realistically speaking, nobody is that kind of person. It starts with the fact that we all learn things, whether we like it or not. If we didn´t learn how to speak, knowing the answers would be useless because we wouldn´t be able to tell anyone. Also, many questions arise from things we have already learned. The chances of being a person who has many answers increases significantly by assembling knowledge. It helps understanding and judging situations, phenomena, everything.

I guess I did not completely fail and being a person who can give something to others, though I might have been mistaken about where the answers came from. I have been told I´m a good listener, or that something I said helped people. Yet the things I said were largely based on things I read combined with my thoughts about them. So my new study program (if I get accepted) will be about learning more things, and hopefully it will render me capable of giving better advice. I see a strong contrast to my previous sources of knowledge, as it will be about science, not introspection. It´s supposed to work independently of the person who does it. That´s a badge of honor for the method/science, but it makes me feel a little unimportant. Still, if I want to be capable of giving good advice, I should stick to something proven instead of flattering my ego. I sometimes feel like I´m almost being hostile towards myself. Impatient with myself, not very lenient towards my wishful fantasies – and actually less patient with others, too. Being hard on myself doesn´t make me a nicer person.

I wonder where all this hostility is coming from. It´s essentially self-loathing. Like I´ve finally seen that all these years I´ve been running around feeling terribly proud of my introspection and believing that I didn´t need to learn at all because I already had the answers to everything. I think I often felt the wish to learn something, and to learn something from scratch, really dive into something. I couldn´t decide on any one thing, though, and besides, what also stopped me from giving in to this wish was the same sense of self-loathing I feel now. So that self-loathing itself is essentially useless. It stops me, that´s all. Whatever grain of truth it may represent (and it is not all that much truth, as I´ve shown above), I think it can be neglected as long as I do the right things now.

I took up that new path in order to fulfil an old wish. There may be two sides of me, but there is just one coin. My inner conflict is something that can be resolved, those two sides aren´t irreconcilable. I think solving it is a matter of intellectual effort and creativity, and maybe also experience. I guess after a few years among scientist I might find introspection isn´t so useless after all. It´s just a matter of doing both. Damn, I just hope I´ll be accepted!

The session with Mrs D in detail

Posted in college, health, mental health, personal with tags , , on March 23, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

This stupid appointment with Mrs D still bugs me. I don´t know if picking it apart will or won´t help me, but since I´m going to do it anyway, what´s the point of asking myself that? So…

Every place has its specific smell, atmosphere, air. It´s similar with groups of places. If you go to the dentist, there´s certain kinds of noises and smells, even certain kinds of colors and materials. I think the same thing goes for therapists´offices. And even the waiting rooms.

The predominant sound here is silence. The chairs are very comfortable and it´s nearly impossible to sit upright in them. I was starting to feel ill the moment I sat down in the waiting room. I´d gone into the counseling area without showing hesitation, without looking away from the male student passing me by in the hall, because I´d wanted to be confident. Show confidence, prove to myself I was confident. In a difficult situation, yes, but confident. I´d gone into the secretary´s office, smiled, said I had an appointment. Again, I wanted to be confident. Act like I would if I was at work. Friendly, confident, without showing too much of myself. Not so much for their benefit, but for mine. Not everybody needs to know me by heart.

It´s funny (sorry, I digress), but this is a fairly new development. For most of my life I never tried to protect myself that way. I typically assumed I had to be 100% open about everything – or I went into complete shutdown. I think one reason for this new behavior is that right now I´m in a situation in which you need to be careful not to be disenfranchised. Failing college could make people doubt my ability to make decisions or to achieve something in life, and I´m trying to counter that by acting as if I was decisive and accomplished. I didn´t know anymore I had any useful instincts.

Anyway, the moment I sat down in the waiting room I started to shrink. Maybe it begins with the chairs, you cannot sit upright, so you kinda slump down. I grabbed a magazine in order to look busy, competent, like someone who isn´t waiting desparately because this counselor is the last straw to which he clutches. Because she wasn´t, really. As Natalie put it: “Go see them, and if it´s any use to you, great, if it isn´t, well, just put it behind you and don´t think about it anymore!” I really didn´t intend to develop particularly strong feelings about this.

I think I had to wait for about ten minutes. I had been very anxious to be there on time, and I think that´s no coincidence. It was the memory of Dr. Stoneface and that first cold, stern stare he´d had for me when I arrived at his door fifteen minutes late because I´d gotten lost. This, of course, was very much at odds with the confidence I was trying to radiate. Cognitive dissonance, once again, but I tried to be confident and not beat myself up over it. This happens, yeah. I´m scared of authority figures, yeah. I´m scared to be scolded like a little girl, alright. It doesn´t mean that my confidence is a mere facade and that I should drop it and signal that I expect to be victimized. It means that I should display even more friendly confidence. As I was sitting there in this grey, windowless waiting room, though, breathing in that weird, characteristic smell and listening to that silence, my deliberate confidence was starting to slip a bit. I sat there with time to think. I don´t believe in “time to think”. I think while I write. I´m active while I think. I either write, or I walk, or I pace my room listening to music, and that´s when the thoughts and the words come. When I´m sat down in a silent room void of stimuli I don´t think, I sink. I had some dark thoughts about how this was probably the purpose of making me wait, that I should have time to sink. What was supposed to sink in, in this dark vision, was the graveness of my situation. You aren´t supposed to be confident when you´re about to drop out of college. It easily looks like you´re being cocky. A person who´s just fucked up like that is really not entitled to contradict, right? Apparently she doesn´t know how to live her life!

Then Mrs D emerged from her office. She was sort of smiling, but something about her smile failed to draw me in. I remained cautious. She gave me a questionnaire, I filled it in and then I had to wait again until she finally asked me to her office. Her office was very small, just a desk, and then a small table with two chairs. I´d nearly sat down in hers. I should have realized it was hers because there was a notebook lying on her side of the table, but somehow my mind took that notebook as an invitation. Anyway, she told me where to sit before I could actually sit down in her place. I´m really glad about that, because that would probably have frightened me a lot more than being late. On the table, there was the traditional box of hankies. I had no intention of needing them.

The atmosphere in the room was depressing, if not oppressive. It was small, no pictures, very plain furniture. I was sitting with my back to the window, so there was really nothing redemptive in my line of sight. Another thing that might have escaped me in those first moments but which I became aware of later was that this woman didn´t have a computer. She still used a typewriter. I felt like I was back in the 70es. Everything about this room screamed 70es.

“Yes…” She said. “Well, so you already wrote us a thing or two!” She said that as if I had been more talkative than others. It surprised me a little. I had thought a while about how much I wanted to reveal in an e-mail to the secretary, and eventually I had given them the basic information. What do I study, what situation am I in, I´m looking for re-orientation but I´m having trouble making a definite decision. It had been four lines, but the way she talked she sounded as if she already knew everything there was to know. If so, though, what did she want from me? I mean – what did she expect me to tell her now? Did she have any questions, did she see to the bottom of my problem already, was she going to say anything about it?

Nothing.

I tried to talk about the career I´d considered and found myself sounding unenthusiastic if not pathetic. When I´d told Natalie the same she´d told me she sensed a certain energy taking hold of me when I mentioned this option. After two minutes in this dreary 1970es room with Mrs D, that energy had evaporated. I thought that I´d never convince her I really wanted to pursue that career, and at the same time I thought that I was acting like a child by seeking for random peoples´ approval. If I really wanted to do this I didn´t need anybody´s approval, and if I needed anybody´s approval, I didn´t want to do it – or at least I wasn´t nearly sure enough yet.

I´d expected our conversation to continue similar to the way my talk with Natalie had gone. I expected an in-depth discussion of my feelings about the various options I had. Or maybe the mere question how I was feeling now. I could have told her some things. Like the frequent anxiety attacks, my lack of sleeping rhythm, the nausea, the physical pain and exhaustion. She didn´t, though. She asked me what made me doubt the career option I´d just laid out in front of her. I told her I feared it would leave me no time for my partner and also that I wasn´t sure I was going to be able to do such a stressful job.

“Yeah, you´d have to learn a lot when you study for that career!” she said. “I don´t really have a problem with learning…” I stuttered. “At least I used to be quite good at that when I was at school! It´s more…” But I wasn´t able to explain it. That I was scared of what would happen to me if I had such long work hours. Hours in which I´d have to be a professional all the time. Wouldn´t that alienate me from myself? Would I still know who I was when I came home after this?

I also told her that a career counselor had advised me to go after this career and that the alternative had been writing. I said that I liked writing but that I couldn´t control my creativity and that I´d need a day job anyway and that I was no longer sure this model suited me. She then asked me if I was sure I didn´t want to write my thesis. She smiled, saying “because you say you enjoy writing!” At that point she sounded to me like a grandma who tries to be nice but is totally out of touch with the topic at hand. Writing novels is not quite the same as writing a thesis, even in philosophy.

I explained to her that I didn´t really identify with the topic and that I didn´t have enough time left anyway. “Well, you´ll have to ask for more time!” she said in a somewhat harsh tone, as if I was merely being lazy. “You can get three more months!” As I learned the same day, you only get three more months if you have a medical certificate detailing why you couldn´t deliver your paper on time.

I explained to her that another problem was that I never really read much throughout my college years. “Well, of course that shows now!” she said. I was wondering if I should interpret this as some kind of “serves you right” response and decided I didn´t have enough evidence to be righteously pissed off at her. Confident people are careful to feel attacked. Feeling attacked makes you vulnerable.

“So you never managed to identify with your subject, you could never own it?” she said. “No, not really.” I replied. Later, when I was out there, I struggled with the way she´d said this. Managed.  Would it have been an achievement to identify with something that isn´t really me? Should I have made it my own just because at some point I decided to study it – and for the most irrelevant reasons? Had I failed at something that would have been my task in life – identifying with the choice I´d made? That would have implied, though, the choice was a given, something irreversible, something that couldn´t be corrected. On the inside, I angrily refused to see it this way, and when I came home from the store later that day I was on the verge of tears thinking back to this conversation.

We started talking about my family, she asked about my relationship towards my parents, my sister – and felt like I was supposed to press the information and insights gathered in years all within one hour. I felt like I needed to say something definite, something conclusive that made it clear to her I had dealt with these subjects or at least kept them in mind when making my decisions. I felt nagging worry as to what she might be thinking, what she was writing down in her notebook. I stopped myself from asking, though. I knew that being defensive would make everything worse. It would lead to one of those truly torturous conflicts with psychotherapists I´m so bloody good at. If I wanted to radiate at least a little bit of confidence, despite my stuttering and looking away and not knowing how to respond, I sure shouldn´t act paranoid. I had to act as if I didn´t fear her judgment.

Then, she asked me since when I knew I was a lesbian. I said that when I´d been 19 I´d fallen in love with a girl and I´d decided to just go for it and see where we ended up. Actually I´m still waiting for that moment when I wake up and know by divine revelation what my sexual orientation is. I can fancy guys but I probably wouldn´t have sex with them – what does that make me? Bicurious? 😉

At any rate, this topic seemed to be of some importance to her as she asked me if I´d had any male friends at uni. I said, well yeah, I had some…uh…pals. It felt weird to even use the word “pals” around her, it was such a stiff atmosphere. I´ll never know what she did with that piece of information. She might have asked if I´d ever had boyfriends and I said, yeah, when I was a teen, but my longest relationship then was six months, it just never was right for me. I don´t even know why I answered. A truly confident person might actually have asked her how this was relevant to my career issues. I mean – here´s the point: Even if she´d have wanted to find out if I had an underlying psychic illness that caused my inability to make a decision asking questions about my sexual orientation shouldn´t have been part of a diagnostic assessment because – lo and behold! – even the DSM has caught up with the fact that homosexuality is not a disease! So what was that about? Personal curiosity? Or old-fashioned psychoanalytical bigotry?

At some point, anyways, she reached the conclusion that I was unable to make a decision on the spot. I needed time  to get to know my needs, myself. And I even thought that´s what I´d spent the last six years on. If I need much more time I can move on straight to retirement. Her idea, of course, was that psychotherapy might help me get to know myself. I told her I´d undergone more or less extensive therapy already. She wanted to know more. I told her about my first therapy attempt, when I was 16. She asked me why I´d been in therapy. I told her that the diagnosis had been depressive episode, then I went on to tell her that my depression had been caused by an external event. I actually managed to put the whole Lola drama into four or five sentences, talk about integration of burdening events that somehow tear your identity apart! It annoys me now, though, that it was so important to me to assure this woman that actually I was sane, I had just been faced with some burdening events which had caused my low. What was behind this was my fear that I´d be seen as inherently pathological, as someone whose perception can´t be trusted. I think the reason I´m angry at myself is that I failed at that. Eventually she did doubt my perception, however subtly.

Then I talked about my third therapy attempt, Dr. Stoneface. I skipped the second because that would have made things too complicated. Besides, I didn´t want to look even more ill. I wanted to look sane, especially for the sake of that career option I was toying with. I explained that this therapy attempt had turned into a power struggle and that at some point I´d have liked to switch to normal and ask him, amongst adults, if this really made sense anymore, but that he didn´t let that happen. She asked me if I´d taken nothing positive from my therapy. I sensed a trap in that question. If I answered it with no, I´d compromise myself because I´d basically say I hadn´t made any progress in all those years. I´d sound like a sulky kid or a disgruntled, paranoid griper. So I told her that I´d learned some important things when reflecting on my time with Dr. Stoneface a couple of years later. It was both true and false. I did dare say, though, that the therapy itself had been a rather negative experience. Understatement of the century.

She next asked me why I´d been in therapy then. And I tried to tell her about Athena.

I can explain what happened between me and Lola in four or five sentences. Same with Dr. Stoneface, mostly thanks to this blog. With Athena, though? No. Not by a long shot. If I tried I´d sound delusional. You cannot really capture the subtelties of tone, mimic and meanings and her words alone might not be understandable in their impact on me. I stammered something about how it was hard to explain what had happened in that relationship, and that there had been a lot of accusations which I felt couldn´t defend myself against. I guess that´s fairly okay for a spontaneous, preliminary explanation.

Next she asked me if the career option I was toying with might appeal to me because I hoped to understand myself better with the help of it. I thought it was pointless to deny it completely, so I said that I wanted to compare the insights I´d gain there to my own insights. She said: “So you want to confirm your view?” Well, ideally yes, but I do trust myself to work scientifically even if I don´t like the results! Besides, everyone is biased to some extent!

I said: “I think the idea of man predominant in this subject could prove to be very humane. It´s like…you see, I´ve experienced a lot of judgment in life, and accusations, some of it very cruel. There were times when I felt like I was inherently toxic and now I´m looking for an alternate view. Both on me and on human beings in general.”

It might have been right away or some time later, but then, in attempt to sum up my situation, she said: “….and, you were invalidated – felt invalidated a lot in your life…” If she´d said “felt” right away I might have let it slip. But the fact that she corrected herself was too much somehow. Like she had to specifically remind herself that she couldn´t take my word for what it was. Or remind me. There´s always this implicit question hanging in the air: “Are you sure it was quite like that?”  I get this on some level – she cannot know what exactly happened, and human relationships are so difficult to judge as an outsider (for some reason you aren´t deemed competent to judge them from the inside as well, though) yada yada. But considering that I spent a remarkable part of my late teens feeling like I should kill myself because of those perceived invalidations and given that sentences like “you must be the most deranged person there is” don´t leave much room for interpretation it might also be understandable that I´m growing sick and tired of this kind of wariness.

Again, I didn´t say anything while I was sitting in that room, but later that day I felt shaken and sick with anger. While I was sitting there, protesting just didn´t seem worth the effort. Why argue with her, why go through the pain of looking like an emotional wreck while still not reaching her, why even try to convince someone who has already decided I´m not a reliable witness anyway? Why, given that I won´t see her again after I leave this room? I can keep my thoughts to myself. I won´t let her matter that much. I´ll keep her out of my head. Let her think whatever she wants, it doesn´t matter. Behavior-wise, this is some kind of progress, but the motivation behind it is not that I´m more mature, it´s just that I´m more cautious. I know when I´ll get hurt and I shy away from it. I find it hard to judge when I´m being politic in order to protect myself and when I´m starting to act like a coward. What if it hadn´t been my own perception that had been invalidated? What if it had happened to someone else? Would I have protested then, or would I still have tried to protect myself? Where´s the line between self-protection and self-betrayal?

Next came the same old fun. She told me she´d recommend I seek psychotherapy (maybe analytic group therapy) or go to a mental hospital. To her great credit, she said that she didn´t want to exclude I could do it on my own, she merely told me what she´d recommend if I wanted to do psychotherapy. I thought about it quickly, the thought of being at one of these hospitals (they actually aren´t that bad, in some ways they´re more like hotels), talking to different therapists, being in different kinds of therapies, meeting all kinds of people with similar and different problems. Having to take care of nothing and no one but myself. It sounded good on some level. And on yet another level I knew it wouldn´t stabilize me. Au contraire. It would be another hole in my narrative. Quick and sudden fixes don´t work on me. They make me panic. A sudden change of environment, a sudden change of daytime activities and sleep rhythm, never being alone? That kind of stuff makes me go into overload. It puts me under stress, I´m not myself in such situations. There´s been so much drama and radical steps and false dawns in my last ten years, I´d seriously be content to try something that works slowly. Going to a hospital would only bring back the illusion that I need a sudden and radical change. How would I still fit into my everyday life after such a stay? I don´t know. The worst thing is that I´m scared of authoritarianism and you find that a lot in those kinds of hospitals. I´d probably just anxiously submit and later be very angry about it. Maybe angry enough to become stronger and less of a pushover, but if things go awry it might take me another eight years to recover and I´d rather not take that risk.

Again, I merely nodded and let her give me the address for that hospital, thanked her and left. As I went out of the building I tried to mobilize my confidence, my slightly amused anger, whatever I had. I tried to go out there laughing incredulously. I didn´t want it to get into my head, those things she´d said. At first I thought I´d succeeded, but the breakdown came later that day.

I´m dead tired and I guess this post is really long enough, so goodnight for now!

A collection of early morning thoughts

Posted in college, personal with tags , , , on March 19, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m sitting here too tired to think and yet I´m realizing a lot of things which I´d somehow like to pin down, so I´ll give it a try:

1) I´m not going to wake up one day and feel like I´ve found my place and identity. Roles and professions are part of our identity and by having a role I don´t identify with (philosophy student) and no career I´m working towards it´s no surprise at all that I don´t know who I am. Thinking about it, though: How many kids identify with their roles as students, since school is mandatory? What does it do for, and what does it do to their sense of self? I only know that my idea at school was that my real life was yet to come, just like the real person I was once going to be. When I left school, though, something went terribly wrong and I ended up here. My main point here is, though, that I´m not going to find what I´m searching for within myself. I get a more stable sense of identity by understanding my past, that is, by finding a way to tell my story, but there is a kind of self-confidence introspection can´t give me and that´s the kind of self-confidence you get from interacting with the world and finding a place, a role in it. I don´t mean in social circles, I´ll always be a loner, but within society. I want to gain my position through knowledge and ability to help. I don´t possess enough of either right now. This has nothing to do with devaluating myself, it´s just asking too much that I should be happy and feel self-confident without having a role I like.

2) It´s no surprise I have trouble with social situations right now even though I´m surrounded by much nicer people than I was in school. I´m way to confused to say anything about myself, I´m not behind what I´m doing and I have no role in society, nor am I aiming for one. I´ve got nothing to tell people, and people don´t know what to think of me.

3) I miss the feeling of being treated gently. I miss benevolence and patience. Simple belief in me, encouragement. I´ve noticed that this is the only kind of behavior that makes me want to comply with anything. Take my dentist. So far she has always been kind and patient, and I pretty much instantly adopted the hygiene advice she gave me even though it´s a lot of work. I guess the fact that I was always scared of going to the dentist doubles the effect of her kindness (I mean, I kinda know how that works…), but I keep on being amazed by my own compliance. When I have to motivate myself to follow her advice, I rarely experience anxiety, or if, it´s very low-level. Most of the time it´s just not so hard to do. I have a thing for asymmetrical relationships. Benign authority figures. I sometimes wonder if I approach all relationships feeling like I´m in the inferior position, trying to give others the chance to be a “good authority figure” and to appreciate me. This interpretation is kinda hackneyed, but there might be something to it. At the same time I wouldn´t mind being a good authority figure myself. Maybe because they are so bloody rare. I wonder if this is one reason why psychotherapy has always fascinated me. Maybe I went there looking for relationships. People who are less focused on the power aspect of human relationships date their peers, I assign emotional significance to potential or real authority figures and try to get a relationship working with them. Try to make them approve of me and maybe like me a little. Or a little more. It´s sad when they interpret this as a trick to get to power or to influence them. That´s usually the opposite of what I want. When faced with certain individuals I might want to triumph over them, but in my fantasy relationship with a good authority figure I never seriously try to be more powerful. I just want to be in that state of mind where I can feel safe with someone and compliance is easy. What I missed in my upbringing was never really strictness and punishment, but that precise feeling.  Maybe, though, that´s just for cheesy movies.

I´m too tired to go on here.

 

 

 

This is not coherent.

Posted in college, personal with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m toying with the idea of a new start. Study a different subject, pursue a certain career. I like the idea a lot. What worries me, though, is the question if I´m even capable of the hard work it would involve. I used to be able to work hard, but I´m not sure if I still am. My brain has gone to pieces over the last seven, eight years. It´s not like I´m not having any insights anymore, but I feel like my rational thinking is suffering. Along with my ability to focus. Maybe this ability is what I miss most. I cannot rely on my mind powers anymore. I can barely even make myself keep on writing this post. I feel the urge to look at another tab, or maybe I shouldn´t be online altogether, maybe I should read a book or write. As a matter of fact, it doesn´t matter what I do as long as I manage to do it for longer than five minutes.

I had some absinth a couple of days ago, my girlfriend persuaded me to try it. The effect it had on me might have been purely down to the mysticism surrounding it, but for a glorious twenty minutes there was silence in my head. The way it is, with the constant low-level or medium-level stress vibrating through my brain I cannot think. I can never get rid of this. I wonder if antidepressants would have a similar effect. If so, that could almost endear me to them.

I still believe the solution to my problem is not to make me stop thinking. I guess the style of thinking is the problem. I need to have more inner distance, more patience, and then I can think all I want. It has worked sometimes on this blog. It has gotten me somewhere, I´m sure. It´s this tension, this sense of urgency that´s the problem. I´ve mentioned that before on here, or if I haven´t I´ve thought of it: that manic urgency is a sign of craziness. I don´t remember such insights from one onslaught to the other. I feel like my focus is narrowed so much that I only see what´s right in front of me, but not the bigger picture. Which is a pity because it´s an impressionistic picture and you only recognize anything when you look at it from afar.

What might help now? One option is processing. The theory behind this is that I haven´t been writing for a while and that too many thoughts and feelings and inner struggles have build up. They put me under pressure, and by dealing with things one after the other I can alleviate that pressure. Somehow I don´t  like the idea, though. I don´t feel like talking about everything I´ve been thinking about over the last week. That feels like I´m forced to report to someone and next my “performance” or the quality of my thoughts will be judged.

Another option is stream-of-consciousness. I´d love to and to some extent it´s probably what I´m doing, but somehow it feels forced. It´s like the processing thing. I somehow expect I´d talk about a whole lot of things I don´t want to talk about. There´s a touch of mischief to it: “You want to repress everything, but it won´t let you, it wants out, you have no control, you can only try to keep up appearances, but we´ve already seen what it looks like inside of you!” Ick. I might let out my feelings if I felt like I´m alone in my head. I cannot afford any feelings of misery and failure when I need to defend myself. I want these constant attacks to go away.

I saw a college counsellor two days ago because of my trouble with my thesis, she said that I tended to think about everything at once instead of one thing after the other. She said I connect things which aren´t necessarily connected. Such as: “Should I pursue this new idea I´m toying with” and “should I try to get my philosophy degree”. If I got her right, it´s not one or the other. It can be both, it can be none. Maybe that way I can get through this confusion. I never took my time properly thinking about what she said. So, I´ll try to think about these questions separately.

Question two seems a little easier. Do I want that degree? I answered that question a year ago. I don´t really identify with philosophy. I´m tired of having to justify myself for studying it, and I´m tired of having to justify myself for not wanting to finish it. I feel like I´m failing just to prove a point, but I think that point is worthy of being proven. The point is that I´m tired of fulfilling anyone´s expectations. I cannot forgive my father for the way he treated me after I graduated from high school so surprisingly well. At least to him it came as a surprise. I cannot forgive him for the way he criticizes me on the fly. We have a normal conversation, and then suddenly he slips in a remark about how he doesn´t think it´s okay or “a good idea” that I do or don´t do this or that. It´s not the words, it´s the tone. His tone somehow gets more intimate, as if he knew me inside out, and often his accusations aren´t even justified. Sometimes there´s also stiff aggression in his voice, and when I contradict he easily gets impatient. Actually he treats me a bit like Athena did. He knows the sole truth and he´s demonstrating me his benevolence (the intimate tone and the way he signals that normally he doesn´t talk about it, he only mentions it now that we accidentally stumbled upon that topic), but if I contradict I´m just playing games and he really has no time for that because the point he´s trying to get across is so damn important. He has a way to talk to me that makes me feel like I´m looking into an abyss of guilt. Like I´m a terrible person. Even if he just criticizes that I don´t open my mail, which I´ve actually started doing regularly as of late.

We had this discussion recently: He told me of some ad he´d seen on a letter from our bank. Apparently they are looking for trainees. He told me I´d sure seen that. I said that I actually hadn´t. He said: “Yeah, well, I know sometimes you don´t open your mail, which, by the way, I don´t think is a good idea…” Me: “I´ve always opened my mail since I´ve moved! I didn´t get a letter with an ad!” Him, impatiently: “Well, you must have overlooked it! Of course, you overlooked it!” It doesn´t sound like much, but the subtext is: “You miss opportunities because you are lazy and apathetic and don´t look at things properly!” He has undermined my trust in myself that way ever since I can remember. He pulled some similar shit after my high school graduation, which is why I suddenly had to think of this. I think what I wanted to say is: When he realized I was actually capable of more than he thought he suddenly got angry at me whenever I fucked up a tiny little thing. Like put the wrong stamp on an important letter. He reads so damn much into such things. I don´t know how else to explain his overreactions.

Okay, here´s a point where I should stop thinking. Alright, I was under pressure when I had to decide what to study. I came from a life time of being accused of being lazy and indifferent. I studied philosophy in order to escape. I made a decision that required the least possible support and the least possible effort just to get everyone off my back. And then I had to defend it. At least this is part of what happened.

My god. Three people in my life who constantly read something into tiny little things and terrorized me over that. My father. Athena. Dr. Stoneface. I couldn´t take the latter entirely seriously. Still, I described how his behavior intimidated me at times. I think with regards to him I had just resigned. I didn´t assume he could like me. Or that I could have a positive relationship towards him. I feel like I´ve also resigned when it comes to my father. I cannot imagine liking him. I just want him out of my life.

Anyway, maybe the feeling these three people give me is completely unjustified. The abyss of guilt, I mean. And maybe I´m not even lazy, indifferent and irresponsible. Maybe I´m just constantly trying to dodge bullets. I run away to where ever, fantasy worlds, alibi life choices, dead end streets, just to evade the onslaught that´s bound to follow as soon as I don´t seem to know what I´m doing.

Whatever I am, this feeling is not my friend and this feeling is not the truth about me. It´s something a person who has been with me since my birth manages to instill in me. But how do I make this feeling go away? How do I replace it with a minimum of confidence? Maybe it is enough to say that I don´t know if I can trust myself. Maybe everything else will be met with too much of a backlash. If I say I don´t know if I can trust myself I always can counter the voices who say that I definitely can´t trust myself.

At any rate, I do understand now why I must always appear competent and like I know what I´m doing. I cannot stand to write entries like this one, without structure or anything else. Entries which let on my confusion. I´d rather make statements about insights and opinions I have. Anyway, it´s not about vanity and looking omniscient, it´s about warding off attacks. If I don´t have an answer to everything then I´ll get criticized. Or demoralized in some hard to describe way. Maybe that´s why I´m having such a hard time making decisions, or why I need to make sure I´m making the right decision. I can´t just try stuff. I can´t just not know stuff. I always need to be able to make a case for everything I do. Feelings don´t matter.

Then, for this lack of feeling and for my making a case and my knowing it all I got criticized by everyone outside my family. Arrogant, too complicated, unempathic, zombie, overbearing, narcissistic. Isn´t it sad how I victimize everybody else just with who I am. I feel a different kind of rage for those people and their attitude. Something in my brain just refuses to even take them seriously. Why should I let them hurt me when they never even gave me a chance? If they have so much empathy they should be capable of a little more than judgment, but unfortunately they aren´t. I get all my narcissistic supply from my intellect, they get it from their alleged ability to feel and empathize. Difference? Zero. If you feel superior because you have actual and real feeeeelings then you might as well be me.

How am I ever supposed to be okay if I´m attacked by two sides at once? Again, I need inner distance. Patience. The rage needs to stop. It shouldn´t even matter to me what other people think. I don´t even know what they think, they probably aren´t constantly thinking about me anyway. Still, they said what they said and these words have burnt themselves into my mind. They are timeless, they could have been said yesterday. Another sign of madness. No sense of time. They are like flashbacks.

I´m just going to post this because it´s better than nothing and it´s not going to get any better than this anytime soon. I´m too tired to draw conclusions and in a way I just don´t want to. That´s just another way of pretending I know what I´m doing and I´m on my way to improve, right? Well, I´m not. Improving, I mean. Or at least right now I´m not confident and right on track and on my way to achieving something. Right now I´d rather have to right to feel apathetic and helpless. I don´t want to constantly fight against feelings. Being allowed to feel miserable in fact makes me feel a whole less miserable. My complete refusal, and also my failing college is an attempt at breaking free. Maybe it´s a test. How people react to it. In a way I´ve already decided that whoever reacts negatively to my failure isn´t really my friend.

I feel so sorry for my former self. The self who had hoped to prove herself and get somewhere with studying philosophy. The self who had hoped to shine and find a place in life. I´ve failed her. On the other hand, those ambitions themselves are nothing I have to bury. I just need to look for a place somewhere else. I hope I can make it. In a way I´ve made my decision already.

 

Shelf esteem

Posted in college, health, mental health, personal with tags , , on December 1, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´ve been apathetic and depressed all day and doing anything at all was an effort, but now I´m feeling much better. I have spent a lot of time sorting my books, deciding what I want to keep and what needs to be stored in the basement. Now when I look at my bookshelves, for the first time in my life I only see books which interest me or which I like for some reason.

I used to have tons of clever, sophisticated books in my shelves, and then tons of stuff my parents gave to me for whatever reason, and I always felt the burden of those books. But I have to read them. I need to read and know all this before I can do anything else. They have become part of my life and part of what I´m supposed to succeed in and know about.

Well, now I don´t need to worry about that anymore. One of my bookshelves is childrens´ books and crime novels, the other one is books about crime, terrorism and psychology. I´m surrounded by books which actually are my friends.

Some books used to make me feel bad for very foggy reasons, like there was one single line or a piece of dialogue which somehow made me feel stupid, unlovable or otherwise bad. They´re gone now, though just to the basement, as I´m still not one for throwing things away.

I no longer feel obliged to tolerate things that make me feel bad.

The statement, admittedly, is a little bolder than I deserve, given that I´m only talking about books. It´s only now, though, that I realize to what extent I have tolerated my identity and my wishes and needs to be marginalized if I have to grow this old before I even feel fit to decide what I put into my own bookshelf.

I constantly seem to be waiting for someone´s permission for every decision I make. I cannot just make them on my own. It amazes me how much more alive I feel just because I made sure my bookshelves reflect my interests. It was incredibly liberating, also, when I went through my old papers, notes and clutter and put my past into one big box, wrote “sort out when you feel better” on it and banished it to the basement where it will patiently wait for me to develop a morbid interest even in times which now seem too toxic to think of. That interest will come eventually, I know myself that well.

What I put into that box was nothing too dramatic, it was just a whole lot of uni stuff, for example. And damn, did that feel good! Banish all the expectations, all the should-haves, everything I should have read, studied, obsessed over and didn´t! Even if I graduate, my time at uni will largely have been a failure. Not the years in general, but the uni part. It feels good to free myself of the feeling of obligation I still have when I look at my uni stuff.

Now that I free myself (or at least try to do so), what´s next? I will be done with uni soon, one way or the other, and I´ll need to find something to do. I don´t want to slip into the old routine of letting others decide or doing what others expect.

I recently reached a point in my life where I stopped being terrified of who I am and started to feel curious about it. That seems to be a good foundation for finding out what to do. I think it´s too early to think about jobs or worrying about making money from every little talent or passion I have. That´s the kind of thinking that´s been blocking me for years. Since when am I a person who reduces the meaning of life to finding the right career anyway? I sort of turned into that kind of person, but I can still feel my younger self cringe at that somewhere in the back of my head, and she´s damn right.

I´m a bit worried about my optimism. I´ve had moments like this before, and I always lost that spirit again. I´ve somehow become skeptical towards the dream that one day everything will change and I´ll suddenly be someone who feels alive, someone with an identity of her own.

I´m the kind of person who doesn´t even know she has an intuition when it comes to life choices, so I´ve never been good at following it. But right now it seems to be saying something, and that is: Don´t do anything that doesn´t have that little trace of magic that makes you feel alive.

Well, I will have to do some things. I´ll have to try and graduate. Afterwards, though…we´ll see!

Confession Time

Posted in college, morbid, personal with tags , , on October 23, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

There are so many things that make me feel guilty I´d keep ten confessionals blocked if I tried to get it all off my chest, but I´ll just get started anyway. At least it satisfies my urge for self-torture, which appears to be at a new high.

Alright, I have this professor who was teaching at my uni for one semester. I took his class, we found there was a subject we were both interested in, I wrote an essay about that subject, he suggested I should revisit it and submit it to a journal. He even offered to read my revisions, and I´ve been failing to send them to him for almost a year now. I´ve last written him six months ago. And the really bad thing about this is that I happen to have a serious crush on him.

I don´t feel guilty for having a crush on him, no. I´m not even worried he might stumble upon this blog, recognize me and find out about it. I´m fairly sure he knows, anyway. There were times when I´ve been wondering if it was mutual.

I just cannot cope with how much I´ve fucked this up. I could still write him, yes, if I managed to finish my revisions, but I´m scared of his reaction. It would be a relief if he´d be openly mad at me, but what if he´s just cool and polite and all the time I feel he doesn´t like me anymore?

I believe the really sad, tragic thing is that he might never have liked me in the first place. I sort of made myself believe that if only I could write a brilliant enough essay we could become friends. He could value me as a person. God, I act as if he was a pop star or something; someone so detached from “ordinary people” that I´d have to be special to mean anything to him. Do something especially awesome. It is sad, but this is just how I feel about him. Like I´m an annoying kid who somehow has to earn being liked.

He moves me in all those stupid ways; he makes me want to be vulnerable to him, even look foolish to him; I´d let him deeper into my mind than most people if only I could be sure he likes me. I wish he would write me, ask me if I´m alright, but even if he should like me he couldn´t do that. Our relationship has always been that tiny little bit closer than the ordinary teacher-student-relationship, and I guess it could get him into trouble if any suspicions arose.

The terrible thing is that this unspoken bond, maybe unspoken mutual liking, has never been explicit, so if I lost it, if my long silence has hurt his feelings or angered him, then we will never be able to talk about it. This is so awful.

I´m still not sure if I didn´t just imagine everything. What if I´m making a complete fool of myself thinking he might like me? Or maybe he does like me, but it doesn´t mean so much to him? I could live with him not reciprocating my feelings as long as he respects me. Sometimes I just wish I could write him and tell him everything, risking to make a complete fool of myself, and he would reply: “My feelings are not as deep as yours, and if they were I´d probably lose my job, but I definitely like you and I enjoyed working with you.” If he would say: “I value your courage for admitting this to me even though you knew I wasn´t going to reciprocate!”, then he would be giving me all I need. I´d feel understood. If I ever told him about my feelings then I wouldn´t do so in the hope for a relationship (I already have a happy relationship, after all), but in the hope for a reply that shows me that he understands and values me.

My feelings for him are, of course, ever so slightly twisted; he is an authority figure, and not just formally. He´s one of those people I feel special respect for. I feel so much respect for him that I´d let him reject me. I wouldn´t be angry, or at least not too much. I would cry, but I wouldn´t feel the need to hide I´m hurt. That´s about the greatest proof of trust I can offer a person. That I would let them make me cry in front of their eyes.

But what if he can´t take this? Even worse, what if he doesn´t understand this? I always felt like he completely understands me even without words, I never believed I could hide my crush from him and gladly so, I wanted him to know! What if I told him all this and he´d be embarrassed and awkwardly try to be nice about saying no to me, as if I had ever expected anything else? It´s only then that I´d feel truly rejected. Or, in the words of Winston Smith:

Maybe one does not want to be loved so much as understood.

Well, maybe yes and maybe no. It is so hard to work on that essay without feeling like he´s looking forward to reading it, like he is looking forward to hearing from me. Sometimes I wish I´d run into him on the street and he´d ask me what the hell is wrong with me. I would so love to tell him everything that´s wrong, both with me and the world. The way it is, though, a simple “are you still working on this”-email would do. But he´s not going to send one. Not after so much time. Just what the hell am I supposed to do? Rework that essay, send it to him with a thousand apologies and hope for the best, sure. But it is so hard to keep working.