Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fighting my Own Brain

One of the things I hate most about BPD is that my brain fights my brain. The rational part of my brain knows how I’m supposed to think and feel, but the emotional part tells me different. The emotional part is usually overpowering and tricks me into thinking I’m supposed to feel all these negative emotions. Right now, it’s telling me I’m supposed to feel anger and jealousy. Let me explain what’s going on (mixed with story time).

Back in 2013 I got my master’s degree in psychology. Yay! Unfortunately, the school I went to did not explain the degree I chose was not eligible for licensure.  Thus, the only way for me to become licensed was to get a second degree (nope, I couldn’t just take the missing classes). That presented a problem financially. You see, the government allots you a certain amount of money for each degree you pursue, and I had basically used all of mine up. It seemed my only options were to take out private loans (not a good idea) or go for my PhD (ha ha, nope!) For years I was stuck. I had a degree, but not many options.

In 2014 I got a job working in a therapeutic day school. It was at this point that I started to realize I had a passion for education. I worked on and off as a paraeducator for several years and loved it. I was still stuck, though, in the education front. Then, in 2016 I got hired at my current job and everything changed. I learned they partnered with Boston University and offered employees scholarships. I could finally afford to go back to school! I started my Master of Education in Teaching and Curriculum (focus in Special Education) a year ago this month. I was on way to becoming a licensed teacher! However, I ultimately decided that I did not want to go through with the practicum. It felt too overwhelming, and I knew it would be difficult if not impossible for me to pass the math MTEL (this isn’t me putting myself down. MA has some of the hardest state tests in the country, and the MTEL represents everything my NVLD causes me to struggle with). To put it in perspective, I took three practice tests and maybe got a handful correct. I just didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars over and over.

Originally, I decided I would just stick with being a Para. It was a perfectly respectable career choice. However, things changed once again when I did some research for my boyfriend (who lives in NH). Let’s switch gears and talk about him for a second. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science. Back in 2014/2015 he started grad school to pursue his teaching degree but had to drop out after a semester because of surgery. He has Avoidant Personality Disorder and has always been scared to basically move forward; so, for years he didn’t work or go to school. We’ve been together on and off for 4 years and on for 2 years. Since he met me, I found him his job (which he loves) and got him back into therapy.  I also spent a ton of time researching school and program and licensure options for him.

During my research I learned that NH has various alternative methods for pursuing licensure; one of them being the, “Critical Shortage List.” The way it works is you need two classes in SpEd and passing scores on the Praxis. Once you have that, you fill out a statement of eligibility, and you are able to be hired as a SpEd teacher in a NH district. You are then assigned a mentor (through the Department of Education) and fill out a beginning of plan. You go through a list of competencies to see which you’ve fulfilled, then you make a plan to complete what’s left (you have 3 years to do it, but it can be done sooner). I was excited because this seemed like a much better route. One that aligned with my style of learning; learn as you go. Plus it worked cause we are moving in together in July, and we will be closer to his area.

Originally this was the plan my boyfriend was going to go with as well. However, yesterday he was officially accepted into a grad program and they told him he’d be able to get his license within a year. This is when my emotion brain started to get to me. It wasn’t fair that I’ve had a passion for teaching and special education, that I struggled for years to figure out how to move forward, that I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock; and he basically avoiding doing anything until I came and pushed him and helped him, and now he’s going to become a licensed SpEd teacher before me. I mean, this has been my dream longer. Yes, he started going for his teaching degree in 2014, but it wasn’t SpEd. He just decided he wanted to do SpEd this year. I felt angry, jealous, and like why isn’t there anything that I “have over” him? I felt inferior, like a failure.

It's hard for me to get out of that kind of thinking, the black and white brain; but I managed to write down some rational thinking that has helped. Here goes…..

  • I already have a master’s degree. One where I wasn’t told I could not get licensed. Therefore, I was stuck for several years with little to no options. My roadblocks were more of less out of my control. Even if I wanted to go back to school sooner, I couldn’t unless I put myself it debt I couldn’t pay back (private loans are not eligible for forgiveness).
  •  NH has an easier route to licensure than MA does. They only have one teaching certification while MA has three (primary, initial, professional). I wouldn’t even get my professional license until I worked three (?) years under my Initial. Aside from that the MA state teacher tests are a lot harder and there’s more of them.
  • I could have gone down a licensure root in my current program, but deep down I knew that wasn’t right for me and it would have been bad for my mental health. I shouldn’t force something because it’s the traditional route.
  •  I have been in the actual field longer than him. He works as a life skills tutor and I am a Special Education Associate. I’ve been creating behavior plans, taking data, writing progress notes, going to IEP meetings. The degree program I am in is for people who already have experience in the field. Most stuff he’s going to learn, I’ve already learned or have been doing.
  • He may not even look for a lead teaching job until 2019/2020, which is when I plan to do it (I could do it for this year, but it seems a bit too soon and I want to finish my degree first). If this is the case, we’d both be working as lead teachers at the same time. Another thing to keep in mind is that I will be under the Alternative IV program and I’ve probably already completed a lot of the competencies.
  • Technically he could have been licensed years ago if it wasn’t for the surgery.
  • One of the main reasons he is doing this is because of me. His own words were that he would not have been able to do this on his own, and I am the reason he has his job and is going back to school. I’ve been an inspiration to him, and it’s because of me he’s moving forward in his life.
  • He hasn’t had it easy. He’s wanted to move forward, but his disorder has stopped him. We both struggled to be where we are at, but for different reasons
  • Like he says, we are a team and when one succeeds we both do.
My emotion brain is still fighting me, it is still telling me I am inferior. But my wise mind is slowly getting stronger. I really am proud of him because I know how hard this has been. I know that's how I really feel. My brain just wants me to believe different.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Spirit

My spirit is inside me, it connects me to the universe. I am part of the universe and the universe is part of me. I am made of stardust. There is a spirit in the earth. In the rocks, trees, flowers. In the stars, moon, and sun. A spirit that flows through and connects each of us to the Universe. Invisible, quiet, sometimes bold and in your face. You can't see your spirit, can't see the spirit of the universe, but it's there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BDD

I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I had speculated for a long time, but only recently got diagnosed. What is BDD? Learn more here

Having BDD means I have a very warped view of my body at times (but not all the time). I have been trying to get better at catching myself when I'm beginning to stare at a certain part of me for too long. Having BDD doesn't mean I always hate my body, I don't. It's just when I get into the BDD headspace, those dark thoughts take over. The truth is when I started getting more attention and liked more it was because of my body. I was modeling, doing sex work. Suddenly people found me sexy and I wasn't the loser I was in middle and high school. Thus, it was cemented in my head that the best thing I have going for me is my body. Of course, I know that's not true, but again when I'm in the BDD mind frame the dark thoughts come in. So what helps and doesn't help when I am struggling with my BDD?

DO be logical. Having NVLD means I'm very fact base. For example, my friend pointed out two pics I thought I looked different in, I was actually the same. The only difference was lighting and posture. Another time she schooled me on what having a uterus means for a woman's stomach.

DON'T tell me "you look healthy." When I am in a BDD frame of mind those words can be very triggering.

DO remind me I am thin and 120 is a low weight.

DON'T tell me, "you're a beautiful person. Weight is just a number," or anything like that. It's super unhelpful.

DO message me privately (if I post in public). Sometimes it helps better if I have a one on one conversation.

DON'T say something like, "well if you're fat then what am I!" or "Wow, you're 120? wonder what you think of me being 150?" This is literally the most selfish and ignorant thing you can say. My BDD has NOTHING to do with how I see other people. Do not make it about you.

And finally, know that it will pass. Know that the road to progression isn't linear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stress

I have been having a hard time lately dealing with stress. I definitely think I am having anxiety about all the big changes coming up. Living with Daniel, finding a new job, getting used to living in a new area. I'm basically uprooting myself after spending so much time trying to find stability.
I feel ashamed of myself. I want to talk about it, but every time I try to type it out I become angry and feel humiliated. I become paranoid that people will think I am getting worse, that all my progress is erased. Nothing seems to come out right, nothing is worded right. I'm also paranoid about being honest. I don't know who's watching, who will rat me out, who will betray me. Certain people have said stuff to me, stuff that's caused me to be even more paranoid and stressed.
Tonight I got overly upset and angry because I messed up putting a screen protector on, and I the shipment of postcards I ordered was messed up. Both instances ended up being an easy fix (refund and replacement), but because I was feeling stressed (and didn't help I had a stressful conversation at work) I was in an irritable and fragile headspace.
I'm trying to remind myself that this is temporary, that it doesn't mean I am "regressing" or that all my progress has been erased. I'm just having a hard time now. It's just difficult to not have blinders on and focus on the negative. Feel like everyone has me under a microscope and is judging me, or thinking I am falling apart. It doesn't help that I've been told some things by certain people, and I can't really talk about it because I'm paranoid.
I hate feeling like I have to defend myself. I hate feeling like I can't admit I'm having a hard time. Because when I do, I am making myself vulnerable and then I get paranoid about what other people will think. I get paranoid that they will think this is how I am. They will forget all the progress.
I need to stop this is just causing me to become more stressed, upset, and paranoid. I am in a thought spiral and I feeling like crying from frustration. I'm so scared and paranoid about being honest about having a hard time. I want to scream.

Shame and Change

There are parts of my personality I know I can work on. In order to do this, I need to have a sense of humility and humble myself. This is something that I have a difficult time with. Not because I'm conceited and think I am perfect, but because I have a difficult time dealing with shame. I feel deep shame in who I am, and talking about the things I am ashamed about out loud causes even further shame. I have a fear people's reactions, I fear being perceived as not making progress, and I have a tendency to focus on the "negative." One set back or "bad" trait erases all the positive and all the progress.

I also have a tendency to catastrophize. For example, I used to be super strict about how often I eat fast food. I have since become a bit more lax about it, and there have been times where I've had McDonald's or ordered out more than twice in a week. In the broader aspect, it's not like I'm eating fast food every day, but my brain focuses on that small amount of time. Having Borderline, you all know I'm very black and white. So I go from, "I'm being too strict" to "I'm a disgusting fat pig who eats like shit and I should probably kill myself." The point of this is to relay that admitting I can improve in some aspects turns into me catastrophizing.

Okay, so what do I want to work on?

  • Eating healthier: Look, I'm not into these food or diet fads. I will never be a person who counts carbs and calories. It causes me too much anxiety and confusion, and in my opinion takes too much mental effort. What I am good at is setting concrete goals. Fast food only once a month, cut back on bread carbs, continue to not drink soda and alcohol, sweets on special occasions. Eating healthier isn't what's hard for me, it's admitting I have to. Because my brain tells me that if I admit I don't always eat great then I am a failure, people are going to rub it in, I'm going to be punished and the universe is going to make me fat. And, as I've said many times before, I'd rather be dead than fat. I also have a lot of health nut friends who, in my mind, can't wait to rub their healthy lifestyle in my face. I'm sure I'm being irrational, but trying to rationalize with my brain is like trying to herd cats.
  • Being more tactful in communication: I've recently been told by a couple of people that others take issue with how I communicate. Now, ignoring the fact that a lot of people in this day and age can't handle blunt and honest communication and would rather be catty, make snide comments, talk behind people's backs, and tell everyone else they have a problem with you except you; I admit that I can sometimes be intense. I am really bad at making "I" statements, or starting with the positive. But why? I think it's important to understand why I communicate the way I do. There are a few reasons;
  1. NVLD presents a lot of Asperger's in that I don't always realize when I'm not being tactful and I struggle with social interactions. I am blunt and too the point, and I don't always read peoples reactions well.
  2. I spent 6th-12th grade being bullied, lied to, feeling like an outsider in my own home. For much of that I was abused by my step mom. I was always the one who never spoke up, kept quiet. So when I finally found my voice, you can damn well be sure I'm going to use it. 
  3. I am constantly being interrupted. By my family, friends, my boyfriend. So I've learned to be quick and to the point, and sometimes that comes out as tactless.
  4. I struggle to put my thoughts into words, and so I've found the best approach for me is not thinking about it, and just speaking.
  5. I've been abused. Emotionally, sexually, physically. I've had people walk all over me, take advantage of me, threaten me, threaten my life. Simply put, I won't keep quiet. People have a problem with strong women. Women are always softening their stances with, "I'm really sorry," and "I hope this doesn't upset you." But when a man does it? It's celebrated.
  With all this being said, I recognize that there are some people who just can't handle blunt people. So, I am going to try my best to word things carefully, maybe even write them down. The problem is, when I have to start thinking about every single word I say and wording things perfectly, I start to become anxious and paranoid.  The people who say this stuff to me, don't understand that I'm not always like this. When I am super blunt it's in these situations....

  1. I am scared to approach someone so I want to do it like a band-aid...right off and to the point.
  2. I am in a certain mood. I am frustrated, irritated, etc.
  3. I have already tried the "fluff" approach.
This causes more issues in my head. I think people see me in a certain way, I become angry, I get defensive, I feel I need to prove myself, I feel I need to scream at them that they are wrong about me. I get into "blinders" way of thinking. I only see the "negative." I then start feeling immense shame, which causes self-judgement, which causes worry, which causes anxiety, which causes shame, which causes...you get the point. 

I think, what I need to do first is start letting stuff go. People suck, people do annoying things, but I can't keep letting everything get to me. If someone wants to suck at being a decent person, that's on them. I need to stop speaking up against every tiny annoyance. I should save my breath for bigger and more important things (like human rights). That will be my goal this month, only saying something if it's directly affecting me and my life in a negative way. If I do need to communicate with someone, I will write it out first and have someone read it.

Of course, this makes me feel like a piece of shit human who can't function like a normal adult, but hey. Win some, lose some. I'll basically spend the next several days dwelling, getting angry and irritated at everything I do, and feeling like a waste of space. Because if you think you're too hard on me, remember there is no one harder on me than me. There are days I hate myself so much I want to rip myself open and climb out. I know I'm being irrational and I'm letting Beth take over. I'll let her play....for now.

Wonder

This stick I picked this week was, "wonder."

I enjoy watching my students innocent like wonder. They are curious about everything, even the simplest of thing. Things, I believe adults take for granted. This week I have been teaching my RTI group about animals from different habitats, and I have found myself learning and wondering about these animals as well.

Sometimes it's hard for me to wonder about things. Wonder=worry. I like things just so, and I like to know what's going on and what the plan is. Wondering makes me worried and anxious, but I want to let go of that. I want to come back to that childlike wonder, my students have.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bad Day.

Today was a bad day.

I felt frustrated dealing with the MBTA, I was reminded of a painful time during worship service, I couldn't focus during yoga, I hated my body and felt disgusting all day.

It was a bad day, but tomorrow is a new day.