perjantai 29. elokuuta 2014

Day 410: Social anxiety - introversion as a learned quality


Yesterday evening I went to visit a friend's commune for the first time. The preceding few days had been very stressful and tiresome for me and I felt stretched, tense and exhausted.

When I got to the place and sat down with the people, I noticed that a calm came over me. I noticed that as compared to the other social situations where I had been for example during the same day, these people appeared to have no expectations of me. We didn't know each other, and the activities that people were engaged in didn't require anything of me unless I wanted to contribute. As I realized that I was in a space where I didn't have to strain myself, I started relaxing myself by allowing myself to focus on myself and my well-being only. I was in dire need of my own attention (i.e. I really needed to rest my body) and so I allowed myself to simply be and let others construct the situation.

I eventually slowed myself down more than I have in a long while. I was simply in breath, observing myself and my motions. I realized how much I stress about social situations and what a relief it was to be in one where I didn't require anything of myself. The keywords that night were: “I don't need to” (“ei mun tartte”). Whenever a thought came saying I “should” do something, I released it with the realization that no, I shouldn't, as these requirements are not practical but ones that serve to build and uphold my self-image and self-ideal. I was forgiving myself for setting myself standards striving for perfectionism.

This state of peace continued on to this morning, and because it was in such contrast with most of my experiences from the entire summer, I noticed when it started to crumble. I went out of the house with my partner to have lunch with some of his friends whom I hadn't met before. After the lunch I had become withdrawn, anxious and tense (or “weird” as my partner expressed it – the contrast was pretty noticeable). After writing about it now I realized that after we left the house, a series of “I should” -thoughts had been triggered by different situations, which brought up stress as I attempted to attain to these thoughts and judged myself when I didn't.

  • “I should keep up with him” / “I should be able to keep up with him”
  • “I should make a good impression on these people”
  • “I should be able to pay for my own expenses”
  • “I should talk with these people”
  • “I should participate in the discussion”
  • “I should be more independent” / “I should make an initiative to ...”
  • “I will look stupid if I do that – I should look impressive”

The thing is, I'm starting to see what my social difficulties consist of: these lines of code containing the words “I should” - or rather, the thoughts or lines of code as experiences and not so much as words spoken in my mind. I've been what one might call an “introvert” ever since some time in elementary school when I started being bullied, and the thing is, I remember the time before that: I know I haven't always found social situations difficult, and that introversion at least for me is not an inherent quality. It is something that got created somewhere along the way when I learned that there were unwritten rules to socializing that could be broken with dire consequences. I didn't know how to cope, so my response was to withdraw.

I'll continue with specific self-forgiveness on the “I should” -statements above.

keskiviikko 27. elokuuta 2014

Days 408-409: The healing process is to learn from mistakes

This post is a continuation to:

Day 407 - Being ill


I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to think about the disease in a dramatic way.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to use dramatic words, tones and phrasing when describing the symptoms and/or consequences of the disease, such as saying the virus will remain in my body “for the rest of my life” or exaggerating the pain or discomfort I have been in and the length and magnitude of the symptoms.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to think of having the disease as a dramatic story, where I have been the victim of unfair adversity.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that by thinking and speaking of the disease in dramatic terms I assign myself a role / a position where I am “the victim” and thus justify not carrying responsibility for the disease.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive I am helpless to prevent disease and/or to direct my healing process when I am ill, not realizing that as everything in this reality is connected, nothing that occurs in my body is a coincidence.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that thinking about the disease in dramatic terms triggered a feeling of despair in me, one that continued into depression and anxiety, and that I created these feelings by separating myself from what is HERE and what can be done about it.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to expect the disease to pass in a few days as I assumed it to be a normal flu, not realizing that the long-term symptoms would have pointed to another direction had I examined them more carefully.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to resist looking at the long-term symptoms (prolonged muscle pains, fatigue, swollen face) as I have been afraid of having an uncommon illness.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to avoid looking at and evaluating my symptoms because I have been afraid of what I might find: an illness as the consequence of how I have lived my life.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to react with frustration and fear when and as my expectations were not fulfilled as the disease continued longer than expected.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear that other people will get tired of taking care of me and abandon me as I am no longer “useful” (entertaining, engaging, stimulating) to others but instead become “useless” (unfulfilling, boring, burdensome).

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear that my partner will get tired of the relationship being “on hold” while I am physically incapacitated from any form of interaction and that he will leave me as a result.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to get frustrated when the disease continued as I became afraid of being abandoned.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to want to heal as fast as possible to avoid abandonment.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear losing my friends because of prolonged sickness.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear “missing out on life” while I am sick, with this referring mainly to social events I have been unable to attend while sick, not realizing that I am not missing out on life in fact, as LIFE is here even when I am am sick – sickness is life, too – but that I am “missing out” on “fun”: experiences of joy, excitement, belonging and happiness.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that the experiences of joy, excitement, belonging and happiness are dependent on specific social conditions and cannot be experienced while sick and alone.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to confuse the experiences of joy, excitement, belonging and happiness with stability, believing and perceiving that the positive emotional experiences can provide a stable focal point to my life, not realizing that the nature of experiences is inherently unstable and fickle, as no emotion/feeling can be made to last forever or to remain the same; Thus, I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that reliable stability can only be found outside energetic and emotional experiences.

- I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to stress about “missing out” on positive experiences (and fear facing negative experiences) as I have believed them to be “the fuel” I would need to live on.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to react with fear to physical disability, as I have been afraid that I would be somehow disabled for the rest of my life.
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear making mistakes that can't be amended, not realizing that in the end there are very few mistakes the consequences of which couldn't be directed.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear making a mistake that will permanently disable my physical body in some way, not realizing that this fear is a sign of my mistrust towards myself – of the fact that I know I am not living as self-honestly as I could and that it can bite me in the ass some day.


But hang on. What if this is the greatest fallacy of all?

One of my clearest personality traits (or issues) is perfectionism: trying to do things as well and flawlessly as possible, because I see no point in aiming any lower. The whole low self-esteem thing with “I'm not good enough” popping up everywhere is tied to this survival mechanism, where I kind of try to compensate for myself with my actions – myself, which I perceive to be very small, insignificant and insufficient. Most of the people closest to me, and even those that are not that close, have picked up on this, although not many discuss it directly.

Because the people in my life have helped me become aware of this personality trait learned somewhere way early in my childhood, I have become more careful about walking this process. I fear that I am looking for “fault” in myself where there is none, because there IS an actual risk for me misrepresenting myself to myself, and often people respond to my attempts to develop myself by dismissing my attempts to carrry self-responsibility with “you don't have to be perfect”. I know this is probably in most cases a defense mechanism, but I'm still doubtful. What if I am doing myself harm by trying to be “perfect”?

But I am not aiming to be perfect. I am engaging in a process to become the best possible version of myself: considering the circumstances I have been born and raised in and the possibilities I have now as the outcome; the time I have left; the skills I have and the skills I am still able and willing to learn; the support I have available in my environment. I by no means expect myself to ever be “ready” or “done” with this process, I do not expect myself to learn everything there is, I do not expect myself succeed flawlessly in any of my attempts. What I do expect of myself, however, is patience, perseverance, consistency, self-management (I prefer this to “self-discipline”) and absolute self-honesty – at least eventually, as the cycles of self-deceit sometimes can't be unraveled right away. Can this be called perfectionism? I'd rather call it integrity or self-respect. Why would I disgrace myself by not showing myself respect?

Also, I do not see the process as linear, where I'd have a single outcome to reach for. I do not see myself lying on my deathbed and thinking “this is who I became!”, lol, and waiting for judgement. What I refer to with the “best possible version” of myself may be different in different points of time and space – it is simply the potential that I would be able to live out, and this can and will vary as I change and my environment changes.

So, when writing the last self-forgiveness statement above, I wrote the words “I'm not living as self-honestly as I could” and I saw self-judgement.



I commit myself to show myself that most mistakes can be amended by redirecting oneself and managing the consequences of a mistake, just like an illness heals once the cause is addressed and dealt with and the symptoms alleviated.

Thus, I commit myself to live out the commitment above by following this self-corrective statement:

When and as I consider myself having made a mistake - by for example thinking about having made a mistake, blaming myself for having made a mistake or feeling bad for making a mistake – I stop, I breathe and I remind myself that a mistake is also a chance to learn and develop, and that a mistake is not a negative (nor a positive) thing. I take care to not believe my self-judgement, I look at the cause of my mistake and I forgive myself for it. I look at the consequences of my mistake and I ask what could be done to reduce their impact. I take action to make amends for the consequences of my mistake and to redirect myself in a way that will prevent the same mistake from happening again. I remind myself that a learning process is a series of mistakes and that mistakes are inevitable if one wants to learn.

The next time I get ill, I commit myself to focus primarily on resting and self-care to support myself with my immediate circumstances and secondarily on piecing together a picture of what events and actions led to the disease in order to support me in my long-term process.

The next time I get ill, I commit myself to face the illness as LIFE, not as something that separates me from life.

sunnuntai 17. elokuuta 2014

Day 407: Being ill


I have now been sick for 14 days, of which I have had a fever during the last 11 days. The disease was identified as mononucleosis or “kissing disease” (a nickname derived from the fact that the virus only transmits through direct contact with another's saliva). The symptoms include high fever, muscle pains, swollen lymph nodes, swollen face, sore throat, stomach cramps and an overall fatigue that in the most extreme cases can go on up to months or even years. Once infected, the virus will remain in my body for the rest of my life.

The first few days with the muscle cramps were heavy, because I thought I was dealing with the usual kind of pain that comes as the result of having a bad posture or not exercising enough, and then got frustrated when the pains were just getting worse despite my attempts to support my muscles in healing. When the fever struck on day 4, I was overwhelmed by how “everything” can happen at once, as I still thought that all of my slowly-occurring symptoms were unrelated to each other. By Sunday the fever was reaching 40 degrees celsius, I felt like I was going to die and I was so unbelievably frustrated, as I had “been a good girl” and given myself rest - despite the fact that I wouldn't have wanted to - because I just wanted to heal as fast as possible so I could get on with my life. I didn't know why the fever was going up, I didn't understand any of my symptoms and I was getting depressed and anxious and thus cried a lot and tried to write during those few hours of the day I was awake. I felt cut out and separated from the world, a prisoner in my own home. I didn't sleep for many nights because I was too restless to empty my mind, and all the entertainment I had consumed to “keep myself busy” while hurrying up healing attacked me mentally during the nights.

On day 9 I got the diagnosis and my anxiety dropped, as I now knew I wasn't dealing with a normal flu and that I had done nothing “wrong” to not be healed already. With the knowledge of what was happening in my body I could give myself the peace of mind to rest and the time needed for the body to go through the process of adapting to the presence of the virus - I mean, my body's gonna have to deal with it for as long as I live! The fever lowered a bit and I started having energy to be awake and do something light, but as these kinds of days have now been rolling by, I've increasingly felt how everything that I am doing or thinking of myself possibly doing is somehow useless, a pastime, as if I was just killing time – and when I pointed out to myself that I am now simply on sick leave and that it is OK to not push myself too much, I asked myself: if I wasn't sick and didn't have all these constraints, what would I be doing now? And the response I got from myself was just as unfulfilling and depressing as all the thoughts I'd had before. I felt that everything I would be doing during these last few weeks of my summer holidays would be “killing time”, constructing sandcastles only to let them be blown away, and besides that, I'd be doing it alone or with people I didn't like or with not enough of a variety of people.

I'm a university student with a 3-month-long summer holiday, and for many reasons I decided not to plan anything special for this summer. I'd stay here in my hometown, working as much as I could (which turned out not to be much) and just give myself space and time to focus on myself and whatever personal projects I wanted to give my attention to. My semester begins on the second week of September, and until then I still don't have many plans.

So, where has my focus been during this summer? I have had a new relationship I have invested quite a lot of time in. I have traveled a bit, gone to some festivals, prepared for and celebrated my sister's wedding and experimented with having cats. I've read some books (not as much as I planned to) and played some piano (way less than I intended to). Basically, I don't think I've had a moment where I've had to wonder about what to do next, because the opportunities have been presented to me – one could even say I've been a bit busy, lol.

So I'm guessing a partial cause of this unfulfillment experience is the fact that I am now for the first time actually facing what my summer would have been like in some scenarios: if I had to spend it alone (as I am now doing in isolation) and without going anywhere (as I can't now take up anyone's invitations). I am in shock of this leisure, especially because I cannot do anything physical yet, which is probably what I would be using a lot of my free time for. I don't find fulfillment in studying when I can't balance it out by going for a run. I don't find satisfaction in making music when I can't shake it off with yoga. I have figured that I am a very kinaesthetic person (not saying that everyone isn't or couldn't be), and not being able to move has been tiresome for me. I've felt as if many of my preferred channels of self-expression have been cut off, as I haven't been able to dance or sing or even fucking walk properly.

So, the reason I'm writing all this is to try and make sense of the experience of unfulfillment, resistance, loneliness and dissatisfaction that has been triggered during this illness. It's been a tough 2 weeks for my psyche, as during this time many points concerning my new relationship, proactiveness and in general just living a life have surfaced.

I'm also curious about the infection itself. It may be quite telling that I got a “kissing disease” while coming down from the rush of endorphins of embracing and establishing a new relationship – I could say I've been quite easy pray, lol, with my guard way down. I don't know where I got the infection, but because it only transmits via saliva, a good guess would be my new partner. There are some things that have been straining the relationship as the premise of it was left a bit unclear, and I'm kinda thinking how this is now the “payment” for my carelessness, as I did see the things we slid under the carpet and chose to ignore it. “This is what you get for constructing a relationship in this manner.” In a way I'm not surprised at all.

Ok. There's a lot to process here, so I will continue tomorrow by going through what I wrote today and writing specific self-forgiveness on what I find.