Dark Thoughts Inspired by Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Undergound”

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I’m currently reading Dostoevsky’s novel “Notes from Underground”, which is a somewhat satirical, but also brutally honest look at the shadow side that exists within us all, whether we would like to admit it or not. As I have been reading, I have found many ways that I can see a glimmer of myself within the neurotic narrator.

For example, like the character telling the story in the book, I too have often considered myself more intelligent and consciously aware than much of humanity. This sounds like pure narcissism, and perhaps it is in a sense, although I have often thought that at least the “awareness” part of it is not something we are born with (like IQ), but something that can be cultivated. However, not many take the time to truly question their own beliefs, motives, philosophies, and the nature of reality itself. To be fair, I often wonder if those people who are more shallow or less intelligent aren’t actually more happy. Attempting to take an unbiased, penetrating look into yourself, the world, and others isn’t exactly always comforting.

Another commonality I share with the storyteller is that I can relate to his feelings of underachievement and difficulty rising to the standards he believes he should. When all your life you have been praised for your IQ, your talents, or your “potential”, it can feel like you are letting yourself and the world down when you settle for a seemingly “mediocre” or “average” life. Perhaps that results from the naive child in us who is told that they can achieve “anything”, and therefore, dreams of fame, wealth, and adoration…and then is horribly disappointed to see none of it come to fruition.

I can also relate to the narrator’s sheer spite in wanting to annoy or derail other people (especially certain people who are annoying themselves) and in taking a strange sort of pleasure in suffering. At times, do I moan and groan for my own satisfaction?  Is there not a perverse side of me that likes to “play” with the nerves of another, much like a cat plays with a mouse? Is it not fun sometimes to watch another explode in childish frustration and throw an adult tantrum? Are we not all ornery instigators at times?

Lastly, like the narrator, I have to ask myself, deep down, do I genuinely care for and about others? Sure, I don’t wish anyone harm or suffering, nor do I go out of my way to taunt others normally, but do I truly want to sacrifice for others? Am I willing to disrupt my own comfort to improve another’s lot, or would I more truthfully rather keep others at a distance to avoid the inconvenience humans always bring?

Many humans seem to be rather shallow in thought and reflection, but they are no different in basic selfishness. Perhaps to my own detriment, I do dig for the selfish roots within myself and expose them to scrutiny, which may be unusual behavior, but I am convinced that others have the same roots, just hiding far down in the shade and often not brought to light. From that, perhaps, stems my reluctance to sacrifice too much of myself for others who have seemingly cultivated no better character than I.

*I hope you enjoyed this foray into the dark side of the human psyche 🙂 I truly believe that before any of us can understand the darkness in the world, we first need to understand the darkness within ourselves!

PTSD and After Effects of Abusive Relationships

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A couple nights ago I was feeling so confused and conflicted inside that I started to feel a little bit claustrophobic. Some of you may not understand that feeling if you’ve never had it yourself, but it is something I have experienced more than once when the emotional and rational parts of my brain just can’t seem to find common ground. It is even worse when the emotional parts of your brain are telling you different things at the same time too.

Part of my brain might be telling me that someone does care about me because they buy me stuff (they are so generous!) and make such a fuss over me whenever I see them. While another part of my brain is reminding me of the times they fucked me over and left me to cry alone. From what I understand, this is a common thing experienced by those who have been victims of abuse. There is a real trauma bond that is created between abuser and abused, which makes it so very hard to see the abuser for what they really are and to be able to keep your wits about you when they suddenly do something nice or swear yet again that they’ve “changed”.

I know I have complex PTSD and a buttload of cognitive dissonance going on in this weary head of mine. I know that the healing process is long, and realistically, never-ending in some ways. I know that none of it was my fault, even though I still struggle with feelings of guilt, insecurity, and inadequacy. I know that I have made wide and sweeping relationship changes I had to make for my own welfare, but I still find myself feeling sorrow for what could or should have been.

I am often confused and desperate to understand what is beyond understanding. And I guess I have to make peace with that. I really have no other choice.

Fundamentally Alone, but Craving Understanding

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The past week or so has been rough on me mentally. I’ve had way too many weepy days where I would cry for seemingly no good reason. Several times I had anxiety/frustration meltdowns. You could argue about whether they were “autistic meltdowns” or “bipolar meltdowns”, but at the end of the day, does the label really matter? What matters is the suffering and finding a way to get through it.

I’ve been upset partially because I feel misunderstood by everyone, including my therapist. Mental health professionals in my experience are generally kind, caring people who truly try to understand, but I think some things can’t truly be understood unless experienced personally. Unless someone has experienced the same level of trauma throughout their childhood and adulthood, been blessed and cursed with Asperger’s and Bipolar, been dealt the same personality and experiences, and developed the same chronic physical conditions, they probably can’t relate exactly to my plight….anymore than I can relate exactly to theirs.

In the end it often feels like we are all fundamentally alone in our experience of the world, even though we desperately want to feel connected and understood. Fortunately, we can connect with others through some aspects of our experience, so perhaps that is what needs to be focused on. It is easy to feel completely separate and different from everyone else. At a base level, it is true for all of us, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying to reach out. And so, I continue to write and seek out common ground with others, both online and in person. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what else to do.

A Theory About Personality Disorders

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While I was writing yesterday’s post about personality disorders, I kind of came up with a theory of my own. That theory is that all of us likely fall somewhere on the spectrum of personality disorders – ALL of us. Granted, it is definitely to greater or lesser extents depending on your experiences, personality type, and genetic makeup, but all of us fall somewhere on the spectrum of narcissism. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of avoidance and anxiety. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of neediness and emotional dysregulation. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of eccentricity.

This theory is very similar to theories I have heard that claim we are all somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Some of us clearly fall heavily on the side of autistic traits, some of us fall in the middle somewhere, and some of us fall heavily on the other side of the spectrum, but we are all on there somewhere.

For personality disorders though, I feel that most of us probably do more closely fit one (or perhaps even two) of the clusters overall. In case you were unaware, there are 3 clusters of personality disorders:

Cluster A (the “odd” or “eccentric” cluster), with Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal personality disorders.

Cluster B (the “dramatic”, “emotional”, or “erratic” cluster), with Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Antisocial personality disorders.

Cluster C (the “anxious”, “fearful” cluster), with Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorders.

I don’t know about you, but almost everyone I know fits quite nicely at least into one of those groups when I consider their overall personality traits. Either I know a lot of messed up people…or maybe having some personality problems is just part of being human? Of course, some take it to the extreme. I myself am so highly anxious and fearful that I would consider it abnormally so. I believe most of that has to do with early attachment issues in childhood and a history of trauma and abuse.

I guess what I am trying to say is that people with personality disorders are not monsters or rare weirdos like many tend to think of them. They are just normal, somewhat dysfunctional people like the rest of us, but perhaps they have a harder time coping due to negative experiences and traumas they have endured. Sure, some of them are assholes, but so is a significant portion of the human race in general…

Nighttime Dread and “Quiet Borderlines” Thoughts

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I slept in until after 2pm this afternoon. I hate when that happens. I feel like most of the day is already gone by the time I get out of bed. I must have slept at least around 12 hours last night, even though I had a bit of an emotional fest when I actually went to bed. For some reason, all the loneliness of the world seems to settle down on me when I try to go to sleep and all the horrible things that have and could happen come around to haunt me. It is often at these times that I feel absolutely alone and helpless in this world, even though logically I know I’m not…at least not right now. But I could be. I could be all alone very easily and that thought sends me into a kind of despair I can’t explain.

Recently I have been reading a book entitled “Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder”. Reading the book has been insightful and interesting, and made me realize I am definitely NOT a traditional borderline. I simply don’t have the acting out behaviors. I guess I could be what some people call “quiet borderlines”, although sometimes I wonder if they are really borderlines or not?

Perhaps some “quiet borderlines” are actually more along the lines of Avoidant Personality Disorder or another anxiety-related personality disorder? Who knows. I’m not a doctor so I can’t say, but I do find so many commonalities running through various personality disorders, that even if you have one, pinpointing which one might be difficult and many people have traits of more than one. For me personally, I think I definitely fit more into the cluster C “anxious and fearful clusters” than the cluster B “dramatic and overly emotional clusters”. In fact, the only time I am visibly overly emotional is when I am so anxious I pretty much panic. Unfortunately this almost always seems to happen in public, because social interaction in itself can easily set off the panic in me.

 

Ever Heard of Sexual Anorexia?

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Last night I was looking through book giveaways on Goodreads and happened to spot a book about “sexual anorexia”. I’ve studied psychology and mental health issues for years, but that was a phrase I had never come across before. Now curious, I had to Google it and found the subject rather interesting.

Apparently, just as anorexics starve themselves of food, a sexual anorexic starves themselves of sexual experiences. Some do so because of strict religious or moral beliefs, but the majority do so because of fear of intimacy and trust or a history of sexual abuse. There do seem to be some who seem to have OCD issues about sex as well, and avoid it due to a belief that it is repulsive or disgusting. This last category seems especially hard hit because they tend to beat themselves up or feel degraded for even having sexual urges in the first place.

Often the sexual anorexics that are afraid of intimacy and trust might still indulge in porn, masturbation, and such, but they avoid actual sexual encounters with others. They often choose to be celibate, but some do get into relationships and then find ways to avoid actually being sexual with their partners, which obviously can lead to major issues between couples. I found it interesting that there is also a category of “sexual bulimics” which are people who might go out and sleep around a lot all at once, but then will starve themselves of sex for a long while afterward.

I know this may seem like a weird subject for a blog post, especially when I don’t have personal stories or experiences to share, but I find stuff like this fascinating. The intricacies and oddities of the human mind never fail to amaze me.

Being Too Clingy and Possessive

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I can be a bit possessive, especially when in a close relationship. I’ve always been like that. Even as a kid I would get jealous sometimes if my friends had other friends or wanted to do stuff without me. I’m not sure why, but I am easily prone to feeling left out or threatened by outsiders. However, I know this dynamic isn’t exactly healthy and I am trying to learn to let go a bit and not be so demanding by monopolizing anyone, specifically my husband.

It may be my autism, since I have heard it is typical of autistics, but I don’t make close relationships easily. I usually only have one or two truly close relationships at a time, and I can definitely be guilty of being clingy or insecure about those relationships. For the past 16 years, my closest relationship has been my husband (as it should be), but my husband is a bit different from me in what he needs socially.

Socially I only need those one or two people, although it can be terrifying if those relationships are threatened, since it is so hard for me to connect with others and build closeness. My husband on the other hand seems to desire more social interaction and the chance of making more friendships than I do. He wants to feel a part of things more than I do, as I am more of a homebody.

So, I have been working at letting go some and not feeling resentful or frightened by him reaching out for other friendships. It is still hard sometimes and honestly there is still a big part of me that thinks he should need absolutely nothing else in life but being with me…but I know that isn’t realistic or healthy. Does anyone else out there struggle with issues like this?

Good Therapy Session Update, and Books for Emotional Healing

I had a really good therapy session today. We talked more about the symptoms I am currently experiencing which might be related to a mood disorder vs what might be related to PTSD and my past. On the mood disorder (or Bipolar) front, I think I have made some progress, especially when it comes to sleeping and making hasty decisions I later regret during hypomanic phases. Unfortunately, not much seems to help the depression side of it, whether it be cognitive therapy techniques or medicine.

As I told my therapist today, I feel like my personal “normal” emotional state starts at -1 (mildly to moderately depressed), so I only really have down to go from there if the depression worsens, which it often does. According to my mood charting so far, I have about the same number of mildly to moderately depressed days as I have moderately to severely depressed days. And then I have a day here or there where it goes even lower and those are the dangerously depressed days. It actually makes me feel a little better though to know some of it is probably the mood disorder and not just me “refusing to get well”, which I have sometimes accused myself of in the past. After all, if I really WANT to be well, why aren’t I yet? That is the way I used to think about it, but with a mood disorder it doesn’t work that way.

We also talked about the affirmations I have been doing, which I have actually been doing a good job of keeping up with! I even do some mirror work (where you say positive affirmations to yourself while looking into your eyes in the mirror). It really does help! Below I have attached a photo of two inspirational books I am currently reading regarding affirmations:

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The first, “The Body Heals Itself” by Emily A. Francis is a fascinating look at the emotional connection to our muscular system and chronic pain conditions. I know for sure that my physical problems DEFINITELY flare up when emotional issues surface, so there is no doubt a strong mind-body connection. The book includes research, affirmations, stretches, and other practical modalities to try for relief, each separated into specific sections about each body part. I am most interested in the back pain and foot pain sections myself, as I suffer greatly from chronic back pain and plantar fasciitis.

The second book is Jack Canfield’s “Success Affirmations”, which I haven’t been as impressed with, but am giving a chance. For me the affirmations in this book are a bit too long and drawn out. I tend to like simple and to-the-point things better overall.

Bipolar Mood Charting

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I decided to start doing some bipolar mood charting. I’ve seen others talk about how it helped them to figure out patterns in their mood swings and behaviors, so figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. To find a bipolar mood chart, I just googled it and checked out several options that came up. I ended up going with this chart.

I’ve only been tracking myself on it for four days now, but I’ve already noticed a few small things. For one, I’m clearly more on the low side (which makes sense being Bipolar type 2), and even when I do chart on the “high mood” side, I often chart on the “low mood” side for the same day. So I am predicting that most of my “high mood” days are actually mixed days. We’ll have to see if that stays consistent the longer I chart myself.

I also noticed rather interestingly, that so far, when my anxiety is high, my irritability tends to be lower, and vice versa. Are anxiety and irritability two sides of the same coin just expressed differently? I don’t know, but thought it was interesting.

Lastly, this is something I already kind of knew, but seeing it in writing really drives the point home…I sleep A LOT. On average, about 11-12 hours a day. I sleep HALF the day away! This has pretty much been the case since I started taking Seroquel, so I wonder if that may be responsible.

Therapy Homework: Affirmations for Self-Esteem

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I saw my therapist this past weekend and it went ok, but I honestly think sometimes my therapist gets kind of annoyed or frustrated with me. I feel like she sometimes wants to see more progress than I’ve made, especially in the self-esteem/self-loathing area. To be fair, I haven’t always been the best about following up on actual practices to feel better about myself. I have done affirmations and things like that in the past, but I always end up kind of feeling ridiculous and giving up pretty soon when I don’t see immediate results…even though I know that immediate results aren’t likely.

At the end of the session, the therapist gave me the homework assignment of looking up some affirmations that I genuinely liked and related to and giving at least a few of those a try every day, so here goes. I did a google search and found some affirmations I actually kind of related to on a Huffpost article. Here are the ones I’ve actually decided to work with:

  1. I am courageous and I stand up for myself.
  2. I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful.
  3. I forgive those who have harmed me in my past and peacefully detach from them.
  4. My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
  5. Many people look up to me and recognize my worth; I am admired.
  6. I am a powerhouse; I am indestructible.
  7. I am conquering my illness; I am defeating it steadily each day.

Most of these spoke to me because they were just simple and straightforward, or because they address issues I deal with constantly (like health issues or past trauma). #5 may seem a bit conceited at first glance, but I think it is important for those of us who feel really bad about ourselves to realize that others don’t share that negative view. If any of these affirmations speak to you like they did to me, feel free to use them for yourself!