Monthly Archives: December 2013

And I’m Never Alone

Music is a huge part of my life. Music helps me calm down and is my companion. Music helps me focus and can be a great distraction…so congrats if you are now singing the song Never Alone (Barlow Girl) due to reading my post title–you have now been welcomed into my world ūüôā

Anyway, when I have too much time one my hands (or just really need some good distraction…) I like trying to google random (or not so random) phrases and then either site:blogspot.com or site:wordpress.com to find new blogs that I might like to read…I really shouldn’t because I have been working so hard at cutting back my blog consumption, but I love blogs–someone asked me last week what my one thing was that I was really interested in…I think it is a really close tie between germs and blogs or maybe social media in general…but germs is only in there due to how much it interferes with my life…I would not say I ever enjoy researching germs…

A few days ago, I do not recall what I googled, but I came across the blog “Poop on a Hot Tin Slide” at www.bumbumgerms.blogspot.com …Yeah, I know, ick…but that is not what this post is about…I obsessively read the entire thing. I know that a lot of the things I think and do are not necessarily typical, and that can feel very isolating sometimes, especially when it seems like EVERYONE else is enjoying something and I can’t or everyone else has no problem with something and I am barely functioning because of it. I am so happy to read about someone who spends time contemplating how it could be possible to sanitize paper-based products. I found out this semester that notebooks–even just the covers–do NOT like to be washed with hand sanitizer…I do believe that UV kills germs, but for that to work it would have to be sunny and non-windy enough to not blow the pages away, and I don’t know how long the surfaces must be exposed to standard sunlight in order to kill the germs, but I am guessing it is an impractically long time, especially considering the number of pages in the average book/notebook/other paper item that might not seem clean enough…I would love to dunk my entire backpack and its contents in bleach when I get home from school every day, but papers do not appreciate the most practical ways of becoming clean…and I don’t actually own any bleach because if I did it would not last very long because I would abuse it…It really feels so good to not be alone in thinking about ways to actually sanitize things like textbooks and homework assignments.

I am also extremely glad that the “[name redacted], please just try to live a normal life” part of me doesn’t let the OCD voice take over and force me to wash nearly as much as the person who writes that blog…I might do a little more washing than I should, but the voice of practicality keeps me from washing anywhere close to as much as the voice of OCD in my head says I should–and I am very careful not to allow myself to buy industrial packages of sanitizers online …if I owned more cleaning supplies and if I had more time I would very likely be a lot more like her and maybe worse, but thankfully although school does add stress which makes the OCD worse, it also uses up a lot of my time which keeps me from implementing a lot of the practices that I wish I utilized…to be honest, I was also a little jealous of how confident she is in herself that she will speak up when she sees someone contaminate something and that she will, on occasion, refuse to eat something even when it is fairly socially inappropriate to do so if she is uncomfortable with how germy it is…I wish I had that confidence…although it is probably good for me that I do not…

Also, this is a video of her daughter…isn’t this girl adorable!?!?!

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What now?!?!?

Well I am pretty sure I had plenty of ideas what to write about way back a month and a half or so ago when I create this blog…however I have no idea what those ideas may have been…and now I have caught up with myself so that is done…I don’t think anyone is actually reading this, but if someone is and you have ideas that’d be cool…haha yeah…but I also don’t really like having four official posts, so this one will make 5 which is a much better number…

First Semester of Third Year–Memories (Counseling)

It seems a little weird to title this one memories since it just happened…but for the sake of consistency…

So much to say, so little time…I feel like a LOT happened this semester…My life was a bit turbulent this semester, and it showed in my grades…looking back, I think that same thing is kind of that was going on in my sophomore year of high school–I was losing everything I had identified myself by and everything my life and dreams had revolved around, and on top of that was taking difficult classes. In high school I got through this and still had A’s…however in college I wasn’t so lucky and my grades took a hit. I am really upset about that, but all things considered, I suppose I prefer ending the semester with my life and lousy grades than ending it with great grades but without my life…I wish I could have had both, but that wasn’t one of my choices.

At my first meeting in the fall (so my actually second meeting) I spent most of the time filling out a whole bunch of forms, but Michelle also mentioned that she was going to look for the results from the MMPI and MCMI tests that I took first year! I was excited that I was finally going to get to see them!

The next time I met with her, she asked something about autism. I was kind of surprised about that…really I don’t know exactly what I was thinking, but I do know that my first thoughts to that question did not register at all that she might be suggesting that I might have autism…haha yeah, I might be a little slow–but it isn’t totally my fault for not picking up on it considering that Brittani had pretty clearly ruled that out for me. I was not really sure how I felt about that. Hearing the description it seemed to fit in some ways but not at all in other ways, but as I thought about it, the same could be said about social anxiety. Some parts fit really well and other parts–not so much…looking at it, the part of social anxiety that fit me least well was the part that is different in the Japanese version of social anxiety, and I didn’t see how it could divide strictly along geographic or ethnic lines, but looking again with this new idea I realized that maybe that was a part that just didn’t fit. I wasn’t yet ready to let go of the labels I had been given first and second years based on a label I was being given in under 5 meetings, but it was definitely something to think about. I hadn’t really had a problem with being labeled with social anxiety or OCD, and didn’t really see them as a big deal in the broader picture of my life–they seemed pretty manageable…I wasn’t sure I felt the same way about autism…The label itself wasn’t what bothered me, but with social anxiety (and OCD) I was pretty familiar with the treatment and in my head it was a very A+B=C kind of transaction–I expected to work on social skills then have it figured out and be done and not have any problems anymore…my perception of autism was less rosy…I saw this as something that never went away (probably true) which had the potential to shatter my imagination of myself completely leaving behind my frustration with social situations. I remembered in abnormal psych learning about how some kids (I don’t remember what disorder we were talking about) work really hard to catch up and learn the skills their peers already have, but by the time they learn those skills, their peers have continued on and have a whole new set of skills that the child then needs to learn to emulate–this was how I was picturing autism…being perpetually behind everyone else, never able to catch up and just fit in and be like everyone else like I have always wanted to be. My mom has always said that being like everyone else is a bad goal, but for as long as I can remember I have really just wanted to be like everyone else. Being different draws attention to oneself, and I don’t want that attention and I just want to live the way everyone else does without being paralyzed and held captive by the intense fears that have often taken the reins in my life. I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea, because I believe that putting people in boxes can be very useful, and having a definite label would more clearly place me in the box which would let me know what I was up against so I could set up my expectations accordingly, but at the same time I was having a hard time reconciling this new information with the information I already had…I was confused, and I think I am still solidifying my opinion on what autism means to me.

The next time I met with her was the first day of school. We started talking about when I had to change churches. At first I was really glad we were talking about it because it is a very emotionally charged subject for me, and it is really frustrating to be innocently listening to the radio while doing something and hear a certain song come on and need to turn it off as soon as humanly possible and find a quick distractor, and it is really frustrating to be sitting in church and have a specific passage mentioned and just freeze but have to find a way to calm down without drawing attention to myself. I had hope that this was going to make the bad feelings go away so I could move on and not constantly go through life avoiding triggers that could send me into re-experiencing that time in my life. I quickly became very overwhelmed though. I am a fighter and like usual thought I could handle things myself…but I was quickly spiraling out of control and falling so fast I couldn’t even flail myself around to feel anything slipping past me. I continued to go through life like nothing was wrong, but there was something wrong. That Wednesday was the first night of Cru for the semester, and we invited everyone to the roof of the parking garage for a pizza party…people tell me it was a success, but I wouldn’t know. I got there at the time I was supposed to, but after we prayed and talked about our plan for the night, people were going back to setting up and I was trying really hard not to cry, and someone asked if I was okay and I lost it and started crying and said something about how I was overwhelmed with school and felt like I was going to fail everything. One girl tried to talk to me for hours. I have no idea how many people were there. As much as I wanted to hear the people who were talking, I couldn’t because I was still crying. I was finally almost calmed down enough to at least watch the last few people talk and play games, but then I saw Alyssa and she started talking to me, but I couldn’t say anything without crying again. She talked to me for a while and then I went home. She walked me to my car, and I went to my apartment and tried to go to bed, but I was too worked up to fall asleep. In the morning I emailed Michelle and told her that as much as I wanted to work on not reacting to the church thing, that what we had done was too much. The beginning of a semester always makes me feel like I am in over my head, but this was much different than that. This affected me so much that by the end of that particular unit in advanced physio everyone else had declared that chapter an easier one–and I thought it made absolutely no sense…I was so overwhelmed at the time I was reading it that I guess I didn’t absorb much information, and I am not sure if maybe the emotion I was experiencing the first time I read it put a block on that information or if it is just that my notes were lousy for it due to the issues reading and taking notes while completely overwhelmed or crying and it is not the material that skimming works well for…luckily in this case I got away without knowing it…so I had a rough start to the semester…not to mention that I also forgot to take a quiz that day–but enough people complained about unclear directions that I got a second chance at the quiz…

Also the first week of school, Rebecca told me I should ask to eat lunch during counseling. Eating in front of people can be hard for me, and eating in an environment non-conducive to washing my hands is also not my favorite, but I agreed…I mention this mostly because I might refer back to it later…IDK…

One last thing that happened the first week of school is that Michelle brought up the idea of me going to SLBMI…looking back, that should have been my first warning sign that something was wrong…at that point it probably wouldn’t have been too late to bail…I think working with Michelle has been really good for me, but there was one thing that happened in early November that made me wish I had made a different choice…She wasn’t pressuring me into it right then–just bringing it up as a choice…

A few weeks later I got back the results from my first micro exam…and it was awful–most of my problems came in not understanding the directions on the page worth most of the points, so that made it especially frustrating because until I talked to the teacher I didn’t even know why I had gotten so much incorrect…I was really frustrated and scared and started getting close to hurting myself. As hard and frustrating as this was, it led to a HUGE success. I know people tell me that when I feel like hurting myself I should reach out and ask for help, but I usually end up pulling into myself and trying to get through it alone. I guess part of it is that socially reaching out can be really hard so when a lot of the triggers were social it didn’t make sense to try stretching myself even further, and even now that most triggers are more school-related I feel that I need to be cautious and protect myself from further stress that could push me beyond what I can handle. The other part of it is that I don’t want to bother or scare or stress out anyone, I don’t really know what anyone else can do to help besides just BE there, and because of what has happened other times I have shared, I am afraid of having it used against me. So it was a great success when I let Michelle in on what was going on and asked for help. Most of what she actually said just made me feel more stupid and frustrated, but her encouragement that she was glad I had talked to her about it let me feel like I could at least do SOMETHING right even if I was failing at everything else, and really I think most of what I need is just presence while I am struggling, I guess so that I am not fighting alone. I used to say that it doesn’t matter if I am with people or not because I could hurt myself right in front of someone and they would never have to know about it, but I realize now that someone else there does help, because I think my conscience would kill me if I hurt myself in front of someone who knew about that but didn’t tell them…and I don’t want to mess up and have to tell anyone.

While I was very proud of myself for sharing, this pride was very short lived. The very next meeting, Michelle told me that she was considering refusing to see me and tell everyone else on campus to do likewise because she didn’t think I was making any progress. And that meeting came late…but that wasn’t such a big deal because it ended up meaning that I could immediately be with Alyssa afterwards…plus Michelle told me she wasn’t going to be there at the usual time a few hours in advance which, while not ideal, is a lot better than Brittani’s 15 minutes past start time email that she was going to be late once and I could either reschedule or meet until I needed to go…she was usually a couple minutes late, but by 15 minutes later I was about to email her to ask where she was/if I messed something up…anyway, so she said we could meet a few more weeks and if I still hadn’t made progress we would take a break…I was really upset by this. I can’t speak to her perspective, but my perspective was that she didn’t understand that self-injury has a been a fight I have been battling for years, and while I did ask for help, that is a sign of progress, not a sign that I am too far gone for help. She might not have seen me reach out for help with the SI before, but that isn’t because the desire was never there–it was only because I wasn’t willing to share about it yet. The insinuation that I hadn’t made progress was especially frustrating. I am so excited with how much progress I have made. Who I am now is very different from who I was when I started, and not only have I seen it, but other people have commented on it as well. People who don’t even know I have been struggling with things and been getting help have commented on noticing that I have gotten more confident and that I walk more–they attribute the change to other factors obviously, but they notice, so for someone I am working with every week to tell me I am actually not making progress made me somewhere between mad and confused. I don’t understand how someone could not recognize how far I have come, which led me to conclude that the progress was seen but being intentionally ignored to get rid of me which made me mad. Alyssa told me that a more likely explanation is that because the first years this year have had a lot of issues that Michelle has been very busy and was trying to tell me I was doing well enough to be on my own so that she would have time to help someone who needed it more than I did…I wanted to believe Alyssa, but selfishly I still wanted my place in counseling because I knew I still had a long way to go to completely fit in the way I wanted to. Additionally, Alyssa was helping me already way more than she should have to, and I didn’t think it was fair for her for me to be dependent upon her to function, and I thought that without counseling I was probably either going to abandon her completely or end up depending on her even more (It can be hard to tell what will happen with me because so many things are fighting within me). Also, on my cru leadership applications I have been saying that I will not fulfill most of the requirements because socially that is beyond my abilities, and they have been willing to accept that I cannot make it happen right now, but they also know that I am in counseling, and I think the expectation is that I will continue and I was told at the end of last spring that the goal is that by the time I finish at STLCOP that I have attended at least one fall getaway, DCC, or big break. No one is going to force me into it, but they would like me to give it a chance before I am done. The next day I met with Blair and told her about it and she reminded me about Karis house and how they have free lay counseling if I want to try that. I didn’t want to have to do that, because I still wanted to work with Michelle, but it was really good to know I had an accessible option open. That week, just in case I needed it, I started working on the notes I would put in my Karis house application, and on a letter to Brittani in case I decided to go back to her.

Luckily, the next week I shared my concerns and frustrations, and Michelle agreed that she had been wrong about me not having made any progress, and said she would continue to meet with me as long as I felt it was helping me and wanted to meet with her. I felt good about that resolution, and completely moved on. I think it was very important that I not be cut off because that would have validated to me that letting people know when I am struggling is bad and something to be avoided, and even though I know that you are supposed to let people in for support when you are struggling, my attempts at doing so have been used against me so many times that I think this would likely have been the last straw and no one would get to see anything but successes if I could help it…I also told her that the reason I share successes is partly because otherwise it seems like counseling turns into tell [name redacted] everything she isn’t good enough at, and partly because it makes Betsy really excited and I like making people happy. (I told her that because she had said something about it the week before)…She told me not to write the successes anymore, I think she said because she didn’t need them or something, but I had no intention of stopping with writing my successes, because what she sees as my counseling topics, I have always seen (hence the title I have always given the document) as my questions and comments. I have trouble speaking to people in person, so the way I participate and the way my thoughts get heard in counseling is through what I write in that document in response to what happened the week before. I believe part of conversation is sharing things you are excited about, and therefore did not really intend to delete all of those items from my notes. They may be higher on the list for deletion when I was running out of space on the page, but they were not going to be completely deleted unless I agreed with the reasoning. I’ve been fed a lot of stories that I na√Įvely believed, so I was not going to let go of sharing successes if I was not close to 100% sure that it was not going to turn counseling into telling me what I was doing wrong…

I had one more session with her before fall break. At this session I brought some papers that I decided I was willing to part with if she thought I didn’t need them, because I have always had a problem with getting rid of things, especially papers, and the papers at that point were starting to accumulate faster than I could keep up with. I had gone through the papers many times already to throw away the things I could convince myself I really didn’t need, and to take out anything that I was not willing to part with…I use pictures of people to help me practice my speeches to slowly make the idea of giving the speech to actual people a little more real at a time by starting with maybe just one person who I feel really safe with on the page, and changing who is on the page or adding people to make it progressively more difficult…I had a page in the pile that was a collection of picture of people who would be supportive of me, people who would be in my real audience, and people who I kind of knew but wouldn’t be very comfortable performing for–and Michelle was on that page. When I realized that I braced myself to be yelled at–but I didn’t get in trouble. Second year when Brittani found out that I had used her picture for something similar she freaked out and yelled at me for pretty much the rest of our meeting that day that that is not okay. That was possibly the only time she ever apologized for getting mad at me though–the next week she told me that she still felt that it was inappropriate but that she had over-reacted. Then she started saying like haven’t we talked about this before, and although I didn’t really respond what I as thinking was umm no, first year you randomly told me one day you didn’t want to be friends with me on facebook which I agreed to since I didn’t know you well enough at the time to have any desire to friend you whatsoever, but we have never talked about whether it was okay for me to borrow a picture for like two days that you posted on the internet for the world to see for months…anyway, I was braced for an attack when I realized the picture with Michelle was in there, but she didn’t get mad at me…she wanted to know why I had it and when I had used it, but there wasn’t any insinuation that what I did was bad, just a sense of trying to understand. She said later that she wasn’t mad at me because my use of the picture was intended to be supportive not to pry into her life, so that is okay.

So then there was fall break. Fall break should have been a great time to relax a little but mostly work really hard and maybe even get ahead a little in classes…that would have been great except when I came to school on Monday everyone was not gone like I expected them to be…that wasn’t really a big deal though and wouldn’t have caused a problem, except that Erin started talking about how cute it was that Emma threw up all over her and she asked her husband for help and he said no because she smelled bad, and she just kept talking about it, but I doon’t know the rest of what went on because I picked up some stuff to work on and my hand sanitizer and literally ran to get away from it, because I was feeling really overwhelmed, and I knew the more I heard the worse I was going to feel and the harder it was going to be to get over it. After probably about a half hour or so I had not actually looked at any of the school items I had brought with me, but I had calmed down enough that I could go back to all my stuff and keep attempting to study. The fact that Erin had said that she didn’t think Emma was actually sick, just that she had been coughing or crying so hard she threw up made me able to convince myself there was a possibility I was safe. I was still scared, but it was manageable at that point. I knew Michelle was not at school that day and someone had said something about her not being at some event, but I was perfectly happy to assume she was not there because of spending time with her family over fall break, because a lot of times people take time off for fall break.

My ability to deal with it changed with the events that happened the next day. I was already stressed out and on guard due to the previous day’s events though I was not overwhelmed and not in crisis mode…then people started showing up…and with the people came the stories. Erin had the stomach flu–she was not faking, she got thrown up on, plus Michelle had the stomach flu too.

I do not know if it is a good idea for me to be writing about this, because I really want to be able to share about this, but thinking about it right now is greatly diminishing my sense of safety. When things happen I gradually go back to normal because every extra tiny margin of safety requires an intense extra level of effort and energy, and because I try to get myself to forget about the danger…so I am going to abbreviate this as much as I can while still telling the story somewhat coherently, because I really like having skin on my hands and would like to keep it that way.

When I go into germ crisis mode life gets very overwhelming and difficult and many extraneous rules intended to protect me get set. As much as I would like to stay safe, I do know that I over-react, so the logical side of my brain fights as hard as it can to keep me out of crisis. This time, mentally I was not in a very good place–my mind was more than occupied with thoughts about the germs, but somehow I managed to not go into super strong avoidance…I suppose to anyone who doesn’t know what my germ freak-outs have been like in the past would disagree with that last statement–I still did end up with a very oppressive new set of rules for a while, but the rules were much more live-able than usual, and lasted a MUCH shorter length of time…

I stayed in the success center most of the day, but was very stressed out and all day I was trying to read a chapter of micro–and only made it about two pages from like 8am until like 1pm…Alyssa and I were planning on going to Applebees together that night, and I snuck up to her room to tell her I was too stressed out to go there, because I was trying really hard to get lunch in and it was really hard, and going to a restaurant where there is not much control over germs was going to be extremely difficult and more challenge than I wanted to take on…except that Robert was still there…I thought he had already left…I kind of told her what was going on, but I was kind of thrown off by Robert being there so I didn’t ask for us not to go. Alyssa tried really hard to calm me down, but I was not in a mode where anything was really going to get through…The one useful thing she said that did make it into my head was that if I couldn’t study there then find somewhere else to study. I had to go tutor soon anyway so I went over to Jones where I was going to be tutoring…and I brought a pile of sanitizing wipes with me…Dr. Vandyke came to check on me a couple times and I am guessing she could sense something was going wrong, but she didn’t really comment too much on it. I stayed there until it was almost time to meet with Alyssa. I found Alyssa and after some back and forth we realized that neither of us actually wanted to go to Applebees, and we both had food since she brought a bunch of food back from home, and I had never really finished my lunch, so while she worked on some things I stayed in her room and ate dinner, finished an email I had been writing for hours that Alyssa knew I needed to finish, then attempted to study. I was so stressed out that even being in Alyssa’s room wasn’t letting me be calm enough to really study, and her room seemed dirty because I knew she had been in the success center during the day, as had I, so we had both brought some germs to her room, and since she doesn’t have the same issue with germs as I do, she especially may have contaminated her room. I knew if I went home though that I was only going to clean, and I had washed my sheets the day before so I needed to wait to get home until I was tired enough to let myself go to bed without showering and changing the sheets first. At this point in the semester it was very rare that the sound toy would be not locked up when people were not using it, but that weekend it had been left unlocked, so I decided that I would borrow it because no one would miss it when they weren’t around, and it said not to touch it, but I was very skilled already at “I didn’t touch it, my sock touched it or stuff like that so I figured I could get it to Alyssa’s room…I didn’t account for Jo actually being at school, but I decided to be brave and ask her if I could borrow it…That was really hard, but I asked and she was totally fine with it. I intended to bring it back before she left, but I guess she left early so when I brought it back she wasn’t there…I emailed her to let her know it was back because I know if I were in her position I would want to know that it was back to be sure that it really had gotten returned…and she emailed back that I could have it whenever I wanted it!!!!! So anyway, I went home and tried to calm down enough to get some sleep and tried to plan how I would manage the next day without freaking out too much.

The next day I stopped by the res hall long enough to pick up some sanitizer wipes and then went to all of my classes for the day to wipe down my desk and other areas my belongings or I may have to touch. Then I went to my first class to set my stuff down and went outside to eat breakfast…I had good intentions of studying while I ate, but it was a bit cold outside to attempt to do anything besides get some food in my mouth. When I couldn’t take the cold anymore I went back inside and went on with the rest of my day. I tried really hard to concentrate all day…but that afternoon I had a meeting with Michelle…when I have even the slightest thought that someone *might* be sick I usually avoid them, so knowing that Michelle had been sick meant that really I wanted to completely avoid the success center and first floor hallway in as much as possible, and when I needed to be there I would try as hard as I could to make it fast and not breathe…so being in the same room as someone who had definitely been sick AND talking was terrifying. I knew if I didn’t do it then that I would never come back, because one of the things I do when I am really freaked out about germs is research the stomach flu–I probably end up seeing the same things each time, but I am always on the lookout for ways to avoid it and/or stories about how scary it is…so especially at times when I am stressed out, I am very much aware that the person continues to shed germs for weeks after he or she feels better and depending on the variety of stomach flu bug can also be contagious for a few days before he or she gets sick. These germs can live for months or longer on surfaces, and depending on the specific bug, it is possible that even one cell is enough to cause symptoms–a single sneeze contains millions or more bacteria and viruses…hand sanitizer and hand washing supposedly remove about 99.9% of those germs and bacteria which means A LOT is left over…some germs can even multiply in cleaning solutions!…so while waiting a week might have seemed like it would be easier, in reality giving myself a pass once to avoid the germs would make it really hard for me to convince myself to ever go back–and I knew that would be a bad decision…so that was really scary. Michelle let me go early, because she could tell how hard it was for me. She said she wished I would have talked more but that she understood that it was hard for me just to come. I left and went to the study room which was where I decided was the safest place I had access to where I would be able to study. I made it there, kicked the door closed, sat down with my knees pulled against my body and rocked for a few minutes until I calmed down enough to get my shoes off and turn on simplyRain and some music and use some hand sanitizer and continue to rock and calm down…Once I felt like I could breathe again I tried really hard to get some studying and stuff done…my mind was still stuck in how dirty I was, but I knew I needed to get stuff done so I kept working.

I stayed overnight with Alyssa like I usually did on Wednesday nights…in the morning I used Lysol on the shirt I use to make it seem safer to borrow Alyssa’s pillow because my hair was disgusting from having been near Michelle, and I hadn’t washed it before going to bed but didn’t want to have to remember to bring a clean shirt back to sleep with the next week…I had decided that the only safe place to eat would be outside because UV kills germs…unfortunately, it was not only cold, but rainy, so I couldn’t go outside. I borrowed the noise toy and tried to get cheerios in my mouth in the study room…I think facing my fear so head on by meeting with Michelle really helped me to force myself to get back closer to normal a lot faster–by Friday I was willing to (after using a lot of sanitizer wipes) use the success center to study again, use the first floor sink and microwave, and not run past Michelle and Erin’s offices holding my breath…I still am not totally feeling comfortable about germs in respect to Michelle and Erin and the success center, and there are some rules as usual that have stuck, but mostly I got past it and my life became much more live-able a lot more quickly than usual…from the outside my life appeared to pretty much go back to normal rather quickly and never get as bad as it had been in the past though from the inside it was still extremely intense and I am pretty sure it was no less bad than previous times, and possibly even worse…

Haha yeah, I was going to try to keep it short and that is how much I had to say…I guess it is a good thing I didn’t try to write everything or I’d be writing for months!

Since maybe mid-to-late-September or so I had been supposed to pick items from my questions and comments list for Michelle and I to talk about during our meetings. That was getting really frustrating and I was feeling like I couldn’t measure up to Michelle’s standards for me which was making me feel like a failure every week. The first week in November I finally got up enough courage to tell her that I really wanted something to change. I was really scared to ask for a change, but I also knew that I had been scared to tell Elisha how frustrated and anxious I was getting and when I finally did things got a LOT better, and I didn’t know how to tell Brittani that I was writing things every week to share though she was very rarely getting anything from me, but when I kind of let her find that out for herself by stupidly sending her the document I had stopped deleting things from over break, she started reading what I wrote each week which gave me a way to communicate, so I was hopeful that this was going to make things work better as long as I didn’t impulsively decide to delete that comment and find something else to write. Unfortunately, Michelle told me that if this was feeling too hard for me then she wasn’t helping me enough and we couldn’t meet for the next two weeks. I tried really hard to convince her otherwise, because she had said before that we could meet until I didn’t want to anymore and I still wanted to, and she said that I let other people make decisions for me too much so I was trying as hard as I could to be the one making this decision–maybe it was a test–but it was no use, my opinion held absolutely no weight with her. It was a good thing she let me go early, because I decided if she didn’t care then I didn’t need to care either and after I changed clothes for lab I washed my hands over and over not caring how much it hurt and stuff. Being in lab was very good for me to try to have something on my mind besides how frustrated I was–it gave me some time to cool off and think and realize that even if Michelle didn’t care about me anymore that that didn’t mean no one did, and I could still ask Alicia or Jo for help…I got permission to leave lab a bit early–probably because it was obvious that physically I was in lab but my mind was not present in lab–and worked on an email to Michelle because she hadn’t specifically said I couldn’t get help from someone else, but I didn’t want to get her even more mad at me so I wanted to ask her before I asked anyone else for help…and she pretty much said no…now I was really upset because she wouldn’t help me and was kind of keeping me from the people who would–she did not technically forbid it, but it was clear that she would not be happy with me if I did…that night as I was going to bed I told Alyssa about it because she had seen me crying and I hadn’t been able to tell her what was happening. She suggested that she had seen Michelle at school late a lot and Michelle is probably tired…I was half asleep for this conversation so I don’t remember exactly how it went but I do remember being close to crying as she was telling me that she ahs seen Michelle past Rebecca hours like even at midnight…and I remember hastily wiping away tears as I realized Alyssa was about to pull the covers away from my face to make sure I wasn’t crying…the next morning was the first Thursday morning that I kind of had off because I had finished my site visit hours…so I should have had a really good study session but I was so upset that it was really difficult for me to focus on studying. I wrote Michelle an email, she wrote me one back that wasn’t very nice, so I didn’t work overly hard at being nice back…

That afternoon I met with Blair and I told her what was going on and she suggested Karis house again and looked over the intake form with me. She told me that she knows a lot of people who have gone there and really liked it and one of her friends works there, and at Karis house they would never just cut someone off with no warning when the person didn’t want to be done yet. She told me that usually they schedule one meeting with someone who won’t be your counselor to just collect more information but as long as I wrote a really good background of myself like she knew I would anyway that I could skip that step since it is easier for me to express myself in writing than in spoken word anyway. I still wasn’t sure I was ready to go off campus and would much prefer to stick with Michelle if I could get her to take me back, so I decided not to apply even though she said I could apply and just tell them what was going on and that I was not planning on doing anything until the beginning of spring semester…

Friday I was still really struggling. In prof comm we were learning about suicide and as the teacher was talking I was trying so hard not to cry because what she was saying about people who commit suicide was basically describing me right about then…I was scared, and I started writing about it on my computer thinking that perhaps I would share it with Alyssa because I was really scared and I needed help but had no where to go…that evening I turned that note into an email to Brittani and explained the situation and asked to meet with her. She never responded, but it was helpful for me to have sent it because it helped me to regain some semblance of control. I knew Michelle hadn’t wanted me to contact anyone else, and once I started feeling more in control I started feeling really guilty for going against her will and contacting Brittani so on Sunday I sent her another email to apologize and to hopefully get the word to her from me before she heard it from Brittani, because I remembered about how Brittani told Elisha when I was having problems with Elisha…

Throughout this whole thing I was trying as hard as I could to study for an exam on Monday…I was re-reading my notes, re-writing my notes, and studying in whatever ways I could come up with…Although my heart was elsewhere, to an outside observer it was quite obvious that I was putting a lot of effort into studying even if a lot of it wasn’t sticking very well since when you are in fight or flight mode remembering things like the number of weeks of treatment for each infection for each antimicrobial is not high on the priority list…At one point I took a short break to think about what was going on. One big thing that was probably the biggest problem for me was that I still didn’t really know why this was happening. I didn’t want to be pushy, because I felt like I had already tried that initially and it had failed, but without a reason why I was really frustrated with this unwelcome break coming at a time when I really thought I was making a lot of progress. I decided to give Michelle some space and wait until Wednesday to talk to her, then present the facts that she wanted me to go away and I didn’t so I wanted to ask for a compromise and meet at 11 the 18th which she had said weeks ago was a time I could have, and potentially find out she had reconsidered and would let me meet with her that day. I knew second year she had said something to Rebecca in passing about having trouble saying no, and I intended to use that to my advantage because I was very set in this decision, and thought that probably for most people it would be harder to say no to me if I asked in person than over email, especially for anyone who knows me since they would know that writing is my modus operandum for communication…unfortunately Monday afternoon I found out she would be gone the rest of the week…so that plan wasn’t going to work very well…but I decided that I would email her on Tuesday, acknowledge that talking in person would be better, and state my case…She eventually emailed me back with a time, except that it was not a time I was available…I tried changing it, but when it didn’t seem to be working I was afraid she was going to change her mind and worked on becoming available at that time…and of course it wasn’t too long after I had worked it out that she emailed me back with a time that would work–but I was happy to send another email un-excusing myself from biology help session…so yeah, that happened…oh, and the Monday exam…ouch…it was rather obvious I was not fully present for it…as I was going over it with the teacher I would explain exactly why each answer choice was right or wrong…and be completely correct–apparently the information did stick–but have answered something totally stupid…as always there were also a few that I got completely correct that I just didn’t write the way he thought it in his head and therefore got no points for, but it was really frustrating that something I couldn’t control that wasn’t really even my fault had messed up my grade…I knew considering how I was feeling when I took it I should be grateful for what I answered correctly, but I didn’t really want to be grateful, I wanted to not be stupid and to have the right answers.

So we did come to a compromise and I met with her a week from that Thursday so that she got a break from me but I didn’t have to take too many frustrated weeks off of counseling and could get some closure on the situation. She was willing to take me back on the condition that I do not say “I don’t know” and that I keep talking…and we decided that it was okay if I didn’t choose things from my notes to talk about.

I think it was that next week that Michelle had me make a call during our meeting. Because I get so stressed out when I am making a call, especially since I couldn’t express any frustration by complaining about it since I had promised myself that anything reasonable that Michelle asked me to do I would do, as soon as I ended the call I kind of fell into myself and Michelle tried to get me to talk and I wasn’t really saying anything because I was struggling just to focus on what she was saying enough to comprehend the words and didn’t really have enough energy yet to put into thinking of a response putting it into words and verbalizing it…I was really scared she was going to get mad at me and get rid of me forever this time…instead she said that each week she would have me make another call that was maybe a little more difficult each time…so the next week I came stressed out about making another call…oh wait, I mean I came prepared to make another call ūüôā …except she didn’t have me call anyone…I was a little frustrated about that because I had this plan in my head that I was going to call my best friend on my way home and so I wanted practice making calls and am not mean enough to myself as to make myself make a call when I don’t have to, plus I was kind of craving skittles which are my treat for doing good things like making a call…so that night I took a break from studying to go to community group because I decided that would be good enough to earn me my skittles…

The next time I met with Michelle was after I was done with finals…we role-played calling Betsy…Michelle doesn’t make a very realistic Betsy, but it did make it a little more approachable to call Betsy on my way home, and it was also kind of nice that instead of helping me script the conversation she had me do it myself even though I felt like I couldn’t do it–that forced me to figure out for myself how to do it which was hard, but it definitely made it a lot easier when on the way home from school when Betsy finally answered her phone but my computer died to be able to still talk, because I still remembered enough of it to start the conversation since it was in my own words instead of someone else’s…

That last meeting Michelle and I also set up a couple times over break for me to call her to get some more practice with phone calls…

So that was my first semester of third year, and that is where I am now!

Memories of 2nd Year (Counseling)

So, I made it to second year ūüôā This post might be even more disjointed than the last because I can’t seem to find times to work on this more than 5 minutes at a time, and words, even written, can sometimes take some time to come out intelligible–and I have issues sometimes getting all the letters to land in the correct order, so flow is not always the greatest when I right…although I suppose this could also be a slightly less disjointed post than the first year post because it is more recent and therefore slightly better remembered at the moment…IDK…

So I met with my new counselor the first day of school. I have very little memory of what went on at that particular meeting…I do remember that I was climbing the study room windows beforehand and that afterwards she showed me the waiting room as if I hadn’t already wandered the hallway with Alyssa many times already. She hadn’t talked to Dave yet, but he had contacted her, and she was going to do it soon she said…

We started working on emotional awareness by she told me about the four emotions that everything else supposedly could be divided into. She showed me pictures of faces and told me the facial features that distinguish between them…I’m not sure how well that would have worked had I participated appropriately, but after a few weeks I got frustrated of always getting the wrong answer so I gave up on trying to use the rules to assign labels to the pictures so I memorized the pictures and the emotions that went with them, and memorized the associated description with a separate schema…as long as I am not shown a picture I have not been taught then I got pretty good at it…a couple times she tried to have me draw the face to match an emotion, but the first one I painted a replica of the picture on the website the worksheet was from, and so the next one she had me do without my computer, and I drew a person with the same face I always draw, and then just added the things she told me were wrong with it…oops…whatevs I tried for a while…

Then I got an email about the interview into third year with sample interview questions. I knew I should be preparing for those questions, but when I tried the Dean’s voice came screaming through my head saying ‘I don’t know why you are here because there you are just going to fail the interview anyway.’ I wrote a couple sentences telling my counselor that I wanted help with the interview and we started working on the interview.

About halfway through the semester my counselor got mad at me for charging my computer in the hallway. I will admit that I should have known better…she asked me to unplug it for a while, and I did…and I didn’t ask before plugging it back in, but I was having a really hard time with germs right then and couldn’t go to my room, and I think maybe I was stressed out about something else too, so I really needed my computer to be working and I wasn’t overly concerned about pleasing her because I was mostly interested in getting through life right then…a couple weeks later she got mad at me for sitting in the hallway charging my computer before we met instead of hanging out in the waiting room…I was really frustrated because most of the time it was locked when I got there anyway…When it wasn’t my computer needed to be charged anyway. She yelled at me for a couple weeks and then asked my opinion for changes that would make me more willing to hang out in the waiting room. Aside from having it be unlocked I jokingly suggested bags of skittles in there would lure me in, and then more seriously suggested that I would like a bubble machine, especially because by this point not only had they put up signs that no studying was allowed in the waiting room which although I wasn’t interested in studying there I was very mad about because it didn’t seem fair to me–separate but equal has been ruled not equal–but also the water had dried up in the fountain so it sounded like something was dying if I tried to play with it…My counselor ignored the bubble machine suggestion, but said that she planned on getting candy in the waiting room–however, now, more than a year later, I have checked and there is still no candy in there…We never did agree on a compromise for everything that we both agreed on…her idea of a compromise was kind of like saying you can share my favorite pen, but only when you are asleep, and she felt that she didn’t need to listen to my proposals of compromises because it was her decision…so we stalemated on that stuff. I waited in the waiting room about 12 which five minutes before she got there (though technically we were supposed to start at 12, but she was almost never on time…)when it was open and she only yelled at me on occasion.

(halfway through the next paragraph I decided it is way too much effort to continue to not use names–I really hope no one reads this and recognizes the people and doesn’t like what I said about them…I’d prefer to keep it anonymous, but that was getting overly cumbersome)

Towards the end of the semester my counselor got mad at me for listening in on one of the other counselor’s sessions. This made me really frustrated, because while the other things she had bee mad about had at least been things that I did, there was no way I could possibly have listened in on this other counselor’s session…She finished at 11 the day I supposedly did that, but my class ended at 10:50, and after class as usual I headed to the cafeteria to get my hamburger, milk, and banana then went to the end of the hall to get pepper then went to my room until about 11:45…so unless I was in two places at once I was most definitely not listening in…aside from the logistics, physically there is no way I could possibly have listened in…First year when I studied right outside the counseling office there were only two times I heard anything (and usually the noise toy was not on because E thought it made it hard to hear what the students were saying, and T hated the water sounds and didn’t seem to ever turn it on to anything else either–but second year the noise toy was on almost all the time) were once when Anne and Tiffany were hanging out like they did most evenings Tiffany was there, and since Tiffany’s hours were not up yet they were hanging in the office and I think the door might have been open but I am not sure, but in any case all I heard was one of them scream…the other time I heard something was when there were a whole bunch of people coming past getting candy and I listened to see what they were saying and strongly considered copying them to ask for some myself, but asking was just too hard ūüė¶¬†¬† …all that to say there is no way that with the new counseling office that placed the people way away from the door and walls, and the utilization of the noise toy that I could possibly have heard anything had I even wanted to. the next week I confronted her about it and she blamed it on Michelle telling her to yell at me about it…that didn’t make any sense to me, because I am fairly certain that Michelle did not see me in the hallway at all that day, and I couldn’t see any reason that Michelle would have anything against me…I wasn’t sure at that point if I liked her because she hadn’t said anything when Anne was making fun of me right in front of her during the success center open house, and no one had told me when she brought Josie to school until she had gone home and the only interaction I’d had with her was staring at her one day in August (I don’t think she noticed) with things finally clicking that the stuff I had found when creeping around on the school website in places I didn’t need to be was right that we were getting¬†a new non-student counselor and that probably last year when there was someone I didn’t recognize in the success center that everyone else seemed to know that probably she was interviewing or something…yeah…I’m a little slow…it only took me a few months to connect the new person to the random stranger who kinda looks like Erin with the wrong hair but then there was another Erin with the right hair…haha yeah…

Another very strange thing that happened towards the end of the semester is that I had a whole bunch of painting and drawing supplies with me as I was walking down the hallway and Kevin stopped me to ask if I was looking for someone to talk to…What I wanted to say was that yeah doesn’t everyone who wants someone to talk to someone wander down the hallway with arms full of craft supplies, but I actually just shook my head and minded my own business…

Over break I was supposed to be coming up with an idea of something that I could do if I really didn’t pass the interviews and needed a different career choice, because Brittani didn’t really think that another pharmacy program would take me after one had kicked me out. I eventually came to the decision that I would like to be a social worker and came up with a list of schools that I could find with the program…most of them in Minnesota since that is where it was easiest for me to find schools and I never intended to go to school so far away anyway…Because I was so stressed out because of the interview, and because my handwashing had generalized to being a coping mechanism for stress in addition to being a way to feel marginally safer, my hands were broken and bleeding, and at one point not only my knuckles, but my entire hands up to the wrist were cracked and bleeding. Although this was extremely painful and inconvenient and I absolutely hated washing my hands and using hand sanitizer, I couldn’t stop. I was so tortured by the idea of getting sick that the problems associated with the washing couldn’t come close to changing my behavior. This scared me–I’d had intense fear about germs at home before, but this fear had never been acted out to involve handwashing before, and certainly not washing to the point of producing blood. My solution was to send Brittani my notes and tell her what number my decision about alternative career path was and hope she would also see the thought above that about the handwashing and help me…I almost instantly had second thoughts about that approach…unfortunately with how much effort in can take me to compose an email (or do anything¬†really that involves communication through words), by the time I sent her another email with only the career information and telling her to disregard my previous email she replied a few days later to tell me that not only had she read what I had told her to but that she had read the whole page.

When I came back in January, she told me that she had actually read the entire document and thought that the writing was good, but would be better if I wrote something and showed her every week instead of her getting it all at once at the end of the semester. That was amazing because it finally gave me a way to express what I was thinking and answer her questions more than just when she got mad at me and the next week would say I had seemed upset and ask what I was thinking. Brittani suggested that we start each session with her reading my notes, then split the time about half and half between germs and social skills. It never seemed to work out quite like that splitting the time, but it definitely seemed like a good plan, and I agreed.

In one of my classes we had to pick a disorder to research and write papers about for the semester and in my indecisiveness I asked the teacher to assign me a topic, so my research topic was OCD…Brittani did not seem to think that was such a good idea, but besides the fact that it meant I had to be first to give my presentation to the class, I loved working on that project. Researching something that I could easily relate to my life made the papers more understandable and relevant, and I actually was almost having fun writing instead of hating every minute of it like I usually do. It also gave me a good excuse later in the semester when I didn’t like something Brittani did to prove to myself that she shouldn’t have done that…

So Brittani had me start keeping track of how much I was washing my hands, and I surprised myself with just how much I was doing it. We went back and forth a bit on appropriate reporting measures because she wanted a time and reason for each handwashing, but that seemed overkill to me, especially since I was washing my hands around 300 times every day. I wanted to just leave it at a tally per day or even per week…After a couple weeks we compromised at breaking the day into chunks with¬†a tally for each of those chunks of the day, and a couple times and reasons each week, though the reasons eventually fizzled out and I ended up with just the numbers.

I was frustrated with how high the numbers were, because I knew that I was washing my hands too much. I wanted rules so I asked Brittani how many times a normal person washes their hands in a day and she couldn’t put a number on it. I suggested rules and she said that washing my hands should not be governed by rules, that I should just do it when it felt natural. I kept pushing for rules, explaining that to me it feels natural to wash my hands constantly. I do not wash my hands constantly because I know I shouldn’t, but there is always the other bully voice in my head yelling at me to wash my hands and clean my world if I don’t want to get sick. In late February, Brittani finally told me I could set rules if I wanted to as long as I could be safe with it. She was afraid I would set unrealistic rules, break them, then be really mad at myself and set back my progress, but to me, the rules were going to save me. I was pretty much in charge of coming up with whatever I wanted my rules to be. Brittani did add a few rules early on, but for the most part, setting the rules was up to me. While I would have liked more guidance, it was probably a good thing that the rules were coming from me, because it let me go at my own pace, but because I was sharing the rules as I created them I still had the element of accountability that I wouldn’t have had on my own, and for me I need accountability or I will usually slowly regress back into doing what is comfortable instead of what I probably know I ought to be doing. By following the rules I gradually progressed from the 300 times per day to around a 100 times in a week by the end of the semester, so setting rules was a really helpful thing for me. It took right up to the last days of the semester to get to that point though, and Brittani was waiting to start doing exposure with me until my washing was closer to a normal level, because I guess she thought (and probably was right) that touching something I thought was gross and then immediately washing my hands and using hand sanitizer wasn’t really going to be a whole lot different than just going through normal life, and going through life was not fixing things for me.

At one point I remembered the video I had watched before Thanksgiving break first year and suggested that I thought it might be helpful if someone went into my room and touched all the things that normal people would be okay with other people touching and then I wouldn’t do anything to decontaminate it for a week because I felt limited by how many places seemed safe and thought maybe if everywhere seemed unsafe that everything would become kind of okay and maybe it would be a lasting effect and I would be a lot less limited. I was afraid Alyssa would be offended if I asked her to do it, and Brittani and Alyssa were the two people who seemed safe enough I was even willing to have attempt this, so I asked Brittani to do it if it seemed like a good idea to her. She wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of going to my room, and thought it would be too overwhelming for me.

A couple weeks after that, Brittani asked me to use the pen on the clipboard to fill out the survey she had me fill out every week to fill time while she was reading my notes. I had told her the previous week that I always write in pencil because that way I can erase when I mess up, so I thought this was just about breaking my perfectionism, but then as I had almost gotten enough courage to use my words to ask to go wash my hands, Brittani told me she didn’t want me to wash my hands or even use hand sanitizer¬†until lunch time (which was still hours away). I was almost in tears because my stress level was so high, and I felt like it was going to make me fail my classes because while I can write with my left hand, it is painfully slow and I was already stressed out feeling like I couldn’t always take notes fast enough with my right hand. My routine at this time was to leave counseling, run to class, and on my way stop for hand sanitizer. Then between classes I would re-wash and re-sanitize my hands…so not washing or sanitizing my hands at all for hours was so not going to happen. I also do not really do well with surprises. Good surprises I can deal with because the initial stress of the surprise is mitigated by the goodness of it, but a surprise like this was a lousy start to my day. I may have been able to tolerate the exposure had the idea been introduced to me in advance so I knew it was coming and had time to acclimate to the idea, but with it coming as a surprise, the best I could do was use hand sanitizer only once before class. The next day I was still kind of anxious and began researching surprise exposure and everything I found told me that surprise was not a good thing. I would never tell this to Brittani, because I didn’t want her to get mad at me or anything, but this research allowed me to feel vindicated…I was right…this was not a good idea…

Soon the semester was coming to a close so it was time to figure out what to do the next year. Although I had threatened to quit and been convinced to stay a time or two over the course of the semester, I knew that if I was taking prof comm in the fall that I really needed to continue counseling, and I needed to advocate for myself to make sure it happened in a way that would allow me to succeed. That was probably the point at which counseling became about me instead of being solely about pleasing other people. I was pretty sure I didn’t want Kevin, because he is a boy, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted one of the new people or if I wanted Michelle…if I had known Alicia would be a choice this year that definitely would have also entered my decision making process, but I did not learn of that soon enough.

I decided that considering that my most pressing concern in the fall was likely going to be prof comm, it was probably more important to find someone I was going to be comfortable with and could get working with right away rather than choosing someone new in an effort to obtain more practice at getting to know someone new. For this reason I chose Michelle. I hadn’t wanted her when I was planning for second year because I still didn’t even really think I deserved help, but I was past that concept, and also realized that with the crazy schedule I was going to have in the fall that it would probably be best to choose someone with a more flexible schedule.

Because I am super forward thinking like that and sometimes plan really far in advance for things that may not even happen, both first year and second year I had a letter to my possible new counselor written and edited way more times than is necessary especially for a document that will likely be re-written over and over, by the end of Christmas break…

I had been telling Brittani since at least January that I intended to stay at STLCOP if¬† I continued counseling. As the last few weeks of the semester approached, however, and I expressed that I had chosen Michelle for the next year, she started really pressuring me to follow her to SLU. She pushed me on it hard enough that I put out a note on facebook asking for help because I really really didn’t want to follow her, but I also really really wanted to do what she wanted me to do. Ultimately, however, I decided that this was my decision to make and it was more important for me to do what was best for me than to follow her, especially since she probably would leave SLU before I left STLCOP.

At first her reasoning for me to follow her was that it would be good for me because I already knew her and would have continuity. As she got more and more desperate to keep me it seemed she started throwing out whatever she thought would get me to stay, but I had made up my mind, and was not ready to change it. She said she would help me with prof comm, she said she would come to my apartment if I wanted her to, she said she would do whatever it took to get me to SLU, but I was not planning on changing my mind.

Knowing Brittani before the semester started had REALLY helped me to be a LOT more comfortable in counseling, and had also probably contributed to my success since we hadn’t needed to spend as many weeks doing things that were not helping and just making me feel awful like I’d done first year because she knew me enough to know what I wanted, and I was comfortable that I would be able to express strong opinions. She also took any emotional cue she could get from me and would ask me about it the next week and I could write about it to tell her what was frustrating me about what she said–pretty much that was only when she¬†had been¬†mad at me, but it at least gave me an opportunity to tell her what I was thinking. Because of this, I decided since I knew I wanted to work with Michelle in the fall to ask to meet with her before I went home for the summer. I didn’t like that she copied Brittani into her reply, because¬†she wasn’t providing any information that Britani needed to know,¬†and after spending hours editing an email for one person, I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with or appreciate that email being shared with someone else without my consent, but after a bike ride to get dehydrated and let off some of the frustrated energy I was willing to forgive that and move on. I really don’t remember much that happened at that meeting, but I loved that she didn’t try to push me beyond what I could handle, and I loved that she was very cautious and gentle. For example, she asked me if it would be okay with me to shake hands before sticking out her hand and assuming I would be okay with that. I also really liked that she seemed interested in my opinion. No one had ever really asked me what I wanted to do before, no one had ever really seemed to care what my opinion was before. It made me feel important that someone wanted to know what I wanted. While a lot of times asking my opinion is super overwhelming because decision making takes me a lot of time and effort, asking me at the right time is really empowering, because there are some things that I have definite opinions about but will never express because socially it is a lot easier to just go with the flow.

At my last meeting with Brittani she told me that she had wanted me to stay with her because she thought Michelle was going to say no to me and she wanted to make sure I had somewhere to go in the fall. She had previously said that no matter what there would always be services for me on campus, but I guess she was thinking that if Michelle said no that I would¬†quit or something…She also said that when (which I translated to if) I changed my mind to contact her using her STLCOP email and she would help me find a way to meet with her again…

I feel like I had something else to write about second year, but I can’t remember anymore what it was, so I guess I’ll post this and I can always edit or just make a new post later if I have to…

Now I remember what I planned on saying ūüôā …its proper place would have been a few paragraphs ago, but that’s what happens when you attempt blogging on a quiet day at work and therefore have frequent interruptions…so yeah…The other thing I wanted to say that I feel like I need to mention here because it will come back in another story I want to tell is something that happened mid-second semester…there was a kid in my anatomy lab who we could tell had some sort of problem, but didn’t want to ask him about because he was very easy to upset. We finally found out what his problem was partway through the semester because one of his other teachers had assigned another student to help him and told that other student that he was autistic, and that other student told one of the other TA’s in my lab who let us know. I was getting frustrated working with this student (the autistic one I was talking about, not the helper for his other class or the TA) because he was very demanding and expected your full attention whenever he wanted it regardless of what you planned on doing, and everything had to be his way, and he had no problem telling people how much he hated them or that he was sure they were doing something wrong…some examples: he wanted to go over things with me and I consented and after an hour I realized I had about 10 minutes to get to my next class so I told him I needed to leave soon for class so I could answer any questions he had but then he would need to study on his own or ask someone else for help, and he said no, I’m not done yet and insisted that I keep helping him…luckily attending class is important enough to me that I was able to stand my ground and walk out anyway when I couldn’t convince him that I needed to go to class, but yeah, that was kind of hard for me…another example would be that he sent me an email once that just said hi I was thinking that you would help me with anatomy at 10:00 on Tuesday…I sent an email back saying I was in class at 10 and giving times I was available and got an email back that said no, I need you to help me on Tuesday…as much as I do like feeling wanted, it really frustrates me when people act as if I am their personal slave who will do whatever they want whenever they want it regardless of whatever else I may have planned…part of it with a few people I brought on myself when I set really loose boundaries before I realized that I did deserve and value having some control over my own schedule so the five minutes after meeting time letting me know you’d rather meet at a different time wasn’t going to continue being ‘totally fine just let me know what time you want now,’ but with this student it was just that he was very demanding…I could probably tell a lot of other stories about this student, but that is not the point…so anyway, once I found out he was autistic I thought if I looked up stuff about it I could maybe find some strategies to make working with him less frustrating for me, because I really do love helping people, but when someone is nagging me to help them while I am in the middle of explaining something to someone else, it starts to kill the joy…probably mostly because I needed something else to put in my notes for Brittani, I mentioned that I had been researching it, and she asked me if I thought I had it, and I said I don’t know because my best friend says that is my favorite phrase, and while don’t know if that is really my favorite phrase, it is a phrase I tend to say a lot, especially when I am not sure what the other person expects me to say or when I really do just not know or need some time to think…then she asked if there was anything about autism that seemed to fit me and I said I don’t know then added maybe that I don’t talk much, and she said something like ‘well I do agree that you don’t talk much but I am fairly certain that you do not have autism so you don’t have to worry about that.’ I think she maybe thought that I had written about it because I was worried about it, but I really at that point have no thoughts about potentially having it. I thought I already knew why I didn’t talk much and I suppose Brittani had also come to the same conclusion–based on the way I am writing about this and the web address of this blog I suppose you can tell that something happened to change that assumption, but that is a story for another post ūüôā …haha…cliffhanger!

Memories of First Year (Counseling)

So this is going to be a possibly disjointed account of things I remember from first year…(mostly the counseling stuff, because I think that is the part of first year that is most relevant to my life now)

So it was the beginning of first year and there were four counselors to choose from, and three of them were new and two of the ones from the previous year were gone. I crossed one of the counselors off the list because it was a boy and I felt I would be more comfortable with a girl. I crossed the next one off because she talked about alcohol too much in her bio and I was afraid people would think the reason I am different was because I was drinking. From there I chose a counselor because the one I picked talked about stress in her bio and that seemed to be an non-intrusive way to ask for a meeting…so I emailed and said I was stressed about school…that was definitely a true statement, though I have given up on ever not being stressed out about school.

Knowing what I do now, I would have made a much different choice, but I was a na√Įve first year who had no idea what she was getting herself into at that point…

So I met with her, and I didn’t know how to tell her I didn’t want to come back, so I set up a next meeting…

A few weeks later my counselor asked me if there was anything else that I thought I needed help with, and I wasn’t really sure, and she suggested that maybe I should talk more, and I agreed. Until then I never really saw my quietness as something I should change. It was my normal. I considered someone my friend when I could say hi to her about half the time if I saw her in the hallway and we were alone. I didn’t really see a problem with that, but somehow the way my counselor suggested that made me question the acceptability of the world I was living in, and soon I wanted out. I desperately wanted out. She also suggested that I go to a psychiatrist to get medication. I didn’t argue, but I certainly did not indicate that I had any intention of doing so. I did laugh though after I left. She wanted me on meds because she felt I didn’t talk enough with her…and she knew the phone was my biggest social fear…and the only contact information she had given me was a phone number. I did have the resources to locate an email address had I wanted to follow through on her suggestion, but I had no intention of doing that. My parents had no idea I was even in counseling, and I didn’t want meds anyway…mostly because they usually have a side effect of nausea or other GI effects, and I already was hiding a lot of nausea that I was facing. Besides that, I didn’t actually have health insurance most of first year anyway, so I probably would have gotten in trouble had I attempted to go to a psychiatrist…

My counselor told me that I needed to be more comfortable with her before we could work on my goals, so every week we did breathing/relaxation exercises, and I hated them SO MUCH! They were making me SO anxious. Since we were not working on my goals, I took things into my own hands and started forcing myself to study in places that didn’t seem as comfortable as my room. In October, the counselor asked if I would be willing to take a test for her. I agreed, glad for a reprieve from the “relaxation” exercises, and hopeful that this would tell me why I was the way I am, so I took the MMPI-2 and MCMI-III. The week after I took the exams I learned about the MMPI in psychology class and became very curious about the test and found a copy of it online (that has since been taken down) and took it over and over trying to remember exactly what answers I chose when I took it for my counselor because I wanted to know what it said about me. She never told me about it, and I was never satisfied that I had really chosen the same answers.

Meanwhile, I had been going to a new res hall program (DYS)¬†that was supposed to be a stress-relieving program. I was going to it mostly to practice social skills, and one of the counselors was in charge of the group, and I liked her, and the fact that there was little pressure to talk let me be comfortable enough to kind of get to know her, and I was almost immediately communicating with her on occasion via writing. She offered one evening to meet with her, and looking back, I really regret turning her down. I felt like I needed to study (and besides–I already had a counselor), so I politely declined the offer.

By late November, I had been getting more and more frustrated with my counselor and the anxiety she was causing me to experience in session with the “relaxation” exercises was getting worse and worse and taking longer and longer to go away, eventually barely dissipating before it was time to come to the next session. I was at the end of my rope and emailed the counselor in charge of DYS to request help. She asked if it was an emergency to which I replied no, and within a few minutes wished I had explained that no, it is not emergent, but it is rather urgent, but in any case, she said that since I already had a counselor that she thought I should get help from my counselor. I emailed back that that was the problem, but I guess she didn’t know how to respond to that…I also don’t know how she knew that I had a counselor already, because I never told her that.

I decided the only way I could fix the mess I was in was to write my counselor a note and read it to her, so I spent (way more hours than I would like to admit) writing this note and practicing reading it. I went to counseling that week and immediately asked to read the note and the counselor agreed and said there was also something she wanted to talk to me about.

I read the note which essentially said I was really frustrated and either I needed to be able to communicate in writing and we needed to stop doing “relaxation” or we needed to be done. She then told me that what she had wanted to talk about was that the counselor in charge of DYS had told her the same thing that I had just told her. I was shocked that that information had been shared, but it ended up turning out for the best I suppose since it did give her time to think about what was going to happen. She basically made fun of me for thinking writing was a good idea and refused to incorporate that suggestion, but she did agree to slow down with the “relaxation.” I had promised myself that if she didn’t accept my proposal of allowing writing that I was done, but once again, I couldn’t make myself refuse when she assumed I would be coming back the next week.

I only had one more meeting with her before break, but she had me try to say hi to I think it was a certain number of people or it may have just been as many people as I could that week. I think it may have surprised her that I did it and said hi to a few people. For over break she gave me a big packet of pages copied out of a social anxiety workbook, and I worked on those.

Over Christmas break I hung out with my best friend at her school and like usual we just talked about life. This was when she asked me to say “my crazy friend wanted me to bring up OCD.” She told me about how her co-worker’s son has it and a lot of the students she works with have it, and she doesn’t like the “d” part of it, because she doesn’t like to think of it as a disorder. She also asked me if I talked to my counselor a lot and I didn’t really know so she asked me if I talked to the counselor more than I talked to her, and I could definitely say no to that. Since I was not using writing as a communication form with my counselor yet, I guess that kind of explained why it was so hard for me to make progress. Betsy was SO proud of me that day because she asked me how I would bring faith into my career, and instead of saying “I don’t know” I said “I haven’t thought about that.” Also, Betsy challenged me to initiate doing something with two people, at least one of them not my mentor (I was in the mentor program first year–my mentor and I had only three or maybe four meetings all year though so it isn’t really a big part of my first year).

So I went back to school and I really did try the first week back to bring up OCD, but I just couldn’t. The next week I did bring it up, but it didn’t really go over that well–I said that my friend said to bring up OCD, and the counselor asked why and I am not sure if I said anything but I don’t know, so that didn’t really go anywhere.

My meetings with the counselor at this point were frequently very short–like sometimes only 10 minutes. Sometimes they lasted a full 50 minutes though, so it was a little frustrating trying to plan my days when I could only mostly assume I was going to be done within 15 minutes but not know for sure. I was also spending more and more time trying to study in the success center, allowing me to realize more and more that most people chose a counselor more based on availability than based on the bio, and no one would have assumed I was an alcoholic if I had picked the counselor in charge of DYS. This made me more and more frustrated about my choice. That counselor was available at better times, and I really liked her. My counselor was addicted to facebook and her phone. This counselor seemed quieter, and that seemed to me like she would understand me better.

I don’t mean to vilify my counselor first year. She really did help me become a lot more comfortable talking to people. I did have a lot of frustrations with her, but I can’t totally blame the extreme anxiety from the “relaxation” on her seeing as how I never actually told her what was going on until I was about ready to explode. One event that did sort of frustrate me that was her fault is that one week she told me the next week that she wanted me to knock on the door instead of waiting for her so I could practice assertiveness. So the next week I was really scared, but I was going to do it, but as I was about to do it she opened the door and proceeded to yell at me that it was not okay to be there and I needed to wait in the chairs until she said she was ready for me…so that didn’t go so well…

In February, one of my roommates¬†got the stomach flu overnight. I was freaked out. I took a shower as fast as possible and only used soap because that was the only thing that seemed safe, then I gathered my stuff and went to the success center to study. As inconvenient as it was, I did not return to my room until about five minutes before I intended to go to bed, and I left the window open to get air that seemed cleaner from outside. In the morning I got up, and did the same thing. This went on for about a week before I just couldn’t keep up with it anymore, but it was a somewhat gradual process to go back to acting “normal” again, and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from that incident. I was also way over-washing my hands. This was the first time I was really convinced that OCD may be a very real possibility. I do not recall my counselor ever knowing about this incident though except for when she asked if she could re-schedule me that week because something had come up that she wanted to do that I said something like yes unless I get the stomach flu from my roommate.

So one day when the counselor in charge of DYS and I were the only ones who had come to DYS, and I was helping clean up she asked if she could talk to me, and in my head I was like “I think that is what you are already doing” but out¬†loud I just said yes, so she told me to grab my stuff and meet her at the office. She told me she didn’t want to be friends with me on facebook because that was unprofessional…I didn’t really know where that came from and wasn’t really planning on friending her so I just said yeah, that’s why I haven’t friended you…she also said that it was great that I had been communicating with her, but that I needed to try harder to make friends with people my own age. I think I just agreed to that and left, but I was really thinking that if try harder was all I needed to suddenly have friends my own age then it would have happened a long time ago…try harder is not going to fix me.

On April 17th, my counselor suggested that it might be helpful if I could write things and read it to her at the beginning of our meetings. I was so excited about it that I didn’t question the fact that she had said no before. I wrote pages and pages that I would have loved to share, but the fact that I had to read it out loud meant that the few weeks of the school year that were left I either read 1 sentence or declined to read anything. The first week of this my sentence was “I was just wondering why it is okay for me to write things now since when I suggested earlier in the year that it might help if I could write things you seemed very opposed to the idea.” She responded something like that she didn’t remember me asking that, but that she was suggesting it now because she realized I probably had information that would be useful to her that I wasn’t able to share without help.

The one really amazing thing that I credit to my counselor first year is one of my roommates second year. I found out one night that the person in charge of roommate assignments had decided that I couldn’t live with the girl I had requested who was also the only girl in the quads that I really knew, and therefore the person I REALLY wanted to live with, and I was frustrated, and wanted to write an email to the person making the decisions, but I couldn’t figure out how to write it so that it said what I wanted it to without sounding like I was being aggressive. my counselor scripted an email for me. I thought it didn’t seem like a very good email, but I figured if it was that or nothing I would have to take what I could get because I wasn’t in a position to complain, and I couldn’t write it myself. I got rejection from that email and tried on my own to fix it, but I still didn’t get a very promising response. The next week which happened to be the day before my last final, I reported back what had happened and my counselor said she had been thinking about it and I mentally braced myself thinking that she was going to say she was sorry she had helped me in the first place because I should really work on getting to know people my own age, but instead she said that if I wanted her to she would talk to the person in charge of roommate assignments and say that it would be best for me both socially and academically to get the roommate I wanted. I have no idea how she was going to pull that off–especially the academically part of it, and I suppose I also do not know if it ever happened since I was studying in the success center the rest of the day and never saw her talk to the person in charge of assignments, and I seem to recall that being her last scheduled day for the semester, but regardless of what happened, I got a email a few weeks later from the person in charge of assignments saying that she thought I would like to know that I could have the roommate I wanted!

I had no intention of continuing counseling after the school year ended. I hadn’t known how to get myself out of it during the year, but I thought I could just be done at the end of the year, because my counselor was not going to be at my school anymore (and she was getting married and moving to New Mexico I think). I got the summer off because I was sure I’d be fine on my own, and I definitely was not interested in telling my parents about anything…however, I didn’t get the next year off. I had thought about what I would do if I needed to pick a counselor for the next year and decided the person in charge of DYS would be my best bet because I already kind of knew her, so when my counselor said she had been thinking about who would be best for me the next year and was thinking since I knew the counselor in charge of DYS already that was probably the best choice, I agreed and she said she would tell her to expect to hear from me and to seek me out if I didn’t contact her…so much for my way out…

That summer I was talking to the person who had caused me to start counseling. I don’t remember much from that…what I do remember is that he found out that I was getting a new counselor in the fall and he suggested that he could call the counselor to help her get to know me more easily, and that seemed like a fine idea to me because I think a lot of times other people know me better than I know myself, and also it meant I didn’t have to worry so much about making sure I really covered everything in the intro¬†note I sent her, so I gave out the contact information that I could remember (probably her STLCOP and SLU email addresses). He talked to me a little about the change of churches and I was crying on the inside and he suggested that it seemed like I had PTSD. I thought then that PTSD was a bit dramatic for my experience. Seeing more recently how bad it can get though for me to think about it, I am more willing to believe he was right. I had gotten good at avoiding anything that was going to make me think about it and so I was fine with it, but reminders are very difficult for me to deal with, and while there was really no threat to my physical life in changing churches, it did take away most aspects of my life as I knew it. He also let me know that the way I have trouble getting rid of old papers and the way I copy all my texts sounded like OCD. While I had started getting comfortable with the possibility of OCD earlier, this is when it started to seem a lot more real to me. I was still not totally convinced, but I was very much willing to accept it as a possibility. The final thing I remember from this meeting is that he said something like that it was really weird that I didn’t seem to feel or understand emotion and maybe if I understood that I would be able to communicate better.

So that’s first year…

Timeline

So I thought I’d just start by writing a short summary of where I have been in life to help set up a framework of the life that I live in order to give my posts¬†a bit of context.

From elementary school until early high school I was bullied a lot. It was really hard then, but I think it made me stronger. Most of the time, people’s words don’t really affect me anymore because I have learned to tune out the things I do not want to hear.

I was a swimmer from 4th grade until ninth grade. I love swimming–as evidenced by the fact that you would be hard pressed to find much writing or art assignments from middle school that didn’t relate to swimming–but it got to be too time-consuming and too expensive. I taught swim lessons from middle school until the end of high school. I loved doing that (and was actually really good at it), but it was time to get a big-girl job. I never officially quit, but I stopped showing up to inservices and stopped filling out intent to work forms and stopped accepting sub jobs.

On August 10th, 2008 my family abruptly changed churches. That was something that really upset me. All my goals, all my expectations, and everything that I knew was taken away, and I entered into a new arena trying to be forced into a clique-y group of girls who didn’t need me and I didn’t really want them anyway. This was made more difficult by the fact that everything I could be defined by was being taken away. I wasn’t doing that great in school like I usually did, and I had recently quit swimming. I did meet someone at the new church who has become my best friend.

That winter I realized that I was hurting myself and needed to stop. On April 10, 2009, I hurt myself for the last time. This summer I lost count of how many days of freedom I have experienced, but I do still celebrate the years of freedom! Although I was free of the behavior rather quickly, I have still not completely shed the inner struggle of temptation. Over my high school years that caused a few people to really want me to tell my parents about things and to consider counseling, but I was not really into that.

Early my senior year of high school I realized that I had started restricting my eating and moving towards anorexia nervosa. I caught it soon enough that I don’t think I was ever in danger, but it was a little scary so I called my best friend (LOT SCARY but I didn’t have texting yet). She suggested that I look up OCD. I guess I didn’t take the hint, and was trying to figure out how OCD treatment was useful for AN…probably not overly surprisingly, I couldn’t really find anything useful, and eventually got frustrated and gave up on that.

At some point (I don’t really remember when) my senior year of high school, someone suggested that I try out the free counseling at school and let him know how it went…and for some reason I agreed–probably mostly because I have difficulty saying no and it seemed far enough off that it would probably be forgotten eventually anyway. He suggested that a counselor could help me be more comfortable in social situations.

On January 17, 2011, my friend accused me of being suicidal to try to get me to tell my parents about my self-injury struggle. That was a really frustrating situation. I was mad for a while…unfortunately I was already planning on possibly telling them on April 11th and was about to reveal that about a week later…as it ended up, that actually ended up being a good thing because I decided I wasn’t going to be pushed into telling, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my plans, so I ended up telling them anyway, and my parents were relieved that if something had been going on that it wasn’t suicide.

So I made it to school and at the beginning of the year set up a meeting with a counselor…I only planned on meeting once, saying I’d done it and then moving on with my life, but I couldn’t exactly tell the counselor that, so I ended up continuing, and have been in counseling since then.

Over Christmas break, I met with my best friend at her school. She suggested OCD very directly this time and asked me to try bringing it up with my counselor. I agreed to try it and did attempt it. Later that year one of my roommates got sick–I freaked out and was in my room only to sleep and shower for a while, and became a lot more aware that OCD might be a very real possibility.

So that is the big-ish events in my life.