I had an initial appointment for psychotherapy last week or so. There were some preassessment questions to fill out looking over the previous week. There was multiple choice questions, presumably to make generating answers easier for the general population though actually I guess is about being able to quantitise the answers and draw conclusions. The point is that generally I find multiple choice beyond three degrees really hard to answer. Give me “agree”, “disagree”, “not sure” and I’m fine. They cover my bases but start adding in “slightly”, “moderately”, and “strongly” and I get stumped everytime. How do I measure slightly? I feel like I need to go through all possible scenarios of “finding myself getting angry” and count them against the times I wasn’t angry. But how can I recall every interaction I have? Well not quickly for sure. Then what about the bias I have for remember “negative” situations rather than “positive” encounters? I really want to tell the truth but what is that in this context?
The fifteen or so question on traumatic situations wasn’t any easier. I think I managed to easily answer two questions around personal near death experiences and family members dying suddenly. The others I had to go back to and think through my life. It wasn’t a good experience. Yes, I have known people who have taken they own life, there was Lorraine who died fifteen years or so ago. Yes, I have been held against my will. My brother sat on me and pinned me down when I was a teenager and not matter how hard I struggled and screamed, I could do nothing to stop him. The list went on. I wasn’t sure that I was answering the questions in the spirit that was meant but I decided the situation counted if I had found it traumatic enough to remember it in detail and that sometimes those memories surfaced unexpected and emotionally charged.
I remember talking about memories in my late diagnosis group. The others talked about doing something once and it being imprinted on their memory. I have never found this ability to be full proof in my case. But I got to wondering whether this was another case of my preservation filtering kicking in. Have I deliberately trained my mind to forget these traumatic events and clamp down on emotions in order to keep my mind intact? Does the fact that occasionally I will remember these situations and become overwhelmed by the emotion attached to them provide evidence for filtering ability? I ended up with a long list of traumatic events which left me feeling rather traumatised.
Something I have done in the build up to my appointment was to write down three positive things that happened to me each day. I expect I have mention this technique before. It’s a positive psychology technique to encourage ending the day thinking about things that went well rather than dwell on things that failed in some way. It’s a nice thing for me to do because once I start thinking about my day, I often find I have many more than three things to feel good about. One memory cascades into enough. I write them down and flesh out a bit why I think they were a good thing. I don’t tend to remember the details of what I write but rather keep a vague sense of what it is about. I wont be able to recall this post once it is on my blog, it just seems to be how my mind works, but to have a record of positive things means that I can have a look at it when my depression kicks in. I guess it is a bit of mental prophylaxis.
It would seem that July is a month for doing projects so I thought that I would try to write about one of my positive experiences each day for the whole of July. For those of you that read yesterdays post, you wont be surprised to see I am going to write about attending a BBQ.
Why was attending a BBQ a good thing? Well, for a start the invite was from a fellow writer I know through my creative writing group but with whom I haven’t socialised. It was a chance then to deepen a friendship with someone who accepts me with all my quirks. She is a pretty amazing person and I suspected her friends would be interesting too. It was a chance then to meet new people. I guess meeting new people ties in with my core value of always learning new things. Meeting new people means the possibility of seeing the world through a different set of eyes and learning from them about their interests. I think the invite in itself must be seen as an acknowledgement that I have something to give other people. I use the word “must” there because the notion of feeling worthy of attention doesn’t sit easily with me. I don’t feel worthy but I know I have to challenge that thinking. Going to the BBQ was a physical example of that challenge.
I think it is also important to recognise that although I am autistic, I am also a social animal. I need to be in social groups for my own mental well-being as much as I need to be on my own. Well maybe not as much as solitude, but I know I need to get outside of my head if I am to stay healthy. Going to the BBQ would do that too. I was looking after myself.
And you know what happened? I sat in the sun and ate a good tasty balanced meal. I talked and I listened. I met a professional photographer and covered a wide range of subjects, not just photography. I met two doctors originally from Singapore and Malaysia and didn’t have enough time to talk about all the things we were interested in. I met a beaver conservationist and found out that amongst other things, aside from humans, otters predate beaver kits. I learnt that around a third of all British garden plants come from North East America.
I met good people who I would happy to meet again. I think that is a pretty good win for overcoming my anxieties.