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mental health mindfulness

Schema Therapy part III

In my last reflection on my journey through Schema Therapy, I’ve found out that Social Isolation and Unrelenting Standards are my main two influencing schema’s. When people have these schema’s they can potentially develop the following poor coping mechanisms:

SchemaSurrenderAvoidanceOvercompensation
Social Isolation/
Alienation

Becomes part of a group but
stays on the periphery; does
not fully join in.
Avoids socializing; spends
most of his or her time alone.
Puts on a false “persona” to join
a group, but still feels different
and alienated.
Unrelenting Standards/
Hyper-criticalness


Attempts to perform
perfectly; sets high
standards for self and
others.
Avoids taking on work tasks;
procrastinates.
Throws out high standards
altogether and settles for
below-average performance
Table is adapted from Young et al (2003). Schema Therapy: A Practitioners Guide.

Social Isolation Schema

I have this schema, but I don’t have any of the poor coping mechanisms. So I think this schema is not the one causing me the most stress or suffering in life. I view myself as an odd ball, but I’m comfortable with that part of myself and feel like I can bring that authentic part of my to my daily part of interactions in both my work and personal life.

Unrelenting Standards Schema

This is my main schema that causes me the most problems. I have a tendency to procrastinate on work tasks, even to my own detriment. Avoidance is usually my poor coping mechanism of choice here. I also have a tendency to get distracted by the new shiny idea and never finish it.

Other Strong Sentiments

From doing the schema survey with my psychologist there’s a few more strong sentiments that I’d like to reflect on.

In the end, I will be alone

This is in a literal sense. I beleive when people die, we die alone. There’s no one there with us. I don’t beleive I’ll be alone in my old age and I don’t beleive that I don’t deserve love. I’ve already got the wheels in motion to have a pretty comfortable retirement.

Most people only think about themselves

This belief is founded in an understanding of human nature. I don’t beleive people are ill natured. Everyone thinks they are morally up right citizens. But a lot of self less acts can be analysed from an individual benefit too. Donating your time/money to other people also helps you feel good too. We are social creatures who also ger personal benefits when we coorporate with others.

I don’t fit in

I view myself as an odd ball. I’m ok with this.

If I disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice

There’s a bit of existential dread with this one. Sometimes when my depression is taking up more attention, I desire for the world to open up and I could disappear forever. It’s easy to think that no one cares. When I don’t have good social connections with people my mind goes down this path. Sometimes I wonder, “If I died tomorrow, who’d turn up at my funeral? What would they say?”.

I am inherently flawed and defective

This is a hard belief to see written out. I didn’t receive a lot of praise as a kid and I’ve always felt like there’s something wrong with me. My muppet (harsh internal self critic) likes to remind me of these feelings. I grew up as the fat kid too, so constantly being bullied feeds into this feeling.

My first part time testing job while in uni, I wasn’t praised until I left. I didn’t feel like I was doing any good until then. But I was also going through my first bout of chronic depression then too.

I’m a failure

No matter how succesful I am in life, my muppet likes to remind me of how much of a failure I feel sometimes.

I feel more like a child than an adult when it comes to handling everyday responsibilities

I think this is a common millenial experience. The idea of #Kidulting (pretending to be an adult when you feel like a kid) is fairly common in the media. At the end of the day we are all just faking our way through our journey of life and no one really knows what they are doing. I also love being a big kid at heart, I love jumping in puddles and approaching life with that child like wonder and curiosty.

What unhelpful beliefs do you hold?

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Schema Therapy part II

Wow, it was back in November that I last wrote about starting Schema Therapy. The whole pandemic situation really put a spanner in the works with that. This blog post is a reflection of my most recent session. I’m not a psychologist, if anything here concerns you please seek professional advice.

So two months ago I started a new bout of therapy with a new psychologist that was a bit closer to home. The last one was close to the office so when I stopped going into the office I stopped going. Since I’ve moved to Sydney I’ve had a tendency to only go to 2-3 sessions with a psychologist before I come up with some reason to stop attending (usually it’s just expensive and I postpone/cancel because I’ve felt like I haven’t done the homework correctly). So it’s nice to be 4-5 sessions in with a new therapist and I’m actually sticking to it.

My two main Schema’s

My two main influencing schema’s are Social Isolation and Unrelenting Standards. These have a mild influence on my personality, some people can have a strong influence and they might have a schema that is a strong 80-90% influence. There’s 18 Schema’s and I they can be a little overlapping.

Under the Social Isolation schema I feel:

  • I feel like I don’t fit in
  • People think I’m weird and strange
  • I am a bit different to other people

Under the Unrelenting Standard I feel:

  • I rarely switch off and relax
  • I need everything to be done to very high standards
  • There always seems like there is more to be done

I also have an unhealthy dose of a very harsh internal self critic. This self critic likes to remind me of how much of a failure and odd ball that I feel sometimes. These two schema’s help drive my harsh internal self critique.

Personifying that harsh critic

In my earlier sessions, my therapist asked me to personify that harsh internal self critic. Put a name/person/character to it. I thought a muppet from sesame street would be a good caricature.

And then the next question, what muppet would it be best? I thought a blue one is not right, blue is too calming of a colour. Orange is an angry, attention grabbing type of colour. And then I thought of the interrupting Manana Muppet:

So now, when I find myself thinking, “you are such a failure, you are nickempoop and a stupid fat good for nothing …” I can now respond with, “Ah, muppet, it’s good to see you again. Glad you could join us. That’s not helpful right now, would you like to sit back down and stop distracting the driver?”.

What would inner critic look like if you personified it? I’d love to know.

Categories
Critical Thinking mindfulness

Reflections on free speech

In today’s internet era it feels all too easy to get angry and upset over something offensive. It can be easy to find the rage machine in full swing and to get caught up in it all. Many platforms can concentrate that anger and it’s all in the name of “engagement”. Outrage gets more clicks and shares.

This blog post is a reflection on my thoughts about free speech, hate speech and how people become hateful.

3 approaches to moderation

If we let all types of speech fly under the free speech banner, then what do we do about speech that enacts violence? On the internet I’ve seen three levels of moderation:

1) Reddit – let everything fly

If you want to see some dark nasty corner of the internet you will find just the right corner in some subreddit thread somewhere. 4Chan has a similar culture. Anything goes, no moderation here.

Remember #GamerGate? One part of of it was some people didn’t like Anita Sarkeesian’s video posts on Tropes vs Women in video games. Someone even created a beat up Anita game.

2) Twitter – let most things fly

If it enacts a sense of violence twitter will now tag the post with a warning:

Twitter has flagged and hidden a tweet by United States President Donald Trump, saying he violated Twitter’s rules about glorifying violence.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/twitter-flags-hides-trump-tweet-glorified-violence-200529080054304.html

3) Facebook – post no evil

Facebook has a team of people and algorithms searching and blocking hate speech, e.g. commenting “Men are scum” will be removed.

you can’t attack a person or group of people based on a protected characteristic. A characteristic like race, religion or gender.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/post-no-evil

Free speech isn’t a free pass

If I say something hateful, offensive or generally misguided, I should be held accountable for what I said. I want people to call out my offensive nature. There’s lots of things I don’t know or misunderstand. By calling me out you help me to improve my understanding.

We have to take responsibility of what we say

Rowan Atkinson – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiqDZlAZygU

Comedians and cancel culture

Comedians have a reputation for being a bit offensive or a bit on the nose with their comedy. Comedy is criticism of society at large. Here are some Comedians calling out Cancel Culture:

These comedians tend to think we are now too sensitive and over react to everything.

How people are radicalized

I’m going to leave you with a video on how people become radicalized. It doesn’t matter if it’s veganism, transphobia, racism, sexism or general hatred. No one starts their life hating another group of people. We learn this behavior through the culture we absorb:

If you find yourself getting angry over something on the internet, please take some time to reflect and understand where that anger is coming from.

Further Reading

https://ketanjoshi.co/2020/08/07/journalism-has-a-social-media-abuse-problem-no-not-that-one/

Categories
Craft Beer Critical Thinking Finances Job hunting Marketing mental health mindfulness Software Testing Technology

Buddha in Testing: Chapter 5

At the end of Buddha in Testing, Pradeep asks the reader to co-author the next chapter with him. So this blog post is my attempt at writing part of Chapter 5 of this book:

What is the chaos that surrounds you in testing?

Write now, during the pandemic a lot of people have been made redundant and are struggling to find work. I’m lucky enough that my day job isn’t all that chaotic, which is a good thing. The mobile app I’m working on is doing pretty well. I wouldn’t want to be dealing with a stressful work load on top of everything else.

What is my contribution?

I put together a software testers career cheatsheet to help anyone whose struggling to find work right now. After having career coaching sessions with a bunch of people, a few themes came to light. I got the inspiration to do a video series on those points. I found out it makes for great marketing content.

What situations have put you out of calmness?

Last weekend I recorded 7 career tip videos in one weekend. I was burnt out by Monday and a blubbery, teary mess. I couldn’t focus on work and took the day off to mentally recharge. I told twitter I was out of spoons.

How did you bring peace?

Walking around the city, listening to podcasts and shopping in second hand clothes stores was how I recharged. I even had a beer in a sports bar at lunch and watched some cricket (England vs West Indies) :

What answers are you searching for?

Satisfaction in life. I’m over software testing. I’m starting a graduate diploma in financial advice next week because I have an idea to disrupt the retirement funds industry here in Australia. Making retirement funds easier is something I can get behind.

How will you recognise the peace?

I enjoy adding value to other people. It’s a huge driver to most of what I do. I miss the constant interaction with people from my shop assistant days. If money/labour wasn’t a drawback I’d prefer to work in a supermarket over most of the testing roles I’ve had. With my history of depression, I don’t think I’d ever achieve peace but I can be more content with life.

I’m now outta steam

I could continue answering the questions but I think I’m going to leave it there. How would you answer some of these questions?

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Self Care and Spoon theory

I was having a chat to colleague recently about mental health. I actively blog about my struggles with depression and we got talking about spoon theory and self care. I thought I would share some of my practices that help me keep on top of this part of my health.

Spoon Theory

spoons

Spoon theory is a metaphor for dealing with chronic illness/mental health issues or disability. When we are healthy and functioning we have plenty of spoons to deal with life and we hardly notice when they are used. Sometimes we might be in situations where our spoon supply is diminished and mundane tasks we took for granted now become very hard to do. I find not sleeping well is a quick way to reduce the number of spoons I have to work with the next day. Sometimes starting a new project or being in a new situation can deplete more spoons than expected.

Sometimes you might hear people say, “I’m out of spoons” as a safe way to signal to the people around them that they are overwhelmed and need help getting out of their current situation.

Self Care

I have a harsh internal self critique that is always trying to get me down. When I’m tired it’s harder to ignore that voice in my head. One way to combat this is to practice gratefulness. Some people like to keep a daily journal and at the end of the day write down 5 things they are grateful for. This why a nightly prayer (if you are Christian) is great practice for improving your mood. You spend some time in your day reflecting on the good things. I keep a blog post that is a, “letter to self, when you are feeling low this is all the awesome stuff you are doing”. Some people practice mindfulness or meditation.

Meditation can help you to recognise your triggers from an internal thought process and can help you to not get emotionally caught up with the thoughts. Your mileage with meditation can vary and I don’t recommend trying to introduce a new habit without some support in place first. I try to meditate for 20 minutes a day but don’t beat myself up if I miss a day.

What do you do for self care?

Categories
depression mental health mindfulness Weight Loss

How an offhand comment can trigger a depressive episode

I had a low day on Friday. I’ve had a persistent headache and fatigue for a few months now and a head cold on Friday brought out the worse of it. I’ve lived with depression for eight years now so I know when to have a day off to take it easy. Friday started with a 2 hour struggle to get out of bed. It was one of those days.

When I’m in these low moods my obsessive nature and harsh internal self critic can get completely hooked on little comments that people make. This blog is a reflection on this internal thought process to help you understand what might be going through a depressed person’s head.

The comment

In conversation someone mentioned something about, “… being a big girl”, it was related to me being able to look after myself. I responded with “I use to be a lot bigger” and someone else in the conversation added, “keep away from the pork and you’ll stay that way”. In the moment I didn’t think anything of it. But my obsessive nature got hooked and over the afternoon I couldn’t let it go.

The obsession

I became completely obsessed over everything I had eaten recently infront of said company. I replayed the dinner we had recently over and over and over in my head. I counted every calorie, it came out to about 2000KJ and 10gm of protein. Then my internal harsh critic got on board. It starting saying to me, “you are fat, lazy good for nothing, completely worthless, you should just curl up and die”. So now there was a battle going on in my head, the obsessor just going over and over and the critic telling me I’m worthless. Normally these thoughts aren’t that loud but they get overwhelming on low days.

My obsessor wanted to figure out how to write a response to those comments. This blog post is an attempt at pleasing the obsessor because I am still thinking about it after 4 days.

Good intentions

I know those comments come from good intentions, people say these things because they care. The only nutritional goals I stick too (under the advice of my weight loss clinics nutritionist) is to get 60gm of protein a day and to take my daily multivitamin. I’ve had a lifetime of people commenting on my weight. I thought I had developed a thick skin for it, obviously I hadn’t. Or maybe it just hurts more the closer to home it is?

Self Compassion

I’m at a stage now where I can try to practice self compassion (I try but it’s hard). I would catch these thoughts and tell myself, “that’s not a very nice thing to say Sam, you are one of most proactive people I know. You are so far from lazy and worthless it isn’t funny. Look, you even had lunch with someone who thanked you for your help with their CV recently and they are starting a new job soon because of you. Remember that Buddhist monk on youtube? Try and practice letting go.” Here is the youtube video I was thinking of:

How to be supportive

If someone has opened up about their mental health and they raise something like this with you, please don’t feel like you need to censor yourself. That is stressful and not healthy. Often when these things come up for me, I never raise them with the person who caused the trigger because I know deep down it’s just my mind overreacting. So being open and empathetic if someone does raise this is all I ask for.

Please be mindful of how your words can hurt. It reminds me of the common rhyme about sticks and stones I was told about as a kid. Here’s my new version:

Sticks and stones may break my bones 

But harsh words from a loved one

Can make me wish I was dead

I’m grateful I’ve never been suicidal but I still live with this kind of depression on a fairly regular basis. My partner has probably seen me go through about 4 or 5 episodes now over a 2 year period.

I’m grateful I can be this open about this huge cause of internal stress. A lot of people who struggle with similar things aren’t as blunt as I am and keep the struggle to themselves.

Categories
mental health mindfulness

Mental Heath Update

I haven’t blogged about mental health for a while. Here’s an update on where I’m at. Overall; this week I’m feeling good. I’ve been experiencing a reasonable amount of fatigue/change recently which has made the last two weeks a little low.

Breakdown at the bus stop

reference

I had a mental breakdown at a bus stop a week ago because I was tired, cold, wet and was stuck waiting in the rain for bus for 15 minutes. I just cracked it, I’d had enough. I needed a good cry. Getting overwhelmed with emotions is fine, for me I just need to watch out when that sensation sticks around all day. This feeling didn’t stick around all day. So that’s some progress atleast.

Mindful Eating Practice

reference

I visited my psychologist yesterday morning to talk about developing a mindful eating practice. I will be using an app called Recovery Record to track my food and mood over the next two weeks and this will be shared with them, I will also be putting aside one meal a day to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is where you practice dedicating all of your senses to the act of eating; what do you smell, feel, hear, see, think and taste while you eat? Can you take as much time as you need to really enjoy your meal? Can you practice dedicating all of your focus to eating rather than being distracted by everything else?

Meditation Practice

reference

Two weeks ago I started doing a meditation course with Nicho Plowman, one of the owners of Insight Timer (the company I’m working for). It’s a Vedic Meditation practice that is suitable for a busy lifestyle. It’s a silent mantra based and we are meant to keep up a 20 minutes twice a day routine. I’m currently meditating on the bus to work, in the evening in the office and wherever else I can get the time. I attempted meditation at the hair dressers when my partner was getting their hair cut. I didn’t exactly get a deep meditation but that’s the point of practicing in these loud and distracting environments. I had some negative emotions come up when I started, I would be overwhelmed with thoughts that would bring tears to my eyes but it’s not happening as much now. I’m generally keeping up the practice (I forgot completely to meditate on Sunday). I’m enjoying putting aside the time for it. I had been meaning to establish a meditation routine for ages.

Do you have a meditation or mindfulness routine? What works for you?

Categories
depression mental health mindfulness

my mindfulness stuff

I gave a short 5 minute talk about my depression in front of my whole company 2 weeks ago. I’ll take this opportunity to share what helps me try to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy is part of my treatment. It might not necessarily work for you but I think seeking professional help is a good step.

I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day at least 3 times a week. It’s small achievable goal for me that doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed and I don’t beat myself up over it if I don’t achieve it. The beating myself over it is something that I’ve had to unlearn. During this mindfulness session I try to focus on my breathing, the sensations around my nose and lungs, I might focus on my senses or focus on other parts of body.

I try to be mindful when having my morning cup of coffee, I find short black coffees help encourage this. I can explore the flavours, move the coffee around my mouth and explore different sensations, what is the after taste like? what does the crema look like? how does it smell? What type of roast do I think the beans are? These are all things I can explore with my coffee.

I have also been wearing a spire for nearly 3 months. The spire is a piece of wearable tech that monitors my breathing and is connected via bluetooth with my phone. It tells me when I’m being calm, focused, stressed or active.

Here are some screen shots of the app and an image of the device:

More info https://www.spire.io/

Have you noticed the mindful colouring books that seem to be popping up every where? I thought I would buy one and see what my spire would record while I coloured. It measured a calm streak while I coloured. The colouring book that I bought was a game of thrones themed book at least, I didn’t really like all of the over promising of the mindfulness colouring books.

I enjoyed Ruby Wax’s talk on Mindfulness

So if something might help people be more calm and mindful in their day to day life, why not give it a shot? Is there anything you try to keep mindful?