Why do I put so much on myself?

That’s what my husband asked me whilst on holiday and it got me thinking. I want everything to be perfect and don’t like it when it’s not. I’m on holiday and I got really bad stomach ache. Quite like I did when I was sick back at Christmas. It caused a panic attack which hasn’t happened in a while. I realised it’s because I’m on holiday and want it to be perfect. Everything is about being perfect.

I started writing this when I was on holiday but never finished. I am back at work now but yesterday I wasn’t well. On Saturday I ate far too much and my stomach rejected it. I spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning on the loo! I then spent the rest of the day in bed. So today it is Monday and it is my fist time being at my new job whilst not feeling that well. Of course I wanted to stay in bed this morning and not come to work. I wanted to run away from the uncomfortable feeling of the tight stomach, headache, feeling weak and hot and cold. But I didn’t! I know I am lethargic from being in bed all day and I am not going to let it get the better of me. For a minute I started to obsess. I typed into Google ‘lethargy symptoms’ but stopped myself before I began reading it. I don’t need to look it up to make myself feel better. I don’t need to try to work out why I feel ill, I know why. So I stopped that obsessing in it’s tracks and got on with things!

I have to realise that I am putting far too much on myself expecting everything to be perfect and to feel perfect. It just doesn’t work like that. No one is perfect (apart from my cat!).

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A letter to my teenage self

Dear Jen

The first thing I should say to you is don’t worry. Worrying really isn’t worth it and I promise you everything is going to be ok.

I know you are having a hard time at the moment dealing with the anxieties of growing up and being in the real world but you will find your place. You don’t need to worry about getting sick and you don’t have to try and control everything around you. Some things can’t be controlled and that is just part of life. You will be able to cope when those things happen. Believe in yourself. Trust your own judgement. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about you. You don’t need them to say that you are a good person to know it. You don’t need their approval to be who you want to be. Stop pretending to be someone else and be yourself.

There is no use attempting to be perfect. No one is perfect and it is an impossible task. You don’t need to spend hours on your hair, hours in the bathroom or hours writing a letter. Just do what makes you happy.

The people you think are your friends right now are not your friends. I know you get along with them now but when you start being your true self you will realise that they aren’t the sort of people you want to associate with. Your parents gave you your two best friends, your wonderful sisters. You may argue now but when you are older you will realise that they are two of the most important people in your life and will be there through thick and thin. Don’t argue with your parents. They are doing everything they can for you and you can tell them anything. Trust them.

Don’t worry about being alone. When you are 20 you will meet the sweetest guy ever and will go on to marry him and want his children. He will become your partner, your best friend and the person you trust most in the world. All those other boys are just frogs. Enjoy your time with them but know that the best is yet to come.

Don’t let your anxieties stop you from doing what you want. I am 30 and regret that I have missed out on things as I have been too afraid to do them. I was afraid to go to university  or out clubbing as I didn’t want to be near people being drunk and therefore sick. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have let the silly worry get in my way. You will be able to cope with anything that is thrown your way just like I know now that I will be able to cope with having children. Whilst I am on that subject, you should admit to yourself that you do want children. Don’t let the worry of them being sick stop you from admitting that.

Stand up for yourself. Don’t let people push you around. You are strong willed but spend your whole life wanting to please other people. Sometimes you have to be selfish. You are the most important person in your life. If you don’t look after yourself, then you will be the one to suffer. Speak up. Let your thoughts be heard.

So remember, stop worrying, love yourself, trust yourself and be yourself.

With lots of love

30 year old me x

Thought diary…

I actually went back to work on Monday and did a whole day! Currently on my lunch break of my second whole day and still struggling a bit. I found it helpful on Monday just to write down how I was feeling and this was the result (sorry if it is a bit of a ramble!):

I basically just can’t tolerate uncomfortable feelings. That is what this is about really isn’t it. The most uncomfortable feeling is being sick as well as feeling sick so that is why I am scared of it so much. I feel uncomfortable at work for one reason or another and so I just want to go home. But then I feel uncomfortable at home as well as I know I should be at work. It’s catch 22 really. I do find that journaling helps though. Just writing down what is in my head seems to really help me.

I think I am uncomfortable at work as I kind of feel like I am not important or not needed. Really the company could continue without me. In fact it has when I was off sick. There is no satisfaction in my work, no reward. I don’t have any targets to meet and don’t have a team to work with. I know that is not the only problem going on (I don’t really have anything to strive for at home either) but it is a big part of it I think. How can I thrive when I feel so repressed at work? But I can’t move to another job until this stupid anxiety has done one really.

I keep asking myself whether or not I feel sick which is ridiculous. Obviously if I have to ask myself that it means I don’t! The feeling in my throat and head is anxiety and my stomach is IBS and acid reflux. All I want is for them to go. But I just have to accept that they won’t go. I have to learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings. People get on with their lives when they have chemo or much worse things. People continue to go to work with depression, eating disorders etc. Some even continue to work with flu or even stomach bugs! Yet I can’t even tolerate the uncomfortable feelings of my period! I don’t even seem to be able to stand the feeling of being tired which is ridiculous! I think everyone feels rubbish at some point in the day. Whether it is when they first wake up or when they are ready to go to bed etc. I know that before all this I used to feel off at least once in the day but it didn’t scare me like it does now. I’m not even sure why it scares me. Even if I tell myself it won’t make me sick I still get scared. I think it’s my perfectionist thinking that does it. I think my mind tells me I have to feel perfect every day but I don’t think anybody feels perfect every day. I wish there was some way I could do a survey of people to find out how often they felt something wrong with them and then how often they just got on with things. There is no point me doing it on the emet forum as they are all people who think the same way as me.

This is why it doesn’t really matter if I am at work or at home as I feel anxious in the morning everywhere. I get anxious about whether or not I will feel ill and anxious that day and then that creates the anxiety.

All I think about at the moment is how I feel. I try and concentrate on other things but all I can think about is how I feel. Do I feel sick? Does my stomach feel off? Am I hungry? Do I have acid reflux? I get like this after a stomach bug all the time. This time I haven’t had a stomach bug but I felt very ill for a long time due to my hormones and it has left me this anxious mess.

Ok so it is definitely acid reflux that gives me that weird throat feeling and then the anxiety makes it worse. That is why I panic when it comes to eating which is just stupid really! Now my throat feels off and my stomach a little bit churning and I hesitate to eat. But eating will help me. Why am I so afraid to eat? It is stupid! I just need to accept that it is acid reflux and IBS and that it isn’t going to make me sick. I need to accept that I will feel like this most mornings and that eating will help it. I have lived with it for years so why does it suddenly scare me so much? I think it might be because it got so bad when I was off the pill and my hormones were free to wreak havoc on my body! If I could just realise that eating will actually make the acid reflux die down and the wind die down then I will feel better, Also need to sort out my black and white thinking regarding my acid reflux and IBS as well. I need to tell myself that it isn’t here to stay and that it does get better. For some reason in my mind I have decided that I am going to have it every day for the rest of my life. When in actual fact it is just worse around my period. I also need to remind myself that the burning feeling I get along with the desire to burp (which happened just this minute) does not mean that I am going to be sick. If I could somehow disassociate acid reflux and IBS with being sick then it would help. But I also need to accept that it won’t be there all the time. Besides I’m not sure the burning feeling I get is due to acid reflux anyway. If it was then surely the medication would sort it and it doesn’t. I think really I should be referred back to a gastro doc for a review but I know they won’t do that as they think of me as a hypochondriac. You know what? I have had the burning feeling and burping for some time now. I think I have always had it and managed to get on with life. It is obviously just part of my IBS. It’s not behind my breast bone which is where indigestion is, it is on the right hand side and in my bowels. Yet I do still get that feeling in my throat of what emet people call throat nausea. It is like a gaggy feeling. Or like something is trying to push its way up (which I believe is wind or a burp). If I could just stop concentrating on it and realise that it won’t do me any harm. It is definitely a burp trying to force its way up and getting stuck (think I read another emet describe it as that and how it makes her panic). I get this burning in my chest and then I have to burp or fart. That then relieves the burning temporarily. I think it is anxiety induced acid reflux. I have felt it hundreds of times before but why is it sometimes I just can’t handle it? Is it because it gets worse and makes me feel more sick? Or is it because it is combined with other things going on (such as the nausea from my hormones) that makes me eat less and makes my acid reflux worse? Why can’t I just accept that I have acid reflux and that nothing can change that and it won’t make me sick? Guess it is my desire for control going crazy like normal. My period makes me very gassy and I think that is what makes me burp more, not necessarily acid reflux. Surely if it was that I would feel the burning behind my breast bone? Plus I get the burning feeling in my bottom as well! Wow I really am going round in circles here. This is what goes round and round my brain all the bloody time. It never settles in the morning. I can’t seem to find anything to settle my stomach. I was ok after my breakfast but now I have had a cuppa and some biscuits my stomach feels off. It’s all churning and burning

I guess it is acid reflux and the more I think about it the worse it gets. I always burp after having a cup of tea and I am sure that is due to acid reflux. I just feel like there is so much air in my stomach is won’t come out and it just burns and pulls on my throat. But why don’t the PPI’s work if that is the case? Why is it that someone with emet has to suffer these digestive issues? But you know it won’t actually make you sick Jen. You know it won’t. It is just an uncomfortable feeling that you need to put up with and get on with your life. The medical world obviously can’t do anything about it otherwise they would have done already. Lots of people have said the cause of it is stress and your hormones so you know that is what is causing it. It might make you burp a lot and make you throat and chest feel funny and off but it won’t make you sick and you can cope with the feeling. Nothing is going to happen to you at all. It is just IBS and acid reflux. Why is it that even though I have written that several times I still don’t believe it? At the same time I get the burning I also get the desire to go for a poo so maybe it is related to that as well? It just makes my stomach feel off and makes my back and ribs hurt. The doctor told me that was just IBS not acid reflux and that IBS can make you feel that way. Oh for goodness sake, time to stop thinking about it now. At the beginning of this diary you were fairly positive now all you are talking about is how off your stomach feels and that is probably because you are worrying about having lunch!

Damn acid reflux

My acid reflux has flared up and I can’t stop obsessing about it. I know that obsessing about it and not eating is making it worse but I can’t stop myself.

I’m told that obsessing about it makes the acid reflux worse. But can it really? Some people say it can be the sole cause of it and that the tummy meds didn’t work and it only went away when they took an antidepressant. But I take an antidepressant and it doesn’t help.

I’m so fed up of feeling like this all the time. How can I break the cycle? If the stress is causing the acid reflux but the acid reflux is causing the stress. It’s all my damn desire for control!!

Working with perfectionism

During my latest CBT we also discussed how perfectionism gets in the way of my job. I want everything to be done my way (which is correct!) and so take on too much myself rather than delegating like I am meant to. I know that they won’t do something my way and it grates on me when it’s wrong. My therapist suggested this could also be linked to a heightened sense of responsibility. I guess that is true. Like how I just randomly start cleaning in our office. If I don’t then who will (even though my colleague does it randomly too!).

If I want to move from junior management to management then I am going to learn how to let other people do things even when I feel they aren’t done my way. My therapist suggested I start doing that at work because there are obvious benefits to tackling my perfectionism at work – getting promoted or doing my work faster because I don’t have to make sure all of my letters are joined up when I write. Then I can start looking at my perfectionism at home!

Hello Jen

Last nights CBT session was very interesting. We discussed my progress and I realised how well I am doing. It is like my eyes are opening or the cloud is disappearing and i can finally see straight. I feel like I am starting to know who I am again for the first time in years (think that is also due to the intro of 90s pop music comeback through The Big Reunion!)

One thing that was worrying me though was how I’m becoming more aware of real dirt around me like dust on our ceiling. I asked my therapist if she thought that meant my OCD was just shifting. She asked me how I feel when I see that dirt. Do I need to clean it straight away and am filled with anxiety or do I just get annoyed that it’s there? My answer was the later. She asked me what I would have done previously (before CBT) when seeing that dirt. I answered that I probably wouldn’t have seen it or would have made my husband clean it. she felt that I had been blocking out things that weren’t perfectly clean so seeing them and doing something about them is a good thing. I have also noticed I am doing more things around symmetry but I am now trying to stop myself when I do that.

We then went on to discuss what would be so bad about the dust being left on my ceiling. When I answered that people would see me as a slob, she said she thought I’d say that. So she asked me why I think people would think that of me when there is clear evidence that I’m an extremely tidy person. This made me realise it’s about my childhood and wanting to be as good as the other kids. Plus loosing two BFFs over the years just because they decided not to be friends with me anymore. I never found the reason why they turned on me so I can only assume it was because I wasn’t good enough. I actually feel quite emotional writing that as it is a truth so deep down. I now lack friends my age (my friends are all at least 10 years older) and I seem to struggle to make friends. So I can only assume I am a horrible or geeky person that no one wants to be friends with. Hmmmm this seems to have ended on a bit of a negative note :-9

Perfectionism and black and white thinking

My therapist has pointed out that OCD can be a symptom of negative perfectionism. I want everything to be perfect and so I cannot cope if it isn’t. This all rings very true to me as I am a perfectionist in many ways. This is why I can’t stand to feel anxious, because that isn’t the perfect way to feel. I can’t stand it if my keyboard isn’t straight at the end of the day or if my bathroom isn’t clean. All this means things wouldn’t be perfect so I do everything I can to make them perfect, including compulsions that, paradoxically, make my life far from perfect.

It was also pointed out to me that I may be thinking in black and white and not realising that most of life is actually grey. Although my parents and husband aren’t too sure, I believe this also rings true in the way I think. Something is either dirty or clean, safe or dangerous. If I see something that looks like sick on the pavement, it is 100% sick unless scientifically proven otherwise. If someone with a cold or a stomach bug is in the office, I am 100% sure that their germs must be on the office door handle. I am unable to think in between and see the grey areas. The sick person might not have touched the door handle and even if they did, it might not have germs on it. But all I can think is it MIGHT have the germs on it. To be it is either white – it is clean, or black – it is contaminated. There is no grey area in between where I am willing to take a risk. But I need to learn to do just that!