This was perceived by my mind as being obviously fake. I did not speak at any events in the past couple months. I also have been having issues with my chiropractic clinic. Therefore, I came, via thoughts I will describe, to have the belief that chiropractic interns were conspiring against me to make fun of me, and that's why they came to my blog and left that comment. I think a day or two went by, and I got an email from the woman who really made that comment. She had seen me speak at a NAMI Pinellas monthly education meeting, where we showed the film Out of the Shadow, which is a documentary about a woman named Millie, who has Schizophrenia. I spoke about myself a little bit. That meeting, which we called, "Dinner and a Movie" I think, was my idea. I thought the film, which I own (though I have no idea where it is), would be good for people to see, so I volunteered to talk too. We served popcorn. There were over 55 people there. I had advertised it all over the internet. We never usually had that many people at meetings.
Anyway, once I got this email from the woman who actually did leave the comment on my blog, and I remembered that last year (I guess at least 8 months ago), I had spoken at that meeting, I realized she must have actually been there. Hence, it was not a conspiracy of chiropractic interns who had left that comment on my blog to make fun of me.
So this is what happened. I've been having, as usual, lots of thoughts that people are talking about me negatively. It sort of gets out of control, like a spiral, and it never stops. I try to put it out of my mind, but that doesn't always work. Then, I few weeks ago, I went to the chiropractic clinic where I see interns for free because they are associated with my workplace, and this new guy was basically flirting with me. My friend told me, when I described what happened with this dude who is obviously at least 15 years younger than me, that I should "Cougar it up!", which made me laugh. However, the guy actually made me really uncomfortable. I'm a feminist, and I don't like inappropriate behavior by men in general, so telling me, while you're working on my neck, "what perfume are you wearing? It smells really nice", when no one else is in the room, well, that's not professional. Medical professionals should no better. Also, it made me extremely uncomfortable. But the next week, I went to see this guy again. This time he said some weird thing about having applied for a job, which is actually my job, which I had told him about, at the same place where I work. Obviously, that is pretty weird. I started to think he was going to stalk me.
Then, I called the clinic and told the receptionist I would not be seeing this guy again, due to the weird things he said to me. I was told that I could see a female intern, as if my problem was with men in general, when it isn't, it was just with this weirdo. So, I went to see the female intern. I was convinced the interns were talking about me behind my back, as I went to leave. I was totally convinced. Here is when a person needs to use logic, of course. Why would the interns waste their time talking about me, as if they have nothing else to do? I figured it was because I had given a copy of my book, Episodes of Schizophrenia, to an intern who left there, and I thought that he had shown it to everyone, and that they were all laughing about me behind my back for being a nutcase. As my therapist would say, "Does it even matter if they are talking about you, or not?" It shouldn't really matter, but it did to me.
So then, when I got that blog comment, I freaked out. I assumed it was from the interns. I was quite convinced I was right (and, who knows, maybe they are making fun of me, but why should I care so much?). So I wrote my last blog post, directed at them.
I hope you can see here, sometimes when paranoia comes, and it is obviously illogical, it can seem like your illogical thoughts are really true and accurate. I really bought into these thoughts. I almost deleted this entire blog! I thought about how I couldn't ever write here again, and that upset me too. I don't want to have to hide from the world because people make fun of me.
It is a bit of a relief to know that the email actually came from a mom who had actually been at that meeting, and she was just writing something nice.
I often do not comprehend why people are nice to me. I become convinced they are faking it, and they really hate my guts. I know this sounds odd, but this is how I've been my whole life, and it's hard to change your thoughts. It's really difficult.
Growing up, I was often yelled at for doing things wrong. I had one parent who blamed me for all the misery the world ever inflicted on her (which was and is quite extensive in her mind), and another one who expected me to be perfect ("I'll send you to Paris if you get straight A's in seventh grade." I got straight A's. Still haven't seen Paris). And I think that, even after years of therapy, my issues with thinking everyone dislikes me, and thinking that I never do anything "right", because there is something innately "wrong" with me, continues to screw up my life.
Another example: I resigned from the board of directors of an organization I really care about. Then I was convinced, because of the things I said, that everyone there hated me. I am still pretty convinced most of them do, to be honest. I got a call a few days ago from someone who said they weren't going to accept my resignation, and they wanted me to come back. My thought: "This is a lie. He is just trying to be nice because he pities me for having a mental illness. He is being condescending by claiming people are "concerned" about me. He really just thinks I'm a nutcase".) What I said was, "I really don't believe anyone else feels that way". He said, "Jennifer, we all feel that way!" I said, "Are you being serious?" He said, "Yes, we all are concerned and want you to stay involved". I said, "I will have to think about that, I guess." I still don't buy it, but who knows. Stranger things may have happened.
Another example: I had a job interview. I thought I really sucked at it. I assumed that everything I said was incorrect and would be perceived as me being stupid, particularly because most of the people who have this job possess Master's Degrees, and I don't even have my Bachelor's yet. I walked out hearing people making fun of me (they probably weren't). I didn't know if I had the job, even though when I asked, "How many other people are you interviewing for this position?" the answer was "none". Even though the person interviewing me said something to the effect of, "It's just a matter of fitting you in on the schedule", I walked out baffled. I didn't understand if this person was serious, and I figured that I did not have the job. The more time I spent thinking about this, the more negative the thoughts became. I then resorted to writing a rather ridiculous email to the person who interviewed me, in which I disclosed that I had a disability, that I don't do well in interviews, that I really am a good tutor, etc. (it was for a job as a writing tutor). Then, after I wrote that email, my thoughts said, "Oh my god, I cannot believe I just wrote that horrible email! Oh my god, I just made a complete fool out of myself and made myself look like a nutcase!"
A couple days later, I got the job. I actually started the job last week.
Do you see where the problem is here? The problem is in my perceptions. I perceive the world as being a place where I can't be liked. I perceive that people really don't care about me at all. My therapist reminded me this morning that 46 people came to my birthday party two months ago, and suggested that I remember that. I do remember that. I still tend to think none of those people like me much. Is that neurotypical thinking? No. I am really not neurotypical. So I have to work at fighting these thoughts. I actually do work at it all the time, every day, all day long. I tell myself, "No you are not an idiot; you are just a human being who makes mistakes. You do not need to hate yourself. You do not need to be perfect; no one is perfect", and on, and on, and on. Sometimes I guess it helps, but it doesn't really get rid of the tendency to hate myself.
I really learned from a young age to hate myself, so unlearning it is very difficult. Do you know, the first time I saw a psychologist, I was nine years old? My mom was convinced there was something wrong with me, because I didn't have very many friends at school. I recall this so clearly. The psychologist (and this was at a tiny, Pentacostal Christian school, where I learned absolutely nothing), gave me an IQ test. I remember thinking, "This guy is trying to see if there's something wrong with me, so I'm going to draw this house without a roof on it to make him believe there is, because that would be funny". So I did that. I drew a weird house. The conclusion, which I must have heard from my mom, was that I had a high IQ. So one time (and this is the only time), my uncle was teasing me, and I responded, "You are not smarter than me. I have the memory of an 18 year old and the maturity of a 14 year old" or something like that. My dad was furious, totally furious. He had never been that furious with me in my life. He took me into my parents' bedroom, and he yelled at me to "NEVER!" tell anyone that again, and to never brag, and to never talk about my IQ test results. So I never did again.
I worry a lot about sounding arrogant. I don't like to sound arrogant at all. I worry that people think I'm an egomaniac, even though I've spent my whole life battling myself from the inside out. I spent all my teenage years, and some of my early 20's starving myself and cutting myself with razor blades and knives. I even, at age 16, carved the words, "I HATE ME" into my left arm. This resulted in a crisis unit hospital stay, which ended when my mom, who was furious at me for doing this because it made her "look like a bad mother", came and took me home against doctor's orders. We left like that Against Medical Advice (AMA). A few months before that, I'd had my first suicide attempt, after which, while she drove me to the ER, she screamed at me the entire time for "making her look like a bad mother" and making her life miserable. I was totally used to that though. That never ceased. I don't remember ever feeling, as a kid, or a teenager, or a young adult, like my mom loved me, or like my dad loved me much. Never. I remember when I was in first grade, my teacher brought my mom in, and they both got mad at me, because when Mrs. Bell wanted to show my mom the stories I had written, I had to tell her that I had thrown them all in the trash. I had assumed no one cared, and that they weren't important. Mrs. Bell thought they were very important. My mom yelled at me for "making her look like a bad mother" by doing this. Why would I have saved them? My mom never treated me like I did anything well, so why would I think she would like my stories? I was six years old, for god's sake!
Things are different now, of course. I've taught my mom over the years that she can't treat me like that anymore. So she doesn't, really. My dad is still not proud of me for anything. I don't even think he knows I co-authored a book. I am not sure I ever told him, since it's not like he would really like that book. When I got my AA degree with honors in 2010, I was pretty proud of myself because it had taken going to school off and on since 1997 to get that degree. My dad didn't come to the graduation. My sister got pissed off at him and called him during the ceremony to ask him why he was not there. He was at the mall with my youngest brother, he said. To this day, he has never said anything to me about graduating with my AA, because, you see, he thinks I'm a total failure at life. He is ashamed of me. Always has been, for many years. I didn't get the PhD or whatever I was supposed to get that everyone knew I should be able to get. I didn't graduate from college at age 21. He never actually offered to help me pay to go to college in the first place, but that's not the point. I didn't get married. I have no children. I don't own a house or anything. I don't even work full-time. I can't work full-time, but that's not the point; people in my family actually believe I just prefer to be lazy, apparently. I'm pretty far from lazy. I just cannot work full time and go to college. I cannot. So my dad compares me to all his nieces and nephews with their degrees, marriages, and children, and I embarrass him. I have nothing, in his eyes, to be proud of.
So that is part of the reason I get these negative thoughts about myself. I'm not saying anybody intentionally created thoughts inside my head, but you learn from what your parents say to you, and how they treat you, to think a certain way. It's hard to undo. To this day, my dad has never come to one NAMI event, and I've been involved with NAMI since 2007. He doesn't like the topic of mental illness at all, so we never discuss it. I've discussed at length with people I do not know, but I cannot discuss it at all with my father. That makes me pretty sad, to be honest with you. It's rather depressing.
However, my dad came to my birthday party in February. He came, and his wife came, and my dad cooked hotdogs and hamburgers and veggie burgers on the grill for people for hours. Later he said to me, "I'm glad I finally got to meet your friends". I found this odd, since he has not really ever shown interest in meeting my friends, but it was nice to hear. It was nice he was there, and my mom was there, and there was no arguing or anything. I think a lot of people realize that it is pretty amazing I have lived to see age 40. And if they don't realize it, they obviously do not know much about my life!
In any event, what I have to work on now is facing the paranoid thoughts. I cannot let them take hold, and I cannot afford to walk around avoiding humanity because I assume people dislike me. I didn't go to my non-church church Sunday, because I was so paranoid about people disliking me there. I have no idea why I let myself get into that thinking, but it was pointless and stupid. Later, my friend/mentor sent me an email that said they missed seeing me there. Then last night, one of my professors who goes there asked me, "You didn't go to church Sunday, did you?" I was surprised these people actually noticed I hadn't been there.
When you're facing paranoia and negative thoughts, you have to use logic and reason. I do this a lot. I have to look at the facts. "Okay, so why would chiropractic interns have nothing to do on a Friday night but harass me on the internet?" "What did I actually do that would make these people despise me or make fun of me or talk about me?" "Why would people be watching me through cameras? Are there really any cameras on this building?"
A few nice things happened on my last day at my old job. I had worked at this call center for nearly seven years. It is getting outsourced, so I had been looking for new jobs since last fall. On my last day, everyone signed a card they gave me, and it was really sweet. I am going to save it. I sent an email to tell everyone goodbye, and numerous people who I barely knew responded to it. One of them was a young woman, who had a position above mine, and who I thought always looked down on me because I wasn't part of her little clique. She said in her email, "I'm really glad that you are moving on to bigger and better things. You are far too talented to be wasting your time in this place!". That meant a lot to me. My boss hugged me numerous times; two coworkers hugged me and we promised we'd stay in touch. And someone who called demanded to talk to my supervisor that day, not because he wanted to complain, but because he wanted to to tell her what a helpful employee I was. She actually took that call (she never took complaint calls), and listened to him. (Perhaps because it was my last day of being screamed at on the phone after nearly seven years, there was a very happy tone in my voice when I spoke to him....).
It actually ended on a great note! And now, I am doing work I actually like. What could be better than tutoring people in writing, when I love to write myself and love to do things that help other people improve their lives? It is really a great fit for me. I am glad someone suggested it. The thing I have to work on now is my thoughts, while I'm at work, while I'm at school, while I'm anywhere where I feel like I'm not doing things well and people don't like me. I have to also work on my feelings. My therapist suggested giving myself a feeling of kindness. I don't really know what that means, but I try to listen to what she says and actually do it. For example, when the dishes aren't done and I'm freaking out about the overwhelming mess in my apartment, I ask myself: "How can you be kind to yourself right now?" The answer is, "By doing the damn dishes!" So I do the dishes. The feeling that comes from not doing them is intense anxiety. The thoughts that come are visions of myself homeless, after being evicted. I cannot afford to let that anxiety fester inside me anymore. I must deal with things as they come. I try to do this, because it is important.
These are lines from one of my favorite poems, which I have loved for about 15 years, which is, "Poem About My Rights" by June Jordan: