Babble from the Dark Side

I’m in that bad head space again. It really just sneaks up on me sometimes. I was fine this morning and now, I just don’t know how to exist. I keep trying to distract myself but nothing is working. I just hate myself so much. I want to start punching myself in the head or scratching up my wrists. That’s what I deserve. What’s that going to get me though? I’ve done it before. It’ll sting or I’ll just get sore and bruised and I will STILL hate myself. On top of that I’ll feel lame for doing it. Who punches themselves?!

Why am I working so hard on this motivation stuff? Am I hoping that one day it will all magically come together and I wont have to work so hard at it? I’m kidding myself if that’s the case. It’s hopeless. Existing will never come naturally to me. Working hard is never going to end, I’m never going to get a break. There’s no top of the mountain to reach, I just have to keep going up and up and up.

Some people put their lives on pause. They take time off work to get better. If I did that, would I actually start to feel better? I have a feeling I would just end up guilty, depressed and jobless. It’s not like anything would be different if I took time off. What would I do with the time? I can’t use the time for therapy that’s not available to me. It seems like help is only available to those who have “real” mental illnesses. Whatever that means. I’m not hurting others and I’m not holding a gun to my head, therefore I don’t count? I understand, there’s just not enough money or manpower to help everybody. Besides, I don’t really want to hurt myself, I just don’t know how to live with myself.

I feel like happiness is too much to ask for. I don’t deserve it anyway. Apathy would be nice though. It would be nice for things not to matter so much, for things not to be so difficult all the time, to not have to force myself to do everything. I just want to get up and go about my day and not think about it. I envy people who can just do what needs to be done without thinking about it. Why do I have to think so much?

I can’t stop the thinking. I’ve been trying to just do what needs to be done, to stop dwelling, analyzing and dreading and just do it. When I do this, my dreams tend to get unpleasant. I dream about the tasks I have to do and all the things that could go wrong. I know it’s just a dream and I am catastrophisizing, which is a cognitive distortion, but I still wake up tired and stressed. Being tired and stressed makes it harder to maintain the whole not thinking and just do it thing. It’s a cycle you see. The fact that I know I’m in this behavioural cycle that is completely irrational just makes me angry at myself.

Is it possible to be overly confident and have low self-esteem at the same time? I have low self-esteem, I always have. I remember getting check marks in the “needs improvement” category under self-esteem on my elementary school report cards. At the same time, I have this expectation that I should be better than this. I need improvement? I shouldn’t need improvement, I should be the best. That’s why those check marks hurt so much. I remember really crying over it, getting a stomach ache and throwing up.

what you see

Easy Ways to Increase Happiness

I found an article circulating on Facebook that lists “easy” things to make you happier. Normally I’d skip it, thinking it’s a bunch of hooey, but it claimed this list was backed by science (plus I have no better post ideas). Being an uninspired scientist, I liked the sound of this. So here is a summary, if you want more details on the studies in the article, the original can be found here.

  1. Exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard it before and hate having people tell you, I do too. What I didn’t know is that you could do it in 7 minutes. It’s a tough workout, but it’s over in only 7 minutes. Check it out here.
  2. Sleep. Apparently not sleeping enough makes you more prone to negative emotions and memories. Positive and negative memories are processed by different parts of the brain. The amygdala processes negative memories while the hippocampus processes the positive ones. Lack of sleep affects the hippocampus more than the amygdala making it more difficult for you to recall positive memories than negative ones.
  3. Live close to work. I don’t know about you but it can take me up to two hours to come home from work depending on the traffic. It’s pretty miserable, so I was glad to see someone actually did a study on it. Unlike other unpleasant tasks, one doesn’t acclimate to the commute. The commute is always different; volume of traffic, idiots on the road, accidents, etc.
  4. Stay in touch. Not staying in touch with friends or family is one of the top five regrets people have on their death bed. The longevity project found that those who have generous relationships live longer and happier.
  5. Go outside. Did you know happiness is maximized at 13.9 degrees centigrade? Really? I think I’d be happier at 20 degrees.
  6. Help others. Studies recommend spending 100 hours every year (or 2 hours per week) helping people. If you want more information, read my post on giving.
  7. Smile. Make yourself smile by remembering funny moments or thinking positive thoughts. Smiling can alleviate pain, improve attention and help us perform cognitive tasks. Don’t bother faking it. One study showed that those faking their smile through their work day had worse moods as the day progressed while those whose smiles were reinforced with positive thoughts had a better day.
  8. Plan a trip and don’t take it. Studies have show that people are happiest during the planning stage of a trip rather than during or after. I’m assuming the anticipation of vacation helps them feel happier. This actually works! I planned my 30th birthday trip to a snorkeling resort in Jamaica. I had a lot of fun and was generally in better mood while planning, despite knowing that we wont be able to do a 30th birthday trip. 😦
  9. Meditate. I had a feeling this would be on the list. I’m rubbish at it. Neuroimaging studies have shown that brain activity is actually calmed after meditation. Regular meditation can even alter brain structure.
  10. Practice gratitude. Being thankful, even for just three little things a day can improve happiness and life satisfaction.

The article ended by saying that people get happier as they get older. Apparently, past middle age we grow happier naturally. I’m skeptical, but at least it takes the edge off getting older.

Since today was a bit of a fluffy post, here’s a fluffy drawing to go with 🙂

stardust girl


When CBT Fails


I like cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). It makes sense. It helps a lot with my anxiety and perfectionist tendencies. The idea is to change false automatic thoughts (cognitive distortions) and make them more realistic, constructive and positive. My favourite method of combating cognitive distortions is looking at reality. What are the facts? What information sustains my conclusion? What is the proof? For example, during the fall, I had my comprehensive exams for my Ph.D. I had to defend my research proposal among other things. I was being really hard on myself and feeling miserable. I was thinking that I was never going to be able to think of all the angles, the experts would find holes in my proposal and think I’m an idiot. The cognitive distortion here is mind reading. I’m assuming I know what the others are thinking and thus being hard on myself and making myself anxious. In reality, I can’t really know what they are thinking. The purpose of these exams is to solve any major problems in my theory before I get started. No one person can think of everything, that’s why there are four different experts coming to evaluate my idea. They probably wont think I’m an idiot either, I’m a student, my purpose is to learn. Besides, I can’t be the worst Ph.D. candidate there ever was. Here, I relied on logic to talk myself down from a situation that I was making myself sick over.

Circle chart colour

Sometimes though, logic isn’t enough, I wish it were.. Something can make all the sense in the world, but when you are depressed it doesn’t matter, logic is not enough to change the way you feel. When I try to apply CBT strategies to depression, it feels empty, like I am lying to myself. I know a lot of my problems come from low self-esteem. Is low self-esteem interchangeable with hating yourself? Right now I really hate myself. I hate myself so much I don’t know how to continue existing. I am overwhelmed with anger towards myself. My skin is crawling with hatred. I can’t bare to look in the mirror or hear my own voice. I hate the things I say and the thoughts I have. I’m too ashamed to go out in public and be seen by strangers, never mind people I actually know.

I know this hatred toward myself is irrational. I am not a bad person, most people say I am kind. I’m not on People magazine’s most beautiful people, but no one calls me ugly, except for myself. I’m not too fat or too thin, I wear the clothes that are right for me. I have friends and people who love me. I have the right number of achievements for someone my age. There is no reason for me to despise myself so, yet I do.

I don’t always hate myself. Sometimes I’m fine and I don’t think about how I feel about myself at all. Other times, this wave of loathing washes over me and all I can do is be angry and/or cry. My logical self knows the way I feel is irrational, so I don’t act on it. I know it will pass and I’ll go back to not thinking about it. I try to use CBT to undo my distorted view of myself, but it feels fake and is not changing the way I feel.Why isn’t the logic enough to make me feel differently?

I don’t know what to do with myself when this happens. I usually try to distract myself somehow. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Eventually, the day ends and I climb in to bed and hope that sleep takes me away from myself.

Do you ever feel this way? What do you do?

Y is for Yonderly

zen hand-colour

Yonderly is an adjective that hasn’t been used much in the last century. It means distant. The Urban Dictionary defines it as located in the distance while the Collins Dictionary defines it as mentally or emotionally distant, gloomy or aloof. For me, feeling “yonderly” is usually the predecessor to feeling really low. I usually try to figure out what’s got me feeling disconnected and fix it before I hit the real down spell, which is hard to get out of. These are the questions I ask myself.

  1. Have I been taking my medication? Has my medication been changed recently?
    If my morning routine is disrupted, I can sometimes for get my meds. That’s an easy fix. If my meds have been changed recently, then I know there is an adjustment period and the knowledge that there is end in sight usually makes me feel better.
  2. Have I been taking care of my body? Exercising? Eating healthy?
    I have more energy and generally a better outlook if I’m taking care of myself. I know a couple days of poor eating or not exercising wont make much of a physical change, but when I’m not being healthy, my body image issues get magnified. I look in the mirror and see something so hideous I’m embarrassed to be seen. If I’m exercising and what not, I can handle myself. Amazing what a drastic influence being healthy has on my attitude towards myself.
  3. Am I sleeping?
    I am the type of person that needs eight good hours of sleep. If this is my problem, a nap does wonders. If I’m having a bout of insomnia, I can try one of my sleep strategies.
  4. Am I being a perfectionist?
    This is one of my big problems. I’ve learned how to recognize it and work with it. You can read about that here. I tend to see everything as a grand failure. I need to remind myself that I’m blowing it out of proportion and that I learn from mistakes.
  5. Am I worrying about the future?
    First, is there anything I can do to feel more prepared? If so, make a list and go for it. If not, I know my worries are usually based on past experiences. I have to remember that the past does not equal the future. Just because it happened once, it’s not going to happen all the time.
  6. Have I been alone a lot lately?
    This is just a trend I have noticed. If I spend a lot of time home alone, I start to spend too much time in my head and then I get depressed. This is easily fixed by going out with friends or working from a different location, like a coffee shop or my parents’ home.
  7. Has anything changed recently?
    If the answer is yes, the ideal would be to reverse the change, but that’s not always possible. Changes happen, that’s life, we have to evolve along with it. Simply identifying what has changed often gives me comfort. Once I pinpoint the change, I can then figure out the best way to adapt.

So that’s my list. I never get through it without finding the cause of my change in mood. This list has been put together over years of recording my moods and behaviour. I know my triggers quite well now. I think it’s important for you to know yours. Of course overcoming the cause is a whole other battle, but you can’t fix the problem without knowing what it is in the first place.


O is for Overwhelmed

I’m overwhelmed. I think a lot of people are. Most of us aren’t taking on any extraordinary tasks, we’re just trying to juggle all of our responsibilities. I get overwhelmed when I think of the future. I’m going to have to manage all I’m managing now, plus a real job instead of grad school, kids maybe and an entire house some day. Nevermind all the things I want to do with my life that I haven’t even started yet. The thought of adding more to the mix makes me very anxious and knowing that I can’t handle a normal life makes me depressed. I’m sorry folks, I have no wisdom to offer you on this one. What I do have is silliness in the form of cartoons and a rhyme. It’s easier to get through things when you can laugh at yourself.

I want to be everythingenergizer

to all those in my life.

I’m afraid of failure.

It gives me much strife.

I’m a daughter, a wife,

I’m a sister and friend.

Ph.D. candidate.

Expectation without end.

I live in Quebec.

French I cannot speak.

I should really learn it,

but having time looks bleak.

I have an apartment.

I should cook and clean more.

I’m often too tired,

it’s too much of a chore.

I am a cat owner2014-03-20 08.55.00

Mum to a fur baby.

I feed her and pet her

and she loves me, maybe.

I am a cake addict.

Have to watch what I eat.

I always feel guilty

when I crave something sweet.

I want to be pretty.

I should workout, be fit.

I try, but get nothing.sweet tooth

Must keep at it, can’t quit.

Scientific research.

Must be a team player.

But also make my mark,

oppose the nay-sayer.

I’m to manage the lab.

Keep in working order.

A student still learning,

there’s so much disorder.

I am shy, I am quiet.

I’m a nervous presenter.

To set the example,

supposed to be a mentor.

I’m at the hospital.

I do volunteer.

Got to make time for it,

need to get into gear.

Miss my creative mind,

into art, like to draw.

As a perfectionist,

must be best, show no flaw.

I have anxiety

and I have depression.

Need to work on myself,

make a good impression.

I’m irreplaceable,

at least I aim to be.

I feel I’m a failure,

any could replace me.

I want to do lots more,

but seems to be too much.

I want to be successful,

but don’t have the right touch.


Should be handling it all.

Everyone can do it,

but I hit a brick wall.

I’m overwhelmed

Expect too much of me

I do it to myself.

Moderation is key.


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