Friday, 17 May 2019

All About Identity: Counselling Session 3

TW: Mentions of abortion, weight, death, and suicide

Again, lots of things have happened recently, and I feel completely overwhelmed. If it isn't something happening in my life, with friends and/or family, it's something on the news or social media that has deeply affected me. I was definitely in need of yesterday's counselling session. She called me through to her room, and as we sat down, she went through my answers to the depression/anxiety/phobias etc questionnaires. I had lower scores on some things, and higher scores on others. She asked me what had gone on recently.

A big piece of news for me was finding out (via Facebook unfortunately) that an old schoolfriend of mine had died. Although I wouldn't call us best friends, we were friends and had known each other since Year 3 of primary school, right up until now. The news had come a little late for me, so the funeral had already passed. At first I was really shocked, and then in floods of tears. After this, I had really confused feelings about it all. The truth was, although she hadn't spoken to me in a while, I hadn't made the effort to talk to her recently either. I didn't blame her at all, but I did blame myself. I wish I had the energy to keep in contact with all my friends, but it just isn't possible. I don't want to lose any of them though, and I guess losing a friend to death has made me realise how important friendship is, how short life is, and how important it is to keep your loved ones close.

Anyway, I digress. Some really prominent feelings I had about my friend's passing were guilt, anger at myself, and regret. How dare I feel upset about someone I hadn't made the effort for? How dare I allow myself to be comforted for my loss, when others had been much better friends to her?

The counsellor seemed to find it quite sad and interesting that I had those feelings. Again, I was blaming myself for my own feelings, and thinking that I'm reacting the "wrong" way.

We then moved on to the next thing that had affected me deeply. This was the news of an abortion ban in Alabama (please Google for more info, I can't bear to read any articles on this). I tried to listen to the news item, but found myself dissociating. Nothing felt real, I felt as if I were elsewhere, I felt like someone else was moving and speaking for me. This lasted a few hours, but I did manage to function for some of it. I just felt as if I were going through the motions rather than consciously going about my day. Dissociation can have such an effect on someone, yet can be totally invisible to someone not experiencing this. Usually, I would be triggered, panicky, dizzy, nauseous, scared, suicidal, urges to self harm etc. I suppose I expected to feel that way, because being exposed to anything about abortion made me react that way usually.

The counsellor asked how I thought I should feel, and I explained this to her as fluently as I could. I was judging and criticising my own reactions to things that usually affect me deeply. I said that I would like to get to a point where my reactions, feelings, thoughts etc weren't so extreme. I wanted to just feel upset and angry at the news, but not to a point where I couldn't focus on other things. I want to feel things the "normal" not "extreme" amount.

We talked a bit more about how I judge my own emotions and reactions, and she asked where I think this judgment stemmed from. I told her about the bullying I experienced from the start of primary school, right until the end of secondary school. I've said it in previous posts, but this bullying was mostly psychological, and involved everything I said, did, thought, wore, looked like, being judged. Before all this, I wasn't that aware of myself, and so didn't feel critical of certain aspects of myself.

I said that these judgments seemed to seep into my own identity, and I have very critical views of myself. I worry about everything I say, I wonder whether I'm doing things "correctly". I pay careful attention to what I wear, I use makeup to enhance what I do like, and conceal what I don't, I second guess my beliefs. I believe everything about myself to be wrong and not enough for acceptance.

My counsellor asked if I react extremely to anything else. I said I tend to get very worried about relationships and friends. I'm a people pleaser, but I never feel worthy enough for my partner at the time, or my friends.

I remember when something happened to a couple of my close friends online. They believed it was one person at fault, that they both knew. Although I would never do what this person did, I immediately felt guilty and scared that they would think it was me. I got so worked up about this, that I ended up messaging one of them. I then felt scared about doing that, because I thought that only a guilty person would deny doing something.

I get so scared about being judged for things I'm not/haven't done.

We then spoke about identity. How do I form my own identity? Where do my beliefs about myself stem from? Again, it was school. The comments from bullies became so ingrained that I believed them about myself. Even the odd positive (or perceived positive) comment would become part of my identity. At school, I was always complimented on how slim I was. I was told this so much that I took on this identity of the slim friend. Although I worried about everything else, I could eat anything and stay slim, so I didn't worry about my body (apart from my small boobs).

When I had my longest relationship, my partner used to talk about weight a lot; specifically the fact that his ex girlfriend had put on a lot of weight since they broke up. It made me more aware of my own weight. I remember asking him if my weight gain showed. He told me not to worry now, but if I got fat, he would drop hints about going to the gym. At the time, I thought being fat was a thing to feel bad about and do something about, so I didn't see how problematic his views were.

After we broke up, I became very depressed and suicidal. Since then, I have put on a lot of weight, and now it shows, I feel terrible about myself. I also feel bad for having this reaction. I am at least slightly body positive about other people. I believe it is completely the individual's business, how much they weigh, and people should be treated with love and respect no matter how fat or thin they are. Yet I can't feel this way about myself, so am I truly body positive?

We went back to talking about relationships. I said in a lot of romantic relationships, everything seemed fine as long as I was going along with what they wanted, agreeing with their views (or at least accepting them without argument) etc. As soon as I found a problem with something they did/didn't do, or I disagreed with them, suddenly I was the bad guy. In some relationships, I was treated as if I was irrational if I couldn't find a specific example for my argument. I was also treated as if I was causing trouble, and should just let them do what they liked, and not be so "clingy" or paranoid.

I'm not usually confrontational. Counsellor asked if I'm quite laid back and passive in relationships.  I said I guess I am. I tend to let them take the lead and make the decisions. If I make decisions, disagree or try to confront, again, I'm the bad guy.

I told her I seek reassurance about everything. This stems from being judged at school when bullied. I said that I wish I could separate the things I believed (because of the bullies) from my identity. I was so dependent on others' opinions of me, when I take that all away, I don't know what I'm left with. This makes me feel lost and uncomfortable. I want to accept myself, and have a more solid idea about my own identity.

Somehow, the conversation then went on to feminism. My counsellor gave me an example of a time she reacted to something very differently to her partner, and he couldn't understand why it had affected her so much. It involved some instances of misogyny in a television programme. I won't go into all the details (mainly because I'm exhausted after typing for so long!) but it brought up many questions about what we accept, and how our proximity to certain things affects how we react.

She told me that her feminism had formed part of her identity. She then asked me to do an exercise, where I was asked to list what kind of identity I wanted to have. This is what I put:

How I want to feel


  • Accepted/accept myself
  • Respected
  • Treated with kindness, acceptance, civility, like an equal, like a human
  • Assertive
  • Attractive (physically and personality)
  • Trust myself/my own opinion
  • Self confident
  • Not too influenced
There are probably other things I could add to this, so she told me to take the list home to go over.

It was a really interesting session, where we explored how we form our identity, and my struggles with it. My entire view of myself is strongly influenced by other people, because I have been bullied and criticised for so long that I have accepted it as part of me. I struggle to trust my own judgment and constantly ask for reassurance. I am also terrified of being misjudged, but I am unhappy with my own personality. I want to find any way I can of self improving or becoming of some use in the world. 



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