TW self harm Schema: Punitiveness

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I’m really struggling not to go back and update my Unrelenting Standards posts but I still haven’t despite realising things I wanted to add to it, so I will mark that as a small victory before I talk about the punitiveness schema.

I have decided to write about this schema as I am feeling particularly low and have a desperate urge to self harm. I have not been left alone all day as my boyfriend and parents are well aware of how I feel.

Young’s definition of the punitiveness schema is:

The belief that people should be harshly punished for making mistakes.  Involves the tendency to be angry, intolerant,  punitive, and impatient with those people (including oneself) who do not meet one’s expectations or standards.  Usually includes difficulty forgiving mistakes in oneself or others, because of a reluctance to consider extenuating circumstances, allow for human imperfection, or empathize with feelings.”
The above purely applies to me, not to anyone else making mistakes. I have only ever taken any anger I have out on myself. As you can probably tell this schema closely relates to the two schemas I have already discussed (defectiveness and unrelenting standards) as I feel that if I cannot meet the standards I set myself I must be punished and also punished for being defective in general. It is often confusing as I feel that I deserve this horrible feeling and the symptoms of POTS because I am not perfect and cannot be the perfect daughter, girlfriend, friend. I deserve the pain and if I’m not feeling enough pain I need to cause myself more.
I would say I have a higher level of patience for others than most do, I am incredibly forgiving and tolerant of others and always look for the positive in people, no matter what they have done. As mentioned in my unrelenting standards post I do not give anyone else the high standards I set myself and will focus purely on the positive aspects of their personality or successes.
I can never forgive myself for any mistakes I have made in my life. I am haunted by all my mistakes, I can remember each and every one in detail and it replays and replays. If I lose something or something breaks or a voucher expires without me using it it never leaves me. It adds to my feelings as a failure, a let down, stupid. I can’t forgive myself. I shouldn’t forgive myself. If I think how I’d feel if another person had done any of that I’d of course forgive them, they are completely trivial matters, but to me I feel as if I truly betrayed people. I am not allowed to make mistakes. I am so imperfect, I am so flawed, I am so defective.
This weekend I have felt a dreadful sense of guilt as I am fortunate to have a wonderful father when a lot of people don’t. I have done nothing to deserve such a good father when others are incredibly wonderful people but have missed out on the love, care, humour, intelligence and support a good father provides. I therefore sensed the need to punish myself as it brought home the realisation that I was getting something good when others weren’t and I had done nothing to be entitled to this. I was also feeling incredibly low, my POTS was bad and I had menstrual cramps so generally felt rough. I therefore couldn’t help with organising Father’s Day to the extent that I wanted to. This needed to be punished. I couldn’t afford a decent present for my dad so my mum gave me some chocolates to give him. This also needed to be punished.
There have been other factors this week where things have gone wrong when I have had good intentions and this has become something that has kept ticking over in my brain, as I cannot fix it I need to be punished for it. I feel that by keeping myself thinking of it is a form of punishment as I feel the pain of it, however, the pain I feel does not make up for the pain others feel so I am at a loss of how to punish myself further.
I know it’s not a new feeling I began self harming as a teenager, even before that I recall walking through the city in heels on my way to meet friends and the balls of my feet were burning and thinking “I deserve this pain”.
Today, I want to self harm, however, doing this, if my boyfriend or mum found out would hurt them so I am stuck.
For now I will just keep thinking the fact I feel the pain that I feel and these thoughts in my head are a form of punishment along with the symptoms and pain from POTS and EDS. It certainly explains things to me that can’t otherwise be explained.
I’m sorry that this post doesn’t flow well, I didn’t realise how strong this schema was for me until I began writing. Hopefully I’ll be able to work through all the schemas on here soon and a pattern will develop that shows how they are all intrinsically linked.

Schema: Unrelenting Standards

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I bring you my post on unrelenting standards after an incredibly draining therapy session, which included regression to an issue that helped form some of my schemas and a couple of mind boggling hours on Twitter so am tired, confused, sad and have a stinker of a headache.

I feel this blog is appropriate and needs to be written though as more and more frequently I have noticed other people with the unrelenting standards schema. Young defines unrelenting standards as:

“The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hypercriticalness toward oneself and others.  Must involve significant impairment in:  pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.

     Unrelenting standards typically present as:  (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm;  (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.”
A lot of people thrive on this perfectionism and it keeps them going. Up until I broke down I put 100% of my attention and ability into everything I did, this obviously wore me out and made my POTS worse, I’d envitably have to cancel engagements or take time off work, which then activated my failure to achieve schema.
Constantly comparing everything about myself to the best in those situations (the most intelligent, the most beautiful, the most successful, etc) left me feeling like a failure, yet I still had these unrelenting standards driving me to make myself the best at everything. What I refused to recognise was that nobody is the best at everything, some people may seem to be perfect but I’m now trying to convince myself that there may be one thing they might not be able to do so well.
Please don’t misinterpret me, I don’t want others to question their own abilities and I definitely don’t want to knock anyone down or hunt for flaws, I just need to recognise that just because I’m not as pretty/clever/funny/settled/rich/happy as “Ann” doesn’t mean that I have not achieved good things in my life.
As part of my CBT my therapist surveyed people on my behalf to ask if it is possible to work at 100% all the time in every aspect of your life. The answer was a resounding ‘no’. Some understood where I was coming from, others just didn’t see it as necessary but they all had the same answer in common that it just plain isn’t reasonable. I know I wouldn’t ask it from others, so why is it fair to ask it of myself?
This is where the rigid rules of “I should…” guided my life, and still do to some extent, however, I am more aware of it now and get people I love to question me when I say these things. Sometimes in a response to a question asking why I have to do something perfectly, all I would be able to say is “I should”, because that is the rule I had given myself and it had become automatic rather than a reasoned thought.
I may add to this at a later date when I am feeling more with it, but in an attempt to break my behaviour associated with my unrelenting standards I’m going to post this without proof reading it ten times (yes, I would really do this, work would take forever), without being 100% happy with it and knowing that I have missed out some important parts (which are currently swimming about just out of reach in the mess that is my brain).

TW Defectiveness Schema

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Following on from my “Reinventing Your Life” post I thought I should begin my analysis of what the schemas mean to me by talking about the schema that affects me the most. Although it doesn’t score the highest of the schemas when I rate them according to the tests in Young and Klosko I know it underpins all the ones I have, even the ones that score higher. It was one of the higher ratings amongst the tests I did with my therapist and we came to the mutual agreement that it was the one that had the most profound influence over my life.

Please remember this is only what the schemas mean to me and how they affect me. I hope you don’t identify with it as I hate to think of anyone thinking this about themselves as I’m sure I can list 100 good things about you.

I know some people will read this and think why is she depressed? She has had all the priviledges afforded to her but that’s my point, I don’t deserve the good life I have been given and do feel ashamed every week going to group knowing that other people have had worse situations to deal with but they assure me that my depression is just as valid.

My underlying schema is defectiveness. It is the foundation, not only to all my other schemas, but to who I am. This is why, as much as I want, no need, to be better I am terrified that by stopping this part of me I’ll essentially rip out who I am and be left with nothing. This became more apparent to me as I was talking through my schema flashcard in the group this week.

Using the definition that Young uses (see the defectiveness link above) I identify with the majority so I will initially talk about what I don’t identify with.

I am unlovable, however, it’s not that I would feel unlovable if aspects of my personality were exposed, in fact it’s quite the opposite that I am so keen for people to see the good in me that I overcompensate by thinking I need to do things for people in order for them to like me. Having spoken about this with the group this seems to come from a thought that people will automatically dislike me and I have to do things to win them over.

The flaws in myself are both private and public, although I wouldn’t use the examples used by Young;  I’d probably be the opposite of these and be passive and subjugated. I do have an overwhelming fear that people will think I am selfish, so overcompensate, sometimes at the expense of my own needs and definitely at the expense of my health.

So back to the parts of the definition that do apply. Yes, I feel defective, both in my personality and physically. Having POTS and EDS makes not feeling defective near impossible, as does the Vitamin K deficiency I had as a baby and how close I was to death as if I was born with something fundamentally wrong with me and I wasn’t meant to be alive. I feel like I’m failing at living and that’s without adding my mental health conditions. Feeling bad, unwanted, inferior and invalid are all more than familiar to me. I could list more but don’t want to bore you.

I am hypersensitive to other people in general. I have always felt like I’ve fed off other people’s emotions. If they’re happy, I’m happy. If they’re sad, angry, stressed it worries me and I feel like it is somehow my fault. I have already accepted criticism, rejection and blame before they are dished out (even if they weren’t going to be aimed at me, I have somehow worked it out in my head how it could be my fault). I will explain some of my background that has had an influence on where these thoughts have come from later.

I am incredibly self-conscious, this led to me developing agoraphobia and still makes me avoid situations where I may be judged whenever possible (especially if I can see or hear the other person so telephones in particular are no go). My self-consciousness also links to the eating disorder I developed and have thankfully now beaten. My self-consciousness is a self fulfilling prophecy as I start to panic in social situations, my throat goes dry, I get hot and flustered and this in turn makes me justified in being self-conscious, especially if it affects my POTS and I pass out.

I have been constantly compared, either directly or indirectly, for over 20 years. As a young child I don’t really remember it, however, once I went to the school I went to aged eight there was constant comparison. I was compared to my highly academic older sibling and had high achieving, competitive friends who were driven by any form of comparison. The teachers also held the misguided belief that by comparing me and telling me I wasn’t good enough would drive me to do better. It didn’t. I had been taught to believe adults and have respect for teachers and what they said so in the 10 years at the school my self belief was gradually worn away until I was a shell. It is with this in mind, along with the usual bullying one finds at an independent girls’ school that helped lead to me being so insecure and incredibly ashamed of myself as all I see is a thing made up of flaws.

I wasn’t tall (I grew my last 5″ during my first year at Uni), I was flat chested (again it was after I beat my ED and I began to put on weight at Uni that my chest developed), I had frizzy hair, glasses, spotty skin, didn’t wearing make up, had my own dress style (comfortable not dressing to please others) and had (and still have until I know someone well enough) a quiet demeanour which all in all gave people a field day of physical attributes to target me for.

Then the teachers made me feel stupid about my work. Little did I know, until I got to Uni and talked to other people that I actually got awesome GCSEs and that, if I hadn’t been made to feel like no matter what I wouldn’t achieve, I may have done even better in my A levels (even these weren’t that bad it turns out). I got a degree in Latin whilst battling depression the first time around and a post graduate diploma in Human Resource Management. By the end of my PGDip I had regained the confidence I had at seven and actually got a merit in my exams and distinctions in my course work. Who’d have thought I’d ever do well in exams? But despite this I still feel stupid and flawed. I should have done even better given the chances I was given.

There were a few issues within the family too where I was the one who felt like I had to sort things out or do whatever I was told to do. I hasten to add it wasn’t an abusive household, my parents were always great, they were just dealing with things in their lives and I didn’t speak up about what was going on in mine. My sister was also a lot more domineering than I was so for a quiet life I went along with her plans, which have translated into my every day life now.

There have been more things in my life that have reaffirmed my reason to think I’m defective. Suffering physical and emotional abuse in a relationship and being the victim of a sexual attack gave me evidence that there was something wrong with me.

So with all my history in mind I know why I feel the way I feel about myself and with the help of the group I identified some positive thoughts I need to focus on (I won’t bother listing the negatives as I am trying not to give these any more validity):

  • I am kind, loyal, caring, friendly, a good listener & can bake/cook.
  • I haven’t done anything bad, there isn’t anything about me not to like.
  • Other people had the problems.
  • People don’t dislike me by default.
  • It’s not my responsibility to fix everything.
  • People are responsible for their own moods.
  • My parents are proud of me.
  • My family & friends want me in their lives.
  • I don’t need to do things to be liked, they like me not what I do.
  • My boyfriend loves me and wants to be with me and do things for me, he is not choosing the easy option.

So this is what defectiveness means to me. It affects my behaviour in a lot of ways, but having had CBT I have learnt how to force myself to get through some of the behaviour, like tackling my agoraphobia. However, as I have stated previously I feel like a lot of my behaviours are part of my personality. Letting other people always decide, taking on too many things, saying yes and constantly thinking about others wouldn’t be such an issue if they didn’t come at the expense of me neglecting my own physical health, self harming and making myself uncomfortable. The group are going to come up with specific tasks for me to do to help break the thoughts and behaviours, however, in the meantime we have come up with:

  • Looking after my physical health.
  • Saying no.
  • Doing things for myself.
  • Making decisions.
  • Not mind reading.
  • Concentrating on what I’m doing not others.
  • Doing what I want and what I need to do.
  • Suggesting options.
  • Letting others know my thoughts.

I know I can do some of these with certain people, however, I am very apprehensive as to how others will react as they always know me as the person who says yes to them and who lets them do what they want. Even if I speak to them about it first I know that they will find adjusting hard but I guess if they care about me they will have to put up with it! I’m really putting myself to the test.

Wish me luck and I’ll let you know how changing my thoughts and behaviours works!

Do you identify with anything I’ve said or does defectiveness mean something else to you?

J x

Reinventing Your Life

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A bold claim indeed from Jeffrey Young & Janet Klosko, but one that I am finding to be actually quite true.

Please bear in mind this post is from my perspective as a service user and my experiences with schema therapy and that it may not be right for you but I would definitely recommend that if you are unhappy with your current therapy or mental health support that you discuss with your doctor or psychologist as to what would be the best option for you. Remember your happiness is vital.

As I’ve probably already mentioned I have gone through many different therapies. Each one has given me tools to use in my life and have helped (apart from the disastrous introduction I had to mental health support in which I made the counsellor break down in tears), however, I have always ended up back where I began despite knowing I have tools to use.

The latest therapy I have been referred to is Schema Therapy. I went from not knowing what a Schema was (I’ll talk more about these later), to having three introductory assessments with a psychologist (who came highly recommended to me by my cognitive behavioural therapist who I trusted, had seen some huge improvements with and most importantly got on well with) to starting the group.

The group is going to consist of 16 two hour sessions where we will work on our individual schemas. After two weeks of the group I can already see how if I stick with this I can really “reinvent my life”.

Obviously I’ll just be talking about me so some things may not make perfect sense but it’s important for the group to be confidential.

I won’t lie the first group session was hard. My previous experience of group therapy hadn’t been the most positive so I was already apprehensive and my schemas kicked in straight away in the group. I felt unworthy, that I would be judged, that I had no business being there and helpless that I couldn’t make everyone else in the group feel better. I’m not naive enough to think that other people don’t feel the way I do. I just hate the fact they do. They don’t deserve this pain.

Thankfully as part of the therapy you examine the things that trigger you, how it makes you feel, what behaviour you follow, what you think, what schema has been activated & how you can do things differently next time. So I logged all this down. It did affect my mood for the whole week and had knock on effect making me more prone to being triggered by various events through the week. It made me incredibly scared of going for the second session but I knew I had to go.

At the beginning of the second session the group were asked how they were feeling after the first session. I remained quiet, but of course the psychologists who run the session are so experienced they knew there was something wrong so I ended up saying how I felt and was reassured straight away. I now feel much more comfortable about going next week but still know it will be hard work and very draining, especially taking its toll on my POTS.

From my reading and therapy I understand that schemas are lifetraps that we get into that can then affect us in our day to day life. They tend to be formed when we are young and then reinforced through our lives. We then end up keeping ourselves in these lifetraps as we don’t know any different.

18 schemas have now been identified. The schemas can be found at http://www.schematherapy.com/id73.htm. . Everybody has these elements to some extent but it’s only when they are triggered to such an extent that they interfere with you leading a happy life or are over sensitive to them that they cause a problem and end up causing us more pain. Young and Klosko help people identify which schema (or schemas in most cases) are the ones that people should focus on improving. I have found that I definitely have one core schema (defectiveness) and believe that the other schemas that affect me all stem from this one. I may find that this is not the case as I progress but will let you know if I discover more on my journey.

I am now a lot happier that I have a group to discuss this with as when it comes to schemas I have found it is difficult to discuss them with those closest to you. As they are formed in childhood and are influenced by those around you it is hard for their schemas not to be triggered when you discuss your own. My sister became upset when she thought it was her fault that I felt defective after reading that defectiveness can come from being negatively compared to a sibling. As I explained to her she didn’t do anything wrong in being super clever, in fact I admire her for it, it was the people doing the comparing (not my parents I hasten to add) that were in the wrong.

I’m hoping to do a weekly update on my journey through this, please forgive me if I can’t as it is a very emotional and draining thing to talk about.

Taking inspiration from talking to a friend today and from The Women’s Room discussion on self care I’m also going to try to write a post about each of the schemas. I’ve not got experience of all of them so will start with the ones I know about and from my perspective (as we each handle them differently) but please let me know if you can add anything or if I can re-blog something you’ve posted that is relevant.

WTF is Schema?

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Today has not been the best of days. A couple of misunderstandings. Trying to get my mum with her sore throat & still bleeding nose to stop running around, stop talking, sit down & give the phone to my dad. Therapy was weird. My therapist has been fantastic, he has given me so many tips and I was feeling like I was getting so far and now although I have a few ways to handle my anxiety and depression I’ve still regressed.

 

Thanks to the NHS we can only have a maximum of 18 sessions and we are very close to the end of these and acknowledges I need more help, so he has recommended I speak to one of his colleagues on Tuesday and then have a kind of farewell round up with him after. I will miss him, he had good tips, was a great support & we really got on.

 

The idea of schema scares me slightly, all I know is that it’s an amalgamation of different therapies and group sessions were mentioned. I am TERRIFIED of group. I had bad experiences of it when I was in Leeds, I am scared of other people judging me, thinking what’s she got to be depressed about, etc?

 

Even thinking about it makes me want to cry. I have to try it. I want to be better. I hate feeling like this and I know it doesn’t help my POTS in the slightest. The more depressed and stressed I get the more POTSy I become, the more POTSy I become, the more anxious I become and then the more depressed I become. It is a horrible cycle where I’m afraid to leave the flat, am so dependant on my parents (to a stupid level – I’m 28 FFS), my friends are all married with kids and I am just going backwards.

 

My arm still hurts, my resting heart rate after lying in bed for 5 hours was 106 bpm which is the lowest it has been in ages (so that’s one thing) but when I get up and move it goes beyond the crazy to the point where I am resting in the hall between my bedroom and the front room. I just feel so tired. I feel guilty complaining as I know there are so many other POTS/dysautonomia patients out there who are in worse conditions and have families to look after too, and I seriously take my hat off to them.

 

My brain does not shut up.

 

I want to achieve so much. I’ve made so many lists of things I want to do and achieve and I’m never going to do them.

 

God, this was all self-indulgent drivel. If anyone has bothered to read this, I’m sorry for wasting your time!

 

J

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