Friday, April 04, 2008

Self Esteem, Guilt and the Definition of Work

My appointment felt difficult in the beginning, but I really felt cared for and understood as it progressed. The past few days I have felt my mood slipping, along with my energy. I have really been fighting against both, but have had to nap for at least a couple hours in the late afternoon, early evening the past few days.

I got my period yesterday, which makes some of the slip make sense, because the two to three days before I menstruate I always feel absolutely I can hardly move. I get confused and really clumsy; tripping, bumping into thing and especially dropping things. Yesterday I poured myself a glass of water and promptly let it slip out of my hand. Water went everywhere. Immediately afterwards I realized I was getting my period. So maybe my dip in mood, my increased irritability and my fatigue can be explained by that. I hope so.

Today I talked to Dr. X about my paintings and the dynamics of shame, fear of judgement and embarrassment I felt around showing them to him. I also expressed how I felt like a little girl seeking approval when I showed him. I wanted him to be as excited as me, then afterwards I just felt like that was so childish and lame. He said everyone wants approval from others. I asked him: "Do you?", thinking he doesn't strike me as someone who feels the need for approval. His answer, "Yes I do" came so quick and was so sincerely spoken I really believe him.

Funny, I always think of him as a rebel, or a maverick. He seems to challenge the status quo and seems so much like I WANT to be; good at what he does AND confident in his approach, even if he is unsure of the outcome. He strikes me as a person who, while not dogmatic about which approach is right to achieve a specific outcome, is very confident in his approach towards his job. So confident that he is not afraid to say I do not know. To be like that you need self esteem and the freedom inside yourself to let your ego go and know your self, your core values and the beliefs about yourself, will remain intact even when you are being challenged by others. I do not feel that.

I feel that any challenge to my ability to achieve an outcome, or about the way I approach a task, or about the outcome of the task, is a defacement of my self. In the face of negative feedback I do not have the self esteem to stand up and say I am right, my work is valuable, my approach will work, and to follow through on my convictions.

One example of this is my approach to trying to get back to "work". My definition of work is so narrow and defined by my past, by my peers, by my insurance company, I would suggest by society in general: Work is a job you do in return for a regular paycheck.

Dr. X. seems to define what I am doing now to help myself as work: my volunteering, my painting, my artwork, my taking art classes, my helping others at the Art clubhouse, these things he calls work that is no less valuable than my definition. In fact I sense he believes, for me, it is MORE valuable than my own marred, achieving other's expectations filled, and guilt driven definition.

He said some people leave work on disability from a workplace that subjectively is unhealthy. These people will leave and find it helps them because, maybe for the first time in their lives, they begin to live a life that is meaningful and healthy. From what he said I think I fit into that category, but the glitch is I feel guilty about being reimbursed by my insurance for leaving a subjectively unhealthy job to now be doing things that are really healthy for me and getting paid by the very organization that was unhealthy for me?

It is all so very confusing


jcat said...

Work is weird, as are the definitions of what is or isn't work. I dropped out of IT to do the wildlife rehab, and treated it as a serious job. OK, then I ended up contracting back to IT which I still hate, but I also find strangely satisfying because it's something I am good at even while hating it. And it pays for the rehab side as well.

Stopping a job I hated and doing something I love hasn't prevented a 3 year dive, which surprises me.

I'm sorry that you have been feeling down-er than you were, but it probably is the period. I've heard some people say that they can tell exactly what day of the cycle they are on by the way they feel. Hopefully though, you'll bounce up again in a few days...

Me? Only difference the time of month makes is that I am so so horny immediately before and after!! Which is also weird, because theoretically those are safe times when one isn't likely to conceive, so nature should be driving you towards being hornier at other times, I'd figure.

Aqua said...

Hi Jcat,
That is so funny...I am exactly the same way. Rigt before my period and while I have my period I am always really turned onto sex. I've often wondered why this is fo9r the same reasons you suggest. Guess my evolutionary direction destined my genes to never end in procreation. I wonder if it has something to do with a subconscious, and/or conscious desire not to pass my broken genes (my MDD, OCD problems, Anxiety problems etc.))on to anyone else via procreation? My way of protecting the human gene pool?

To anyone who might misconstrue what I am saying: Of course...this is just MY choice. I am not suggesting that people with mental illnesses should not be born, simply that it was my choice to not pass on what I have struggled with.

Usiku (oo-SEE-koo) said...

I believe you are so close to achieving balance and obtaining the self-belief you say your doctor has. Your ability to articulate some of the components of a healthy mental/emotional state is wonderful. Many who believe themselves to be "normally functioning adults" are not as brave and insightful as you.

Aqua said...

Welcome Usiku,
Your comment to me really made my morning. It was so thoughtful and opened an important door in my mind. My pdoc once said, "you have wellness inside you". Your comment reinforces this thought. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am glad I discovered your blog. I am going in for my first counselling session today. This cycle of low self-esteem, guilt, anxiety is exhausting me.

Usiku (oo-SEE-koo) said...

Dear Anonymous,
I encourage you to also consider the following poetry and short stories of inspiration and self-esteem. They have helped me over a long journey.
Inspiration & Self-Esteem
Stay Determined and Ferociously Focused!