Lovable by Definition

“I’m too screwed up for people to accept me. There are too many things wrong with me to be liked or loved.” — Me

Rational Responses / Challenges:

1 Okay, so, how many things wrong with me would be an acceptable number, before I’m ‘right’ enough to be worthy of friendship or intimacy? What am I supposed to whittle it down to? . . . .The reality is that there are lots of screwed up people who have relationships – therefore that’s not really the issue. Maybe you’re just telling yourself that stuff in order to avoid dealing with the fear of rejection.

2 My self-worth and happiness cannot be dependent on what others think of me, since all those other people have different standards, likes and dislikes, values, and opinions; and I’d have to become a chameleon in order to match them all.

3 To be unlovable means no one can ever love you.* How likely is that? If even one person loves you, you are lovable by definition. Go ahead: deliberately try to inspire love and affection — how would you go about accomplishing it (how could anyone go about it)? Trying to do so would probably drive most people away.

Do you approve?

 

* Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: an A-Z of persuasive arguments, by Michael Neenan & Windy Dryden.

 

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Haven’t met enough people yet, have you?

  • I probably haven’t met enough people (there’s 7 billion of them out there) to conclude that I can’t get along with anyone or that no one would like me. Maybe I’m really not that bad a person.
  • Instead of predicting that I’ll be dull, incompetent, unlikeable, etc — how about I let others be the judge of that? (And they’re not really “judges” anyway!). Maybe, possibly, quite a few people already are willing to accept me, whether I change or not, and whether I do something to “earn” their acceptance or not. It’s possible that many people will feel friendly toward you regardless of how you perform.

Negative thinking: I hate it when that happens

~ 1 ~

NEGATIVE THOUGHT:
I’m running out of time to change my life. If I don’t change things soon — get a career, hobbies, friends, a woman, etc — it will be too late and my life will be an empty waste.

RATIONAL RESPONSE:
There will always be time to improve things in your life. Even in my old age, I could find friendship, meaningful things to do, and even romance. Maybe these feelings of worry aren’t a dysfunctional thing at all — maybe it’s just my heart telling me what I really desire.

~ 2 ~

I wrote this back in the summer of ’04, before the deep depression that struck me that summer had yet struck (the second of three major depressions I went through in a four-year period; yeah, ouch, I know; depression’s a bitch).

It was shortly after I’d seen a nationally-prominent sleep specialist. I’d thought I was seeing him to help me with insomnia. Ahhh, no.

Instead, he peppered me with personal questions about my lifestyle, hobbies, social activities, relationships, etc. I was surprised by the whole line of questioning. It was as if he was honing in on my social anxiety struggles (which I hadn’t even mentioned). He emphasized the point that the older a person gets the more crucial it is to have social interconnections and involvement with others (true’nuff). It was as if he was indicating to me that my sleep problems were due to social anxiety and this lack of social connections*.

Yikes. When you’re shy and avoidant, the last thing you want to go through is exposure. I hate it when that happens.

Of course I had little to tell him in response. I should’ve been able to describe my history of shyness and withdrawal, but with the mood that this exam had put me in, it didn’t even occur to me.

I hate it when that happens.

Looking back on it, he was simply being assertive and straight-to-the-point, and I guess I was thrown off balance by it.

I hate it when that happens.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t return to him. He did however prescribe something for me — Lexapro (as it’s called in the U.S.). Bad idea. I think it made me nearly suicidal, as some anti-depressants have a risk of doing. That is, I think it raised my ability to take the initiative before it had any effect on my mood. So I felt deeply depressed and I enough drive to take action on it.

But I’m still here, so you can tell how that episode turned out.

Be vigilant with new meds, boys and girls, is the lesson.

* I disagree with that diagnosis in my case, fwiw.

I am “Tim Gibula” and will get over it

Anxiety-Ridden Man Rightly Ashamed Of Every Single Thing He Does

I don’t read The Onion, but wow this one is too good to pass up. Somebody over there really understands what it’s like:

…sources close to Gibula told reporters his perpetual anguish over his words and actions could not be more justified, as all of his missteps—ranging from minor lapses of politeness to his overall slightly disappointing career trajectory—are immediately perceived by those around him as evidence of his inadequacy as a human being.

“Tim’s the kind of guy who is forever second-guessing his behavior, as if the people in his life are constantly scrutinizing every single move he makes, and he’s completely correct about that—we are,” said Paula Ramirez, a coworker who admitted she can barely look at Gibula without a medley of his most embarrassing moments replaying in her head. “Anytime he’s been petrified at the thought of social interaction or obsessively reexamined something he’s said, his fears have been entirely reasonable, given our nonstop monitoring of his behavior.”

A few days ago, I screwed up at work, and this is exactly how I reacted, going into the downward spiral of embarrassment and beating myself up and extending this harsh judgement to my entire life.

In addition, hundreds of slight acquaintances who may have only encountered Gibula once or twice claimed they were able to draw clear conclusions about his entire personality from the fact that he….”

I’m cutting off the quote right there, because you can just supply whatever it is in your own life that you feel ashamed of and fear everyone else would reject you over.

As a matter of fact, I once came up with a rational response for those times that I fretted over encounters with “slight acquaintances”, or even complete strangers. It’s simple: 5 minutes from now, will that person even remember me? Almost always the answer will be No, even if the encounter was pretty bad.

Here’s another saying I once read: You wouldn’t worry so much about what people think of you if you knew how seldom they did. (I’ve seen this attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, yet Dr. Phil claims his father used to say it. Well, maybe Phil’s dad heard it from the first lady.)

(Realize that this is how shy people with low self-esteem go through the day, every day. It really sucks. That’s why social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder are called disorders in the first place.)

The good news is that reading this story has gotten me out of the funk I’ve been in for the past few days. I feel more ready to get on with things and quit moping.

Go read the whole piece.

Hat Tip: The Social Phobic

 

Something besides Asperger’s

~ 1 ~

I want to believe encouraging thoughts.

Such as that life is positive, that I am capable of communicating with people successfully and enjoyably, that I’m not weird or at least don’t have to be weird, that I can engage others and have it go well. When you’re pessimistic and negative about yourself, it’s not necessarily the case that you want to be that way, rather it’s a defensive posture based on real world experiences of social interaction bitch-slapping you into shameful submission. Of course I’d like to feel positive and be optimistic about interacting with others. You think I wouldn’t? But then reality, real world experiences occur which  douse whatever little spark of optimism I might have had.

And how’s your day going?

~ 2 ~

I went to the store to pick up some prescriptions. On the way to the pharmacy dept, I crossed paths with:

(A.) a hipster – I can’t stand hipsters, because I feel inferior to them, for their ability to have crafted a noticeable image for themselves; for their ironic thick framed glasses while I’ve had to wear glasses most of my life not by choice and I’m sure it’s hurt my chances to be found attractive; and for their thick beards while I’ve always had thin scraggly facial hair; silly jealousy on my part, but regardless of my insecurities regarding hipsters, most of all I just can’t stand their pretentiousness.*

(B.) two separate HB’s (hot babes, i.e. attractive women) – makes me feel like crap, too, because as a non-douchebag kind of guy there’s no way that I’m going to approach them or say anything to them, instead telling myself well she probably doesn’t want to be bothered and besides she wouldn’t want a guy like me hitting on her, etc. Negative self-talk. Of course, those thoughts don’t appear in my head in the same way I just wrote them, above. It’s more like a lightning fast, quick flash of beliefs  through my mind in a split second.

That’s the Gatekeeper, the silently sly negative presence in me – not a literal presence, of course; and more of an insinuating attitude or mood (a flashmood, there’s a new term!)  than a voice, really – inside your head and inside your heart, tearing you down, holding you back, disparaging you, discouraging you, frightening you then turning around and comforting you after you’ve caved in to him. With all of that crap holding me back, I couldn’t even let myself notice girls much but instead try to hide it, worrying along the lines of: did she see me staring at her or lusting after her and will she be pissed or disgusted by it? Just keep going, bury it, repress it, you suck and you’ll always be alone because no way is a cute girl like that going to accept someone as broken as you.

Phew.
~ 3 ~

I’m always feeling embarrassed and self-conscious when I pick up my scrips because they’re psych meds and I’m ashamed of it. I want to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Take these and you'll be happy
So next, I’m standing in line at the pharmacy, waiting my turn . A customer ahead of me was at the counter to pick her scrips. My eyes were moving around, not staring at anything or anyone. Then I noticed the woman at the counter glanced back at me. How to describe the look on her face as tshe looked at me? It was a look of judgment. Examining me and wondering. Slight disapproval. That’s how my Gatekeeper interpreted it, anyhow, and told me that’s what she was doing. My Gatekeeper inferred that she was disapproving of me because I probably had a negative look on my face. maybe I was frowning or sad-looking or something. People have sometimes wondered why I had such a negative look on my face, most of the time when i wasn’t even aware that I had. So, I’ve become sensitive about it, and whenever someone seems to be examining me, I become self-conscious and worried that I have one of those sour looks on my face. It’s just how my face is. But it becomes a self-defeating cycle.

Next, my turn at the counter.

I gave the clerk my name. He had two scrips ready. I needed three. I really didn’t want to have to come back on Monday to pick up the third one when it’d be ready. I had wanted to make only one trip. It’s annoying. I should’ve called ahead of time, but (a) I thought I would be inconveniencing them by calling and asking if my scrips were ready because I know how busy pharmacy techs get** and I didn’t want to be a bother, and (b) I forgot, anyway.

I went ahead and purchased the two scrips that were ready.

He said, “…it’s going to be ten dollars would you like to sign up for our automatic refill plan we call ____ when they’re ready or we call you if there’s a delay in refilling ___ medication or we call and tell you if we couldn’t refill a prescription for these are these maintenance meds do you ___ want me sign you up?”

Did you have trouble reading that run-on sentence? Good. That’s how I heard it from him, all run together like that. The blanks are words I didn’t catch.

Now, he didn’t actually speak like that. He was not speaking too fast or too low. He spoke in a normal, regular, clear conversational tone. But the run-on is how I heard it. There’s something strange about the way I listen to people. It takes me lots of time to process what they just said and to understand the words they just spoke, and my brain scrambles to define the terms they’ve just used (such as “maintenance” – are these really maintenance drugs, I mean, what if the dosage changes, that’s not technically maintenance is it, or is it?). However, there isn’t enough time for me to do all of that processing and still keep up with the conversation. So, I have to respond in an appropriate time frame. So, I get confused and usually just go along with whatever it was they said since I didn’t have time to understand half of it (most normal people would) but I don’t want to be thought of as an idiot or be a nuisance by forcing them to slow down to my level.

Since the clerk was standing at the computer while he spoke, I thought he’d just click on something to sign me up. Another failure to interpret other people, on my part, because after I paid, he slid a small form in front of me. It was a hard copy of the automatic refill sign up form. It took me a couple seconds to realize it.

He said, “the form ___ I just need you to ___ name ___ phone number or we can text you we email you call you ___ home phone or text message __”

“Okay.” Just go with the flow.

“…your mobile number in case ___ we have to ___ also…

I reached for the form. My brain was sludge. I didn’t have time to interpret everything he just instructed me to do. (My thoughts trying, trying to keep up and work quickly.) I’d prefer that they contact me by text – better than talking – but what do I write down next to the text message check box? My cell phone number, yes it’s just a prepaid phone I have but it does get texts, so do I write down that number? But wait, is there like a separate number or special code you put down next to your number than indicates it’s a text message? I do so little texting that I’m just not sure, and what if write down the number and that’s not the way to do it, he’ll think I’m an idiot – I shouldn’t have done this, said yes, but I thought he was going to just sign me up in his computer.

I wrote my cell number next to the text message check box, and also next to where it said mobile phone. As I did so, I heard him say “uhhh” or “oh!” or “whup!” – something like that, which I took to mean he was stopping me.

“What did I do?” I said. “Show me what I did…” my voice trailing off. I was going into helpless mode, giving up the pretense of control or knowing what I was doing. Just like at K.C.I. airport at the end of my Topeka trip.

“Nothing. It’s okay,” he said. “That’s good.”

I signed the form and slid it back to him.

I walked away, feeling defeated, thinking I’d screwed up somehow. Or that’s what the negative thoughts assaulting me were implying. Maybe it was just my imagination, but even if that were the case, then it being-just-in-my-head was itself indicative that I’m all screwed up! Damned if you do….

~ 4 ~

On the walk out of the store I saw a few more HB’s. (Boy, there are some real MILF’s in my neighborhood). This added to my bad mood. I try to avoid seeing HB’s because of that. Kind of hard, though.

Real life occurs too fast for me to keep up. I wish I had a pause button, like Adam Sandler’s character in Click, so that when spoken to, I could hit pause and take a moment to understand all the words that were said and come up with a non-retarded response.

I don’t think this is Asperger’s Syndrome that I have. I don’t fit the profile. I believe I’m generally able to figure out what others are doing and saying and how they’re behaving, and so forth. It’s more like I have no confidence that I’m interpreting those words and behaviors accurately, though I usually am. It’s also a bit like a very mild autism, in which I’m too easily overwhelmed by the speed of real life and all of the sensory input that surrounds me and distracts me to the point where I can’t wait to get away from it.

I’m still basically socially functional, and I’m afraid I just come off as aloof, disinterested, and stuck up.

Amazing how a simple trip to the store can wear you down. And it just reinforces my tendency to want to avoid going out anywhere. I mean, for pete’s sake, if I can’t even do this without “screwing up” (real or not), how could I go out and socialize? Pfffftt.

~ Footnotes ~

* See Die Hipster Die; it’s a clever blog.

** I’ve read the Angry Pharmacist‘s blog, and it’s funny as hell, but I think I’ve internalized his travails and rants and feel intimidated!

It followed me from Topeka

~ 1 ~

If your happiness depends on hiding from certain people and situations, what happens when you can’t hide? There comes a point where you just have to let things happen as they will. You just have to accept your situation and stop trying to fight it. That’s what happened. . . .

I handed my ticket to the clerk and said, “I had reservations to depart tomorrow, but I’m leaving early. I don’t know how to fly Stand-By because I’ve never done it before. What do I need to do?”

He didn’t laugh at me. He didn’t frown at me. He didn’t bite my head off. He simply explained how I could do it. Very helpful.

So, that was the first instance, on that day, that long Thursday, in which I gave up the pretense of knowing what I was doing like the typical normal person does. I was tired and worn out and some of my defense mechanisms were already down.

This was sort a of a good thing, though I’m not sure I realized it at the time.

I wasn’t tense anymore, just a bit depressed – but I was on my way home.

This being a United flight, it got routed through Denver, not straight on to SeaTac. There were no meals to be served on either of my flights, when I arrived in Denver I overpaid for a ham sandwich and coleslaw and a cookie at an airport deli, to keep from starving. Thing about airports – I used to get excited there, but now, on this trip, it was just another tipping point into feeling defeated and depressed.

How come?

It seems paradoxical, but avoidants are “lonely loners.”

As mentioned previously, I had arranged my life so as to minimize social exposure because it was so painful and confusing. (Again, refer to AVPD). Well, a big part of this strategy of hiding from the world was the effort I put into avoiding even seeing or hearing and affectionate couples attractive girls. I just couldn’t bear it and it would depress me. So I tried to practice what-you-don’t-see-can’t-hurt-you, by avoiding it as much as possible. The roots of this habit go back to high school, but hit its stride in my twenties. It degenerated into an aversion. I remained a virgin and never had a relationship. I buried how much this hurt. For the most part it succeeded.

At the airports and on the planes, I had to see and hear other people. No way to get around it. Normal, happy people talking and laughing and hugging each other – good, warm human activity, but it forced me to face how alone I really was in the world. This was one time I couldn’t hide from it. And all the attractive women! Sexy, desirable… and unapproachable, because I was feeling overwhelmed by all of this and had nowhere to run.

I’d gotten away from the “strangers” in my class, but here I was in another situation where my defense mechanisms were breaking down.

On the flight from Denver to SeaTac they showed “About A Boy” on the cabin video screens. I watched it, and I do mean watched because I wasn’t about to pay for a pair of headphones, so I couldn’t hear any of the dialog. Great, just what I wanted to see, a romantic comedy. Bloody Hugh Grant.

Still of Hugh Grant, Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult in About a Boy

I don’t know what they’re saying.
(c) 2002 – Universal Studios; Courtesy IMDB

~ 2 ~

Next up, the Red-Haired Girl and the Intense Stare Girl.

The Red-Haired Girl was there at K.C.I. when I first noticed her. She was there on my flight to Denver. She was there at the same gate at Denver and there in line ahead of me to board the connecting flight to SeaTac. Could not avoid seeing or hearing her. And she was on her cell phone unceasingly. It never left her side – the side of her head that is.

She was one of the kinds of girls I like: Short red hair, and fair skin with hardly any freckles. Green eyes behind nerdy glasses. Nice figure, the kind that looks good in denim, which is what she was wearing.

I wanted her. That’s a bad thing – desire – when you’re like me. Normally, I would’ve been able suppress this, but in my present state I didn’t have the will. I was feeling sapped. So I just let it be there, since I couldn’t make it go away.

The plane landed at SeaTac after dark. United’s terminal is located in a newer building that is physically separated from the main terminal. There is an underground tunnel that connects the two, and you have to ride a tram or subway of sorts to get to and from the United terminal. The tram arrived and the doors wooshed open and we all got off. To get to the escalators that lead to the main terminal floor, I began crossing an open, tile-floored area.

A woman was walking towards me, heading for the tram in order to board it. She was short, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and wore a trench coat. She was pretty cute. She was looking right at me.

She was the Intense Stare Girl.

I mean it. She was looking directly at me. As we walked towards each other, she kept her eyes fixed on mine. As we got closer the angle at which we faced was getting more oblique, yet she just shifted her eyes to keep them on me. And she had an intense look on her face, which is hard to describe. It was aggressive, burning, passionate, and almost hostile. Frankly, to this day I’m not sure if her strong reaction to me was positive or negative, lust or rage. No one had ever looked at me like that. It was disconcerting, but it also turned me on (!)

After she passed, I stopped. I turned around and watched her back as she walked away. I had an urge to go catch up with her before she boarded the tram. Something optimistic in me suggested that she was attracted to me. But what to say to her? I guess I could’ve said something bland and beta, such as “Excuse me, can I help you with something? I noticed you looking at me, is everything okay?”

I hesitated, and the opportunity passed.

I ascended to the main concourse to wait for my luggage. I stood in place at the bag carousel. On the other side of it, who was there but Red-Haired girl! She was speaking on her phone. I was still a little churned up from the Intense Stare Girl event and had an urge to approach Red-Haired Girl. But I thought I’d be interrupting her conversation, and besides, why would she be interested in me? Blah, blah. Any guys reading this who have had approach-anxiety freeze them in their tracks know the experience.

So, I never saw Red-Haired Girl or Intense Stare Girl again.

And yes, these experiences, too, added to the overall worn-out sense of giving up and defeated acquiesence I’d been feeling since the day before, back in Topeka.

~ Notes ~
To get caught up on the events leading up to the scenario I just described, please go read the previous post – hey, better yet, go back to the very beginning of this blog and start reading everything. Everything! Do it now! Actually, it’s not much to read, because this blog is still new.