So I forget if I mentioned this but I got accepted into another group therapy thing. It’s Monday-Thursday, two hours in the afternoon, for four weeks. It annoys the shit out of me that my local mental hospital seems to assume that nobody coming in for these programs has a JOB, but whatevs. I don’t have a lot of gigs at this time of year so I can make it work.
This program comes with a weekly one-on-one therapy session. My first one was today. It went differently than I expected but still made me cry pretty much like I assumed it would.
What I expected was that we’d do more cognitive behavioural therapy stuff. The therapist had told me ahead of time to write down ten things that cause me anxiety, from least scary to most, and bring it to our session. I figured at the session we’d talk about the first thing or two on the list and he would give me homework meant to help me get past my anxiety about them. Pretty sure that’s what he was planning on happening, too.
Instead, pretty soon into the session, he asked out of the blue “Do you brush your teeth?” That…was a seemingly random but weirdly astute question. No; no, I do not. He asked me to describe my thought processes around that and I couldn’t really explain why I don’t. It used to be because my physical health was so bad that I couldn’t comfortably stand up for that long, but that’s not the case anymore. And pretty much every day I think about brushing my teeth and how if I don’t I’ll probably rack up a huge dental bill and ruin the expensive crowns I paid for a few years back, and I freak myself out, and yet…
Dude asked if perhaps I don’t feel worthy of self-care. And…I…lost it.
He’s right. I’d buried it so deep that I didn’t even know until he said it, but yeah, I feel like taking any time at all to take care of myself is…wasteful or selfish or something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do things that feel good to me in an instant gratification sort of way. I’ll eat a whole container of ice cream; I’ll give myself orgasms. I tell myself, fuck it, what’s life without enjoyment? I’m the one in this body so I might as well have a little fun sometimes, right?
And I’ll do the practical things necessary to keep myself going – make sure I eat my veggies (because I need to pay my rent so I’m not homeless, which means I need to properly fuel myself so I can do my job well), do my laundry (because if my clothes smell like armpit, people will detect it and everyone will think of me as unhygienic and possibly fucked in the head and this will affect my interactions with people in a negative way). But I can’t seem to make myself do things just so I’ll feel better. Even with seeking therapy, yeah I did that because I want to feel better, but I find myself frequently justifying it to myself with thoughts like “I need to fix my brain so I’m capable of doing other kinds of work in case modelling falls out from under me somehow.” Just feeling better isn’t reason enough.
I think this feeling of not being worth self-care may be a big reason why I never did my therapy homework the last time around, and a big reason why I’ve been maybe 30lbs overweight for a couple of years (I can be this weight and it doesn’t interfere with my livelihood or whether I can get laid. Maybe it’s unhealthy (or maybe not, I dunno) and I have no clothes that fit and I wish I were thinner, but JUNK FOOD IS DELICIOUS). Even with cleaning the apartment I have to justify it (I’ll be able to find my shit more easily, which will help me not be late for work. If the landlords need to come in all of a sudden, I won’t look like some kind of sloppy monster).
And I’m pretty sure I never used to be quite this bad. I used to like shopping for warm clothes when the weather got colder. I used to (I think?) take naps sometimes just because I was sleepy, and I didn’t have to guilt myself into it by telling myself all the ways that being sleep deprived might fuck up my life. I don’t understand why I’m like this, now. The thought of spending ten minutes just doing something that’s good for me feels like a total waste of time; it makes me feel guilty. I thought I had decent self-esteem. Is it possible to have decent self-esteem and yet not feel like you deserve to be healthy?
The therapist said that doing cognitive behavioural therapy on me right now wouldn’t be all that productive, given that I have such a hard time believing it’s okay to take care of myself. Holy shit…that’s so fucking obvious but I just never even thought of it.
So my homework for the week is to look at myself in the mirror every morning and say hi (the therapist sees that I spend a lot of my time putting up a front that I’m doing fine, and feels it would be beneficial for me to see myself without my “mask” on), brush my teeth, and then sit quietly for ten minutes and focus on my breathing (he noticed that I breathe really shallowly and he knows that if I force myself to breathe more deeply it’ll help with my anxiety). I feel like the saying hi to the mirror is not too huge a deal, but the rest of it made my chest seize up so I could barely even breathe.
This oughta be…interesting.