I felt pretty awful when I woke up today and was glad that I hadn’t scheduled anything for today other than going for haircut, and that no interesting-looking job adverts had landed in my inbox overnight to demand my attention. The haircut was the usual awful experience. I realise now that having my hair cut trips a lot of autism and social anxiety reflexes (being around strangers; being touched; perhaps feeling vulnerable and exposed without escape; worry the barber will start making small talk to me). This has been the case since childhood, but has got worse over the last I-don’t-know-how-many-years (probably getting on for ten years) when I’ve had a problem with tremor. When I go for a haircut now, I worry I will start shaking, but it’s worrying that I might shake that often sets off the shaking. It wasn’t too bad today, but the barber did remember me from my previous haircut there, I suspect because he remembered me shaking.
On the plus side, today did give me a chance to try out some CBT techniques “in the field” so to speak. I found I was able to challenge my thoughts in the way I was taught and “prove” to myself that I am not doomed to be single or unemployed forever. The problem is that, contrary to CBT theory, I find that knowing that my thoughts are irrational does not affect the emotions I experience as a result of them. Even though I may not have evidence strong enough to convict someone in court that I will be single and unemployed forever (CBT demands a high standard of proof to permit anxiety), I feel I do have a lot of circumstantial evidence that does justify worrying (I have had few jobs, no full-time jobs, many of those jobs went badly or I was overqualified for, etc.). Nor do I think dismissing fears of the future as “hypothetical” really applies to something that will definitely happen one way or another (I will be employed or unemployed; I will be single or married (or divorced)). I also have a growing suspicion that my depressed and anxious thoughts are caused by my depressed and anxious emotions rather than the other way around. CBT theory states that thoughts cause emotions and doesn’t really acknowledge that the reverse can happen. This means that disproving the thoughts does not necessarily dissipate the bad mood as it should.
I don’t want to sound too negative, as CBT is helping a bit, even if it does feel a bit like putting a small plaster on a gaping wound that needs stitches. I am having more success with grounding techniques: telling myself that I am dealing with a lot of issues to calm myself and deal with self-blame. I am also trying to be aware of physical sensations to distract myself from negative thoughts. The latter is particularly good because my autistic stimming tends to take the form of applying pressure on parts of my body e.g. feeling the pressure of my chair on my spine or lightly trapping my fingers in the drawer and this can often be done discreetly in social situations although I fear that this would be considered an improper coping strategy that fuels the social anxiety. Sometimes it feels as if I can’t win.
The haircut was my main achievement for the day. I spent a bit of time working on my plan for a novel, but it was hard to concentrate as it’s quite a scary thing to contemplate doing. I still think I can do it and want to try. It’s weird to think that I don’t believe I can hold down a job or get married, which are things lots of people do easily, but I do believe I can write books, which is something many people would not even dream of attempting. Getting books published is another question.
I did a little bit of Torah study, but not much, but I did go to shul (synagogue). We didn’t get a minyan (prayer quorum), so we went to the other shul that uses that building (it’s really their shul, I think we just lease a room). They started fifteen minutes later, though, so we had to wait. It was an even more Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) shul than my one and I felt a bit out of place and was glad when the service finished.
I finished watching I Claudius. I could see that it was objectively good, but I found it hard to connect emotionally to it, even though I usually like “politicking” stories. Too many characters to keep track of with unfamiliar and similar names, and too many of those characters were fundamentally unsympathetic.
E. asked yesterday what one thing would make the biggest difference to my life. It’s hard to tell. Money would make a big practical difference, but wouldn’t alter low mood or the psychological need to feel like a contributor to others rather than a burden. I’ve wanted to be loved romantically for twenty years, and people around me say I always seem better when I’m in a relationship (which is a total of one year or so out of thirty-six) but I know that wouldn’t cure me and living with a wife (rather than parents) would bring in a whole load of new autistic, socially anxious and perhaps depressive issues. A contract to write books would be nice, I suppose, and I can write while depressed. But I find it hard to imagine being happy in the long term.
4 thoughts on “Thoughts vs. Feelings”
It’s good you can still write when you’re depressed.
Yes, it is. Writing here is my main release. I want to explore writing fiction and see if that can help too.
I think that the thoughts vs feelings is not a linear cause and effect but a cycle so each can reinforce the other. I think if you can break the cycle somewhere it can help – challenging your thoughts is just one way. But you can also redirect your feelings e.g. by relaxation – or in ways you already do e.g. engaging in mindful activity such as painting, writing, or running. Stimming is also a mindful activity — and there are many others.
You are probably right.