peer support

On being in school and working

anonymous asked:
What are some ways to balance work and school? Cus I’m working 25 to 30 hours a week and taking only three classes and I’m still behind. I don’t know how some people work fulltime AND go to school fulltime while paying rent and having kids.

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know how people balance that kind of schedule with school/kids/work. I think that it’s nearly impossible and that most people couldn’t do it.

Here are a couple of things I do know about passing classes under time pressure:

Choose your classes carefully:

  • Not all classes are equally time-consuming.
  • If you’re working a lot of hours, it’s probably better not to take all the really time-consuming classes in the same semester
  • (Eg: if you’re taking a class that has five papers, or lots of complicated programming assignments, it might be better not to take others than are like that at the same time).
  • It can also go a lot better to select classes based on who is teaching them rather than based on which description theoretically looks best
  • Classes go much more smoothly with teachers you’re readily compatible with
  • (particularly if you tend to need a lot of help)

Consider taking classes that are relevant to your work:

  • If some of what you’re working on at work can inform your class assignments, that makes life a lot easier
  • For instance, it’s much easier to write a paper on something you’ve researched for work than it is to research something else *and* what you have to work on at work
  • And more generally: if the concepts you’re learning in school are related to and overlapping with what you think about at work, it will be much less time consuming than if you have to do both separately
  • This can be true even if your work isn’t particularly intellectual on the face of it. No matter what your job is, it involves knowing things, and classes are easier if you can make knowing those things relevant.

It is possible to pass classes without doing all of the reading:

  • Most people don’t do all of the reading (except in seminar classes in which most of class consists of an in-depth group discussion of the reading). 
  • If you are struggling to keep up, you may well be doing more of the reading than you should be.
  • It’s worth learning how to skim text in order to get the basic ideas
  • When a teacher cites something a lot in class, it’s generally worth reading it again after more closely

Having a study group or partner helps in several ways:

  • Perspective from other people can make it easier to tell whether you’re understanding what you need to understand
  • It can also make it easier to tell whether you’re doing *more* work than you need to in order to keep up and pass.
  • You can also pool knowledge. There will always be things that some people get and some people miss, and some people talk about it.
  • Meeting with others at a set time to do the work for a class can stop it from expanding to fill all available space
  • Even if you don’t have a regular study group, sometimes you can organize review sessions before tests. Those can also be helpful in similar ways.

Anyone want to weigh in? How do you pass classes when your schedule is very difficult?

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now they say they’re not judging you which means you can’t trust your own perceptions)
realsocialskills said:
  
One thing that’s important here is that distorted thinking and gaslighting are not mutually exclusive. When you know that you have distorted thinking, gaslighting abusers sometimes exploit that to get you to doubt your perceptions. Even when you are having an episode of actively distorted thinking, that doesn’t mean that the things someone else wants you to believe are necessarily true.
  
I think there are a couple of things that can help to sort out what’s really going on and what’s distorted thinking: outside perspective, and paying attention to your perceptions over time.
 
Regarding paying attention to your perceptions over time: Even if you have depression, you’re not always going to be equally depressed. Even if you have anxiety, you’re not always going to be equally anxious. If you still don’t like what someone is doing to you even when you’re not actively anxious or depressed, it’s probably not distorted thinking.
  
Also, if every time you object to something someone does, they consistently convince you that it’s distorted thinking, something is probably wrong for real. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you’re both depressed *and* reasonably objecting to something. If someone consistently uses your mental illness to try to make conflicts go away, that’s gaslighting and wrong even if your perspective actually is distorted.
   
 (That said, if you’re actively anxious or depressed, it can be hard to tell in the moment whether or not something is a pattern. It’s possible to feel like it is a pattern when it isn’t, due to distorted thinking. That’s a reason why it can be really helpful to pay attention to how you feel over time.)
   
One way to keep track of how you feel over time is to write a journal. If you write a journal, you can pay attention to how you felt yesterday and whether you still feel that way today. Writing down your perspective is a more reliable way to track things over time than relying on memory. It’s hard to have accurate memories of how you’ve felt over time, and it’s particularly difficult to have accurate memories of what you thought when your thinking was distorted. (That said, journaling does not work for everyone, and if you can’t do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure things out.)
  
Outside perspective can also help a lot. That’s one reason that therapy is very helpful to a lot of people who struggle with distorted thinking. If you can find a therapist who you can trust to have a good sense of when you’re probably getting something right and when it’s probably depression/anxiety-related distorted thinking. This backfires horribly if your therapist *isn’t* trustworthy. I don’t really have any advice about how to find a good therapist (I wish I did, and if I ever figure it out, I’ll post about it), but I know that for many people it is both possible and important to find a good therapist. 
  
Personal blogging can also help as a way to track your perceptions over time and get feedback, but be careful about that. Personal blogging attracts two kinds of people who can create problems for those who struggle with distorted thinking: mean people who try to make you feel awful about yourself, and people who unconditionally offer you validation no matter what you say or do. Neither of those kinds of perspectives are helpful for sorting things out. In some ways, unconditional validation is particularly dangerous, *especially* if there’s a possibility that you’re abusing someone.
  
Friends and relatives can also sometimes be really helpful, particularly if they know the people involved or observe things.
 
If you have a sibling you can trust (not everyone does, but some people do), you might be able to have this kind of conversation:
  • You: Sarah, when Mom made that face, was she judging me or was I imagining it?
  • Sarah: Yeah, that’s definitely her judgey face. 
  • or, depending on what she thinks:
  • Sarah: Actually, I think she probably didn’t mean it that way this time. She just talked to me about her obnoxious boss and I think it was her pissed at my boss face.
Similarly, friends sometimes have a really good sense of what’s going on. 
   
The caution about blogging goes for consulting friends/family and other forms of peer support. Be careful about people who offer unconditional validation of all of your thoughts and feelings no matter what. That can end up reinforcing distorted thinking, which is not going to help you learn how to improve your perspectives and trust yourself when your perceptions are accurate.
  
People who are offering you useful perspective will sometimes tell you that they think your perceptions are off base, and they will not be jerks about it when they are critical. They will also not try to coerce you into adopting their perspective. Sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes you will disagree with them and be right. You are allowed to think for yourself, even if your thinking is sometimes distorted. No one else can think for you, even if you go to them for perspective and help sorting things out.
tl;dr: Gaslighting and distorted thinking are not mutually exclusive. It’s common to experience both, even simultaneously. If you have distorted thinking, people inclined to gaslight you tend to exploit it. Tracking your perceptions over time, and getting outside perspective, make it much easier to sort out what’s actually going on. Sometimes therapy is helpful. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes friends and family are helpful. Be careful about trusting people who are mean to you or who offer unconditional validation. 
 
What do y'all think? How do you protect yourself from gaslighting when you struggle with distorted thinking?

On feeling like you have no right to call yourself disabled

I have depression and OCD and I keep feeling like I don’t have the right to consider myself disabled or seek accomodation because they’re mental illnesses. How do I shake that feeling?
realsocialskills said:
I think that it might help to realize that self-doubt is normal for people with disabilities. I think most of us feel that way, regardless of what kind of disability we have. 
The reason this is important to understand is that often, when we feel doubt, it can feel like evidence that there’s a *reason* to feel that kind of doubt. But it it isn’t. Most people with disabilities feel that way.
I don’t think this actually has much to do with your particular conditions being mental illnesses. 
Categories don’t matter, except for some practical reasons like access to services and making it easier to find other people who get it. What matters is what your needs are. If you need accommodations in order to function well, it’s important to seek them out. Spending a lot of mental energy agonizing over whether or not you deserve them is not going to do you or anyone any good.
I think part of the reason a lot of us feel this way is that we never really see descriptions of disabled folks who resemble us, but we see a LOT of descriptions of disability that don’t match us at all.
Think about what the media’s like. It’s full of people who bravely overcame their disabilities. It’s also full of stories like “the doctors said my baby would never walk, but we didn’t listen to those doctors and now she’s an honor student!”. It’s also full of smutty stories about people who didn’t overcome their impairments suffering and dying and being mysterious unpeople. Or as having super powers, or as having a disability kind of like an accessory, without it affecting their life in any significant way. None of these descriptions match what people with disabilities are actually like, but they are *the only ones we ever see*.
And even beyond what the media says, most people without disabilities have no idea how wrong these descriptions are. It’s jarring. 
When your actual experience with disability bears little resemblance to what everyone around you thinks disability is like, it’s easy to feel like a fraud.
One thing that helps with that is seeking out other people with disabilities similar to yours who think of disability in a matter-of-fact way, and work on trying to live well with your kind of disability. When you talk to people who get it, it makes it a lot easier to realize that what you are experiencing is real.
So, for you, it would probably be really helpful to find more people with depression and OCD to talk to, and more authors with depression and OCD to read.
Also, be careful about exposing yourself to people who yell a lot about fake disabled people or appropriation. Those people are wrong, but what they say hits insecure disabled folks really hard. If you’re not confident about yourself, you can get hurt really badly by that ideology.
Do any of y'all have suggestions either of good resources for depression/OCD community, or other ways of coping with feeling like you don’t have the right to consider yourself disabled?

Shopping for clothes

anonymous asked:
Hello, thank you for running this blog. I was wondering if you have any ideas on how to make shopping for clothes less overwhelming? I almost never buy new clothes until mine are full of holes because of a few reasons, but mostly because I get stressed out in clothing stores and even while shopping online because of how many things there are. Thank you!

realsocialskills said:

Most stores that sell clothing are also very overloading on a number of levels

  • It might be helpful to listen to music on headphones while you shop
  • Pay attention to which stores are more overloading, and try to shop at the ones that are easier to deal with
  • When you get overloaded or overwhelmed, it can be really helpful to stop and hold onto something solid (eg: a clothing rack, a shopping cart) for a couple of minutes until you feel more grounded

It might be helpful to have someone shop with you:

  • Some people get distracted and overloaded alone, but not with other people
  • Sometimes another person can help you narrow down decisions
  • Sometimes another person can notice signs of overload and help you come out of it
  • Sometimes just having someone else there can make it easier to have perspective
  • This doesn’t work for everyone, and for some people having someone else can make it worse. But it works really well for some people

When you find something you like, buy more than one of it

  • Then when it wears out or is in the wash or whatever, you’ll still have one
  • If you want one, you probably want more than one
  • Clothing is easier when a lot of it is the same
  • If you are a woman and will be socially penalized for wearing the same shirts style all the time, you can sometimes fix this by having a lot of scarves and wearing a different one every day.

Notice brands you like

  • If you like a particular brand, it’s likely that you’ll keep liking stuff from that brand even as they change it
  • The same brands are usually in the same places in the store
  • And if not, you can look for them on purpose instead of being completely overwhelmed by all the options

Different kinds of stores are different, and some might be more or less overloading:

  • For instance, The Burlington Coat Factory has racks where all the skirts in a particular range of sizes are. And then you can flip through.
  • Most other stores have racks with one particular thing in several different sizes, organized by designer and loosely organized be levels of fanciness
  • Depending on how you think, one or the other style of store might be dramatically easier for you to deal with
  • For instance, if I know that I want a shirt, I usually find it easier to go to a store that has all the shirts in my size in one place.
  • If I need various different pieces of clothing, I often find it easier to go to a store that’s organized by brand, so I can get various things in a brand I know I like

Some stores have people who can help you shop

  • This seems like it is probably helpful to some people, but as of yet, I am not one of those people, so I can’t tell you much about it
  • I am hoping other people will have more of a sense of how this can be helpful

Do any of y'all have suggestions about making clothes shopping manageable? 

When food is too hard

Related to the remembering food exists thing, do you have any advice for what to do when your depression is making preparing food seem so hard that you’d nearly prefer to just go hungry?

 

A couple of suggestions:

Order a pizza, or some other form of food that gets delivered to you

  • Hunger feeds on itself and makes everything harder
  • If you’re in a state of mind where preparing food seems too difficult to be bearable, ordering food can often break that cycle
  • So can getting takeout or going to McDonalds
  • This is not a frivolous expense
  • And it’s not necessarily more expensive than preparing your own food. McDonalds has a dollar menu.
  • When you’re starving from not eating, it is not the time to worry about health food. Making sure that you eat comes first. Eating anything (that you’re not allergic to) is healthier than regularly going hungry because you can’t bring yourself to eat.

Keep stuff around that’s easy to eat and doesn’t require any preparation or only need to be microwaved, for instance:

  • A box of cereal
  • Chocolate
  • Granola bars
  • Ice cream
  • Popsickles
  • Protein shakes
  • Rice cakes
  • Peanut butter
  • TV dinners
  • Frozen chicken nuggets
  • It can also help to keep around disposable plates and utensils so the thought of having to wash dishes doesn’t deter you from eating

Get someone else to tell you that you need to eat:

  • Sometimes it’s easier to remember that eating is important if someone else tells you
  • For instance, if you text a friend saying “remind me that I need to eat” and they do, that can sometimes make it more possible

Get someone else to talk you through the steps of making food:

  • If there’s someone you can ask how to find/make food, that can be helpful
  • Sometimes what’s really exhausting is not so much doing the steps, as it is anticipating them, or figuring out what they are
  • If someone can help you through that, it can make it much more possible

remembering that food exists

It can be hard to remember that food exists, or notice it while it’s there.

I know a few things that work for some people to mitigate this problem:

For some people, cooking for other people regularly makes it easier to notice that food exists:

  • Sometimes remembering to cook for other people works as a reminder that you need to cook and eat
  • Sometimes the motor/sensory/tactile experience can make it easier to remember that you have food
  • Because for some people, motor memory works better than visual memory

For some people, asking other people for direct help is useful:

  • If you feel like you need to eat, asking a friend to tell you to eat might help
  • Or asking them what you should eat
  • Or how to find the food
  • Some people who can’t figure out food for themselves, *can* tell other people how to find food
  • So if you and a friend both have this problem, you might still be able to help one another

Stashing food in places where you’ll see it can also help:

  • Keeping a box of cheerios or granola bars or something else that lasts a while by your computer might work as a reminder that food exists

These are strategies I know about. Do any of y'all know about others?

Self-diagnosis

manic-depressed-pixi-dream-bitch:

realsocialskills:

deducecanoe:

I think we need to establish the difference between actual real self-diagnosis, which a lot of people do with a LOT of conditions before they bother going to the doctor for ANYTHING from athlete’s foot to depression and autism, and using hyperbole in a harmful manner to express something about yourself (OMG I am SO ADD today) or use it as an insult to hurt others (god, I hate her, she’s so bipolar). The latter two hurt actual people with actual conditions.

The first one, we ALL do. Some people don’t have access to medical care and make due with what they have available. Some people don’t want to spend the money/time going to the doctor if it is something they can rule out on their own. Ok, it’s not an allergy, I changed my laundry soap, I changed to all cotton socks, I tried over the counter athlete’s foot cream, obviously it is time to go to the doctor’s. Then you can tell them all of the things you have tried, instead of them sending you home with a list of things to try that you could have saved the copay on. Even with mental illnesses or differences—we wonder what is wrong with us, and do some research, or talk to people who have similar experiences to us, and a light comes on.

Honestly, doctors were medicating me for ADD for YEARS because of poor executive function. But what it was was anxiety and autism, so the ADD meds were making it worse. If I would have BOTHERED to read up on my actual symptoms, I might have saved myself 15 years of doing things that didn’t work. I was diagnosed purely on accident when I went to a walk-in clinic during a meltdown.

There is a HUGE difference between seeking an actual diagnosis that suits symptoms before you go to the doctor, or because you can’t go to the doctor and a) harmfully using hyperbole to illustrate something about yourself (sadness level, how scatterbrained you are today, etc) or b) using a type of illness/condition as an insult.

I think this discussion is getting derailed on the actual useful types of self-diagnoses, and appropriate types of self-diagnosis (or even just health exploration… COULD it be this?) and harmfully throwing around medical terms.You know?

This.

I self-diagnosed for years as bipolar. This has been confirmed as correct by doctors at this point. But there are things I could have done so much better. I did not do nearly enough research. I could have understood so much more about myself if I had even looked at the wiki page a little harder. I did not understand the difference between hypomania and mania, nor did I fully understand the difference between BP1 and BP2. I also could have looked into ways of managing bipolar without a therapist or drugs. Doing as much research as possible is super helpful when self-diagnosising, and can be a good way to find support. Like I have a message board I go to from time-to-time when I have a question now. That would have been super helpful like 3 years ago.

Yes.

That’s also really, really important with a professional diagnosis, too.

Professional medical support can be important, but it doesn’t replace peer support or your own knowledge.