A New Milestone in Therapy: Part 2

[CW: descriptions of ways alcoholics and people under the influence of alcohol behave that can be harmful, especially to others]

In my last post I described 3 of the people I’ve been working with, ways in which some of their behaviors are reflective of (and/or caused by) the influence of alcohol, and weird psychological dynamics I’ve been experiencing with them. Today’s session with Wakana, which just ended, expanded on that discussion.

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A New Milestone in Therapy: Part 1

[CW: descriptions of ways alcoholics and people under the influence of alcohol behave that can be harmful, especially to others]

Okay, this is becoming antertaining – yes, fingers, ants. “Ants” pretty much sums it all up.

So, cast of characters:
Mo – the “friend” who manipulated me, then moved
Ron – the “friend” who keeps saying things that make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong
Carl – the person I know is actually my friend, even though he occasionally annoys me

I was telling my music therapist, Wakana, about the above individuals – all of whom I’ve had crushes on, by the way – in a rather interesting session on Tuesday. Continue reading

Building Confidence Through Experience

I’ve been meaning to get back into blogging for a while now. There’s so much, I’m really not sure where to start. And there’s always the intimidation of a blank page… I’ve gone to start a new post many times, then backed out.

Nearly every time, this saved draft has come up. I’ve tried deleting it – I wrote it in early June for crying out loud! – but still it remains. I read it this morning and nearly cried at the end. I’ve come so far since writing this. I’m gonna go ahead and let it speak for itself:

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The Way of the Voice

Working on my Let’s Play has the potential to help me become more intentional in how I use my voice. Creating an episode is a process that I’d estimate is about 1/4 recording and 3/4 editing, the latter of which involves a significant amount of time listening (and re-listening) to my commentary. It gives me the opportunity to hear my voice as someone else might: without the lower frequencies I’m used to hearing and containing unintentional fluctuations that can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

When I said I like the way my voice sounds in my last post, I meant that the absence of the lower frequencies doesn’t bother me. I’ve also learned to speak with a deeper, more adult-sounding voice – well, most of the time. My voice as it’s recorded for the commentary usually sounds like a me I want others to perceive. I consider that to be a rather awesome accomplishment.

As I’ve been listening to my commentary, I’ve come to notice unintentional fluctuations in the volume, energy, pitch, and rhythm of my voice. It tends to get softer and its rhythm more erratic at points that are unscripted, so my focus is diverted to figuring out what I want to say and how to word it. Sometimes the volume – at least as it’s measured by my audio editing software – will be the same, but my voice will sound… smaller, perhaps more child-like. The pitch can be all over the place and too often rises at the end of statements, which drives me crazy because it sounds like I’m constantly asking questions.

I don’t know if others would interpret these fluctuations the same way, but to me they all come together to make it sound like I’m uncertain about what I’m saying, perhaps seeking validation or approval. If I do this in my real-life interactions, people might think I’m incompetent or lack confidence or I’m asking them for help; this might contribute to others (including Wakana) “taking over” and telling me what to do. That’s not how I want to be treated, but it’s how I’m unintentionally asking people to treat me. I need to figure out how I want people to treat me (like an equal? like a competent adult?) and learn to present myself that way.

I’ve tried to mitigate this, with some interesting effects. In one episode I noticed that my request to “please subscribe” sounded like a plea, as though I were desperate for followers. In a later episode I intentionally tried to drag the pitch of my voice downward, in hopes of at least providing some variety. When I listened to the recording I thought I sounded like a bitchy teenager, complete with huffing and rolling my eyes. I immediately deleted both of these atrocities out of their respective episodes. (Thank goodness we can do that!)

I recognize that 1) I’m probably being more critical of myself than others would be of me, 2) I might be looking at myself through depression and/or anxiety goggles, and 3) different people might not even notice these fluctuations, or might interpret them in different ways. Ideally I can ask others for feedback – actually, Wakana would be the perfect person to ask; as a music therapist whose voice is her primary instrument, she is the one most likely to notice the fluctuations in my voice. Perhaps she can teach me to be more intentional in how I use them to communicate.

With and without Wakana’s assistance, I can use my Let’s Play commentary as an opportunity to listen to my voice in a variety of situations:

  • when I’m intentionally trying to convey certain emotions as part of role-playing my character
  • when I’m sharing my thoughts about strategy, the plot, gameplay mechanics, etc. – basically, talking about stuff with a focus on the content of what I’m saying
  • when I’m directly addressing the viewer, e.g. “thanks for watching”

I can also experiment with making my voice sound different and listen to the results. Does intentionally lowering the pitch at the end of sentences help me sound more confident? What happens when I try to put more energy into my voice? When I’m role-playing, do the inflections in my voice accurately express the emotion I’m trying to portray?

Of course, I can’t act my way through life: trying to convince others I’m more capable and worthy than I actually felt is what got me into this mess in the first place. I need to continue the work I’ve been doing with Wakana, which essentially comes down to learning that I have the right to exist and I’m worthy/”good enough” just the way I am. As I do that, the ways I present myself will change, and so will the ways people treat me, and that will help further improve my self-esteem.

Or, maybe the changes in how I present myself aren’t quite keeping up with my changes in self-perception. In other words, I feel more worthy and confident than I convey to others. So, I choose to intentionally improve my ability to communicate my confidence and worthiness, so others will see it and respond accordingly… which will help further improve my self-esteem.

An Epic Day of Being Awesome (Zentangle Days 2-4)

Today was one of those days I wish I could have every day, and it still had its bumpy moments. I was able to move through it with confidence and take care of some important things. My one concern is that I hope I haven’t burnt myself out by doing too much in one day.

I attempted to ignore my alarm for half an hour this morning, then finally reset it to (ostensibly) give myself an additional 90 minutes of sleep. I didn’t exactly sleep during that time, but my body was relatively rested and my mind got to run though some things. When it went off again I was quite grumpy, but I pulled myself out of bed and started my day with a breakfast of cold cereal and milk. I ate most of it before plopping down at the computer to pay my credit card bill (in full, on time, booyah!)

A sadness has been descending upon me every morning that I can’t quite explain. I attribute it to the family wedding ceremony & reception we’ve been planning (it’s very fresh in my mind, especially since Mom and I ordered my dress on Monday) and the fact that my father can’t be there. Now that I’ve forgiven him, I kind of wish he could come. I’m also a bit raw from the memorial service for my undergrad mentor who died last year, which was very beautiful and nostalgic and extremely inspiring but during which I kept expecting him to show up and had to remind myself… well… yeah.

Anyways, I let myself feel the sadness and cry a bit and not try too hard to rationalize it. My emotions come and go like waves on the shore; it’s much easier and safer to let them do so unimpeded. The really strong waves will break down any defenses I try to put up, so I’m better off directing my energy elsewhere.

Fast forward a bit to find me power walking across campus to meet with my academic adviser. We came up with a plan for me to get back on the horse and trot around a bit before the show jumping that is applying for internships. He seemed happy to see me again (for the first time in about a year, actually) and I was glad to see him as well.

Next I was power walking across campus to participate in a LGBTQ group I’ve been meaning to join since I found out about it in January. My mind kept repeating something Mom had said about punctuality: “If you aren’t where you intend to be at least 10 minutes early, you’re late.” I asked it if that thought was going to help me get there any sooner; obviously the answer was no so I gave the order to stop thinking it.

I got there just in time and had a rather enjoyable experience talking with absolute strangers friends I hadn’t met yet about topics ostensibly connected in some way to the gender binary. They kept thanking me for coming, so I imagine they’ll be pleased if I show up again next week. Honestly if this was the only thing I’d done today I would still say it was epic. I overcame a lot of insecurities about not only groups and social anxiety but my own identity as well; I felt accepted and comfortable (well, mostly) and contributed in a positive way to others’ experience. It was definitely a huge improvement over feeling too anxious to get dressed and go.

I had some time before my piano lesson, so I grabbed something to eat. A wasp of some description seemed inclined to investigate my iced coffee; this made me very uncomfortable. My bee/yellow jacket/wasp phobia has been becoming more severe; just this morning I had a nightmare involving them. But I remained calm, gathered my things without making any sudden movements, and walked away like a sane person.

Okay, here’s the really nifty part of the day – and where the Zentangles come in. Since Monday I’ve been following the instructions in One Zentangle A Day by Beckah Krahula. I sat down at the beginning of my piano lesson to play an exercise from Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises that I haven’t practiced very much and didn’t look at all week (oops). As I played it my mind was completely clear; there were just the written music in front of me, the sensations in my body (especially hands), and the sound of the music I was playing. I was completely in the zone, just like that, no real conscious effort required!

Even after I had a thought and trainwrecked, I was cool and confident talking to and playing in front of my teacher. Maybe the beginning of a piece or exercise wouldn’t be as strong as it could be, but once I got into it… Boom! Like someone had flipped a switch, everything else just melted away and there was just the music. It flowed through me. My teacher said I have an instinct for piano and she wishes I’d started playing when I was much younger. It’s another thing I got from my father – another thing I wish I could share with him now.

It was our most productive lesson to date and I think a lot of it – possibly my entire day – was made possible by the meditative practice I’ve been getting from the Zentangles. I’ve been able to calm and focus my mind so much more easily. I love the way I can direct my energy when I’m drawing (or playing music, or doing anything else creative), to have some party of myself – my will – flowing out of me and onto paper or into an instrument. It feels good and it helps me develop my confidence.

After the lesson I went to talk to someone in the graduate school about a failing grade I would love to remove from my transcript. It’s from an independent study I attempted 2 years ago and was unable to finish. I had an incomplete but by the time I was ready to try and complete it the grade had automatically converted to an F. To be honest I’m not sure why I didn’t address it sooner. The person I talked to was very nice but she doesn’t have the authority to help me, so she gave me the contact information for someone who (ostensibly) can.

Based on our conversation, I expect I’ll have to come out as having depression. It’s the best explanation I have for why it’s taken me 2 years to address this. I’m not sure if I want to bring up the anxiety as well, but I am prepared to mention the self harm and suicidal ideation. I can ask Wakana for documentation and might also contact the psychiatrists I saw to request their diagnoses and the dates when they treated me. Thinking about my difficulties (especially having to drop my graduate-level classes last year) was very painful, but… well, I hope it will be worth it.

On the way home (after spending 5 hours on campus) I realized I was utterly exhausted. Fox invited me to join him outside while he practiced using his new katana, so I agreed. He taught me a couple of moves that involve the whole body, big muscles moving together. The katana is simply an extension of one’s arm, oneself. As I became familiar with the movements and comfortable using my whole body as one unit, I could really feel the katana as an extension of myself; I could feel my energy flowing through it. That was awesome.

I sat on the stairs watching him dance with it and listening to him talk about the history and how those blades are traditionally made. I’m somewhat interested in the topic, but mostly I was interested in seeing and listening to him. His geeky interest in and nerdy knowledge about an esoteric topic, the sound of his voice, the way his body moved, the way he was enjoying himself… I haven’t seen him like that in years. It was amazing.

And I continued my daily practice by drawing my fourth Zentangle. I don’t like it quite as much as I like the others, but then I didn’t like them either while I was drawing them and now… well, let’s just say my opinion of them has improved. I do think I managed to use shading to make it look like a light is shining from the upper left corner onto 3-dimensional objects. So… it’s another 30 minutes of practice, another learning experience. It’s helping me overcome my perfectionism, too!

To end my epic day of being awesome, I have written this blog post! Without further ado, here are my most recent Zentangles:

Ziya's 2nd Zentangle

Ziya’s 2nd Zentangle

Ziya's 3rd Zentangle

Ziya’s 3rd Zentangle

Ziya's 4th Zentangle

Ziya’s 4th Zentangle