Buzzers

I hate when therapists have a buzzer that I need to ring to gain access to their office.
I generally have a bit of pre-therapy anxiety, the buzzer exacerbates the situation.

I hate being late for things, but I also have a rule about not being more than 10 minutes early for things. Any more than that and my early-ness can seem excessive to an onlooker. I need to be early so I don’t stress about being late, but I don’t want people to notice how early I am. I tend to show up for therapy (among other things) early and walk around to kill time. It is important to maintain sufficient distance from my destination (1 block at least). I wouldn’t want my therapist to spot me near his office an hour before the appointment.
When an office has a buzzer it means announcing exactly when I show up. Are they noticing how early I show up? Am I being rude by announcing my arrival 10 minutes early rather than 1 minute early?

If I sneak in, past the buzzer door, behind someone else will the therapist think I haven’t arrived yet, leaving me waiting in the waiting room indefinitely?

I worry about pressing the wrong button and buzzing someone else. I’ve done that before. I had a class where the professor held classes in her apartment (I know, weird right? She was a strange lady, always giving me free hair product. She had cats though so that was awesome) We had to press the buzzer to get in. Once I accidentally buzzed one of her neighbors. Very embarrassing.
I have to check and re-check to make sure I’m pressing the button corresponding with the correct name. Sometimes the list of names is far from the buzzer, allowing more room for potential errors and therefore more worrying.

Once I got my belt from my coat stuck in the door of a therapist’s office that had a buzzer. I tugged hard trying to free the belt and eventually had to get buzzed in again to free myself. There were moments where I considered sacrificing the belt to avoid the extra buzzing, but I worried she’d notice the belt left behind and comment when I arrived next time missing a coat belt. The belt has since been lost after a dry cleaning trip. It just really didn’t want to be on my coat. It’s a shame since I picked it out because of the belt. I felt a coat with a belt produced a better silhouette.

The first time I tried discussing the problem of buzzer with a therapist who had one, she took it a little personally. So I dropped the subject. I didn’t meet with her very long. It might have lasted longer had there been no buzzer.

I later met with another therapist in the same office building. He and I came to the agreement that I’d sneak into the building behind someone else. He didn’t mind, apparently he too hated the buzzer. His reason was different. Often he didn’t hear it and wouldn’t know people were waiting. This method of sneaking in helped, but still was stressful. I’d very slowly preform tasks that made me look busy, like I wasn’t trying to sneak in. I’d slowly unwrap my scarf or look at my ipod or phone. I needed to show up more than the 10 minutes early to allow more time to sneak in. But sometimes I’d get in the building way before the appointment, meaning I needed to walk slowly up the stairs to avoid arriving in the waiting room more than 10 minutes early.

I don’t have a id card to get me in the building for my internship yet. For at least a week more I have to get buzzed in to enter the office. To complicate matters not everyone works there every day. I have to buzz multiple people (Many who I hardly know yet. I worry if I say my name and ask to be let in they’ll be confused about who I am.) to find one who is there who can let me in. I’ve been working to avoid this by showing up during the morning at peak arrival hours so I can follow someone else in. It’s in a nice neighborhood and I’m sure I could find fun places to eat during my lunch break, but I’ve not been leaving the building for lunch because I don’t want to be re-buzzed in.

I returned to therapy Tuesday with S.M. He got a new office. I was taken by surprise when, after making the appointment to meet with him again, I learned that his new office has a buzzer. It hadn’t occurred to me that he could have become a buzzer person in the past year.
It amazes me that even with the amount I worry, situations still manage to come up that I hadn’t foreseen.
I stressed a lot about the buzzer. It ended up being the least bad buzzer I’ve encountered. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a buzzer (Wait and see, I’ll turn the word buzzer into an offensive adjective) but I’ve seen much worse. This one was interesting in that I pressed a button to scroll to his name (first one on the list) and then pressed the call button. I like that I only have to see one name at a time and that his is the first. Less worry there about buzzing the wrong person. Other worries are still there but cutting out one problem helped. It also helps that this is my favorite therapist and I appear to have come down with a bad case of idealization. If he were a new therapist with the same buzzer I might be more critical.

Today at the end of my appointment I walked out of his office, through the waiting room, outside the waiting room to the elevator. My therapist followed shortly behind me and said “Here let me show you something” and then showed me the code I can use to get into the waiting room. No more need for a buzzer. Leaving me puzzled about why he did this.
-Did he remember that I have trouble with buzzers? I only mentioned it once to him, briefly(On the phone during a time I wasn’t even meeting with him and just wanted records). I’ve been assuming he forgot about it. I hadn’t talked about my stress over his buzzer, because I didn’t want to be rude. I’m sure he didn’t choose for the office to be designed with a buzzer. Did he offer it without me asking because he knew I wouldn’t ask?
-Does he tell the code to all his patients? If so why didn’t he just tell me it on the phone when I made the appointment. Why wait till after the second session? And why after I already left his office?
-Can he tell if I’ve just used the code? and if so maybe it’s a sneaky way to see if I show up earlier when I don’t need him to buzz me in. I won’t fall into that trap:P 10 minute rule still applies.
-Maybe he thinks he’ll run a little late some day and then without the buzzer I can let myself in even if he’s not there yet.

I guess it’s a sign he’s not worried about me breaking into the waiting room or something. :P
I’m going to think of it as that he remembered my trouble with buzzers and view it as a nice gesture. Perhaps I’ll get an explanation about it at my next appointment. Probably not though. And I doubt I’ll ask. Maybe I will. Or maybe not. He’d probably tell me if I asked, but that would require actually asking.

Outgoing Introvert

The other day one of my professors described me as ‘outgoing’.

I consider myself very introverted. On the surface the two terms might seem contradictory, but I think together they describe me accurately; despite Definr listing ‘outgoing’ as a synonym of ‘extroverted’.

I view being introverted as having a lower need/threshold for social interaction than extroverts. It is a separate trait from social skills, being socially anxious or talkative.

I can understand why my professor would think of me as outgoing. I talk a lot in class. Probably to the point where it’s annoying to classmates. In the moment I don’t appear anxious. I beat myself up after about everything I said awkwardly when I get home, but in class all is good. I am smiley, bubbly and engaging.

What she doesn’t know is that the talking I do in class is the majority of the social interaction I have in an average day. Most people consider class to be disruptive to their social life, for me it is my highlight.

I like to think that I give the impression of having a lot of close friends, that all the acquaintances I interact with think I have many close friends; I just happen to not be as close with them in particular. I think I succeed fairly well at this. I am on good superficial terms with a lot of people, it gives the impression of greater friendships than I really have.

I do enjoy social interaction, it just wears me out a lot. I can’t keep it up for as long. I need to be by myself to recharge and organize thoughts. I love how college is broken up into pieces. I don’t usually have things planed straight through 9-5. Usually I am able to head home in between classes.  I believe this recharge time is one of many factors explaining my improved academic performance in college compared with high school.

Sitting in a room quietly with a person next to me consumes more energy than sitting in the same room alone. I don’t know if this is how everyone feels, but I know having a lower amount of social energy to use makes this type of energy expenditure more signifigant.

After a long chunk of social interaction I badly need to be by myself. Living with my parents, many fights between my Mom and I occurred from her inability to respect this need of mine. Usually this resulted in me screaming to be left alone, while she persisted with asking questions about how the day had been. She knows, I hope at least, that given an hour or so alone I’d be up for talking, I just needed my recovery time.

I don’t mean to give the impression I don’t get lonely. That’s not true. I do. Sometimes. Usually I’m not. Quitting therapy initially created loneliness. Losing 2 hours a week of talking was a very significant dent. I was able to make some adjustments in my schedule to fix the problem.

I also don’t mean to give the impression that social anxiety isn’t a factor at all for me. It plays a role, a more minor one, but a role nonetheless. I just believe that it is a separate trait from introversion. My problem is more anxiety in general and some happens to fall into the realm of social anxiety.

The most important thing for avoiding social anxiety for me is structure. I need a clearly defined role. In class I don’t feel anxious speaking. I’m expected to be there and to speak, my participation grade depends on it. In a job requiring interacting with people it’s the same way. I know what I should be doing and have no problem doing it.

On the other hand, If I spot an acquaintance in the cafeteria I’ll likely smile and say ‘hi’, but I won’t join him/her unless directly invited. I’d worry I was invading their space. The role is less clearly defined.

I like the internet, because it allows for controlled social interaction. If I need a break all I need is to go to a new webpage.

Being a secret introvert can be useful in comparison to being a non-secret introvert. I feel my mental health problems are less likely to be suspected. The loner image is generally not positively viewed and makes one open to suspicion.

I’ve always been introverted, but there are life events that have added to my isolation. Having friends over to my house was a stressful experience. It wasn’t so bad in elementary school, but in middle school problems began with the way my Mom would behave when I had visitors. The details are for another post, but long story short, in early high school I decided it wasn’t worth it to have friends over. I had a lot of people I socialized with I school, but the majority of the friendships (there were some exceptions) were superficial. I feel like this caused me to miss out on some of the typical experience of gaining closer friends.

My experience of getting kicked out of school for mental health reasons also contributed. In the over two years since that happened I’ve become significantly more withdrawn. I feel terrified of the situation repeating itself and hide much more than I hid prior to it. Directly following that situation I had my trust in a couple of friends shattered. My ability to trust has been badly damaged. I hate it. I want the limits I have with social interaction to be only from my introversion, not because of my paranoia.

I made a friend recentlly. It’s exciting. I like her a lot and we share many interests. But there’s a limit for how close I have ever let her get. We may get to the point where it seems to her like it is not a superficial friendship, but for me there will always be a limit of what I can share.

My outside doesn’t match my inside.

Whoops, I got a little off the introversion track at the end there and more into trust issues, oh well. I’m sure you can deal with that.

General life update stuff:
-I finally called my old therapist who is awesome and made an appointment. He was totally fine with me meeting with him, even for only the summer. It’s a relief.
– I got into an honors psychology society thingy. Yay.

Talking to myself

I involuntarily repeat words and phrases. They forcefully crawl their way out of my throat. I hear my voice talking, but I didn’t chose for it to talk.

I don’t mean the things I say. They just pop out.

I’ll try to keep my jaw clenched tight to prevent them, but I can’t hold my mouth like that all day.

Lately the most common word is “Dead“. Others include “I’m gonna kill myself” and “Fucking hate you“. Sensing a pattern? There’re many more than just those few. A lot are minor variations on the same phrases.

Often they come out in the third person. In the phrase “I’m gonna kill you” the “you” refers to me. This is a little confusing, because I don’t mean these words when I say them. Why would I be able to explain the intended meaning of the words? I can’t explain why, but I with 100% certainty know that the “you” is me. In a way it makes some sense for them to come out in the 3rd person. While my mouth is involved in the process of producing the sounds my consciousness is not involved in the decision to make them.

When I was in a french immersion program they switched into french “Je veux me tuer“. If only they could have stayed in french after the program ended. That would have been nice.

I do have some levels of control over the words. Not to much with the decision to make them, but more with minimizing the way they come out.  For example: I can reduce a phrase to a shorter nonsense sound. Suppose “I’m gonna kill you” starts to come out. I can compress it into “mmmgn“.  It takes a level of concentration, but is worth it since a nonsense sound is much less socially damaging than what would otherwise happen. Unfortunately for me psychologically I know what was supposed to come out.

I also have some control over volume. Well, not consiously. The volume when I am alone at home is a normal speaking level. In public it is generally only whisper.  It happens all the time to me in public, but it’s quiet enough that no one has ever commented on it. I’m just the crazy person walking down the street muttering to herself. Problems can occur when I forget I am not alone and the words come out too loudly. Then I feel anxious worrying that I might have been heard.

It’s pretty impressive how little I have been overheard. Or at least how few times I’ve been called out on it. My brother hears me all the time, I don’t hold it back as much around him. He thinks I just get really angry at my computer and talk to it.

Being overheard is a major worry. There are times I’ll be walking somewhere with my headphones on and be struck with panic. I’ll be convinced that it might happen and I wouldn’t know it had because of the headphones blocking the sound. This has not to my knowledge ever happened. I’ll keep my jaw clenched shut preventing sounds from escaping until the fear passes.

So what triggers it? It only happens when I’m being spacey. It would never happen while in conversation with someone or while in deep focus. My mind will be off doing something and then suddenly I hear words coming out of my mouth pulling me back down to earth. If immediately after it happens I scan my brain for what I was thinking about I can locate a specific thought that triggered it. If I don’t do that the thought is gone. The thought is always something anxiety provoking. Saying the words serves the function of forcing an unpleasant thought out of my mind.

I imagine it works by taking advantage of the limited capacity of working memory. By throwing a distraction at me older items get pushed out of working memory and forgotten.

The thoughts are always more minor anxieties. It doesn’t happen for bigger stressors.

Around a month ago I decided to keep count how often it happened. Therapists kept asking the number and I had difficulty answering. Unfortunately the act of counting manipulated how it presented. Knowing I was counting made it happen less so I didn’t get an accurate number. I became better able to stop it while I was keeping count. I noticed my body often tenses in specific ways right before it happens. With that warning I could hold my jaw shut to stop the words.

My body is tricky and wouldn’t accept that. The ways my muscles tensed before the words broke free from the speech. They started happening independent of words and became more exaggerated.

One day I noticed that everything was uncomfortably quiet. And realized it was because I wasn’t talking to myself as much. I realized that the words also served an additional function. I spend most of my time alone and they break up the quietness.

I decided to stop counting and things went mostly back to normal. The muscles tensing are still happening independent of the words sometimes, but I guess this isn’t so bad. Less crazy looking than talking to myself.

Whether this is OCD or a Tic disorder all depends on who the therapist I’m talking to is. Tic disorders run in my family. Some think OCD because I can, with effort, identify a specific trigger. The words are “undoing” the thought. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter too much to me though it would be nice if for a change I could have a diagnosis that could be agreed upon. Both are obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders so combined with my trichotillomania someone should invent the diagnosis “Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorder NOS” for me. It’s probably already been invented I bet. Nope. I just googled it no one has. DSM-V committee members, get on that, will you?

I wonder about the relationship this has with my ADHD. It happens at times when I’m spacey. Tic disorders have high co-morbidity with ADHD. Do other people with similar problems find attention is a factor?

If anyone can recommend a good memoir about tic disorders I’d be interested in reading it. I want to read about subjective experience. I’ve read about the outward presentation in technical literature, but I’ve been unable to find much on the experience.