Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Health

Mental health and boundaries

no trespassing!
STAY OUT!

In American psychology, they talk about healthy boundaries and how to delineate them. In theory, it all sounds good. In reality, it’s not as clear cut as it appears. Maybe it’s because I have immigrant parents (Taiwanese), but it’s not as easy as it’s portrayed. I mentioned  in the last post how Asian boundaries are much softer than American ones are. It’s difficult for me because I’m at least 90% American, but the 10% that is Taiwanese is really, really, really persistent. In addition, my family is…dysfunctional at best when it comes to boundary. A small example.

I am not a morning person. At all. I used to go to bed at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. and get up at noon or 1 p.m. I’ve been trying to push it back to a more normal type because, well, I’m not exactly sure why. I think maybe because I’m a such a freak, and it’s a way of being more ‘normal’. In addition, I was sick a few months ago, and I could not stay up past midnight. I vowed to stick to it, but I have not. I haven’t gone all the way back to six in the morning, but it’s definitely not on the bright side of midnight. It’s been one or two before my parents came for their yearly visit–and now it’s creeping back again. Two, three, and sometimes four.

The worst part is that my father’s sleep schedule is all over the place, and I am not happy about it. He goes to bed around nine or ten, then he wakes up at three or four in the morning, which means he’s awake when I’m awake. I know that part of the reason I’m going to bed later is because I need my personal time. I need time when I don’t have to brace myself for someone talking to me at any moment of the day. It’s Skinner all over again. Briefly, if something happens consistently, then you expect it. So, if they were to talk to me, say, at the top of every hour, I would know when it was going to happen. Of course, on the converse side, if they never talked to me (my dream), then I wouldn’t have to be tense at all. But, the worst is that I never know when it’s going to come. It could be ten times an hour, or it might be at the end of the third hour.

I had to tell my mom yesterday that I needed a half hour in the morning to do my routine before she and my father dove straight into pelting me with questions or telling me irrelevant information that was of no interest to me. I’ve told her before, but she has selective memory. To be fair, she has a bad memory. To be unfair, it’s worse when she doesn’t care to remember something. I mean, we all have that problem, really.

Side note: She was complaining the other night about how she was saying something to my father about a a headache* she was having, and he jumped into say something about his headache, and she told him to keep the attention on her. he got mad (of course) and said he was going to say what worked for him. She then said with a straight face that he always turned everything back to himself. I pointed out that she did that as well. She’d ask how I was, and I’d say I had, say, a cold. She would then veered off that she had had a bad cold for weeks and in detail for fifteen minutes. She argued, but then carefully thanked me for pointing it out. And I’m sure she promptly forgot it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, boundaries. I was in the bathroom yesterday morning going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and doing my leg lifts. My mom knocked to ask me…I can’t even remember because it was so unimportant. Oh, right. She wanted to know where my cousin whom we met up with a few days ago taught. Which college. Seriously? That couldn’t wait fifteen minutes? Of course it couldn’t because it was my father who wanted to know, and when he wanted something, she hurries to do his bidding. I know why she does it. It’s because he’s extremely unpleasant when he doesn’t get his way. As in shouting at her or giving her the silent treatment for hours, and I clearly remember him doing that in my childhood. We could not tell my father this, that, or the other thing because it might upset him.

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The weight of the world

roast chicken, melted cheeze, and a bagel? yes, please!
Nothing like a bagel sandwich to brighten my day.

I am still thinking about how I might have ADD. Or not. Another symptom is the inability to get things done no matter how sincere the desire. I have this. For example, in preparing for my parents’ yearly month-long visit, I had a whole list of things I wanted to do, and I vowed to get started a month before they were to arrive (which is today). I make the same vow every year, and I fail every year. Why did I think it would be different this year? I have no idea. It didn’t happen, and even the things I did, I had to scale down form what I had planned on doing. There are several reasons for that. One, I’ve been dealing with gastrological issues for the past few weeks, and it’s made me have even less energy that usual. Which is close to none, anyway. TMI for anyone who doesn’t like to think about bodily functions. I had to deal with diarrhea on and off for a week. The first time, it wasn’t related to food because I know what that’s like. I eat something and a few seconds later, I’m running for the bathroom. That came later in the week, and it was because of tomato spaghetti sauce. At least that was my best guess. The first time, though, ti had nothing to do with food because I hadn’t eaten in eight or so hours. I was already feeling the effects of a migraine, and then I shitted my brains out. I was sitting on the toilet for half an hour, then I had to run back about an hour later for another half-hour round. That lasted for about three hours, and then I went to bed. I had to get up a few hours later to repeat the cycle, and it was the worst.

Now, the diarrhea is mostly gone, but I’m still having issues now and again, and also the opposite problem–blockage. Before I continue, I’d like to say that I love all kinds of foods. I will basically try anything once, and I used to live for spicy food.

Side note: I watch Hot Ones online, and Da Bomb is the sauce that makes everyone gag. It’s not their hottest, but it’s the one the guests are least able to handle. Why? Because it tastes like battery acid. I know because I’ve tried it. My brother and I had a years-long competition to see who could give each other the hottest of hot sauces. Da Bomb was from me to my brother one year, and I used four drops in a pot of chili that was too hot to eat. My brother called off the competition after trying this sauce. It’s made strictly to be hot and nothing else, and it’s doesn’t have any of the complexities of a good hot sauce. Anyway, I have to smile whenever it comes out on Hot Ones.

Now, however, my diet is very bland. The last few days, I’ve mostly been eating gluten-free crackers, rice, roasted chicken, and corn on the cob. I also am eating gluten-free bagels with either a meatless patty on it, corned beef, or roasted chicken–and melted Monterey Jack cheeze (Daiya). Citrus is still treating me right, so I eat an orange or two a day, and I squeeze lemon into my honey lemon ginger tea. Or plain gluten-free pasta with melted Monterey Jack cheeze and roasted chicken. I’ve cut out the sauce which is usually some kind of spicy mayo/mustard situation. I’ve also been eating spring greens with a mango chipotle dressing, but I’ve mostly cut out the dressing as well. I’ve had some soy yogurt with no issue. One night, I had the squirts, and I was terrified it was the rice. It can’t be the rice! I love rice, and as an Asian person, you will pry my jasmine rice from my cold, dead fingers. Yes, I know brown rice is better for you, but I don’t like brown rice. I may try to like it better, but for now, I’m sticking with what I know and like.

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Dealing with my shit as best I can

My parents are coming for their annual visit in a week, and I am not ready. I am never ready, but I hate that I put off doing the shit I need to do before they get here until the last minute. I need to clean, which is an intensive thing, and I always vow to start early. I never do. It ends up with me cleaning the fridge at three in the morning the night before they come, contemplating going inside the fridge and shutting the door. I also have some chores outside the house I have to do before they get back which include the car.

Amusing anecdote: I called a garage to set up an appointment, and I asked for the times they had available. The guy said, “1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock.” Then he stopped and my brain immediately shouted, “ROCK!” I managed to stop myself from yelling it out loud, and I answered him with a half-laugh. I am An Old.

It’s a funny story, but it took me forever to make the phone call. Rationally, I know it’s not a big deal to make the call and go to the appointment (for a bad tire), but my brain is wired incorrectly, and it takes everything I have just to make the goddamn phone call. Going to the appointment won’t be an issue, but making that phone call? Took me weeks to force myself to do it. I know it’s not rational. I know it’s silly on my part. I know that the mental energy I use to avoid calling would be better sent doing literally anything else. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I remind myself that it’s not a big deal. A weird side effect is that once I decide to do the difficult thing, I become obsessed with it. I have to make a cancellation of a trip for my mother, and there is a glitch on Orbitz that won’t allow me to cancel that way. I’ve tried several times, and now I’m on hold while waiting to talk to an actual person. By the way, I hate when you’re on hold, and they interrupt the music in order to have the automated voice assure you that you are valuable to them before returning back to the music. Don’t get my hopes up like that! Also, when one song is twice as loud as the one before it, that’s irritating as well.

Sigh. Moving to health issues. I think I’ve figured out what set off my stomach the night before last–the tomato-based spaghetti sauce I had with my gluten-free elbow macaroni. The minute I ate it, my stomach clenched, and I was racing to the bathroom. The biggest problem for me with diarrhea–there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing–is that it’s never a one and done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I eliminated everything in one go–but, no. It’s me sitting on the toilet for ten to fifteen minutes, several times in a few hours. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, and it’s the first thing I have to do when I get up the next morning. Since I eat basically the same thing every day with slight variations, I can usually pinpoint the problem to a certain degree. I’m fairly certain the tomato-based sauce is the trigger this time. But, I’m also wary of peaches and cherries. I know the right way to test is to eliminate a bunch of things and then slowly add them back in, but that seems tedious as well as time consuming. Also, I’m not particularly wedded to tomato-based spaghetti sauce, so cutting it out is not a problem for me. I’m pretty sure it’s the tomato-based sauce because I had the same meal minus the sauce last night, and it was fine. I added a spicy mayo-based dipping sauce instead of the tomato-based sauce, and it was fine. Gluten-free elbow macaroni, dairy-free pepper jack cheeze, roasted chicken, and the spicy dipping sauce. Oh, and spring greens thrown on top, which I ate separately. It’s a quirk of mine that I eat veggies separately, even if they are incorporated into a dish, unless it’s something small like slices of mushrooms.


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Migraine? No. Mini-graine? Yes.

I’m fighting off a migraine. I hesitate to use that word because it’s so loaded. Also, I know in hearing from other people that it can lay them out flat for days. For me, if I catch it in time with two Migraine Excedrin (generic), I can keep the worst of it at bay. That’s why I think mini-graine is a better name for what I go through because it’s not just a headache, but it’s not a full-blown migraine. Yes, I still have to deal with sensory issues, which I have already. Lights hurt and sounds can be too much. They can be literally painful. I had to run to Cubs because I had ran out of food. I should have went yesterday or the day before, but I had no energy to do it. I didn’t have the mini-graine then–just no fucking energy. I can’t even blame the weather because it’s not been outlandishly hot. I’ve just hated life, and when I hate life, I have no desire to do anything.

A few days ago, I had the sinus prickling that I described in the last post. Yesterday, I had absolutely no energy. Today, I woke up with the feeling that a migraine was imminent. How do I know? It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. I woke up, and my head was…tingling. Again, it sounds stupid, I know. It’s the same as when my nose was starting to hurt due to sinus issues. I felt as if a thousand tiny needles were jabbed into my brain. In the case of my nose, it made it feel as if it were open and porous, but not exactly painful. As for my brain, it definitely is a negative feeling. Also, when I was in Cubs, I was profoundly sweating, nauseated, and a bit dizzy. The last two are common for me when I have a mini-graine, but the first isn’t. Maybe that’s part of peri-menopause, or maybe it’s a new symptom to my migraines. Which is not great.

I have to say that the pills aren’t doing the job they normally do. Full confession: I’m not sure I took the right pills this time. I had ran out, but I have bags of pills from when I traveled. I usually take my migraine pills with me because I never know when I’m going to need them.  I grabbed two pills that I thought were the migraine pills and Googled the letter/numbers combo on them. The internet told me they were migraine pills so I popped two of them. The other issue is that I don’t know if migraine pills have shelf lives. Anyway, normally once I take my pills, I only have the barest of a headache, nausea, dizziness, sensory issues, and fatigue. This time, it’s low level, but more noticeable. It was especially debilitating at the store, and I had a really hard time keeping it together before racing (metaphorically) home.


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Chasing a unicorn

I’m fat. I know I’ve said this before, but it really hit home when I looked at the pictures of me from my niece’s wedding shower. Related, I looked up someone from college who I had a big crush on, and he looks fantastic. He’s two years older than I am, but he looks like he’s in his early thirties. I mean, I look younger than I am, too, but I’m still fat. Come to think of it, he’s also Asian, so maybe it’s partly our good genes. Anyway, I looked gargantuan in the pics. It’s partly because my niece is slim and gamine-like, but it’s also just that I’m fat. Have I said it often enough? I am fat.

I have spent almost thirty years battling eating disorders of one kind or another. Actually, my disordered relationship with food started ten years before that when my mother put me on my first diet with the words, “You would be so pretty if you would just lose weight.” I’ve also recounted my mother’s disordered thinking when it comes to her body and food, but I can’t emphasize how much it’s seeped into my subconsciousness. There was a stretch of time when every time we talked on the phone, she would mention her weight. She, of course, insists it’s all about health (also the excuse she gives for nagging about my weight until I put my foot down), but I realized it was bullshit because she never once voiced any concern when I was anorexic (both times). The only thing she said was, “Now your waist is skinnier than mine”, and it was in a jealous voice. The first time I deal with anorexia and bulimia, I got caught throwing up in the bathroom, and my mother was brought in to talk about it. I don’t remember how that actually came about, but I do remember my mom was not pleased and did not want to do anything about it. I’m sure it was embarrassing for her and that I brought  shame to the family. But, it also was chickens coming home to roost or however that phrase goes.

Anyway. The second bout with anorexia/bulimia included me fainting at First Ave. for a Los Lobos side project concert. Which was very disappointing because I admire Los Lobos so much. After that, I gave up on ‘dieting’ because I just could not do it in a responsible way. No matter how rationally I started (I will be honest that I wasn’t all that rational at the start of the second round, but I had at least tried not to be crazed), I spiraled out as the weeks progressed. I clearly remember how I set a goal of 150 lbs, and when I got to 155, I dropped my goal to 145. I kept doing that until I passed out.

Here’s the thing. I can’t do numbers. I don’t mean I can’t do math because of course I can. I like math. I liked everything except geometry and trig 2, and the latter was because of the teacher. I mean I can’t do numbers when I’m dieting because I lose all sense of proportion. During my first bout with anorexia/bulimia, I weighed myself twice a day. Now, this isn’t good in general, and it’s definitely not good for someone with disordered thinking. It’s not good in general because a person’s weight fluctuates on a daily basis. All the health rags say you should only weigh yourself once a week if you weigh yourself at all. It should be more about the clothing fitting better is the new train of thought, and while it’s better, it’s still too much emphasis on the actual weight loss. The second time I tried to lose weight, I tried to rely more on tape measurements than pounds, but it didn’t matter. I knew an inch was equal to five pounds, so if I didn’t lose a half inch a week, I’d be very depressed.


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You won’t like me when I’m angry

We’re going through a heatwave here in MN. And by heatwave, I mean three days of ‘feels like’ 90+. I broke down yesterday and set the AC at 75 (I normally have it at 78, but I noticed I had perma-held it at 76 when I went to bump it down to 75). That’s surprisingly high for Americans if anecdote is data, which it isn’t, but it might as well be. Yes, I hate heat, but I also am trying to be environmentally conscious, and I hate wasting money. But, yesterday, I lost my shit when I woke up at 8:30 a.m. to my AC going off. It was already 88 degrees, and it was only going to get hotter. I decided to indulge myself for one full day before going back to my parsimonious ways.

I also have a fan blowing on my at high speed 24/7. That may seem like overkill to other people, but other people are not living in my very overheated skin.

Side note: I used to have hyperthyroidism, and now, I have hypothyroidism. You’re supposed to be never feel cold with the former and always feel cold with the latter. That explains why I never felt cold when I was younger, but not now.

The thermostat wars are very real. My BFF and her husband always argued about it. He’s more like me and would have happily never used the heater ever. She, on the other hand, is the one that when we used to go out in the winter, would pull her coat close to her, shiver, and demand to know why I wasn’t feeling the cold. She would say, “Isn’t your spine scrunching up?” I would retort that it made me feel alive, and we would laugh. It was all in good fun, just as me saying I would kill the sun with the heat of a thousand, well, suns, and she would get more energy from being outside.

She and her husband came to a compromise that neither of them were very happy about. Oh! This is a nonnegotiable for me in a relationship, by the way. Not that someone needs to love the cold the way I do, but that they understand that five minutes in the heat can deplete me to the point of needing to rest for several hours.

Back to my friend. She’s dealing with menopause now which makes her feel hot–which is a novice feeling for her. her husband is finding that he can tolerate the cold less as he gets older. They’ve switched to him wanting to bump the heater and her needing it colder, and she’s said to him, “Now you know how I’ve felt for twenty years!” while staring at him in the eyes and slowly turning the thermostat down. Ok, not the last bit because she’s a nice person, but it’s amusing how they’ve switched places.


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Leveling up my veggie game

though not quite as tasty.
Better for me than chips.

I need to stop buying chips; I really do. I had given them up at some point, then gave into the impulse to buy them once, and the rest is history. It’s funny because while giving up caffeine was a nightmare at the time, I haven’t really missed it at all. I bought a thing of mocha coffee (with almond milk) last week, drank it for three days, then didn’t miss it when it was gone. Chips, on the other hand, are my weakness. Which is weird because I never used to be a salt person. I’m still not actually a salt person. I don’t add it to anything, and I wipe off my chips before I eat them. Or I get low-sodium chips.

I know the conventional wisdom is to eat in moderation, but that’s just not possible for me. I think another conventional wisdom should be to know thyself. One of the problems with giving advice, especially on the internet, is that the giver tends to look at the ideal situation. Look, you know I love me some advice columns. I consider them my stories, and I read them every day. But many of the comments are very black and white without considering the nuance. So, ‘eat in moderation’ is sound advice, but insisting that someone can do it through simple willpower isn’t.

Yes, of course, I know it’s because most people are limited in their capacity to look outside themselves (one reason I get so frustrated with conversations) and have a hard time truly understanding that other people may react to something differently than they do. I saw that in the Ask A Manager comments once when someone was talking about not being able to have their favorite junk food in the house because they had no control. People made sensible suggestions like divvying it up beforehand and freezing the parts you don’t immediately eat (in the case of chocolate) or hiding it away (for chips), which were very good suggestions. The problem is for someone like me–I won’t do it. I just know I won’t. We’re not always rational beings, and it’s difficult to explain why.

For example. One time while my mother was here, she said if I folded the paper bags from Cubs correctly before putting them in the cabinet, they would take up less space. Later, I told Ian that she was correct, and that I wouldn’t be doing that. He gave me a look of pure puzzlement. He said, “You know she’s right, and yet, you won’t do it?” I cheerfully said, “Yep!”, which just blew his mind. I knew it was irrational, but in that case, I also knew the reason why. Pure childish spite.

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I am done with sleep

My sleep has been shit.

I say this as if it’s news, but it’s not really. My sleep has been shit all my life for varying reasons. I had gotten into a semi-regular sleeping habit recently of going to bed by 2 am and getting up around 8:30*. Then, I got sick again as is my wont and my sleep schedule got all fucked up again. The sleep time started getting pushed back further and further until I found myself going to bed at 5 a.m. Then, two days ago, I could not stay up past 11:30 p.m. I crashed, but kept waking up every few hours. I finally got up at 6:30 a.m. or so, and I felt shittier than if I had gone to bed at my regular time.

If I could have one wish come true, it would be that I could get a solid eight hours of sleep a night. That I could sleep without tossing and turning for a half hour first. That I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding uncomfortably fast. That I wouldn’t have nightmares, or more recently, anxiety dreams. That Shadow wouldn’t be in my face howling when I woke up in the morning/afternoon. That I would feel actually rested when I woke up. That my immediate response wouldn’t be, “God, I wish I could sleep forever.”

Some of that has to do with depression, of course. I don’t want to be alive, and that makes it harder to get up and go about my day. There was a program on MPR (or perhaps NPR) about suicide and how to talk to someone with suicidal ideation. The doctor said you had to first find out why the person was feeling suicidal. She mentioned there was a difference between someone who coped with the thoughts on a daily basis and someone who might have those feelings in response to a bad situation. She said in the former, it doesn’t help to tell them it’s going to be ok or to look at the bright side. She said it made them feel more isolated and as if nobody understood them. I wanted to shout an ‘amen’ from the rafters because fuck that bullshit.


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The vicious sickness cycle

I’m feeling better than I was two days ago, but yesterday was not great. I went to Cubs to pick up some provisions, and I ended up feeling dizzy and nauseated. It’s a good thing I’m not having sex right now because I would be worried about being pregnant, but hopefully that won’t even be a possibility soon. I’m having issues with getting older, but the end of my period is not one of them. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve only had my period once every three or four months for most of my life, and it’s only three days at a time. The pattern was light on the first day, heavy-ish on the second, light on the third, and very light spotting on the fourth. Maybe. Sometimes, it was only three days. I got vaguely crampy and possibly a tad bitchier (though it’s hard to gauge one’s own bitchiness), and my boobs hurt a bit. Other than that? Didn’t even know I had my period. I’ve been incredibly lucky.

Side Note: I was concerned when I only had three periods a year, so much so, I asked my doctor about it. She said as long as you have two a year, it’s fine. That surprised me because I had been taught (as I’m sure most people have) that it came monthly. Hell, it’s even called the monthly visit. There was nary a mention that it didn’t have to be every month. Then again, I was also taught that the schedule was rigid, whereas mine fluctuated wildly. I had to keep a pad with me at all times because I never knew when it was going to happen.

Funnily enough, when I had sex, it was more regulated (obviously). It came every thirty-five to forty days, but it still was as light as before. In the past few years, my schedule has become more regular (roughly every thirty days), but the period itself is much lighter. And in the past, say, six months, it’s all but disappeared. My mother hit menopause when she was 55 and said it was a breeze (my mother is known to gloss over difficulties), and I’m already experiencing perimenopause. Hot flashes, which, by the way, makes it harder to know what is sickness and what is perimenopause. Flashing hot is one of the symptoms I have when I’m sick, and it’s not fun to try to decipher when it’s sickness and when it’s period-related.  One helpful hint is that if I’m alternating boiling hot and freezing cold, then it’s sickness. I don’t get freezing cold unless I’m sick.

My sinuses suck. A lot. I hate them, and I think they’d say the same about me. We don’t get along, and we only tolerate each other because we have to. I mean, I can’t really live without my sinuses, so there’s that. I wish I could, though. I’ve gotten over wishing I could just be a brain bobbing around without a body, mostly in thanks to taiji. I’ve accepted that my body is part of me and that it’s not just a meat sack carrying my brain around.

I’ve become more in touch with what my body is saying, but I still miss the mark a lot of the time. I’ve had a history of eating disorders, and I still don’t know exactly when I’m hungry. I was used to ignoring the cues–along with emotional cues–and that’s how I became anorexic. Now, I still sometimes ignore my body telling me I’m hungry, but I can at least feel the literal hunger pangs. There were times when I couldn’t tell if I was hungry or not, and then I’d decide I wasn’t.

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I’m my own worst enemy

I’m tired. My sleep is fucked, which means at least I’m not sick. My sinuses are still all over the map, and I’m squarely blaming that on the weather. It’s been 50 to 89 and everywhere in between. I’m loving the former, but not the latter, and my body really doesn’t like the rapid changes. I’ve also become even more intolerant of heat, and my love of the cold is gradually diminishing as well. I used to be able to keep the car windows open until it was well in the sub-zero temps. Now, I close it when it’s zero.

I have said that the problem with getting old isn’t that I can’t do what I used to (though that is starting to be a problem), but that it takes much longer for me to recover. I used to be able to get by on four hours of sleep a night (barely); I could go out until the wee hours of the night and sleep it off the next day. Now, I could go out all night, but it would take a few days to recover.

I also have to admit that my depression is back and not going away any time soon. It’s low key, and it’s not paralyzing the way it has been in the past, but it definitely permeates my mood. There’s an ever-present feeling of ‘why bother’, which seeps into everything. It’s frustrating as hell, and I know the only thing I can do about it is to go to therapy.

*deep sigh*

I do Not want to go to therapy. Not because I think it’s worthless; I don’t. I am a big proponent of therapy, and I have been in it many times in my life. I have learned a lot from therapy, and I know I could learn more. However, the thought of finding a new therapist makes me want to curl up in a ball and never get up.

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