Re-learning self-efficacy (putting out fires and fixing leaky boats)

One of the things that childhood trauma damaged most badly is my sense of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy - Wikipedia

I understand self-efficacy to mean the innate belief that if I do something, then I will achieve *some kind* of positive outcome, most of the time.

Like - if I eat a sandwich, I will stop being hungry, I will have more energy, it will help me achieve my other goals.

I have a *lot* of trouble with this.

Childhood trauma basically taught me that "no matter what I do" trauma/ abuse/ neglect will continue.

And I think on some deep level, that's taught me that it's irrelevant what I do... no matter how much I try, there will be no positive outcome.

I want to try and un-learn that and to try and re-learn self-efficacy.

So I'm hoping (!!!) to use this journal as a sort of "journal of achievements" to help prove to my PTSD brain that taking positive action is connected to getting positive outcomes, much of the time.

Right now, it feels like a crazy undertaking, cos my brain is convinced it can't/ won't work. :meh:

But I figure it's worth a try.

During trauma and during the post-trauma phase, my life felt like I was sitting in a leaky boat, and water was leaking in, and I was using a bucket to get the water out, but it was leaking in, just as fast as I could empty it.

Or like I was putting out fires, but just as quickly as I could put them out, new fires would start smoldering and burning in another corner.

Or - this was an image that used to haunt me a lot during trauma - like I was sitting in a circle of 20 screaming babies and it was my job to soothe them all - and I'd be running from one crying baby to the next and just when I'd soothed one, another two would start crying, and so on, endlessly.

There's a big theme of "infinity" and "infinite tasks" to all this.

And I *always* feel like my to-do list is infinite.

And that if I do one task on my to-do list, then it's infinity minus one long, which is still infinity.

And if I do ten tasks on my to-do list, then it's infinity minus ten long, which is also still infinity.

Things I have done so far today:

I bought some building supplies for a renovating thing that needs to get done. It's not all the supplies I need, but it's a good start.
I also researched some more information about how to do the renovating task and researched what other supplies I will need.
I also measured and marked out where things will need to go.
I started clearing things out of the way, so there will be plenty of room for tools and materials etc.

I think that's mainly what I have achieved so far today.
I also want to look at whether the tasks on my to-do list and my achievements are based on intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, because I think that's an important distinction.

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What's the Difference?

The renovation project I'm doing is very much based on intrinsic motivation. This is something I want to do. I like renovating and building and I like learning more about those things. I am also looking forward to the result and I think I will be pleased with the result and feel quite proud of it and a sense of achievement. I will also feel good about having gotten it done myself and not having needed to ask a professional builder to complete this task for me. I feel a sense of ownership about it. In general, I really like building and renovating tasks, because they do give me quite a positive sense of self-efficacy, compared to most other things. Building tasks are tasks where I generally feel *least* helpless.
So, I have a few "should" tasks for today and I'm wondering if re-framing them as non-should tasks could possibly help?

So a biiiiiig "should" is the following task: I bought some medicine organiser thingees for pills (see picture) for me and my dog.

We both take meds that need to be taken in the morning and in the evening. Pooch takes a thyroid med. I take a thyroid med, an SSRI and vitamins and supplements.

I'm atrociously awful about forgetting to take my meds. For all of my meds bar one, and for pooch's meds, this doesn't really matter.
But the SSRI I have is a terrible med to forget. It has such a short half-life that withdrawal symptoms kick in within 12 hours (really crappy ones) and the effects of taking a dose, once withdrawal symptoms have already set in are pretty horrendous too.

So... I bought these pill organiser thingees, so they'll remind me to take meds and so I can *see* if I've not taken them and make sure I take them as quickly as possible if I've forgotten.

I've even bought small sweets to put in with the meds, because I *hate* taking meds and putting something sweet in there with the meds seems like a nice, cheerful thing to do :laugh:

But... I also hate filling the daft thing every week.

And I **shoud** do it.

Except, how do I make it not be a should?

Inner kid is not impressed by the idea of just giving it some "fake" other name. :meh:

Maybe I can look at the logic of the situation instead? This blasted SSRI has given me countless awful migraines that have often lasted several days during the past few years. The side-effects of not taking it on time are just horrible.
So filling this medicine thingee is actually really good self-care.
It's migraine prevention stuff.
It's dysfunction prevention stuff.

Also, by filling my dog's med organiser thingee, it helps me not to forget his thyroid meds.
So even if I dislike the *task* itself, it's actually a caring and loving thing to do for my dog.
It's like giving him a cuddle, just a more grown-up and responsible version.

I wonder if I can make the task feel more positive?

Surely the OCD part of my brain likes putting the right amounts of pills and vitamins in all the little segments?

And maybe I can think of it as putting something healthy and some thing self-caring in the little boxes?

It's certainly healthier for me to take vitamins and supplements.

And I like taking my thyroid meds, because they give me energy and prevent me feeling sluggish.

I would like my body to have all the vitamins and supplements it needs.

When I got my last bloodwork done, I was deficient in Vitamin D and in Selenium.

My body also seems to go through huge amounts of Magnesium. I'm constantly getting deficient in that too and getting muscle cramps because of it.

I think my body gets deficient in vitamins and minerals cos of all the added stress from PTSD.

So giving my body the vitamins and supplements it needs is a pretty nice thing to do, even if the task of organising it and remembering it is annoying.

The thing is, that as @Freemartin has said, when a task is done, often there's not really a sense of achievement or satisfaction.

Often, it's done and then just a big feeling of "meh".

And that's totally how I expect to feel after completing this task.

Maybe I'll go and do the task and then journal about how I feel about having completed it.

Okay, so I got it done.

I did pooch's meds first - a) cos they're easier (less meds) and b) cos I actually care about pooch more than myself :rolleyes:

I put a small dog treat in with the tablets too, cos although he's a total champ about taking his meds, it's still a mildly unpleasant thing for him to do, and giving him a treat each time will actually make me feel better for "making" him take his meds.

So then I went and did mine and that was more complicated and took a lot longer.

There was a "meh" moment in the middle of doing it when I realised I'd nearly run out of magnesium supplements and so as I was completing this task on my to-do list, another one had "automatically" cropped up: buying more magnesium supplements.
So that was kind of an anti-achievement feeling.

But yeah, I managed to fill all the little segments with all the right stuff.

It was interesting seeing how conflicted I felt about the SSRI. There's still societal "shame" attached to taking an anti-depressant.
And my FOO would like to pretend that depression "just happens" or "it must be genetic" or "it's your own fault" - cos if any of that's true, they don't have to face that depression can also come from childhood trauma :meh:

So I tried thinking instead, that it's positive that meds like SSRI's exist, that help people in over-coming their PTSD from childhood trauma. That felt more positive.

I also tried feeling gratitude that things like thyroid meds and vitamins and supplements exist and that I have access to them.

I tried feeling a sense of achievement about it, but it was pretty slight.

Then I noticed/ realised something... I think I have a kid's (inner kid's) approach to self-efficacy and motivation and achievement:
In a kid's logic, I want to see immediate results.
I don't want what's called "delayed gratification".

I think in a kid's logic, anything that doesn't yield immediate results is pretty "meh" and feels verrrrrrry far off, in the future.

So yeah, I think that's what I struggle with most. Anything that, from a kid's perspective, doesn't seem to yield immediate results.

For example: doing sport/ getting exercise doesn't make you feel "good" or "healthy" immediately (unless you're very fit).
If you're not particularly fit, doing exercise actually makes you feel tired and sore.

So in kid logic, exercise is dumb.

I think that's quite an important realisation because it gives me something to work on.

It also makes sense that that's why I like things like building projects - cos you can "see" pretty immediate results. It's very tangible.

So that's an issue I want to explore further.

Realising that made me feel a *bit* more achievement about organising the meds stuff. I did feel a bit of a sense of satisfaction about it - tho it mainly felt like satisfaction about "not having given up" and "having managed to achieve a task despite it being annoying". It wasn't so much a sense of achievement about the task itself (organising meds).

Also, on a kid level, there wasn't really any immediate result. No tangible positive effect.
Well, I took my meds for the evening and gave pooch his.
And had the same "meh" issue of non-achievement.

I'm using @Freemartin 's idea of telling myself that I completed the task and it's helping a *bit* but not much.

Again, inner kid logic/ issue of "no immediate results" I guess?

I've taken meds but unlike an "immediate result" thing like eating -> no longer feeling hungry... taking meds doesn't result in any effect/ feeling/ whatever.

How do I get my brain to tap into the idea of long-term results?

Delayed gratification - Wikipedia

Difficulty delaying gratification also plays a role in disorders like anxiety and depression. A key behavior in anxiety is the avoidance of feared or anxiety-provoking situations. By seeking the immediate relief that comes with avoidance, a person is succumbing to the pull of instant gratification over the larger reward from overcoming the fear and anxiety that caused the avoidance.

Procrastination, which is often linked to anxiety, is a clear example: a person avoids a dreaded task by engaging in a more enjoyable immediate activity instead.

Depression is also associated with lower capacity to delay gratification. A depressed person who has difficulty pushing themselves to engage in activities is (deliberately or not) prioritizing short-term comfort and is demonstrating an impaired ability to delay gratification.


Researchers investigated whether the reliability of the reward affects one's ability to delay gratification.

Reliability of the reward refers to how well the reward received matches what the person was expecting or promised in terms of quality and quantity. For example, researchers told children that they would receive better art supplies if they waited. After the children successfully waited for the reward, better supplies could not be "found" and so they had to use the crayons and stickers that were in poor shape.

Comparing these children to ones who received their promised rewards reliably revealed different results on subsequent Marshmallow tests measuring delayed gratification. Children who had learned that the researcher's promise was unreliable quickly succumbed to eating the marshmallow, waiting only an average of three minutes. Conversely, children who had learned that the researcher was reliable were able to wait an average of 12 minutes, with many of them waiting the full 15 minutes for the researcher to return in order to double the reward to two marshmallows.

Given that childhood trauma taught me and other kids that rewards were *absolutely* unreliable... maybe it's no wonder if we now tend to grab "what we can get" in the here and now. :meh:
I woke up early, which is kind of a big deal on weekends. I tend to sleep in for ages and get super groggy.

So, tasks planned for today are going to hardware store to get more renovating supplies. (I should (ahem) make a list).

Also, continue preparing stuff for renovating, cos someone's coming to help us with it next Friday and everything needs to be ready to go.

Also I need to do some stuff for work.

And I should (ahem) do housework.

And aaargh paperwork is starting to pile up again too :(:bag:
It's really hard weighing up that stuff with the immediate-gratification of just sleeping and avoiding, especially on the weekends.

It's sooooo hard not to let the immediate benefits of "yay sleep" or "yay distraction" win :meh:

And given I get no (inner kid) "yay" about any completed task other than instant gratification... it's even harder to find the motivation to do any of this stuff.

Can I just be a kid, haha? :p

Or a cat? ?

Just eating and sleeping and playing. Done. Repeat.


How do I get out of PTSD kid mode re any long-term goals or responsible tasks???

So far, I've always used the extrinsic motivator of "bad things will happen" or "I'll get in trouble".

Like "If I don't get up on time and arrive at work in time, I'LL GET IN TROUBLE"

That seems to motivate inner kid to do stuff, even if there's no intrinsic immediate reward stuff.

"Not getting in trouble" and "avoiding bad stuff" are real motivators on a kid level.

But that doesn't seem particularly healthy and constructive :meh:
So I bought more building supplies, which means we have most of what we need now.
They didn't have one item we need, so I ordered that and can probably pick it up on Tuesday.

I also bought some plastic sheeting to make the outdoor aviary windproof, because we have a rescue pigeon right now and once it's recovered a bit (I think it's wing may be broken) I should put it in the aviary outside so it can fly about a bit and so I can *see* whether it can fly yet, before I release it. And it seems kinda poor timing, at the end of November (cos cold), so I think wind-proofing the aviary would be a good idea.

As usual, even tho I've achieved something I planned to do (building supplies store) I feel "meh" about it. It took effort and in kid's logic there's no real result. All I've done is shift a bunch of building supplies from the store to the farm. Doesn't really feel like an "achievement".

I'm having a break now and plan to do more preparation work in 2 hours, for the building project.
I'll need to remove part of the concrete floor in the bathroom (which will be noisy) put some plastic insulation around the water pipes and fill part of the hole in the floor with sand, so new concrete can go on top of it on Friday.

Re inner kid logic, I think it's really hard doing a project in so many (boring) steps. I think kid logic is that you put in (about an hour's worth?) of intense effort and then *voila* magically it's all done! :tup:

And yeah, kid projects like building a sandcastle or drawing a picture... they *are* done after about an hour. Voila.

It's hard doing these very grown-up projects and tasks.

It's not impossible to do them, but it's hard to feel anything other than "meh" about them.
It's really hitting home how intense this is.

All I feel after building supplies store trip is exhausted.

No sense of achievement or satisfaction.

How on earth do I ever manage to motivate myself to do anything much, when this is usually the result?

Is my motivation to get tasks done really so fear/ pressure driven?
Is "relief" that I got something done, what I'm actually aiming for? :meh: