Personality

Over on Wikipedia personality is defined as “the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.” I must have read that sentence thirty times now and kept trying to figure out if I have a particular combination of emotional, attitudinal (is that even a word?) and behavioral patterns that make up my personality.

If so, does having a personality disorder mean that is it faulty? Broken? Defective? Or that it got lost? Or was never even there in the first place? For all I know, I might just be randomness in human form.

I just spent some time over on YouTube watching videos of young people who vlog or upload videos of themselves singing, doing stuff, sharing their opinions, anything… They seem to have no lack of personality. Most people don’t seem to. I can see their personalities quite clear. But my own? I draw a blank. Like I don’t even really exist outside of the moment, changing with it, constantly.

I wish I didn’t find myself so hard to grasp. 😐

Day After

The night was a restless one. Woke up countless times with my heart beating like crazy, frightened, feeling like someone had touched me, actually feeling the warmth of the hand that was there only in my mind. Woke mom, snuggled up with her and cried until I fell asleep again, only for the whole crap to start over soon thereafter. After many repeats got up feeling tired. Mom, too.

Now I’m feeling on the verge of tears all the time. Arms still wrapped up in bandages. Put some on Little Lola, too.

LittleLolaDayAfter

I think my little me feels the way she looks a lot of the time.

 

Self Harm Morning **Triggering**

SelfHarmIf you’re familiar with self-harm, you’ll probably tell what’s missing from the picture sooner than I can even type it. It’s a sharpener I found around the house. Minus the blade. Because a little earlier today, after breakfast, I gave the missing piece to my mom. And my day unraveled.

I don’t know what even happened, but I wanted to cut myself real bad. Or didn’t exactly want to, but felt like I absolutely needed to. Like I was going to implode or something if I didn’t. Pressure-control.

Mom hugged me and said she was proud of me for giving her the blade. She put it away. Said the sharpener blade is rusty and ragged already. Said if I absolutely needed to cut, she’d give me a clean razor blade, but can I think of alternatives? Can I talk about what’s up?

I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t even know what was up. I just knew that I wanted to cut. So I just cried and told her all I could suddenly think about was cutting myself. Just like that. For no good reason at all. Cause I’m just fucked up like that.

Mom asked me to take her through my thoughts with me, to tell her what I visualized when I thought of cutting, so she could understand better. So I told her that all I wanted to do was slice my skin open. Big, bad, deep wounds. Wreak havoc on myself. Real bad.

And then?, Mom asked. I hadn’t really thought about the ‘and then’ part, because my focus was more on the inflicting wounds part. But she insisted. What should happen then?

I thought about it and realized that what I really wanted to happen thereafter was for her to find me, all bloody and sliced open, and then to be concerned and take care of the wounds and of me. But I was too embarrassed to tell her and felt miserable because I thought about what a nasty, manipulative person that made me and how she should just leave me to bleed to death instead to teach me a lesson or something. Which made me want to cut even more. More crying. An attempt to shove her away by hurling insults her way. And did I mention more crying? A little screaming, too. Ugly and embarrassing.

Long story short, mom wormed my little fantasy out of me eventually. And said it’s alright. That’s exactly what she’d do if I cut myself. But also if I didn’t cut myself and how about we pretended I did, because it’s probably hurting bad enough without cutting anyway.

True, that.

So that’s what we did. Mom got dressing and bandages. Then she let me explain to her what I’d done to myself with the blade and cleaned, taped up and dressed the wounds according to what I described. No mockery. No derision. No making fun of it. She’s still behaving like I actually cut myself for real, keeping me close, making sure I’m alright, making sure I keep the dressing and stuff on.

I feel better. The pressure went down. I don’t feel like I need to cut anymore. In fact I feel like I did, except that I never have. Weird how the mind works. Strangest self-harm experience ever.

On Being Adopted – Identity Issues

The other day I skyped with my sister. While we were talking, the topic of my being adopted came up and my sister asked if I ever felt weird about being adopted.

I have read a lot about issues adoptees usually struggle with, and in a way I can identify with those, but in another way their experience is different from mine. Not because of anything mental health related, just because of the fact that I was already (legally, not emotionally) an adult by the time I was adopted. So unlike people who were adopted when they were little, I had a choice about it. I wanted it, too.

What I can relate to, however, is the whole part that deals with loss, rejection, shame and identity. I only ever became an adoptee because I lost my family. Because my mother didn’t want me. Rejected me. As a person. As her daughter. Because she just didn’t care about me. That comes with an unspeakably overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and sense of being awfully undesirable.

Painful stuff, so I don’t want to go into much detail here and it’s not directly related to adoption for me either. Those feelings were there for a long time before I even met my family. But what has made an appearance after the adoption were identity issues.

Some are tricky.

I don’t share the same family history as everyone else. Everyone in my family knows each other for a long time already. They share memories and traditions and knowledge about a family history that goes at least three generations back and that they feel connected with, somehow. And it’s THEIR history, not mine, yet at the same time it is a little bit of mine, too, now. Feeling left out of something that ought to be mine, too, and having family memories that are different from theirs is difficult sometimes. It sometimes makes me feel like I’m not part of my own family. My first family didn’t want me and being with my real one, the one I have now, makes me feel left out.

Looks. I know it’s silly, but I find myself forever comparing how I look to how my family looks. I find myself being relieved that my oldest sister has blond hair, like I do, because it means that my mom and my dad can have blond children together. That’s important to me. My hair is blond. Everyone has blue eyes like I do, too. That’s another thing that’s reassuring. It means I don’t stand out as being obviously different. But they are all fairly tall and I’m short. I’m relieved that people mistakenly think it’s because I’m still a teenager and have yet to grow, but I figure they won’t keep on thinking that forever. I also have buck teeth (as you see in the picture I posted) and nobody else does. Those small things make me sad sometimes.

My name. I share my family’s last name. My mom gave me her middle name to be my middle name, too, because I didn’t have a middle name. My first name was chosen by my birth mother. I don’t miss the last name I grew up with, because it was the last name of my stepfather, who abused me. I wasn’t biologically related to him and I’m glad I don’t carry his name any longer. But even so I often feel like the same mix of things that my full name reflects. Complicated.

The contradiction that my adopted family feels like my real family and my birth family feels much less “real”, when the whole rest of the world thinks it might be the other way around. I’m always afraid that people will think that I am “only” adopted. That I’m not a REAL part of my family. When to me my family now feels like my real, true, actual family. I always feel like I need to make sure that everyone realized that I am REALLY my mom’s daughter. At the same time I’m afraid I might not be good enough to deserve to really be her daughter.

My social class identity. I’m from a working-class / underclass family. I grew up hearing that anyone who had a good job and money sucked, basically. That they were arrogant, self-righteous people, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, who have no idea of what life “really” is like and who look down on and don’t care about “people like us”. That’s what I believed for the longest time. And now my mom’s a shrink and my dad’s a lawyer, as white collar as it gets. They have a really neat house, can send all their kids to college, money is never an issue although my mom isn’t even working anymore, and I’m technically what my birth mother would have considered a “spoiled, arrogant rich kid”. Which adds so much guilt that I feel awful for even writing about it, much less identifying with it.

I suppose there are more issues, but those are the ones that came to my mind the easiest. So while I really, really like the fact that my family adopted me and that I belong with them properly and forever, it’s not always easy. It’s okay because my family knows and they help me and are understanding when I’m upset about stuff, but it can get complicated.

But even so, I’m very, very happy that I’ve been adopted and it is infinitely better than not belonging with anyone. I love my family more than I can say.  🙂

Saying hi :-)

Cuz’ I’m happy with how it turned out.

Pencil on paper, digital coloring.
Subject: me. LOL

(And yes, I have buck teeth. Awful.)

LolaSmiling02

10 Futile Tips to Increase Self-Esteem & ONE That Actually Works (for me)

Anyone struggling with mental health issues is quite likely to be struggling with a low self-esteem, too. Unless, maybe, you’re a narcissist, but trust me, then your true self-esteem is probably not so grand either. 😉 If you are struggling with self-esteem issues, you probably are not short on good advice on how to increase it that people have given you over the years. I sure am not short on this kind of advice.

The problem is, those tips never really worked for me. Not a single one of them. I wrote them down below along with the objections that I have. Then I’ll tell you the ONE thing that actually works to improve my self-esteem. But before that, here’s all the “good” advice:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. Don’t compare yourself to other people. I don’t really see this working, because isn’t it an inbuilt thing that humans compare themselves to other humans in order to relate and to survive? Isn’t it a way to develop positively, too? Imagine we didn’t have the ability to look at other people and see what they are doing and then compare it to what we are doing. . . we’d be unable to learn from others, if we weren’t able to compare people and behavior. So why should I stop comparing? For example I see that my mom manages emotions so much better than I do. I want to be able to do that, too. Shouldn’t I be looking and comparing what she does to what I do, in order to figure out what she does differently and why she manages and I don’t? I don’t see how my self-esteem would grow from stopping comparing. I mean I do want to know where I stand in relation to others, because I am a social being. Maybe the conclusions I draw are not the best, but really, that’s not the same as the thing itself being bad.

2. Don’t put yourself down. Okay. Good in theory. No putting myself down. But what shall I do instead? Pretend my lacking abilities aren’t there? Yay, I have awesome emotional coping skills. I rock. I’m awesome. – Unrealistic much? Hey, but at least I’m not putting myself down. So okay, maybe I’m gonna feel better about myself initially, but sooner or later I still don’t have any better emotional coping skills and run into a big mess because of them. I’ll still feel bad about myself in the long run. Also, there is a reason for which I put myself down. I can’t just resolve that by making a decision not to do it any longer. The reason needs figuring out and addressing, else I’m only gonna feel worse about myself because I don’t really manage to not put myself down.

3. Strengthen yourself with positive affirmations. Hmm… I have nothing against positive affirmations. I can write them on pieces of paper and stick them to the bathroom mirror and when I run out of toilet paper, I’ll even be grateful they’re there. But repeating something positive over and over again isn’t going to make it feel more true to me when I have an aversive reaction to what the affirmation says in the first place.

4. Accept compliments. I would. And I can pretend that I do. But in order to accept something, it needs to fit in with my belief system. Imagine someone told you the world is a flat disk that people fall off of once they come too close to the edge and expected you accept it. Everything you know tells you they are wrong, and you feel like there is plenty of proof that they are. But chuck that, accept it anyway. Would you?

5. Change your beliefs about yourself. Oh, I would. In a second. If this was a rational kind of belief system, I’d be changing it so much and so awesomely you’d stand in awe. Problem is, those beliefs aren’t rational. Rationally I do already know that I have no reason for my self-esteem to be so bad. But guess what, this isn’t a rational belief. It is tied deeply into my emotions and my experiences and my history and they just shrug logical reasoning off like a pesky insect and will rather go and get the fly swatter than accept it keeps on bothering them.

6. Find out what you’re good at. Good idea. If in order to believe I’m ‘good at’ something my bad self-esteem wouldn’t always interfere. My bad self-esteem tells me that even when I’m good at something, I’m not good enough by far, and the thing that I’m good at isn’t a very valuable thing anyway. So if I were just able to find out what I’m good at, I wouldn’t be struggling with such a lousy self-esteem in the first place.

7. Don’t allow people to treat you with a lack of respect. Define ‘lack of respect’ please. It is a highly subjective thing, what one considers as a ‘lack of respect’. If someone pushes me around I don’t recognize that as a lack of respect, because I feel they are right in doing that, and not lacking anything. I’d need to feel deserving of a certain level of respect first, in order to properly realize when someone is treating me with less than that.

8. Dress nicely, maintain good hygiene, work out, eat well, etc. I have nothing against those things, other than that if they don’t match how I feel, instead of making me feel better, I just feel an inner dissonance and like a fraud because the way I look and eat and stuff is not appropriate to the way I feel inside. Eating is a big one for me. I just CAN not eat when I feel like I’m not deserving of the food. I want to, my rational mind knows there is no reason why I would not, but I just CAN’T. Not until I feel better about myself. So dressing nicely, maintaining good hygiene etc. feels backwards to me. Like saddling a horse that isn’t yet even there.

9. Be helpful and kind to others. So good in theory, so hard when all those emotions get in the way. I try to, really. I try really, really hard, because it’s important to me. But the expectation makes me feel like a failure when I don’t manage, because I know it should be the least thing to be kind to others and to be helpful. And having such a bad self-esteem, I often don’t even feel like anyone would WANT the help I could offer, because it’s not good enough, and like nobody would even CARE for my being kind, because I am annoying them. So I end up feeling afraid of being kind, because I feel like they would misunderstand my attempt at kindness as an attempt to bother them and would turn away from me over it.

10. Don’t dwell on your past experiences. Uhm-kay?! They just contributed big time to who I am, so why would they be important, right? Cause as humans we tend to ignore past experiences, or what? Trust me, if I could just be a clean slate and start over, I’d totally do it! But… not working. Experiences shaped who I am. My experiences shaped my emotions. In order to understand myself, my emotional reactions, my automatic thoughts and beliefs, I actually NEED to take those experiences into account, so I can make sense of the mess I am. And hey, maybe even eventually move beyond it. Sorry if you consider my wanting to be more aware of how my past influenced to be ‘dwelling’ on my past experiences.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so all those didn’t really work for me. Like, at all. But one thing IS working. And this one thing is:

ImproveSelfEsteem

That, and only that, is where the modest amount self-esteem that I have collected in the meantime comes from. That is what helps me with drawing better conclusion from comparisons with other people. That is what helps me with not putting myself down so much. That is what slowly replaces the negative beliefs I have about myself with better ones. That is where I get a healthy idea of how much respect I deserve from. That is what helps me make sense of and come to terms with my past experiences to then let go of them. And that is what makes me more sure that I can actually offer kindness and help that others would appreciate.

Only this one thing. Go figure.  I actually need to get a horse before I saddle it.

The ‘If I Were’ Game

I found the game in a self-harm workbook that I have. It’s an exercise to get a better idea of who you are, apparently. The rules are easy, you just try to figure out what you’d be if you were any of the following things. Here are my answers:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If I were a politician I would be

the politician who wouldn’t get enough votes because she’d not care about the traditional policitian-y things, but would try to make positive changes for minorities like people with mental health issues.

If I were a pop star I would be

Pink. Because she gets it. And because she rocks.

If I were a film star I would be

Hm, difficult. Angelina Jolie, probably. Because she appears to be a wild child who eventually found a purpose in her life. I’d love to be able to say the same about myself.

If I were in a soap opera I would be

the character who’s adding the drama, or the misunderstood misfit. I can play that role perfectly.

If I were a writer I would be

the writer who never dared to publish a single book, because she’s consumed with self-doubt.

If I were a book I would be

a diary, with lots of pages already written, new stuff on each page, and lots of pages still empty.

If I were a TV show host I would be

Ellen DeGeneres, because she’s funny and self-confident and makes people happy and pranks people, but never in the mean way (or at least never in the really bad mean way where the joke is on someone else whose feelings get hurt).

If I were a criminal I would be

hm… like Robin Hood maybe, stealing from the rich and mean to give it to those who need it.

If I were a religion I would be

a colorful religion that values love and virtues, and people thinking for themselves, and excluded all dogmatic directives that tell people how to behave and punished them for wrongdoing or thinking or living outside the box.

If I were a mythical beast I would be

a Phoenix, who burns up, but then rises from his own ashes.

If I were a Disney character I would be

Tinkerbell’s unruly sister. In black and hot pink.

If I were a drug I would be

a mood-destabilizer. LOL

If I were an animal I would be

a big cat. Cuddly towards those she loves, but with claws that won’t be messed with.

If I were a piece of food I would be

haha, silly question. Okay, let me think. I’d be… a… magical surprise fruit. Each bite might taste different.

If I were an illness I would be

the annoying cough that doesn’t go away.

If I were a mood I would be

unpredictable.

If I were a holiday resort I would be

an adventure resort where around every corner you’d find new challenges waiting for you.

If I were a pattern I would be

chaotic.

If I were a tree I would be

the crooked tree that grows at the edge of an abyss, digging its roots into the rock and trying its best to still grow upright, but never quite managing to make it back up over the edge properly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There you go, my ‘if I were’ answers. Feel free to play, too. Let me know if you do, so I can come and read your answers.  🙂

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Not Even My Social Anxiety is Clear-Cut

One label among my mix of diagnoses is ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’, which is also called ‘Social Phobia’. It’s probably hard to differentiate it from the PTSD at the same time, but it’s got all the markers of a social phobia. For those who are not familiar with it, the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Social Phobia are (for adults, shortened):

A. A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.
B. Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety.
C. The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.
D. The feared social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
E. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situations(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine or functioning.
F. In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.
G. The fear or avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder.
H. If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the fear in Criterion A is unrelated to it.

As far as I can remember back, I have always had a social phobia. My threshold for anxiety in unfamiliar situations in general is very low and if they are social situations, I often feel physically sick with all the anxiety. My heart rate accelerates, I get sweaty palms, I feel nauseous and like I’m frozen.

School was never fun for me. Interaction with others was the most awful thing. I was always a shy, lonely child. Some teachers were concerned about me and it was the most mortifying thing when they tried to talk to me about stuff. Tried, because I didn’t really talk. I’d nod or shake my head, but rarely talked, or at least no more than a soft ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Most teachers didn’t notice, though, because I was quiet and didn’t draw any attention in class and they probably were happy with that.

When I lived in group homes and attended therapy groups, it was pretty much a repeat of how it had been in school. Only there it started to cause problems, because I was expected to interact with the other girls, to talk in front of them and to share things about myself while other people were watching. That was horrific. I was nervous only being in the same room with them, forget talking. So I remained mute, avoided eye contact and they seemed to understand that as a sign of defiance more than anxiety. And I guess part of it was defiance, but it was protective defiance because I was afraid.

Today I’m still wary of situations where people who I don’t know might talk to me and I’m extremely nervous about going to unfamiliar or busy places. It’s somewhat easier today because I don’t need to go places alone, though. I feel comfortable and unafraid at home, especially with mom, so having her with me helps because I feel like I’m safe in her presence and can “hide” with her. Not physically, but by knowing she can tell how much I can take and will take over when I can’t take any more. That’s fairly liberating, because I feel much better about new situations when I’m not facing them by myself. I feel like it’s safer to be a bit more courageous, too, because in case it gets bad or overwhelming, I’m not alone.

Strangely, at the same time, I also have this whole other, opposite side to me. (Like, because things being easy and unambiguous for once would be boring or something.) Sometimes I go into what’s like an entirely different personality mode, almost, for which social anxiety isn’t a problem at all. I think it’s a semi-dissociated state or something, and it kicks in when I go into a “fuck all the world, I don’t care, bring on the destruction” state. That was the mode that took over when I ran from the group homes, for example, or the mode that ended with me having sex with perfect strangers. I’m not shy at all about talking or being in social situations then, but it’s like I’m not even really being “me” in those situations.

And once more I’m left feeling like a fraud when I suffer from social anxiety symptoms, because I know that I’m also capable of being perfectly anxiety-free at other times. How can two so opposite sides be really there? That’s what I ask myself then and feel like I can’t even trust my own behavior or thoughts or feelings.

Lately those anxiety-free episodes have become far and few in between, though, and I think that’s even kind of a good sign, because those socially uninhibited person that I can turn into is a very unhealthy person for me to be. Kind of a protective, tough persona that I picked up as a means of coping along the way, not my true self.

But I feel like I’m starting to ramble. This post doesn’t really even have a point other than “it’s complicated” maybe. Ah well, I’ll post it anyway. Because it IS complicated and weird, being both extremely afraid socially, and able to just ditch all anxiety in other situations. Complicated. And social anxiety sucks.

A very helpful therapeutic excercise

I saw F for therapy this morning. I was in a rotten mood when we arrived because while we were in the car my mom had told me we’d have to stop by the supermarket on the way home because my jerk brother had helped himself to our fruit basket when he had been over to pick stuff up this morning. I always have difficulty with spontaneous changes in plan and was angry at mom because I felt like she never considered me with anything she did.

Mad at her, I didn’t want her anywhere near me during my therapy, so I went into the room with F alone, while my mom waited. (Sometimes I want my mom along, and F lets me.) Anyway, so I was alone with F and in a bad mood and of course she could tell and asked what was up. So I explained to her how I felt like mom didn’t take my feelings seriously, yada yada yada.

Then F introduced me to a therapy technique that I found surprisingly helpful in the end – so much that I want to share, because who knows, maybe it helps someone else, too.

F asked me to conjure up before my mind’s eye what we call my “safe place”. My usual safe place includes my mom, but today I was mad at her and didn’t want her at my safe place, so I visualized my safe place without her. We do the “safe place” visualization often, so that by now I’m pretty good at going there in my mind and noticing when I need to return there if the stuff we work on during therapy gets overwhelming.

Anyway, so I was at my safe place. F then asked me to focus on the situation that upset me again, and to identify my thoughts and feelings as closely as possible. I ended up with:

  • feeling ignored
  • unloved
  • worthless
  • overpowered because the decision had already been made and I hadn’t even been asked
  • helpless
  • panicky
  • angry over feeling helpless and panicky
  • angry at mom for not doing her job as a mother right
  • abandoned

The next step was that F asked me to keep holding on to these feelings, but let the present day situation fade away at the same time, so that just the feelings remained. That was a bit challenging, but I managed.

Then F asked me to allow my mind to wander and see if it recalls a situation from when I was younger where the same feelings applied.

I did and it didn’t take very long before a situation from a group home came to my mind. It was the group home I had been in after my first hospital stay aged 15, and I had been at the group home for three weeks (or so) at the time when suddenly the woman who ran my group, a social worker or something, decided I was going to be moved to another group home outside of town. Just like this. I had only just settled in with this group, only just started to open up to some of the caretaker people there, and suddenly that woman just said “pack your things, you’re going to move later today”.

Apparently they had only taken me temporarily while they were waiting for a longer term placement to become available, but nobody had told me this. Anyway, so that was the situation that came to my mind when F asked me to see if I could find one that matched the feelings I had.

F made sure I still felt safe, and then asked me to remember the situation from the group home and my feelings in this situation as vividly as I could. And once I had that she asked, if there was anyone who I wanted to be there with me in that memory situation to help me or to give me what I didn’t get for real back then.

I nodded and really wanted my mom (like, my mom now, not my birth mother) to be there. So F asked me to imagine what would happen if she went there. So before my mind’s eye I saw myself all upset and confused and feeling helpless and afraid and angry because I was getting pushed around and shoved off to another home because not one single person in the world even cared for me. Then I had my mom come into the room with me. I made her come in, be very gentle and respectful, like she is in real life, too, and she looked at me in this way that says, without ever speaking a word, that she sees me and feels for me and wants to be there with me. Then I had her talk to me and explain to me how she is going to be my mom one day. Not yet now, because we don’t really know each other yet, and that she’s sorry we don’t, but that she’s gonna be there for me and loves me and that I’m going to be fine and that she looks forward to when we meet for real.

F asked me to monitor what my feelings did while I was imagining that, and go figure, they went away. I felt sad and unhappy for having been in such an unhappy place, but also better not like nobody loved me anymore. More sorry that I’d been so bitchy to mom.

I asked F if I could get mom for real and she was fine with it, so I went to where she was waiting and while mom was all surprised and a bit concerned that I was coming out before the time was up, I just put my arms around her neck and suddenly felt so overwhelmed that I couldn’t help crying. In the slightly-confused-yet-relieved way. It’s embarrassing, actually. I bet mom had no idea what the hell had happened.  LOL

I really liked this exercise. I felt a lot better afterwards. I can’t even explain why exactly. We stopped by the supermarket and it was okay. Once we were home again, I even felt good enough to continue with the sexual healing journey a bit. And even now I still feel kind of elated and like my family loves me and look forward to the rest of the day. Life is good. 🙂

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