Dealing With It

It was only a matter of time before J was going to ask me to do a practical CBT exercise.
For a few weeks, we’ve been dissecting individual places and events, what causes the anxiety, what makes it worse, what helps (safety behaviour) and where I could be in that place to ride out the panic rather than running away. I’d always visualise myself in these places with the thoughts and feelings I usually had. Going into detail has been difficult, partly because I don’t really think about it at the time, (there’s a lot of times I’ve had a panic attack and not even remembered much of what went on) and partly because it’s hard to admit every little detail. It’s validating the fear, making it more real.
So far, J and I have come up with a list of places with scores between 0 (completely calm) and 100 (full blown panic). Most of these places are shops, and although I said “cinema” and “going out for a drink” I don’t think they count because they happen so infrequently. The last time I went to the cinema was when “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was out… We picked a choice place, somewhere halfway along the list so it wasn’t too easy and wasn’t going to be the exotic pet store where the tarantulas live. ‘Scuse me..
*throws up a bit*
I hate spiders.. Anyway, the place we chose was Waterstones. I’d already figured that my anxiety is less in there because of my love of books, and if I get anxious I know there is usually a seat nearby where I can flick through a knitting or photography book to distract myself. I guess there is the possibility that this knowledge means that my anxiety is lessened before I even get there. Plus there’s the benefit of a bookshop actually selling lots of things that I really want, rather than popping into Sainsbury’s for a pint of milk.
J asked me what part of the store would make me more anxious. This was easy – either standing by the front door, or waiting in a queue at the till. We looked in more detail at what I’m like waiting at the till to be served. He asked me about my behaviour – what’s going through my mind, what am I doing, where am I looking – that sort of thing. At first, I wasn’t sure – some things I do automatically, and some things I’m sure most people do, like check their purse, keep an eye on the till to see if it’s their turn yet. As we talked, I realised I do as much preparation as possible. Not only do I get my purse out, I get my debit card out (or cash, depending on how I’m paying) and I have a tendency to watch the sales person. I try and figure out what mood they’re in – are they chatty or efficient? Are they trying to get customers to fill in stuff or have a catalogue or store card? These things are important, because in my head I have everything in order. I know what will happen, and if I get to the till and they say something that throws me, it really increases the anxiety.
J and I then discussed my safety behaviour. What do I do to take my mind off the anxiety? There wasn’t a huge amount to say here – if my anxiety is high, I often tell myself not to be so silly, and that I’ve done this a thousand times. I try to focus on the task at hand, and not get distracted by anything or anyone. Maybe this is partly why I avoid eye contact with people. I don’t want to end up enganging in some (verbal or nonverbal) diatribe which ultimately would give me too much to think about and deal with at that moment. There’s also the fact that Mr D is rarely too far away. He’s convinced he doesn’t do much – but just knowing he’s around is a huge comfort. My biggest dread is having a panic attack when I’m alone.
What J picked up on is that I’m very negative about the whole thing. I hate my anxiety. I remember clearly what it was like to be ‘normal’ me, and this makes me feel like I die a little bit inside every time I do something ordinary and my stupid disease means that I freak out. The negative rebuke is now automatic, and J suggested that I need to approach it a different way. I can hate my anxiety as much as I want, but I need to accept that right now, it’s okay to feel this way. Hence my new motto:
   “I’m anxious, and I’m dealing with it.”
It looks like some new-age motivational speak, but it is right. I’m accepting the anxiety, rather than fighting it (I have a habit of saying “I’m fine” which Mr D knows means I am anxious) and I am reminding myself that I am doing something positive about it. I need to practice it, though. I guess the way it’s worded is also helpful if the “I’m so stupid” thoughts come into my head. I can say “hey, fucko, back off – I’m dealing with it…”
What J said next made my heart race. “D’you think you could do a practical exercise?”
What J wanted me to do was this. Go to the bookshop and buy a book. Gradually drop my safety behaviours, and get Mr D to back away. This should be done over several times until I go into the shop and buy a book myself.
“When do you think you can start this?” J asked. “How about this afternoon?” I ventured. I always go into town after an appointment to ‘treat’ myself. It’s an unspoken reward for dealing with my shit. This time, I could go and buy a book instead of a cream cake.
This was on Thursday. I have written about my experiences, and shall publish them tomorrow…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s