Counselling has been going very well. Sometimes I struggle with CBT- I worry I’m not doing it correctly, or I don’t understand where its all going. I think I get what’s going on in my current sessions though, and I think I can see where I’m heading, and I like where I think I’m going to end up.
I think its safe to say that I’ve got the classic combo: generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety. Over the last few weeks my counsellor has been helping me a lot with addressing my thoughts- being aware of when I’m- a) “mind reading” during a conversation “they must think I’m such an idiot” , b) what if thinking “what if something bad happens” and c) catastrophizing “well of course something bad will happen”. And of course, negative thought patterns and trying to have more balanced thoughts. We also addressed “self focus” and bringing my attention away from myself to the other person and to the world at large. It’s so easy to get caught up in my thoughts and my feelings and to become lost in them. There have been lots of work sheets and some terrifying behavioral experiments. Its kinda amazing how distorted my view of the world is and the impossibily high standards I hold myself to. Just myself. I would never hold someone else to such standards, and I’m willing to forgive other people for their own mistakes far more easily than my own. I am my own judge and critic, and I am selfish and wrapped up snugly in my broken thoughts and self loathing. I am trying hard to soften up, to recognise the thoughts and rationalise them. I am trying to bring my attention and focus outwards.
We have reached the heart of the problem now, my counsellor and I, and that is that I worry. Too much. Mostly about uncertainty. And I then try to control that uncertainty in ways that would only make sense to myself, and maybe someone else with GAD. After working on the thoughts we are now directly addressing these behaviours that feed the thoughts. We are taking a step back to go forward- this is purposefully anxiety inducing. Like a vaccine- I need to be feeding myself a tiny bit of my sickness in order to build resilience of it. There is no talk about getting better in any of our sessions- its all about building up resilience. My illness does not have to control my life. Worry and anxiety are even normal, holding onto it and never letting it go…not so much.
Anyway, I had one of the most embarrassing sessions on Tuesday when I had to tell my counsellor all about the ways I try and control uncertainty, to help me feel like I’m preparing, to easy my worry and satisfy my anxiety. Take for example, leaving the house. The first stage- waking up and getting out of bed. Waking up is usually not hard, getting out of bed is. I have to go to work, but I’m worried about it, I may have a scary deadline, or a meeting, I may just feel simply overwhelmed at the thought of work, so I don’t want to move from the safety of my bed. I want to avoid the problem. Ok, now let’s say I’ve managed to get out of bed. I get ready and now I’ve got to leave the house. First I have to check I’ve packed everything, then check the windows are locked, then check the oven is off, the lights off, the fish are ok, did I forget to check that one window? Better check again. Did I pack a certain item? Better check. Eventually, I’m out the door. I lock the door. Check its locked. But is it really? I check again. I check I’ve got my keys. I turn to walk down the stairs towards the street but, is it really locked? And do I have my keys? I check both again. Only then can I leave the house.
I have a whole evening routine too. And things I do throughout the day.
My life is a series of avoidances and checks and excuses and worries. My counsellor says its classic GAD, I frankly just feel ridiculous, embarrassed and crazy. We made a list of all the things I do on a scale of how anxious it would make me feel to not do it. I’ve got a little chart where I can write down my tasks to address these tasks – that involve very purposefully not engaging in the behaviours that make me feel safe- and some metallic stars to reward myself. According to my counsellor, treatment is about being like a child again: I need to relearn many things. So I treat myself like a child in my rewards.
I want to do this, I want to change, I’m exhausted living this way, but recovery is pretty exhausting too. Well, I’m not quite in recovery, more hovering around that point. Getting there. But slowly.