Back this spring, I mentioned that I’d been diagnosed with anxiety, and I was trying to decide how to proceed on that. You’ll recall that I was REALLY torn on whether I should take medication.
Fast forward to now. I didn’t end up taking any medication. I did do some sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Do I have a ways to go? Sure. Do I feel better? Absolutely.
I was thinking about how far I’ve come when I was processing a few situations recently. Things that would have majorly tripped me up before, I was able to work through much more quickly.
The anxiety didn’t go away. I felt like I dealt with it better.
(I know these are small things. They are not actually real problems. But these are the thoughts of someone with anxiety. I’m not saying it is rational. I’m just trying to explain.)
When my Mom was visiting, we went to the food center down from school. I’d been there before. We ordered, ate, and paid our bill. But the bill didn’t seem quite right. We asked if this was definitely everything included. They said yes. We were walking out, and one of the vendors called out to us that we didn’t pay. Hmm. Apparently, this one dude is separate. So we paid him and went on our way.
No big deal, right?
Well, it made me feel icky. I couldn’t quite shake this sort of amorphous feeling of upsetness.
Normally, this would just swirl around in my head and grow and not feel good.
This time, I isolated the feeling of ickiness right away.
Then I thought, WHY did it make me feel icky? I realized it touched on some of my triggers. Doing the wrong thing. Fear of upsetting authority figures, real or perceived.
I thought through the situation. Did we even do anything wrong? No. It was just a misunderstanding. We tried to pay correctly. We even asked. In our defense, this was kind of unusual procedure on the guy’s part. Usually, if you pay vendors separately, they tell you the total right away when they bring the food and you pay them then. This dude definitely didn’t do that. And we didn’t walk off without paying. We paid him. No harm, right?
I decided I was going to take three deep breaths and then release the ickiness. Did it work? Not quite. But then I did a few more deep breaths. And pretty soon after, it felt OK. Like actually OK. Like now I’m able to think back on it without feeling squeamy or upset.
I know this is small, but this is light years of improvement on my processing. I’m pleased. The anxiety isn’t gone, but I worked through it effectively and expediently.
Or take the other day when I was running late to pick up the kids from school. I left myself 25 minutes to drive less than a mile, but some difficulty getting out of a parking garage, making a wrong turn, and then major traffic had me running late.
Previously, my heart would be pounding. I would feel fight or flight panic taking over my body. Sitting in traffic would be torture, and my mind would be spinning out of control.
This was a time when I found it helpful to think to the worst case scenario. Not in a catastraphizing way. But to think, what is actually the worst that can happen here?
In this case, if parents are late, they round up the kids and have them sit in the library until they are picked up. I had already discussed the procedure with my kids and told them this could happen sometime. It was nothing to be upset about, and I would be there as soon as I could.
That was it. That was seriously the worst case scenario. The kids would hang out a tiny bit longer at a school I trusted doing something they knew about.
After thinking it through, I was able to drive to school normally. Not panicked. I didn’t go tearing into the parking lot and sprint into the school. I just felt fine. When I got to school, about five minutes late, the kids were about to go up to the library. They were actually cranky with me for showing up because they were excited about some library time. Go figure.
So that’s where I am now. I’m not seeing my therapist regularly at the moment, but my info is still on file and I may go back for a tune up if I feel like I need it at some point. I don’t always love flying, particularly when there is turbulence, but that’s definitely better too.
It’s funny. I can’t point to any one thing or procedure that we did in my therapy sessions that helped me process better. We never sat down and went, “OK, THIS is the plan.”
It was definitely hard work. I cried. Frequently. Even if I don’t know how I got to where I am, I’m glad I’m here. It’s not perfect. It’s definitely better.