This week drew a close to the CBT that I have been lucky enough to receive at least fortnightly since January. For almost half a year, I met with my therapist to try and put an end to the horrible OCD thoughts, anxiety and depression by learning new tips and techniques.
I woke up this morning to the awful news of the terrorist attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. My heart goes out to all those affected by such a tragic incident that should never have happened. It got me thinking, as most tragedies do, about how we should all keep our loved ones as close as we can because we never know what is going to be round the corner. I truly hope those parents with missing children or have lost their children can find peace. I cannot even imagine the pain they must be suffering. We saw some wonderful acts of kindness as all people fled to help, with taxi drivers offering free fares to safety and hotels opening their doors to people who needed it most. Know that although something so evil has happened, there was love and kindness around at the time and this can help people to try to remain positive.
Sometimes we feel anxious when we think about the future. We worry that something will go wrong, or that something terrible could happen, and we do whatever we can to prevent those things from happening. When we feel that we can’t prevent these things that we don’t want to happen, we panic, and things become a downward spiral, and we become anxious and irritable… then we just don’t do whatever it is that is causing the worry.
I have found that it is not always enough to just put off the things that are worrying me. The problems are still going to be there and most of the problems are things that are just out of my control. When I explained to my therapist that I often get anxious about things I can’t do anything about, she told me to try and bring myself back to the ‘now’ to help ease the anxiety for the time being. I spend a lot of my time worrying about tomorrow, even though really I know that it’s going to be okay in the end. That doesn’t stop the shaky, irritable body sensations and my brain telling me awful things that make me want to cancel everything in my schedule and just stay in bed. So now I have to try and experience the ‘now’. And this is how she told me to do it.
Throughout my entire life, I have been a perfectionist. Many would argue that it can’t be a bad thing to always want to do things correctly, or always have things look a certain way. The difficult with perfectionism, however, is the question; what is perfect? If perfect is a matter of opinion, then who am I to say that the way things are for me now, isn’t perfect?
When I was younger, I planned the ‘perfect’ life for myself. I wanted to be a teacher, have a long term boyfriend, be engaged and married by 25, have children by 30 and live in a beautiful house in the countryside with dogs and horses. Now that I think about it, that may have been my perception of a perfect life, but actually, how shallow is that?! And who says that’s perfect anyway?!
Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes we have to face demons that we don’t want to face. It’s easy to hide away, close the curtains and shut off the entire world. That’s a safe place; trust me, I know. Sometimes I need a day (or week!) in my safe place. But do we ever feel better for it? Does it just make the anxiety about facing reality worse?
Recently, I found myself in a bad place where I didn’t want to be with anyone or leave the house. I wanted to close the curtains and just scour the internet for SOMETHING that would make me feel better about the situation I was in. So, I did just that. I took a whole week to just do nothing because I couldn’t bare to face the world. To everyone else, I was just feeling unwell. I suppose really, I was unwell, but mentally rather than physically.
The journey to a happy and comfortable state of mind may be within touching distance or miles away through a long, dark tunnel. We all have our own personal battles, whether that be mild anxiety, low self-esteem, OCD, grief or chronic depression. That being said, it’s important to know that it will not all be okay with a click of the fingers; it takes time and perseverance. Not only this but it may be easier some days than on other days.
For me, I suffer with low confidence and anxiety regarding how I look and how people perceive me. I sunk into a dark depression last year, and ever since, have been doing what I can to try and bring myself back up from the ‘darkness.’ That has included CBT therapy, positive thinking and mindfulness activities. I am no longer in a depressed state of mind, however my self-esteem is still low and my anxiety can still get pretty high leading up to events.
“How do you know that people are thinking that about you?”
“I just know, by the way they look at me.”
“Have you got any evidence to tell you what they’re thinking?”
This is a conversation I have frequently with my CBT therapist. Whenever I meet friends that I haven’t seen in a while, or even when I pop to the shop, I am bewildered by thoughts of what the people around me must be thinking. “She looks horrible.” “She needs to look in the mirror and sort her hair out.” “She looks cheap.” “What on Earth is that girl wearing!” “She smells bad.” These are just a few of the thoughts I have whenever I see someone looking or I catch somebody’s eye.
This, my therapist told me, is mind reading.