I am taking part in a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy group for Anxiety. The idea it to desensitize you to your anxiety by revising them. The first step is to write down scenarios of what I think could happen based on my most anxiety-provoking thoughts, as if they are happening to me right now. I have struggled with this trying to decide what to write about and have come up with another way of looking at this. So this is a draft of what I think I will share with my group.
I have been asked to write down what will create the most anxiety for me, and write it in the first person, so here it is.
I am afraid that I will be alone. That my husband will get sick and die. That family relationships will falter as a result of this loss. That I will end up in the mental ward of a hospital because I tried to commit suicide.
Oh yea, right. That happened.
The idea of writing down the anxiety and worst-case scenarios, then revisiting them over and over again is to desensitize you to them. And perhaps the CBT for Anxiety would have been beneficial if I hadn’t been living all the outcomes of anxiety-provoking situations, and pushing myself into some these situations, or having to face them because there is no other choice.
Here are some examples. I hate driving long distances and in busy traffic. Over the past year plus I’ve been driving long distance to Michigan to visit my Dad and the traffic there is harrowing, but I haven’t had an accident (yet anyway) and if I do I’ll have to face that. That doesn’t stop me from driving there or to Toronto either.
My dad almost died in the hospital so drove there in the winter – I hate winter driving – and had to live through the whole hospital situation again. (My husband got sick March 11th 2013 and died June 18, 2013 and you don’t want to hear the whole story or it will make you cry. Trust me because it’s made many people cry.) But here I am taking care of someone in the hospital again. I’ve been exposed to hospital settings over and over again since my husband died. I’ve felt PTSD, re-living the past in these hospital situations, but continued this immersion because I had to, and I actually am desensitized to it.
I hated public speaking. I joined Toastmasters. And sometimes it’s uncomfortable but I’ve done speeches and survived. I’ve been on panels professionally and done hour-long presentations in front of groups. I’ve been teaching classes since 2002. Sometimes one person in the class doesn’t like something I’ve done and I’ve learned to accept that. On a larger anxiety-ridden scale, my teaching contract wasn’t renewed because the head of the department took a personal disliking to me. I felt ashamed but I had to go on. I prefer everyone to like me, but in reality not everyone will. That can be a really tough pill to swallow in job-related situation. But I’m alive.
I don’t like to make a fool of myself (or feel like I am) but I’m taking risks that could lead to that; learning guitar from an instructor who won’t let me give up, taking Zumba classes at age 60 in a room full of mostly younger people. I ran an interview teleseminar this week and it was scary, but I survived and will be doing these bi-monthly for a while.
I am a professional writer but became afraid of negative outcomes and began sabotaging the work I was getting, thus creating the negative outcomes myself. But I learned that not working is worse. It inflates my low self-esteem, an issue I’ve dealt with most of my life. So this isn’t the outcome I want and I will be working to get work again. It’s scary, but I’m living this one, not just writing it out.
I write about my husband’s illness, death, my journey after, revealing myself completely. Guess what? It turns out people what to help. In fact they’re actually drawn to your story, even more so when it’s a sad, devastating story about someone you know personally, or have gotten to know through social media. As a result I have new friends who are there for me when I need them.
I really don’t like being alone. I never envisioned this life for myself, but now I’m living it. Do I want to write out the worst-case scenario? Not really, because I don’t believe I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t. But first I have to live with living alone and being lonely and I face that every day. Weekends are the worst for me, but I come through alive every Monday.
As for what “could happen,” I don’t lose sleep over whether I’ll get a horrible disease, could be in a car accident, or may be accosted in a dark alley. I live safely, but don’t close myself up and hide in the house.
After two years of devastating grief and slowly climbing up from a dark pit, I’m realizing that the laws of attraction have benefits. I believe that positivity draws people and positive situations to you. Negativity repels possible relationships and good things that can happen. Who wants to be around someone who is always negative? We avoid them, right?
So, truthfully, I think I have cleared things that created anxiety for me, but may have even gone beyond that because I have faced my most anxiety-provoking issues head on.
In reality, I’m grasping at straws trying to write down negative things that aren’t really causing me anxiety. I know that the real secret is to Live In The Moment. That’s the lesson here. We some control over the future, but not over unforeseen events. We can’t keep creating ‘what if’ situations because chances are even when they happen you have no idea what the outcome will be.