I am anxious about…or am I?

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.

angst-802639_1280I 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.

eyes-730743_1280I 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.

masks-827731_1280I 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.

happy woman-570883_1280In 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.

 

The Magic: Happy is a Choice

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/Free DigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/Free DigitalPhotos.net

The ability to be happy has always be there for me, but I’ve never wanted to carry through. Sometimes it’s easier to wallow in self-pity and depression. Every time you get knocked down you want to say “This is too much! I can’t keep trying to get up!’ OR… you can seek ways to make your days happy. These are the lessons I’ve learned, but I haven’t been practicing the learning that is supposed to lead me to a fulfilling life. Now I am at a crossroads. I need to find a place with less pain and more happiness. When you’re in pain you fight hard to get rid of it…

When I was younger I hurt my back. It was so excruciating it overshadowed my whole life. Some days I was incapacitated. I needed a cane to walk. My daughter (9 at the time) had to tie my shoes for me. I felt defeated. But the pain drove me to find a way to better health. It was difficult, and took several years, but today I walk upright. With the help of chiropractic care, massage therapy and after intensive physiotherapy, I now swim and exercise regularly and consider myself blessed because I have my health back. I fought to get here.

But my mind has not been healthy. That became evident after Bob died. I hid behind him. He was my support too. Then he was gone.

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The beginning of my path to finding positive mental health came when I had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital. After I was referred to group therapy classes. When Bob got sick and after I’ve seen a multitude of therapists. Friends have taught me affirmations. I’ve practiced meditation. But I realize that I haven’t truly being following through with intention to heal myself. I was always looking for someone to make me happy.

Now I know that even though I feel alone I’m really the only person who can make me happy. So I get up and dust myself off again, and start my newest venture. I am following the book The Magic (thanks to my friend Simone​ for sharing this with me).

Today I am writing about my dreams for a better life and what it will look like – health and body, career & work, money, relationships, etc. I will write 10 things every day that I am grateful and feel blessed for having in my life. And each day I will read and do what the book suggests for that day.

To some this will sound like phooey. I get that. I was that person not so long ago. But I know now, and- have seen proof, that the universe gives back what you give to it. Positive attracts. Negative repels. I have been following the negative path. I am persevering to travel the positive road.

Image courtesy of bandrat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Change is hard, and I know this just as much – maybe more – than anyone else. I need to have the momentum to stay the course no matter what obstacles are placed in my way. I must persevere because there are no other choices. This is the only way I will survive and, more than that, learn to love life again and draw other people to me so I am surrounded by love and caring. I have to learn to banish the negative depression and sad things from my mind and push on.

And if I falter I will re-read this post again, because we all need to be reminded that life has its ups and downs. Sometimes we just have to believe in what we believed in as children, that magic is real.