So What If It Happens?

Chester behind me as I write this post.
Chester behind me as I write this post.

Well, it’s just Chester and me now and that’s pretty much useless since I tried to cuddle with him like my boyfriend does on the couch and he made an awful sound and ran away.   He’s been sleeping on my bed the entire evening since.  I took my boyfriend to the airport this morning bright and early and got to work a bit early, which was good because I had my second therapy appointment.   From the picture above, you can already tell that Chester misses his daddy 😉  I love it when he sits in a kitty-shaped ball.

The therapist has two offices and the one that I went to today is close to my work, so I didn’t have to leave quite as early as I did last time.

She talked about a number of interesting things with me this time.  I am starting to get a new perspective of some of my anxieties.  I almost laugh when I explain myself because the things I worry about sound so irrational when I say them aloud.  The therapist told me that our ancestors had to be afraid of things, like predators or the dark, in order to survive, but since our world has evolved we don’t really need to be afraid of some things as much in order to live.  Regardless, it might be in our nature to develop fears like this.  I thought that was kind of interesting and helped me to see possibly why I have such anxieties and irrational fears.  I hope this makes sense.

When I was explaining the things that really troubled me, it was weird for me to explain myself because I had never really verbalized some of the things I thing about all the time.  When we really started talking about it, I could see more specifically what my fears are and how I deal with them.  The therapist told me that the thing people fear is often not the worst part of anxiety, but the anticipation is.  I couldn’t agree more.  I spend so much time thinking about, “what if” situations that may or may not ever happen and that’s the worst part for me.  It consumes so much of my thinking time and time in general since I act on many of these fears by engaging in routines.

I have an appointment next week Thursday again.  This week, I am supposed to work on cutting down the number of times I wash my hands consecutively before feeling like they are actually clean.  My goal is 50% less hand washing.  I have to keep this up and try to see what will happen if I work through my anxieties.  Even though I feel really uncomfortable and the compulsion is there to wash my hands, for instance, I have to just resist.  If after doing this for awhile, cutting washing time down I mean, and nothing that I fear happens, then hopefully I can connect the idea that my routines are not really preventing the thing I’m afraid of.  This is really hard to write out!  I hope this all makes sense and I’m not too confusing 🙂

Finally, she gave me a paper with questions to ask myself if I am in an anxiety-filled situation.  There are 3 categories of questions: 1) Thought Identification, 2) What’s the Evidence, 3) Decatastrophize: So what if it happens?  These questions are supposed to challenge and change anxious thinking and can be used for any types of anxiety disorders, not just OCD.

For me, she recommends only focusing on the last 2 categories because I have my fears pretty much pinpointed.   Here are the questions:

What’s the Evidence:

  • What are the real odds of this happening?
  • Has the dreadful outcome ever happened before?
  • What is the evidence that it will/will not happen?
  • Have any of the events that you’ve feared actually happened?

Decatastrophize: So What if it Happens?:

  • So what if ________ happens?
  • How would I manage?
  • Would it be completely intolerable?
  • If the feared outcome does occur, how would it affect my future, and how would I cope?

These are supposed to help me break down my fears and really work past the anxiety to hopefully get to a place where this kind of thinking is not dominating my world.  I thought these questions were just too helpful not to share.  I hope they are useful 🙂

I ended the day with some Fazoli’s carryout and I’ve quickly become obsessed with the Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black.”  Watch it!

Thanks for reading friends 🙂

Megan

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87 thoughts on “So What If It Happens?

  1. wow! that sounds like a really productive therapy session, and a really good therapist! im glad youre in a place where you can see your fixations, and want to change them–without that, it wouldn’t matter what you did! i really hope you are able to cut down handwashing time.

    i have anxieties related to trauma/abuse, but some of what you said can still be used for that, like identifying what is the trigger, and then the asking evidence question too. cuz just cuz something happened to me alot with certain people in a certain time, does not mean others will do the same things, and so i don’t have to react with the same anxiety either. anyway, good luck!

    1. She is great and I got really lucky finding her. I called another therapist and she actually recommended the one I went with. Apparently she is really experienced with OCD treatment. I am very grateful 🙂

  2. Well, I guess squishing the cat won’t help much….not for him, anyway. Your therapist, I think, is helping you to try facing fear and in doing that to work out some sort of solution positively. I sure hope your “b.f.” calls regularly!!!!

  3. Great post. I did EMDR therapy last year to work through some anxiety and prepare for a visit to my birthcountry (I’m adopted). Adoptees are a group that tends to have anxiety and control issues – like we want to take back the control that everyone else had over us as infants in deciding where and with whom we lived. Anyway, therapy really helped me and I’m happy to hear that you’re encouraged by your sessions so far! Take care!

    1. That makes a great deal of sense to me. I can see why individuals who were adopted would have anxiety and control problems. Thanks for sharing that 🙂

  4. Having struggled with OCD for years, especially when I was younger, I understand this all too well. I remember having the most absurd fears overwhelm me, even at the simple thought of not doing my daily “tasks”. It was terrible being controlled in this way. On a side note – I worked at Fazoli’s when I was a teenager. I have nothing bad to say about them. Great food, great place.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. The irrational fears sound really silly when actually said aloud. I laughed in therapy yesterday because of what I was saying. I felt so embarrassed and silly 🙂 Fazoli’s is pretty awesome.

  5. I personally don’t suffer from great anxiety but we all have our fears and the tips your therapist gave you seem very useful. I’m definitely going to try them out.
    Your cat is precious!

  6. I agree that the tools/questions are good. I am intrigued by her thoughts about our ancestors having fears and how we are in a world that doesn’t “need” to worry about those things anymore – and how we may be with that. Almost like we need to fear something in order to be alive and surviving.

    1. The ancestors thing did really make sense to me and was so interesting to hear. I’ve never thought about it before, but it does make sense. 🙂

  7. Really awesome post and helpful! 🙂 Great questions. I need to use them. I do tend to have anxiety problems, and they seem to have increased since I started working. Chester looks like a wise Chinese (cat) zen master or something! 😀

    1. They are useful! I’ve already tried reciting them in my head today 🙂 I agree, sometimes Chester seems like he knows something that I don’t….

  8. I know what you’re talking about because I have had anxiety to some degree too, but I haven’t been to a therapist because it seems to be getting better. I have so many ridiculous fears, mainly chemicals (see, I feel silly for saying them aloud too). I hope my mentioning them doesn’t make you afraid! But anyway, you’re not alone on this one, and I hope you feel better!

    1. It’s not silly at all. I know how serious anxiety disorders can be and how terrible they can feel for the person suffering from them. You’re not alone there, that’s for sure 🙂

      1. Whew good to hear it sometimes! But I’m very glad because it seems to be getting better, and that’s what counts, right? By the way, your cat is cute!

  9. Good luck with the new techniques. I remember my counselor taught me a similar method to deal with my anxiety. It worked well for me.

    I watched the first Netflix episode of Orange is the New Black. It’s a good show 🙂

  10. Its such an encouragement to see you sharing your trials and struggles, as well as your help with your anxiety. I suffer from anxiety too, and I always want to share, but then get this weird feeling, like I’m terrified of what people will think, or who is reading my blog. It’s stupid, right? Thank you for sharing and encouraging me so much!

    1. I don’t think that’s stupid at all. I know firsthand how terrible anxiety can feel to the person who has it and it’s very real and troubling for you. I definitely know where you’re coming from there 🙂

      1. Thank you. (: I can guarantee you that therapy helps, though. It was awkward and nerve-wracking when I first went, but now I can see how much it helped. I feel like my old self again. (:

      2. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂 I agree, at first it is definitely awkward, but it’s growing on me and I appreciate the incredibly chance I have to go.

  11. That’s a great technique. Friends often laugh at my irrational fears, but then I reckon everyone has stupid things that make them uncomfortable, it’s just I’m a bit more vocal about mine? (Milk, slugs, mould…)
    Good luck with the techniques and keep us updated!

  12. I started counselling a few weeks ago too. It is helpful to actually verbalize your fears and thoughts sometimes; it does make them seem trivial. And getting feedback from my counselor is awesome. Connecting everything linearly helps me to realize how much of my anxiety is interconnected.
    And you’re lucky you have Fazoli’s! Ours went out of business a few years ago and I’ve missed it ever since!! 🙂

    1. It is so helpful to be able to actual discuss what it is you are feeling. I’ve never done that before and it helped me to pinpoint the things I wanted to work on. That’s horrible about your local Fazoli’s. It’s so awesome!

  13. You weren’t too confusing at all! I completely understand the anxieties and anticipation being the worst part. I can get carried away in my anxiety to the point of snapping at my husband and getting all worked up only to realize that it’s literally all in my head.
    This is such a helpful post! I love the Evidence and Decatastrophizing- things I really need to work on. Nice work, I know it isn’t easy 🙂

    1. I do the exact same thing. I am terrible about pushing my anxieties onto my boyfriend. I will get made at him for the most insignificant things and I hate that about myself. Thank you for sharing 🙂
      megan

  14. i work in mental health and I’m so glad you posted those questions – they are great for anxiety management work – sounds like this therapist is on the ball – I wish you well – oh and by the way I have recently watched the whole netflix series Orange is the new black – I was hooked – I was so sorry when I realised I’d watched them all and i’d have to wait for the second series – which they are filming now by the way.

    1. She is a great therapist and it gives me a bit more confidence to hear that you think she’s doing well too. Orange is the New Black is a great series. I’ve watched 3 episodes just in the time since I’ve been home today 🙂

      1. ha ha I know – its soooo addictive – poor old (gosh ive forgotten her name – the main character!!) no matter what she does it seems to turn out to be the wrong thing somehow ! i love all the characters and the writing is so good

  15. Hi,
    I originally went to a therapist due to anxiety. I had almost crippled myself with it, almost to the point of avoiding leaving the house. She went through some of the same questions/processes. One day…she was talking to me along the line of your discussion about our ancestors. Not the same story, but same meaning behind it. All of a sudden it hit me–I was expecting to have zero anxiety. So, every time I had a little “episode” I would berate myself because I am supposed to be working on eliminating my anxiety. For me, personally, looking at it that way was like this little light bulb going off over my head. Everybody has some anxiety, I don’t need to let mine get all big, scary and all consuming.

    None of us are as perfect as we want to see ourselves in our mind. I’m still working through a lot of anxiety, depression caused by the anxiety, and an over abundance of grief over the loss of too many family members and furkids. But at least now I know that I won’t fall off the earth if I can’t find a paring spot at the mall. That I can survive the freeway during busy times. Oh….I had and still have so many things I get anxious that I am embarrassed to discuss. When I really want a good laugh at myself, I think about some of the most irrational fears I have.

    Glad you are getting help. So sorry your boyfriend is gone. Thankfully, you have all the joys of technology. I know it isn’t the same, but it’s better than nothing.

    By the way, I love Chester!
    April

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I strive for days of zero anxiety, but that’s just not possible for a person like me, or anyone really. Anxiety can be terribly overwhelming if there’s too much of it, but it is also a survival mechanism, so it’s kind of a good thing that we have it. Before I sought therapy 2 years ago, I was at my all time worst and I skipped so many classes and rarely went out, which was very isolating for a twenty-something. I think we just have to come to an understanding about ourselves and have a more realistic expectation of how we can be 🙂

      That’s how I feel anyway.

      Technology is so great 🙂 When we first started dating, we were only able to communicate through email or pay for skype minutes. Now, we can text or video call at the touch of a button. Funny how quickly technology has changed!

      Chester says thank you 🙂
      Megan

      1. Hahaha! I remember when I was in Kindergarten and a telephone company man came to our class to talk about what all the poles were about and the proper usage of the phone. He also told us that one day…we would be able to actually see the person on a screen when we called them.

        To my little brain that was so awesome, but I couldn’t believe it. I have to say, you are young enough to be one of my own children (my oldest is 24), but even in the last 10 years, I am amazed at how far technology has come. I am very excited to see what comes next.

        Keep working working with your therapist. I have lived with anxiety most of my life. Realizing that I can’t realistically eliminate 100% of it because it’s unnatural, has helped me cope through some of my “minor” episodes, and I am starting to see that I can control some of my moderate episodes.

        oh, and I haven’t forgotten the teapots…just had the flu lately, and haven’t done much of anything.
        April

      2. What a great memory! I heard somewhere that technology has evolved more in the last century than in the last 10,000 years of civilization or something like that.

        I’m young, but I’m positive I have an old soul. I have never acted my age, which is not necessarily a good thing.

        I have definitely come to a better understanding of myself and my anxiety and I realize that it’s not possible to eliminate everything. It’s difficult to get past that, though, because I just want to be what I consider “normal.”

        No worries about the teapot dear 🙂 I don’t want something like that to worry you. I hope above all that you’re feeling better.

        Best,
        megan

  16. I was just thinking how long it’s been since you posted something related to OCD and anxiety, so it was refreshing to read about your therapy experience. I’ve found verbalizing and analyzing my what-if thoughts to be really useful in warding off my anxiety–hopefully you will too! I read in one of my CBT books that what-if thinking and obsessive thoughts are used as distractions from real issues that are bothering us. Maybe if your OCD is particularly bad one day you can determine if something disturbing is actually subconsciously occupying your thoughts.

    1. I think that because it’s summertime and my OCD has calmed down quite a bit that I don’t have much turmoil to write about, but the therapy is something I really wanted to share. I think what I learn can hopefully help others, so I love the opportunity to share. I think that subconsciously there is more going on, probably additional stress. That makes sense to me.

  17. I have been using the what if it happens technique or really more like the what will happen if it doesn’t get done. My biggest struggle is order and routine. Doing certain tasks on certain days etc. I have really worked hard at being able to bounce back when something prevents me from doing a certain task and I am learning that it is ok to relax from a specific task schedule and not feel totally freaked internally if the schedule gets changed. I am much better at adapting to change but probably it has more to do with chads disability which in turn gives me infinite time to complete my tasks, rather than have a set of obligations I need to go to for him. In other words since he can’t really go anywhere I am less anxious if a task gets postponed because I know I can quickly get back on track. I wonder who we get our issues from in our family tree, I know it stems from dad’s side.

    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes the constant going here and going there that we do makes me very stressed out. Won has to be moving all the time and doing something and I just can’t always do it. I’d rather be home and relaxing. I’d say we probably do get it from grandpa 🙂

  18. I know where you’re coming from! I washed so much my hands cracked and bled (I think I posted some pictures, but they’ve been worse). It’s been almost four years since I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. And it really is the fear of “what if” that makes the anxiety so paralyzing. I remember literally standing just outside the doorway of my kitchen, stock still, from anxiety. I don’t remember from what, but I couldn’t move for a solid minute, thought if felt like longer.

    Another book you might want to look at (and I haven’t finished reading my copy, mainly because of, again, the fear), but it’s called Brain Lock. A very apt title. Stay strong. *hugs*

    1. I know exactly what you mean about those kind of “frozen” moments. The winters are the worst on my hands and wrists, which you probably know from experience. My hands hurt so much sometimes from the cracking and bleeding.

      I have actually been told that I should read Brain Lock on a couple of occasions. I think this is a sign that I need to pick up a copy 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion and the hug!

      1. Your welcome! Us OCD peeps gotta stick together! Oh, and check out the blog Heather Untethered (it used to be The Good Mood Foodie). She a mom with OCD who has a daughter with OCD, and she has a lot of good information about controlling your symptoms naturally. I’ve actually cut down a lot on breads, pastas, rices, and noticed that in times when I’m exposed to my triggers, my symptoms are much less of a problem and easier to control.

      2. That is actually a useful tidbit of information. I have never really considered my diet as being a factor before, but it does make sense. A bad diet can lead to a lot of trouble, while a good one means a world of difference. I’m going to check her blog out ASAP. Thank you so much!

  19. I have a friend who used to wash her hands so often that they would chaff and bleed. She was obsessed with being clean. I think a lot of it was useless guilt she felt. She doesn’t do it anymore. My point was that she said she needed them clean, but they were more susceptible to germs and infections when bleeding.
    Scott

    1. I have actually been told by my doctor that over washing that leads to cracking leaves my hands even more vulnerable than they would be. It didn’t seem to phase me anyway. 😦

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