I have a lot of anxiety. I’m taking medication for it and undergoing therapy for it, but I’ve always been an anxious person. You know the type – the guy who’d rather get to the airport three hours early and go through security right away just in case? That’s me. Whenever I hear sirens, my first thoughts are that I did something wrong or one of my family or friends is in trouble. Once I became ill, my anxiety shot through the roof and was making me do all kinds of strange things. I’d pace back and forth with my arms moving around like someone else was running them, stutter or lose words mid-sentence, and be completely unable to relax.
One of the more difficult but rewarding tools that Dr C has taught me is how to compartmentalize my worry. I found the idea kind of silly at first but now I’m a firm believer. The idea is to reserve a specific block of time each day where you can sit down and concentrate on all the things that are worrying you. It can be everything from OCD matters to family issues, to the irrational fears that tell you you’re never going to get better. You concentrate hard on those worries and think through them one at a time.
Once you’re done, you set aside the worries and go about your day. Now, it would be ridiculous to think that just because you’ve worried for an hour you won’t have any worries the rest of the day, but now you can tell them that you’ll get to them again tomorrow. Sometimes I treat the worries like bullies and tell them in my mind (and sometimes out loud) to get lost. Other times I tell them to go ahead and say whatever they want but I’m going to ignore them for now.
I’m still not very good at it, but with the practice I’ve had so far it’s definitely helping. My worry time is from 9 to 10AM every day (unless something else comes up), which makes sure I’m awake and alert and am ready to worry my face off. I think it’s important to set aside a specific time so that I can tell the worries that I’ll talk to them at 9AM tomorrow. That way, it feels less like a therapy tool and more like some kind of strange office meeting.
What do I worry about? Well, pretty much every aspect of my life. Am I getting better? When will I be able to go back to work? Is J getting tired of me having crisis after crisis and is thinking of leaving? What’s going to happen if J loses her job? Am I going to be of any use in a crisis situation, like one of my parents getting sick or worse? Is the house okay? Are DA, FA, and WG still going to be my friends in a year? What the hell am I going to do if we get bedbugs?
That’s just a small sample. Like I said, I worry about pretty much everything. At the end of the hour, I say to myself that the worry period is over and will begin again tomorrow at 9AM and all of the worries are invited back. I hope they don’t come back, but if they do, I’ll deal with them then.
I have also found that this takes some of the bite out of the worries for the rest of the day. Being able to tell myself I’ve already worked on it helps a great deal.
This is another very useful technique that I’m going to keep in my tool box. Maybe someday I will be able to use less than an hour. That would be great!