I thought I would talk to you a little today about what has been happening with my last couple of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) appointments.
As homework I keep a thought diary (as below) where I have to describe the situation I was in, what thought/s I had and what feeling/s I experienced.
It can be really difficult to pull out your thoughts to begin with. If you’re anything like me, it’s such an automatic response that you don’t even realise it’s happening! And not only that but sometimes the thoughts can be strung together so it takes even longer to separate each element of the thought you’re having.
From my own thought diary, paranoia seems to play a big part in my anxiety. I am always worried about what other people are thinking or saying about me and guess what….? Are they really even talking or thinking about me at all? and what really am I worried about? ….. Well, I struggle with being judged or criticised, perhaps more than the average person. So much so that fear plays a part and then avoidance becomes the resulting behaviour I adopt to cope. Also, as most SAD sufferers will be aware, the feeling of everyone watching you is a real problem. Even if they aren’t, you feel as though they are and when you feel that everyone is looking at you, it’s as if they are judging your every move and this then makes you feel very exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes there is a fight within your to lift your head and look around to see whether anyone is really looking at you. Of course this is hard to do because….what if? What if when you open your eyes and look around a dozen pairs of eyes are staring back at you expectantly!! Ok, that was a bit dramatic but you know what I mean. It’s that fear of what if. If I look around and I catch someone looking at me, then what do I do? I still need to figure out how to deal with awkward situations!!
My diary includes other feelings such as apprehension, awkwardness, worry, regret, guilt, dread and self-consciousness. (So far…) I will continue to record this diary as it really is helpful to breakdown your thoughts and see them for what they really are and then you can begin to question them.
Therapists tend to ask you to see the situation from a different perspective and this can be useful to do. What would you feel about the situation if a friend of yours was behaving in the way you were? What would you think of them? etc.
Looking at my thoughts, I can also see times where I have been comparing myself to other people. This is a common unhelpful thinking habit with anxiety sufferers. I have a couple of examples of this recently which I would like to share with you.
The first of which was when I was in the office at work with two of my colleagues and they were talking about a girl (student) who they thought was a “drip” and insinuating that she needed to great a grip of the real world. Of course I could see some truth in what they were saying about being more proactive in the workplace (to some extent) but I was predominantly thinking “OMG, I bet they think I’m a bit of a drip too, I’m not exactly forthcoming. I bet they think I’m weak because I have anxiety and have taken time off work and I can’t handle the real world!” What I also find hard is that I can reason with myself and say “No, they wouldn’t say that about me. They understand what I’m going through and they are very considerate and caring.” However, there is always a doubt at the back of my mind. I cannot fully quash it. For example “Yes they have been very supportive of me but I think they think I should be getting on with it by now.” I still have work to do to reject this unhelpful thinking completely but of course it is very early days in my therapy. I can get a bit ahead of myself!
The other example was from a situation where I was at a family gathering and my two sisters were there and they were chatting between themselves while I was sitting there. At the point where my younger sister arrived she did not acknowledge me straight away and she sat down and began talking to my older sister. Thoughts began to materialise. I began comparing myself to my younger sister and wondering why I wasn’t as able to speak to my older sister or any of my other family members for that matter. I also started to compare their relationship with each other to my relationship with each of them and I felt that they had much better connection than I did with them. Lots of things began to occur since these thoughts popped into mind. I began to feel awkward, sheepish and excluded and this resulted in me thinking more about the fact that I should be paying more attention to them and should be building a better relationship and that I haven’t been putting in enough effort. As these thoughts and feelings were whirling around in my head I became very self-focused and shrunk back inside myself and to try to help me feel less awkward I began to check my phone or go and get some food and eat this which would keep me busy for a little while and make it look as though I was acting normally to other people because at this point I was also worried about what other people thought about me and my relationships with my sisters and perhaps they thought that my sisters got on better than I got on with them. I don’t like to look as though I’m a loner or that I am boring so I tend to try and do something which will take some of their focus off of me (in my view.) Obviously as the feelings of awkwardness and exclusion began to circulate, I also began to feel dreadful about myself and become a bit depressed by it.
This is a really big problem for me at the moment. I don’t feel that I have very good connections with my family members and of course I blame that on myself and therefore have a lot of guilt and regret about it but I feel that SAD has been a big contributing factor as to why this is the case. I really hope that I can rebuild the relationships with my family in the future.
I will leave this here for now as I don’t want my posts rambling on too much!
If you fancy it, let me know some of your unhelpful thinking habits or how you deal with them.
Until next time, good evening!