*I don’t expect you to be interested in my problems, but if you are, that’s okay too. These posts about my therapy sessions are more for me; for reflection and so I can look back on them. This one is especially long.
My second counseling appointment was on Tuesday afternoon and once again, it ended all too quick. Too many problems, not enough time! I won’t be going back for two weeks, but it did get me thinking…. and it’s a great start. At least to one problem.
I feel both encouraged and overwhelmed when I reflect back on my appointment. It’s encouraging because we really got down to why I have anxiety and how I can work on getting rid of it, but it’s easier said than done. It’s up to me to go from here and make a change.
The whole appointment was about anxiety because I told her that this most recent visit to Indiana did not bring about anxiety as the previous trip did. It was anxiety that upset my stomach all weekend long. She asked when I developed (social) anxiety and I knew I had it awhile, but I never really thought of how long. I also knew it has been exacerbated because of recent events. However, with her help, I figured out it actually started way back in my elementary school years. I do remember feeling anxious about hanging out with a group of friends, so instead I would feel more comfortable having a friend here at my house. I remember being teased about it (which probably didn’t help). I avoided many social situations and it all went downhill from there. Ever since then, I’ve had the same feelings; sometimes worse, sometimes better.
The counselor tried to ask me to remember my thoughts in these situations, as to what I felt anxious about. It was really hard for me to remember the exact thoughts, so she tried to trigger my memory by giving me ideas. (Did I feel like no one would like me? Did I feel like I couldn’t say no in a situation? etc) It was easier to remember more recently what made me feel anxious. (For example…What if they ask me a lot of questions? What are we going to be doing? What if I get embarrassed by something?) I soon came to realize that my anxiety is connected with a problem I was already aware of. It’s a problem that I have been wanting to fix for a while, but it’s just been getting worse. I brought it to Ryan’s attention in a letter last year when we broke up, and I haven’t looked at that letter ever since. I couldn’t believe I had told him and I was too embarrassed to look back. It was a major step to tell him about it. (And the counselor wants me to show that part of the letter at my next appointment.)
It’s hard to explain and the problem doesn’t even really make sense. But for some reason, which may be a combination of my family structure growing up, genetics, and other factors, it plagues my life. (I love my parents, but I think it has to do with how I was raised. I don’t feel like they tried to nurture my interests and with a combination of my shyness, it does not equal a good combination.) Problem: I have a hard time being myself and not being shy or embarrassed about it. I mean extremely shy– maybe you it’s not even called shy. I feel uncomfortable and weird about having/voicing an opinion, saying that I like something, and just being myself. I find it very strange when I think about it, because really… it’s life! But another point she just touched on is do I even have a self? She said I do have at least “an embryo of a self” since I came in to talk to a counselor, but it may not be developed. I think that’s true. Very true. Because I don’t know really know how or I’m too shy to grow into who I’m supposed to be. Whew, this is deep, I know. And hard for me to tell others. But hey, being able to talk about it is a good first step.
Sometimes it is worse around some people more than others or even different. Around my family, it’s not too bad. However, I’ve always been this way around whoever my boyfriend is at the time. I was extremely worse with my boyfriend before Ryan… but I’m still pretty bad. If I ever come out and sound really excited and say that I really like something, Ryan is surprised and usually doesn’t believe me. (There are exceptions, like babies. Don’t ask me why.) He reacts like that because that’s not normal for me to say, although it’s normal for most other people. I’ll give you an example of how I was with my ex-boyfriend. When he would go through a drive-thru to get food for a late night snack or something, I would be too shy to say I want something. Ridiculous, I know! I got over that, but I still have many other struggles. I’m “shy” about music… about shopping… my blog (there are so many things I write that I probably wouldn’t say out-loud). The list is far too long, ridiculous, and this is embarrassing.
I never choose where I want to eat with someone. I think that’s part of it and my ex-boyfriend and I used to get in fights over that. I like other people to choose, but the counselor said I need to start choosing occasionally ….or eventually it will catch up to me and I’ll feel like people are making decisions for my life. Also, it makes other people do work for me when I act like this, which is not a good thing. It would eventually catch up to Ryan, and he would grow tired of it. Sometimes I feel really bad and down on myself because of this way that I am, and wish that Ryan could have a “normal” girlfriend. But as the counselor said, he loves me and wants to be with me — I just need to fix this. I’ve already known that I cannot get married until I solve this problem. There is no way I could live with someone, share a life with them, and act this way. I told this to the counselor and she said I am wise to know that and I’m right. Unfortunately, my marriage would be at high risk for divorce. Scary to hear, but I already knew. It just confirms the seriousness of it when at therapist tells me. I certainly do not want to be like that and I have no choice but to fix it. The good thing about all this is when I become more comfortable with myself, it will help my anxiety and I think I will feel so much freer. (Also, for the distant future– I couldn’t have kids in this condition. No way.)
But how in the world do I fix this?! Although there are solutions, it is difficult. At least to start out.
She gave me a few suggestions. First, I need to choose some scriptures that I can memorize and repeat to myself when I feel anxious. Verses about God’s love that really speak to me. God did not design me (or anyone else) to live like this. Through Him, I can be set free from this anxiety. His Love for me (and you) is so much greater than this. He did not give us a spirit of fear. All of this comes down to fear. Also, when I am anxious, she said to tune in on exactly what thoughts are causing it. I should also start voicing my opinion more, starting out small saying things that I like or don’t like and not keeping things in. She gave me a book to read about misbeliefs in anxiety, depression, anger, etc. I should focus on the good attributes of myself and not think negatively toward myself.
She asked if I knew that feelings aren’t true? I guess I didn’t. I think she said that thoughts cause feelings, which cause my stomach problems (or sometimes migraines in other people). If I keep those thoughts in (which she said not to do) my body will try to get rid of them somehow- hence the stomach problems. If I don’t take care of this, I could have serious stomach problems. And other problems too, obviously.
So I have a lot of work to do. I really wish I could snap my fingers and be fixed. But unfortunately, it will take time and effort. And strength and courage. And lots of other things, but I’m determined that with God, I will do this.
Next appointment… I need to address depression.