Slaying the Beasts and Receiving but a Scratch

Oh look, here comes another mindfulness/anxiety/CBT metaphor post. Observe!

Today I did some proper adulting. However, it almost didn’t happen because I experienced an anxiety attack just as my child care arrived to enable me to partake in said adulting.  My tasks were simply to go and vote, and get a blood test at the local community hospital just the other side of the city centre.  You may not know this, but I don’t have a phobia as such of blood tests but I dislike them immensely due to the fact that my veins are rubbish and tend to disappear when phlebotomists are present.

Today this decided to manifest as a panicky/anxiety-driven flap in which my poor mother was subject to me deciding whether I was going to go or not, me actually phoning my GP to determine whether the test could wait until I go in for my op (it couldnt), phoning my dad to see if he could give me a lift to at least get me there (he couldn’t) and the whole time she remained calm and patient as a said, occupying the smalls whilst I flapped.  Eventually, I decided I was going to put my big girl pants on and go.

Having rubbish veins and unfortunately several previous blood tests, I am aware of all the hints and tricks such as being warm and hydrated, making a fist etc.  tHEREFORE I took all measures, and, get this, decided to become mindfully aware of my walking and then my breathing as I waited for my number to come up.  You know what?  It worked.  The more I breathed, the more I felt my anxiety dissipating and the more relaxed I became,  I was still slightly apprehensive but it was totally manageable.  The phlebotomist I was was lovely, and listened when I explained about my poor history with blood tests.  Usually the aforementioned tricks of the trade helped a little, but today despite my  power walk to the hospital in my coat (after voting – see adult points earned already) followed by drinking a whole bottle of strawberry flavour water, my veins did not want to play ball so she ended up taking blood from my hand using a very pretty but complicated needle – butterfly tube – plastic thing combo.

It wasn’t pleasant, it sucked when she moved the needle around in my veins to try and strike gold but I felt a lot less stressed than I have previously, focusing on my breath and reminding myself this was as bad as it was going to get.  But it certainly wasn’t the worst experience.

 

After that, I power walked to M&S and had a delicious lunch and discovered chocolate covered cookie dough bites and chorizo crisps.  I need to go there for random junk food more often.  I feel like the anxiety was akin to a small yet persistent aggressive terrier that once it got hold would not let go until I took it for a walk, and then it got so bored of terrorising me it just left of its own accord.

 

 

As a bonus, tonight the biggest small asked to play with balloons.  So I sucked it up, and retrieved a couple of small ballons for him and one for his brother from the “therapy balloon bag” and let them play with them for th elongest time ever.  None of them burst and nobody died.  Today was a good therapy day 🙂

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Behaviour Experiment: Giving the Children (old) Balloons to play with before bed.

A while ago, I brought home a binbag of about 5 balloons from my mum’s church hall, with the intention of using them as therapy balloons. A few months later,  they are still all pretty well inflated but with enough “give” that they won’t burst easily. 

Last night I read some pretty inspiring words in a Mindfulness for Overcoming Anxiety book which I will share here; 

Know your purpose

Know your feelings

Do what needs to be done 

To wait for your feelings about something to change before you do it doesn’t work because they won’t change until you do it. We have control over our behaviour. We do what needs to be done to fulfill our purpose even though our feelings want to push us in another direction,  hence undertaking behaviour experiments willingly.
So tonight I decided it would be a good idea to let the children play with the balloons. Which was fine until 3 year old decided he wanted them all for himself, and his little brother wasn’t allowed any.

This ended up in daddy confiscating all of the balloons and the children being sent up to bed (it was bedtime anyway) where I then spent 15 minutes calming and undressing a devastated 3 year old who needs to learn to share!
But I did it 🙂 I was brave and unleashed the balloons anyway, and feel like I could do it again tomorrow. Success!
And none of them burst. 

Still at it!

Happy New Year!
My CBT journey continues, albeit at a very slow pace. By which I mean the other day with husband’s encouragement I popped a balloon which had been panicking about the place for a while. Still did it, and still not avoiding balloons when I see them in town! 
It’s bloody difficult though. One the app I have, “distress”, it emphasises the importance of embracing any exercises and behaviour experiments willingly. This is something I need to work on, a thing I can apply to everyday tasks e.g. cleaning, tidying and other chores but need to actively encourage with therapy. And exercise.
Talking about exercise, I haven’t run since a measly 1.5k from my sister’s house to home but I have been working through this:

I completed day 4 today. Also, good news! There are no more Christmas chocolates /treats in the kitchen! The bad news is because I ate them, gaining a whopping half stone this festive season.  I am like an eating machine that just can’t stop. Each day I tell myself that that’s it, back on the eating plan but then chocolate happens. Must try harder!

In bed now after a lovely day with the smalls, ready to read more of this;

Whilst enjoying the feel of this on my face; 

I mean, I am a few months shy of 32 now. Better start looking after the face a bit more, and I like how this feels once applied (after using my Micellar Water; nice quick beauty routine tonight!)

Back on it tomorrow 🙂 

Mini Achievement 

November 5th.
Perhaps my most feared night of the year (well, the night itself as well as the weekend before, after and all of the days in between).
I just wanted to put out there that as well as enduring many fireworks displays just outside my front door, I gave toddler a balloon to play with for 5 minutes. I tried to observe my feelings objectively in effort to battle the anticipatory anxiety felt and it worked a little bit.
It has to be said I have husband’s wireless headphones on playing loud water sounds,  but still progress. 

Behaviour Experiment: Popping Balloons

This was originally going to be a behaviour experiment where I let toddler play with some balloons for one minute, but the anticipatory anxiety of them bursting was too great, so I decided to continue my work on popping balloons myself.

Last week, I acquired two black bags of inflated balloons from my mum’s church.  I brought them home with the intention of using them for therapy, so one week later I carried out the experiment.  I selected a bunch of balloons from one of the bags and brought them downstairs.

My hypothesis was that I would be comfortable popping the balloons with a pin.  My anti-hypothesis was that I would be so overcome with fear and anxiety I would not be able to carry out the task.

 

Husband provided me with a pin, and although initially hesitant I popped all of the balloons myself.  I felt happy afterwards but also relief that the task was over.  I need to keep doing this until popping balloons is no longer something to prepare for.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this a few months ago, so progress is definitely being made!

Bit of a Wobble

I know that by keeping this blog, it’s only for myself.  Anyone who reads it, let alone likes or follows it is a bonus.  And the purpose of it is to document my CBT journey, specifically my phobia of balloons. Therefore I will only let myself down if I don’t see it to completion.  I feel recently that I haven’t made any progress, I may have said before because I am getting further up the hierarchy I am more reluctant to do anything about it which is the worst thing I can do.

In my head I am reminding myself to do things willingly, and I feel like I want to but there’s a mental barrier in the way which I have built yet can’t/won’t break down.  Tonight I’m feeling it pretty hard because I was meat to go for a run but my running partner cancelled and because my plans were changed it made me feel off for the rest of the evening, where the slightest excuses are used e.g. I’m not going to the gym instead because it’s raining.

 

Also, my car.

 

It was towed away on Friday evening to a garage because it stalled and the gearbox got stuck.  The garage took it for a drive on Saturday, found nothing wrong with it and apparently drove 10 miles so I went to collect it.  As soon as I had driven less than a mile it happened again so I took it to a different garage who have advised husband and I it’s going to cost over £400 to replace the clutch.

 

So this afternoon we went to the Vauxhall dealership to have a look at a potential new car, and are interested in a 4 year old Corsa.  The monthly payments are quite high but we could afford it, and also you have the security of it being from a garage who personally know all of the car’s service history (it’s only had one other owner).  But husband wants to have a look at a general used car sales garage who have an offer on if you part exchange your old car-  meaning if it was accepted we would still have to pay to get the clutch fixed on our current one.

 

Current car is going to hopefully be recovered to our home tomorrow.  So currently, we don’t have a driveable car . Ugh.

 

CBT Update: A New (Almost) Comfort Zone

I was writing in my journal this morning (I love my paper and pens. Stationary whore right here.) and one of the things I was reflecting upon was my progress with my CBT.  Or how I felt (as I seem to before every appointment with my therapist) more like my lack of progress.

 

In our last session, we devised a plan where I would expose myself to more environments where there would be balloons e.g. shopping centre, restaurants, events etc and try to manage my distress levels.  Bonus if it involved a toddler with a balloon!  But this has not happened.  I could possibly use the reason that I have returned to work so am still getting my head round my time management, but this would probably just be an excuse.  Trying to avoid avoidance is hard, especially as I feel like I want my therapist to know I am trying and doing my best to make this work for me.  I feel like such a people pleaser at times – like at work I feel like I want to work really hard so I’m doing at least my fair share so that I am seen as an asset and valued for being there.

 

Anyway, I digress.

Progress hadn’t been made in the way I’d hoped, so I had a little word with myself.  I’m at the stage of CBT now where the exposure is getting more and more scary in terms of being unable to tolerate my distress.  I remembered there was a balloon in the crisp box on the top shelf (don’t ask) so I got it down and gave it to toddler to play with.  I still put my hands up to my ears a couple of times, despite trying to remind myself it was just a feeling and I was to observe it from afar.  I managed to let him have it for a few minutes before I burst it myself with a pin.

 

Admittedly, I burst it so it wouldn’t be there and wouldn’t be a threat anymore.  I then blew up and burst 3 more balloons in succession (making a game of it for toddler) and realised that this is the current limit of my comfort zone.

 

When I am doing it myself, I am in control and although the noise still starts me a little bit this is where I’m at and where I feel I need to keep working on it.  Even if it means me standing alone in the kitchen blowing up and bursting balloons, and it’s a sideways diversion from what I was “supposed” to be doing, it’s still progress.

 

I think I’m still in awe that a lifelong phobia is slowly being chipped away at the grand old age of 31.

This willingness malarkey is really helping too; I willingly ran 6k last night and will willingly go and pick up husband from the station later.

My Toddler is an Infuriating Smartarse!

Toddler is 2.

Like most 2 year olds, toddler enjoys testing the patience of adults, particularly when it involves repeatedly doing something he has been asked not to do.

Several times.

Over and over again.

Tonight it was kicking the wooden panel at the back of one of the cubby holes in the TV stand. Our TV stand has a glass fronted cabinet in the middle and either side of that a storage area presumably for games/DVDs etc. Ours stores toys.  Toddler has previously kicked the panel out of the back on the other side,  which husband has since repaired.
So tonight he was pushing/nudging the panel and repeatedly I asked him to stop, physically moving him away from it. My phone was next to me on the sofa and my attention was fully on toddler.

The little monkey walked over to my phone and handed it to me, then placed my finger of my free hand on the screen before walking back to the TV cabinet. 
Immediately I put my phone back down and reprimanded him for his conduct.
Toddler then walked back to my phone, calmly put it in my hand and again directed my finger to the screen before walking back towards his goal.
The little monkey was trying to distract me, as if to say “Here mummy, you play on your phone! Don’t mind me, I’m just going to be over here doing…stuff.”
Clever boy. I am still impressed even now, several hours later and also worries about what else he might get up to when I am on my phone, definitely a lesson parenting for me to be aware of!

Also also, ya know that balloon I blew up last night?  Totally popped it.  Then felt bad that toddler no longer had a balloon so blew up another for him, but could only tolerate him playing with it for a short while. Still, progress.

Holiday Day 3: Off the Wagon 

I think the title of today’s post is very apt for a number of reasons.

After being anxious about food for the last couple of days, I decided today to give myself the “day off” and have enjoyed a delicious meal of fishcake and chips at a restaurant, and because I don’t do things by halves am sat here with a box of salted caramel fudge, my absolute favourite treat.  Husband and I did manage a 2k jog last night, with a good proportion of it being up a very steep hill but we have committed to jogging again tomorrow night, and back to eating sensibly tomorrow as well.

In the fish and chip restaurant, I was very embarrassed. With being on holiday, aside from watching balloon videos with toddler I have undertaken very little CBT homework so therefore have been neglecting my mindfulness as well. A young boy was celebrating his birthday, and his family and he were blowing up balloons.  As soon as I noticed I got up and walked outside.

My mum followed with my food, and as she was making her way out the waiters thought (understandably) she was going to complain about something to do with our meals, at which point she explained and the waiters asked the family to put the balloons away.  They then came out to me and were very attentive, even offering me a glass of water.  It’s lovely that they were so sweet but I was mega embarrassed, and then the mum f the family came out and apologised profusely – to my mum thinking it was her who had the phobia!

I then endured the shame of walking back into the restaurant – again with my plate of food – to finish my meal.  It was actually the nicest fishcake I have ever had; toddler had the same (but a child’s portion) and I even committed the cardinal parenting sin of finishing his portion because it was so good.

And the salted caramel fudge is delicious, I’m totally going to eat the box, regret it for a bit but then get over it.  Back on the mindfulness course tomorrow night after my run – I have a LOT to catch up on!

 

Meanwhile, something else positive; here’s a picture of husband taking toddler to the sea for the first time.

Behaviour Experiment: Blowing up Balloons for Toddler

This afternoon, after talking about it on here a couple of times, I am going to take myself off into the spare room and blow up some balloons.

Husband is then going to film toddler playing with and eventually popping aforementioned balloons whilst I sort out the spare room.

I will then watch the film.

Hypothesis: I will be in control of inflating the balloons so will ensure they don’t burst on me!  I expect to feel a moderate degree of anxiety as toddlers and balloons are great at inducing distress intolerance and anticipatory anxiety. I may find the video difficult to watch.

Anti-hypothesis: I will have little to no anxiety performing the task and watching the video.

Results:

4pm I have blown up several balloons and placed them in a black bag. Husband has the instruction on my signal to release them for Toddler to play with!  Husband will then film this, and make a separate film of him and toddler bursting them.

 

My handiwork – a black bag (half)filled with balloons!

 

8pm Experiment went well, as I both successfully inflated the buggers in the first place and watched videos of both toddler playing with the balloons and then he and husband bursting them!  Watching balloons burst on film is no longer a problem to me now.  Next time I do this particular experiment, I would like to do it where I am still in a separate room whilst the bursting is occurring but to not have ear phones in so I can actually be exposed to the sound, but from a safe distance.

Now on the hierarchy I still have to manage;

 

others blowing up balloons

others playing with balloons

me bursting balloons

other people bursting balloons