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 🙂

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.