I recently re-blogged something I wrote in May about my experiences with anxiety and depression and after re-reading thought I might write about some more of my experiences. So, here’s the next instalment in ‘My State of Mind’:
Because I am depressed & anxious I…
Assume the worst. Always the worst possible case scenario, then I’ll pile on a few more bad things that could (nay, will) happen on top of that. I can’t help it, I find myself planning something as simple as going to the shop at the end of my estate to the nth degree to try and avoid this inevitable disastrous outcome. I have historically tried to rationalise this with the following pessimistic premise; if you assume the worst will happen and plan for it, anything about worst possible case scenario will be a bonus. Honestly, I can go into something like a weekend break with the attitude; ‘well if we don’t get lost, don’t have a car accident and don’t get killed, it will be a success.’ I do set the bar that low. Of course this is ridiculous and while it is healthy to have contingency plans if something goes wrong, I take it too far to the point that I will become so anxious about planning for/waiting for something bad to happen I don’t actually enjoy anything. My brain’s default mode does not help me with my anxiety, to the point that historically I have avoided situations so I don’t have to cope with the perceived stress and potential consequences. This of course leads to a vicious circle where I feel depressed because I am not socialising or am bored or am missing out on something, but because I am more depressed I am more prone to avoid activities that make me feel anxious and so on and so on. In the past I have often cancelled plans at short notice because of this.
As part of my treatment for my mental health issues I saw a counsellor and participated in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I found the exercises and topics we covered very useful as it allowed me to dissect my thought process, pick out elements that were not working for me and come up with a plan to fix them. It put a lot of my anxieties into more practical and tangible terms which once analysed seemed ridiculous, in turn allowing me to try and overcome them. Over the last six months, more so than anytime in my adult life I think, I have learned to let go of things. Its not always unconscious or easy and I have to work at it, but I can now say ‘what the hell’ to some of my worries and just get on with life and boy it makes things a lot easier. Its not easy, especially if you have spent years (as I have) defaulting to the worst-case-scenario way of thinking. I have found I now need to check my initial reaction, gauge the worst case scenario and the best case scenario then accept something in-between is most likely to happen and that will be okay.
So far, so good and I’ve been able to function with a lot more ‘normality’. Perspective is a wonderful thing but not always a natural reaction, especially to me, but once I focus things and get the perspective right, the world certainly seems a less challenging place.