Sunday, 13 March 2016

CBT Diaries - Week 3


Quite strangely I found myself pretty excited for CBT this week. I still found it hard to get myself up and motivated in the morning but I was by no means dreading attending. Instead I felt eager to get there and i'd even go as far to say that I was looking forward to seeing everyone again. Last week was such a positive experience for me that it's definitely rubbed off on how I feel about attending the group. Obviously I am a natural worrier (if I wasn't I probably would find myself here in the first place) so I have already found myself dwelling on the prospect of progressing on my own once the group has finished. Today was session 3 out of 5 so I only have 2 more weeks to attend before it's all over. 


 The main focus of today's session was again anxiety but this time we were to explore the triggers for our anxiety. Some people who suffer from GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) may not even be able to identify triggers or it may seem as though every aspect of daily life is triggering for them and, trust me, that's a really horrible place to be. Others may have specific triggers such as certain places, people or activties which trigger anxious feelings and they may then go on to avoid these triggers. 

We listed on the board some of our own triggers and I spent some time reflecting on my own. My anxiety has changed a lot over the past three years and I would say that I have experienced a wide range of varying levels of anxiety from at its absolute worst of not being able to leave the house and feeling agoraphobic, to it's mildest of perhaps having a nervous tummy before going somewhere new, which is evidently quite normal for a lot of people.


A huge trigger for me is vomit and I suffer from a condition called Emetophobia which is a fear of vomit. This is a topic I would like to explore in greater depth in another separate blog post but for anyone who doesn't quite understand this, it is more than just not wanting to throw up. Lets face it I don't know anyone who enjoys throwing up and it's generally a horrible experience. However, my somewhat irrational fear of it has meant that I have somehow managed to go periods of time as long as 12 years without being sick. It also means that I worry a lot about being in situations around drunk people, public toilets, hospitals and generally anywhere where there could potentially be someone throwing up. My fear is about myself being sick, someone else being sick around me, and just sick in general! It's quite a complex issue and it's a very serious phobia which I know has led to some people becoming agoraphobic and unable to take part in simple every day life activities. 

Other triggers for me tend to be situations where I have experienced panic attacks in the past. Most of these have tended to be in situations where I feel I am not in control i.e being a passenger on any mode of transport or feeling stuck in a room full of people and unable to see an exit and some high pressured events. If I don't feel in control of myself or a situation there is very high chance that I will experience symptoms of anxiety. If I let these symptoms and thoughts carry me away the likelihood is that this will then develop into a full blown panic attack. 


Once we explored the triggers for our anxiety, and after a quick break, it was time to evaluate how we handle those triggers and how we move forward in order to overcome our anxieties and get on with our lives.

I know from my own experience the only way of overcoming fear is to face it. It's challenging, frightening and extremely difficult to do but it's sure as hell effective. The consequence of not facing your fears is that you let them win and slowly take over your life. The more you avoid something the more frightening it becomes. One of the hardest things I ever had to do (3 years ago) was to get back into my car after experiencing my first panic attack behind the wheel and throwing up at the side of the road. I can't begin to explain how scared I was of being in the car. again and how strongly I believed the exact same thing was going to happen again. Even the thought of it made me  physically shake uncontrollably. I went from being a confident and fearless driver to someone who had to be driven everywhere by my husband. It impacted on my whole life and my ability to work.

I've learnt the hard way over the years that in order to get better I have to face my fears and continue to face them regularly. I'm at a stage now where i'm pretty ok going out in the car as a passenger and I can handle driving myself alone despite it making me relatively anxious. I continue to book holidays and trips away because i've always loved to travel and this is something i'm not going to let anxiety take away from me. I'm terrified of flying (or probably more so experiencing a panic attack on a plane and throwing up in front of everyone) but i've not allowed it to stop me going abroad at least twice a year. The longer you leave doing something the harder it becomes - this is fact! 

My fear of vomit is however more difficult to overcome and it's something that still impacts on me, but I am starting to manage it better now. There's no way i'm going to make myself sick just so I can face it. But what I do need to work on is exposing myself to situations where I might see sick or be around people who are being sick. My therapist suggested I start by looking at an image, perhaps a cartoon of a character being sick. Then move onto real images. She suggested maybe putting a picture of vomit on my wall and by walking past it daily I will slowly become less anxious about it. Then I could maybe build myself up to listening to the sounds of someone being sick before going in for a YouTube video to watch someone throwing up. Even typing this I can feel my hands becoming a little wobbly but I know it's something I need to do.   

I would say that I am a pretty strong person so for me the idea of not challenging myself and getting over this isn't an option because what's the alternative? Being housebound and unable to live the life I once loved? There's no way I'm going to let that happen! I refuse to let that happen. I have to push myself daily because the alternative is just incomprehensible. 
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2 comments

  1. :) Great detailed account. People may think a phobia doesn't affect a person's life to a great degree, you've explained how a phobia can affect many areas of a sufferer's life - feeling the need to avoid so many places, situations where vomitting could be witnessed..Hope you enjoy your last two cbt sessions :)

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  2. Brilliant read ... I'm doing mine on a 1 too 1 basis I've done 2 sessions was sceptical but I've found it very helpful so far ...

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