Accepting Your Hardware

I had my very first therapy session last night, and I’m happy to say it went really well.

I was naturally a little nervous at the very beginning, but over the session, we gelled and I really liked both her attitude and approach. She made me laugh, and of course see things I didn’t see before. I am sure as time goes on, I’ll see so much more. But I am confident now that I am taking the right steps.

Though I didn’t find out until the middle of the session, it turns out that within seconds she had (quite correctly) diagnosed me with having anxiety. We had a chuckle when she shared that; I’m that easy to read, huh?!

(I guess given her therapist title, she’s pretty perceptive; she also guessed I was an ESFP per the Myers-Briggs Personality Test; though last time I took it I was an ENFP, I think I’m actually more closely aligned to the ESFP type).

Apparently, she thinks anxiety is actually what is likely behind my disordered eating; that the disordered eating behaviors are not so much a food issue as a result of my nature as an anxious person. It’s just manifesting itself in weight issues now, which makes sense, whereas it was evident in other facets of my life previously. So anxiety is what we will be exploring and coming to terms with.

I know, and I think I’ve always known, deep down, that this is true–my family, my husband, my friends, have all said my disordered eating behaviors are probably only intensified by my already-anxious personality.

She argues that yes, these disordered behaviors could be a problem, but that really what’s more important is for us to dig into is what’s behind the thoughts than the actual behavior, because the thoughts drive the behavior. She says chewing and spitting, for example, something she sees quite a bit of with her patients (which did surprise me) are “coping mechanisms.” I never thought of it that way.

Some positives: she thought blogging was a great tool for me and said that I’m already ahead of the game because I am so in tune with my surroundings, my emotions and already keep a personal journal.

As the conversation went on, she asked if I maybe feel too much, and if I feel like I’m always “on”–something common with anxious people. I nodded slowly, said yes, and my eyes started to well up as I realized the depth of what she was telling me. She said that’s what makes anxious personalities “crack;” they are tired of thinking about everything all the time.

And that described me to a T; I do feel tired of always being “on,” always analyzing, always thinking, unable to turn “it” (my thoughts) off. It’s an uncomfortable sensation of never being able to just “be.”

And that, my friends, is how I wound up dabbing a Pepto-Bismol pink Kleenex to my eyes and choking through tears on the leather couch of a therapist’s office a block from my home!

Yet whereas I’ve always considered being anxious a bad thing, she was surprisingly encouraging, explaining how being an anxious person can be such a positive attribute: anxious people tend to excel at school, are successful in their jobs. She explained that even as children, anxious people tend to not step out of line often or get into trouble; they are perhaps overly conscientious and afraid to make mistakes, which usually carries into adulthood. And in her mind, I need to accept my hardware, my anxious (vs. laid-back) self, and not seek to change it.

To illustrate, she used the analogy of two computers, a Mac and a PC. For the sake of argument here, let’s say the anxious person is the Mac. You can’t run Windows on a Mac and expect it to work; it might be the same software but we all know different hardware works differently on different models. On a PC, it works like clockwork, but a Mac? No such luck.

Likewise, anxious people think a mile a minute; our brains are hard-wired to do that, to process all these things at once, and we’re not necessarily capable of “chilling out” or “slowing down” or “not worrying about it” like our more laid-back PC counterparts. It’s our DNA; we’re not cut from the same cloth so to expect us to change is simply not going to happen.

What we can change is our thought process; how we respond to things, given the limitations of our hardware.

She actually encouraged me to title today’s entry “Accepting your Hardware,” which made me laugh because my wheels were turning as soon as she used the phrase! But that is really what she wants me to focus on–acceptance of my hardware, even more than improvement. Her argument is, maybe there’s nothing inherently wrong with my hardware; sure, I’m not wired the same as someone more laid-back, and yes, that can cause communication problems or even how I react to stressful situations. But she recommends I ought to capitalize on those strengths versus trying to fight them by just “improving.”

And in terms of improvement, she thinks that I can train myself, through cognitive therapy, to speak slower, for example; to think before speaking (i.e., filter myself); to lessen my anxiety, even if I can’t “erase” it. She wants me to be able to learn to live with it, versus seeing it as a stigma, and I like that approach a lot.

I told her I still want to learn how to not spit, to not over-exercise or obsessively journal, and though she didn’t say it in these exact words, what she was alluding to is that, in time, those behaviors will fade as I learn to better grasp my anxiety and work with it instead of against it.

So I think it was a great first step and I am so glad I took the plunge. We’re going to explore two options and see which I like best. Option 1) Cognitive behavioral therapy, which doesn’t look into the “why” so much as changing the way we think (and therefore the behaviors we do) or 2) getting to the root of why I am the way I am, the analytics behind me, which is more theoretical. After giving it thought last night, I think Option 1 is going to be the most successful route for me.

I’ll pick up with her next Tuesday, and I’m already looking forward to it. My hope is that, through therapy, I’ll learn to deal with my anxiety and lessen it over time so that I can live a normal, healthy life. Accepting my hardware, embracing my personality.

How about you? Do you have trouble accepting your hardware?

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33 thoughts on “Accepting Your Hardware

  1. Wow – sounds like a very productive session! Congrats!

    I especially like the idea/realization that you can’t change who you are, you can just learn how to work with what you have. Something we all need to remember from time to time!

    xoxo

  2. Thank you, Yas. I know one session isn’t the gospel or anything but it was good to know there is hope 🙂

  3. I know I need to really email, but just wanted to quickly respond to this – I love you and I’m so proud of you for taking this step! And you have a legion of friends and family to help you along with the process!

  4. Liss, I am so happy that you took this step. It sounds hugely productive and I am so glad that there was a good connection. I am so proud of you!

  5. Aw thank you, Lisa!!! I am, too. I cancelled the other two appts. with my Plan B and Plan C therapists. I really felt a good connection with her.

  6. Sounds like you found a wonderful therapist! I’m highly anxious too and could relate to what she said. Coincidentally my therapy was yesterday too and we focused a lot on using cognitive behavioral techniques to help me stop some of the compulsive behaviors.

    Keep up the hard work! You’re doing great!

  7. I’m definitely an anxious person, and I definitely let it get to me. I think a generally accepted assumption about eating disorders is that the behavior is about control issues, rather than about the food.

    And BTW – my Meyers-Briggs is INFJ.

    Susan

  8. awesome! so glad to hear about you digesting all her thoughts. WTG!

    it’s so true. I kind of went in a different direction for a very long time — I ignored my more type A tendencies for YEARS, but rediscovered them only recently: don’t fight it just accept it, just like she says. I struggle lately because most people in my life are not like me and are not anxious, type Aers.

    I also find that unlike you, I have a problem with letting go completley sometimes and then berating myself for doing so. along very similar lines to you (in terms of feeling anxiety about something), but I actually know how to let go, but wish I didn’t.

    one thing to also think about is your striving for being normal. just understand that normal can mean very very many things. and when you get to the root of it, very few, if any, people out there are “normal.”

    so glad you’re being this pro-active!

  9. Thanks so much, Charlotte–glad your session was a success, too. Cognitive behavior techniques are what we’ll be focusing on, too.

    Susan, that’s exactly it. She said it’s about control, not food. And it manifests itself in food issues, but the behind-the-scenes driving force is, indeed, anxiety. I was 8 when I had my first anxious moment (nearly missing the bus–a horrible story actually for me which I’ll probably detail later here Monday). It explains a lot, about why I am so time-focused, why I am a nervous traveler etc. Ever since, it’s been a part of me in different ways. IBS, being one.

    In your case, Cathy, it seems you’re really embracing your hardware! And you’re right being “normal” can mean very many things, she showed me that with a continuum example–how some people are “here” and others “there.” Normal really doesn’t exist b/c the parameters are different for each of us. Some behaviors seem to be “abnormal” to one person but are very normal for someone else. (my constant journalling–food or otherwise is considered OCD but for me, it’s not abnormal).

  10. Hi Melissa!

    I just HAD to check in on how your session went. Your therapist is spot on, from my experiences working with a therapist, and learning to become one. Also, it is GREAT that she made you laugh 🙂

    My hardwiring is much like yours, as I have a tendency to need everything to be perfect, and I have always had an anxious personality, as long as I can remember! I remember being 5 or 6 years old and getting unbelievably nervous before running races in a track league for children. So nervous that I had fantasies about breaking my ankle, just so I didn’t have to run the race. I was 5!

    Eventually, as your therapist says, you crack! And unfortunately I cracked in college and feel into a pretty bad bought of depression. i just couldn’t take the worrying and I just didn’t care about anything anymore . . .

    It is awesome that you are dealing with these issues, before they turn into catastrophic problems.

    You are already brave, insightful, and strong and will get so much better.

  11. Aw thank you, Alison! So glad she’s on target 🙂 She did say anxious behaviors usually start in childhood, so that is all the more reason to think my disordered eating is a result of that, vs being simply a food/control issue. It made me feel “normal” and I liked how she didn’t stigmatize anxiety.

    Thank you sooo much!! 🙂 I want to tackle it now…before children!!

  12. I have no idea how I found your blog, but I’m glad I did. Your experience is eerily similar to mine. I got help for my disordered eating 2 years ago and got the same anxiety diagnosis. I’m happy for you b/c I know that you’ll learn some really GREAT tools to manage that anxiety that will help you get better. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for you.

  13. Lindsay, I am so glad you found me, too!! I love hearing success stories and it seems anxiety is tied to many of us! I hope to learn how to manage it/accept it, too. Thanks for the encouragement, and keep reading 🙂

  14. hi melissa. lani introduced me to your blog and i absolutely love it. I commend your strength and courage not only for getting help but for helping others by sharing your life story.

    I too am an anxious person and can so relate with not being able to turn the thoughts off. For so long I have dealt with it through emotional eating (which thankfully after almost 20 years I’m finally replacing with healthier behaviors). I wish you much success and look forward to reading future posts.

  15. Hi Lissa, I just stumbled upon your blog and this post, as well as a few others, really resonated with me. In the past 6 months or so, I’ve started to suspect that I have an anxiety disorder… realizing that has been pretty emotional and scary. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly where it comes from in my childhood but a few family members have pointed out that I was a super anxious kid.

    I’m a super planner too. And a firstborn. And I obsess… a lot… about the craziest things, like the style of my hair. I tend to latch onto things, immerse myself in them with research for a couple of weeks, and then lose the majority of my initial interest when I find my next obsession. And yes, I can’t let go of things either, whether it was that toy I regret not choosing when I was 7 (yes, I am messed up, lol) or feeling incredibly guilty over an argument for weeks or just dwelling.

    Thank you for writing about your journey. It’s helpful to read the perspective of someone who understands.

  16. Hi Aimee, one thing my therapist said last week was that there are a lot more axious people than we might realize in the world. It IS scary!!! Sounds like we have a lot of the same traits–first-born, super-planner, obsessive … And I dwell, a lot. (Which I wondered if that was because I’m Jewish and we Jews tend to dwell?! :))

    My pleasure–glad to do it, this is bloggotherapy for me and I love how many people I’m reaching. If I could get paid to blog for a living, I would–this topic means that much to me–but even if I never see a dime, knowing I’m helping other people by just EXPOSING this stuff well…it means much more.

  17. i found your blog through BISJ when you did your guest post, and i’m just now getting back to read your previous posts. your blog is amazing, but this particular post really spoke to me…i have struggled with accepting my “hardware” for awhile now.

    i have struggled with chronic depression for several years (actually, probably for most of my life), and usually the way i deal with the depression is to eat. i remember the day i realized that i’d probably ALWAYS have to be on medication and i’d ALWAYS have to deal with those awful feelings that come with the depression. the prospect of doing that for the rest of my life seemed like more than i could deal with, and i’ve spent lots of time asking God why i have to feel this way, why is this how i have to struggle?

    but after reading your post today, i realized that we all have our struggle – that one (hopefully it’s just one!) thing about ourselves that will never change. i have to accept the way i’m wired in order to ever move past it. i’ve worked with my therapist on changing my behaviors but i think this idea is going to be really key for me going forward.

    thank you for being brave enough to share your life with me 🙂

  18. Hi Auntie, thank you! We do all have our struggles and sometimes we need to accept it and move on. It’s not easy, but just knowing it–I feel–is often half the battle!

    Hope your therapist likes the idea, too! 🙂

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