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?