Note: I didn’t intend to blog about all of my therapy sessions, but I realize now that they have been/will continue to be a huge part of my journey. I fear keeping them out of this blog would take away some of the authenticity and transparency I am trying to maintain. I hope you, as readers, don’t mind!
Last night was my second therapy session, and something we talked about was the tendency for anxious people like myself to see the world very black and white, versus embracing the world’s many shades of gray.
Though as humans we want to make a simple choices of, “Yes or No,” really, life isn’t quite so simple and is lived in that in-between shade of gray.
But for someone with anxiety disorder–or someone who is OCD like me (I got the billing last night that I am blessed with both!) it’s very hard for us to live in the gray.
For us, there’s right and wrong. Black and white. Gray? Um, that’s reserved for the color of my favorite Ann Taylor dress pants!
One of the cognitive behavioral therapy exercises we did last night was she had me walk through my midnight eating incidents and my thought processes that occur when it happens, to identify rational and irrational thoughts so we can sort through them.
The more I talked, the more I realized how irrational I sounded, especially calling myself a “failure” for nights when I eat in the middle of the night. (She was jotting down my thought process as I spoke).
Basically, her take was that eating peanut butter at 3 a.m. isn’t inherently wrong and it’s only my labeling it as a “bad” thing that makes it so. Like she said, a diabetic would maybe need to eat then–and lots of people eat in the middle of the night.
If I am not going over my points, aren’t I still within the parameters of my diet? (Yes).
If I am not going over my points–what’s the harm in the peanut butter especially if it will fuel my workout 2 hours later at 5 a.m.? (No.)
I’m not eating a gallon of ice cream, and she argued whether I’m eating it at 6 p.m. or 3 a.m., it’s still the same calories and if I’m not gaining weight, what is the big deal if it is at 3 a.m.? (Um…)
I did push back a little there, because I’m also not losing weight right now, either, and I fear this is what is holding me back. And I told her a little of what I talked about here yesterday, about wanting to eat more normally during the day so my subconscious doesn’t wake me to eat! Plus, I argued, still don’t think “normal” people wake and eat at 3 a.m.
To which she asked, “What is normal? Everyone has a different ‘normal’!” Hmm…
Ultimately, what’s “wrong,” (or, “irrational”), she says, is that I believe I am a failure when it happens. So we’re going to work on changing that thought process and already I feel better knowing it’s not the end of the world if I eat at night–I won’t gain weight from it, so long as I am still within the parameters of Weight Watchers.
Rational thinking today, hurrah! The goal is to make it a constant, ingrained thought and not just a fleeting one.
Also, because I most likely have OCD, she isn’t 100% sure cognitive behavioral therapy alone will be the most effective way to handle my anxiety (but she’s willing to try it in addition to something else).
So she offered two methods typically used to help bring those of us with OCD on the wayyyyy left side of the spectrum a little closer to the average anxious person (also on the left, but less so): flooding and systematic desensitization.
(Note: these methods are aside from medication, which she wasn’t promoting or even suggesting–though I like how she called anti-depressants “mind-optimizers”, de-stigmatizing them. Nowadays ADs are prescribed for so many conditions now, and people tend to assume it’s all for the same one so I liked her lexical choice!).
As she said, all anxious people have a threshold of how much they can take–there is a certain ceiling where the anxiety keeps building and building…. and then the anxiety lessens because it has nowhere else to go.
With the first method, flooding, the anxious person is put in the most uncomfortable of positions–the most anxious of situations–repeatedly. But they reach that threshold quickly.
(For example, if you’re afraid of snakes, it would mean putting you in the snake pit with nonvenomous snakes to help you overcome that fear; when you realize nothing happens, you’d no longer fear snakes). As she told me, this method isn’t really practiced because, well, it works but no one would come back!
With systematic desensitization, the person slowly reaches various, intensifying levels of discomfort/anxiety. For example, not journaling or not working out both make me nervous and anxious. Flooding would mean me going cold turkey of changing my whole organized lifestyle.
But with systematic desensitization, it’d be more gradual. Maybe one week I’d skip journaling altogether and then when I’m comfortable, move on to taking a week off from exercise and so on and so forth, til the obsession with food and exercise is less consuming, if at all. It’s a much slower process, but as she says it, too, works.
And so that, coupled with behavioral cognitive therapy, seems to be the path we’ll be taking. I think an existence in the gray would be a much happier and healthier one. Through the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (to cope with anxiety disorder) and systematic desensitization (to cope with OCD), I think I can get there.
I don’t see her again until next Thursday, but I’m already looking forward to it!!
How about you? Do you tend to be black and white, or have you found peace in the gray?