I have my therapy appointment later today, so I thought I would blog about how I am doing before I go. I am sure that therapy will point me in a different direction, so I want to capture my progress so far.
My “homework” from last week was (1) not to react to my emotions but, instead, observe them with compassionate awareness; and (2) not justify or explain myself to others. I have done a better job with #1 than I have with #2. As for #2, I have made progress in noticing when I am explaining myself but have not been very effective so far in stopping myself beforehand. However, I have done a very good job with #1.
I gave myself a third homework assignment to help with #1 that my T did not suggest but did support – ceasing all mood-altering drinks and pills for now. I have not drunk any wine or other alcoholic beverage, taken any Xanax, or even taken any sleep aids in over a week. Before I continue, let me assure you that I have no addiction issues other than food (binge eating). I use alcohol and Xanax to numb the difficult emotions, but there is no physical or compulsive element to this. Food has been a harder demon to slay because I do struggle with compulsive overeating, but I have been making progress in this area as well.
So I went a week without using any external means to numb myself or help me sleep. You know what? It was a much better week than I have had in a long time. That isn’t to say that I did not feel any difficult emotions – I did. The differences were that (1) I did not fuel them; and (2) I did not numb the “good” emotions, like joy. By not fueling the hard emotions while, at the same time, enabling myself to experience the “good” emotions, I achieved an emotional balance that I have not experienced in a long time.
I found that I have an internal “anxiety geyser” that shoots out anxiety several times a day with no apparent trigger. I could be doing something throughout my day, not thinking about anything in particular, and become flooded with anxiety. In the past, I would immediately try to analyze it, which would fuel the anxiety, snowball, and drive me to food, wine, or Xanax to detach from it. Instead, I would simply notice the anxiety without attaching to it, and it would pass.
Giving up sleep aids (which does include wine and Xanax but also melatonin and herbal sleep aids) was harder because I struggle so badly with insomnia. My sleep patterns actually improved this week. I had three nights lying in my bed at 3:00 a.m. looking at the ceiling. Instead of taking a Xanax to fall back to sleep, I popped in a DVD with a comedy I had seen before and listened to it until I fell back to sleep.
I don’t know where I am going next in therapy, but I am very pleased with the results so far!
Photo credit: Hekatekris