Another week has gone and I’ve had another CBT appointment.
The last week since my first session has been less anxious, I definitely came out of there feeling positive and happy that I had finally reached the point where I was getting the help that I so desperately needed. I felt like I had finally reached the beginning of the end and it was a really positive experience. I really got along with my therapist and I was glad that I didn’t feel patronised by him during the appointment. It was great and I definitely felt a sense of relief which I think carried me through the last week. I haven’t felt as anxious and I haven’t had as many bad thoughts. I don’t think that’s because I had some ‘therapy’ because last weeks session didn’t really do any ‘therapy’ we just sat and talked for an hour about everything that I felt. I think the sense of relief has simply been because I feel like I’m at the beginning of the end and because I know that going forward I will be working on dealing with my Emetophobia. Even though Mei is super supportive and is very understanding of my issues, I think I sensed even more relief because I’ve spoken to a professional about it all and he’s been understanding and non judgemental too. So I think it’s really nice to know that I’m not ‘just being stupid’ or ‘overreacting’ which is often what I tell myself.
I was really looking forward to going to my appointment again this week because it just means I’m making more progress and taking steps forward. The session started off fine, we talked about the past week and how I had been feeling, I told him that there was a sense of anxiousness still, but much less than what I would normally have in a week. I also explained that Mei had woken yesterday morning feeling unwell and had to take the day off work which made me uncomfortable but Mei explaining to me that he didn’t feel ‘sick’ helped. We talked about other instances where someone could or would tell me that they felt ill and how I would normally react, which would be to feel a sense of panic instantly, and that to help me calm down I try to find ways to calm down by finding things out. So for instance, when I know Willow has been around someone who’s ill, I will contact that person to try to find out what’s happening with them and try to figure out what to expect with Willow.
A Prime example would be something that happened recently; Meirion and I needed to go to IKEA to pick up some furniture and we asked My sister-in-law if she could watch Willow while we were out. That was fine so we dropped willow off and long story short, my nephew, who Willow had been playing with, ended up being sick while she was there. Of course, my instant response was panic and anxiety and from then on I was expecting Willow to become ill. To help myself calm down, I text my sister in law to 1) Find out how my nephew was because its awful being poorly and 2) to figure out whether or not it was a stomach bug. From what I was told I was able to then feel better about the situation and worry less about Willow becoming ill because it was just a one-off thing probably brought on by running around and being warm.
So what we figured out was that in order to help me calm down I need information. I can’t simply calm myself down without knowing exactly what I should expect and whether or not to actually worry. It’s something to do with certainty – I need certainty to know what to expect, I worry and panic because of uncertainty and apprehension and because I have no certainty, I also spend a lot of time imagining the worse case scenario.
From that we talked about my coping mechanisms and how I manage when faced with sickness. I honestly said, If I were in a situation where I was away from home and someone around me/willow/meirion were to be ill, I would instantly leave and go home because I feel safe at home. Despite being home and back in my safe place though, I would then proceed to worry continuously for days whether or not we would come down with it ourselves because we would have been exposed to the germs anyway. In that time I would fret, stress and do less around the home and with Willow and Meirion because I worry that doing too much will bring on the sickness, I would also keep bowls and buckets in reach at all times. If I was faced with sickness at home, I would do a lot of the same, make sure that things are around to catch sick, make sure that rugs are rolled up and put away, I would clean around the sick person to stop germs from spreading…. it goes on. However, I explained that when Willow or Meirion is ill, I will get them water or ask them if they need anything or if there is anything I can do. If Willow is ill, I will stay with her and reassure her and rub her back and tell her things are okay because that’s my job as a mother and I cannot leave her alone in one of life’s most scary and vulnerable moments. I also stand there and do that because in the back of my mind, I do not want willow to have these anxieties and fears and I don’t want her to think that being ill makes me want to leave her (even though that’s what I deeply, truly want to do) or make her feel like she has done something wrong, or shouldn’t be sick in case it upsets mummy. I have to make sure that she knows that in those moments I am always there for her and I always will be there for her.
Internally, I will feel very frightened and I will want to leave. I want to run away, I want to hide. I shake, and feel sick myself and it takes a great deal to not cry when she is around. My legs get weak and I find it difficult to stand. Physically I react and mentally I’m a mess but I try my very best not to show it and I try as hard as I can for as long as I can to make sure that I am around for them.
My therapist told me that that was very brave and I should be able to find some strength in that because there are lots of people who wouldn’t be able to do that. The sad part, is that at the moment I am not in a place where I can see that as bravery, I only see it as my duty to my family, it’s my job to be there. I don’t ever feel brave when I am there in those moments, I feel obligated and determined not to pass on my fear to willow. I do it for her. So I can’t say I feel brave when internally I don’t feel even close to brave, I feel scared and overwhelmed.
That’s something I need to work on.
We talked more about instances where I had been ill as a child. I told him about a couple of times when I was ill as a child where I would feel completely separated from my mum, or worse, rejected. Mum had a very weak stomach and if anyone was sick, she’d be sick, so I never felt Okay with being ill because I didn’t want to upset my mum.
Talking about my mum makes my emotional so I felt some emotions surface while we were discussing her and how I would feel as a kid. I managed to keep the tears at bay, even though they were very close.
A bit more talking was done before we moved on to the ‘plan’. Each session has a ‘plan’ that has to be followed and after all the talking was done it was time to start listing things that make me get anxious and giving them a score of 1-10 based on how anxious/fearful I am in those situations. We came up with various different scenarios like Willow or meirion being ill would be a 10 and imagining them being ill would be a 1/2 depending on how I was feeling that day and getting take away is somewhere like a 5 kind of thing… he asked about pictures/videos/sounds ETC… stuff that could evoke my fears and I told him what I thought and as we were going though various different examples of things, I started sweating and feeling flustered, at one point he mentioned watching like a video of someone being sick and I just wrapped my arms around my head and said no,no,no,no,no, i couldn’t do that.
Thinking about those things straight after talking about my mum was really pulling on my heartstrings and i was feeling very close to tears. I managed to keep them away though and we went on to talk about what we could do in the next session – he suggested looking at pictures of sick to begin with and I said yes and explained that i think i would be okay with that and then he said why not get it out of the way? do you want to try looking at a picture now? so I said yeah okay then lets give this a go. I was still sweaty and worked up still and he showed my a photo and I just burst out crying and looked the other way. He asked if I would like him to take it away and I said yes please while I was still turned away. He said it was gone.
I proceeded to bawl my eyes out and apologise to him for crying. I felt really embarrassed and I felt like I should have been stronger but there was still that sense of fear that was holing me back. He just kept reassuring me that there was nothing to be embarrassed about nor anything to feel ashamed of and that even agreeing to looking at the photo is a step in the right direction. We spent another 15 minutes talking about it and he suggested looking at a cartoon photo of sick. I said okay and managed to look at it. We talked about how it made me feel and I explained that I felt okay and didn’t feel threatened by the cartoon image.
We talked more about how it’s okay to react the way I did and that it’s okay to feel scared and not want to look at the photo and within a few minutes we had to leave because we’d run out of time. We talked some more about the exposure therapy and how its the best way to help with a fear like this, he suggested that over time I should reintroduce myself to things that I used to enjoy but now avoid because of my fears, things like going out for a meal, baking cakes, cooking, getting a take away ETC… There was lots of reassurance from him about everything that we had talked about and my reaction to the photos and that was that. He told me that we will start to explore ‘mindfulness’ and ‘living in the now’ because I need to break the habit of looking forward and imagining worst case scenarios and he’s also going to bring in a CD for me that can help me sleep using a method of tensing muscles and relaxing them to help my body and mind relax enough to sleep. And then I left.
I waited outside for Mei to arrive and found myself calming down after being worked up for so long from everything that we had talked about and the more I calmed down the more frustrated I felt at myself for not looking at the photo and reacting the way I did. I was thinking to myself that there was no threat, there was no exposure, it was a photo! And I really did feel frustrated at myself and angry for not being stronger and looking at the photo.
I talked about that with Mei on the drive home and how i was frustrated with myself and he told me to remember that feeling because next week, I could look at a photo again and not react the way I did.
I took his advice on board and went on to tell him about the rest of the session.
Yesterday afternoon I ended up falling asleep on the sofa because I felt so worn out. I’ve been able to calm down and I’m now more aware that my reaction to the photo wasn’t just because of the photo, it was because i was already feeling emotional and had been hiding it, seeing the photo broke the walls and opened the flood gates to everything that I had been feeling and not just touching at my fear of sick. Today, I have seen the image in my head a few times. I don’t feel anxious when I see it in my mind, but it does have a sense of uncomfortable-ness. I keep telling myself to look at a photo online but I can’t quite do that yet. I still feel worn out and I know I’m not totally relaxed because I did end up sleeping on the sofa last night because I felt anxious and mei was very fidgety in his sleep so I couldn’t settle. I had a hard time choosing what to eat for breakfast and lunch but otherwise I am OK. I don’t feel as great as I did last week, probably because I didn’t come out of the session on a positive, I came out emotional and disappointed in myself. I am alright though, I did manage to take willow to the park and meet up with my sister-in-law and niece for an hour of playtime. I think I am just tired if I’m honest. I have been ill all week with a cold and I am still blocked up and coughing, and I was at the dentist yesterday morning too, couple those with an afternoon sleep, a late night, sofa sleeping and waking at 4am to go back to bed, I just feel exhausted.
I am looking forward to going to my next session next week. Despite feeling emotional when I left, I know that it is progress and if it was easy to do, I wouldn’t have to see a therapist. So I hope I can get some decent sleep and recover from this cold by then so that I can hopefully manage it a little bit better.
As always, thanks for reading!