Hi! I haven’t posted in a while because all last week I had a friend visiting me from across the country. We hadn’t seen each other in so long so it was great to catch up. We did a lot of the things I hadn’t felt like I could do for a long time now. We went canoeing, climbed trees, had picnics, went to karaoke with friends. It was really great, and very uplifting to have someone there to help me realize I am brave and can do the things I used to love. It was amazing!
But I really wanted to tell you about a book that has changed my life forever. A few months ago I was given a book called “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook,” by Edmund Bourne. I can’t describe fully, just how much I have learned from it, or how much more hopeful it has made me feel about the future.
I began reading the book with a skeptical mind, that didn’t believe I would ever get better, and that there was anything I could do. What made me read it was a desperate heart, which couldn’t take the pain and sadness that anxiety caused me. There was nothing else to do, and I wanted with all my heart to get better. I have been working through the book steadily ever since, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it and focus on the strategies it has given me. I was empowered by the things it said, and the realities and truths it told to my mind which had been drowning in fears and darkness and hopelessness for so long.
Among many things, what I wanted to share with you today was that it has taught me that I am not a victim. I have felt so desperate and weak for so much of my life, and it’s so hard to believe that that could be any different. But reading this book and working through it, I know now that I’m not weak or a victim. I will get better! And the thoughts which have controlled my life for so long aren’t true. They aren’t real!
You see, I have obsessive compulsive disorder and among many things, I fear that my loved one’s will die if I don’t act a certain way, or do certain rituals like organizing everything in even numbers or making sure I have nothing red in my room, etc. All my life I have been controlled by these fears and the compulsions that follow them. It never occurred to me that I was living trapped in a lie. My psychiatrist told me I was thinking what she calls “magical thoughts.” For a long time I couldn’t understand what she meant. I didn’t see my thinking as irrational at all. It took reading this book to show me that I can’t live my life trapped in anxiety, and feeding it by listening to the lies it tells me. Whether I complete my compulsions or not, that isn’t going to change whether my loved one’s are safe. I don’t have that much power to affect what happens to them. So instead of spending my time in fear and dread and working so hard at trying to control what happens, why wouldn’t I try my best to use that time I usually spend in fear, and show them how much I love them instead.
My therapist told me to imagine a stop sign or something else in my mind whenever the thoughts and fears come to my mind. I imagine sheep, because they are a calm animal that makes me happy! I have been practicing this and I am overjoyed to say, it has helped me so much! It isn’t easy, but I practice deep breathing and I try to slow down. When I feel a panic attack coming, instead of becoming more afraid and saying things like, “Oh no! I am going to die! Why is my heart beating so fast? etc,” now I try and say, “It’s ok Emma. This has happened before and I got through it. I’ll be ok. I will let my body react to the fear, and it will calm down again. I am safe. I am loved. I will be ok.”
I still have bad days and sometimes I just can’t do it. But I am getting better. I know I am, and these strategies I am learning are slowly showing me I am not a prisoner in my mind! I am free and able to be strong and to chose to believe what’s true! If you can relate to this then when you hear lies that you’re worthless, or ugly, or that you’ll never get better, please, imagine a stop sign, or whatever might make you pause, and say, “No! that isn’t true! I chose to believe the truth, That I am worth being loved, that I am beautiful, that I am special, and that I can overcome this.”
I pray for anyone who is suffering with this, and I hope with all my heart that you won’t give in to the lies or to the hopelessness. You’re stronger than you know, and you have power to change the way you think. It’s hard. I struggle with it daily–hourly sometimes, but I won’t give up. And I pray you won’t either.