Holding my own hand


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.






12 thoughts on “Holding my own hand

  1. My dear sweet Emma, I wish I could hold your hand for just a moment, you are not alone my girl! You are so brave and so pure! Like a bright light shining across the water at night! You probably don’t know it honey, but you are not flawed in any way, in fact, you are truly quite “Gifted!” Please always know that you are loved and perfect in every single way! I love you sweet pea! I know your pain! My tears… your tears… 🙂 just keep going, keep working at it… we are very BRAVE!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    • thank you for all your kindness! You are such an inspiration. I cannot tell you how much your words mean to me. Thank you. You are a blessing =)

      love emma

  2. Thanks Emma for your encouragement to others. Right now, I am in the hole of worthlessness. The mentally ill me has taken over. Sometimes I can control it, sometimes I can’t. I am currently on medical leave from work and trying to find a psychiatrist that can retest and evaluate me and do medication management. I have been trying for 2 days now. The soonest I could get in with anyone is 3 months. Honestly I can’t wait 3 months. I really need to see someone now. How did you find your doctor and how long did it take to get into see them. I am about ready to check into a psych ward, but I work for the government in a security position and I am afraid that would cause me to lose my job. It was bad enough that when I got the job I had to have a note from my doctor (family doc) in regards to my meds. Basically saying I wouldn’t go postal on them. I’m afraid (and with good reason) that they would look at the hospitalization as an excuse that I’m not fit for the job. do you have any suggestions?

    • Angie, you must not worry about the job. All you need to think about is yourself.. do you have a place you can go and rest, lay down just by yourself with no disturbance! My number is 512 772 3730 I am just a friend, 58 year old lady diagnosed bipolar, but I will be glad to talk with you… maybe I can help? Sending you love and hugs! Cissy in Tejas

    • Hi Angie, I am so sorry to hear of the struggle you are facing. But
      I am happy to hear you are seeking further help. I know how hard it can be to get into see a psychiatrist. It had to wait about three months as well. I know how hard it is when you don’t have someone to talk to. Do you have someone else you could speak with and be open with? a friend? a family member? a counselor? a pastor? I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but i hope you know that even if you aren’t able to see a psychiatrist right away or be re-evaluated, there are still so many things you can do. I was given “the Anxiety and Phobia’s Workbook” by a friend and it has shown me that the real power lies in me. through strategies like relaxation, writing out your worries, writing out your feelings of worthlessness and then writing out the truth beside it, that you’re worth so much, and beautiful, and kind, it can help you not give in to the hopelessness. meditate on the truth. You are where you are for a reason. You are loved. You are not defined by a job, or anything other than who you are inside. and I can tell that you have a beautiful heart that is brave and kind and won’t give up. I pray you will be able to see yourself as you really are. Because I haven’t met you and i can already see so much beauty in you. Thank you for being so open and courageous. I have been hospitalized once when I really meant to harm myself. if that is where you are at, please go to the hospital, because your life is too precious to risk. sending lots of love and hope to you.
      love, Emma

  3. EMMA, YEAH, SWEET POSTING. Yes i’m shouting – on an imaginary rooftop :-D. I’m so happy for you. Like you I did not post for a while because, things were happening. I’ve started T’ai Chi and what a difference I feel. Not ready yet to tackle bruce lee ;-P but the gentle moves, the calm breathing, the no rushing or screaming. Just calm exercise.Like you I’m learning who I am and not to box myself in. Well done. And as always we’ll take it hour by hour day by day.

  4. I’m thrilled for you, Emma, even though I haven’t been following your blog for very long. I love it when another person joins the “lightbulb” brigade, when you FULLY understand your illness, the causes and the symptoms to look out for. But, most importantly, the fact it’s not your fault and you CAN do something to make your life better. You can’t always cure it because often it’s inbuilt genetically, but you can LIVE with it, and live HAPPILY with it. It takes time and effort on your own part, but textbooks (the right ones) can be amazingly helpful, even (especially) on your own. Sometimes you feel like you need someone there with you, telling you what you’re feeling and how you should feel instead. But the only person who can truly change what goes on in your head, is you. Self-help books from libraries cost nothing in money, or you can pick them up at a reasonable price online/bookstores. Sometimes you try one and it doesn’t work, but there’s always another one, written in a slightly different tone, that will help you achieve that lightbulb moment of understanding. Thanks for sharing Emma, and good luck with the rest of your journey into happiness.

  5. Thank you for such an encouraging post. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, so I am all too familiar with being overcome by irrational thoughts. I like to think that my condition is managed now…realizing that the thoughts are irrational is key to that. Over time it gets easier to focus on the truth and it has almost become second nature to discount the lies. But like you, I still have my bad days. I like the idea if imagining a stop sign…I’ll definitely use that. Thank you for posting this. God bless you 🙂

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