In one of them, it was breakfast time, and my mother presented me with a bowl of the full sized shredded wheat. (Do you remember Full Sized Shredded Wheat? It was quite large; maybe 2x3 inches and you could break it apart with your spoon.) Only this was not your normal full sized shredded wheat, it was almost as large as the kitchen table. I remember feelings of dread, a feeling of never being able to finish, and on top of that, I hated shredded wheat. It was a bad dream. The second dream was almost the same, only instead of breakfast, it was dinner and instead of shredded wheat, which I didn’t like, it was spaghetti, which was my favorite food. You would think that being presented with a table sized portion of your favorite food as a child would be heaven, but you would be wrong. Like the first dream, all I felt was a severe dread, a feeling of failure because I would never, ever, ever be able to finish eating. Looking back, these dreams almost sound hilarious, but as I think about my life, these dreams really were a sign of the Anxiety that would find its way into every part of my life.
Fear of failure would eventually lead to not even trying in school, which of course would lead to actual failure. It was a horrible spiral, I sometimes wish that I could go back in time and change it all, but then I get to thinking, I am the sum of my experiences, and at 32 years old I think I am a pretty well rounded individual. My experiences, my anxiety, my failures and my triumphs have made me a pretty good person. So, really, if I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t try to change myself, but I might tell myself that, eventually, it was all going to be OK. I would not die from the fear and anxiety, but I would grow, I would become stronger.
I shared my experiences with counseling with them, and now I want to share it with you. The first thing I told them was, that I believe, Good Counselors know that there is a lot of good in Religion and Faith, and that they do not want to take that away from the people they are trying to help. In fact, the very first time I spoke with a counselor I was asked if I was a religious person, when I said that I was the counselor then asked me if I had spoken to my religious leaders and if I was “Right” with my God. I had, and I felt that I was, but I still was struggling with my Anxiety. After talking with him for a while, he told me that he felt I could benefit from being part of a few Group Counseling sessions.
The first time I met with this counselor he asked me to pick up a new book. I think it was called the “Anxiety and Phobia Workbook”. He gave me assignments to read chapters and then perform tasks. Each week I would return and report on what I had done and then we would talk, just talk. He didn’t try to dig deep into my psyche to find exactly what went wrong and when it went wrong, instead he tried to help me see what was true and what was false. That seems like a really simplified way of explaining his counseling technique with me, but that is what it boils down to.
The first episode happened on a Tuesday. It was the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and Ken and I were having some new Neighbors over for Homemade Pizza and the game. I had worked that morning, but I KNEW that I would be able to clean the house, make the Pizza, and generally present a Perfect Home to my neighbors. I finished work, picked up Baby J and came home. I rested a little and then got to work. The house was a mess, as always, we live with a 16-month-old Tornado, but I had hours to get it ready. My little Tornado followed me around, messing things up just as fast as I cleaned them. Time ticked away and I quickly realized that I was feeling stressed, more than stressed, I was feeling very anxious.
(Here is a picture of my Tornado)
I stopped what I was doing and thought about all that I needed to get done. I wanted to make yummy pizza, I wanted to have a clean home, I wanted people to be comfortable and happy at the party. What was the most important too me? The Clean Home. I decided that I just couldn’t make the pizza…more anxiety….people are coming to my home expecting to eat. But wait, I can deal with this, I already have all the toppings, I just don’t have time to make the dough. Ken got home a few minutes later, he walked in and I bombarded him with my needs. “Ken you have to go to Papa Murphy’s and see if they will sell you plain Pizza Crusts, or maybe a couple of Cheese Pizza’s won’t be too expensive, then we can just add more toppings to them.” After a few minutes of explanation of my anxiety and my plan to overcome it by giving up the dream of the home made pizza, Ken, and Baby J, were on their way to find pizza, and I was alone in the house and able to clean.
The party turned out great; our guests gladly ate Little Cesar’s in a clean, comfortable home, with a laid back and happy hostess. Crisis Averted. When I think about this situation I almost have to laugh, I know that 10 years ago I would have called up our guests and cancelled the party, because it wouldn’t be perfect and as such would be bad, and I could not throw a bad party!
Two weeks later I found myself unable to sleep. I could not stop thinking about a mistake I felt I had made. Different scenarios played out in my mind, I was haunted, and I was scared that I had hurt some precious relationships. And then I wondered, “Is this true? Is it really this bad?” I really didn’t know. I didn’t have all the information, I had made an assumption based on the information I had and that assumption had turned into fact in my mind. I decided that I needed to find out what was really going on, apologize if I had done something horribly wrong and move on. And so the next morning I did. I contacted all the people involved, let them know about my feelings and anxiety associated with the situation and asked a few questions. Within minutes I had my answers. My “horrible mistake” was not a problem at all, all the fear and anxiety I had been feeling, the nights that I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about the consequences of my mistake, they were all caused by a false belief.
I felt so good. I felt free. I was proud of myself; I had stopped Anxiety and Panic in its tracks! I can now see that I really have learned some great skills, and I can control the anxiety. This past month has shown me just how strong I have become. I think that my Savior is just as proud of me. I think my Earthly Father will be proud of me too (I haven’t shared these experiences with him yet). I am also happy because I know that Anxiety is both an Inherited and a learned problem and I truly feel now that I will be able to help my children recognize and over come these issues in their lives. I wouldn't have been able to do any of these things had I not sought help and gone to counseling.
If you have read this entire post, I hope that you found something of worth in it. If anything, I shared these experiences because I am proud of my growth. In the long run, I hope that my experiences will help others understand why some of us need counseling and maybe someday the stigma will go away. In the short term, I hope that you can be proud of me too.