Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my doctor to discuss the medication I was taking for anxiety. Normal procedure would include me telling the doctor, in as little detail as possible, how I’m feeling and that I’m ok on my current medication. However, as I’ve felt my symptoms getting worse over the weeks before this appointment, I tried something else. The day before my appointment I tracked and made a note of my thoughts from when I got up in the morning to when I went to bed at night. It turned out to be a long doctor’s appointment. Let me share some of my thoughts to show you just how irrational they were…
The first note I made was when brushing my teeth. I noted how yellow my teeth are looking and that I need to make a dentist appointment, wiping my teeth over with my tongue over and again on my way downstairs. Then, when I was getting dressed, I realised how much weight I’ve put on (a quick hop on the scales would prove that I in fact have lost weight) so decided to skip eating breakfast and had a glass of water instead. Now on the bus, I remembered to check the dentist. Realising just how much a quick check up would cost, my thoughts shifted from the state of my teeth to money troubles. Now, I know I’m not flat broke nor do I have any looming debts but money worries seem to send me over the edge. The remainder of my trip to work was spent calculating how much money I have, how much I need to spend this month, how much I will get paid this month and how much I will have to actually save (because society seems to tell me I need to buy a house tomorrow and have enough left over to start a family and see the world before I’m too old).
Upon arriving at work, I enter the school lobby where most other staff members were gathered. I noticed everybody turned to look as I walked in. This might be a very normal thing when someone enters a building, but my brain put up a big red flag indicating that I had done or said something the previous day that was being discussed before I arrived -and I would not find out what it was.
Let me remind you that this is all before 9am. By this point I am already shattered and have a pretty good idea as to how I think the rest of the day will go. The irrational thoughts persist, but I’ll skip to my personal favourite train of thought from that day…
I often ride the bus home, which drops me off about 200 yards away from a pedestrian crossing; a crossing I will use as I live on the opposite side of the road. From the bus, I monitor what colour the light is. If it’s green, I know it will have turned red by the time I walk to it from the bus stop and can cross. However, if it’s red it will have changed to green and therefore I will have to wait to cross. And it was red.
Well, I felt more stress about this walk than anything else that day. To me, the fact that I had to wait an extra few minutes to cross the road meant that I would be eating later and my body would have less time to use up the calories and energy, meaning I would gain weight. That’s right. To translate that logically, what colour a traffic light is when the bus arrives at my stop determines whether or not I put on weight.
This was the thought that made me open up a bit more to my doctor. I’ve been putting my brain and body through this every day. I didn’t need a doctor’s appointment to tell me that this is unhealthy. Normally I’ve taken medication for my anxiety and rejected the notion of counselling. I’m not great at talking about feelings. However, this time I’ve agreed to give counselling a shot. Looking at this list of horrible thoughts has made me realise that a talking therapy is exactly what I need.
It’s a revelation that many people have come to long before, and something I was keen to resist before now. Yes, past experiences have contributed to my anxious feelings, but arguing with a traffic light every day surely can’t help. If you have not yet tried a thought diary, it’s a very unique insight into exactly what could be behind your feelings of anxiety.