So this week I had my first Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (hereafter known as CBT to save finger erosion) session. I suspect the first session is key as if you and the councillor don't click and trust each other then its not going to work.
Luckily the lady (Heather) has a great sense of humour, knows about music and we really got on well. It was very much a personal vomiting session where you try and give her as much info about yourself and whats ailing you. It was great to unburden some of that stuff, not that it was upsetting but there were a couple of things I hadn't verbalised before and in doing so I gained a bit of insight
The hour flew by and she gave me some stuff to read. Although a lot of it didn't apply to me I did recognise quite a bit of what I do on a regular basis. Catastrophizing, in particular, where you expect disaster and danger to befall you just because it has before. Yep, that's a biggie. along with Overgeneralizing in which you take one experience or situation that is bad and extrapolate that out to every time that scenario or similar comes up.
For instance - one of my fears when I am tense and stressed in public is that I am going to throw up -it'll be a mess, embarrassing, all the attention will be on me, I'll disgust people, I'll feel ridiculed. However in all the times I have had low level stress to full blown panic attacks its never made me vomit. Not once. Sometimes being ill and vomiting can lead me to have panic as I'm short of breath and feel like crap but that's cos I'm ill. The stress doesn't make me do that. So why is it a fear?
But, as a wise man said, reading a few of these CBT theories did give me a bit of perspective. No, not too much fucking perspective. just enough. I tried to think of how many times in the past 20 years I had a full blown screaming I am fucking dying you bastards sons of bitches panic attack.
I think its 10
and three of those were in the space of an hour so it's arguable that they just count as 1.
Lets say 10 for ease of calculation. So it 20 years there are 7305 days (with leap years n all that balls).
So even if it was 1 panic attack a day that would still mean 7295 days when I didn't have a classic panic attack. yes I've had degrees of panic but only A PANIC ATTACK on 10 days outta 7305. If someone could work that into a percentage then you did better at maths in school than me.
But what it made me realise that despite all these years of worrying about having a panic attack the likelihood of it happening is really really remote - if the fear of panic attacks is what I'm suffering from then I'm concerned about a remote possibility. And a couple of those attacks would have been when I wasn't on medication to help me with the stress and you could double whatever the percentage\possibility is.
(Seriously, can someone work it out? Is it 42? Cos that would SO make sense)
So armed with that knowledge I have tried to get on with life in a normal way and I think its already made a difference. Drove into London on Friday with no trouble at all, not even a flicker of thought in the panic direction. Anytime over the past couple of days where it has arisen I have just batted it away. I'm going to put myself to the test a bit more over the next week but I FEEL like I'm getting somewhere. Fingers crossed.
So I booked the hotel for the Liverpool trip today so its all systems go for that in a couple of weeks. Have a strange mix of excitement and fear that will hopefully stay on a low level. I'll be travelling up with some great, nice, friendly people so that will help a lot
Thanks again for all your kind comments\mails n tweets. I'll shut up now