This blog has served a purpose for me for some time now. It has been a kind of sounding board for me to express my thoughts and feelings and has been a journal of sorts. I have always included enigmatic clues for myself to refer back to later when I review it after some time has passed.
A few months ago something strange happened, my problems with anxiety disappeared and this caused me to abandon this blog completely. I’ve had nothing to work out in my mind as my cognitive distortions have been astonishingly easy for me to identify, this is also new to me.
Once I realized how long it’s been since I’ve neglected this blog some familiar sensations returned, fear that I am suddenly going to lose whatever makes me a somewhat talented writer. With that thought I did my standard work through i.e, distorted thought:”Without the irrational anxiety based on no evidence I will be a shitty writer so I better not even try until something stirs it up.” Followed by my cognitive correction: “Anxiety issues is not what’s been improving my writing, what’s been improving my writing is doing it frequently and responding to criticisms constructive or otherwise from myself and others.”
What brought on this lack of anxiety? Is a question I’ve asked for a few months…because honestly…it’s been freaking me out!
1. Working with Youth.
The youth that I work with are older adolescents that are rife with cognitive distortions of their own. It is part of my job to decipher and recognize what might be driving their distortions and aid them in recognizing those same distortions for what they are. As a person that has dealt with those same issues for a long time my skill at recognizing and gently allowing for them to realize that what they believe about themselves (Example: “I am a bad kid because I’m in care.”), is absolutely and unequivocally untrue.
If they bring up that thought (at the point that I have some of their trust) I invariably let them know that I don’t think that they are bad (because people are inherently good according to several control studies that I’ve read) and that I think that they simply have an inability to trust adults because many adults have given them no reason to trust us by the time they come into our program.
So…when I begin to beat myself up for my own mistakes I think to myself…”What would I say to me if I was a kid on shift with me right now?” And I tell myself those things mentally and my mistaken beliefs about myself slowly float away.
2. Focus on the positive.
Also related to my job is that the organization that I work for is strengths based which means that even though we may have the most aggressive and foul-mouthed kid on the planet, and we have tried to get them to express themselves with a bit more decorum, and one day they decide to say “fuck off” only 29 times instead of 30, we then consider it a small success and celebrate that success.
I have also applied this to my personal life as well. As a person with a lot of fire in my belly due to the state of a world that makes me angry I have learned to recognize my own strengths and focus on my strengths, rather than my shortcomings.
My personal example is with my dog Duke. I used to lose my shit…pun intended…when I would come home and found that he’d peed and/or pooped on my floor. When I moved to my new place last August he did this almost daily for about three months. Just after the third month I was really sick of this and I lost it each time for a few days in a row. During those few days the poor old one hundred pound boy was scolded, yelled at, and slapped on the bum on at least three to four occasions. I noticed that after a few days of this I came in he wouldn’t look at me and he started shaking because he knew I’d be angry. It was then that I realized he had a health issue and took him to the vet and tests confirmed that something was wrong. Naturally, I felt like the biggest asshole in the world…and I kind of was I suppose.
After that when I came home, I’d walk up to him and scratch him behind the ear until his shaking subsided, I would then put on his lead on and take him for a walk and he would pee a lot and usually poop as well. When we came back in I would clean his messes with a chlorinated cleanser without looking his direction or saying a single word. Usually when I was done with the clean up Duke would walk up and lick my hand once and try to snuggle up against me, and I let him do so until he got bored of it. After a couple of weeks of this he stopped shaking when I came in and he stopped messing in the house. My theory is that he was becoming so stressed about getting into trouble that he may have literally worried himself sick.
This occurrence made me feel extremely sad and guilty and I watched Cesar Milan on the Dog Whisperer who spoke about the way dogs interpret humans when they feel guilty. Dogs perceive our guilt as anxiety and it causes them to feel anxiety as well. So I decided to do something that I’ve always struggled with. I let go of the guilt for making what I considered to be a fairly substantial mistake. Since I made that choice he hasn’t messed in the house, not once, it’s been nearly three months since the last indoor mess. He has begun to follow my directions without question…I swear he would ask me “HOW HIGH?!” (if he could) when I ask him to jump. In all that time I have only raised my voice to him when he’s in another room and I want him to come and visit with me.
Point being…my strength in this case was recognizing my own poor judgement and adjusting my behaviour to improve the behaviour of my dog who is this man’s best friend. Another strength would be that this lesson taught me not only how to let go of guilt from the past but also that doing so truly reduces one’s anxiety. That is not to say that I will return to behaviours, or that I am apathetic towards the cause of the guilt, but it is to say that the lesson was learned and it’s time to move on and this process is easily applied to other matters.
3. Join Healthy Groups
On the surface it might not seem like it but for me a pool league that I joined has had an extremely positive influence on me. Currently I am a charter member of the VNEA pool league. As I managed to join the winning team from last years sanctioned tournament our team was selected to go and compete in the WCVNEA tournament at the River Cree Casino & Resort. Our team learned a lot and we plan to return next year to compete whether we win this years tournament or not. One of our players is returning to play after a fairly serious car accident that he was involved in years ago. He is going to be coaching us as he regains his muscle memory and he will help develop our own. This is good because we function well as a team and each of us is taking the game (but not ourselves too) seriously. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to spend a Tuesday night and the action of shooting a game has been getting movement into my shoulder that experiences chronic pain following a rotator cuff injury of my very own.
Another lesson I learned is that when I drink too much I average 4.25 points out of a possible 10 points. When I don’t drink I average 9.25 points out of a possible 10. It’s hard to argue with stats like that so I have begun to control my alcohol intake without any trouble. And that’s been nice as well.
4. Eat Healthy & at Regular Intervals
At first I began to eat healthier as a necessity due to budget constraints. I use my rice/vegetable steamer on an almost daily basis. I made a menu plan (which I’ve yet to buy the ingredients for) but in the mean time I have been eating frozen veggies, basmati rice, and some form of meat for dinner every day, for breakfasts I am eating yogurt with fresh fruit, dried fruit, and or nuts. I’ve been eating fish (fillets or tuna). For some reason I’ve lost my sweet tooth for colas etc…but still imbibe them on occasion.
5. Education About Money and Budgeting
I’ve been struggling financially for some time. Mainly because I’ve never been good with money because my family never taught me (though my Dad tried on occasion but I wasn’t interested at 18). Also, for whatever reason school never teaches our children about money. They mainly taught us to memorize equations that the majority of us will never use after talking about grocery shopping for one afternoon. This is likely the most important life skill that we are never taught. So I watch Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Til Debt Do us Part religiously and picked up her book called Money Rules and I have been setting up my own financial plan using that same book as a guide line. My plan is not in action yet but there is large comfort in knowing that I will soon cease being what Gail calls a “Money Moron” and will become what I call “financially savvy.” I can see the tiniest pinhole of light at the end of a formerly bleak, and indecipherable tunnel. So I suppose I should thank her for giving me what that light represents…hope. Thanks for the hope Gail!
6. Attitude of Gratitude.
This is another one I blame my clients for. One of my clients thanks me profusely at the end of every shift that they attend. At first I was taken aback and was not sure if they actually were that grateful. At some point I decided that it didn’t matter so I started thanking them for being there, for being willing to learn, and letting me teach them life skills. I also started doing this with other clients who in turn started thanking me for my time, as I thanked them for theirs. I transferred this behaviour to co-workers family, and friends. Suddenly, ALL of my relationships are going more smoothly and everyone I know seems happier to see and hear from each other.
7. Save the drama for your llama.
That’s where I’ll have to stop…for the sake of keeping my life drama free as it has purposefully become. If I do catch myself gossiping these days it’s in order to attempt to improve the life of whomever I am speaking. If you are someone who I believe will impact my life in negative ways then you have no purpose in my life and I will drop you without word or regret.
All in all, I have been slowly and methodically building up my pyramid as per Maslow’s hierarchy (mentioned in a previous blog post) and I have decided that what will fuel my writing will be that which makes me incredibly happy.
Now I don’t know if the above recipé will work for everyone (or if you need to be unreasonable with your pet to get your anxiety to go away) but it’s been working for me and I highly recommend it. I’ve been laughing more, smiling more, dressing better, standing up straighter, joking, and socializing like I used to and as a result my phone has been ringing more through texts or otherwise, why wouldn’t you want to live this way?
We all make mistakes…get over it man…find your purpose and live it.
It’s the only way to be sure.