Day 2 of driving desensitization, went to the store again. I forgot to buy any chocolate yesterday so somehow my brain went into overdrive buying chocolate today. I was just going to buy the chocolate chunks to have a snack around but apparently that was not enough. So today I just got up got dressed and drove. Very little anxiety because I could just go out immediately and didn’t have to wait for a good traffic window. I live on a major road in a near burb to Chicago so traffic is a legitimate concern. So far so good with the driving but I’ll need to do it until it feels effortless before moving on to the next step.
This beautiful African violet is actually the little reward. The big reward is the accomplishment itself. Today I said no to anxiety, I didn’t let it stop me from doing something I needed to do. I didn’t make an excuse and bow out. Today was the first day of my driving practice. All I did was drive to the grocery store, which I’ve done a million times but I’ve also made a million excuses not to go, too rainy, to tired, too snowy. This time because it was part of my desensitization I started feeling anxiety from the moment I awoke, I had to do this it wasn’t optional. So for two hours I felt the initial pangs of anxiety but without letting it escalate to something where the tiny inner voice takes over. There’s little to be done about the initial pangs of anxiety they are an instinct from the past , but they tend to go away when the problem does. As soon as I walked out to the car my anxiety lifted. Let’s do this I thought. I made it to the store and back with no issues and one African violet richer. More than that though I felt elated. It’s been many years since I did something that was causing anxiety anyway. Usually they are the optional but fun things in life, maybe an orchid show some place I’ve never been before would come up but I couldn’t even ride there as a passenger much less drive. You see my fear is what could happen not what’s likely to happen and it can be debilitating. Just not today, we’re starting with a clean slate, anxiety 0, me 1.
So today I realized that amazon knows more about my mental health than most people. I just ordered a book on agoraphobia my latest diagnosis along with GAD, social anxiety and bipolar. The list keeps growing. I mean the basics are that I’ll always have some type of anxiety along with bipolar.
Apparently not wanting to drive longer distances than to the grocery has to do with this as much as anything. I mentioned to the doc I never have issues driving home and this lead to the fact that I’m afraid of what will happen if I get too far from home. It’s not like I can’t leave the house at all otherwise I wouldn’t have beautiful pictures to show you but usually I have a friend along. That mitigates things. In fact using a support person is a recommended part of therapy.
The other part of all this is just kinda leaving into the anxiety and dealing. I was kinda surprised by this. The first part of anxiety the butterflies 🦋 are beyond modern psychology…they are a remnant of our days in caves and can’t be effectively treated. The part where that spirals though can.
So the book I bought on amazon is from Claire Weekes called agoraphobia. I bought it because of an excerpt from a later book of hers in the anxiety and phobia workbook my therapist uses. The idea is to again kinda realize that it’s going to sting for a bit but it won’t last forever. Anxiety isn’t the best feeling but it’s not permanent so you can ride it out and continue your activity. It’s kinda like pulling off a band aid.
Thing is there are some tricks that let you ride it out a little easier. The first is breathing slowly and into your belly. Then changing your thoughts so they don’t spiral. There’s a whole section of calming thoughts in the anxiety and phobia workbook.
Here are a few of my favorites…
I can be anxious and still deal with this situation.
This isn’t an emergency. It’s okay to think slowly about what I need to do.
I don’t need these thoughts —I can choose to think differently.
At least one of these is going to be taped on the dashboard of my car for my driving adventures.