Therapy in Action: Coping Methods for Anxiety and How They Work for Me

I’ve written a lot about processing obsessions in a theoretical and reflective way, but I haven’t illustrated what it might look like in action. First, I want to talk about the methods of processing, coping with, and overcoming obsessions and anxiety. Then, I want to show what it looks like (literally) on paper — processing in action, as it were.

Methods
I can’t say for certain that what I do to deal with obsessions and anxiety torment is purely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but that is the main method that my therapist and I use to combat my anxiety. Sometimes, I also utilize Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) methods. And occasionally, I use Grounding as a method to alleviate escalating anxiety. I have feelings and reactions to all of these methods of coping with anxiety and obsessions, sometimes only one works, sometimes I have to do all three. Some days I hate REBT, some days the CBT isn’t enough.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The use of CBT for me is the one that is the most “invisible,” so to speak. This is the method I most likely use when I’m not noticing what method I’m using. I know that sounds real layered and heady, but honestly, that’s how my mind works. When I’m trying to overcome anxiety, the anxiety becomes about the anxiety, and I spend a lot of time and energy focusing on or obsessing about the method I’m using. The CBT is the most blended kind of mechanism – it sometimes sounds like REBT to me, and sometimes, it just sounds like the way I’ve coped my whole life. Maybe for me CBT works the best, and that’s why I don’t really notice it in action. Also, I believe this is the method my therapist uses in sessions, so it may just be comforting or just feel like a conversation with my therapist, which is much less informal than utilizing other skills.

Grounding
This is an interesting method. My therapist recommended it as just a piece of a toolkit for me. I have a small object that I carry with me EVERYWHERE. All the time. Every day. I keep it in my pocket. When anxiety comes on, I am to either hold it, or look at it, or try to focus only on the object and not on the world (and thus the stimuli/anxiety) around me. What I carry is a little Pokemon figurine (Wartortle, if you’re curious) that I got from my significant other. It serves both as a distraction and a focus as much as it does a comfort to me. It’s very much like the totems in the film Inception. It’s there to ground me back into reality. And it usually only works with escalation and doesn’t necessarily work for me when I’m dealing with an obsession.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
I kind of hate REBT. Mostly anyone who has used REBT, in highly emotional moments, will say they hate it. It’s harsh sometimes. And when I talk to my therapist about it, she says “Nobody likes REBT, it’s just supposed to work.” And it does, often, when I can dedicate myself to the Spock-like nature of the logic it utilizes. Often, I find a lot of comfort in the standard coping statements that REBT uses (ie: I can overcome my anxiety. I am not my anxiety. It is okay for me to not handle every situation perfectly. I will feel better soon. etc) and the idea that there is a difference between ‘knowing’ something and ‘believing’ something. I practice bridging the gap between these two ideas with my self worth while I run, actually. I know that I am tenacious and strong and beautiful, but do I believe it? Often times, no, I don’t. But when I’m running, and I start telling myself these things, I can feel myself start to believe them. And the positive emotional catharsis I feel when the ‘believing’ starts to sink in is tremendous.

Coping Methods in Action
What I’ve written below was composed by hand, while in the midst of an obsession that was upsetting me for probably more than a few days. I had been stressed out for weeks over a circumstance that was pretty difficult to deal with, and the stressor re-lit some dormant obsessions that blind-sided me and haunted me for longer than I’m willing to admit to myself. I’m going to write out the obsession for the sole purpose of overcoming the shame I feel in having it (and because I think people need to see what sort of things can buckle a person like me completely). Know this: this obsession was certainly not the ONLY obsession rolling through my head. It was one of many. I didn’t really confront the obsessions I was having until this plagued me for a couple of days. Remember: this obsession is a product of stress and fear, and does not reflect the reality of who I am or what I actually think.

What if I don’t love my significant other and I am lying to myself and him? What if I want to break up with him?

How I drew it out and coped:

October 1, 2014

Obsessions and intrusions have started up again. Nonsense thoughts that haven’t bugged me in a long time. It also has to do with certainty and perfection. It’s like I set these boundaries in my mind that I:

  • must be 1000% anything at all times
  • must be certain about my emotions
  • must react perfectly to everything
  • must know exactly how I feel 100% of the time

Additionally, I check in with my emotions and search out feelings. It’s like…checking doors or opening closets to make sure all my stuff is still there.

know my wallet is in my pocket, so why do I keep checking my pocket?

Furthermore, I set metaphors for my feelings and thoughts. Based on what? The culture’s or world’s conception of my identity and how I should feel: “Oh – every Rom Com says that this means this and therefore…”

The difficult thing is – even bearing this in mind – I still struggle to know what’s real.

There’s a difference between knowing and believing and I think the way to create the bridge between them has to do with self-trust.

It’s mind-boggling to me to see and recognize that I understand how all of this works and to still be so unsure of myself. 

The doubt and self-doubt is terrifying.

Now, I did write this with the intent of sharing it. But, in this instance, the only way of dealing with the emotional turmoil over an obsession and an anxious moment that I knew was caused by the delusions of my mean voice, was to evaluate how anxiety functions in my mind and the tricks that my brain plays on itself. Because telling myself over and over again that it isn’t real doesn’t help. I have to see how the mechanism works. Otherwise, I’ll argue with myself over the finer points of evidence.

Evaluating evidence is something I can’t do inside my mind. It causes ruminations, which are dangerous for me. Sometime soon, I’ll discuss how ruminating ruined almost a year of my life, and how the process of ruminating has led me to believe over and over again that I am the most awful person that has ever lived.

In this case, anyway, if you’re wondering, once the stress was gone, the obsessions stopped again. I stopped taking my meds last weekend, and I spent four whole work days without meds. I’m so unbelievably proud of myself. I feel like myself again. I didn’t realize how much my small dosage of Klonopin was effecting my every day emotions. Both in a good way and a bad way. I may still use it yet, but for now, I’m okay without. I’m in a great headspace this week – a stark contrast to my last entry – and I’m motivated to keep the ball rolling so I don’t fall into too terrible a seasonal depression come December.

Be well, friends. And I hope you can also find a good headspace.

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