Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Sunday I had a monumental, life-changing experience. I learned something new about myself. I have always known I had a tendency to worry, sometimes worrying to obsession about something - usually something I did or said or something coming up that I would allow to take over my thoughts and brain with the "What if"s until I couldn't think straight. I thought perhaps I was just a worrywort, or it was part of my recovering perfectionism, or I was just a little bit obsessive compulsive.

On Sunday morning I woke up as I do on many a morning when my brain fears it has nothing to do and that I won't need it any more if it doesn't start doing something. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to New Jersey. In my still partly asleep state, I was going over all kinds of 'what if's. I have traveled around the world a bit - to Europe, to Hawaii, to the east coast. But everytime, I was with at least one other person. I have actually traveled alone as well, but generally it was a quick one stop flight somewhere on the west coast. Something about traveling to the 'other' coast, changing planes in Atlanta, arriving at a huge airport at 10:30 pm, then reversing the cycle and doing it all on the way home got me filled with fear. I am also taking a day to be a tourist in New York City which was starting to feel overwhelming.

Add to this all the things I have going on in my life -- newsletters to finish and get out, packing to do (oh my gosh what can I bring on the plane? Can I bring a Kashi bar in my purse? Can I bring hair product? Will there be a terrorist sitting next to me? Sorry, brain taking over again.), my office looked like a hurricane had done it's damage and I was feeling completely out of control.

Jay and I talked about some of these fears and I had a bit of a gameplan for tackling them as we drove to church. However, on the drive, I noticed I was experiencing severe anxiety that I felt so deeply in my body that I thought I would explode. I literally felt in pain on many levels.

A guest speaker awaited us that morning -- a radio talk show host and author named Jeff Bell talking about the concepts in his new book - When in Doubt, Make Belief . Well yes, I thought I might be a little OCD like I'm sometimes a little ADD but seriously? No. I don't wash my hands all day or check and re-check things. But I do obsess in my head and here's the key: I obsess to where it impacts my life. Everything he said hit home for me. I had lived the thoughts and feelings he described. At the end I felt like I could burst into tears. What an amazing thing to happen right when I needed it most.

I picked up his book and talked with him following the service (a genuinely very nice man). What struck me most about his talk and my reaction to it was not that I had a label to slap on myself, but that I had some tools for transforming my thoughts when they start to make me nuts. I don't want to feel so much anxiety and turmoil about things to the point of agony. What I saw for myself was that my oldest child, perfectionist, doubting self was really good at creating life being black or white and when it got gray and vague my mind tried to create some polarity in order to soothe me. Jeff said the best ways to deal with the thoughts (and this is outside of actually getting some psychologic help) is to remember your purpose and to be of service. That felt very positive to me.

What I know about myself is I can handle overwhelm better if I create a list. Ridding my head of all my 'to do's and onto paper where I can check them off is so helpful. I don't know if I need therapy. I do know I enjoyed the insights I got about myself and where my thoughts can take me. Now I'm going to read his book and focus on what I can do to better understand and love me in spite of my brain!

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