On Monday of this week (9th December) I had my initial call with Celia. This is the call that precedes the Clinical Hypnotherapy and is to help her gauge what’s happening with me and how to approach our sessions. I found this session to be enlightening, fascinating and hard.
Part of what Celia asked me about during this session was what triggers my anxiety. I know of one major trigger which was the first time I ever experienced real anxiety. It’s something most (probably all) others would consider to be a very minor thing but it’s a small thing that started initially with a great deal of anxiety associated to it. It’s not something I’ve been able to avoid and over the past few years I have been exposed to this trigger over and over again. She explained how this repeat exposure has created an almost automatic anxiety response which now occurs not only to this particular circumstance but to many other situations as I’m so tuned in to respond in this way. It has also heightened this response which means it takes much less stimulation to create it. Celia suggested that I may now be getting subconsciously triggered because I’m basically pre-programmed to function like this now. Mind. Blown.
She also asked me about any stress in my life. I can assure you, I know that there is a lot of stress in my life, it’s just that I am unable to recognise it. I could outline some stressors but not all of them. I often do not feel stressed even when I know I must be. It’s like my mind refuses to accept it. So it comes out physically instead. After lockdown, I developed half a numb face. I shit you not. I had a perfect demarcation of numbness which included the right side of my forehead, my right eyebrow, the right side of my nose and the right side of my top lip. The doctor got me in, checked me out, did a blood test etc but found nothing major wrong. I knew instinctively that this wasn’t some scary neurological issue but that it was stress related. Other times I get a wider stress response which gifts me pain in one or both shoulders, sometimes my elbows and/or my wrists and my left knee. I also get stress headaches on very rare occasions. Basically, my body is screaming for the rest that my mind refuses to acknowledge it needs.
I learned in this session that anxiety is a symptom of other things, such as stressors. So we dove into what those stressors may be. I had thought of stress in terms of work related issues or particular things that were happening to cause stress. I’ve now realised that I have stress in my life because of other things too. We nailed down the fact that I am most excellent at putting the needs of absolutely everyone and everything before my own. To the extent that I have no actual idea of what my own needs are. Which is frankly ridiculous but here we are. I’ve always called my empathetic nature my superpower, and I still believe that empathy is really important and not a bad thing. The issue with my level of empathy though is that it comes at the expense of my SELF. Such is my need to make sure that everyone else around me is ok and that their experience of whatever the circumstance is, I fear judgement, I fear conflict and I experience guilt if I perceive them to not be happy or satisfied. Please note, this is based on my perception and not the evidence in front of me. I constantly work late to suit other people’s needs, I arrange appointment times that work for them but not me. I don’t take time off because I don’t want to let other people down. I agree to things I don’t want to do. This comes at the cost of my happiness. I’ve realised it’s not a fair exchange.
To start to counteract this, I have to practice saying ‘no’. Ha ha haha! Why is that tiny word so hard?! The number of times I’ve heard words that sound like ‘yes’ come out of my mouth while I’m mentally slapping my own face and wishing I could just have said ‘NO’. I subsequently completely begrudged whatever I’d agreed to do or whoever I’d made the agreement with. Not great. Celia has given me some suggested phrases to practice using for various circumstances. The thought of using them in real life both excites me and makes me feel sick, and not necessarily in that order.
I also have to start to learn to recognise my own needs. This means I have to learn to ask myself “what do I need” and “what works best for me”. I also have to catch myself when I think, “I should” or “I must” as these are signs that I’m bending for others even when it’s not the best for me. Snigger. I think these things ALL the time. I catch myself constantly now. Even when we were arranging my first hypnotherapy session, Celia offered me a time that I could manage at a push but would mean I had no time for lunch and would see me launching myself straight out of a work call and into the session with her. I said it’d be ok. Celia said, “are you sure you’re not saying that to suit me?”. I said, “eh, yes I am actually”. So, we arranged a different time.
I need more practice… Oh, and my face isn’t numb anymore. Just so you know!