Recently I’ve tried a bunch of things to make my anxious thoughts go away. Insomnia is becoming more of a problem than I’d like to admit. I’ve tried the ‘why am I like this?’ approach in the past. If I can figure out why I worry all the time then I can make the worry go away.
But far more common than that in the wee hours is the ‘what have I done wrong?’ approach. If I can find out what I’ve done wrong then I can fix it and the anxiety will go away because I won’t have anything to be anxious about. Makes sense, right? So I heavily invest in the sure knowledge that I have done something wrong even though I can’t remember what that is right now. Easy enough for me to buy into, what with being a very forgetful person. I spend my life trying to remember things I have to do, constantly updating and annotating my to-do list, why not add in the things I should have done but may have forgotten, or the things I should not have done but have done and since forgotten?
My old therapist encouraged me to think that maybe I haven’t done anything wrong or forgotten to do anything right, but that instead I worry just because that’s what I do. I’ve done it for so long that it’s second nature to me, my default setting. So when I frantically search around my memories for what I’ve done wrong so I can fix it, I’m just feeding a vicious cycle. Instead of searching for evidence of what I’ve done wrong, he encouraged me to search for evidence of what I’ve done right, to search for evidence that everything is just fine.
And you know, until recent months it actually worked. I never stopped being a worrier but I did manage to keep it under control, to stop it invading my entire life. It doesn’t work now, not even a little bit. When I am consumed by worry in the wee hours especially, I can’t control that. Everything spirals, becomes larger than life, growls and bares its teeth. So I’ve given up.
I also try praying but my prayers in the panic-stricken wee hours generally take the form of: ‘help please’. Riveting, I know.
But recently I’ve invested in a new tactic, one a tad more amusing and given inadvertently by hubby. We’ve been watching a series about fairy tale characters recently, Once Upon a Time. Really fab escapism. 🙂 Anyway, we went to bed and my brain instantly started racing. I was chattering to him even though I knew he wanted to go to sleep. If I’d left him alone he’d have been asleep in seconds. But I couldn’t even keep my eyes shut, let alone my mouth. He told me to tell all the thoughts to fuck off. And all of a sudden a video in my head was born.
When I was a kid I used to tell myself stories when I couldn’t sleep. When my mind took me to horrible places I latched on to the pattern on the curtains and bedding in my bedroom at my dad’s place. Patch the dog. Don’t even particularly like dogs, for crying out loud, but he was there and served a purpose. I took him for runs on the beach, we ate ice cream together, played catch in fields, lay under trees looking at clouds. Every time a new worry bugged me I took Patch on an outing. Not exactly the stuff great novels are made of.
Hubby’s comment reminded me that I can interact with my thoughts. But I have not settled for telling them to fuck off. Now I have erected a barbed wire fence inside my mind, me on one side and the bad thoughts on the other. But it doesn’t end there, oh no. Now I am equipped with a sword, shield and helmet. The thoughts fly at the fence, throwing themselves at it over and over, teeth bared, growling, but I patrol my fence and when one thought pushes through I whack it away with my sword and watch it fly over the forest beyond, spiralling away into nothingness.
Cool, eh? 😀
At least now anxious thoughts provide some entertainment. I don’t think it’s exactly what hubby meant but as I said to him, having an overactive imagination has to provide some benefits every now and then, right?