Last summer I attended what I fondly call Crazy Girl Summer Camp. Recommended by my therapist, it was an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) affiliated with a local women’s mental health hospital designed to teach life and coping skills for Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and newly clean and sober Chemical Dependents. Most were there straight from Inpatient, but I and one other woman were attending voluntarily on an Outpatient basis.
It turned out to be one of the best investments I’ve made in my mental health recovery.
I went to facilitated group therapy sessions consisting of about 12 women over the summer months. It truly did feel like a summer camp of sorts. Only in this camp, if you were a no show without calling, a friendly visit was made to your home by local police for a “wellness check.” Almost everyone, including me, was there after a suicide attempt. They took no chances with us.
You get the picture. Group therapy, licensed therapist leader, planned lessons every day on a new life/coping skill. Women came and went, and were at varying stages in recovery. So many, many stories. Of course, I blogged everything, but here is one skill that got inside my mind—and one that I try to practice frequently with my never-ending anxiety. Like today, for example.
The skill, presented by therapist Kara With A K, was called, “A Thought Is Just A Thought.” Kara’s theory was that unless a thought could be proven by fact or evidence—it was just a thought. And nothing else. Today I battled my mind and tried to apply this coping skill, typically used for my crazy thoughts in the throes of anxiety.
My Mum has a very strict, quite inflexible rule that one must never be late. Ever. For any reason. Death is the only excused absence. I am a member of the Never On Time Club. Ever. For a myriad of reasons. I try to change, I have the best of intentions, but I rarely get anywhere on time. Therein lies the rub.
She called me at 8:40 am this morning to tell me I had to be at her house at 9:20 promptly to leave for the movie we planned to see. “Guilt Trip.” Coincidence not lost. I had not even taken a shower yet, so I threw on leggings (still hiding ankle tat from her), sweatshirt, and a hat and raced through 11 miles of the Rez that separates our homes.
And, in typical fashion for me, I spent the entire 20 minute trip planning in my mind the conversation awaiting me. I was convinced that, once again, I was going to be subjected to her tirade #57 on timeliness. I was tired. Too many Seroquel dreams, interrupted sleep, and just plain not in the mood for her legendary sarcastic wrath. I tried. I really did. To stop the incessant voices in my head with recognizing it was a thought based on no evidence, other than my expectations.
By the time I got there, I was nearly in tears. Because deep inside I am also very fearful of this woman. I had decided that if one single word was said to me—I was going to nicely say I was not going to the movies after all, and apologize for making them late. I figured this was the path of least resistance, because what I really wanted to say was, “Who the fuck goes to movies at 9:20 am, anyway?”
When I pulled up to her house, at 9:22 am, I was armed and ready. The garage door was open, and she and her partner were sitting in the car waiting. Shit. Ready for the barrage, I opened the car door and climbed in. Both of them said, “Good morning,” completely disarming me. I had to Xanax up just to recover.
Note to self: Work harder to remember that Kara With A K was right. Getting worked up in fits of anxiety over all of the possible worst case scenarios is bad, bad, bad. And futile. Because after all of my angst and planned responses? It turns out that my thought was just a thought. And nothing more.