Counselling session 2: Understanding.

Counselling... is... pretty excellent.

Biography of a nobody counselling session 2

I suppose that depends on your counsellor and your situation- It is helping me.


Biography of a nobody day 29. January 29th 2021.


I never imagined I would get so on board. I am now completely on board. That is skipping a little further into my day thought.

Yesterday a close friend of mine asked if I would like a little welding job from her company, a repair job. I figured I could have a look as it will give me something active to do and it is for the NHS so I am helping out key workers. After dropping Bee off I checked the job out- it should be a simple enough job. If I cant repair the stand that the machine already has I can make a new one. A repair is unlikely- it is a cast base and once broken cast aluminium is notoriously awkward. That will be a nice little February project. On my way home I nipped into the shop for some essentials- that felt really good as I have been avoiding people. Once in the shop I realised that was ridiculous- I love people. I got home, washed the pots, rushed down some toast, made a tea then clock watched for the remaining 2 minutes for my counsellor to call. I accidentally put the phone down immediately. I was then worried they wouldn't call me back as they would think I am having a bad day- they did.


My counsellor gave me a choice after listening to a brief rundown of my week. My choices were- delve deeper into each of my issues so I can describe them further or learn some depression psychology and some coping mechanisms and their psychology. I was having a pretty lucid morning so I felt I was ready for either of those but still asked them what they thought would be better... whilst requesting we cover both at some point. They confirmed we will be doing both but suggested some understanding and coping mechanisms may help for now and I am happy that is what we talked about. I spent the next hour just listening- I feel like I understand myself so much more.


The first thing they did was explain that your mid-set is sort of like a ladder, with different rungs for different levels of anxiety, levels of depression and levels of positive thinking. If a positive headspace is rung 1 at the top of the ladder I am currently slipping between rung 9-11. 11 being disconnection, the level before clinical depression. 10 being high level anxiety. 9 being low level anxiety.

-I am trying to remember A LOT of information, so forgive me for possibly wrongly paraphrasing genuine psychology theory, but I am trying-

They started by creating a metaphor for falling into disconnection. That is definitely where I was last Saturday- the nothingness and blank canvas day. They said imagine watching TV. Imagine that a third of that screen is blurry- you can choose to continue to watch the TV with part of the screen being painful to watch or you can unplug the TV. Unplugging the TV is easier but when you do that you also lose the two thirds that were clear. That is when your brain is in disconnection- you have unplugged it to ignore the blurriness but that means you also cant see or feel all the good things, the majority of what is going on.

Much like an actual ladder, you unfortunately cant skip any rungs- that means when you turn the TV back on after disconnection- the blurriness is still there, but so is the good stuff.

Rung 10 for me is high level anxiety. That doesn't present in ways in which I thought it did. I always figured anxiety as a kind of nervous twitch or someone sat in a corner covering their face, if they actually managed to leave the house. That doesn't describe me, does it? well, that is just because that isn't how I present my anxiety. I present it in uncontrolled frustration. Frustration at things that don't normally frustrate me. Being irritable for no reason. Suddenly not enjoying a joke or something I am doing or even possibly eating- for no real reason. I think in the last month the amount of times I have listed being hypersensitive to normal sounds is testament to that.

Rung 9 is low level anxiety. This can be triggered by your inner fight or flight mode. When you are already this far down the ladder that is easy to trigger. It may be a question like 'did you wash the dishes?' which links to a bad memory. It may be a bad memory that turns into a bad thought into 'I should have done that differently', 'Why does this happen to me', 'Why am I so useless' or 'I deserve these things happening to me'. Whatever it is it then spirals. Because you have engaged fight or flight now you are starting to create adrenaline- this starts to lower oxygen to your frontal cortex... the logical part of your brain that says 'this is ridiculous- I.AM.FINE'. When your fight or flight engages you can start to feel fear or frustration- this links all the way back to the days when we would be scared of sabre tooth tigers outside our cave- you then find you slip to rung 10 easier and get can get irritable, frustrated, angry or upset. Once you are there if it becomes too much you slip to rung 11... disconnection.

 

Again, I am no psychologist- So if I am mixing this up slightly or butchering genuine psychology theory I can only apologise- You aren't here for psychological advice though- just to hear me ramble/ so no hard done.

 

How to then stop myself from slipping from to the other?

The first thing my counsellor recommended was trying to learn to recognise what stage I am at. If I can do that then I can try the following:


Low level anxiety. To stop myself triggering fight or flight and dropping a rung there were actually two suggestions- Meditation and chewing gum. Both sounded ridiculous to me, but this is again because I presumed meditation was me sat on the floor with my legs crossed saying 'Hmmmmmmmmmm'. That is not the case. Meditation is giving myself something to concentrate on. Yes that can be as simple as sitting on the floor and concentrating on my breathing- but it can be my writing, it can be work or it could be the TV. This helps alleviate fight or flight by making me breath better whilst distracted, which will increase my flow of oxygen, which in turn increases the flow of oxygen to my frontal cortex allowing my logical side to shut down any silly worries before they become a problem. The way chewing gum can help do this, as silly as it sounds, is when you chew gum you start to salivate. When these internal mechanisms were developed back in our caveman days the last thing you would do when you saw a sabre-tooth would be start to salivate. By making yourself salivate you trick your brain into believing there can't be anything to worry about. Guess that is why cops are always chewing gum?


High level anxiety. The encouragement when getting to this stage was exercise. Again, not stereotypical forms of exercise necessarily. I can't imagine for a second dropping and doing 20 press ups in a staff meeting because I am getting irritated or frustrated. Exercise could be washing the pots, hoovering the floor, heading up and down the stairs a couple of times. Or you could go with stereotypical exercise if you can. The idea again is to increase your oxygen levels to engage the smarter parts of your brain to make you see there isn't anything to be worried about, angry about or scared of- because by the time you have reached high level anxiety the fight or flight has escalated to fear or anger.


Disconnection. I do not reach here often, but when I do it is bad. A lot of things seem pointless and its not that I just want to veg on the sofa- I couldn't do anything else if I tried. At the least, that is what my mind is telling me. At this stage I was just recommended to mobilise myself. Walk around the room, walk up and down the stairs- anything but sitting still. By mobilising I increase oxygen again- then if my brain attempts to climb out of disconnection to the next rung, high level anxiety, I am not immediately pushing myself back down because I am scared, frustrated or angry as my frontal cortex is convincing me I am fine. I am already increasing my oxygen flow so climbing those next rungs may be quicker. I know when I reach disconnection it can take days to get back into a healthy routine- even if that disconnection only lasts one of those days. So if any of this helps me it will be amazing. I know I am also writing this on a good day- So I have asked Bee that if she knows I am in my disconnected stage that she tries, gently, to urge me to mobilise. I am just trying to put more and more little techniques for uplift until I have little choice but to continue the hard climb to feeling myself again.


I am not sure if anything that I have just written will in anyway help me or relate to anyone. I cannot actually be 100% sure that the above is exactly what was explained to me (there was a lot said and it is over 12 hours since then) but... I feel like it is going to help me. That is already a step in the right direction.

 

The rest of my day has been extremely positive. The above conversation was palatable due to the metaphors. I think in order to learn and understand then the information presented to you needs to be relatable- metaphors are a great way to do that. It makes learning memorable. With that on my mind I went about my day 'exercising'. I cleaned the house, I did ALL the clothes washing and put it all away, I played with Rusty, I cooked Bee and I our dinner. All the time knowing I am increasing blood flow and oxygen flow to my brain. Giving my logic engine chance to break down the various things that have happened to me in the last 12 months and alleviate the anguish. I am actively preventing myself from dropping into disconnection by doing things that are good to do anyway. My life and mental health working hand in hand- and I completely understand how and why. It feels genuinely good. Bee is now in bed and I had chance for some gaming with the guys- now I am going to do some exercise then get to bed.


I do feel better- in all ways. The difference between now and yesterday is that now I know- Even if I feel like crap tomorrow- I have some methods to help myself. That is what counselling does.


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