Today started off quite anxiety-filled. Last night, I was awakened by the creepiest sound of something burrowing and scratching inside of my wall. My cats were mesmerized. I don't know what it was, but I was afraid. I banged on the wall, and it would stop for a few minutes, then it went right back at it. This was at about 3 am. When it kept going on, I'm not sure why I didn't go and sleep on the couch. I was so tired and somehow kept drifting off to sleep - but only light sleep. As the sound got louder, I kept waking up.
This situation, the disruption of sleep and the anxiety in the middle of the night, combined with other stressors, became vulnerability factors to the intense anxiety I felt in the morning when I felt like backing out of a social commitment. The anxiety got worse as the time approached that I should go over to my neighbor's house. I was having that gurgling feeling and sound in my lower belly, and I had no appetite. I also desperately missed my boyfriend (it's day 2 of his 9 days being away).
I knew I had a choice: I could feed into the anxiety and let it completely ruin my day, or I could follow through with my plans and take a nap later to help with the lost sleep.
As tempted as I was to give into the anxiety, I used the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills of Opposite Action and Wise Mind to follow through. I'm glad I did.
I mindfully chopped up the fresh vegetables for the pizza and prepared it nicely on plates with some root chips. I then walked over to her house, and when I noticed panicked breathing, I looked down at my feet, moved one step at a time, and said to myself, "Just this moment, just this breath. What is wrong in THIS very moment? Nothing." This helped to center me and calm me a bit.
I spent some time with my neighbor and her adorable baby. We watched When Harry Met Sally. I'd never seen it before, and since my neighbor was appalled to learn this as a romantic movies junkie, she insisted that we schedule a time for me to come over and watch it with her. We ended up having a pretty good time.
All the while - in fact most of the visit - my stomach was acting up. I wasn't really hungry due to the anxiety, so I just nibbled and drank my soda. I'm not sure if she could tell I was in a bit of distress, but I decided to acknowledge that the anxiety was a fleeting, uncomfortable emotion, and rather than dwell on it and give it attention (after all, in those moments, I was in absolutely no danger), I decided to act opposite. I presented myself confidently, played with the baby, and had lots of good laughs watching the movie.
Today I was reminded, yet again, that although those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can experience our emotions intensely and have challenges regulating them, we CAN do it. It takes practice and determination. Sometimes we have to go against that little tiny voice of fear that would rather we miss out on growing and having good experiences.
I did that today.
My nervous system is still a bit shaky. It seems that the physiological responses to anger can take quite some time to catch up with a Wise Mind, psychological decision to not feed into it. Is that your experience, too?
Have you used the skill of Opposite Action to help you get to an event that you felt like avoiding due to intense anxiety or depression?