Started with my poster, after all I did manage to write down some things of which I’m sure that I like them constantly. A fair time of the session was dedicated to the fact that it’s so important for me to judge whether something is “always” and “absolutely” good, so my black-and-white-thinking and all the categories I have for everything. Also about how I’m frustrated by the fact that this poster can never be a complete list that could be used to recreate myself.
Then I explained that it is/was much easier for me to write down things I like or like doing but hard if not impossible to name characteristics of mine. The list of characteristics shows just three words: curious, tidy, diligent. I simply cannot deny the fact that I’m curious, I know it myself and I’ve been told so by friends as well as at work. By tidy and diligent I mean that I never let chaos break out, am always early for meetings and can only sleep when I know I’ve done my best.
My therapist asked to what extent I would describe these things as compulsions. My answer was that others might think they are at times but that these habits are ways to cope with everyday life for me. Some of them might seem a little excessive but I need them in order to function:
Because the supermarket starts spinning around me if I don’t have a shopping list.
Because I have to be there ten minuten before an appointment so I can see the surroundings.
Because I would be lost in the subway without a book to stick my nose into.
Because I need my desk to be orderly if I don’t want to forget anything.
Because I don’t have the time to look for objects in my flat when things are getting hard.
Because spontaneous activieties don’t allow me to plan the breaks I need.
We stayed with the supermarket example – my therapist wanted to know what exactly is so difficult about shopping. I tried to describe it: The larger a shop is the more I feel like I can’t get out in time, I get nervous when I feel my “escape route” is too long. Then there are all the people and above all lots and lots of products. These huge colourful shelves that seem to corner me. Sensory overload. All that desorientates me, I often need minutes to find out what I wanted to buy in the first place. Then I pace up and down because I can’t concentrate enough to think of everything. And then there is the feeling that the personnel notes all this and that they might think I’m trying to steal something when I walk around and around without buying anything in the end. That is why I need my list, with its help I can walk through a shop step by step without noticing too much. The situation at the checkout stresses me out as well: People in front of me, people behind me, being friendly, looking for money, putting things out of the trolley and back in, and all this as quickly as possible.
We’re still trying to find out if this is just overstimulation, a form of agoraphobia or if it’s because I happened to have the first panic attack I remember in a well-known Swedish furniture store (age 9, triggered by massive fear of loss which spiralled out of control) and the feeling stayed with me somehow.
Now I have to write a list with situations that stress/scare me and evaluate how I cope with them (shopping lists etc.) and which situations are easier to manage when I have company.
What I don’t do is avoiding these things actively: I don’t allow myself not to shop, not to take the subway or whatever and I also used to work in retail for quite a long time. Nevertheless my therapist thinks that we need to do some practical exercises so that this stuff will get easier for me.
Concerning the poster and describing my character I now ought to/am allowed to ask my partner in order to find out how he would describe me, I am curious about that.
So much about today, now the weekend really starts!