My goodness – it has been 9 days since I last wrote a blog post! How did it go for so long??!!
I wish I had lots of interesting things to say of where I have been and what I have been doing but sadly I don’t. Although on the up side, I have been nice and stable and am doing OK 🙂
I had my friend here for a few days which was nice and we have booked a holiday for next week, tues til sat. This is going to be a massive deal for me, because whilst it is not that far away, my agoraphobia is as much about being “stuck” somewhere as it is the distance. In fact, it is probably more about being stuck somewhere and not being able to escape easily. But I took the plunge anyway and booked it up; I feel a mix of nerves and excitement. It is only a little holiday park in a nice big modern static caravan but 4 nights away from home, argh it’s going to be a challenge! However they do have a few things to do there, a swimming pool and ice rink, forestry walks and a little village, a bar and restaurant and games/arcade area. So hopefully it will all be fine and I will manage to keep the anxiety under control.
Speaking of anxiety, I had an appointment with the psychologist today and we did some more work on mindfulness. It really does seem like such a good idea in theory and I hope I will be able to get to grips with it in practice. Today we did a little exercise which she called – The Raisin.
It was pretty noisy in the building today as right outside were guys cutting the grass and scooting about on those lawnmower things they sit on. I did kinda wonder how I was going to be able to focus through all the distractions. She picked up a bag of raisins and told me to take one out but not to eat it. She then told me I had to try and make myself think I had never seen a raisin before in my whole life until this moment.
Firstly she asked me to hold it in my fingers and look at it. Really look at it closely and describe it to her. I said it was wrinkly and brown and pretty ugly. She told me to hold it to the light and describe it again; this time I noticed that the edges were more of an orangey brown. She asked me to roll it gently in my fingertips and tell her how it felt. I said it was dry but the softness I could feel in the middle made me think it would be juicy once in my mouth. She then asked me to smell it and describe what I could smell. It was sweet and yet almost burnt in smell. It reminded me of baked pears which I could remember having with ice cream as a kid from time to time. Then it was time to put it in my mouth, but not to chew, just to roll it on my tongue and against the roof of my mouth and again describe the sensation. I told her I could feel the ridges of it and it made me think it must be how a bit of hard skin would taste in your mouth! Very pleasant – not!
Eventually the time came to bite into it, but again not chew. Just bite in with a tooth and see what tastes came into my mouth. I was surprised to notice the mixture of both sweet and sour, the combination of both dry and juicyness, the difference I could feel on my tongue between the rougher outer edge and the soft centre. At last it was time to eat it!
The point of it was – how much notice do we take of the everyday things around us? We are so busy worrying about the past or the future that we keep missing the here and now. We rush through meals without really tasting them, we speak to people without really listening, we walk about and barely notice the real detail in the scenery or nature around us, we breathe without feeling our breaths, and so on. The really amazing thing was that I did not notice the noise around me of the guys cutting the grass once while I was examining my raisin, and as soon as I stopped, the noise became very loud and noticeable again. But it is OK to become distracted when you are being mindful, the idea is that in time as you learn it, you will allow yourself to become distracted or lose focus for a few seconds but you will pull yourself back to the moment by a combination of breathing and counting.
I know it all might sound a bit new age or whatever, but it really does make sense. A lot of sense actually. I let my body reach the most heightened states of arousal when my anxiety and panic kick in, of course it makes sense to use all of those senses in a better way! I clearly have a vivid imagination to let my brain believe that distance/going new places will somehow kill me; so I’m sure with a lot of practice I can change those thoughts to stimulating my other senses – sound, smell, taste, texture, sight etc.
So that is what I have been doing today and the session ended with a really relaxing mindfulness breathing exercise which left me feeling good. I am ready to do a bit of studying now – really enjoying the start of my course by the way, only 3 more weeks until I need to have my first essay completed!
Now all I need is to pray the weather will be nice next week so we aren’t stuck in a caravan playing jenga for 4 days!