Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: Anxiety Dimension Solution (part five)

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My life had become ruled by anxiety. I had even developed an anxiety disorder called dermatillomania. This blog is focused on ‘picking apart’ and dismantling this disorder, instead of doing so to my skin. I am doing this so that I can restructure and put myself back together in a way that I can accept, because I cannot to continue to accept this disorder in my life.

In my last blog series I walked the process of deconstructing anxiety reactions to see what exactly causes them and how one can firstly, direct oneself to walk through them in a way where one won’t feed into and perpetuate them; and secondly, avoid triggering them at all. I have proven to myself too many times already, that I can’t simply stop my compulsive skin picking and other OCD tendencies. I am now working on making the internal and external changes necessary to create the environment in which change will be possible.

For practicality, in my last blogs, I listed five examples of every-day situations that trigger anxiety in my own life. As a side note, in doing this, I actually got to know myself and who I am within the anxiety, and how I can handle its onset. The process I have walked in my last few blogs has been a very interesting, and I have been successfully practicing what I’ve taught myself for several weeks now (in terms of preventing or walking through the anxiety where it would have normally taken over). I’ve observed quite a significant change in my experience of anxiety, as well as the frequency of anxiety attacks. The biggest difference has been at my job, where my overall stress level had been reduced. I highly suggest checking out my other blogs in this anxiety series in order to apply the same process in your own life.

Here is where I left off in my last blog: “The best solution is to keep practicing being able to recognize the moment anxiety first starts, because that is where it can be stopped. The goal is to prevent the reactions from taking place at all. This requires a slowing down within self, and a self-awareness perhaps not previously developed. I will work on these aspects over the next weeks, by studying my examples of ‘anxiety-triggering situations’ I wrote about in my last blog. I will ‘study’ them by walking through them one by one, doing self-forgiveness on all the points so that I reveal to myself any hidden self-sabotage and to see what exactly is going on that leads me to create an anxiety reaction within myself.”

I have been going to the gym for the past year or so. What I noticed at first was minimal to no upper-body strength. After a year of working out with weights, swimming and boxing, I have noticed visible musculature and a slight but noticeable increase in strength. It has been awesome to see something develop from virtually nothing. The muscles were not there before, and now they are. It’s as simple as that: they are new, I created them. When they are tiny and not very strong, even the lightest weights make me tremble with effort after a couple of reps. But I know that if I simply continue to apply myself they will inevitably grow. I am mentioning this because it’s the same with developing self-awareness. I personally develop self-awareness through self-forgiveness, because it is very effective at peeling back the layers of the mind to reveal what is under the anxiety, what is causing it, what thoughts are creating it, and what reaction to those thoughts are fueling it. It is like seeing the ‘worst’ of yourself while in a gentle and supportive embrace.

Warning: I’m about to go into some self-forgiveness statements. They may seem repetitive and detailed… but I continue to apply it because, like the muscles, self-forgiveness has assisted me to develop self-awareness where once there was none. I am becoming able to, in the moment of reaction, identify where the reaction came from, why it came up, and how to walk myself out of it. I’m not always successful, and sometimes I’m too late, but like my muscles, I know that if I keep practicing and applying myself, I will become more effective and will eventually be able to let go of the anxiety point once and for all, because it will no longer be an issue in my life.

Here is the first example of where anxiety is often triggered in my life:

Example 1) Anxiety + Overwhelming-ness

            My first example is in relation to food preparation. It starts when I begin to think about organizing meals and food for the next day or couple of days, or as I begin cooking. It’s a simple task that I think I could actually enjoy, if I didn’t become bombarded with thoughts that become overwhelming.”

I will let you know in advance that in the below self-forgiveness, I revealed to myself that I held an old belief that a ‘good woman’ is defined by her ability to cook. I had no idea I held this belief, nor any idea of the pressure I placed on myself due to it. I also found out that I compare myself to all the women who have ever impressed me with their cooking abilities; women that had been cooking all their lives – an unfair comparison as I had only learned later in life, and I therefore lacked much practice and practical experience. I found this very interesting, and I can see how the anxiety blows my reactions to it out of proportion. I also found out a lot of simple, practical things I can change, like not taking on too much, organizing myself before I begin to cook, keeping a clean workspace, as well as making a plan ahead of time and sticking to it.

Read the self-forgiveness on the example below to see how I found this out, and what I plan to do to instead cook for the simple enjoyment of it, no pressure, no judgment, just my hands working with food in gratefulness of the sustenance being provided. After the self-forgiveness, read on to see how this is related to the perpetuation of dermatillomania.

Self-forgiveness:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to become anxious when I start to cook.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing starting to prepare food to be a trigger point existent within and as me.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to become anxious.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing anxiety and anxiety attacks to exist within and as me.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want to rush the process of cooking food to ‘get it over with’.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to, within this ‘rushed’ energy, begin to cook immediately and figure it out as I go, instead of taking a moment before I’ve started to plan how I will be proceeding.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to try and attempt to cook something when I haven’t left myself enough time, instead of seeing what I have frozen or if there is anything around that is quick to prepare.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not consider cooking when I plan my time, viewing it as something I can quickly get over with in a rush, instead of seeing, realizing and understanding that food preparation takes time, and quite a lot of planning before-hand,

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe or perceive that organizing daily food preparation into my life is difficult and impossible, instead of seeing that every time I push myself to do it, I learn a little, and become more effective and organized over time.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to take out all the ingredients and try to start everything at once in the aim of saving time and going faster, without realizing that I create a messy and chaotic environment, reflecting my messy and chaotic mind when I follow through with this pattern of becoming rushed and then trying to do everything all at once and as fast as possible.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to spend more time thinking about the outcome of my labour than time spent planning it in the first place.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to create an expectation about what others will think when they taste the food I prepare, and to, within this, develop a desire for positive feedback, in order to obtain validation that I believe I require, because of the idea that ‘a good woman knows how to cook.’

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to base any part of my value and worth as a female upon my ability to cook food, or my lack thereof.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe or perceive that a ‘good woman’ can cook well, and to think about all the women I know who can cook well, and make things I cannot make,  thus placing pressure on myself to prove that I am a ‘good woman’ too, by trying and attempting to make amazing things when I don’t yet have the know-how, which is setting myself up for failure.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to set myself up for failure and then judge myself as having ‘failed as a woman’ when I inevitably make a mistake.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to distract myself away from the actual cooking by thinking about the potential positive and negative reactions to my food – thus preoccupying my mind and not focusing on what I’m doing, distracting myself with the thoughts instead of realizing that it only takes one wrong ingredient or one wrong move to ruin a meal.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to, within the desire to avoid a negative reaction, begin feeling upset and defeated when one part of the meal or another doesn’t turn out as I had imagined, creating pressure, blame and self –defeat when I’ve let something cook too long, or when I’ve made a mistake.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to build up anxious energy while I am cooking, wherein pressure is place on the reaction to my cooking, and I end up taking the reaction personally, whether good or bad, because I had built up energy which now needs to be released in a feeling (good) or emotional (bad) experience by which I would then define myself.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to define myself by my feelings and emotions.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to place pressure on to the reaction of others to my cooking, due to me having participating in thoughts, feelings, emotions and imaginations within and throughout the cooking process.

When and as I see that I am about to cook, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself out of my mind and back into my physical body in the present moment, here, by giving myself a moment to organize, check for ingredients, plan the process and proceed one step at a time.

When and as I see that I am starting to go into a rushed and chaotic experience while cooking, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself back to the pace of the physical, slow and steady, by taking a step back to look at my environment, ensuring I do not have too many items out or too many things going on at the same time, tidying where necessary, and assessing the most efficient way to proceed based on the requirements of what I have going on.

When and as I see that I am going into the ‘pleasing’ character while cooking, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself into the lightness of the moment by taking off the pressure of cooking from the starting point of pleasing, and replacing it with the starting point of cooking for the mere fact that I enjoy cooking, experimenting with food, and learning from my mistakes.

When and as I see that I am searching for validation through cooking well, I stop, and I breathe.  I bring myself back to self-worth by reminding myself that my value is not in my ability to cook, but in the time and care that I invest in myself, creating my self-value, by, for example, cooking within and as self-enjoyment, open-minded learning, self-evolution within organization and pre-planning, thus creating myself as someone that can cook well because I have walked a process of trial and error, planning and organization, and practice over time.

I commit myself to learn to simply enjoy cooking, in all its aspects and everything it entails.

I commit myself to embrace myself within the mistakes I make, and to learn from them.

I commit myself to put in the time to plan and organize meals, to cook around discounts at the grocery store, and to cook for my health/body, allowing for pleasure as well.

I commit myself to cook for fun, because it’s a necessity, so I might as well have fun doing it!

This above example relates to dermatillomania, because the condition is not necessarily a complete focus on the skin. It is a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is created throughout the day and carried around within the mind and body, It builds up and from time to time, reaches a tipping point where it needs to be released. Often when I get anxious it feels like a discomfort within me, and it becomes very uncomfortable like an itch that, when left unscratched, becomes the overwhelming focus and then an obsession and compulsion until the energy is released and dissipated. I rarely look at what throughout the day created the anxiety, things of varying degrees that I didn’t face in the moment, but instead suppressed.

Usually when I do take the time to investigate, I find self-defeating thoughts which make me feel bad, lonely, isolated, hopeless etc…  which are soothed either by the endorphins released by the pain of picking or the complete focus on the skin and it’s imperfections, rather than the thoughts that are creating the pain and discomfort.

All of these thoughts are connected to energies expressed as feelings and emotions, which we then believe is who we are, but it’s not true. We have the choice to turn any self-defeating situation into a moment of self-empowerment. The thoughts that pop into our heads are just robotic programs that we’ve programmed into and as ourselves over a lifetime of believing ourselves to be the energies (feeling and emotions) we are able to create in our minds. We simply need to invest the time and care into ourselves to re-program how we think and act and do. This is effective, I have already proven it to myself. Like going to the gym – it’s just a matter of time before the results become real, visible and measurable!

 

Anxiety Series

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Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: How and Why We Build Up Anxiety (part one)

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part two)

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part three)

Anxiety Series – Walking Through Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part four)

Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: Anxiety Dimension Solution (part five)

Anxiety Series – Walking Through Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part four)

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In my next blog I will continue with how I applied the practical steps of walking through anxiety, and how I was able to successfully avoid an anxiety reaction in one of the circumstances . This experience has changed my entire self-experience, opened up a new understanding of how things can be different, and showed me that it IS possible to learn how to become the master of one’s emotions, and no longer remain the slave.”

If you can recall and bring up the experience of anxiety within yourself, you can probably relate to that fact that the energy experience is sporadic, chaotic and intense. This detail is important to remark because we can use this information to see, realize and understand the best way to approach ourselves when we are in these situations (beginning an anxiety reaction). If, for example, we are too hard on ourselves, the anxiety energy can and will use this approach to further intensify itself. If we panic, it can also serve to fuel the anxiety. If we become mad or frustrated, it can perpetuate the anxiety.

It’s as if a child is throwing a tantrum and the parent screams at the child in an attempt to subdue or control him to make it stop. This can further upset the child and fuel/perpetuate the tantrum. Now compare this to speaking in a calm and stable manner to the child, this may not be an instant blanket solution, but it will not further aggravate the situation, and the child can be talked down slowly, and the tantrum can not last forever. Anxiety within self functions in the same way.

This example demonstrates how our self-approach can either assist and support ourselves to walk through and out of the anxiety in a calm and stable manner, or conversely, how it can further perpetuate the experience if we do not take the wheel, gain control and direct ourselves.

Within this understanding, one can keep in mind that any self-judgment, guilt, anger, shame, or any other emotion can and will be exaggerated when in an anxiety reaction, and therefore serves only to aggravate the situation, whereas being calm, stable and gentle can dissipate the chaotic, sporadic and intense experience going on within us. This is the difference between getting caught up in the anxiety and believing it is necessary, believing that there is no way out, and this is ‘who I am’, instead of understanding it as a reaction that has been triggered and will now play out, but that we can remain standing within the understanding that we can choose not to play into it.

The goal here is to eventually prevent the reaction from occurring in the first place, but we must first deal with what is already here, which is the existence of anxiety reactions and generalized anxiety which we see as beyond our control. It is not.

In order to see the control one truly do have, it is important to understand what is going on within self.  Within this we are practicing how to look at everything to do with anxiety completely objectively; to see anxiety as a reaction, a substance or an entity that is triggered by thoughts/memories, to recognize that this simply requires to be managed by oneself, and to understand that anxiety is not simply an inevitable part of self that one must learn to live with and constantly react to.

To illustrate, here is a practical example from my life where I was able to recognize the anxiety quickly and dissipate the reaction:

Last week, I was about to start cooking (which, in my previous blog I had mentioned as one example of when my anxiety is triggered). I had just had a very busy day and when I got home I could feel I was high strung. I felt a stress and a buzzing sensation in my body, and instead of calming myself down, I immediately moved myself to begin the next task, which was to prepare dinner. Within this internal energetic experience of ‘stress’, ‘rushed’ and ‘buzzing’, it feels like there is a pressure to do everything quickly and hurriedly, everything is rushed and there is no time for rest. This set of circumstances set me up for falling into the anxiety reaction I described in my first example from my previous blog, where my anxiety connects to a sense of overwhelming-ness.

 

I was alone at home at that moment so I was able to speak to myself out loud. First, I used the breathing techniques, and then I used a specific voice tonality (calm, stable and directive, to offset the intense, chaotic and sporadic energy of anxiety), and spoke some self-forgiveness for what I could see I was doing to myself.

In the same calm, directed and stable voice, I talked to myself about what I was doing, how I was making things more difficult for myself and that it wasn’t necessary, and how I could proceed calmly and in an organized way. I was able to slow down and create steps for myself, and eventually I put together a meal while remaining as present and aware as possible. When my partner came home I recognized the fact that my mood was light, I was able to have fun and communicate easily and enjoy the moment, which then allowed him to be light and open, even after a long day at work.

If I had accepted and allowed the anxiety reaction, I would have instead experienced what I had become so used to, which was feelings of varying degrees of irritation, impatience, or no desire to communicate. When another person is subjected to this the mood feels heavy and tense. If ones’ partner comes home after a long day at work and is met with someone that is overwhelmed/stressed causing irritability, impatience and being non-communicative due to anxiety, it affects the entire atmosphere, the moment and the overall relationship negatively. This can contribute to creating a toxic home environment, especially when repeated daily over many years. This is one of the consequences of accepting and allowing oneself to live with generalized anxiety, it doesn’t just affect yourself, so the responsibility to face and manage one’s anxiety disorder is a self-responsibility which extends beyond self, to create a harmonious environment with others (sometimes by standing as a living, leading example – yes, we are THAT strong).

 

Within my own self-assessment, what I’ve learned over the past few weeks has been that it is of utmost importance that one recognize the brief moment where anxiety first starts – before it is able to connect to and amplify other emotions, memories, personalities and patterns. This is because in that small moment, when I look at it and recognize it, and can say to myself “oh, this is just anxiety sneaking in because of the particular circumstances I am in,” and the anxiety feels small, insubstantial and powerless. But when I miss this moment, the anxiety is able to connect itself to the emotions, memories and thoughts, then an anxiety reaction has been triggered and it must now be navigated through.

Once an anxiety reaction is triggered, it must now be walked through.

Walking through an anxiety reaction:

Being within an anxiety reaction feels so real, and the anxiety feels so much a part of me that to deny it would be to deny my own existence. I try saying to myself “it’s just anxiety, it’s just anxiety,” but part of me fights back, proving to myself it is real and valid, and I experience rushes of emotional energy, and I am flooded by negative thoughts and future projections. In these moments, when I’ve missed the opportunity – I direct myself to breathe, I feel the waves of anxiety pass over me. It feels extremely uncomfortable and unbearable, but I tell myself it will end, it can’t last forever, it has to end eventually. I sometimes speak self-forgiveness to understand where the reaction came from in order to trace it back to the thoughts or memories that triggered it. This is what the tool of self-forgiveness allows one to do. I have to continuously pull myself back into my body, even f it feels exceptionally uncomfortable in there. I pull myself out of my mind, because I understand that is where it is all taking place. I try to keep myself as physical as possible, feeling my body and focusing on what I’m doing. Continue to do these steps, to focus on breathing and self-acceptance.

Embrace and accept self within the reaction – do not perpetuate it by judging self or becoming angry or upset, instead embrace it as what you are experiencing FOR THE MOMENT because of having gone into auto-pilot in unawareness the moment before. Watch for the thoughts/emotions/memories/fantasies that will come to fuel the anxiety. Gently but firmly direct oneself to stop thinking about them, and focus on the HERE, NOW moment in your physical environment. The anxiety will end, and things will go back to normal in a matter of time. It’s just a matter of time.

Prevention is the Best Cure

The best solution is to keep practicing being able to recognize the moment anxiety first starts, because that is where it can be stopped. The goal is to prevent the reactions from taking place at all. This requires a slowing down within self, and a self-awareness perhaps not previously developed. I will work on these aspects over the next weeks, by studying my examples of ‘anxiety-triggering situations’ I wrote about in my last blog. I will ‘study’ them by walking through them one by one, doing self-forgiveness on all the points so that I reveal to myself any hidden self-sabotage and to see what exactly is going on that leads me to create an anxiety reaction within myself. This will be the topic for my next blog.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more!