This lockdown has turned me into a ‘needy chick’… & not just with my husband, (the poor bastard), but with friends, family & even the vet!
Vet receptionist: We have an appointment on Friday, but I’m not sure that Holly is available at this stage.
Me: That’s ok we can wait,
I really like Holly, she’s nice to me Rigby prefers Holly.
Vet receptionist: Are you sure? I can just book her in with one of the other vets right now.
Me: No, no… I’ll call back later when Holly knows whether she can see me… I mean Rigby.
HOLLY I NEED YOU!!
The lack of external stimulation, interaction with loved ones, & faith in those who govern us, has delivered a blow to the nation’s mental health. I think all of us just need to be told; everything’s going to be ok, I promise.
A key characteristic of anxiety is ‘reassurance-seeking.’ To an extent this behaviour is normal, humans after all need love in order to thrive. However, for many of those with an anxiety condition, reassurance is like smack… the first hit is vastly satisfying, but then you’re forever chasing the dragon. No amount of comfort or praise can penetrate the dark mass that is anxiety.
As children, we accept the word of adults without question. Unfortunately, then puberty hits & we realise oh sh** maybe everything WON’T be ok after all!
My biggest insecurity is being a burden to others. I worry that despite what they’re telling me, I’m secretly a drain or a dead weight they wish would just fall off. Fundamentally, of course, I know this isn’t true. But that doesn’t quieten the bullying, anxious thoughts from circling, or the vicious ‘reassurance cycle’ from forming.
Anxiety bully; They’re just being polite, you’re a burden to everyone.
Rational brain; Don’t be ridiculous, let’s just ask them to confirm that you’re NOT a burden. That’ll make you feel better.
**Feels better for ten minutes**
Anxiety bully; They’re still just being polite, you’re a burden to everyone.
Rational brain: No no… ok let’s ask them again.
**Feels better for five minutes**
Anxiety: They seemed irritated that last time you asked, you can’t ask again. See… you’re a BURDEN!
At my most needy, conversations are exhausting for loved ones and frustrating for me, because I’m forever seeking that release, that one piece of reassurance that finally eases the distress I’m feeling. Spoiler: I NEVER get it.
Dealing with the cycle
There are two ways to deal with the dreaded reassurance cycle.
- Don’t engage – I learned this from a friend of mine with OCD. Fire gets bigger when you feed it & so does the reassurance cycle. Instruct your loved ones that you’re allowed to ask for reassurance about a particular thing ONCE & once only. Then they should simply (but politely) decline to answer. This is frustrating at first, but trust me it works. We need that fire to die.
Distraction is really good here too. If you notice yourself obsessing about a particular concern, ask for reassurance, & then engage your brain in an activity. (This is the one & only time I’ll publicly encourage people to use candy crush)!
- Reassure yourself – self-soothing is both real & highly effective. Like most things, it takes practice, but it can be done! The trick is finding a routine that works for you. Mine is a little odd… I talk to myself in the mirror, (there’s something about the eye contact that gives it gravitas). I tell myself: you know what this is, it’s anxiety. It’s not your fault, we just need to make you comfortable while it passes. You’re doing just fine.
Then I like to rub some jasmine oil on my t-shirt, as I associate it with calm… & then I force Rigby to give me cuddles (I need the Oxytocin hit you bitch)!
For more self-soothing activities, I quite like this (Scroll right to bottom for the self-soothe stuff. The suggestions are more engaging than the usual ‘try mindfulness’ garb).
Keep your head above the waves, everyone. I know we’re all like zombies at this point, but things will get better. I PROMISE.