Recently, I made an appointment to see a psychologist for some setbacks in my life. I’ve been isolating myself from people and activities that previously I would have loved and enjoyed doing. A friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist suggested that I seek help. The thought of consulting a psychologist had been on a mind for a couple of years and I kept putting it off but since I would be starting work soon, I feel like I should do it before life gets busy again.
All of us carry all sorts of baggages from childhood till adulthood and if we don’t work on them, it might affect certain aspects in our lives. Well, at least I felt that something was pulling me back from doing well in life.
The first session was nerve wrecking. I left home an hour early so that I could calm myself down before the diagnostic session. Turns out, I was feeling so anxious that I almost crashed into another car – three times! I was there early but the parking at that time of day was simply horrendous. It was full and when I saw the parking rate, I almost flipped! By the time I parked, it was 10 minutes before the appointment – I was supposed to be there 10 minutes earlier to fill in the forms first since I was a new client. All these put together – I was half-panting , thirsty and anxiety levels were already through the roof. The minute I walked in, I was given the information sheet and with my sweaty hands and slightly blurred vision, I was struggling to fill the details in. The cleaner lady looked at me and I had to avert my gaze immediately because I couldn’t deal with thoughts of ‘she must think I’m crazy’ at that moment.
My therapist walked in to introduce herself a few minutes later and she was not what I expected. Being highly anxious, I always need to be ‘in the know’ before an event. Going for therapy, I needed to know who exactly she is; her background; how does she looks like.. and I even tried to google for pictures of the therapy room, the position of the chairs etc. All these allow myself to prepare mentally before going.
So when she walked in, I realised she’s different from her picture. She had short hair, thinner than in her picture, tall and wore spectacles. I think that was enough to set off a panic attack for me because she was not what I expected. She showed me to her room which was right at the end of the building and that too, made my heart palpitate like crazy. The silence was deafening and the walk to her room felt like I was never going to reach.
When we finally reached her room, I noticed a single chair facing the two-seated couch with about 2-ft gap in between. And of course, I chose the seat which was furtherest away from her. She told me to list down the presenting problems that I’m facing and why I’m seeking help. Talking about my life with a complete stranger is perhaps the most difficult thing to do considering I don’t open up to anyone unless I fully trust them. It was definitely a new experience but I also find it comforting knowing that whatever I tell her is confidential and that I’m there to seek help.
I told her that for the past year I have been isolating myself from people and activities that I once used to enjoy. I think it could be due to issues with trusting people because of past events. I have anxiety meeting people so some of the tips she gave me were:
1) Deep breathing technique – Place one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. The chest AND stomach should rise .. we usually make the mistake of just breathing in and feel the chest rising.
2) Before meeting someone new, list down questions to ask the person so that you know what to say during the meeting.
3) SEED (Social, Exercise, Education, Dietary) – These four factors that we should incorporate to maintain mental health