she was onto something after all...
Last Christmas we were visiting my mother-in-law. We were gathered around the table sharing small talk, and I was flattening out a lolly wrapper and fiddling with it.
"You're a nervous person, aren't you," she stated, "Fiddling with that wrapper."
"No." I replied, "I just fiddle and make things. I'm always making things."
She nodded her head in that 'I'm agreeing with you to keep the peace, but I don't really agree with you' kind of a way, and I kept flattening and folding the wrapper.
Fast forward through the year and here I am, ten months into what has turned into a very lengthy journey with a psychologist. One of the surprising discoveries for me was the extent to which anxiety rules my emotional world. I've hidden it well, often from others (except my mother-in-law, it would seem) and definitely from myself. I remember the session when it all clicked into place for me - a cold breeze of shock and amazement hit me as my Johari window was flung open wide.
Me? Anxious? No way!
And now that I'm aware of it, I stumble across it all the time, influencing a decision here, holding me back there. It's not crippling anxiety, but it has limited me a lot more than I've ever been willing to acknowledge. I've discovered a lot of my interpersonal interactions are mediated by anxiety and my subconscious defences.
My mother-in-law picked it up (I don't want to give her too much credit, but you know... maybe she did see things I couldn't). The psychologist picked it up too, quite early on. Perhaps my reports of almost constant dizziness, and high blood pressure, and being jolted awake with the awfulness of knowing I may never have children, and the spasms in my back were a give away? I remember him talking about fear and hope and asking me to come up with things I hoped for. I really struggled with that - my hopes seem so unlikely. It never occurred to me that I was in the grip of fear.
Three months later I had my 'Johari window' experience, and three months later again we have finally started doing relaxation. It took that long to get over my worry about closing my eyes and relaxing. I've done it twice now, although deciding whether I wanted to do it again yesterday took some doing. Relaxation seems such a waste of time for a talker like me - I only get an hour a fortnight. There's a lot to discuss! But after almost a year of talking, I think I'm almost talked out. I'm just going over the same old ground now, and that gets a bit tiresome and tedious. I need some circuit breaking action, and as he said, I have an agitated mind a lot of the time - relaxation could be a key to turning that around. So I relaxed and visualised a beautiful scene and journeyed to places in my mind while he talked calmly in the background. You could almost call it hypnosis. (All those terrible things I was taught were evil - visualisation and hypnosis. Turns out they are rather helpful and freeing and not evil at all.) I may be imagining this, but I've felt a calmness and stillness in my mind since yesterday. Not completely still, but less... agitated. I like it and I'm going to keep fighting the fear and doing it until I've achieved what I need to. Whatever that is - I'm hoping I'll know when I get there.
And who knows... maybe when I visit my mother-in-law next month I'll sit quietly and still, no fussing, fidgeting or fiddling.
And then she can tell me what a calm person I am. And I will agree whole heartedly because I will be.