Anxiety has never been a problem for me. I’ve never got anxious or panicky in social situations so this section in Melanie Fennell’s book was not really a big issue for me. Still, I managed to think up a few examples where I felt anxious and had made predictions about certain actions.
The issues I wrote down were specific anxieties related to the end of my marriage and indicative of the typical “left on the shelf” syndrome. It was a much stronger feeling at the beginning of the year than it is now (though of course for various reasons, I still feel that way). Those who came over from the other blog before I closed it might remember that I recounted how easily I would get depressed at seeing couples in the street holding hands, colleagues flirting or sex scenes in films. All that went through my mind was “that will never be me… I will never have that… I am too weird, abnormal, unattractive inside and outside.”
In one case, I was on an internal flight… the kind of low cost carrier where you are not allocated seats but grab them on a first-come-first-served basis. I went to sit in one seat but there was already a woman – about my age and reasonably attractive – sat in the window seat. I moved further up the aircraft because I genuinely thought she would squirm or change seats.
Yes, I felt that repulsive that a stranger might make a quick exit to another part of the aircraft. Aside from the fact that this would have been unpleasant and unreasonable on her part, to me this would have been the expected reaction. This was just one of many incidents that I had to write into a worksheet and challenge with these questions:
* What is the evidence to support what I am predicting?
* What is the evidence against what I am predicting?
* What alternative views are there? What evidence is there to support them?
* What is the worst that can happen?
* What is the best that can happen?
* Realistically, what is most likely to happen?
* If the worst happens, what can be done about it?
Challenging these thoughts with reasoned argument might seem the logical thing to do but when you are in a state of depression or anxiety you are not thinking straight anyway and all thoughts of reasoned evaluation is the furthest thing from your mind. I rarely have such anxious thoughts anyway and these rare instances have centred around specific events; much more important was a similar section on self-critical thoughts which I will come to another time.