My mind as a truck

I had my third session with The New Therapist (TNT) yesterday, and we discussed some of the chapters that she asked me to read from the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.* And one of the segments talked about a woman, Mary, who felt like this huge truck was always on her heels. When asked what the truck represented, she responded that it was her impulses and cravings, her thoughts and feelings. In other words, that truck was her mind.

Substitute "obsessions and anxieties" for "impulses and cravings," and you pretty much describe me. I have this mental feeling of something always being on my heels, that I'm being chased or followed (not literally, of course). I always feel like I have to keep pushing my brain to stay one step ahead, to anticipate what might go wrong or what might happen next. It's that perpetual stream of "what if" questions that always seem to plague me. It's the fact that my brain never seems to shut off--it's always whizzing away with some thought or idea or worry. These leave me feeling mentally exhausted and frustrated because that truck--my thoughts--were always pushing me and following me.

So I expanded with TNT on this metaphor. I think my exercise habits were part of a way to try and "outrun" this truck. If my normal everyday life was the equivalent of "walking," and it left this truck always on my heels, then maybe if I walked a little faster, the truck would leave me alone. Or I could at least get a bit of peace and quiet. And to some extent, it worked. Part of the purpose of exercise was to exhaust me to the point where I was too tired to worry- or at least too tired to care. The "truck" was off my heels for at least a little bit.

Except the truck always came back, and I started adding more exercise so I could try and find more peace of mind. And yeah- we all know where that brilliant idea led.

Now I'm back to living life with this truck dogging every step I take, every thought I have. Part of what TNT explained is that one of my tasks in recovery is to accept and make peace with the truck. To stop being so intimidated and frightened of it. The goal is less to make the truck go away, or try to convince myself it's not there--no amount of therapy is going to make me into a not-anxious person. The idea is to make the truck less distressing and annoying, to stop fighting the fact that it's following me. To make the truck into more of a butterfly or at least more like my shadow. It's there. I know it's there. I notice it, but it doesn't bother me. That's the difference.

What's your truck? How have you learned to live with it?

*She describes her approach as CBT seasoned with mindfulness techniques. Works for me.

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Katie said...

I like your therapist's take on things, and I think that acceptance is a good word for how I have learned to live with my 'trucks' (which I think would be depression and anxiety too). It's only been in the last year that I've realised that running away from things makes them seem bigger, louder and scarier, and that sitting with them and realising that they can't hurt you takes all the power out of them. When I started really trying to get my panic attacks under control about five years ago I sort of intuitively taught myself the DBT skills of observing, describing and mindfulness without actually having done DBT at that point. I did a similar thing in recovering from the anorexia, I learned how to take a step back from my ED thoughts and anxieties and see them as symptoms rather than things I believed. Accepting that the ED and anxiety were going to be in my head for the foreseeable but constantly reminding myself that I did not need to react to them was probably the *thing* that made my recovery work this time. Funnily enough, after working so hard on this I am the least anxious and most free from anorexic thoughts that I have ever been :)

Good luck with your trucks Carrie!

balancingontwofeet said...

I really identify with you trying to outrun the "truck" in regards to excersiie. Excersie was my major outlet for anxiety and trying to constantly "outrun" it I always had to add more and more. It has recently come to light that everyone always thought I was doing exercise to burn more and more calories, when in fact the calorie burn was really just the side effect to me. Exercise was the "medication" I took to alleviate my anxiety and if it worked so well why not add more, or so I thought.

sleeping beauty said...

I finally understand why I always feel like my mind is going a million miles an hour! I'm always worrying about things and thinking about thing and analyzing things until I get to the point where I'm overwhelmed. When I can't take it anymore, since I suffer from binge eating disorder, I binge to smother those anxieties and to distract myself. And it works, until I start thinking again...

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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