April 06, 2023

Three Things Thursday: Seeking Discomfort

Wow. The comments on my post yesterday brought me to tears more times than I can even count. I'm going to try to reply to them this weekend. (I know I'm terrible about replying to comments, and I feel horrible about that!)  Thank you so much for the kind words.

Today's post was actually inspired by my psychiatrist. At my last appointment, we talked a lot about my anxiety. He told me about a book he wanted me to read called 'When Panic Attacks' by Dr. David Burns, and it gave me a lot of hope that I can heal the anxiety I feel all the time.

Coincidentally, later that night I randomly picked a show to watch on Hulu about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I learned quite a bit about it and I hadn't realized that it was a form of anxiety disorder. On the show, people living with severe OCD receive the help from a therapist who specializes in it, and I was absolutely shocked at the difference in their OCD symptoms in just 12 weeks. (I highly recommend the show--it's called 'Obsessed')

The main approach, along with cognitive behavioral therapy, was exposure therapy--exposing them to the things that they fear or that gives them the most anxiety. Instead of coping mechanisms, they basically sit with the anxiety (in the situation) until it recedes. To me, it sounds terrifying to even think about!

I don't have OCD, but I do have generalized anxiety disorder (diagnosed by my psychiatrist years ago). There are some anxieties that are very common and relatable (which are probably the ones I'll list here) and also some that I don't even talk about because just the thought of talking about them gives me anxiety, hahaha.

Okay, so here are three things that cause me anxiety--and how I plan to expose myself to them in the hope that the anxiety will fade over time...

1. Make phone calls.

I don't know exactly when I started avoiding talking on the phone, but I can remember having anxiety about it as far back as my mid-20's. I don't think anything triggered it; I just found myself avoiding making phone calls whenever possible. (Actually, now that I write this, I think it was around the time that texting became mainstream.) It's interesting because I used to talk on the phone non-stop when I was in my early teens--literally HOURS a day!

I don't want to set goals for this or anything finite. I just want to face it head-on as much as possible--rather than typing out long-ish texts, I'll try calling first. If they don't answer, then I can just leave a message. The hardest part for me is actually just getting up the nerve and dialing the number. The conversation isn't what produces the most anxiety.

While I'm not going to set "goals" for this or anything, I do want to keep track in my journal about my anxiety levels. I can write what the level was before making the call and after making the call. And then over time, hopefully it will get easier and my anxiety levels will drop.

2. Meet new people.

I'm so bad at this. I feel extremely nervous when meeting people because (I think) I come across as very awkward. I'm not witty or quick to think of things to talk about. Jerry says I don't come across this way at all, but maybe it's just the awkward way I feel about myself when meeting someone.

You're only given one chance at a first impression, and I always worry that mine will be awkward for the person I'm meeting. I want them to feel comfortable!

This is something I've actually been working on for a while. I make it a point to make small talk with strangers when given the opportunity. For example, today I went to Lowe's as I saw a man trying to lift a piece of plywood onto a cart (which I know from experience is NOT easy) so even though I felt anxious about it, I stopped and asked if he wanted some help because it's much easier with two people. And thankfully, he wasn't too proud to accept help from a middle-aged woman ;)  I also chatted a bit with the cashier, who was extremely friendly, and I left the store with a smile on my face.

So, while this isn't something totally new to me, it's something I still have anxiety about (although it's getting less extreme). Now, I want to dive right in to seeking out opportunities to meet people. Talking with strangers, even just a short interaction, may help me become more comfortable when meeting new acquaintances.

3. Going places.

I don't mean running errands or anything like that. I mean doing social things or things that are just for fun. The pandemic played a big role in making me even more of a homebody than I already was, but for my entire life, I have always felt most comfortable at home.

I think this may have something to do with bipolar disorder (for me, anyway). I thrive on routine--doing the same things day after day--and as boring as that may sound to some people, it's how I feel comfortable. No surprises. Even having an upcoming appointment gives me anxiety because it throws my day out of routine. (I wish this wasn't the case! I'd love to be spontaneous or even just able to adapt easily to what's going on.)

When I am invited to go out or get together with friends, I feel extremely anxious about it (I honestly have no idea why--I love my friends!). When it comes time for me to go, I feel a sense of dread--which sounds horrible, I know--but almost always, once I am there, I enjoy myself and I'm glad I went.

To seek discomfort here, I'm going to make a list of people I haven't seen in a while, as well as people that I exchange pleasantries with--you know, the "Hey, we should get together soon and catch up!"--and then I will *actually* attempt to make plans. When I say that we should get together soon, I actually do mean it; it just doesn't ever happen. So, I'm going to try my best to make it happen--hopefully with a phone call rather than a text!

And even if I'm not meeting up with friends, I'd like to make it a point to go places "just because"--like go to the library to write my blog posts, or take Joey to a dog park instead of walking around the neighborhood. I'm more comfortable with the familiar--being at home--so I want to make it a point to go to a variety of places for a variety of reasons. Hopefully, I'll get more and more comfortable when stepping outside of my comfort zone!

I've been reading the book my psychiatrist suggested and I really think I will find it useful in helping me work on these three things. Then I'll talk to him about it at my next appointment. And maybe--just maybe--I'll be a less anxious me soon! :)


  1. I feel you on all these points. It is why I love your blog. I will get the book as well. I am also your age and we have so much in common. Our interests, thrift shopping, dogs, running (when I did), two teenage boys, and the funny thing is I know there are so many people out there similar to both of us that can help each other. I also have a son that is anxious and has a medical issue. For teens they have anxiety camps and schools. I should start one for adults. We are not alone. You have so much courage and strenght. I love the way you put everything out there. I am learning so much from you - now I just need to pick. up the phone more and make the phone call.

  2. Again, you are so brave. I know you don't feel that way, but dearie, you are. Also, interesting timing this post since I was just working on a post about using desensitization to overcome my horrible, paralyzing, no good anxiety about driving in the freeway. It's been a decade now since I successfully applied the technique, but other people keep asking about how I did it. So I guess it's still useful information. Big hugs to you always. Thanks for, once again, brightening my day.

  3. This relates to your post yesterday as well as this one. I really appreciate you posting about your mental health because it makes me more aware and empathetic towards others who may be having problems and also makes me see some of the issues in myself. My sister has generalized anxiety disorder and your discussions of your anxiety really helped me understand her better (she lives hours away, so we don't talk much on a day-to-day basis). Also my college students have lots of different issues going on.

    Funny thing is that your post today is something I identify with a lot. I don't think I probably feel quite as much anxiety about those three things as you do, but I'm definitely an introvert and making phone calls and meeting new people are definitely things I avoid if I can. But like you, I sometimes make it a point of "trying out" small talk when I'm at the store or something.

    Thank you for your posts!

  4. I don't even have anxiety and I hate talking on the phone. I've come to peace with it. Text me, I'm always available for that. hah


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