Behavioral activation

I woke up at a few minutes after 0300hrs this morning. The fan in my bedroom window has done a lot of good in helping me to sleep more comfortably now that it has gotten hot and remains warm at night. I need a cool environment to sleep in. I got up because I had awoken from a dream that had ended just in time–just in time not to become traumatic in nature. I decided not to doze back off because I did not wish to experience the residual emotions all day long, knowing that it would continue where it left off and become sinister at best.

I plan on climbing today, if I get the courage to go out the door. I must go out the door, though. I am meeting a friend to go walking at 0700hrs this morning. We had planned on 0600hrs, but she has not slept well the last few nights and I completely understand the need for good, quality sleep. Anyway, the fact remains that I must get out of the house. I have a lot of anxiety–a ridiculous amount, in fact–about going out the door. I am, of course, at risk of developing agoraphobia, which is a mental disorder that I do not currently, nor have I ever had in the past, and do not wish to develop. Ever. I do not need any more trouble with my mind. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is plenty, and the Depression and Anxiety that come with PTSD are more than enough to deal with on top of it all. I am in a clinically depressed state right now. I will admit that. I have been for the last two months. It should be lifting soon, as should the anxiety, but I have to do something about it. Allow me to explain…

My doctor is using a technique right now called behavioral activation–or attempting to, at least. To combat the symptoms and effects of a mental illness or episode of a mental disorder, you must get the patient to behave in a way contrary to what the illness is making them feel like doing. In other words, do something about it! If the illness is causing me to stay indoors and be anxiety-ridden about going out, then I must go out. If the illness is causing me to feel lonely, then I must do things to socialize (which is difficult in these times of pandemic). If I feel like climbing has been taken away from me, then I must go and climb, whether that be outdoors or in the climbing gym. These things, of course, all help with depression and anxiety both. As for other feelings, you do the same things with them–acknowledge the negative feelings as valid but do something to combat their negative effects on you. I, for example, have been going out to the field with my mom to work on my writing while she works at other things. It gets me out and about and helps me focus on other things. It gets me out of my own head, and that is important.

Climbing and writing both help me get out of my own head as far as the circular negative thinking goes. Other things that help are going for a walk with one of my best friends who just had hip surgery and is rehabilitating her body from that, going to the APC (the gym) with another of my best friends who is rehabilitating her body from a knee replacement and getting more fit in general, as we would all like to, and going to visit my husband and riding around with him as we converse and solve the world’s problems together. Who knew that you could have such great conversations and talks while confined to a moving vehicle? That is where most, if not all, of my husband’s and my important talks happen. Funny.

I was brave enough yesterday to send a rough draft of my short story “Character Development” to my doctor via e-mail attachment. Whether he reads it and gives feedback or not are secondary. My primary goal was to see if I was brave enough to send a part of me in the form of a short story to a person whom I deeply respect who would possibly and potentially think it was complete dross. I did it. I was brave enough and I did it. I sent it to him. My doctor was an English teacher before he became a physician, so the fear is real, haha. Why was this important? If I am brave enough to risk someone I truly and deeply respect shredding my writing, then I am brave enough to send that writing out into the world of editors in the form of a submission for publication, and furthermore, brave enough to change what does not work with my writing. That was why that particular test was important to me. Sending out a story that you have written–obviously not plagiarized, but instead original–is a very personal thing. You have to try to make it less personal, but in some way, shape, or form, any criticism of it, and certainly a thrashing of it, are going to hurt just a little bit somewhere. Perhaps the editor is not going to like your favorite line of the story and the galley proofs come back telling you to eliminate that favorite line of yours. You might get rejected outright, possibly with some feedback as to why, and not even get the chance to correct anything. Your submissions may get rejected time and time and time again. Writing, I hear, is rough business. Actually, I can attest to the fact that writing is rough business already. Part of it is because it involves money, but there is an artistry to writing as well that plays just as heavily on whether or not a piece is accepted for publication or as a contest winner. The point is that you somehow have to break into that arena–the writing arena–and it is scary.

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