Image: Alice Bartlett – CC BY-NC 2.0
So, with my recently diagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder held in check to an extent by some newly prescribed medication, the long road to a more permanent solution begins. I say held in check “to an extent” because the nice doctor I saw estimates that my anxiety levels, even with the pills, register a hell of a lot higher than those most people experience anyway. I was dismayed that no certificate was offered. Not even a sticker with a cartoon lion on it. Disappointing.
I can now only imagine that other people’s heads must be like a sunny meadow full of wildflowers and pretty butterflies. Bastards.
Anyhow, the medication is only a short term fix. I’m assured that a longer term answer lies in CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I’m promised that this will provide not simply a way of ‘managing’ the noise of my anxiety, but getting it to pipe down altogether. That difference is essential; the idea of living the rest of my life suffering that constant disturbing crackle of unease, but just ‘managing’ it every day for ever more – is simply unbearable. I don’t think I could do that. Happily, I’m told that won’t be necessary, so break open the champagne.
I’ll still always be an alcoholic though, so maybe you’d better make it Appletiser or Irn-Bru or something for me. Or perhaps a nice cuppa. And a hobnob, since we’re celebrating.
My initial reaction was one of some scepticism, largely because I’d gone through a little CBT before, which covered the model illustrated below. I’ll not regurgitate the concept; the link’s there if you’re not already familiar.
Image: Urstadt – CC BY-SA 3.0
Top tip: don’t blindly image search “CBT”. It stands for some other things that I’d guess aren’t much help with anxiety – and are quite unlikely to be provided by any reputable psychologist. I’ve seen things I can’t unsee.
The difference this time is the doctor’s explanation of the need to explore and mend more than the basic cycle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Firstly my underpinning ‘rules and assumptions’, and then my ‘core beliefs’, which underpin those assumptions in turn. I’ve been asked to have a think about them, and scribble some stuff down before our next session.
It’s at the ‘core beliefs’ bit that I find myself starting to question my identity itself. Core beliefs were explained to me as likely to take the form of statements such as ‘I am…’, or ‘others are…’, or ‘the world is…’
The last one I instantly completed with a time-honoured Chaucerian adjective beginning with F – which seemed only reasonable in light of Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, Syria and the lack of any effective leftist political opposition in the UK. To her credit, the psychologist didn’t object to my pithy analysis.
I really struggle with ‘I am’ though. I am… what? Quite bright, and with some ability to form coherent sentences and follow logical lines of reasoning. A bit short for my weight – but I’m going to work on being taller. Brown-eyed. Male. Human. Arrogant maybe? Strikes me as distinctly possible, given that I described myself as being pretty smart just a few sentences ago. Twice a week I begin a rambling monologue with the words “My name is Corax and I am an alcoholic” – but I don’t think that counts as a ‘core belief’ any more than someone’s diabetes would.
And that’s pretty much all I’ve got. Other people may think I’m boring, or witty, kind or selfish, devastatingly handsome is pretty much nailed on I suppose, or maybe they just think I’m a bit of an arsehole – but do their perceptions of me qualify as Who I Am? I present different aspects of myself in different contexts and to different people, so those reflections can’t be what I would consider a reliable truth. But neither can I trust the veracity of my own perceptions of self. I don’t see how anyone can. No one goes through life comfortable in the self-knowledge that they’re a rude, obnoxious, insufferable muppet. Yet I know for sure that rude, obnoxious, insufferable muppets exist, so the only conclusion must be that they don’t see themselves that way. Maybe I’m a rude, obnoxious, insufferable muppet too. It’s definitely not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Image: Marco – CC BY-NC 2.0
“Know thyself” commanded the graffiti at Delphi. Cheers pal, but have you got the manual to go with that? Socrates dedicated most of his life to the subject, but his answers remain somewhat lacking in easy-to-follow instructions.
Can a person truly know themselves?
But if I can’t fill in more of those ‘I am’ statements, does that mean I’m simply an empty husk of a man? Is it just me, or is this the reality for everyone else as well, and we’re all just engaged in a silent mass conspiracy to pretend it’s not so?
For homework this week, my therapist appears to have asked me to answer one of life’s oldest and deepest philosophical questions.
Seems a trifle unfair. I assume that next week I’ll be asked to detail the mind of God and the true nature of reality in no more than five PowerPoint slides.
I am… a bit snarky. Cool; I’ve got one.
Hey y’all. If you’re reading this then I’m assuming that you don’t think the blog is entirely terrible. I’m flattered. Despite the sarcasm usually pervading my writing I genuinely mean that – the positive feedback I’ve received from assumedly unbiased randoms on t’interweb has been very unexpected, and very generous. It’s helped lay a few blocks of self-esteem to build upon.
I write for three reasons, and one of them kinda depends on you guys.
I write partly because I’m a mental. I’ve got a certificate from the doc and everything. Sticking my thoughts down as text helps me make sense of things, and even occasionally rationalise them into what’s generally regarded as a more normal perspective.
I write because I enjoy it. Some would claim that’s the only thing that matters. For me, I disagree.
I disagree, because I write to communicate.
I attempt to craft phrases that are aesthetically pleasing. I hope to make people smile a little, or even offer them a perspective or insight they’d not previously considered. I’m not on a mission or anything, I just hope that people enjoy reading what I’ve written whether they agree with it or not. Without this aspect I may as well just scribble stream of consciousness diatribes on the back of a napkin. I stick my stuff out on the web instead, because that element of communication is important to me.
That being so, it would be great if I couldn’t count the number of people reading it on the fingers of one foot. There’s no material gain to me, I just want to feel that there’s some point to me pounding away at a keyboard until two in the morning. That I’m connecting with someone, somewhere.
I’ll carry on doing it anyway – but my smile would be much broader if you could share it around on Bookface, twitter and whatever. There’s even dinky little buttons to make it easier down the bottom of the page, if you click on the post title itself.