It's been six weeks since I started the Thrive Programme with Thrive with Amy.
I was due my final session on Tuesday but, due to viral nasties knocking me off my feet, it's been put back until next week. Hopefully by then I'll be able to at least breathe well enough to complete the final session!
A key realisation for anyone undergoing the Thrive Programme is that the end of sessions with a Thrive Consultant does not mean the end of the Thrive journey. If anything, it's just the beginning.
I wasn't entirely certain what to expect of the sessions or the programme. I guess I just assumed it would be some psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, some talking and poking and analysing what was going on in my head, to explore the trigger of my phobia, where my real fear lies, and we'd somehow create a magic fix between us.
Prior to booking my first session I had bought 'Cure your emetophobia and Thrive' by Rob Kelly, the founder of the Thrive Programme, and had intended to read it anyway. What I didn't realise at the time was that the way Amy worked through the Thrive concepts and exercises with me, helping me apply them to real life and guiding me through the rough patches that came up, was exactly the assistance I needed and the motivation to actually work through the book.
Amy and I just 'clicked' in the same way my other counsellor and I clicked. You know when you're going to get along with someone, if the way you communicate resonates with you enough to have an effect when nothing else is getting through to you. To me I felt straight away, just from the consultation, that we were on the same wavelength, she completely "got" it, I felt safe with her and that this was the right way forwards, and in five out of six sessions I've come away feeling a damn sight more secure in myself - not because of Amy exactly, but because of the way she works. The way she works, works! I've always been a believer that, particularly in the case of psychotherapy, this rule is more important than most people realise. Especially if you've got a near-200 page book to work through as well.
And by work through the book, I don't just mean she encouraged me to read the entire thing. Thrive will not work if you don't put work in. No therapy will. So by working through the book, I mean using it as the workbook it is. You won't get better by just reading a Thrive book, or any other self-help book. A lot will make sense and resonate, but it won't change your life. So with Amy's encouragement, I made sure I did ALL the exercises presented in the book, filling out all the questionnaires even if I didn't like the reality of what they all showed, and I started putting the Actions into place. I still have more Actions to Action - but I'm on it.
So now you know I have finished working through the book (for the first time, at least), you're wondering, what have I achieved? Am I cured of emetophobia? Am I agoraphobia and anxiety free? No. The thought processes and dire perspectives I held onto that led to the emetophobia, agoraphobia, anxiety and depression have been instinctive and habitual to me for 20 years. If it takes a little time and effort to make something new become instinctive and habitual then so be it; I never expected a miracle cure either overnight or in six weeks.
Now, although I'm not cured, and I know I have a way to go, I have noticed some major changes in myself that will make an enormous difference as I move forwards into my future, and have already had a huge impact. I'll tell you how I know the Thrive Programme, and Amy, were the right route for me to take.
This month, I went to the supermarket for the first time since the Summer. A proper supermarket - not a mini-mart or small shop. Sainsbury's in Huntingdon. I went on a Sunday. And then again a few days later, mid-week. And then again a few days later on Saturday. And the Saturday one? Totally Diazepam-free.
I actually cannot remember the last time I went anywhere without taking even just 1mg Diazepam. I'm talking well over a year now, probably way longer. I still rely on my Propranolol, but I've reduced it so that I don't take it at all if I know I'm going to be at home all day, and if I expect to go out, then I start with my basic 40mg or 80mg dose and instead take just 10mg in the hour before actually going out. And the Citalopram, which is meant to help with the depression and anxiety? I've been off those for two weeks. Why? Because I've gone from believing my life would have to be full of medications and external aids just to be able to live life normally even within my own home, to believing that actually, what I need to "fix" my issues lies within me. Not in a pill. It'll take a while to come off the Diazepam and Propranolol, but the anxiety related issues and the thoughts and feelings that go with them are stronger and more ingrained than the depression ever was, even when I was suicidal. I will come back to this particular train of thought later.
But perhaps my biggest achievement since starting Thrive? Overcoming my fear to celebrate my future sister-in-law's birthday last week. I have avoided agreeing to eat or even stay for a meal at my future parents-in-law's place since the Spring, when I had the panic attack that encouraged me to assume the agoraphobic stance again, because I didn't want to risk panicking there again and dragging my fiancé away from dinner after my MIL-to-be had gone to the effort of cooking for me and her son. So I simply avoided all dinner invitations. For nine months.
Except this one felt different. I said I would be there. And I was. I ate and drank very little - but damn it, the point is I ate. The amount doesn't matter right now. I made an effort to make a start on overcoming that particular anxiety. And I nailed that start. We didn't rush home afterwards, we stayed until Chris decided it was time to head home. I rode out the few waves of anxiety that came along in the two hours we were there. And you know something? It was the best feeling I've had all year. Well, almost all year...the whole marriage proposal and preparations stuff still tops the list (sorry Angela!), but second is without a doubt, going back and facing up to the fact that my fear was irrational, my fears would not come true if I held onto my perspective, and that I COULD do whatever I put my mind to. The feeling I got out of that was in part one of celebration to do with overcoming a huge level of social anxiety, but more overwhelmingly, a deep-rooted sense of never having been 'gone' from the family in the first place. It was like the last nine months hadn't happened. It felt, to me, like I'd never been away.
THAT is the feeling I am striving for in life. The feeling that, even with ups and downs, I am at home wherever I am, that I am comfortable in my own skin wherever I am, and that I am happy with who I am - flaws and all. Thrive basically teaches you how to be OK with yourself, and how to change the parts that you are able to change (which, it turns out, is almost anything you want to). The three core concepts of Thrive are that many psychological and even physical problems are caused by:
• low self-esteem (mine was 10%)
• social anxiety (mine was moderate, but not as high as it could have been)
• a strong desire for control (mine...through the roof!)
By learning about and acting on these three concepts, you can change your life. Now please bear in mind, this is coming from someone who is VERY difficult to convince when it comes to self-help or guided-help stuff. I don't say something unless I mean it or truly believe in it.
Did I believe six weeks ago I would be sitting here typing this? No...but that was because I had such low self-esteem and such a strong desire for control that I had more or less decided I wouldn't even be able to see the full six sessions through. Here I am, a week before Christmas, thinking...you know what, I can freaking well do this. Those "I'm not cut out for life" thoughts that have held me back and dragged me so far down for so long, are utter rubbish.
I still have my wobbles and days where I just feel like giving up. I barely slept last night as I worked myself up into a panic, convinced I'd pass out or possibly die because I've been really fighting for breath with this virus. I told myself I'd never be able to sleep and I'd feel dire because of it. But today, despite being a bit tired I've been out for a walk for the first time in weeks, I've had Sampson making me laugh (WHOLE new blog post, but he's my new daytime guinea pig buddy!), and I've managed to get a considerable amount of work done.
You see, instilled within me now is the knowledge that, whether I'm feeling depressed or anxious, it is a feeling I have CREATED, therefore it is down to me to UNCREATE it. Among a few other phrases, this is the motto I hold onto: "YOU created this. YOU can UNcreate it." I write it on my hand in pen if I have to. I've learned through Amy and through the Thrive Programme that if I want to feel better, I have to get off my butt and do something about it. So I did. And that's what I've been doing over the last six weeks.
Sound too good to be true? I thought so too. But you know what? Although I'm at the beginning of a journey of discovery and retraining my thinking processes and addressing those three core issues, I'm feeling revived. I feel like I'm finding my feet in the world again, seeing it through rose-tinted spectacles instead of filth-tinted ones. I'm quite possibly the happiest I've been since the start of the year. I feel - as corny as it sounds! - like I'm finally starting to Thrive.