Category Archives: Anxiety

Intrusive images are for life, not just for parenthood

I can see myself biting off a baby’s fingertips one day. I don’t mean that’s my dream retirement plan, I mean I can really clearly see it. Sometimes I don’t even have to close my eyes, it’s just there, transposed over whatever I happen to be looking at in that moment. My teeth. Baby’s fingertips. This recurring intrusive image started popping into my mind when I was about eight years old, after a friend told me that her mother had to bite the fingernails of her new baby brother. I immediately pictured myself tasked with trimming a baby’s fingernails with my teeth, and accidentally trimming the finger instead.

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Is that a rash on your neck or are you just anxious to see me?

I go red when I’m nervous. And when I’m embarrassed. And frustrated. And amused. In fact, any time I experience the slightest increase in emotion or temperature, you will see it on my skin, clawing its way out of my collar and onto my face.  I discovered this delightful fact about myself in high school, when someone kindly pointed out that they would have presumed I was sunburnt, had I not been so deathly pale everywhere else.  They weren’t the only person to notice, either.  Every time it happened, someone would comment on it. Once the focus was firmly on me and my neck, I would get even more uncomfortable, more red, more comments, more anxious, more red, and the cycle would continue.

Fortunately most adults don’t feel the need to comment on every perceived flaw or defect in other people.  By the time I was training to become a psychologist, I worried less about whether people would notice me going red and focused my attention on more grown up fears, like whether they would discover I am a massive fraud who didn’t belong here and had probably been let onto the doctorate programme by mistake. Continue reading →

Is Procrastination Worth the Wait?

It’s rare that I hear procrastination referred to in a positive light.  Perhaps at high school, when some of my esteemed classmates would exhibit their extreme cool by saying they were procrastinating studying for exams.  They didn’t actually mean they were putting off studying, they were implying that they had no intention of studying.  More than that – they were implying that only dickheads cared about school.  Of course, only us dickheads could appreciate the irony of misusing the term procrastinate in a sentence intended to demonstrate the insignificance of a good education.

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Why OCD and Music Festivals Don’t Mix. Yet.

After six weeks of trying to write this blog post, I came to the conclusion that I simply could not identify with a fear of contamination.  I couldn’t imagine experiencing a deep feeling of being unclean, an unshakeable physical and emotional belief that something unseen will make me sick and that there are no cleaning products available that can adequately wash away the grime.  There was no way I could relate to having to stay away from anything potentially dirty so as to avoid a two-hour shower ritual, or to reducing my water consumption because every toilet seems like a biological landmine.  And then last week I spent three days camping at a music festival.  Now I get it. Continue reading →

Pay it Forehead, or When Did Giant Foreheads Become Socially Acceptable?

I have a huge head, and it’s roughly 40% forehead.  Whenever I casually refer to this fact, most people kindly try to reassure me that it’s really not that big. But it really is.

You know that point in the early 90s when bike helmets suddenly got smaller?  Mine didn’t.  My head simply grew like a goldfish to fill the space left by the improvements in helmet technology.  Despite my protestations, every single helmet seller I’ve ever encountered has insisted I try on a size Small or Medium, and subsequently suffered the embarrassment of resting it like a fez upon my crown before mumbling something about children’s sizes and scurrying off to find something more realistic. I’m not imagining it. Continue reading →

42K to Couch to 5K – The Training Plan That Got Me Running Less

For three weeks, the following visuals triggered a flash of pure rage in me: running shoes, technical fabrics, my Garmin, shorts, the gym, food with “energy” in its name, emails from the charity I’d run for, and anyone who was out running or might have just been running or was possibly just about to go running, or could have run at some point in their life.  And Top Gear, but that may have been unrelated.

Most infuriating were those smug, leap-out-of-bed-types bounding across Primrose Hill regardless of the weather, too smitten with running to be even remotely bothered to judge those foolish enough not to have caught on to their miracle remedy for the crushing reality of adult life.  What was their problem?  Who the hell did they think they were?  How on earth could I become one of them? Continue reading →

The only thing we have to fear is anything remotely frightening. But just until we realise it’s not. (Part II)

Read The only thing we have to fear: Part I

The review
As a little Easter treat, I planned to spend the weekend finding out what it would be like to terrify myself by watching the scary movies I have avoided for the past 14 years. Before I got started, I put myself through the same process I use when setting up experiments in CBT: making sense of why it is how it is, and reviewing what could be lost and gained from trying something different. Continue reading →

The only thing we have to fear is anything remotely frightening. And fear itself.

“I think maybe you’re not getting scared enough.” These actual words from this actual psychologist to an actual patient, explaining why they weren’t yet seeing any improvements from CBT. What I wanted to know was what was stopping them from amping up the fear levels. I assume what you want to know is why on earth I was terrorising my patient. Continue reading →

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