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Your Anxiety Toolkit - It's a Beautiful Day to Do Hard Things

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Now displaying: September, 2021
Sep 24, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 203.

Welcome back, everybody. Today’s episode is all about why it is so important that we expose ourselves to our fears. It’s one of the most common questions I get asked from my clients, right? Which is, why do I have to do this hard work? Why? Why of all the treatments is mine the one where I have to face my fears. Because my clients ask this all the time, I wondered whether you needed a quick pep talk just to get you back on track, to remind you why and to motivate you towards facing your fears, because it is probably the most valuable change of behavior that you will do.

Welcome back. I am so happy to have you here with me today to talk about that specific topic. Before we get started, I would like to quickly dive in to really set the scene today. We’re going to talk about the hard thing, the “I did a hard thing” segment.

Today’s hard thing is from anonymous, and they have submitted saying:

“I haven’t drank coffee for over two years since my OCD breakdown because I was too scared. But today, I went to Costa and I had a caramel latte. I got heart palpitations for a few hours, but I sat with it.

This is exactly what I’m talking about. So, Anonymous, this is so good. I am so proud of you. This is the work that we do. And I’m going to use Anonymous’ example here throughout the podcast to really tie this together.

All right, one more thing before we get moving, I want to do a shoutout to the review of the week. This one is from Hahajack, and they said:

“This is the best short therapy lesson. This podcast is amazing! I love that episodes are short and succinct. You can’t say that you don’t have time when episodes are as short as 10 to 30 minutes. If you are struggling with OCD or anxiety, this is a great podcast to listen to for extra therapeutic support in addition to therapy. I treat OCD and I learn so much every time I listen to Kimberley’s podcast.”

Thank you Hahajack for that amazing review. We are still doing the drive for reviews. So if you can go over to Apple podcast, leave us a review or wherever you listen. Once we hit a thousand reviews, we’re giving a free pair of Beats headphones. I cannot tell you how much I love, love, love, love your reviews. Thank you. It helps me help more people reach more people. And that’s what I’m here to do. All right, so let’s get to the meat of this episode, right?

Why is it so important to face our fears Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast

I, in the past – I think it’s Episode 86 – did a whole episode called the Science of Exposure and Response Prevention. You can go back and listen to that episode once this is done. We talked about the science behind ERP, and I’m going to be using a lot of that reference to talk about why. Why do we stare fear in the face?

Instinctually, when we have fear – I’m just going to give you a quick education here – when we experience fear and our brain sets the signal off to say, “There might be danger, there might be trouble, please be alarmed,” – when the anxiety hits our body and our cognitions, our natural instinct is to remove ourselves from the perceived danger. And that has kept us alive. It is an important process that we humans have and other animals have. It’s an important piece that keeps us alive, like I said.

The problem is, that behavior, the removal of anxiety, the avoidance of the thing that created the anxiety is only effective if the danger is imminent, not just a thought about a possible danger, right? And so, if, like I said, there was a real thing that was happening in your life that is dangerous, yeah, you may want to remove yourself from it. But if you have a brain that’s anxious like mine, where your brain sets off alarms quite often telling you, “Ring, ring, ring, something bad might happen. Ring, ring, ring, the future may have some problems. Ring, ring, ring, you’re a bad person,” and so forth – when we instinctually try to remove that, we actually reinforce the fear, the faulty fear. We reinforce the thought, right? And then what we are in a cycle of is thought, reinforcement of thought, thought, reinforcement of thought, thought, reinforcement of thought.

The whole reason we choose to face our fear is to break that cycle, right? If you have a thought about imminent danger or threat, and you respond to it as if it’s important, your brain will continue to perceive it as an important and an imminent threat. If you have a thought about something that is imminent and dangerous, and you don’t respond to it as if it’s imminent and dangerous, your brain starts to learn not to set that alarm every time you have that thought. Your brain learns not to ring the alarm bell and send out all those anxiety hormones throughout your body. Right? And that’s how you break the cycle. And we do that by – if you just happen to have the thought, you could do that by being aware that you’re having the thought, observing the thought, and then not engaging in the avoidant or reactive behavior, right? That’s hard, right? It’s doable, but it’s hard, right? Because you have to be aware and you have to be very mindful and you have to have a lot of motivation in that moment. I still strongly encourage you to try that and practice it every single day.

But what we can do to really help that process is, instead of waiting for the thought and then practicing not just engaging in that thought as if it’s real and imminent, what you can do is purposely expose yourself and purposely bring on those thoughts by facing your fears. Right? Think of it like, you wouldn’t just show up to a football game or a tennis game or a track and field event and just run and hope that your body will keep you going. No, we don’t do that. When we know there’s an event happening, we train for it. In a situation, we simulate the scenario, right? So we simulate the track and field event, or we simulate the soccer practice so that you can practice strengthening those muscles.

This is why it’s so important that we choose to expose ourselves to our fears on purpose. You’re training your muscles to respond differently. When it does have a thought, your brain’s going, “Oh, she actually purposely had that thought yesterday. So maybe I don’t need to set off the alarm bells this time. Maybe it’s not as imminent as I originally perceived it to be.” That is why it is so important that you expose yourself to your fears.

Now, like I said, there’s lots of science behind that. You can go back and listen to the episode – it’s number 86 – to get a little bit more, right? But the thing here to remember, and I always try to remind you, is it is hard. This isn’t easy, right? So what you want to do is, as you go to face your fear and expose yourself to your fear on purpose, you want to keep in mind for yourself your own why. Why would I purposely do this hard thing?

We could use the example here of the hard thing, right? They wanted to have a caramel latte. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but they want the outcome. They want the delicious, warm caramel latte, right? For you, be really clear on what you want to get back by facing your fear. Sometimes it’s more time with family, it’s to be able to get to work and not have to manage mental compulsions with work. For some people, it’s to be able to get through school without having to double-check your work. For some people, if you have an eating disorder, it might be so you can be with friends and have freedom around food. If it’s panic disorder, it might be so that you can do the things you want to do without panic-making your choices, right? If it’s hair pulling and skin picking, it might be so that you can do your normal grooming without engaging in these behaviors. Right?

So there’s so many reasons why we would practice facing your fear. And I want to give you this call to action, which is, get really clear on what you want, how you want your life to be. Identify what things you’re going to need to face in order to get that life. And then go and face those fears. That’s exposure and response prevention in a nutshell. In a nutshell, and it might feel really silly. You might be thinking, oh, I’ve got to do so many steps just to be able to get out the door or go to school, or to be able to have a dinner party or even get out of bed. Okay, that’s all right. Break it down into small baby steps. For every time you face your fear, you’re strengthening that muscle of being able to tolerate discomfort.

It’s so important. It’s so empowering. It’s why I always say, it’s a beautiful day to do hard things, because it’s a total flip flop on what your natural brain wants to do, your instinctual brain, which is, it’s a beautiful day to run away from hard things. So really remember that. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. Really think about what you want to be able to do with your life. Write down what fears you’d need to face to do that, and then go and face those fears. That’s what I’m going to encourage you to do.

That being said, I, myself, am about to embark on a very, very hard thing, which is the exciting news. I’m almost done with this episode. I’m going to drop you my exciting news, which is the book, the Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD comes out literally next week. You can go to wherever you buy your books to get it. It’s called the Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD. It is literally the example of facing your fears. I have quite a large degree of anxiety about this, but I am going to face it every step of the way.

That being the case, because I am so insistent on facing my anxieties about it, sort of feels like I’m putting myself out there a lot – next week, I am going to announce an exciting, what would we say celebration of the book. It is going to be a month-long celebration. I hope you come along for the ride. In order to really benefit from this celebration, you will need to sign up for the newsletter because I will be sending tons of resources for you. I’m going to try and get you to engage in self-compassion like you have never done before. I want to use this as an opportunity to teach you and deep dive into the practice of self-compassion like you’ve never done before. You can go at your own pace. I strongly encourage you to sign up for the newsletter. You can go to cbtschool.com to sign up and it will give you tons of information. But next week’s episode, I’m going to tell you all about it, and I am so excited. So, so, so excited.

If you want a ton more information, you can go and follow me on Instagram. I’m going to be doing a ton of lives, talking about the book, reading through the book, showing you some of the exercises. I’m just so excited. I’m almost a little too excited. I’m probably going to burn out midway, but I’m going to do my best not to do that. But please do stick around. I cannot wait to share that with you. I will give you all the information next week. Yeah, so excited. And go ahead and get the book if that’s something that would be beneficial for you.

Well, that is all I have to say for today. That is the core of this podcast – facing your fears compassionately, willingly, in a joyful way. Even I encourage you to make it in any way possible, joyful. That is what I want you to do, and I’m really so excited to hear all of the hard things that you guys are doing because that’s what we’re here for. If that’s the one big impact I can make in my career, I’m going to be a happy camper.

All right. I am sending you so much love. I hope you are well. It is a beautiful day to do hard things. I love you so much. Take care of yourself and I will see you for a very exciting episode next week.The Self-Compassion Workbook for OCD is here!  Check the link HERE for more information. 

Sep 17, 2021

This week we interview Drew Linsalata, an amazing friend who has written an amazing book called, “Seven Percent Slower”  Click the link below to hear more about his book!
https://theanxioustruth.com/seven-percent-slower/

Kimberley: Welcome, everybody. This episode is for you, the listener, but it’s actually for me, the podcaster, more than anything.

Today, we have the amazing Drew Linsalata. I’ve talked about Drew before. We’ve done giveaways. We’ve done a bunch of stuff together on social media. I am a massive Drew fan. So, thank you, Drew, for being here today.

7 Percent Slower Drew Linsalata Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast

Drew: Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you, Kim. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Kimberley: Okay. So, you, you are amazing, and I would love if you would share in a minute to people a little bit about your lived experience with anxiety. Drew is just the coolest human being on the planet. So, I’m so excited to share with everybody you, because I think everybody needs Drew in their life.

Drew: Wow.

Kimberley: But in addition to that, we are today going to talk about something. I’m actually going to try and drop down into my own vulnerability, and not just be the host, but also be the listener today because you are talking about one particular topic that I need to work on. So, first of all, tell me a little bit about your background, your story, and we’ll go from there.

Drew: Sure. So, unfortunately, I lived in experience with panic disorder, agoraphobia, and intrusive thoughts and things of that nature, clinical depression, on and off, from the time I was 19 years old – 1986 all the way to around 2008, in varying degrees. So, it was a very long time. I was in and out of those problems. They came, they went. I did all the wrong things for a lot of time, trying to fix those problems, even though I knew what the right things were, because I’ve always been a bit of a behaviorism and cognition geek. And it took me a long time to come around to actually solving those problems. I did the medication thing that didn’t work out for me. And then I really just took the time to learn what I needed to do behaviorally, cognitively, using those evidence-based things that I know you talk about all the time. And I just used them on myself and I learned as much as I could from very smart people like you. And I went and did the work and managed to get myself through the recovery from panic disorder and agoraphobia and depression and all of those things.

And along the way, the things that I learned, I just started sharing with other people, which is nothing that I invented. I never claimed that I invented any of this stuff. I just became a really good messenger, I guess, in terms of explaining. Well, I learned this and then I used it this way. And that led to just helping people online back in 2008, 2009 as I was going through it. And that led to continuing to do it. And that led to starting my own podcast back in 2014, like talking to nobody with a $4 app on my phone. But it just seemed like the right thing to do to try and pay the help forward, because I had a lot of supportive people who rallied around me. And that just one thing led to another.

And here we are, and the podcast is just kept going and it has led to writing two books about this stuff. One is my story, and one is the recovery guide that I wrote. And here I am, still educating about this topic and advocating and supporting where I can and just trying to contribute to the community because I felt like the community, in its form that it was in 10, 15 years ago, was so helpful to me. And I just feel like I want to give as much of that back as I can. So, yeah.

Kimberley: So you’ve written-- I’m giggling. So, for everyone listening, if you hear me giggling, it’s not because it’s particularly funny. It’s just so ironic to me. You wrote a book called Seven Percent Slower.

Drew: Yes.

Kimberley: Now I probably tell my clients every single day they need to slow down. I have done a podcast on slowing down, but it is probably the safety behavior I fall into the most. And I don’t do a ton of safety behaviors anymore that this one is just so ingrained in me. So, I read your book. Thank you so much. Not only is it an amazing read, but you’re hilarious. I was texting Drew yesterday, just cracking out at some of the things that he says because it’s my type of humor. I just love it. So, can you share with me why this one topic? Of all the things you could have written, why is this one topic? Why was it so important to you and why is it so important?

Drew: It’s a good question. Up until three, four months ago. I would have not thought that I would write this book. There was no plan to write a book about learning to slow down. But what I discovered was, Seven Percent Slower is the thing that I just came up with as a little silly mental device for me when I was struggling in a big way. I knew that part of what would happen when I would get really anxious and I would begin to panic, and I would just associate that with all those nasty things, I would start just really speed up. I would rush around like crazy. And I knew I was doing that, and I knew that wasn’t helping me, but I was having a hard time catching it. And one of the things that my therapist at the time, she was like, “Really, you got to start to learn to slow down.” So she gave me that good advice. Again, I didn’t invent any of this. And I used to have to remind myself, I would literally walk around trying to remind myself like, “Slow down, moron. Slow down.” I would be talking to myself. The no self-compassion there, like, “Slow down.” And I was trying and trying and trying.

And then for some reason, because I’m a fan of the absurd, the idea of trying to go 7% slower was born in like 2007 in my stupid brain. And it was just easy to remember, “Oh yeah, just go 7% slower. And it was just a little mental trick not to actually go 7% slower. Just remind me again to slow down. And it proved to be really helpful to me like that stuck in my head because it’s silly. It’s just a silly, arbitrary number. And I forgot all about it. I use it. I still use it to this day, but not really thinking of it consciously. And I have to tell so many people in the community surrounding my podcasts and my books that slow down. One of the things to do slow down – I started telling people, “Well, just try going 7% slower.” It came back to the surface again. And the response that I got from it was astounding, like, “Oh, that’s so great. Yes, I’m using it. I’m doing the 7% slower thing and it’s really helping me.” And I’m like, “Oh, there’s a book. I need to write this.” And that’s how I dragged it back up from 10, 15 years ago. And I said, “I should probably write about this and tell people what it is.”

Kimberley: So, tell me how you implemented it in-- you’ve talked and I’ve heard you talk about exposures and some of the experiences you did. Can you just give me upfront for people who, first of all, want to hear about your story, what were some of the exposures you engaged in and how did slowing down impact it, both for how did it make it easier and how did it also make it more difficult? What was your experience?

Drew: So I’ll give you a typical morning for me. My biggest issue was-- again, my official diagnosis would have been panic disorder with agoraphobia, right? So I had a real problem leaving the house or being alone by myself or going any appreciable distance from the house. And so, a typical exposure for me, a typical morning for me when I decided I really have to fix this as I would get up, the minute I open my eyes, I put my feet on the floor, I would already be in a state of very heightened state of arousal and anxiety at that point because I knew it was coming. I was going to get dressed. I was going to get ready. I was going to hurl my butt out the door and start driving, which is the thing I was terrified to do. So, I did that every day, every single day.

And right away, I learned within the first week or so like, okay, I get the principle of this, but I’m walking out the door in a blind panic. So I need to dial it back and start to work on just preparing to walk out the door first. So, I need to really acclimate to this first. And that’s when I really started using the “Slow down, slow down, slow down.” So, I would get up and I would be trying to get ready and rush around and drink water and do everything I had to do to get out the door like I was on fire and it was crazy. And I started to slow down that way. And it really was a huge help, but you’re right, it also made it worse because-- and this is so funny because it came up in a live I did the other day on Instagram with Jen Wolkin. She talks about mindful toothbrushing. And that is really-- the act of brushing my teeth in the morning is where Seven Percent Slower really began to shine.

I wrote about it in my first book. The first thing I did before I learned to drive again was to learn to brush my teeth slowly and mindfully while I was in a complete state of panic. Yes. And just the act of slowing everything down, all I have to do is take the cap off the toothpaste. All I have to do is put the paste on the brush. All I have to do is put the cap back on. All I have to do is pick up the toothbrush. I literally would have to break down my getting-ready routine into the tiniest, little tasks and just focus on each one of those and literally act as if I was in slow motion.

So, I wrote in Seven Percent Slower that one of the ways I learned to actually do that was to exaggerate it in a huge way. To me, it felt like it was brushing my teeth in slow motion. I probably was, but it really helped because it was the opposite action. So, my amygdala is screaming, “Go fast, go fast, go fast.” And I’m like, “No, no, no, I’m going to go slower and slower and slower.” And it did change my state over time. And I was able to go out and start my drive and my exposure and panic all over again. But at least I was leaving the house at a level 5 instead of a level 8. But it did make it harder because when I slowed down, I would just feel all of the things. I just have to let them come and let them come. You know the deal, and your listeners, I’m sure, know the deal. So, it was tough, but it was also tremendously helpful to me. Slowing down was one of the biggest things that changed my situation, for sure.

Kimberley: Yeah. And the reason I think this is so important, this one thing and I love that you’re just looking at this one thing, is I think in that moment, for the listeners, we’re constantly talking about how to reduce mental compulsion. And I think the slowing down helps with that too, right? I think about there’s exposure, but there’s also the time before the exposure and after the exposure where you have to practice not doing the compulsion. And if you’re rushing, your brain’s rushing and everything. And so, I love that you’re even talking about before doing the exposure, you had to slow down.

Drew: Yeah. I mean really, before the exposure was exposure itself, there’s no doubt about that. And I had to come to the realization that like, well, the exposure right now isn’t the driving. The exposure is literally putting my shoes on right now while I panic, putting on my coat while I panic, brushing my teeth while I panic. And in Seven Percent Slower, I wrote about accidental emergency multitasking, which that’s the thing that I forgot. We were talking before we went in there. I forgot I wrote that. And I’m going through my editor’s notes, and I’m like, “I wrote that, how about that?” But that’s true because when you--

Kimberley: Good for me.

Drew: Yeah, right. Good for me. go through. So, I remember really thinking that, like when you’re in that crazy terrified state, I was trying to solve every problem at once. So, there was a lot of mental compulsion in there. I was trying to go through the drive in my head. I was trying to anticipate each turn. I was trying to beat back the panic before it even happened in my head. I was thinking about yesterday’s drive and how difficult that was. And slowing down, meaning it put things-- it made me focus on what was going on right now. So, it was also accidental or backdoor water down sort of ghetto mindfulness practice. I’ll take it though because it worked. It put me in the present moment and it took me out of emergency accidental multitasking mentally and physically.

Kimberley: I think it’s pure mindfulness, right?

Drew: Oh, it definitely was. And there was no-- I mean, I wrote about this in the book too. I’m not trying to read the whole book to you guys, but yes, it is part of it. There’s a whole chapter called Is This Mindfulness: Do I Need to Meditate to Slow Down. It’s literally one of the chapters. And well, it kind of is. If you start to learn to go slower, you will accidentally become more mindful without having to go through all the overwhelming things that sometimes people feel mindfulness is. “I have to become grateful and of the present moment, and I have to learn to appreciate the now.” No, you just have to slow down, and you’ll automatically mechanically become more mindful. The rest of the stuff is window dressing. It doesn’t matter. I wasn’t grateful for brushing my teeth at all, but I was mindful of it, and it got me out of those compulsions in that crazy, anticipatory anxiety cycle. Let me do the exposures more effectively.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, one of the things I love that you did-- and I actually did the homework. You’ll be so proud of me.

Drew: You did the homework. Did you use index cards?

Kimberley: Huh?

Drew: Did you actually use index cards, like I wrote about? I’m so old.

Kimberley: I did. Usually, when I read a book, I do not follow their instructions because I don’t like to follow instructions. It’s not my style.

Drew: I feel you.

Kimberley: My husband always cringes when I go to make an IKEA piece of furniture because I am bringing out those instructions.

Drew: It’s going to be an extra draw leftover. We just know it.

Kimberley: Oh, I could show you some photos. You would love, I tell you. But I did your homework. And this is what I thought was really interesting. So, I want to walk through. I’m going to try to be vulnerable here. I have noticed in the last week, since returning back from vacation, that my hyper-vigilance is going up a lot. I was noticing my anxiety wasn’t so high, but I was engaging in a hyper-vigilant behavior. I think mostly because I’m now thinking about COVID, how to protect my children, and all the things. When we were away, we were far, far away from anybody. We didn’t see anybody. So, I sat down, and I wrote the things that I do that I need to slow down at, right? And I’m just sharing it because I do the homework. I’m so proud of myself.

Drew: I’m proud of you too.

Kimberley: So number one is in the morning, I wake up and I sit up and I just go. I don’t ease into the day. And then you talk in the book about how speed is like an escape response, right? You don’t want to be in your discomfort. So, I thought that was interesting. These are ways that I’ve caught myself, right? So I jumped out fast. Like how can I not feel my discomfort about the day? Another one is I rushed during emails. And the big one, which I’m not happy about, is I multitask. Now I want to get your opinion on this as my dear friend, excuse me. Most people are probably multitasking, but why would multitasking be bad for anxiety?

Drew: Okay. So, I will preface this by saying, I used to think that my ability-- and I will multitask like a mofo. I’m good at it. I know that cognitive scientists will tell me that I’m not because there’s no such thing. We’re literally tearing down our cognitive models and building new ones every time we switch from test to test. I understand all of that. But I will tell you that I’m good at it anyway. I’m going to stick with my guns, right?

So, I wore it like a badge of honor. And when I have to, I can still do it. However, it absolutely fueled my anxiety state. There’s no doubt about that because there’s a sense of urgency that comes with multitasking. There really is. You are not present in anything when you’re trying to do everything. So, that really in the end is that. And multitasking is not just physical. It’s also mental. So, I’m answering an email while I’m thinking about the next email. I see your face. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there, right? You were probably there today.

Kimberley: Like I said to you, I’m so grateful that you wrote this because it’s so important. It’s so important for the quality of our life. Last week I was exhausted at the end of the week and it’s because I was rushing. I just know that’s why. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of what you’re writing.

Drew: As I was writing, things came out because I’ll be honest with you, when I thought of this as my own little mental device many, many years ago, I didn’t flesh it out. I just did it. You know how it goes. I didn’t invent a thing. But as I was writing about it, I had to think. And this speed to me looks like both an escape-- it’s both a fear response, sort of involuntary, and a safety behavior at the same time, like it keeps us from feeling the feels, right? So, yes.

And I think the other thing that multitasking does is it makes us sort of-- we can put our attention to the places that we want it to be at because they’re the easier things, even practically, like, I don’t really want to answer this email because this is a hard email. So, I’ll skip that one, mark it unread, and then go back to this one and I’ll just keep marking that. You know what I mean? So, it keeps--

Kimberley: You just described my whole week last week.

Drew: I hear you. The day I got to inbox 0, which was years ago – by the way, I’m not there anymore. Not even close – I was on top of the world. I was convinced like I’m now qualified to basically run the UN if I need to, because I’m at inbox 0. But I’m very guilty of that stuff where I was for a long time. I still fall into the habit. There’s no doubt about that. But yes, when I find my-- sometimes I do it intentionally because I need to, and there’s a time and a place for it. But when I find that I’m feeling extra stress, because one thing that I noticed about this book is that it doesn’t just apply to anxiety and anxiety disorders, but it applies to stress management in general, because I still use seven percent slower, I just didn’t remember that I was. And when I find that I’m feeling the effects of the stress, much of which I create myself by taking on so much, slowing down and stopping the multitasking, like close all the apps, run one app at a time, do one thing at a time, it really brings that down. It doesn’t solve all my problems, but it keeps me from being overwhelmed by the physical responses that come with stress. Why am I holding my breath? Why does my neck hurt? Well, I know why. Because I’m stressed, and I got to back off. It helps. It really does help to slow down.

Kimberley: It does. The final one that I listed, and I really want you to talk more on, is just a general sense of worrying, right? I mean, I think you can actually give me your opinion on this, but sometimes we do have to solve problems, right? We have to make decisions. This was a big one for us last week, is deciding whether we wanted to put our kids back in school or homeschool them, back and forth. Sometimes you do have to make those decisions, but there is a degree of just general worrying that happens. And then you can start to worry on speed at the highest speed ever. So, did you have to apply this to the speed in which you worried or try to solve problems? You’re talking about physically slowing down, but did you also apply it to mentally slowing down, or they go hand in hand?

Drew: That’s a really good question actually. And if I think about it, the way it worked for me personally, my personal experience with this particular method or whatever you want to call it, is that it was first the physical slowing down. But then I discovered that that started to spill over. So, when I was physically going slower and being more mindful and deliberate in my behavior, it became a little easier for me to recognize that I am literally thinking about 17 problems at one time right now. I can’t solve them all at one time. Some of them I can’t solve at all.

Kimberley: We could probably resolve or solve them already.

Drew: Exactly. And it really helped me clarify that habit that I have. I’m just going to think, think, think, think, think. I’m thinking all the time. I think anyway, but I was thinking very maladaptively in those days in a big way. I was a prisoner to my thoughts and the thinking process. And it really helped me break that cycle. It’s always important to me to say, slowing down and going 7% slower is not a cure for all of this or anything like that. It’s not magic. It was just one part of the puzzle. It turned out to be a big part of the puzzle for me because it unlocked a lot of things, but yeah, it did slow down my mental behavior too, my ruminating, my worry, my thinking.

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. I keep saying, I’m such a fan of these. And I think for me, I mean, you guys know I’m very well recovered, right? I’m mostly very healthy, mentally healthy. You might question me now that I’ve totally got that upside down. But I consider myself to be pretty level. What was interesting for me is, that for me is usually the first sign that you’re starting to go into relapse, right? When you start to speed up. So, that’s why I thought last week, I was like, the gods have all the stars aligned because I’ve come out of this very beautiful, long vacation where I’m managing my stress and everything. And the first thing my brain did when it got home was speed up. And if I hadn’t caught it being hypervigilant, I think I would have gotten snowballed, right? And I think it’s a great way, a tool to keep an eye out for your relapse as well.

Drew: Yeah. I mean, actually, these are hard things to catch, don’t get me wrong, because so much of it is automatic or it’s a little bit beyond. The initial speeding up is beyond our control. My assertion in the book is initially, you will probably automatically speed up, but you can catch that and then change it. It takes work. And I really talked about like-- in fact, today’s Instagram post is all about that really. Not that anybody has seen it because it’s a podcast for the future, but it was about that. Like, “Hey, look at these. Here’s 10 signs.” I did a 10 things posts. Now I’m disgusted with myself now that I think about it, but I have a list with 10 things like here is-- I think there’s actually 11, to be honest with you. But here’s a thing, if you find yourself doing this, if you’re stumbling over your words, if you’re shaking, if you’re dropping things, when you’re walking, if your stride length has shortened, because that’s what I would do. I have reasonably long legs, but I’d be taking these little tiny penguin steps because I was rushing like crazy, like running. So, there’s a bunch of practical things that you can really look at. This is what my rushing habit looks like. So I can be aware of those things and catch them and then start to slow down.

Kimberley: Right. And that was what you said in the book. Write them down, identify the behaviors in which you’re doing, which I thought was brilliant.

Drew: Thank you.

Kimberley: Yeah. Okay. I wanted to touch on, because I loved how you really talked about that, the side effect of slowing down is that you have to feel uncomfortable. Bummer, you totally ruined it.

Drew: I did. What a buzzkill.

Kimberley: We’re going so good.

Drew: Yeah. It’s true. I think that was one of the chapters. I specifically wrote an entire chapter about why you probably don’t want to slow down, right?

Kimberley: Exactly.

Drew: One of the reasons is that we view rushing around as some sort of badge of honor and achievement. If you run around like a speed demon, it must mean that you’re busy and achieving things, which is not true. But also, if you slow down, you feel all the feels, and we hate that. And I’ll use the word “we.” Humans are not really-- we’re designed to be creatures of comfort. We don’t want to feel crappy stuff. But you know that. I’m not telling anybody anything they already know. If they’re listening to Your Anxiety Toolkit, you already know this, but you have to move through the crappy stuff to get past the crappy stuff. And slowing down is a good way to allow yourself to do that.

Kimberley: Yeah, I agree.

Drew: Yeah. Accidental happy side effect.

Kimberley: I love that you brought this up. So, let’s go through like, okay, slowing down. You can even maybe share your own experience. Slowing down, for me, I think it’s not that I have to feel physically uncomfortable as much as I have to have a lot of uncertainty, right? I have to be uncertain, which is typically, at the end of the day, still just sensation and experience. For you in that, when you were practicing this during your exposures, what did you have to feel when you slowed down?

Drew: So for me, when I would slow down, I would feel the physical sensations of panic. The one sensation that never leaves me – it’s the memory of a sensation. It’s not that I feel it. I rarely feel it anymore – was the feeling of my heart thudding in my back. You feel like all my chest was pounding, but it would feel like it was beating so heavily when I was in a panic that I could feel it almost beating along my spine. It was a really uncomfortable sensation. And traditionally, when I would feel that, I would do everything I could to try to not feel that – wiggle around, change position, lay down, stand up – try anything that I could to not feel that.

One of the key things-- and I felt all the physical sensations, but that one sticks in my memory was when I started to slow down, I had no choice but to let my heart pound lead against my spine, and it was so uncomfortable. And I remember really just having to reason with myself as best I could like, “Just get through it for another 10 seconds. Just give it another 10 seconds. Just give it another 30 seconds.” And then it was just, “Just give it another minute.” And then it was like, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.” So, it was a gradual habituation to that where I stopped being afraid of it. And slowing down meant I had to feel that. There was no more shield against feeling it.

If I’m going to stand in the bathroom and slowly brush my teeth, I’m going to feel that. But I also heard the thoughts very loudly when I slowed down. And the thoughts would be panic-type thoughts, like, oh my God, what if it’s not anxiety this time? What if I’m having a heart attack? What if this is a stroke? It does happen to people. Even though I’m only 30 years old or whatever it was at the time, this can happen. What if, what if, what if? Those thoughts were already loud. And when I slowed down, I essentially turned down all the other sounds. So those thoughts were really, really, really loud. And I would literally have to practice. It forced me to practice like that could be, but it’s not likely. I would have to say that all the time. “That could be, but it’s not likely. It could be, but it’s not likely.” Yeah. And it just forced me to practice. So, I would feel the physical sensations and hear my thoughts so much louder. Hated it.

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. I’m so glad that you mentioned that. I mean, I can only imagine too. When we have those symptoms that aren’t textbook, like you feel your heart in your back, it’s hard to just let that be there, right? You and I have joked a lot, the old Instagram posts about like, these are the 12 ways to feel a panic attack. But when you don’t have something on that list and when you have something additional, that’s scary, right? “Oh, crap. I’ve got six things that aren’t even on that list. What does that mean?”

Drew: Here’s an interesting thing that you just made me think of now. The other thing that slowing down accomplished, and this was a happy accident also, is I like to look at it as imagine anxiety as a room. So, when your lizard brain, when your amygdala is in charge, it fills the entire room, so prefrontal cortex stuff has no room. It’s pressed against the walls. It’s being pushed out the door. There’s no reasoning at all.

When I slowed down, I actually made a little bit of room for prefrontal cortex to chime in. Winston and Seif, they will talk about wise mind in their writing. Wise mind had a chance to chime in where I was able to say, “Okay, Drew, yes, this isn’t on the list of the usual stuff, but you have felt things like this 10,000 times. And all indicators are: you’re healthy as a horse, you’re in great shape. It’s okay.” And it allowed me to tolerate that uncertainty a lot more because I was able to reason a little bit more. I was unable to talk myself off the ledge, but I was able to insert just enough reasoning because it gave me a little bit of room to work in. That helped also. I was able to actually do that, whereas before I was just frantic. That was like, “You’re okay. You’re okay. It’s okay. It’s nothing, it’s nothing.” But your amygdala doesn’t care. It doesn’t believe you. But in that case, I was able to actually say, “Okay, hang on. I felt this zillion times before. This is likely nothing. Okay, I can go with that. I’m going to roll the dice on that. I’m good with it.”

Kimberley: Right. You can see the trends that have been playing instead of thinking like it’s the first time it’s ever happened, even though it’s happened a million times.

Drew: Yeah. So, practicing slowing down gave me a little bit of space for that stuff to get a little foothold, a little handhold, and then it grew.

Kimberley: Yeah. So it’s interesting because I’ll share with you, a big part of my recovery has been considered what I have been calling a walking meditation. So, I did a lot of meditation training in the latter stage of my recovery. And I don’t love to sit and meditate because it’s uncomfortable, right? But what I love to do is this end practice of walking meditation. And so, I’ve often called friends and said to them, this is an accountability call. I have to do a walking meditation all day. And then when you’re writing this, I’m like, “That’s what I was doing. I was slowing down.” And I’ve been just calling it something different. So, I thought that that was really fascinating because in the Zen practice, you do a lot of walking meditation, right? Being aware slowly as you engage in the day.

Drew: Which is something that I think a lot of people have a hard time putting their brain around. In the beginning, I think it’s hard to do that – being mindful in motion. So, to me, meditation, I always say mindfulness to me is like meditation in motion. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s--

Kimberley: It is what it is.

Drew: Okay. So, that’s the way I’ve always thought of it for myself. Well, firstly, I learned to meditate and then I put it in motion so that I can be meditative even in a meeting or on a phone call or driving my car. That’s possible, but that’s the thing you have to learn. But that’s part of slowing down also. When you do your walking meditation, you’re intentionally slowing down.

Kimberley: Yeah. I would even invite the listeners to think about when are you the most calm or coping the best is when you’re actually slowed down. For me, it’s when I’m with a client. When I’m with a client, I can’t multitask. I am so with them, and it’s their pace, which is not my pace. I can’t speak at a rapid, two times speed formula in session. And that’s where I feel the most connected. And that’s where I feel just wonderful. And there it is right there. It’s forcing me to slow down. So, I think it’s helpful also to look at where are you actually being slipped, where are you forced to slow down, and how are you coping in those situations.

Drew: Yeah. When you have no choice, you can actually try and remember, well, what does it look like for you? It’d be like, what does it look like when I’m in session? I just have to do that. When you’re not sure, well, let me just go to what that feeling is. And those things to me also-- the last chapter of the book is called Beyond Seven Percent Slower because to me, that skill that I developed accidentally years ago serves me well now.

So, one of the things in business that I get told all the time and people always say, the building could be on fire, and you’re just-- I mean, I was a dude that couldn’t leave his bathroom. I was so panicked and so agoraphobic, and they’re like, “No problem. You do this, you get a bucket, we’ll put it out. Everything’s going to be cool.” That’s the slowing down. And when you learn to do that, and you cultivate that skill, not only can it help you in your recovery journey, but it stays with you for a long time and it brings out the superpowers.

We sometimes think that rushing and multitasking is the superpower – not really. Slowing down and letting each of your individual strengths and skills shine through because they can because you’ve given them space, that’s where your real superpowers come out. That’s probably where you are the most effective as a clinician is when you slow down and you’re in that session.

Kimberley: Or as a parent or as a wife or as a human, everything, right?

Drew: Yeah. So, not to get all preachy about it, but I think it goes well beyond just the anxiety and stress thing. It’s a good life skill in general.

Kimberley: 100%. Okay. I have one more question.

Drew: Sure.

Kimberley: I’ve purposely not tried to go down the tips and tools because I just want people to actually buy the book and just go through it, like I did writing it down and really addressing it. But you talk about one thing that I wanted to talk about, which is the 92-second timer.

Drew: Okay. I have to search through my Ulysses app, where did I write about 90 seconds.

Kimberley: See, we just did this today. Let me tell you what I found was so helpful, is you said you set a reminder every 90 seconds to slow down.

Drew: Yes.

Kimberley: So, tell me, how important is that? Does it have to be 90 seconds? Was that a big piece of you retraining your brain? What did that look like?

Drew: Again, that was my own-- yeah, that’s right. I did do that, and I did write about it. So, I know we talked about it a little bit. That’s fine. What I did was, I had an original iPhone, like OG iPhone, and I had this stupid timer. And I had this timer in there for 90 seconds. I use 90 seconds. I don’t care what you use. I don’t think the number is magical in any way. But when I was getting into that panic state and when I started doing my morning routine to prepare to do my driving exposures, I would just set the timer and it would repeat every 90 seconds. And that silly little timer would bring me back to slow down, slow down, slow down. It was just a cue. That’s all. It was a silly little mental thing.

Do I think it’s critical for people? Some people might not need it. But if you do need it, I don’t see that there’s any crime in using it. And you could do it every 30 seconds, 60 seconds, every two minutes. It doesn’t matter. It was nothing more than an auditory cue to remind me to slow down, slow down, slow down, slow down.

Kimberley: The reason I bring it up is that has been crucial for me in all of my recovery, no matter what it is, is reminders. I think that it’s easy to go on into autopilot. And I love that you mentioned that because I am a sticky note fan. I talk about it in my book. I love reminders. That’s a crucial part of my existence. So, I just love that you brought that up because I think that we always have sticky notes like don’t forget to get eggs and you’ve got to make a phone call. And this is the opposite of that, which is like, “Slowing down, hun. Bring it down a notch.”

Drew: Kind of, because our reminders are usually to remind us to do things faster, now, don’t forget them, get them done. Whereas--

Kimberley: Urgent, urgent.

Drew: Yes, urgent, urgent. One of the funny things about this, the thing was, I don’t have my phone with me here, but the sound was that stupid submarine alarm, like errr, errr, errr, which you would think I would have made a silly little, I don’t know, like chimey, gentle thing. But I intentionally did the errr, errr because it was jarring. I needed it to jar me. And so, yeah, it was weird.

I did not have to use the 90-second timer for months and months on end. It was in the beginning. It became very helpful to me. And then I spread the timer out to two minutes and then five minutes, and then we just didn’t have to use the timer anymore. So, it was adaptive. I don’t want anybody to think like I live my life based on this silly timer going off all the time. That’s not the way it works.

Kimberley: And I get that. I think that that’s the cool piece here to the story you’re sharing. And I would make this a big piece of what I want everyone to take away, which is, like anything, this sucks to start. It sounds like for you and it has been for me, although, like I’m saying, I’m owning up to falling off the wagon here a little, which I’m fine with. It can be a 90-second timer to start. But then that’s where that muscle gets strong. It sounds like that for you, it’s pretty strong now.

Drew: Oh, it’s really strong. It’s automatic now. Yeah. It’s almost automatic, but again, that’s a lot of practice and repetition and really taking this to heart. It’s not an overnight thing. And I still make mistakes. I just catch them faster now. Now, there’s zillion things to do to get ready to launch this book. Yesterday, I fell absolutely into the trap. Totally did. Around three o’clock yesterday, I felt terrible. I was just agitated and all the stress stuff and anxiety stuff was like, oh, wait a minute here. So, I can see at least that that’s the benefit of it. It’s taught me to see what I’m doing and then correct it when I need to.

Kimberley: Yeah. And it’s great to have that. You’re modeling that beautifully, right? That it’s not going to always be the hardest thing. It’s like something that you can learn to strengthen, which I really appreciate. Okay, tell us about where we can get this amazing book.

Drew: Well, I think I made it pretty easy being a techie guy that I am. You could just go to sevenpercentslower.com, which you can either spell it seven or use the number 7, sevenpercentslower.com. We’ll get you right to the page on my website that tells you about the book, which should come out plus or minus September 15th. So, I don’t know when this podcast is going to air, but it’s either out or not. If it’s not, just get on my mailing list and I’ll tell you when it is out. And yeah, that’s how you got it. It’s nice, friendly, short. You read it pretty quickly, I’m sure. It’s not a giant 400-page monster like The Anxious Truth. It’s friendly, easy, I like to think funny, easy to remember.

Kimberley: It’s so great. I’m actually so in love since the summer. I read all these amazing, just like short, really goes straight to the point. I cannot stand books that tell you something they could have told you in 100 pages. So I love that. I think it was exactly what I needed to hear. So I’m so grateful.

Drew: Oh, I’m glad that you find it helpful, and thank you so much for giving me this little spotlight to talk about it and appreciate you.

Kimberley: Of course. I probably a hundred episodes got on and went on a big lecture about how everyone has to slow down. And this is perfect timing. I think we all need it right now.

Drew: Very good. Well, go get it. Sevenpercentslower.com. Hope it’s helpful for everybody.

Kimberley: Thank you, Drew.

Drew: Thanks, Kim. Anytime.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09G227B1Z/ref=sr_1_9?dchild=1&keywords=coping+skills+for+anxiety&qid=1631488551&s=digital-text&sr=1-9

Sep 10, 2021

In this week’s podcast, we talk with Allyson Ford about her journey with OCD and an Eating Disorder.  Allyson shares how her journey with OCD began when she watched ERP SCHOOL, our online course for people with OCD.  Allyson quickly realized that she had not only been working through an Eating Disorder but had also struggled with OCD. Allyson Ford shares these 3 main points on OCD Recovery:

  1. In recovery, don’t wait for the fear to be gone. You must take the action while scared/anxious for real growth to happen. It will feel counterintuitive but that doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. ERP is terrifying and it’s worth it in the end. It’s so empowering to realize you can have anxiety and do the things you love anyways. Because it is so scary, you need a therapist that you can really trust- who is both skilled in ERP and compassionate/warm.
  2. Shame and myths about OCD keep us suffering for much longer than we need to. Two major turning points for me were learning about what real OCD is- I quickly identified signs and symptoms within myself since 8 years old. The next game-changer was finding a community of other therapists who live with OCD. I felt so embarrassed to be a therapist struggling with these issues- I felt broken and ashamed. It made work really anxiety-provoking. I attended Pure  O Chrissie’s Gamechangers retreat and that changed everything for me. I suddenly felt empowered and hopeful; this propelled my ERP treatment forward.
  3. Learning and applying skills for intrusive thoughts was also a game-changer. Learning that everyone gets intrusive thoughts and that they don’t mean anything, learning mindfulness skills (bookshelf metaphor) for rumination and one-upping my thoughts/power stance were the most helpful. Knowing that the theme of my thoughts only points to what I value most was also helpful- it always boils back down to my work. I care so deeply about making a meaningful impact on my clients, and that seems to be what my OCD attacks the most!

Allyson Ford, MA, LPCC is an Eating Disorder, OCD, and anxiety therapist with lived experience. Allyson graduated with her Master’s degree from New Mexico State University and has since worked in a variety of settings including hospitals, schools, residential programs, and now private practice. Allyson provides virtual services throughout California and also does part-time work at The Eating Disorder Center with Jennifer Rollin.

Allyson has a passion for integrating social justice throughout her practice and has a podcast available on Apple and Spotify called Body Justice. Allyson utilizes ERP, DBT, CBT, ACT, and IFS in her practice. You can find her on Instagram at @bodyjustice.therapist and her website: www.allysonfordcounselingservices.com


This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 201.

Welcome to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I’m your host, Kimberley Quinlan. This podcast is fueled by three main goals. The first goal is to provide you with some extra tools to help you manage your anxiety. Second goal, to inspire you. Anxiety doesn’t get to decide how you live your life. And number three, and I leave the best for last, is to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug, because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy. If that sounds good to you, let’s go.

Welcome back, friends. I am so happy to have this special time with you. Thank you so much for giving me your very valuable time. How are you all doing? Just checking in. I know it’s been a really hard year. I know we talked a lot last week about suffering and how to manage that. If you didn’t hear that episode and you’re struggling, please go back and listen. Hopefully, it will connect with you and land up with you in a way that is validating and kind and builds some space for you and some safety for you.

This is going to be a wonderful episode. It’s actually an interview I have done with somebody who I met through ERP School, interestingly enough. I am so honored to have this week Allyson Ford. Now Allyson is an LPCC. She is an eating disorder specialist and OCD specialist and anxiety specialist. She has lived experience, which she shared, in those areas, and she shares her experience of finding out that she has OCD, talking about her eating disorder recovery. And the cool thing is, like I said, she will reflect a lot on how ERP School, one of our online courses that teaches you how to practice ERP all on your own and learn about ERP – she shares how that was a big game-changer for her. So I’m so excited to share with you this amazing interview.

We talk a lot about the overlap between eating disorders and OCD. Even if you don’t have one or both of the disorders, I encourage you to listen because I think that there is some amazing story and I think it’s really cool to see stories of clinicians who have actually walked the walk. They don’t just talk the talk. So I’m so, so excited to share that interview with you.

Before we do that, let’s go ahead and do the review of the week, this week’s review. If you want to ever leave a review for your anxiety, you can. I would love to see it. We feature one review a week. This one is from StrongMom and she said:

“A big virtual hug. I don’t know how I found this podcast, but I’m so glad I did. Kimberley’s compassionate and honest conversations about anxiety and OCD provide tools and strategies for facing fears, anxiety, and BFRBs. Her friendly, nonjudgmental tone about the challenges are so helpful to me.”

Thank you so much, StrongMom. I love hearing that the podcast is helpful.

Before we get over to the main part of the show, we’d like to do the “I did the hard thing” segment. This is actually from someone you guys have had on the show before. This is from Alegra and she says this:

“I let go of someone who I really cared about because it was the best thing for me, even though it deeply hurt.”

I think that that is such an important “I did a hard thing” because sometimes we talk about it as just doing exposures, right? Facing our fear. But sometimes the hard thing is letting go of something. Sometimes the hard thing is setting a boundary with somebody. Sometimes the hard thing is listening to our own needs and following through with our needs. So I loved this submission for “I did a hard thing.”

Okay. That being said, thank you to you all for being here again. I am so grateful. I know I say it and I want to keep saying it. Thank you. Thank you for spending your time with me. I’ll head over to the show.

-----

Kimberley: Welcome, everybody. I am so excited for this episode. We have with us Allyson Ford. Thank you for being here.

Allyson: Of course. I’m so excited.

Kimberley: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s tell this story, and this is where I get so geeked out, is when I hear of people who’ve taken ERP School or taken one of my courses, and they’ll either post it on social media or something to say, “Oh, this was really helpful.” And then literally my life is like done. I feel so good. I’m so happy. And that’s how I met you, Allyson. So, I’m so grateful to have you here. Would you tell us a little bit about you and anything you want to share about your own recovery? I’ll ask questions as we go.

Allyson: Yes, absolutely. So, my name is Allyson. Like Kimberley said, I am a licensed therapist in California. I work primarily with eating disorders and anxiety, and I have my own recovery journey with an eating disorder. I just recovered from anorexia years ago, and it wasn’t until this year that I realized I also have OCD. For anyone that’s listening, it’s common to have both symptoms, symptoms of both. They really overlap. And so, I see it a lot in the clients I work with, and that’s what prompted me to take ERP School. I was looking for resources to become more trained to work with clients with OCD. And then through taking the course, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have a lot of this.” And then I sought out an ERP therapist to work on things that were coming up for me, and it’s been really rewarding. And so, now I really enjoy working with OCD as well.

Kimberley: Wow. I have such big goosebumps on that. That’s so fascinating to me that you would be doing continuing education units for yourself and helping your patients, and then realizing you had symptoms yourself. When you took the course or when you considered this learning, what did you think OCD is compared to now what you know about OCD?

Allyson: Yeah. That’s a great question. Because I went to graduate school, I knew that OCD was obsessions and compulsions, and I knew that the compulsions had to take up a certain amount of time of your day. But what was unclear is, what is an obsession and what is a compulsion? So, I still had this stereotypical image of OCD being like hand washing and checking the stove. And yes, those can be symptoms, right? But I was thinking about this the other day and I wish they would change the name of OCD in the DSM. I wish it was like Intrusive Thought Disorder because obsession, to me, sounds like, you think of it as something you like. Like, “Oh, I’m obsessed with this.” We don’t think of it as something negative. Like, an intrusive thought is scary. It’s frightening. It’s so unsettling. I wish I would’ve known that it meant something totally different than just not just hand washing and cleaning.

Kimberley: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Like I said to you, that made my day to hear that because a big part of our mission is to help educate people who do think it’s like organizing your cupboards nicely and hand washing and lining things up evenly and so forth. So, was that a great realization for you? Or was that a sad realization for you to be like, “Oh, there’s more to it than this and maybe this includes me”?

Allyson: Oh my gosh, it was terrifying at first. Actually, when I was taking ERP School the first time, I was like, I knew this wise part of me was like, oh my gosh, yeah, these are some things you’re struggling with. But then there was a lot of not wanting to face that. So I think between the time I took ERP School till I actually got help was still like six months, and there was a lot of like reaching out to ERP therapists and then backing out. I was so scared because I knew through taking your course that I was going to have to face my fear.

When you go through one major mental health disorder in your life – going through anorexia, I was so terrified to go through something like that again. I’m so scared to have another label. Especially being a therapist, there’s like this extra stigma that we shouldn’t suffer. And so, that was a huge part of it. Just the stigma of having a mental health diagnosis again. But yeah, it was completely and totally scary.

Kimberley: Yeah. Isn’t that sad though? And I agree with you. I resonate so much with what you’re saying. Isn’t it sad that as therapists, we’re made to believe, or we take on the belief that we aren’t supposed to be human? For me, everyone on my account and my listeners know I had anorexia as well, but I did a tremendous degree of compulsive exercise, and it always felt OCD-like. As soon as I learned about OCD, I had a similar feeling of like, this is exactly what I used to do. I had a fear, and to remove this fear, I would do this one specific calculated move. And so, I get what you’re saying. You had already gone through treatment. Now that you know about ERP, did your treatment now look a little bit like ERP? Because for me, my anorexia treatment felt like ERP at the time.

Allyson: Yes. I would say it was a blend. It was a lot of facing the fears, reducing the compulsive behaviors, but then there was a huge relational component too. And that’s something I’ve been reflecting on with ERP, that sometimes I feel it’s missing in terms of ERP training. It’s like, we forget the fact that the relationship is the most important thing. Going through my own ERP, it being so terrifying, I needed to have a therapist that I really trusted that like, this is actually going to help me. So, yes, it was, I would say, a mixture of behavioral, but also just relational.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, true. So, if you’re comfortable sharing, would you share a little about the area of OCD that you have experienced?

Allyson: Yes. So, I’ve pretty much experienced all of them minus symmetry and contamination. But other than that, I’ve had pretty much all the themes. The ones that have been the stickiest in terms of the most impactful on my daily functioning have been real event OCD, which is – and you can correct me – but when something has actually happened and then you fear it like happening again, right?

Kimberley: Yup.

Allyson: That one was the one that actually propelled me to take ERP School. And then I’ve had harm obsessions, like fearing that I was going to hurt someone, fearing I would blurt something out really mean. That’s been a really big one for me. And then in the past, now that I know what OCD is, I can see that growing up I had fear or harm obsessions. Those were the main ones, but I’ve had all the intrusive thoughts.

Kimberley: Yeah. And that’s why I think it’s true. I agree with you, in terms of the word, obsession is very misunderstood. Isn’t it? It’s very much related to this unwanted experience. And I think that was a really different-- maybe you could share as well for a lot of people with eating disorders. Would you say that the eating disorder was an unwanted thought or a wanted thought?

Allyson: Yeah. So, that’s where it gets a little tricky. So, we talk a lot about egodystonic versus egosyntonic, and I would say in general, egodystonic is anything that you don’t like, right? You don’t want to be thinking that. With eating disorders, it’s tricky because you think you like it. But if you actually sit down and you ask the person, “Well, how is this impacting your daily life? Isn’t this behavior in line with your long-term values?” they will say no. I’ve never had someone say yes. Even though it feels like you like the thought or it feels congruent with who you are, it’s really not when you look at the long-term picture. I think that’s an important distinction to make.

Kimberley: Yeah. So important. And that’s why I love that you’re here because we don’t talk enough about eating disorders here on the show as much as I would like. I think that those little nuances are so important clinically to be able to understand. So, thank you for telling us. Okay, you took ERP School. What was your main takeaway? You obviously had the takeaway of like, “Oh, this could be a part of my symptomology,” but in terms of just what you’ve learned, what was the main takeaway for you?

Allyson: The biggest takeaway was that in order to get better, I had to face my fears. I had to take away the compulsions, which were mostly mental for me. And that was really hard to wrap my head around, like learning mindfulness skills to stop ruminating. I just thought everyone obsessively ruminated. So, I just didn’t know that that was a mental compulsion. So, identifying those and then retraining my brain. It was so hard. Like you said, I think in ERP School and in your podcast, you talk about how you might have to do it 500 times a day, like redirecting your attention back to the present – that was so true. It felt exhausting. So, those were my biggest takeaways – you need to face your fear and don’t expect this to be comfortable.

Kimberley: Yeah. I’m glad that’s what you took. I got goosebumps listening to that in terms of you talking about how exhausting it is. I’m curious for your experience, was the treatment of the OCD portion harder than the eating disorder? I mean, it doesn’t really matter, but I’m curious to know what that was like for you. It’s so exhausting, right? Facing your fear is so exhausting. So, did you feel that same level of exhaustion in your eating disorder treatment?

Allyson: Yeah, totally. I think it’s hard to compare the two and I’ve done a lot of reflecting on it. Let’s say, if I had to choose, do you want to go through the eating disorder again or the OCD, I think I would choose OCD only because it was so egodystonic feeling that I was really motivated to get better. The treatment took me a lot less time. Whereas with the anorexia, because our culture reinforces so many of the values of anorexia, you could say, it was really hard to change those behaviors because you’re fighting yourself and also everyone around you. Whereas with the OCD, it wasn’t that way. The culture wasn’t reaffirming the values of OCD.

Kimberley: Right. I agree.

Allyson: But I would say that facing the OCD fears, it felt scary. And I don’t know if it’s just because it was more recent. My anorexia recovery was like eight years ago, but it felt more intense. We were just ripping off the bandaid. Whereas with my eating disorder recovery, it was a lot more gradual. My therapist was like, “No, we’re going all in. I want to flood you with anxiety.” Oh, this was scary.

Kimberley: It really is. It really is. You know what, I’ll tell you an interesting story. A little bit off. But I was talking with a really, really somewhat high-profile influencer on social media the other day. I was actually asking a question about something specific. She had looked at my account and she’d said, “I find it interesting--” we were talking about microlearning, which is ultimately like teaching in very short, small 32-second blocks. She said, “I noticed that you talk a lot about disorders and you keep telling everybody how hard it is.” She said, “I find that a little depressing.” But that was just some feedback that I had said to her, my response was, “I’m in the trenches with people at the beginning. And if I don’t tell them, it’s going to be hard, they’re going to question themselves on why it’s so hard.” I thought that was such an interesting reflection of someone who’d be like, “Your account is depressing.” But I had only ever seen it through like, no, that’s validating. So, I 100% agree with what you’re saying.

Allyson: I find that very validating because yes, when I went through my own ERP, I already knew it was going to be hard from taking your course, from reading your content, right? But until you’re in that moment doing ERP, you don’t realize how hard it is. If I was going into it with the expectation that it was going to be easy and super cheery and helpful, I would have collapsed. The fact that I knew it was supposed to be hard I think definitely helped, and my therapist validated that too a lot. Yes, if it’s scary, if you’re flooded with anxiety, you’re doing it right. That was the biggest difference from anorexia recovery because an eating disorder recovery, I think we focus so much on coping skills for anxiety that we miss the point that we can teach clients just to tolerate the anxiety. You don’t have to do anything about it. That was a game-changer for me.

Kimberley: I agree. It takes all the wrestling out of the work, doesn’t it?

Allyson: Yeah.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, I just thought that was a really funny story because I’d never once considered myself to be having a depressive social media account, but I totally get that perspective for people. I think it’s because they’re not looking at it through the lens of, if you have to face your fear every day, you do need that reminder. And I really appreciate you mentioning that. Was there anything that surprised you during your original training in ERP? Was that shocking to you? Or did that actually be like, “Oh no, that sounds bright”?

Allyson: I think once I was taking the course, I realized, yes, this makes sense. It wasn’t necessarily shocking, but learning about the OCD subtypes, that was the most eye-opening to me of, “Oh, this is what real OCD is, not everything we’ve been conditioned to think it is.” So, that was I think a huge turning point. Then I could pinpoint like, “Okay, where am I struggling the most? How is this manifesting for me? What do I need to do about this?”

Kimberley: Right. Yes. Will you share with us some of your exposures and what that was like for you? Walk us through.

Allyson: Sure. Yeah. So, I think the funniest exposures in terms of listeners listening to this would be the blurting out ones. And I say fun in a sense that they sound funny, right? Because OCD does not make sense. It’s not logical. It attacks things that we know we care about, but OCD makes us question ourselves. So, when I had these fears that I was going to blurt out, people’s like-- let me backup.

Social justice is very important to me. And so, the fears of blurting out were fears that I was going to blurt out, people’s like marginalized identities. For anyone that doesn’t know, OCD attacks what you care about most. So, it felt so scary to me to have these thoughts of blurting out these obscenities to people. Some of the exposures that I would do, that my therapist had me do, was first like watching videos of people blurting out stuff. I had this fear that like, what if my brain just broke and I started blurting out stuff? So, she made me watch videos of people with brain damage and things like that. And then I wrote out a lot of scripts, writing out my feared outcome, listened to that 30 minutes a day over and over. And that was terrifying. And that I got from ERP School.

And then the other one, I think what helped the most was my therapist had me write out my feared outcome on sticky notes and put them all over my room. So, when I woke up in the morning, I was flooded with anxiety, just seeing all the intrusive thoughts all over my walls. If you would have walked into my room, not knowing I was in ERP and stuff, you would just think I was a total weirdo.

Kimberley: That’s commitment, right? You were so committed to your recovery. I’m so proud. That’s so cool.

Allyson: I just wanted to get it over with. They say this is going to work, so I’m going to trust these professionals. I know the science myself. I was just so motivated because living with OCD is harder than going through the treatment.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, I have a question, which I think is a question that my clients commonly ask, and you’ve gone through it, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Often you are really into social justice. So I’m sure the idea of saying these words was horrible, right? It went so against your values. So, when you were doing the exposure, was it hard for you? Did that feel like you were going against your values to do the exposure? Or how did you manage that piece? Because I’ve had clients say or people from ERP School say like, “But I don’t like these words. I actually disagree with these words.” Maybe it might be a racist word or so forth, then that was really, really upsetting for them. And so, the idea of doing an exposure to something that they wholeheartedly do not value and in fact, they are disgusted by is really painful. So, how did you navigate that?

Allyson: Yes. Well, to answer your question, yes, that was very hard. And higher up in the exposure hierarchy, I actually had to write out the obscenities while I was talking to someone. So, I’d be like, let’s say, I’m talking to you right now, and then my exposure would be taken on a sticky note or on my phone, type out the word that my OCD is saying I should say. And it felt so opposite to my values. It felt so wrong on every single level. Even just remembering it, I’m going to get a sick feeling in my stomach. It does that disgust, that guilt, that anxiety. It’s so all-consuming. But I think I had to have blind faith and trust the process, as cliché as that sounds. Trust that this is supposed to habituate my brain and not I can tolerate it. So, yeah, it felt totally opposite. But then once it started getting better, meaning it started causing me less anxiety and less feelings of disgust, I started believing that like, “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to do.” And it was easier to keep going with it. But that first week was excruciating.

Kimberley: Yeah. I bet. I’m so grateful you did the work, but I’m sorry you had to go through that, right? It’s not easy. Yeah. And you’re right, and we share this all the time, is it does attack often the things you value. Moms have to do pedophilia exposures they are disgusted by, or the dad has to do harm. I’m not picking a gender for any reason, but just using those as examples of a dad who have to have harm exposures and have to expose himself to his own aggression. And these can be so painful. So, I love that you’re sharing-- particularly, I love that you’re sharing about the social justice piece because I’m seeing that a lot in my practice. Because of how aware we are now of making sure that we are politically correct, or even the Me Too movement, I think a lot of people are reporting anxiety about if they said something or if they touch somebody inappropriately. I think it’s becoming more and more prevalent.

Allyson: Absolutely. And that was something I really had to learn in therapy. There’s all these cognitive distortions with OCD and just like thinking errors, right? And one is that we are hyper responsible for everything we say and do, and that we have to say things perfectly, it’s very black and white. There’s no room for error. And that was a part where I had to accept that just like everyone, I’m imperfect. Sometimes I am going to have a thought that is not aligned with my values of social justice. But that doesn’t mean I’m bad. And it’s learning that that’s okay. I’m only human. It’s not my job to save the world.

Kimberley: Right. And that we can be imperfect, right?

Allyson: Right.

Kimberley: Yeah. I think that is so, so true. So, so beautiful. I’m so glad that you mentioned that. Okay. So, tell me a little bit about skills. Actually, I wouldn’t be totally happy as we go if you want to compare and contrast the skills you used in eating disorder treatment compared to OCD treatment, but what are some of the skills that you either learned through CBT School or ERP School and through your therapist? What were the skills that got you through the most?

Allyson: Yeah. So, I can tell you the top two that were the most impactful, because my compulsion is where mostly mental – learning not to ruminate and using mindfulness to do so, which you explained very well in ERP School. And so, basically, this is how I pictured in my head, is where let’s say, I’m talking to you and I’m starting to get intrusive thoughts that I’m going to blurt out something mean. I picture this little monster in my head, which is the OCD, and I just in my head and say, “Oh, okay, hi, you’re there.” Acknowledge it. But then come back to the present, like constantly refocusing my attention to the present. So, not trying to push it away, not trying to figure it out.

That was a huge game-changer for me because when you’re caught up in your thoughts trying to figure it out, then you’re totally removed from the present. I wouldn’t be able to focus on what you’re saying. But to learn like you can think four things at the same time. We do that all the time anyway. I could be thinking about my lunch right now and I’m still focused on you. So, learning that was huge. And I will say it wasn’t easy to learn though. In the beginning, I had to do it over and over. And then eventually, I feel like it’s like a muscle. Your brain gets more used to it. And now I can do it pretty easily. But it took me a while to get there.

And then the other one, it was one-upping my OCD, and you talk about that in ERP School. Also, I went to Chrissie Hodges’ Gamechangers event and Alegra Kastens was talking about one-upping and just giving examples of how she does it in her daily life. I started using that and just really standing up to my OCD.

So, for listeners, what that means is, let’s say I get an intrusive thought that I’m going to blurt out something really mean to Kimberley. What I would say to my OCD is, “You’re right. I am. I’m going to do it and it’s fine. I’m just going to do it. You’re right.” And just like, kind of what you would say to a bully, just rebel. And when you do it, standing in a really confident posture really helps me, just overpowering it. “You’re right. I’m going to blurt out today. I’m going to ruin my reputation. I’m going to go down in history as the worst person ever.” Just make it really dramatic.

Kimberley: Yeah. I love it. I do. I do. And I do agree with you on the posture piece, right? I think that power pose we take against OCD or fear can make OCD or the fear back down pretty quick. Not that it makes it go away, but it means you are in charge, not him.

Allyson: Exactly. Because OCD and anxiety and eating disorders make you feel really small and powerless. When we feel that way, our body reflects that. And then brain chemicals change that make us feel more like that. So when you change the bodily stance, yeah, it really does work.

Kimberley: So curious, did you have that fear about the podcast today?

Allyson: No, actually I didn’t. I mean, as we talk about it, the thoughts can come up, right? But I didn’t go into it that way, which is incredible.

Kimberley: Yeah. Would you agree that had you not gone through your own exposure and response prevention, this setting would be something that would be triggering or is it more just face to face with people in your daily lifestyle?

Allyson: It totally would have been triggering. Yeah. Because it’s any situation that’s a bit anxiety-provoking or that’s really important to me. So, this is very important to me, right? Or talking to people in my life that are super important. It would come up in those moments. Or with the pandemic, I hadn’t seen family for a long time. Then when I finally saw them, I was a little bit anxious and I had these thoughts towards them. So, it’s any situation where I feel anxious and sometimes OCD feels like it could be completely random.

Kimberley: Right. Oh, it’s so good. I like it. I just cannot tell you how rewarding it is just to hear you say. I just love when someone will say like, “Oh, I didn’t know I had OCD,” until they found ERP School or something or a podcast or something. So, I just love that information is getting out there. Before we finish up, is there anything that you really want the listeners to know? I know you’ve already outlined these main key points, but is there anything that maybe we’ve missed or you want to reinforce a message that’s really important for you that they would hear?

Allyson: Yeah, absolutely. I think just reflecting on the different journeys of anorexia recovery and OCD recovery, I will say that it is so important to learn that you can tolerate discomfort and anxiety because in anorexia recovery, there was so much focus on coping skills that I use so much distraction and reassurance and then all the compulsion to deal with recovery that I think if I had learned, that you can just tolerate anxiety, you can have a good day with anxiety, that would have prevented so much pain, mental pain. Because now when I get anxious, I’m like, “All right, I’m going to go to work just today, I guess,” or “All right, I’m going to do this anxious,” but it doesn’t automatically mean your day is going to be terrible. And that’s what OCD, anxiety, those disorders all try to make you feel that way. And it’s so empowering to know you can do this. Yeah. You can be an anxious mess and still have a great podcast.

Kimberley: 1000%. I love that message so much. I could just keep going. I’m actually really, so I’m going to, of course, give you a chance to share about where people can find you. But all I want to hear is I love hearing the contrast between the eating disorder and the OCD treatment. I think that that’s something we’re not talking about enough. We should propose a conference talk or something on that because I think it’s so important for people to understand those differences and why they’re so important and how ERP can actually work for eating disorders as well. So, so cool. Tell us where people can hear more from you. I know you have your own podcast. Tell us all the things.

Allyson: Yeah. So you can find me on my podcast. It’s just called Body Justice. It’s all about social justice, eating disorders, anxiety, all of that. And then on my Instagram @bodyjustice.therapist, and then my website, www.allysonfordcounselingservices.com. And on TikTok too, @bodyjusticetherapist. I’m getting into it.

Kimberley: I can’t get into TikTok, but I will watch and learn from you.

Allyson: It took me a while, but now I’m like, this is a bit easier than Instagram.

Kimberley: Oh, is it?

Allyson: Yeah.

Kimberley: Well, I really am so grateful for you. Number one, I’m so grateful that you’re out now as a clinician, training other people how to do this, which makes me so happy. We need more OCD therapists. So, that makes me so happy. But I’m also just grateful that you’re here to share this story. I think it’s so important that people hear your story and, yeah, I’m just so happy.

Allyson: Yes. I’m so grateful too, Kimberley. You’ve been huge in my journey to recovery from OCD. So, super grateful to talk to you today.

Kimberley: I’m so happy to hear that. We’ll be hearing more from you in the future. It sounds like you’ve got some amazing things to share. So, keep up the good work.

Allyson: Absolutely. Thank you.

Please note that this podcast or any other resources from cbtschool.com should not replace professional mental health care. If you feel you would benefit, please reach out to a provider in your area.

Have a wonderful day, and thank you for supporting cbtschool.com.

Sep 3, 2021

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 200.

Oh my stars, you guys, Episode 200. So exciting.

Welcome back to Your Anxiety Toolkit. I am so thrilled to have you here for Episode 200. Oh my stars, you guys, this is a huge deal for me. In fact, let me set you up for today’s episode.

So, in Episode 100. We actually invited all the guests that we had previously had on the podcast and we had a celebration. If you want some fun, you should go over there and listen. It is such a wonderful episode.

I was thinking about what I wanted to do for Episode 200, and I’m not going to lie, nothing landed. Nothing. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw a huge party for it. And I think that’s what I wanted to talk with you guys about today in this episode, which is, who’s suffering? Who’s struggling? Who is having a hard time? Because I know I am, and I’m guessing you are in some way or another. I wanted to use this episode as just a time where we can talk about suffering and we can talk about what that looks like and what that means and what we can do when we’re struggling. And so, let’s talk about that today.

Ep 200 For those who are struggling

Before we do that, let’s first do two new segments. In fact, one is new and one is a return of an old segment we used to do. And the first one is where I would like to read you a review of the week for the podcast.

This week’s review is from Katie. Thank you so much for your review, and for all of you for writing a review. You guys do know that I’m giving away a pair of free Beats headphones once we hit a thousand reviews. We have a long way to go, but I am committed to getting there. And so, in the meantime, let’s celebrate each of you as we go.

Today’s review is from Katie and she wrote: “This podcast is a great resource that has helped me before I was brave enough to seek treatment. It’s nice to know that I am not alone. The tools and conversation are authentic, helpful, and hopeful. Grateful for Kimberley’s generosity in sharing.”

Thank you, Katie, for leaving a review, and thank you to all of you for leaving a review on the podcast. It helps me to get reach ultimately, and that helps me to help more people with this free resource.

Alright, so the second part of the podcast is a return to the “I did a hard thing” segment. Now, we have actually upgraded this segment. And what we’re going to do from now on is I have a form on my private practice website, where we launched the podcast. It’s called KimberleyQuinlan-lmft.com. If you go over there and you click on Podcast, right there is a way to submit your hard thing. And so, we used to do it on social media and we used to do it via email and it was very, very messy. And so now, you get to submit your “I did a hard thing.” We will take a look at them and we will do one per week. I am so excited.

I really believe that the “I did a hard thing” segment is literally the basis of this podcast. When people tell me or they DM me or they message me, or they tell me in person that they did a hard thing, they tell me as if this is a new concept to them that they’ve never, ever been encouraged to do. They tell me as if it’s life-changing. And that’s why I really feel like this is the core of this whole podcast, which is to come together as a group to do hard things. And maybe the hard thing isn’t something that’s hard for other people. That’s totally okay. That’s the whole point. If it’s hard for you, it’s hard for you. And I love celebrating that because sometimes, out in the world, we don’t have people to celebrate with. And I think that needs to be such a huge piece of the work that we do, and it is such a part of the work that we do here.

So, to get us started, I’m actually going to do the first one. Now, I want to encourage you to think of your hard thing as just something that’s hard for you. And then we can talk about here in a second what that may mean.

So, my hard thing for this episode is this, and I’m so excited to tell you this, is that Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast hit 1 million listens. 1 million downloads, 1 million times people listen to this podcast and I could not be more excited. And this is why I think this is so important, is because as I went and I learned of this wonderful achievement, immediately, I heard a voice that says, “Yeah, but such and such got there in way quicker time,” or “Yeah, but I know that some people who have way more successful podcasts than you do, they’re going to look at that and they’re going to be like, ‘Oh wow, just a million?’” And immediately, that voice came in.

And so, what I want to encourage you to do is catch that voice when you recognize that you’ve done a hard thing. Because when you can catch the voice, you don’t have to then engage with the voice and go, “Yeah, you’re right. No point really celebrating that because other people got there easier and faster and better and all the things.”

So, here today, I am going to celebrate this milestone. Thank you so much for you guys for supporting me because I never would have gotten there without you. And I want to invite you to go over. I will put a link in the show notes below where you can submit your hard thing, and there will be no judgment here. If your hard thing is getting out of bed, that is a massive win. If your hard thing is going to therapy like Katie’s was, then that is amazing. If your hard thing is doing the 10 out of 10 exposure on your hierarchy list, then that is amazing. And I want to make sure every single week, we are celebrating one of you at least with your “I did a hard thing.”

Okay. So, those are the two segments we needed to get started on. Let’s talk about suffering.

So, here it is, you guys. I know you guys know a lot about my story and I was so lucky to have this beautiful summer where we got away, and I had so much time to heal and rest and be with my kids and it was magical. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m just sort of saying that if you have 10 minutes even to spend with yourself and rest, I cannot promote that enough. The resting is so important when it comes to our recovery.

And then when I returned back to LA, we had to come back and prepare for my children to return to school. The thing that really got to me is– let me just share with you really quickly about our vacation really quick – we decided to leave LA for the summer. We took seven weeks and we got in our SUV and our raft. We didn’t get in our raft. We towed our raft and we brought that around and we traveled eight states over seven weeks. We rafted 65 miles as a family. It was wonderful. We rested, we played, we sang a lot of annoying children’s songs. We listened to a lot of audiobooks, so that was wonderful.

But it was really interesting as we left Oregon down into California. The minute we crossed the border, all of a sudden, we were hit with smoke, and it was like driving into the apocalypse. Smoke was everywhere. We couldn’t see 100 feet in front of us. And the closer we got to LA, the more I noticed my anxiety rising and my sadness increasing and dread and all the feelings. And then I got back to LA and really wanted to spend some time readjusting with my family. But all I could think about was, wow, everybody is suffering so much – COVID numbers and the fires and earthquakes and political issues.

I wanted to really slow down for you guys enough to validate your distress to validate the suffering and struggles you have. Chances are, you’re dealing with all of that on top of some type of mental struggle or medical struggle. And so, I wanted to first just give you permission to take some time and validate that this is hard.

I find that when I speak about suffering with my patients and my clients, a lot of them often diminished their suffering by saying, “Yeah, but other people have it worse,” or “My thoughts are irrational, so I shouldn’t be this distressed,” or “I have a home,” or “Whatever it is, I shouldn’t be sad.”

But I want to remind you of this core important fact, which is, all forms of suffering are enough and are valid. Don’t get into the comparison trap of who’s suffering more and who deserves to suffer more and who deserves help and who doesn’t. You deserve help. This is a very difficult time and we must hold our suffering and our struggles in a warm, nurturing position.

You know, you guys, I always sort of make the joke of imagining you are holding a beautiful, yellow baby chicken and their little bones are like, oh my gosh, toothpicks, but not like toothpicks because they’re so frail. And if you were to hold them, you would be so gentle with the baby chicken. Your touch, your facial expression, your warmth in your voice would be so gentle. I want you to hold your struggles as silly as it seems like a baby chicken. Beautiful, tender, warm, kind, respectful tenderness. I really hope that you can do that.

The other thing I would encourage you to do – and I don’t know if this will help you, it was incredibly helpful for me over the last two years – is to continue to remind yourself that suffering is a part of being a human. Often I get caught – and this was a big lesson for me at the beginning of COVID, which was a part of me, and also when I got diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, I know a lot of you have struggled with this when you’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder, whether that be OCD and eating disorder and anxiety disorder, a depressive mood disorder – is we want to sort of stomp our feet and say, “This shouldn’t have happened to me.” And by all means, please stomp your feet. Please have as much time to grieve that as you need. Again, there’s no reason for us to invalidate our own suffering, but for me, it was really important to remind myself that humans do suffer.

As COVID happened, I had to keep reminding myself, COVID, while it’s a huge issue and as harming so many people, is-- and I noticed I was like, “This shouldn’t be happening. This is wrong.” And I had to keep reminding myself, like, who says, it’s wrong? Who said it wasn’t supposed to happen? Who said that we were supposed to have a life that’s only easy? Who said that we weren’t supposed to struggle with mental illness? When it comes to mental illness, that’s what we would consider internalized ableism, which is, this idea that we should always be in tip-top shape. We should always be thin. We should always be smart. We should always be able. We should always be capable and handle things well. That’s just not human. It’s never been that way. it should never be expected to be this way. You’re allowed to suffer. You’re allowed to have troubles and struggles and pain, and you’re allowed to stumble as you try to navigate that.

And so, what I really want to remind you out when we talk about suffering is really taking away expectations that it was supposed to be easy and that it was supposed to be a free run. Now, I put in a caveat here, which is, you don’t deserve this either. You don’t deserve this suffering. It’s not a form of punishment. I know a lot of people come with that belief that they are being punished for something bad they’ve done. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t ask for this. This is painful stuff. And I really hope that all the compassion practices that we’ve talked about here on this podcast have given you the tools you need to support yourself as we continue to suffer and struggle.

Now, there’s one last thing I want to mention, and that is hope and faith. I have had to wrap my head around these concepts during the last three years. How can I be hopeful when we have global warming or pandemics or hate against minorities? How can we be hopeful about this? This is where I’m going to encourage you to find hope in you, find hope in the community and the support around you. This community, if you haven’t got a supportive community, look and focus in on this community and the people who are doing the hard things and who are searching and struggling and working through what it’s like to have a mental illness. Bring your attention to those who’ve done what you are wishing you could do. There are so many advocates, you guys. I look to them every day. People who have lived experience, who have been through really difficult things and have come out on the other side – I look to them for hope and I use them as a little lighthouse for where I may need to go next. And I hope that I can be that for you.

But I really encourage you. As you’re navigating your suffering in this time, I really encourage you to look to the people who are doing things the way you wish you could and just use them as your shining light. You don’t need to do what they’re doing. You don’t even have to stop there but use them as a beacon of hope that together we can get there and that you will get there, and that together we can hold space for each other’s pain tenderly, compassionately, respectfully. That is my hope for today.

So, that being said, Happy 200th Episodes. I always end the episode by saying: It is a beautiful day to do the hard thing. And I know you’re all struggling. I’m struggling. I get teary just talking about this with you, but every day I say to myself, this is a beautiful day to do the hard thing. I’m just going to do one step at a time. I’m going to ask for help. I’m going to find my community. I’m going to celebrate my wins. if you can maybe put your attention there, I hope you can – maybe that will make the day a little lighter and the suffering a little less difficult to bear.

Have a wonderful day, you guys. I love you. I will see you for the next hundred episodes or more, the next million listens or more. I really am just honored to be on this journey with you.

Have a good day.

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