Today marks the 1 week anniversary of my first foray into CBT, which also means it’s the day of my second session!
The first part of the session was used to look over the homework task I’d been set in the previous session. To quickly recap I had to keep an anxiety diary to note down any instances during the week that fired up my Food related issues followed by creating a mind-map of foods I don’t eat, rating them from least to most daunting.
There were 3 instances this week that caused me to feel negative:
- Attempting to buy a new product in a supermarket
- Hearing the phrase “I wish you liked Indian food”
- And being asked to choose a restaurant to celebrate my 21st birthday at
My therapist was pleased that I had at least considered buying something different on my weekly shop, a clear step in the right direction of breaking my avoidance patterns.. YAY!
After a lengthy discussion as to why I rated certain foods as I did on the scary-scale as I shall now call it, I was told that I was set this task as an introduction to Exposure therapy.
As an ex-psychology-GCSE-taker , I immediately dreaded my near future, as I know all too well that exposure therapy means facing your fears head on. As it turns out, this process is less terrifying in practice than the theory behind it makes it sound.
Essentially Exposure counteracts Avoidance. When you experience a negative feeling, in my case – trying a new food – You do everything you can to avoid doing that particular activity again because it will in theory trigger the same response. Exposure therapy will aim to re-train my brain to associate trying new foods with feelings of control, safety, and positive achievement.
I am going to be going through ‘Graded Exposure’ which is a fancy term for facing your fears one at a time from least scary to the worst imaginable situation. For the bulk of the remainder of my session I created a list of tasks that I felt I could work up to doing over the next couple of weeks before my next session that would test my ability to overcome the typical fight or flight response my body experiences when faced with irregular foods.
My first challenge is to purchase a banana. I don’t have to eat it. I don’t have to do anything with it. I just have to simply pick it up in the shop and purchase it and take it home with me. This may seem silly, but I actually got nervous when I came to picking a banana in the store. I have never, at the age of 20, purchased a banana. This exercises purpose is to normalise foreign behaviour like buying a food I’ve never even touched before, until it becomes something I feel safe doing. This safe feeling should then transfer to other scenarios when I’m buying a different food that I’ve never eaten.
It may sound ridiculous but I’m proud of myself for even taking the first step on this ladder, and as you can see in the cover photo of this article, me and the banana are getting along just fine! Sadly my housemate dislikes bananas so his purpose in life to be eaten will sadly not be achieved, and he will join his companions: Half eaten chicken nugget and dried up teabag in my food-waste bin very shortly.
After each task is completed, I have a form to fill in that will help me to write down and put into words how the experience was, and my feelings surrounding it.
I’ve been told I may never reach the top of my ladder, which for me would be to successfully eat baked beans. That goal is so far off is doesn’t bear even thinking about it right now anyway.
Today was magical because all of the steps were put in place for my recovery, and for the first time ever I was able to see an end to this in sight!
I’m very excited for what the future holds! Therapy continues on 10/08/2017, so don’t expect another session update until then. In the meantime I’ll go back to telling stories and updating you on my ladder progress 😀
Thanks for reading!