We are delving in to this habit of asking ourselves recurring, panicky questions, and last week we came to see that if you continue to ask yourself the same question without answering it, you in fact create a state of malaise, anxiety or even panic by letting it float around.
There’s a second big recurring question that I know you’ve been asking yourself; why can’t I stop my gut symptoms? This answer may surprise you too, so stay with me.
It’s no mistake that over 90% of my gut clients have pronounced anxiety either as their emotional and psychological state prior to developing gut symptoms, or have developed anxious thinking since their onset. Anxiety is simply an anticipation of a future event; it’s moving out of the now and into an unknown future. The now is where we want to be. Plus, there’s less questions in the now if we are doing the present moment for real.
Clients come to me not usually when symptoms have just begun, but years later after they’ve worsened. I became curious about why clients’ symptoms were in fact becoming pronounced, and after a number of years in private practice, I began to see the patterns of behaviour that were keeping these symptoms alive, and even exacerbating them. In fact, when I looked back, I recognized these behaviours in myself a decade before when I too was pretty ill.
THE LONG RIDE
Here’s the average medical care that happens in Australia at least, under the Medicare system. Your first point of call is the GP. They do an examination of sorts with maybe some blood tests, and then frequently refer you to a gastroenterologist for further investigation. You then undergo a colonoscopy to rule out any organic disease. Most frequently nothing is found and you are either prescribed some medication to mask symptoms, or referred back to your GP or a dietitian with a diagnosis of IBS. Disappointment has well and truly set in by now with no answer regarding the cause of symptoms, or the reason they are probably getting worse.
So now you jump on the slippery slide of elimination diets – trial and error. You’re keeping a food diary and becoming more hypervigilent and suspicious about each food group. More disappointment sets in as your food choices reduce, along with your social life. Unless of course you’re Gwyneth Paltrow and don’t mind a meal of just 3 chick peas in a clear broth, and none of your vegetables touching each other on the plate.
You’re hoping for a final answer here – that you never have to eat kale again and by some miracle, your symptoms have completely vanished and you can get back to living your life.
You’re feeling even more disappointed, upset, frustrated, angry and discouraged than before. And guess what’s happened at the same time? Your symptoms are worse because of your emotional state.
Psychologically and emotionally, what’s actually happened is this. Between the Doctor and specialist, you didn’t find a cause, only a diagnosis of IBS or something equally complex, which are simply a set of symptoms. Meanwhile you’ve had time off work for tests and are forking out the dollars to pay for it. The disappointment and stress of it all is getting to you because you have such high hopes of overcoming these symptoms and returning to a full life. You don’t tell many people about them given the nature of the topic, so you’re feeling lonely and lost as your life is shrinking into a smaller and smaller existence.
Then your hopes temporarily rise again as you pursue the dietary angle, only to feel the pinch of it when cooking becomes complicated, not to mention going out for meals or to other peoples homes with your list of “can’t haves”. The stress of it all is just getting worse but you don’t know what to do so you just keep at it, and even start searching for another modality, a new practitioner, and another clinic. You don’t know who to trust, your googling is out of control and you’re so far removed from yourself that you can’t even feel both your feet on the ground. By now your symptoms are worse than ever because not surprisingly your stress and anxiety levels are through the roof.
THAT is why your symptoms are getting worse. I’ve seen it time and time again, and work clients through it just as often.
You gotta get off that ride! That is the very first step. Slow down, get off and reassess.
COMING BACK TO YOURSELF
As a therapist, my job is to bring you home to yourself. It is never my job to make you reliant or dependent on me. Ever. This may happen organically as part of the therapeutic relationship because it’s a safe place for you where you are seen and heard and are healing. But ultimately when I work to bring you home to yourself over and over, you begin to feel steadier. You realise your body is not your enemy; that it’s OK to be with, to like it and appreciate it, then you begin to trust in yourself. There’s a point where you realise, hang on, all the answers I need are right here within me. You just needed someone to point you back there. Really great practitioners will be invested in bringing you home to yourself, to support you in regaining your sense of safety in the world. There’s incredible practitioners out there in every modality – be sure you find the great ones!
Society has this ingrained concept of grasping outwards – seeking every answer out there. There’s benefit to engaging a specialist in whatever your needs are…but never at the expense of losing yourself.
Next week we’ll spend more time on this concept of external grasping. Right now though, don’t just ask yourself these questions, answer them:
- How close or far away do I feel from myself?
- How much do I trust in myself and my body?
- What do I need to do to come home to myself?
I believe in you.