I’ve written in the past about my fear of being in the shower. One thing my therapist suggested last week was to take some small steps to work on overcoming those fears. Those of you who have done any sort of cognitive-behavioral therapy or taken a psychology class on therapy techniques or learning and behavior (a la Skinner or Pavlov) will probably recognize the term “systematic desensitization“.
The basic idea behind systematic desensitization is first to teach the client effective relaxation technique and then have him/her use those techniques when confronting an object or situation that elicits fear. So, in essence, you retrain the mind to not get anxious or scared when confronting an anxiety provoking stimulus.
I’ve pretty much got the relaxation techniques down. I’ve pretty good at the deep breathing and I have a quick and dirty version of progressive relaxation.
My therapist’s suggestion was to run the shower and stick my arm in it. Eh… I’m not much on getting wet when I don’t have to. Plus, it would probably elicit too many questions from my grandmother and brother as to why the shower is on for extremely short periods of time. And as I don’t really feel comfortable with talking to them about this stuff, the fewer the questions the better.
So I came up with my own version (yippee me for being pro-active). I decided that every time I went to the bathroom, I would step into the shower fully clothed and leaving the shower door open (as I tend to start feeling a bit claustrophobic when the door is closed). As I get ready, I take about five deep breathes. Then I step in. As I’m in there, I tell myself what the date is to reinforce in my mind that this is the present and I tell myself that there is nothing in the shower that will hurt me. All the while making sure I’m breathing. I’m one of those people who seems to forget to breathe when I start getting extremely anxious.
Last week when I started this, I could barely make it ten seconds before I started to freak out. Now, I can make it for roughly a minute. My goal is to make it up to five minutes. Then I’m going to start back at a few seconds with my shirt removed. Work myself back up to about five minutes. And then start again with both my shirt and pants removed working my way back up to the five minute mark. Then start again with the water running and actually taking mini showers. I figure by the time I actually get to this point my brother will have moved out of the house and gone back to college. I can work on it while my grandmother is napping.
So that’s the plan. I don’t know how well it’s going to work.
I think this weekend I’m going to go to Bath and Body Works with my best friend and smell some bath stuff and shampoos. I’ll need the moral support. I doubt that I’ll actually buy anything, but it’s just one more small step.