Friday, September 22, 2006

Even experts need help sometimes

Angela Hoy, who edits WritersWeekly, the highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world, is a talented writer and Olympic-class worrier. Each issue, which includes job postings and advice for freelance writers, also features an update from Angela's life called "From the Home Office." On Sept. 20, the topic was anxiety:

I'm a high anxiety type of person and nothing makes me more anxious than something that is beyond my control -- namely health issues.

Two weeks ago, I was literally freaking out. I can't think of a more accurate term. I was too upset to write about it then, but I can write about it now.

Basically, Angela had convinced herself that she had oral cancer, and went through an extremely stressful three weeks:

Of course, after [the dentist] said the word "malignancy", I was a basket case. My stomach reacted instantly to the stress (I spent the next two days in the bathroom and lost eight lbs.) I was mired in worry, couldn't sleep, and tried to bury myself in my work just so I wouldn't have to think about my mouth. My imagination took off and, by the time the entire event had unfolded in my mind, Richard was raising all our children on his own and the children were all crying endless tears because Mommy had left them. It was terrible!!

[My husband] bought me flowers the next day but I couldn't even look at them because, each time I did, I remembered that I might have cancer. After two days of hell, I decided I was NOT going to wait two weeks. I made an appointment to see our family practitioner that Friday. If he thought it was anything other than a bad burn, I'd have him send me immediately for a biopsy. I thought if I just knew one way or the other, I'd stop panicking.

Fortunately, the suspicious lump wasn't malignant. But I felt so bad for Angela. I also knew that her reaction was a textbook example of what psychologists like to call "maladaptive anxiety." Visualizing the worst possible outcome and feeling that she just HAD to know are two components of maladaptive worrying; cognitive therapy teaches people how to cope with uncertainty and avoid assuming/imagining the worst.

There are a lot of people like Angela, whose stress and worry get away from them. Fortunately, there's a cure: cognitive therapy. Dr. Leahy, who consoled me so beautifully last week, has a new book coming out called The Worry Cure. I thought Angela would benefit from reading it, so I sent her an e-mail:

Dear Angela,

I'm a writer and a first-year doctoral student in a clinical psychology program. I've been getting your newsletter for years.

Your tendency toward extreme anxiety and worry could be mediated by using some simple (but not easy) cognitive therapy techniques. I highly recommend "The Worry Cure" by Dr. Robert Leahy, a prominent cognitive therapist.

Sincerely, Ayelet

Angela has 4 kids and a home-based business, but she got back to me right quick:

Thanks so much, Ayelet!! I just preordered it from Amazon.

I really, REALLY appreciate you taking time out of your day to help me this way! :) Big hugs!

When/if I have my externship interview with Dr. Leahy, I'll try to mention that I was so impressed by his discourse with me, I helped sell a copy of his book.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

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