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When I’d finished explaining how I’d freaked out over something relatively minor, the virtual stranger sitting across from me asked if I’d like to try something called a cognitive exercise. I said sure. She grabbed a pad of paper, and we wrote down the thing I’d freaked out over and the thoughts going through my head while I was freaking out. Then we picked apart those thoughts, transforming them from emotional extremes (e.g., I’m a bad person) to neutral statements (e.g., There are qualities about myself that I like, qualities I don’t like, and qualities I am impartial to).

When we were finished, the evidence before us clearly demonstrated that I’d overreacted. “How do you feel about this?” asked the therapist, a woman who knew less about me than people I meet on the street who have read my diary entries.

“How do I feel?” I was buying time. How did I feel? I looked at the paper, at her, at my shoes, and finally, at my hands, clenched tightly together on my lap. “Stupid. I feel stupid.”

“Are you stupid?” Was she challenging me?

“Uh...no.”

“Right. Okay, time’s up. Do you want to schedule your next appointment?”

I stood and gathered my things, walked over to her desk, and said, “Same time next week?”

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Comments

jim87vette March 19, 2008 @ 2:42 p.m.

I saw a shrink when I was in High School as I had a problem with controling my emotions.I guess I grew out of those problems and into the adult ones "controling my emotions" lol.Ups and downs and smooth sailing life is such a fun cycle.Well I hope you are feeling better dear because your stories help me relax-times up!

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jen March 20, 2008 @ 7:44 a.m.

Does my cat hate me? Sigh...you can tell me...I can take it.

Seems everyone is suggesting yoga. I think it's got to be tried...at least once.

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fredism March 20, 2008 @ 9:15 a.m.

I think you're brave to share what is most difficult for you and then also what you enjoy out of life. There isn't anyone that I've met who is intelligent on intense or driven that hasn't experienced an overload of anxiety. It comes with the gifts that you get. And you seem to be gifted.

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Barbarella Fokos March 21, 2008 @ 9:38 a.m.

Jim, thank you! Jen, yes, I didn't want to tell you, but Rudy and I had... words. Perhaps the two of you should speak to each other directly. And Fred, I'm humbled by your compliments. Thank you for the encouraging words, and thank you for reading!

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Mare92104 March 21, 2008 @ 7:39 p.m.

'I guess that would depend on how you define the word kill'.

Love the video diaries. I can't stop laughing, you kill me!

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Barbarella Fokos March 22, 2008 @ 4:40 p.m.

Mare, I'm glad you're enjoying the videos! I sure do have a blast while making them. Alan, I'll have to research that name, this is the first I've seen it (showing my ignorance). Thank you both for reading!

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alansez March 22, 2008 @ 2:30 p.m.

Barb, another delicious column. Your therapist sounds like the Greek philosopher Epictetus: "People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them."

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