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21 November 2015 @ 11:33 pm
so it's not anxiety, it's learning to overcome distress intolerance  
One of my good friends had approximately a four-hour anxiety ... it's not quite correct to say attack, maybe bout? a spike? an episode? regardless, it was four hours of it that we spent together. She was having an extremely difficult day and came over as one of her management strategies (sometimes being alone makes for even more difficult spikes). I tried as best I could to help - we took a walk, I made tea, I encouraged her to eat a granola bar, since she hadn't been able to eat yet today. And we talked, and talked, and talked, and talked. She'd had a fight with her boyfriend and was pretty concerned that he was going to break up with her.

It was an all around rough time. The tough part about her anxiety is that she loops through a series of thoughts always spinning into the worst case scenario - a boring dinner with a friend becomes that friend hating being at the dinner table, and silently judging every word of the conversation. a fight becomes the ending of the relationship. a causal comment becomes a flat out rejection or veiled criticism that someone must *always* be thinking *all the time*.

So I found this website that, while I wouldn't sent it to her (she can google just fine on her own), helped me have some more possible strategies for helping her manage the distress. I don't know if it's a terrible website - maybe someone who knows about the therapeutic side of this can look at it and tell me?

But it's certainly helped *me* be more focused in how I react to her anxiety - made me feel less at sea. I am not a trained therapist, I'm her friend. And oh gods my first thing that I ask her is if she will consider talking with her therapist about this stuff, and encouraging her to do so. And if nothing else came out of this day, one of the best things that did is she set up more frequent sessions when she got ahold of her therapist (apparently they don't do phone stuff on the weekend, but regardless). So yay. But sometimes I feel like I don't know how to be a good friend, and that I inflict damage just talking things through with her because the way i approach things is different. Some of this stuff did slightly better than suggesting she breathe with me (which has been my go to in the past, with ineffective results).

The site also reassured me about the stuff my Mom does to manage her manic episodes when she's on an upswing. It reminded me that my Mom has been going to therapy for longer than some people have been alive, and she's been managing the effects of her nonstandard brain chemistry for a long long time. There's no perfect in bipolar, but there's strategies too. And she works her way through a lot of them.

She's visiting for the holidays, you see. So she was here today too (and sympathetic to my friend, though also mostly just letting us do our thing while she made cranberry sauce for the friendsgiving we went to as well).

So, four hours of trying to help a friend manage distress intolerance, two and a half hours of friendsgiving, and I was done. We've spent the rest of the night in two armchairs reading (and I've been talking to elizabuffy!), and that was about all I can manage.

also posted to katekat on dreamwidth | you can reply here or there
EB: Queen of the Social Lepers: kate rocks (take 3)elizabuffy on November 22nd, 2015 08:51 am (UTC)
It sounds like you're doing a good job. And as long as the site (which I have not looked at) helps you, it's worthwhile. I know having a mental illness is hard, but it's equally hard on their loved ones. So I'm glad you're reading about it.

You are a wonderful friend and it's so special that you were able to be their for her when she really needed it. That's as important as knowing the "right" things to do.

my monkied brainkatekat1010 on November 23rd, 2015 02:49 am (UTC)
Thanks BB! I'm trying, and yeah, I figured if the site is helpful for me it can't be all bad! and it's not like it's advice is to do anything painful - more just to try and be aware of triggers and methods to help identify them and then channel the energy that goes into thinking about them.

And I'm glad I could be there for her too! I like feeling like I can help even a little bit.

OTOH, something that she brought up that makes me worry is that she's feeling like she's got me as her one friend she can talk to about stuff, because she feels like i'm the only one who is really there for her. and I worry about that. And weirdly, I wonder if maybe sometimes I'm too good? Because she was ok before we were this close - she had multiple friendships with lots of people - and i don't want to make her codependant