This has been a strange week and I have had real problems writing this journal as a result. The day spent at college, monday, was a day that was dominated with preparation for the forthcoming exam, and completing our practical assessments. All of a sudden I felt overwhelmed with pressure. Pressure and fear. We took a past paper, and even though we have done these before, and I had previously felt quite comfortable with them, this time I struggled, and I mean REALLY struggled with it. The process of articulating all of these actions which, when practised within the counselling room seem to come naturally, almost through intuition or some kind of felt sense, suddenly seemed incredibly difficult. A bit like describing how to breathe. A strange turnaround, because for so many months of this year I have been busy writing about the counselling process, far busier writing about it than actually doing it. These days it is the opposite way around; at present I am counselling six clients a week , and I certainly do not find six hours a week in which to sit down and write. Maybe that is why I struggled?
There is also the thing that I have always hated about exams – the fact that I have to hand write. That means not just that the words are written out by hand, but that they are fixed in their place in a way that they simply aren’t when using a computer. When writing like this, in my journal or in an essay, i will write and edit, rewrite, edit again, cut, paste, jiggle bits around, change words and change sentence structures several times over in the course of one piece of writing. This, in my opinion, makes for a much clearer, more succinct piece of writing – my natural way of speaking is to use far more words than are strictly necessary, and as such, so is my unedited writing voice – this is not good for an exam!
So, I am afraid. Not only am I afraid, but I am quite a self aware person these days – this means that I am aware that I am afraid. This is also not a good thing because, for me, fear breeds more fear. I start off feeling a little anxious, and then start getting anxious about the fact that I am anxious, on top of the original things that I am anxious about, and before you know what is going on, I am having to use techniques that I learnt many years ago in CBT to avoid a panic attack coming on! (Just one of the reasons I am still not a huge fan of CBT, because even though it helps me to deal with anxiety when it comes along, it has done little to help me get to the root of what causes me to suffer from such severe anxiety, and so now – years later – here I am, still suffering , when I really have no good reason to) I think that in previous journals I have mentioned the fact that it took me many attempts to pass my driving test – an example of the same process. Right now I really am feeling that same process going on, and I don’t like it at all. Awareness is supposed to help you deal with things better , supposedly; one of the principles underpinning the whole purpose of counselling. Well, I hate to say it, but this is an occasion for me where I disagree with that statement. Awareness of my anxiety seems to only fuel it further!
So is that why I have found it hard to write this week? Partly, but also I think that the letter that arrived on tuesday morning, from the college, saying that counselling courses were no longer going to be offered, had an impact too. A sudden realisation that not only am I reaching the end of this year’s course, but that I am reaching the end of my time at this college altogether. This was certainly something that had been in the air all day on monday – as a group we had been in good form, but the high spirits felt strained, almost forced at times. For me, it felt like it was getting close to that mania, that bipolar high, that ‘I’m actually really not very happy at all but I just can’t stop behaving in this way because it is just what I have to do right now’ feeling. Maybe a bit of denial at the loss I know I am about to feel? Maybe I am thoroughly determined to enjoy the time I have left, and so feel the need to act in a bit of a slightly over the top, happy, silly kind of way? I don’t know, I really don’t, and I have spent a lot of time this week trying to work it out – equally though, I am aware that every time I have sat down to write this journal I have been unable to get anywhere with it – an unconscious avoidance of having to really acknowledge those feelings, maybe?
It is the end. We are nearing the end of the course, we are facing goodbyes, and the potential endings of the relationships we have formed, and we are reaching a point where we have to make decisions about our future. And that is scary. And I am scared. And I can’t resolve this fear right now – thinking it through doesn’t change it. I am going to have to sit with this, at the very least until after the exam – probably for quite a while after that too, I suspect.
- Notes on Anxiety (danielnester.com)
- Cognitive Restructuring: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Attitude (everydayhealth.com)
- 5 Tips to Minimize Final Exam Anxiety (blogs.psychcentral.com)