If you’ve been following my CBT Diaries series, then you may remember a cognitive distortion called “catastrophizing.” In a nutshell, it means predicting that some “worst-case scenario” cascade of events will occur in a given situation.
Most of the time, the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen.
BUT TODAY IT DID.
Today, after my group therapy, I decided to be brave and go into the café on the second floor of the hospital. It was busy inside and I wasn’t sure if I’d have a place to sit, but I took a deep breath, or ten, and went in.
Ordered my food, did the paying thing, got my bagel sandwich, no problem.
Then. Then a woman offered me a spot at her table, and in my appreciative flustered state, I managed to miss the table with my bagel, overturning the whole package and spilling turkey, lettuce, cucumber, cheese, and GARLIC MAYO all over her bag and shoes, as well as my own.
Everyone saw. It was a small café.
I apologized profusely and did my best to clean it up. She shrugged and said, “My bag will just smell tasty now.” Totally undisturbed.
Eventually, the kitchen staff noticed, and they actually offered to remake the sandwich (super nice). I wasn’t able to find any words at this point so I couldn’t tell them what was on the sandwich. I just thrust two palmfuls of floor-sandwich-mess in their direction and looked at them helplessly… They found the original order sheet and started remaking it.
I sat down with the nice lady again, and waited to cry.
… But I didn’t cry.
I realized that I wasn’t even close to crying. I wasn’t even that upset. My cheeks were flushed and my heart was fluttering, but I wasn’t welling up or running away or… anything.
I just sat there, a little dazed, drinking my water. I didn’t pull out my phone or find an excuse to avoid interacting with the woman. I stayed with at her table once my food was ready (and I had CAREFULLY placed it on the table), even though there were other tables now free.
I pointed out to her the irony of being at the hospital for CBT for SOCIAL ANXIETY and then spilling my food all over a stranger. She chuckled kindly.
We stayed together like that for a while. Quiet and calm. She sipped her diet Pepsi and I enjoyed that bagel sandwich more than I’ve enjoyed any food in a long time.
We parted ways eventually, and that’s where Part 2 of my accidental exposure tale begins.
I took the elevator down to the main entrance and summoned my Uber (another anxiety-provoking situation in its own right). When the car was 1 minute away, I realized that at some point in the kerfuffle, I had lost track of my therapy binder with all my notes on distortions and exposure and everything.
This is where I should have panicked. I have to find my binder! But the car is almost here! I can’t make them wait or they’ll hate me!
But I didn’t panic. I just messaged the driver. “Shoot. I forgot something at my desk. I’ll be out soon.” And then I added, “Please don’t leave! I’ll pay extra!” for good measure even though in retrospect it was a totally unnecessary safety behaviour.
Anyway. I found my binder, got back to the Uber (who had only just pulled in), tried not to worry too much about making the car smell like garlic mayo, and got home.
I’m not sure why I remained relatively calm in this distressing series of events. Maybe I was primed by having just left the CBT group. Maybe I’m tired. Or maybe I am discounting my newfound coping skills and should see this as a milestone on my journey.
There are a lot of maybes on this winding road.
I am proud of myself. I am exhausted and drained. And I am calling today a win.
If you’re having a bad or hard day, cling to any silver lining you can find. So much progress is made in the margins of our days, and it’s easy to miss. You may find that you are doing better than you think if you change the way you think about how you are doing.