A New Perspective on Anxiety and Overwhelm
“It’s just been a really difficult few days,” I confided.
“There has been so much to do, the anxiety has been shocking, I feel like I can’t breathe some days…and the kids…they’ve been such hard work.”
“The other night at bed time, they just wouldn’t settle down, I was tired, they were tired, and I just lost it. I yelled so hard my throat hurt and then I just slumped down onto the bed and burst into tears and said “I just can’t do this.”
I look down at he ground and play with the wedding ring on my finger, reliving the memory in my mind.
She looks at me for a moment and smiles sympathetically.
It’s the ‘it’s-perfectly-normal-and-everything-is-going-to-be-okay’ smile that I need to see.
She hands me a piece of paper and a pen and says, “I’d like you to draw me a fruit bowl.”
I crease my brow in confusion, and then put the pen to paper.
It’s a bit wobbly around the edges, but it’s a fruit bowl never the less.
“Now, I want you to imagine going to a market, and picking up an assortment of lovely fresh fruit to fill up your bowl.”
I nod, unsure where all this imaginary grocery shopping is leading.
“Now, I’d like you to draw your bowl full of that fruit.”
I quickly sketch some objects that resemble various fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and some strawberries, until my bowl is overflowing with goodness.
“Great,” she beams complimenting me on my artistic abilities.
I look at her quizzically. What’s the point of this?
“Now imagine it is week from now, and at the bottom of the bowl you find a strawberry that has seen better days. What does it look like?” she asks.
“It’s squashed, and a bit slimy, with some green furry bits growing on it,” I answer.
“Great!” she smiles, obviously pleased by my answer.
“So what do you do?”
“Take out the strawberry and throw it in the bin.”
“And what about the rest of the fruit that’s okay? Do you throw that away too?”
“No,” I answer thinking of my imaginary fruit bowl. ” If it’s okay, I might just wash the other fruit and put it back.”
She nods and smiles.
“And what about the fruit bowl? Do you throw that away?”
I look nonplussed.
“That’s right,” she smiles again.
“Right now, the fruit bowl is your life, and it is full of beautiful things. The rotten strawberry is your anxiety. It’s just a rotten piece of fruit that you can throw away. Don’t focus on the strawberry. Try to take a step back and see the rest of the bowl and the fruit that is still wholesome and good for you.”
It’s like looking through the lens of a camera, when everything is blurry and you hold down the button for a moment and everything snaps into focus and I realise that she is right. I need to change my focus, and put things into perspective and I walk from the room feeling like a weight has been lifted from my chest.
I can breathe again.
Everyone lets their strawberries go soft every now and then.