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Comfort Zone

Yesterday was my seventh therapy session, and one of the things that’s stuck in my head was a question that I was asked: “What do you think happens if we always stay in our comfort zone?”

Certainly, not pushing myself outside my comfort zone is something that I am very guilty of – which is where the question came from. My first thought was that if you never push yourself outside it, your comfort zone actually gets smaller. Imagine this idea: going shopping in the local town when it’s busy makes you anxious because there are too many people. So what do you do? You only go when it’s going to be quieter. Seems sensible, right?

The problem is that your anxiety is still there, so gradually you retreat further and further, perhaps only going to out of town shops where there are fewer people, or maybe even only shopping online so that you don’t have to go out at all. What’s happened is that your comfort zone’s suddenly got so small that you’re not actually doing normal things. You become socially isolated and even the simplest things like going to the post office become a massively big deal. Your comfort zone has become so small that you are not really functioning and become almost completely isolated from society.

Probably by now you’ve realised that this is, basically, what has happened to me. It’s not new, and one of the things that my therapist has helped me to realised is that a lot of this anxiety (and, therefore, the accompanying depression) dates back to when I was at school and the interaction I had with my peers at that time. One day I’ll write a longer post, or maybe series of posts, about my time at school, but that’s a big enough thing that it needs more time and effort than I feel up to right now.

So what am I doing about all this? Well I have two goals (tasks, homework, whatever you want to call it) to do this week before my next session:

  1. To go to my local golf shop and enquire about joining in with a ‘club’ that is starting in a couple of weeks time. There’s a long story attached to this, but it’s not important.
  2. Telephone the Manchester LGBT Foundation to find out about social groups there that I might be able to join.

Neither of these things will be easy for me to do. Equally, this afternoon I’ve had to go to my local B&Q DIY store to be a light bulb and although that wasn’t easy either, I’ve done it. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be able to write another post saying that I’ve done both of those things, and be able to make a plan with my therapist about how I can take it further.

The idea is to challenge myself, to show me that I need not be scared in the way that I am at the moment. To start making that comfort zone bigger and bigger again by slowly, gradually pushing myself further and further outside of where that zone is now. Whilst intellectually that makes sense, and sounds really simple, it will be a huge emotional challenge for me. Mentally I know I can do it, or rather I know that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it, but emotionally it will be tough and I need to get my confidence in myself back up to the point where I feel like I’ll be able to do these challenges. In short, I need to stay confident. I just hope that I’m up to it.

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