If you’ve been paying attention, or attended an event with me, or attempted to make a movie date with me, you know that I have intense anxiety. A large portion of my anxiety revolves around timeliness.
I am the most on time mother fucker you know. I’m the definition of “If you’re early, you’re on time, and if you’re on time, you’re late.”
Know this about me…
If you invite me over to your house at 8pm, I’m out front of your place at 7:45, sitting in my car, checking emails and Instagram, listening to music, and watching the clock until EXACTLY 8pm, when I walk to your door. You shouldn’t know this — but I’mma lay it on you anyway — I’ve been obsessively looking at the clock since, well, I woke up that morning. Then around 6pm I’m getting ready. When I’m fully dressed and ready at 6:30pm, I’m obsessively checking Waze to see how long will take me to get your place. What about now? Aaaaaaand now? Okay what if I left now? Oh, I’ll get there at 7:30? Well, it’ll take me a few minutes to grab my purse and walk down the stairs, so I should probably leave NOW.
Gods forbid that I should have a flight to catch at 9am. In that case, I’m going to bed at 9pm the night before. I’ll wake up every hour on the hour to check the time. Then up at 5am. No wait, I’ll get up at 4:45am, even though I set my alarm for 5am. Then I’ll head to the airport at 6am, because I like to leave myself two hours of airport waiting time before a flight, in case some catastrophe happens between my apartment and LAX. That’s the only way I can remain calm on travel days.
So much of my time is taken up by worrying about the time, that I can barely do anything else. I work, anxiety-ridden, with one eye on the clock. I don’t dare make other plans on days I already have plans, lest I lose track of time. And my heart is beating hard and fast for hours on end. In short, it’s exhausting, and it makes me not want to be social.
About few months ago my therapist gave me a suggestion in helping with my timing anxiety, and, after giving it a lot of time to see if it worked, I can honestly say IT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING EVER!
My therapist, Jessica, (yes, my best girl friend and my therapist have the same name) suggested that I set up alarms for all of my appointments. Well, first she asked how long I spend obsessing about time. To which I replied, it depends on the activity…
Is it a normal weekly thing? Is it a friend date? Is it a professional date? Is it a new plan? Is it a big event? All these things have different times.
For example: I see my therapist around noon on Wednesdays. I count down the hours, minutes, seconds from the moment I wake up, because this is a professional thing, and I’m also paying good money for my time. I also have weekly dinners with my best girl friend Jessica (yes, I meet with them on the same day each week — Wednesdays are my “Jessica days”) but I’ll only spend 15 minutes obsessing about that.
Therapist Jessica suggested that I set my alarms accordingly, so I did. Here they are for my weekly appointments…
It’s called paradoxical intention.
In psychotherapy, paradoxical intention is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought, undertaken to identify and remove it. The concept was termed by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy, who advocated for its use by patients experiencing severe forms of anxiety disorders.
So basically, in setting alarms for myself, I can relax for most of the time, since I know that I’m giving myself a set time where I’m allowed to freak out an obsess. And you know what, it works. When I start to freak out about the time before an event, I remind myself that I don’t need to right now. I know that I’ll have an hour to 15 minutes worth of anxiety time, and I’ll do all my anxiety-ing then.
The best part: I don’t even NEED to get anxious about my weekly appointments anymore. Most of the time the alarms totally sneak up on me. …Which, if I’m being honest, makes me pretty anxious. But at least I’m not swimming in an infinity pool of anxiety for hours on end!
I’m still going to get there early though.