The little green man with the red boots. That voice inside your head that cunningly infects the way you think, insisting you miss that snack, skip that class and do that compulsion just one more time. Just. One. More. Time. JUST. ONE. MORE. TIME…
For a long time, I struggled to separate OCD, anorexia etc. from myself. This was particularly evident at the beginning of therapy, whereby OCD and I were pretty much one and the same. I couldn’t distinguish between the two. To me, my existence was purely just OCD and there wasn’t really anything else I could say about myself. It was one of my goals in therapy to discover the real me. Who was I underneath all the struggles? One of the ways in which my therapist and I tried to do this, was to personify my OCD (which over time just came to encompass all of the mental health issues I was trying to deal with). What we ended up coming up with was the little green man with the red boots, which, upon reflection, really makes me smile because I’m honestly not too sure how we initially came up with the name, but since then it’s just stuck.
I think what helped me most about this, was the fact that I now had a visual representation of that horrible voice in my head that would so often control my life and make me despise my existence. We gave it an accent so I could easily distinguish it between my own thoughts and disorder driven thoughts. I also actually ended up drawing an image of what I thought it would look like too. Although…it came out slightly cuter than I meant it to, but I think it still fits because, as I’m sure a lot of you know, although deep down we’re aware that carrying out a compulsion or restricting food is detrimental to our recovery, the voice of OCD/anorexia/the little green man with the red boots still manages to distort our view and convince us otherwise. It appears on the surface welcoming and, if I’m honest, even strangely comforting, but deep down it’s just going to make us unwell and unhappy. Which is why we must try and fight against it.
Within-session, my therapist would also encourage me to put the little green man with the red boots in a jar next to my chair, if she saw that I was struggling to open up about something. This really helped me to speak up about how I was genuinely feeling, rather than bottling it all up or giving a censored version of my feelings because of shame the little green man and the red boots would create and make me feel. That way, it would be less likely for me to leave the session disappointed in myself for not actually talking about the things I’d wanted to and then having to wait another week/two weeks before I would have the opportunity to do so again…I’ve done that way too many times. Yikes!
Now, if you’re sitting there thinking ‘what on earth is this girl on about, how could that ever work?!’ then that’s totally okay. I would never expect this method to work for everyone. To be honest, I don’t think it would have the same effect even if you just lifted my example of the little green man with the red boots and applied it to your own therapy process exactly. It wouldn’t be authentic to you, which is one of the most crucial aspects to focus on when personifying your mental illness/struggles. Our individual journeys are all so unique, so to me, there will never be a cookie cutter example/technique that fits all. That’s one of the awesome things about therapy and recovery in general, you can shape and mould it in any way you’d like in order to fit you and your needs at that present time. Of course, you can totally take the little green man with the red boots concept with you, but please make sure to personalise it. Make a new name. Does it even have a name? Envisage what you think your struggle would look like. What accent does it have? Does it have any specific mannerisms? Does it have a gender? It can be as simple, or as complex as you’d like!
What I hope I’ve done sharing this, is to normalise the different techniques and skills we use in therapy and to cope day to day. Never be embarrassed to use what works for you. Sure, most 18-year-olds don’t have this little creature personifying their struggles and I’m sure I’d get a few confused looks if I tried to explain it, but that’s fine. It doesn’t need to please or suit them. No matter how strange you may think a skill that you use is, I promise it’s still worth doing. Don’t limit yourself because you don’t think it’s the ‘normal’ way to recover, or that other people may judge you because of it. Don’t let anyone dictate what you can and can’t do to recover. You know yourself better than anyone else.
Be confident in your journey.
Apologies for not having posted for so long…things have been tricky, so it’s been hard to get my brain to do the writing thing.
Hope you’re all well & let me know what techniques you use to cope/challenge your struggles!