I couldn’t sleep last night, my mind was over active. Nothing in particular had happened to upset me, but I still felt anxious and distressed. I’ve learned from previous experience that the more I try and fight these thoughts, the worse they become.
That’s the frustrating thing about the brain, it belongs to you but you can’t always control it. If it were a faulty iPod or television then you’d march it straight back to the shop and exchange for something better. Sadly, when the brain malfunctions we must find other ways to deal with it and neither Dixons nor Apple can help! (Give Apple another ten years and they might be able to sort you out.)
Despite the time (12:20am) I got out of bed, made myself a cup of warm milk and went to sit in the living room. I’ve found that it’s best not to look at a clock if possible, otherwise you’ll torture yourself. I used to work out how much time (down to the minute) was left until I had to get up. So do yourself a favour and remove the clock, it’s not useful or healthy. You’ll fall asleep when you fall asleep and the human body can function on as little as sixty minutes if needed (I know, I’ve done it.)
Next I wrote down all those menacing thoughts that were buzzing round my brain such as:
You’re going to get ill again.
You’ll lose your job
How can you progress in your career if you can’t do interviews?
Aren’t they just charming? It’s strange because if anyone else ever said those things to me then they’d probably get a smack! However, you tend to take it from yourself… but you really shouldn’t. It’s important to get those pesky thoughts out of your mind and on to paper where you can dissect them. Buy a note book especially, that way you can keep a record of everything and how often it happens.
To rationalise said thoughts I tend to use the CBT approach of spotting the ‘Thinking Errors/distortions’ and then challenging the thought in a rational way. I’ve listed a whole bunch of ‘thinking errors’ at the bottom of this post for those who would like to try this method.
You’re going to get ill again – Catastrophe thinking– I won’t get that bad again and if I do what’s the worst that can happen? I know how to deal with it now, I’m not helpless.
You’ll lose your job – Catastrophe thinking – I won’t lose my job, I’m good at what I do and my condition doesn’t affect my work. But if I did, what’s the worst that can happen? My life isn’t defined by my job, I’ll feel low for a while but then I’ll pick myself up and find something else. Life goes on.
How can you progress in your career if you can’t do interviews? – All or nothing thinking – You’ve had around twenty interviews in your life, so you clearly can do them. Just because a panic attack caused you to cancel the last one doesn’t mean that you can’t do them anyone. It won’t be easy, but you’ll get there with hard work like you always do.
Now, I’m sure this all sounds quite self -indulgent and rather a lot of work (and I won’t lie, it is.) Nevertheless, it’ll ultimately be worth it and after a while you’ll notice that it’s easier to remove those nasty thoughts. Also, documenting everything will highlight the same or similar thoughts
which torment you continually and you’ll find it easier to recognise them as a symptom rather than reality.
Common Thinking Errors
Catastrophe Thinking: Imagining the worst possible outcome for a situation. E.g. “I arrived late for work, I’m going to get sacked.)
Fortune Telling: Believing that you can predict the future, which is impossible. E.g. “If I go to the party, nobody will talk to me and I’ll be alone all evening.”
Mind Reading: Believing you can read what people are thinking. E.g. “Jess looked at me in a funny way, she thinks I’m an idiot.”
All or Nothing Thinking: Seeing situations in black or white only and not allowing for shades of grey. E.g. “The chicken I cooked was a little dry, I’m the worst cook in the world.”
Disqualifying positives: Discounting a positive with a previous negative. E.g. “I got a good mark on my latest essay, but the last one was still average.”