The Script meets the Scientist.

or, How to De-fuse from Unhelpful Thoughts.

I have just typed up a long a grim tale about my crappy day, and then erased it.  It made me depressed reading it, so I thought you could do without it.  You’re welcome.

Instead I will tell you about the stuff my health psychologist helped me with today.  I arrived at her rooms so full up that my inside thoughts were spilling over the top of my metaphorical cup.  My cup runneth over alright, but not with joy.  Anna is an expert tea maker, so she brought me in a real cup, and we began.  I blurted out some stuff that is happening for me. I am grieving the loss of my differential diagnosis hopes.  No channelopathy diagnosis for me. Both my immunologist and endocrinologist don’t think it is an adequate explanation for my symptoms. I had really hoped, you know?  And hope was a kind of freedom.  I was letting myself dream.  My mind took me there and I liked it.  But now there is a big hole where the hopes fell through.

Anna explained that when I am going through stuff, my mind goes into judgement mode.  It’s a very ancient script, one that I’ve been reciting, in variations, all my life.  I can’t control my situation, so I turn on myself and try to control me.   All the judgement of myself that might just make me pull my socks up, turn the other cheek, push through, fix it.  Turns out my mind has some nasty things to say to me.  It plays them on repeat just in case I haven’t been listening.  It’s painful.  Does your mind sometimes sound like this, too?

_You are replacable, dispensable, not(2)

I hate this script. So I fight back. I employ my rational thinking, I answer those statements.  I try to refute them.  I look at them and see if they are reasonable and I argue with myself.  I defend myself.  I get angrier, I fly into protection mode and I scream at my mind to shut up.  I spend my energies resisting those thoughts, all the while getting caught up in the very thoughts I am fighting against.  I am still in their thrall, batting them away from my mind’s eye.  Fighting.  In my fight, I am giving them even more power than they already have. I’m the one giving them more airtime.

They will never ever go away. But today I learned to do something else with them.

I learned to use my scientific, observing mind.  Step back, notice them, name them.  Accept that I have those thoughts and let them exist, not as truth, but just as part of what my mind does to try to fix my problems. My mind isnt always helpful.  Those statements appear as truth, I’ve been hearing them for so long they must be truth?  But. they. are. not. truth. They’re just part of my software.  My glitch. I can ground myself with some exercises in mindfulness.  Be more aware of who I am with, where I am, all of my senses. Breathe, deeply. Tap into the love I feel for my family.  Let myself rest.

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It’s a new day and as usual, I have woken playing the script.  Like a radio station blaring on in the background, playing some stupid daytime drama I hate.  
But I remember what to do. I am relieved.

I see you, unhelpful thoughts.  I see you.  I notice that I am thinking things that aren’t going to help me today. And I begin to observe my mind like a scientist observes the squirmy things in a petrie dish.  Poking at those thoughts objectively, they look kind of foolish.  I’m not going to let them decide my day for me today.  They can sit there and squirm away if they want.

I’m going to listen to some Neil Diamond instead.  Do you have a self judgement script that needs to be slapped onto the petrie dish and categorised for what it really is?  Bad background noise.  It’s not truth.
I hope you enjoy this rendition of Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’, by one of my all time favourite singers, and from his album titled ‘Dreams’.

Light Relief, The Tree and Me

 

source: harrypotter.wikia.com
source: harrypotter.wikia.com

I can be a bit intense, apparently. Is that a symptom of Dysautonomia?!  Ha!
I can get a bit serious.  Because sometimes it is hard to find the funny side of things.

But I can’t ever take myself too seriously, because I have been gifted a hubster who enjoys making fun of me (in a loving way) and making me laugh. A lot. His irreverent and naughty sense of humour has lifted me out of many a blue funk.  And I just unwittingly provide him with more comedy material, so it’s a mutually useful relationship.  Just lately, he’s been taking the piss (that is kiwi for teasing) about my self help studies.

One of the very useful exercises for self-care, one that I mentioned yesterday, is using your own hand as a ‘hand of compassion’. He thought that was hilarious.  I’ve been enduring his eyebrow toggles and suggestive looks every time I mention the ‘hand of compassion’.  He reckons he knows just where my compassionate hand should land, somewhere in the vicinity of his body.   Wink.  Nudge.  Eye roll!  He had the same joke about one of my favourite poetry books Where Your Left Hand Rests by Fiona Kidman. I think he hoped it was an instruction manual.  Honestly, are all men this way?

And then we were talking about a mindfulness exercise that I wanted to write about today.  I have been learning about how being “present” can provide you with an opportunity to calm down the negative self talk.  See, when I am thinking about how my body feels, it kicks off a litany of destructive thinking. This is a very common thought pattern for me because this body likes to slap me to attention, like an annoying brother, incessantly pushing the point, digging me in the ribs, lifting up my eyelids YOU AWAKE? RIGHT, SINCE YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION… LOOK AT ALL THE WAYS I CAN ANNOY THE CRAP OUT OF YOU TODAY!  POKE!  SLAP! BLINDSIDE! THWACK!  And so I respond to that little shit with some very negative talk.  But I direct it at myself, because that is a bit less crazy than talking to my body as though it isn’t me.  I talk to me.  Inside my head. The track runs similar to this one:
Ugh.  Not again.  I can’t keep doing this.  Oh no…  so much is eroding.  I can’t go to school this morning to see my little guy do his thing. Another thing to miss, why couldn’t it be yesterday? I could have done it yesterday.  Poor me. Poor family. Ow… Yuck, that is so revolting, why do I have to deal with so much yuck stuff? How much worse is this going to get? Will my man get tired of dealing with me? My kids! Will I end up in a stinky nursing home, a drain on my family’s resources? Will I die before I’m ready?
And a freak out will be had.  Does that sound familiar?  Does your mind talk to you this way, too?

It is impossible not to be mindful of how my body feels. But by using the technique of mindfulness, it is possible to arrest the thinking patterns that give me anguish.  It’s like a kind of meditative awareness. So this is what I am doing.  Russ Harris (author of the book I talked about yesterday, The Mind Slap, and inventor of this exercise) says that if you are experiencing a lot of stress, you might need to do this excercise often.  It designed to help you be present with your pain. It helps you to develop the awareness of your thinking such that you don’t slide into the thought patterns that distress you.  The habit of that nasty self-talk that makes living with Chronic Illness a more scary, lonely, upsetting place to be.

THE TREE __ An Exercise in Mindfulness(4)Of course, if you are horizontal, you just have to adapt the tree image.  You can use your imagination about how to make the trees roots, trunk and branches work.  If I am stuck in bed, I use the foot of my bedframe to ‘ground’ myself. Or place my feet flat on the mattress with my knees up. Just adapt it to fit you, in your minds eye you can be any shape you want to be.  Here’s my audio version if you would rather listen:

 

 

So anyway, there I was last night, sitting in the living room, thinking about some serious shizzle.  I see my hubster out of the corner of my eye.  He is waving his arms around like he’s trying to get my attention.  I turn to look at him and all six foot three of him is doing an impersonation of a whomping willow.  In slow syllables he intones: “I am a tree…”  and I snort my tea.

Mindfulness is really good.
So is light relief.