Saturday, May 26, 2007

Are We Talking Ourselves Into Panicking?

Photo by Cernicalo-e
This morning when my eyes opened and the knots in my stomach started I thought, "Its ok. I am going to have the whole day to myself with no pressure from anyone to eat this or that. I will just eat when I want to." Then as I got up still not feeling well I thought, "I'll just get some breakfast and then go to the store." Then my anxiety got worse. I sat on the chair all alone with the symptoms of my anxiety rising and I couldn't believe I was getting so upset about eating breakfast and why I didn't want to. I started to have a pity party. Without realizing it, I was telling myself things like, "I have to stop feeling this way. I have to eat so I can gain weight. I have to gain weight. I shouldn't be so worked up all the time."

Other thoughts that raced through my head just from a feeling or an image that appeared in my mind were "What if I eat while I am feeling anxious already and I get sick and throw up? What if eating makes me panic more?"

Then I ran into my room and threw myself on the bed and as the tears came I thought, "I'm never going to get over this. There is something very wrong with me. I'm only getting worse, its hopeless, why bother."

I am in no position to be giving help or telling anyone how to be cured. I highly recommend getting the book mentioned below and in my list and use the directions and guidance provided there. I am only listing a brief overview for an understanding of what I am going through and maybe give some ideas on things that might work for you.

So, as I have learned from The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, all of what happened this morning was anxiety escalated by what is called Negative Self-Talk. A few pointers from the book to quickly explain what it is and how it works:

  • It is so automatic and subtle you don't notice it or the effect it has on your moods and feelings.
  • It appears in telegraphic form- one short word or image ("Oh no!) contains a whole series of thoughts, memories, or associations.
  • Anxious self-talk is typically irrational but almost always sounds like the truth.
  • Negative self-talk perpetuates avoidance.
  • Self-talk can initiate or aggravate a panic attack.
  • Negative self-talk is a series of negative bad habits. (You have to reprogram your brain to say helpful uplifting confident talk to remove the negative thoughts)
There are different kinds of negative self-talk and I listed examples of every kind I had this morning. The Worrier often promotes "what if..." thoughts and promotes anxiety. My biggest what if thought is always, "What if I get sick and throw up?" The other kinds of sub personalities are the Perfectionist ("I should, or I have to" thoughts) which promotes chronic stress and burnout, the victim ("I can't. I'll never be able to) promotes depression, and the Critic ("Can't you ever get it right?") which promotes low self esteem.

The important thing to do is be able to recognize when you are promoting this behavior and what you are telling yourself. Then you counter your negative self-talk with positive counterstatements that you believe in or want to try to believe in. The book goes into more detail about questioning your thoughts and working through them rationally to prove they aren't true. It also helps you to create the positive counterstatements so that when you are in a situation where you are anxious and start to worry and promote the negative thoughts you can replace them and prevent your anxiety from going out of control, and giving yourself the confidence and respect you deserve.

So I sat down and wrote down all my negative self talk that I mentioned at the beginning and came up with the following positive counterstatements for myself that I am listing here so I can look them up quickly if needed.

Subpersonality: The Worrier

Negative Self Talk Positive Counterstatement
What if I get sick and throw up?

A panic attack, however uncomfortable is not dangerous. If I get sick and throw up, I will learn from it and move on.

What if people around me see my anxiety and judge me? I am willing to go forward with my life and try to better myself regardless of what others think. I respect and believe in myself apart from other's opinions.

What if I can't eat very much? I am competent to listen to my body and follow it as opposed to other people's opinions about when I should be full.

Subpersonality: The Perfectionist

Negative Self Talk Positive Counterstatement
I have to stop feeling this way.

I can let my body do its thing. I accept these feelings and know that they will eventually pass.

I have to eat because thats whats expected.

I have to eat so I can gain weight.

I can eat when I want to, not when someone else thinks I should.

I am ok the way I am RIGHT NOW
I have to gain weight.

I don't always have to be trying to gain weight. Life is too short to be taken so seriously.

I shouldn't feel so scared about eating.

I shouldn’t get so worked up all the time.

Subpersonality: The Critic

Negative Self Talk

Positive Counterstatement
I'm so weak, the moment I feel sick I break down

I am ok the way I am.
I can't believe I am feeling like this, I am such a loser

I am worthy of the respect of others, but especially of myself.
Everyone else is eating and enjoying themselves- I'm so weird and have so many problems I am worthy of the respect of others. I'm a unique and creative person with many loveable qualities.

Subpersonality: The Victim

Negative Self Talk Positive Counterstatement

I'm never going to get over this, there is something very wrong with me.
I have seen progress before and I can do it again, one step at a time. I don't have to be all better tomorrow. Its never too late to change.

Its hopeless, why bother? My condition isn't hopeless. I can overcome it by establishing and committing myself to a program for recovery. I deserve to be happy and healthy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spotting negative self-talk is kind of like spotting those bogus emails from Eastern Europeean women.If your not careful, you might just believe one of them and run off to the Ukraine to get married.

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