Once upon a time, there was a loser called Paula, who could never be trusted to do anything right, who was a failure at everything, and who would never achieve anything any good. I would live with my parents forever, probably gain 500lbs and they would have to take care of me and no one would love me. Ugh. Pretty catastrophic sounding picture, huh? That’s around the time when I was genuinely felt friendless and alone, slept about 20 hours a day, and I was 17 and diagnosed with clinical depression. So now, let’s fast forward 30 odd years later.
Helloooooo I’m Paula. I’m 49 and I am autistic, I have early onset Parkinson’s disease and migralepsy, the migraines started before I hit my teens so no wonder I was bloody miserable. I didn’t know I was autistic until I was 46, so ditto to that. Everything is different with a bit of hindsight and hard work, right? So it’s not a complete trainwreck, I am well educated, I have a degree and postgraduate shenanigans, and I’m a certified coach (not like, get your certificate in a weekend type coaching), I’m a hypnotherapist, and a clinical supervisor (ermahgerd the responsibility) and I’m just sayin. I’m not bragging, not even doing the humble brag (hands up if you hate that). I’m just saying that the stories we tell ourselves are not reality. Not even close. But they are definitely wrong headed; they’re cognitive distortions.
BIG FAT DISCLAIMER
Before we go any further, I’d like to make it REALLY REALLY REALLY clear. If any of my clients are reading this, I’m not talking about you, mmmmkay? If you feel you recognise yourself in this post, it’s because at some point you will have uttered the same words to yourself, just as I have. I have a policy of not referencing any clients of mine within 12 months of working with them, and even then they are in witness protection.
OK, so that’s done.
So cognitive distortions, what you on about?
Cognitive distortions are a fun little thought game we like to play with ourselves. We’re not doing it on purpose, but sometimes it’s more comfortable to live in discomfort because change means having to do something about where we’re at right now, and OMG it hurts, right? Change sucks. And I hear you, I really do. I don’t know how YOU feel, but I know how I feel about change, and let me tell you, if I don’t have everything the way I want it, every autistic nerve in my body is twanging. Relinquishing control and maybe handing over consent to someone else to make things different? Ugh, no.
But relax, absolutely NOTHING is in our control. You can think and rehearse a situation until you have it perfected, and it will never go the way you think. Ever. So let go. Let go, let go, let go. You’re in charge of your thoughts, and that’s about it. You can’t control my thoughts, your partners, the actions of anyone else, so just give it up. Stop giving yourself a hard time. STOP.
If you think that you’re a loser, all your emotional problems will stem from that. If you think that you’re behind everyone else and you’re missing all the goals, you’ll talk yourself into it and be miserable. I left Facebook a while back and it was the best thing I ever did, because I didn’t have to keep comparing myself to anyone else. The algorithms that Facebook uses relies on pictures taken with friends over the years, and I don’t have any of those, because HEY I’M AUTISTIC, GET THAT CAMERA AWAY FROM ME. And that hurts a lot. I don’t need to be made to feel worse. I last saw a group of friends in August 2016. Yeah ok, don’t remind me. I’ll be ready when I’m ready, not you, Facebitch.
We need to be in a calm state to recognise our faulty thinking and cognitive distortions. We see things from an emotionally charged state and our reality is just that; highly subjective. This is why hypnotherapy, mindfulness and meditation can help so much, because occasionally a thought will pop up that says, “hang on, I’m being stubborn here”, or whatever.
These errors in thinking, your cognitive distortions take away your personal power and make your life so small; I know how this works; it makes your life the size of your bedroom because these thoughts tell you that there’s nothing to get up for and nowhere to go. But when you are in a calm state, you can check out how true these feelings and thoughts actually are, or if they are part of the narrative of the story you are telling yourself. Setting those limitations on yourself and then seeing that’s what you’ve been doing can be so liberating, it’s amazing.
I’m not perfect
You might like to know that therapists aren’t necessarily perfect, and go through bouts of this too if they’ve been diagnosed with depression. And as such, mine is an old, faithful friend, coupled with anxiety, and they make themselves known every now and again. I acknowledge their presence, let them argue for a little while, and make sure I make a connection with every room in my house and focus outwards; take my dog for a walk, cuddle her till she squeals, do little things that take the focus off Poor Paula.
The next post is going to outline some of the more common cognitive distortions, so hang on for that, and in the meantime, check out this little video I made for you on how to stop thinking the worst.