It’s All In My Head?
Ever hear that one? It’s all in your head? Wow. If I had a dollar for every…well, never mind. Anyway, truth be told, I wish someone HAD told me that! I had my first full on panic attack when I was twenty-three years old. It was such a horrible feeling. I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I would never be able to breathe again. I thought I was dying. In fact, it was so terrible, that I wanted to die, just to put an end to my suffering.
I went to several different therapists. In the early 1970’s, most therapists were using “talk” therapies to treat their clients. This can be very helpful to some, but not for me. In fact, as I talked about painful experiences over and over again, my anxiety and depressive symptoms skyrocketed. For a while there, I could not leave my own home. At that time, I thought a therapist was a therapist was a therapist. I didn’t know there were experts out there who knew how to help me.
Not one of the counselors I met with ever suggested that my feelings were partly the result of the ways that I thought about and experienced the world. I thought that this horror had descended from somewhere outside of myself. It literally entered my mind that maybe I was being inhabited by some dark force…something trying to destroy me. I thought, I’d rather have a terminal illness than live my life as a crazy person. And still I got worse and worse.
Librarian Rescues Woman From the Dark Force
One day I was perusing the self-help section of my local library when my eyes fell upon a book that I thought had one of the silliest titles I had ever seen. Author Dr. Claire Weekes called the book Hope And Help For Your Nerves. I picked it up anyway. I figured the book would be about as helpful as trying to put out a forest fire with a glass of water, but what the hey? I was desperate.
I turned the book over and began to read the back cover. The author seemed to be talking to me personally! How could this Dr. Weekes person know so much about every symptom I had been experiencing when not one, not two, not even three of my therapists seemed to know a thing about it? For the first time I read the words “panic” and “anxiety” in relation to my symptoms. I read about the causes, and the cure. I wasn’t suffering from something that came down from outer space to inhabit my mind after all. I immediately got to work…on myself.
It Was All In My Head…Well, Kinda, Sorta
To me, it was like a miracle had taken place. Someone had finally turned on the light for me. How could it be that this was so simple? Well, it wasn’t that simple. Honestly, identifying my own erroneous way of thinking and changing it took a lot of work. But all that work? Well, long story short, it was priceless. That work and many skills I learned in the next few years made my life worth living again. I found peace in my mind and in my relationships. I began to experience joy.
Would you like to discover how your own way of thinking might be working against you? Just type “thinking errors” into a Google search box and you will get a list of the most well-known causes of distorted thinking out there. You’ll read about things like “filtering,” and “overgeneralizing,” a “belief in the ‘shoulds,’” and “catastrophizing.” Oh, and don’t beat yourself up to much when you recognize them in yourself. Most of us can identify three, or five, or ten of them. But telling yourself the truth is the first step to emotional freedom. Learning about my thinking errors and beginning to tell myself the truth was part of the answer for me.
And I also learned a lot of other skills over the years that, with time and practice completely changed my life. To find out what they were, come back soon for Part 3 of this series, “Out of Control: A 4 Part Series on Feelings.”
To receive the rest of the series automatically in your inbox, just add your name to the box on the right and receive automatic updates. Otherwise, just check back. In the meantime, let’s start a conversation. Do you suffer from emotions that seem out of control to you? Which ones are cause you the most suffering? How has this affected your life…your relationships? Please feel free to comment in the area below. I’ll be jumping back in to answer as many as I can. Or meet me over at my Facebook page, “Change Your Emotions.” I would very much appreciate a “Like.”