I have a (Disorder/Disease), my (Disorder/Disease) makes me (Adjective) and I can tell this is happening because (Symptoms). When I start to feel this way I usually cope by (Destructive Behavior). However, when I use this destructive coping mechanism, it usually makes me (Adjective). Today I am going to (Productive Behavior), when I begin to feel (Adjective).
For those of you reading this, you probably recognize this mad lib as a basic cognitive therapy or schema therapy technique, but I think Mad Libs are more fun than therapy!
Here is an example of this filled in:
I have an anxiety disorder, my anxiety disorder makes me more anxious, and I can tell this is happening because I experience tremors, begin to sweat, experience cognitive impairment. When I start to feel this way I usually cope by self-medicating through alcohol, isolating. However, when I use this destructive coping mechanism it usually makes me feel better temporarily but my anxiety is worse in the long term. Today I am going to workout, or go for a walk, or color, when I begin to feel anxious.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Diseases and disorders like addiction, anxiety, depression, etc. can be so powerful over our minds that we often forget that the quickest solution often leaves us feeling worse than before. As someone who suffers from general anxiety disorder and the disease of addiction, I am constantly fighting with my own mind to avoid drinking to solve for my short-term anxiety. I easily forget that drinking only increases my anxiety and leaves me unable to deal with the real issue that triggered it (unfortunately I don’t always know the real issue!). I cannot always control my anxiety, but by changing the way I think, and by testing my cognitive distortions, I can at least begin to challenge it.
More importantly though, why do I even care that I have anxiety? Why do I care if you notice my hand is shaking a little bit, or I am sweating when maybe I shouldn’t be? Why am I embarrassed by these physiological manifestations of my anxiety? Well for one, I am worried about how I will be perceived by others, especially those I do not know. Two, my symptoms of anxiety are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal, so what if someone thinks I have been drinking? Why can’t I just say, “Sorry about the shaking?” And then, “I have a genetic anxiety disorder and it happens every once and awhile. “ The answer is simple… FEAR!
Fear is what drives our diseases/disorders – anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. If we really look closely, then we realize it is all driven by fear. I am anxious about a job interview. Why? Because I am afraid I might not get hired, or I might make a fool of myself. I keep drinking even though I know it is killing me. Why? Because my fear of never drinking again is greater than my fear of dying. I isolate because I am depressed. Why? Because I am afraid that my mood will bring others down, or that God forbid someone will notice I am unhappy, and I will have to talk about it! I am sure many of you have heard FEAR: Face Everything And Respond, but how many of us have actually done that? I know I haven’t been great at it, but I am working on it each day and getting better at it. The mind is an amazing thing. By confronting our thoughts and feelings, and reality testing them, we begin to realize the irrationality of our thoughts. Our thinking will begin to change.
I plan to post a lot more on this topic, but for now I will leave you with two thoughts:
- NO ONE and I mean NO ONE is paying that much attention to you! People are so caught up in their own issues (insert self here!) that yours are hardly noticed.
- “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter!” – Dr. Suess