Observing Distress Rather than Becoming Distressed

I can still remember my late twenties. I began having a hard time. I started going to a therapist, who told me that I should tell him my worries and then, crucially, he taught me how to observe my problems as though they were a leaf on a stream. I was supposed to watch the thought from the shores rather than identify with it. In other words, I was being taught the important lesson that we are not our thoughts. Therapists call the process of overidentifying with your thoughts fusion. And so their job is to help us defuse from our thoughts, and then, if we’re lucky to have a good therapist, they train us how to defuse our thoughts ourselves. If you have schizophrenia, this is very difficult and perhaps you will also continue to require a therapist in order to keep perspective on how you are not your thinking. I’m not a professional, but that’s what happened with me.

It was an important lesson when I first learned to watch my thinking rather than experiencing my thoughts as facts. I remember feeling so relaxed after it for several days. I realized it was my interpretation that was causing the distress. I had attached values to events, and these values weren’t universal. Eventually I needed to go on medicine to remind myself that I was not my thinking. My thinking became more persuasive to myself even as it became more detached from logic. And it became so strong that I created the situations I feared were happening in my interpretive world as I alienated myself from friends and family and coworkers.

Now, safely on my medicine and avoiding things and situations that are triggering when I can – choosing my battles, if you will – I can indeed stay on the bank and watch the leaves of my thinking pass by the stream of life. I am not my thoughts. We are not our thoughts. What type of therapy is this called? It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mixed with mindfulness and positive psychology. I learned about how to talk about it from the book Treating Psychosis: A Clinician’s Guide to Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Compassion-Focused Therapy and Mindfulness Approaches within the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Tradition. There are, as I said, 8 authors to the book. The main author is Nicola P. Wright, PhD, CPsych.

If you struggle with mental health issues, remember I am not a professional and am just writing as a lay person with lived experience. Perhaps my book will help you find meaning, however. It is about how I found meaning in my struggle with schizoaffective disorder and how you can start to think positive about managing your care. It’s free:

Yoga Helps Combat My Medication’s Side Effects

I wrote several weeks ago about how I went up on my medicine because Spring is hard for me. I also mentioned that Spring is hard for a lot of other people with mental health conditions. In fact, it is one of the more dangerous times. A lot of people don’t realize this.

One of the side effects of my medication is that it makes me stiff and achy and creaky. A while back I met with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in ten years, and when I sat down I exhaled loudly and he said:

“Wow, you’re already that old?!?”

I didn’t want to get into the medication side effects so I just smiled and said, “Apparently. :)”

I do yoga every morning when I am taking more medicine than I normally would. It is my way of showing care for myself and my body. And I do feel dramatically less stiff throughout the day as a result. I love it. I can’t say it will be the same for you, but it might just work out if you try it. Here’s the clip I watch:

p.s.

Having a hard time? Consider reading my book. It’s free and about my journey to finding a compassionate and Christian lens that was uplifting and empowering for my life with schizoaffective disorder:

https://erinmichaelgrimm.files.wordpress.com/2020/09/emergentgracefinal9.26.2020.pdf

Great program for management of relationships and responsibilities

I joined 17hats last year and am just now starting to use it. And no – I’m not getting paid for this post. As a person with a mental health condition that disturbs my sense of purpose and direction as well as my relationships, it is amazing how helpful it is to have an interface for emails and friendship tracking and professional commitments all backed up. This is because it gives you consistency even when your mood or plans change. Maybe you fall off the bandwagon for a couple days or longer. At least you have a record of what stability looks like and where to pick up the pieces as you go along your way.

I am also using it to put on contracts that I get and other things and am realizing how busy I actually am, which also feels nice since I don’t have a full-time hectic teaching schedule anymore. It is amazing how much our devotion to work schema in the US makes me feel like I’m not contributing just because I don’t have a 40-hour workweek. When you don’t have that validation of working for a full organization it is easy to feel like you aren’t a full person, but it means a lot when you realize that, indeed, you’re getting paid, and you’re keeping in contact with people, and that even if I wasn’t able to do even that, I would still be an equally worthy human being and individual.

People who work for themselves usually rejoice at not having a boss, but when you really struggle if you do have a boss, then it seems less like a choice and more like a weakness. But here I am in a cafe after having just written up some reports and man does it feel good to be able to check things off!