Cognitive RestructuringSeveral years ago, I found myself sitting alone, loaded pistol in hand. I had been severely, severely depressed, and had been walking around in a fog for months. By this point, I didn't know if I was coming or going. I just...was...and barely even was.
Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity. It came from nowhere, but it made me realize what I was doing with that gun. I was about to end my life and hadn't even realized it. I'd been having panic attacks at the rate of 5 or 6 per DAY. The panic attacks would cause my asthma to flare up and I'd even been hospitalized with that for two weeks. I was breaking out in hives from nerves. From the waist up, I was one huge red, moving welt.
When the moment of clarity came, I had enough sense about me to know that I needed help. That's when I began searching for a psychiatrist/therapist somewhere away from my hometown.
I'd been to a therapist as a teen. At that time, the therapist said that she didn't see anything out of the ordinary from me. She said that I just had a lot on my plate and that most people would buckle under the same circumstances. She gave me some sort of antidepressant to try and sent me on my not-so-merry way. The antidepressant didn't work- at all.
When I first went to the new therapist, in 2001, he diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. It was the first time I'd ever had a name for the things that were wrong with me. HOWEVER, he did not feel that I needed medication to treat these things- only therapy. So, we began therapy sessions twice a week for 16 weeks (he had to have open heart surgery and I never went back to him when he came back after his recovery). I also began to research these three disorders, reading everything I could get my hands on. The best book I found for the Bipolar was called "New Hope For People With Bipolar Disorder" by Jan Fawcett, MD, Bernard Golden, PhD and Nancy Rosenfeld. Great book.
During that time, he spent time explaining the disorders in great detail, talking out my problems with me, teaching me many other helpful tricks and having me do certain exercises. He used the analogy of Swiss Cheese for BPD. He said, "What is the most prominent quality of Swiss Cheese?" Of course, it's the holes. He compared BPD to the Swiss, by saying that I also had "holes" in my personality which were formed when I didn't get something that I needed as a child. He had me to carve a totem pole once, so that I'd have a visual reminder of my goals. Said it was the first time he'd ever asked anyone to do such a thing. (Strange, but it worked.) His methods weren't necessarily "traditional", but they got the job done...and that's what is important.
He also taught me what he called the "ANT Analogy". (ANT=Automatic Negative Thoughts.) He posed a few questions to me. He asked, "Would one ant ruin a picnic?". Of course, the answer was no. "Would a hundred ants ruin a picnic?", he asked. Well, they wouldn't RUIN it, but they would pose a bit of a problem. Then, he asked if a thousand ants would ruin a picnic. They would.
He explained to me that the negative thoughts worked in much the same way with the human mind. My first goal was to realize when I was having negative thoughts. That took some time, but I did begin to realize every time a "good-god-I'm-such-a-****-up" thought would cross my mind. My next goal, after realizing these things, was to try to replace the negatives with positives. So, I did. You would not believe how greatly that silly little bit of mind control (self control) has helped me.
Yes, I still have bad days, but for the most part, I do well. It's only when everything starts falling apart at one time that I tend to forget to apply what I've learned. I've only had one panic attack since going to therapy in '01. ONE. Controlling my thoughts, and my attitude/outlook along with them, has been the greatest lesson I've learned in my lifetime, I believe.