pink boxing gloves

Guest Post: Combating Negative Thoughts

Greetings! I’m not sure exactly how to introduce myself here, but my name is Megan, and I am a friend of Erica’s. She asked me if I’d write something “related to mental health” for this month as a guest post, and I agreed because mental health is such an important topic, especially in my life. When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression, and an anxiety diagnosis was added on during my adulthood. I’m very open about my mental health history, which (I suspect) is probably why Erica was comfortable asking me to pick a topic to write about.

As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, one of the things I struggle with the most is fighting against negative thoughts. Some of these thoughts are specific ideas I go back to time and again when I am feeling down about myself, and some are intrusive thoughts that will pop up in my head when I am dealing with a particularly difficult situation. Either way, both types of negative thoughts start a spiral where my mood just drops down significantly. Once that happens, it can be hard to lift myself back up again.

My family occasionally sees a family counselor to work on creating a healthy dynamic at home, and during a recent session we spoke about some ways to combat these types of thoughts. I was actually a bit reluctant to talk about it at first. It seems like for years I’ve been inundated with “think positive” messages from all over, from the media, to my friends, to my doctors. And all it seemed to do was put pressure on me. I even developed a new recurrent negative thought of maybe I’m just a negative, toxic person because I couldn’t stop negative thoughts from popping up.

Before our family counselor began sharing any exercises with us though, she emphasized to us that it’s important we know negative thoughts are perfectly normal. Hearing this was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders! I’d been berating myself for so long for having so many negative thoughts, but maybe I could let go of some of that judgment towards myself.

One of the ways she showed us how to combat negative thoughts is to 1) acknowledge the thought, and 2) immediately replace it with something that we know to be true and good. I’ll give some examples below:

“I hate my life!” —–> “I don’t hate my life. I’m struggling with this situation, but I know what to do and I will get through this.”

“I’m so dumb.” —–> “I’m not dumb. I feel a little silly for the mistake I made, but I’m capable of so many things and I’ll continue to do my best.”

Sometimes therapy exercises can feel a little awkward, but she had us come up with some typical thoughts that pop up, and we practiced rewriting those. And then we gauged how we felt after reading each sentence, both the negative and then the changed one.

For me, now that I’ve had some time to practice this in my real life for several weeks, I’ve found changing my thoughts to be an empowering experience. Negative thoughts may come, but they don’t have to control me. If you find that you struggle with this type of thinking, I encourage you to perhaps try this exercise for yourself and see if you feel the same way.

Thanks for reading my small contribution to Erica’s blog! And a big thanks to Erica for asking me to share.

Megan is a military spouse and stay-at-home parent to her two daughters, Heidi and Thea. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Wright State University (Go Raiders!). She has lived in Abilene, TX for the last 4.5 years, and she enjoys traveling across the world to get new stamps in her passport with her family. She is also an extrovert at heart and loves coffee dates, window shopping, and game nights with friends. 

My Sister Rachel (Part 4): Guest Blog Post!

I am excited to share with you the very first guest blog post featured on my blog – and it's from none other than my wonderful husband, Dean! I hope to make guest blogging a more regular feature on here, so hopefully I'll have some willing guest writers! I'm thankful for more perspectives on the topic of interacting with people with autism and other intellectual differences. - Erica

Erica has shared her perspective of growing up with her sister, but we thought it would be interesting to also share some of my experiences with Rachel.  In my current job, I work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, just like Rachel.  However, I never imagined I would be working with this population when I thought about what my career would look like, and it’s been a wonderful surprise.

I don’t remember having much interaction at all with people with disabilities when I was growing up.  I’m sure that I did without being aware of it, but in general I was around kids and other people who looked pretty similar to myself.  I was taught and raised that people different than me were still human beings, and that I should treat them with dignity and respect.  In spite of that upbringing, I just didn’t know much about how to interact with people with disabilities.  

I think it is really common for people to not know how to approach or even initiate a conversation with someone who is different from them.  (This is especially challenging for us fellow introverts.)  So when I went to visit Erica’s family for the first time and met Rachel, I honestly didn’t know how to respond.  She did not have traditional conversation skills, did not speak to me as I walked in the door, and very often did not seem to notice that I was around at all.  However, I was able to say hello to her and it eventually became pretty natural to be around her.  

There were some interesting things that happened before it felt  natural though.  As kind of a nervous habit, I would clear my throat a lot without even knowing I was doing it.  When I went to meet Erica’s family for the first time, I did plenty of throat-clearing (I mean meeting your girlfriend’s family can be intimidating!).  I remember we had all sat down to eat dinner for the first time, and I was sitting right next to Rachel. Inevitably, I began clearing my throat, and Rachel suddenly grabbed both of my hands and moved them to my mouth.  Initially I was really taken aback and confused, thinking that she was trying to hurt me or something.  But Erica’s family explained that Rachel was taught that it is polite for a person to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, and she was just on the lookout for people who did not follow the rules.  Although I was just clearing my throat and not actually coughing ( my mouth was actually closed while doing this) Rachel still felt I needed to overtly cover my mouth with my hands, even if it was after the fact.  Once I figured that out, it was not a problem to go ahead and do this on my own.  But it took knowing the additional context and reason behind her actions to help me understand why this was significant.  

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