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. 

street sign with the word "Ask"

From the Readers: Questions About Going to Therapy

I missed posting this for Mental Health Awareness Month back in May, but I figure that the purpose of my blog is to generate awareness around mental health year-round.

Last month I gave some of my followers an opportunity to ask questions anonymously about going to therapy using a Google form I had created. My hope was that if anyone out there felt hesitant about going to therapy, they could ask a question and I (a frequent therapy goer) or my husband, Dean (a licensed therapist) could answer it.

We answered the same question separately from each other, so you may see a little overlap in our advice below.

The question I want to focus on in this post is:

How do you “try out” a therapist to see if they are a good fit without having to retell your trauma every time?

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silver Gerber knife

Running with Knives (Part 1): Reflections on a Traumatic Experience

*TRIGGER WARNING – trauma, attempted assault

I know normally it’s a bad idea to run with knives, but every time I go jogging, I always have one in my pocket.

Many times when I go running, it will be early in the morning, a little before sunrise. It’s dark outside as I head off down my road, the occasional street lamp helping to light my way. I’m acutely aware of my surroundings, looking out for anything suspicious or unusual. I check behind me often to make sure I’m not being followed. The irrational side of me (or is it actually my rational side?) feels somewhat unsafe and the warning bells are ringing loudly inside my mind. The other side of me pushes those feelings aside and thinks “what are the odds that something bad would actually happen?” The problem is, I’m all too familiar with those odds, because all it takes is one time, one event – and that event happened to me when I was a junior in high school.

Our family had a dog growing up, and by dog I mean a little chihuahua-dachshund mix that weighed about 10 pounds. Her name was Peanut. Every day my dad or I would take her on walks around our neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona. One evening, I don’t remember why, I decided I was going to take Peanut on a short walk. It was around 9pm, and the sun was long gone. The warning bells were softly chiming in my mind – it’s dark, you shouldn’t go out by yourself, yes YOU, the skinny 17-year-old girl! – but I brushed the thoughts aside and told myself, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

Our house in Phoenix was unusual in that it had an 8-foot stucco wall surrounding the entire front yard. (All the houses in this neighborhood were like that – I guess to offer more privacy.) So I walked out the front door of my house, and then unlocked the front gate in the outer wall that led out to our driveway.

I walked along the sidewalk past all the stucco-surrounded homes, carrying my pooper-scooper and plastic bag on one hand, and holding Peanut’s bright pink leash in the other. The next block over (continuing straight) was just a big empty dirt field, and on the other side of the street were various apartment complexes. I wasn’t that far from home, I had just made it to the dirt field in the next block over, when I noticed a man walking a ways behind me. But he was gaining on me fast.

I didn’t like the way he was walking or how fast he was catching up to me. The warning bells were now full-on blaring in my head, I knew this was not good. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that when I’m in a bad situation (real or perceived) my personality initially wants to do something to try to fix it. In other words, I’m not going down without a fight. That being said, the LAST thing I really wanted to do was get into a fight with a strange man who might be out to harm me. But I wasn’t going to go down easily either.

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