Sorry, I will not be imitating Macauley Culkin – though I have been known to booby-trap the apartment from time to time, just to keep people on their toes. No, instead, I’m going to talk about what I’m currently feeling, why I know it’s a crazy thing to feel, and ask for suggestions on how to fix it. Sound good? Alright, we’re all on the same page. Except that one guy. You know the one. No, don’t look his way. Eyes over here.
Right now, though I am back from St. Louis in the city I hope to be calling home, it doesn’t feel very home-y. I went to groups this morning, but many of the people I normally talk to weren’t there, or were otherwise occupied. I did get to spend a few minutes with a friend after groups, but only because I was helping her fix her Wii so she could erase someone else’s Netflix info and add her own. I have tried to contact a number of people in the last two hours all from the step-down program, but to no effect. I’m not sure why; maybe they’re all busy. There’s a little part of my brain, though, that, while little, is very loud, and is yelling “Nobody wants to talk to you! You suck!”
I know that that isn’t true, because I know my friends, and they wouldn’t do that to me. It is very likely that they are all busy; not too long ago I was pretty busy, and I don’t know that I would have been able to answer a text. It can often feel, though, like I am the one who has to do all the reaching out – that I have to ask people to do something, that I am rarely invited. While I sit here typing and feeling lonely, though, I know that feeling is an unwarranted one. I am making some critical errors with my feelings. For one, I am assuming that since nobody is currently responding to me, that I am being ignored, or that people actively dislike me – this is a type of cognitive error called catastrophizing, because it involves assuming the worst in any situation. I also know that I am not always the person who reaches out – that would be an example of confirmation bias, or filtering, where I am filtering out all of the thoughts and memories that do not match what I am currently thinking and feeling, while remembering all the things that support what is on my mind now.
Learning to recognize that I am doing some of these things has been very helpful to me, because it helps me to realize that, often, there is a part of my mind that is actively working to sabotage me. Maybe it isn’t working that way purposefully – humans are, after all, hardwired to think of the negative before the positive, because always expecting the worst rather than blindly hoping for the best kept our primitive ancestors alive. But that part of my mind doesn’t behave rationally, it behaves emotionally. I feel a little lonely, and so it leaps into action, trying to find ways of justifying why I feel that way. Now, in some situations, this might be useful, but right now it is just annoying, because I have to try to block out those erroneous thoughts and feeling with the rest of my brain. Doing that while typing a blog entry, as you might imagine, is kind of hard.
But it is something I couldn’t have done before I came to treatment. I would have felt those feelings, and after a few minutes, assumed that they were the truth, that those thoughts were facts. I would have felt sad, pathetic, and lonely, all because I didn’t get any answers to tiny text messages for an hour or two. Now I can recognize those errors, single them out, and ignore them (though, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind some company). If you want a concrete example of what I have learned since coming to Menninger, I don’t know that I can give you statistics and facts, but this is about as close as I can get.
I can tell that little part of my brain to sit down, shut up, and let me get on with my day. While it doesn’t always feel good, it does tend to help, especially in situations like this. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some booby traps to set – I think I saw a Joe Pesci lookalike earlier…