Day 270, Thoughts->Beliefs->Feelings

Day 270, Thoughts->Beliefs->Feelings

 
     The moment you have a certain thought and believe it, you will experience an immediate emotional response.  Your thought actually creates the emotion.
 
David Burns, M.D.
 

Saturday Morning

 
I have seen cognitive therapists.  I have read most of David Burns’ Feeling Good twice.  Cognitive therapy works, if you practice it.
 

Belief

 
Today, I have been reflecting on what in my past may have set me up for intermittent depression.  Could it be my tendency to believe?  According to Dr. Burns, if I believe certain thoughts, especially if they are distorted, that can cause depression.
 
I grew up believing virtually everything my mother said.  Then I believed virtually everything that was said in church.  Then I believed virtually everything said in school.  As I found contradictions, I had a belief crisis.  At first, I thought contradictions could be resolved.  I even got into some manic fantasies, trying to resolve contradictions.  Then I found there were contradictions I could not resolve.  Then I began to doubt.  The doubt was probably a healthy thing.
 
I have since become more independent in my beliefs.  However, I still have a tendency to believe virtually all my thoughts.  I can still bring myself down into a depression.  Maybe I could say to myself, “Half of everything I think is false, at least.”  I can tag my thoughts with a certainty rating.  Using ‘always’ and ‘never’ are usually wrong.  My predictions of the future can virtually always be cast with uncertainty.  That is good, because often my predictions are pessimistic.  I once said I was never again going to predict anything I did not want.  However, I have not held to that.  How could I?  That is too absolute.  Maybe what I could say is, “I will predict as optimistically and realistically as possible.”
 

Meditation

 
Meditation allows you to observe your thoughts and is one way to start protecting yourself from believing everything you think.  What are other ways?  Perhaps writing down your thoughts and evaluating them for distortions is a good exercise.
 

Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts

 
Here is a record of dysfunctional thoughts I kept in August 2017.  The chart template is from Dr. David Burns’ Feeling Good.
 
Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
Situation
Briefly describe the actual event leading to the unpleasant mood.
Emotions(s)
1. Specify sad/anxious/angry, etc.
2. Rate degree of emotion 1-100%.
Automatic Thoughts
Write the automatic thought(s) that accompany the emotions(s).
Cognitive Distortions
Identify the distortion(s) present in each automatic thought.
Rational Response
Write rational response(s) to the automatic thoughts.
Outcome
Specify and rate subsequent emotions, 0-100%.
Have not finished my book, and I have been writing for almost 3 years.
Sad 90%
Overwhelmed 75%
Depressed 50%
I cannot get a book written!
 
I am so slow!
 
No one is ever going to read this!
Fortune telling.
 
All or nothing thinking.
 
Black and white thinking.
 
 
 
 
Of course I can.  I have already published two books.
 
Maybe not.  It can take 10 years to write a book.
Sad 40%
 
Overwhelmed 75%
 
Depressed 35%
Nobody is going to trust what I have to say online.
Sad 90%
Depressed 10%
 
All or nothing thinking
Fortune telling
I can build credibility somehow.  I just need to learn how.
 
There are at least 10 or so Lynda courses on how to build credibility.
Sad 10%
 
My mother does not approve of me.
Sad 70%
Depressed 50%
My mother disapproves of me!
All or nothing thinking.
 
Mind reading.
That does not mean everybody does.
 
That may not even be true.
 
She may only partially disapprove of me.
 
She may have only disapproved of me in the past.
Sad 15%
Depressed 40%
 

Still Struggling with These Thoughts

 
Unfortunately, I still struggle with these thoughts.  I kept similar charts over a period of time and worked through a lot of ANT’s (automatic negative thoughts).  Even though I did not entirely disprove the negative thoughts, I was able to cast uncertainty on them.
 
I started keeping a blog online even though I previously thought nobody would trust what I said.  So far, I still have not published my book, but I made it available here at Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!, for free.
 
Since then I have gotten some additional evidence that my mother does not approve of me, but who am I to mind read what she thinks?  If she does disapprove, it is probably not a thorough disapproval, but a partial one.
 
If ANT’s are bothering me now, I can lower their certainty in my mind and stop myself from believing them 100%.
 

Thoughts About The Future

 
One thought that has been bothering me is a concern about my future health.  I learned that my antipsychotic medication, Risperdal, is correlated with a higher than normal incidence of tumors in the pituitary gland, which is near the optic nerve.  The tumors can grow, damage the optic nerve, and even cause blindness.  However, I do not know the likelihood that this would happen to me.  Since I have experienced nearly every other possible side effect of my medications, it seems like this is at least possible, at some time in my lifetime.
 
How can I live with knowing this?  Can I just say, “It won’t happen to me?”  No.  Can I stop taking the medication?  Every time I have tried doing so, I have had a serious manic episode, requiring hospitalization.  Yes, that is absolutely every time.  Maybe there is something I could do to lower the probability of this happening.  My doctors never discussed this with me.  Yes, that ‘never’ is absolute.  Perhaps they thought I would not take my medication if I knew.  Maybe they did not even know about this side effect.  Online, lawyers seem to know more about this than doctors.
 
For now, I have reasonably good eyesight.  For distance, I do not even need eyeglasses.  Perhaps my sight will be okay.  My concerns might be worth discussing with a doctor however or even a lawyer.  Fortunately, for now I am on a low dose of Risperdal, and perhaps that matters.  However, who knows?
 
The other atypical antipsychotics are less associated with pituitary tumors.  However, do I want to try another drug whose effectiveness I do not know?  When I switch drugs, I have to go through the withdrawal symptoms of getting off one and the side effects of getting on another.  I have had that experience more than once in the past, and it was miserable.  Is switching worth risking another manic episode?  Manic episodes are so dangerous and devastating, not to mention expensive.
 

What Can Bring My Mood Up?

 
Not Having to Drive Today
So what can I think of that will bring my mood up rather than down?  And when I say up, I mean not too far.  A low mood is probably preferable to wildly swinging moods.  I have been planning to take my husband to Europtics to get his new eyeglasses.  However, today, and several days before today, he has not wanted to go.  He says, “Tomorrow.”  In a way, that is good.  I do not feel like driving today.  I could force myself to do it, but it is nice to not have to.
 
Access to Training Videos
Even though I have not gone to the library to get my library card, my lynda.com access still works with my temporary barcode.  It is a new month.  Let me see if that is still true.
 
It is.  I can still use lynda’s training videos.
 
Finances
What else is good?  Even though I had big dental bill last month, I am still in the black for May.  My husband got a refund for his deposit for the retirement complex we used to live in.  He also signed for me to be a beneficiary on his retirement account.  I have not found evidence that that has taken effect yet but one thing at a time.  
 
Vacuuming
What else?  I got the vacuuming done this week.  You probably have no idea how big of a deal that is.
 
Neighbors
I also visited with several neighbors in our condo lately, and they seemed interested in talking to me.  So far, I have not told any of them about my bipolar disorder, and I probably will not.  I do not want them worrying about me.  I do not want them feeling insecure.  One of them told me her sister was murdered by her step-son, who was “nuts.”  The step-son also killed himself.  Maybe that is my neighbor’s view of mental illness.  I do not want to risk having that stigma applied to me.
 
Grocery and Pizza Delivery
What else is good?  I guess you can see I am struggling a bit.  We got two orders of groceries delivered yesterday.  I am so glad we can afford delivery.  There are at least a couple of items we forgot to include, but before long, we will need enough for another order.
 
We also got pizza the night before last.  The amount of pizza I ate did not support my diet, but my husband loved it.  Unfortunately, the gluten-free crust is only available for small-sized pizzas.  I was not able to convince my husband to order gluten-free anyway, so I still have not gone gluten-free.  I am uncertain how much of a problem gluten is for me, but the more I study it, the more I believe I would benefit from going gluten-free.  Convincing my husband to be supportive is the next step.  I will not get that done today.
 
We got blueberries, which I love, and I ordered cherries for the first time this year; I love cherries.  They are probably my favorite fruit.
 
Good Weather
The weather is warming up.  Spring happened for a few days at a time, then repeatedly we had winter again, which is now transitioning straight into summer.  I understand this winter was long, even by high-altitude, Colorado standards.  However, we have a wonderfully warm condo.  Our electric bill, which includes heating and air-conditioning, is miniscule.  We are so fortunate to have things that way.  Another thing that is great is that Colorado has enough moisture this year.  The drought is over for now.  We are also close enough to the mountains that we have been protected from the horrendous tornado season this spring, which has gone on to the east of us.
 
Interesting Television
I have lately been able to enjoy some television.  We watched the episode of Little House on the Prairie when Mary went blind.  I checked some Web sites and found a historical piece about the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, Iowa, where Mary went to school.  Mary is believed to have had brain fever, which damaged her optic nerve.  Though some of the historical details differ with the TV series, I think Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson did a good job of portraying the likely emotions involved.
 
Schooling in the nineteenth century was generally much stricter than it was in my day.  Mary is portrayed on TV as being a bit feisty, but I read that historically, she never had a behavior problem at the school.  She also never married.  To leave her family and reside at the school was likely difficult.  However, she was already fourteen.   Maybe it was like going to college a little early.  Personally, I had no home sickness at college.
 
Weight
What else is going right for me?  Until we had pizza on Thursday, my weight was the lowest it had been all year.  I plan to stick with my weight loss plans, even though the going is slow.
 
My Husband’s Health
Another good thing is that my husband has not had a fall this year.  We have not had to call the paramedics; we have not been in the emergency room; there have been no stitches or CAT scans.  However, I am still paying the bills for last year.  They keep trickling in.  I think the big ones are long paid for though.  We are fortunate to have Medicare.  My husband’s secondary insurance pays a lot also.
 
My husband can walk around the condo.  I sometimes get him out into the hall to walk with a walker.  If we go anywhere, we take a transport chair.  I have gotten used to lifting it in and out of the jeep.  I could worry about his health getting worse, but what good would that do me?
 
My Health
My health is not perfect, but it could be that I am doing well for my age.  I am thinking of visiting a chiropractor for my back.  I suspect the pain was caused by my fall on the concrete last spring (2018).  My eye infection bothers me at times, but by using cotton rounds and baby shampoo, I can keep them reasonably clean.  However, I cleaned them 42 times from January 14 to May 30 (134 days) according to my record in JV Life Tracker.  My doctor advised me to do it at least every other day.  I could probably do better.  I tried cleaning them every day, and that made my eyes hurt intolerably.  So I did it less frequently again and started using cotton rounds.  Maybe with cotton rounds, I can tolerate cleaning my eyes more often.
 
Opportunity to Read
Lately, I have been able to read a lot.  That is something I love to do.  I have also watched FMTV.  In an interview on FMTV, David Wolfe, a popular raw foodist, mentioned that he does not watch documentaries very much, even though he is featured in many.  Instead, he does a lot of reading.  I thought that was good.  Being a health coach myself, I think it is imperative that I read.  Luckily, I have the option of choosing my material.  Lately, I have chosen to study mental health.  Of course, I am usually interested in the connection between mental health and nutrition.  There is a connection.  However, there is much more to mental health than just nutrition.
 
Recently, I read two books by people with bipolar disorder, in these cases bipolar type II.  One favored nature as the cause of bipolar disorder; the other favored nurture.  The person favoring nurture appeared to be happier than the other author and perhaps even had his bipolar disorder under better control.  The woman who favored nature was unhappy and had taken a long time to find even a partially effective pharmaceutical treatment, which involved a whole cocktail of drugs.  She was functional, but she explained that she really had to force herself to do anything.
 

Cognitive Therapy

 
Though two authors is too small of a sample size to arrive at any conclusive settlement to the nature versus nurture question, this and the teachings of Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. in The Biology of Belief are leading me to take another look at Dr. David Burns’ Feeling Good (1980). Dr. Burns also mentions how medication does not always work that well and that his cognitive therapy will usually result in an improvement, even without medication. Feeling Good was published almost forty years ago, before SSRI’s even came out.  Could it be that we have had the answer to feeling good that long?
 
I created my tables of dysfunctional thoughts in 2017.  That is interesting because since then I have not had a manic episode.  My last manic episode was in 2016.  Cause and effect?  Probably not, but it is an interesting observation.
 
As I have been going back to proofread this blog entry, I found distortions in my thinking, which hopefully I have corrected.  Writing my thoughts has been a revealing exercise.  When we are just thinking, we may not correct distortions on the fly.  If you want some free therapy, get out your journal, write your thoughts, and find the distortions.  Check out Dr. David Burns’ pdf, which describes cognitive distortions.  This knowledge has been around for almost 40 years, or more.
 
Right now I am memorizing his list with the memorization techniques I learned in Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley.
 
Let me see if I have it:
 

Cognitive Distortions

 
1.
All or nothing thinking
2.
Generalization
3.
Mental filter
4.
Discounting the positive
5.
Jumping to conclusions
a.  Mind reading
b.  Fortune telling
6.
Magnification
7.
Emotional reasoning
8.
Should statements
9.
Labeling
10.
Personalization and blame
 
I was close.  Those memory techniques are very helpful.  I associated the items on this list with the parts of a car.  See Kevin’s book for how to do that.
 

Exaggeration

 
Now I am feeling not too down and not too far up–just about the middle.  I mentioned some negative and some positive things.  I was careful not to exaggerate.  Okay, a ‘miniscule’ energy bill is an exaggeration, but if you would have seen some of the electricity and gas bills I have seen, you would probably agree ours is miniscule.
 
I have had emotions so far up and so far down that in describing them, it would be difficult to exaggerate.  When I was in college, before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a roommate said she had never known anyone who could get so far up and then so far down as I was.
 

My Believing Past

 
If my emotions follow what I think and believe, and my emotions are like a roller coaster, sometimes rapid cycling, does that mean my beliefs change that fast?  Perhaps they have, because I believed virtually everything I heard.  I did not have a belief guard in college.  If my roommates said it, I believed it; if Mom said it, I believed it; if somebody in church said it, I believed it; if my professors said it, I believed it.  No one taught me that I must guard against so much believing, even though I got teased about being gullible when I was young.
 
If there was a contradiction, I would sometimes try to resolve it.  I likely believed contradictory things at the same time.  It sounds like I was a mess, does it not?  I graduated at the top of my class in high school, but that did not mean I was learning how to be a functional adult.  In college, my roller coaster emotions started to interfere with my school work.
 
I will not likely have children now, but if I do, I will be sure to teach them to view what they hear and see with suspicion.  Sometimes we hold beliefs for a long time before we think to question them.  According to Bruce Lipton, up until about age seven years, our brains are in a hypnotic state.  We take in information without questioning it.  I do not know if I ever really grew past that stage.
 

Parting Ways With My Parents

 
So how does this affect my life now?  When I was in my late 40’s, I finally reached the stage where I did not believe everything Mom said.  That caused her some upset.  I think she was used to having me believe her.  Since then, we have taken different paths in spirituality.  She may be afraid I do not love her, but that is not the case.  However, I am glad that I later got away from living under her roof.  Even lately I still found myself believing her when I did not want to.  She passed a judgment on me, and I believed it and felt miserable.
 

Beliefs About Ourselves

 
Beliefs about ourselves are important to all of us.  I have relied on my parents to tell me about myself, but I have to cast some uncertainty on what they tell me or believing it can sink me into depression.  Now I ask my husband, but even he does not know the deepest parts of myself.  I need to believe carefully about myself because those beliefs become who I am.  I suppose I can apply the principle I mentioned above and form beliefs with a degree of uncertainty.  Some things are not true all the time.  Being the sensitive person I am, I still remember labels well-meaning people at work called me.  Perhaps I can reduce my certainty about those labels.  Perhaps they are not true any more, if they ever were.  How often do we wear a label from the past, not even realizing it does not apply anymore?
 
I wrote about the process of defining our self-image earlier this year.  Forming a self-image is actually far more comprehensive than just what I wrote about it.  It involves all the data we assemble in our mental data base about ourselves.  That information is vast.  I believe how we organize and access that information is important.  Cognitive distortions in our thoughts about our self-image are especially critical to get rid of.
 
“I always do this, and I never do that.”
Not likely true, though there may be some things you know you have never done.
“I cannot do that because I am not that sort of person.”
As long as you believe that, that is usually true.  However, you can change what you believe about the sort of person you are.
 

Thoughts About My Diagnoses

 
I have thought about challenging my bipolar disorder diagnosis.  It has started to define me, and that is not exactly what I am.  For instance, violence and debauchery are often associated with bipolar, and that is definitely not want I am.  Bipolar is just a label.  Diagnoses are just mental constructs in the diagnostic manual and in the doctor’s head.  Based on symptoms I present or describe, doctors make their closest match to what is in the manual.  However, it could be wrong!  The doctor could be wrong.  The manual could be wrong.  I could be wrong in my descriptions.  Actually, several different diagnoses have been given to me.  I could ascribe a degree of uncertainty to all of them.  Right now, I am not going to tackle doing that.
 

Thoughts About My Faith

 
More and more, I am being careful not to believe all my thoughts or everything I read or hear.  I have a great deal of knowledge.  However, I have not questioned it all.  That is a task that takes time.  In our information age, sorting out what we believe about the information we receive becomes a monumental task.  When it came to questioning my faith, I had to be cautious about the sources of information I uncovered.  It may be that I even formed new false beliefs.  However, my study was thorough enough that I finally asked myself, how many false’s are needed to prove this is not true?
 

Thoughts About Thoughts

 
My keyword for today is likely thoughts.  I may have used it before.  In that case, I will probably use it again.  What if it is possible for me to recover from my mental health diagnoses using my thoughts?  It takes more than thought.  It involves controlling which thoughts I believe.  I do not think I can just list my top ten empowering beliefs (listed in Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!), and have that work.  I probably cannot just believe my 14 Beliefs for a Popular Blog and have that guarantee my recovery, though that will likely help.
 
Toby Jensen, a life coach I met in Utah, claimed he could cure mental illness through changing beliefs.  He had patented a method to do it.  He offered to help me.  However, the cost would have been prohibitive for me.  After talking to him, I determined that he had some of the beliefs I had carefully questioned.  Is there a way I could cure my mental illness on my own?  Therapy would help, but going once a month will likely not re-write my belief system.  Maybe my journal therapy is what will work.  I can write down my thoughts, then comb through them to root out distortions and inaccuracies.  I can assign certainty by assembling supporting evidence, or I can assign uncertainty, like maybe or probably, to things I am not sure of.
 
I believe I have the discipline to undertake that project.  That is essentially what I have done today.  If I want to write privately about my thoughts and beliefs, I can do the same thing.
 
 
 
 
EVENING Prayer
 
Dear Lord,
 
Please forgive me if I am less certain about You than is true.  My understanding is that You have forgiven me, of everything.  My former faith did not teach that, but my Christian faith does.
 
Lord, I am becoming more careful about what I believe.  I confess that I have not always been that way.
 
Lord, I believe I may have readers who need skills I demonstrated today.  As I remember it, the school system I went through did not encourage or teach us how to systematically tag our beliefs by degree of certainty.  Teachers and texts fed us a great deal of information and rarely indicated how certain any ‘fact’ was.
 
I believe skills like this are becoming increasingly   necessary in a world bombarded with information.  Some people, especially those with
critical-thinking parents, may learn how to do this at a young age.  I did not.
 
I cannot believe everything I think.  Well, I can try, but I suspect doing so will actually cause mental problems.  I am not 100% certain of that, but my own experience seems to confirm it.
 
Lord, let my experience confirm my faith.  If it does not, let me find a better one.
 
Lord, help me to retain the will to live.  Depression can take that out of me, and I have sometimes feared for my life.  I am blessed, especially in being married to my husband who has amply provided for me.
 
Bless my readers with the will to root out cognitive distortions from their thoughts and especially from their beliefs.  Help them to face reality squarely, with their mood being neither too high or too low.  Bless them for their willingness to read this.
 
Amen.
 
If you would like to join me in this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One.
 
KaeLyn Morrill
 

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