February 5th, 2014
A former intern with Surrey Young Carers, explains why this day is so vital
1. conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected
What if, in life, at some point down the line, your thoughts start becoming unusual, untypical or unexpected? Does this mean you are abnormal? Does it mean that there’s something wrong with you? The truth is, unexpected or ‘intrusive’ thoughts happen to us all at some point in our lives; they only become a problem when they turn into negative actions or ‘unhelpful behaviours’.
But how do you distinguish between a helpful and unhelpful behaviour?
I used to have intrusive thoughts that somebody was going to break into the house – probably a thought that everybody has suffered with at some point. This thought would possibly make me feel a little anxious and so I may check the front door was definitely locked, for example. This would be a helpful behaviour as it would put my mind at rest.
But what happens when it doesn’t stop there?
Typically, this thought that circled my mind then turned into emotions – worried, anxious, upset and overwhelmed – and these emotions then turned into an action/behaviour – so I would check the window was shut and the door was locked, over and over again, I would check throughout the night until it ended up affecting my sleep.
This is an example of an unhelpful ‘thought – feeling – behaviour’ pattern or ‘vicious cycle’. Recently, I have attended some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workshops to learn some coping skills that will help me to realise how my thoughts turn into behaviours, and how I can cope with this in a more helpful and positive way.
I have learnt that it’s normal to experience intrusive thoughts, thoughts that may not seem ‘normal’ to you. But that it’s important to acknowledge these thoughts for what they are – just ‘thoughts’, very simply – and to accept them. This then reduces any anxiety that may surround them, and this then helps to reduce the chances of it leading to any unhelpful behaviour.
On February 6th, the Mental Health Awareness campaign ‘Time to Change’ is having a ‘Time to Talk Day’. You can start your conversation in any way you like – ‘how are you?’ is a great place to start, over a cuppa in the staffroom, or perhaps when you bump into a friend in the supermarket. Don’t ever be afraid to ask someone how they are – if they had a broken leg, you wouldn’t think twice.
Having a mental illness is just as debilitating as having a physical illness – often more so because the mental pain of the stigma we have to suffer, from the ignorance of others simply not taking the time to understand, is so difficult to endure.
Take the time this February 6th to ask a friend, or colleague, how they’re doing – it doesn’t take much time to talk, and it could make a huge difference to their life.