Have you ever felt like you were a prisoner to your own thoughts?
No matter how hard you tried to "not think" about that one thing, you always find yourself thinking about it? You've spent hours, days or even months ruminating on a thought pattern or have been bombarded by intrusive thoughts and you have no idea how to get them to stop. This was me several months ago. My thoughts were related to my trauma as a former pediatric ICU nurse, the lawsuit I was involved in, and the negative environment I was immersed in for almost a decade of my career. These thoughts were debilitating. I had very visceral reactions when I was triggered by sounds and TV shows like ER. I was dreaming about the ICU long after I had left and struggling with the identity shift that I'm not a "real" nurse any longer. And then when I thought I had "gotten over it", I had a panic attack in the middle of an ICU outside the door of my dad's room after his open heart surgery. It had become very clear to me that I had not yet "gotten over it".
I had to get help. So I reached out to a trusted professional to help me process and make sense of all these things in my mind. Especially when it came to my own faith in God. My faith shapes my worldview. When I consider world or social events or issues, I look at it through a Biblical lens. The beautiful thing about this is that the Bible and its teachings are the same yesterday, today and forever so I know I can count on it to help me find the answers I'm looking for. But what about mental health? Can I really reprogram my thought life so that I can get through my days, function as a professional RN still, care for my family and run a business?? Yes. Absolutely.....with a lot of WORK.
I began reading a book with my counselor that helped me break my thoughts down, look at them, ask questions about them and then decide what I get to do with them. This was so empowering! I first began to ask the first question in this book: "Is this thought true?" In our culture today, many believe that what is true for one person isn't true for another. And while I do agree with that idea to an extent, I also have a standard to what I believe I can hold all thoughts, ideas, situations up to. I use Biblical Scripture as the standard to which I measure my thoughts up to.
I know that some people reading this post now don't believe in God or the Biblical world view and that's ok. This idea can still apply to those who do not believe in a faith. When you examine the the question of if your thought is true, you can usually say "yes", "no" or "possibly....in x-y-z scenario". For example, if you have the ruminating thought that nothing goes your way and you are not successful you can obviously look around and know that the thought is NOT true. Based on the mere fact that you are sitting here, reading this post on a smartphone/tablet/computer means that you had the ability to gain the funds to purchase the device or convince someone to gift/buy it for you. And in those two situations you were successful and something has gone your way, disproving the idea that "nothing goes your way and you are not successful". That stops the thought in its tracts and calls it out for what it is: a lie. Obviously, this is a very generalized thought however this question still stands true for deeper and more complexing ideas as well.
With this very simple tool in your toolbox, you can easily dispel many unhelpful and unwanted thoughts that you come across during the day. There are a few other tools that I'd love to share with you in the coming weeks. If you are curious what book I went through with my counselor, it's called
'A Still and Quiet Mind' authored by Esther Smith. Click the button below for the Amazon link. This book is meant as a tool, and since it was so helpful for me I will discuss how one her methods has helped me in upcoming posts. I highly recommend going through this book with a trusted counselor or professional as it can address your own mental health needs in deeper ways. Stay tuned for more helpful tips in the coming weeks.
**This post is not meant for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with a licensed provider for all advice, diagnoses, treatments and changes to medical care plans.