Saturday, September 20, 2014

A sneak peek of my mind: cognitive error

When I was down I thought the only important thing was to improve my mood and then that's it and that the follow up sessions were just to monitor how I am doing to make sure I actually achieved full remission. Tak adalah lepas 3 minggu ke 2 bulan ke jadi benda yang sama balik. I honestly didn't think there would be long follow up sessions and that I would be discharged once I feel better. After a while I found out the minimum number of sessions would be 6 to 8 and for good reasons too because apparently there are always something o work on. I didn't know it then. I didn't know at all that there is something more profound to be corrected other than my mood. All this while my mind was messed up in the way it thinks, the way it solves and connects ideas and experiences.It solves problems and abstracts on a situational basis, on the basis of need or rather when a problem arises when actually all of these can be tackled at the roots.

It is a great realisation, a discovery to be told by the counsellor that there are ways to think and things to tackle along the way. From there on out, I started to be conscious about my thoughts and the way I think. Like why am i thinking this way and working on a pattern of them, tackling the bad ones and replacing them with a better way of thinking. I am now constantly arranging my thoughts, trying to find things inside my head, somewhat like arranging your drawers. Trying to classify things bit by bit so that the mind becomes more organised and that I can find and take out what I need, when I need it. It's not easy to do hell it isn't but I'm practising on it. If i were to describe my mind it is like one giant ball of tangled threads. In a way that one strand cannot be pulled out without untangling the whole thing, the same way it is that I am solving the riddle of my mind. Very slowly and maybe I won't ever completely untangle it. Definitely, it will take years, many years.

Well that's the tough parts, kinda like my vision, what I aim for the future of my mind. hehe. That's okay I won't worry too much about it. If God wills, I will find my way but I do realise that a great effort must be accompanied with. In the meantime, I would work on the basic, most obvious things first. These are the basic thoughts that directly translates into my behaviours, my actions and how i feel.

The first thing that the counsellor told me (after we're over the depressed phase) was to google cognitive errors. Being a medical student, obviously she can just tell me to do that because I can help myself to understand what she meant. Cognitive means thoughts or thinking. So these are thinking errors. What are the 'errors' or the things that should not happen when your mind is processing a thought. There's maybe a long list to it but I only jotted down about 10 to 15 common cognitive errors in my diary to check on every now and then. Whenever I receive an input ( news, people's reaction, lecturer's feedback etc) that somehow made me feel bad or squeamish, I will write the experience in my diary, connects the experience to my feelings and checks closely for the presence of any cognitive error which may be causing the weird sad feelings. Kinda like trying to find which turn you took wrong that led you to this route. If I do find one, I will correct it, convince myself etc and most of the time I would end up feeling better.

Obviously I can't go through all of those as well as I'm only guilty of a few of them. Like a set of characteristics, you can't have all characters in one person right.

The most obvious and commonest cognitive error that I have been guilty of for the longest time is the SHOULDs.
This could be divided into two:
1) I should ; as in I should be exercising, damn I should be studying etc etc. This error makes me feel guilty and bad about yourself
2) People should; as in they should know it's common sense to take down the trash when it's full (common problem with housemates), and a lot that has to do with the so called 'common sense' which can also be translated as "hey i do it, I've been educated and trained to do it, I can think of it, why can't you??) This error will end up making you feel extremely frustrated and unhappy.

The I should are easy enough to correct, at least for me. Instead of saying should, I can replace it with, 'I can' or 'I want to'. I much prefer to use the 'i can' it sounds friendlier to myself and more encouraging for example, 'hey, i can go and jog this afternoon'. It gives off a sense of capability, strength and also a hint of making time for exercise which is possible despite always being busy with studies.

The people shoulds however are the trickier part. This is what my counsellor said:
'You are very critical of yourself therefore you are being critical of others as well. People are willing to give you what you want, you'll have to learn to communicate it to them, you'd be surprised.'

Again and again I have to confront this error especially in my household. One, I know I must not be critical on my housemates, that I should expect less. Two, if it is however very important for my emotional wellbeing for them to do stuff like I prefer it to be done, I MUST COMMUNICATE IT to them. Bottling it up inside won't get you anywhere but honestly though, confronting your housemates about as petty stuff like 'wey bawak turun sampah kalau penuh' or 'jangan la letak kasut tengah jalan' or well you get the idea, is soooo awkward but if I don't say anything I'll get frustrated and become passive-agressive.(Actually usually these are the problematic ones because if it's a big issue you must always confront right. It's always the little issues). So i told myself I MUST be selfish for my own emotional wellbeing! and I chant these words again and again: 'People are willing to give you what you want, you just have to communicate it'. It really is like building courage to fight and break your own habit. So with what might I gathered backed up by that chants I forced myself to say what i want them to do.

And hey you know what, indeed, most of the time I'm surprised at how not so much of a big deal it was. It may be a big deal for me, those little little stuff but obviously it was not for them and it wasn't also if people ask them to change or do something about it. Usually I would get a really casual reply that is disproportionate to my my anxiety. Here, my counsellor also pointed out how I am being self conscious, as in it's just in my head, it's just me feeling it while for other people tak ada apa pun. The only big deal was me fighting against my own bad habits. I only needed to say and people would be so willing to give. Obviously I may have to tell them again and again but that's okay, more practice for me.

So yeah, that's my major cognitive error with regards to other people. I have another major one and was surprised to be having that actually but let's leave it to next time. I don't have a very good writing stamina. Words will become sluggish and uninteresting after a while. Just got up actually, 11 am on a Sunday of Public Health rotation. Pretty chilled. Haven't had my breakfast, thought I'd gather my might to write this down first because I've always wanted to and the push was last night when I encountered this again.

Till next time when I feel like it. haha.