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Monday, September 26, 2016

Cognitive Distortion No. 1: Catastrophizing

Last Wednesday, after my therapy session, I didn't come out of Dr. G's clinic a disaster. And that, I think, is an achievement, so I treated myself to a glass of chocolate cream frappuccino and a sausage roll from Starbucks. I deserved the treat.

I now feel that everything that Dr. G has been telling me in our therapy sessions is starting to make sense. In my mind, they're no longer theories. Dr. G has been telling me that one of our goals in doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is to deal with my destructive thinking patterns and "fix" them. My session last Wednesday couldn't have come at a better time.

Last Tuesday, I made a REALLY BIG mistake at work. It was really a big deal. It was a stupid and avoidable mistake. Of course, I got flak for it. I was so embarrassed that I felt I couldn't face anyone at work anymore. I slept last Tuesday night hating myself--as in REALLY hating myself--and telling myself repeatedly that I was so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And irresponsible. Irresponsible, irresponsible, irresponsible.

And when Wednesday came, it was still fresh in my mind, so I told Dr. G about it, aside from all the things that happened to me the past month. Dr. G told me that the incident at work is a perfect example of why we're doing CBT. We focused on this thought: I am stupid and irresponsible. From that thought, she asked me what is my basis for saying that I'm stupid and irresponsible. And so I told her. She then asked me how many times I've made this mistake in the past seven years (I've been working in this publishing company for seven years). I said one, followed up by, "But I also made other mistakes in the past." She then asked me to share them, and I obliged, and she wrote them down.

After this, she asked me what my basis is for saying that an employee is responsible, and in my seven years of working, what are the things that I've done that make me responsible. And so I told her all that I could remember--all the good things that I did, articles that I wrote beautifully, positive feedback from some of the people whom I've interviewed for my articles, writing for other magazines published by the company once in a while, and representing our team during events. She wrote everything down.

Then, when I was done talking, she told me to look at the things she wrote. I made a mistake, yes, but in my seven years of working, I've done good things, too. One mistake doesn't make me irresponsible. And that, I felt, is how CBT helps.

One of the cognitive distortions I am guilty of having is the tendency to catastrophize things. One mistake, and I feel that I've summoned a catastrophe. One mistake, and I already feel that I'm stupid and irresponsible. One mistake, and I feel as if I've committed a crime against humanity. One mistake, and I can't forgive myself for it.

This isn't my first time to catastrophize. Last February, I've done this, and I think that was my worst case of catastrophizing so far. It was when I tried to reach out to Z to make sure everything is okay between us. But then, she said that it only made things awkward, and I didn't take it well. I beat myself for it, attempted to overdose on tranquilizers (Alprazolam) not to die but to fall into a deep sleep, and I made cuts on my left arm. I wrote about it here and here.

Now, cognitive distortions and CBT are starting to make sense to me. Catastrophizing isn't the only cognitive distortion I'm guilty of having. I'll write about them in my succeeding entries. For now, Dr. G's homework for me is to do at least one pleasurable activity per day. Activities that make me happy, which she had me list down during our session. I listed down fifteen activities, but she told me that I am free to add more. That is my homework. And I'm going to do it, being the good student that I was (some XX years ago) and being the good patient that I am.

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