How did I beat severe anxiety and depression? How did I lose seventy pounds? How did I take my destiny into my own hands and save my life? Of course the answer is complicated but the first step is not. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a fairly simple process that transformed the way that I think. Over the course of six months, I learned how to eliminate poisonous, debilitating thoughts from my mind. I ended a lifetime of crushing fear and began a new life of freedom, peace, and joy. Now I am going to teach you how you can do the same.
(Scroll down to the bottom if you are interested in some back story.) After several years out of therapy (reliant on medication) I decided to return. My therapist was an angel. She told me that I was suffering from anxiety and depression and that it was very treatable. I thought that she was insane. It just could not be that simple or logical. I had been depressed and suicidal forever. Things had gotten so bad that sometimes I lost touch with reality. When she told me that I could get better and that it was only a matter of changing my thought processes, I nearly walked out of her office. I knew that I was screwed up, perhaps schizophrenic, definitely a lost cause.
Today, I know that I was very wrong and she was very right. My depression was severe but it was a direct result of negative, irrational thoughts. My anxiety was also severe (so severe that it caused me to disassociate at times) but it too was a direct result of negative, irrational thoughts. Though I had tried CBT years earlier, this time it would be different. This time it would save me.
Every single person experiences negative, irrational thoughts to some degree. But what varies from person to person is the frequency and the intensity of these thoughts. If you are reading this post because you want help, there is a good chance that negative, irrational thoughts are destroying your life. You will change that. If you are reading this post because you want to fill your life with joy and eliminate pain, you will achieve that. Taking control of your thoughts will enable you to obtain emotional freedom and to live a life of peace and joy.
“The present moment is the still point around which the universe arises and subsides, only to be reborn again, fresh as a new born child.” —Deepak Chopra
CBT means something different to every therapist, to every person that practices it, and to every person that studies it. If you do a quick search you will find countless articles on CBT. It can really get quite overwhelming. I am going to ask that you don’t go there. For me, CBT is extremely simple and extremely powerful. Simply put, CBT is changing your negative, irrational thoughts into positive, rational thoughts. Here’s how you do it.
Recognize and Admit
First, you have to recognize two types of thoughts: negative-irrational and positive-rational. Here are some examples.
a. It is raining out this morning. I am definitely going to have a bad day.
b. My parents are on the verge of losing their house. This is all my fault. I should have never been born.
c. That guy just hit my bumper. Just my luck. I can’t afford this. I’m going to be late for work. I’m going to get fired. Bad things always happen to me. I am doomed.
a. It is raining out this morning. Good thing, the flowers really need the water.
b. I am sad about my parents financial situation. I am grateful that I have been such a good daughter. I will give them love and support but I will also recognize that their problems are not my own.
c. That guy just hit my bumper. Thank God I am not hurt and we were both doing the speed limit. This could have been a lot worse.
Negative thoughts like the ones above might not be debilitating but when a person becomes consumed by such thoughts, mental illness thrives. When I was suffering from depression and anxiety, I had no idea that 99% of the thoughts passing through my mind were negative and irrational. I had been living unconsciously for so long and because it was all I ever knew, I didn’t know that there was something wrong with it. I thought that it was normal. Meanwhile, my mind and my thoughts were killing me slowly.
Once you have recognized these two thought types you have to admit that you experience them both. You have to admit to what degree you practice negative, irrational (NI) thinking. To what degree are your thoughts NI? Do you have a NI thought once or twice a day or are the majority of thoughts that pass through your mind NI? Admit the truth to yourself, next you will deal with it.
Change by Practice
I was not going to be so easily convinced. Yes I was anxious and depressed but I was not sure that changing my thoughts was going to fix anything and even if it would I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do it. My therapist gave me homework and I am about to give you some. Pay attention here, this is the single most important step to initiate CBT. These are the actions that will change your life:
*Every time you start to feel anxious or depressed, write down the thoughts that pass through your mind.
*Later, analyze these thoughts. How many of them are NI? Change the NI thoughts into positive, rational ones. Write down the positive rational ones.
*If you want to eliminate poisonous, debilitating thoughts from your life, you must do this every single day until it becomes automatic.
Automatic Positive, Rational Thoughts
I remember the first time that I automatically converted a NI thought to a positive, rational one. After months of writing my thoughts down on paper and changing them later, one day it happened automatically. I was on a walk through a forest and suddenly overcome by a sense of doom, panic set in. Something terrible is going to happen, I started but then I stopped myself, No. I am on a walk. It is a beautiful day. I am safe, happy, healthy. And that was how it started, that was when my life began to change.
With time, patience, and practice it gets easier and easier. One day you will wake up and find yourself automatically changing your NI thoughts into positive, rational ones. You will have taken back control of your mind. It really is that simple. My story can be your story. Most people have no idea what an impact the human mind has. We can not conceive that negative thought processes are capable of ruining our lives, our spirits, and our bodies — but they are! With CBT you will stop the cycle.
“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.” —Marianne Williamson
Your life of freedom, peace, and joy is waiting for you. Get on the path. Begin your journey now.
Back story: Until CBT, I suffered from mental illness my entire life. From the time I was a girl, I endured anxiety and crippling panic attacks. One example is the year that I developed a terrible preoccupation with my younger sister. I had to know where she was at all times. If I could not get to her I would become hysterical, convinced that something tragic had happened. Later in life I became depressed. Through my adolescence suicidal thoughts were a con
stant. I wrote pages and pages of poetry on the subjects of blood and tears. In elementary school I became significantly overweight. These problems worsened as I got older. During my junior year as an undergraduate, I decided that something needed to change.