Monday, 13 October 2014

Sometimes my Feelings Change my Perceptions

'Sometimes you hear things that aren't being said. When you are right it makes you astute, when you are wrong it makes you....' I finished it for her 'paranoid!'. I have some excellent friendships. A vital element for my friends is that they are able to 'tell truth to Alma'. It helps me to see through the smokescreen created by the turmoil my emotions throw up for me at times.

I don't have issues with reading into people's words or actions when things are stable. However, if anything destabilises me or causes me to become emotionally sensitive, then the cycles and waves of difficult emotions are sustained by this tendency of mind to see things to prove my sense that I am under threat.

This is related to the fact that I tend to 'mind read' people as well. Usually, the feelings that most cause these difficulties are anger and anxiety. It is as if my thinking becomes bathed in the red warning light of hyper vigilance. Because people in the past have hurt me, that means that I can never trust the words and intentions of people in the here and now.

This is where I need to use a number of strategies.

1. First of all I need to be able to recognise that I might be maintaining my distress by constantly reigniting my anxiety or anger, because I keep circling round key events and conversations related to the triggered emotions.

2. To be able to control the thoughts, I need to stop the speed and power of the emotional waves. So, I use self soothing to bring my emotional temperature down to a manageable level. This is my self soothing kit:

3. When I am able to manage the emotions through mindful breathing, I need to stop my thinking from returning again and again to minute details in the triggering events. I use my mindful visualisation of floating leaves or clouds to let go of distressing thoughts.

4. I try to use Wise Mind to question my perceptions. Is that really what happened? Am I reading into things that were said? If someone else had been there would their perception of what went on be different? Ultimately, it is useful to have trusted friends with whom I can test my reactions. Sometimes they confirm that I have not over reacted. Other times, they seek to reassure me that my feelings have distorted my perceptions of what went on. If possible, I have one or two friends who can check out with other people involved, sensitively what went on.

This is a learning process. When I become distressed in a situation or relationship, I am learning to withdraw and not react to what I perceive to be going on, until I have been able to manage my immediate emotional reaction. This is very important particularly when the emotion triggered is anger.

In the past, my reactions in some situations have appeared to others out of proportion. I have found their consequent attempts to appease me intensely patronising, as I could not see past my clouded perception of threat. I wonder if this goes some way to explaining some of the reactions from medical staff when I have become distressed and apparently uncontrollable?

It is as if a light has gone on in relation to some difficult experiences with medical professionals in the past. I have always felt that they were minimising my distress, when, in fact they could not possibly realise that my perception of the world around me was so threatening as to make my extreme fear understandable. Because I don't have a diagnosis which has as one of its main symptoms, psychosis, the idea of distorted perception of reality does not enter many people's reckoning. Including my own.

I am learning through recovery that I need to keep managing my condition. I am still absorbing the truth that I will never be totally 'cured' and so, I need to keep making use of the skills that have helped me in the past year or so. I am also continuing to explain, as I am able the impact of my condition on my day to day life. This process is helping me to become familiar with the things that bring me down, as well as practising the skills that help me bring stability back to my emotions.

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