As most of you know, I tend to be a bit obsessive/compulsive. I am especially bad when I’m overstressed, tired, and when it comes to parenting. I fell asleep on a Friday night after a long week while watching a movie with Sidney. Eek! I woke up still on the couch at 4 am and she had put herself to bed. To most, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but for me, it was a catastrophe. The next morning, crying my eyes, out to Tim; I declared that I was the worst mother ever. Sidney was going to ruin her kids because I was a failure parent; she was headed to delinquency as an unloved preteen; and I would die without having anyone to pluck the black hairs off my chin in the nursing home. He cracked up and called me a nutjob. “She’s 12, whats the big deal?” Great! World’s worst mom and nutjob wife who was obviously unloved because he clearly didn’t recognize the anguish I was experiencing.
Here is a little trick I have recently learned that has really changed my life (thank you Kim!)
She said, “When you walk into the grocery store with baby puke on your shirt, bunny slippers on and your hair a mess; What crosses your mind when see a patient of yours in Aisle 10?” I replied, I think SHIT, I gotta get outta here because if they see me they are going to think I am either psychotic or strung out on heroin!
Then she told me about cognitive distortions. When people with obsessive compulsive traits (I would say all mom’s) get stressed out and overwhelmed, we tend to distort our thinking and become paranoid. Well I didn’t know what the heck that meant so I had to have her dumb it down.
Black and White Thinking –if your performance falls short of perfection, you think you are a total failure
Catastrophizing Things–exaggerating the importance of something
Mind Reading–arbitrarily concluding that someone is reacting negatively to you
So my grocery scenario proved I was distorting the reality. I was thinking that if someone looked disheveled, they were obviously not ok. I took my disastrous appearance and translated it to “psychotic and on drugs.” Lastly, I assumed that the patient even cared what I looked like! They were probably more worried about moving their candy bars to the bottom of the cart so I couldn’t see their unhealthy choices.
So I went back and rethought my meltdown about being a worthless parent. Not tucking my 12yo into bed one night did not automatically make me a bad mom. It didn’t mean she was going to make bad choices. Actually, she declared me Best Mom Ever for letting her stay up so late!!! And oops, sorry Tim, I guess the 2 hour lecture on how you didn’t love me was a little extreme considering I am a nutjob.
Thank God because I just plucked a black chin hair!
For more information on Cognitive Distortions–Read “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David Burns. And when your next negative emotion enters your mind–ask yourself to rethink the reality of it. Trust me, I do it on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.