Learning to Fight Thought Distortions

The SOVA Project is happy to feature this blog post written by one in our team of fantastic SOVA Ambassadors—these are young people who help create meaningful blog posts from adolescents’ perspectives.

I would consider myself to be on the emotional empath spectrum.  At times it feels like I’m a sponge that absorbs all the emotions, stress, and problems of others. On the surface these emotions manifest as a caring, compassionate person, but when it’s all said and done I often find myself worrying or feeling down days and weeks after seeing the person or friend.

With all this love and compassion most people would think that I give that compassion right back to myself, but that is not the case. Self-compassion is the hardest thing for me. It can be so frustrating to give so much to others and not be able to give that back to myself.  My dad always told me that you must love yourself before you can love anyone else. I disagree. It is easier for me to love and care for others because I don’t want others to feel the same pain I do. I don’t want others to feel how my depression makes me feel. I don’t want others to become a victim of depression or a victim of their emotions in general.

In this past year, I’ve made more of an effort to love myself, care for myself, and be kind to myself. I want to try to turn my negative though distortions into positive affirmations and end this cycle of self-hate that I have been accustomed to for far too long. I want to wake up one day and truly believe all the things I force myself to negate. While working with my therapist in CBT, she made me try an exercise. I was given a worksheet that had five columns that had the titles: situation, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and alternative thoughts. At first, I was not convinced exercises would be able to help, but they did. They made me more aware of the “why” behind all my negative thoughts. Knowing the distinct reason behind a thought or emotions made it easier for me to not only understand myself, but also realize that my emotions were sometimes product of me over analyzing a situation. With these exercises I was able to understand how the thoughts of others, my anxiety and depression worked together in creating thought distortions.

Although I am far from where I would like to be in my mental health journey, it’s the little things that help me to see light and to remember that small victories are still victories.  I wish mental health treatment was as easy as healing a wound, but it is not and I’m learning that it’s a journey and I will hit obstacles repeatedly. I must remind myself what I have overcame, where I am at in the present day, and where I’m going. I must remind myself that better days are coming. I must remind myself of how far I have come, and the effort made to get there. It’s not easy and putting in the work to become the best version of yourself is the hardest work of all, but I am hopeful that things will turn around and I will overcome my mental illness.

What do  you consider to be “small victories?” Do you express these with your child when you notice them?

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