8 Comments

  1. We are Not Our Thoughts or Our Farts | Me, Myself & Mental Health
    May 18, 2017 @ 5:50 pm

    […] Disclaimer: The amazing title of this post and the ideas I’ve discussed has been inspired by Mark Freeman. You can read his take on it here: https://www.markfreeman.ca/why-not-build-your-identity-around-mental-illness/ […]

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  2. Anonymous
    September 14, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

    Hi Mark,
    Luckily I’m not labeling myself with OCD, but as I’m recovering from a very bad period of irrational thoughts….the problem now is the emotional damage (low self-esteem, low confidence, feeling lost and the list goes on……) caused by this past episode. So how to deal with those feelings? and how to convince myself that they’re a by product of what I’ve been through, not ingrained feelings.

    Note: I was very confident and happy before the mentioned phase.

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    • Mark
      September 14, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

      There are two things I’d consider in a situation like this: 1) It’s helped me to recognize that chasing feelings like confidence and self-esteem is no different than chasing any other feeling. If somebody were doing things to chase a feeling of safety, that wouldn’t end up any different than somebody chasing a feeling of high-self esteem: they’ll just end up with the opposite feeling. So I found it really helpful to ditch the idea of confidence or self-esteem. There are just things I do. And I can do those things with any feeling. Feelings can just come along for the ride while I live my life. In general, with mental health, it can be really useful to focus on actions.

      2) The other thing I like to look at are beliefs I have about thoughts and feelings. Terms like “ingrained feelings” and “emotional damage” sound very laden with meaning but I don’t know what those mean. Sometimes, on our journeys, we walk down paths that we don’t like. But then, because we don’t like that path, we dig it up and carry the dirt with us, looking for a place to fix it and make it a better path that we do want to walk on. But then we’re just carrying around lots of dirt and that makes it very difficult to move around in the wilderness. So it can help to just drop that dirt and take a step in a direction we do want to walk in, on a path we do care about.

      Enjoy the steps ahead!

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      • Anonymous
        September 14, 2017 @ 2:36 pm

        Thank you for ur quick response.
        I really like your advice on focusing on actions. On the other hand, I don’t completely agree with what you said about feelings :
        ” I can do those things with any feeling”….it’s true to an extent but when feelings are annoying and causing you pain like headaches, it gets hard!

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        • Mark
          September 14, 2017 @ 3:00 pm

          That’s why we do all of this work to learn how to experience the stuff in our heads–the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, etc–and then take action that we actually care about. That’s what my book The Mind Workout is all about. It is very intense to do these exercises, just like it’s very intense to do physical exercise, but if we stop exercising the moment we notice some discomfort, then eventually everything becomes uncomfortable. So it’s useful to have a structured plan for building up skills. Again, it’s just like physical fitness: we have to start small. We can’t expect to run a mile comfortably if we can’t run a half-mile. Something I found really useful was learning how to cut out compulsions by making simple changes that didn’t cause so much anxiety, often with things we wouldn’t even label as a “compulsion”. If we can make changes with things that don’t cause anxiety, we’ll be much more capable of handling challenging experiences.

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  3. Anonymous
    September 14, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

    Another question:
    When you were at the stage you explained “I’m somebody who used to stand in front of his stove to make sure it didn’t spontaneously erupt in flames….” where you thinking “look at all those ppl around geeting ahead in their lives while I’m having this insanity? ….
    Although I’m healing as I said, this kind of thinking drags me backward…sometimes I feel like I’m from a different planet….
    What’s your advice? Knowing that I didn’t stop my life, I’m working and still want to build a career for myself.
    Thanks a lot.

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  4. Linden
    October 27, 2017 @ 2:04 am

    Hi Mark,

    I was wondering what your opinons were On treating health related problems? Is hypercondria treated the same as ocd with erp? Are they the same?
    I’ve had many OCD themes over the years, and am struggling with this one the most. I constantly think I’m dying, and the illness I believe isn’t causing it changes frequently, from brain tumour, to now testicular cancer.

    What I’m struggling with while trying to implement therapy teqniques, is the fact that we are told to be conscious of our health. For example, I had a random thought the other day; “what if I have testicular cancer?” Sure enough I’ve spent all day in the shower checking for abnormalities, unsure of what is normal and what isn’t. I’ll find something that I feel is abnormal, convince myself I’m dying, only to find actually it’s the same on both sides and then find something ELSE, and repeat the process.

    But we’re told to check, to be concerned etc. How do I know when to go to the doctor, or when actually symptoms are in my head? I can’t avoid all symptoms, surely, but then every time I’ve been it’s always just anxiety so using the doctors is just reassurance seeking .

    Any advice?

    Thanks!

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    • Mark
      November 16, 2017 @ 2:18 am

      I consider them the same as any other compulsion. I find it’s useful not to judge different themes. They’re all just uncertainties your brain throws at you to get you to engage in compulsions. Something that’s helped me with health is to make sure I’m doing things to build health and fitness. Trying to avoid illness isn’t the same as building health. I can avoid everything bad that might happen and end up very ill because I haven’t spent any time or energy on health. Engaging in compulsions as a reaction to a fear would definitely make my health worse. It doesn’t make sense for me to purposefully harm my health out of fear of the possibility of illness. It’s possible to get over OCD so it can help to connect with a professional that has experience helping people recover. As you work on that, it’ll also be useful to look beyond the superficial topic of the theme. It’s very normal to be worried about things that might cause death. There are usually many other ways throughout our lives that we’re reacting to the fear of death. Those reactions might seem normal, but it helped me to recognize those compulsions I liked were fuelling the obsessions I hated.

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