This week the world is once again mourning another senseless tragedy. It seems to be becoming the new norm, which leaves us asking so many questions and paralyzing us with so many emotions. I am not alone with these feelings of shock, horror, anger, fear, helplessness, vulnerability, sadness and anxiety.
Living in Canada does not make us immune to these emotions or tragedies. We watch from the safety of our homes the heroic actions of survival and the unity of the world coming together to help the victims and their families and all the while knowing in the back of our minds that this could be the reality for you or your loved ones.
Trying to raise 3 teenagers in this uncertain world, both present and especially future has been a huge part of my chronic anxiety and depressive thoughts over the last few years. These feelings have crippled my rational thought process creating severe Cognitive Distortions. Although it is normal for everyone to experience Cognitive Distortions from time to time, when it becomes extreme it can become very harmful.
A Cognitive Distortion is simply defined as how one’s mind exaggerates our thought patterns to perceive reality inaccurately, continuously creating a negative outlook on everything. This is my reality I live with all day, every day, affecting the reality for my three teenagers trying to find their way in this world.
I do not want this to be our reality but for now it is. There are many different types of Cognitive Distortions and most of them have impacted my thought process detrimentally while trying to raise my kids, still trying to ensure that they grow up to be responsible, happy, empathetic and secure adults.
I often find myself “Disqualifying the Positive”, continuously using “Should” statements, “Emotional Reasoning” and having thoughts of “All or Nothing”, which just empowers the vicious cycle of negative thoughts over the positive ones.
Probably the most irrational thoughts or Cognitive Distortions I encounter regularly are called “Catastrophizing”, “Jumping to Conclusions, “Personalization” and “Over-generalization”, which meanings are exactly how they sound. I see only the worst possible outcomes to any given situation. I do not believe that my children would complain that they lack autonomy and freedom, however when they leave my home I feel an immediate sense of uncertainty and that something terrible is about to happen to them. This doesn’t just affect me, it greatly affects my children (and husband who is on the receiving end of it all).
The last thing I want to do is to burden my children any more than I already have with my issues or feelings of worthlessness, or constant feeling like I am a horrible role model, or a bad parent. I am unable to forgive myself for these irrational thoughts, and continue to try desperately not to damage their future selves which are being controlled through the perception of Cognitive Distortions. My feelings of guilt, agitation and anger are also being controlled daily by these emotions.
We continue to talk openly and honestly with our kids as they are old enough now and we want to ensure that they are advocates in helping to end the stigma attached to Mental Illness. We discuss with them many of my triggers and try to work together in a positive manner to help them understand what I need from them, but lets face it, they are teenagers and the reality is that teenagers themselves can be quite narcissistic and self-absorbed, all while dealing with their own raging hormones, by no fault of their own.
I just hope that they know how much I love them, that they can forgive me and know that I only want what’s best for them. I just hope that they feel secure in their own skin and can confide in me, even through my darkness. I just hope that they find fulfillment and purpose in every facet of their lives, and most of all I just hope that they will have a lifetime of good health and wellness.