I stumbled on something random the other day. I was driving in the car, and my negative voices, which I hear often but not constantly, were especially loud. They were telling me to drive my car off the road and that God wanted me dead.
I knew that this was not true. I had spent years in therapy, thousands of dollars in hospitalizations, and hundreds or more on medications to learn that this was not true. But because this was still a tiny fear of mine, my voices liked to play it over and over in my head. I wasn’t going to act on the voices; they just made me more afraid that I would believe them sometime in the future. So I turned to my cousin in the passenger seat and used my favorite distraction technique.
I first started using gratitude as a tool to help me cope when driving made me anxious. My cousin and I would go back and forth a few times, saying what we were thankful for. I didn’t think anything would come of it this time except my cousin realizing I was even more anxious than usual, which wasn’t what I wanted to gain from this conversation. Still, it’s easier to ignore a fake voice when you hear a real voice at the same time, or at least that was what I was told.
“So, what are you grateful for?” I asked.
“My day wasn’t stressful,” she said.
If I wasn’t an expert at gratitude, I don’t know what I would have said next. There was nothing to be grateful for – certainly not while voices were calling me horrible names. But we had been doing this for about a month on and off.”I’m thankful my mom called to check in on me,” I said. And that was true. Perhaps it wasn’t the best day, but my mom wanted to hear about it, whether it was the best day or not. I knew that made me lucky.
“I was able to keep myself positive all day,” she said.
“I have therapy tomorrow,” I said. And back and forth. And back and forth.
I didn’t notice when I stopped hearing the voices. Perhaps it was right away; perhaps it took a bit of time. On a perfect day, I don’t even realize I’m no longer hearing voices until I get where I’m going.
However, that is the kind of fix that’s easier to do with my cousin in the car, and not at three am when it is both too early and too late for my voices to let me sleep.
One of my other friends told me she wanted to start a daily gratitude list. I found an app that lets me record daily gratitude lists and reminds me every few hours to be grateful. It also keeps all the past gratitude lists. They can be fun to look over, and they help me realize where I came from: the day my boss realized my tremors had gone down, getting to write with a friend, or forgetting that it’s Valentine’s Day and I am still single.
Even when it’s three am, and I can’t find one thing to be grateful for, I have two week’s worth of five gratitude items a day. I also send my friend my list every night, so she remembers what there is to be grateful for.
When I had two people to be grateful with, it meant I could practice gratitude with someone at almost any time. I found it’s not only helpful to have my own gratitude but others’ as well.
My cousin Molly might be grateful for things that came up that day or the day before; my friend Courtney focuses on the big non-negotiables of life, like the beauty of birch trees. Both give me a sort of pleasure.
They don’t make the voices stop in the long term, and they don’t make the voices nicer, but they do give me a way to remember that the voices are wrong. If I have nothing to add to anyone else’s life, I at least help two people to be grateful, and I survive. If all I can be grateful for is surviving (and that very rarely is the case), at least I survive, day in and day out.
About the Author: Kerenza Ryan is a novelist, poet, and ghostwriter who can be found in her easy chair in Michigan, trying to balance both a cat and a laptop on her lap.
Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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