A while ago I gave my *friend* a ride to a grocery store. Our conversation flowed naturally but somehow we ended up on the topic of friendship. I guess she noticed that I didn’t hang out with people regularly and also ate in my dorm room most days. I ended up opening up to her and telling her that I don’t have a lot of close friends, and certainly not a best friend. She seemed perplexed as she wondered how I got through life, all alone. She asked me one of the most invasive questions I have ever been asked and yesterday the same thought came into my mind: “Who do you talk to when something really great or really bad happens in your life?”
I assume most people I know reach out to friends, roommates and family members on a daily basis to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Personally, when something really great happens, I usually post about it on social media or I tell my mom if she happens to call me. If something really bad happens, I tend to keep it in my head. Recently, however, I’ve been able to tell my therapist/ clinician about stuff, so that’s been helpful.
So yesterday, I was driving down 610 west in Houston, when a HUGE truck came zooming down the highway behind me at a speed much higher than my 70 miles per hour. I have never been so terrified on the highway, and my automatic thought was: “Wow, I don’t have anyone to tell this to.” It got me thinking about what that friend said to me ages ago and I was barraged with bad thoughts and memories.
This cycle: event –> automatic thought –> feeling/ emotion, is something I’ve worked a lot on in therapy. The automatic thought I had in this situation could have been a thinking error identified as catastrophizing, all-or-nothing thinking, mental filter, or emotional reasoning. The method I have learned to get out of this cycle of distorted thinking is to have a balanced thought based on facts rather than emotion. A balanced thought that I recite to myself frequently is, “I might not have many close friends right now, but I do have people I can rely on like my mom, sister, and therapist.”
This is one of the most helpful skills I have learned in therapy and I know I’ll continue to use it as long as I have unhelpful automatic thoughts.
Here’s a song that I have rediscovered in my SoundCloud playlist and have been playing non-stop: