Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Paranoia // Dealing with Irrational Thoughts

Meaghan posts and it's not a book review? The world is broken.

Today I wanted to talk about something which bothers me quite a lot, and it might even get a little bit personal (so let's all put our mature hats on, guys). That something, as you've probably gathered, is paranoia. I've suffered it for a fairly long time, but can't pinpoint the moment when it first began to be a problem. I think it may stem from when I was bullied, but it most likely comes from the way I was treated in my last relationship. If this applies to anyone else, keep reading and I'll try not to be too depressing.

In my experience, it comes in waves. In fact, it usually occurs when I'm particularly stressed; for instance, I've had some irrational thoughts today, primarily because the rest of my coursework assignments are all due in this week (and believe me, that's non-stop work, yet I still don't feel like anything's good enough). My thoughts aren't so much the "oh my god are they talking about me?" kind of paranoia, although I do still tend to think that people will silently judge me. As a result I can get quite shy/reserved around other females (because I was bullied by a girl), which is a burden sometimes, especially when I'm trying to make a good impression. I'm much more comfortable around boys/men. But no, my thoughts revolve more around what people have said to me. I've found that I look for lies in everything. I constantly think that people are out to fool or trick me, and I won't have that, so I try to second-guess them, when most of the time their intentions haven't been malicious at all, and I've just been overthinking again. I'm aware that 90% of the time, these bad thoughts are completely irrational.

In the past, I used to let all my bad thoughts out, and as a result it's put a massive strain on my relationships, because I could come across as quite presumptuous and accusing. Generally, nowadays I'm a happier person and I'm absolutely nothing like the person I was at secondary school. But this only happened because I started to do what was right for me. I've had to let go of things that I didn't want to let go of, but in the end it's been worth it. Hopefully, I can pass some of this 'wisdom' on and help someone. My problems with paranoia used to be A LOT worse, but now I've managed to find ways to combat it.

Firstly, you'll have to learn to recognise the difference between rational and irrational. Is what you're worrying about plausible? Will worrying about it now actually solve anything? Do you have any evidence that what you're worried about is actually the case? Does it really matter? If the answer to those questions is no, you're most likely being irrational. I think it's easy to tell the difference - it's a gut feeling. We know when we're being silly or just having a go at someone because we feel shit. If you are concerned that what you're worrying about might definitely be true, it's best then, and only then, to confront the problem. This means talking to the person that your thoughts are directed at, otherwise the problem, whatever it is, won't be resolved. But for me this is always a last resort.

If they are irrational, you can't stop the thoughts from happening in the first place, but you can control how long you dwell on them for. Distract yourself. By this, I don't mean procrastinate - if you procrastinate, i.e. go on your phone or gorm out, you're more likely to dwell. No - go out and do something. Take a walk with some music on. I do this on the way to college, and if I've been having a bit of a crappy morning, I usually feel better by the time I get there. Meditate (I've heard the Headspace app is great). Or, if worst comes to worst, just go straight to sleep. It's the only time you can't think. Don't bother texting anyone goodnight, just look after yourself. Your friends will understand that your conversation can wait. Hopefully, you'll have forgotten what was bothering you in the morning.

On the other hand, talk to someone you feel you can trust with your problems. If your bad thoughts are based around one person, and you know deep down that you're being irrational, my advice would be DO NOT TALK TO THAT PERSON. They will probably feel accused and upset. Talk to a different friend, someone outside of the situation, and tell them how you're feeling. But not that friend that always gossips about other friends. For the love of God, not that person. I am lucky that  I have two friends that I know I can tell anything to, and it will never go further than the three of us, even though we all have our loyalties to other people. As we say, "what happens in the stresh, stays in the stresh". 'Stresh' is a combination of the words 'stress' and 'session' and we mainly just use it so the boys don't know what we're on about. (Nice one, blowing that on the Internet, Meaghan.) But go on, have your own streshes, it really does help to get it off your chest. To the right person, it can be so relieving.

If you know it's mostly stress that's causing these thoughts, get yourself out of the stressful environment. For me, when I'm stressed my brain seems to operate 100 miles an hour - but not in a useful way. All motivation goes out of the window. I'll usually take everything everyone says the wrong way, and I can get quite sensitive. If I'm like this, it's best to not rile me up. If it's really bad, I'll get claustrophobic, and I'll probably shuffle slightly away from the people around me. I don't like to let people touch me, not even for hugs, which I usually love. This sucks, because when I need people the most, I instinctly turn to introversion. AND GOD HELP ME IF THERE'S NOISE. I get so snappy. Even as I write this, there's a group of teenagers sat right behind me in an otherwise empty atrium, being so loud that I kind of want to move or maybe even resort to violence (but not really, violence is never the answer). If this sounds like you, just take a breather. Go get a healthy cup of earl grey with your best friend (I recommend this option), or just sit a few minutes outside in the fresh air. Maybe even work at home, if it makes you feel more comfortable. We all know college can get a bit too much sometimes.

Good luck!
Meaghan

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