Hermionefan5 wrote: I was wondering though, can we talk about my illness as an illness on here and not exactly as what its real name is? I am still getting used to it and therefore I don't know if I want to broadcast it yet even though I did a few months ago on a whim.
Of course, Shanna. I will remove my mention of your condition's name.
Adjusting to the diagnosis may also have an effect on your ability to manage criticism. I felt unusually fragile and sensitive when I was diagnosed with specific mental health difficulties, even though I was relieved to have the doctor's confirmation and the promise of more help. It made me feel as though I had to work even harder to prove that I was capable, as I didn't want people to underestimate me because of my difficulties. I know that a few of my fellow students at Cambridge thought that I was just making excuses for poor performance, and that did hurt. For a short while I took any criticism, however mild, as a sign that people saw me as incapable of doing the things I wanted to do. With support from my therapist, I was able to fight off this tendency.
The therapist suggested that I track my train of thought very closely after receiving a comment that unsettled me. She asked me to do this in writing and then bring the record to my counselling sessions. Here is an example:
"Your essay isn't very structured. I didn't have much idea where you were going with it - I think you tried to include too much. You need to work on sticking more closely to the topic."
That is something my supervisor said. This is what I thought:
"I've written an awful essay."
The train of thought gathered steam, and rumbled on. "I've written an awful essay. I should be able to produce better quality work by now - I'm in the last year of my degree! I'm going to fail my exams if I hand in work like this."
But my supervisor hadn't said that the essay was awful. She hadn't said that I was going to fail, or even that this particular essay was below the pass mark. She hadn't said that I was making poor progress for a finalist. She had drawn my attention to one aspect
of the essay that needed some improvement - its structure. I imagined all the rest.
Instead of mulling over critical comments and allowing them to grow bigger and more threatening, write down exactly what was said. Word for word. Then write down what you thought. Is there a gulf between what was said and what you have interpreted those words to mean? Do this when you're feeling relatively calm, so you're able to look at things logically. It's no use trying to do it immediately after hearing something that has upset you, as your thoughts will be in disarray and you won't be able to judge fairly.
Once you are able to challenge your thoughts, you need to learn how to respond appropriately to the person who has made the critical comment. My therapist encouraged me to be unfailingly honest and to politely ask for clarification if I felt upset by something somebody had said, e.g. "I feel as though you're saying that my work is below the pass mark. I know this might not be what you meant, but I'm anxious about the upcoming exams and I'm finding it hard to think clearly."
Asking for clarification is not the same as asking for reassurance. Too much reassurance is actually very bad for you, as you become dependent on it, and you will need more and more reassurance to restore your calm after each perceived mistake. You need to learn how to strike a balance between assertively asking people to clarify and challenging negative thoughts without help. This is not something you can easily learn from advice on a forum, especially if it is a big problem. It is something that a good therapist should be able to help with.