Cracking Catastrophic Thinking: What Will It Take to Push Past The Noise in Your Head
It was the height of summer for one of Philly’s biggest triathlons. The hot asphalt really sucked!
I could hear the officials blowing their whistles and orders blaring over radios for medical staff to rush to the scene.
Moments earlier, the 40mph (64kph) descent on a 12% grade hill involved a nervous man and a flash of sudden realization that he was going to mismanage the left-hand turn at the bottom. He needed to lean more into the turn to avoid swinging far to the right. Instead, he sat up, went wide, and I made the split-second decision to take a fall rather than to roll down an embankment next to a river. Blood soaked into my torn kit and road rash burned through big chunks of my arm and thigh. The officials were brandishing signals cautioning other athletes to avoid the crash site. The other athlete? Well, he took off and I never discovered his exact identity. The officials gave the green light to continue. Adrenaline was cranking on the last stretch to the bike finish. But I still had to run 6.2mi (10km) on asphalt that was getting hotter by the hour. With a blood-soaked kit, I collapsed at the finish line for dehydration and open wounds.
Racing was a major part of my life. I did what was necessary to protect it. This meant having to choose one sport over others. It was mainly because triathlon was time-consuming and required all body parts to be in tip-top shape for swim-bike-run.
Jim Brower, one my closest friends and former roommate is a CAT 1 mountain biker. He found a bike that we could use for a day. It was a bit big for me but learning from him was non-negotiable. I happily accepted the ill-fit for a play date on bikes with my good friend.
After that day, I realized how much I was missing out on the gnarlier and grittier side of cycling. I loved it! But a pressing issue hung in the balance – continue racing triathlon at an elite level or take a chance with the inevitable accidents associated with mountain biking. As a business owner, I also had to think about missing time from work. The privilege of racing did not pay the bills. Those who were in the same boat as I had other jobs to sustain the responsibilities of an adult life.
I am retired now from racing at the elite level. There are joys to being a recreational athlete – no pressure from sponsors, not having to wake up at 4:30AM, and having time for other hobbies and a personal life.
Years after that first ride with Jim, I have returned to mountain biking with my partner Erik who has been teaching me a few tricks and skills. Yet, a few mental challenges still need TLC. For instance, I must tackle the noise in my head about breaking bones – again. If I had to run down a list of all the broken bones and how much time it took to heal, the list would wrap around a city block with a quarter of my life span dedicated to reparation.
I turn forty-three this month. Healing does not come as quickly as it used to and the noise in my head is even louder.
The questions dance around like screaming banshees.
Should I take chances, or do I play it safe?
When does the desire for courage outweigh the benefits of the result?
This can lead to a mental mind fuck.
For me, the hardest part is facing the fear head on.
Someone with PTSD might fall into catastrophic thinking after exposure to a traumatic event: The trauma is viewed as proof that the worst actually can happen—and seen as a sign that only traumatic events will happen from now on. No other possible outcomes are even considered.
As time goes on, catastrophic thinking develops into a day-to-day coping strategy designed to help ensure that the person will never be placed in a dangerous situation again. But having catastrophic thoughts over and over can be paralyzing, leading to extreme anxiety, avoidance, and isolation. This may have the effect of undermining the coping strategy. How? By bringing back the person's sense of being constantly in danger and not safe anywhere.
www.verywellmind.com – Managing Catastrophic Thinking in PTSD
The bike crash from years ago during that summer triathlon was not the beginning of my fears. It started a few years prior with a car accident that took six years for full recovery. Every fall or potential accident manifested into a tailspin.
It weighed heavily on my chest.
Will I be able to drive again?
Will I be able to have the courage to be amongst other drivers?
A couple years after the car accident, I was able to sit long enough in one position.
I knew it. It was time. Keys in the ignition. The engine started. I counted to ten and released the brake.
That day it was drizzling like the day of the car accident. The turn signal blinked to the left – I was entering the highway. My heartrate was redlining. White knuckling all the way to the next exit, tears welled up as I headed back home.
I was afraid at first, but I did it!
Day after day, I repeated the task until the fear subsided.
I started a new job that year and needed inspiration. A mentor turned me onto Brian Tracey, motivational public speaker extraordinaire who has authored over eighty books that have been translated into countless languages. His teachings diminished some of the PTSD. They also helped me to become a better entrepreneur, athlete, social advocate, and solo traveler. As a woman, how could I not be overly cautious? Pushing past the fear has opened doors to cultures and ideas that have broadened my overall appreciation for the connective tissue we have with one another regardless of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, and geographical location.
VISUALIZE YOURSELF AS UNAFRAID
By visualizing yourself performing with confidence and competence in an area where you are fearful, your visual image will eventually be accepted by your subconscious mind as instructions for your performance.
Your self-image, the way you see yourself and think about yourself, is eventually altered by feeding your mind these positive mental pictures of yourself performing at your best.
PRACTICE ACTING “AS IF”
By using the “act as if” method, you walk, talk, and carry yourself exactly as you would if you were completely unafraid in a particular situation.
You stand up straight, smile, move quickly and confidently, and in every respect act as if you already had the courage that you desire.
USE THE LAW OF REVERSIBILITY
The Law of Reversibility says that “If you feel a certain way, you will act in a manner consistent with that feeling.”
But if you act in a manner consistent with that feeling, even if you don’t feel it, the Law of Reversibility will create the feeling that is consistent with your actions.
This is one of the greatest breakthroughs in success psychology. You develop the courage you desire by disciplining yourself repeatedly to do the thing you fear until that fear eventually disappears—and it will.
CONFRONT YOUR FEARS IMMEDIATELY
Your ability to confront, deal with, and act in spite of your fears is the key to happiness and success.
One of the best exercises you can practice is to identify a person or situation in your life of which you are afraid and resolve to deal with that fear situation immediately.
Do not allow it to make you unhappy for another minute. Resolve to confront the situation or person and put the fear behind you.
MOVE TOWARD THE FEAR
When you identify a fear and discipline yourself to move toward it, it grows smaller and more manageable.
What’s more, as your fears grow smaller, your confidence grows. Soon, your fears lose their control over you.
In contrast, when you back away from a fear-inducing situation or person, your fear grows larger and larger.
Soon it dominates your thinking and feeling, preoccupies you during the day, and often keeps you awake at night.
DEAL WITH THE FEAR DIRECTLY
The only way to deal with a fear is to address it head-on.
Remind yourself that, “Denial” is not a river in Egypt.
The natural tendency of many people is to deny that they have a problem caused by fear of some kind. They’re afraid of confronting it. In turn, it becomes a major source of stress, unhappiness, and psychosomatic illness.
Be willing to deal with the situation or person directly.
As Shakespeare said, “Take arms against a sea of troubles, and in so doing, end them.”
When you force yourself to face any fear-inducing situation in your life, your self-esteem goes up, your self-respect increases, and your sense of personal pride grows.
You eventually reach the point in life where you are not afraid of anything.
www.briantracy.com – How To Overcome Your Fears, Get Unstuck, And Fuel Your Success
Pushing past the noise in your head can be daunting at first.
How do you know when it is the right time to push?
For me, the push is based on one thing – intuition.
I trust it.
Erik was flying on a single-track descent. Man, he was whipping, and I found myself filled with envy.
Will I ever look like that? Calm and gazelle-like?
There were a few rides when I left all inhibitions behind, but something was nagging me with this descent. I stopped at the top, held my breath, and backed out. I imagined flying over the handlebars, cracking my front teeth, and a few broken body parts to top it all off.
The next time we rode that same descent, I did not bat an eyelash. I did not even realize that it was the same one until I we finished the ride.
Here is the takeaway: you will have another chance to do the thing that you could not have imagined doing before. Do not underestimate the power of your intuition because you may not have a second chance if you ignore it. Your intuition will let you know when you are ready. When it is go time, repeatedly push past the noise in your head until the fear diminishes into nothing.
This is cracking catastrophic thinking.
Our daily lives are filled with shit that sits on our chests. We cannot ignore our new reality as we work to rebuild. One of the best ways to cope is to offer each other support and to connect in ways we may have taken for granted before the pandemic. This is how to deal with the issue head-on. There is no denying that we will continue to have challenges ahead of us. The best possible solution is to keep going with each other’s support.
This too is cracking catastrophic thinking.
Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.
www.who.int – COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey
We were riding on a gravel road for a friend’s super cool event last weekend. Moments earlier for about 30 miles (48 kilometers), it was smooth sailing.
Curled into a ball on the dirt road, I was wincing in pain after landing on my knee. The tires stuck into a rut. Adrenaline surging and happy vibes with the present company, we were back on the road again in no time flat.
All comes full circle. No broken bones. It is just part of riding. Do it enough times, you are bound to hit a bump or two.
That is all.
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