Taming My Runaway Thinking

Taming My Runaway Thinking
4.9
(21)

Racing thoughts, runaway thoughts. Whatever you call ’em, I caught ’em.

Yup, a case of full-blown, out-of-control, runaway thoughts. I hadn’t had them for years — not since the day I was told I had ALS. And then, like most newly diagnosed patients, I spent weeks and months imagining the worst-case scenarios of my future life with ALS. Only through a daily practice of stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation, was I able to conquer my anxieties and move forward with my life.

But a simple event on my calendar this month — a visit to my ALS clinic — triggered an avalanche of imaginary doomsday predictions.

What happened?

Normally, I look forward to these clinic visits. I like my neurologist and enjoy lively discussions with everyone at the clinic. But with the world in the middle of a health crisis, I wondered how it would affect my visit.

How could they follow safety guidelines in the unique atmosphere of the clinic? Would it even be worth the visit? I’ve been so careful all these months … would it all have been for nothing?

Then, Arizona, the state where I live, became a hot spot. TV news reported on local hospitals reaching capacity, and my ALS clinic is at one of these hospitals!

I imagined myself having to run a gauntlet of coughing, sick people crowding the hospital lobby. How could I avoid touching doors and surfaces, and what if I had to use the public restroom?

As you can see, runaway thoughts can get pretty crazy!

Facing my fears

The day finally arrived and I had to face my fears.

Leaving me near the hospital’s entrance, my husband drove off to park our van. Ahead of me, I found friendly, excellent hospital staff staged at the entrance for temperature checks and check-in. Following that, I was escorted through the empty lobby right up to the neurological clinic doors.

As it turns out, it was an abbreviated clinic conducted solely by my doctor. Although I still had to go through all of the pushing, pulling, talking, and walking tests, I told my husband I felt safe and secure. I should have known that hospitals are one of the best examples of following health safety guidelines.

If you ever experience runaway thoughts, here are a few tips that work for me:

  • Identify your triggers. For example, limit your exposure to all-day news, and avoid TV news before bedtime.
  • Try bringing thoughts back to the present moment by focusing on the breath, stretching, or noticing your surroundings.
  • Talk it out with your caregiver, family, or a trusted friend.
  • For more tips, check out my column, “How to Avoid the Sticky Points.”

One more surprise

What unexpected thing happened that day that wasn’t even on my radar of worries? Interference from my face mask! I know it’s not easy to understand my speech in the best of conditions, so putting a mask across my mouth only adds to the distortion of my words.

At the hospital’s check-in station, when asked for my name, I took a deep breath in and carefully pronounced, “Munn,” followed by “m-u-n-n.”

Only the check-in person heard me say, “Muhh… hem-hue-hen-hen.”

It took a few repeats, but with both of us staying calm and being patient, I finally was understood and checked in.

No matter the challenges, I’ll continue following the health safety guidelines, and I’ll always wear a mask.

And I’ll continue to work on keeping my thoughts anchored in the here and now. Because I want to live well while living with ALS.

***

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

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9 comments

  1. Dagmar thank you so much for this, I really needed to hear this, especially today. My Fears, Monkey Chatter & Runaway thoughts really got the better of me over the last couple of days. You reminded me that Fear stands for
    False
    Evidence
    Appearing
    Real
    Also that 80% of the time we worry about something it will never happen, 18% it turns out better then we thought & only 2% of the time it actually happens the way we feared. However we spent 100% of our time worrying about it.

  2. Anmr says:

    Hello Dagmar this past Sunday I had a very emotional day I could not stop crying thinking about what was going to be coming in the future with my ALS I’m not able to walk anymore or stand in my hands are getting bad and I fear for what’s coming. When I tried to talk to people it just makes me cry more it doesn’t calm me down I just don’t know what to do when this happens l

    • Dagmar says:

      Anne, I am sorry you are experiencing such low feeling days. If it helps you to know, we pALS have all felt depressed thinking about our ALS. I had about 6-months of it during my first year. I think it’s beneficial to have a good cry, get angry and wish it wasn’t so. But at some point, you need to accept that your body has ALS, and decide you can figure out to live on with it.

      I invite you to join us at the ALS News Today Forum: https://alsnewstoday.com/forums/ We are a supportive group of 500+ members who share ideas and inspire each other. Also, I wrote a few articles you might find helpful:
      Are You Stuck in the ALS Waiting Room?
      Stuck in the Past? Here’s How to Reframe Your Future
      How to Push Back the Mental Walls

      I send you my sincere wishes that you soon will be feeling more confident about living with ALS.

    • Cindy says:

      Anne I am exactly where you are in terms of not walking or standing and hands and fingers getting weaker. For more than 3 years Ive been pretty positive. Lately I find myself crying more. Trials and treatments are slow in coming. I’m really just sad thinking about where this is all going. I’m also sad for my husband children sisters and loved ones. I think these are normal feelings. I pray and hope

    • Kim says:

      I’ve been the same lately, very emotional. I too can’t walk or stand for any length of time & arms, fingers & tongue getting weaker. Thinking of what the future holds with ALS is very scarey. I was diagnosed almost a year ago. The pandemic makes its so much more worse. I was hoping to be able to live life fully for as long as I could & visit people & go places, but with the pandemic feel stuck & isolated. Our ALS Clinic appointments are virtual so we don’t risk exposure. I did have to have a swallow test done at local hospital & felt very safe there with the precautions they had in place.

  3. John Russell says:

    Where I live in far northern NY,covid cases are very low. While being careful, we have been social with best friends mostly outdoors. We haven’t felt too alone.
    I have skipped clinics.I kinda know what’s happening without having numbers assigned & I’m satisfied with my meds & supplements.
    The real problem for me is the continual droning of TV news which my wife can’t turn off. We have Amazon Prime music so I bought good noise canceling head phones. My music and reading really help me stay in the present. I take in the network news only and pretty much ignore the cable.

  4. Robin Ramos says:

    Thank you for sharing. I truly appreciate and enjoy your articles. Stay strong my friend. Never loose your sense of humor.

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