Ashwini, a young dynamic woman, who had just completed her MBBS, and was aiming for further studies, when all of a sudden, she found herself in a helpless situation. A family member of hers was diagnosed with a chronic disease, and suddenly, Ashwini found herself in the position of being a full time caregiver for this person.
Being suddenly thrown into such a huge responsibility, Ashwini started feeling as though her academia was suffering, as she wasn’t getting enough time for her studies, and suddenly her future started to look dark in front of her eyes. She started feeling as though she would never be successful, and that nobody understood her, and she would never have a good life like others. This led to a cycle of fleeting depression, which grew to full blown depressive thoughts.
Ashwini came into therapy when these thoughts got too much to handle. After speaking to her, I found out that she had started believing that nobody in her family cared about her studies, because she was expected to fend to the needs of her family member all day, and received minimal help from others. Based on these incidences Ashwini started becoming preoccupied with thoughts about how she isn’t going to amount to anything. And these thoughts tremendously affected her ability to study even in her free time, as she constantly kept catastrophizing her future, and this cycle of thoughts kept haunting her in all her free time.
Through therapy, Ashwini realized that she had certain demands off her own self and off her family members. That she was telling herself things like ‘they MUST cooperate with me, otherwise I cannot stand it’, ‘I MUST be able to have more time for myself, otherwise I am a failure’. We worked together to reevaluate her negative thoughts, and Ashwini realized that a few rough moments and drawbacks in her life don’t make her a failure. She also realized, that there isn’t much she can do to change her family’s situation or the way the behave. The only thing she CAN definitely work on is her own thoughts.
Once Ashwini accepted that she CAN indeed stand this complex situation, and that although it will be difficult but not impossible to achieve her goals, she started to gain control over her negative thoughts, and started thinking more positively. She gradually started thinking things like ‘I CAN handle my family situation, and also work on my goals effectively. Thinking this way is going to help me better cope with my situation, than starting a cycle of negative thoughts’.
Initially, Ashwini was not very committed towards her goal in therapy, as she did not feel like she could ever get rid of her negative thoughts. However, as her commitment level increased, it reflected in her personal life, too. After a few sessions, she reported that after caring for her family member, whenever she got time to study, she was able to do so more effectively. Instead of focusing on her negative thoughts, and making prophecies about a dark future, she focused on studying, and was able to get a lot done in the time she had on her hands. Now she doesn’t look at herself as a failure who can’t achieve anything in life, instead she believes in her own capabilities, and strives harder. She doesn’t compare her life to others’, but evaluates it in context her own life goals, and what she can do to achieve them.
Life is uncertain and throws various difficult situations at you. How you look at these situations determines how effective you will be in coping with them. Negativity always leads to a cycle of unhelpful thoughts, and changing these thoughts to healthier ones paves a path of success. Always remember to be positive and brave through life’s uncertainties!