When you can't help yourself...help others.
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
I write this today off the back of leading a walk for our local Mental Health Mates group, which I am so glad to have set up as being involved in this stuff (and writing to you) helps me each and every day.
My brain sabotages me everyday these days. And hilariously the advice is to use my loaf about it! How exactly?!
Accept I need to take my meds...remember take my meds...practice meditation...practice CBT to challenge my problem thinking...show myself compassion by choosing self-care...talk about my triggers...stop focussing on myself...change my thoughts, change my life...keep my chin up...
Everything I am supposed to do to get my brain better involves using my brain...the part of me that has the problem.
Somehow in order to function I need to activate my little grey cells (LGCs) to work for my wellbeing. Making sure I stick to plans, avoid withdrawing from people, take chances in learning new things and generally making healthy wise decisions.
This is despite my LGC's learned tendency to protect me by inducing a baseline state of anxious arousal in my mind, throughout my nervous system and my body which means I am ready to fight, flight or freeze at a moments notice.
Through nature, nurture and their interaction with my current life circumstances, my brain warns me daily to avoid things, people and everything becomes a potential risk or disaster about to happen (always the dread).
When I encounter uncertainty, e.g. every single day as we all do, the LGC helpfully assist me by ensuring I revisit each interaction, trigger, memory, however small and insignificant at the time and relive them through rumination and uncontrollable worry as a kind of generalised-threat-radar (bip...bip...bip - my radar type impression)
This leaves me feeling exhausted in body and mind and with very low sense of self esteem and self-belief which periodically slips me into a black hole...i.e. depression. It feels like it is me against the world each and every day either due to the anxiety or depression so I can't really win that battle with my brain.
When it comes to the war, however, my LGC are very active foot soldiers and have no idea of the bigger picture they are helping me fight for.
I am not ashamed to boast about this, I have a very active brain. My own particular brain is just as brilliant at analysing people, their motives and desires as well as assessing situations and coming up with ideas and strategies...as well as not so usefully turning even achievements and happy events into potential future problems which cause me overwhelming distress over the smallest things. I am high functioning but I have a mental illness and those two things do co-occur more often than you'd think.
The major upside of having this particular set of LGCs is that generally when I am not depressed I am quite an organised and proactive person. Most of my family and friends, those I already knew prior to my diagnosis (which changed my life), certainly act as if I am a high functioning person with no problems in the brain area as this is what I have defaulted into projecting to them.
In the past this double-life has harmed me but I totally understand now that this was my way of coping, am starting to forgive and accept myself as well as realise that I can't expect understanding from everyone, especially if they have no experience with really struggling with their own mental health.
So back to the bigger picture...I am organised, I like being with people and by leveraging this set of my LGC's abilities I have been drawn towards helping others and getting more involved in my community. This is how my LGC can help me (without them knowing it!)...in using my skills to bring other people together I too can benefit from the social contact, conversation and support from other people who know what it is like to feel challenged as a person from within.
I am really starting to learn that I can't in fact use my brain to THINK my way out of my problems (or illness, depending on which camp you are in)...but perhaps I can use my brain to (unknowingly) take ACTION to reframe my problems. Instead of railing against the hand I have been dealt, can I learn to work with it and corral the little buggers to work for my own good one way or another?
More coming soon!