Loving the Beast Within
Tell me if you agree with this statement.
‘An open heart is something to be protected.’
I have always suffered from some form of anxiety, with its buddy depression sprinkled in on & off over the years. Most of the time I think it stems from the simple fact that I care — too much.
Instead of fighting what is, ignoring it — acting like a little kid with my hands over my ears ‘nah nah nah, I can’t hear yoooouuuu’, I am learning to embrace my own self. To realize that this is my cross to bear, a part of me that to deny is only hurting me more.
I hurt easily, I am very sensitive to my surroundings, and overly empathetic. What that means is that if you are my friend and you’re bummed, I am right there blazing guns with you. If you are my boss and your day sucks, I am pissed at the world too, and yes, we should fire everyone.
Thick skin, I have not. I tend to take the weight of the world on my shoulders, allowing others to project there own stuff over onto me until I’m hunched over like Quasimodo.
There is such a stigma around mental illness in general. Never wanting to be a downer (and who does) I rarely talk about it. Only the closest of friends know, and of those, fewer still know the full depths of it.
Anxiety is a Bitch. As is its cousin Depression. Yet instead of being reliant on chemical fixers, I am trying to do natural things to help.
People describe it in many ways, I would say it is like being forced onto a train ride, one that you never intended to get on. You fight your way, kicking & screaming, and tell the man that you’re not supposed to be here. Then he reaches into your pocket and pulls out your ticket.
Buckle up, Buttercup. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
At my worst, I have contemplated and attempted suicide.
“Ah, devil ether. It makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel. Total loss of all basic motor skills. Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue. The mind recoils in horror, unable to communicate with the spinal column. Which is interesting because you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can’t control it.” — Raoul Duke / Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
The single strangest thing to me is that you can watch yourself, behaving in this way that is completely illogical. Your thoughts are all wrong — you know this, yet at the same time feel completely helpless to do anything about it. Your mind is trapped on this crazy train ride, and you have to wait for the man to pull back the lever to make it stop.
That train ride isn’t over ’til the bastard conductor decides you have done your time. The real tricky part comes when you realize that You are the conductor.
At my best (now), I have one or two ‘down’ days a week. The difference now is that I can see the warning signs better, and start fighting back earlier before I fall into the rabbit hole entirely.
Now what fresh Hell is this?
In this past year, I have gotten a little braver. Hitting the one year anniversary of the death of actor / comedian Robin Williams, I realize how much it is needed for more people to speak up about it. That it can be dealt with, lived with — it need not define you — but also should not be kept in a box in the deepest corners of the mind.
I am always glad to see others writing about it — a couple I can think of that I’ve read in the past month are Jennifer Pastiloff (she is hilarious, curses like a sailor and is an amazing yogi), and Janelle over at Renegade Mothering (with 4 kids, also hilarious, curses like a sailor — perhaps there is a trend here).
These days I am happy to say I have methods now. Techniques to help me fight back the Beast, to put the lock back on the cage. For now.
I know it is always going to come back. It has taken a long time, but I have accepted this. I have also accepted the fact that many people will never understand one iota of what I go through, and that’s ok too. I am glad for them. I wouldn’t wish this crap on anyone.
Here are a few of the ways I get out of my own head space — which is vital in healing and/or getting through an episode, no matter how long it lasts.
Get out into nature
I don’t care where you live, if it’s in a city, find a tiny patch of grass somewhere. Stare at some ants. Seriously. You need the strength in trees, you need to feel the wind on your face, you need to breath in some fresh air. A change in scenery does wonders on the soul.
Go out and help someone else
Have a friend who is also in her own rough patch? Go and bring her some lunch. Take some things you no longer need, bring them to a shelter. Better yet, go and volunteer at one.
Accept what is
Now this one is admittedly a toughie, or we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. This is more a process of convincing your brain that 1) it doesn’t have to be this way 2) it will not be this way always & forever, as much as you think it will and 3) you have to be honest with yourself about what is happening.
Have a pity party
This is only if you are not getting in too deep. Let yourself have a down day, eat cereal for dinner, wear your robe all day long. Hire a babysitter, go lay in the bathtub for 2 hours reading a Trash ‘n’ Smut magazine (I think they call it People, or something). Or don’t. Watch ridiculous shows (Tosh.O anyone?) that will not improve you one iota. This method is only allowed to last for one day though, so use it wisely or you’ll fall deeper in.
If you can change the situation, then give serious thought on what ACTIONS you can do to make that happen. If you can’t, then forgive yourself and try to settle in with the reality of what is — right now. Still give yourself the leeway to remember that it can possibly still change over time.
This is another tactic to be careful of. Be sure it is something that is uplifting & fun to you personally — not your standard cry baby, popular music junk, definitely not that song that makes you think of that person you are missing. Create a new station on Pandora — label it ‘Depression’ and only have funny comedy bits or super upbeat tunes.
Meditation & yoga are my #1 crutches for good reason, they lower my blood pressure, they force me to go inwards in a positive way, they exercise my mind and body in a way that feels great for me. Find out what type of exercise makes you feel good, and do it. Force yourself. Write in into your schedule. Allow no excuses. For me, this is my ‘Sanity Time’ and it non-negotiable.
Relax & Get Engrossed
You also need chill out time, especially those of us who use their anxiety issues as an excuse to run around at 20,000 rpms all day long. Pick up one of those things called a Book. Remember those? For some it helps to minimize the mindless tv, but instead allow yourself to get sucked into a long movie (just not a sad drama that can throw you into a tailspin).
Laugh & Learn
Watching stupid videos on youtube, find a new comedian to listen to and enjoy. Or conversely, think of something you’ve always wanted to learn and start to. Even if you are just watching someone else doing it, you are planting the seeds for your own following actions.
If you have suffered from some form of mental illness, what are your methods for getting out of the funk? I’d love to hear them. It takes a village, in the good times & the bad.
Originally published at thecrumbsofmylife.wordpress.com on September 6, 2015.