Numb the pain

A dear friend of mine sent me a link to the following video…and it struck a nerve…Which compelled me to share my story. Thank you, L, for sharing this video with me and giving me the courage to speak up.

“A woman explains her struggle with mental illness”

You may have gathered previous previous posts that I’ve struggled with a form of mental illness. My default coping strategy has been to ignore the feelings, forget they exist and move on….which is the WORST way to deal with it. When you suppress every bad emotion it festers and you find yourself FREAKING OUT over the stupidest things – leading to tears (my default mechanism..happy tears, sad tears, angry tears – it’s terrible!)…which therein validates my feelings of failure about being so vulnerable.

I can handle dealing with feeling and emotion and helping EVERYBODY ELSE work through the emotional stressors of life yet with myself I saw it as a flaw, something not to be mentioned. Trust me, when it comes to faking it being happy – I would win an Oscar…mostly because I didn’t want other people to know I was a failure for “feeling” (lets face it, it is the general consensus and I cared – still care – way too much about what non-entities think of me and my life).

So what did I do when things got so incredibly bad….I medicated. Things got so bad I was dragged off to a psychiatrist and out on anti-depressants. I resisted (ironically like my life depended on not seeing a psychiatrist and needing drugs) at first – because if I “gave in” and took antidepressants, I was a failure. In hindsight, at that time in my life, it was the best treatment for me – I was so consumed with all current and buried emotion added to the self-recriminating processes in my mind that in order to function, I had to suppress some of the feelings and tears (there were a lot). I needed to be numb…in theory so I could deal with the emotions…

But, of course, being ME, I didn’t regularly go to  my psychiatrist…To me a psychologist was even out of the question..like really “talk” about feelings – how the hell does that help? I went with the flow – when things got bad, I upped the dose or asked for a change in meds… never dealing with the root cause.

Until

I was forced to. Literally bullied into seeing a psychologist. Every week…sometimes twice a week. To talk, unpack, recognise and change my internal destructive, criticising “me” thought processes in addition to stop “thinking too much” (yes, its a thing and I have it). Without the crutch of medication numbing the majority of my senses. It is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

The day post sessions I feel incredibly “raw”, exposed and sensitive…cause, yes, I think about the discussions and things we worked through. Its those days I wish for something to numb it all but alas,    I have no more chemical crutch. It honestly SUCKS.

Recognising my triggers and breaking my thought patterns is something that sounds “woo-woo” to me – and I’ve subsequently done a lot of research…turns out “mindfulness” and forming new cognitive patterns of “me-thoughts” actually does change neural pathways – there is published literature on the functional changes in the brain in pretty well recognised scientific journals. Who knew? So there is a scientific basis which made me feel a bit better about it.

Its incredibly hard for me to lay it all out there and to be so open and honest in such a public platform. Because, yes, the stigma is still there and, yes, I still worry that I will be branded for it (the “crazy” one) for the rest of my life. That people will not remember me for my successes in life, but for being the one who had “mental issues”. I know certain people see it as weakness – hell, I was one of them – and honestly its a myopic way to view it…there is so much more that goes on than just a “bad day”.

In my mind it is as if every good, positive thought/external feedback is diminished by a single negative experience. For me, at least, there is a constant war raging between intellect and emotion when myself/my thoughts about myself are concerned. Its baby steps with therapy but I can slowly see the way my thought spirals from one bad thing to every single bad thing I can remember.

We live in an instant gratification world where information about anyone or anything is at the tip of your fingers resulting in never-ending social comparison. To those of us who are predisposed to negative self-esteem, self-worth and bottling up emotion (doesn’t help when you are tarnished by life experiences)…it is detrimental to our health. And I honestly don’t think any person is immune. We are all challenged personally with these issues and we ALL struggle with thoughts of self-worth (unless you cross into psychopathic behaviour).

Mental health issues are rife in society yet still stigmatised. I personally believe mental health issues carry more stigma than HIV… HIV has a tangible  “number” you can measure – be it viral loads, presence of the virus or CD4 counts. With mental health issues – none of the above. It is a very subjective diagnosis – and frankly I struggle with it. I need numbers, figures.

I hope my story helps others be more open and talk about their experiences and stories. It SUCKS going through it alone and feeling as though no-one understands. I know.

Here is a quote which I love from the video:

“There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to feelings and moods, they just exist. We just feel. It’s the choices we make on how to constructively deal with those feelings that define us.”

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