With raging social burn out, fatigue, personal struggles and relapse of certain issues, having stay put like a zombie for days, this morning once again I was ready to throw in the towel. Blogs could go to dogs. People are pain. I just felt like switching off from everything. This feeling of physical and emotional drain, old issues gnawing at the brain and anxiety and depression together hitting home again, all I felt like was to do nothing, be nothing. Just go absconding. I knew this was perfect way to self-sabotage. I pushed myself to feel otherwise. Tried self-talk, therapeutic tools, Mindfulness but the pain this time was stronger than all that. I just couldn’t feel better. Just couldn’t feel like doing anything, or bouncing back. Then – I remembered something and literally went – WTF! Feelings or no feelings, I need to do this. I need to dig in my heels and get doing what needs to be done. Then sitting and mentally scanning my topic list for my next blogpost, while just not feeling like it, I suddenly thought – why not write exactly on this?
Feelings are our internal compass pointing towards – No! Not reality, but our Mind and our thought processes. Emotions are like a flight’s instruments and when the outside is stormy, unfathomable we try ‘fly by instrument’ as the aeronautics lingo goes. But unlike a flight’s instruments our emotions aren’t that accurate or dependable. Precisely because they aren’t an objective independent guide but based totally on our cognition, our thinking patterns. Change our thoughts, we can change our feelings. Hence while it is Vital to pay importance to our deepest feelings, as trustable compass pointing out how our Mind is thinking, yet they can’t be always trusted to determine our choices.
And here lies the key to bouncing back – as I write this primarily for people with mental health issues, going through relapses, again ready to give up, yet this is equally relevant and applicable for people with no clinical disorder but just a phase of ‘I can’t do it anymore!’
So how do you bounce back to doing right when you just can’t feel any energy, any emotion towards that?
Firstly we need to acknowledge our true feelings. Denial doesn’t help. Denial only represses the real issue temporarily and before long it again implodes. Distraction too is no good. Watching TV, munching on snacks, going shopping, reading, music, even sleeping – No healthy or unhealthy distraction genuinely works. It will soon be back as we never really dealt with it. Only way is to stare the feelings in the eye and foremost acknowledge how you truly feel.
Second, to try decipher which thought caused it. CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, does exactly this. It trains us to be what I call a ‘Thought Sleuth’. Behind every emotion, positive and negative, lies some thinking pattern, a specific thought. If we can shake that cornerstone thought we can easily shake the emotion built on it. Change your thoughts, you change how you feel. You may say, “But that’s what I truly believe. How can I change it? And why should I suddenly start believing otherwise?” How – by repetitive training of your Mind to believe otherwise. Why – because it is hurting you and making you dysfunctional. Remember there is no One way to think. You are always free to choose whatever beliefs work best for your physical and mental health without even bothering if that’s the Objective Reality. There’s none, We decide our Reality.
But thirdly, another VITAL step. After you’ve done the first two, at times the pain and relapse (esp for clinical disorders) are so massive that changing a thought to change a feeling doesn’t come immediately. Then the life hack is this third – just try remember one reason why you should be doing something you aren’t feeling like doing and then say “What the heck! I just can’t feel upto it BUT I AM GONNA DO IT ANYWAY!”
As I connect to several blogger-survivors of mental health issues, I often come across relapse posts saying “I just don’t feel like .. (going back to therapy/going out for exercise/eating anything/putting so much effort/ so on)
If you’ve been through considerable amount of therapy, you probably already know what’s healthy for your mental and physical health. Ok, you right now just don’t feel like following that. So you probably took time out, brooded, mourned, indulged that pain, despair and ideas of throwing all the good work away. Now use the hack – acknowledge the feeling but SIMPLY DECIDE AGAINST CONTINUING TO ACT ON IT. Recall just one reason why you should be doing what you don’t feel like doing and GET UP, START DOING IT!
Umpteen times I have done this –
Mind: Am mentally dead. I can’t cook or eat.
Me : Yes, I hear you. (Walked into the kitchen, began making breakfast.)
Mind : I just don’t feel like going out. I wanna die in my bed.
Me : Yes, I hear your pain. (Began getting dressed)
Mind : I Hate this Therapy! Too painful! Am done!
Me : Yes, I understand. (Picked up therapy notes and pen.)
Often the paradox is, you feel nightmarish pain about the idea of doing something you don’t feel like doing but the moment you get down to it, the rebellious feelings start falling in line. I know this description is inadequate, too simplistic. There are several layers of interwoven thoughts and emotions behind this process. But sometimes we need to let go of the complex understanding of how it works and simply focus on working it out, hands on.
I know it’s not easy. I can write this only after years of rigorous therapy. I still and often struggle. Yet with repetitive habit formation one can train the Mind to thus bounce back. Of course, once you’ve bounced back from the primary inertia of a relapse, you need to follow it up with further delayering it, yourself or along with your mental health expert, but first – Say to those feelings ‘I hear you alright!’, then Stoically Get Up, Start Doing the Opposite, that What Needs to be Done.
Take Care, dear Mind.
© & Author : Nivedita Dey, 2016
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