Mental Health

An Important Lesson

I think I have learned an important and almost costly lesson.

I don’t know how many of you see a psychologist regularly and what your sessions are like, or how those of you that don’t imagine the sessions to be.

I’ll tell you a little about mine.

I tend to do most of the talking. I’ll go through any current and specific issues and my thoughts on them as well as touching on ongoing issues. As she listens she will generally comment on my thoughts and help me get perspective or suggest other angles as required.

As an amateur neuroscience, psychology and therapy nerd with a tendency to over self analyse, it’s very useful to have the assistance of an actual trained professional to keep me on the most useful path.

I opened yesterdays session with idea that I think I am probably depressed. I discussed my diagnosis and pondered on the absence of the usual anxiety component.

My amateur psychology skills are getting good because she agreed with my diagnosis.

Interestingly most of the life affecting anxiety issues I have previously had are gone. I can go the hair cut shop, drive to a strange place, answer my phone, go somewhere I don’t know people, approach a stranger, get a glass of water, buy lunch — and all of the many many things I couldn’t manage at various times. And all without even a moments hesitation.

I have how ever found myself with low energy, a lack of interest in the things I like, constantly feeling irritable, not sleeping, feeling detached, tired all the time and perhaps the worse not really liking myself.

It might sound odd but not liking myself much is an old thing that has come back. Recently as part of my recovery and with my commitment to live as kindly as possible I had finally accepted the idea that I am quite an ok person.

I seem to have lost that feeling and acceptance.

Why? I’ll give you the stream of self chatter:

“If you are such a nice person why did your wife stop loving you?”

“You don’t deserve your friends, what do you ever give them?”

“No one likes you anyway, they tolerate you.”

“You’re just mean and stubborn.”

“You are a coward.”

“Your 36 and you have nothing.”

“Your career is a joke. You are the least useful person at work.”

“You are a big fat emotional blob of a man child.”

This is the negative self talk that I am bombarding myself with. The crazy thing is that I know what it is and I know how to deal with it.

The problem is that all these wonderful psychological tools and techniques don’t come for free. They consume energy of which, on any given day, there is a finite amount.

It currently consumes most of my energy to be able to accept and sit with my grief and sadness. These emotions have currently moved in for an extended stay. I know well enough to sit with them and not block them lest they invite other ever more troublesome emotions to stay as well.

It takes energy to stop myself bursting into tears at work. It doesn’t always work but I am really proud of how I am managing and coping with my grief and sadness. I am getting my job done and have not had that much time away despite all that has been going on.

It takes energy for normal daily interactions. It takes energy for work, to call banks, to go to the shops, to process thoughts and feelings.

With all my energy consumed on life and the grieving process I’ve slipped up and let negative self talk get a foot hold and opened the door to depression.

I know how to deal with these things. However one of the worst factors of psychological problems is their ability to disguise themselves or manifest despite the sufferer being quite aware of how to deal with them.

I would probably say that I am on the upper end of the curve for self awareness. It’s a trait that has enabled me to make massive progress with cognitive interventions. It’s how I’ve kickstarted the rewiring of my brain and changed a number of automatic behaviours.

What I realised in my session yesterday is where my massive blind spots are.

To the picture. 114kgs. Frankly friends I am quite ashamed and disgusted with myself.

At 105kgs I was over weight.

I understand the principals of nutrition. I know that weight loss is simply maths — calories in vs calories consumed.

There is no secret I am missing.

I allow myself to eat emotionally. In a weird mix of self punishment and pleasure seeking I will over eat and eat badly.

I’ll order a pizza to ‘cheer myself up’ and then eat the whole thing in some obscure punishment “you a fatty anyway, eat it fatty” knowing full well it will make me feel sick and miserable.

I don’t know why food is such a blindspot for me. Mindful eating could get this under control quite easily. I just have to make active and positive choices at the right moment.

So, back to the important and costly lesson.

Why am I fat and depressed? I know all the answers. I’m not ignorant of the path to depression nor the simple facts of nutrition and weight loss.

I haven’t been actively engaging in practice.

It is not enough to KNOW, you have to DO.

I haven’t been meditating, I haven’t been fully engaged in gratitude. I’ve forgotten 50% of the kindness equation — self kindness. I’ve been doing ok on giving.

My own ‘four pillars’ that I like to talk about and I am not doing them properly.

I am hoping that I have realised in time to get my health under control and shake off the black dog.

I am actually grateful for the reminder. It’s a harsh lesson but an important one. Constant practice is the way to stay healthy. When we slip we fall and it can be really hard to get back up again.

So what does this mean for me?

Well if I engage with my mindful practices and meditation I should be able to intercept and process the negative self talk before it manifests as depression.

I am well practised at recognising thoughts as thoughts and not facts. Clearing my thought storms daily should help me rest better and process everything that is going on in my life.

When I discovered gratitude I knew how complimentary it would be to my other practices. For me now being able to be grateful for the lesson here is the first step to lifting myself back up. It really is quite amazing. Meditation and mindfulness can be quite hard to practice sometimes when you are feeling low but if you can find even the smallest scrap of gratitude it can lift you back up.

The real magic secret to gratitude is that if you can find nothing else you can always find a lesson. There is always something to learn.

So I will shoo away the black dog and I will apply all my tools to food and eating.

I need to find a path back to self kindness.

What does this mean for you?

Hopefully you can borrow my lesson before you ever get to a similar place or if you are there you can know that you are not alone.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that knowing is not enough. You can know every technique and tool in the book but wellness will only be there if you practice every single day!


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