Inside My Head – Part 5 – The Mustard Seed

Welcome to the last part of the Inside My Head series.  I hope you’ve enjoyed getting this insight into my mind and how my conditions affect me.  If you missed any of the posts over the last couple of weeks then you can find them all here.  Let’s take a look at the last part of the series, shall we?

A Mustard Seed

An odd title, I know, but work with me on this one.  It’ll all make sense further down.

As we come towards the end of the series, what do we remember from the past few weeks?  Who am I?  Well, I’m a brother, a son and also I’m a Christian.  Did you know that?  I suppose being raised as the son of two pastors does help in that respect but I made the decision to become a Christian a long time ago.  Admittedly I’m not very good at shouting it from the rooftops but I do try and keep an open honesty about it all.  Simply put, though: I believe in God, I pray, I read the Bible and go to church and do my best to follow the Christian teachings.  It’s a big part of who I am, no matter how quiet I might be about it.

Does it make me perfect?

Not by a long shot!  Being a Christian doesn’t mean I’m perfect, it means I’m a work in progress, a flawed person who can only be saved by God’s grace.  I still mess up – a lot, as you will see over the course of this blog – and I still get it wrong and for once it isn’t the darkness of my mind supplying those words.  That being said, I still try and do my best.

Why am I telling you this?  Simply put: it’s my ray of hope, it’s my lifeline.  Without my faith, I don’t think I’d have survived this long.  Over the course of my life there have been a lot of changes, a lot of things happening and having something to cling onto, something constant, is a blessing.

The mustard seed comes from a passage in the Bible which tells us how faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.  Now, I’ve never moved a mountain but I’d say my faith often feels as though it’s as small as a mustard seed.  Depending on how bad the crushing blackness is, my faith grows and shrinks and sometimes feels like it disappears completely.  It’s still there, though, and I can guarantee that it’s never Him that’s moved.  It’s really helped.

“He replied: ‘Because you have so little faith.  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.'” – Matthew 17:20 NIV

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Is Everything OK Then?

Absolutely not.  Even though I know that I am held, that God has got me securely in His hands, I know things aren’t all OK.  I still fall, I still struggle but that’s the beauty of it: we are free to struggle.

I’ll say that again: we are free to struggle!

Sometimes it’s our own choices that get us into difficulty but we are free to make our own choices, even when they aren’t necessarily good ones.  Even if we go our own way and get ourselves into trouble, though, God is still right there with us.  I firmly believe that.

It may seem contradictory: a God who loves us and made us and wants us to live for Him but who gives us hardships and challenges to go through.  We can’t always explain why we’re going through whatever we are going through and it’s not always for us to know.  God never promises that it will be easy, nor does He promise that we won’t fall.  He simply promises that He will be with us every step of the way.

Why Mention This?

I know some of you might be wondering why I’m talking about this.  What’s it got to do with inside my head?  Let me tell you.

Nestled inside my head, amidst the black clouds, the fog and the darkness lies a little ray of hope.  It’s sometimes only small but it’s a little gem that tells me I’m forgiven, I’m not forsaken and I’m set free.  Although I might feel abandoned, I’m never alone.  Yes, it sometimes takes time to remember that but it sticks, it’s there.

My other reason for mentioning it is that this is the foundation for Pushing Back the Shadows.  Ever since this started, I have had a strong desire to blog this so that it might help people.  I’m confident that it was God who planted that seed in my mind, so that I might turn my curse into a gift and use it for something good.

At the end of the day, this is one of the things that keeps me going.  A little gem hidden amongst the rubbish, a diamond in the rough.  It’s hope for when I’m feeling hopeless.  Whether you believe in God or not, that hope still shines for me and I wanted to share that with you.

After all: it’s inside my head.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Inside My Head – Part 4 – Self-Worth

Welcome to Part 4 of my Inside My Head series!  If you missed part 1part 2 or part 3, definitely check them out.  Today we’re going to be looking at the second part of my self-worth and look at my confidence.  You will also get to see the one thing I actually think I’m good at.  Here we go!

Believing the good

In last week’s post I talked a lot about how I don’t believe I’m as good at things as people say I am.  I want to tap into that a little bit today and explain some of the reasoning behind it.

So this is one of the hardest things for me to control.  As I said last week, it could be because I’m something of a perfectionist and would like things to be absolutely spot on before they get going.  (Admittedly I’m getting better at that but I’m still a work in progress!)  In the darkest corners of my mind are hundreds of things that I feel I should have done better.  No matter how well things have gone, I will still find the flaws.  “You sang that song well!”  “Really?  I was shaky and I got the chords wrong halfway through.”  “You wrote that well!”  “Did I?  It could have been better.”  That sort of thing.

I suppose this is doubt, hopelessness and a lack of self-esteem working together in my mind.  Whatever I’ve done, I undervalue.  Anyone else could have done it better than I did it and it’s hard to shut that thought out.  Hear it enough times and you start listening to it.  Listen to it long enough and you might start believing it as well.  I’m sure some of you can relate.

Believing the good is such a hard thing to do but, as I go along, I’m learning that there are nuggets of truth to whatever it is people are saying.  Some of the things I do, they might have meant something to those people, otherwise why are they bothering saying anything?  It’s all about perspective and perhaps what they see in me is more valuable to them than what I see in me.  Before you ask, I’m not always convinced of that, no.

Projected Confidence

Everyone does this to a certain extent.  Mostly it’s for job interviews or asking someone out for the first time or things like this.  We project confidence so that we don’t seem nervous.  Especially if we are nervous, come to think about it.

This is one thing I really think I do well.  Whether it’s standing up in front of a crowd to sing or to give a speech I’ve prepared, I feel I do well at projecting that confidence.  Many people come up to me saying they wouldn’t be able to do it themselves so they admire me for doing it.  Me, I’d say it’s all a false front, part of my mask.

I’m good at it.

I know, with the list of things I think I don’t do well, I guess it might be a little surprising that I’d think I do anything well.  Afterwards, however, when my thoughts go 100 miles-a-minute to tell me what I’d not done right, I wonder if it’s worth it.  I’m determined it won’t hold me back though.  I guess that’s a good thing.

Yes, projecting confidence is definitely one of my strong points.  You could almost think of it as the buried treasure, the little nugget, as sometimes being able to project that confidence as part of my mask is a way of tricking my mind into thinking I can get through it.  Sometimes, just sometimes that imagined confidence rubs off on the rest of me and allows me to motivate myself or succeed where I think I’ll fail.  Not always, that’s for certain, but it’s definitely happened before.

It’s what I do.

The Last Part

In part 5, discover what holds this broken shell of worry, doubt, hopelessness and fear together.  You might be surprised!  Thank you for sticking with me through this series so far!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Inside My Head – Part 3 – Self-Worth

Welcome to Part 3 of my Inside My Head series!  If you missed part 1 or part 2, definitely check them out.  In today’s post, I’m going to be looking at self-worth and how it plays a big part in my depression.  You’ll learn a little bit more of what makes up “Alex Davies” as well.  Let’s have a look.

Who am I?

Around us in the world today there are constant pressures, aren’t there?  Pressures and standards of how to act, how to dress, how to speak, what to do, etc.  There are so many stereotypes and standards that it’s sometimes very easy to get lost in them and lose your own identity.  So in today’s world with its standards and pressures, who am I?

If I was to ask the people who know me who I am, I’d get a variety of different responses.  I’m a brother, a son, a Christian, a pastor’s child, a linguist, a writer, a singer, a songwriter, a friend, a bit of a geek, a joker…the list goes on.  Admittedly, all of those are factual.  I am, by definition, a brother and a son and my parents are both pastors so, by default, I am a pastor’s son.  At university, I studied linguistics, I write books and blogs and songs, I play musical instruments, I have friends.  I like computer games and Star Trek (which apparently makes me a bit of a geek) and I tell awful jokes which is the aspiring joker in me.  I cannot deny any of these because they are intrinsic to who I am.

But it’s more complicated than that and that’s where self-worth comes in.

Self-Worth

Everyone has their own concept of self-worth.  For some, they believe they are God’s gift to whatever community they find they excel in.  For others, they believe they are worthless, useless, with no redeeming or enhancing qualities to themselves.  And, as with everything, you get a full spectrum of people in between those two, people who can have elements of both extremes or people who sit almost squarely in the middle.  Everyone is different.

For me, self-worth comes in when you start attaching qualifiers to all of the attributes that make me.  Am I a “good” writer?  Do I sing “well”?  Am I a “skilled” linguist?  When you start adding qualifying adjectives or adverbs like these, you start giving me things my mind can argue with,  and in that comes the problem.  It’s those qualities that my brain starts to pick apart and I am certainly my harshest critic.  Take my writing, for example: I’m no Shakespeare or Tolkien but I get told my writing is good.  I’m not Pavarotti or Freddy Mercury either but I get told I sing well.  To my mind, however, I’m less than average.  Very much so.

Perhaps I’m a little blinkered, looking at my life through black-tinted spectacles, or perhaps I’m too much of a perfectionist (guilty as charged on that one!) but that’s the way I am.  Every achievement I make, every good quality I have, I tend to belittle.  Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I do anything at all.  If you ask me what I do, it takes a great deal for me to admit to some things – like writing or songwriting – because I don’t put much faith in them.  I enjoy them, yes, but I’m always surprised when other people enjoy them.

In truth, I don’t think much of myself.

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

What do I see?

I suppose it would be a good idea for me to tell you what I see when I look at myself.  I’d go so far as to say these are more or less concrete core beliefs that I have surrounding myself, which is probably why they’re so hard to shake.  Here they are though.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t like what I see.  A frequent joke of mine is that I’m surprised the mirror isn’t cracked.  I don’t think my face is great, my overall shape isn’t what I might like it to be and my hair drives me mad because it has a curly waviness to it that makes it a nightmare to tidy.  I also see the mask and I hate that.  It feels fake, as if I’m living some sort of double life.  Sometimes it feels as if I’m trying to change myself to fit in so that other people will like me or accept me and I hate it.  It feels hollow.

Parallel to all this is a paradoxical darkness that I don’t like either.  I’m the comedic joker who rarely finds things funny.  The bubbly cheerful person who would rather never smile.  I’m the person who is always around, always at the other end of the phone who would rather shut himself away and never come out.  Some twisted mass of contradictions that fight to break free of the mask I put on.  I’m sure I don’t need to explain why I don’t like it.

Moreover, I feel like a failure.  If I’ve not told you how I’m feeling, I’ve failed.  I believe that if I’m not succeeding at putting that mask on, I’ve failed.  If I can’t be there for you or let you in, I’ve failed.  On the other hand, why should that matter?  You wouldn’t want me if you saw the real me…or would you?

Next Week

That about sums up where the biggest, darkest chunk of my self-worth is.  Can you see yourself in it somewhere?  I’m quite curious on that part.  Either way, take a look at part 4 where I delve deeper into my self-worth, or lack thereof.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Inside My Head – Part 2 – Trapped

Welcome to the second part of the Inside My Head series!  Last week we looked at worry and doubt and how that affects me daily.  Today, I’m going to talk to you a little about feeling trapped, which is often how I feel.  If you want a bit more information, you can always check out my journey as well.

Trapped Inside My Head

“Look closely.  No, not at my face.  That’s the mask.  No, look at the eyes.  That’s it.  Don’t just look at them, though: look deeper.  Past the tiredness, there’s almost another shield.  That’s it, look deeper.  Can you see him?  The man trapped behind the cold steel of the mask.  He is there, screaming for help.  But you can’t hear him, can you?  You can’t really see him either.  He’s hidden behind the mask.  He’s real though.  Very real.  And he’s trapped inside my head.”

I wrote that quote back in September 2016 while trying to journal how I was feeling.  Back then I thought it was the best way to describe how I felt and, looking at it today, I think I agree.  It sums it up well.

I’ve already told you about masks and how they can become a big part of someone’s life.  Well, behind every mask there is the person going through whatever life is throwing at them and, like me, they’re not always coping as well as their face might suggest.

Inside my head, behind the pristine and polished mask, is a very overactive brain.  Thoughts, both good and bad, assail me on a daily basis and make it almost impossible for me to switch off.  It’s part of the cause of my insomnia, as I find it hard to turn off for the night.  Those thoughts cascade through my head, constantly clamouring for attention, slowly crushing me.  The negative ones, particularly, have a strong impact on my mind, almost always trying to push me down.  It’s hard to shut them out, particularly when you’re trapped in the middle of them.  They are loud, large and always there.  Always.

Imagine…

“Imagine for a moment that you’re in a room.  It’s quite a large room with many things to look at: paintings, photos, articles, statues and other objects of interest.  Perhaps it is like a museum of some kind, with everything there part of a display about someone’s life.  A picture of a house.  A statue of a childhood friend.  A model of their first bike or guitar.  A family portrait.  Everything tells that person’s story.  

Now put a person into that room.  And another.  And another.  Keep going.  Continue adding people until the room is full.  They fill the room, jostling for space and you soon find yourself pressed into the crowd with no room to yourself.  You shout for them to quieten down but no one can hear you.  You scream for them to go away, to leave you to examine the exhibit in peace but they don’t move.  It’s overcrowded.  It’s noisy.  And it’s chaos.”

Another extract from my attempts to journal how I was feeling.  In my mind there are thousands of objects, things we would call memories.  The people I talk about are the thoughts that assail me.  Whatever I’m thinking of, thoughts spark off it and get louder and louder and more and more crowded.  It’s difficult to quieten them, which can prove problematic.  Pressed into the crowd of thoughts as I am, it often makes it hard for me to get out of my head and enjoy what I’m doing at the time.

Am I Alone in This?

From chatting with others who go through similar experiences, it seems to be a recurring problem.  So overwhelmed by thoughts, it’s hard to find enjoyment in things because you’re constantly worrying or doubting or fearful.  Those thoughts sap that enjoyment and, consequently, leech the desire to do anything.  It plays a big part in why I ended up isolating myself, working hand-in-hand with the choices I mention in Aspects of Choice.

On the whole, I frequently feel trapped in my own head.

Self-Worth

That concludes this part of Inside My Head.  In part 3, I take my first look at self-worth.  Really, you shouldn’t be surprised by now that I’ve struggled with that, but if you are then you may want to take a look.  I did, however, feel it was too big a topic to cover in one post, therefore I’ve split it into two parts: part 3 of Inside My Head and part 4.  Why not check them out?

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Inside My Head – Part 1 – Worry and Doubt

Welcome to the first instalment of my Inside My Head series!  In this series, I will take you into my mind so you can see how depression, anxiety and insomnia affect me on a daily basis.  

Worry

Worry and I are old friends.  He would tell you that he is my favourite visitor, as he frequently pops in to see how I’m doing.  It doesn’t matter what kind of situation I’m thinking of or what kind of day I’m on, worry can turn it from a molehill into a mountain.  He also likes to drag people he knows are important to me and start spouting worst-case scenarios concerning them.  It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do or anything, I can find worries.

How many different things can you think of that you might worry about?  Money?  Family?  Your job?  All quite big things, right?  Now try and think of some of the little things.  Do you find you worry about them much?  Unfortunately it’s a strong trait of my anxiety that I can worry about the little things just as much as I worry about the big things.  I reckon it’s part of who I am.

Everyone worries.  Everyone.  Worry is a normal part of life.  When that worry starts to control you, though, that’s when it becomes a problem.  Over the past ten months, I’ve lost count of how many situations I’ve deliberately avoided out of worry.  It eats away at you, picking away at the bedrock until you start to doubt.

And that brings me nicely to the flipside of this couple.

Doubt

No matter what Worry might tell you, Doubt is actually my favourite of the duo.  She’s always there, hiding in the shadows, whispering in my ear, telling me that she is the only voice that speaks any truth.  Whatever good thoughts or positivity goes through my mind, she can take it and turn it into something nasty and venomous.  It’s almost as if she goes through my mind with a fine-toothed comb looking for things she can torment me with.

Out of all the things that tumble through my head, doubt is also the hardest for me to shut out.  For every word that someone says, she will be trying to convince me that they don’t mean it, that they’re not really interested or whatever else she can use.  Occasionally I do have moments of clarity surrounding her – more so nowadays than before – and I realise that what she’s saying isn’t true.  Most days, however, I find it hard to resist her subtle whispering.

In truth, I think doubt is one of the reasons I put so much time and stock into my mask.  Thanks to doubt clawing at me, I have a tendency to shut people out, keeping them at arm’s length so I can make sure they don’t prove to be false.  It doesn’t always work, believe me, and untangling it all can almost prove to be too much work.

Thanks to Doubt, though, I always find actions speak louder than words.  As clichéd as the comment might be, you can’t really go wrong with actions.  Words can get picked apart in the corner of my mind until there is nothing left of them.  Actions, however, stick.  I remember them.  I’m more inclined to remember what you’ve done to/for me than what you have said to me.

As an example, I was having a really dark dip and one of my friends decided she was going to drive from the other side of the city near the middle of the night to come and bring me a McDonalds because she knew I hadn’t eaten that day.  Things like that tend to stick in my mind.  Instead of simply telling me she was there for me, she took time out to come and do something nice for me to help me.

Hopefully doubt will become more manageable over time.  Even now, I still struggle with it.  Perhaps it’s always there.  Who knows?

Stay Tuned

In the next instalment of this series, I take you further into my head with a look at how I can feel trapped inside my own head.  It’s not pleasant, but sometimes it’s what’s got to be said.  So why not check it out?  Alternatively, check out some of our other series to see what else we get up to!  You never know, there may be something you like, so give it a go!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.