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.

Positivity

The Power of Positivity

It’s something we hear a lot about, don’t we?  The power of positivity and all the wonders it can do for us.  Are you having a bad day?  Don’t worry, just be positive!  Change your outlook on life and it can lead to great things.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Many of my therapists have said that positivity is just one of the stepping stones for a full or partial recovery.  Speaking as a depressed person, I’d like to tell you that this is a lot harder said than done!  With a brain full of negativity, being positive takes considerable energy and willpower that you just might not have.  Moreover, it takes time to change your outlook, particularly if you’re stuck in a negative cycle.  Time and energy, energy that you don’t always have.

In my own journey, I find it very hard to be positive.  There are plenty of days when I feel that the darkness will never end.  The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off.  Whether it’s the depression talking or a part of my genetic makeup, being positive is just something I don’t seem wired to do.

Being positive is just so hard

Through Grey-Tinted Glasses

Imagine for a moment you’re looking at a beautiful countryside scene.  Brilliant blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, the lush green leaves of the trees swaying in the breeze, the yellow sun in the sky and a field of red flowers reaching towards the sun.  Sounds lovely and picturesque, doesn’t it?

Now take all the colour out.

That’s right, imagine that you’re colourblind.  You’re looking at exactly the same view but everything is different shades of grey.  No pretty colours, just grey.

In my head, this is what it’s like for a depressed person to try and be positive.  Beside you are people telling you about the wonderful myriad of colours swirling around them but you can’t see it.  It’s as if you have grey-tinted glasses draining all the colour out of the world, leaving it that bleak, dark place that lacks any form of positivity.  That is the challenge that I and so many others face daily.  The positives are there, we just can’t see them.

Now, I’ve got nothing against colourblind people, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the best example I can think of to describe how I feel.  It really is as if someone has fixed those grey-tinted glasses to your face and you can’t get them off no matter how hard you try.  I mention this because someone was once telling me to be positive and, when I said that I try but positive thoughts just slide off, that person told me that I wasn’t letting them in.  It was as though I had a choice in the matter.  The way I see it, it’s part of my wiring.

The Better of Two Negatives

Paraphrasing the lesser of two evils a little bit, I think the better of two negatives is the best way to describe my outlook on life.  Stuck with my obscured view of the world, the one without those positives around me, I often feel as though I’m going through the motions in life and my motivation comes from the lesser of two negatives.  I know some might argue that that, in itself, is a form of positivity but they really do feel like negatives to me.

I know that seems bleak but sometimes I think it’s the only way I’ve made it through.  I try and be positive – I really do – but sometimes it takes all my energy just to hold on.  My friends keep telling me that I will get there, that I’ll make it, that I’ll come out of the darkness.  Sometimes I believe them.

Isn’t that positivity?

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.

Masks and Masquerades

Masks

Everyone wears a mask.  Did you know that?  Think of ten people you know and I guarantee you will have seen every one of them wear a mask at some stage.

I’m not talking about masks that you use for dressing up.  No, these masks look like their real faces but with a twist: they hide what’s inside.  You know the kind I’m talking about.  It’s the “I’m fine” in response to the “how are you?” and the general appearance of wellness given off.  Everyone does it.  It’s a trap that we all fall into.

Think back for a moment at some of the encounters you’ve had today.  How many times have you put a front on, no matter how small?  Perhaps you brushed off the “how are you” with the “I’m fine” or maybe you forced a smile when all you wanted to do was cry.  There are hundreds and thousands of other possibilities for other types of masks that you might have put on but I can guarantee you’ll have put at least one on today.  Possibly more.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting on a mask.  As I’ve said, we all do it.  Some do it better than others.  Many of us are experts.  A select few of us are even masters at it.

I like to think I’m in the last category.

My Mask

Those who know me would describe me as cheerful, bubbly, always ready to tell a joke.  Admittedly the jokes are awful – think dad jokes but worse – but I can be funny sometimes.  I’m frequently described as a positive person and I’ve been told I’m always smiling.

What if I told you it was a mask?

Inside, I rarely feel any of those things.  I don’t often find things funny, I’m almost always thinking negatively and I often find I’m nowhere near bubbly.  It’s all part of the front that I put on for other people to see.  What they associate with me is what they see when they see me or talk to me.

Over the years I have perfected my mask.  Caring for it, crafting it slowly, I’ve done my best to ensure it is flawless.  The persona that people know as me, the front they are greeted with, is put up so people don’t know how I’m truly feeling.  I have to be honest: it works really really well.  In the past I have walked into places with my full mask on, a really black day going through my head, and not a single person has noticed that anything is amiss.  One person has told me I am an incredible actor because I can give that appearance of complete wellness and cheerfulness while completely breaking inside.  Oddly, I pride myself on it.

Masks and Depression

If you know someone with depression, you may have noticed they put a mask on.  They don’t talk about what’s inside, shutting people out with that all-too-simple “I’m fine”.  It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re their spouse, their family or their friends, they might still give you the mask.  But why?  Surely it just leads to upset?  I’ve heard a few stories that suggest masks do cause upset but let me explain them to you.  Hopefully you will understand why we put them on.  I shall start with a question…

How do you explain to someone what is going on when you don’t even understand it yourself?

Explaining depression, especially to someone who does not have it, is difficult.  If you’re in a particularly dark period of depression it becomes even harder.  Putting on that mask, quite simply, makes it easier.  You can hide behind the mask and people won’t ask you if you’re ok.  You don’t have to worry about not being able to find the words to explain it or the fear that they just won’t get it.  Behind your mask, you can seem alright.  Your mask is a shield.

Another reason people often use masks is as a coping strategy.  At least, that’s how I use it.  In my eyes, if I can convince you that I’m ok, that I’m not secretly breaking inside then perhaps I can convince myself.  Really it’s all smoke and mirrors, a little trick of the mind but it’s effective.  In situations where I think I have no choice but to be ok, I am more often than not ok.  Not great, admittedly, but ok.  Often it works.  Not always.

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.

The Beginning

Black Hole

Officially it started in August.  Before that…I don’t know.  I’ve felt parts of it for years and secretly I’ve struggled.  I guess you try and trick yourself into believing everything is ok so you can cope, right?  I think I did.

So, back in August I knew something was wrong.  Those subtle parts I’d been feeling for years had all suddenly come together and were starting to overwhelm me.  I knew something was wrong but I could not have explained it properly to anyone.  How do you explain the feeling of having a black hole inside of you, sucking all the emotion and energy and enthusiasm out of you?  Words only go so far.  Either way, I knew something was wrong.  Very wrong.  Knowing, however, and doing something about it are two very different things…

I vividly remember pacing up and down the hallway, trying to put my feelings into words.  My stomach was churning, my chest was tight and I was very breathless.  At first I thought I was having a panic attack but I’d never had one before, as far as I knew.  I paced and paced, mobile in my hand, and eventually called the one person I knew could help me.

My Dad.

My Dad is brilliant.  One of my strongest supports.  I know that I can turn to him when I’m stuck and he will patiently sit there and help me work it out.  Whether it’s IT support, a soundboard or someone who will help me put puzzle pieces together, he does what he can to help me.  One of his biggest plus points is his ability to make it look like he’s not worried.  I can tell him anything and meet that calmness that says he’ll try and fix it no matter what.  I don’t know whether he realises this.  That said, I phoned him.

The explanation was hard.  As I said: how do you explain a black hole inside of you.  I start by saying I feel down.  Not the sort of down where you’re having a bad day but one that’s deeper.  Thoughts tumble through my head like an avalanche and I’m not sleeping well.  I’m finding I hate myself.  Other feelings, hard to describe, clouding my mind and adding to the cacophony.  Too many.

Dad’s advice was simple: visit the doctor.  Stupidly, I didn’t.

A few days later, someone else noticed something was wrong.  I don’t know how but she did.  My mask had slipped and someone had seen the darkness behind it.  Unflinching, she looked for a moment and asked if I was ok.  Admittedly, the answer I gave wasn’t completely honest.  Still, it prompted me to book in with the doctor and I got the confirmation of my suspicions.

I have depression, anxiety and insomnia.

At that point I didn’t know much about it.  I’d heard the words and I have a few friends who have those labels with them but I didn’t know much.  As the doctor gave me that diagnosis, pieces started to click into place and with those pieces came understanding.  Unfortunately that understanding also brought a plethora of questions to mind that, some of which I still don’t have answers to.  I remember feeling scared, realising what my mind was and still is capable of.  Sometimes I remember that feeling and still go cold all over.

It’s been a long journey.  Read along, feel free to contact me on Twitter, Facebook or email me.  See where it takes you.

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.