When you have mental health issues such as depression and bipolar disorder, there is a battle and navigating safely through it is fraught with potential hazards. Understand the mental battlefield.
So, how can you move safely through the minefields your brain will plant?
It is a question many need the answer to, and I don’t have all the answers, but the one thing I have learned over the years is to reduce the amount of pressure being placed on me. And that pressure usually comes from me.
In fact, I am probably my own worst enemy, and it used to be a constant battle with myself, from completing simple tasks and then berating myself because I couldn’t even manage to wash the dishes up.
It was me planting those mines, and it was me walking straight on to them and the whole thing blowing up.
Nobody else was telling me the horrid things I was telling myself, including things like, “oh, you’re so useless, you can’t do anything; what’s the point of you taking up space on the planet.” Add your own remarks as you have probably said the same things to yourself.
There Is No Worse Critic Than Yourself.
As a writer, I can handle criticism from others in terms of my writing; if I have mucked things up, I hold my hands up and say, “fair game, I’ll fix it.” But why can’t I do this when I start critiquing my life?
The first thing is I don’t listen to the suggestions my gut and mind gives me; the second thing is it is the bad thoughts that shout the loudest. They are also the easiest to believe when you are feeling crap.
The battlefield is a timeworn game; it began when I was a child and doubting my confidence. I learned to hide my insecurities, and you wouldn’t know when meeting me that I was a very insecure person. I wear a mask on the battlefield and not a Covid one either; this is a full-on affair, with sequins and feathers to distract others from realising the person behind it has mental health problems.
Trying to Avoid the Mental Battlefield
By wearing the mask, I’m avoiding the confrontation of others and their possible kindness and sympathy, which I do not want, but people treat me differently when I lower the mask. By lowering the mask, I then have to see myself reflected in the pools of muddy water and realise I am not the person I used to be.
There is No Retreat on This Battlefield; the Only Way is Forward.
I have learned to move forward, discarding the mask and being honest and asking for help if needed. I’m not a natural help seeker, I find it belittling, but you can’t win a battle by yourself. Especially when it is you fighting you, there needs to be some other form of intercessor.
You and I have many battles behind us; each day of walking is a victory; we may not have won the war yet, but each day we drop our mask and be honest with ourselves and others is another inch of ground taken back.
Over the years, I go forwards, then back, but not retreating. Just losing the ground, I had made up. You may know what I mean when you do something really positive, and then it goes wrong, or your brain says, “who do you think you are attempting that?”
The mind and the brain, in my opinion, are two very separate things. My brain is my programming, and it has glitches; my mind is the cloud, and connections become broken, and I used to blame myself for this.
But then I realised I could not control these loose connections; it is not my fault; I am my mind, not the mechanical glitchy part. I am experiencing the battle, not causing it. I am observing it.
The next time you are about to enter battle, try observing it and not partaking in it. A psychiatrist would probably say this is disassociation from your problems. Still, once you understand your brain function is not your fault, just something you are experiencing, then you are taking ground in the battle.
The mind can navigate it; it can find better connections.
When I start having bad thoughts again, which I will. I observe them. My emotions may be in turmoil, but this is chemical, something my body produces based on my brain’s stimulus. The cloud, my mind can observe this happening. It will flow to the easiest route like water, and if I focus on my emotions, I will be dragged further into the mud on the battlefield.
If I accept these emotions as just a chemical reaction, I can then observe how they are trying to fight me. By observing them, I am acknowledging their existence. Yet allowing their blows to go by me, not impacting me.
Imagine you see a frog, and you watch it to see what it does; the frog sees you and watches you. Seeing what you are going to do. Both of you are watching each other. This is the brain and the mind; the brain wants you to react because that is what it does best, but if you have loose connections, you can’t trust your brain, so you need to watch it.
The brain will repeat, trying to get you to act; it doesn’t like being observed. Otherwise, its battle plans are revealed. For the brain, you reacted last time it pushed this button so that it will try it again, and it will also make you go round in circles, thinking you’ve made progress but then thwarting you at the last moment with negative thoughts.
The mind becomes filled with these thoughts, and I know I used to believe it was me creating them, but it was not. The brain popped them in there.
I might have been thinking of something completely different, then suddenly a bad thought crept in or appeared suddenly, and my mind grabbed it and tried to fight it. Now I observe those thoughts; I accept it has entered my head, but it is not a part of me, and I bid it farewell. Some are persistent, but they go, and I move forward on the battlefield, heading towards green pastures.
I’ve yet to reach the greenery occasionally. I get a toe on it, but one day I will plant both feet and know I have won the battle this time.
Peace & Blessings x