The human mind is double edged sword. It can dare to put a human on the moon and achieve that goal. When required, it becomes an analytical powerhouse and solves complex mathematical problems. And it also is very creative and can produce magnificent works of art. Yet, that same mind tirelessly worries, or can makes us panic about the tiniest change in our surrounding, or can exhaust us with many self-defeating thoughts.
When we are happy and content, the whole world feels like it’s glowing. You notice the smiles on the street people give you, become talkative and feel like you’re in control. But when we experience a crisis and feel anxious or depressed, the world loses its color. You no longer feel inclined to be social. Everything seems pointless or at even dreadful at times.
If you are someone affected by anxiety, depression, depersonalization or any mental health crisis, then you know what I’m talking about. In the midst of such mental illness, we start to lose hope easily.
All of a sudden, we feel like we have felt this way forever and that there’s no chance of escape. We feel stuck. It’s as if we never knew what joy felt like or even if we did, it is now a long lost memory. We may wonder whether the forces that kept our vitality in the past have left our body now… for good.
At times like these, it is really important to remember that mind is not accurately conveying reality. The mind colors or contaminates what is really going on. It adds its own narrative into the mix. This incessant commentary comes in the form of scary or self-defeating thoughts which in turn produces feelings such sadness, hopelessness or fear.
For example, when we are depressed, we may feel that no one will ever want to be with us. This narrative that the mind comes up with may not have any real basis, yet we still completely believe in it.
At this point, it is important to remember that not all of our thoughts are based on truth.
Another tendency of the mind is to quickly forget the nice things in life, though it’s harder for the mind to let go of difficult memories. Such is the human condition.
When we are in the fog of anxiety or depression, it becomes harder to see the light of the day. Such illness clouds our judgment and our thinking process. During these times, we have to remind ourselves that the suffering we are experiencing is not permanent. Like anything in life, it will also pass.
Once we remind ourselves of the impermanence of suffering, it becomes easier to deal with it. But we have to continuously remind ourselves of this truth.
Another way to pull ourselves up during a crisis is to celebrate even the smallest of successes we may achieve. Are you agoraphobic but today you walked a couple of blocks around the house? Congrats! You deserve a star.
Have you been feeling depressed and seeking comfort in food in a way that is not good for your body, but today you made yourself a big hearty salad? Way to go! You did great.
We have to remember to always celebrate these tiny little successes when we are in crisis mode. Even though some part of us may say that nothing will ever change for better and that it will only get worse, we have to over-rule these sentiments and publish the news of success across our mind, loudly and boldly! We have to infuse some hope and confidence into the mix of our emotions.
When I was overwhelmed with anxiety and depersonalization, I was cut-off from reality. My mind was just filled with dreadful and scary thoughts. I was constantly on the edge and my mind was telling me that things were only about to get worse.
Back in those days, it was really hard for me to head to work. Stil, I would show up. Even though there were days where I couldn’t get any work done, I was still celebrating the fact that I just managed to show up. That was reason enough to celebrate.
I made sure to write down all such “successes”. Whenever life gave me a little break and I felt better, I reached out to my diary and write down that I am indeed feeling better and that the world’s not scary or unreal as I think. I wrote about what went right during that day.
When the anxiety or depersonalization returned, I would simply re-read what I have written and felt better immediately. To me, reading something optimistic and hopeful in my own words was the cure to constantly feeling miserable, scared and stuck.
After a while, I started writing letters to myself. I wrote such letters whenever I felt better and addressed it to myself when I was in the middle of a depersonalization, panic or an anxiety storm. An example would be something like this.
Hey buddy, I know that you are feeling anxious and scared right now. You can feel your heart thumping aloud. I know you are afraid that you might go insane. It’s ok, I’m here to tell you that you are going to be alright. Trust me, though you can’t see it now, even these dark thoughts and feelings will soon pass. They always do. Right now, I am feeling much better and calm. It’s just a matter of time before you start feeling the same. Rest assured, you are going to make it through this. I give you the permission to completely ignore all the fearful and scary thoughts your mind is generating right now. They are not true.
Through my own words, the self who was feeling better was lending a helping hand to my future self who was in pain. It was always immensely healing to read such hope infused letters.
During your recovery process, it is very important to celebrate every little success you have and to constantly remind yourself that things are not really as bad as our minds are making it out to be.
I hope these little exercises help you in feeling better and recovering from anxiety, depression, depersonalization, or any other debilitating illness.
- Opening image – Based on https://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/31629857435/