That Time When I Worried About Worrying
This Blog was originally published on: https://probablythoughtsfromtheshower.wordpress.com/.
Talking about mental health is the greatest step forward we’ve taken so far. Allowing people to speak out about their pain is crucial in gaining awareness of mental disorders and helping individuals get through. I will always advocate open discussion about mental health.
However, to my brain, it’s like talking about any illness to a hypochondriac. The more the hypochondriac knows, the more they are convinced that they have the illness being described. Someone could tell me the symptoms of schizophrenia and I will be convinced for days that I am showing those symptoms.
My OCD locks onto any potential symptom and magnifies it so it’s the only thing I see or feel or think about. I get locked into the OCD cycle. Even me writing about mental health all the time is a way of me coping with the obsessive thoughts. At least it stops them running ramped in my head.
So, what do you do when something that helps thousands of people is a trigger to you? It’s been a difficult road but I’ve finally found a way to both be there for people without destructing my own wellbeing. Distance and separation. It sounds cold, but stay with me.
I interact with everything heavily and intensely. I get emotional too easily and attach too fast. I react to the smallest sound and feel too many emotions all at once. You could say, I get rather obsessive. I’m working on it.
I took a few weeks away from social media in an effort to detach from a world constantly on. A world my mental health had started to leak into. A world I would constantly seek diagnosis. Within the first few days, everything felt less intense. I felt awake without feeling exhausted.
I learnt to separate from the world around me. I used to believe that if I took my eyes off the road whilst in the passenger seat, we’d be at risk of crashing. Losing that sense of control by looking away, even when I’m not driving, felt so dangerous. In truth, I had zero control over the car, and me looking away had zero impact. It’s all about my idea of responsibility and control. If I wasn’t aware of something, it was at risk to me. I needed to be aware at all times. Relaxation wasn’t an option.
I soon learnt that I am not responsible for everything. A stranger yelling on the bus isn’t my fault. The cinema being too loud isn’t my fault. The person being angry on the train platform isn’t my fault. I cannot control every situation. I applied this to my obsession over mental health. I needed to learn to let go. To accept the presence of mental health without feeling a need to analyse and obsess over it. It was a danger, but not a constant one I needed to be on guard for 24/7. Someone could have a mental illness. It does not mean that I have it. This learning curve saved me in more ways than I expected.
Letting things be without a need to control and analyse brought a new existence. I would wake up and my first thought wouldn’t be how to exist through the day without something going wrong. Instead, it turned into 'what do you want to do today?'. I would realise I’d been clenching all my body muscles subconsciously, and therefore take a minute to release each one until day by day, I would discover my muscles to already be relaxed. I could read somebody’s tackle with mental illness without alarm bells going in my head. I could separate myself from them.
I could simply exist, and not inhale every single symptom and emotion so intensely that I would choke. I could finally help those I loved dearly, whilst also loving myself.
What I learnt from this particular experience:
I am not responsible for my environment. I am only responsible for me and I cannot control anything other than me.
I can let go and still remain safe and sound. I don't need to be aware 24/7.
Social media can make my world feel like it is constantly 'on' making it impossible to truly switch off. Sometimes I need to literally do nothing and be okay with just existing.
If you would like to submit a story, anonymously or under your name, please get in touch! You can fill out the contact form on the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org!