Thursday, January 29

Speak Gently to Yourself

So. After the blogging drought, I suddenly have TONS I want to talk about. This is sometimes how I operate. When I have a lot on my mind, I tend to cocoon - physically, emotionally, socially. I envy the people who, when stressed, go for a run or get busy scrubbing the interior of the cupboards. So not me. When I have a lot on my mind or on my plate, I play Zelda for hours at a time. I sleep a lot. I hide under blankets and binge watch netflix. I effectively swaddle my brain and allow it to do its work in the background while I nestle in and work things out inside. It's just how I learned to cope. Probably not the most healthy way to deal, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I'm finally coming out of such a phase and you lucky readers get to experience the joy of - well, me.

When you find yourself swimming in the oh-so-delightful waters of mental illness and recovery, one of the things they teach you is about checking in with yourself. This goes for basically any kind of emotional recovering, because we need to be reminded to check in with ourselves. (The idea being that we get so good at burying/ignoring our feelings and/or self-medicating that over time we don't even recognize them. As a result, we have to go back to consciously asking ourselves How do I feel? What do I want? What do I need? Am I okay? - yes, it gets old - fast. But then again, mental illness gets real old, too.

The second part of this is self-talk.
I'm sure you've all heard of the phrase "positive self-talk" and I actually hate that phrase but it's really the only one that works. As we learn to start checking in with our feelings, we start to (slowly) become more aware of our thoughts about ourselves. Ugh. Entire books have been written about the science behind what you think translates into how you feel, change your thoughts, change your life, blah blah blah...don't care. What I know is that my thoughts about myself are not a thing with form. They are dark clouds that surround me everywhere I go. I don't actively have negative thoughts about myself - they just are. I don't purposely berate myself via inner monologue, rather, generalized feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing are just...there. Always. The way my skin is there. I don't THINK about it, it just is.

Again, tons of books have been written on the subject and there are numerous exercises and cognitive treatments for changing your thoughts - thought-stopping and reframing being two of the most popular. (Of course, you have to be aware of these thoughts before you can change them, which is where the checking in comes in.)

I struggle with the above. What I am getting better at is asking myself: "How do I feel? Am I okay?" A lot of times I will ask myself "How do I feel?" and I'll respond to myself: "Bored. Indifferent. Blah." And then I ask myself "Am I okay?" and respond "yes." Because the point is not to feel good all the time, it's to realize that you can be okay and feel bad, but also to be aware of when you're getting into a danger zone emotionally and you need help.

I once read (somewhere in an Al-Anon book) the phrase "consistent, gentle, courtesy." And that struck me. The statement was referring to treating other people with "consistent, gentle, courtesy." For me, that's what I'm slowly learning to get better at: treating myself with consistent, gentle, courtesy.
And that is not as easy as it sounds.
But one day at a time, right?

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