I fight with my brain everyday. Some days are way worse than others, but regardless, it’s everyday. Now, what does this mean?
Fighting with my brain means that I have sometimes have extremely elevated emotions about a topic I know and understand the logical thinking behind. It seems weird and complicated, but here’s a fairly normal example of this:
Ex: I am trying a new food.
Logical thinking: I know I am not allergic to this food, therefore it cannot hurt me, even if I do not like it. I also know the food cannot attack me in any way,so there should be no fear involved.
Emotional Response: I am terrified that I will not like it and the world will end if I don’t.
Now I know this is a rather extreme reaction for this example, but this is the same clashing of thoughts I go through when I experience rather large and/or life changing events.
I know my reaction is overdone or over the top, I know the situation is scary, but in no way life or death, and I know I can make it through any challenge in front of me. I also feel like my entire life and my likelihood to succeed are based on the decisions that i make right now, I feel like I am going to fail at everything I do, and I feel like I wont make it through.
Crazy, I know.
Now, for people who have similar experiences to this, I am here to tell you that I’ve successfully moved farther and farther from this way of thinking and it has honestly made me a happier person over all (note, still working on it, but waaaaay less extreme now). Here’s how I did it: notice the two words in the above paragraph: Know and Feel. Those too words may seem the same to you in the moment of heightened emotion, but they are actually extremely different.
You KNOW facts. Things that you can prove one way or another. I know this situation is scary, but I also know that I’ve been through just as scary, if not scarier events in my life and lived. But I FEEL like I have failed at everything in my life, and that is clearly not true. I’ve passed tests and high school, I’ve won awards, and I have joined the military. Have I failed at things? Duh, but clearly not EVERYTHING.
What I have started to do was carry around either my phone or a notebook with me. When I become elevated or extremely emotional, I first do something to try to calm me down in that moment-a distraction technique-like deep breathing. I get myself to the point where I still may be upset, but I can function enough to write my thoughts down. Then I make two lists used to answer the question “Why am I upset right now?” It seems like a silly question, but sometimes this can be hard to answer. I make a list of all the things I KNOW. Facts. Then I make a list of the FEELINGS or THOUGHTS I am having.
What this does is it separates your emotions from reality, because often enough, they don’t align. Separating the two forces you to understand why you are upset and if your emotions are justified. The more you do this, the more natural it becomes to do so. This leads to better, more rational decision making.
This is a problem I’ve noticed a lot of people that suffer with anxiety and depression have. Although it feels like you are crazy while you are going through these overly emotional outburst, you’re not! Most of the population of people who have a mental illness feel crazy for it, but their brain is just fighting them. Nothing more, nothing less. If you wouldn’t judge somebody with a physical illness for their symptoms, so do not judge yourself for your mental illness symptoms. This is just one of those symptoms. Its OKAY! But just like elevating a broken leg can help the healing process, there are things you can do to help with your healing process, and this is just one of those things. I believe that you can heal from this, even if you don’t.
Now, for people who knows somebody who may struggle with this problem, here are some things you can do and say that can help, and also some that will make it worse.
When I was in these emotional episodes and ended up talking to somebody during it, I was rarely looking for advice, but rather validation. I didn’t like people telling me things and giving me logical reasoning, because I knew these things already. It made me feel crazy and like I am too much to handle for overreacting. Most of the time, I just wanted somebody to help me calm down and talk through the problem at hand, NOT to extenuate how over-the-top I was being (because I knew that).
Ask them what techniques help them calm down and think, or simply just ask them questions on what the situation is. If they ask for advice, then give it to them, other wise, they are more than likely just scared and want to feel normal again.
Final words: This is manageable, you just have to believe in yourself that you can manage it. This way worked/works for me in managing if for myself. You can find ways that work for for you. You got this!