Hugging My Subconscious Mind
I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist. I am more of a realist. You could say that I don’t necessarily see the good, or the bad. I just see things the way that they are. And I am often able to see beauty where others only observe decay or ugliness. We can learn from what hurts, and we can cherish what has made us happy. Even in times like these, during a pandemic, I am probably not as negative about it all as most people. I am amazed by the resourcefulness of people, the strength of science, the creativity of mankind, to handle something this dreadful. I am not talking politicians or pharmaceutical companies but the ways in which the average human keeps sane, entertained, hopeful and allows themselves to be vulnerable and share their feelings with each other. So yes, I am a realist.
But I am also lying when I say that. Because while I am quite realistic about the state of the world, and other people, I am really negative about my own life and myself. I am hypocritical that way. I can’t say if the negative views come from my true self (whatever that even is), or if they are strongly influenced by my mental illness. And I am in yet another bipolar depression right now, and the negative thoughts and low self-confidence stemming from my trauma are always in the background as well.
I think I am generally negative about myself because that is what I have always learnt through the trauma, the bullying and all the hurtful comments I have gotten throughout my life. And I know where it comes from. And in depression all this becomes more vocal, more defined, more in the foreground. I suddenly say those things out loud to myself. I don’t believe in myself anymore. And I don’t believe in a future anymore. Nothing seems to matter anymore. All the lies that have been told, become truths.
Add to that negativity, the overwhelming anxiety that I struggle with every day. I don’t even know how to explain that anxiety because most people confuse anxiety with nervousness, or being on edge. For me it is more intense than that. I can be close to panic for hours, so restless that I am pacing through my apartment, hyperventilating, so anxious that I would tear my skin off if I could. And a lot of times, there is no clear reason for it either.
Sometimes it turns into a flashback, sometimes it calms down again. My anxiety is an asshole. And these days it has been a tad worse because I have burnt myself out with the move, and I pushed through December and the holidays, trying to not have my usual breakdowns. I am out of spoons, physically and mentally. So no wonder that depression has returned and my anxiety is skyhigh.
The Mind and The Body
When I say mentally and physically, I don’t mean what it means for most people. My mental and physical illnesses both flare up. I have more symptoms and other autoimmune responses, like headaches, rashes, random pains, dizziness, fatigue. I am used to it though. When I am struggling mentally, my physical health takes a toll too. And it has a lot to do that people with mental illness, and especially with trauma, have a tendency for chronic autoimmune illness too. There are whole books and studies about that.
The reason for that is the responses to stress and threat. If you are constantly under stress, the hormones in your body are on overdrive (adrenaline and such), and in the end, that is bad for your body. The sympathetic nervous system is always engaged, which means the body is in fight mode. And well, you get used to that mode, so even when you are out of the traumatic situation, the system is activated. Hence the heightened anxiety.
I watched a documentary on Netflix the other week, “Heal”. A lot of what was said was new age bullshit and I am not buying it. Sorry, but I am not a middle class Karen with every day stressors that push her to do yoga. But some of it still resonated with me, and especially one thing got stuck on my mind. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
How the Body Gets Information
A lot of your body does not touch reality and has no direct line to what is around you. So the only way your liver, your guts, your heart, your veins, get information about what is around you, the state of the world and your circumstances, is through the mind.
And it isn’t even the conscious mind. It’s not like we are all consciously trying to describe what we observe to our liver. No, it happens subconsciously. We subconsciously interpret the world, and then our brain sends the appropriate signals to our body. But we don’t have a lot of control over our subconscious mind. It has been informed and formed during our childhood years. Our brain thinks it can analyze the world and make the body react appropriately. Only, if you have had a fucked up childhood, or any other kind of trauma, then your subconscious is not able to accurately do its job. So you have anxiety and are in high alert mode all the time.
And your body listens and well, keeps the score (as the famous book is called), and eventually will develop chronic illness because it is not made to handle such levels of stress hormones. I believe in all of that. It is not only something that new age hipsters believe, it is something that respected scientists are suggesting as well. The issue is that the only solution seems to be to resolve your trauma, face it, work through it, and as a result, have less stress hormones flooding your systems, and with that less autoimmune responses and flare ups.
What can I do?
That is sort of impossible for me, because the magnitude of my trauma is most likely too big for that. It would take me decades and I need to find a good therapist first. So no, that is not something that I can do. And I don’t want to do mindfulness because it makes me panic, it is not strong enough for me to be able to stay focused. But I have been looking into meditation and especially working with trance. I have done hypnosis and self-hypnosis, but I have never really focused on how it could help me with finding more, what would you call it, inner peace?
Realistically, I need to limit the amount of stress hormones flooding my system so I can feel better physically. I am not expecting miracles. And I am not saying I will be cured. I just don’t want things to get worse, and a bit of an improved quality of life is always welcome. And I might even look into yoga, because I can see how it could be helpful for me.
I can’t process my trauma. My mind is fragmented because of the things that have happened to me. I will also never be in control of my bipolar disorder. But I can try to limit the intensity of anxiety, flashbacks and stressors in my life. And it would just be really interesting to see if some work with my mind, like meditation and yoga, without becoming too new age, could have an effect on how my body is feeling. Because while I am often discussing my mental health, my physical health is pretty shit too. And I often have diffuse symptoms that are impacting my day to day life quite negatively.
Hugging the Bastard
I think having this kind of approach makes me look realistically at my life, and my health. I still have the self-destructive, sad, hopeless thoughts. And I still want to give up. But what are a few minutes spent a day just giving it a try, instead of not doing anything at all? I would love to say that I am motivated. But I am not. I am not the average go getter person. I am just fed up with my low quality of life. And I am fed up with having to look forward to a life with more severe health issues, and less goals met. I will never be able to fix myself. All the shit I am dealing with is chronic. But an improvement of my quality of life seems like a reasonable idea.
I am not going to set goals, resolutions or push myself. But I think I am slowly changing my mindset a bit. The only person who can try to make my life is better, is me. And maybe the timing isn’t the worst. I have just moved to a lovely new apartment. There has been some progress with my immigration stuff. I have health insurance for the first time in years in a few days. I will get a kitty soon. My depression might make all of this harder for me. With just a bit of a different mindset, I might be able to reach my subconscious mind and hug it out. Because that bastard needs to chill a bit.