On flicking through Twitter, I saw a post relating to a friend’s blog and this piece in particular: Learning to dance in the rain. Wonderfully and positively written, I find it inspiring and something that resonates with me strongly.
When I have one of my bad days, it’s usually when my mind is racing, thoughts running riot and building a state of anxiety. At the same time, I can’t face doing certain things, can’t summon energy or head space to properly deal with most things, even the most mundane. It’s like the world’s worst tug of war going on in my head, with anxiety pulling me one way ‘Armageddon will happen if you don’t get on with that phone call!’ and depression responding laconically ‘I just can’t face doing that, sorry.’
That word sorry is key. It makes me feel worse, apologising for allowing Armageddon to happen if that email isn’t composed and sent or the phone call made, like it wasn’t bad enough, the feeling of being a Larry Letdown is compounded. The voices in my head that say I’m not good enough, not capable, a failure are proved right at this point.
This is the rain in my head and I need to learn to live in it.
One thing I am learning to do, with the help of Ruby Wax’s book Frazzled, is to become a watcher of these thoughts, observe and not judge, direct the flow, slow the mind. It’s really hard to do, I’m not there yet but I am working on it. In slowing the mind down, I can manage to catch my mental breath and make decisions.
Being an avid watcher of Sherlock, I took his Mind Palace trick and applied my own version of it. Not being a high functioning sociopath, this is more along the lines of ‘My Happy Place’ where I go to calm the mind, slow down my breathing, get back control. Where I go in my head is to a few different beaches in the Highlands, walking along, feeling the wind in my face (no hair), the rain, the sand beneath my feet shifting with each step, breathing the clean salt air and listening to the sound of the waves coming in. If I can keep my thoughts there, concentrating on my walk on the sand, my mind starts to slow down and becomes manageable.
Sometimes the mind takes me down a dark route, runs away with some strange and negative imagining that I have to stop and start again, without judgement. Once, I was imagining me on the beach, drinking coffee out of my travel mug and a random thought jumped in ‘wouldn’t it be great if there was something on your belt to carry the travel mug, a bit like a holster?’
That was it, off I went on some trip that had a passer by mistaking the coffee mug holster for a firearm and armed police turning up on the beach to confront me.
I went further.
I refused to comply with their commands and started arguing with them, the conversation real in my head, my adrenaline pumping and my coup de gras was ‘And I’m not giving you my details!’ This brought me up short, as arguing with an armed policeman over giving ID on a beach in the Highlands over a flaming travel mug seemed even to me to be a little far fetched. I calmed myself, took my mind to another beach and started again……this time without a travel mug holster for my coffee, and this time the beach was empty.
It’s not a foolproof technique, it’s not 100% strike rate but it does have an impact, some days more than others, depending how deep the episode has bitten. I can usually quiet the mind enough to let myself mentally breathe and think in order to function.
It’s definitely a bit like learning to dance in the storm. One of my favourite quotes from Billy Connolly is ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes’ and in that, he’s right. I can either get soaking wet or learn to wear the right ‘clothes’.
That means when the storm descends, I can learn to dance.