How many times have you been sitting at your desk, watching TV, driving along, talking and not really been there? Your mind completely somewhere else. You go to bed, turn out the light and the brain is racing, going through a multitude of crap that stops you sleeping – worrying about money, did you switch off the heating, that fight you had in 1985……
It just keeps coming in droves and you can’t switch it off.
Bit like on Top Gear when they glue Richard Hammond’s car radio on with a Genesis CD looping to the same track, which he hates, at full volume and can’t turn off.
The dialogue rarely makes you feel good and can sometimes turn quite dark, making you feel quite low, then even lower when it starts to get too much. The thoughts get more frantic, more demanding, creating a mild panic in you which starts to build. This is when you lose sleep and it’s a downward spiral from there.
It’s something I struggle with, two sumos beating the crap out of each other and not getting out the ring, Big Daddy v Giant Haystacks (proper wrestlers), Sonny Liston v Mohammed Ali. The bell doesn’t stop, the towel doesn’t get thrown and it’s exhausting.
I’ve tried various techniques, one I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, is to go to my favourite places and just think of myself walking along there, feeling the wind in my face, smelling the sea, feeling the give of sand under my feet and listening to the waves as I watch them come into land. It helps slow things down.
Another is mindfulness technique that I picked up from Ruby Wax in Frazzled. If you haven’t read or listened to it, do it. It is a great help, not only to understand the workings of the brain but also some techniques to help you slow down the monster. One is to listen to your breathing, fully concentrate on it, the way the breath comes in through your nose, your chest rising and falling, the noise, the smells, the sensations. Your mind will try to take you back again, thinking about how some pain in the butt got under your skin in the college canteen 30 years ago, but put that aside and just focus again on breathing.
It doesn’t fully stop everything, just quietens it down and gives you space to deal with it, or fall asleep. The next bit, I haven’t mastered yet. After you’ve quietened your thoughts, it’s to allow yourself to listen to your internal chatter as a third person, an observer to it all and not a participant. It’s a great skill and not one I’ve mastered but it is great when you get there to see that the chatter is not you, it’s thoughts that are racing away and trying to control you. By being a step away and not judging, you see that the dialogue can be dealt with, it’s not controlling you and most of it is abject nonsense anyway. It just doesn’t have the same power of you it once had.
It takes work and effort to get there and I really hope you give it a go, see if it works for you. I’m looking to explore this more and add other techniques mentioned in Ruby’s book. She really is an inspiration and someone who gives you hope that you can do something about your illness without feeling bad about yourself. That’s key – don’t judge yourself, be kind to yourself and remember to take time for you, as you are God damned worth it.
Two friends this week have let me know they are going through a hard time and I really appreciate them reaching out. It does help to have someone listening and I hope in some way I have been there to make a positive difference for them. It always starts in you and you can do it, so try these techniques, get some quieter time and focus on the present, the now, on you.
You’ll see how great it is to be you.