Understanding the brain

I have been recently trying to understand how my brain works.

I don’t mean, reading up on biology. I mean, trying to understand why I think the way I do. Because, as much as I don’t want to admit it, my thoughts don’t seem to be settled much in reality. Rationality is not something that normally happens in my head.

I have this constant fear that I have upset someone. That I have been rude, unintentionally. When I am trying to be factual, I just come across as rude. Then, people stop speaking to me. And I feel horrible, because I wasn’t trying to be offensive to the person, it just came off that way.

I have had mental health problems for years. Struggled with anxiety and depression since I was at High School, over 20 years ago. Appointments with countless doctors, a library’s worth of pamphlets, and therapy session, hasn’t fixed anything. I learned how to deal with anxiety and depression when it happens, but no resolution. I then feel guilty, because maybe I did something to stop all the things from working. It’s my fault.

A recent conversation with a doctor, suggested the possibility of my mental health struggles being an end result, that maybe it was how things are processed that is the problem. And that if I with that, maybe the mental stuff will improve. But, with appointments thin on the ground, I feel stuck. I resort to looking online, but online health sites can be dangerous, and filled with mis-information. So, I have always been skeptical about going searching about health stuff.

It’s pretty difficult. I finding more question, but yet to find any answers.

Hard

I started this draft saying ‘this week has been hard’. But, I have to be honest. It currently feels the last several months (or years if I squint hard enough) have been hard.

Hard is relative, though. For me, hard pertains to difficult. Life is difficult. To which, I hear the scoff of many folk, who say ‘life isn’t meant to be easy’. Which, I kind of understand, but how high should the difficulty have to be? Like,it can’t be unlimited? There has to be some levels one reaches, moments of respite, where you can look around and decided whether the difficult stuff was worth it.

What is the ‘difficult stuff’?

It’s multi-faceted. Firstly, my brain has a habit of making me not feel good enough, for anything. I have no worth, so what is the point of doing anything. I have felt stuck for many years, and have written many blog entries about it. I have been trying to figure out my own mental health, and how to navigate life whilst suffering problems. The worst thing about having mental health problems, is that there doesn’t have to be anything physically wrong. It can be a lovely day, but I will ignore that and listen to whatever nonsense my brain will come up with. Which is stupid, I know it is, but it becomes a cycle, where the bad thoughts run everything.

Secondly, have you seen the news lately? The world is going to hell, or it appears to be. The climate, with floods, fires, and heatwaves, all taking countries by surprise and doing horrific damage to communities. There is the coronavirus pandemic, which is still ongoing, but the UK government want things opened up as normal, and people aren’t getting vaccinated. Bigotry is on the increase, as homophobic, racist, transphobic people all decry ‘free speech’. Brexit is a mess. Everything is a mess. These aren’t even everything that is going on right now. With constant news coverage, and social media streaming the news to us in real time, it’s really hard to get away from it all. It’s trying to find the balance of caring about stuff, and not feeling so overwhelmed by it all, that you lose any point of doing anything.

I’ve just been feeling a little worn out by it all. Apathy for everything. I’m going to try and deal with things one by one. And try to pull myself up. Because, if I don’t then the cycle will continue. And it has already been going on for too long. If I fail, I never lost out, just get back on the horse and try again.

Not Enough Words

I hate this.

I hate trying to find the words that convey what is going on in my head. What to say when people tell me they are happy that I have ‘beaten depression’, because I have laughed at a couple jokes.

Firstly, I’ll never blame the other person. They are being honest, they say what they feel will help. It may make sense to them, to show they are happy for progress made. It’s meant to be nice, so I try to take it at face level.

Secondly, is recognising that depression doesn’t go away, simply because you can have a laugh with some friends. Similarly, you can still suffer from anxiety, even when you speak towards a group. I have experience problems, with my mental health, for most of my life. And yet, I struggle in finding a way to explain it to people, to let them know what is going on. Nothing I think up seems to be adequate.

I seem to be able to explain ‘bits’. Like, why I may be feeling a particular way on a particular day. But, the overall way my mind seems to twist things, is a much more difficult concept to grasp for myself, let alone trying to help someone else understand.

For years, I plodded on. I suffered with depression and anxiety, but tried to plod on. I didn’t know what else to do. It’s only fairly recently that I was recommended to try to figure out why I am the way I am. Actually recognise the behaviours, rather than simply ignore them. A lot of the time it’s like aiming to climb a mountain, but walking into a brick wall every time you try.

I am trying to focus on learning more about my depression and anxiety. Because if I can understand it, myself, maybe I can explain it better. Maybe.

Putting Me First

I am quite a helpful person. Or, I try to be, anyway. If someone comes to me, and needs help, I’ll do my best to help them. That’s the way I was brought up, assist those around you, as you never know when you may have to resort to the kindness of others.

The problem comes with, my anxiety. At work, about 6 months ago, I was asked to help with another department. A department I used to work in, but hadn’t done so in over a year. Processes had changed, and I felt like if there was 5 problems in front of me, I knew how to fix one. The supervisors all said it was okay. But, I don’t like when I don’t seem to be helping as much as I want to. I was okay during that shift. But afterwards, I felt awful. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I just did a half-arsed job, and I was stupid for thinking I could actually help. It took the entire weekend, before I started to feel better.

Last week, the same request came in again. My supervisor asked me if I was able to go. I took a second, wondering if it was worth the stress I went through last time. When I say stress, no one did anything, it was my own brain causing me stress. I thought back to my last call with my doctor. He advised, that I need to learn to listen to my anxieties, and not put myself into situations which could make it worse.

So, I said no. I said that I hadn’t done the job properly for 18 months, and most of the processes had changed. He was fine with that, and I stayed in my normal department. Then I felt guilty, because I hadn’t helped out, and I felt I was horrible. To the point, I had to explain to both my supervisor, and the one from the other department, why I didn’t feel comfortable, and what had happened last time. They both agreed, that if something was going to stress me out so much, then it is good to not force myself.

And, that was it. No problems what so ever. And once I had spoken to the supervisors, I felt more comfortable that I had made the right decision. Which is difficult. Since I started suffering mental health problems as a teenager, I have always ‘pushed through’ what was going on in my head. And, whilst I got stuff done, it has left me completely unable to deal with my own mental health. Just pushing through, is like moving a brick around. The more you ignore, the more bricks you move. Eventually the one or two bricks, become a pile, a pile that is difficult to move. So it’s best to deal with the bricks one at a time.

That metaphor sucked.

But, I hope the message is clear. Dealing with mental health, is learning when you need to make choices to protect yourself. Don’t simply keep forcing through the same things, it just makes things worse. Be kind to yourself.

Budget It

I have taken the next few days to try and get myself a budget organised. Try to manage my money a little better. I say this, because I feel like when I get paid I throw all my money away, without recognising what I actually spend. I spend money mindlessly, which has been made worse with the push to a cash free environment.

So, after stumbling across budgeting videos on TikTok and YouTube, I thought I’d try to get to grips on what I actually spend. That way I can try and spend better. So, on Friday, when I was paid, I thought I’d give myself £40 to spend on non-essentials. See how long that lasts. Well… I had a busy shift on Saturday, ordered Domino’s Pizza, and had spent £20 already. I’m trying not to feel too discouraged, as this is just an experiment at this stage. And experiment that proves that I spend money way too easily.

I feel like I blame my mental health for everything, but it’s all connected with my depression, binge eating, and anxiety. I often float along, doing the bare minimum. I work, I keep my car on the road, I pay my bills. I have known that I have wasted money for a long time, but, as with everything, effort is required to sort it all out. And when I struggle to get out of bed, where money goes seems way out of my realm of reality.

So I am going to write down everything. When bills come out, and what they are for. And then try and be realistic with shopping for food and stuff, and plan ahead. Because that is another thing I am useless at, planning ahead. So this will take a bit of work. I have a paper journal, which I have been getting into the habit of using every day. So I am going to write all my working outs in there. See how it goes.

Hobby Time

What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?

I like reading, writing, playing computer games, going for walks, drawing, and finding new music. Stuff that seems to help me get more joy out of my day to day life. Things that keep my hands, and my mind, busy. Which, a requirement at how ‘doomsday’ the world seems right now.

My brain struggles to focus on things. So I think I am going to paint something’, and I simply stare at the piece of paper, and nothing happens. My brain just stalls. So then, I try to write a to-do list, to try and motivate me, as to-do lists do help when I have housework and stuff to do. But it doesn’t work with things I normally enjoy. Things become a chore, and any pleasure is gone.

Sometimes, I think that I like to do too many things, for the time I seem to be able to give. I have to learn, that I don’t have to do all of the things, all of the time. Which will take time. My mind still tells me that I have failed for not doing everything. It’s like, because I have failed on things in life, I think that everything I do must lead to failure.

Life Ambitions

What do you want out of life? A new car, a family, out of debt, a home of your own… there is a lot you may want out of life. And, it can be daunting to know how to get what you want out of life.

I remember being at school and being told that I had to decided what I wanted to do then and there. My panicked brain jumped from journalist to teacher to Veterinary Nurse to an artist. It was a manic time, and I felt like I was running down the clock in a game of ‘pick the career’. My friends all knew what they wanted, I didn’t. I knew that I wanted to do something I liked, but I have never tested well. So a lot of decisions were made for me. I felt I had to jump straight into further education, when I already had a bad experience at school. I attended college, failed, attended another college, failed there too.

I’ll say one thing, it all didn’t help with my self esteem.

When my friends were finishing University, and starting meaningful careers, I worked in a call centre. With anxiety and depression running my life, rather than aspirations of a long term career. This sense of being an utter failure, made me lose confidence in everything. I felt like I had let down so many people. Even now, I work in a warehouse, whilst others do jobs they love, things they were good at. Like, I have no shot at progression, despite trying to get some. The feeling of not being good enough, is constant.

Sometimes I wish, school had managed expectations better. It would save me a lot of heartache, if working a job was just as important as having a career. Because, society need those lower paid jobs as much as the high flying careers. There is no failure in holding down a job. And schools still don’t say this. So kids work at McDonald’s feel like they have let down their families, which is so wrong. Education is amazing, but it shouldn’t be people’s first step in the real world.

I wish I could do something I was passionate about. Reading, writing, and art. At the moment, I can be as passionate as I want, I do not have the attention span for any of it. And, that is how my life goes. I feel like my life is like a rollercoaster. It has ups and downs, but ultimately I am just going round and round, not really going anywhere.

But still being here, in spite of everything, is a win better than any career. A lot of people aren’t that lucky.

Round, Round

Life is monotonous sometimes, isn’t it?

It feels like I am going round in circles at the moment. It is so frustrating.

It’s like I am walking round surrounded by a dark cloud. Sometimes, the sun peaks through, and I can see a path ahead. But it’s short lived. That cloud comes back, and it takes all my focus to see my own two feet, let alone anything else.

My problem is, that every time I think things are getting a little easier to see, the darkness comes back. So, I feel like I make no progress. That I get so far, and end up back at the start.

Sometimes, it seems easier to make no effort at all.

Don’t Know What To Do

I feel lucky. I work a basic, entry level job, but I like it. The work I do helps me focus, and silence my over-thinking brain. There have been times, over the last year, especially, I have felt at the end of my tether, and work was all that kept me going. I can’t go for a pointless drive, I can’t pop round to my friends, I can’t go out for a coffee, but I can go to work. I have friends and colleagues that help me when I am struggling, mentally or physically. I have been in my current job for over 7 years, and I still get new challenges, and I like that.

Recently, I have come across a problem. A person who I work with, who doesn’t seem to like me. That, alone, is something that bothers me. I mentally go through every interaction between us, and ask myself what did I do wrong. Because, I assume that everything is my fault. I feel like that Labrador dog who wants to be everyone’s friend, and can’t seem to understand why not everyone wants to be a friend.

It’s not just that though. Several times, this person has triggered a panic attack in me, by speaking to me like I am an idiotic child. Thinking that they can speak down to me because I am younger than them. By inferring I am stupid, and by doing so right in my face, I panic. And, this person blocks me in, physically, so I can’t leave till they say their bit. Which is normally a rant, whereupon they are right and I am usually wrong. When I do have a panic attack, I am told to ‘grow up’. It has been going on for months, but it came to a head last week. After shouting at me, like I was stupid, I felt panic arising, so when they had finished I went to the toilets to calm down.

When I have a panic attack, my heart goes crazy. I start shaking really bad, and I can’t catch my breath. The panic becomes worse, and I will normally start crying. Which is embarrassing, and is why I prefer to have such things in the private space of a toilet cubical. So, I calmed down, and began to walk back to my work area. As soon as I got near, I started panicking again. And quickly I was doubled over, struggling to breath. When I had last spoken to my doctor, he had said that if there is a situation which triggers my anxiety, I need to take myself away from the situation. So, my panicking self caught the attention of management, and walked me to a break room, so I could explain what was happening. I said that I couldn’t work with this person anymore, as I need to look after myself and my mental health. The managers seemed to understand.

I feel stupid. I know I have to look after myself, but can’t help feel like it’s my fault. It’s not a nice feeling.

Lost

I have been thinking, recently, about my mental health. Of how I don’t feel it has got better over time. Because that’s what I was told that I had to do, give myself time, and things will get better.

Sometimes things do feel a bit better. I can laugh with my nephew, have a joke with a friend over lunch, or laugh at the TV. It doesn’t mean the bad thoughts have gone away. The feelings of failure, of uselessness, still sit in my mind. And sometimes, I laugh too hard, or won’t stop talking, and it is purely to try and seem ‘okay’. I sometimes find my patience running thin, where I will get angry, at the drop of a hat, over nothing. Sometimes, I drag myself to work, and that is all I have energy to do for that day. Sometimes I eat some junk food, to make myself feel better, but it doesn’t work. I feel worse. A girl my size should only eat healthy food. But food that needs preparing is difficult when you don’t feel worth the effort.

I had a think back to the last 10 years or so. There have some amazing highlights, holidays to countries I’d never visited before, gigs with great music, and better friends. Nephews coming into my life, that are happy to see me, no matter what. But there is a shadow, in my mind, against all the happiness.

A shadow which makes me ask whether I really deserve to be happy. That doubt keeps me rooted in place, struggling to take any kind of step towards anything new. I am constantly reminded that I should be happy about what I do have. And, it makes me feel selfish, because I don’t feel I am making the best of the situation that I am in.

I am trying. I am getting up every day for work. I do my job to the best of my abilities. Going out and doing a physical job everyday, has helped. If my mind is occupied, I don’t feel so bad. I can focus. Sometimes. Sometimes, even work won’t stop a panic attack on the shop floor, or the anxiety that I have done something wrong. The idea, that I have annoyed someone. So, I work. But I also apologise way too much, especially when feeling bad. I don’t want anyone to dislike me over something that I did, when my irrational brain was in charge.

I honestly thought that things would be better by now. But they haven’t. If my words read like a broken record, that’s nothing compared to what life actually feels like. Sometimes I wish I had a reset button on For my brain.

———————

This post has come from a note I made on my phone, during a panic attack. Writing sometimes helps me feel better. But it may read a little muddled.