Tag Archives: mentalhealth

Duelling Weasels: conversations about mental health

One of the strangest and most amazing things about my life at the moment is the fights I’m having with weasels. Over the last few months, I’ve been having so many wonderful, painful and helpful conversations that identify and clarify the voices in my head; both with my partner, and with friends – and with myself!

It has mostly been my partner who’s responsible for the growing. We’ve both got a lot of background from growing up and from previous relationships – as has anyone, I suspect – but after starting off our relationship on an entirely honest foot, it’s just continued from there. Our conversations are peppered with mental health shortcuts; weasels, pins, owls, tangles, ducks, balloons – they do all make sense to us, honest! – and they all really help to be able to analyse how we’re feeling and what we need.

But the best thing, the most amazing, and sometimes most painful thing, is the ability to say, “I feel like this. And I think this is why.”

The first step is usually being able to identify an emotion – to stop, and think, “Well, ouch…but this is what I’m feeling”.  Sometimes I can’t identify it, or it’s a tangle of things; a lot of the time there’s multiple strands to any emotion, and it takes time to unpick them. So it’s just slowly untangling, or appreciating that maybe it’s too big a tangle, and putting a pin in it to come back to. Sometimes it’s just a case of different expectations. Sometimes it’s a complete misunderstanding. And sometimes it’s just a weasel sitting in my brain going NYAAAAAhH. But very often, I’m able to sit there and think, “Yes, I can put my finger on this. I’m angry/sad/upset/jealous/hurt/hyperactive/depressed/nervous.”

But identifying doesn’t mean suppressing it – that’s something I’ve been trying to work on too. Things like jealousy and anger and frustration are healthy! If I’m angry, it means something’s wrong. If I’m jealous, it means there’s something I need to deal with. If I’m miserable, it’s often just my brain having a depressed moment. It is really hard, when I’m feeling something, to make myself stop and analyse when all I want to do is scream or grumble or curl into a ball. It’s hard to stop the knee-jerk reactions, and just be able to step away. But it’s also so, so satisfying to be able to recognise it; to say, “yes, I’m feeling that – and that’s ok. Let’s look at why.”

And it’s really satisfying to be able to talk about it; to try to figure out why I’m feeling like this, and what – if anything – I can do. It’s something that I’ve noticed in my interactions with my partner, and with friends – and I think, I hope!, that it’s making all of my relationships healthier. If nothing else, it’s preventing misunderstandings based on past experiences or a missed word or simply an email with no context – and if it means that I can be a happier and healthier person, then I think that’s a really good thing.

So, self-reflection and talking: hard work, but absolutely worth it!

(Also, weasels are derps.)

Images of Mental Health

I don’t particularly have a visual imagination; I tend to think in word clouds. But sometimes, I’ll be able to compare how I feel to something; an image, a still-frame photograph, a hanging painting that just sits for a moment surrounded by the feeling.

When I was back on anti-depressants, coping with a new job, struggling with the end of my marriage… a chandelier of broken glass, hanging shards; the darker coated ones turned away from the light, the brighter ones glinting: false, brittle, glinting.

Being on new tablets that had something odd in them, which sent me manic for about a week; a metallic cylinder in my chest, tinted and brittle, coating everything.

Everything piling up: layers of thin board, stacking and stacking, weighing down but not yet breaking.

And the feeling of pills that I knew would sink me: a helium balloon filling my chest, raising me – and an iron weight on it, pushing down, not letting me rise, not letting the happiness bubble.

And six months of happiness in Oxford… A golden fountain, bubbling and roiling, sending whirls upwards:  light and lifting and wonderful.

via GIPHY

Distrusting the Voices

So I’ve been musing about the voices in my head, and how you know when they’re real: how do you distinguish between the anxiety weasels and actual voices that say needed things?

How do you know if you are ugly or beautiful? Worth something? Annoying or funny?

Anxiety means it’s all lies; so how do you actually know what the truth it? When do you start believing the voice in your head, having always shouted it down for lying?

I don’t really have any answers yet, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

The image is from Nerds with Vaginas on Facebook.

Conversations with Brain Weasels

If you haven’t come across Brain Weasels, they’re from this post by Jim Hines.  Basically, it’s those little anxiety whirls and conversations that remind you that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG and YOU ARE SUCH AN IDIOT and OH GOD SERIOUSLY?!

I’ve been having quite a few of those in the last few weeks.

 

“You messed up the thing.”

“Yeah. I did, and it sucks, but I fixed it.”

“You shouldn’t have made the mistake.”

“People mess up. It happens.”

“You realise this means YOU’RE A COMPLETE FAILURE.”

“I messed up one thing.”

“A really simple, small thing, that you should have remembered.”

“It’s not that bad. I fixed it and everyone’s cool about it.”

“You messed up something so simple – why should we be trusting you with big stuff if you can’t even remember a small thing?”

“Mistakes are how I learn.”

“You should have learned that bit already!”

“I forgot it one time!”

“Which makes you a complete and utter failure.”

 

Weasels. Bloody, annoying weasels.

The thing is, the weasels are still me. They’re just different interpretations of events, and it does make them harder to fight. I struggle a lot to tell what’s the right course of action sometimes; if I screw something up, then I rightfully should feel bad! That means I’m learning, and I won’t mess it up the next time  – but it doesn’t need to come with a side order of COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE…

It makes it hard sometimes to figure out what the right course of action is, or the right response;  it’s particularly fun* when it comes to dealing with other people, and – as I’m meeting lots of new people, and adapting to their communication styles and personalities – how to interact. This has not been particularly fun for my love life, frankly, because if you add anxiety to any usual communication and then put a dose of squee on top of it… I seriously hate brain weasels.

*not fun.

“He’s not replying to text messages very fast.”

“You’re being really annoying and texting too much, and he doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“Or he’s busy doing other stuff?”

“He hates you.”

“….or he’s asleep.”

“He hates you.”

“One evening to the next morning is not exactly a long time to wait for a reply.”

“Replying after one hour is reasonable. Overnight is not!”

“One hour is stupidly short when people are actually doing stuff. As most people do with their lives.”

“It’s entirely reasonable! He should have replied already!”

“He’s asleep. Like, you know, people without brain weasels in their head would be at 11pm.”

“He hates you.”

“He doesn’t hate me. If he hated me, he wouldn’t be talking to me at all.”

“Well, why else would he not be replying immediately?”

“Because of all the sensible reasons I just outlined?!”

“He hates you.”

 

Thanks, brain.

And don’t even get me started on my professional life… arrogant, pompous, self-centered, self-important and imposter are all words that figure with annoying regularity, and even though I continually fight them, it’s such a new area of my life that I’m struggling to see where the balance is. I’m getting there, and I at least have the reassurance that everyone around me is being wonderful at giving me level and perspective! If I ever do get too big for my boots, I know there are wonderful people who will happily smack me down – and that’s a real thing, not some weasel in my ear. Until one of my friends pokes me, I’m probably good; and that’s something I can fight the weasels with.

So…yeah. It’s an interesting learning curve – as soon as I think I’m used to one weasel and have hammered it (or at least got my arguments down), another one pops up! The fun of living with mild anxiety, I suppose. There’s always a new situation, and always a new weasel to happily weasel away in my ear…

Maybe I should teach the cats to chase them!