On Mental Health

Unwelcome Voices

John Green (the author whose words I have tattooed on my arm) has been doing this great series with his best friend where they spend 100 days trying to really make some lifestyle changes. It’s an honest look at fitness and nutrition and he struggles a lot of the same things I struggle with, but to varying degrees. Donnie and I have actually enjoyed watching the videos together – it’s entertaining but also completely relatable. And the best part: John does NOT look like a natural athlete yet he’s kicking ass and it reminds me OH YEAH, WE CAN STILL KICK ASS even if we’re dorky and awkward.

However – I wanted to talk about his video reflecting on his mental health and how this projected has helped his anxiety and compulsions.

What fascinated me about the video was the way he talks about the “compulsion” element of his disorder and how it screws with his attempts at meditation. I’ve never considered the same tendencies in my own brain to be compulsive, I consider them a side effect of my anxiety. But the way he spoke of it I was like: Yep. That’s me. Because I deal with the “voices I didn’t invite” in my head often and then those thoughts do the same thing – rattle around destroying the place ESPECIALLY if I’m trying to meditate. I find “guided” meditations to be doable although I’m 100% sure I’m missing some of the benefits if I rely solely on those.

But it really has me thinking about the concept of those voices in my head that I didn’t really invite or approve of being there. The voices that sometimes consider jumping off that ledge (in the “suicidal ideation” sense, not in the “I’m going to end my life” sense)…the voices that are constantly giving me the reasons my husband is going to leave me one day, or that I’m going be homeless, or unloved…The voices that tell me I’m ugly and awkward and should not be hanging out around other people…The voices that tell me that some day every one who likes me is going to see a part of me and say: Oh, wow. So that’s the real Zoot, huh? Yeah. We totes don’t like her anymore.

Yes. I know those uninvited voices well. We converse regularly.

There’s a large part of my brain that understands those voices are not rooted in truth – but DAMN, they are SO LOUD. So if I don’t hear from someone for a few days – someone I usually contact regularly – that other voice assures me they are gone for good. “They’re on to you,” the voice says, “they are never coming back.”

Those unwelcome voices are constantly speaking my fears: Oh no, traffic is bad, do not attempt making that left turn because you will die and you did not tell everyone you loved them this morning. And many times I listen to them and never make an unprotected left turn in traffic again. And in those moments, am I letting them win? Am I giving them power?

It was just an interesting way to look at it, I like the idea that these voices are uninvited and unwelcome. Because then I can almost look at them as foreign and easier to disregard. The voices telling me I’m worthy and lovable and capable and strong…those are the voices I should listen to because I invited them. They are welcome.

Anyway…I’ve just been thinking of that a lot. These voices that I have to fight to ignore otherwise I’d stay home and in bed 24 hours a day.

And now I just realized I’ve been talking about the voices in my head for an entire blog post. Maybe there’s an entirely different diagnosis looming behind all of that. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Unwelcome Voices”

  1. I read an article the other day along these same lines. So the author pretended that the voices saying all the nasty things in her head were being said by Trump instead, and then she was easily able to tell those voices to fuck right off 🙂 You never know, it just might work. ha.

  2. This is my first time reading your blog – I like this post ! It is hard to imagine the internal battles you must fight that are invisible to the outside world, and I think you are so brave for being open and honest about them – it lets others who struggle with anxiety know they are not alone. I don’t struggle with anxiety so much, but do have intrusive, compulsive thoughts, though mine are less fear-based and more interest-driven. I’ve practiced mediation too, and like anything else, it’s something you suck at when you first start, and then with repeated consistent practice, you get better. I’ve also found another coping strategy for obsessive thoughts. When I have a new fixation, I now know how to recognize it and I say to myself, “is this a healthy or unhealthy repetitive thought? Is this ever going to benefit me in any way?” If the answer is no, I decisively replace it with another obsession that I know is healthy, and eventually the unwanted thought is lessened. Example – for me, healthy obsessions include practicing my instrument, or reading something about my special interests, or obsessively cleaning something that really does need to be cleaned…. Ha. I wonder if those of us who get stuck in ruts can use these thought patterns for good?

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