Let me tell you a secret.
My mind is on the go constantly.
I think that in the past this has contributed hugely to my bouts with depression and anxiety. The constant spin, when left to its own devices tells me things that no one wants to hear EVER, let alone over and over again all day long, day after day for weeks and months on end. Some would call these Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANT’s for short. Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of having ants running around inside my head gives me the collywobbles.
In response to this constant spin I have tried many different methods of taming it, quieting it, or eliminating it entirely. No one likes being depressed, so my first stop was the same as many other peoples; antidepressants. Let’s drug those ants right out of my head.
It did the trick. For the first time I could remember, I didn’t have a constant stream of chatter running through my mind at a million miles a minute. It was blissful.
Except it wasn’t.
Anti depressants create an artificial mental stability by controlling the exchange of neurotransmitters between those awesome little neurons in your brain. They can be, and often are, the source of much of my brilliance 😉 However, when they are artificially controlled by anti depressants much of my brilliance disappears. I was in an eternal state of “Meh”. Everything was fiiinneee.
Good day? Fine.
Bad day? Fine.
Set the house on fire? Fine.
We won a million dollars! Fine.
Now, you might think that this is a good thing, stability in the midst of life’s chaos. For a time it was. Until I realized that while I was not experiencing my periodic drops into the BIG BLACK PIT, I was also not finding any joy in life.
Rode your bike without training wheels for the first time? Fine.
Got a great grade on that test? Fine.
Beautiful moment that might have melted my heart? Fine.
I was numbed. A constant state of “meh”.
So I did my research, consulted with my doctor and weaned myself off of my drugs. Through counseling at the same time, I was able to create some serious self care habits that help to support my mental health. To be honest, these habits actually support my whole health, physically, mentally and spiritually.
The habits are simple, but take more time than just popping a pill.
I meditate every morning. I have disciplined myself to sit for fifteen minutes each and every day in creation. This has allowed me to develop my quiet space in amongst the chatter, because when I eliminated those anti depressants, sure as shootin’ those ANT’s came back. I have made friends with most of them, as I now recognize that they are simply parts of my own self that are fearful, or angry or uncomfortable, and they are simply wanting to be heard. So, just as I do with my children, I have learned to see them, welcome them with kindness, and then send them lovingly on their way. I no longer expect them to stay away forever. They have become old friends. I know that they will return, and when they do I will treat them as I have learned is best. So, the ANT’s are dealt with.
Whew, cuz that imagery was creeping me out.
The other things I do are quite simple, clean eating, exercise, and my favourite; WRITING.
This brings me to that Monkey Mind in the title of this entry. No longer are there ANT’s running the show upstairs. They have turned it over to the monkeys.
The chatter is no longer incessantly negative and critical. It remains, and has become a curious, mischievous monologue managed by my mental monkeys. You may take that statement any way you wish 🙂
Since I have been free of medication I have learned to use my insane mental monkeys in a more meaningful manner. If they are gonna be busy hopping around up there causing mischief anyhow, I might as well make the most of it. From this has been born my absolute addiction to alliteration. The monkeys love it. Every time we come across even two words that begin with the same letter strung together in the course of our (my?) day, they grab them and get to work right away. My husband shakes his head at my glee when they return with a string of alliterative language, but it has truly become an integral part of my mental health habits.
Stay tuned for some daily alliteration posts, because I have a feeling that might be a cool addition to this blog.
The same principle applies to big ideas. I have found that this work, like no other, allows me to take normal experiences from my day to day life and turn them into grist for the mill. My mind will mull over an idea for days and weeks, turning it over and over and examining it from every possible angle. They idea grows, and leads to questions, which in turn leads to more ideas and still more questions.
This is the source of my creativity, and I had drugged it away.
So often in our society the first response to depression is to drug it away. I think to a certain extent there is value in this because it creates stability within which sufferers can then develop self supportive habits. To stay on those medications, to rely on them, in my mind can be a mistake. I recognize that there are situations and people who do truly require medication over the long term to treat their mental health effectively. I am by no means a medical expert. It has simply been my experience that drugs are a step along the path, but they are not the path itself.
What has been your experience, dear reader?
Share your story in the comments below 🙂