Our brains are fun, and with mental stress and illness even funner (no, I do not care about the correct spelling for that, thank you for asking that in your head). While they see and hear and feel and observe pretty much everything, the amount of information they can bring to our conscious is very very limited. We are talking about 11 million bits of information per second processed by our brain with only 50 of it making to our conscious minds. As the google search of algorithms they are, they try and fill that 50 bits with the most relevant information; based on our previous searches and preferences.
Here’s how that works in real life; if you have been in a car accident, you will suddenly notice how ALL newspapers are reporting on ALL the car accidents that happened and think there are more of them than usual. If you broke your leg and are now walking with crutches you will notice ALL the other people with crutches; there must be dozens of them every second everywhere. Or, let’s take a less negative example; if you are planning for a kid, you will suddenly only see the new baby mommas around you, the strollers in the streets, and the crying toddlers ALL around. That means your brain looks for things, highlights things that it thinks you want to see. That means it ignores all the other things – pushes those things to page 2 and 7 of the google search; you can find them, but only if you really really want to.
And how’s that with living with mental health issues, with drama in our past? Well, we see things that fit our drama, we see things that match our previous experiences, we see things that we think we are supposed to see. Our brains, while yes, could mean good, might not be corrupt, are just looking for those best fit search results based on our previous experiences and expectations; neglect – people ignoring us and leaving us all alone, hurt – people wanting to harm us and being after us in harmful ways, praise – people only wanting to exploit us and use us to benefit themselves.
Eventually what that does is we ourselves look consciously for only the neglect, harm and hurt. No matter what someone does or whatever happens we look for the one thing that supports our worldview; our search parameters – the evil world, hurt to us.
Here’s an example of my past few weeks. I have been going through a bit of a downward time again in my life – this time due to burnout mostly. I have this friend who I’ve known for about 6 years now. She has been absolutely an amazing friend; being there for me when I cry, sending memes to cheer me up, having a laugh at and with me on good days, just being an absolute treasure of a human. She has a dog and during the past couple of years she has had the said dog, I have made numerous comments how I’d love one too…but can’t because my landlord doesn’t allow for one, how my work schedule would be a pain etc. And her dog is damn cute! So. Couple of weeks ago we were talking and she brought up me having her dog for a couple of days after I had made comments how great an emotional support dog that dog would be. I said I’d love that and as she brought the dog over couple of days later my mind went into harm-mode; “so you don’t want to walk your dog”, “you want your freedom and push this dog on me” “guess you are hoping for bad weather so that you are not the only one having to walk her in rain and guess now you can enjoy your coffee in your apartment with me walking your dog”.
And then there are these people who keep messaging me with “how are you?” “thinking of you”. They keep doing that month after month even when I’ve totally disappeared on them, made promises to meet them and then cancelled on them. I see their messages pop up on my phone and I get a rush of anxiety throughout my body – what do these people need now!?!? Can’t they just let me be!?!?! Why do they need to torment me?
These friends that have stuck by me, are sticking by me. Friends that understand my pain, or at least acknowledge I’m in pain. Their words, their actions, the hugs they pull me into; a whole new world of tears. As they pull me in, keep pulling me in, they force me to fight. My “I know you will hurt me” against their “no, you idiot, I like you and care for you”. I fight them with “no-one ever did in my life” and they counteract with “well, idiot, I’m not those people”. And this fight is only after a couple of hundred times they have shown me they care for me and are there for me, even as the idiot I am keep pushing them back.
My advice? The words I myself still try to get through my head; some people can be good, some actions just for the love, not all is evil – everything must not end in doom and betrayal.
Difficult I know, impossible as it seeems, give it a go, give it a chance.