You Can’t Run From Your Own Mind
Humans are born with the ability to differentiate a good situation from a bad one. We’re able to identify signs of danger or hints of malicious intent. We’re equipped with the tools we need to escape from these scenarios – an inherent ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, using adrenaline to remove ourselves from potential harm. We’re wary of strangers, of new places. We’re tentative to try new things in fear of being hurt. We’re a very suspicious species; naivete is knocked out of us from an early age whether we like it or not.
So why am I capable of doing myself so much harm? I’m constantly on red alert, looking out for anything or anyone lurking in the corners, waiting to hurt me. Yet when it comes to my body and mind, I’m my own biggest danger. I do more harm to myself than anyone else ever has.
I grab, pinch, poke and prod at my body, obsessing over every flaw until I’ve convinced myself I’m just wrong. I look in the mirror and tell myself that I am ugly, fat and worthless. I write, but I convince myself that it’s awful, and delete everything I’ve typed. I hate how I look, so I give up trying to better myself…
I convince myself of so much negativity that I end up in a downward spiral that I can’t seem to undo.
I’ve always been aware of how affected I am by changes in my life. Seemingly small shifts in my mindset can have a massively negative impact on the way I live my life. Changes in my routine are even worse. When I lost my job last year, it crippled me. I felt like a failure for the first time in my life and instead of picking myself back up, I crumbled. I lost my home, my friends, my family. I felt hopelessly alone.
I’m like everyone else – I do have that inherent survival instinct. But why didn’t it kick in when it needed to? Why didn’t it tell me that the way I was feeling back then was far more dangerous than anything else I’d ever experienced? If humans are able to save themselves from external dangers, why can’t we save ourselves from ourselves?
I’m yet to meet a person who hasn’t suffered some form of loss or tragedy. It’s a part of life that not one of us enjoys and that not one of us can avoid. It’s in the nature of humanity to feel sad, to grieve, to rage about cruel truths. We have to feel sad, to be able to appreciate contentment and happiness. We have to experience loss to appreciate what we have left. Being sad makes people stronger and more attuned to the nature of life itself.
Many people think depression is just ‘feeling sad’. Many are ignorant, others uneducated. What they don’t understand is that depression isn’t just a state of mind. It’s an illness that consumes – a dark, weighted blanket that suffocates joy and light from your life. Occasionally, there’s gaps in the blanket, and there’s a short-lived respite where everything feels better again. In those moments, you can see a future. So, you hope. You hope with all your might, until the blanket grows tighter and tighter and you see there’s terrible words stitched into the blanket, and they’re the only thing you can see. ‘You’re worthless. You’re nothing. You shouldn’t be here anymore.’
These words are all you see, so they’re all you believe.
I could have saved myself from the blanket, if only I’d noticed it starting to creep up on me. Instead, I was oblivious. I let it consume me, fuelling it with self-hate. I let myself become smothered by it, until there was no light, and I was suffocating under the weight of it all. I continued to struggle, getting lost in the blanket, like a child in a tangle of thorns. Helpless, scared. My survival instinct had grown quiet, and in its place was a terrible urge to give in.
Survival instincts, the flight or flight theory – it’s all good. But when it comes to mental illness, it’s no use. It’s not able to alert you of the possible danger your own mind can do to itself. We’re so eager to keep ourselves from harm, but only a few of us realise that we’re naturally predisposed to self-criticism and self-doubt. Only a few of us realise that this is one danger we can’t just run away from.
You can’t run from your own mind.
Strangely, despite our intrinsic ability to identify right from wrong, it’s easier to talk negatively about yourself than positively. It’s easier to hate yourself than love yourself. I only recently realised how quickly this can lead into something a lot more sinister. It’s easy to be consumed by that blanket, but near impossible to get out of. It’s scary to think that I went from feeling a bit crappy about going up a size to physically putting a dirty razor blade against my skin in moments of sheer disgust and self loathing.
One day, I’ll feel strong enough to be able to get out from underneath the blanket. But first, I need to tackle negativity, instead of welcoming it.