For many, if not all of us, who have a mental health diagnosis what we think, feel and perceive, we are told, “It’s all in your head”. We are used to, and I would argue, encouraged to, look to ourselves as the reason why we are suffering from self-deprecating thoughts, negative perceptions of our life and horrible emotions. I have spent YEARS trying to fix myself so the sad things that I think, feel, and perceive will change because like everyone has told me, “It’s all in your head.” I am the one with distorted thinking, I am the one with emotion dysregulation, I am the one with paranoid ideation. Although, what I am finding is that the more I learn to regulate, identify my emotions and become aware of what is going on inside of me, I begin to see how many thoughts, feelings and perceptions are influenced by ACTUAL external events. I have no idea what to do with that…
When I wrote a response to an article on positive thinking as a form of gaslighting, I was searching for related blog posts I had written. I ended up finding examples of how I blamed myself for the abuse in my previous relationship. I wrote something along the lines of, “I wish I could believe [my ex] when he tells me he’s not trying to control me.” Looking back now, with my new knowledge, he was, 100% controlling me. My mental health concern was used as a scapegoat and I had no problem accepting that it was all on me. It’s always been on me. It was very difficult but freeing to realize the role of the other person in creating my pain.
Examples of external events stirring up internal crisis are not always as extreme as the above. Take my current experience of loneliness. Entering it’s third week, I have been experiencing very intense and distressing feelings, thoughts and perceptions of loneliness. During the first week, when I experienced a severe depressive episode, I blamed myself for my lonliness. I told myself that if I only tried harder then my friends would hang out with me. I spent last week doing just that. I asked a few friends if they were available and they said they were not for a variety of reasons. On the extreme side, some are posting pictures of being with friends after telling me they were busy. As a result, I have come to realize that this loneliness is actually happening. I am being turned down by friends for hangouts and that is what is fueling the feelings of loneliness, thoughts of worthlessness and perceptions of abandonment and rejection. It is not in my head. I’m afraid to act on this information.
I recognize that in the past I have avoided acknowldging when pain is being caused by external events instead of internal. It is why I am not a fan of thought records or reality testing. Any evidence that support my thoughts are extremely painful to see. I cannot control the external but I can control the internal and that is easier but not productive in any way.
What should I do? I have ideas but my emotion mind does get in the way of me acting on them or even fully acknowledging that it is what I should do. My wise mind, that is trying to burst through, says to persist and keep asking friends to hang out, that I should attend the BPD peer support group to make new friends, confront friends who keep turning down my requests for hanging out, get myself out of my house for any reason and radically accept that I am experincing external and internal loneliness and that is why I should act on the above. I should not hide. I should not blame myself.