When it’s not in your head and actually in your life

Image: A silhouette of a male presenting individual standing alone in a room.

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.

Image: Says, “Keep pushing forward, especially when you’re rather quit.”

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.

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18 thoughts on “When it’s not in your head and actually in your life

  1. The support group sounds like a good idea. What about setting a date with friends? They may be busy this week, but they are not busy forever. If they commit to a date, you know they really are just busy and you’ll have something to look forward to. If they wont commit to a date, then you know something else is going on.

  2. You already got good advice you agree on. But what was not mentioned is just doing things by yourself. It is bad when lonely and cooped up. Take advantage of everything in your power to just get out. I mean a walk, a drive, window shopping and you may in those instances find new friends as well. Your ones now seem to not be available. If you are not available to them they will probably think twice and may be the ones asking you to hangout after turning them down. If they do not they, like several of mine, might not be worthy of your time. Take care of you.

    • Thank you for your comment! I had a cry about it last night and brought it up to a close friend of mine who I haven’t seen in almost 3 weeks. He said that he’s still my friend (his actual response to me saying it feels like he’s gone was “WTF! No!”) and work is just really busy (he’s a social worker). I get that. I work from home so that might also be compounding the loneliness.

      • Just do your best and respect yourself and do what you need to do for you. Stay positive, I know it is hard. I have been shut out of local work by a bad person I used to work for and cost me thousands in pay and friends. It is rough all around.

  3. I have similar problems with friends being busy with other friends. It’s been so distressing I have created an additional facebook w/o those friends so I don’t see their status’ and photos. I think you are totally right that it’s easier not to see it and then those people know we have issues so they blame them on that. Anyways, you’re not alone. I don’t have any advice other than avoiding them and finding/contacting true friends.

    • I almost got rid of my Facebook a few years ago, when was 19/20. It hurt really bad to see all my friends from where I grew up out partying while I was in a different city not doing that as much as they were. Thanks for your comment. This is a tough one!

  4. This was very powerful to read. One reason I believe those of us don’t share is because we are not understood or we are written off for many reasons. I realize that you have to have experienced what we go through to be able to understand our pain. I think only those of us who have gone through serious ups and downs understand. The saying “If you want sympathy for your toothache find someone with a toothache” is spot on. When I am down I tend to go underground and just wait it out. When I am up I don’t want to think about the down times. I have found I am fairly reclusive. I am old and don’t have the energy to search out new friends. I have some hobbies and interests that have become great friends. I find going to my local senior center depressing. I think being Bipolar gives us a highly active antenna that is usually right on the money. Our journey may be difficult but it is not impossible to navigate. I enjoy my company enough to go places alone. That was a biggie for me when I was in my 50s. Don’t let people walk over you. Make them walk around.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! I had a good emotional reaction to your last sentence, “Don’t let people walk over you. Make them walk around you.” I have let people walk over me for many years. It’s exhausting. I wouldn’t mind more people walking WITH me for a change. I am trying to find comfort in the activities I do by myself. I am a very social person so it is sometimes hard to see the value in being by myself.

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