My conversation with Katy ended about halfway through my walk. It’s a long, 4 mile loop, and she had arrived at home, where was dinner waiting for her at her doorstep.
We’d had the nicest talk, about everything, from family and therapy to birth and death. I felt seen and understood by our conversation in all of the ways that I had hoped to when I started this project.
The sun was setting over the
mountain large hill near my house, and the air was still.
The mindful thing to do would have been to take the rest of the walk to breathe deeply, feel the sticky sweat of a late spring evening, and reflect on all of the wonderful things Katy and I had talked about.
But instead, I called Matt.
And talked with him about nothing until I arrived home 45 minutes later.
I don’t like to be alone with myself, or my thoughts.
It’s one of the reasons I’m taking these walks with others.
It’s one of the things that makes my healing so hard.
Every time I explain my anxiety to a therapist or a friend or a psychiatrist, they all recommend mindfulness.
One of the nicest parts of mindfulness, supposedly, is that you can’t fail. As the man on one of the ten apps I downloaded reminded me, if you find yourself focusing on something other than your breathing, you can just begin again.
Unless you’re a perfectionist.
Then each time you have to begin again sends you into a tailspin of self-loathing where you don’t understand why you can’t just turn off the bad thoughts and replace them with good ones.
I understand, logically, that this is the point.
I have been told by multiple therapists that I need to recognize that I can’t turn off my bad thoughts, but have to just learn to sit with them.
As my first therapist suggested, I should say to my anxiety, “Welcome, old friend, have a seat.”
To attempt to live with these shitty, toxic friends that are my thoughts, I use the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies that they taught me during the intensive outpatient program that I attended on Zoom following my hospital stay.
One of the hardest strategies is radical self acceptance.
This means acknowledging that you’re not perfect, but you are good and getting better and, even with all your flaws, you deserve love. And grace.
For a while, to remind myself of this, I had affirmations that I put on sticky notes, in my office and on my closet door. My therapist had me read them aloud every time I passed them.
“I am strong. I am healthy. I am capable. I am resilient.”
I was told to say them out loud, even if I didn’t believe them yet.
Matt hated them.
Not because he didn’t believe them.
But because they were a constant reminder that I was in a state where I needed external cues to believe something as simple as the fact that I was capable.
Psychosis is a real blow to your confidence, and your sense of self.
There is no feeling in the world like being betrayed by your own mind.
Our minds, our thoughts, are all we know. Everything I have ever experienced and interpreted has been filtered through my mind.
And to know that it can be so easily warped and distorted and broken left my very soul feeling warped and distorted and broken.
Mindfulness tells me to abandon my thoughts and focus on my breathing.
But how can I trust my mind enough to abandon my thoughts when, one time, my thoughts abandoned me? How do I know my thoughts will be there when I get back?
A natural instinct, a survival instinct, tells me to clutch onto those thoughts, no matter how terrible they are.
But holding on to such painful thoughts is exhausting.
So I seek to define myself by the thoughts of others.
Talking keeps my thoughts jogging along, keeps them active enough not to crumble, but lets someone else decide where they’re going.
Conversation keeps my thoughts close, where I can see them, but distracts them from displaying their true selves.
Talking also helps me process my feelings, and keeps me connected to others, both of which are important for the healing process.
Still, I long for the days when I can take that last 45 minute walk alone.
When my thoughts and I can coexist comfortably.
When I can trust that they will stay by my side without tearing me down.
When I can begin again.
Thanks for reading,