Brain Muscle Memory. Wednesday April 22, 2015
Yeah, yeah. If you're reading this then those feelings are instantly recognisable for you and fit today to a T. Or, if today is good, then it fitted yesterday, or the day before, or three months ago.
I delivered a talk tonight. One more village hall. One more collection of middle-aged and older women. One more evening of laughter.
Because I do make them laugh. And educate them. And inspire them. They think I'm warm and witty and wonderful.
And then I drive away into the dark nothingness. Back to a loving home where I cannot feel that love. To caring friends online whose good wishes only fall into a vast emptiness. To vodka, sometimes; because it makes things bearable for a while.
And I think "But this is not me! Because I am happy, upbeat, optimistic and positive. That is the me who I recognise. That is the Mary my friends and colleagues know!
"Who is this nihilist? This is not me!"
But, yes. Let's be brutally honest. Because of some chemical fluctuations in my brain, over which I have no control and which repeat in a boringly repetitive cycle, this is exactly who I am.
My lovely adopted son Tom says (you remember Tom from a previous post?), when I wail at him on Facebook, "Mum – you can't let your feelings define who you are!"
And he's right.
Because, while I might be feeling bleak and dark, I can choose to separate the way I feel to the way I believe life is. I can choose to say "I am a happy, joyful optimistic person who just happens to be feeling down at the moment." I can choose to say "Life is good. Even though I can't feel it right now."
Choosing to be this way is only possible because, when "well" I make a practice of positivity, of compassion and love and tolerance. It creates a strong "brain muscle memory" so that in the bad times the negative thoughts have no tracks to follow.
Any negative thoughts that find their way into my brain are then on enemy soil. It's hard for them to find traction and they find themselves surrendering to the forces of positivity.
And yes, the longer the depression goes on, the stronger the dark thoughts get. Which is why I'm not ashamed to take the drugs. Hey - I'll take whatever works.
So yes, this "down" is unexpectedly deeper, harder and longer than I had expected. Damn. But I'm so grateful for all the work I do when "up" that help me get through the "downs".
If you're well and "up" at the moment, don't waste it. Get your brain to the "gym" to build up muscle. I hope you won't need it. But if you do need it, I hope it's there for you.
A Moodscope member.