The inside of my head

Thursday October 4, 2018

One of the things that's hard about any mental ill-health is trying to explain it to other people. Depression isn't just 'feeling a bit sad'. Anxiety isn't just 'being worried about things'. PTSD certainly isn't just 'being stressed'. And so on.

I recently read a Christian book about depression [When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend, by Mark Meynell] which used several metaphors that I found extremely helpful for describing experiences I've had, and helping me to understand more about other people's experiences: the cave, the blizzard, the invisibility cloak and so on. Mark is wonderful at finding words that help us to articulate the insides of our heads.

I love words, but I love pictures even more. So I've started to try to draw the inside of my head. After a couple of particularly bad days, I sat down at my desk and came up with the drawing above.

The books on the left represent my brain when it's working normally. All those every day things like 'How to Get Up', 'Leaving the House', 'Making Small Talk', and 'Friends' are easily accessible. And because I can access those thoughts and feelings and all that information and experience, I can act on them. Sometimes even without consciously thinking about it.

But when I'm depressed, my brain is like the picture on the right. The information is still there but it's whirling so fast, I can't read any of it. I can't grab hold of a single thought long enough to complete it. It's not that I've stopped processing, or that I'm processing slowly. I'm not thinking about nothing, I'm thinking about EVERYTHING. And it's utterly paralysing.

I loved drawing this. I loved the process of thinking about how to show what it feels like to be me and the contrast between my normal-functioning and non-functioning brain activity. I loved lining up the books and giving them titles of all the things that I can do straightforwardly on a good day. I loved creating the mess and movement which represent my brain on a bad day.

I also loved sharing this. I put it on Twitter and Facebook and was thrilled when other people said that this was their experience too, and when people commented that it helped them understand a bit more about depression.

So I'm planning to draw a few more pictures of the inside of my head. It seems to help me to process what's happening to me, and if it helps other people articulate more of what's happening to them, I'm delighted.

Have you ever tried to draw the inside of your head? What images would you use? What colours and shapes? Why not give it a go? You don't have to show your drawings to anyone if you don't want to, but you might just find you do!

A Moodscope member.

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