You may have read my previous two posts about my recent travel adventures on the Jacobite Steam Train through northern Scotland. However, this post is about different types of trains: trains of thought.
I did not choose this topic at random, but because I am struggling right now, and I like the freedom of being ‘real’ with you on this platform (pardon the pun 😉 ).
You see, for the past few years I have been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress, Complex Trauma (trauma that is severe and repeated), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Severe Clinical Depression – what a colourful array of conditions and symptoms! I have been suffering for many, many, many years prior to getting help, however.
Despite my conditions, I function at a high level. I work full time (although my workplace know of my conditions and are supportive to me), I have obtained two first class degrees, I love photography, and other creative outlets, have a strong faith and seek to encourage other people in my friendships. These are all real and genuine parts of me, they are not masks, however, underneath my pleasant and often smiling demeanour is a lot of pain, and emotional and mental distress. In case you are wondering a lot of this stems from bullying about my appearance as a child, racial hate crimes, physical, mental, verbal and emotional ‘bullying’ (abuse) at young and formative stages of my life, as well as various stressful situations in adulthood.
I try hard, but sometimes my brain and body go into ‘meltdown’, and I am harassed by nightmares, chronic pain, flashbacks, distress, confusion, low moods and painful memories and reminders of abusive words hurled at me that I absorbed as being true about myself.
But I have chosen not to be defeated by these things, although recovery is a long road. In my pain and despair, prior to seeking professional help, I would try to ‘fix’ things or figure them out and it would lead me down very unhelpful trains of thought such as obsessively reading about stories of adults who were bullied as children and that sort of thing. It ultimately didn’t pull me out of my pain and trauma.
Since then, I have been focusing on more positive distractions and techniques to ground me in the present…I’m still at a vulnerable stage of my recovery so reprocessing these experiences needs to be built on a more stable foundation of grounding and staying emotionally safe and well. I have been doing pretty well with these – I have been pouring a lot of my time and attention into healthier pursuits such as doing my best at work, exercising, going for walks, eating more healthily, not isolating myself from friends and family but working on my relationships with others, taking time for ‘self care’, pursuing my hobbies of photography, creative writing, arts and crafts, adult colouring, and now blogging !, and building myself up in my faith and in prayer.
However, not all journeys are smooth and straightforward, and this train has run into some trouble and parts of it have broken down and are in need of servicing. I have been feeling more overwhelmed by, I guess a ‘flare up’ of the traumatic symptoms, and at the moment I’m struggling again.
Today I found myself face to face once more with some of these troubling memories and emotions and feelings and physical sensations that brought back a lot of negativity in my perceptions of myself as I was when I experienced these things, and I found myself beginning to follow old trains of thought – I was so close to going online to read about and watch videos about bulling, but I know that that will ultimately be harmful to me.
So I chose a new train of thought, I chose to continue on a more healthy journey, and I came here to blog instead.
But this blog isn’t all about me. It’s about you, about us, and about community and building each other up, being encouragers and supporting each other on our individual and shared journeys.
If you struggle with your mental health, know that you are not alone. Be aware of the train of thought you choose to pursue, and if you are on the wrong train, get off at the nearest station and switch tracks.
How do you do this? Start building up your ability to choose positive thoughts. Perhaps you can focus on a healthy hobby, or write down a list of affirmations and positive statements about yourself. Take your attention away from the thoughts that distress you and instead focus on something beautiful like the clouds moving across the sky, the sound of birdsong, the gentle lapping of waves, the laughter of someone you love, the sweet scent of flowers or perfume, the taste of your favourite food. Build a ‘narrative’ for yourself, filled with positive things. Use your imagination, and keep choosing the Imagination Stations of positivity rather than staying on a train of thought that will only lead you through a long dark tunnel.
What helps you? Do you have anything helpful that you can share that might benefit the rest of us? If so please feel free to comment and discuss. We’re all passengers together in this journey of life, so let’s make sure we help each other choose the right train! 🙂
I shall leave you with an inspiring quote to ponder:
“whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).