I was nearly 40 before the penny dropped that some of the problems I'd been experiencing — pain, low mood, compulsive behaviour, inability to maintain relationships, social anxiety — were being driven from within my own mind.
There were several reasons why it took so long and here are two of them:
Firstly, I isolate — few get to see me beyond superficialities. Secondly, none of my symptoms were florid enough to stop me functioning; I could get by. Imagine a car slowly driving along the edge of a busy road, the sound of its flat tyres making you wince.
It's doing about 10mph, it has not got its hazard lights on, other vehicles passing it by. You wave at the driver and yell, "Stop and fix the tyres!" but he can't hear you so he just smiles and waves back and carries on down the road. In fact he's got the radio on quite loud and it's playing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on a loop.
My mind was both the car and the radio. I'm quite grateful for its tendency to tune to a station with a cheerful song. However, when I eventually noticed those flat tyres I also saw that the radio's tuner had a problem too.
I can't remember the year or the month but I do remember it was 7pm and it was winter. I'd been sat in a chair staring at a wall and I realised I'd been there for 12 hours. With clarity it occurred to me that this wasn't right. In fact it occurred to me that I'd been wall-staring on and off for months. Secondly, it occurred to me there was only me and the wall — and there was nothing wrong with the wall. I put my trainers on and went for a walk and started thinking. The rain wasn't a problem.
It wasn't exactly an epiphany but sometime around then, after I realised I needed to physically move, I saw "the car" needed a few things fixing. Funnily enough the first thing I did was turn the radio off; it was a distraction. Of course turning off my happy song lowered my mood but with less distraction I could start to focus on what was wrong with things.
That's pretty much where my journey into "car mechanics" began. It has taken about 15 years so far, gone down some dead ends, but also made some progress too. About the only thing which has been consistent is the belief that significant change is possible and, if I write any more of these pieces I guess I'll unpack the metaphor and get to details.
But for now, what's your basic outlook? Do you believe that significant change is possible? How do you maintain that belief?
A Moodscope member.
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