Battle in the Mind

So I’m feeling strange. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve had a good morning and I’ve still the rest of the day ahead of me since it’s just 9 am right now. Since I’ve been up about two hours ago, I’ve had my tea, a good stretch on the balcony, and a ride down to have dim sum with my mother and pick up some vegetables for today’s meal from the market. So all in all, I’ve had a decent start to the day. I’m more relaxed than I have been previously but still, I can’t help but feel the ebb of those thoughts in the background of my mind. They may be further away now but their presence still unsettles me. My therapist says I can’t expect it to simply disappear so quick, and in the meantime, the best I can do is build upon my identity again. So she asked me – who are you? I paused. My mind went blank for a moment and I said I didn’t know. The last few months and especially weeks have changed me in a way that makes it difficult to recall just how I was before all of this unfolded. She said we could start with my name because I had once told her I liked it, “Jethro. My name is Jethro.” It’s a unique name, she said. What else? She gently nudged me to continue. “I don’t know”. Tell me about your qualities, she said. What kind of person are you? I started off slowly listing the qualities I believed myself to embody. “Kindness. Compassion. Wisdom. Perseverance. Resilience…” the list slowly came out of me, almost as if from nowhere. She nodded encouragingly, affirming each of these attributes. You forgot independent, she said. You’re incredibly self-reliant. I nodded, sadly. I don’t know why but it was almost as if I couldn’t believe any of the things I had just said or heard. This doubt, I thought to myself and still do now – where did it come from? Why…can’t I believe in myself? And…really, just who am I? It’s been difficult, I told her. To reestablish myself, to revert to “normal” ever since the invasion of the intrusive and disturbing thoughts tried to convince me that I was someone other than who I thought I was, and capable of doing things I would never dream of doing. I really felt that it almost destroyed my soul and as a result, had completely thrown me off. Now it’s like I’m walking blind, and I’m incredibly nervous that I’m embarking on the wrong path. I keep telling myself to trust and believe in myself but how do I do that when I can’t firmly establish who I am anymore? And I know I need to in order to fend off the negative that tries to convince me otherwise. My therapist acknowledged this struggle and again redirected my focus to reminding myself of who I am. “I don’t feel the same though. After everything, I feel different.” You can’t expect to, she said. She meant that our circumstances and experiences would undoubtedly change us but that perhaps I could look at it in the light that it has made me stronger. Because if I could overcome this, what couldn’t I overcome? I’m sad. The lack of belief in myself depresses me, especially when I compare myself to the previous confidence I use to have in myself though I try not to because the comparison isn’t fair. That was then, and this is now. She continued…so how do you feel now about your schooling? She asked. Previously, I had wanted to give it up – understandably…I was depressed. The depressive symptoms have improved since I’ve taken the medication though. I told her that I would finish it but that while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like it was my true passion so she prompted me to think about what it was I enjoyed. “Learning about the world”, I told her. “I’m interested in theology. I like anything to do with culture and learning about people’s belief systems.” She nodded for me to continue and asked me what other things I enjoyed doing – she said she knew reading was one of my interests but gently probed me to contemplate what else was. I thought for a time. “Speaking. I like to speak, I like to socialize. I’m always the most confident when I feel my voice is heard. Like when I do a presentation.” Ah! Suddenly an idea came to her, she had heard of this public speaking course that a young client of hers had enrolled himself in to improve his career prospects. She told me that she thought it would be perfect for me. I said I would consider it. She also told me to consider joining a reading club since I loved to read and connect with others so to be able to come together with a group and discuss a book would be ideal for me as well. I mulled the idea over, I did like it – especially the speaking group though it made me feel slightly nervous when she said I could be speaking about anything I wanted in front of a group that could range anything from 20-50 and comprised of university students and working professionals. Anyway, so that’s my task now – to reestablish my identity, my belief, trust, and confidence in myself. It’s a process but I must admit that I’ve come a long way from where I originally was. I won’t deny that I’m afraid. What if I can’t? What if I make the wrong choices? So much doubt. Focus on the light, a thought inside my head pops up. Focus on the light. I wish I wasn’t so introspective sometimes. I feel like occasionally I should just leave my head alone and stop trying to tamper with what goes up in there, but I can’t seem to relax enough to let it be on its own, especially recently so that is still a work in progress. I should be happy, I tell myself, I’ve had a good start to the day but my fear despite me knowing that it’s irrational and simply an illusion, seems to still hold me back. “Everyone has fears. Try not to let that overwhelm you and spread throughout your life” advised my therapist. I took a deep breath. It’s no wonder people throw themselves into work, into relationships, into entertainment, into any obsession that occupies their mind. It’s a scary thing, to be left alone with yourself because then it eventually dawns on you that without all these things…you have no idea who you really are. Of course, it’s totally worse when I’ve intrusive thoughts trying to answer this for me – “You’re a psychopath!” (despite virtually no evidence to support this). I heave another sigh. Fuck off, I say. But then this is why it’s so important for me to figure out just who it is that I am. I’m a child of God, I tell myself but as I’ve said my journey through faith is a recent one and as with any growth, development takes time. I’ve come a long way since I’ve accepted Christ into my life so I suppose the only thing I can do at present is just as I did write up there – focus on the light. I’m not my thoughts. Focus on carrying out positive action. Be proactive. That’s what Father said when I last went to speak with him at the church. But then a negative thought would intrude “But what if its fake? What’s the point if it’s not genuine? What if you’re forcing yourself to be someone you’re not. Maybe deep down, you’re not actually a good person.” I’ve given up arguing with these thoughts, the best I can do is let them be and reaffirm to myself that I’m a good person. Personally, I truly believe (or at least used to with conviction) that people are inherently good. That I am all the qualities I’ve listed, and have always been. Ever since I could remember. This relapse and trigger of pure O has just tried to trick me that this isn’t the case. Sometimes in these cases, I compare even though I know I shouldn’t. Why couldn’t I have something external to deal with instead of something in my head? It’s exhausting to be at war within myself because if I can’t trust myself then who and what can I? I try to come back to my breath. Focus on the light, Jethro. Believe in yourself. Trust in God and remember, He never gives you anything you aren’t capable of overcoming. You may not understand it now, but it’s to grow you and prepare you for something better. This is the internal dialogue I tell myself. Anyway, enough being in the head. Let me focus on something else. Today’s a beautiful day, I should have taken a picture. I’d love to share the beauty of the island I live on. I felt strange today, as if my eyes had been opened and I’ve started to see things in a different light. A slight shift. I noted this as I watched the happenings of all that was going on around me…the people cycling along on their bikes, smiling under the light of the sun and riding back with their baskets filled with goods they’ve picked up from the market as well – flowers, vegetables, etc. etc. I watched as the elderly sat under an enormous old tree in a line of their own with products laid out before them for sale. Jewelry, homegrown vegetables, and household items. There was much happy chatter, the sound the birds chirping in the background, and some pretty dynamic Chinese opera music playing from one of the hawker’s radios. I tried to take it all in then and as I rode back up the hill home. Everyone looked happy today. I tried to allow myself that happiness as well, and to just be. But I felt restrained due to the fear I have just relayed. Don’t be discouraged, I tell myself. Slowly, slowly. Just keep pedaling. So here I am now, just resting on the sofa before I decide to indulge myself in another book on how to live a purposeful God driven life and pray the rosary. I’ve a class to teach in the afternoon so I’ll just take it easy until then. I need more structure in my life, I tell myself. If only I could motivate myself enough to make a schedule and discipline myself to follow it. Slowly, slowly. Trying to be my own coach here, or therapist. That’s the goal of CBT – to help you become your own therapist. I need to remember that while I can be my own enemy that it’s a choice and that I can choose to be my biggest supporter as well. That’s enough for today. Till next time, JT x

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