I wake up and I am full of joy. Nothing has happened to justify it or explain it and my mother has just died so it’s probably not a genuine feeling. It’s just nonsense generated by my broken brain. So I push it away and I disregard it. I ignore this feeling of joy and try to not let it colour everything else in my mind. I’ll probably fail.
I walk to the park to run and my head is full of relentless negative thoughts. I can entirely understand why people used to, and some still do, talk about mad people being possessed by demons. These thoughts are so strong and overwhelming that they overwrite everything else. But they are just more nonsense generated by my broken brain. I disregard them. Try to remember the psychotherapy: how to dismiss thoughts without engaging with them; let them come as go like trains in a train station but don’t get on board.
I sit on my sofa staring at the wasps battering against the inside of the window. I know I’m stressed and when I’m stressed then my broken brain sometimes generates pictures, sounds, tastes, smells and sensations that aren’t based in the reality that other people have. So I tell myself that the wasps aren’t real, that they will go soon. Disregard. Ignore the feelings of panic that come with these pictures and ignore the thoughts of “sometimes they are actually real and these look really fucking real this time”. Disregard, disregard, disregard.
If so many of my feelings and so many of my thoughts and so many of my perceptions of the world are false, just generated by my illness, then what exactly is left that is me? How can I tell what is me now? Before my illness got so severe, this never really occurred to me. I just accepted that I had all my normal, genuine experiences and then these extra experiences of illness on top. I didn’t feel like I was missing out and I think I thought I was getting more than my fair share of experiences. But now, I spend so much time sorting through this junk. It’s a constant untangling and straightening out. A constant observation, assessment and interjection of (my attempt at) reasoning.
It reminds me of being a little girl coming in from playing outside in wind and my mother detangling my long hair. It hurts and takes so long. Should have worn a hat.
Sometimes I have genuine feelings, thoughts or experiences, whatever genuine or real means, that I initially automatically dump in the category of ‘illness’. I saw a vivid and splendid sunset on holiday and my first thought was “oh no, I didn’t realise I was getting high but these colours are just too beautiful to be real…” until other people starting commenting that they saw the same. How many real experiences am I disregarding and dismissing as nonsense generated by my broken brain? And how much nonsense am I accepting as true that is actually not? This dichotomy of real/unreal, genuine/fake and well/ill isn’t clear cut even if I could reliably tell the difference. This morning I woke up with a feeling of dread which I think it partly due to my low mood but is also partly due to the fact that I am going to have to talk about something very painful today. It’s both.
I disregard so much and maybe that way of thinking, of organising my thoughts about my life, is adaptive and functional most of the time but it certainly doesn’t make me happy. Maybe a broken brain with so much junk and nonsense can’t generate happiness; it’s too busy generating dread and wasps. Maybe that thought is self-pitying nonsense generated… Disregard, disregard, disregard.
This to me is one of the core differences between mad people and non-mad people. We have had to question and doubt things intrinsic to our very selves that non-mad people have the luxury of just assuming are real and genuine. I think it changes us. It’s definitely painful a lot of the time. Frustrating too. Am I supposed to now say that this greater awareness is all worth it? No fucking way, the pain from all these feelings, thoughts and hallucinations is definitely real even if their source is not.