I’m not entirely convinced that ‘working out’ has the right connotation. It’s a fairly positive term, indicating a deliberate choice to develop something through to resolution, that is to say, a successful outcome.
Working out does, of course, have other meanings. In this modern age it is perhaps most often used as an exercise term. It’s about putting yourself through some routine that challenges you perhaps, but certainly develops you. There will be effort and strain and the results may not always be tangible, at least not immediately. I can see how this compares with my psychological health situation. Perhaps ‘working out’ is an apt expression for what I am going through mentally after all. The routine may not be as well-defined, moving from one exercise or piece of equipment to another, but my mind does journey from one problem or issue to another, linking them, building ideas, trying to find (hopefully) even a resolution to a situation. I also hope to come out the other side as a better, stronger, healthier person.
There is a key downside to this physical comparison. I am a notoriously slow learner when it comes to motion memory. The steps don’t sink easily into my grey cells and they definitely aren’t keen on staying there. Learning to knit is a case in point. I have laboured for many years to get to a point where just the basic skills come naturally, inherently to my fingers and my brain.
So it is psychologically. I find myself dealing with the same problems and issues time after time. Sometimes I haven’t learned what I need to do or say, sometimes I forget what I decided was the best course of action as emotions and misguided principles sway me yet again, sometimes life sweeps away the best of intentions or knocks you down with some other crisis or other.
This brings me to another use of the term. Long again when maths was a compulsory part of my life not just an accidental hazard when cooking, shopping or knitting, I was often required to provide my ‘working out’. I’ve never been good at this. I often go straight from beginning to end in one move, somehow instinctually, relying on gut more than rational thought or science. This doesn’t impress teachers and examiners; they want you to prove how you got to your end and why. Sometimes in psychological health, you have to slow the journey down, however painful, and break it into steps. One step at a time, leaving a clear trail of working out behind you, evidence that can be used again in the future, maybe even as protection.
As you may have by now guessed, I have been struggling with my psychological health. (I really don’t like the expression ‘mental’, I don’t like the added connotations). It’s funny how as my physical health improves so my psychological health declines. The reason is simple, I have more energy. More energy to fret, to worry, to grieve, to pain. And I don’t necessarily get much choice in the matter. The nights are full of flashbacks and nightmares and the days are spent moping around feeling miserable and lethargic.
Even after all this time, I still debate which is the worst state: lacking the actual energy to do anything or lacking the motivation (despite probably having the energy) to do anything. I don’t know. Both are paralysing, frustrating, laden with guilt. I don’t like either in my life, there is so much more I could be doing and, more importantly, enjoying.
There’s been a lot of ‘stuff’, as usual, going on this year which I haven’t had the energy to process so when the energy started returning all those issues came flooding in. My anxiety levels haven’t been brilliant throughout the year but increased energy takes it to new heights. I’m fighting a lot of old phobias and problems that I have for the most part kept successfully under wrap for the last decade. It’s a little bit terrifying to be dealing with them all over again. As well as frustrating. And shameful. I expect better of myself, I want more control. I need more control. This isn’t a pleasant ride.
So while my head sorts itself out (relatively, of course), I haven’t really been writing here. My head is too full, too busy, too distracted, too overwhelmed. I’ve had to work through some things, old and new, working out what is real and not real, what is true and not true. I’ve been trying to find my feet and my place in the world again.
It can be easy to sometimes sweep the horrible, painful, messy debris under the metaphorical carpet but the pieces are still there and the heap just gets bigger. I bury things, it’s not something I advocate, in fact I tell everyone else that they need to talk, that they must talk. Maybe there’s a touch of the hypocrite in me. I tell other people that it’s important to show your feelings and discuss things whilst I keep quiet about the things affecting me and cover up my emotions as much as possible. Perhaps on some level it is easier. However, life unfortunately has also taught me that is what people want from me, what is expected. I try to deliver but the mountain under the carpet sometimes gets a little too noticeable.
So what do I need to do? Figuratively, I need to sit down and clean up the mess. I’ve been going through all sorts of stuff, old and new (it’s amazing what you can find under there) and I’ve asked to go and see someone about it too. That’s a big step. A very scary big step. And honestly when all they can promise me is twelve sessions then I wonder if it’s worth it.
But at least it’s encouraged me to return to my old therapy of writing things down. Of exploring and discussing things in writing. I haven’t been able to write like that for a very long time; a few years ago someone took my book off me and decided to take umbrage. It was just as well that the whole thing was a statement of fact and didn’t have a tad of opinion but I guess some people don’t take kindly to the truth, especially not in ink. It hurt and did a lot of damage. It’s taken a good few years to build the courage back up to virtually even hold the pen over the page. But now I have returned, it was the ‘therapy’ that kept me going through quite a few dark patches in my teens and it’s been very hard to deal with the last few years without it. I need to write. It allows me to make sense of the world. However, not being able to write in my own private space also prompted me to take up this blogging adventure, whether that’s a good thing or not I’ll leave you poor readers to decide.
I’m using something online to measure my moods. The pedant in me questions the accuracy of it and well, asking someone whether they feel hostile is always going to provoke hostility. It has been interesting though to use it to chart my ups and downs (especially as I thought my mood was fairly static but apparently not) and since I started writing it all out there’s been a definite mood improvement. This is even more significant as I’ve just run out of that all-important medicine which I have been heavily relying on the last few weeks, especially when it comes to the anxiety (which it’s been barely touching), there was even days when I was taking double doses (I’m sure that the new GP will have something to say about that).
Writing helps me. It’s a space for discussion, to turn things around and see them from different perspectives. I can drag a statement from my messed up head then question it, each question prompting more meditation which brings me clarity and sometimes even resolution. Sometimes it’s simply about getting the words, the ideas, the problems out of my head and onto a page, beyond me, free from me, leaving them there in the twisted loops of ink. I can challenge myself and provide the working out. I can move on but I can also choose to come back. Writing like this has always felt liberating. It makes me and my head lighter and clearer.
Maybe I am working things out after all.
Oh, and although I like writing, I don’t like carpet. Never have. It collects too much dust and bugs and rubbish. Metaphorically and figuratively. Can you get mental laminate?