I thought I’d go a little personal in this next blog post series. It’ll be around my quest to understand and improve my mind. That probably makes me sound like a narcissist who likes to sniff my own farts and revel in the smell (which is actually true), but there are also more pertinent reasons for such introspection. The main one being me going a little cray cray (as kids say) when I was but a young whippersnapper. I also hope that somehow such written experiences can be helpful for others.
I’m sure you can tell I have never been the most normal of individuals. Fuck knows if it’s biology, upbringing, or bored demons who’ve smoked too much weed and have nothing better to do. All I know is that the decline in mental health became far more apparent in my teenage years.
One memory from when I was around fourteen or fifteen was that I’d wake up on the weekend, and if my parents weren’t there, I’d check all over the house to see if I had murdered them and chopped up their bodies whilst I “slept”. Yeah, not the most normal of things to do, but I wasn’t the most normal of kids—I idolised serial killers (the cool kind like Hannibal, that is) and communist dictators, not footballers and popstars!
Anyhow, that was the start of some extreme paranoia, and one such fear was that I wasn’t sleeping but blacking out and doing crazy shit. Without going into too much detail, a part of me started to grow and develop empathy, and it’s this part that began to go, what the fuck is wrong with you?! Then, boom, suddenly, my own worst fear is myself and what I fear I’d do to people. At sixteen, this internal conflict became significantly apparent after watching a documentary about a Pakistani serial killer. For whatever reason, I became convinced I might start killing people that night. Of course, that didn’t happen and, instead, I ended up a blubbering mess, locked in the toilet, trying to figure out how I could get psychiatric help. That was the catalyst of what doctors like to term ‘Intrusive Thoughts’, something that is often associated with OCD.
Please think of this disorder like the scene in A Clockwork Orange (or Street Fighter the film, for those poor souls who subjected themselves to that movie), where Alex (Blanka in Street Fighter) was strapped to the chair and forced to watch film after film. From that fateful day, my mind decided to make me watch unwanted projections filled with gore upon gore, all the kind I didn’t want to see. It was the worst kind of violence done to everyone and anyone. I couldn’t escape it as it was there in my head, and it would come at every opportune moment.
The more I became scared of this torture, the stronger and louder it became, and I started to develop the habit of shouting at myself to shut up. There were times it would stop because my focus was on something that I enjoyed or found interesting, but as soon as that stopped, the violent imagery would come roaring back.
Safe to say, my grades plummeted because as soon as I tried to revise, I’d see men, women, and children all being murdered brutally. I’d end up crying and begging for it to stop. I soon found that sleep was a getaway from this inner Hell, and I’d enter the land of nod as much as I could. When I was supposed to be studying, I would be sleeping on the floor instead. I never dreamed during that period of mental deterioration, so this silence was a gift.
There was one particularly bleak moment that I followed with prayers to God to make it all stop in desperation. I’m sure you can guess that I am not religious at all, but those who have such inclinations may choose to believe that there was some intervention, as the eventuality is that my current mental state has become far more resilient than it once was.
I can’t remember how or why, but I identified these torturous thoughts as ‘fear’ after the worst of my mental decline. So, I started developing a mantra that I repeated whenever such a grotesque image barged its way into my mind. I told myself, “it’s just fear,” over and over until eventually I became distracted by something else, and my mind went onto something else. That was the start of me fighting back in a meaningful manner.
The key for me was a focus and not giving it stage, as I was too weak of mind to confront them. It was simple enough, and it helped pretty significantly. I was able to function again. With age (20 years later) and a substantially stronger mind, I can let these thoughts happen and not become phased by them. The bonus to this acceptance is that the intrusive thoughts occur a hell of a lot less, and they tend to come in a different guise (mainly around suicide these days). I also view them with curiosity and see the images as symbolic means of communication from my subconscious. My fear and repression of these thoughts and feelings mutated them into becoming something far worse than they should have been.
Although, I like to think I have beaten such issues. I can’t say that I fully have. I am a lot better, but there are odd days when I struggle, and such intrusive thoughts try to come back, albeit in a different form. There are, of course, reasons why my mental health has become far more resilient, and I’ve had to work hard to achieve this (e.g. at least one hour meditation a day, I’ve cut down loads on my drugs and drink, exercise regularly, eat healthy, yoga, basically a load of boring stuff so I don’t lose my shit). I’ll go through them in a different post.
Unfortunately, I’d like to say my mental health issues were just around those intrusive thoughts, but such disorder had others at ringside ready to be tagged in as well. I’ll talk about them in subsequent posts.
Oh, a slight disclaimer. I, of course, understand so many more people have had it worse than me and have struggled far more (I’ve worked in Adult Mental Health and with the homeless before, so I do know how much more challenging it can get), so I hope this expression does not come across as too self-indulgent.