In my last post I made a commitment to review a number of books that over the years have helped me overcome a variety of mental health problems. At the simplest level, I would posit that my poor mental health has been caused by distortions in my thinking and that I have slowly gone about correcting these distortions by reading and thereby retraining myself to think differently. The problem is (and I wish I had more problems like this) is that I have been very successful. I no longer think the way I used to. I am not claiming to be wholly healed or ‘fixed’ but I am definitely a lot closer to a healthy mental balance than ever before.
To give an example, I used to suffer from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. I could not leave the house for long periods of time, I was afraid of people in general (assuming that they were having hostile thoughts towards me). I had a problem with stairs, escalators and lifts (you can see that that caused a bit of a problem). I was really a wreck during this period of my life and it was the main reason for the breakdown of a very good relationship (he eventually told me that he dreaded coming home to me). The end of that relationship was possibly a catalyst for my recovery to some extent, it was a rock bottom that shocked me into re-thinking my attitude. I had to get better. I had to find the strength from somewhere. After a month of hiding under the duvet in my old room at my parents’ house I gave myself a kick up the arse and started going out into the world.
Now, it wasn't easy. I very distinctly remember narrowly avoiding a huge meltdown in a clothes shop when a song was played on the radio that triggered me. Often all I wanted to do was run home to Mum and I didn't even live with her any more But one thing was different – I was determined. I was not going to give in to all these neuroses any longer. I wasn't going to let it beat me. It was during this time that I started buying self-help and psychology books, so I could learn a different way of thinking. And it worked. When I look back at myself then (about fifteen years ago) I see an almost completely different person. I have truly changed myself. And I didn't just do it then, I have continued to change myself for the better ever since. I am a very different person now to the one I was just a year ago. And this isn't just about how I feel inside, it’s reflected in the friendships I have and in my relationship. A great deal healthier, stable and more rewarding than ever before.
I still experience a certain kind of anxiety which for me is the most deeply rooted, and that is due to issues with attachment and fear of abandonment but I am working on that, dealing with it better than ever and I am confident it too will fade eventually along with the old anxieties. I no longer have any social anxiety, I can happily walk through crowded shopping centres and sit on overflowing trains without giving it a second thought.
So, back to my problem. When it comes to writing this blog I am faced with the task of separating out my new, self-taught ways of thinking from the old me, the way I was before I started this journey. What I have learned along the way has become so integrated into my way of thinking that it is utterly unconscious. It is just who I am now. And if I can do that, anyone else can. I'm still going to be working on those book reviews for you, but I thought a little warning about how successful they can be might only be fair.