I know what you’re thinking…that phrase and mental illness should never be uttered together. I wholeheartedly agree. Trust me, I’ve been told several times that my illness is “All in my head” and it took every ounce of self control I had to keep from ripping someone’s head off.
What I’m talking about here is something different that occurred to me on the way home from my doctor’s office the other day. There ARE things in life that are simply and truly “All in our heads” even when we have a mental illness. Let me explain…
A few weeks ago I had an unpleasant visit with my doctor in which I had a difficult time communicating my thoughts and concerns and ultimately I ended up leaving in tears. I was there because I wasn’t doing well — my emotions had been like an extreme roller coaster ride, I couldn’t sleep, concentrate or communicate effectively no matter how hard I tried. When I tried to express this I felt like she did not hear me or care about how upset I was. As we went through all medications I had tried in the past I could tell she was getting frustrated because just about every drug she mentioned I said I’d never take again due to very powerful side effects I suffered in the past. I assumed she thought I was being uncooperative and resistant to her suggestions…which I guess I was because I really didn’t want to start messing with meds again. But after breaking down in tears I finally agreed to increasing the dosage of one medication and accepting two new prescriptions as well because quite frankly by that point I really didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly what I told her. Convinced I was a failure I drove home in tears because I felt like we were back to square one; a place I never thought I’d be in again.
Fast forward three weeks to this past Tuesday when the doctor’s office called to confirm my appointment for Friday. From the moment I hung up the phone my head started spinning a million miles an hour about what would happen in 3 days…Thoughts like: “She’s going to be rude…She’s going to grill me relentlessly about my meds…She’s going to tell me I’m uncooperative…She’s going to insist I see a counselor…She’s going to tell me to suck it up…” and on and on it went.
As the day of my appointment drew near the scenarios I played out in my head became quite elaborate. I actually convinced myself that she was going to inform me that she would no longer work with me. I also envisioned myself yelling at her that I was going to stop medication altogether before storming out of her office. In fact, just writing about it is making me cringe because I know I would never actually do something like that but it didn’t stop me from imagining it.
As I drove to my appointment, I obsessively tried to figure out exactly how the appointment would play out. Having rehearsed every conceivable scenario I arrived at my appointment with my heart racing and head aching. I reluctantly checked in then sat nervously dreading the moment she would summon me into her office.
But guess what? She greeted me with a smile, asked how I was doing and what was going on with the new meds. There was even a hint of compassion in her voice…something I had convinced myself she did not have. When I told her I had stopped one of the new meds because the side effects had been horrible, instead of confirming the fantasy I had played out of her telling me to stop being uncooperative, she simply made a note and tried to figure out how to proceed.
Long story short…NOTHING I had envisioned for the past three weeks happened. No judgement, no yelling and no accusations or lack of concern on her part. My whole body finally relaxed and my mind was completely relieved for the first time in several days.
You would think that throughout this whole fiasco I would have taken my own advice and reminded myself of the words I so often say to others, “God’s got this.” Nope, I was completely stubborn and shut out the voice of my Creator and instead allowed MY voice to take over. It seems so silly in hindsight that I would ever think I knew better than God.
Sure, an illness can affect thoughts and emotions. Part of what I cope with is ruminating thoughts so once an idea is planted it can be very difficult to let it go. But illness or not I’m sure there are times we’ve all needlessly freaked out or driven ourselves to the point of panic because we’ve tried to predict the future causing our thoughts to spin out of control.
I’ll be honest though. That’s precisely what I did this week. I focused only on the negative outcomes and allowed myself to spend a lot of time being upset over things that really were all in my head. I showed up already defeated by situations existing only in my mind.
So what did I learn this week? There are often times I’m my own worst enemy. Sometimes it is appropriate for me to tell myself to stop dwelling because none of it is actually real. All of the fantasies I tend to play out in my mind are a result of trying to predict and control the future. Usually what I’m obsessing over is based on false assumptions or allowing fear and negativity to take over. I need to remember to live in the present and place my future in God’s hands. I could have spared myself from a lot of worrying and anxiety. Starting now I am going to take my own advice and listen to what God has to say about all of this…
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
When fear shows up and I find myself trying to figure it all out I am going to go directly to HIM and ask HIM to take over in order to spare me from myself and the needless worrying I create that really is all in my head.