Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Better: My Mental Health

I haven't been slacking I swear; my two jobs have been eating up my time. This past weekend has almost literally been a cycle of wake up, work, sleep afterwards, and then wake to work again. However, I did give notice at one of my jobs since I don't think I can perform well at it anymore -- it's mid-scale, and mentally I'm developing a stronger and stronger dedication to fine dining. I proved to myself that I can handle two jobs, and I perhaps still want two jobs, but I think it's high time I exit mid-scale dining. It's just not within my culinary goals. For whatever time I reside in one job, however, I can focus on thinking about where I want to go from here, and get some reading/studying/thinking done.

Anyhow, since I've been working so much I don't feel very prepared to write a good article, so instead I commentate on my mental health. It may appear a bolt from the blue statement, but keep in mind that my primary new years' resolution this year is to heal all the emotional problems I've suffered throughout my life, that not only have eroded my well-being but have also made me engage in self-sabotage all throughout my life. This year is titled, after all, "The Year of Self-Mastery."

Lately my progress has been astounding. Positively astounding. I'm still short of the mark of reaching a contented state, but my overall negativity has plummeted. I have virtually no moodswings, as was typical of my likely bipolar disorder. I am less and less likely to respond with negative thoughts to stressful situations. My relationship with people has vastly improved since I learned not to immerse myself in emotion. I feel less guilt and shame. Overall, my progress has been surprising. Just surprising.

I'm well on the way to becoming a fully healthy human-being, I think. The work will never truly be over, I've understood, as many of the methods I've identified require lifelong maintenance in order to sustain my health. I wager no complaints, given the benefits.

Yes, I still need to write up that big gigantic post about all the methods I've learned about, and their worth, and procrastinate on it I shall continue. Its time will come. Don't worry. Instead, I'll recap, with some additions, the most important things I've learned that helped me out the most:

1.) Don't just focus on the psychological or physiological. Combine both: I think people two often emphasize one side in imbalance to the other, which might end up in frustration and dead ends. True, ideas are indeed what's ultimately drives your emotions -- being a psychological aspect -- but let us not overlook that the thoughts we have and the actions we perform do have an impact on the physiological makeup of our brains. Sure, a health problem could cause a chemical imbalance inside the brain . . . but bad thinking can too. And on the other side of the spectrum some people may emphasize the physiological aspect, ignoring the roots of their thoughts. It won't do you any good to take Prozac if you're still carrying around the ideas and taking the actions that are doing the emotional damage in the first place.

Combine both. In searching both sides of the equation, a very broad set of methodology becomes available, which will optimize your chances of success since psychologically you'll be able to address the roots of your problems and also engage in physiological means as a form of aid.

For instance, let's take a fictional anger issue. Imagine there exists a person who has trouble keeping himself from expressing his rage at people. Sooner or later he identifies his problem to doing inaccurate thinking, such as doing "mind-reading" by looking at people's faces or overgeneralizing a person's actions, such as by taking one irritating act they commit on seldom occasion and saying that he "does it all the time." By making this identification he can nip the inaccurate thinking in the bud when it should arise, but, to help him in periods of rage, he can also engage physical methods such as using aromatherapy to calm himself down during his highest-energy moments, which will then allow him to think clearly.

I myself have a wonderful perfumery nearby that sells essential oils. I bought some for cologne purposes, but I found that sniffing the vials often worked wonders to soften me up, and have done well for my anger, I think.

2.) Watch the Vegeta Mistake: It's a really weird and nerdy name for the phenomenon described, but one that has helped me immensely in my relationships. In short, the Vegeta Mistake is the premise that allowing yourself to act upon your emotions will get you what you want because you "feel" it. I use Vegeta from the Dragon Ball Z series at the embodying character because he had a fierce temper, and, given the nature of the series, losing his temper would make him literally generate lighting, gale-force winds, earthquakes, and so on.

When we feel a strong emotion, we are likely to feel like taking a particular course of action as bundled with it, and will often feel like engaging in that course of action will cause other people to react to you in a way that will satisfy the emotion. For instance, when angered you might feel like yelling, and you might feel that yelling will get people to understand what's upsetting you and to be motivated into correcting what's wrong. Or when you're depressed you might feel like withdrawing into a shell social-wise, in the hopes that your displayed misery will motivate people to push through your negativity to reach out to you.

But it doesn't work that way. People who yell lose respect. People who mope for attention lose friends. Just because you feel like acting on a whim will get you what you want doesn't mean that's true.

It's hard, but in times of intense emotion, in order to actually get what you want, you'll have to fight with and control yourself. If you're angry, you must restrain that urge to yell, and in doing so you're more likely to get people to listen to you. If you're depressed you must overcome that urge to mope or to withdraw, and to yourself reach out to people and socialize so that you can feel the value of being valued.

In short, during intense emotions we might feel that acting on our whims will get other people to satisfy your emotional needs, but truly you need to resist the temptation and work against your urges if you want people to engage with you.

This applies to me in both the cases of anger and depression. When I got angry I allowed myself to get very hostile, and during times of depression I would withdraw in the hopes that people would come to cheer me up, but I never found satisfaction that way. By identifying the Vegeta Mistake I began to find satisfaction in learning to control my emotions, no matter how hard, which lead to the solidifying of my relationships, making me actually enjoy the value of other people.

It's tough, but don't be Vegeta.

3.) Satisfy all your mind essentials: For me, in order to be mentally satisfied I must engage in thinking, reading, and intellectual production of some kind. If I don't then I get very antsy and dissatisfied, often restless and depressed. When I first moved to Dallas I felt very dissatisfied until I had gotten a library card.

This may apply in different ways to different people, but what this amounts to in practice for me is regular writing, regular reading, and "rubberducking." I write on my blog and Facebook to satisfy my commentary needs, and keep a handwritten introspection journal reflect on my character and also do "thought records" as defined in Mind Over Mood. Because I like to learn and be intellectually engaged I try to read a lot, though lately I've been reading lots of Case Closed manga. Lastly, I "rubberduck," which is the practice of talking to an inanimate object for the purpose of vocally introspecting, which not only helps me think but also helps satisfy me emotionally in a special way that no other method can achieve.

All three combined together leave me nice and steady. Falter on one and the pressure builds up. These, as I motioned towards in the beginning of the article, are the practices I'll probably have to engage in lifelong to forever reap their benefits.

* * * * *

There's more, especially some more concretes on the whole physiological spectrum, but these are the most important actions I've taken. They've been of immeasurable help so far, and will play a vital and large role in my ultimate healing. . . which is coming along beautifully.

However much you suffer, don't give up on your life. Driving through the pain to come out in happiness at the other end is well worth it.

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