A journey from mind prison to mind palace

It’s been a few challenging months. I am not even going to touch right now on what is happening on the political scene. Today’s post is about positivity and healing, not ‘things that will enrage me even more‘.

A month ago I started attending drawing classes. My doctors have advised me to finally go to proper therapy for years, but it was always not suitable for me. I met a therapist that I could work with only once, and back then I had no time and money to pursue therapy with the magnitude it required to be successful. I informed one of my best doctors that I think I am capable of healing myself, but I need the space for it, and a method. Yoga has been already very helpful for me, and other things that I found helpful were playing the piano and drawing.

These things were always available for me, but I was not available for them. I threw myself in such a destructive whirlwind of productivity, that most people would not be able to put up with. I decided I must prove something, that I am worthy and that I am capable, by accomplishing more than I can actually handle. I kept comparing myself to accomplished people, who inspired me, doing all I could to ignore my own reality, of living with few chronic illnesses that impact my daily functioning. The result was that I could sound impressive on paper while in reality I was killing myself, and sabotaging my already strained health for nothing.

Instead of focusing on getting better, and giving myself the space to heal so that I could do more things, I tried to cheat the system, pretending I do not see the growing bill on my health’s account. I was told how amazing it is that I stay so motivated and disciplined, but in reality I was just as out of control as during manic episodes when I would spend ridiculous amount of money on useless crap that I will regret even before the delivery comes. I was purchasing a fleeting sense of accomplishment for far more than I was able to spend.

I never managed to make sense of it, why do I need to do all these things to impress myself. My family? Loves me for who I am. My partner? Would not pick anyone else in the world. My friends? I make them laugh on occasion, and they accept meeting invitations from me, and that is enough of validation for me. People? Not a fan, so I don’t care. Why am I the biggest asshole in my life that requires the impossible? Being my own cold-hearted parent, my own abusive partner, my own evil twin whom affection I need to earn, but I never can.

Those, and many more monsters living in my head, always willing to take my hand and walk me through the path of self-destruction, I never managed to take under control. I have made fantastic progress, and my quality of life is infinitely better than it used to be few years ago, but still my mind is their penthouse where they live rent-free.

One of the hardest decisions for me this year was to finally quit the carousel. My body was not going to take this pace anymore, and I had to face the failure. It was not just the failure in the fact that I had to quit university, it was the sense of failure that I have been trying to get away from since I realized I am sick.

Rationally I know this is absurd. I know it’s not my fault that I got sick, that I should appreciate the fact that I have been taking it under control so well (restrictive diet, having to sleep for 12 hours a day, physiotherapy, being on top of my meds and appointments, etc.), but I can only make myself feel better, I cannot be cured, And there is no end to it unless medicine will advance sometime in my lifetime, so still I feel like a broken unit and it’s ruining my self-esteem. The more I expect from myself the impossible, to prove to myself that I am not broken. As if if I exceed normal human expectations I can pat myself on the back that I am better than the healthy people. It’s all play pretend to avoid the harsh reality.

It sounds extremely stupid now that I put that into words. But alas, emotions make no sense most of the time, and they still control our lives. Every doctor visit, every examination is a reminder that I have failed as a human being. Recently I got a flu shot, and had to have the pre-shot examination, when the doctor started to ask ‘do you have any chronic illness, do you take any medication‘, I wanted to collapse underground from shame, and stay there forever.

The worst are the ‘such a young age, what a shame‘ reactions. Rationally I know this is just empathy, but I feel like they are dooming me a human waste, that they pity me, and I cannot stand it. I can’t stand even just a little sympathy, it only makes me bitter.

So there it was, I quit university, I was both relieved and horrified, I cried for few days and had a fair share of panic attacks. There came a realization that if I don’t throw myself into maximum productivity I will have time to think about things I don’t want to think about, and I will have to face that too. The thought race that began there was so overwhelming I thought I will just be lost in that mess.

I revisited therapy options with my favorite doctor, since now I had no excuse to avoid it. Still, the idea of going through the same thing, repeating conversations about traumas and the past, opening the same wounds over, and over again, I could not bear it. The doctor suggested that maybe I should focus on the art therapy, since I have mentioned that I found it the most helpful. Even this blog is very helpful for me, it started as a form of therapy, and now I feel like I created something that I like.

I have decided to give it a go, and funnily enough that posed another challenge of the same shitty patterns – I almost signed up for the art class for professionals that are applying for the Academy of Fine Arts. I would have traded one mentally imprisoning challenge for another.

It’s shameful to admit just how difficult that was, but I signed up for a class for beginners, and just hobbyists. When it was finally done I was surprised by how relieving that was.

I still struggle with attendance (I have more classes to catch up with than the attended), but now that few classes are already behind me, I am amazed by the results. I must say I am really enjoying this. Not in a hippy happy way, but forcing myself to just sit, and enter the meditative state of mind for an hour or so, and just try my best but without expecting immediate results is very therapeutic.

Especially now that lockdown is keeping me at home at all times, drawing became an escape from home.

I also really like the exercise in going against perfectionism and internal pressure. My school is preaching that talent does not exist, and everyone can be taught to draw, you just need to participate – just sit, and start, even for few minutes a day. It is very relieving for me to allow myself to not be good at something. Especially since I have been said to have great talent, so I used to expect perfection from myself even though it was not earned, I never worked for it. It used to give me internal block, that I should not waste time or supplies for something that will not be perfection, and while talent was there and I could do better than most people who aren’t trained, it was doomed to never be perfect.

Accepting never reaching perfection came hard, but I am getting there, and it is freeing. I am actually getting visible results after those few lessons. I also did one homework (which is crazy considering that I almost never did any homework my entire life, because I could always manage without it anyways), and it amazed me with how much of a difference it made.

I still cannot draw straight lines, I still struggle with not seeing the proper angles, but I am doing better than I have before, and that is enough. One day maybe I will get to reach perfection, but I am glad that these monsters in my head now get to be the prisoners, not the hangmen, and I am enjoying the journey and the freedom in discipline.

Taking control has been always my main cope with life, so I feel lucky that I have found it, and took that first step, in a less productive but more freeing way.

I do a lot of visualization too, when I imagine all those monsters and put them in their respective cages. They are still there, I am always aware of their presence, but I am able to sit there among them and get in the flow, and reach the state of inner peace, the tranquility that is the most natural and right for me.

I am moving to a new apartment soon, and I already cannot wait, because I will live closer to my former piano teacher. I loved the classes, they posed the same challenge as the drawing class, and I am hoping to resume them. I will also finally have the dream kitchen. I am aiming at spend my free time on arts and crafts as much as possible. I also purchased a beautiful diary for 2021, hoping to resume daily journaling.

If you are struggling with similar things, I cannot recommend these steps strongly enough. I hope someone finds this helpful, and will get to see all these positive results for themselves.

3 thoughts on “A journey from mind prison to mind palace

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