Stop That Spiral. Stop It Right Now.

There are times when I really feel the growth I’ve achieved in terms of my mental wellness (and overall health). And then there are times when I fall right back into my destructive habits and think, “What the fuck? What happened to all that effort I was putting in?” That can lead to the inevitable, “Oh my god I’m going to be battling anorexia/anxiety/depression/etc. for my whole life it’s never going to stop and I am going to be constantly exhausted and…”

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Cue spiral.

Because one of my primary “thought errors” is catastrophizing, my brain likes spirals. I manipulate myself into thinking that catastrophic projections are the same thing as risk mitigation or “preparing for the worst,” when in reality all they’re good for is making me sick and panic over what (most of the time) turns out to be a little bit of nothing.

I used to pull the “that’s just the way I am because I have anxiety” excuse when I would go into a particularly grim catastrophization because pulling out of a spiral is hard. Blame it on the mental centripetal force of circling the anxiety drain. I totally have a habit of giving into the force and corresponding dizziness because I tell myself I can’t possibly be strong enough to fight another thought error. My brain is obviously too broken.

Keeping with the “getting my shit together” theme of last week’s post, I’m calling bullshit on the bitch in my head who keeps telling me that. If I can talk myself down, multiple times, from an asphyxiating panic attack at my desk, I can get my mind back on a linear track. The power of a thought error can be strong, but fortunately the power I have to stand up for myself is stronger. Even though my sense of self-worth is still incredibly inconsistent, as I’ve worked through all of these major life changes and illnesses, the ability to “save” myself (and sometimes just choose myself) is coming a lot easier.

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The times when I struggle most with my self-worth are usually the times when I’m fighting more with my anorexic bitch. She is so damn mean. Probably the meanest of my Mean Voices because her narrative overlaps a lot with both my anxiety and depression’s. More often than not, I let myself buy into her lies and get stuck, and then I feel bad about letting myself get stuck, which makes me lash out, which makes me feel unworthy of help or healing, which makes me feel more stuck, which makes me feel worse, which makes me lash out, which…

You see where this is going.

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Telling mean mind voices to shut up can feel like a big task, especially since I know Mean Anorexia Voice, Mean Depression Voice, and Mean Anxiety Voice will always live in my head. And they’re probably going to invite friends over. And maybe let someone else move in to save some money on rent. Sometimes, telling them to shut up in the moment feels as monumental as telling them to shut up forever, which my Mean Voices tell me is impossible. It is impossible to say one blanket “shut up” that makes every Mean Voice shut up for all eternity.

But it’s possible to tell Mean Anorexia Voice to shut up when she’s telling me to skip lunch. It’s possible to tell her to shut up when she’s telling me my worth is tied to the way my body takes up space. It’s possible to tell her to shut up when she tells me not to eat a piece of cake because I haven’t “earned it.” Each time she, or Mean Depression Voice, or Mean Anxiety Voice start on their shit, all I have to do is be strong enough to say “shut up” once.

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Catastrophization and anxiety spirals try to pull me out of the present moment and stretch me across the entire space-time continuum. I read somewhere (probably Pinterest…) that anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past. Both keep me from embracing the reality of the present, which makes it a big challenge to fight my tendency to run away into catastrophic “maybe will happen”s. Remembering that my thought errors are illusions trying to distract me helps me regain control and ground myself in the present moment to stop the spiral before it happens.

This is a skill I’m incredibly imperfect at. The good news is that, since I’m a Human Person, I’m imperfect at everything! I used to let my awareness of my humanity send me into a catastrophe spiral that ended at “I’m worthless and horrible at everything and shouldn’t be alive,” but I’m working to stop that spiral so I can land on “I’m doing the best I can in the moment I’m in” instead.

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