I have, over the years used many metaphors in order to try to describe or explain my mental illness and the way in which it impacts my life. Some have been dark and sinister by nature and some (I hope) humorous and light hearted.
My favourite way of describing or explaining my frequently struggling mental health is ‘Mini Mental Me’.
For the uninitiated or unfamiliar with ‘Mini Mental Me’ he is the little man who lives in my brain and who is charged with the responsibility of ensuring it’s correct and efficient functioning. But who – for a myriad of reasons – constantly fails at this task – often to varying degrees of spectacular.
One reason his frequent inadequacy at the role which which he is charged is – or so it seems to me – appears to be his addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’.
‘Thought Jenga’ appears to be a game which he plays where he takes all my different thoughts and thought processes (represented above by the different coloured bricks) and instead of organising and stacking them neatly and correctly – as my OCD requires and as any normal mind would – decides to see just how much fun he can have by stacking them all higgledy-piggledy in order to (I can only assume) watch them (and of course my peace of mind and sometimes my life) wobble and shake and subsequently tumble. A past-time which is obviously a a spectator sport egged on by both the internal dialogue and those pesky destructive (seemingly) external voices.
[Of course it is entirely possible that I do not have mental illness at all and it is Mini Mental Me who has mental illness. But don’t tell my psychiatrist that as it would no doubt instantly be recorded on my file as me being delusional in some way LOL.]
So where does Mental Mini Me’s apparent addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’ leave me and what is the prognosis for it’s impact on my life.
Well I guess a lot of that – whilst part of it is of course outside of my control – is down to how I approach it, I think.
So what I have decided to try to do for the rest of this year – the beginning of year already being fairly spectacular in it’s madness and mayhem – is to try to take control of the things that are important and which I can take control of. And I am doing so in full awareness that they will at sometime go awry and will therefore need repairing.
But my thought process (hopefully this one isn’t flawed or foolish) is that the more control I take of things that can and often to wrong, and the more I maintain control of them the less damage that can be done and thus the less repairing required when things inevitably do mess up (Or should that be when I or Mental Mini Me inevitably messes up?)
And to do this I have been identifying weak spots, stressors and areas of need. These are the areas where the most damage is often done and which often cause a downward spiral in my physical or mental health. Of course living alone makes controlling – heck often even recognizing – these glitches all the more difficult.
But I have at least identified the key areas. Which are as follows…
Keeping my home neat, tidy, clean and orderly. My environment has, I have learned, a direct impact on my mental health and one sign that things are not good – either with my mental health or my physical health is a decline in the general good order of my home. And this in turn then adds to the problems. I am determined to try to keep my home a lot cleaner and tidier this year. Not that it is usually that bad but can get quite bad when my physical or mental health declines.
Eating Healthily and Regularly. I tend to forget to eat and I certainly don’t eat regularly or healthily enough. In truth I can not only go hours without even thinking about food, but even a couple of days without thinking about food. Additionally, other factors play into this. Financial difficulties, physical health, memory issues, focus issues, to name but a few.
For example, if I screw up my finances – something I tend to do a lot – I often don’t have enough to buy food, let alone healthy food And this can last for some time as often when I screw up my finances I am left desperately paying all my money to bills instead of buying essential food.
Likewise, if my physical health is bad, and (as regular readers will know) I have a number of physical health issues, I can find myself unable to stand long enough to cook a healthy meal and so resort to microwave meals, take outs or fast food deliveries. Something which I am determined to change this year.
Actively fighting the compulsion to isolate. Whilst isolation or at very least limited socialization appears on face value to be my most comfortable approach and certainly reduces the ammunition available to the negative internal dialogues and paranoid and destruction external voices, it is probably true that it is in the long wrong not healthy for me. So I am going to try to socialize more this year and at very least leave my house more. At the moment, apart from going out for a coffee and a little shopping twice a week with my carer Sinéad (something which only began last year) I tend only go out to church on Sundays, sometimes a bible study once a week, and if necessary essential doctor, hospital or psychiatrist visits (and even them I tend to avoid if possible). Although thanks to Sinéad’s encouraging and efforts I did get out much more last year.
Also being more active (when I am able) will no doubt help with my weight and health.
Having a regular and recognisable routine. This is another area which really helps with my mental health and indeed my physical health. The more I have a routine the better I am. And at times when my mental health starts to slip into a decline or a crash, having and keeping to a routine can delay or slow this decline or even prevent a crash.
Keeping my mind active and healthily focused. This is a big one for me, As often when my mental health suffers (and Mental Mini Me plays ‘Thought Jenga’ my focus, memory and comprehension suffer. Which means even the simplest of things like reading becomes difficult. (Sometimes I can’t even remember the start of the paragraph by the time I am two lines into it. And so writing is therefore even harder and often impossible. Posts which I would normally write fairly speedily can take me numerous hours to complete. And I get frustrated with the situation (and thus myself) and lose interest.
Additionally – as part of the ‘Thought Jenga’ games that Mental Mini Me plays, and the resultant increased internal and external dialogues, I can slip into harmful or unhealthy thought patterns and processes,
But I am convinced that the more I engage in healthy mental activity the less this will happen. At least that’s the theory. (Just as long as I watch for signs of compulsive thought patterns)
Taking my meds regularly. Is another huge one for me. But thank fully there are some improvements on this score. Because I struggle so much with my finances I often forgo buying my meds and pay off my bills instead. Additionally because of my frequent memory and focus issues I have often (actually frequently) forgotten my meds. And then of course there are the fairly common ‘do I really need these’ or ‘can I actually be bothered to take these’ syndromes when it comes to meds, which a lot of us seem to experience.
If I go for a while without remembering to take my meds and am not cognitive of any slipping in my mental or physical health (which of course are often there but I just haven’t seen the signs) I question if I really need them at all. Which of course I do.
And if I am totally honest. To add to all this I simply don’t trust and don’t like the effects of my psychiatric meds.
But, as I said, there have been huge improvements on this score. I am (thanks to the support and encouragement of a couple of dear friends – you know who you are) at least taking my physical health related meds pretty much as I am meant to. And so that is a good sign at least.
Managing my finances properly. Is perhaps the biggest of all of the weak spots, stressors and areas of need. There is a recognisable cycle here. My mental health (or even my physical health) declines and my memory, focus and comprehension decline along with it. I forget to pay bills and spend my money on other things or simply spend it on other people.
What happens next is that either a) I then get angry letters telling me I haven’t paid bills – which alert me to the fact that my mental health has slipped somewhere along the way and I haven’t noticed or b) my mental health improves and I myself realise that I have messed up again. And I then of course, go into a lengthy phase of trying to repair the damage already done.
And this long pattern of financial mismanagement has often taken its toll and often leaves me feeling like a failure and both demoralized and defeated. Which of course then only provides ammunition to those internal and external harmful and negative dialogues. Which then in turn complicate matter further and induce a further decline in my mental health.
And those, amongst a plethora of other stressors, weak spots and areas of need are (I think) the main ones. They can be so destructive, can’t they?
But I am convinced that there is hope – even with Mini Mental Me and his apparent ‘Thought Jenga’ addiction. Not only for me, but for all of us suffering with poor mental health or with mental illness. And yes even those of us who suffer from paranoid or non paranoid schizophrenia or (like me)with schizoaffective disorder.
The fact is that I have seen an improvement in almost every one of the key areas that I have mentioned above. But, of course, the biggest one – my finances – is a huge challenge and the one I seem to struggle with the most.
And of course if I could just cure Mini Mental Me’s Apparent Addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’ life would be soooooo much better.