I’ve often thought about the phrase, “the mind works in mysterious ways.” I’ve heard it since I was a kid, and it’s been offered up for everything under the sun as an explanation for why people do the things they do. Since I’m naturally curious, those types of answers have never been satisfying to me. Mostly, this phrase felt like a catch-all to use when people didn’t feel like pondering why something was the way it was, even if they couldn’t figure out a reason why. Our minds certainly work in mysterious ways, and there’s one specific way I’d like to investigate today.
Using metaphors for mental health is a common way for people to share what they’re experiencing with someone who doesn’t share their mindset or specific mental health challenges. Most times, it can be very effective in helping people understand what you’re experiencing, which can often help people build healthier relationships and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
But to be honest, some symptoms of my mental illness feel…impossible to conceive metaphors for. Certain descriptions I make end by saying that it’s like a certain thing, “but times a million.” I can’t always explain just how hard my head hurts when I have a stress headache, or how my limbs really do feel like they’re glued to the floor when I’m depressed. Which brings me to what I like to call anxious thinking.
Anxious thinking, which is a phrase I came up with myself, is when you try to problem-solve or figure something out while experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Just imagine that when you’re in a moment of experiencing some anxiety – your mind is racing or you begin to breathe a little faster – and someone asks you a question.
This could be a simple question or a complicated one, but if you’re already experiencing anxiety, the difficulty level is irrelevant. The fact that something is new is being brought into the fold is when anxious thinking sets in, because you have to simultaneously respond to the person while controlling the physical symptoms of anxiety.
A basic metaphor for this would be that my brain is like a rope in tug of way in this moment, pulling me in two different directions, and I feel like the flag. But as I said earlier, that’s just a basic metaphor for an experience that has (and does) stop me in my tracks, unable to think or make my next move.
Something that comforts me about my mental health is that when I’m experiencing trouble with my wellness, I can try and manage the issue immediately. But I have less control over when other people have a question or need me for something. Then, I have to try as best as I can to slow down my anxious brain and focus on the task at hand. I hope one day I improve how I handle these interactions but for now, I’m just trying to make it through the game of tug-of-war going on in my hear.
Do you find it difficult to make decisions or choices when you’re feeling anxious? How do you help make that situation easier to manage? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to learn some new tips!