Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making Your Brain Do What You Want

One of the problems with mental illness is that your brain does not always act rationally. You may have anxiety and excessively worry about unrealistic events happening, like someone breaking into your house every night. You may be depressed and think there is nothing good in your life. You may be manic and think you are invincible. One of the things we need to do in times like these it to remind ourselves that this thinking is just a glitch in our system, just our minds being irrational because of a chemical imbalance. Sometimes that helps us not act on the irrational thoughts we are having.

Other times you need to outsmart your irrational brain. For instance, I have been having trouble and I keep staying up all night. I do this partially because that's when my mind goes on overdrive and partially because I think if I stay up late I wont have to exercise in the morning because I will be too tired. I know exercise is good for me and I actually love it, but when I am either manic or depressed I don't want to exercise because it's a lot of work and I just want to stay at home. It's true, if I make myself stay up all night I am dizzy, exhausted, and can't even stand up straight at times. It would not be safe to exercise in that state. So, my irrational brain has been winning over the past few weeks creating a situation in which I can't exercise.

Finally yesterday I realized I just had to outsmart my brain. True, I was too tired in the morning to go to the gym, however, I eventually do fall asleep and the gym is open in the evening. I realized I had no excuse not to get to the gym in the evening instead. I just had to tell myself over and over again that I could get to the gym, that I could do this, that I deserved to get better, and so I ended up convincing my brain that going to the gym in the evening would be ok. It would not be too hard or too scary and I would not be too tired.
CrossFit Cleveland

I know this seems really simple to people without mental illness who have no problem adjusting their schedule or doing the right thing to stay healthy. However, for those of us with uncooperative brains, we have to work very hard to continually say "no" to the illness and say "yes" to health.

Another thing that can help if you need to do certain things to stay healthy but in the hard times your brain convinces you they are not needed is to write down how doing these things make you feel. Don't write all the reasons why you should do them because your irrational mind will think of a million other reasons not to do them. Write down how you feel when you sleep enough, when you eat right, when you exercise, or when you take your medication. Then when your mind gives you a million excuses, you can go back and read what the reality is and get a sense of what it will really feel like if you make the right choice.

So, the other day I wrote a poem of sorts as a fun way to remind myself how I feel when I am exercising at CrossFit and why I love it. If you are a CrossFitter, I share it now with you.

Ode To CrossFit

O, CrossFit how I love thee.
Each time we meet, I can't catch my breath and I go weak in the knees.
You inspire me to work harder than I ever thought I could.
You prove that I can jump higher, lift more, and be faster than I imagined was possible.
And you never care that my higher, faster, and stronger is not amazing,
you are just glad that I did my best.

CrossFit, you have shown me that I am stronger than I think I am.

You make me feel invincible, like I can do what I never thought possible.
You are fuel for my mind and hope for my spirit.

While I often curse at your existence because you require so much,

I always feel blessed that we worked together.
You have proven to me that I can always fight and work hard, even when I feel like I can't go on.

CrossFit, you let me know that if I can be fierce in the gym, I can be fierce in life.

Each time we meet, my mind is more clear and you prove that the illness I have been burdened with can be conquered.

One day my toes will touch the bar. One day bipolar disorder will hit the ground.
And so CrossFit, I thank you, for proving that no matter where I am in life physically or mentally, I can still kick ass.

(Sorry for the language at the end, but sometimes you just have to tell it like it is)

I encourage you to write a fun reflection on how it feels when you follow through on a particular thing you need to do to manage your illness. It will make you feel better and be a reminder when you need help.


Rev. Katie

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