I was at a conference back at the beginning of March (and oh how the world has changed since then) and one of the things I picked up was a small, gray, brain-shaped stress ball. The idea was to manage stress. It sits on my desk and mostly gives me something to mindlessly fiddle with when I am stuck with writer’s block. And of course, something small like that is inevitably going to become a cat toy.
It seemed an apt analogy for my mind, battling mental illness, sometimes feeling like my mind is being batted around by an outside force, like I have no control over what happens to my mind.
Yet, I do have control. I have control over both the stress ball brain as well as my real brain. I can take it away from the batting about if I so choose. I can settle my mind. I just have to learn management tools, some of which apply to both situations.
- Distract It: Give the cat something else to play with (otherwise I am just being cruel) and redirect my brain, force it to focus on something else.
- Protect It: Put the brain out of the cat’s reach, and protect my brain from the intrusive thoughts of mental illness by practicing mindfulness, confiding in loved ones, going to therapy, taking my meds, and remembering that the dark times will pass.
- Accept It: If you have a cat, you know they are masters at defeating your countermeasures. Sure enough, I will inevitably find my brain batted about, probably on the floor, forgotten after the cat has moved on. So too, the darkness of mental illness will come back, no matter how much I try to manage it. There is no shame in that. I must accept it, engage in self-care, and wait for it to pass. Luckily, Ginny cat is helpful in that regard.
Mental illness is a serious business, but hopefully, by adding a little levity to its darkness (with the help of Ginny of course), I can remind myself and all of you that there is always a silver lining, a bright moment to draw amusement from. For me this week, that something was the cat and the brain.
Happy Friday everyone. Until next time, be well.