Even though the human brain averages a mere 445 square inches, the mind contained within it encompasses an immeasurable amount of space. You can time travel to the past or future, explore parallel realities (all the “what ifs” we regularly contemplate) and imagine the future. But this mind space is full of black holes.
When you’re full of energy and motion, hurtling through your days by physical and emotional momentum, you can avoid the pull of those black holes (for the most part). But when you hit the skids, whether emotionally or physically, you can find yourself pulled into the gravitational well of those lurking black holes.
Let me give you an example. I’m currently lowering dosages of various drugs that help prevent migraines (aka prophylactics) because of their side effects. As the most recent neurologist I’ve visited (still trying to find a successor to Dr. Nett, headache specialist and doctor par excellence) explained, there are the three basic groups of go-to drugs for migraine prevention.
- Calcium channel blockers, which are commonly prescribed as for high blood pressure
- Antidepressants, also prescribed for depression (yes, I’m stating the obvious), perimenopausal symptoms, ADHD, OCD
- Anticonvulsants, primarily developed for epilepsy and other seizure disorders
All of these interact with the way your brain reads, transmits and builds neurotransmitters, the chemical components that are the equivalent to computer commands. So, as these drugs are going out of my body, I hit all kinds of funky withdrawal effects. (By the way, when it’s a prescription drug, docs tend not to like the term “withdrawal” because of its association with street drugs, but it pretty much amounts to the same thing. The pc term is “discontinuation effects.”) The discontinuation effects can be reoccurences of whatever the drug was supposed to prevent as well as any side effects potentials that were risks of taking the drug to begin with.
The best everyday analogy I can draw is the effect the hormones can have on you. Everyone knows about the nice hand that PMS can deal you.
So after being chronically ill, fairly isolated, and fighting the damn withdrawal symptoms, which have ranged from a day visiting the world of Alzheimer’s (really, I sounded like my grandfather did in the early stages of the disease, asking the same questions several times within an hour), I’ve been emotionally hydroplaning, which feels like this:
So I start drifting into some really old black holes that lurk in various corners of my mind space.
A basic one that keeps grabbing me is the “invisible woman” black hole. This one, like all black holes, is based on something I believe about myself, true or false. Ed Smith, E.Ed., has a ministry based on t he idea that most of our problems stem from lies we believe about ourselves. He says, essentially, that if you were Satan, why bother messing with someone’s head their whole life when you can just plant a few good lies in childhood, a gift that keeps on giving.
Whether you buy into the religious aspect of the theory is irrelevant to whether the underlying premise holds true. I think there’s merit to the principle. As a child, you believe the world revolves around you, and, thus, your actions affect all of your environment, a condition known as “magical thinking.” (Of course, some people never develop past this way of thinking.)
Some of these ideas become embedded into your thought-process to the point you are not aware of them. Cognitive therapy is based, at least in part, that if you identify and articulate these ideas, you can begin to recognize and change your patterns of thought. Meditation and prayer can also help you self-identify the lies you believe about yourself. Once identified, you can use reframing or self-talk to try to recondition yourself. Theophostic Ministries advocates going back to your first memory of believing the lie about yourself, and praying to recognize the truth of the matter (more accurately, asking Jesus to show you the true perspective).
However you get there, the truth is what will set you free. However, for it to do so, you need to begin integrating and internalizing the truth. Sometimes that is as simple as telling yourself the truth every time the lie begins to affect you.
So, for me, a precocious only child who didn’t understand the social rules of my peer group, I experienced a world in which other children didn’t get me, and therefore pretty much ignored me, and adults would be kind and tolerant, but (understandably) only interested in talking to a child for a short period. In my childhood’s mostly adult-centered world, I felt seen and not heard (although my dad called me “Yak-Yak the Monkey,” so obviously I was making noise). Despite the fact that now I’m a very large woman, with, sadly, a very loud but not pretty voice (my entire family has mastered a “turn the volume down” gesture) which learned the trick of making statements sound authoritative, when I’m down, I feel invisible.
The consequence of sliding into the gravitational field of that particular black hole is that I begin to feel like nothing I do or say has any significance or meaning. As the gravitational pull becomes stronger, it sucks out motivation.
How do you escape that pull? Maybe you can do it yourself by identifying the kind of black hole you’re falling into. Often you need help, though. I’m a very fortunate woman. Regardless of the pain and weirdnesses of my discontinuation, I have caring family to pull me out of the gravitational field by telling me how I’m wrong (and giving me help when I can’t make myself ask for it), and helping me reframe the situation so that I can stay motivated.
Moral of the story: When you start feeling sucked into your own black hole, send out an SOS to those who love and support you. It’ll keep you on the path to overcoming whatever obstacles you need to overcome to reach your goals, be they fitness, diet, health, addictions, or fill-in-the-blank-here. And never rule out the possibility of seeking out a health care professional (including mental health care folks).