Mar 15 by Adam ThorpI’ve struggled with my mental health since I can remember. Sometimes it feels like anxiety takes my consciousness and runs away with it. My brain gets stuck spinning the same record over and over again. Some days “what if’s” and “maybe’s” consume me to the point that I can’t function. Simple responsibilities overwhelm me and before I know it I find myself questioning my self worth. I get frustrated with myself and feel like I’m not good enough. I feel like I should be doing better or I should be more successful or at least more functional on a basic level.
In some moments it seems so far out of my control that I end up feeling hopeless - and that is absolutely no way to live.
Negative thought patterns are an easy trap to fall into. I like to think about them as an old toxic relationship. They’re familiar and comfortable, and at least you have some company to get you through the night, but in the morning you end up feeling even more empty than before. Trying to rewire your brain is like throwing yourself in the deep end of a pool when you’ve never been taught how to swim. It’s terrifying and I’ve felt like I’ve had to fight for my life at some points - forcing myself to keep breathing even when I swore my lungs were filling up with water.
There are a lot of things you can do to help keep your head above the waves while you’re learning to swim though.
I take meds and go to therapy regularly. I try eat well and get enough sleep most nights. I talk about what I’m going through with people I trust and spend a lot of time writing and reflecting on myself and my thoughts. I am on an endless quest to understand why I am the way I am, because I believe empathy comes from understanding. All of these things are helpful and obviously important in their own rights, but I’ve started doing something recently that is so beyond simple I never thought it would or could ever work - but it really does.
I started keeping a gratitude journal.
(Cue dramatic eye roll)
Stay with me.
Next to my bed I have a tiny book with lined pages and the phrase “Today I am grateful for…” written at the top of each page. Every day I write the date and take some time to really think and reflect on what I am grateful for. Some days I can think of 10 things to say, other days it takes me 10 minutes to think of one thing to say. But no matter what it is I’m grateful for or how many blessings I am able to count, I write them all out. I write them out and look at the page and take a moment to absorb the words. I give myself reasons to get out of bed. I give myself reasons to keep going despite the water in my lungs. I take my hand and forcibly turn my face to the sun, because I know how dark it can get in my head if I don’t. The grass is greener where you water it, so I try water the flowers.
Redefining new thought patterns and making better neural pathways for your mind to wander down is hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do if I’m honest, but it is so worth it - especially when the new pathways are healthy and beautiful and filled with the flowers you deserve. Keeping a gratitude journal may seem useless and insignificant, I definitely thought it was... But it helps me keep my head above water some days, and I wanted to share my simple discovery in case it might help you too.
The road is long and sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed and carry on, but if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that there is always something to be grateful for.