Last week I set up a challenge where I tried to write about my pretty uninteresting life in a way that was amusing, and if not amusing then at least readable. I was hoping to get my creative juices flowing, but I only made it to Thursday (day 5 of 7) when I found myself in the Blue Prison, that unforgiving place where I’m both the inmate and the guard, stuck in my negative, compulsive thought processes with seemingly no way out. I don’t know when I started calling it the Blue Prison as opposed to my mental illness or something like that, but honestly “mentally ill” feels vague and impersonal and scary. Coining a phrase for the place I descend to gives me a sense of ownership and therefore power.
For me the Blue Prison can be a combination of all sorts of things– anxiety, depression, a bad hangover, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-oh!-having-a-quarter-life-crisis, etc. It always feels like a permanent sentence even though I do eventually break out. I’m coming out of it now, slowly, but it takes a toll on me mentally, physically, emotionally, and creatively. I don’t want to see friends, I can’t keep any commitments, writing becomes incredibly draining, and I spend all day trying to get out of my current situation, no matter what it is. I try to escape the figurative Blue Prison by literally escaping in my life– I run out of coffee shops, flee to my parents’ house then flee back to the city, eat whole boxes of cookies, drink whole bottles of wine. Of course the issue isn’t my physical location, but my mental one, and at 24 I’m only just realizing how to release myself in a healthier way. These are some things I’m doing:
- Socializing with people creatively. Yesterday a friend and I got a group of people together to write. We each came up with a prompt, then put them all into a hat (it was actually a helmet) and chose one randomly to do together. We set a timer and wrote stream-of-conscious style, then shared what we wrote. It was cathartic AF, but also nice to socialize in a way that was creative, since usually writing is a thing I do alone. There was none of the silly small talk that usually comes in group settings and I left feeling like I had genuinely connected with people I didn’t know that well. We’ve made plans to meet once a week and I’m looking forward to a hang out that isn’t centered around alcohol. Speaking of alcohol!
- Cutting back on alcohol. Hangovers reduce me to something about as lovely as a booger and the lack of sleep makes the world seem full of doom. Feeling like shit physically translates to feeling like shit mentally. I’m not 21 anymore people! I can’t have more than two drinks without seriously regretting it, so I’m working on not putting myself in situations where heavy drinking is hard to avoid (which includes not drinking when I’m in a mood where I know I’m trying to escape).
- Finding a therapist that doesn’t suck, which finally happened on Saturday after months of searching. Obviously it’s hard to tell after only one visit, but I just have a good feeling about her and it’s nice to feel like I’m no longer patrolling the Blue Prison alone.
- Meditating. This isn’t a quick fix (do those exist?) but the more I sit on my cushion the more I learn to stay with myself without believing all of my thoughts. So much of the Blue Prison is a voice in my head shouting “Get out! You can’t do this! It won’t get better!” The voice is very persuasive, but in learning to disengage from my thoughts when I meditate, I’m learning to also disengage when a tough mood strikes.
- Swimming. Or anything else that makes you feel ten years old and great about it. As a Pisces, the water is that thing for me so I’m making an effort to get out of the city and into the ocean at least once a week.
I liked this post about loving your dark side. Also if you have your own Blue Prison I’d love to hear what gets you out…