Sometimes, things whirl around in my head like a tornado and they don’t land anywhere.
That’s one reason I like to write – I can get the shit out of my head and onto paper, where I can read it over, ponder it, and decide what to do about it. Otherwise, it all just gets sucked into the black hole that is my brain and never leaves.
The fun part of these tornadoes is that they can happen at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. One little thing going wrong or one negative thought can throw me into a tizzy, depending on the day/hour/minute.
TWO CATEGORIES OF USELESS CRAP
Most of what occupies my brain falls into two categories: Old Stuff (aka Things I Can’t Do Anything About) and Things That Haven’t Happened Yet, and, in Fact, May Never Happen.
For instance, one thing that falls into the Old Stuff category is the ten ECT treatments I received in 2005 – thirteen years ago now. I’d always thought that depression had ruined my life; then I had ECT. Now, I say that depression ruined my life, but ECT ruined my future.
True, I’m finally feeling better and am beginning to assemble a new, better life – but it’s taken everything I’ve been through to get to this point.
Cognitively, I am not the same person that I was pre-ECT, and I only just started working a part-time, temporary job a few months ago. It was a success, for sure, and that feels great. But I don’t ever anticipate being able to work full-time again for a multitude of reasons.
The Things That Haven’t Happened Yet compartment includes such things as what maybe, possibly, *could* happen in the future; and controlling other people and the decisions they make.
That’s pretty much everything in life, right? All it leaves is the present moment.
These kinds of things mess me up. That’s why I like to call them Mental Clutter – all they do is take up space and get in the way of my living a peaceful, mindful life.
In the past, they’ve driven me to drink, to drug, and they’ve driven me into depression and psych units. They’ve driven me to be in therapy for probably thirty years (you’re welcome, mental health clinics. I’ve kept you in business for a long time).
PONDERING LIFE v. ACCEPTANCE
Mental Clutter has been the bane of my existence. It invades my brain and stays there, uninvited and rent-free, for waaay too long.
One of the reasons for this is because I’m one of those people who over-thinks everything. Yup. I’m a Thinker. Are you?
I’ve spent so much of my time over the last thirty-plus years trying to figure *everything* out. Why do I feel this way? What happened that made me do this or that? How could my life have been different if I’d done it this way instead? What’s my purpose? Why do I hurt the ones I love? How am I going to go the rest of my life without drinking?? Ad infinitum.
One only needs to look at these questions to see the problem: Most of them don’t have an answer. Or, if they do, it’s a complicated one that will shine its light on me when it damn well pleases.
I have been paralyzed for so long, trying to figure it all out. But, as a very wise friend of mine says, “Figure it out is not one of the steps.”
Life just goes more smoothly and peacefully if I can accept things as they are, as they happen. I learned this many, many moons ago; unfortunately, it’s one of those things you have to keep learning.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you only had to learn how to accept things once, and then you were done with it? You would be one serene person; the world would seem a much calmer place.
But no, it takes practice. Lots of it. Remember – Practice Makes Permanent
HOW TO DEAL
So how do you live with a brain that never stops entertaining worry (“What if…”) and regret (“I wish I hadn’t…”)? That’s a great question, because I know a lot of us have this problem.
And I just happen to have some suggestions.
- Distract yourself. Ruminating never helps anyone.
- Schedule some “worry time” into your day. Spend a designated ten or fifteen minutes stressing out about all the unanswered questions in your life, then Stop It! and go about your day.
- Insert some peaceful, relaxing activities into your day (schedule them if that helps): Yoga, meditation (if you have trouble with this, let me know and I’ll give you some tips. Or maybe I should just write a post about it…?), listening to soothing music, writing, reading, playing sports, coloring, etc. These can all bring your blood pressure down (well, except maybe sports) and keep your stress level manageable.
- Write about what’s cluttering your mind. You can write in a journal, write a poem, write a song or hip-hop beat (it doesn’t have to be perfect), feature it in a “flash fiction” piece (less than 1,000 words), write it a letter, whatever you want. You can even burn it or tear it to shreds when you’re done!
- Another method is to write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a “God box”. (That’s a box [ie, a trinket or shoebox] you have designated to be the place where you put all the crap that flies around in your brain, everything that’s bothering you.) Let it go and let your spiritual guide take care of it. Some people choose instead to make a “Gratitude box” and write down what they’re grateful for each day to stay positive. It’s best to do this in the mornings so you can ponder it throughout the day.
THE LAST WORD
If you’re not careful (or downright vigilant, for some of us), Mental Clutter can take over your life and REALLY make you miserable. That unresolved crap can float around in your brain for years (decades!) if you don’t do something with it.
So, go ahead. Try one of my suggestions, or come up with your own way to deal with it. Feel free to share your method in the comments section so we can all enhance our toolboxes.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Mental Clutter can take over your life, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Keep it in check.
- Overthinking can slow down your progress.
- Ruminating can start pulling you down your own personal rabbit hole. Just say no!
- You don’t have to have all the answers to every question.
- “Figure it out is not one of the steps” to a happy, fulfilling life. If anything, it will overwhelm you and keep you stuck – or worse, start you on a backslide.
- Acceptance is the key. Simple concept, but hard to execute.
- Practice Makes Permanent!
- More clutter = harder to organize. Try to purge your Mental Clutter on a regular, even daily, basis so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
As always, thanks for reading. Comments, questions, suggestions, and complaints are always welcome.
And Keep it Real. 🙂