Depression, Anxiety, Trauma and the Brain
What are these invaders, what is the impact and why should we care?
I heard it all the time...“It is just in your head!”
I was in an abusive relationship and when we would have an “incident” and I had a reaction - that was the standard response. Not pleasant or true but it became an ingrained part of my daily self-talk. “It is all in my head” lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and image - which further caused me to entrench and invest myself in this toxic relationship.
I became lost, no longer an individual but was identified as an extension of this person. It took seventeen years and him leaving the relationship to set a path of healing in motion that would last a multitude of years. While it would be easy for me to play victim, at this point of my narrative, that would be wrong. I allowed myself to be placed in this role and become this miserable person because of my internal dialog.
“I’m not good enough.”
“I deserve this treatment.”
“This is what my decisions have caused, I just better learn to live with it.”
What followed would be a contentious divorce, therapy with several professionals, a lot of self-help books, podcasts, seminars and prayer that I finally realized that I wasn’t damaged, a failure, or worthless. I was depressed and anxious because of the wiring of my brain that had taken place over an extended period of time. I needed to stop with the negative self-talk that perpetuated the negative feelings I had about myself. I’m not going to tell you that I don’t have bad days (now) and that all negative self-talk has disappeared...BUT little by little, day by day, it gets better with tools and dedicated work.
When I use the word “work”, I mean taking the time, opportunity and putting in the effort to make changes within and around myself. What we have learned in recent years is that the brain is plastic. No, that doesn’t mean your brain turns into a hard piece of matter but rather, as an electrical and chemical organ, it can change based much like the shape of a muscle, it will be wired and communicate with itself on what experiences, conscious thoughts and exercises it is exposed to. If it has been wired to react to negative events with fear-based reactions that last well after the perceived threat has passed, then that fear response will become the standard whether there is actually something tangible to react to. The same can be said for feelings of peace and calm when presented with difficulties, because you have conditioned your brain (over a period of time) to react/behave a certain way, that becomes your “normal”.
While I won’t get into details in this blog, I wanted to share some of my own life experiences for those students and clients I have worked with over the years that have struggled in similar circumstances - who have either disclosed it to me or suffered in silence. When something or a reaction is not relatable or we have no frame of reference, it is easy to dismiss it as an irrational reaction or make the excuse that the person is crazy and they are either irrational or “that it is all in their head”. Well, I’m here to tell you, the reaction someone has to difficult situations, hormones, trauma, etc. is very real biologically and emotionally, particularly to them and the people surrounding them. Think of it this way, your brain (the largest organ in your body) runs the entire ship. If something is off with the captain, the ship will not steer or maneuver the environment and your reality well. You can find yourself just circling day after day with no course, unable to move past the negative, tired, unmotivated feelings that come with it.
While reality is a personal creation (we each experience the environment around us differently), what we surround ourselves with can be shared. Toxic breeds toxic, positive breeds positive. For some, self-cutting becomes the release. It is a way for the person to redirect their attention and release internal pain, frustration and self-loathing to an external source by creating an injury. To create a wound, there is a release of energy. That energy has been repressed for a number of reasons but regardless of the reason, it needs an outlet.
For others, the outlet is self-medication in the forms of alcohol and/or drugs or other addictions such as gambling and shopping. While there are a number of ways to create an unhealthy outlet to suppress the hurt and pain, this doesn’t have to be the path of least resistance. You, my friend, have the power of release through your words...whether spoken or written, your words can set you free. Take a piece of paper or open your journal and write. Get it all down on paper. Then I suggest that you take one of two options. The first option, take the written thoughts and burn them, tear them up, flush them and send them out into the universe, away from you. This exercise is to remove the power of the situation, the hurt, the anger from your brain, your body, your-self speech and destroys it. The second option take those words and put them to music. Write a song that will express what you went through or going through that will remind you of what a warrior you are. This, too, is therapeutic. While your words are expressing the trauma, you are disassociating the emotional power they have (had) over you.
Not a writer, pick up that iPad/tablet or phone and voice record your thoughts. Then, the suggestion would be to listen to the recording once and then delete it or again, use your words to create a song of your journey.
In the coming month or two, I am considering a workshop for those that want to take those words and learn more about journaling, shifting one’s mindset through music composition and the therapeutic benefits to setting their words to music, If you are interested, please send us an email to Info@GarrettMusicAcademy.com. I know quite a few people that feel helpless, depressed, anxious, worthless or just plain tired and they still do their best each day to put on a brave face...just know that I know. I’m here for you and love you!