Malleable

Yesterday had an interesting moment for me.

I was not pleased about my reaction to working retail. I’ve worked retail before and I do know how mentally and emotionally crushing I found it, but this is not a good time for turning up my nose at available employment and I was almost as unhappy about being plunged back into depression as I was about the prospect of working retail.

It felt like for a month I’d managed to turn my back on the abyss and take some slow steps away from it, only to find out there was no way forward and the only way to move anywhere was to crawl onto a ledge IN the abyss. (Forgive me, I’m a writer with a melodramatic imagination, this kind of imagery is just how I think.)

I managed to attempt what my therapist had suggested and what I’d been working on for the last month. Ask myself what I was feeling, and ask myself what I wanted. My exasperated response to my question was that I didn’t want to feel this way. And the only way I can describe what occurred was as if there had been a record skip in my brain where it suddenly jumped from one groove to another. I stopped feeling that way.

Not entirely, of course – I’m justifiably upset at the current circumstances of my life and how people in it are behaving and the choices I’m making based on those circumstances. But the severe depression was just – gone.

Maybe it’s a sign my work is paying off and I really am restoring old positive connections and building new ones that will allow my brain to bypass the formerly established patterns of depression & anxiety.

And all of this would sound like some kind of positive thinking woo if not for what I’ve been reading about studies done on the brain. Not that you can transform your life and fix your circumstances with the power of positive thinking, but that you can alter established thought patterns and form new ones. The brain is malleable.

I was kind of staggered, though, at the idea that I could possibly be making this much progress on mental health this quickly. How? I’ve known a lot of people that suffer from mental health issues and even when they’re working hard to stay on top of their symptoms it doesn’t seem like they manage to advance in recovery the way I have in the last year and a half. My circumstances are objectively awful. But I’m still making progress. How?

My running theory is that I’ve just got a natural advantage – a quirk of my nature. My brain has always been open minded and positive about change – finding change exciting, while repetition and sameness feel like stifling stagnation. I’m also really good at learning – it’s one of my primary strengths. So it may just be that my brain is receptive to change in a way that many aren’t.

Whatever the underlying mechanism may be, I’m grateful.

I was reading through a Reddit thread yesterday and was rather dismayed to realize how many people think anxiety and depression are personality traits. It makes me think one reason people don’t seek treatment or make necessary changes is because they don’t realize the depression and anxiety are overshadowing and suppressing their actual personality, they think that’s just who they are.

I’m glad I haven’t lost myself that way.

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