Mental Health and the Monkey

Image result for national mental health month

If you have not heard, May is mental health awareness month and after the last few months, I think we can all use spending time thinking about our own mental health.

Although I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental health issue, I have also never seen a professional for a diagnosis. This could have been from avoidance or it could be that I just don’t like doctors, dentists and lawyers. However, I did realize that I was having issues and did what any academic would do — I researched depression, anxiety and other issues along with philosophy, especially the Stoics (although this was more about how to deal with life).

As any medical professional will tell you, this is not a great approach because you will assume that you have whatever diagnosis you are studying. That is why there are so many stories of interns having strange tropical diseases. In my case, I was convinced that I suffered from each of these – depression, anxiety disorder, asocial personality – and a few others that I tripped over in my research. In the end, my self-diagnosis was that I probably suffered from mild PTSD (not all related to my time and service) leading to dysthymia.

But, being the asocial self-reliant type, I chose to ‘cure’ myself by meditation and mindfulness training. After trying lots of apps (this being the 2020s), I started to use Insight Timer to track my moods and provide meditations (it provides options based on your self-reported mood). During one of the meditations, the counselor/coach talked about the monkey mind, the part of your brain that is constantly talking and creating confusion. Think of it as having social media constantly as background. In my case, I added my focus on ‘To Do’ lists, contingencies and all those little things that I want or think I should do (Duty is a big thing for me).

My solution was simple – Tell the monkey to SHUT UP!

And it seems to be working. I am not stressed and have been able to start writing again after not producing anything original (including blog posts) in months. And by that, I mean more than just this post. I’ve started revisions of a novella and a new story in my World War 1 series.

So, take time to identify your own monkey’s voice and learn not to listen.

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