Intentional Distractions

distraction-road-access-consciousness-blog

(Picture from the Access Consciousness Blog)

There was one thing I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog about dealing with depression (and anxiety, when that’s cropped up): trying to redirect or rechannel my bad thoughts into better ones. Or put more accurately, distracting myself.

Since resuming the spiritual explorations a few weeks ago, and getting myself back onto what I know is the right path, the black pits at night – usually the middle of the night – have been blessedly rare. By rare I mean that I had two in one week a couple of weeks ago…but before August, two a week every week would have been normal. I still have depressive thoughts late at night, or wake up with anxiety, but it’s been less frequent, and typically milder when it happens.

But it does still happen, so what I’ve been trying to do, with more success than in the past, is to distract myself. Really, in practice this method can simply mean anything that works. But what I’ve been increasingly trying to do is accept that my brain is going to be working overtime one way or another, so I ought to get all those cerebral pistons firing in another direction and then work on slowing them down enough to a place where I can go back to sleep.

A couple of recent examples:

A few nights ago I went to bed late, staying up late reading for my contract writing work, and an hour after putting the book down I was still trying to get to sleep. I could feel the depressive thoughts start to creep in. So instead I tried a sort of meditation that had me imagining wandering through not only a peaceful place – my favorite hike, on the Appalachian Trail – but with a close friend, someone who has joined me on that trail in the past. I imagined the two of us pressing forward through the hills, and across water, and around (or climbing up) the frequent boulders. Finally we reached the top to enjoy the incredibly spectacular view…

And I know since my last entry that I risk personifying the depression like it’s some kind of demon, but that’s the way it feels. So here I go again: once she and I had reached the top, a thunderstorm moved in amid this increasingly peaceful half-asleep reverie, as if the depression realized what I was trying to do and decided to beat me at my own game. But the place I picked has a special feature which I’ve always loved in the form of a little grotto on the side of the mountain near the overlook. When the thunderstorm moved in, my friend and I moved into the cozy shelter of the grotto.

Not long afterwards, I went back to sleep.

The second example was just early this morning, awaking from a dream-induced anxiety. I had several worries that started plaguing me almost the instant I woke up. A cat who is likely to need expensive vet care soon. A car that has a large EVAC leak and grinding brakes and an inspection due by the end of the month. Impending Christmas shopping. And so on. Much as I would like to go hiking with this friend again either on the real trail or in my head, my groggily half-asleep brain decided to try something else instead. This round, for whatever reason, I morphed in my brain into a Marvel-like mutant who drew energy from my surroundings and blasted through the problems like a jackhammer into a cement wall.

Gradually but noticeably the anxiety calmed enough for me to drop off again.

This whole mutant blasting thing, come to think of it, isn’t a bad metaphysical visualization, when you get right down to it. My version of Theosophy believes that we do create our reality to an extent by our thoughts so this might be a good image to practice more often than just when I need to unknot anxiety in the middle of the night.

So right now I still feel like I’m trying to dig through a huge wall, but every chip gets me that much closer to the other side, and I already feel close enough to hear voices from the other side. And the farther I get, usually, the easier it is to keep chipping away.

On another note about depression, as if I needed any more reminders – today is the anniversary of my brother-in-law’s suicide. My sister posted about this on social media today, contrasting the way his small children were then with the teenagers they are today – and how proud he would be of them, and the things in their lives that he is missing.

I’ve missed a lot more of their lives than I like to think about. But I’ve been there for much of their years, and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can.

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