There were a few nights this week that I went to bed unusually early not because I was especially tired but because I wanted to force an end to the day. I've found this to be a useful way to control my thinking. It must look funny from the outside, now that I think about it.
I went to bed early, not because I was especially tired, but because I wanted to force an end to the day.
For reasons I'm not going to explain right now -- at least partly because I don't quite have much of an explanation to give -- I was struggling through some emotions like loneliness. I say like loneliness because loneliness is over-simple. It took a while, but eventually, I let my mind drift off long enough to build a basic storyline with a couple of fairly-interesting characters, a setting of two locations: a run-of-the-mill living room and a small cocktail party -- the usual scenes, and some relational problem that the dialogue could be wrapped around.
I didn't make it all up at once; I had been building up a story in pieces for at least a day. It's not compulsive. I do have some control; I know what it's like to not. It's also not all I can think about; I know what that's like too. I had a fine day, despite the background propensity to run off into a land of my own making.
Making up stories is how I've gotten along in life. Dealing with emotions, feeling them, head-on is hard. I have always deferred to others -- made up others. It might be a fine way to process through emotions if you train yourself to actually process through the emotions. It is easier to stop at avoidance, and that can take over your life. It's called dissociation in psych-talk, and without training and effort, I can't not do it. Such an episode is pretty common for me and can range from a mild nuisance in the back of my mind to a serious, multi-day spiral, possibly triggering major depression, thoughts of suicide, and/or a panic attack.
Dealing with emotions, feeling them, head-on is hard. I have always deferred to others -- made up others.
I don't get so far anymore. During what are probably hypomanic periods, I am likely to make up a story or two in a week. It used to be common for me to essentially lose an entire day or more of productivity for this reason; that is no longer the case. Still, it's a battle. Life can't be entirely measured in how clean the house is (or how many blog posts I write). Today, I can barely make up a story at all when I want to, and when I don't want to, I just re-tell slightly different versions of the same few storylines.
It took some doing, but I was able to doze off as intended. In between the dialogue that presses in on me, I focus my thoughts on my breathing. A few times the kids got in my face to wake me since they weren't quite sleeping when I laid down. I think only, "breathe in, breathe out, breathe in." I used to keep myself up, trying to avoid -- by TV, word puzzles, and even prayers -- the endless story cycle. I know now that if I'm tired enough, this deep breathing habit can get me from lala land to full-fledged dreams. Then, after a night's rest, I can think and actually pray through what I was trying to cover up with a fictional creation.
Medication and continuing counseling makes this, perhaps meager, level of success happen.
It used to be common for me to essentially lose an entire day or more of productivity for this reason; that is no longer the case.