Your Brain 101
I wanted to share with you all some important things that helped me in my recovery from 15 years of suffering with chronic depression and undiagnosed bipolar.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 35, and it was such a relief.
I had spent 15 years suffering and not knowing why. I'd been put on antidepressants at 20 and then my GP just kept upping my dosage everytime I went to explain
how it wasn't working. To finally be told that there was something real going on and that I wasn't crazy was a revelation.
They gave me a mood stabiliser which really helped right away, in that it stopped my emotions being so raw, but what medication could not do was tell me how to be a person without depression. Depression had touched, and become an integral part of every part of my life.
It was part of my identity. I had accepted it. I had made peace with the fact that I had a dark cloud which was always going to follow me.
I had let it become my excuse for so many things.
It was why I drank too much alcohol.
It was why I had become so overweight.
It was the reason why I hadn't pushed myself in a career.
It was the reason why I had relationship issues.
It was me.
I had to do my own reading to find a way forward because I was denied the chance to have therapy and I couldn't afford a private therapist.
I want to pass on the information that literally blew my mind and helped me find a way forward, and that information is all about the HUMAN MIND.
Our brains are the most amazing tools we will ever have. They are so powerful. Yet we aren't taught HOW to use them. There is no Manual.
Yet, there are somethings we NEED to know about our brains in order to be able to use them properly.
Firstly, our brains consist of 2 main parts.
Our Primitive Brain
Which controls all our automatic responses. Our breating, our movement, our speech, our hormones & brain chemicals and so much more.
This part of our brain is loaded with 1 basic programme. Survival!
Our brains want us to survive so they developed all sorts of complex systems to help us survive.
Take Fight or Flight for instance. Most of us with experience of anxiety know that our bodies will react to perceived danger with adrenalin, and the desire to run, fight or freeze.
Our brains are also programmed to seek pleasure, this is also for survival because our brains know we need to eat to survive, we need to reproduce to survive and we need other people to survive, so our brains
give us chemical rewards for doing these things.
Our Prefrontal Cortex
We then have the prefrontal cortex. This is capable of something truely amazing. The ability to observe our own thoughts, the ability to contemplate/plan/envisage the future.
These things make us stand out from all other species on the planet. No other animal that I know of, can think about what it is thinking! No other species can make mental plans for the future beyond the next basic need or desire.
It is so easy for us to not use this part of our brains to its full potential and it's very easy to let our reactive more primitive brain run the show.
Next, you need to know that our Brains are Inherently Lazy.
Our brains are lazy!
Because they want to be efficient and to preserve energy, for survival purposes.
They are execellent at automating processes that we teach them. When you learn to drive, at first it is really difficult to do all the things required without great thought, but after a while those actions become SO automatic you don't have to think about them.
Our brains love to do this. This is why habits become habits. If you do anything over and over it will soon get automated. This has it's downside though, as well as it's upside.
If your brain gets stuck in a negative thought/action pattern, then it doesn't know that what it's doing is negative, it just automates it and carries on.
So... if you have been through severe depression or anxiety, then the thoughts you have been thinking in that time will have become automated. In the abscence of any new input, your brain will resort to those automated thought patterns to save itself energy, but those loops are harming you.
The good news is, the brain is highly programmable and highly suggestable. All we need to do is give it a new programme and repeat it over and over until it wipes the old one.
I heard a story recently where a guy who played major league Basket Ball was speaking to a group of prisoners as part of an outreach project. At the end he was asked what it was like training and trying to become such a high level player, and he replied "well it just seemed
to happen naturally. Everytime I played as a kid my dad would say .. "if you keep playing like that you'll be an NBA player one day", "You're a great team player, keep playing like that you'll be
an NBA player one day!". So when he made it it was no surprise. Someone who over heard him said.. the same thing happened to me. My dad used to say to me as a kid "if you keep that attitude up you'll end up in prison one day",
"if you keep behaving like that you'll end up in prison one day", "you're no good, you're going to end up in prison"... and I did.
The truth is you don't even have to BELIEVE something yourself for your brain to absorb it. With enough repetition our brains will pick up the new information we are programming in to them and things start to happen.
When I decided I no longer wanted to suffer with depression any more I simply started imagining a future without it. I looked carefully at what programming I was giving my brain.
It turned out that my thoughts of feeling hopeless and worthless were popping up out of habit because of 15 years worth of input. So whenever they came up I replaced them with new thoughts. Instead of seeing things as hopeless, i'd think... I hope one day soon I won't feel like this. I can get better. I can get out of bed today.
Our brains are amazing but they are also easily hacked / fooled even. We have the ability to look at what we are thinking. We need to use it and we need to use it to start giving ourselves the messages we NEED to get us to where we want to be.
Because of these findings I've started working as a life coach. These tips changed my life from one of suffering to one where I co-exist with bipolar. I have control over it because I know how to observe and police my thought patterns.
If anyone would like any further help with this, or wants to discuss this topic just reach out!