Jared White Photo of Jared

Expressively publishing on the open web since 1996.
Entranced by Portland, Oregon since 2017.

The Struggle is Real but the Darkness is Not

It's helpful to recognize my brain's just a little bit broken.

Essay

#mindfulness

This essay is over four years old. It's possible my views have changed since I first wrote this, but I choose to leave it online nevertheless. Cheers, Jared

Once in a while, the sensation of having a “broken brain” comes back to me with a vengeance. Usually there’s some sort of external trigger: an event or series of events that objectively aren’t that big of a deal but in a compromised state loom large. Combine that with something physically off like poor diet or lack of sleep, and you have the perfect staging area for a major onset of anxiety and panic.

I can’t control when and where this happens. I try to take preventative steps each day like ensuring I’m sleeping decent hours, eating something at regular intervals, and following a reasonable to-do list to stay focused—but life doesn’t always play by the rules.

When I feel the shadows closing in on me, I’ve found that it’s helpful to remind myself that I’m just having a “temporary brain malfunction.” The key word here is temporary. This conveys the fact that I shouldn’t put too much stock in my opinions on various matters while my emotions are on the fritz. For example, if I’m having a difficult time today working on a client project, recognizing my brain’s just a little bit broken makes me realize I shouldn’t get too upset with the client or with the work. It might feel frustrating now, but in a day or two I probably won’t even remember what I was upset about!

In other words, it’s possible to validate your feelings and embrace your emotional state—crazy though it may be—without validating the conclusions you reach as a result of those feelings. Saying “I’m upset about X” is not the same as saying “X is a terrible situation.”

The struggle is real, but the darkness is not.

When you don’t feel well, when the anxiety is near debilitating, life sucks. But give yourself permission to rest, to take a bit of time off, to regroup. Once your brain is able to put everything back into alignment, you can reevaluate your situation with fresh eyes. I suspect that, most of the time, you’ll see that things are far more sunnier than you thought before.

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