Tag Archives: paranoia

When you lose your mental health

It isn’t always obvious that you are in crisis. From inside a mental health crisis, what you are doing and feeling may well make perfect sense. Lockdown may make people more vulnerable to suffering the consequences of not knowing you are in trouble,  so I thought I’d talk about a few things to watch for, in yourself, and anyone you’re interacting with.

Paranoia is a likely consequence of poor mental health. It’s a form of anxiety, and right now it will be made worse by lack of contact with people who can offer alternatives, plus the vast array of conspiracy theories out there. If you are in a country whose government is handling the pandemic badly and people are dying because of that, then some amount of paranoia may be appropriate and reasonable. When it takes over your entire thought process, then you are in trouble, but this is hard to spot from the inside.

Catastrophising is another common consequence of failing mental health. You focus on the worst possible outcomes and start to see them as likely, or inevitable. Again this may seem wholly realistic. If you’re starting to feel like lockdown will never end, that you and everyone you have ever loved is bound to die, then you are catastrophising. It is a persuasive line of thought, but that doesn’t make it a definite truth.

Overwhelming futility – this one comes from depression, but it can pair up easily with paranoia and catastrophising. It feels like there is no point doing anything. At the extreme end, there seems to be no point getting out of bed, or eating. This is likely to turn up with, and be reinforced by overwhelming feels of exhaustion and leadenness.

The best solution I have found when dealing with this in better times, was to have people you can trust to hear you, not make you feel ridiculous and help you get things back in proportion. However, there is no knowing right now who else might be driven around the bend by what they are experiencing. If we dig in with these experiences together, we can amplify them for each other. It’s difficult to keep things in proportion when the world is such a mess. It’s hard to be certain that any kind of hope or optimism is rational at all. But in terms of surviving and being able to function, some kind of hope is essential. Hope as a deliberately chosen path, despite all the evidence that does not support it, might be the most insane and most healthy thing you can go for right now.

The other thing to always consider with failing mental health, is to focus on the practical and physical things. Look after your body, eat good food, rest, get exercise, get some sun if you can and some tree time. It gives your mind something productive to focus on and you can make a difference to yourself and those around you with a focus on bodily wellbeing. Focus on surviving and staying able to function. Hopefully there is a far side to all this where healing will be possible and we can rebuild ourselves. Human minds are fragile and damage easily, but are also resilient and can recover.


Intuition or fantasy?

As a younger human I had decent intuition; enough to help me steer through life a bit. There was one, total intuition fail, although in fairness I recall wondering on the day of my first wedding whether I was actually doing the right thing. I wasn’t, but I put it down to pre-wedding nerves, and tuned it out. By then I was already struggling to distinguish between intuition and anxiety. That brought me years of being lied to and misled, in ways that left me even more anxious, and unable to distinguish between unhelpful anxiety, and valuable intuition. With my judgement constantly questioned and my preferences continually undermined, I stopped hearing my own voice.

The trouble with anxiety, is that it tells you, loud and clear, that it’s all going to be awful. Fear that what went before represents something normal and dependable starts to blot out your reason. It is this, taken to an extreme, that makes people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so unable to function in trigger situations. However, for those of us not dealing with that level of trauma, fear can still teach us some lousy lessons. We learn not to trust the good stuff, we learn to expect the worst.

One of the things that mangled my intuition, was a lot of time spent dealing with the bat-shit-crazy, from a number of sources. Having your own, private intuitive responses is one thing, laying them in front of other people as though these are unassailable facts, is quite another. Being able to tell between what you ‘know’ as a fact (it rained yesterday, that’s too expensive, etc) and what you ‘know’ (you’re hexing me, I am magically keeping this other person alive, I have saved you from demons…) that kind of stuff is nothing but trouble, and when someone else drops their imaginary world into yours, the results can be traumatic to say the least.

Being Pagan can often mean engaging with reality in a way other people do not. It means acting on things, sometimes, that other people may find irrational or alarming. Many Pagan paths call for a degree of trusting the magical insight and the intuition, and in a lot of circumstances, that can be a good thing. However, we have to watch ourselves. Taking too much on trust without looking at our own motives can be a dangerous process. It is all too easy to project things onto other people, for a start, especially if we are reluctant to look at our own issues. When we start using intuition as an excuse, or an explanation for that which we could not conceivably justify by other means, we are in trouble.

The key questions to ask are, does this work, and what does it achieve? If intuition fills your world with people who curse you and attack you magically, if you’re fighting wars with demons and endlessly unhappy, consider that maybe something else is going on here. If intuition tells you that everyone is out to get you, that might in fact be paranoia speaking. If all intuition says is that the world is an awful, hostile place, you may be suffering from anxiety. Actually, if all intuition tells you is one thing, be sceptical about it. Intuition, if it is well tuned, will pick up all kinds of things.

If, on the other hand, intuition tells you when to pick up the phone and call a friend, means you grab the laundry before it starts to rain and put your hand on just the book you needed, and other things of that ilk, then it’s good stuff and you may as well enjoy it.

The important thing to remember is that intuition is one tool in the box. I gather that psychological research suggests we mostly make our decisions intuitively and then figure out the rationale later. It’s always worth doing that cross reference, double checking to see how hard facts and gut feelings work together. When they coincide, you know you’re probably going the right way. If there’s conflict, pause and rethink. Check out facts, and query what the gut said. Either can be wrong.