During my worst bouts of depression in my life, the way I’ve described the world around me became pretty dark. I anticipated betrayal, picked fights with people in my head, imagined worst case scenarios…It seemed like disaster preparing, so that, if things fell apart, I would have a plan to keep moving.
It was an effective way of moving through life. Prepared for the worst case scenario, never really caught off guard when things went sideways. Always with an exit strategy. The trouble with this approach comes from a few different angles
- My strategies are only as good as my imagination is dark. Things can go sideways at any given time, in ways we cannot anticipate unless we’re willing to dig into the spaces in our minds that scare us the most.
- The more time you spend planning, the less time you have to enjoy things when they’re not going wrong until you spend all your time disaster planning and no time enjoying or participating in anything else.
- Using your imagination like this so often makes it difficult to remember after a while which scenarios are true and which ones were imagined. Your memory of events and people can become so distorted that you can no longer tell the difference between the past that happened, and the past that you were afraid would happen.
This becomes the darkness inside us. A parallel reality that runs alongside the world we actually live in, one that becomes more and more difficult to keep seperate the longer we use our minds this way.
I noticed this imagination game existing in my own life, my dark parallel reality. It was invasive, pervading every part of my fantasy world, every interaction that caused me even a small level of anxiety. And it was totally useless. Most things never went as bad as I planned for them to, and the few things that did go sour, went sour in ways I couldn’t anticipate.
I was ruining my present life in favor of some kind of anti-hero highlight reel. And it’s a super tough habit to break. More recently, I’ve tried something different. When I start disaster planning, I try to flip the script. A mantra, music, a movie…something to stop my mind from the decades-honed habit of disaster planning. Some days are better than others.
Obviously, when things are going well it’s easy to filter out the dark parallel. But when things aren’t going so well…sometimes it’s all I can do to break through the tirade and remind myself “It’s gonna be okay kiddo. You’re gonna be okay.”
Today is better than some, not so good as others.
A couple of my friends are performing in a fundraiser show for Parkinsons Research. Heading to that today with my mom and grandmother, and afterward, we’re headed out for BBQ. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.