Bad Guy Brain: Personifying Struggles with Mental Health

Before I even dig in, how many caveats can I put at the beginning? I am undiagnosed, unmedicated, untherapized… I am not a medical professional, and I’m sure this is all woefully unscientific. I know for an absolute fact that I don’t have things half as bad as millions of people on this planet… I know the severity of my purported mental illness pales in comparison to so many others…

And yet, I have depression. I get depressed.

Not “sometimes I feel sad.” Not “sometimes my empathy gets the best of me” (though it certainly does).

I experience, at times, and continue to experience, a sensation of apathy, sadness, listlessness, pointlessness, self doubt, and downright misanthropy that is untethered to specific experiences or ideas… A weighted blanket malaise that makes it hard to care about anything, and focuses the majority of my thoughts toward some vague hopelessness that doesn’t have a single solution in sight.

This has been going on for as long as I can remember, and while sometimes it’s just a matter of wallowing in it, I’ve learned one huge mental “trick” to changing my entire outlook on this plague of my personal mental health.

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The Fluidity of Skill

You can look at almost anything we do as a skill, from speech to tying shoes, mountain climbing to trading stocks. Broad categories like these are full of microactions, too: pronouncing certain words, getting the lace loops the right size, etc.

Consciously or not, we learn the little bits through repetition, and develop the “skill” of… Whatever. That brain process is basically the same. The more you do something, the more skillful you become.

But it isn’t reallthat simple.

People learn at different rates or excel in certain fields. Some skills are relatively permanant, like walking or wiping your ass… Others are shakier, and you run the risk of “use it or lose it.” Our bodies and minds change with age, too, and that affects deftness in its own ways, for better and worse.

Skill, then, isn’t just the ability to do something or not. It’s a spectrum, and a changing one at that. We can get a little better (or a little worse) at all kinds of things over the course of our lives – or far shorter periods of time.

This idea of fluid skill lets us off the hook a little bit. Instead of lamenting a deteriorated ability or feeling embarrassed by novicehood, we can think of many skills as “present tense.”

If skill is fluid, you can only be where you are right now.

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