[This is part 2. Here is part 1. For best results, read chronologically. ;)]
I often feel as though my mind has two sides: the BRAIN-brain, which is quick, smart, and clever, and the ME-brain, which is emotional, unsure, persistent, defensive, aggressive, and always getting in the way.
As mentioned in part 1, although I am zero superstitious now, I was super-superstitious as a child [I refrained from saying SUPER-stitious—you’re welcome], and my fears primarily involved ghosts, spirits, and God appearing in my room or speaking inside my head. Most of this anxiety manifested itself as long, stressful nights, where I just couldn’t manage to relax and go to sleep.
In a masterful attempt to dissolve my ridiculous superstitions and nighttime anxieties, my brain forced me to face my fears to prove to me that there was nothing to be afraid of.
Via attempting to piss off God.
That’s right. My brain—against my will, mind you—forced terrible, offensive, blasphemous thoughts inside my head. To put it less eloquently, I cussedoutgod.
I assume that this is a natural technique for overcoming anxiety. I mean, it makes sense.
This plan totally would have worked out—had I let it. Once I saw that yelling at God did not result in lightening striking my headboard, I could relax. I would then know for sure that God wasn’t going to intervene.
The ME-brain was all:
Night after night, my BRAIN-brain insulted God inside my head, using the most offensive words I knew—
—which was followed by my ME-brain apologizing profusely.
I was self-aware enough to realize that this behavior was [begin British accent] mental [end British accent], which I presume is the reason I didn’t tell my parents.
Instead, I developed two major strategies to deal with the problem, both of which involved keeping my mind (both sides) occupied with other things.
The first strategy was to read until I fell asleep. Every night, after my mom tucked me in, I would listen for her footsteps to fade away and retrieve whatever book I had stuffed beneath my mattress earlier in the day. For light, I unzipped the back of my stuffed “glowworm” toy and removed the flashlight mechanism.
This strategy was sophisticated, if somewhat morbid; however, it came with the risk of getting caught reading past my bedtime.
My second strategy was to repeat the same sentence in my head over and over again to block out the negative recurring thoughts. I now realize that this is known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (the obsession being “bad thoughts”; the compulsion being repeating the sentence), but back then, I thought OCD meant being really organized and clean.
For about six months, the sentence continuously repeated nearly nonstop in my head. If the bad thoughts persisted, I just focused on it harder and thought-screamed it louder. I did this so much that I sometimes accidentally said part of it out loud.
Eventually, the obsession tapered off. Maybe I just forgot about it. Or maybe the fact that I’d never seen or heard anything even remotely ghost-like or god-like finally sunk in.
I’ve never really told anyone about this, or at least, I’ve never explained it in full detail before. It’s so absurd that my anxiety over something that absolutely NEVER happened damaged my ability to fall asleep—potentially for life. If only I could apply this life-lesson to everything I’m anxious about.
—Sorry to let you down, BRAIN-brain.