Feeding the Voices

A while ago I was talking to some friends about disappointments. One friend had been overlooked by a group she cared about, and felt it meant she wasn’t important. We talked about how we all feel that way sometimes. Whenever someone puts us down (intentionally or accidentally; directly or subtly), that slight feeds the voices in our heads* that tell us that we aren’t good enough. And once those voices are fed, they get louder, and harder to ignore.

I used to have some pretty severe depression. For me, that meant that every couple of months, the voices that tell me I’m not good enough got so loud I couldn’t ignore them anymore. That kind of negative mental noise was debilitating, sometimes overwhelming. (I don’t get that bad anymore, but that’s a different story.)

My mental noise is loud today. It’s hard to ignore. I’m managing it, which means I am not getting depressed. But some days, that managing is more difficult. Today is one of those days.

Being put down is not the only trigger that feeds the voices. Anything that reminds me of times when the voices were fed can bring that experience back with a vengeance. Those reminders ripple through my life–little echoes of times when I felt stupid or disappointed or worthless. I know some people have flashbacks, and I’ve never experienced those, but I do experience a kind of emotional flashback. A moment when all the negative emotion comes flooding back, giving those voices a royal feast.

And the trouble with these triggers is that they breed. One condition in my life reminds me of a particularly strong negative emotion. The emotion feeds those voices–the ones that tell me I’m not good enough. And while I’m trying to ignore them, the voices remind me of every mistake I’ve ever made in my life, laying out the evidence for their case.

I’ve gotten very good at quieting the voices, but that doesn’t make it a pleasant experience.

I know I’m not alone in this.** It’s human. Lots of people go through it. And I’ve managed to get the fallout pretty well under control, so I don’t spiral into depression anymore. (Someday I’ll write that post. I’m still trying to figure out how to say it right.)

But I wish I could just quell all the triggers that feed the voices, so they would be starved and weak and never bother me again.

*Please note none of us are schizophrenic. We used the term “voices” to mean our inner self-talk, not hallucinations. I don’t know why I feel the need to make that distinction, but there it is.
**I want to draw this to some conclusion here. I want to express some grand observation. But I think all I have to say about it is that it happens. Maybe it’s something that other people need to hear. Maybe it’s just something I need to say.