Tag Archives: Ruby Wax

Neuroplasticity

I read Ruby Wax’s ‘Sane New World’ recently.  On television she unnerves me, but I’ve always found  her writing on depression to be heart-crunchingly direct and sort-of-painful to read.  Which is the only way to write about it, isn’t it?

In order to write this book  she developed expert scholarly knowledge of the brain.  She then set about explaining all sorts of complicated stuff in ways that made it seem simple.  Phew.

My interpretation of some of this stuff is extremely basic; the more we do a thing the better we become at it.  Ergo, depression makes us good at being depressed.  You practise playing the piano to become a better pianist, the only difference with depression is that we’re not choosing to play, depression is playing us.   There’s a bind.

Neuroplasticity means that we can make physical changes to the brain (Ha, think happy thoughts and you can fly! )  If we can make an intervention in our brains and pause one depressive thought whilst we evaluate its’ actual truth we can find ourselves getting better at not-being-depressed.  Knowing that is the simple bit of course, doing it is another thing altogether.  I like this little ray of hope though.  That’s where the Mindfulness part comes into play in ‘Sane New World’ but call it whatever you like there are plenty of methods of dealing with our ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) if we can be in a good enough place to make a start.

Years ago I had sessions with a therapist who pointed out to me (ouch) various coping strategies I employed when discussing anything emotional.   Mostly by responding to my hilarious little asides by not laughing and saying something like ‘I just want to point out to you something I’ve noticed…you’re making a *crack about (whatever) when we are talking about (whatever)… why do you think you’re doing that?’  He didn’t label it, he just did it.   *hilarious and sophisticated comment

Aaargh.  I hated that.  But he was right.  And now I have a tiny Jiminy Cricket- esque echo of his voice whenever I’m about to derail a serious & uncomfortable conversation or situation.  It doesn’t always stop me, but I know I do it and so it’s less automatic.   It also happens when I begin to have catastrophic thoughts ‘It’s the end of everything, I have forgotten to do something at work  and I will lose my job…then my home…then I will be cast out by society and have to live on a leper colony and the lepers will ignore me because I don’t have leprosy…waaah.’ Jiminy Cricket Pause.  Check the facts.  For example – Do leper colonies even exist now?

Again, I can’t say it always works, this time last year I was floored by a depression that has really only just lifted.  But I will say that it maybe wasn’t as dark  as it could have been.  It has worked best for me in dealing with anxiety rather than depression.

Some people use the ‘grateful thoughts’ technique  to train their brains Neuroplasticity-style.  Or there’s good old CBT for ANTs

One side-effect of all of these methods though is that I sometimes find myself staring off into space or tuning out whilst I do a brain intervention.  This probably looks pretty weird.  But I am pretty weird, so it’s ok.

Peace x

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Contribute to society – Pay off your sleep debt…

Getting back in to work.  Simples.

Getting back in to work. Simples.

I have only managed two quite pitiful gym sessions this week, life kept happening to me and giving me things to do instead – some of which were good, some not so much.   Not enough sleep over the last few days has had me a bit wobbly so I’m pleased I talked myself into going (Ok, so it’s only down a flight of stairs if I go after work but there are days I have to change into my horrible gym-wear before I make that little trip to stop me swerving it last minute.  Even I can’t justify putting my trainers on just to leave the building).

The sleep-deprivation wobbles finally sideswiped me at about noon on Thursday when I could have wept a little weep, like an over-tired child, then curled up under my desk and stayed there.  But I didn’t do that.  I took a several deep breaths, made some (more) coffee, and managed to survive everything I needed to do – including a quick burst of gym-ing, an hour of tutoring and a hare-like dash to my daughter’s parents evening (when your mum turns up carrying a Spiderman bag ‘…’ ).    I do still resent the fact that it can feel so hard to do reaa-aally normal stuff, but I wouldn’t have been able to face that combination of activities down a few weeks ago so make me a badge and get me a framed certificate of improvement please.  Thanks.  If you can find something for the bags under my eyes too that would be super-nice.

So what does one do when sleepless?  Well this week my dad pointed me in the direction of  Radio 4’s Saturday Live after listening to a programme featuring Ruby Wax talking about mindfulness CBT – which she studied for her recent book – so I spent an hour or so tuning in to that in the early hours of Tuesday.  It’s worth a listen, especially since it also included a report from the London-based Dragon Cafe set up by Mental Fight Club.

The Dragon Cafe provides a simple, affordable, healthy menu each week, and a wide range of creative and well-being activities, all of which are free and open to all.

And being mentally-interesting is not a prerequisite for joining in.  I want a Dragon Cafe. In my living room.

Another thing which caught my interest (sometime between late Wednesday and early Thursday) was Mind’s campaign for changes to ‘Back to Work’ support for those with mental health problems.  This includes related reform to the current welfare system which is, I would suggest, driven by an ideology that is almost opposed to its’ actual purpose: to support the most vulnerable (no bias here).  Millionaire PM David Cameron (again, no bias here ) last week gave an overview of the Conservative party’s election manifesto for welfare, and, well, it’s what you’d expect from a party who dismissed a report linking  food banks and benefits cuts and has members such as Lord Freud telling us that food banks wouldn’t be used so much…if…they…didn’t…exist huh?

 “It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand.”

and the delightful Michael Gove suggesting that poor financial management rather than poverty is at the heart of food bank usage.

So yes, stop going to get free food because you overspent on Lobster frittata, truffle and gold pizza and Cristal at the start of the month everyone..  And you’d better cut down on these too.

It’s much easier to despise those who claim ‘taxpayers’ money’ for things like food and rent  because they’re poor isn’t it? Anyway, anyway, I’ll stop there.   I’m so glad I can talk about politics without bias.  What can I say? It’s skill I’ve honed. For a leftie perspective on this stuff  you’d be better off watching Russell Brand’s trews.  He’s more eloquent than me, and funnier.  And richer – as The Daily Mail might like to remind you. And if that’s not for you at least check out what Mind has to say about the matter.

Anyway, anyway enough of all this …I shall do my best and worst of February’s challenge tomorrow and commit myself to the* slightly different challenge I have in mind for March…probably…if I don’t bottle it before then.  In the meantime I am going to try to pay off my sleep debt.

‘Til then x

*It’s nothing to with politics . Promise.