How reframing my inner dialogue makes all the difference
I’m an over-thinker as most bipolar people are. My inner critic constantly berates me. I let him, who I call Arthur, live rent free in my head. As a result, I don’t feel good enough, like my writing is not good enough for publication. It’s an endless cycle.
Since being diagnosed bipolar 1 over twenty years ago, it’s a struggle to accept compliments or believe in myself. I simply have had made too many mistakes, had disastrous manias, and despairing depression. It’s hard to love yourself and find your purpose when mania has made you a slut, an imposter, and a generalist with no follow through.
I want to become someone who commits and completes projects not someone so embodied by imposter syndrome that she feels her voice is not needed in this world, that she does not deserve the good that will come from her hard efforts.
I use affirmations in a journal daily, practice gratitude, and meditate emptying my shell of all negative thoughts about myself. But sometimes my inner critic can be so powerful.
My therapist suggested a combination of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She said I have to reframe my inner dialogue and stop ruminating on the negative. She said I needed to make a list of the past events that trigger my thoughts and then write a conversation with each of them, a sort of saying good-bye but also learning the lesson they taught me.
Since I am a writer, I thought having this conversation with my inner critic would be as easy as telling him to pack up and go. How wrong I was. I sat with my notebook blank for a long time in the coffeeshop. I was afraid of my own power, fearful of letting go of what would happen if my words became a self-fullfilling prophecy. After five minutes of twiddling my pen, I began to write in my perfect journal with my sketchy handwriting.
I began telling my inner critic how he was hurting me and my career as a writer. He answered me back with snide comments and slurs I cannot write here. But somehow through writing a conversation with him I realized some truths about myself.
I broke through my resistance by telling myself that I am enough. I just needed to cut through the bullshit and show up in this world giving it my all. I needed to work harder than the rest but not feel I had to be smarter than them. Giving my all was all I needed to do, to be.
I had to stop comparing myself to others and caring more for what others were doing. I needed to put myself first. One of my favorite authors Dani Shapiro says one must write in the dark before they can truly understand and experience criticism or praise of their work. I had to put myself in this proverbial creative cave by not caring about what others thought of me or how their work was somehow better than mine, how their voice was somehow more relatable.
Of course, writing in the dark in the days of social media and a constant barrage of news and features on others doing extraordinary things can be hard. The blue light of the pulsing tweets and posts made head spin with envy and self-doubt. My therapist suggested as a rule I only go on there once a week and spend only 15 minutes scrolling. She also suggested I stop checking other people’s web sites and blogs incessantly. I needed to put me first.
I began to incorporate these ideas into my daily writing schedule and I found that my writing became deeper and insightful. I found that I could remember more of what really mattered. I found that telling myself that “I am enough” gave me the power to tune out the other voices, especially that of my inner critic.
So, get yourself a notebook and a pen and begin to have this self-conversation today. Don’t wait! After all, you are enough.