How to make friends with the bully in your head

head bully

I felt as perky as Victoria Beckham’s breasts when I read that the Coalition have pledged to place treatment for stress, anxiety and depression on a par with physical illness.

I’m so TIRED of asking my acquaintances how they are and being fed a lily-livered “Fine thanks” in reply, when they clearly resemble Nosferatu with M.E. How I wish we could all stop being so bloody British about how well we’re ‘bearing up’ and share our mental burdens with our friends as much as we do our GP’s. It takes nothing for a person to disclose their Coeliac condition or their Angina and yet we read again and again how that man hanging from a tree seemed as happy as a sandboy the last time we checked.

For years I have struggled with negative thoughts, or what I call ‘the bully in my head.’ Somedays the bully’s voice is so vicious that I have to shout ’STOP IT!’ as if to a handbag chihuahua who just jumped out and shat on my shoe.
If I spoke to other people the way I spoke to myself, I’d have no friends left. My shrink told me that most of the negative messages I give myself come from my ‘inner critic’ i.e.) ‘What are you crapping on about now woman?’ or ‘Your hair looks like Jimmy Saville’s mother’s corpses mullet.’ or ‘Everyone already thinks your nuts. Best not to admit you’re hooked on Quavers’ Alternatively, they come from my inner child i.e. ’Don’t offer her your last Quaver you idiot. What are you? Nuts?’

And it really shocks me how few of these messages come from my conscious adult i.e.) “The reason why that old lady is taking so long to find her oyster card is that she is old. Be patient. Your cystitis isn’t that bad and giving her daggers (at her) won’t get you to the loo any quicker.’

Know Thyself said Socrates, Aeschylus, Buddha, and Jesus. Or more accurately perhaps – FACE thyself – which is easier said than done when most people spend their lives texting, tweeting, wanking, driving, (sometimes at the same time, I’ve seen it) googling, tidying, posting, chewing, quaffing, running the length of England, anything to escape that nasty wining voice that tells them how utterly shit they are at everything.

The Office for National Statistics reports that one in five UK adults experience anxious or self deprecating thoughts all day, every day. No longer prepared to share my head with Judge Judy and Nelson from The Simpsons, I went on a mini odyssey in an attempt to evict them. I spoke loving words to myself in front of the mirror like “you are beautiful, you are kind, you are a special person” but all I could hear was Joan Rivers saying “Oh for God’s sake! Get off it, you FREAK!”. Then I tried giving my mind over to the healers from The White Eagle Lodge but their light blue nylon robes and the spangled lighting in ‘the inner temple’ reminded me of Star Trek and I ran away. The worst one was the barefoot doctor who put his chest against my chest during an acupuncture session and said in a deeeeeeeep voice ‘yoooooooooooooo arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre looooooooooooove’ The room was so hot and patchouli stinky that I passed out.

But at least I tried, as (are) more and more secretly tortured women (who) are starting to ‘fess up and seek help, hence the stellar rise in recent years of the lady-centric yoga retreat. Once considered alternative, it’s now a mainstream holiday choice. Men have it far worse, as most of them have Lord Kitchener’s voice in their heads telling them to buck up and go paint balling.

During my stint as a yoga retreat director I learnt that after a couple of days (of) pretending to be Stepford Wives (“I am just so grateful for my husband and my children”), the women felt safe enough to admit to the internal bully that (stops them from not) commands them to drinking a nightly bottle of Chardonnay (a night), sleeping well, or doing what makes them happy. Most shared the fact that somewhere down the line they had been offered antidepressants by their doctor- more than 13 million prescriptions of the most common antidepressant Citalopram were administered in the UK in 2013 – but after having read the possible side effects of these pills – panic attacks, nightmares, sexual dysfunction, improper bone development, improper brain development, blood problems, gastrointestinal bleeding, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, anaphylactic shock, hostility, mania heart problems and something called galactorrhoea – thesey women very sanely opted for a more positive, active route to recovery.
So if we reject the the scary pharms, then what else is there?

My neighbour Pete who looks like Richard Briers has been meditating for 20 minutes a day for the past 40 years. He thinks that psychotherapy is a waste of time and only serves to empower ones internal bully to wallow in victimhood. He says that mental disorders are all about brain chemistry imbalance caused by a variety of psychosomatic circumstances which is effectively what the pharms are trying to redress. “Meditation beats Prozac for happiness and has none of the side effects.” he says. “People who meditate regularly manage to successfully re-programme their mind into feeling safe again and then the nasty voices will stop because they no longer Fear of rejection, abandonment, fear of loss of freedom, or whatever it is that caused the low self-esteem to start with. Don’t forget that all bullies are fearful. When the bully feels safe, s/he will have no more reason to bully.”

“Yes but sitting still is so very boring Pete” I said, “especially when there’s bacon sandwiches to be made, box sets to watch, old boyfriends to google.” “Look, its only boring until you start to see results. When you feel more stable & less depressed or anxious, then, unless you’re a masochist and want to revert to feeling miserable, you’ll keep doing it right?” Pete’s blood is up. I always know when his blood is up because he starts dancing about like the dwarf in Twin Peaks. (But he’s not a dwarf. And even if he were a dwarf, that would be FINE. OK?).

“OK.OK. I’ll try it. For 40 days as you suggest. But how?” “Right. All you need is a warm, quiet space, away from your phone & other people, and a comfy cushion. And whatever you do, don’t (‘)empty your mind into a void of calm(‘) like some cartoon Zen Buddhist character would tell you say, as it is the nature of the mind to wander. Allow it to wander but the most important thing is not to judge your thoughts. Just let them come and go. Watch them come and go without judgement and every time your mind gallops off into a story, gently bring it back to the natural rhythm of your breath as if you were leading an adorable but slightly wayward child away from the roadside”. I love it when Pete gets on a roll. His passion for meditation makes me come over all John Lewis Christmas Ad. “And the most important components to becoming a successful meditator is patience, focus and consistency. Lttle and often is best. 10 minutes every day is better than 90 minutes once a week”. Pete should be mediating for Dave and Nige. They’d be dancing round the immigration maypole in no time.

Transcendental Meditation has certainly worked for Russell Brand, the old devil. I was at drama school with him. He used to turn up an hour late, swigging a bottle of Johnny Walker and shouting out whole paragraphs from Rimbaud & Verlaine until we all shouted ’Oh shut up you wanker.’ Then he got expelled and we honestly thought that that was the end of him. Turns out that after years of sex and drug addiction, Russ started practicing TM (transcendental meditation) which gave him the confidence to become an uber-prolific comic dervish. And despite the horrible press he receives for having the confidence to stick his head above the parapet to say what he thinks, through the desire and determination to outrun his demons by sitting still, Russell has transformed himself from a hopelessly addictive narcissist into a highly disciplined and highly creative narcissist.

With any luck, he’ll become mayor of London and make meditation compulsory, like taxes.

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