Conversations with your demons: A guide to relative sanity

I started this blog three weeks ago. Halfway through, I got into an epic depressive state; my housemates thought I’d traveled. I remained in bed for five days, and every two days, I’d sneak out and have three sausages, just so I don’t pass out from hunger. The point is, as always, I don’t come at you with things I haven’t lived and learned from. For this one, you’ll need 15-20 minutes to read. You’ve been told.

As usual, I am here with some hard truths, so you’ll likely be triggered.

As you know, I am well acquainted with a couple my demons. Have you witnessed my dark humor? Even so, those bastards and I have learned to coexist- for the most part. We do have fights sometimes, but they know who is in charge.

Back story

Context is important.

Like many of us, my younger brother experiences anxiety both at the beginning of a course and when waiting for the results. It is clockwork. First, it’s, “Will I be able to get the units I need to finish this course?” and ends with, “If I fail these units, my GPA will fall drastically.” I don’t remember being like this, so I find it interesting to watch him go through every pessimistic scenario he can think of.

Academics have never made me panic per se; I couldn’t relate. However, for empathy’s sake, I had to dig deeper.

Enter the chanting demons

What mostly drives me crazy is the loop- like the recent episode where I turned into a screaming Karen until I had to let it go. Don’t ask.

What I hate about it is no level of disruption can stop the flow of thoughts, and si ati the thoughts are usually saying nice things. Heck, I mostly wouldn’t even have the power to talk back because, these chanting demons were right. I had messed up; I could have done better, I was not worth the opportunity, people hate me, I will never amount to anything, what have I done with my life, I am an imposter, _____ (insert your demonic chant here).

These chats are SO EXHAUSTING to listen to throughout the day! My word!

My worst chants are the variety “I have nothing to show for my 30 years on this planet.” Add the depression, and it’s “not that you’ll do anything with the time left anyway.” *Enter suicidal idealization*

It got to a point, deep in the duvets, I’d tell myself that at the very least, my parents would never kick me out, and I can grow old in their house and die. I mean, who or what is Purpose?

And then some misguided people come and tell me I JUST have to think positively. Please, stop. You’re feeding the demons. Now you’ve added, “Look at you being so negative all the time. No wonder no one likes you.” I have enough on my plate. Also, is you ‘me’ to know what I feel? Is you calling me a liar? Eschuse.

PSA: Don’t send people uplifting quotes unless you know the space they’re in. Sometimes they need a cast, not a band-aid.

7 steps Wambaire uses to handle her demons

Fam. It has taken YEARS of inner work and therapy to get to where I feel I have an ounce of confidence even to offer advice. The progress I’ve made was only evident when talking to my younger brother as he expressed the worst-case scenarios.  That said, I still have a LONG way to go, so take this with a grain-ish of salt.

Haya basi, let’s start.

One: Acknowledge your demons’ presence

Here is where I went wrong for years.

It was brought to my attention back in 2015-2016 that I had two sides warring within me. There was the “good Christian girl” and the “ratchet around the edges” Wambaire. The guilt I felt every time I woke up after a night out was INTENSE! My word. If I could, I’d opt to remain in bed all day wallowing.

As with wars, I got tired. Nothing seemed to work, ESPECIALLY Scripture. I’d quote those tackling ‘thought life’, but my demons would just stop briefly, look at each other, and turn the volume up.

A word for the zealots: It wasn’t a God problem; it was a me problem. Keep reading. And yes, I’ll keep posting dark White Jesus memes.

Being tired of fighting is good; it means you’re at a point of surrender. Society tells you ‘keep fighting,’ but we all need to rest at some point. HOWEVER! In this case, resting means not fighting your demons. It is calling a truce and having a real conversation.  

Two: Let the demons act up (but under supervision)

Disclaimer: If you’re suicidal, please use this next suggestion with a counselor’s support.

Helpful example: Think of a loving parent observing their child’s tantrums and meltdowns. No reacting- just looking at the spectacle. When the child sees you’re not responding “accordingly,” they’ll calm down long enough to for you to hold a conversation with them. Besides, they’ll see being bratty isn’t working and change tactic.

Practical example: If a nasty thought comes, don’t react; simply calmly ask, “Do you wanna talk about it?” and await a response. If the answer is rude, take a lap, then come back again and still in a calm spirit.

Another word for the zealots: Shouting down your thoughts (never mind other people’s opinions) with loud prayers and condemnation doesn’t help. You’re called to be Christ-like, not a megaphone.

Here’s the thing, there is an element of truth in the demons’ chant. Is it distorted? Absolutely, but when you observe long enough, you begin to see a pattern. To become a reasonable observer, you need to be present and keep in mind that no thought is good or bad; it just is. Removing the labels, though it’s a struggle, helps build objectivity.

Three: Feel. Every. Single. Emotion.

Reminder: BUT don’t act out on it unless it results in talking to a healthy person you trust, journaling, or tears.

Your first instinct will be a distraction or self-medication. That’s why you’re ever watching series and movies, working, spending hours on social media, have sex, masturbating, drinking, or smoking weed. You don’t want to think or feel.

When you begin the journey, an emotion most people feel is anger. Especially men; is there another emotion they express more than rage? Yes, I am coming for everyone. Chills are outside this blog; you can go, cool down and come back. 😊 Another strong emotion is shame. Go call out a man for his wrongdoing and then get back to me. Or tell a woman who knows her worth that she’s worthless.

Learn to expand your emotional vocabulary. Is it fear, dread, loneliness, despair, grief, resentment, outrage, panic, sadness, guilt, shame, embarrassment, regret…? What is it? Whatever it is, feel it, but under a safe space.

It’s going to hurt: When exploring underlying emotions, YOU WILL FEEL A LOT OF PAIN. I am shouting for the ones in the back. Piercing chest pains, swollen throat, moist eyes. Whatever you feel, sit put.

Note: take time off because you’ll be an emotional mess. Trust me; you don’t want people seeing you in your broken state. It’s not a you thing. When you’re raw, you make others uncomfortable, and their instinct is to move away.

Four: Take a nap/ sleep

If the emotions are too strong, sleep. Even if you feel they are under control, sleep all the same.

“When you sleep, God does maintenance on the soul.”

Five: Dismantle and recreate the chant

We’ve talked about observing the emotion, identifying what it is, and sitting with it. Now that you’re feeling, ask yourself, “What is beneath these thoughts, words and emotion?”

When you observe what your demons are chanting, patterns emerge.

For example, I was SO SURE people generally don’t like me. Some don’t, I lack a filter for bad behavior. However, I realized the feeling came from being alienated most of my life. I can sum it up into this: in 8th grade, we were reading a poem aloud, and right after, “Boys rarely make passes, at girls who wear glasses” some guy pointed at me. Add acne on top of that. Who is Self Esteem?

Years later, I started a small counter chant of my own, “I am worthy of the space I occupy.” I didn’t care if I woke up feeling like my face had taken a time out on pretty or I remembered all failed relationships. ‘People mess up, but I am worthy of the space I occupy.” Choose yourself. Especially if you’re a woman, choose yourself and adjust your own chant accordingly.  

Do you see where I am going?

After noting where the thoughts were coming from, I sat down with that 5- year old Wambaire who was excluded from a group because she had bread for break time during Closing Day. I sat down with the 11-year-old me, who was told, “No wonder boys don’t like you.” I sat down with the 16-year-old me that was bullied and ate lunch alone at the back of the library. In the pain, I constantly remind myself, “I am worthy of the space I occupy.”

When starting, find something that resonates with you, then go from there; continue to build on the chant.

There is no growth without pain. Nduta Gathigi said it well in her recent blog post Confronting Our Weakness.

Six: Transform the chant into a conversation

Case in point: I was to help my younger brother run an errand, but my mind was like, “Nope! I don’t want to see humans outside of this house today.”

Demon 1: If it were him, he wouldn’t have failed to come through.

Demon 2: You’re not there for him… What kind of sister are you?

Demon 3: You can’t blame depression for being in bed for a whole week. You-

Wambaire: (out loud) Excuse me. Let’s reverse this. If it was him saying he doesn’t want to see humans, would I understand it? (silence) Why? (Silence) We both get the struggle, sindio? Would I want him to feel guilty?

Demons:

Wambaire: Thought so. Nonsense.

You learning to run the conversation does get more manageable. You’ll find your mind a lot quieter because they know who’s boss. If anything, they’d be having side conversations wondering who to push forward to speak.

Btw: I now understand why it’s taken ages to post this article. While turning the chant into a conversation, you have to talk to yourself A LOT. When the chant is going on, interrupt it with a purposeful, logical discussion. Literally, in your mind or out loud, challenge the demons. Just as in the example, hijack the narrative. Speak of what is true and what you feel, and then sit with it. You’ve lost an opportunity, and you feel like trash? Talk about how you feel like crap, what you did wrong, and what you can do better. When the demon comes at you again, just say, e.g., “I know I messed up, but I forgive myself,” with the awareness of how so many layers of dysfunction that got you there. It’s not an excuse; it’s now up to you to work and not let the same sin happen again while being VERY understanding with yourself.

Seven: Keep at it

Like a child learning to walk, beloved, you will fall—a lot. But keep at it; it gets easier.

You’ve made it this far!

As always, thanks for stopping by. If you want a discussion, slide into my DM on Twitter or IG @wambairem on both platforms.

Until next time, take care of yourself, beloved.

Cheers.

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