I don’t always mind my delusional thinking. I find it helpful at times. It can make the consequences of poor choices more palatable. It can make difficult situations more tolerable. Delusional thinking can minimize potential conflicts; I don’t have to acknowledge transgressions no matter how egregious.
Denial, after all, is more than a river in Egypt.
What are delusions? I’m so glad you asked. Among other things, they can be “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder.”
I often engage in delusional thinking willingly.
Like everything else in life, there is a scale. Some people struggle with delusions to such an extent that reality is consistently difficult. My delusions are less extreme though although at times they have led to some serious outcomes. For instance, the many of the beliefs that came along with my eating disorder are delusional. Maintaining them can and has had serious health consequences. I have been working on letting the delusional beliefs go, on challenging them, but it’s hard work.
Sometimes, however, I encourage my delusional thinking. Sometimes, I seek it out, to escape or justify.
Delusional thinking allows me to say “I’m fine” when I’m not and it’s not. Delusional thinking allows me to almost believe it. Delusional thinking let me argue with those staging an intervention. It let me hold the position that emaciation wasn’t really a problem.
I also frequently engage in delusional thinking during the early stages of a depression flare up. I think it happens because I’m trying maintain the status quo and to whistle in the dark. If I’m fine, I don’t have to make changes. If I’m fine, then I don’t have to take any responsibility for my increasingly unhealthy choices. If I’m fine, then I’m not sinking.
The tricky think about delusional thinking is that I often don’t recognize I’m using it.
My depression is currently about a seven, where zero is neutral and ten is where ideation starts to look appealing. I did not, however, wake up at a seven. I’ve been sinking for some time. I recognized I was falling but also didn’t. That is, I acknowledged the struggle but I discounted how far I’d dropped and how problematic it had become in my day to day life once again. Denial via delusional thinking. And, I chose to do it. It’s a component of depression to be sure, but I willfully ignore the problematic signs in the hope that magic fairies would make the problem go away. They never have before but I remain hopeful.
I realized the extent to which I’d dropped when I was asked to make a relatively simple decision on what time I and a group of friends should go out to dinner. I’m driving so I was asked to pick the time. When would I arrive to pick people up? Making the decision was simply beyond me. My brain spun the problem around and about inside my head. I selected and discarded a variety of times. None seemed quite right. This one was too early, that one too late. This one would mean I had to take pills earlier than I liked, that one would mean the restaurant would be crowded. I could see nothing but problems. And the more I tried to decide, the less I wanted to participate in a night out at all. It seemed like to much work for marginal enjoyment.
But my inability to decide started alarm bells clanging in the background and I realized that I have been fooling myself. I had been indulging in delusional thinking with respect to my mental status because it was more comfortable than addressing reality. Because once I accept that I am approaching serious depression level, I have to do things about it. And that is hard. Much better to pretend everything is okay.
Things I should perhaps have noticed and paid more attention to instead of manipulating and justifying them include the following:
I don’t need to shower more than once a week, if that. People shower too much. It wastes water. My hair doesn’t look that dirty. And wearing the same clothes day after day saves wear and tear. My oversized and dirty sweatpants look good. It’s sort of a style thing. I’m fine.
Everyone eats cereal. It’s a balanced food choice. Cereal three times a day is fine. I’m getting nutrition. People are all hung up on food labels, on when and how certain foods should be eaten. I’m fine.
Sitting in my easy chair all day is fine. It’s okay to cater to agoraphobia sometimes. And, my life is productive. I’m very productive. I am. I’m thinking about things. I have lots of important thoughts that I’ve been jotting down. I’ll write them out eventually. It’s not a good time right now. I have a lot of things I need to read.
I’d read but I should get up and clean.
I should clean but I’m going to go write.
I’d write but I think I should practice piano (nothing is accomplished since I still haven’t left the chair. But, it’s fine).
I don’t need to meditate every day. I do fine when I don’t meditate. Once or twice a week is fine. Or even less than that. I’m doing fine. Not meditating doesn’t mean I’m sliding. Why do I have to do so many things to maintain my mental stability. It’s fine. I’m better.
I’m tired of looking after every one. Why do I always have to make decisions? Why are people constantly texting me and talking to me? Why can’t I just be alone for a while? There’s nothing wrong with being alone. Lots of people in history have been loners. Not everyone needs a lot of human connections.
Everyone starts frustration crying when they can’t find the knife they wanted in the drawer. This is everyone else’s fault. Why can’t they help me by cleaning up correctly?
Delusional thinking on my part allows me to maintain the “I’m fine” myth for quite some time. Until you can’t anymore because the evidence becomes overwhelming.
Reality is hard sometimes. It can be good and beautiful and uplifting and rewarding but it can also be hard. It is tempting to escape. Sometimes, drifting away from reality is beyond your control. Other times, you are able to direct it. Which means you can come back. You can make the choice – I can make the choice – to be here, face reality, and deal with the consequences.
And, there’s the rub. The consequences. I don’t like them. I don’t want to be depressed. My wishes, however, do not inform reality. Avoiding the truth has not made it go away.
Reality can be difficult. Delusional thinking can be a relief. But only by dealing with reality can get you truly get to a place of respite.
Do you deny the reality around you at times?