Mental Health

Managing Dark Thoughts

We are up against real problems that are thrown at us, but we also have to stop our minds from being taken over by dark thoughts.

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Trigger Warning: depression, negative thoughts, COVID-19, trauma.

It is hard to shake off a mood, a feeling, that has gripped our minds. When you wake up and your head is full of dark thoughts, that try as you may to dispel, seem to be lodged in your mind and the pattern of the day has been set.

We often say to others “I am having a bad day” and it appears nothing will change this.

The Impact of COVID-19

With the COVID-19 problem far from over, news headlines telling us the virus seems to spread unabated, and occasional pieces of news that talk about a vaccine that might eventually resolve this ever-deepening crisis, it is hard to keep our minds from shifting toward negative thoughts. Headlines seem to scream out bad news to attract our attention.

We are sucked into this dark thoughts abyss. The virus has compounded our feelings of vulnerability and has turned many people’s lives upside down, and we have to be able to cope and get through it all, somehow.

We can sometimes balance negative things with positive things, anticipating good things about to happen.

For example, a holiday that is in the near future or an event that is coming up. With confinement, we were not able to do this as the restrictions curtailed most kinds of entertainment, as well as events, that bring happiness such as weddings.

The notion of being able to “look forward to something” seems bleak. The idea of going on holiday probably does not have its usual appeal and also presents risks, contact with the virus, or perhaps having travel problems, perhaps being stranded, unable to get home.

Until there is an ultimate solution to the pandemic problem, we will be unable to breathe freely.

Early in the pandemic, life was restricted to four walls in which we live and, during the height of confinement, we lived much in our own heads.

Perhaps we had a restless night’s sleep or are in need of more sleep. Days don’t always run smoothly and sometimes we feel the world is against us. We are up against real problems that are thrown at us, but we also have to stop our minds from being taken over by dark thoughts. Today’s dark thoughts might not resemble tomorrow’s, we have to tell ourselves.

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Keeping Dark Thoughts to Ourselves

We keep a large percentage of our dark thoughts to ourselves and transmit them in different ways.

I myself write out my dark thoughts in the form of stories or poems.

Today is a case in hand, my words and poetry are dark (see the poem I wrote at the bottom of this article). Why is this so? What triggers these dark thoughts? Are these dark thoughts hangovers from bad dreams?

Some research done in Britain found that 47% of people let their dreams impact how they feel when they wake up, also found that ominously 28% of people have fallen out with their partner as a result of how they’ve behaved in a dream.

We cannot estimate the powers of dreams on our moods, during the day. Sleep expert Dr. Nerina believes that it is a common occurrence for people to wake up feeling “out of sorts” after a night of dreaming. It has been well-documented people were experiencing very strong dreams during confinement.

Dark Thoughts and Creativity

Some people say depression and creativity go hand in hand.

Confinement was an interesting time for writers, poets and artists. By its very nature writing is a process of being isolated; it can be stressful, (writers fight for ideas, strive for success) and it can be a life full of deep thought.

You might think that being a successful writer such as Stephen King, would be the ticket to endless happiness, but this is not the case, he is still gripped in depression. J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series is another writer who suffers from depression, her success unable to alleviate her dark thoughts.

Our moods can of course swing in different directions. For example, if something positive occurs, say I write something I am proud of, my mood will shift upwards.

In my mind, I want to be able to say as the day draws to a close, “The day was good because I managed to achieve something or complete something”.

Dark Thoughts and Trauma

Dark thoughts of past traumas also come back to weigh on our minds.

But also the future seems very murky and unclear and we all need stability and a structure we can rely upon.

We are all fighting away with our demons, that we can’t easily put to rest.

People say that our struggles make us stronger. Some parts of being in confinement did strengthen us. It made us focus on who we are and what is important to us in our lives, be it our family or homes.

If we manage to maneuver out of this COVID-19 situation, I am sure the time in confinement, will still stick in our minds.

It will be in mine at least. Perhaps entire countries went through worse traumas during the two world wars, and some countries have gone through war traumas since.

I will be interested to see what my seven-year-old son has to say about the confinement, some years in the future, to find out the impact it had on him.

Closing Thoughts

If I wake up feeling depressed, going for a walk in nature is a good way to see things differently and begin to shake off those dark thoughts.

My advice is to try to lift yourself during the day while setting reachable goals.

Perhaps try to find the root cause of these dark thoughts and try to be logical and pragmatic and try not to sink deeper into even darker thoughts.

You are not alone.

As we have seen even people of great talent, and success is blighted by dark thoughts.

Here’s a poem I wrote about dark thoughts:

I cried in the rain

to release my pain,

but summer never came,

storms took over

and winter took hold,

and I felt all alone

looking up at a barren sky

in a world so terribly real and numb

no shelter from the storm

I can’t be me

and who are you

in my darkest torment

Touching and feeling

in a chasm clothed in darkness

windows with closed drapes

take off that dust sheet if you can

a knife rips open the sky

like a butcher’ hook

tearing the remnants of a living being

always so sweet and true

and raven’s eyes watch the horizon

I find myself repeating lines from hymns

that talk about how things are meant to be

as the rain keeps falling

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Francis H Powell is amongst other things, a poet and writer of short stories. His anthology of short stories called “Flight of Destiny” was published on April 7, 2015. His second book Adventures of Death, Reincarnation and Annihilation was published by Beacon Publishing. Born in 1961 in Reading, England, he was educated at various schools, before going on to Art Schools, to do a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. At present Francis is putting together a book of short stories, poems, and illustrations for the charity Marie Curie Nurses. The book will be published in winter 2020.

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