Mental Health: DO You Control Your Thoughts?

It’s 4:52 a.m. and I cannot sleep, presumably because of my specific cocktail of medications “rebounding” off of each other. I’m uncomfortable with the number of pills I’m on. My doctors are aware. I am following up with them soon, but in between appointments I’ve lost a lot of sleep. I’m typically a great sleeper, so I feel a little robbed, here.

When my sleep gets out of whack, and I slowly seep into sleeping and waking hours that are in opposition to the world around me, it’s fiercely depressing. It adds another wellness ball to my juggling act, and this ball’s glass. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced shattering that glass ball before. Fortunately, I’m now better prepared to deal with it when it happens again. Not if, when. I gotta accept that inevitability about myself; surrendering to my unmoving reality has been an imperative, murky hurdle.

Something I read recently may come off as a bit trite, but it’s an important reminder. While we aren’t in control of all of our circumstances, like how people treat us and our predispositions for mental illness, we are in control of our thoughts.

Photo by runnyrem


Monitoring thoughts is hard work. Thoughts in our brains are like school hallways teeming with students, and some walk by without being noticed because you’re focused on something else. Keeping watch on thoughts is not an easy task, but it’s worthwhile. Sometimes, you’re just fatigued and let a bad thought pass knowing it’s bad, but also knowing you don’t have it in you to tweak it and reset it on the right path in that moment. I think that’s okay. Sometimes we’ve got to take a break and let go. It’s our right to stand vigil in the hallways of our minds, and it’s both an act of self-preservation and a responsibility to ourselves and others. Whenever you can come back, come back.

Something We Can Help

Someone might be an asshole, but you’re in control of your thoughts toward them. Everyone’s going through something or other. Maybe they just lost a loved one, or maybe they’re at their wits end with a colicky baby or a teenager who’s constantly making risky decisions. Maybe they’ve just been fired and have crushing debt. We simply don’t know. Genuinely wishing someone well inside of your head (whether it be via prayer, meditation, etc.) not only sends positivity and healing to them, but it also alleviates you of negative feelings toward someone. Empty calories in the mind.

That’s outward.

Something We Can’t Help

The trick is when the nature of your mental illness is based around self-loathing, despair, or worry. That’s inward. You’re thinking negative thoughts about yourself via narrative that was borne in the reaches of your mind and informed by a mental illness you didn’t ask for and can’t rid yourself of. Rewriting your thoughts to say you don’t hate yourself or “what will be will be” is nice in theory but rarely effective in action.

Okay, so what the heck do I do?

The thought tweaking here can be an acknowledgement of your mental issues bundled up in an acceptance that it will take space and time to re-emerge. Take a break from the mental patrol and accept where you are mentally, which is not a good place, until you come out on the other side. Sometimes, it’s okay to stop swimming against the current. Relax your body and thoughts and let them go with the flow for a bit. When you’re ready again, you’ll know. Simply doing your best is always the message.


p.s. My New School classmate medina wrote a piece called Covid-19 and My Relationship with High Functioning Depression. They’re a talented, relatable writer, and I highly recommend. Find more of medina’s work here.

More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: One Good Thing About Depression (A Listicle)
Mental Health: The Things we Carry

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